Tag Archives: homeschooling

homeschool resources

Great Homeschool Resources

homeschool resources

The Internet is the homeschoolers best friend. In our journey in homeschooling I’ve come across several resources that have been a life-saver to us in our classroom. One of my favourite homeschool resources is one that I’m also starting to use in my blogging practice as well. Grammarly is one of the best online editing tools I’ve encountered, and I wanted to share this awesome tool with you. Today, we have a guest post from Grammarly’s own Nikolas Baron, outlining the top 5 ways internet resources can benefit your eager students, whether you are homeschooling or helping with home work.

1. Grammar check programs

Teaching grammar can be difficult, but help is at hand! There are websites available that provide more than the standard, unreliable spell check and autocorrect already installed on your computer. Grammarly is one such service, giving users all the benefits of a virtual online English tutor. Copy and paste your text directly into a box on the site, and the program will run an impressively thorough check, finding problems that Microsoft Word would miss. It highlights errors, but instead of automatically correcting them, it first explains why the highlighted section might be incorrect – a big help for students and teachers alike, as it gives writers the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. The program then offers suggestions and alternatives, so that the student can choose the best possible option based on what they have learned. It’s a useful online support system for anyone needing help with written work.

2. Writing Prompts

Many kids struggle with ideas when it comes to writing creatively. That’s where writing prompt sites are invaluable! They are available for all age groups and ability levels: just do a quick search online, and you’ll find one that’s right for your child. These sites come in many different formats. Some provide sentences starters, some suggest titles and topics, and some give a list of words, characters, or events to include in your story. Others simply provide a series of pictures, giving kids the chance to ‘find’ stories hidden within them. Depending on the site, your child may be able to create their very own story books and print them out or email them to friends and relatives.

3. Blogs

Encourage reluctant writers to start their very own blogs. It’s amazing what the thought of an online audience can do for motivation levels! WordPress is a popular choice among bloggers, and it’s free to sign up. Blogging is a simple way to publish your writing online. How about starting a family blog, where each member of the family can contribute their thoughts and stories? Or let your children have their own individual blogs, where you and other relatives can read what they write and encourage them by leaving comments. Don’t worry about safety – it’s possible for parents to moderate the blog, check what kids are writing about before posts go live, and manually approve comments before children are able to read them.

4. Printables

Many educational sites store vast selections of worksheets–often free–to help children practice writing. These range from basic letter formation (tracing and guided writing) to grammar-based exercises and essay questions. Print out as many as you like and give your kids plenty of practice at writing by hand in addition to all the typing they’re doing!

5. Graphic organizers

These useful online tools are great for kids who struggle with gathering all their ideas together, grouping them into paragraphs, and writing a story or essay that flows naturally. Graphic organizers provide a simple way for students to enter all the information they’re planning to use and plan a well-structured piece of writing. These are just a few examples–there are more online writing tools available than would be possible to list in a short post like this. Mix up your approach, take advantage of what’s available, and make writing a fun, interesting activity for kids of all ages!

 

Nikolas Baron discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

 

Creating a Space for Learning – Part One

How, how, how can we be approaching the end of August? I am so not ready to begin our homeschooling! I’m only halfway through familiarizing myself with the curriculum, and our classroom doesn’t exist! Thank god we have the freedom and flexibility of keeping to our own schedule!

I wanted to share some of the inspiration I found for our classroom space, and some of my ‘before’ photos with you. Our room was originally intended as a formal dining room, but we’ve never used it as such because we have such a lovely space in our kitchen where we can eat and look out over the field and forest. The dining room is lovely with gorgeous hardwood and a working fireplace, I just think the color is a bit dark and dramatic for a classroom. I’m hoping with some of Mama S’s talent we can transform it to a very soft parchment color. She’s game for this even though it took her something like ten coats of paint to get it the current deep red many moons ago. Once it’s painted, I just have to hang our black boards, and get everything unpacked and put away.

The room currently has a bit of overflow from the move – some extra furniture that doesn’t belong in there, and some musical instruments and photos from before we moved in. The plan is to empty the room of all of the things that don’t belong, take down everything on the walls, prime and paint, and then install the blackboards and our map of Canada. We don’t have a free weekend from here until god knows when so I really don’t know how this will get done. Somehow we always find a way, so I’m trying to stave off panic.

There are three educational styles that I love; Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio. All three focus on the whole child, and try to foster a passion for learning instead of ‘teaching to test’. All three also have some common ideas about classroom spaces that really make intuitive sense to me; everything should have a place and everything should be easily accessible by the children, each room should be looked at from a child’s perspective and created with their needs in mind, children should have access to the best quality materials and art supplies you can afford, children should be surrounded with as many natural materials as possible. Here are some images of classrooms that I love:

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And here are my ‘before’ shots of our own classroom:

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Wish me luck!

Create Great Theatre With Kids

A couple of weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and took a crash course in driver’s ed. I was in class every day from Monday through Thursday from 9:00 until 2:30. I wanted to leave the girls with something engaging and fun to do, so I made a list of what I called ‘Boredom Busters’. 

The activity that most appealed to Hannu and Aylu was creating a play. Hannu has been devouring the McEldery Greek Mythology book, so I had the girls select a story and create a play complete with props and costumes that they would stage for our close friends and family. They chose the story of Arachne, who is turned into a spider after challenging the goddess Athena to a weaving competition.

It turned out that the girls eventually felt a little overwhelmed about committing Hannah’s sophisticated adaptation to memory, so I spent a couple of hours with them and worked through the story. When I broke the story down into parts in a “what happens next” series of questions, both girls knew almost all of the lines. We decided I would read the part of the narrator, to help out Hannah who already had three roles to portray.

They seriously blew my mind and we had so much fun with this. All I did was jog their memory and suggest some very basic staging. The rest is all their steam and attention to detail, and they were so proud and excited to present their creation. I’ve included a link to the very simple video we shot, but like all stage shows the real magic was in watching the live performance.

Some tips for creating theatre with children:

  • Let them choose a story that they are inspired by and excited about. Stick with classic tales from mythology and folklore because they tend to be very simply written. Have them create a ‘script’ based on the story.
  • Keep a well-stocked dress up box for your kids and replenish frequently with thrift store finds. Think beyond commercial characters and try to find costumes for classic characters and archetypes. Sometimes the ‘ethnic clothing’ section of a thrift store can be a gold mine!
  • Don’t hold them to memorizing lines. Instead, help them remember the story arc and the key characters. If they can re-tell the story to you, then they can create a play that brings the story from the page.
  • Encourage them to play multiple characters by changing simple costume pieces. It’s great fun for kids to explore the ways different characters move and speak.
  • Create pride in their work by having them make hand made invitations that they can issue to friends and family. Turn the play into an event they can look forward to.
  • Help them rehearse by working with them on annunciation, volume, and simple staging. Resist the urge to over-direct them or turn into a rabid ‘stage mom’. Prompt them to consider how lines might be delivered, or how their characters might feel about what is happening.
  • Get involved by helping with props, costumes, set design, but don’t take over. You’ll likely be amazed by the scope of your kids’ imagination!
  • Document the event. Make sure you get video so you can play these when your kid wins their first Tony or Oscar.
Two gals who are very excited to move to the country.

City Mouse No More

Two gals who are very excited to move to the country.

Two gals who are very excited to move to the country.

It’s our so-called spring here in Southern Ontario, and new beginnings are the theme around here. After finally sharing the news with all of the most important people in my life (namely, my children) I can now leave an update here. I’m leaving city life behind, at least for a little while.

Our family business has left us wanting more, and so while we contemplate the future and hatch our next great plan, we will be heading to Niagara-on-the-Lake, to the house in the country that we love so well. We call it ‘The Lincoln House’, and that’s how I’ll refer to it here. With 30 acres of secluded play space, our children will hopefully thrive in a way that just isn’t possible in the city.

We’ve built up a nest of memories here in our Toronto home – equal parts good and bad. It’s sad to leave because I love this house, I love our neighbourhood, I love the school our children go to, and I love having the energy of the city at my fingertips in those rare moments when I want to venture out. I haven’t lived in the country in about a decade, when I did a brief newlywed stint on a very isolated one-hundred-and-fifty-acre nature preserve in upstate New York. That was another lifetime ago, and an experience that still feels bittersweet.

There is no Waldorf school to speak of in the area, and another round of private school tuition just doesn’t make sense right now, so I am undertaking the wonderful challenge and adventure of homeschooling the girls (and I guess little Noodle) with Waldorf curriculum created for homeschooling families. At first I thought this idea was insane, (I mean, I never imagined myself as the marm of the polyamorous family who lives in the country and homeschools) but now I’m really, deeply inspired, and feeling so passionate about this opportunity. I already feel closer to my children. We’ll do this for a year and see how it goes, and see where we’re at. The ideal end goal is to set up home in a slightly more urban area with a Waldorf school nearby, but who really can tell what will happen next?

All of the adults in our home feel the need to simplify, and so we’re going to extensively pare down our material goods, selling everything and keeping only the very basic things we need. I’m overbrimming with glorious information gleaned from the countless, inspiring blogs I’ve found from homesteader types who have dedicated their life to family and simplicity. I can’t wait to purge, pare down, cut out, and free ourselves from so much STUFF! Stay tuned for the yard sale to end all yard sales.

We’re leaving the city at the end of June, when the school year is through. Before the move, we are planting an extensive vegetable garden at the Lincoln house as both a teaching tool, and a way to nourish our family with vegetables that we know are organic and safe to eat. I’ve never undertaken anything quite so extensive, and to say it’s an experiment will be a bit of an understatement.

The girls took the news so much better than we expected. They were excited, and very accepting, with lots of questions, and the predictable concern over friends and keeping in touch. We’re hoping some of the families we’ve gotten close to will be up for weekend play dates, but we’ll be sure to find some extracurricular activities that allow for creating a new social circle.

I’ll still continue with Les Coquettes, because I love performing with them, and I love creating shows. I do wonder what we’ll have in store after this year? So many of us are having families, and/or our priorities are shifting, and I personally find that writing satisfies my creative energy in a way that nothing else can compare to. Perhaps my Showgirl Madame days are coming to an end?

My new life will afford so much more time for writing. I want to share each step of this experience, and all of the little nuggets of wisdom we can pick up along the way. I used to think maintaining a certain glamorous, artsy, sexy persona was the key to my happiness, but with each passing day I realize that my happiest moments are with my children, and they are the greatest legacy I can leave behind. They afford so much opportunity for creativity and connectedness, and I have never experienced anything as inspiring as them. I feel like they are the catalyst that has led me to step into the next pair of shoes I was meant to wear – the pretty, yet comfortable ones that feel much better than the platform stilettos of old.

There is a giant field of question marks that I stare out into every day. This field is daunting, some parts of it scary, but  the breeze that rustles through it whispers of excitement. Change is a wondrous thing, isn’t it? By taking charge of our life, and making some big decisions, I feel like we’re empowering ourselves to be bigger and better.

What’s the biggest, scariest decision you’ve ever had to make?