Homeschool Resources

Outschool, Khan & Music Mixing

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!

20180126_094117.jpg

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! 🙂

Leaving the Flock

Oh my, oh my! It is Christmas Eve!

We started the journey into multiplication and cursive writing. It is a pretty cool thing when your child asks to learn a subject. Sebastian’s curiosity with learning to write in cursive could no longer be held back, so we jumped right in.

20171219_095703.jpg

I have noticed that as he learns and excels on a topic, this builds confidence. That confidence pumps up his self-esteem which in turn gives him the self-motivation and desire to learn and ‘own’ the next topic. It seems to just be continuing to feed on itself. Allowing him space and time to absorb the material as it comes naturally seems to be key in this confidence building.

Sebastian finished his replica of ‘Loneliness in Autumn’ just in time to give to me for Christmas. We had it framed and now it hangs in a prominent place in our home! I could NOT love it more! The final piece was framed in white and is 24″ x 36″.

Additionally at Zhen art this month, they made ‘printing pads’. They carved reverse images in the rubber mat and then stamped them onto heavyweight card stock. Sebastian made snowflake decorated cards that said ‘The Prescott’s’.

We attended ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ at the Dallas Children’s Theater. This was a sweet way to start December. The actors moved all around the stage and auditorium on ‘ice skates’ (roller blades) so it was a fun to be in the middle of the action.

We had our monthly rollerskating date at Thunderbird Roller Rink and Sebastian got an early Christmas gift, Cardiff skates that clip on to his tennis shoes. What is lovely about these skates is that they can expand in size from a boy’s 12 to 5 (or girl’s 12 to 6). They are quick and easy to get on and off too! Bonus! There was a little adjustment to getting used to skating in them since the design is slightly different on 3 wheels, but it wasn’t long before he got the hang of it. While these are called ‘street skates’ they were allowed at the roller rink and we decided since they can be fast, we will restrict their use to the rink. Now since Sebastian has really gotten into skating and isn’t going to use these on the street, we decided to look at tennis shoes with the wheel also know was ‘Heely’s’. We decided on these since they also offer the light-up feature. He is normally a size 2 and I went with a size 3. They fit more like a 2.5, so I’m glad I sized up. We also did not install the 2nd optional wheel. I may let him on occasion for fun, but not when we are using them as everyday shoes. We also pulled the laces and put in bands similar to these, but ours were (and can be purchased) from Learning Express, too.

Techie factory has a new teacher, Mess! She is awesome!! Sebastian has been a coding fool. We have plans for him to attend Techie Factory’s weekend 3-D printing camp. This is something Sebastian has been asking to learn about so what a great opportunity! He will be studying a printer like this one. We will report back on the printer and camp in a few weeks.

More good times at the Microsoft store in Northpark Mall. A new group of puzzles for the Minecraft Hour of Code Tutorials came out and the group had a great time getting through them. On this day and evening (Dec 7th) that we were at Northpark the Dallas Symphony Orchestra played in the mall and it was AMAZING! Next year, I’ll be sure to look at the mall’s line up of holiday entertainment to plan to attend.

This month’s art class at the Dallas Museum of Art was all about families. Jennifer and the kids talked about families and looked at families in other cultures, specifically African nations. Afterwards, as a family, we worked on panels to represent our family. We used the eagle, trident, and P to represent our family. Our friend Florian used flags (Romanian and United States) and family initials to represent his family.  We used a technique to paint where you could only use dots to make your image, Pointillism.

After class, the boys had an empty DMA kid’s area to play in (Homeschool perk! Weekday public spaces are typically empty!!!) Afterwards the temperatures were moderate which allowed us to get lunch at the food trucks across from Klyde Warren Park. We were able to enjoy the park for almost 3 hours on this lovely afternoon. The boy’s soaked in every minute of playtime and green space. Win!

We attended this event called, The Compassion Experience. Here is what it is about, “Visitors will be given headsets and invited on an audio-guided journey through wheelchair-accessible and kid-friendly exhibit space, featuring replicas of the homes and environments of real children who have grown up under the weight of extreme poverty. Visitors will journey with the children from poverty to hope and will experience new countries and cultures along the way. Guests will hear the child’s life story through headphones, as told by professional voice actors in an immersive experience. The stories featured are all true and told with permission and direction from the Compassion-sponsored children who lived them.”

Over the month we celebrated birthdays, had dinners with friends, wore Christmas jammies and counted the days until TONIGHT! All my gifts are wrapped, Santa’s cookie plate is out and Sebastian is dreaming of sugar plums. I could not be more grateful for all the experiences and new friends homeschooling has brought into my life. All it takes is time and patience the rest gets filled in along the way. If homeschooling has been calling you, then take the leap in 2018! You will never regret spending more time raising, teaching, mentoring and guiding YOUR child. Merry Christmas! <3

 

Leaving the Flock

Worldschooling, Dallas is our Classroom.

We made it through another week FULL of activities, friends, learning, and adventure. Here are some highlights from the week.

Last week marked the beginning of our Fine Arts class at Zhen. I was so impressed with this place. The lobby felt very ‘gallery-like’ and the students use real tools, like a variety of adult size brushes, acrylic paints, and 18″ x 24″ canvases. Sebastian was the only boy and 19 girls. The teacher is there to guide and give direction to the students as they re-create a painting of their choice. The instructor helped us select George Rodrigue‘s Meet the ‘Blue Dog’ as our first project & artist to study.  The bottom is a picture of the original and the photo with Sebastian is what he completed during his first session. Over the next week or two, while Sebastian completes this painting we intend to study the life and work of George Rodrigue.

We meet friends from our homeschool group at the Children’s Garden in the Dallas Arboretum. Sebastian and I had not been to this part of the gardens before. He had a delightful time exploring the treehouse and exhibits.

We were at the Arboretum to attend their fungus class.  It was a great small group, hands-on class all about mold and mushrooms. Afterwards, we were invited to take a look at this super cool, moving globe. The operator showed us past weather and specifically Hurricane’s Harvey and Irma form and move across the ocean to the US.

This particular day continued on with getting to re-visit our old stomping grounds at UP Elementary where we picked our friend Parker. The boys are attending video game club together where they get to play, talk, explore, learn, and grow their video gaming skills along with other kids. Then afterward they are taking a coding class where they learn computer programming using Scratch (developed by MIT) and Blockly (used to program robots and drones). In my dream world, Sebastian would have more and more classes about programming.  The co-owner of this great school, Techie Factory and I have been talking about a homeschool program, so if you are a fellow HS family local to North Texas and interested, write me for the details. From what I understand there is still space for others to join either of the after-school programs too!

Later in the week, we headed out to Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium. Well if you know this area, you know it is in the mall with Rainforest Cafe. Sebastian hasn’t been to this restaurant in several years, so it was a treat to see his excitement and reaction to all the ‘animals’.

Sealife was having ‘homeschool’ week so in addition to exploring the aquarium, we were able to attend a class on Cephalopods. We learned that an Octopus is thought to have about the same level of intelligence as a dog. They can fit through some amazing tiny spaces, too!

Fall is in the air and my boy loves gords! We had a marvelous day exploring with our friend Mason at Klyde Warren park, visiting the Farmers’ Market downtown and having the most delightful, healthy lunch at Mudhens.

Then we were able to visit the Dallas Museum of Art and take in beautiful pieces like Water Lilies by Monet. They had a lovely children’s area for the boys to burn off some creative energy with building tools and pegs.

20170916_114516
Water Lilies, 1908 by Monet
20170916_114454
Resting in the kid’s area.
20170916_114432
Building things.
20170916_114409
Pegs, board & string, so fun!

On this day Sebastian was working on adding sentences to his story. I left the room to attend to a task and when I came back, Sebastian said he had finished his writing and jumped on into the math for the day. I was so pleased with his initiative to start the next task without being asked.  As you can see on the 2nd page, he did all the subtraction problems as addition problems. It was a good lesson on reading directions since he had to re-do that page!

20170916_123408

Just a few more takes of my happy little learner studying compound words and his money math.