Tip of the Week: Writing Homeschool Lesson Plans

homeschool resource

Don’t you just love freebies? I sure do – that’s why I’m offering a freebie for each of you this week. In addition to an article about writing lesson plans, I thought I’d throw in a lesson plan template. There’s nothing more fun than being able to do a somewhat tedious task on a beautiful piece of paper. But first, let’s talk lesson plans.

I’m sure that most of you veteran homeschoolers have a tried and true method of creating your lesson plans for the various studies that you do. I have to admit that I do as well. If we are going to go rogue and create our own unit study, I need to create a lesson plan that allows me to incorporate goals and objectives and enable our learning to be right on target. There’s no better way to do that than by using a basic lesson plan. Here’s my take on this (just fyi… I learned this method from my Graduate School professor!)

1) Think about the overall goal that you would like to accomplish with your unit study. Write this out in sentence format. This will be rather broad!

2) Decide how long this study will be. Once you determine the length – write a more precise goal for what you wish to learn each week.

3) Take each weekly goal and make a daily objective that supports that goal.

4) Now is where the lesson plan comes in. You see you really can’t plan a lesson until you clearly know what your goals are. I like to follow what I call the GOMMA method. I use this acrostic to help me focus on the big goal, the daily goal, the method of teaching this lesson, the materials that I will need to gather in order to teach the lesson, and the assessment that I will use to determine if the students understood the lesson.

Lesson plan

 

5) Keep in mind that the assessment does not need to be a test. This can be an informal or formal assessment and can consist of a project, a worksheet, a discussion time, or even a test or quiz. Whatever you believe is appropriate on a daily basis to determine that student learning took place.

So, without further adieu – here is your FREE downloadable and printable lesson plan template.

GOMMA graphic lesson plan

 

Make Homeschool Science More Fun Than Play!

scienctific method printable

At our house, the kids are always up for a little playtime.  I’m always amazed at how much they learn even while they are playing. With that in mind, it has been my goal over the years to find ways to teach the kids while having a lot of fun. It really isn’t that difficult, and it give amazing results. I’ve noticed that when my kids are doing a learning experience that is hugely fun, they REMEMBER all of it. Here’s a few of my favorite ways to make Homeschool Science more fun than playing!

1) Make sure that your homeschool science curriculum is one that can easily lend itself to fun experiments and hands on learning. We’ve used a couple over the years and the two that really stand out to me is the Apologia science series, and Science4Us. Apologia has alot of accompanying experiments and activities that can be so much fun, while Science4Us is an online based program they have amazing science songs and even an online log/journal.

2) Keep it fresh and stay ahead of the game. Yes, it does take a bit of forethought to engage your kids in fun elementary homeschool science. However, this forethought is so worth it in the end. If you can organize your science time each week to include at least one hands on project that you spend one day to initiate and the rest of the week to review… your kids will enjoy science so much! For example, we are studying birds for science this semester. We are using the Apologia science text Flying Creatures. We created a bird watching journal and decorated it with every bird on the first day. Then for the rest of the week/semester we are watching for birds in our yard and using bird watching guides. We go on walks and try to find new birds each time.

3) Pass on an excitement for science by being truly excited yourself!! Your kids can see right through you. If you  hate science and hate doing science with them, they will know! Even if we don’t really love science as parents, finding super fun science experiments to do with your children can be a TON of fun!! It’s not the rote memory of facts or the bland reading of textbooks – it can be making slime or experimenting with which item freezes the quickest. It’s investigating off the page.

4) Don’t use boring worksheets – I know – I know… some kids just love worksheets. I get that – I’m one of those strange people. Yet, you can make it exciting by using or making out of the box and off the page printables. Try this free download of a  scientific method printable that I made.

5) Not sure how to teach the information/science behind the experiment or project that you had a blast doing? That’s easy to fix… you can google the idea, read it to your kids out of a science book, watch a youtube science video, or find a website with loads of science  information.

Get the FREE scientific method printable here!

Don’t forget to check out our other articles on science – Simple Tips for Teaching Science

3 Homeschool Tips for Vocabulary Learning

vocabulary learningSure, I know learning vocabulary is almost like a tradition in America. We’ve been writing our spelling and vocabulary words for decades. We’ve also been finding those science and history bold faced terms that sound like Greek, and trying to look them up. Vocabulary is everywhere… it’s in our math, our language arts, our science, our history, even in art and music. So, are we missing it by requiring students to mundanely write out vocabulary definitions that are longer than my arm? Can it be done another way?

For the most part vocabulary instruction in America has been based on a written or oral learning process. Yet, we know that learning vocabulary works best when the new words are connected to old meanings. That simply means that the new knowledge is taught via connections to the knowledge the student has already (aka schemata.) These connections to meaning are like routes on a map, and they enable understanding.  Proverbs 14:6 says, “…knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.” It is the connections that make the understanding, and it is these connections in learning that I have based my teaching methods on for over 20 years. If you want a child to learn something – connect it to what he already knows!

Secondly, learning is easy when we can see the process. Just like doubting Thomas in the Bible. He didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw His wounds and touched them. Who knows… maybe Thomas was a visual/tactile learner and just really couldn’t “get it” without seeing and touching. so many children are just like that. Allow them to use more than just their ears, and they have understanding for life.

Third, if we can get the student to apply this knowledge or internalize it through use they will be able to solidify it in their thinking. We’ve heard so many times, if we do something more than 14 times it becomes a habit. Similiar is true here, if the student can use the vocabulary word (or other new knowledge) in a real life situation it begins to become part of his/her daily life.

Several popular vocabulary instruction strategies that incorporate these three key ideas include:

1) Pre teaching words prior to reading

2) Using the context of words within a story to understand their meaning.

3) Word walls

4 ) Shades of meaning – using paint cards with hues of a color – give students words that are varying intensities of the same idea. The student organizes them according to what they believe is the most intense (darker hue) to the least intense (lighter hue).

5)Root word analysis – use picture cards of the root word – and then add prefix and suffixes.

6)Vocabulary Bingo

7) Charades with vocabulary words

8) Synonym lists for vocabulary words – finding synonyms that they already know is enabling them to make connections!

Check out my other article on 5 Ways to Build Vocabulary

5 Ways to Build Your Vocabulary

build your vocabularyEveryone knows that the fundamental skill of learning is the ability to read and comprehend. Along with that is the concept of vocabulary building. When read and learn new words, our knowledge and skills increase. All this by simply understanding more vocabulary. To top it off… this learning shouldn’t stop when you graduate from high school or even college. Sure, even us “adults” need to continue to build our vocabulary. As a dear friend of mine said recently, “Learning new things keeps my brain young!” This is definitely the case with vocabulary skill building. Here are 5 tips to help you learn and keep learning throughout life!

1) Get into the habit of looking up any words that you come across that you don’t understand. If you do this every time – you will assimilate hundreds of new words each year!

2) Make a point to use those new words in a sentence the day that you learn about them. This immediately puts the words into your schema and gives you a reference for future use. Put those new words on sticky notes around your house. This will help you remember to use them in a sentence. Throw them away once you’ve put them into practice.

3) Become a voracious reader. READ. READ. READ. This is by far the most important thing. Reading builds your vocabulary as well as your knowledge! Read and you will go far!

4) Read through the dictionary. Sure I know this sounds boring. Yet, you can quickly scan through the pages and highlight any words that you don’t know. You’ll be surprised  at the sheer quantity of words that you ALREADY know!

5) Read literary works that challenge you.  The classics are a great place to start. There is GOOD reason as to why these books have remained favorites over the years and even centuries. Most often their themes transcend time and will envelope you in their story before you know it! Reading books that were written centuries ago will increase your vocabulary with classic words. This practice will not just build your vocabulary, but will enrich it!

 

Homeschooling for FREE… it is possible!

I have many people tell me that there is no way that they could homeschool, because they could never afford to buy all the materials and supplies. Well, just to set the record straight… you don’t have to buy anything fancy or spend a fortune on homeschooling your children. In fact, there are so many inexpensive ways to homeschool, it’s almost funny! I do have to admit that there are things that you can buy that do make it easier… just like a dish washer makes doing dishes easier. Yet, just like doing dishes… you don’t HAVE to have the dishwasher. :)

There are several ways in which you can go about homeschooling on a very slender shoe string… I completely understand, and have actually been there many times! This year, I did splurge on ABEKA videos for my Junior High School kiddos… just because I had to concentrate on getting my youngest reading. Up until now, it has definitely been “homeschooling on a budget”… a small one for six kids!

Homeschooling Offline

One of the best ways to homeschool on a budget – offline- is to use your local library. It is amazing how you can put together an awesome homeschool curriculum just by using what is free at the library. To make the most of the library and truly maximize on its potential, you will need to visit the library frequently. Obviously this will cost you fuel (not completely free). However, you can find teaching resources, student resources, and general educational information all in one place. You will have to invest alot of your time to benefit from this method, but if you have more time than money… then this is a good choice. I would suggest starting with a resource book for teachers or use the internet at the library. Find out what your children need to cover for the grade levels in which they are currently learning. From this information, you will want to make a scope and sequence for each of your children. The easiest way to do this is to make an “outline” type list of topics that they will cover during the course of the year. Divide this list up into the months that you will be doing school, and then further down into weeks. From this list, you will be able to search for resources to use to teach each of the topics on your weekly goals. If you are near a rather large library, you will be amazed at the wealth of materials that the library holds on each topic. You’ll probably have a difficult time choosing which book to use. I get so wrapped up in the cool information that I get distracted and want to take home every book… but I’m sure that never happens to you!

There are definitely other forms of homeschooling offline, and one of my favorites is to find textbooks that are used or are discounted. You can do this by developing what and how you plan on teaching for the next year, and then going on a treasure hunt to find things that fit your plan. If there is a curriculum that you know fits your plan, you can search for used textbooks from that set. I love to use ebay, amazon, or half.com to find my discounted books! There is also a nice homeschool curriculum sharing site called Curriculum Share that you might want to check out.

Homeschooling Online

This is my particularly favorite method of homeschooling. Simply because the cost of my internet access each month more than covers everything I need to homeschool. It’s absolutely unbelievable when you look at the amount of amazing high quality content that is out there FREE to use for homeschooling. There is so much!! I’m not even sure that I can completely cover this topic – but I’ll give you a nice sampling of some high quality free resources.

Let’s start off with one of my favorites, Lesson Pathways. This online curriculum used to require paid access, however, now it is free! That’s good for all of us. You can go to Lesson Pathways and sign up for a free account. There are what they call “pathways” that you can view and determine if they are the lessons that fit your needs, or you can actually build your curriculum within the Lesson Pathways site. You can use their student planner and set it all up right there. The lesson pathways will give you a list of weekly units from which you can view links to various activities and printables and often a video. Everything you need is right there at your fingertips for FREE. Nice…

Another pretty nice FREE online curriculum is the Easy-Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. It has every school grade as well as special subject such as art and music. We are using the art and music this year as electives. It is pretty nice, and works on the idea of links for the information and knowledge base.

There are other places that offers specific subjects for free. The USHISTORY.ORG site does just that. They have U.S. History, Ancient Civilizations, and American Government courses for free.

I could really go on and on with this… like I said before there is a WEALTH of information out there just begging to be used. To make it easier for you to find what you are looking for, I’ll just list the curriculum by subject. Please note that this list is definitely not comprehensive, these are simply the free resources that I feel bear repeating. There are so many out there, but not all of them offer a quality education.

Bible

Kids World teaches Bible lessons for kids with accompanying quizzes

Bible for Children has a lot of resources for homeschool and those who teach SS or Bible school

Calvary Curriculum has a very nice Bible series for children with the lesson AND puzzles and fill in the blank printables!

Ministry to Children also has very nice lessons

Truth Chasers Club – one of my favorites! This is the online club portion of the Good News Club for kids. There is also a free mail version of this club that your kids can sign up for!

Math

Homeschool Math has a lot of super nice printables to accompany your homeschool math lessons

Math.com has alot of nice math tools for the homeschool parent

Khan Academy is super for videos on subjects that parents just can’t get across!

Math

Pinterest and the Homeschooler…

pinterest homeschooling

I think most of you know that I contribute to the Time4Learning Community Blog. This week I created a post that I think is very important to the homeschool community. A combination of two of my loves… Pinterest (ahhhhh….) and homeschooling! (Almost as good as chocolate and peanut butter… maybe) I thought that I would share the link and a repost of the article. It was so much fun to create and I felt like you all could get alot of benefit from it.

If you could take a minute and stop by the Time4Learning Community I would appreciate it, and I know that you’ll definitely come away with something useful. It’s a great place to share and become a part of a huge and varied group of homeschoolers. The parent forum is bursting with tons of information on all aspects of homeschooling, and the blog has so much… well, let’s just give you a little taste here…

Yet, in regards to the subject at hand what is your opinion? Do you think that pinterest led learning might be a viable new homeschooling method? I think it could very well be possible, IF… and this is a big IF… we could somehow keep on the task of homeschooling! Pinterest has such a wealth of information that it is often extremely difficult to NOT get distracted. So, good luck making it through my list…

 

The Top 25 Reasons Homeschoolers Should Use Pinterest

Organization Ideas

1)Get organized for Homeschooling!
2) Simplify your Homeschool Room
3)Organize your Schedule
4)Use technology to organize your Homeschool Planning
5)Make your homeschool beautiful… (my dream homeschool room)
Learning Ideas
6) Find amazing resources for nearly every subject
7) Give your kiddos a pinterest board and let them pin their favorite ideas
8) Use pinterest for science projects
9)Find great pictures to incorporate into your lessons
10) Use pinterest as a lesson in itself. Teach the kids how to create pins and boards and how useful it can be for their learning experience.
11)Find specific grade level materials.
12) Use the great book resources on pinterest to start literature units
13) Use the printable resources to enrich your lessons
14)Use various pins to create a virtual field trip for a particular study
15)Use resources to find fresh ideas for Hands-on activities
Enrichment Ideas
16) Take advantage of the plethora of craft and art ideas and have some fun
17) Encourage your kiddos to make Christmas presents for others
18) Use pinterest to post your own amazing photos of your learning
19) Have your kiddos use Pinterest as an online collection of knowledge for a research report
20) Teach photo editing skills using tools such as PicMonkey
Personal Enrichment Ideas
21) Use pinterest to connect with other homeschoolers – follow their boards
22) Find amazing new teaching/learning products
23) Keep abreast of learning trends and homeschool news
24) Find tutorials to help you teach various subjects
25) Find encouragement through educational posts and homeschool blogs

Homeschool Guide to Teaching Reading

homeschool reading

As a homeschool mom, I think the scariest thing to teach my kindergarten children was always reading. Yet,  I love to see the light come on when they finally are able to read! The problem is… it’s getting to that point that really can be overwhelming. I am currently on my last and final version of teaching reading. (sniff,sniff) My youngest is in the process right now, and I have to admit she is definitely a challenge. So, I’m sharing with my homeschool friends… all of the wonderful “pointers” that I try to keep in mind as I take on this last reading challenge.

One thing to keep in mind as you teach reading is that it isn’t a skill unto itself. Reading is a culmination of many skills put together into a process. This is why teaching reading can be such a challenge. The research shows that the most flexible method and the method with the most long term benefits is to teach reading phonetically. The idea of phonics comes from the term “phoneme” which is the individual letter/sounds of our alphabet. The simplest skill in learning how to read. The overall idea of teaching phonics is to teach the basic sounds in conjunction with letter recognition, vowels and consonants, digraphs(consonant/vowel blends), special rules/sounds, sight words, and suffixes/prefixes.

I love Time4Learning’s reading pyramid. They have made the process of teaching reading phonetically very simple to understand with a  reading skill pyramid. I like to keep a copy of this handy to help me remember the foundational skills that are necessary.  I’ve heard many people complain about the phonics method they were taught. Some have even said that they cannot sound out words as adults because of it. To be honest, if they were taught phonics correctly, they would be able to sound out any word that was given to them. That is the beauty of teaching phonics. The phonetic method of reading gives a person the skills needed to decode any word at any level. The damaging methods such as the whole language approach or site word method teaches only a set of words and then the student learns these by rote memory. These methods are limiting and put the adult at a loss to decode/sound out new words that they encounter. There are some that use blended methods, and I believe that is probably the method that was used in those rare incidents where there are complaints.

To build the skills necessary to make fluent readers, the student must:

1)recognize individual sounds, sounds within words, and recognize the sound’s symbol

2)distinguish between first and last sounds and middle sounds

3)know and recognize all letters and their sounds, begin blending consonant/vowels, blending consonants with consonants,  begin “sounding out” words, and “decoding” to spell words

4)learn the various “sight words” – I know that this sounds akin to the whole language approach – However, there is a place for learning sight words. These are usually words that defy the “rules” and are pronounced with no rhyme or reason. ie. the, put, was, etc.

5) read, practice, read, and read! Read for smoothness and expression… read for comprehension… read for accuracy…the more they read – the better reader they become!

Should all Juniors Take the PSAT?

homeschooling

I just recently wrote an article on Homeschoolers and the PSAT for Let’s Homeschool High School. This article made me aware of several things. First, I wanted to share the info with my friends here at MomSCHOOL because there are some super benefits from taking the PSAT!

First of all some of you may be wondering what the PSAT is. In reality, it is called the PSAT/NMSQT – quite the mouthful- but it boils down to Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test was designed primarily as a preliminary or practice test for the SAT. It gives the students an idea of what types of questions will be asked, how the test is structured, and a way to practice without fear of doing poorly. The secondary purpose of this test is a qualifying test for the National Scholarship Program. This program is designed to commend high achieving students through connections with various scholarships.

Secondly, there are many benefits that homeschooled high schoolers can receive through the taking of this test. The PSAT website states that students who take the test in their Junior year will:

  • Qualify for scholarships by being automatically entered
  • Receive free information from colleges and universities that are interested in you
  • Receive access to My College Quick Start – which is a free college planning tool
  • Score higher on the SAT (on average) versus those who don’t take the PSAT

Finally, there is great news for homeschoolers. The College Board, makers of the PSAT, have made it possible for students to take the test at their local high school. Homeschoolers will simply need to contact their local school’s PSAT/NMSQT coordinator several months before the October test date. Typically they recommend contacting them in July prior to the student’s Junior year of high school, while taking the SAT test in the spring of the Junior year. Homeschooled students will need to know their state’s PSAT homeschool test code and enter it into the test. Other than that, it’s simply a task of taking the test and seeing if there are any areas to work on before taking the SAT/ACT.