Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: homeschool

Daily Reading List — August 4th

Career Slump? John Cena Can Help – Dropping the AA on job hunters. #YouCantSeeMe

8 Reasons I’m Not Homeschooling My Kid – Read the whole thing.

7 Reasons to Add Plantains to Your Diet – We have plantains for at least one meal every day. I have to be one of the most healthy people on the planet. #PlantainsEveryDay

50+ Old Fashioned Insults We Should Bring Back

Number 51. “Nickel–‘Cause he ain’t worth a dime.”

The “New Housing Crisis” – Not Enough Rental Homes?

Wrong Way on a One-Way Track: The Oral History of Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’ – Listen to this as a country song and it’s pretty dang good.

Why Rugby Players Should Train Jiu Jitsu – Because rugby players are famously always hunting for challenging physical activities they can do outside of rugby training. Off-training days are jam-packed full of extra physical activities.

7 Things That Shouldn’t Impress Us Anymore – Caveat here–a couple of the things actually are important to me. But I don’t care what other people think about them.

Daily Reading List — July 10th

Homeschooled Weirdoes And The Culture Of Conformity

DC Administrator Expects Good Schools "Sometime in the Next 10 or 20 Years" – Ugh. Homeschool soap box here…

If something isn't working for you kid, you can change it now. Immediately. You don't even have to wait 10 or 20 minutes.

Why America Is So Obsessed with Florida (man)? – Keep Flarda weird.

Soon you’ll be able to Cast tabs from Chrome without an extension – Yaaaaas

All the OK Google commands. Or at least a lot of them.

Strength Contests from the WWII Era – AoM – Do this kind of stuff daily with a friendly neighbor if you can, and toughen up.

You can’t kill email – This is way more depressing than the articles I read claiming we are headed for a political and financial meltdown.

The End Game Of Bubble Finance – I think they may have at least one more bubble in them.

Tips On Tracking Unschooling Activities With Evernote

For the last 11 months, we’ve been pretty diligent about recording educational activities in Evernote. When I say “we”, I mostly mean The Missus. She has a lot more access to the kids on a day-to-day basis to capture photos and write quick descriptions of what they’re doing.

Even with our efforts to stay on top of it, it’s next to impossible to capture everything they are learning.

That’s a good thing.

When you change your perspective and realize that learning is something that is always happening (not just between the hours of 8 am to 3 pm during the months of August-May), you realize you can’t even begin to truly document it.

We just had our annual teacher evaluation for our first grader 6 year old learner. It was the first time we’ve gone through the official evaluation for the state of Florida, and we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Mostly, we wanted to make sure that we had not only enough hard samples, but also lots of information stored digitally to demonstrate the wide range of subjects and interests she’s explored during the “school year”.

The Missus is an organization freak, and I’m an information hoarder, so we should have known we’d done enough. Still, we were relieved to find we had plenty of hard samples of work, and what we’ve been doing in Evernote made it super easy to demonstrate the fact that our kids are learning a ton.

Our approach to using Evernote to track the kids’ education is constantly evolving and being tweaked, but I thought I’d document a few of the tips and tricks we’ve developed along the way.

Buy the Premium version of Evernote

Homeschoolers are notorious for seeking out good deals and using as many free resources as possible. Not criticizing that at all…I’m all about it! But this is one place I’d recommend spending the extra money. You won’t be sorry. At $45/year, Evernote is an insanely good deal. Some of the benefits of Premium are:

  • 100 Mb notes, and 1 Gb/month of storage. You’ll need it for the photos you take on field trips with your mobile device
  • Search within photos. Again, this works great for field trips. You won’t have to annotate nearly as much, because you can just take photos of all the informational signs you see, and search will help you easily navigate to these signs later.

  • Sharing notes. More about this in the next section, but our strategy depends heavily on both parents having access to the Notebooks we use.

If you aren’t sure about this purchase, the free version is still extremely useful and highly recommended!

Get Both Parents Involved

My favorite thing about using Evernote is that I get to see what the kids are doing and learning without being there. I only get to go to a few of their out-of-the-house activities because of the pesky work thing, but they are constantly out doing stuff. I have Evernote open all day for my own notes, and since Evernote allows The Missus to record notes on her mobile device and they are shared with my account, I can see what’s going on semi-real time. If they’re out for a program at a nature center, I can check in at lunch and see what they’ve been up to. When we sit down to dinner, I have a bunch of specific questions about their trip.

“Did you get to see any critters on your field trip?” is a much better conversation starter than “So…what did you learn today?”

evernote_scavenger

I also use Evernote to add notes for things I do with them, and it gives us a central location to track everything. For example, I taught them a game they love a few weeks ago.  To tell me which coloring pages they want me to print from Google Images, they give me the column number and row number of the picture. To them, that’s just a cool “code” to tell me what they want, but it gets recorded in Evernote as a math activity–the Cartesian coordinate system.

coloring_pages_peregrine_falcon

I do the majority of bedtime reading around here, and as the kids are getting older the subject matter is getting a little deeper. So we are now able to have history discussions based on what we read in the “Little House” series and science discussions prompted by books about snakes and sea creatures.

evernote_little_house

Minimize Notebooks

Your first inclination may be to create separate Notebooks for every subject, but when you think about it, that will soon put you in a position of having to choose between at least two Notebooks, maybe more. For example, let’s say you’re reading the “Magic Tree House” series of books and your child starts asking questions about mummies–what they are, how people were mummified, how long ago this happened (all based on a real conversation we had by the way).

This is exactly how self-directed education works! It’s working! You definitely want to make a note about this! But does it go into the “Reading” Notebook, the “History” Notebook, or the “Science” Notebook? After all, you’ve hit on all these things.

The answer is to forget about trying to drop stuff into Notebooks (basically folders) based on subjects and use tags instead. You can only put a note into a single Notebook, but you can tag it with as many things as you’d like.

(more on our tagging system in the next section)

That doesn’t mean Notebooks aren’t useful though. We use a pretty simple system of Notebooks to keep up with the new notes we create–a “To Be Processed” Notebook, a “Current Academic Year” Notebook, and (as of next month) a Notebook for each archived academic year.

evernote_notebooks

The default Notebook is “To Be Processed”. Every note we create goes here automatically. It stays there until we have both had a chance to tag it, review it, and annotate it if necessary. Once that’s finished (processed), we move it over to the “Current School Year”. And once the academic year has ended and we’re ready to start a new “year”, we’ll move all the notes in that Notebook to the archive Notebook for the past year.

Since school learning never stops for us, we’re continuing to add notes to the “Current School Year”, even though it’s summer. In August, we’ll empty out the “Current School Year” Notebook, moving all of these notes over to the “2013-2014 Academic Year Archive”, just so we can stay in sync with the timing of regular school.

Tags, Tags, Tags

This is the real payoff in my opionion. The ability to tag your notes is huge for unschoolers. Since we don’t have “subjects” in the traditional sense as part of our every day learning, it would be really difficult (as mentioned above) to categorize notes into separate Notebooks the way traditional education systems break down classes and subject matter. Still, we need a way to make the evaluation process run smoothly and to show that we’re making progress in specific subjects.

And, let’s be honest, some unschoolers get a little anxious now and then they aren’t “doing” enough, especially when it comes to math. By tagging notes, it’s easy to go back and review what’s been going on and quickly see progress. More often than not, you’re able to put your mind at ease when you find there’s actually a lot of math going on, just not in the sense of filling out worksheets at a desk.

Forty six notes as shown below may not seem like much, but when you consider that these are just the moments you were able to capture and document, you realize they are doing a ton of math all the time!

evernote_math

So how do we organize tags? This is the part of our system we’ve developed by trial and error. What we’ve tried to do is determine what we’d like to know about each note, and develop a way to organize the tagging:

  • What subject?
  • Who? Which kid(s)?
  • What area of interest (specifically)?
  • Where did this happen?
  • When (automatically taken care of in Evernote…cool!!!)

Here’s where we got fancy out of necessity. When you go to tag a note, Evernote tries to assist you with an auto-complete feature.  Great feature! The problem is that you’ll probably end up with a ton of tags in the four different areas mentioned above, and that makes the auto-complete not as handy.

For instance, if your kid’s name starts with an ‘S’ and you want to tag them in a note, as soon as you type ‘S’ you’re going to get a long list of possible tags and (from experience) you’ll end up hitting “enter” prematurely and tagging them with an incorrect spelling that you can’t find later.

To make it easier to tag notes quickly, we came up with a prefixing system to make things super-easy to see at a glance.

For traditional subject categories, which are useful when it’s time to do evaluations, we use the ‘$’ (it looks like an ‘S’, get it?) as a prefix. So if we’re doing something related to history, we tag it as “$History”. There are very few of these tags, but again, most of our notes have more than one “subject” tag.

When we go to tag the subject(s) of a note, all we have to do is type the ‘$’ symbol, and Evernote automatically filters our tags down to those few subjects.

evernote_subjects

For the “who” type tags, we just use our kids’ names, but with a ‘+’ at the beginning. So you may tag a note with “+Johnny”, “+Sally”, and “+OtherKid”. This allows you to go back later and look at a what a single child has been up to, or even see what activities they’ve been doing with their brothers and sisters by searching on multiple tags.

When we want to tag the kids in a note, we enter the ‘+’ symbol, and all of our tags are immediately filtered to the only the kids’ names–just three tags.

IMPORTANT–Since our kids are “free-range learners”, a large number of the notes we take are things we just happen to catch them doing during “play”. We’re constantly stumbling upon them doing things like observing bees and counting/sorting rocks. Lots of these activities are things they’re doing together!

For “where” we preface all of the tags with “loc”. Again, not a ton of these, but they look like locHome, locClasses, locMuseum, etc. Admittedly, we don’t use the location tags for a lot of our notes because the photos make the location obvious and Evernote can actually keep up with the precise location for you. Still, it’s nice to quickly be able to use “locBeach” to quickly see all the notes about things they’ve learned there.

By far, the most varied tag type we use is our set of “interests”. We preface these with a ‘!’ (like an ‘i’). Tons and tons of these: !Tessalations, !WaterCycle, !Sewing, !RevolutionaryWar….the list goes on and on. Unlike the others, this set of tags is constantly growing, depending on what the kids are interested in at the time.

We also use the !interest tags to get more specific information about a $subject. For example, if the two year old is sorting game chips by color and counting them, we’ll tag it as $Math, !Sorting, and !Counting.

Here’s a really great example of how we tagged a note for an activity that came about after reading a book on Pompeii. The 6 year old became interested in volcanoes, and read some other books before making one of her own.

I’ll save my remarks about how amazing it is that this was all self-directed for another day, but you get the idea here. Lots of subjects were involved, and specific interests give us more detail about the activity.

evernote_volcanoes

I feel like the real benefit to using Evernote for unschooling is going to come at a later date. Maybe in a few years, after they’ve learned to use a tool like Evernote for themselves, they’ll come across some information about Pompeii and wonder, “that sounds familiar–have I ever learned anything about Pompeii?” They’ll be able to easily filter through these notes and see what they’ve already learned.

Maybe it will trigger something for them and it will all come rushing back. Maybe it won’t. But they have the foundation for a personal knowledge base they can continue to build on their own in whatever format they like.

At the very least, Evernote makes it easy for us to keep up with all the amazing things they are doing!

Daily Reading List — May 26th

Sitting is the new smoking? I hope lying down is the new sitting. That’s the kind of gig I’ve been looking for.

Student wins science fair with 30-second phone battery charger – More of this please

What Do Unschoolers Do All Day? – I've learned so much about birds and fire ants from my 5yo. Thanks #unskooling!

Wealthy Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides to bypass lines at Disney World – NYPOST.com – I don't doubt this for a second. The density of those scooters in the parks is amazing.

Daily Reading List — April 23rd

Do You Run Enough? – No. That was easy.

A Bomb Is the Opposite of a Marathon – "But when two blasts rung out around 2pm, running experienced violence. We were violated. Those two blasts introduced pain without effort. Suffering beyond endurance. A bomb is quick, thoughtless, grotesque, impatient, unfeeling. It's all externality, no internality. All destruction, no training. All noise, no silence. All damage, no strength. A bomb is the opposite of a marathon."

Read the whole thing a couple of times.

6 Coding Apps For Kids – Get them young'uns schooled up!

Pucs: rechargeable ice! – I looked at some re-usable stones as cubes a while back, but I like the look of these better. I may participate in this one when I get more allowance.

Daily Reading List — February 19th

Make The Data Center The New Telco – Yammer just announced they are dropping SMS notifications. Maybe a way to hack that back together?

Tumblr Is Not What You Think – Bam. And, as always, what should be general knowledge for months is just now being reported.

10 Classic Books You Read in High School You Should Reread – I only read six of these the first time around. Good to know there's good stuff while I wait for Winds of Winter.

Senselessness of school math – "Life came first. Then we invented math as a way to describe life. Teaching math out of the context of what it's describing is like teaching a foreign grammar and vocabulary without ever hearing or using the language."

Exactly.

Daily Reading List — January 23rd

Actual Facebook Graph Searches – This is loaded with awsum. FB unlike avalanche in 3,2,1…

Small Expenses Add Up – When you start tracking where every penny goes, it can be a rude awakening. Adding up my Cool Beans budget changed my life. Sorry Howie.

A Recovery Program for Homeschool Split Personality Disorder – Sometimes it's less like Jeckyll and Hyde–more like Gollum and Smeagol. Must educate Precious.

Fear Not The Swim – Some good stuff here. I always dismiss fears of the swim with, "ah…that's the easy part". Probably should point them to stuff like this instead.

Homeschooling, Robot IronMen, Unstructured Play, Plus MORE!

Another link dump. I promise I’ll try to include more bloggers and less news stuff in the future.

Here’s How to Stop FB From Tracking You Online – Logging out isn’t enough.

Can We Play? – Feeling guilty because you don’t get to spend enough time on education and they are aimlessly wasting the day? Don’t.

Career Ruin: Homeschooling

I realized that public school is like Social Security. There is no money to do what we are pretending we are aiming to do. We should just grow up and admit that we cannot have effective public schools for everyone. Just like we cannot have Social Security for everyone.

Well there go her Presidential hopes.

Gamers Unlock Protein Mystery That Baffled AIDS Researchers For Years – More of this please.

Woman tries to shoot possum, shoots acquaintance instead – I wasn’t even aware @knoxvillerugby was playing in ATL this weekend.

Dubya and Me – You don’t have to be a fan of his politics (I’m not) to enjoy this great piece on W.

Three Market-Based Solutions To Pull People Out Of Poverty – More of this too!

Robot Triathlete Will Complete An Ironman? – These things don’t have the greatest form, but I’m not one to talk.

I’m reading– February 22nd through February 25th

Some WordPress 3.1 Themes That Take Advantage of Post Formats – Lots of good ideas here.

Make Tumblr Out Of WordPress 3.1 – If you recently upgraded to 3.1 and want to take advantage of the post formats, here's a great tutorial.

Moms Know What Ben Bernanke Doesn’t: Inflation Is Here – Not only is it here, it's more aggressive than is being reported. At least that's what trusted moms are telling me.

WordPress 3.1 Codex – Some really cool stuff in this release. I can't wait to see what kinds of cool things theme developers do with the new Post Formats!

Homebuyer Tax Credit Scheme..err…Alternative – Here's an idea: Let's stop propping up the market artificially and just get through this mess.

Breaking Up Boredom for Homeschoolers – Here are four really smart ways to change gears for a day and still keep the education ball rolling. Administration approved!

Newest Carnival of Homeschooling Is Up!

Thanks to Christine at Our Curious Home for hosting this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling and including us!

There are so many good articles in this week’s edition, and these are some of our favorites so far…

Montessori Print shop has some good tips on getting started with Montessori at home. We are a far cry from full-blown Montessori style learning around our house, but it’s nice to have a little area set up for the kids to come and do self-directed activities they enjoy.

Robin at Crack The Egg has a great idea on creating and using a robot book. This idea can be used for whatever subject your child is interested in. For us, that would be a flower book. Two of them.

And finally, some advice on dealing with people who are hostile to the idea of homeschooling from The Common Room. Bottom line–everybody has to do the best for their particular families based on their particular situation. In the end, you may not be able to help them see why it’s the best decision for your family, but it may help  you understand why they react the way they do.

Our Co-op For Preschoolers In Action!

Ana isn’t going to toot her own horn about this here, so I’m going to step in and toot it for her. A few months ago, she posted on a local website asking if there were any other moms in our area who would be interested in starting up a home preschool co-op for a small group of kids. The response was great, and before they knew it they were having a meetup so the kids and moms could all get acquainted.

The results have been so much better than we could have hoped for! I can’t speak for any of the other families/kids, but we’ve seen a huge acceleration in Pea’s learning since she started going to a “real school” with other kids who have different talents and abilities. The biggest benefit has been the different skill sets and creative ideas the other moms have brought to the group. Of course, Ana is teaching reading, but other moms are in charge of math, writing, science, cooking, calendar time, art, etc. Every session has a lead teacher and a helper which allows the moms who aren’t teaching to help take care of the smaller siblings.

The school meets Monday and Tuesday mornings for instruction, and Fridays are for field trips and play time. It has been an incredible supplement to the things we work on every day at home, and the introduction of other kids and teachers have had an impact on Pea’s behavior and interest in learning from other people.

I’m so thankful for Ana and the rest of the moms in the group for their huge efforts and contributions to our children’s educations!!!

Stuff You Should See– September 3rd through October 13th

Top 5 things to HATE about Marathon Runners -Ha! Best list since “Stuff White People Like”. I made every annoying thing on this list!

Amusing Ourselves to Death – Awsum.

Higher education bubble poised to burst – "The people running America's colleges and universities have long thought they were exempt from the laws of supply and demand and unaffected by the business cycle. Turns out that's wrong."

Market: Over 12 Year Period You Made More on 1st Day of Month.. – That is a pretty amazing fact.

What if the Postal Service runs out of money? – Cheese and crackers! Just let it die already!

Testing Teachers On Math and Reading – I can just hear their excuse now…"I may not be able to lay an egg, but I can tell a good one from a bad one" or "Do you think Tiger Woods' golf coach is better than Tiger at golf?"

Google SEO Starter Guide updated

The Most Influential Consumers Online are on Twitter – The easiest way to get a lot of retweets is to write an article praising Twitter users.

Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter? – "Stupid jock" isn't always true.

Stop Repeating Yourself: Set Up a Workplace Wiki – I tried this at a former job a few years ago. The result–I used it. Then we had the middle management who would copy the contents of a help file somewhere and paste it into the wiki. That gets you bonus points for authorship when you show it in your PowerPoint!

IEEE Spectrum: Get on the Optical Bus – Good news for 3rd party software vendors. Now they can blame software issues on the fact that you don't have hardware with optical bus!

A few fabulous homeschool rants – heh.

Stuff You Should See– January 26th through February 1st

The Death of Global Warming – I don’t think it’s dead just yet. Just like in a bad horror movie, it will make one last effort to grab us by the ankle and stab us in the knee. Or something painful like that.

Iran News in February. – If this involves a Segway or an iPad I’m going to be very disappointed.

The 25 Hottest Olympians To Watch For – Ok.Fine. I’ll watch.

Wanna Buy Lane Kiffin’s House? – I propose a group of boosters get together to purchase this place. Then invite 100,000 of their closest friends over and roast marshmallows as it burns to the ground. 😛

Free in Tennessee – German Homeschooling Asylum – Speechless. For whatever reason this family chose to homeschool, I’m glad they found a place they are allowed to do so.

Some Daily Homeschool Advice

Jennifer is a friend from way back and is homeschooling her kids for the first time this year. Lots of good advice over there, including this:

It doesn’t matter if my child is ahead, behind, or right on target, I have to ask “who’s target?” They get there when they are ready. My job is to meet them exactly where their knowledge stops and their curiosity begins. I have to make sure they are not bored nor overwhelmed.

Smart move–it seems like one key to successful homeschooling is to identify your child’s preferred learning style and adapt your teaching methods to it instead of the other way around.

Socialization Experience For Your Home Schooler

homeschool_bully

Here’s a pretty funny response to the old argument that home school kids don’t get socialization.

If you want to get a bit old-school take him into the bathroom once in a while and threaten to smack him upside the head unless he gives you his lunch money.

Follow the link to read the whole thing…it’s hilarious.

And here’s something to think about seriously:  I went to public school. If I’m any indication of who they’ll be socializing with, is that what you want for you child’s education?

HT Kleinheider

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