Sunday, May 7, 2017

Give A Kid A Camera



And watch their observational skills soar!

In this day and age of digital madness it's so hard to get kids outside, engaging with the natural world around them.

But add in a little piece of technology and they might just be immersed for hours!

Give them a camera so they can record what they observe.

We recently spent some time on a local island and whilst they had to share the one spare camera we have, all three kids got into some serious nature photography.

They spent an incredible amount of time wandering, engaged, observing and capturing what they saw.

My teen is teaching himself the manual settings, with a few pointers from mum and dad, when he asks. The younger two are content with the automatic setting.

I have so many images to sort through and those are the ones just from the kids. Far too many to share them all with you, but here's a few.

The following four images were taken by our 15 year old.



Love how my teen captured this. Starfish were everywhere on low tide, along the shoreline and they look fabulous in the sunset.


So ok, not exactly a nature shot but playing around with the light and his little brother during a glorious Moreton Island sunset.


You can't visit Moreton and not watch the sun set over the famous wrecks.


He was even lucky enough to capture this guy whilst we were out on the water.

The next five images were taken by my 12 year old.


She was enraptured with the starfish. There are several images of them taken by her.


Playing around with her little brother. She had my camera for this one.


Of course the obligatory, toes with a starfish photo simply must make an appearance.


These guys get battered around by the surf and many of them get flipped from crashing waves. Their undersides though are mesmerising to look at it.


She also managed to snap the only crab photo of the entire trip!

Our 8 year old barely went anywhere without the camera hanging from his neck. Consequently I now have a plethora of images that he took. The following nine are all from him.


We were so lucky to pass by a pod of dolphins on our way over to the island. They were quick and he was lucky to even grab this shot.


This sunset he snapped directly out in front of our villa. What a beauty!


Behind us was a smallish tropical rainforest inspired garden, which he spent a bit of time in.


This little guy sat and posed for him for ages.


And because everyone else was doing it, he thought he should too!


Once again there are heaps of starfish photo's, but I particularly like this one.


A view through the glass bottom boat.


This little guy was found sitting in the trees just out the front of our room.

Once again in the garden at the back of our room.

Taking these truly helped each of them to observe so much more than if they would have done by simply walking around. I hope to get some of these added to our hand drawn nature journals soon.

If you would like to see more of what we got up to on the island please follow along with our family adventure blog.

Happy Homeschooling,
Kylie

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Digital Savvy ~ Review

In this age of technology it is really important for our students to understand fundamental computing topics so I knew I had to review the new Digital Savvy course from CompuScholar, Inc. My teen has been using the information technology course, 'Digital Savvy' which we were given access to for the purposes of this review.

What is Digital Savvy.

CompuScholar, Inc formerly known as Homeschool Programming has a range of computer courses aimed at middle and high school aged students.

Digital Savvy is aimed at grades 6 - 12 and is an overall Information Technology course. It aims to teach the students about computers, various applications, it explores social media, has them creating simple web pages.

The topics covered in the Digital Savvy course are:
  • Hardware, software, and operating systems
  • Managing files and folders
  • Basic networking
  • Online safety and computer security
  • Using Word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation programs
  • Creating simple databases
  • Image editing
  • Using social media and email communications
  • Introductory website design
  • Simple computer programming concepts
  • Exploration of computing careers

This is exactly the sort of course I have been wanting my teen to undertake.  A good overview of all things I.T and so far this course has been valuable to him.

How We Have Used Digital Savvy

This has been one of the easiest to use programs we have come across in a very long time. It is so well laid out and navigation is a real breeze. As a user you really can't get anything wrong.

After logging in to the program and selecting the Digital Savvy Course we were greeted with the screen below. There are a total of 25 Chapters in the course.

Each chapter contains several lessons, a brief quiz at the end of each lesson. A culminating activity and chapter exam is also included.

It really is as simple as log in and get started right where you left off the previous day.

Below I have shared a series of screenshots showing the progression through the program.


After logging into the Digital Savvy Course you are met with the chapters screen. Digital Savvy contains a total of 25 chapters.



The lessons within each chapter are again very simple to navigate to. Each lesson contains a video and a quiz. All of the quizzes are graded.
 


At the end of each chapter (approximately 3 - 5 lessons) is a culminating activity or project. These are submitted to the teacher (parent) for grading and the grades are stored along with each of the lesson quizzes.



On completion of all the lessons and the activity for each chapter is a longer multiple choice test, which once again, this is graded.

What We Didn't Like

My son and have been chatting about this and there really isn't anything he doesn't like about the course. Some of it he already knows but that will be the case with many things he undertakes. Whilst he still is only in the early chapters the short lessons and ease of use really make this such a simple subject for him and a very hands off one for me.

What We Did Like

For me as the teacher/parent I love that this is completely graded. All of his scores are kept and he can see his grades for each test immediately. He also has the option of repeating the test if he wishes to try and improve his score.


To use the program effectively we need nothing other than our computer and a decent internet connection. Every now and then a pen and paper and a word processing program is required but the bulk of the course is completed through the course itself.


As a busy mum with younger kids in the house that need my attention having the teen able to work independently, even on new to us courses, is such a blessing.



Looking Ahead

Without a doubt we will continue working our way through this course to completion and I am very confident that I will have my other children take the Digital Savvy Course also as it is great computer science basics course.

Further Details

Payment options for courses are either month by month or year long access. To find out more details about this program be sure to visit the Compuscholar, Inc website. You can also find them on your favourite social media channels. Facebook -
https://www.facebook.com/CompuScholar Twitter -  https://twitter.com/CompuScholar

If you would like to read other reviews about the various courses offered simply click on the image below.


Digital Savvy, Web Design & Java Programming {CompuScholar,Inc Reviews}



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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ex Tropical Cyclone Debbie Aftermath


We recently experienced one of the worst natural disasters our local area has seen in a very long time. I personally have no memory of anything ever hitting our area as hard as this.

In less than 30 hours our area had 890 mm of rain dropped on us. No wonder it had nowhere to go.



We though, are the lucky ones and whilst being placed on a possible evacuation list was mightily scary our only real threat was that of surrounding roads being cut off.


And cut off they were and still are. The above three images are from a road that we use almost daily. The sheer force of the water is simply unimaginable.



This is a major bridge and thoroughfare for our area and we cross this bridge at least once a week. It is an area of the river that floods regularly, but that happens way down below the bridge, across the old original bridge that is much closer to the actual river flow height.


This newer bridge is several metres higher than the flow of the river and has received extensive structural damage.



For water to bend a light pole is simply mind blowing.


The kids could not believe their eyes and this was absolutely hands down the best way to show them the reasons why they never ever enter flood water or try to cross a bridge that is covered with flood water.

We simply have no idea what is under that water and whether the bridge is even actually still there, as happened a few kilometers from us.

So whilst we certainly didn't want to experience a natural distaster on this scale and my heart breaks for everyone that has been so severely affected by this, it truly is education at it's best.

Eyes glued to the weather radar, watching the cyclone, tracking it's moves, discussing the eye and then watching how it breaks up as it heads south.

Then sitting through the torrential rain, only to wake and see the worst flooding we've seen right across the road from us.

Nature's fury right there in all its glory.



The vast majority of the time flooding creates nothing but havoc and devastation but every so often it creates a beautiful scene and the stillness of what appeared to simply be a lake was quite beautiful, except that it was covering a road, had entered several houses in this area and took lives, both animal and human.

Simply heartbreaking.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Creating A Masterpiece ~ Review

We are currently receiving excellent fine art lessons via the monthly plan from Creating A Masterpiece. Our family has been access to this online program in return for our honest review.


What Is Creating A Masterpiece.

C.A.M is an online subscription based fine arts program, that is suitable for students of all ages. We were provided access to the Monthly Plan option.

The video lessons are presented by the artist herself, in an easy to follow step by step manner.

All the lessons are broken into appropriate levels so that you can easily assess the difficulty of which level would best suit the child.

In all there are six levels, plus an art history section, to choose from. Within each level are several art projects all using a wide variety of mediums.

This is not an arts and crafts or simplistic art projects program. This is a fine arts program designed for school age students. 

How We Have Used The Program.


When we were first given our family access to C.A.M we immediately set out to explore the site. There is a large number of projects for the children to choose from. After a good look around in each level, watching a few video snippets and downloading the printable supply sheets for a couple of the projects, we settled on choosing an introductory level lesson.

 Lessons In Watercolour: Floral Medley

This particular lesson was broken into three step by step videos and it required drying time before moving on to the next step in the video lessons. 

Sharon, the artist, walks the students through every step of the process. At first we tried to keep up with her, only pausing the video when we needed. We quickly realised for us it was better to watch the video all the way through and to then go back and begin the lesson ourselves, referring back to the video when required.

From there we moved on to a lesson using oil pastels.

 Lesson In Oil Pastel: Winter Cabin

This was a longer lesson with four videos in all, which the kids chose to complete over a couple of days.  Each lesson also includes a section with hints and tips to assist you in getting the best out of the video lessons.

My teen decided to tackle one of the lessons with something a little more challenging for him. He does enjoy his art and seems to me to have a natural flair and this program is a good fit for him to be able to work quietly and independently.

 Lesson In Soft Pastel: Country Rooster

As I type he is sitting across from me on the other computer browsing the lessons for his next choice.

What We Didn't Like


There's actually not a lot we didn't like about this program. If I had to pick something it would be that my youngest does not thrive in this type of video based art instruction. This is the third program of a similar nature that we have tried and I have come to realise that for now at least this type of art instruction is not for him. 

He finds it all quite overwhelming, the watching, the doing, the remembering it all and then add in the fact that his piece never looks like the piece in the video and he simply doesn't enjoy it. My eldest two though are fine working with a video based instruction program, so you just need to really know your kids.


What We Did Like


The variety of what was on offer and the depth at which the student can go if they wish. Some of those upper level pieces are really quite involved, so even some of the most accomplished artists will not be bored here.

The fact that this is true art. It is not craft. It is not cookie cutter art either, that you often see in other programs.  

Now that we have settled in to the program I love simply adding 'art' to the list of topics to be completed this week and my eldest two can get themselves online and choose their own project and complete it entirely on their own.

I also really like the variety of mediums on offer in the various lessons:

    Acrylic
    Batik
    Block Printing
    Carving
    Conte' Crayon
    Copper Tooling
    Glass Mosaic
    Gouache
    Ink
    Mixed Media
    Oil Painting
    Oil Pastel
    Pencil/Charcoal
    Sculpture
    Silk Painting
    Soft Pastel
    Watercolor
    Wood Burning


Looking Ahead


We were given access to Creating A Masterpiece for six months, in return for our honest review. It has absolutely found a staple place in our week and it will continue to be used here in our homeschool.

Further Details


I always love a true, 'try before you buy' and you can do this with Creating a Masterpiece, with their free sample project.

To view the various ways to subscribe to the Creating A Masterpiece website visit their subscription page.

Want to know more? Visit their website or follow Creating A Masterpiece on facebook.  



I hope you have found this review helpful. If you would like to see more reviews about this vendor from other crew members simply visit this link. 

 

Happy Homeschooling,
Kylie

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Circle C Stepping Stones ~ Book Review



My daughter and I have been digging in to the world of Andi and her pals, with these Circle C Stepping Stones books written by Susan K. Marlow and published by Kregel Publications. We received the first two books, Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under The Big Top, in return for our honest review.

The first in the series, Andi Saddles Up, takes the reader back in time to the Circle C Ranch during the year of 1877. The book introduces nine year old Andrea Carter, on her birthday. Andi is extremely excited, given that it is not only her birthday but that she is also now old enough to ride Taffy, her beloved horse.


Andi dreams of learning to trick ride, just like her friend Riley always used to do, but her big brother Chad simply won't hear of it. Chad has been the man around the farm since their father passed away.

Andi goes on to meet a new friend, Sadie, but Sadie's Pa is in a land boundary dispute with Chad and things are very tricky. Can Andi and Sadie continue to be friends?

Whilst they aren't in abundance the illustrations that are contained in the novel are beautiful hand drawn sketches and just add that little extra to the story.

This story contains some wonderful life lessons and Andi certainly learns some hard and painful ones throughout the story.

It's a great one to read together, that's for sure, as both adults and children alike can take something away from this. My daughter read this aloud to me a little each day and after each reading we moved to the free printable study guide that is available on the Kregel Publications website.

The study guide includes chapter comprehension questions, vocabulary word practice, crosswords, poetry writing activities, character activities and more. It was a good way to extend on the reading.

If you have a daughter that loves horses and farm life then she is sure to enjoy getting in to this adventure with Andi.



We also received the second book in the Circle C Stepping Stones series, Andi Under The Big Top.

It's summer on the Circle C Ranch and the circus is coming to town. One needs to remember that it is the year 1877 and having something like a circus arrive in town with all of those exotic animals really is a big deal!.

As you can imagine Andi is brimming with excitement to get along to the circus and to watch the show. She is somewhat wary of the clowns but goes on to thoroughly enjoy the circus.

Whilst there she meets a young boy, name Henry Jackson, who has run away and joined the circus. It seems like it is everyone's dream, to run away and join the circus doesn't it? But is Henry really loving his life? There is much more to his story than first appears.

Andi decides that she needs to help her new friend but at what cost?

Again this installment brings many life lessons. Can Andi really help Henry to find his way back home?

Once again there are a few beautiful illustrations scattered throughout the book and a free study guide is also available to download.

My daughter is slightly above the recommended age range for these books and we did notice at times that they were probably on the young side for her. We did notice on the website though that there are other series following Andi as she grows up so we will take a closer look at those.

Overall we both enjoyed these, although felt Andi Saddles Up grabbed our attention more.


If you would like to read further reviews of these books by other Homeschool Review Crew members simply click on the graphic below.

You can also find more details about this series via Susan K. Marlow's facebook page.

Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}


I trust this review has helped you to learn a little more about the Circle C Stepping Stones range.

Happy Homeschooling,
Kylie


Crew Disclaimer

Monday, February 20, 2017

Homeschool Transitions

Here we are at Week Four, the final week of the Not Back To School Blog Hop. If you missed the first few weeks why not go back and check them out, there's been some great posts shared by some of my fellow Aussie Homeschool Bloggers.

Week One we chatted about our hopes, dreams and goals for the year ahead.

Week Two saw us talking about how we school.

Week Three our focus was on resources for the year ahead.



This year we are transitioning into much more serious work. My eldest has entered his final three years of home schooling and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit freaked out by that for various reasons.

He and I have chatted at length about the future ahead. We've both agreed that ensuring he has a strong educational base to leave here with is of the utmost importance to all of us.

That's not to say that we've spent the past ten years of our home ed experience sitting around twiddling our thumbs because we certainly haven't. We've simply done things differently over the years to what we are doing today.

"Today is about more structure, more focus and more accountability on both of our parts."


Is this an easy transition for us?

No, it isn't. I'm tired already and we aren't even halfway through our first term. I am already checking the calendar for our next school break and he is most definitely feeling the added pressure.

But we are simply forming new habits and doing so takes time, hard work,  diligence and perseverance. New habits are not formed over night.

Would we have found this easier if we'd been doing what I guess could be called a more standard model of homeschooling over the years? Without a doubt I believe so yes, as it would simply be a natural progression. Do I wish I could go back and change how we have done things over the past ten years. Without a doubt, NO!


I wholeheartedly embrace the notion that children need play and lots of it, even when they are teens. They need loads of time to tend to themselves, to be bored, to explore, to seek out their own interests and to simply just be. Most often the way to achieve this is by lots of unstructured learning and bucket loads of down time. All of which we have experienced over the years.

I also feel we are finding this much harder simply because we are coming off the back of a very haphazard year.

Now don't get me wrong, I do not believe in any way that I have placed to high expectations on either myself or my tenth grader. I know some of you showed concerns when I shared our resource list, but I will come back to how we are using those resources in another post.

He is still doing far less 'sit down at a desk' academic type work than some of this other home schooled and public schooled peers. Granted he's also doing more than others too. But this is not about what anyone else is doing. It is only about him.



Through our entire homeschooling period one of the most important things to me has been one of 'enjoying life'. That really has been of our big driving forces in home schooling. To not be bound by school terms, school rules, school work and everything else that goes along with attending regular school. We are free to do as we please and simply live life on our terms, not one dictated to us by the institution that is school.

I always said that as a home school family if the kids get to a stage where they don't have enough time to simply enjoy themselves then they might as well be in school. Sitting at home on their own completing school work all day every day is no fun for anyone. At least if they were at a high school they would get to talk to other teens.

I have always vowed that our home school would never become like that and so we find ourselves in that tricky place of transitioning.

Of ensuring we keep the wonder, the fun and the excitement alive. Ensuring there is plenty of 'play time' and time for friends, yet making certain that the academics are not being left behind.

Whilst it is still only early days in the year some of the things we have done to help us ease into our new routine is - - >

A thorough weekly check list for the tenth grader. This gives him the freedom to work on what he chooses, but by having a full week's overview he can easily see what he may be favouring and what subjects he isn't getting in enough of.

Using this though is going to take some work. Whilst we've tried checklists over the years, they've never been something we've stuck with so it will take work and even then I can't be sure it is something we will continue with.

The checklist is not only for him though it also helps me to see where he is at and I use the info on the checklist to plug everything in to a private blog he and I have.


The blog is our primary record keeping tool. I am currently adding in every thing he does in his day onto the blog. This means being diligent in snapping photo's, keeping up with everything he is doing, scanning documents and then adding all of this to a post each week.

I must admit though I am really loving being able to open the blog and see what he's accomplished. In previous years there was a little part of me that wondered how much we were actually doing and now I know because it is right there in front of me.

We also need to start a portfolio of sorts, but as yet I don't really know how we will go about that. For now I think at the end of the first term we will go through what has been completed and decide what is worthy to go into the "high school years portfolio". That one needs some more thinking on though.

The other challenge for us is that we still have two younger kids in the house and so we find ourselves in the position of having two kids that have completed their structured work and are off doing things of their own interest whilst the tenth grader is still going at it with his work. That also means that for me I am still 'switched on' for a much longer period in my day than what I have been in the past.

Being certain that we have a serious focus whilst work is being completed, that we are keeping track of work that has been completed in an adequate fashion and also adding in more assignment based explorations is challenging. I also know that the accomplishments at the end of the week are great.

The other factor is he currently doesn't have a direction he is working towards. Now that is totally fine my be and him, but it does leave us in a situation of not really knowing what is going to be important or not. And so for this year at least we are exploring what we can, ensuring we have a wide enough, yet deep enough coverage in the subject areas for him.

As always, plans change, we will always remain very fluid and at any given time if his direction changes then everything he is doing will no doubt change to suit that. These next few years are all about meeting him where he is at and constantly reassessing what we are doing on a daily basis. Actually as I type that I realise that that part of home school is no different.

So for now this is where we are at. A place of forming new habits as we both enter what is new territory for us.

Be sure to read the other bloggers posts linked up below. Simply click on one of the square images to be taken to their blog.





Happy Homeschooling,
Kylie

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