Friday, July 22, 2011

Beat the Heat While Making a Difference

Are you and your kids wilting in the heat and a little bored to boot? You could take refuge in the air conditioned movie theater, take a stroll through the mall, or chill on a bean bag at the library.

However, if you are looking for something to do to that both gets you out of the heat and helps make a difference, you've come to the right place! Here are five great make-a-difference ideas that may have staying power even after the heat has gone:

1) Visit a senior home. Many residents love to have kids read to them (great reading practice), do crafts with them, or just generally take the time to talk with them about anything! Or how about lugging over the laptop and helping a senior set up a Facebook page!

2) Staples For Students. Go to an air-conditioned apartment complex and collect school supplies for students in need. Then, drop collections off at your local Staples store.

3) Volunteer at a soup kitchen. When it heats up outside, people increasingly head to shelters for relief. One soup kitchen in Illinois has volunteers collect and distribute water bottles to those in need of relief.

4) Visit kids in the hospital. Play your favorite game (Jenga or Scrabble anyone?), share some good books, teach a craft like origami, or take your buddy for a walk around the floors.

5) Volunteer at an animal shelter. Unfortunately, summer months are hard on animals just like humans. Animals shelters often see an increase in unwanted animals over the summer months. And, shelters are always in need of volunteers to walk and play with the residents. Check with your local shelter, as they may allow you to walk in to volunteer, or you may need to take some training first.

So, no excuses! If you are succumbing to the heat and the kids are begging to do something fun, get out there and check out the many great opportunities to beat the heat while doing good!

What suggestions do you have for doing good while beating the heat?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Tech'ed Out Homeschool: Weigh In & You Could Win!

Give me an idea of how you use technology in your homeschool and you could be selected from all survey responses to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card!

In what ways do you already use technology in your homeschool? What technology resources would you like to use more of in your homeschool? What else is on your mind about homeschooling and technology?

Entry deadline is 12am (EST) Wednesday, July 27.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Words, Beautiful Words!

As far as I’m concerned, it is never too early to start exposing children to the beauty of language. Learners use tools all the time to try to make meaning out of our world. A microscope can closely examine bugs and paint can create colorful pictures. The following three websites are fantastic tools kids can use to get up close and personal with words and language!

1) Wordle

Have you heard of Wordle? Wordle lets you create art with words. Simply paste words in from just about anywhere and, voila, you can play around until you have a fantastic, colorful word cloud! Here is my Wordle tribute to Harry Potter:

Wordle: hp

The possibilities for using Wordle are endless. Have your child compile a list of all the words related to what they are studying (solar system = stars, sun, moon, planets, asteroid, comet, etc. or literature = fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, mystery, genre, author, illustrator, etc.). They can save their creation to the Wordle gallery, print it out, or, for the older kiddos, get the code and put it on a blog or website. The idea is to make words beautiful so that kids want to look at them all the time! Hmmmm….You can even get fancy and frame your wordle. You can see a beautiful framed Wordle over at Jenerally Speaking.

2) PicLits

Another great place to play with language is PicLits. Here you can choose from a huge and ever-growing gallery of fun pictures that stimulate writing. Kids can either freewrite (I did a haiku in mine below: "Cute crazy-haired dog, sitting sad and lost on street, please come home with me.) or learn about parts of speech by dragging words from lists of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to describe the picture.

3) Visuwords

Lastly, make sure to bookmark the Visuwords Online Graphical Dictionary and Thesaurus.

This site is useful any time you want to look up a word. Kids can potentially spend hours typing in random words that come to mind and Visuwords will provide a network of related words that move around and are just so engaging. Kids can use Visuwords to see how words can play different roles in language (like how some words can be both nouns and verbs) and how words are related (synonyms and antonyms). Very cool.

Who knew that word play could be so darn fun? And this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as online language applications for dynamic learning.

Have you used any of these sites before? If so, how? Are there any other word play sites that you would recommend?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cool Online Sites to Use with Homeschool Summer Camp Activities!

I was over at Successful Homeschooling the other day and happened across great ideas for what to do with homeschoolers when the sun is out and the temps are up. Here you’ll find many links to all kinds of great ideas that cost little to nothing. Thanks to Carletta for doing such a great job pulling it all together in one place!

Since the object of my blog is to find ways to use technology to enhance learning, I thought I would tell you about a couple of cool applications that you can use to create shareable projects for all your summer adventures!

Reading Anyone?

Any reading activities could benefit from a good dose of Kerpoof.

Kerpoof is a fantastic application that gives kids a way to summarize a book they have read in cartoon form. They can make a cartoon version of the book and even a short movie and save it to share with everyone. From experience, this tool is great because it forces kids to really focus on the most important characters and events in a book.

While I’m on the Kerpoof kick, I was particularly struck by a post by Jimmie on narration problems. A child who is having trouble retelling a story could recreate the story in Kerpoof and then tell you all about it as they show you their cartoon book or movie. They might just surprise you with what they remember when they can make pictures of the story as they see it! Awesome! A quick note…you may have to do a little typing for your child but, hey, that’s quality interaction time, right?

Out & About

And, for those times when you find yourself in the great outdoors, have the kids take lots and lots of pictures! Tell them that you are going to do something really special with their photos when you get home. Then, head over to Beeclip and make a collage with the pictures (you may have to resize the photos you want to use). This could even be a good rainy day activity! There are even cool extras like glasses and speech bubbles you can add to the photos. It is all really easy and fun to use. And you can share and save! Check out my Beeclip featuring me and the doggies (and hubby)!

So, get out there and have a great, adventurous, and creative weekend and make share you share a link to your saved projects on my Facebook page and let me know how things go!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Today's Digital Learners

These days, homeschooled kids have access to so much technology. And, they're using it regularly. So, why not take advantage of it in creative ways to encourage collaboration with others in the learning process?

I am sharing this video because I think it does a great job of showing the importance of using technology to learn. Yes, it's geared towards traditional classroom and learning environments. However, I think it not only validates why you homeschool, but it encourages us to think about how we can use technology to enrich learning with our kids. It's exciting when you think about it because the possibilities are endless!

How are you already using technology in your homeschool? What technologies do your learners have access to on a regular basis (including web-based, mobile phones, GPS units, etc.)?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homeschool Learning The Flat Homeschool Way, Part I

collaborative learning

What in the world is a “flat homeschool”? In a nutshell, and in my own words, a flat homeschool is one where, thanks to wondrous technological advances, almost every homeschooler almost everywhere has access to almost anything. Thanks to technology (internet, blogs, wikis, mobile phones, social media, etc.), every homeschooler has the opportunity to be a collaborator and a creator. The playing field is leveled, or flattened. We are all potential superstars!

Here is what I envision for The Flat Homeschool community:

1) A place where homeschoolers (primarily pre-teens and teens) can come together with ideas that they want to explore, link up with others who are interested in exploring with them, craft a discovery plan, head off into the world to find answers, and collaborate all along the way as they have “aha!” moments.

2) A place where homeschoolers interested in authentic project-based learning can get expert guidance and support (that will be my primary role as "Chief Collaborator").

3) A place where learning and technology go hand-in-hand.

4) A place where we can harness the power of technology in the process of discovery, meaning making, and product creation.

5) A place where learning is natural, organic. It occurs when learners are free to choose what to explore based on passions and interests, however fleeting. It occurs when learners are allowed the time to wander in and out of things, places, and thoughts, asking for guidance only when needed. It occurs when learners can share, discuss, debate, and create with others.

6) A fun and practical community where we are all learners free to politely share thoughts and opinions and bounce ideas off of each other.

So, that's all I'm going to say for now. I want to open up the floor to you. I am interested in knowing what you need and want in a homeschool community that involves both parents and children? What are some interests that your kids are exploring right now that could potentially turn into collaborative projects? Anything else that comes to mind?