Category Archives: Schooling

Sylvia’s Super Awesome Mini Maker Show

Sylvia's Super Awesome Mini Maker Show

I found Sylvia’s Super Awesome Mini Maker Show because I was looking up robotics/science stuff for my kids. This girl is totally awesome and inspiring young kids.

So, check her out and share her videos with the kids.

Then, as Sylvia says at the end of each episode, “Don’t be afraid to try new things and get out there and make something.”

image: Sylvia’s Show

 

Coding Sites To Check Out

Girl with Coding Resources

image: helloruby

I was out of town recently, all alone. It was pure bliss. I met a gal at my hotel and ended up talking to her about coding sites she could show her high schooler.

I may have an issue. Everywhere I go I end up telling someone about a coding site that they or their kid should check out.  Or maybe it’s just what I am passionate about!

Regardless of the reason, here are a couple resources for you to check out if you are trying to figure out where to begin with your kid OR perhaps yourself!
 
 

Treehouse Club Ages 9-14

Javascript Treehouse CLub icon

HTML, CSS, And JavaScript

This is a good place for a lot of people to start. The info is explained simply and actually I think the kids versions of these concepts sticks better in our heads, at least it does for me.

 

Khan Academy

Khan Academy Drawing

Intro to JS Drawing & Animation

Short tutorials using JavaScript to create fun drawings and animations. My 7 year old uses this. Khan Academy also recently launched HTML/CSS tutorials. I have watched several and I am impressed. They make it fun and easy to understand.

 

Scratch or Scratch JR

Scratch MIT Book

I love this program.  You learn functions, loops, if-then statements, etc. These are very important coding concepts and even if you do not become a coder, they are extremely important algorithmic concepts.

You use command blocks to build games, make interactive cards or do anything you want. MIT made this and it is free. So just sign up! They also made Scratch Jr for ages 5-7.

 

Build your own Website

Build Your Own Website Comic Book Style Build Your Own Website Comic Book Style

How fantastical is this book? Kids love comic book style books and this one is done so well. My kids have read it soooo many times. It’s an easy read and a great way to start introducing programming words and concepts.

There is even a dragon in there!
 
 

Brain Pop/Brain Pop JR

Brain Pop Moby Robot

You can learn a ton of Computer Science concepts from this site. Actually, your kids can pretty much learn anything from this site. We have been subscribers for over 4 years and I can honestly say this is my most valuable tool I use in homeschooling.  Brain Pop Jr is for ages 5-7 and  Brain Pop is for the older kids.

 

I hope you try a few out. Let me know if you do.

 

 

How to Homeschool in Moderation

Drawing of a scoreboard plan

I was listening to my girl Jillfit last night on a webinar and I realized even more how homeschooling is just like dieting.

Follow me on this.

1) We like plans.

We get excited about cleanses, the latest diet, and buying for them. We love to buy things and find ‘the plan.’ When that plan doesn’t work after a few months, we jump to another plan (or co-op.) We yo-yo, just like dieters.

2) How do you figure out which ‘plan’ is for you?

Become self aware & hone in on how your kid learns. Yep, that’s the secret sauce. Just like no diet/homeschool plan fits all. I have had sooo many moms tell me that they spent $500 on a science/history curriculum and it didn’t work for the kid. Some didn’t even open the box. You and your kid are not in boxes. Plus, those subjects are boring to kids. And teaching them can be boring to us. Hack that and use Brain Pop/JR.  Kids are visual learners.

3) Dieters either deprive themselves or overindulge.

What’s the middle? “Moderation. Which takes trust, time and patience.” Jill related those to diets and figuring out homeschooling is exactly the same. Because it requires you to be mindful and realistic about what will actually work. As Jill says, moderation is not sexy or hardcore, but it works.

4) Automation leads to freedom and trust.

Once you figure out the books/websites you want to use, put it in a Google Doc/Spreadsheet and put it on your kid’s computer. Have them print it out on Mondays and check off the boxes as they go. Once they are finished, then the free time/tv/online games can begin. One of your long term goals should be to have independent learners/workers and this is a great way to get them started.

5) You won’t get it right the 1st time.

Or everyday. That is just how it is for everyone. Every year you just have to be consistently engaged as it evolves.

6) Both require you to feel freedom to be successful.

Being with my kids daily is the hardest thing I do. Why? It’s hard to be around the same people everyday. And we can feel like we are alone/not doing anything.  My hack: Being preemptive about my time. I go on weekend trips by myself, go to fun events alone, purpose to use my gifts for others, pay for services like house cleaning/lawn care, etc. This homeschooling experience needs to be enjoyable (like a diet) most of the time to be sustainable.

Have patience with yourself and kids as you slowly but surely figure it out.

The tortoise always wins, simply and without a grandiose plan. The best plan is the one you do with the most satisfaction. So, incorporate realistic moderation and automation in your homeschool plan.

Here is my Pinterest board I put together about some of my own tools to hack homeschooling.

 

Hacking Homeschool

Suggestion: Don’t go about homeschooling like you would diets.

Meaning: Just buying a ton of stuff then realize it isn’t a good fit and doesn’t work for you/your kids.

Better: Figure out your kids learning style, then tailor everything to that.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 11.55.03 AM

If your kids are into LEGO’s, have their writing assignments be about that.  Science concepts too hard to understand let alone teach? Brain Pop to the rescue! Kids love the robot and the quick videos on their website. AND they learn without realizing it. BONUS!

I think we are unsure (every parent is in this endeavor) and we feel good when we buy a bunch of stuff. The problem is we put hope in that. Our kids are not in a boxed curriculum or in a book. We gotta put in the leg work and figure out their particular personalities to tailor it to their education.

Will it then all magically be easy? No, of course not! But it becomes less frustrating to all involved.

 

image: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/

Hour of Code Is Back!

 Hour of Code

Mark your calendars folks.

The Hour of Code is around the corner. Starting December 8  through the 14th.

I strongly encourage you to try out a few of these easy projects.  We tried a few games last December and have kept up with learning Scratch. From there, it snowballed into learning many other programs and Computer Science concepts.

I am blown away by the creative things my kids have created. Learning to code has so many amazing benefits, as I have written about recently.

So sign up and try it out for an hour!

*If you are in the Orlando Area, and want to join a class, here is a link to a class I am teaching. 

 

 

 

Code or Bust?

coding

To code or not to code, that is the question.

This is becoming a very common question lately in the education world and I thought I would add my 3 cents.

I believe that all students should learn coding. However, not all students will become programers.

I interviewed an expert (my husband) who is a programmer/web developer of 20 years. He said that “you should only become a programmer if it is your passion. You will know if programming is the right career for you if you want to use your free time to program and learn more about programming. Good programmers have a learning mindset; they continually research their craft to keep up with the latest advances and best practices.”

So why should students learn to code if they ultimately may not become programmers? The same question can be asked about math, running, or anything.  Just because we teach math to kids doesn’t mean they will all be mathematicians, or encouraging kids to run for their health won’t mean they will all be olympic runners. Because learning to code has serious benefits beyond just getting a job as a programmer.

I will list a few for ya:

Learning to code helps students with:

  • logic
  • math
  • creativity
  • problem solving
  • algorithmic thinking

Creativity

I do not think people realize that writing code is more about problem solving and creativity. Writing code is like literary writing; the more you practice and improve the more creative and capable you become.

Since the Hour of Code week that launched last December, we have been exploring coding programs with our kids and it has been fantastic. We started with Scratch and are still using it today. In fact, my son made his sister a birthday card last month in Scratch. It was so cool and funny! Press play to see it and type yes when prompted with the question.

Problem Solving

Try out this very quick, simple program to help the angry bird get the piggy in the maze by moving a few blocks of code around and you will see how it helps you systematically think about how to solve the problem.

Algorithmic Thinking

Another benefit to programming is it helps you build algorithmic thinking. A big part of computer programming is thinking in an if else or if then statements. For example, cooking.

If
    (have all the tools) AND (have all the ingredients)
Then
    start cooking
Else
    do not start cooking
    get all the tools
    get all ingredients

We use algorithms everyday in our lives. Problem solving techniques are algorithms, just like we saw with cooking.

I even took a swing at coding

Last year I became inspired to learn programming myself and now currently teach a Computer Science class to kids to help them just learn the basics of computers, how they work and how they can use them to benefit their lives, while weaving in coding concepts. The kids love the class and they help each other and collaborate on many ideas. Its really something to watch.

We need to teach to our kids in the year we live in if we want them to be better equipped. Wishing for how it used to be or how you want it to be is a losing game. It is the year 2014. When we utilize the wonderful tools/programs we have today we give our kids the upper hand. Regardless if they become programmers, learning some coding is really beneficial to our kids.

 

 

Silence is Golden

quiet

 

I was driving my kids to piano the other day and realized it was very silent in the car. They were busy reading recently acquired library books. It was wonderful.

I know taking your kids to the library can seem like such a chore or that you just can’t fit it in your schedule. But, believe me, you want to fit this trip in.

When you are driving away from the wonderful, awesome, I can’t believe it’s free, library and all you hear is silence or perhaps the rustling of turning pages, you will be glad you went. Guaranteed. You will almost feel like you are alone in the car. Which, if you are a momma, feels like a real treat somedays.

Oh, and reading is beneficial to the growth and development of your child! So, get your library card on, get some books and soak up the silence!

Can Kids Love Math?

math owl
photo credit: http://www.amyvolk.com/

You betcha! I am a strong believer that if you make learning fun and in a way that kids don’t even realize they are learning then you have a formula for success!

Kahn Academy is quickly becoming one of my favorite resources for accomplishing both of these. Even kids in South Africa think so too. Check out this quick video.

 

Teaching math can be such a daunting task, especially if you as your child’s teacher do not understand complex concepts. Which is definitely me. But what is also pretty cool about our kids learning from excellent sites like Kahn Academy, we get to learn them all over again and hopefully this time it will stick! It is a free resource so give it a go.

The Hour Has Come!

Do you know what’s happening this week? Coding! The Hour Of Code week to be exact.

Take a gander at some of these videos and see what all the rave is about.

Code.org co-founder Ali Partovi was interview by C-NET. Here is a part from the article:
“that computer science is the most empowering thing a kid could be learning, especially a kid from a disadvantage background.” I didn’t fact-check this, but he said that “a college graduate’s first job in computer science makes more money than a doctor who’s 10 years older.” One thing I can’t argue with is his statement that for disadvantaged youth, “the dream of becoming a computer programmer” is much more realistic than the odds of becoming an NBA player or a hip-hop star.

And here are my favorite companies to help get you or your child started down this awesome path of learning to code. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Kahn Academy

Treehouse

Scratch

Code.Org

My Favorite Website

My absolute favorite website(s) are BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. My kids absolutely LOVE this site and we have used it for 3 solid years. Happily.

http://www.brainpop.com/
http://www.brainpopjr.com/

Moby1

BrainPOP/ BrainPOP Jr.  provides short animated educational videos to explain difficult concepts. Topics include math, science, health, social studies, art, etc. The co-host of each video is a funny robot named Moby. The kids learn SO much stuff and they don’t really realize it (insert evil laugh).

SERIOUSLY, this has been one of the best investments I have made for the kids. It is a little pricey for the yearly subscription but it pays great dividends later.
Brain POP Jr.is $85 and intended for kids K-3 grades and Brain POP for grades 3 and up and is $99.  If it’s too steep for ya, ask the grandparents to get it as a gift for their precious grandkids. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

You can actually get both the apps on your devices and get a free movie of the day. You can get a free trial to test it out as well.

My kids will come to me and ask “Mom, can we please watch one more video; it’s about Changing States of Matter?” To which I respond, “sure my little dumplings.”

Note: While presented in an age-appropriate fashion, Brain POP does not shy away from difficult or potentially controversial topics. (Anatomy, menstruation, the theory of evolution, etc.) You should guide your kids through or around these topics as you see fit.