We finally took the plunge and invested in a laptop for Sebastian. We wanted a windows based laptop that would be good for gaming (fast RAM), travel (lightweight & thin), Skype/google hangouts (built-in mic & cam), quick to boot up (solid state), lots of room for files (large hard drive), comfortable and easy to use (backlit keyboard, touchscreen & flip back yoga positioning). We went with a Lenovo Yoga. I am sharing this because several people have asked me how and what we decided to buy. I will say that if you can hold out until Black Friday weekend and specifically Cyber Monday, that was when I found the best price. Be sure to compare Best Buy and Fry’s as Amazon did not have the best deals on laptops. We had a spare monitor that Sebastian can use as a ‘second screen’ and we also added an external mouse for comfort.
His laptop has opened up many new learning resources for us that I am really excited to share. If you have seen me lately then you have probably already heard me talking about this first one. Outschool! It is a video-conferencing type scenario, so that second screen comes in handy. Outschool is incredibly easy to use and they have an amazing amount of classes to choose from in the catalog. First, you register, then you pick a class. Some classes are one time and average around $8-$11. Other classes are multiple weeks and some are even a couple of months. Register for something, then on the day and time of the class simply open the ‘Zoom’ link to see your ‘classroom’. If the teacher needs to communicate ahead of time, they will post messages (or follow-up info) in the ‘classroom’. You can search for classes on just days/times you have available or just on certain subjects. If you have a skill to teach or knowledge to share you can register to teach a class too. We have done classes on world geography, polar bears, Winter, the Constitution and learning to make NPCs for Minecraft.
We are starting a new class on Minecraft servers. We have been working on creating our own, so this is going to help us complete that project. Last week we started a class on learning to use a microscope and observing/comparing things underneath it. Soon we will start a beginners multiplication class and I have my eye on a few Spanish classes too. He knows how to log-in and get ready for the class to start. We have a routine where he gets ready early and practices typing while he is waiting for the class to start.
I love that I’m there and able to help Sebastian along if needed, but there is a sense of independence too. He is learning how to use technology to learn about any subject while having an interesting and unique experience with different teachers and students from all over the country and world. Win!
Another source a fellow homeschool mom shared with me is Khan Academy. We have enjoyed the easy to use platform. It is simple to see right where we left off from the time before and I like the assessments. They help me know if Sebastian has the concept or if we need to spend more time on something. We have been using Khan for math and grammar.
We continue to have our monthly classes at the Microsoft store in Northpark Mall. This is such a popular fun event for so many of my homeschool family friends. Lunch and outdoor play are incorporated into these afternoons which makes for a great day of learning and socializing. Techie Factory continues to be one of Sebastian’s favorite weekly classes. The first half he gets to help other students and during the second half, he gets to collaborate with or learn from older students.
Our monthly DMA visit involved studies of Native American art and specifically basket weaving. It was a lovely afternoon so after class, we got to cross the street to Klyde Warren Park and have lunch at the food trucks.
Our friends Parker and Mason had their 8th birthday party at our favorite steam-punk playground, Spark! We are always drawn to their giant ‘light bright’ and of course, we went with a Minecraft theme for our art-making. When we left, Sebastian commented how pretty downtown Dallas looked and that I should grab a photo.
New at Zhen this semester we are attending a music class for music mixing. Sebastian is already three lessons in and compiled his first song: The music style is electronica, but he is learning to record and mix in vocals, too. The software used for this process is called Ableton. In addition to needing a stable laptop with adequate hard drive space and fast memory, you need microphones and an interface. He already wants to lay in video for his youtube channel, eagleprescott.com. Slow down child, we will get there!
Lastly this month we had a worm composting class at Texas Worm Ranch. It was good for them to get their hands in the dirt. We learned so much about worms, how to compost, how to use the worm casting and of course they sent us home with our own box of worms! 🙂
Natalie, Founding Author
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