Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Internet homeschooling helps

I'm going to be honest here. My local library stinks. I know it's not for lack of trying, but I really think it could be better. What are they doing with all my tax money? Using it for our public safety? Well, I guess that is more important.

But trying to homeschool without a good library is difficult. I have to search out books that I want several weeks in advance of when I need them. I have to check to see if that book is in our library system somewhere and then ask the librarians at my little, dinky library to request it from them, so that we can use it, thankyouverymuch.

Well, that's a lot of complaining, but truthfully the Internet makes all that searching easier. What did homeschoolers ever do without the internet?

I'm going to share a few ways in which my friendly little Internet connection has been a big ol' help.

I use ABeka for Language Arts. I bought the student's workbook new, but I bought the teacher's workbook (with the answers!) and the lesson plan book used at a local homeschool store.

This week my son was learning about pronouns in the subjective and objective case. I had the teacher's information right in front of me, but it didn't explain the cases very well. I could tell my son wasn't getting it and I was at a loss, so I turned to my good friend, the Internet.

I have several sites I pull from in times of trouble, but the Scott Foresman Reading site is my hands down favorite for Language Arts. I just clicked on the fifth grade material and found what I needed and printed out the magic pages. The next day, Evan and I went over the material and the light bulb went off! I was so impressed! With Evan and with Foresman!

I love ABeka and have used it in some form for every homeschool year. For some reason, though, this particular lesson wasn't cutting it. It was nice to have something else to turn to for reinforcements.

Typing (or keyboarding) is something that I try to focus on. I think handwriting is very important and focus on it too, but, let's face it, kids are going to use computers more and more. I love the BBC Schools Dance Mat Typing. Evan practices with it frequently. My goal is to have him do that at least once a week. Sometimes we meet that goal, sometimes we don't. Regardless of our dedication, it is a very helpful learning tool.

The BBC Schools site has some neat stuff too. I've pulled things from history off this site. Last year we learned about children in England during World War II. Evan loves reading and learning about World War II. That was a lot of fun for him.

We started school in early August, so we were learning about the Olympics (and watching the Summer Olympics!). I used that to talk about Ancient Greece and let Evan explore information about Olympia, and other Grecian places. He enjoyed exploring these areas of the BBC schools site.

This year I plan to do a unit study on Ben Franklin using this site. A couple of years ago, we learned a little about him and read some of his Poor Richard's Almanack online. This year I'd like to go a bit further, hopefully using the almanack to talk about journalism, writing newspaper reports, etc. It's a subject near and dear to my heart because my degree is in journalism and I wrote for a few publications pre-baby. I thought it would be fun for Evan too, with him possibly making up his own little newspaper as a project.

All of that is still in the works, but today I purchased Story of the World, Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer to help us with history. I didn't purchase any type of history curriculum at the beginning of the school year, because we kind of prefer to go our own way with all of that. It's possibly Evan's favorite subject. I'm very excited about this purchase. I didn't purchase the activity book. I'm hoping I can come up with some things on my own. We've never tackled ancient history (with the exception of the Olympics study), so this will all be new to us! So even using the Internet for online shopping is a lot of fun!

Book Adventure is a website we just started using this year. When Evan was in public school one of the things I disliked greatly was the Accelerated Reading program. I actually believed it turned Evan off reading for a while. For those not familiar with AR, children are required to earn a certain amount of points by reading books and then testing on those books. Evan's class was told they could be held back in second grade if they didn't reach their goal, which was a lie.

It's funny to me, because I disliked AR so much, that I really have enjoyed the Book Adventure website. We haven't done anything with the prizes they have available on the site, and I don't think we will, but Evan really enjoys the little quizzes they have for the books he has read. I like using the booklists to get ideas for books for him to read. Then I have to scour my library system's website to find them!

Another thing I love about the Internet is the access to classic radio shows. We have Sirius radio in our van and often listen to the Radio Classics channel. When we're home I often play something from this list. We love Fibber McGee and Molly and really enjoy listening to the old programs. There are plenty of other shows to choose from. We've listened to lots of them together and haven't found a clunker in the bunch. Fibber and Molly is my personal favorite, though! Dad and Evan like that show, but also love The Lone Ranger. There are other free OTR sites, but this is the one I visit most often.

The internet gives us access that really helps our homeschool. I could list a ton of other sites that I have used in the past or have bookmarked to use in the future. The ones I've talked about are the ones I have been using most this year.

What I'd love to have is a good website for science ideas. I have several science textbooks, but I need some hands on science activities. I've looked at a few places, but nothing has really stood out. Anyone have some ideas?

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