Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Starting Up Again: A Few Helpful Links

This will be our 8th year homeschooling.  We've had a rocky start.

I don't mean to be a downer or discourage anyone.  I just had it in my mind how perfect the beginning of the school year would be for us.  You know, rainbows and sunshine, the kids up early eager to learn while sitting still at the table loving each other and making random praises and encouragements to the other household members.

Reality is I roll out of bed all mussed and groggy after snoozing the alarm 3 or 4 times.  I descend the stairs to apologize to the dog, again, that I don't have time to take him on a walk this morning.  Maybe later.  He just looks at me with an expression that says, "Pathetic."  After swallowing down some coffee I go wake up the progeny who, except for the youngest, are...well...not as enthusiastic about school as I had imagined.  After refereeing the morning bickering, we eventually get down to the business of learning. 

I had the first week of school all planned and scheduled down to a T.  You'd think I'd have learned by now...

Our first week of school took two weeks to finish.  An unexpected death in the family put an abrupt halt on our first week so we could make down-to-the-last-minute plans for travel.  Truth is, we didn't have to attend the funeral.  Our destination was a two day drive away and no one expected us to attend.  But, it was important enough to us that we wanted to go.  What a blessing to be so flexible that we could arrive and mourn with our family.

So, while it isn't without a good excuse, we are "behind" right out of the starting gate. This really shouldn't irritate me except that I know it gives us less flexibility later on when it comes to taking days off and ending the school year before June arrives complete with its "I don't want to do this anymore, let's go play outside," attitude.  I guess we'll deal with it as time goes on.

Truth is, homeschooling is full of these little challenges.  That's why I love finding things that will make my work  a little easier.  Personally, just looking at my year has been a little daunting; My son has more challenging work and needs deeper discussion time, my daughter needs help with hands on activities, my youngest is being added to the school day mix, and we all have activities to juggle.  I feel like I could use all the help I can get!

Quizlet :  I have been seeing a few mentions of Quizlet on a Yahoo group I'm a part of.  So, I decided to check it out.  Quizlet is essentially a way to make your own flashcards.  Use your quizlet sets to study vocabulary, science, math, or really just about anything you can think of.  And, you can keep your flashcards to yourself or make them available to others.  This year my oldest is going through Apologia's General Science curriculum.  How happy was I to find that someone had already made up flashcards for module 1?  Very.  All I had to do was print them off.  Or, I didn't even have to print them off, we can go through them online or even use the flashcard set in some simple games to reinforce learning.  I downloaded the app onto my iPad and my son's iPod and he can use the app to help him study. 

Cram : Cram is another flashcard site.  I find both of these sites very helpful and think they're both worth checking out.  Another thought is that if you are teaching a co-op class, you can use either site to set up study notes for your class to use.  Very useful!

Remember Me:  This is an app that a friend recommended to me.  This looks very helpful.  My kids enjoy AWANA which involves a lot of Bible verse memorization.  Remember Me is an app used to help with the memorization process.  Simply enter in your verse(s) to be memorized and the app has a few simple ways of helping with memorization such as puzzles, flash cards, and obsu obfus taking out words and filling in the gaps.

AWANA Homeschool:  Speaking of AWANA...We've really enjoyed this program for helping to teach our kids Biblical truths and memorization in a fun and engaging environment.  Unfortunately, the church at which we participate in AWANA essentially ends the group meetings after 6th grade.  I am appreciating the fact that AWANA has now opened up a homeschool side of their ministry so we can continue to have our oldest learn memorization and truths through a means he's already familiar with.

Mango Languages:  I have been attempting to teach the kids some Spanish.  I don't know the language well myself so after a certain point its been a challenge.  I could use some help.   Many libraries used to carry Rosetta Stone languages that you could access for free.  At our library, that is no longer the case.  Mango stepped in to fill the gap.  On their website you can take one lesson for free.  Through our library I think we can access something like 10 lessons for free.  I think for what is offered, it is well worth it to check your library to see if they offer these courses. (And request them if they don't!)  I downloaded the app onto our iPad and my 4th grader goes through the lesson on her own.  She's been enjoying her independence in this subject.

Visual Link Spanish:  Meanwhile, for my older student, we invested in Visual Link Spanish.  Not only is it teaching him vocabulary, but it is teaching also grammar and conjugation, and all that stuff I'm terrible at.  You can take a look on their site and take a free lesson.  This curriculum is on the more expensive side (though not as expensive as some).  Still, being able to get a course instead of struggling through it with my son - well worth it!

So far, these are a few newer things I've been trying out this year that have helped us through our days with more independence for the kids and a little more ease off of me (yet, sometimes its just as hard to supervise as it is to teach).    I hope something here helps you too!

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