Monday, May 20, 2013

teaching nutrition to homeschoolers

The best way to teach your kids about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle is to live it, or "practice what you preach". Children automatically learn from the examples set for them by their parents, so if you're setting good examples, you're already ahead of the game. Educate yourself, and your children will benefit.

In 4th grade, kids need to learn about eating healthy foods like vegetables and lean protein, and avoiding unhealthy ones like trans-fats and processed sugars. The new Choose My Plate initiative is helpful to review with them, because it also emphasizes portion sizes and a big part of meal planning, not just eating from the right food groups.

There are lots of books at the library to use at home, or your can find something a bit more formal. Nutrition for Healthy Kids is one choice for a curriculum that teaches nutrition concepts with fun activities throughout. Google can be a great resource too, so don't be afraid to search for what you want your kids to learn about and do some investigation on your own. Remember, if you learn about it, your kids will benefit too!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Which curriculum to use? Where to start?

You're not alone! Even the veteran homeschoolers who look like they have it all together were once right where you are now....NEW. Now that you've made the decision to homeschool, you need to get started on deciding how to homeschool. Choosing a curriculum for your children is a huge decision, and a very personal one. While the available options for 4th grade may be very similar, each family approaches the decision differently.
One option that some families transitioning away from public school prefer is commonly referred to as “e-school”. This is basically a public school curriculum done from home on a computer. There are several private companies that each state contracts with to provide these services. Often, the state even pays for the child to have a computer at home for doing schoolwork.
However, most homeschoolers choose their own curriculum from the multitude available. Some choices include curriculum-in-a-box options where the texts and workbooks for an entire grade level are bundled together. There are also single subjects available separately. The great part about picking and choosing your own curriculum is that you can choose a math book from a publisher known to be strong in that subject, and a science program from a publisher respected for its science texts. You can also have a child working at grade level in one subject and either up or down a grade in another subject, so that your child’s curriculum is tailored to their needs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

homeschool gym class

In these days of school budget cuts and doing more with less, the time and money spent on physical education in public schools is dwindling. How can you make sure your homeschoolers get enough beneficial exercise? In fourth grade, most kids still enjoy game-playing, so use that to your advantage. A game of dodge ball or basketball, or even hide and seek with friends counts as healthy activity. If your turn off the TV, computer, and other electronic gadgets, the kids will naturally find things to do, often involving running and playing - it's as easy as that!

But if you're looking for something more formal, sometimes the local YMCA or community center offers "Homeschool Gym" classes so kids can play the sports like soccer or games like kickball that require more than just one family's worth of players. These programs are a great option as well.

Overall, kids and adults should aim for 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity to stay healthy. That sounds like a lot but it's so much easier to accomplish when it's FUN too!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Learn about pigments in food by using natural Easter egg dyes this year

What a fun idea for kids - make this year's batch of Easter eggs with natural dyes! Have the kids think about it, and decide which foods might be useful to dye eggs. Have you ever eaten fresh berries and stained your hands? Maybe the dye from the berries would stain eggs too! Some other popular choices are grape juice, spinach, beets and onions.

The first step, of course, is to hard boil your eggs and let them cool and dry. Vinegar is a natural preservative, and also helps the dye "stick" to the eggs, so add a little bit of vinegar to whatever liquid you want to try as an egg dye. You could boil some beets in water and use that to dye your eggs, or use grape juice concentrate the same way. Search the internet for more ideas - there are plenty more out there!

Here's a great worksheet to fill out to help you experiment with the colors of different vegetables.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Although it isn't a major holiday by any means, St. Patrick's Day can be a lot of fun for kids, and educational too. Learn about the history and culture of Ireland, and the origins of the holiday, or maybe write a limerick or two to pull in some language arts to your lesson.

A great exercise in creativity would be to have the kids design their own leprechaun trap. Give them some "found materials" like old egg or milk cartons, twigs, yarn, popsicle sticks, newspapers, etc. and see what they come up with to trap a leprechaun. You can really get some fascinating contraptions from this project and the kids love it!

Have a St. Patrick's Day party to celebrate the day. You never know, maybe a leprechaun will even attend!

Friday, March 1, 2013

winter nature study

You may not think winter is a good time to do a nature study with your kids, but even with the cold temperatures, there's a lot going on in nature, and plenty to learn about. Keeping a nature journal is a fun idea, where kids can keep track of things they see outdoors with their own drawings and descriptions. You can make the journal as simple or as detailed and you'd like, with everything from pencil and paper drawings to crayons, stickers, or oil pastels. There are lots of library books about winter weather, animals in hibernation, how to feed the winter birds, animal migration, and more. The list of possibilities is endless!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What is a unit study?

You’ve probably even done a unit study without knowing it. Have you ever read a book to the kids and enjoyed the illustrations so much that you taught the kids a little about oil pastel drawings? And maybe the story was about a little boy at the beach, so you checked out some books from the library about seashells and seagulls, to go along with it? And taught the kids the tongue twister about seashells on the seashore? Or made the kids fish or clam chowder for lunch, since it was mentioned in the book? If you’ve done anything like this, you’ve already laid the foundations for a unit study!
A unit study is simply learning about a particular subject, whether it be grasshoppers, ocean currents, or a particular book. A unit study could be about anything, as long as you’re able to cover the material in depth and from different angles. This method is great when you’re homeschooling multiple children, because the older kids can learn about predicting weather from ocean currents, for example, while the younger ones learn about the life cycle of a fish. It’s all connected as a unit study about oceans!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

socialization concerns

One of the biggest complaints about homeschooling that you’ll hear from folks who don’t understand it is the issue of socialization. How can your kids socialize with their peers if they’re stuck at home all day? They’ll grow up in isolation and their social development will be delayed. Right?
Wrong! Homeschooled kids are some of the busiest around. There are so many activities available in most communities that if you did all of them, you’d never be at home to do any schoolwork. The YMCA often offers homeschool classes, such as swimming lessons, and depending on the YMCA, they may offer even more. Some have computer and foreign language classes for homeschoolers, and even art and music lessons. Your local community center probably has planned activities too, and these things provide time for kids to learn and interact with others.
Many homeschoolers also belong to homeschool support groups that have field trips, play dates, and other activities for kids. There are also co-op classes in many areas, where parents take turns planning the classes to be taught each week. Even if your kids play in the afternoons with other kids in the neighborhood, you’ve accomplished socialization. It’s that easy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Should I worry about dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disorder which affects the brain’s ability to turn letters, or phonemes, into sounds. It’s actually not at all uncommon, and you’ll find dyslexics in all walks of life, from doctors and lawyers to teachers and scientists. Dyslexics must make some accommodations and learn to read using a different part of their brain, but they can definitely learn to read.
The earlier dyslexia is diagnosed, the easier it is for a child to accommodate for. Some signs of dyslexia include trouble with reading and writing, reading slower than one’s peers, and difficulty with rhyming words too. Though kids can compensate to a degree, these signs are often apparent to the trained eye by elementary school. Dyslexia often occurs with one or more other learning disabilities, with dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting) being one of the more common. Some kids may also have learning difficulties with math, or in some other developmental area.
The resources, books, and websites available to help kids with dyslexia, and their parents, are too numerous to list. A quick scan of your library’s card catalog, or a quick web search, will turn up lots of valuable information for you if you suspect your child may have dyslexia.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Is your 4th grader gifted?

Each family has their own reasons for choosing to homeschool, but for many parents of gifted kids, homeschooling is an excellent option.  Public schools are stretched with tight budgets and overcrowded classrooms, and even those with programs just for gifted kids have likely had their budgets cut in recent years.

Besides that, gifted programs in public schools are limited by what the school district considers appropriate materials to teach, and curious, intellectual children may want to explore something completely different. Instead of pushing a child in a certain direction, as happens in public school, homeschooling allows a gifted child to explore their interests in depth. As we all know, kids learn best when the material is interesting to them! So try keeping them connected by finding their passion, whether it be foreign languages or homeschool nutrition lessons or spearheading a community service project, gifted kids excel when they are empowered to learn about what interests them.