Streaming and Learning

Not all that long ago, the only time I ever thought about using the TV (in any way) in my homeschooling, would have been if we needed a sick day for mom. And mom would have to have been really sick to default to that, lol.

But, how does that Bob Dylan song go? Times they are a changin’.

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Streaming video services have been on the rise. Why wouldn’t they be? They are cheaper than cable and you basically have everything on demand; you’re not looking through a guide waiting for something to air at a certain time or on a certain channel. Just as with so many aspects of technology, streaming video services are becoming valuable to homeschooling families, and not just for the latest season of The Flash! 😉

Do your kiddos have an interest in bees? There’s a documentary for that. Are they interested in cooking? There’s a TV show for that. Maybe as family, you guys are interested in learning about other world cultures? Yep, you can find films for that.

Here are a few links that have been recommended by other homeschoolers, covering many ages/grade levels:

**DISCLAIMER — only you as a parent can judge what’s appropriate for your kiddos. Goes without saying, but please understand that these suggestions come from many homeschooling families, each with different ideals and belief systems. 🙂


Amazon Prime Video


Do you have favorites that you’ve discovered? Add them in the comments below and we’ll update our list to include them!



Sharing Our Successes…

This time of year is always the time when we as parents/teachers/homeschoolers reflect on the school year that we just wrapped up, or will wrap up over the summer. Instead of stewing over what might have gone wrong (we all have those things, don’t feel bad), let’s share and celebrate each other’s successes.

Homeschool Celebrations

I’ll start. 😉

We finished our first year of high school homeschool this year! I was a nervous wreck before we started, and had been worrying about high school for years. As it turned out, it really went just as smoothly as every other year. There were some initial struggles with how much time we spent on school (prior years we were more relaxed and took a more interest led approach), but when my son talked to other kids who were in high school in public school, and was told about just how much time they spent doing homework AFTER school…well, those struggles were quickly overcome.

Now, let’s hear from you! After you’ve shared in the comments below, take a look at some of these incredible homeschool success stories:


Graduating a Homeschooler…


So many people think that homeschoolers don’t worry about things like graduations, or continuing their education via trade schools or colleges/universities.

While that may be true for some, that certainly isn’t true for most. Many colleges and universities are becoming more and more homeschool friendly, and more and more homeschoolers are excelling at college. Here are some resources that can help you and your high school homeschooler prepare for “life after graduation:”

~ Dual Enrollment – There’s no better way to prepare for college, than to earn high school credits AND college credits at the same time.

~ High School Requirements for Educational Goals – Whether your high schoolers are considering community college, or have hopes of attending an Ivy League school (or they fall somewhere in between those), you want to know what the high school requirements are for where they want to go.

~ Homeschool-friendly Colleges – I firmly believe that homeschoolers have a shot at attending ANY school they apply to, but there’s nothing wrong with setting your sights on a school that happily accepts homeschoolers, without any additional hoops to jump through.

~ College Alternatives – If a major college isn’t something your homeschool high schooler has their eyes on, that’s okay! Here are some excellent ideas/resources for those who have a different post-graduation plan.



For some parents/teachers, their curricula doesn’t multi-task well. Math is math. Science is science, and so on. But for some of us, we need the programs and materials we use to be able to be used across multiple subjects. Here are some examples of how we cover more than one subject at a time:

Incorporate reading into math. Even though we probably all hate those math word problems, lol, they do help with reading comprehension.

We fuse art lessons with history lessons (learning about period pieces and how artists and the materials they used differ than those today).

Using words from our current homeschool social studies lesson to practice word study and vocabulary building skills.

While we use spelling lists from a variety of sources, some of our favorites are actually the geography lists over at! We learn about local geography (states and state capitals), but we also learn about other countries. All the while, we are working on our spelling!

I’ve shared a few of the ways that WE multi-task/multi-subject. Now, won’t you please share some of YOUR ways?

Free and Open Online Courses for High School

Homeschooling through high school can be tough, for both parents AND students! What do you do if your child needs extra help, or wants additional studies in a specific subject area? What if they want to start taking some college courses at home? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent a great deal of time thinking about transcripts, admissions, student loans and everything else that goes along with high school and college, as well as how much all of that COSTS.

Having said all that, I have something to share with you. It might be shocking to hear, but take a deep breath and continue reading…

Are you ready?

There are free courses available online. Free. Online. Available to everyone.

Still with me? 😉

Organizations like the Saylor Foundation have made college/continuing education courses available for a while, but recently launched open online K-12 courses (Saylor Foundation Launches Open Online K-12 Courses)! Their course selection is limited right now, but they do plan on adding more as they can. Immediately available is an American Literature course, as well as a couple of math courses. Oh, and all of these are aligned to the common core state standards!

In addition to the Saylor Foundation, major universities are opening up certain online courses for high schoolers. Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, Duke, Harvard, UCLA, Yale and Carnegie Mellon are just some of the major schools offering free courses right now! From Quantum Mechanics, to Classical Greek Civilizations, to Current Media Studies (and everything in between), there is something for everyone.

These courses would be great for beefing up transcripts (imagine applying to a college or university, already having college level courses under your belt!). They would also work well as a complement to your traditional curricula. If your high schooler is still undecided about what they want to pursue in college, trying out some different courses would be a fantastic way to explore career interests. And one last suggestion as to why you might want your child to enroll in one or more of these courses: keeping their brains engaged and sharp over the summer!

If your high schooler wants to attend a specific college/university, definitely check their course listings and see what they have to offer as dual enrollment or pre-college options.

Online Summer Learning

Brain drain. It happens all the time. Kids everywhere experience it. Young minds feel so fresh and full when the school year wraps up, only to feel slow and groggy and not as full when the next school year rolls around in a few months.

imagesSo what can you do to help prevent the summer brain drain in your kiddos?

Here are some excellent online resources that you have at your avail. These online resources can be a nice break from traditional workbook/textbook learning environments, and work well for homeschoolers and public/private schoolers alike!

Time4Learning – T4L is a fun, multimedia program for grades K-8 that has lessons and activities for language arts, math, science and social studies. It can be used for summer learning, but can also be used all year long as a core curriculum, or as a supplemental resource.

VocabularySpellingCity – VSC is an award winning program who’s mission is efficient game-based study of literacy skills. Their summer program is perfect for all grades, K-12!

Time4Writing – Writing, whether it be creatively or essay writing for the SAT (and everything in between), can be one of the hardest areas for students fighting brain drain. With T4W’s flexible course schedule, summer writing practice has never been easier.

These are just a few, of many, online resources out there. Share with us…what are your YOUR favorite resources and activities for fun summer learning?

Audio Book vs. Reading

My oldest son is in 9th grade now and having to do a lot of reading for school. You should see the list of books he is going to have to consume for his literature credit this year! Not only are they some pretty tough books, “Tale of Two Cities”, “Pride & Prejudice”, but he only has two weeks to finish the majority of them. My son is a very good reader but this kind of reading is overwhelming him, and I can’t say that I blame him.

So at the very beginning of our school year, I was going to give my son the option of listening to his books via audio books. My husband objected to this, saying that he doesn’t feel it is the same as actually reading the book. I’m not sure that I share my husband’s opinion on this one.

Our son already knows how to read and teaching him to read is not the goal here. Having him comprehend and enjoy the books is the goal. I’m listening to these books as well and it would be nice to be able to have discussions with him on the content of them.

MP3 Player with ear buds

I believe there are actually some really great benefits to letting my son listen to books rather than reading them.

  • It will allow him to hear how the words should be pronounced. This will be helpful especially since there may be a lot of unfamiliar words and words from other languages. If he doesn’t know what the word means, he can always pause the recording and look it up, just like he would if he was reading it.
  • It will allow him to multi-task. My son could be doing chores while listening which would possibly make the chores fun, if that is even possible!
  • As I mentioned above, it will help him to get through some very difficult reading much more quickly.
  • I believe that he will actually comprehend the books better this way as opposed to trying to read them. Right now he is just attempting to slog through the chapters assigned for each day. I have a feeling that he is pretty much just skimming the material and not actually digesting it.
  • It will help improve his vocabulary. He will be able to understand many of the new words based on the context in which they are presented.

While I do agree that there may be times when it is preferable to have a student go through the action of decoding the words in a book, I feel that there are many times when listening to an audio book may actually be more rewarding.

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.


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!

  •  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.
  •  This is a whole site dedicated to teaching from Hunger Games.
  •  This is a homeschool blogging mom who posted about teaching from Hunger Games.
  •  Here’s yet another interesting lesson plan.
  •  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!