Tag Archives: homeschool

Manatees at Blue Spring in Florida!

 

Every year my family takes at least one trip to view the manatees in residence during the cold

months in Orange City, Florida at Blue Spring State Park. When weather gets cold (okay, not as

cold as up north, but cold for Florida) manatees like to be in the warm spring water.

 

Sometimes the manatee count goes upwards of 200. That’s right, hundreds of manatees, and

their adorable babies, all in one spring area.

 

Can you tell we LOVE manatees?!

 

I highly encourage you to visit Blue Spring State Park for other events as well. We have attended

ranger walks to see fireflies and other animals. At certain times during the year you can snorkel

or canoe. Check with the rangers to find out which activities are available during your visit.

 

You may see alligators, turtles, tons of fish, otters, turkeys, owls, and more!

 

Stay for a day or camp overnight, just be sure to check in advance for events, campsite

availability, etc. The park does reach capacity quickly on weekends, holidays and special event

dates.

Make sure you check out the playground, cafe, and the historic Thursby House.

Check out the Blue Spring website and webcam link for more info.

Use Movies to Teach

 

 

 

I remember way back in school when the teacher would roll out that lovely tv on a cart. I

rarely knew exactly which video was on the roster that day, but it was often better than regular

classwork.  It’s always fun for kids to have variety so with the advent of streaming options (like

Amazon and Hulu) and DVD rental services (like Redbox and Netflix), there are plenty of options

for media use in schools and homeschools alike.

 

 

Any topic can be taught using movies. Documentaries are available for topics from poverty to

living in counties outside of the US to how to make things. On top of that, there are TV shows

about history, physics, and Earth.

If you find that a topic has not yet been covered, consider it a challenge and ask your

students to research and produce their own documentary. Consider creating a YouTube or

SchoolTube channel. Or, if you prefer, create a website where you can instantly post the movie

your students create.

 

 

To extend learning, ask students to consider what happens next, how they can help if a

topic requires action, or to retell the information. Allow for individualized or group projects.

Give options for presentations which are flexible such as songs, art, acting it out, etc.

Don’t be afraid to learn with your students. Nobody knows everything. Learning together is a

great way to show that you are human. Plus, learning with kids helps them understand that you

are a life-long learner, which shows them the pros of being a learner for life.

 

 

So, what are you waiting for? Teaching through movies is only a click or two away. 😊

 

About Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at

407-712-4368

 

My Favorite Valentine Books

Every year I go back to old standbys for each holiday clients wish to celebrate, but I also

like to add in new activities when possible.

I was working on lesson plans for clients and found some cool books for your homeschool or

classroom this year. Links are included if they are available for each book. Some links may be

via affiliates.

 

The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Party

Berenstain Bears’ books tend to teach solid life lessons while entertaining children. Try opening your lesson to include student discussions about the topic of how to include others. Also consider allowing students to act out the book using puppets, action figures, or students themselves.

The Valentine Bears

Consider using The Valentine Bears as a whole group activity or in listening centers. Discuss how people sacrifice for each other to brighten a day. Allow students to discuss kind acts and safety boundaries to round out the lesson.

Junie B. Jones: Junie B. My Valentim

Junie B., the B. is for Beatrice and don’t forget it, makes mistakes and has some fun along the way. Junie books help students evaluate wise choices versus inappropriate choices with some laughter along the way. Consider having students rewrite a chapter or page to tell what happens if Junie makes a different choice.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse!

Given the popularity of books like “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”, it’s likely that kids will enjoy this book, too. Consider using this book to practice predictive text, make valentine’s in the classroom as not every student will have an opportunity to do so at home, and practice rhyming activities.

 

 

 

Our Trip to Legoland

My family recently visited Legoland-Florida. I know my youngest enjoys Lego blocks and rides. However, I was slightly concerned that my preteen and teen would find less to do than my youngest kiddo.

We were pleasantly surprised! There were a ton of

activities for ALL ages!

Legoland-Florida was decorated for Christmas when we arrived. My kids were delighted to see this tree made of Lego bricks!

Everyone found rides they enjoyed. We ended up going on several rides multiple times. A huge favorite was driving school. Flying school was a close second.

Of course, my oldest enjoys roller coasters, so she became our official guide to make sure she had a chance to ride each coaster during our visit.

Driving school is fun! This popular attraction also has a version for younger kids close by.

Between roller coasters, water rides, driving and boat school options, everyone had a blast!

Children attempting to drive is quite interesting. We have some work to do before anyone takes a real driving test.

To cap off our day of fun, we enjoyed Milo’s Journey which is a STEM class you can choose to pay for and attend. The classes are inside the Imagination Zone which has literally TONS of Lego bricks for your children to use for physics and engineering activities.

What’s even better is that there are several other classes we plan to go back and try out, too!

During our class, the children had a laptop and Lego kit. The instructions for their assignment were on the laptop and easy to access.

During our class, students had the opportunity to build and program a rover!

Each child had access to their own laptop and Lego kit. After the kids programmed their rovers, a race was held!

Our instructor was extremely patient, clear, and helpful. It was so much fun that my kids asked to do it again!

I highly encourage homeschoolers to attend Homeschool Days as the rate is slightly lower if you reserve your tickets and pay in advance. Remember to bring your homeschool ID, which your local support group is likely to have, when you arrive at the park.

For a list of rides, parking information, and class info, check out the Legoland site!

Be sure to check out hours of operation and note that the water park area is open only part of the year. We live close by, so we will visit again when the water park is open (in warmer weather).

If you live far from the area, consider making the trip and staying at the Legoland Hotel or Beach Retreat

Legoland is inclusive. You are encouraged to contact Legoland personnel in advance of your visit to discuss any special needs and how they can be of service to you.

In addition, our STEM class teacher was extremely helpful and read my children’s cues. She was able to determine how much or how little assistance they needed and backed off if help seemed to agitate a student.

I have no doubt that the new STEM classes and teachers are well-equipped to help those with varying exceptionalities.

I highly encourage families, teachers, and homeschoolers to visit Legoland as well as the new STEM classes. There is far more to see, do, and learn about than a single blog post can cover. 

Make sure you check for events as well. The Christmas Bricktacular is just one of many events each year.

My family looks forward to going back again soon. We hope to see you there!

5 Things I Learned From Homeschooling

 

When people find out that we homeschool there are a variety of reactions. Usually there is a response included like “I could never do that” or “how do you find the time”. I used to feel the same way. But I have learned a lot from homeschooling so I thought I’d share just a few things I found interesting. I would love to hear your perspective as well.

I like having a flexible schedule.

When we made the move from public to homeschool, I worried how I would manage it all. Funny thing is that once I had free reign over our schedule, we actually had extra time and less stress! Consider the time spent going to book fairs, teacher conferences, and other events.

Consider that these events are pre-scheduled and you cannot move them to suit your work and free time schedules. So, yes, pubiic school is a fine choice. But, homeschooling opened up more time for us to choose where to go and what to do. Flexibility has been helpful to my family so I appreciate this.

I don’t mind lesson planning.

I used to seriously hate writing lesson plans for my students. I loved thinking of great lessons and researching fun learning projects, but hated how quickly I had to write them up in the schedule and how limited my choices were as the district and school already decided on basal curriculum choices. It was my job to fit these items in along with other information and projects my students would enjoy that were outside the basic academic subjects.

I often integrated art, science, and social studies into language arts and math time, but that is no small feat. I am thankful that though lesson planning is not always a piece of cake, I now have time and flexibility to work on integration of topics and to move outside of a pre-scripted academic path when my children want to explore other topics.

I have friends, not co-workers.

I am friendly most of the time. I like to talk with new people and hear about their journey. When I worked in public schools, I made a few friends who lasted beyond the post I left years ago. But most people did not have my phone number, address, or email. I really did not care to see them aside from at work because we had personality conflicts or just didn’t care to hang out away from work.

That’s ok. Nothing wrong with knowing who your tribe is or is not.

Homeschooling has given me a chance to meet people locally and beyond my area who have similar interests and ideals. I like that I can talk with them and they immediately understand my perspective. I like that they sometimes challenge me as well. Sure, this can be found in other places. I happen to have found kindred spirits throughout life, but especially while homeschooling.

I like managing a multi-age classroom.

I used to think multi-age classrooms would be difficult to manage once children aged out of pre-k. The thing is that chronological age does not tell as much as you might think about a student’s developmental stage.

A child may be very advanced in math, but less advanced in language arts compared to her peers. A multi-age classroom lets students help each other work on their weaknesses by teaching others using their strengths. Of course, a teacher or parent is there to assist when needed, too.

There’s more to life than academics.

I used to push academics even in early childhood settings. I wanted my kids to be advanced in every way. The thing is that every kid is unique and develops at least a little bit differently than others. That’s ok. That’s how it is supposed to be.

Gentle guidance is far different than a push, plus being pushy often turns kids away from the very information you desperately want them to understand.

Slow down. Be patient. Offer opportunities. Help when special needs dictate it’s needed.

They will get there. Plus, while working on academics there will b time to work on other things like building, drawing, cooking, learning to compare prices at the grocery store, etc. Sometimes life skills can be academic as well as helpful. Plus, non-academic activities can help students work on the skills they need to thrive as adults.

Our Trip to The Crayola Experience – Orlando

Our Trip to the Crayola Experience – Orlando

Location: Crayola Experience
8001 South Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, Florida 32809

 

Recently my family went to the Crayola Experience. Imagine this, teen, preteen (is it tween

these days?), and elementary kiddo all being dragged away from the electronic devices for a day

of family time. As you can imagine, this was not automatically the first choice on everyone’s list.

But that wasn’t the case for long.

Once we got inside, ALL 3 kids were ready to check it out. Not one complaint. Not one “Can

we go now?!”. It was fantastic!

I can’t remember the last time we ALL had fun at the same field trip or theme park.

 

For those who have never been here before, The Crayola Experience has 26 unique

attractions to explore. When you arrive, you purchase your tickets and go past a ticket check

employee at a podium. When you buy tickets, they give you a bag for your art projects and

tokens for a couple of the attractions which require tokens. You CAN purchase more tokens and

I found this to be helpful as my children enjoyed the token vending machines.

Once past the purchase area, you go upstairs via stairs or elevator (yay highly accessible) and

proceed to have a BLAST! You walk in near the Wrap it up exhibit where you name and put the

label on your own crayon, then proceed though the other attractions at your own pace. The

Crayola Experience includes model magic, painting, mystery challenges, spin art, art alive, a play

structure, food, a gift shop, a place to draw ON the walls in Scribble Square, and more!

Because I am the mom, I have to add my two-cents. I LOVED the Melt and Mold area! You

choose a color and melt the crayon into a shape you choose from options currently available. I

chose a sea horse. My son chose a ring. Sure, you can use these to color, but I plan to save mine

as a keepsake.

My most finicky child love, love, loved the Doodle in the Dark area. We all liked it, don’t get

me wrong, but she LOVED it. I nearly had to drag her away when it was time to go. She cannot

wait to get back and draw with the neon colors in the blacklight area. LOVE it!

My littlest kiddo enjoyed creating a frog to put into the Rockin’ Paper show. He colored a

frog. The attendant added clips the bottom of the frog’s body. Then the frog danced! So cute! It

was a tiny bit loud so if you have kids with sensory avoidance issues, bring noise cancelling

headphones.

 

My oldest daughter loved nearly everything, including making her own crayon (name and all)

and the marker and crayon vending machines. The model magic vending machine was high on

her list, too, because we LOVE to sculpt with model magic at home, too.

The Crayola Experience is an awesome opportunity to practice social skills, map skills, learn how

things are made, practice working alone as well as on a team, practice using money and tokens,

and much more. Because this can be a loud outing, be sure to consider any special needs and

plan accordingly. If you have any questions, please give The Crayola Experience a call. They

were very, very thoughtful and kind during our visit and I am sure they would be willing to help

you as best they can, too.

 

 

Check out upcoming events like:

Screamin’ Green Hauntoween – (10/7 to 10/31) Halloween themed activities abound

during this event!

Crayola After Dark (for adults) – (10/19) Meet up with your friends or a date to sample wine

and make a craft!

Check the calendar for other activities and hours of operation.

 


Needless to say, we will be back.

 

Also, using this link and the code TRC, you will qualify for a special lower

price ticket for The Crayola Experience in Orlando, Florida. This code is not good at other

locations so be sure to follow the link to get your tickets to the Orlando Crayola Experience.

 

Also, homeschoolers can book a field trip in October 2017 for only $8.99 per

person, including parents or other chaperones for groups of 15 guests or more (kids under the

age of 3 are free). Please Contact Denise McKinnie for details at 407-757-1718 or

dmckinnie@crayola.com . She is a pleasure to work with and will help make your trip a

successful event.

 

Please note that this post is the result of free tickets given in exchange for my honest opinion of

The Crayola Experience,

 

 

Orlando Science Center

My family enjoyed a recent homeschool open house at the Orlando Science Center. OSC invited homeschoolers to reserve a spot for a 4 hour free preview of what we can expect if we attend homeschool classes this year.

We were greeted by helpful and knowledgeable staff members, enjoyed a short presentation about the upcoming classes, and enjoyed time with our friends while exploring the exhibits and classrooms.

From DNA to archeology to weather and engineering, OSC has got you covered.

We explored exhibits telling how clouds are made, what makes a tornado form, how to build a structure that withstands earthquakes, and more.

We learned how the force of air can affect items like balls and scarves. The tubed structure above was a maze for the scarves which were carried through by suction which worked like a vacuum. The air from the rods below held balls in the air.

Do YOU know how to build an arch from the ground up with out everything falling to pieces? Each piece has an important role!

Orlando recently came together to support each other and our community after a horrendous hate crime.

We are thankful that OSC is an ally!

More on the heart memorial here. 

Homeschool Classes 

Homeschool classes at OSC currently run on the first Monday of each month, except January. Parents can choose to purchase admission to the class with their children for under $30 per parent/child ticket. You can also add another student for a nominal fee.

In addition, if you choose to stay beyond the 10-2 class time to explore OSC, the fee is $4 per person for an extended time ticket.

Topics for classes this year include (but are not limited to) magnets, forces of nature, STEM, 3D printing, bridges, and chemlab. Check the information page for details for your child’s age/grade group each month. Sign up in advance as classes sell out quickly!

Also, consider attending a homeschool overnight event. This information

is below the class info.

As a certified teacher, homeschool parent, and tutor, I highly encourage homeschool families to participate in the homeschool courses OSC has to offer. The pricing is great, your child will have an enriching day, and everyone goes home happy!

7 Science Lesson Tips

Sometimes people ask how I deal with teaching so many different ages and grades when tutoring or homeschooling. They have a point. There are a lot of ways to make teaching easier, though. Lets talk about how to plan for science lessons and NOT give yourself a headache.

1. Plan ahead.

Planning lessons in advance and having the correct tools on hand makes life so much easier. But with busy lives and multiple children, I know this is a challenge. It may help to take a day or two off and plan a week or month in advance, create lists of materials needed, and even set up folders or shelves with the items for each experiment on them assuming nothing dangerous is in the reach of kids.

 

 

2. Safety first!

Post and review safety rules often. Include pictures of items like safety goggles so your kids are more likely to remember the rules. Remember to set the example.

If they need goggles, you need goggles.

If they need to walk while holding a beaker, so do you.

If someone breaks a rule, refer back to the rule and it’s matching image. Make your own or buy one like this.

 

 

3. Practice using tools.

I don’t know about you, but when I get a new thing, I want to check it out. This holds true for science tools like beakers, bunsen burners, pipettes, etc. Kids ALWAYS want to play with new items.

ALWAYS.

The question is, have they had enough time to play safely, then practice using the materials responsibly? If so, then you are ready for lessons. If not, well, let’s just say broken glass isn’t fun so let the kids practice A LOT under your supervision before beginning lessons.

 

 

4. Stop for safety.

If your students are not focused or are being unsafe, stop. You can always start again later or on another day. Sometimes it takes a brain break or time outside to get those wiggles out and refocus on the lesson.

 

 

5. Ask your kids.

Ask your kids what they want to learn. Ask them how they think a scientific inquiry should proceed. When you use open-ended questions and student-chosen lessons, when possible, it helps your children to internalize the information because it will likely be more important and interesting to them.

 

6. Try it again.

Try experiments more than once. Scientists do this, so why can’t you? Consider changing one thing in the experiment such as the independent variable and see how that changes the findings. Ask the kids to decide what to change and how. Record the results each time and compare them in a log book like this one.

 

 

7. Have fun!

It’s also okay to have fun! There is no reason that science should be boring. Science is always open to change and to new questions. If an experiment sounds bor-ring, consider doing a different one. The goal is to learn how to make a scientific inquiry and go through the scientific process to ensure results are unbiased, reliable, and valid. It’s okay to have fun while you do it!

If you want some ideas to help you get started, check out the options below!

Keep in mind that I reserve the right to use affiliate links throughout my website.

About Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Several years ago, I left my teaching job to spend more time with my children. I was sad to go, but am thankful for the experiences that classroom teaching provided. My educational experiences paired with real world experiences give me a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you. Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at

407-712-4368

 lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

7 Reasons Homeschooling Works and One Reason It’s Tough

 

  1. Flexibility

When a family decides to homeschool, they get to set their schedule. Does mom work the night shift? No problem, homeschool in the morning or afternoon. Does dad have a business trip during the week and you are invited? Awesome! No absentee notes to write and have rejected by the principal because they aren’t sick notes.

Head on out to Boston, New York, or nearly anywhere you’re your wallet can afford. You may even learn something about history, cultures, transportation, architecture, or art while out and about.

  1. Family Time

Because your schedule is not set by the local school, you can decide when you have classes, trips, chores, movie night, and other events. It can be easier to schedule family time when it is convenient rather than in the time left over after dealing with schedules other entities give you.

  1. Developmentally Appropriate Lessons

I hear complaints every day. Either schools are asking students to do things they are not yet ready to understand or schools are giving kids busy work they have already mastered. We can’t blame schools and teachers too much for this. They are stuck. They have many kids and a curriculum which says it is for all, but really has expectations that all students will master the same benchmarks. Sure, teachers scaffold, remediate, and try their hardest, but some kids are ahead or behind the given benchmarks due to their developmental stage.

This means that many come away from public school frustrated because this learning model does not meet everyone’s needs. Homeschool families can choose to work at a student’s developmental stage and build from there. With one on one or small group lessons, such as in a co-op, this is an easier task than in a classroom with 18 or more students.

  1. Time for ESE

There are some fantastic ESE programs at brick and mortar schools for those living with special needs. However, there are also advantages to one on one and small group instruction provided in a home education setting. Students who are easily distracted, are too shy to speak up when they do not understand, or who get lost in the shuffle when there is a large group will benefit from having more attention and help. There is no comparison between an 18 to 1 ratio and a 1 to 1 ratio. There just isn’t. Keep in mind that with less time spent waiting for his turn, your child will have more time to attend therapist and doctor appointments, if needed.

  1. Extracurriculars

Is your child a budding actress? Does your child have an aptitude for baseball? Less time in class waiting on others to complete work or have questions answered equals more time for extracurriculars. Sometimes your local school also allows homeschooled students to join their teams so keep this in mind, too.

  1. Friends

In brick and mortar schools you meet the people who are in class with you. Hopefully, you make friends with them and see each other outside of class, too. After school time is limited, though. During school, your job is to work on academics. You don’t get to practice social skills, navigating friendships with ample time to put towards solving problems.

Homeschool students often have friends of different ages and socioeconomic statutes. They also tend to have more time to devote to getting together, volunteering, and working on social skills such as problem solving

  1. Pursue childhood

Seems like we see articles about recapturing childhood and getting rid of screen-time. One great way to do this is to give your child the gift of time to play and exercise without imposing rules about how they should do this, though safety rules may be needed in some cases. Sure, those who attend brick and mortar schools can do this on weekends and after school. That can definitely work. Homeschoolers can do this, too. They can suspend lessons to enjoy a beautiful day attend a field trip outdoors, or explore a local town.

When It Gets Tough

Homeschooling isn’t without it’s challenges. Personality conflicts may occur between siblings or parent and child. Plus, the time and commitment needed to plan and stick with this schooling model can be overwhelming in some cases. Thankfully, there are online and local support groups which often help for free. There are also bloggers, consultants, and local classes in most areas. The idea is to take a team approach rather than going it alone. Plus, adjusting lessons and activities when you see a need to do so can be beneficial and lower stress.

 

If you would like to discuss homeschool or unschool options, feel free to reach out to me. I receive questions every day and am happy to help. Should you need a more in-depth meeting, reading coaching or lesson writing services, please let me know. I am happy to help. Allow me to put my experience to work for you!

 

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

 

English as a Second Language and Homeschool

I recently heard about a local homeschool service provider who was drumming up business by claiming that those who speak English as a second language cannot homeschool their children. This person said that a parent who speaks English as a second language must pay others to provide this service.

This is someone from a small service provider not affiliated with any of the big names in charter or home education. I have left the entity unnamed on purpose. This person also claims that you must teach specific subjects under state law. Again, this is inaccurate information. At this point, I will not encourage clients to seek out this person’s services because preying on homeschool families is unacceptable, in my opinion.

I want to state clearly that any parent or guardian who would like to homeschool their children is welcome to do so under current Florida state law. Speaking English as a second language, or not at all, does not restrict this right.

If you are a parent who would like to homeschool with your child, you need the time, interest, and patience. You can teach subjects in your first language, join a co-op, join a local homeschool report group, use websites and curriculum options with DVDs, or hire a tutor, if you want to do so. This is your choice. It is not required. Remember, many people who speak English as their first language have difficulty with grammar and vocabulary and that doesn’t revoke their right to homeschool or prevent them from learning more about these topics.

The only subject you may want to spend extra time on would be language arts in English. When working on skills, don’t be afraid to learn alongside your child if you teach this subject in a language other than your first language. Many homeschool families learn together. Parents often tell me that they learned more while homeschooling their children in subjects, like science, than they ever did in school when growing up. Homeschooling is a second education for most parents, me included.

It is important for parents to know the law and what can or cannot be done. While I think most service providers have good hearts and want to help, some take advantage of clients. I want to be sure that everyone knows that speaking English as a second language while homeschooling is not against the law in Florida at this time.