Saturday, January 23, 2016

Homeschoolers & 4-H

This part of the school year can often lead to homeschool burnout if we are not careful. With yucky winter weather, fewer hours of sunlight, and just the continued hum-drum of the same old routine every day; things can get pretty boring. So after Christmas break, we decided to add a little something new into the mix for Big Brother! We signed him up with our county's 4-H program

In case you are not familiar with 4-H, it is a youth development program that has clubs and activities available in most counties. Regular 4-H is for youth ages 9-19, and many counties also allow 5-8 year olds to participate as Cloverbuds.

The 4-H motto is "Learning by doing." This hands-on approach to life and learning really fits well with the educational philosophy of many homeschoolers!

Students can choose from a wide variety of interesting projects, clubs, activities, competitions, and camps. Our county has a very active 4-H Homeschool Club that meets monthly for various projects. There is also a Cloverbuds Club, Shooting Sports Club, Rabbit Club, Horse Club, Teen Club, Business Club (for young entrepreneurs), Outdoor Adventure Club, and several of the public schools also have their own after school clubs. Most meetings take place at our local county extension office, and membership is free.

4-H'ers are also encouraged to complete projects and displays to be entered in the county fair in the summer. Cloverbuds can win prizes at the county level, while youth 9 & up can also advance to the state fair!

Big Brother is still 7, so he is Cloverbud age. And already he is really enjoying himself!

Last week we attended our first 4-H Homeschool Club meeting. We met some new families and were able to join in with a great service project: helping make shoes for needy children in Uganda through an amazing organization called Sole Hope. We watched a very interesting video about the organization and then worked together to cut shoe pieces from old blue jeans.

This was not only a good service project, but it also turned into a geography lesson and a health lesson! Big Brother learned all about a parasite called a jigger and how it causes foot diseases.

We look foward to next month's 4-H Homeschool Club meeting as we will be filling backpacks with necessities and comfort items for small children who are entering emergency foster care.

Also, this week Big Brother has participated in a couple 4-H photography contests! Each contest has had a specific theme, and the goal is for students to learn more about photography as they are participating. He has really had fun with this and enjoyed the different challenges!

The most recent contest involved shadow pictures. It was an interesting challenge and a great learning experience for him. I am proud to announce that Big Brother won for the Cloverbud age group in our county! Here is his very silly winning shadow picture:

Big Brother is also interested in learning to cook (cooking = life skills, math, & science!). He would like to enter some of the 4-H food competitions at the fair, so he has started practicing some of the simpler 4-H competition recipes. The chocolate cookies he made the other day were some of the best I have ever tasted!

If weather permits, his first Cloverbuds Club meeting is scheduled for this week. They plan to work on some different art projects. Art is an area where I am pretty weak as a homeschool teacher, so I will be very thankful for him to have this enrichment opportunity!

A few of the other 4-H activities that he may soon be participating in include picking up trash in our county, collecting plastic lids for recycling purposes, and helping design club T-shirts!

While I was not a 4-H'er growing up, I have known several homeschoolers down through the years who were involved in 4-H and found it very beneficial to them as it complemented their home education. From farming and agriculture to cooking and sewing to engineering and technology, there is sure to be something to interest any student! The focus on building real-life useful skills is wonderful for our children.

In case you are wondering, 4-H is not necessarily a Christian program. There may be times, as with any secular activity, when we may want to pick and choose when or how we participate if we come across anything that goes against our family's convictions. I honestly do not see this being a huge deal though with the clubs in our area.

I just wanted to share with you this new little development in our homeschooling, and perhaps to encourage you to give your local 4-H program a try! Please stay tuned, as I will soon be announcing a few other rather interesting new developments regarding our family's plans for next school year!!

Do your children participate in 4-H? I would LOVE to hear about it!! Please leave me a comment!!

Find more info about 4-H here!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Homeschool Science Experiments: Surface Tension

Recently in his science textbook, Big Brother had read about a pond insect called the water strider that is actually able to glide across the surface film of the water in the pond. To illustrate how this is possible, we conducted a simple experiment!

What we needed:

1. A bowl of water
2. A pair of tweezers
3. A sewing needle

Big Brother filled the bowl with water and set it on the kitchen counter. I told him to carefully pick up the needle using the tweezers and very gently set it on the very top of the water.

What would happen? He was totally surprised when, rather the sinking to the bottom of the bowl, the needle actually sat on the surface film of the water! Just like the water strider we had read about!!

Now I asked him to give the needle a gentle nudge with the tweezers. Now the surface film was broken and the needle did sink.

This little experiment was so simple, but Big Brother really thought it was cool! I gave him some time to repeatedly set the needle on the water's surface and watch it just sit there before he would push it on down to sink into the bowl.

Along this same water theme, we conducted another simple experiment involving surface tension.

What we needed:

1. A glass filled to the brim with as much water as possible
2. A roll of pennies (or you could use paper clips or similar small objects)

This time I carefully filled a glass to the tip top with water. I gave Big Brother the pennies and told him to drop in one at a time very gently. Each time he dropped in a penny, we watched the bulge that formed at the top of the glass as surface tension kept the water from spilling out of the glass.

Then we made a game of it! Just how many pennies could the glass hold before the surface tension could no longer hold in all the water??

We were both quite surprised to find that it took 15 pennies before a trickle of water finally came spilling down the side of the glass!!

We love doing experiments and making real life observations that relate to what he is learning from his textbooks!!

I want to challenge your family to give these experiments a try and post your results in the comments! Were you able to see the needle float? How many pennies or other coins/objects did your glass hold before some water spilled out?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and on to Learning by Carol Barnier Book Review

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission for each purchase made through these links at absolutely no extra cost to you. All opinions expressed are my own. Thanks!

I was given the book How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and on to Learning: Homeschooling Highly Distractions, ADHD, or Just Plain Fidgety Kids by Carol Barnier as a Christmas present. Just reading the title and seeing the picture on the front let me know this book was for me!

As a mother of 2 full of energy little boys, I am always on the lookout for practical "how to" advice when it comes to homeschooling. Big Brother, though he is an extremely intelligent child, has a a good bit of difficulty with things like focussing, paying attention, impulse control, working memory, being still, and handling distractions. He also struggles with some sensory issues. We have not thus far had a real need to seek out an official medical diagnosis for any of this, but should we ever choose that route, a diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) would not come as a surprise to us.

I have done lots of research. There are many books and websites out there about recognizing the symptoms of ADHD and similar topics. But while a having a definite medical diagnosis of the cause for Big Brother's unique issues might be somewhat helpful, all I have ever really wanted was some knowledgeable and practical "how to" advice. I have needed answers to questions like "What can I do to keep him motivated to learn when some aspects of the traditional school experience like writing, sitting, concentrating, remebering multi-step directions, managing time, etc. are an obvious struggle for him?" or "How do we keep math or writing assignments from taking hours to complete due to lack of focus?" or "How do I maximize his unique gifts and strengths while helping him learn ways to compensate for his weaker areas?"

If you have ever asked any of these questions...or if you have ever discovered your child on top of your refrigerator when he or she was supposed to be doing schoolwork...then you really should read this book!

Carol Barnier very candidly shares her own journey as a homeschooling mom of a son with ADHD. With very refreshing humor and honesty, she talks about every day struggles many of us with spirited or easily distracted children can quickly relate to.

How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and on to Learning is an absolute treasure full of helpful tips about everything from fun ways to teach math lessons to creating useful educational games and manipulatives to how to deal with special challenges during outings like field trips or church services.

Probably my biggest takeaway from this book that has helped me the most is Mrs. Barnier's concept of "The Keys." This concept involves finding what works best for my child. Every child learn's best when information is presented to them in a way he or she can best understand it. This is like finding the right key to unlock the door of their brain. My job as homeschool teacher is to keep searching until I find the right key for my son. If he struggles to learn or understand something, we do not just give up nor do we proclaim it his fault for being incapable of learning what is being taught. We can just say, "Well, I guess Mom used the wrong key! Let's try this one!" and then present the material in another way until it "clicks" and the door to his mind is unlocked. I really appreciated how well the author illustrates this concept throughout the book.

I read How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and on to Learning in just a few hours one afternoon during our Christmas break. But I will definitely be returning to this book often as I incorporate many of Mrs. Barnier's ideas into our daily homeschool activities. There are also some great reproducible games and such in the back that I plan to copy and use.

Get your own copy of How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and on to Learning: Homeschooling Highly Distractible, ADHD, or Just Plain Fidgety Kids from Amazon today! I guarantee it will be a blessing to you!!!