Homeschooling: iPhone it in

I am an iPhone fanatic. I use it for everything I possibly can, so it makes sense that I’d find ways to utilize it for our home education. These are just a few of the many, many ways an iPhone can add to your home educating experience. I have linked to many apps that I like but I in no way formally endorse or recommend them. Do what you like, I’m just sharing. (For free. No money changed hands for this article.)

Scheduling

I love that I can sync to my iCal so I always have the latest calendar, complete with alarm reminders (which I use a LOT). I also can plan chores (especially easy if you like FlyLady), menu planning and other things too. There’s also a planner app that looks like a real planner and syncs with your Google calendar, if you prefer. I can schedule reminders for all sorts of home maintenance tasks so don’t forget to change the air filter. All this helps me focus less on tasks and more on learning.

Recording

I can take notes and pictures, edit and post them to a ton of places. I can write & publish a blog post with my WordPress app. I can save things to remember in Evernote and remind myself of the great time we had in my gratitude journal.

Learning

YouTube has tons of videos that are terrific for school. I love to pull up video of things like beavers making dens or a working printing press. I can read books from my Kindle app and from other literature apps. I have things like math flash cards, games and other tools to reinforce skills. (I’ll get into these in another post.) Anything I need to make note of is just a click away. When we are learning on the go, I can look up anything we are curious about, like identifying birds or wildflowers.

Enriching

Drawing apps, cooking apps, just about anything to plan a field trip (with maps, phone numbers & forecasts) is right at my fingertips. Pandora and other sites have all the music we need. We can learn a foreign language or listen to an audio book or podcast, plan a garden or visit the Louvre.

Planning

When I need to, I can use PocketFlicks to add movies to my Netflix instant queue (or for delivery) for school, like documentaries and period movies. I can search for books at my library with a web browser and even print documents I need for lessons. I wish I could say I have found a great teacher planner app, but no such good fortune. That I still have to do on paper or in Homeschool Tracker Plus. But it does help me plan just about anything I need to do. And I can set goals with a little help from master planner Franklin Covey.

I know technology isn’t the answer to everything, even for home education. But technology, when it makes things easier, is a good thing. Thankfully, there’s no a app to replace me–yet.

What do you use your iPhone/iPad/iTouch for in your homeschool? What are your favorite apps?

Blank books for children

With the holidays fast approaching and a sluggish economy, you may be looking for create gift ideas that are easy on your pocketbook. Blank books are great gifts for children, even those who don’t usually enjoy books or even read yet. With a little imagination you can take a blank book and make it a one-of-a-kind gift the child in your life will treasure.

  • Make it into an alphabet book they can fill with words and pictures for each letter.
  • Cut and paste random pictures and phrases as journal prompts.
  • Add pictures of things the child loves.
  • Draw in random frames for them to add their own custom art work.
  • Add pictures. The child can make up a story to go with the pictures.
  • Make a picture book that has no words. Let the pre-reader make up a new story each time.
  • Make a drawing book that has only half of each picture. The little artist can fill in the other half.
  • Add random affirmations or compliments. As they fill up the book they will come across your kind words.
  • Include some “Poetry Recipes,” simple poetry ideas (like haiku or cinquains) they can practice in their book.
  • Sprinkle “story starters” throughout the book for budding authors.
  • Include pictures of family and friends.
  • Call it something special, like a Dream Catcher or Idea Machine. Not everyone likes to journal but everyone likes to capture their ideas at one time or another.
  • Add inspirational quotes or stories to feed their passion in a subject.
  • Add library pockets with tags, envelopes, fold some pages and add other scrapbook paper goodies they can manipulate.
  • Add words at random they can add to their writing vocabulary.
  • Ask them questions about themselves on a few pages and let them talk about themselves.
  • Draw some random shapes and let them doodle them into their own creations.
  • Make your own dot-to-dots or coloring pages by tracing family’s or pets’ faces.
  • Give it to them to start a back and forth journal with a parent. Sometimes children will write things that can be hard to say out loud and it can be a great communication tool.

Make sure to include colored pencils and an eraser so they can create to their heart’s desire. My next book arts post will give you some ideas on making books from scratch for children.

Open house–us in a nutshell

I haven’t updated on our family in a while, and since we are starting a new school year soon (and since it’s open house time at The Homeschool Lounge) I thought I’d bring you up to speed on my brood.

I should start by saying in this open house post that we homeschool because we feel we are called to do it. That is not the case for everyone, but it is for us. And we plan to continue through high school. We do not have a room dedicated to school, so learning happens all over the house (and outside). All of life is school, so we are always learning something. We use the Biblical Principle Approach method and if you are so inclined you can see a link to my philosophy of education in the sidebar.

We school year-round pretty much. We use notebooks. We watch TV. We eat too much fast food and not enough veggies. Sometimes we sleep too late and sometimes we argue. We are not dresses-only. We have no problem with home educators who do things differently than we do.

We also love God with all our hearts. we love to read His word and do good deeds (in secret). We leave each other love notes in our mailboxes and love a good movie together. Music is important to us and you can almost always hear some around here. Prayer is a vital part of our everyday lives as well.

Now on to the kiddos: 

Princess G is going into 6th grade. She has grown a lot internally and has been able to take on more responsibility. We are proud of her. Her interest is science, particularly the human body. She loves to work on the computer and visit with friends. She plays the piano too.

Princess S is going into 3rd grade. She LOVES the performing arts. She’s a soft-spoken young lady who makes sure we are always entertained with her stories and songs. She plays piano and has won several awards.

Prince J is 5 and all boy. He loves cars and running super fast in his white lace ups. He recently learned to read, so he got his Golden Ticket on the literacy train. He will start kindergarten lessons. He’s going into his second year of piano lessons.

Prince M, at almost 17 months, is last but certainly not least. He’s learning new words to say every day and he’s a lover, not a fighter. Since he could hold one he’s loved books–hardback books–preferring them over most other toys. God only knows what’s in store for this terrific little guy.

Since I’ll be adding one more to our school day (more formally) I’m looking forward to the challenges and rewards another child brings to the mix. They hall have such unique perspectives and talents that getting them all together is never ever boring. We are also incorporating some ideas from Sue Patrick’s Workbox system. I think it’s going to bring a new vitality to our days that we’ve been lacking. I can go on about all the resources we will be using this year, but perhaps in another post, as this is a pretty big nutshell already.

If I should be so fortunate as to win something from the open house, my first choice would be a one year family subscription to Big Universe and my second choice would be cool shirts from the Homeschool boutique. The rest are great too and I’d love to win anything!

The family newspaper

I had come across this great idea from Lady Lydia and liked it so much I started doing it here and from the beginning it was a big hit. It’s so simple I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. It’s a family newspaper.

The premise is simple:

  • take a sheet of paper and fold in half.
  • Fill the pages with all sorts of interesting things.
  • Give it to your kids to read.

I made a little title that fit our family and set about filling it with jokes, extended family trivia, menus, weather, encouraging words and something exciting that was coming up for each of  the kids that we could all get excited about (or maybe an acknowledgement of some success).

They love to read it while they eat their breakfast. They feel grown up and they love to read about themselves and their family. It has opened up some great conversations too.

I don’t make one every day because I don’t have the time for that. I probably make one every week or so. It’s not fancy. I make one and copy it on the copier so there’s not a lot of color. It’s hand drawn with love and they never complain that it’s too homemade.

Why do it? It’s another way to connect with your kids. And my kids write for the paper too, so it strengthens their writing skills. And I can add “don’t forget” things, so they don’t get another nag session from me. They learn things about their extended family with my trivia and I feed their souls with poetry and their spirits with Scripture.

You’ll be surprised how much you can fit into this little newspaper. If you make one, please take a picture and share the response in the comments below.

25 uses for index cards

I am in love with index cards. Have been for a long time. They are just so, well, handy. There are whole books devoted to using them in your homeschool, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Flash cards. That’s a no-brainer, right?
  • Matching games.
  • Making puzzles.
  • Making 3-D objects.
  • writing out lesson plans.
  • collecting ideas for a paper or a book. they can be shuffled in any order until you are happy
  • Phonics: putting parts of words on cards to match up together.
  • Mental math. Put answers on cards and scatter on the floor. Read problem aloud and when they solve it they pounce on the right answer.
  • Life size board game. Put directions on index cards and create a path through the house. Use big dice and the kids become the playing pieces, following the directions on the cards.
  • For preschoolers: pictures on the cards help them communicate their feelings. They can point to the face that matches how they feel.
  • Use them like soccer warnings. They get cards as discipline. Green, then yellow, then red. You can assign discipline as your family sees necessary.
  • Create a flip book.
  • Write chores to check off.
  • Cut a slit in the end and wind stray ribbon on it. The slit holds the end of the ribbon.
  • Keep a grocery list in your pocket.
  • Lay several out and draw a road on them. Now your boy has a portable road he can assemble anywhere he goes.
  • Make bookmarks for a friend.
  • Recipes. Put one on the quick bread you give to a friend.
  • punch holes and they become lace up cards.
  • Keep a card file organized by month. Use it for birthdays, seasonal chores and other monthly duties.
  • Use them as little canvases for mini fridge art.
  • Make a countdown calendar. Number and decorate the cards and put them in order. Fold one card to make an easel and lean the cards on it. Each day the kids can move the card to the back and see how many days are left.
  • Make a speech. Practice it and then give the speech in front of friends and family.
  • Write or draw your clothes on the cards–Bottoms, tops. Mix and match to create new fashions from your same old clothes.
  • Write your memory work on the cards so you can put them in your pocket for memory work on the fly.

5 uses for school glue

I don’t know about you, but when it’s back to school time I can’t resist stocking up on white glue. It was only 5 cents a bottle, after all. But now I have about 20 bottles of it. So what do I do with all this white gluey goodness? (I mean besides letting the kiddos rub it on their finger and peel it off…)

  1. Make a relief design art project. Draw with it on paper. Make sure the lines are nice and thick and don’t fill in any spaces. Let it dry overnight. The next day you can place another sheet on top and rub with crayons or colored pencils and create some great rubbings. Try lots of different patterns and you can mix and match for interesting effects.
  2. Use it as a resist. Once again, draw a line drawing with the glue in nice thick lines. Let it dry overnight. The next day get out your paints and color in your picture. The colors will stay within the glue lines and you can end up with a great effect that looks a bit like batik.
  3. Use it to make play putty for the kids on a rainy day.
  4. Make some Papier Mache goodies.
  5. Use it like a glue stick. Now isn’t that handy?

Still have some glue left? For even more fun visit here.

Getting the most out of your art museum trip

Yea it’s museum day! Your family is excited as you all pile in the car. How can you get the most out of your precious time together? Here are some tips to help you enjoy your local art museum to the fullest.

  • Go when your family is at their best. for some it’s morning, for others the afternoon. Assess your family’s best time and go then. And remind the kids about the usual–whispering, not touching anything, etc. so they know what to expect, especially if it’s their first time.
  • Go on free day. Many museums offer days with free admission. Take advantage.
  • Check the schedule. Before you head out the door check the museum’s listing of temporary exhibits. Maybe one fits what you are studying. Mark future exhibits on your calendar so you won’t forget.
  • Study a local artist that has work in your museum before you go. Your kids will enjoy the artist’s work much more when they feel connected to the artist. Maybe you can even schedule a studio tour with the artist. It never hurts to call and ask!
  • Leave prepared. Have all the stuff you would have wherever you go. Feed the kids. Wear comfy shoes.
  • Get a map. Plan out your tour, learn where the bathrooms are (and the fire exits too) and see what’s available for viewing.
  • Get a tour from a docent. They will tell you all the interesting tidbits you might never learn otherwise. They are passionate about the museum and will usually offer a great tour.
  • Go on a regular basis. You don’t have to see the whole thing at once. Take it in small bites and savor each moment.
  • Buy a membership. Membership really does have its privileges. Members have access to private shows, special events, classes and newsletters. And if you are a regular museum goer you’ll save money on admission.
  • Plan a visual scavenger hunt. Make a list for the kids to check off, such as “a lady with a hat” or “a piece of fruit” or “a statue of a horse” and let them look for them.
  • Don’t skip the gift shop. It’s a great place to pick up unusual gifts. And they almost always have neat things you can use in your homeschool, like sun printing paper, models and art prints.

Creative alternatives to recalled toys

Am I the only one tired of the recent toy recalls? Not because I necessarily have those toys, but because it is a painful reminder of the commercialism of our children. Not to mention to cost and limited ability of the toy you buy. It will only do one thing and usually recalled toysdoesn’t encourage much creative imagination.

We as Americans have become dependent on entertainment for stimulation, education and even “babysitting”—and it needs to stop. Here are some things you can offer your younger children instead of licensed plastic toys.

  • Blocks of all kinds. Plain, wooden ones with no paint. A friend or relative can cut some for you in a jiffy, and the kids can help sand them down.
  • Tea set with mis-matched Corelle dishes from a thrift store. They won’t break and they are much more affordable than the cheaply made ones from the toy store.
  • Use your imagination. Enough said.
  • Help your children start their own business.
  • Learn a new hobby, like sewing or knitting (or bookmaking!), together.
  • Go outside and PLAY.
  • Give your girls some of your old makeup to play in.
  • Put on a family play or make a home movie. Write a script, create costumes, the works.
  • Sponge fights are fun on hot days. A couple of buckets filled with water, some jumbo sponges and a couple of kids are all you need. They soak the sponges and throw them at each other. What’s not to like!?
  • Have a regular sing-along night.
  • Get your kids the real thing. If they like to tinker, get them real tools (even from a garage sale) and find some scrap wood or old clocks for them to take apart. Get them a real sewing machine or gardening tools. They will learn much more and things won’t break the day after you bring them home.
  • Put them to work. Children must learn to serve others and doing it as a family is better than playing with a certain blonde doll. Give them chores, adopt a needy family, whatever. It will do wonders for their character. And *bonus* your house will stay cleaner!
  • Read aloud often. Listening to good literature is a joy.
  • Go to the library and research something you all want to learn about.
  • Go on a pretend vacation. Learn all about where you would like to go. Make a lapbook, cook some food, decorate the house and enjoy your “vacation.”

For lots more fun ideas, check the web, or use your own creativity. Let your children escape the television and enjoy their imaginations. at first they will complain but after a while you will wonder how you ever had time to watch all that TV. And you’ll save a ton of money on toys kids only play with for a little while.