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Christi Curriculum Homeschool Ink Slingers

Technology In the Homeschool for the Not So Tech Savvy Parent

Today I am going to share a little bit about technology in the classroom – the homeschool classroom that is. I think this is an area where some of us fall down – just a little. Have no fear – I will offer you a little insight as to how you might want to be guiding your children in this area. It’s not unusual, I know, for many kids to be much more tech savvy than their parents, so yes – they probably know how to access the iTunes store and can download a movie on the tablet faster than you can say jack rabbit.

BUT how good are they are using Microsoft Word? Do they know how to create a folder on the computer where all the pictures for the science project they are collecting can be kept? Or have you experienced that moment when you open the pictures file on your computer so as to choose a picture of the baby’s baptism to send to the grandparents only to find hundreds of selfies of the 13 yr old and thirty photos of the disappearing Bengal tiger your 11 year old is studying mixed in with the baptism photos….

What about PowerPoint – do you children know how to create a PowerPoint presentation? (For that matter do you?) Ok – so we have established that there is a good possibility that some basic technological expertise might be missing from your homeschooling endeavors; so what do you do?

A good place to start would be to search for your state’s educational standards for technology. For North Carolina they can be found here.  When you open it there are quite a few links on the page so I took a screenshot of the section you want to explore.  It looks like this:

You can open up the grade appropriate description as a PDF or a word document. And yes – it is a little intimidating when you first look at it.  Just take a deep breath and relax. Once you have scanned it over a bit you will begin to recognize a lot of what they are listing there and possibly realize you already do a lot of this already. (BTW – if you don’t want to go through the bother of determining what your state’s curriculum technology standards are, just use the ones I have linked to as they will be pretty much the same across the country. You’re welcome!) 

I realize that exploring these lists of technological expertise your child should have by graduation can be anxiety inducing. I am going to start you off with a simple list that you can use to jump start teaching technology to your homeschooler.

As I hinted above, your adolescent child, despite knowing how to operate your cell phone better than you, is quite likely lacking in some basic computer skills so here is the promised list you can use to take inventory of their skills (or lack of).

Are your students are already proficient in the basic skills of:

  • How to locate the document files and picture files on your computer.
  • How to create a folder and name it.
  • Learn how to save a document or picture in the folder of your choice.
  • Know to pay attention when saving a photo or document from a search so as to direct it to a specific folder as to avoid it getting lost within the downloads or a folder you did not realize was open.
  • Know where the download file is for when the above happens.
  • How to search for files on the computer you are using.
  • How to transfer documents and photos from one folder to another and/or to a memory stick.
  • How to write an essay with an office word document (or similar program), name it, and save it to the folder of your choice.

Once you are convinced your student/s know how to do all of this, you are ready for the next challenge – a PowerPoint presentation.

I know how to use PowerPoint because I am married to the guy who teaches technology at our local school and we both worked for six months creating a PowerPoint presentation about safety on the internet a few years ago. (I’m lying – it was almost a decade ago but moving right along…)

If, like many people, you have never created a PowerPoint presentation you can go here to view the internet’s free version of PowerPoint for dummies online.

Or you can buy a copy of the actual PowerPoint for Dummies. (I have never read this book so I cannot vouch for how easy it is to read and or to follow their instructions but they offer you a free sample if you want to check it out) I have glanced at the free 27 slide PowerPoint presentation on PowerPoint linked above and it’s fairly complete and should give you enough confidence to create a small power point yourself before getting your kids to do one on let’s say – the history of your state, your family, or the even the baby’s baptism. Creating a PowerPoint presentation can and should be fun. This year my youngest four students are creating their own presentations and we will be inviting guests for coffee and treats to enjoy while each child presents their provincial projects ala PowerPoint.

Hopefully this post has stimulated your imaginations and built your confidence in your ability to introduce technology to your home school experience. If you are already experiencing success in this area please share in the comments section what you have incorporated in your schooling, as well as any resources you have found online to help with this. For example have you found free typing classes online or instructional site or videos about different technology skills you have introduced to your children.

Last but not least – be sure to teach your children about internet safety and if you don’t already have one – create an internet safety contract that you and your children can sign and agree to abide by. Here are some sites where you can brush up on internet safety:

Netsmartz and safekids.com and here is a good example of an internet safety contract  for your younger children and here is one for your teen. Don’t feel restricted by these samples those though. We have actually had our older children write their own contracts after discussing what we need to do to stay safe online. 

(photo credits: kid with laptop  was taken from a post about setting technology rules for kids) 

 

 

Categories
Christi Fatherhood Homeschool Ink Slingers Motherhood

Diary of a Homeschool Mum Part 2

Back in March I introduced the beginning of a new series I am writing for Catholic Sistas – Diary of a Homeschool Mum and today we pick it up again with part two:

July 7th 1991 C.P. Ontario, Canada

Yesterday we went to the Block House to celebrate the ending of school as well as the joy we have that this fall we will start that crazy, scary adventure called homeschooling. The kids had a blast. We took tons of slides, can’t wait to watch them with the new slide projector we bought with our tax return this year.

We finished off with dinner out. We even let each kid have a glass of pop.  Great memories except for that moment when I saw Alicia’s face as she tried to read block house part 2 of diary frame 2the menu given to her by the waitress. She had asked the kids ‘who can read’ and Alicia excitedly put her hand up and proudly took one of the menus. I watched carefully because I had not been convinced the school had, in reality, imparted any reading skills to her. They just had the kids memorize and memorize all year long – convincing the kids they could read… I suppose a few connected the dots – but how many more are experiencing that moment when they are handed a bunch of words that they have not yet encountered and don’t have the phonetic skills to break them down and ACTUALLY read. My heart broke when Alicia’s expression of delight to be a big girl and read a menu like her big sister clouded over as she perused the menu and the realization of “I can’t read this” dawned on her. I had a lump in my throat when she handed the menu back to the waitress and mumbled “Never mind – I can’t read.”  I can’t wait to start teaching her phonetics – as scared as I am with the enormity of it all. But I succeeded with Caroline – I can do it again. Next time she gets offered a menu she won’t be cheated of that moment of pride and victory!

Totally different note – I’m still having trouble with my hands. Now Hugo has to get up with Elizabeth at night when she wakes to nurse and hold her while I slap my hands together to get feeling back into them. I can’t even try to pick her up when my hands are like this because I can’t feel enough to be able to use them. SO strange.

July 10th… so tired. Just so tired. This evening I tried playing a game of solitaire on the new computer. Couldn’t focus enough to complete it.  5 yr old Erik finished it for me.

 

July 15th 1991

Dear Diary

Despite feeling so tired I was able to get my order written out and mailed so our books should arrive soon – I just have yet to decide on a math text for Caroline, the principal for our little school has made some suggestions and gave me a catalogue to go through. I think I’m going to go with the Houghton Mifflin grade four book. And I’m going to spring the extra dollars to go with the coloured edition. I want Caroline to be inspired by this book.  I always hated math as a child and I really want my kids to learn to enjoy it. Such a bright and enthusiastic looking book should surely help keep her engaged!

Strangest thing happened last weekend. I was visiting a friend and suddenly I had no idea who she was. One minute I was chatting with someone I know well. We see each other every Sunday at Mass and at our bi-weekly rosary gatherings and there I was – with no idea who she was. I was too embarrassed to interrupt her and say – umm hey – what’s your name? I knew where I was – I mean I recognized her kitchen I just didn’t know who SHE was. It was so disconcerting.  I tried not to lose track of what she was saying while I tried to think of her husband’s name. I kept thinking that if I could just remember her husband’s name I would remember hers. It worked. Such a relief to remember who she was.  I hope that doesn’t happen again.

July 20th

That name thing happened again. I have to admit, it’s kind of tricky keeping a conversation going while you are trying desperately to remember the person’s name.  Seeing the doctor this Monday for Elizabeth’s check up. I’ll mention to her how tired I am all the time – maybe I’m just too tired.

July 22nd  – great check up for Elizabeth, great weight, on target for all her milestones. Such a mama’s girl – doesn’t want anyone to hold her but me – not even Daddy – this could be a challenge come September and it’s time to start school. Discussed my fatigue with the Doctor – she said I was expecting too much of myself – after all I had just had my fifth baby which is similar to the doctor said when I talked to the Dr about being tired even before I was pregnant with Elizabeth. (You have four babies what do you expect…)  But so many friends have as many babies or more, and they are doing so much. They are painting their houses, helping build decks, and homeschooling. And me? I can barely get through the day. I feel like I’m pushing through water just to walk. I guess I’m just lazy.  She did offer to request for home help for MovingBoxes frameme. She thinks with five very young kids I should be able to get a few weeks worth of home help paid for through OHIP. That would be great – I still have not completely unpacked from the move here last summer. Being on bed rest most of Elizabeth’s pregnancy kind of made it impossible to get the house completely unpacked and organized.

I hope our books get here soon. With this fatigue (or incredibly bad habit of laziness?) I’m going to need lots of time to get them organized and lessons planned out. 

July 25th

YES! Dr’s office called and she was able to arrange for some part-time home help. An intake person will be calling me and discussing what I need from this. Apparently I have to decide whether I want someone who will sit with the kids and watch them or someone who will clean while I watch the kids. I’m totally going with someone who will help me clean. I have mountains and mountains of clothes to go through – we haven’t had a dryer since we moved here (or a stove either) and between tons of boxes in the sun porch still waiting to be unpacked I have a billion pieces of clothes to go through. Our new dryer arrives next week. Our school books will be here any day and once I get all of this organized with this lady – we will build the desks in the dining room. This is starting to get real – like when you have a shower for the first baby and the house fills up with baby furniture and clothes and you suddenly realize – it’s really happening.  

Not sure how much help I’ll be to Hugo when we start building though. Lately I can’t even use the can opener. I have to get Caroline to open all cans for me these days. I seem to have lost all strength in my hands.

This concludes part two of Diary of a Homeschool Mum. Next time we get together I will share more about that last month of getting ready for ‘school’, the continuation of Alexander’s problems, as well as my growing health issues. Until then – have a great summer. See you in the fall. 

homeschool diary

Categories
Christi Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Raising Saints

Diary of a Homeschool Mum part 1

I don’t know if you know me. If you are a regular reader of Catholic Sistas you have hopefully met me through the 7QT First Friday posts or possibly have read some of my other posts. I’ve recently joined the new team we have writing the Raising Saints Homeschool monthly series. 

Way back in the early nineties when I was expecting my fifth child we had just purchased our first home and our two oldest daughters were attending the local Catholic elementary school and our five year old son was a drop out from kindergarten. The three year old was still enjoying snuggles even if the ever growing baby lump was getting in the way.

Wait you say – the five year out was a “drop out”? In a manner of speaking, yes. Your typical apple pie and blue eyed little boy who enjoyed building train tracks with his red headed younger brother was coming home from kindergarten and systematically beating up his best friend. As you can imagine this was not sitting well with either his father or I (and his brother wasn’t much enjoying it either!). I had a frank Best buds againdiscussion with his teacher and she agreed with my suspicion – my son was coming home and pummeling his younger brother most likely as a result of the aggression he was seeing on the play ground. She readily agreed five year old kindergarten was not a prerequisite for grade one and he could as easily learn his numbers and letters with me at home. Little did we know then that it would be another ten years before he stepped foot inside another brick and mortar place of learning. For his other siblings – most would never enter a “real” school room until they left home for college, while a couple got to sample of public school life for one year while they attended a Montessori Charter school.

What will follow over the next few months will be a collection of journal entries based on my memories of the early months and years of homeschooling. Let’s begin now…

January 12th, 1991 (Ontario Canada)

Dear Diary;

I’ve talked with Alicia’s Godmother once again about the idea of starting to homeschool and I think she has finally convinced me to try. She talked me out of the idea that I need to become a certified Montessori teacher in order to be able to teach them. I’m not sure though. I borrowed a few books from the library about the Montessori method. I love this program but if I wait until I’m certified it will take me 2 years. I can’t imagine Caroline & Alicia making it through two more years in the school here. Hugo seems ready for me to try but he agrees we need to wait until the baby is born and start in the fall. I’m so glad he agrees we should wait. It’s going to be hard dealing with the school board when I pull the kids out. Everyone I know says they had to answer all kinds of questions and I think they even had to go to a board meeting or maybe it was a meeting with the superintendent? I’m dreading this, just dreading this! 

February 26th 1991 

Dear Diary

I’m sorry I’ve neglected you for so long but Elizabeth joined us … on Alexander’s birthday! Good thing we celebrated it early. I don’t think I’d be up to celebrating it right now. Worst. Labour. Ever! I wonder how long till he realizes he’s sharing his birthday with his baby sister. He seems pretty pleased with her but has been very quiet since she was born. Ooops, I hear the baby … gotta go. I hope I can find time to squeeze a few more words in soon. 

June 20th 1991

Dear Diary:

I’m the worst diary writer ever. Where has the time gone? Elizabeth is already four months old. We got a scare when she was so late focusing her eyes – I thought she was blind! All of our other babies were looking us in the face and tracking in their first week. I called Hugo at work, crying and he called the pediatrician. His wife called me & was so reassuring. Anyway – clearly nothing is wrong with her vision now. She’s constantly grabbing my glasses and pulling them off. 

I have good news and bad news, Diary. Bad news first. Last Wednesday I had to walk over to the school with both boys and Elizabeth in the snuggly. The school had called – Caroline had been hit in the face with a baseball. Apparently the teacher on yard duty told her it was her own fault because she was sitting in the grass watching ants. Seriously? A little kid is interested in nature and gets hit in the face wiGoodBye Busth a huge bloody nose and THAT’S what you tell her? Then Thursday I had to call a taxi because the school called again and I still had Caroline home recuperating from the getting smashed in the face. This time Alicia had fallen from the monkey bars … they think. She might have lost consciousness … they think, but are not sure. Apparently the teachers on lunch duty didn’t even notice Alicia lying on the ground until some of her classmates went to get one of them to help her. I was livid when I found her barely able to sit up straight in the chair outside the principal’s office.  (It was interesting trying to fit all five children and myself into the taxi!) Now here’s the good news!!! When I met with the principal to tell her that my girls would not be returning the rest of the school year and I didn’t think they would be back in the fall, she didn’t even bat an eye. She just nodded when I said they would be joining the Mary Immaculate School. She knows full well that’s our small homeschool that the mums in the area have set up. When I told Marie about it she laughed and said – ‘they’re probably afraid of you suing them. I bet you don’t even get a call or letter from the school board.’ I guess that’s the silver lining to my poor girls getting hurt so badly at school. Well, it’s too quiet downstairs – I better go see what the kids are up to!

July 1st 1991 

Dear Diary 

It’s Canada day and tonight Hugo will take the kids the park for the fireworks. We talked about driving into Ottawa and watching them at the parliamentary buildings but Elizabeth is so young. I’ll stay home with her tonight.

Alexander seems to have stopped talking since Elizabeth was born. In every other aspect he seems normal. But he no longer talks. He just nods or shakes his head to questions. This week was his turn to go out with Daddy to Tim Hortons and Hugo said he was interested in what was going on around him but – no conversation. He got his MMR just after his fourth birthday. A friend who’s a nurse brought that to my attention. I’m trying not to worry too much.

I’ve decided to order my curriculum from Our Lady of Victory in the States. I met with our principal of our little school and she agreed that I would feel more comfortable if I did that as I’m still very nervous about the whole idea. It’s so comforting to know she’s had a lot of years teaching in the regular school system. I don’t know if I’m more excited or more nervous about this adventure I’m about to plunge my whole family into. journal cover 4

 

Well – dear readers, I will see you again in June and you can hear more about my adventures in our early years of homeschooling. I’m currently in my  twenty fourth year of homeschooling with just another decade or so stretching in front of me until all my 13 munchkins have graduated. I’m sure I will have plenty of memories and adventures to share. 

 

 

Categories
Christi Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Parenting

Online Homeschooling Curriculums- A Review: Part 2

confused-homescool-review-300x300Welcome back for part two of the online curriculum review. This month I’m reviewing a site that we discovered in the spring semester of school last year. Despite being late in coming to the table I was able to sign the kids up for the first semester of the courses that we chose from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Resource Center, or LPHRC, and we opted to continue throughout the summer.

This is not a bells and whistles website with elaborate tools, games and graphics to entertain the kids with. Instead, its a very simple website that is a valuable source of online education.  And speaking of value, you can’t beat these prices. The individual behind this curriculum has a love of teaching and is happy to share his knowledge and the courses that developed out of his years of running a bricks and mortar resource center in the nineties, at very reasonable prices.  The cost for most of the online classes that he offers are 38 dollars a semester for a total of 76 for the full course. Here is the part that I found most amazing; this is PER FAMILY.

In other words, if I have three children of the right age and maturity for any particular course, it will only cost me a total of 76 dollars per course, not per kid. When you are homeschooling as many children at one time, as I am in the habit of doing, this is a wonderful option. The majority of his courses are two semesters long though he does have a short string of ten week courses, each of which can be completed in a single semester. These courses are only 38 dollars as they last for just the one semester. Again – you can enroll more than one student in a ten week course. You can read more about his pricing here. There is only one exception to the per family pricing and that is for the creative writing course which he offers to a limited number of students per semester.

Now that I have your full attention, I bet you would like to know what courses he is offering. He has an interesting collection that encompasses logic, history, religion, poetry and, as I just mentioned, creative writing. He even has at least one math class and a course that is all science projects. He has aimed the course level towards grade four up through the middle school grades but, apparently, has had high school students and some parents take the classes. Here is the page with the full listing of course options. When you click on a course title you are directed to a complete listing of the lessons taught in that course as well as the titles of each lesson. Unfortunately you are not able to view an actual lesson in any of the courses but on the page titled ‘how it works’ you can see how the quizzes work at the end of each lesson. They are self marking which I personally love.

My soon to be twelve year old and my fourteen year old both just finished the classes that we signed up for late in the 2o13/14 school year and they enjoyed them. My fourteen year old did more of the bonus material than my twelve year old did but I was content knowing that my daughter was reading solid Catholic information being taught in the ancient history and the North and South America geography classes they studied. I rarely had to remind them to do their online studies and now that they have completed them Mr. Kephart, owner of the site, will email me a certificate of completion at the end of this week. While he prefers the students to all be on the same schedule he is happy to work with your schedule and has, on more than one occasion, sent us a new link to the lesson of the week when life interrupted and one or the other child missed that week’s lesson. For our own records, I had the children email me their quiz results at the end of each lesson. In this way, I was also able to track that they were completing the lessons weekly.

Part of the beauty of these courses is that as the home educator you can be as involved as much, or as little as you want. There are, as I have alluded to, bonus materials besides the weekly lessons and quizzes. Children are encouraged to answer bonus questions and projects are sometimes suggested. A parent could use a course to teach a group of her own children at one time by reading the lesson ahead of the appointed gathering time and looking for extra online information to share. With the history courses, a parent could choose a novel to read out loud that coincides with the history period being studied. Or they can do, as I did for most of last year, simply have the children read the lesson and complete the quiz. Due to our busy family life and multiple therapy and doctor appointments last year, it made the most sense for us to utilize this program at its simplest level. This year I’m looking forward to being more involved as they engage in the poetry course, along with the History of Science classes and the Early Church Dark Ages history lessons.

There are few other supplies required for the majority of the classes; sometimes a note book or bible is suggested and a couple of courses, such as the science projects course, lists materials needed a week in advance. Online safety is imperative to Mr. Kephart and so there are no links embedded in the lessons that take a child off site. Once you have chosen a course [ or courses ] you wish to sign up for and chosen your method of payment [paypal or mailed cheque/money order] you will receive a welcome email and a url per course which you are encouraged to bookmark in your browser of choice. Once it’s bookmarked it will get updated weekly. We missed the beginning of the course last year, so I initially updated my bookmark on a weekly basis but after a while I got my fourteen year old to do it for me. Don’t let being late deter you from using this curriculum.

As I brought to your attention at the beginning of my review – this is a very simple website which I believe is a huge factor in making this such an affordable alternative compared to what’s out there. It is Catholic and run by a Catholic educator, and, in my humble opinion, a valuable option that I’m looking forward to continuing to use for some time to come. If there was one change I would suggest – it would be to allow a parent to be able to peek at one or two full lessons from a couple of the courses. Even without that option, given the generosity of the price, I felt I had little to lose by signing up for two classes last year. And I’m very glad I did.

I have stumbled across only few other Catholic online curriculums in addition to one that I am reviewing next month. However, as I have not used them, I feel the only other Catholic online curriculum I am equipped to give a proper review of is Homeschool Connections.  I’ll see you then.