Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mid-year break

The holidays are a time when we want to allow our students to take a break from school. The reality is that their brains do need to rest a bit from the more difficult course work of 6th grade. Another reality is that we don’t want their brains to turn to mush, sitting idle during the holidays.
One way to keep your child’s brain engaged during the holiday break, without forcing her to do actual school work is to have her engage in creative endeavors that reflect the time of year.
There are many crafts that can be done, from making Christmas ornaments to cooking. The holiday season is a great time to get your 6th grader in the kitchen, following directions, using math to figure out recipes, understanding the science behind leavening agents, and elapsed time between putting an item in the oven and taking it out. The great part about this is a lot of great tasting results come from these learning…err…fun projects!
Other learning/fun projects might be photography, scrap booking, or music in the form of singing or listening to recorded music. All of these things can be exciting, and engaging. And they will prevent your child’s brain from turning to mush, while giving them time off from their academic subjects. This type of learning period will help your child come back fresh and ready for regular school subjects after the holiday break.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Economics, budgets, and planning

Economics, supply and demand, and budgets are ideas that are taught in middle school social studies. Again, this is one of those combination lessons, math and social studies. It is not too early for your 6th grader to begin learning that there is a limited amount of money to go around, that things have value, and that a budget can help make dreams come true.
While we try to protect our children from the real world, some things are hard and true facts. There is a limited amount of money to go around. While it would be great for your child to give her best friend a new laptop for Christmas, the reality is that it is out of the budget.
Sixth graders need to learn to have a budget, and how to spend the money the earn or are given. With the holiday season approaching, gift giving needs to be carefully planned. We helped my daughter with this by having her make a list of who she wanted to buy gifts for, how much she had to spend, and how much she money she wanted to put aside for savings and charitable giving.
We then got her a prepaid credit card containing the amount she decided to spend. We had her keep the receipts, do the math of how much was spent and how much was left after each transaction. When the card hit zero, she knew that there was no more money in her budget. Learning to live within her means was a painful lesson, but one that was much less painful as a 6th grader than it would be as an adult.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Science and History, yippee!

Have you ever heard of the event called Punkin’ Chunkin’? It is an event where people load the big orange pumpkin into various launching devices and see how far their launching device can throw the pumpkin. Ok, now that you know what it is, did you know that it is both science and history?
I know, you are looking at me strangely about this point. How can that be, you might ask. Well, there is the science of physics that studies the mechanics of flight, trajectory, mass, velocity. How far will my pumpkin fly, if “x” amount of force is applied to it? How fast will it make the trip from point A to point B? What is the optimum size for my big orange gourd?
And this event also is a study in history. Most of the contestants use catapults, trebuchets, and cannons to chunk their pumpkins. The catapult and the trebuchet are medieval siege weapons used to hurl stones or flaming balls of “stuff“ at castle walls.. Cannons are also historical weapons used to punch holes in things.
For modern students seeing these ancient weapons in use can engage them in the study of history and science. Who knew how much fun it could be to study medieval siege weapons, mass, velocity, and the agricultural product known as a pumpkin? Ain’t it great?!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hands on science

What are you doing for hands on science? My daughter loves hands on science. And I dread it. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I hate science. I actually love science. The problem is doing the hands on stuff.
Let me explain further. Doing hands on science, such as experiments requires planning ahead on the part of the teacher or parent. One of the most frustrating things for both me and my daughter is when an experiment comes up in her curriculum. Part of it is because I am, ok, I’ll say it, lazy! I trust our curriculum, and it plans the lessons for me, so I don’t have to.
The problem comes in when, in the middle of a lesson it says to “try this experiment”. Invariably, I don’t have the materials to do the experiment right then. So I print out the supply list, hope I don’t lose it before I go to the store again, and we discuss the possible outcomes of the experiment instead of actually doing it.
My daughter hates this. And I feel bad because I feel like I am cheating her out of part of her science curriculum. I guess the moral of this story is be prepared! I will have to do better, because it is a shame to deprive my child of even one hands on science experiment!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Our political system

The political season is heating up and major elections are coming soon. Your sixth grader is old enough to study the basics of government so that they can understand the political system as it was created by the founding fathers.
Beyond understanding the mechanics of the system, sixth graders are old enough to begin having opinions about what they believe is the way the world and our country should be run.
Does your child know what your political philosophy is? Does she understand the basic principles of the different political parties? This is a great opportunity to make sure your child understands what your beliefs are, and where you stand on issues that they will hear about on TV and radio.
Remember that sixth graders still tend to think in absolutes, so you might have to explain why you belong to one party, but support views of the opposing party in certain circumstances. Sixth graders can’t change the world, yet, but at some point they will be the decision makers, world leaders, and employees. It is not too early to teach them and help them learn the foundation of the beliefs that will form who they become as adults.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Current events and the world map

Geography and current events are both part of sixth grade social studies. There is a great way to combine the two of those in an ongoing fashion throughout the year. Now let me put in the disclaimer before I get too far into this: I am not necessarily advocating that your child sit and watch the news. Some of the news may be distressing for sixth graders, so pick the current events based on your child’s ability to handle that particular piece of news.
Here is the idea. Take the current events of the day, the president making a state visit to Australia, or a volcano erupting at some location in the world. Then discuss the event, and let your child find that place on the world map.
While much of the current events are bad, there are plenty of current events that are happening all over the world. New countries form, old countries merge, economic summits, royal marriages, earthquakes and other natural phenomena are all worth knowing about and placing on a map.
You can get creative with your map, have your child use push pins with numbers attached, to refer to an event that is described in a current event folder. Maybe encourage your child to do a brief internet study of a current event that particularly interests him. There are so many ways to make current events fun, interesting, and a learning experience.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Electives in your curriculum

Sixth grade is one of the first grades where your child is presented with options other than core curriculum classes. It is an opportunity for your child to test the waters and see if they really want to take full year courses in an elective as they get older.
If your child is in traditional school there may be a limited number of electives for him to choose from. Examples of these are usually things like foreign language, music, choir, and band.
If you are a homeschooler the list of electives becomes much larger because of the flexibility of home schooling. Basically the sky is the limit. Electives can be a short as a two week cooking class, or a one day seminar at the local veterinarian school in horse and stable management.
Sometimes an elective course might span the entire year, or run over several years. Generally band, music, and foreign languages will run at least a year, often longer. Consider what your child’s interests are outside of basic academics and find ways to let their extra-curricular activities count as electives. Keep in mind that as your child passes into high school, electives become more important and will have bearing educational opportunities after high school such as trade schools, or universities.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back to School!

Do you remember the excitement of getting ready to return to school? There were new clothes, and usually a new pair of shoes. As much as you didn’t want to return to school, it was hard to overlook the excitement of a new backpack and pristine notebooks just waiting to be filled.
Those of us who home school all year long sometimes miss this important time of year. Returning to school makes school exciting, if only for a little while. It gives both parents and children something to prepare for, and experience together.
Aside from the emotional boost you might get from having some type of back to school ritual, there is one other consideration. Take advantage of the back to school sales on school supplies and fall/winter clothing. If you need notebooks in January you will pay three times as much for a notebook compared to the sale prices. And by the time it is cold, they will have bathing suits on the racks.
So, shop early, and start some back to school traditions that will make memories and build excitement for years to come!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A History Example

Last time, I promised to give you an example of how an event can be beneficial in the study of history. A couple of years ago we had the opportunity to see the King Tut exhibit, and while in that city, took the opportunity to enjoy a Medieval Times dinner theater.
Prior to leaving for the King Tut exhibit, we studied ancient Egypt. We learned about the math and geometry behind the pyramids. We learned about the religions and customs of the period. We tried to write in hieroglyphics. And used an online program that was available at the time to go through the steps of mummification. We even studied papyrus plants, and the Nile River. And we studied about King Tut. When we got to the exhibit, my child chattered continuously, pointing excitedly at different things, and explaining what she knew about that item. It was a joy to behold.
Now the Medieval Times dinner theater was not exactly historically accurate. However, after returning home from the trip, we went ahead and studied the Medieval period. We talked about how knights really behaved, built lances and shields, let my daughter create a coat of arms, talked about feudalism, and built a detailed castle replica. Throughout the study phase my daughter remembered the knights, king, ladies, and horses she had seen at the dinner theater. The theater experience had an impact that made the book learning so much more exciting.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Summer isn’t over yet. I know that the traditional school year is about to get started, and for some of us it is a great relief. We do school year round, but find that some of the places we go during the regular school year are very crowded during the summer.
After saying that you might wonder what the title has to do with the body of this post. Let me explain. One of the things our 6th graders need to learn is history. Unfortunately, reading about things that happened hundreds of years ago, or even fifty years ago is just dry and boring.
A great way to make history come alive is to actually let your child experience it. You can do this by checking with re-creation societies and living history museums. There are even things to be learned at renaissance fairs.
We have done this type of learning two ways. Sometimes we study the book learning ahead of time, and build the anticipation to an event or vacation. We have also had the opportunity to visit the event, and then come back home and do the study. There are pros and cons as to which you do first, but don’t forget to do the book learning part. I’ll give you an example next time!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Midsummer night's dream

Someone famous wrote a play by that name…Shakespeare, of course. One of the things we need to add to our children’s 6th grade curriculum is exposure to great works of literature. Summer time is a good time to do that for a number of reasons.
First on the list is the fact that summertime is a great time to curl up with a good book.
On those hot days when it is just too miserable to go outside your child could venture off to some exotic destination by reading a great piece of literature.
Second, many theater companies do plays by the greats, like Shakespeare, during the summer. Remember that his plays are good to read, but they were intended to be presented live, and so seeing a Shakespeare play is so much better than reading one.
Finally, summer reading programs through libraries and other organizations offer great incentives to get your child to delve into books that they might not normally pick up to read for pleasure. Seeing you reading a great book might encourage them to read, or you might even make a summer adventure out of reading out loud. You might think your sixth grader is too old to be read to, but amazingly, that is not the case!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More on writing

By letting my daughter write what she wants to write, in the form of a journal she voluntarily started, I am seeing more writing from her than I have ever seen in the past. This is a good thing since she is a reluctant writer.
Her voluntary writing is not exactly great literature, however, writing anything is a serious improvement. I want to continue her new found urge to write and so we have been trying to think of ways to encourage her. I suppose first and foremost is the idea that writing should be about something that your student is interested in. Even if you are not getting great school work out of it, the practice of writing means your child will become more comfortable with it.
Another thing we are trying is assisting the mechanical process of writing. To that end we are encouraging keyboarding practice to get her better at entering information on the computer. We have also started using the speech recognition software that comes with our computer. She has spent several hours training the software to understand her accent and inflections.
Both of these things seem to be working since I caught her at the computer, headphones with mic in place, dictating to the speech recognition software in the wee hours of the morning not long ago. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was writing a book. Since writing is what I do in the wee hours of the morning, I can’t tell you how happy this made me!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


We all know that writing is important, right? Try explaining that to my 6th grader! Because of her ADHD, her brain moves faster and more chaotically than her hand does. This means that it is difficult for her to get the thoughts out of her head and onto paper.
Even though she is sixth grade in most subjects, and seventh grade in science, she is somewhere below level on writing. If I ask her to tell me about something such as the difference between plant and animal cells I get a wonderful lesson, including pictures. If I ask her to write about the same subjects I get something goofy like animals have animal cells, and plants have plant cells. Really?!
So one of the things we have to work on is her written expression. In the past we had tried journaling but were unsuccessful. Recently she picked up one of the blank books that we have so many of around here, and she began entering two to three sentence “logs” of each day. Is it great writing…no. However, it is practice and where writing is concerned practice makes perfect!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Choice for summer Curriculum

Well, you have probably made the decision as to whether to continue educating your 6th grader through the summer by now. If not, don’t worry. It is not to late to make plans for the summer.
As I mentioned before, we will school through the summer. Because we go all year long, we can make some adjustments in the schedule to allow for time at the beach, or swimming, or time with friends who are not home schooled.
Some parents do what you could call “school lite” over the summer. It is enough school work to keep their child’s brain functioning but not so much school that the child misses out on the days of summer and the fun that those days can provide.
We use Time4Learning as our core curriculum, supplementing where we want to or need to. Because it is our core curriculum, we use it all year long. However, if your need something to keep your child’s brain nimble, consider Time4Learning as bridge work, or review over the summer.
Your child will probably enjoy it, and will learn even if they don’t think they are learning. The work is fun, and interesting. Time4Learning is easy to use, low cost, and based on national standards. Consider it for your summer work, or as your core curriculum. Oh, and did I mention that the record keeping is a great perk!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Decisions, decisions

Well, the traditional school year is about to come to a close. For homeschoolers that is not necessarily the case. As homeschoolers we have choices to make. Do we let our children have the summer off? Or do we continue with school throughout the summer?
We normally home school through the summer. We live in a place that is really hot, and it is better all around if we just take more breaks when the weather is bearable, and stay in the air conditioning when it is so miserable.
Additionally, it is hard to get back in the swing of things if we take the summer off. Consider traditional schools and the months of reviewing that they do to recover the knowledge that is lost when children are allowed to be idle over the summer break.
Last summer we had the unfortunate opportunity to see how a summer off would effect our schooling. Due to family issues with my extended family, we just didn’t do school. Because of that we got behind the schedule I had set for us, and when we went back to school it was hard to get back in the routine of doing school. It took us several months to get the ball rolling again. I’m thinking we are just going to let that ball keep rolling all summer this year. What decision will you make?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reading for a better vocabulary

Is your sixth grader a reader? One of the best ways to improve your child’s vocabulary and spelling is to have her read. Readers are exposed to more words, than non-readers. Just by virtue of the fact that they are exposed to more words, they are bound to have a larger usable vocabulary.
So is your child doomed to a small vocabulary if they are not willing and fluent readers? Absolutely not! Another way to get many of the same benefits of reading is to have your child listen to audio books.
In fact, audio books can be very useful. Consider this: not only will your child get the same benefit as reading, but also they will have the added benefit of hearing the pronunciation of the words, in context. Context is an important learning tool, because even if your child doesn’t know the meaning, he might be able to figure out the meaning by hearing how a word is used.
Summer is not far away, and your child will probably have more time for non-school reading. Consider what your education goals are for your child for the summer, and then encourage your child to read!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More on math

Decimals, fractions, and percents…oh my! Yes, I can joke about these now, but not so long ago it was no laughing matter. I can not even tell you how many tears were shed over trying to get those three math subjects packed down so that we could move on.
As I mentioned before, the order of things is so important in math, because each chapter builds on the lessons learned in the previous one. My daughter wanted desperately to take things out of the prescribed order, and I let her. Decimals, fractions, and percent are so closely related that if your child doesn’t understand one of them, then the other two are very difficult.
An example of the interconnection between the three, try to explain 50% without using the fraction ½, or the decimal .50. There might be a way to do it, but I couldn’t find it. Then, try to explain a fraction without discussing division. Try describing division without using multiplication.
Ok, I suppose I have made my point, numerous times. The most important thing you can do with your sixth grader in math is make sure that he understands the basics before moving on. He may not thank you now, as you make him do yet another problem, but later, as math gets more and more complex, he will be thankful for the firm foundation you give him.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ok, so what should my sixth grader be studying?

Seriously good question, that! What should your sixth grader be learning? Well, the basics, of course, math, science, language arts, social studies. Not specific enough you say? I agree, so I will pick just one thing this time.
Math…One of the biggest hurdles your child needs to clear in 6th grade math is proficiency in the four basic operations. Without a really good working knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, all of the other things your child has to learn in math will be much more difficult.
If you find that your child is slow in multiplication or division, or sloppy in their addition and subtraction facts, then have them do some extra problems in those areas. We found out the hard way that math is taught in a particular order for a reason. My daughter wanted to take math chapters out of order. And I let her…
We discovered that she couldn’t do algebra problems without understanding fractions, and fractions required a serious understanding of multiplication and division. Every time we tried to back up just one chapter to review, we discovered something else that we needed to learn first. I guess that is why they say math builds on itself…duh! We went back, and reviewed the four basic operations, and things are going much smoother now!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Open-minded homeschoolers

I would love to say that every homeschooler I had met was open-minded, but if I said that I would most assuredly be lying. You will meet all kinds of homeschoolers in your quest for a support group. And the reason you will find so many different kinds of people is because there are as many kinds of homeschoolers as there are people home schooling.
Before I started home schooling, I did not want to be one of those weird homeschoolers, you know, the religious isolationist who had many children, wore denim jumpers, and home schooled to keep their children away from the world. I still don’t want to be one of those homeschoolers, but I will recognize their right to home school, even if they don’t recognize my right to home school for different reasons.
If you are home schooling for religious reason and are willing to sign a statement of faith, then that is great. But what about people unwilling or unable to truthfully sign a statement of faith? There are more groups now who are claiming to be open-minded homeschoolers. These groups claim to be accepting of all types of people, from atheists, to un-schoolers, and even religious folks, as long as each person respects the other’s right to believe and educate as they choose.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

ADD/ADHD part two

If your child has ADD or ADHD there is a pretty good chance that by 6th grade you have faced a number of problems. Your child may be exhibiting behavioral problems, which lead to her getting in trouble in school. Additionally, you may be facing academic problems that may or may not be related to the behavioral problems.
Children with these disorders have trouble concentrating, yet at the same time they seem to crave more and more input from many different sources. Because of this, they can be very focused on something they have interest in, such as a computer game, or favorite hobby, yet not be able to concentrate on an assignment for school long enough to get it completed.
Homeschooling often is a solution for these issues. First of all, you will have more patience with your child than a teacher with 25 other students to attend to. You can let her speed up in subjects she has a good grasp of, and slow down on subjects that she needs more work on. You control the environment, so you can control the distractions, and because the environment is familiar, there will be less distractions to begin with. You will probably see a change in your child’s ability to cope very soon after beginning to home school.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Are you facing ADD/ADHD?

Sometimes the reasons parents pull children mid-school year has to do with the fact that their children have ADD or ADHD. If your child is in sixth grade and has either of these issues, then it is not news to you. It has been something you have been dealing with for a long time. Sometimes things just come to a head, and home schooling becomes an option you might not have considered before.
That is what happened to us. Public schools are designed to educate 20-25 children per class, all in the same style, and all at the same pace. For my daughter that was very difficult. Everything was a distraction, she could read above level, but her writing was below level. Her brain moves too fast for her to be “bothered” with writing things down, so she doesn’t.
Add to that a bit of defiance, you see, she does not do busy work. Period. It got to the point that she would ask if an assignment was for credit. If it was, she might do it. If it was not, she would not do it. Her philosophy on that was, if it was important enough for her to do the assignment, then it was important enough for the teacher to grade it and record it for credit. How do you argue with that logic? As you might have guessed, “do it because I said so”, just doesn’t work around here!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Visual learners are one type of student. They tend to learn by seeing. Computer programs and online curriculum are a good choice for these students. Visual learners tend to not want to repeat lessons so things like spelling lists that take all week with a test on Friday are usually not a good fit.
What visual learners like is fast paced, colorful, and energetic curriculum. So if your child is a visual learner, consider moving to something other than the traditional school based curriculum of text books and workbooks. Look for engaging programs that have a lot of movement and energy.
Visual learners sometimes have trouble with tasks like reading and writing. I know that my daughter has a lot of trouble with writing anything. It is not necessarily because she can’t create, but because she cannot create on paper as fast as her brain can think. If your child has this problem also, stay tuned, I will give you a couple of suggestions for things that have worked for us!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free Homeschooling Resources

I know homeschoolers don't always have tons of money to invest. It really is refreshing though when we can find something for free...so I thought that I would share a few free homeschooling resources that just might lighten your load today!
Easy Fun School - fun resources that might make things a bit easier
Homeschool News
Carschooling - fun school things to do in the car
Learning Games for Kids - free educational resource
Home Hearts - a guide to homeschooling
Homeschool Central - advice for homeschoolers
Homeschool highlights - homeschool curriculum reviews and articles
Faith and a Full House - homeschoolers life and times
Time4Learning - free online forum for homeschool parents
Learning Treasures
Unscramble Word Puzzles - Word scramble puzzles for spelling practice and fun

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Learning with Technology

Can you believe how much technology has evolved over the past 5 years? It is unbelievable how the face of education itself has changed due to the effect of technological advancements over the past decade. However, I am concerned over the fact that technology has become such an integrated part of our daily lives, yet most education does not reflect this. Yes, the school systems have required technology inclusion for each day and for each student. But this technology inclusion is not reflective of the requirements the student will face in real life.
Face it, in the future our children will need to have education in technology just to function in society. Do we realize that teenagers these days don't socialize - they have a social network. They don't "chat" they text on their smart phones. People have the world at their fingertips almost all day long. How do we reflect that in the education that we give our children?
I don't know about you, but at our house our homeschool curriculum incorporates technology every day. Not that I am a proponent of being on the cell phone or the computer all hours of the day, but the fact that our children need to be technologically savvy to make it in the future. I am trying to help them be prepared to meet the demands of an ever increasing technological world.