Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Homeschool Connections

As many of you know, I have been a teacher at Homeschool Connections for many years. For the 2015 – 2016 school year I will only be teaching middle school science and not my high school anatomy and physiology. Perhaps I will get that last chapter done some day, the one on the endocrine system and reproduction. Maybe I'll get the e-book done even if I don't teach the class this next school year.

I want to give a personal testimony as a homeschooling mom about Homeschool Connections. Two years ago I sent my oldest son off to high school and last year I sent my second son off to eighth grade, both to a school from the Newman's list of top 100 high schools; next year all three of my boys were to attend. My oldest son was struggling, but the way in which the school had dealt with him made it clear that the school was not only a good fit for him but not a good fit for our family. It was a very sad witness of Catholic education.

We had looked into other schools all of which fell short. While the idea of homeschooling all my children again seemed laughable, I knew after much discernment in prayer that I was called to do that at least for my younger two. My oldest will be attending a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (yes, that foundation) sponsored community college program for students whose schools have refused to work with them, and my son certainly qualified. It's free, he earns college credits, and he will graduate with a high school diploma.

As I prayed daily to God for the grace to homeschool my younger two (my boys are wonderful but they are not easy to homeschool), I knew I wanted to continue teaching them math and science but I really didn't care much to teach them other subjects at this level. Homeschool Connections became my perfect solution. Because it is not a set program, I could pick and choose which subjects I would teach and which subjects my kids could take online. In addition, my kids could choose which classes were most interesting to them in any given subject. I simply made a grid of the Massachusetts high school requirements, sat with my second son and the Homeschool Connections catalog, and filled in the grid. He is hoping to attend a local 11th and 12th grade math and science academy in another two years. The program has a record of accepting homeschoolers and our next two years will give us opportunity and flexibility for unique science and math activities, such as First Lego League.

Next I chose several courses for my youngest, a rising seventh grader, to take. We are considering an excellent local vocational high school that other area homeschoolers have sent their kids to. So perhaps in two more years my children will all be in schools.  Thank you, God, for pouring out Your grace upon me.

If you look at the activity on my blog you'll see that it dropped off about the time I started sending my kids to school. You may notice that my Facebook page has now begun to have a lot more activity posted on it, and new followers are joining weekly. I hope now to get back to more blogging. May this blog bless your homeschooling the way Homeschool Connections has blessed mine.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

CK-12 for Science and Math

CK-12 is a website that provides free textbooks that can be fully edited and are copyrighted such that you can republish them.  For me, that means I can distribute them to my Homeschool Connections students.  The copyright laws for online classes are far more strict than they are for face-to-face classes, including specific language about educational institutions needing to be accredited. (Homeschool Connections offers a variety of courses to supplement homeschoolers rather than a comprehensive curriculum so we really have no urgent need for accreditation.)

I've referenced the site for many years since they mostly have math and science content, though they do have English, History, and SAT prep as well.  Years ago I planned to use their ebooks and edit them for my anatomy and physiology courses, but I soon found I was editing more than I was keeping and so I wrote my own material using mostly Wikimedia to find images that I could republish.

I forgot about the site until I recently put together a middle school life science course.  Trying to decide what topics I should cover and how complex I needed to be (or not), I visited CK-12 again.  The site has been completely transformed and made into something far more useful than what it was.  Before it offered only complete books for entire courses, and while those are still available they have now broken everything down into topics.  They have and extensive list of Life Science topics geared towards middle school (the Biology link has topics at the high school level.)

Using the site I could easily identify, assemble, download, and distribute ebooks for my class.  I could edit them as well, though I would not say that is an easy process.  Yes, everything can be edited, from the title to the images to the text itself but you have to do it all online at the site.  Often something will look properly formatted on the site but appears quite different in the pdf--this is especially true if you edit images.  Online they appear before a paragraph while in the pdf they are after and I have yet to figure out what I need to do to adjust it.  Another drawback is that editing is very slow during high-volume times, typically school day mornings.  The third problem is that you supposedly are able to output the final product in 3 formats--pdf, mobi (for Kindle) and ePub (for iPad and Android.)  I have no problem getting the pdf shortly after requesting it (you are emailed a link from which you download the finished product) but I never receive links for the other two versions, ever.

Still, overall it has made putting customized science material together very easy.  When it comes to creating Life Science materials for a Catholic homeschool audience, customization is critical in some areas, and that is what made CK-12 so helpful. Here is an example of the ebook I distributed for the first class.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Crushing Cans

Ds#3 loves to watch videos from The Happy Scientist Robert Krampf and then goes about performing them.  This time around he got busy crushing cans using steam.  The videos below demonstrate how he did it.  Notice in the background of the second video, where Ds#2 is giving an explanation, that Ds#1 is having a little fun.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Burning Tears of St. Lawrence, or the Perseid Meteor Shower

Look towards the Perseus constellation in the northeast sky this weekend and from it will emanate the Perseid Meteor shower. If you have clear skies, this year promises to be excellent because the moon will be a mere crescent.

Today is the feast day of St. Lawrence of Rome, the archdeacon who tirelessly cared for the sick and poor and was grilled to death for his faith, coinciding with the annual meteor shower; thus the event is often referred to as the Burning Tears of St. Lawrence.

Get a blanket and make yourself comfortable.  You'll start seeing them every few minutes streaking across the sky after night fall, but if you like middle-of-the-night excursions the peak will be between 2 am and 3 am.  Saturday night will be better than Sunday, though around here Saturday is predicted to be cloudy.  We're planning a shooting star gazing event at a friend's yard atop a treeless hill on Sunday when the weather should be clear.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Discount Code for Live Online Summer Math Camps

Homeschool Connections is offering two live online summer math camps for geometry and algebra.  You can read about them here.

For the geometry prep camp I have a discount code that you are free to share:

$20 off Geometry Prep Camp discount code nx32tg.  Enjoy!