It’s 8 o’clock, Do YOU Know Where Your Kids Are…Online?

As our church is getting ready to host our annual VBS (Vacation Bible School) Day Camp, my two oldest have been going to help with decorating during the day. Actually they are preparing all the decorations which will be put up closer to the week of VBS. We have quite a large church so there are a LOT of areas to cover. During the afternoon, it has been just my youngest and the pets here at home. A few days ago, we had gotten a our chores done, so RoboBoy and I decided to play a bit of Minecraft together. It was fun to just hang out with him doing something that he loves.

By the way, in my opinion, that is a GREAT way to foster internet safety for kids. Get involved with the things they like to do online so you will know what they are up to. By doing this you may also help them to see potential problem areas that they might otherwise not recognize.

I think it’s also important to try to get to know any friends that they chat with regularly online. It’s good to get to know their off line friends as well!

If you are looking for ways to teach your kids how to be safe online, check out this site: Net Smartz Kids. This site seems geared to younger kids. Here is one that is geared for teens: Net Smartz Workshop.

 

Learning About Our States Online

My mother-in-law loves to tell me the story of how, when she had one of her grandsons living with her, she helped him learn all the state capitols for school using a game they found online. In honor of recently passed Independence Day, I’d like to talk about a fun way for kids to learn about each of the states online. Learninggamesforkids.com is a great site that has all kinds of fun learning games for kids.

In the US State Games section, kids can choose a state or learn about all 50 states. The games include fun activities like word search, unscramble and story blanks. For each state there is a short paragraph giving details about that particular state.

Want MORE? Head over to www.spellingcity.com. They have tons of fun games that will help kids learn about each of our 50 states. There are crossword puzzles, flash cards and even sentence and paragraph writing practice. What a great way to extend the celebration of our freedoms and extend the learning too!

Tech for Your Spelling Curriculum

I shared a couple posts ago about how the youngest contestant to qualify for the National Spelling Bee uses SpellingCity.com to learn her spelling words. Now I want to tell you a bit about SpellingCity.

It’s an online spelling and vocabulary curriculum that you can tailor to meet the needs of your students. Teachers are able to set up their own spelling lists to coordinate with the material they are teaching their students. There is a section where Premium Members can give assignments to each student and then go back to check their progress and print out records.

One of the highlights of the site is a Teaching Resources section that has recently been revamped. It features Language Arts Lessons, Useful Word Lists which include games to go along with the subject material, articles and other help and information. It’s truly amazing how many games they have here and the range of material they cover!

This is just one of the many crossword puzzles from the High School word lists!

But the big news is that SpellingCity is coming out with two new apps! The first one launched just recently and is available in the Chrome Web Store for use with Chromebooks.

The next, which is currently in beta testing, will be for the iPad. If you would like to get in on the beta testing of this new app, go to this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFFLVklkSDd2bXlZd2JESzQ5eHA2Z2c6MQ  The app is due for release before the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

Interview With the Wired Homeschool Dad

I’m very pleased to present another guest interview. This time we are chatting with John from the Wired Homeschool. After reading this, please take a few mins to go check out his site. You’ll find all kinds of cool techie stuff for your homeschool!

Please tell us a bit about The Wired Homeschool.

The Wired Homeschool is a blog and podcast for homeschooling parents who want to learn more about using technology in their home schools. Each week there is a podcast that covers topics that will help parents utilize technology to assist them in their day-to-day homeschooling. Throughout the week I blog about topic that are directly or tangentially related to homeschooling.

 

Why Podcast?

Many homeschooling parents drive a lot and reading while driving just isn’t safe. My podcast allows parents to learn about technology while keeping their hands on the wheel. Since it’s family-friendly they don’t need to worry about letting the kids hear something that’s objectionable.

 

What is your favorite thing about being a homeschool dad?

I’d have to say taking a day off from work to go on a field trip. I love going places with my kids and talking about all the things we learned while having fun at an interesting place.

 

If you don’t mind sharing, what are the ages of your kids?

I have seven kids. Four boys – 17, 9, 7, & 4. Three girls – 12, 10, & 6

 

How do you see your kids benefiting from technology?

Primarily it allows them to learn and apply concepts at their own pace. We can individualize their education much easier using technology. In addition, it allows them to explore topics of interest which isn’t always possible with conventional means.

 

What would you say to encourage other homeschool parents to embrace the technology that is available for educators?

Don’t feel like you have to embrace it all. If you’re not comfortable with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter then don’t use them. If you don’t want your children using a computer until they can write, go ahead and wait. Do what’s best for your family but don’t completely avoid it.

 

How do you see technology changing the future of education?

I think technology will do two things for education in the future:

1. Make a variety of subjects more accessible to more people.

2. Lower the cost of education.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I just want to re-iterate that what you decide for your family is best. I don’t even use all of the technology mentioned in my podcast or on the blog. I’m just trying to curate ideas and share them with the homeschooling community. Some families use a lot of tech while others are more traditional but I think all use some technology. I want to help parents use whatever technology they have to benefit their children and themselves.


Going Tech with Astronomy

My youngest son, RoboBoy, has Aspergers as do I. One of the characteristics of we Aspies is that we tend to obsess over one or two interests. One of RoboBoy’s passions is astronomy. He absolutely LOVES anything to do with space, planets, black holes and the like. So when I read online that we can see Mars in the night sky during the month of April, I had to take him out in the front yard for a look!

 

Our friend and neighbor had shown us, about a week ago, Jupiter and Venus with a crescent moon below. She then introduced us to Earth Sky where you can see what is going on in the sky on any given night.

 

I recently found The Wired Homeschool online. Look for a guest interview from John in weeks to come! In one of his recent posts he talked about astronomy. He revealed the big news that Saturn will be visible in the night sky this month as well! John even has a review for an app to assist in our “backyard” astronomy forays called, Planets. This app is designed for iPad and iPhones.

 

Under his homeschool resources tab, there is a review of Classical Astronomy. A site that presents all kinds of information about just exactly what we are seeing when we look up at the stars. They have a free monthly newsletter that you can subscribe to.

 

Of course there is always the NASA website to peruse. There is a wealth of information on there!

 

I think we may end up having to invest in a telescope for our family. A trip to our local planetarium is probably in our near future as well.

Lessons from Hunger Games!

Ok, it seems that everyone is talking about Hunger Games, so I have to get my 2 cents in too. I know on the surface this does not sound like a post about electronics, but hang with me. Hopefully you will see the connection before I am done.

My oldest son, ManBoy, has been enthralled by the Hunger Games books for about a year and a half now. I recently decided that it would be a good idea to read them myself. I really do believe that every parent should be reading the books their teens are reading. That way, if there are issues in the books that need to be discussed then you will be aware of them. Ideally, the parent should read the book before the teen does. Obviously, that didn’t happen with us.

ManBoy has been reading the books on our Kindle (there’s a connection to technology!). I’m an avid crocheter, attempting to start my own crochet business and have a big order to finish up for a customer. Therefore, I choose to “read” audio books instead. Even though I started “reading” these books because my son is reading them, I found that I’m enjoying them.

We homeschool moms are some of the most adept at turning almost anything into a lesson. I can see all sorts of lessons that can be created from Hunger Games.

  • Fractions – What percent of the tributes were still alive after the “bloodbath” at the cornucopia? Now turn that into a decimal. What is the fraction of girl tributes still alive on day 3? Boy tributes?
  • Vocabulary – Cornucopia, tribute, alliance, district
  • Make you think questions – Why were the peace keepers disliked in the various districts? Why do you think the Capitol divided the citizens up into districts? Why do you think Haymitch stays drunk all the time? Why did Haymitch want Katniss and Peeta to pretend to be in love? How would this help them to stay alive? What was the significance of the mocking jay? How did it’s significance change by the end of the book?

Those are just a few of the ideas I came up with. However there are lots more online!

  • http://www.lessonindex.com/The_Hunger_Games_by_Suzanne_Collins.htm  This site lists numerous lesson plans and teaching guides. These are geared to teachers in classroom settings but could probably be tailored for homeshoolers as well.
  • http://www.hungergameslessons.com/  This is a whole site dedicated to teaching from Hunger Games.
  • http://canadianhomelearning.blogspot.com/2012/03/hunger-games-homeschool-fun.html  This is a homeschool blogging mom who posted about teaching from Hunger Games.
  • http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/111784.aspx  Here’s yet another interesting lesson plan.
  • http://www.pecentral.org/lessonideas/ViewLesson.asp?ID=11065  There is even a site for a Hunger Games Field Day! Get your kids excited about physical exercise by replicating some of the Hunger Games activities.

I’m sure I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I’m going to go back to “reading” now!

Cyberbullying

My husband, kids and I just watched a movie called “Cyberbully”. Fashionista (who is 12) had been wanting to watch it for a while, having seen the thumbnail for it on our Netflix account. I had seen that it was rated TV14 so I had told her NOT to watch it. That was a month or two ago. Well, a few days ago, Fashionista informed me that she had decided to watch it. I promptly ‘decided’ to ground her for disobeying.

 

After discussing this with MyHero, we decided that perhaps we should all watch it as a family so that we could discuss it. I highly recommend that parents of teens and preteens do this. Especially if their kids are on the internet a lot and what kid isn’t these days??

 

If you take my advice, let me warn you, there is a good reason this movie is rated TV14. There are no graphic pictures, but the language being used may be offensive to some families. That being said, there was much fodder for discussion in this movie.

 

One example is how someone can become a cyberbully without ever intending to. Near the end they also discuss positive ways of dealing with becoming a victim to cyberbullying.

  • Print out the conversation in which the bullying occurred.
  • Block the sender
  • Talk to a parent or teacher.
  • For more info on ways to deal with cyberbullying you can go to:  STOMPOutBullying.Org or call 855-790-HELP.

 

It would be great to discuss these options with your kids.

 

I realize that I keep saying discuss these things with your kids. That is another very important point. Make sure your kids know that you are on their side. Whether it’s cyberbullying or your son’s excitement to show you that peach fuzz while asking you to teach him how to shave, let them know that you are there for them.

Kid Blogger

I was watching a video on YouTube earlier on a channel called “How to Homeschool”. Hey, even we veterans can use some tips at times! This particular video is about encouraging a reluctant writer by allowing them to blog. Notice I said, “allowing” them to blog, not forcing them to. It has to be something they are interested in for it to work.

 

Manboy happened to be watching over my shoulder and said, “I think I’ll start a blog!” First thing I sent him to a free blog writing course site. I wanted to make sure that he knows how to be safe while writing a blog. His blog can be found at:  Adventures of a Teen Boy.

I’m excited to see how this can help to improve his writing skills!

Blogging Safety

I have talked before about how you kids/teens connect with others, you know facebook, email, texting and then there is blogging.  Today I want to bring up a few internet safety tips on blogging. These are not just safety tips for teens but adults also.

Names on blogs is a big safety issue. Some people use their own real names for themselves but not use their children’s names. Some people use nicknames for everyone. If you are under 18 it is safer to not use your real name.

Location of where you are. This is a safety issue in that if you share where your live and your name it makes it easier to find you.

Telling to many personal details. Details like your school or location of a local store. These can all be dangerous.

For me I only ever tell people the area that I live in. Not the town.

A great way to get better details on how to be safe is to take a blog writing course.

 

 

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, ever heard of if? It is new to me, I kept seeing this on fb. I kept seeing homeschool kids that I am friends with on fb saying they wrote 1000 words today. That totally confused me. So I decided to do some research.

 

NaNoWriMo means “National Novel Writing Month”  It goes from Nov 1st to Nov 30th.

 

You set goals and word counts. The website has Pep Talks, Web Badges and more.

This is a great way for homeschool authors to get their start in writing. Also a great way to teach writing. I wish I had looked into this before the END of Nov. Maybe we will try this next year.