We have a lot going on in Fall, and to help you get ready, we’re holding a couple of orientation sessions to help you prepare to get the most out of our time together this year.


  • Aug 22: Aurora for Science, 10am Pacific (60 min)
  • Aug 23: Brian*** for Electronics, 10am Pacific (60 min)

These sessions will help you get organized and have Q&A opportunities. Sessions are appropriate for both parents and kids. Join our sessions by  clicking the link to either Zoom, Youtube, Facebook in your Sunday email. (HINT: If you’re not getting our weekly emails, please let us know right away so we can help!)


These will be recorded in case you miss one (click  here for recordings after the live sessions end).


*** Brian has created a new kit for the upcoming school year (called “Electronics Essentials”) and it has all the electronic parts you’ll need for his classes this year, plus lots more. The parts boxes include labels you can add to the top of each tray so you’ll know how to organize your parts. You’ll want to order your kits by July 31st to ensure they arrive in time for “Getting Organized with Brian” on August 23rd.


Supercharged Science Summer Book Challenge!

It’s no secret that some kids love reading more than others. Especially these days where video games and cell phones are so readily available. Not to mention how crammed kids’ schedules can be with activities and afterschool sports. Reading doesn’t have to take a backseat, especially during summer!

 

Our goal with this Summer Reading Book Challenge is to create a community of kids who not only want to read but LOVE to read.

At the end of summer, we want to hear: “I didn’t used to like to read, but I really enjoy it now!”

Here’s how our book challenge works: you’ll find two sets of book titles listed included in this packet, one list for beginner readers (picture books and “easy readers”) and the other is elementary to middle school level.  Many of the upper-level books are part of a series.  Tape this list on the wall next to your books. When you finish a book, either check off the box or cross off the number if it’s part of a series.

You can read as many of these books as you want. Feel free to use both lists no matter what age you are. You can add any books you wish to this list. No books are off-limits (within reason – parents, please use your best judgement here). You can even create your own reading list, it’s up to you!

If you find yourself only reading one type of book, like reading just fantasy, you might want to challenge yourself to read something you’ve never read before, like a biography. There are so many great books for every age group!

You can set a goal for yourself, like reading a book a week (200 pages+) for upper-level students or reading two books a day (like picture books) for younger students. Set yourself a goal and write it in the space below.


Do Galaxies Breathe, too?

Galaxies are more than just hundreds of billions of stars; the gas that fills the space between the stars in fact plays a crucial role in determining the fate of a galaxy. Please join my short presentation to learn more about the interplay between gas and stars, as well as galaxy “breathing” in a similar way to human respiration!

Xinnan Du is the Outreach and Engagement Manager at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University. Inspired by one of Stephen Hawking’s books, A Brief History of Time, in high school, Xinnan pursued astronomy in undergraduate and graduate studies. Xinnan is passionate about sharing exciting discoveries of the Universe with students and the general public, inspiring and engaging everyone in learning astronomy through various educational programs.

April 20th, 2022 at 1PM Pacific 

Homeschool families - please note that this presentation will be from an astrophysicist who will be covering evolution of the universe. Please decide for yourself if this content is appropriate for your student. 


I’ve gotten a flood of emails from desperate parents begging me for great science gift ideas for their budding young scientists. My first thought was: “Aurora in a Box!” (I mean, wouldn’t that be cool to have me pop out of a box and play with your kids all day?). I’ll have to work on that, since I know that I don’t really fit inside most boxes…

In the meantime, I decided that the best way to help out is to give you a sneak peek at the gifts I’ve shared with my own kids. I have put together a list of my favorite gifts for kids that are not only educational, but worth their weight in learning and fun! And these are not something that easily wind up on a shelf or in the dumpster.

That said, I also wrote up a list of the gifts that are a total waste of money. Trust me – you’ll be glad you avoided the most common pitfalls eager parents fall into when trying to find the ‘perfect present’ for their child. You know these ones – the kind of gifts that makes kids sigh, frustrate them, or find themselves stuck on the top shelf to gather dust. You can read about these and why they made it to this list.

Okay, so are you ready to learn how to give your child an incredible gift they’ll keep using long after the holidays are over? Here are my ideas:

Scientific Instruments

Telescope Wow – nothing says holiday gift more than a scientific instrument to look at the stars. The trouble is, most people are so excited about the instrument that they forget they still don’t know how to use it. A telescope is pretty useless unless you know where to point it, and most telescopes given during this season are better suited for the garbage than star gazing.

My best recommendation? Settle for a quality pair of binoculars and a star gazing guide book (Exploring the Night Sky and Summer Star Gazing both by Terence Dickinson) to go with it so your kids can work up to the big stuff. You can get any nice pair that fits into your budget, but if you really want a recommendation that doesn’t have the brand-name price tag with it,  For kids, Celestron’s Cometryon 7x50s are amazing for under $40.

For adults, Orion’s 10×50 UltraViews are outstanding. I personally own a set of these, and I’ve also added an L-adapter and camera tripod for longer viewing sessions. Expect to pay at least $140 for a pair of binocs worth keeping. Any cheaper than that, and you’ll quickly get discouraged and toss them in the Goodwill box faster than you think. You can mount these on any standard camera tripod, but I’m really excited about my new Paragon tripod that I’ve just started using. The tripod is able to keep the binoculars centered on an object no matter what height you raise or lower the binoculars to (which is really useful when you’ve got a long line of people of all different heights waiting to look through them.)

 

If you’ve already mastered the basics and really are ready for your own telescope, don’t bother with one of those telescopes like the kind shown in the picture here – a skinny tube mounted on a rickety tripod. The eyepiece can be way too high for kids, and they usually knock the whole thing over. So I recommend checking out the 6″ or 8″ Dobsonian and encourage you not to be fooled by the fact it doesn’t look like a traditional telescope, because it’s larger and has a lower mount. This one is going to show you a lot more detail of the sky, and is nearly impossible to knock over and damage.  If you’re new to the starfield, you’ll want one with “Go To” capability for the Dobsonian. Don’t even think about owning a telescope without getting padded carrying case to protect it from dust and dings. Be sure your telescope has a laser finder also!

This is the most important part of the telescope – the eyepieces! You’ll also need to get decent eyepieces. The ones that are included with the telescope you can replace with these incredibly widefield eyepieces. Pick one between 8-13mm, 17-21mm, and a 21-24mm.  Expect to spend at least $200 for an entry-level scope, or up to $1,000 for all the stuff I’ve listed here.  Anything less than $200 (OR anything from Costco, Walmart, Kmart, or other similar stores) is just plain junk and not worth your time, unless you’re looking for a good dust collector.

For telescopes under $100, you have two options: First Scope by Celestron, and the Galileoscope. They are both small, compact, and use plastic mirrors and lenses, but it does give you the same images Galileo himself saw 400 years ago. These are the only two I’ve found that are even worth the money. Don’t forget to arm your kids with a moon map so they use their new scope easily!

If you still are thinking about getting a cheap scope, here’s the bottom line: I hear about MORE kids and parents than you’ll ever want to know that have gotten so excited about a new telescope, only to get frustrated and disgruntled, and eventually not only trashing the telescope but also their whole interest in astronomy. Getting a cheap telescope is the fastest way to kill your child’s passion for astronomy. This goes for microscopes and binoculars, too. You’ll find when you invest up front, the rewards just keep coming and coming for years beyond what you ever expected.

Microscopes This is another popular gift item. There are many good scopes out there for kids, AmScope are the ones I’ve used in my classes with kids and have worked out the best over the years. You can look at their best microscopes here.

Whichever you choose, make sure it’s set up with a 10mm for the eyepiece and a 4X, 10X, and 40X at the objective, and also has a mechanical stage, and a mirror if you’re planning to use it int he field outdoors (otherwise, choose a corded model with LED lighting).  Also add a box of microscope slides, tools like tweezers and vials, coverslips, and a basic staining kit and you’ll be set!

Favorite Science Books

Check these out at your local library to see if you think your child will like them.

Science Games and Puzzles

  • Space-opoly (My kids love my version of the classic Monopoly) This is FREE for you to download.
  • Chemistry Period Table Board Game by Ellen McHenry This is FREE for you to download.
  • Periodic Quest This game won numerous awards and is a recent release. It’s complicated enough for your 12 year old.
  • Chemistry Card Game by Ellen McHenry This is FREE for you to download.
  • Elementeo developed by a very talented school-age student which teaches kids the characteristics of the periodic table of the elements using a game structure similar to Magic card game.
  • Robo Rally This game is a regular in our house, especially since we’ve started making our own board elements.
  • The Way Things Work Board Game is fun and creative, and we’ve added our own elements to it as well!
  • Power Grid Board Game is a regular, and it’s fun to see kids and adults alike struggle to balance limited resources, profitability, and power issues at once.
  • Go Venture is the only entrepreneur board game I’ve ever found. It’s made by a company that makes business simulations for grown ups!
  • Black Hole Game Written and created especially  by scientists! This is FREE for you to download.
  • Constellation Board Game Plays northern hemisphere on one side and southern on the other!
  • Equate the Math version of Scrabble, which is great for kids that are getting the hang of arithmetic
  • Mathematician Dice for your college math student with more “math geek” fun toys here!
  • Chess find a 34-piece set (with four queens) and a vinyl mat
  • Iron Puzzles – these are a favorite in our home! You can’t break them, and the first two levels are easy enough to frustrate adults.
  • Perplexus is one of four different maze balls that my kids keep in the car.
  • Create-A-Story Board Game – since my kids love to write, this is a natural hit for us.

Cheap and Inexpensive Science Gift Ideas

If you feel that you getting each of your kids their own telescope is not in your budget (and I totally understand this), here’s some great news! This list below is a set of ideas that range from FREE to under $100. While I still think it’s important to start a pickle-jar savings account for those higher-priced items, here are a few ideas to get you started when you need to be on a shoestring.

Worst Science Gifts

Trust me – you’ll be glad you avoided the most common pitfalls eager parents fall into when trying to find the ‘perfect present’ for their child. You know these ones – the kind of gifts that makes kids sigh, frustrate them, or find themselves stuck on the top shelf to gather dust. You can read about these and why they made it to this list right here.

  • Cheap telescope, microscope, or binoculars from places like Costco, Target, or other major department-type of stores. Any telescope that says the power rating on the box should be avoided like moldy spam. Telescopes aren’t about power magnification – they are about light collecting ability, which is measured in mirror (or lens) diameter. Microscopes should be durable and not plastic, and binoculars should have real lenses in them. Read the section above about which one is the right one for you.
  • Science kits in a box These can be hit or miss. Some science kits are great – I love the ones from Radio Shack and Thames & Kosmos. The biggest problem with these is that most of them are cheap knock-offs made of little plastic pieces that if they break, you have to scrap the whole thing. The other problem is that they are expensive, and that they only make one specific project, which doesn’t leave any room for creativity, imagination or innovation… which is what science and engineering is based on.
  • Science books I am a total reading buff, so saying that books are on the worst list makes me cringe! But I have to admit, there are so many bad science books out there that I have to put at least a yellow caution sign about which ones to pick.  Keep an eye out for stale and dry, flat boring, or just plain wrong books out there with flashy pictures and little to no science in them at all. See above for my recommendations for books and magazines.
  • Science toys that are experiments already done for you These are actually quite the rage right now, which is not surprising given the “gotta have it now” mentality that surrounds us everywhere. These are toys that were once great science projects or experiments, but have been mass produced so you can just buy the end result, like airzookas, hex bugs, and stomp rockets. It takes something away from the magic if you can just “buy it” right without building it yourself. Kids only play with these items for a very short period of time, and since they didn’t build it themselves, there’s no reason for them to really appreciate it or play with it long term. Some of these can be fun to play around with and get inspired from, just leave them in the store when you’re done.

 

This may be obvious, but…

Get a box full of all the materials needed for the e-Science project your kids have been hounding you about the most. Whether it’s the Laser Light Show, the underwater R.O.V. robot, the Trebuchet, the Laser Door Alarm, the Crystal Radio, the Space-Age Laser Communicator, or a special Robot they have in mind… you’ll  be sure to make their day with the homemade inventor’s dream gift. Don’t forget to take pictures as they build!

There you have it – ideas and projects to set your mind spinning and get you moving in science. Let us know how it goes! And if you have more ideas of your own, please share them in the comment box below!

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get Started with my Online Curriculum Program

Join Al & Aurora as they explore how to get started using Aurora's online science program with your kids. It's sometimes overwhelming when you first start any new program or project, so we've made it easy by taking the guesswork out. We also answer questions about teaching the most important areas in education, how to handle frustration, and teaching multiple kids. We hope you enjoy this parent session!

Welcome to our Start of the Academic Year!

Homeschool Curriculum Program Starting in September!
 
Next week starts the first week of the main Academic Curriculum for the year. For three months, September through November, we'll be exploring Physics of Motion, Sound and Light as well as Electricity & Magnetism. These are fundamental to all branches of science.
 
Our first week will be in Mechanics where we explore forces and gravitational fields. We start on Aug 30th for the year with two live classes each week, Mon and Tues at 10am Pacific.
 
STEP 1. Before our year starts, please download your Academic Packet for the year. This has my teaching schedule, material lists, experiment lists, everything you need to get started with my online program.
 
STEP 2. Gather the materials for September. The experiments we do in class as well as assign after class will use the materials from the list in the Academic Packet (page 16).
 
STEP 3. Tune into the live class on Monday at 10am. Aurora will introduce one science topic for 15 minutes, then demonstrate the experiment(s) students can do for the week. Students may choose which experiments to be completed. Aurora will also answer student's questions for 15-20 minutes while students begin working on their experiments.
 
IN ADDITION #1: Design challenges are longer projects that are announced on Tuesday and due the following Sunday.
 
IN ADDITION #2: Parents may download additional resources such as recommend reading materials, vocabulary and spelling lists, contributing scientists for historical research, and more. These resources are listed next to the "Experiment List" button in the "Live Classes" section of the science website.
 
IN ADDITION #3: When appropriate, Aurora will spend extra time after the first 15 minutes of instruction demonstrating math skills needed for further study and lab worksheets.
 
Any new labs or content Aurora publishes during the year will appear as buttons in the appropriate section.
 
I hope this is helpful! See you soon!
~Aurora
 
P.S. Thank you to everyone for joining me for a great year of science!

Parent Session on preparing Homeschoolers for college, teaching important skills to kids, and more.

This is a recording of our parent session we offered as a discussion around parenting, what skills are the most important to teach kids, and how to handle that overwhelmed feeling when homeschooling that comes to all of us.

Communication Styles in Teaching Students

Have you ever felt that it's easier to teach one child than another? It may be your method of communication isn't a match to theirs. Here's a video on the four communication modalities: visual, audio, kinesthetic, and digital. Which learning modality do you prefer, and which do you struggle to connect with?

We're kicking off our Academic Year with a WHOLE WEEK of hands-on SCIENCE!

Join Aurora for a full week of science!
 
Mon. August 2 - Fri. August 6
10:00 AM Pacific | 1:00 PM Eastern
 
Sign up here:
 
Aurora will be teaching FIVE DAYS of Live, Interactive Science Classes for K-12
 
This is the kick off for our Academic Year! Aurora will keep your kids learning science, math, engineering and technology courses ALL YEAR LONG, and she starts by doing a full week of hands-on science lessons!
 
Classes are 30 minutes long with Q&A and Design Challenges so students can go at their own pace and doing their work INDEPENDENTLY, long after the live class session ends. Kids of ALL AGES are invited to attend.
 
Try it now FREE! The full week of hands-on science starts Monday Aug 2nd!
 
Aurora wants to help you create a rich learning environment for your kids. 
 
During the year, she will teach the science, math, and engineering concepts to your kids in a way that allows them to discover and explore their world in a meaningful way. Your kids will enjoy learning in a unique hands-on education style direct from a real scientist and engineer.
 
Next week's WEEK OF SCIENCE is a free sample so you can test drive her program to see if it's a good fit for your family. It's also the first week of our Live Class Schedule program for the Academic Year 2021-22.
 
Aurora has two important goals: to give your kids the CONFIDENCE to explore their world, and the TOOLS so they know how to do SCIENCE when they get there.
 
Sign up (it's free) for our Supercharged Science Week and download your Science Lab Workbook and get ready for a week of amazing science projects!
 
http://www.superchargedscience.com/science
 
See you soon!
 

Parent Session: How to Use e-Science with your Kids

HOMESCHOOLERS! Are you new to Supercharged Science?

Join Aurora for a LIVE Parent Class to learn how to use the Supercharged Science Curriculum with your kids!

FOR THE MAIN CURRICULUM:

NEW THIS YEAR: Aurora will be teaching two days of live classes: Mondays and Tuesdays each week. On Tuesday, she will also assign a longer project/design activity due on Sunday evening. That way, students can use the rest of the week to work on their projects and be ready for a new concept the upcoming Monday.

Live classes are available to watch on Facebook, Youtube and Zoom. (Students are not posted to social media, you will only be able to see Aurora for the entire class.)

INCLUDING MORE: This year, you will notice Aurora taking time to include more MATH along with the SCIENCE lessons so students can really see how to use those math skills in the real world. This will show up when they set up their experiments, how they measure to take data, and using math to analyze their results.

Students will be creating their own lab worksheets and data tables to match their experiments.

Aurora will also be posting recommended books for READING and amazing HISTORICAL experiments and scientists that you can read up on make a more comprehensive, rich learning experience for your students. You will be able to use these along with the WRITING and SPELLING resources she will include in the workbook downloads for each month.

MORE SCIENCE: Last year, Aurora taught live science classes three days a week. Those recordings are available. Go to https://www.sciencelearningspace2.com... and look further down the page. Remember, these were bonus classes in addition to the Topics that are already available in the online science curriculum.

ALSO NEW is the PARENT SUPPORT on Thursdays. Parents can join Aurora LIVE in a special class. These are fun and supportive for our homeschooling community. Here’s the one from The most recent Thursday was an Academic Year Homeschool Planning Session. 

See you soon!

Setting up the Learning Environment

Over the summer, I take time to look at what went well with our homeschooling space, and what we've outgrown or didn't really use. We take down all the artwork on the walls, save all the finished work, and stock up the drawers with new supplies of pencils, paper and paints. Would you like a talk-through tour of our homeschooling space as I get it ready for fall for my family? I feel that our space is neat and cozy, but for us, it's not so over-the-top organized, color-coordinated or kept in such a state of perfection that the kids don't feel comfortable working in it. It works for us, so enjoy and have fun in our home!

Welcome to our Chemistry Class!

Your kids will do a number of ultra-cool experiments including:

  • Make a Chemical Rainbow (like in the picture)
  • Creating glowing silly putty
  • Growing dinosaur toothpaste
  • Making liquid freeze by actually heating it up!

Plus, they will learn about the 5 states of matter (the first 3 are solid, liquid and gas). Plus discover supercooling, chemical kinetics, phase shifts, atoms, molecules, chemical reactions, and much more! 

Material List for Experiments

• Aluminum pie plate
• Bowl
• Clear glue or white glue
• Disposable cups
• Goggles & gloves
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Liquid soap
• Popsicle sticks
• Scissors or pliers
• Sodium tetraborate (also called “Borax”)
• Water bottle
• Yeast
• Yellow highlighter

We will be doing experiments during class. If you do not have materials, you can still fully participate (have on hand a pencil and paper). See you in class!

During class, you can either fill out the worksheet, OR if that’s too stressful or a hassle, just set it aside and fill it out after class is over so you can enjoy watching the class.


Answer key is on the last page, so put it in a place where you won’t be tempted to peek at the answers until after you’ve given it your best shot.

 

Join me for a Parent Planning Session!



If you feel overwhelmed, disorganized, and a bit directionless when you think about your child’s education, this help session for parents may be just the ticket!

Planning is one of those things that we all know we need to do, but few people actually take the time to do it, and I mean do it well enough so that it actually works. It’s the backbone structure that guides your actions throughout the year, something in place so you can feel great about your child’s progress by the end of the year.

If you want to hit your target, you’ve got to have a plan that you’ll actually stick to. My goal for us during this planning session is to eliminate the headache, hassle and feeling bad about it (“it” being no having a plan, not sticking to one, or anything else that you don’t feel good about when it comes to education with your child).

I want you to walk away with a neat-and-organized feeling, a sense of peace and ease, and a big smile. That’s my personal goal in holding this session. I want you to feel lighter, happier, and excited for the school year to start.

This session isn’t for everyone, it’s only for folks that would like to do a personal planning session with me. I am going to walk you through how I plan out my year, how I figure out how to reach my academic goals for four different children, and answer your questions along the way.

Aurora will be joined by Astronomer Brian P Cox for a live session in how to use binoculars for astronomy!

Many people don't even realize that hey have an amazing object right at their fingertips - the Moon! If you participated in Dr Coombs Moon Tour Presentation, you already noticed the spectacular views you can get using a small telescope or a set of binoculars.

The Moon is a fantastic object to practice on, because it's easy to find but there's enough detail that once you get started, you'll find yourself reaching for a Moon Map to try to spot and identify the different features.

Even if you don't own any binoculars, we'll guide you through how to pick a good pair for stargazing.

My personal favorites:

For Kids: Cometron by Celestron
For Adults: Orion UltraViews

This special class is scheduled during our Summer Astronomy Week: June 28 - July 2. More details coming soon!

Download a Moon Map from NASA here.

Guess what? We have a SPECIAL GUEST just for Supercharged Science students! You’ll get to learn about volcanoes in our Solar System with NASA Scientist Dr. Rosaly Lopes!

We were originally going to do this class when we studied volcanoes in May, but everyone’s schedule was too full, so we rescheduled this presentation/interview for summer.

Dr. Rosaly Lopes, a volcanologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), began her college studies in astrophysics but was soon inspired to study volcanoes on Earth and in space. She knew from when she was seven years old that she wanted to be an astronaut and work for NASA.

Her first job at JPL was with the Galileo spacecraft that flew by Venus to study the volcanic features of Jupiter’s moon Io. She has worked on the Cassini mission to Saturn studying data captured by Cassini about the moon Titan.
By studying volcanoes in space, we can better understand volcanoes on Earth because other planets have other variations like different gravitational fields and atmospheres.

Dr Lopes has visited over 50 volcanoes and has written seven books including a guidebook that describes every volcano on our planet.
Students will be able to ask questions and interact with Dr. Lopes through a special class presentation!

You can read more about her here:
https://science.jpl.nasa.gov/people/Lopes/
https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/people/119/rosaly-lopes/

Become a summertime astronomer as you study celestial objects such as stars, planets, moon, asteroids, comets, galaxies, and more that exist outside our planet’s atmosphere. Discover black holes and pulsars, how to collect meteorites, and the top ten summer targets for binoculars.

Launch several different kinds of rockets, including: stomp, slingshot, rocket ships, puff, pop , balloon racers, and magnetic rocket launchers. As you build dozens of rockets, including chemical, water, and air pressure designs, you’ll learn what it’s like to be a real rocket scientist.

Learn how to build several different kinds of kites, including a comet kite, rotating rotor-kite, and a diamond kite that can lift you off the ground! And the bat kite doesn’t even need wind to fly… just you.

Soar, twirl, gyrate, float, and fly with our hands-on flight lab where you’ll get to experiment with over 30 different flying contraptions from airplanes to helicopters to things that shouldn’t really fly at all… but they do!

We will be touring the Moon with amazing astrophotographer Dr. Lee Coombs from his private observatory . If you’ve ever noticed the interesting terrain and features and wonder what you can observe, this class is for you! We’ll start with the 5 day Moon and ending with the 11 day Moon, and you can see these features with binoculars as well as telescopes.

 

Find the current phase of the moon: Moon Calendar.

I will be posting the handout for this class in the LIVE CLASS section of the website under “Astronomy & Astrophysics”.

Connect to class through the link in your weekly emails (the one with the updates for the upcoming week).

It takes a very special kind of telescope to look at the sun. We’ll be doing a special class with an astronomer who has several different solar telescopes at his private observatory for us to look through. Please do NOT look at the sun with your telescope at home. We will show you how to safely look at the sun in this class.

Solar Observing Session– 11am Pacific on Tuesday, March 9th
Backup date (if there is bad weather on March 9): Thursday, March 11th

I will be posting the handout for this class in the LIVE CLASS section of the website under “Astronomy & Astrophysics”.

Connect to class using links provided in your weekly email updates about upcoming classes and schedules.

National Engineering Week was created 70 years ago to demonstrate to parents, teachers, and students how important a technical education is for our students.

It’s a day were local engineering companies, college engineering organizations, and museums host engineering events, science displays, and outdoor fairs to promote math, science, and technology to their local communities.

You’ll find paper airplane contests by NASA engineers and human powered helicopters flying in shopping malls (no kidding!) We’re going to join in the fun with a cool set of hands-on projects you can do right at home.

One time, as a demo for the public, Cal Poly set up their in-progress gigantic Human Powered Helicopter. Here’s a video of a test flight:

And here’s a video of the actual winner (not Cal Poly!) who created a design that flew and won the competition:

Teaching Innovation

Okay, so how can you share engineering with your kids and students? When I was a university instructor, one of the hardest things to teach was innovation and creativity. One way that I did this is with Odyssey of the Mind activities. Here are three of them you can do with your kids. Normally, kids are only given 8-10 minutes per activity, however you can do these activities as long as your kids are interested and excited about completing each challenge. Offer prizes if you feel that would add value to the challenge as well!

Going Further

If you’d like a more in-depth project to do with your kids, here are some of our most popular on our website:

You can learn more about National Engineers Week here!

SAVE THE DATE!  This is a great way to not only CELEBRATE all your hard work this month, but also to review the month and be totally amazed by how much you’ve learned.  I’ll send exact details by email on the Sunday before our party date so you will have the special ZOOM LINK to participate with us! ALl ages, all levels welcome.

~Aurora

Need a little extra help? We’re scheduling a private tutoring session on Wednesday 11/4 at 4pm Pacific. Bring your questions and let’s get your homework problems done!

High Advanced Physics Private Tutoring Session: Get your physics and math homework done with a college student!

12/9 (Wed) 10am

Use ZOOM Link (sent to you in a separate email over the weekend) to connect to class.

There is no charge for this session. We will be walking you through the high school physics section of the website and answering your homework questions individually. Approx 45 minutes in length. Please bring your questions and homework!

If you are curious how airplanes fly without flapping like a bird, how to read aircraft instruments and tell which runway to land on, what it’s like inside a real cockpit, then this is the class for you! Aeronautics is the art and science of flight. Aviation is the practical side of aeronautics. It’s the design and building of airplanes, and how to fly the thing from point A to B. Aerodynamics is the motion of air, and the way air interacts with aircraft, like how air flows over a wing.

In November, we went on an Airplane Field Trip with a real flight instructor! During class, students were able to ask questions and interact with the pilot in this online learning field trip class. Here’s the video recording:

We will be doing another field trip soon, so please look for an email about this in the coming months. I hope you enjoy the kesson!

This is my personal reading list for my own kids. These are all the books we’ve read up through about 6th grade, and we’ve read them aloud and with our kids.

When I was growing up, I was a very avid reader… like 1-2 books per day. At 200-400 pages each, you can image how many books I read!

What I didn’t realize is how much of my character and values were shaped with those books!

I did not have strong role models within my family growing up, so I found my role models in my books. I spend a lot of time with the characters in the stories and biographies I read, and I realize today how much of who I am was shaped by specific titles.

As a parent, I realize that this can be really useful in teaching strong values and life lessons to my kids. Sadly most books published today are pure “eye candy”, meaning that they are like sugar for the body – empty calories that do not contribute to what the body needs. There’s no character development, life lessons… nothing in there for kids to model their behavior after that I’d want to see in my house.

It’s so easy to publish a book today compared to 50 or 100 years ago, so it’s no wonder the market is flooded with books! It can be hard to tell the good from the junk. I want more for my kids, and so I have spent a lot of time and energy over the years cultivating a list of books that I think are the important for them to learn from.

So here’s my reading list – I have more titles now that they are older, but these are the ones that I am really excited about sharing with you. Also, I didn’t just hand them the book. We would read them *together*, which also means I taught them not only how to decide if a book is good for them to read (there’s a whole art in learning how to choose which book to spend your time on), but also how you read a book.

It surprised them when they learned that you don’t have to read every single word, you don’t have to read it all at the same pace, and you don’t even have to like the ending. In fact, most authors of decent books have over a dozen different endings they come up with before deciding on the one that is to be published in the book, so we make it a game to figure out what all the possibilities are.

The older ones are now starting to learn how to see the author in what they read, that invisible connection that binds reader and author in a woven tapestry of words. So here’s my reading list – I do hope you enjoy it!

Click here to download my Book Challenge Reading List!

The VEX IQ Robotics Competition for elementary and middle school students is open to teams of two or more kids who build a robot to compete in local competitions. While it's really exciting and fun, it's easy to feel overwhelmed due to the open-endlessness, and that's what we're going to hep you with. Every year, a new game is released (you can purchase the 2020-2021 game elements here), played on a 6 foot by 8 foot field. You'll need a VEX IQ Super Kit, which contains all the pieces that you will need to snap together and build a robot for competition! Here is the first step to building a competitive robot from your Super Kit to compete in a competition.
Great  job! You have now built half of your drive train. The video below will show you how to build the other half.
Now you have to halves of your drive train. Play the video below and learn how to connect them together, add on the brain, and pair your robot with your controller.
Congratulations! You have completed the Drive Base for your robot. Drive it around, learn how to control it, and come back to the next video when you are ready to add an arm and claw.
Your robot now has giant pieces sticking up from the front; the uprights for your arm! To learn how to attach some supporting members and a sensor along with some gears, click the video below.
In this next video you are going to learn how to put a rack on the back of your robot to store game objects when you are carrying them.
Now that you have your rear rack built and installed on your robot, it is time to build the arm and claw. The claw is great for picking up and moving objects around your house, or game elements from some VEX IQ challenges. Check out the video below to get started.
Now you have finished building the arm and claw, and you now have a completely built Clawbot! Now you need to learn how to control it, how to change settings on the brain, and some other quick tips on how to make your robot work even better.
Congratulations! You are now driving a complete Clawbot that can pick things up, move them around, and put things in the rear rack! Next, you are going to learn some arm and claw modifications to make your robot better for specifically the 2020-2021 VEX IQ Challenge: Rise Above. You can buy the 2020-2021 game field and elements from the official VEX website here, or you can buy them here if you want free shipping.

Recommendations for Going Further

Want to learn more about how to build a better robot, and even compete in an online robotics competition? Joseph's VEX IQ Robotics Ben's: Robotics Channel Great Minds Robotics Batman REC Foundation VEX Robotics Here are some good individual videos: Video #1 Video #2 Here is a Chinese Event from last year: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Here is an intro video for VEX IQ You can also go to HERE to find all the VEX EDR/V5, VEX IQ, and VEX U match video archives from nearly all the past World Championships.

On Friday, June 19th at 10:00 AM Pacific Time I am hosting an ASTRONOMY SCAVENGER HUNT GAME. Your kids can tune in to participate and win prizes! I’ve sent you an email with all the details for classes for the week, including this one. It’s a Zoom call – please email us if you can’t find it!

Let’s go FLYING! We have a certified flight instructor who is going to do a real flight lesson in a live broadcast that you can participate in. You’ll be able to ask questions and connect with us during our time together. All you need is yourself and this page when it’s time for our class in the air!

We’re stargazing soon, so save the date! This will be a live class with both Aurora and a real astronomer (Kent Wallace). We will be taking you on a tour of the night sky so you can star gaze right from home!

Summer is filled with warm, late nights sparkling with stars, planets and meteor showers! We are going to focus on objects you can see with binoculars or small telescope.

(Aurora uses Orion’s UltraViews and also recommends the less expensive Celestron – Cometron 7×50 Bincoulars

We’ll also show you how to use Star Charts to help you navigate and find objects. You can download your sky map free here: Click here to download the current SkyChart.

During our time together, you’ll be able to interact with Aurora and Kent, ask questions, and gain insight on the next objects to search for to take your star gazing to the next level. It will be like watching a planetarium star show only from your computer screen!

We will bring you you a virtual “tour of the night sky” where you can discover, learn, and ask questions as we go along! All you need is an internet connection. You can use an iPad, laptop, computer or cell phone. When 7pm on Saturday night rolls around, click the link below to join our class. (Link coming soon!)

On the Road to a Billion Planets!

TONIGHT May 28th at 7pm – We’re streaming a live presentation from an astrophysicist from NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute at CalTech about “On the Road to a Billion Planets”. This astronomy talk is especially extended to K-12 students interested in astronomy! All ages are welcome, and you can ask questions during her presentation as well!  Click here for Jessie Christiansen’s Talk

Dr Jessie Christiansen is an astrophysicist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech, where she searches for, characterizes and catalogues planets orbiting other stars.

In 2018 she was awarded the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal for her role with the successful NASA Kepler Mission, which discovered thousands of exoplanets and revealed that rocky planets are common throughout the galaxy.

She now works on the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to find the nearest planetary systems to Earth – systems that will be ripe for further study with the next generation of ground- and space-based telescopes.

Imagine you’re in the car with the kids, excited to see your extended family (or at least, specific members of your extended family), and you’re not quite there yet.

And the kids been glued to their video games, cell phones, and electronic devices the whole time. You know it’s not good for them, but at least you have some peace during the car ride. You shrug it off, not too worried about it, thinking about all the running around with cousins they’ll do once they get there.

And then you hear…

“Are we there yet?”
“I’m bored.”
“I’m hungry.”

…and whining.

Now what do you do?

It seems impossible for kids to entertain themselves these days without the use of batteries.

That’s what spurred me to create this “Pen & Paper Games” packet that I want to share with you. It’s full of my very best on-the-go, play-anywhere games that you don’t need any equipment (other than a brain) to play! These games I’ve played with my kids over the years, even standing in lines at Disnleyland.

Click here to download the packet and enjoy with your family!

 
 
By the way, Bagels is still our favorite line-waiting game, because it’s so fun to play and easy to teach the on-lookers who are wondering why we keep shouting “PICO!” and “FERMI!” followed by uproarious laughter. Bagels is good for the car too, only maybe without the shouting. It’s basically a mental version of the old Mastermind game, but don’t tell them that! Just enjoy the game and have fun learning and exploring our wonderful world.

There is nothing as frustrating as seeing healthy children stuck indoors while watching something on a screen like a zombie. Most homeschool students need a bit of extra help to get them away from the screens of the smartphone, the tablets, the television or the video gaming consoles. Here is a list of ideas for the homeschool parent to ensure time away from the screens for the children.

Walk the Dog

Even if you don’t have a pet, enlist the help of a neighbor who does. The interaction between a pet and a child helps develop empathy and is joyful for both parties. Get your homeschool students into the habit of dog walking regularly.

Write a Journal

The simple Dear Diary notes that your child writes down can help with emotional well-being. The younger homeschool students merely need to write between three to five sentences daily about their day. The elder ones may be more expressive, and be prepared to allow them the privacy of not showing you exactly what they have written.

Find a Job

Whether it is doing small errands for people in the neighborhood, or getting a paper route, the idea is to get them to generate their own pocket money. Be sure to have the safety first conversation with your homeschool students before they take off to look for work.

Be Artistic

Help them to develop their talent. Some homeschool students show great skill at art, others with words. Encourage them to draw, paint, or write short stories. Find them appropriate places to showcase what they have created. Encourage them to build up a portfolio of their work. This is a great stress buster for kids of all ages.

Get Physically Active

Shoot hoops in the backyard. Play tag with the children in the neighborhood. Learn some yoga asanas. Fly a kite that you have built. Build a fort, a snow man or even an obstacle course, depending on the time of the year it is. Homeschool students need the time and opportunity to expend the energy that they have stored up inside of them. Encourage physical activity.

Not everyone has the extra storage space to catch all the material that homeschooling a couple of kids in different grades can throw out of the homeschooling classroom. Here are some tips to make your classroom more spacious by eliminating unwanted junk from the area. Feel free to add your own twist to this version of the clean up crew.

Separate the Stuff

Ideally put all the stuff into the following categories – Keep, Recycle, Trash, Donate and Sell. You can physically place the cardboard boxes for items that you want to donate and sell. Mark them with a permanent marker so that you are sure what each box is for. This saves time when you are in the middle of a big clean up pile and wondering where the coloring book you hold needs to go.

The stuff that you need to keep can be placed on the table or shelves in the homeschool classroom. The things that need to be trashed can be placed in a nice big garbage bag. The stuff to sell and donate can be boxed. Using this system is easier because you are not thinking of an intermediary place to keep everything before you dispose of them.

Finish Discarding First

The usual tendency while cleaning up is to find the right place for things that you need to keep, while ignoring what needs to be discarded. Instead get started with taking out the stuff you need to trash first. Then take over the things that you need to donate to the place or people you are planning on donating to.

After this there will already be a lot more space to play with in the homeschool classroom. Next get going on pricing the material that you want to sell. Put up the online ads, the flyers around the neighborhood and notices for sale. Take the box of stuff to sell out of the homeschool classroom and place it in the garage or other area where it won’t come in the way. Now you can finally allow yourself to settle the remaining stuff into the homeschool area.

Over a period of time the homeschool classroom can become the dumping ground for a lot of material which is not in regular use. Regularly decluttering this mess can make a huge difference in the energy of the room. Here are some ideas to help the busy homeschool parent to keep the homeschool classroom decluttered.

The Sorting Basket

Often when you come across something that you have not used in a while, and know that you may not be using again, you simply place it back in the shelf and move on to looking for what you need in the moment. Instead of doing this, keep a basket on hand to put such things into. Then once a week empty out this basket by putting things in the trash, or recycling them, or even giving them away to someone who you know will use it.

Clean Up the Home School Area

Have a policy of empty desk tops at the end of the day. This will ensure that all the papers get put away and that you have a nice clean surface to begin studies on the next day. Also put away any art work, projects and worksheets that the homeschool students have used that day. Regularly go through these and discard the ones that will not be used again. You can take pictures of the art work and projects before you let them go. These can be stored virtually and will not take up any physical space in the homeschool area.

Less is Better

Most homeschool teachers will download, print out and store a lot of material that they nearly never use.There are so many teaching tools that are usually lying around the homeschool area, that if you pick up a few and put them away, you will end up making a lot of space for yourself. It’s okay to not keep everything. If you can’t bring yourself to chuck it out, think of someone who can use it and deliver it to them. This will make it seem less wasteful, plus give you more area to use as you actually require.

There is no denying the teenage fascination for screens. Be it the television, the laptop computer, the tablet, the video game console or the smartphone, the average teenager spends way more time in front of screens than in front of their family members.

The excessive screen time affects their eyesight, their anxiety levels and even their cognitive functioning. A break from screens is a must have in the daily schedule of homeschool teenage students. Here are some ideas for things that they can do instead of sitting in front of a screen.

Cookbook Experiments

Gift your homeschool students with time in the kitchen, even as you gift yourself with a break from meal prep. Have the teenager come up with a one dish meal for your family. Allow them to experiment with new recipes and don’t forget to teach them how to clean up after themselves. This is an important life skill and your teenager will be grateful for it when they first begin living alone.

Create Art Work

Draw, color or paint something new. Give your artistically inclined homeschool teenage student a wall in their room to decorate as they see fit. Or allow them to come up with art work that may be gifted over the holidays and birthdays to family and friends. It’s a good self confidence boosting measure for the talented teenager.

Visit or Call a Grandparent

Take a couple of hours off in the week to go visit a local grandparent. Or if they live in another town, take ten minutes to give them a phone call and check how they are doing. Make sure that the call is placed on the regular land line and not the distracting smartphone. This helps foster the bond between the grandparent and grandchild, even as it keeps the teen away from the screens.

Play Outdoor with Siblings

While you may not enjoy playing referee for your children, sports is a good way to tire out the hyperactive siblings. Basket ball, baseball, hopscotch, or tag, let them play for at least an hour with their younger siblings. The time will be well spent and the homeschool parent can get some chores done during this time.

 

How to put more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math into your current curriculum!

If your kids are bored, frustrated, or eye-rolling during their lessons, whether homeschool or in a classroom environment, then this video is for you! I’ll show you the steps to starting your own STEM program today, and at the end of the video if you’d like help with the content and projects, go here.

There is no denying that technology has invaded our lives and homes to such a huge degree that living without it can seem downright scary to us. Yet as homeschool families struggle to find the balance between using technology to ease teaching, and letting their homeschool students figure out the old ways of doing things, there is an appeal of returning to simpler times. At least for a couple of days in the month. Here’s how homeschool families are implementing tech free days.
A Camping Trip
One of the easiest ways to avoid the internet, and all related technology is to take the whole family off grid for the weekend. One weekend a month is easy enough to plan outdoors. The homeschool students could go the full camping route with setting up a tent in the wilderness and learning skills of bonfire building. Or the family could simply take a day trip to trek out in the closest national park to reconnect with nature.
Either way, it makes for a tech free weekend where the children get to commune with the local flora and fauna. Of course you may still need the GPS navigation to get to where you need to be…so instead you may want to introduce the concept of paper map books. This adds an additional life skill to the homeschool students.

Making Do Without the Internet
For one day in the week stay away from the internet and all related streaming technology. Put the smart phone, tablets, and laptops away. Go back to board games, cards and singing together for entertainment. The idea is to come up with old favourites which allow the homeschool students to enjoy their time bonding as a family rather than simply disappearing down the funny cat video whirlpool on YouTube.
This will take some effort from the homeschool parent initially to think up a list of activities and games that are tech free. In a few months time the day off tech will actually become popular for the limited activities that can only be done on those days. Make it fun and functional.

Watching movies can be turned into a learning experience. There are so many movies that can teach the homeschool students about different times and history. Whether it is the ancient past, or more recent events, many movies have been made to cover almost all important events that affected the course of human civilization.

Create a movie club with some other homeschool families in your community. The club can meet once a month to begin with. Curate a list of 12 movies which have significant learning potential for the homeschool students. This could be in terms of life lessons, such as staying the path, or history lessons, such as how the monarchy functioned in Europe.
Pick a good mix of movies that would appeal to all ages of the children in the movie club. Remember there needs to be a fun element as well, not just gory and gruesome stuff. You may even show some animated movies if you have a a crowd of mostly younger aged homeschool students in the audience.
The Movie Quiz
After the movie finishes, let the children present discuss it. How they felt about certain actions taken by the characters, what changes they would have made had they been in place of the protagonist, etc. One homeschool parent needs to have some questions ready to ensure that the discussion does not lag.
Once everyone has had a turn to express themselves, the homeschool parent in-charge of the movie must present a quiz based on the movie. Let the questions be a mix of objective questions which ascertain the observation of the viewer, as well as subjective questions which invite the viewer to express their own opinion.
The Lessons
It’s a good idea to sum up all that was seen and lessons that can be learnt from the movie at the end of the session. Think of basic moral values and positive behavior that needs to be encouraged and add them to the lessons summation. Just ensure that this does not take too long, or become too preachy for the homeschool students. Keep it light and fun.

You can’t help but notice fads when they sail in…things are going along smoothly, and then WHAM! You’re already not in the “IN” crowd because you’re not doing “THE NEW THING”.

This one has me concerned – more than concerned. It’s about pushing kids to learn how to code.

There are all kinds of classes today teaching kids how to build websites, make apps, and code in a specific language.

It’s really easy to see the arguments for this – I mean, in an automated future where software is everywhere, and software engineers and programmers will surely always be in demand, it makes sense why parents are pushing to educate their child in programming.

Or are they?

Let’s take a closer look.

Playing while you learn is always much more effective than simply memorizing by rote. One way to introduce the fun element of play into a homeschool classroom would be to use educational puzzles. The homeschool teacher can take any topic and create a quiz, or a jigsaw puzzle with ease. Here are some ideas.

The Word Search

Easy way to do this is to start with ten words in a grid of 15 by 15 letters. You can make the grid using the table feature in the software that you are using. Simply add the words into the grid and then fill in the remaining spots with random alphabet. If you want to make it easier for the homeschool students to solve the puzzle, give them the hint of words to be found below this table.

The Cross Word Clues

This works best if there is a steady theme. So take a theme like New Year in the month of January, or Valentine’s Day in the month of February. Pick something relevant. Now put together ten clues to words that are related to this theme. You can past them into the file on top of the page.

Again create a table and fit in the words five in down and five across. Blacken out the remaining spaces. Save this as the solution document. Now copy it into another file and delete the words to leave blank white spaces for the homeschool students to work out the solution in.

The Visual Jigsaw

Pick an image that may be required to be memorized. For instance the planets in the solar system for younger children, or the periodic table for older ones. Print out a good resolution picture on a glossy photo paper. Now cut up the jigsaw puzzle using a pair of scissors. To make it easier to put the picture back together, you may print out another image and give the homeschool students. Ideally do this after they have spent some time trying to figure out where all the pieces go.

Such puzzles can be made in advance and kept ready to use in the homeschool classroom when required.

The idea of a formal curriculum for pre-school may seem outlandish for a homeschool teacher. After all how difficult can it be to get your baby ready for schooling? Yet, when push comes to shove, just what all do you need to ensure that your little one knows before stepping into the formal education system? Here are a few tips to consider if you need to invest in a formal curriculum.

The Purpose of Pre-school

Remember it’s about having fun and building curiosity. The homeschool teacher must ensure that the little baby is now willing to learn more about their world in a formal context. The idea here is to give the new homeschool student a lot of different experiences. Remember to engage each sense. The five senses are the gateway to learning about their world, and the children are quite enthusiastic to learn new things. All you have to do is be a guide. Give them small tasks and stand back to see how they accomplish them.

The Need for a Preset Curriculum

It comes down to a simple question, how creative are you? As the pre-school child needs all kinds of stimuli, will you be able to match their curiosity with your own creativity? If you have the time and inclination to come up with interesting tasks for your little one each day, you may not want to consider a formal curriculum. However, if this the first time you are homeschooling, and have no previous experience with teaching, you may find a ready made curriculum handy as a ready-reckoner.

Is it the Right Choice for You?

If finances are a not an issue, you may want to consider studying the market for the preschool curriculum that you feel would make the best fit for your homeschool classroom. However, if you feel that you can do a good job of building a curriculum on your own, I would still suggest taking a look at what is available. By simply going through the main features of different curriculum that already exist, you will have a much better idea about what you need to do in your homeschool classroom.

When the homeschool teacher thinks of adding a language to the curriculum of the homeschool students, it usually turns out to be French, Spanish, German, or some other foreign language. Guess what? Here’s a language option that may offer many more benefits. Plus it won’t take a teacher to teach it. The homeschool family can learn it together. I’m reffering to ASL.

What is ASL?

ASL is the American Sign Language. It’s a very common misconception that only those who are deaf will learn and benefit from ASL. There is nothing further from the truth. People learn ASL to help family members who may be deaf. They may become teachers and counselors for those who are deaf. They may use it to help make deaf friends feel more included in their community. They learn it just as a hobby to expand their skill set. No matter why they learn ASL, there is a steady community of people with no hearing disability who are fluent in ASL.

Benefits for the Homeschool Students learning ASL

There are a few benefits associated with learning ASL for homeschool students. The first would be the excitement and satisfaction of learning a new language and being able to communicate with deaf people in their community.  Plus as they learn new words to translate, they actually end up expanding their vocabulary. In fact for young children, ASL can be used to improve small motor skills as well. The intricate hand gestures that they learn will make it easier for them to move their fingers while doing other things like crafts and writing.

Benefits for them as Adults for knowing ASL

As workplaces strive to become more inclusive, they are opening up jobs for differently abled individuals. If your homeschool student has picked up ASL in the homeschool classroom, they will be able to help create a more inclusive environment for such people. They could also end up communicating with customers at the work place and help them. Not to mention that they can positively contribute to society by ensuring that the deaf are also “heard” instead of being ignored.

The New Year is a good time to begin new habits, try out new ideas, or simply re-evaluate what you have been doing and letting go of what does not work anymore. People talk about new year resolutions, and how they end up breaking them each year. Almost every resolution that was made in the month of December does not survive the month of January. So how do you make resolutions that actually work? Here’s the main point, don’t call them resolutions, call them goals. Then set these goals in a very measurable manner. Here are some ideas for your homeschool family.

Evaluate What You Have Been Doing

It’s about mid way through the academic session and you have been using your lesson plans, schedules and homeschool curriculum long enough to see what’s going right. More importantly you are in a much better position to identify what’s going wrong. You know what you want to let go and what you want to add. Write down five points about changes that you may want to make. This could be stuff like doing writing work when the kids are fresh instead of later in the day. Or adding extra worksheets after completing a lesson. Or using art and craft to reinforce classroom learning.  Just jot down five points that you want to work on in the new year in your homeschool classroom.

More Extra Curricular Activities

The homeschool parent often is in a quandary about what more they can offer their homeschool children. Again make it a goal to add five new activities to the homeschool student’s schedule in the new year. This could be something extra like a musical instrument or a sporting activity that they have not tried out so far. Or it could be an added number of errands and chores that the child needs to learn. Or it could be adding a weekly field trip to the schedule of the homeschool family. Just make sure that you have five goals in the area of doing more with your homeschool students. It will be that much easier to follow through on the new year resolution to bring more into their lives.

Can You Work a Full Time Job and Still Homeschool?

If you are not willing to forego the second salary, and still plan on homeschooling your children, you need to be really well organized. With efficient planning and creative scheduling, you can make homeschooling work for your family. Yes it would be much easier if one parent was able to work from home, but even if they both need to leave the house, it’s still possible to ensure that your homeschool students do well.

Alternating Lessons with Your Spouse

In this case it’s not possible for one homeschool teacher to be solely in charge of the children’s education. Both parents will need to pick up lessons for the homeschool students. If it’s possible, try work alternating shifts so that at least one parent is always available with the children at home. ideally have a schedule made out in advance about what each homeschool teacher needs to cover with the students. Also have a check back system visible in the homeschool classroom to see what all has been finished. Both parents need to be able to contribute to the children’s education. If that is not possible, you will have to find another responsible adult to watch the children, as well as supervise their homeschooling tasks for the day.

Getting Help from Grandparents or Professionals

Ideally involving family members like grandparents or younger uncles and aunts would work well for such a homeschooling family. This is an option even single parents may use if they want to homeschool. If you don’t have any extended family to fall back on, you can always hire a professional. A nanny can be present to supervise the children when both parents are out. Or you can schedule extra classes for music or sports for them during that time. These can be arranged around the shifts that the parents need to work so that pick up and drop offs can be coordinated. In addition, the regular household chores like cooking and cleaning need to be taken care of. Have another visible chart for this so that nothing gets done twice and everything actually gets done.

 

While you will not be having a school day in the homeschool classroom on Christmas Day, you can do some of these activities beforehand to prepare your homeschool students for the holiday.

Santa’s Letter

Writing practice can become easy when the homeschool students are writing a letter to Santa. Have them format and write a formal letter to Santa Claus telling him how they have behaved through the year as well as ending with what they want for Christmas. Do tell them about what they can and cannot ask for before they write out the letter. In fact the second part can be done post the holidays in form of writing Santa a thank you letter for what they have received.

Decorations for the Tree

Arts and crafts gets taken care of by making decorations for the Christmas tree as well as the rooms of the house. You can search sites such as Pinterest or Instagram for easy to make handmade decorations which can be made in advance and hung up during the week before Christmas. Have the homeschool students pick out one decoration each that they will make for their craft project. It’s an activity which will require less supervision in the homeschool classroom, leaving the homeschool teacher free to catch up with other chores.

The Baking Party

Cooking is an essential life skill. Baking cookies is a great way to get the homeschool students to practice mathematics for the measurements, learn about the chemistry of baking soda and creating food for themselves. Pick out one cookie, one cup cake and one savory recipe in advance. Have it printed out on index cards and have a copy for each of the homeschool students. Supervision is a must for younger children and only adults open and close the oven.

Wrapping Gifts

Have the gift wrapping ideas ready for each item that is being gifted to each family member. You can ask the homeschool students to wrap each other’s gifts so that the element of surprise is maintained. It will also cut down on the total time it takes the homeschool family to get all the gifts wrapped if everyone contributes.

Homeschooling is a choice made by the parents, however not everyone may be as comfortable with the concept. Also there may be actual valid reasons why you should not homeschool your children. These are a few.

When Parents Disagree About Homeschooling

Homeschooling involves the full support of both parents. The stay at home parent will be monitoring the actual education of the homeschool students, but the earning parent is just as important. If either one is not in favor of homeschooling the children, it will lead to a very dysfunctional family. When the parents are unable to present a united front to the children on this main issue, they undermine each other’s authority.  The children go through a lot of upheaval and it can all be quite a strain. Emotionally and financially the situation will be a mess. So unless both mother and father are excited about the idea of homeschooling, don’t venture into it.

Finances and Hidden Costs

At first glance it may seem that teaching your children at home is a cheaper option than putting them through regular school. Incorrect. If you homeschool your children, one parent will be giving up their job to stay at home with the kids. Survival is not easy on a single middle class salary. If you have financial obligations such as mortgages, elder care, or even medical conditions, homeschooling may not be a good idea. The extra income from the second parent working is not a luxury in these cases, it is a necessity. Better to let the children go to school. Also the study material and other resources that you need to invest in while homeschooling can turn out to prove rather expensive. Can you afford it? Take a good look at finances before making the decision.

Temperament of the Homeschool Teacher 

Basic nature of a person can not be changed. If you are a patient person who will plan with meticulous detail about the lessons and activities that your homeschool student needs to cover during an academic year, you are off to a good start. However if you think that you will simply buy a homeschool curriculum and let your children study while you supervise them from a distance, just don’t think about the option to homeschool. A homeschool teacher has to be involved in every aspect of their student’s lives. If you lack the patience and tenacity to do so, this is not meant for your family.

A college education is expensive. Most parents save for years so that their children can experience one. Financial aid is always welcome at this stage in the student’s life and a number of them will apply for scholarships that they are eligible for. How about if your child is homeschooled? Do homeschool students get scholarships? Yes they do.

What Types of Scholarships are There?

There are need based scholarships which are usually awarded by the government to students from the financially weak sections of society. Then there are merit based scholarships which are earned by students based on the marks that they have scored. These scholarships can be bestowed by the school, the state, private institutions, or organizations. Student specific scholarships are created for individuals who meet a specific set of criterion, such as those with specific disabilities, or religious affiliations, or students of particular ethnicity and even students of military parents. Then there are career specific scholarships that may be awarded by leading corporate companies in a specific industry, for students who are studying to join that industry. These can be in healthcare, engineering, or even teaching.

Where Can Homeschoolers Find Scholarships?

Specialized search engines such as the College Board’s BigFuture search or FastWeb are a good place to start. If you come across a specific scholarship that doesn’t state the eligibility of homeschooled students, you may want to get in touch with the organization and ask them. Often the scholarship may be available, but they don’t mention homeschool students in the description. Some homeschool curriculum publishers such as Sonlight, offer scholarships to students who are using their curriculum. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) offers scholarships to students who are active athletes. Go through their eligibility criterion on the website, call to clarify any questions. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) offers four annual scholarships. They also carry a list of scholarships that homeschool students can apply for on their website.

It’s a good idea to search through the scholarships that your homeschool student may be eligible for and keep all requirements ready at least a year before you plan to apply for the scholarship.

The decision to homeschool is usually taken by the parent, but at times as the homeschool student who has never attended regular school grows up, they may question this decision. The portrayal of regular school in books they read and movies they watch, may give them the impression that they are missing out because they are being homeschooled. What does the homeschool parent do in a situation like this, where the homeschool student wants to go to regular school? Here are some suggestions.

Explain Why You Thought Homeschool Was  a Good Idea

The homeschool student should be told about why the homeschool parent thought it was the right educational choice for them to make. The stronger bond between the children and the parent, the flexibility to teach what interested them, no early morning rush to catch the bus, no cancelling family road trips because of missing classes, and so many more reasons. If the child understands why they are being homeschooled, it makes them more accepting of the option.

Ask What They Want to Do in Regular School

Each child is unique and will have a different reason for wanting to go to regular school. Some may want to make friends with other classmates, while others may feel that they want to explore the more traditional approach to education. Get them to express what they feel they are missing out on while they are being homeschooled. This is the first step to making a joint decision about their future studies. Just because they have been homeschooled so far does not mean that they can’t switch to regular school at a later date.

Give Them Options for a Compromise

Suppose they were allowed to join a homeschool co-op where they would have the opportunity to make new friends and forge life long bonds? Would that make them happier? Allow them to participate in organized sporting activities where they will be forced to interact with all kinds of children and adult supervisors. Check if that makes them feel part of the main stream. Music lessons for singing, or playing an instrument can also help if conducted by a teacher other than the parent.

A support group is always good to have when you are a homeschool family, yet not all support groups can be beneficial. A Homeschool Co-op can prove helpful to a homeschool teacher, but is it worthwhile for a homeschool students? Let’s consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a part of a homeschool co-op.

How does a Homeschool Family benefit from a Homeschool Co-op?

For the homeschool family the shared expenses for the material and equipment can be a huge blessing. Since these classes are held together for a group of children, they can pool in for the equipment such as a microscope, test tube beakers, Bunsen burner and other things.

Also most of the material can be reused for the next academic session, making it easier on the pocket for new member who join the co-op. A certain membership fee may be charged monthly or annually for new members who were not present for the original purchases, as well as to keep updating and adding to the material being used.

In addition there are some homeschool teachers who may find certain subjects challenging to teach in higher grades. By spiting up the classes they can all take advantage of the skill set present in the homeschool co-op. Certain activities work better in a group than alone at home. This is where the co-op can come in handy.

Some things that can go wrong in a Homeschool Co-op

The level of children in the study class may be different and the intelligent ones may feel bored, while those who take longer to pick up the material may experience a drop in their confidence level. This may give rise to high emotions, and also in some cases bullying. The homeschool parents who are a part of the co-op need to stay alert to such situations.

Punctuality may be another factor that leads to problems. Everyone needs to be committed to make the co-op classes a success. Even one family that shows up late consistently, can be causing frustration to everyone else. Meeting deadlines can become difficult if everyone doesn’t cooperate.

To begin with homeschooling your children does not mean isolating them. A homeschool family may choose to be a part of a homeschool support group in the area, which allows them many opportunities to pool resources and socialize. However, a homeschool co-op takes this basic interaction to another level.

What is a Homeschool Co-op?

In a Homeschool Co-op a group of homeschool families join together to share the responsibility of educating the children. Classes are offered for children and parental participation is a must. While each parent is likely to take up classes based on subjects they can teach, other parents are present to help with the activities and cleaning up. There will usually be a coordinator who will find out how each parent would like to contribute and the classes that they will take up based on the needs of the children in the group. The meet ups are generally bi-weekly, so parents have the time to teach their children in the homeschool class as well.

Is a Homeschool Co-op just like regular school?

Not at all. A regular school has very little participation of the parents, while the teachers are present all the time. The active participation of parents is a must in a Homeschool Co-op. It’s not a class to which you drop off the homeschool students and return at the end of. Each parent contributes to the knowledge base that the students are exposed to. Plus the learning in a homeschool co-op setting also allows the children to socialize with their friends of different age groups. While in a regular school they would spend time only with students who are mostly their own age group. They frequency of the meet ups is also different from the daily regular school routine.

Is a Homeschool Co-op the right choice for your children?

The group learning culture in the homeschool co-op is a good experience for the children. Homeschool students learn skills such as raising their hands to speak, taking turns, and waiting in lines, which would not happen with just a couple of students at home. They get to hear other people’s perspectives and how to share their own in a respectful manner. Friendships that may last a lifetime get forged at such regular meet ups. They will also learn how to deal with peer pressure and bullying behavior. Overall it can be a very positive experience.

 

 

There is always a way to contribute to society which begins within the home. Homeschool parents can instill good values in their homeschool students by setting up minor projects which allow them to contribute in a socially and economically positive manner. Here are some suggestions which may be modified for use by homeschool families.

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

That’s a good mantra to start with. Teach the homeschool students to maximize potential and minimize wastage. The single use and throw philosophy needs to be addressed when they are young. Teach them how a simple tin can be reused with a little up-cycling as a pencil holder in the homeschool classroom. Let them reduce the number of plastic water bottles they buy on field trips by carrying a glass bottle from home and refilling it from water fountains. Help them to recycle their clothes and toys, first withing the siblings themselves and then maybe by contributing to a local orphanage.

Environmentally Conscious Behavior

Educate the homeschool students about the waste that is piled up in landfills. If possible find out about one nearby and let them see the slow poisoning of the land. It will motivate them to minimize the waste they produce. Explain about the unseen pollution and carbon footprints. Show them the practices that can help reduce their own carbon footprints. Teach them that society and community needs can be met without running through the resources of the planet. Everything does not need to be new or top end luxurious. Being eco-friendly and conservative is actually a better choice in the long run.

Volunteering

One of the easiest ways to teach homeschool students about life and responsibility is to have them volunteer their time to people who are less fortunate than them. By spending time working for a charitable organization they will learn that life is not always fair and that there are people who struggle with very real issues. This will teach them compassion for others, and give them skills that allows them to help out when needed. It will also give them social skills which will be useful all through their lives. In addition the work experience that they gain will be an added bonus on their resumes when they go job hunting.

One of the most difficult questions to answer for a homeschool parent is if they are scheduling their homeschool student’s time in the classroom productively each day. Are they doing enough? Will they be too overwhelmed with all they have to accomplish today? What all must they accomplish? These are questions that do not have a one size fits all answer. Things are different for each homeschooling family and each homeschool student. All the homeschool teacher can do is to give due consideration to the interests of the child before setting up the schedule. Here are some aspects to consider.

Studies

While a number of homeschool teachers like to follow the morning studies pattern like regular school, there is enough flexibility in homeschooling to pick the hours that you actually want to teach your children. You could do an afternoon study period, or mix and match on different days of the week depending on sports and other socializing activities.

Play Time

Just as important as studies, play time must make it’s presence felt each day. It could be watching a movie, reading out a book aloud, painting a cup, going on a field trip, or simply throwing ball in the back yard. There must be some down time for the homeschool students to relax and have fun. This does not need to be the same everyday, but it must be scheduled in each day.

Exercise

The mind and body need to be fit. While the homeschool students will find that their minds are covered by their studies, the homeschool teacher must ensure that they exercise their bodies regularly as well. Jogging, yoga, football, basket ball, swimming, pilates, or aerobics, it doesn’t matter what the form of exercise is, the homeschool students should ideally be physically active for at least an hour each day.

Errands and Chores

A sense of responsibility is built up by performing errands and chores around the house. Have a list of stuff that needs to be done, and have the duties rotated among the homeschool students. This is helpful in taking the pressure off the homeschool parent, while helping the children develop life skills.

Setting up a schedule that works is one of the most important and complicated tasks that a homeschool teacher needs to do. There needs to be a yearly schedule for everything that needs to be done in the academic year. A monthly and weekly schedule to break all the work into manageable sized pieces. Also there has to be some back up plan in the contingency that the scheduled work did not happen the way that it was supposed. It can be quite a headache to reschedule hours of the homeschool classroom mid session. Here are two ways to schedule subjects that may work well together.

Block Schedules

As the name suggests in block schedules you block off a period of time for fixed activities or subject studies. For example you can block two hours of study for Mathematics and one hour for Science on Monday and Tuesday. Then you can block of one hour for reading and two hours for writing on Wednesday and Thursday. Followed by two hours dedicated to arts and crafts, and one hour of current affairs on Friday. The idea is to have a large chunk of time available to your homeschool students in which they can explore the subject in as much depth as they want. It also has the added benefit of keeping the daily schedule simple for the teacher. The actual subjects will depend on their grade level and subjects.

Loop Schedules

This is a concept where you have a list of activities that you want to do with the homeschool students, but you don’t fix a time or date for them. For instance cooking, singing, musical instrument practice, sports, are all things that you want them to do, but don’t have a fixed time slot on the schedule. You can get to these activities on the list when you have a relatively free day from the block schedule. The idea is to use the list to keep the homeschool students gainfully employed even when they have finished the formal studies for the day. Block and loop schedules tend to work well together.

A High School Diploma marks the culmination of the basic education of a school student. The diploma is necessary for further admission to college, joining the military service and even other venues of employment. Many homeschool parents worry about their homeschool students not getting a High School Diploma and being at a disadvantage later in life.

Types of Diplomas

There are essentially two types of diplomas- accredited and not accredited. Most public schools and institutes have to meet a certain number of hours of teaching and specific courses in different subjects to be completed before the students are eligible for the diploma. These schools have been verified to meet this criterion and the diplomas that they issue are accredited.

On the other hand, there are individual homeschoolers, and even some private schools which do not meet the state prescribed criterion and the diplomas that they issue are not accredited. Homeschool students may enroll in a distance education or an online school for the purpose of obtaining an accredited High School Diploma.

Parent issues diplomas may not hold the same weight as an accredited diploma, however in some states there exist strict stipulations for graduation requirements. The state monitors the homeschool parent and observes the homeschool student’s performance at regular intervals. These states offer umbrella schools from which the homeschool student can obtain an accredited diploma.

Working Towards the Future

Plan ahead about getting an accredited diploma if your homeschool student wants to gain admission in a specific college or wants to get employed in a specific industry. Get a hold of the requirements and speak with the concerned person to understand how the process works and what all documentation will have to be submitted.

Many colleges tend to welcome homeschool students with open arms these days, as they find them to be self starters who are motivated to do their best. They are okay with parent issued High School Diplomas as long as they mention all the courses that the child has completed to earn the diploma. Student transcripts can play an important part during the admission process, so make sure that yours are updated regularly.

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Supercharged Science
Homeschool Science Curriculum

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