Saturday, March 29, 2014

Learning should not stop in the summer

Summer time is the time for enrichment activities and fun.  I stumbled across two wonderful opportunities for this summer:

AgDiscovery – sponsored by the USDA, this program is for kids ages 14-17 to introduce them to various topics in Agriculture.  Kids learn about careers in plant, animal, and veterinary science.  The kids work in labs and take field trip to conservation areas and USDA facilities.  You can find out more about the program which is hosted at various college campuses here.  

STEAM Academy – is designed  to challenge students who have ability and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  It is a residential program for students  ages 12-16 and is held on two separate college campuses in Virginia.  There has been such a push for STEM education that I’m sure there are similar programs in other states.
I let my oldest daughter participate in a residential  program for the first time the summer before her 15th birthday.  Thirteen seems a bit young for a residential program but I have confidence in this program because of where it is located.  I know the staffers at these sorts of programs usually take extraordinary care of underage students so I may just have to pray and have faith that she will be fine. 

These programs are so valuable to homeschoolers who may not have the resources and opportunities to participate otherwise.  The icing on the cake is that these program are FREE!  

The fun of the summer will be wrapped up in the kids going to camp.  Check out this camp they attended last year.  They described it as one of the best summers of their young lives.  It's not free but they do offer scholarships.  

Can you tell I'm looking forward to Spring?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Books and learning......

I remember when I was about to graduate college, I dreaded the fact that I would have to work 9-5 everyday year after year at the same job.  How would I ever be able to do that?  My personality thrives on change of routine.  Every semester brought new classes, professors, and classmates.  I loved school and there was nothing mundane about it for me at all.

Similarly, I approach my homeschool the same way.  I always look at new materials, plan for each school year and semester, and just enjoy the pursuit of learning at every turn.  If things started to feel mundane I would plan a field trip or do something fun. 

I think I missed my calling in education.  I was a business major.  Every person in my family has business type jobs with the exception of one aunt who is a pharmacist.  But my point is I love learning.   I used to say that if I could find someone to pay me to stay in school I would.   As life would have it, in a sense I have been in "school" for a long time as a homeschooler.  Even with substituting in schools I love the routine of kids learning and reading.

So when I had to put some of my curriculum up for sale this weekend I felt kind of sad.  I just like to look at the books on the bookshelf.  But I need to sell them so that I can purchase some other things that I need.  Bye books that have sat on my shelf for a long time.........

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mango Languages


So foreign language is becoming the Achilles Heel of my home school; kind of like math was a few years ago.  It's one of those areas where you try different approaches hoping something will stick.
I had an opportunity to review Mango Homeschool Edition by Mango Languages.  Another foreign language program?  Yes.  I'm ready to try something new again.  I received an online subscription to not only Spanish language, my family's foreign language of choice, but many other language options.  You name it Mango has access to it - Arabic, Slovak, Danish...on and on the list goes.  Over 60 languages to choose from.  There are no limits to the number of languages one wants to learn.  You just simply subscribe to that particular learning community within the program.

Before I could get started on my new language journey, I had to view a 2 minute video to activate my account.  There a few other videos to look at to maximize your use of the program.  However, after activating my account I jumped right into the Spanish (Latin America) community.

My language program was divided into 4 different journeys.  Journey 1 covers such topics as:
  • Greetings
  • Names & Introductions
  • Shopping
  • Dining
  • Numbers & Currency
  • Asking for Help & Clarification

Within the journey, the material is further broken down into chapters with a review at the end of each chapter.  There is an extensive course guide for each journey which reviews all of the vocabulary, grammar, cultural notes, and common phrases. 

You move through the chapters like flipping through a power point slide. Learning words and phrases that build upon one another.  You learn full phrases and expressions by the end of the chapter.

Each community has several features you can take advantage of to enhance your learning experience.  There is a chat feature so that you can learn from or ask questions of others in the same community.  

We all gathered around the laptop and went through whole chapters within a journey together.  We all did exactly as the native speaker instructed us to do through each slide.  "How do you say this?, using your critical thinking skills say this" on and so forth.
I would add extra time on the clock if we couldn't figure out how to say something within the time allotted.  There is a lot of repetition so we even skipped through slides if we confidently had the new phrases learned.  We started Mango Homeschool edition having a lot of Spanish language experience so much of the beginning chapters were review for us. The girls also brought their Spanish notebooks to the table so that they could jot down new vocabulary to add to the growing list we've accumulated using other Spanish language programs.

Here is what we loved about using the program:
  • vibrant colors get you excited about learning
  • words within phrases are color coded so you can distinguish between Spanish words you are just beginning to learn 
  • Native speakers introduce each word/phrase ensuring proper pronunciation
  • Grammar notes during the presentation 
  • Literal translation versus meaning while learning phrases
After learning a series of lessons I wanted to keep going but my girls could only take so much new material at a time.   Another thing I love about the program is the constant review of information introduced in prior lessons.

Mango Homeschool is still in the beginning stages of development.  There are a lot of features coming done the pike that I wasn't able to use and review.  Having quizzes & tests that can be tracked for progress is in the works. They are also working on suggestions for high school credit.  I will be happy to see this added.  These features are of great help and concern to home schoolers.    

Mango Languages caters to other people groups not just home schoolers.  One feature not currently available for Mango Homeschool is Mango Premiere.  Mango Premiere is an immersion type of learning.   It uses foreign film to teach language.  They only have 2 or 3 films at this time that they would recommend for people under the age of 18.  I mention this feature because my girls love to look at Spanish language programming as another way to pick up parts of the language.  So although it isn't currently available for the home school community,  I would love to see this feature available in the future. 

This is their introductory pricing:
1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year total 
2 subscriptions is $28/month or $175 /year total                     
3 subscriptions is $38/month or $225/year total                   
4 subscriptions is $48/month or $275/year total               
5 subscriptions is $58/month or $325/year total

Subscriptions are for each individual learning a language.  It is recommended for ages 6 to adult. Mango Homeschool is planning to offer family packs, which will offer some savings. They have either month-to-month payments or annual payments.

Find Mango Languages on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook - See more at:
 You can find Mango Languages on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Find Mango Languages on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook - See more at:

Click for more reviews photo clickformorereviews600x160_zpsc2cf0855.png

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A week with the public school system

So from now until the end of the traditional school year, I will be working as a substitute teacher.  Long story....maybe I will explain in another post at a later time.   This experience isn't new to me.  When I first started homeschooling 5 years ago I spent one semester subbing in my younger kids' elementary school.  Back then I was only homeschooling my oldest daughter. It was a eye opening experience then, and an even bigger eye opening experience now.

The difference between then and now is the type of system I'm working in.  Every public school district isn't created equally.  I am working within an inner city school environment.  I can't begin to put my experience into words except that I am saddened by the state of things.  The teachers are really exhausted.  If I had to keep the attention spans of 17 five year olds, I would be too.  Some kids are eager to learn but are so distracted by disruptive behavior.  Teachers have to spend so much time controlling children's behavior they rarely get adequate time to teach.  I've found myself thinking at times "this kid really should be home right now playing outside or reading a book!"

I've seen a 5 year slap another child in the face, a 5 year old punching a kid in the stomach, a teacher curse at a child (yes, a teacher), kids getting hurt while waiting in lunch line, and so much crude behavior.  I won't even expound on the academic skills of some of these kids.  I've also found myself thinking about the homeschooling naysayers - "but what about socialization?"  Have you seen the socialization in schools lately?  Again, not every school but I don't think anyone could argue with a parent homeschooling within this district.

I don't want to be the Pharisee in Matthew who while praying was full of pride and self-righteousness when declaring how glad he was that he wasn't like the sinner praying alongside him at the synagogue.  However, I am thankful for the privileges I've had with my own kids.  I wish so much to educate the parents of these inner city kids.  They can do so much more to empower themselves to do better for their children.  Everybody can do some after schooling or at the very least do the homework the teacher sends home.  There is very little parent involvement with these kids.  No one is doing homework or reading with them at home.   There is no excuse for that!  I know the problem is not as simple as I've stated - educating the parent.  There are some deep rooted issues here that aren't so simple to solve.

Although I am working for the benefit of compensation (unlike most people), I take seriously the impact I can make on a child when I read them a book, or work with them one on one to understand a concept.  Education has the power to change lives and to break the cycle of illiteracy and generational poverty.  I believe it really is that serious.  Stay tuned for my posts on this new Educational Journey.

So what have my kids been doing while I'm been working this week?
  • Princess is reading the Red Badge of Courage & working on scholarship essays.
  • NuNu is reading the Bronze Bow & working through Videotext.
  • Pumpkin is steadily working through MFW AHL & working through Videotext.
  • They spent hours swimming at the hotel on Thursday as their grandparents were in town and stays at the local Marriott.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

If I had it to do over again....

Just yesterday Princess & I were going over the SAT words at the back of the Baron's SAT prep book.  She takes her first SAT exam in two weeks.  WOW....two weeks!  Why do I feel like the whole school experience hinges upon this one culminating event?  In a sense it does, but in reality I know it really doesn't.  So as I am watching her separate the vocabulary cards into piles of words she knows and words she doesn't know, I panic.  I began to reflect on the fact that I haven't done all the preparation that I'd wanted to do.  If I could start over how would I do it?

I had kids in my early 20s.  I was still coming to grip with who I was as an adult, newly married woman, and mother.  I was growing in my relationship with Christ and there was a lot going on.  I wasn't totally comfortable in my role as a stay at home mom.  For as long as I could remember my life as a wife and mother wasn't going to begin until age 30.  Until then, I was supposed to be building a career.  God had other plans.

If I had the insight back then that I have now, I would have enjoyed that season of my life a lot more.  In my mind I would have:

Preschool Years
  • spent time with other moms with preschool children so our children could play & learn together
  • had lots of learning toys at home
  • turned the TV off
  • went to library reading times every week and participated in all the free library activities for preschoolers
  • spent lots of time doing outside activities (farms, playgrounds, childrens' museums etc.)
  • I would've probably still participated in a 3x/week half-day preschool for the structure

Elementary Years
  • homeschooled using ABEKA language arts, math, & bible
  • Lots of reading and written/verbal narration
  • field trips every week
  • co-op for enrichment
  • nature study & fun experiments
  • music classes
  • foreign language (Spanish) & Latin (maybe CC Foundations / Essentials)
  • Soccer, Track, or Volleyball clubs 

Middle School
  • formal grammar study to include diagramming using Abeka or Rod&Staff (I see a direct correlation with preparation for SAT)
  • Literature study (using Socratic method & Unit studies) 
  • Composition Skills (narrations, outlining, essays)
  • Math
  • Formal science study (emphasis on research skills, lab work, and the scientific method)
  • field trips relevant to course work
  • co op for enrichment
  • music classes
  • foreign language (Spanish) & Latin (maybe CC Challenge A & B)
  • Soccer, Track, or Volleyball clubs
High School

formal 4 year course of study (Language Arts, Math, Science, Foreign Language, History)
Public Speaking/Communication, Economics/Financial Courses
take advantage of online courses, academic co-ops, dual enrollment
Lots of community service & community based programs (Art Museums, STEM courses, etc.)
Special Interests
Physical Education & Health

Graduation & College Prep!

Hindsight is 20/20.  We do the best we can with the information we have at the time.  I am grateful for doing a lot of things right but secretly I wish I had started from the very beginning. 
Since I'm near the end of my journey perhaps I'll work with my kids in educating my grandkids :)


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