Wednesday, February 26

Teaching Character with Andy Griffith

As a throw-back, I love old black and white tv shows and movies.  As a parent, I love them even more because they have such great plot-lines and character development.  One of the best aspects, though, is that the characters usually have character...and it's a wonderful teaching tool for our children!

One of our favorite family tv shows is the Andy Griffith show (along with Gilligan's IslandI Dream of JeannieGeorge & Gracie, and I Love Lucy....who needs modern-day tv?).  

Travelling near the town of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, the setting for the Andy Griffith show and the home of the man himself, we decided to take an afternoon visit.
We sprang for the Squad Car Tour, which isn't nearly as expensive as you'd think.  And besides, this is something we've never seen anywhere else!  It was a rainy day, so the car tour was preferable to walking anyway.  

Our tour guide was hilarious, and knew a lot about both the show and the town.  We saw the places that inspired the show, the home Andy grew up in, and the school he attended.  We also saw many of his frequent haunts and learned about his journey from homeless kid to tv star.

As an actual friend of Andy's, our guide had insights and behind-the-scene anecdotes which added to our love of the show.  For example....(this is one most folks know anyway), did you know that the actress who played Aunt Bea was really a cantankerous old woman who hated everyone on earth???  It's a testament to her acting abilities!  LOL  

The Squad Car Tour ended at the Mayberry Courthouse, where we also found the Darlin's rusty pick-up parked!  Scroll down to listen to Andy play bluegrass with them...

Oh what a hoot it was when they decided to ring up the state office and see if being a 'sleepy mommy' was grounds for a sentencing!  Turns out, it's good for five minutes in jail.  You know, it wasn't so bad.....I even got a little nap out of it!
The tables quickly turned when I found them "gambling" over a games of checkers in the filling station!  Now the oldest was in jail for 'betting' his candy corn that he could beat his little brother.  

Around the downtown area of Mayberry, you'll see familiar sites, such as Walker's Drug Store, complete with soda jerk.  The Snappy Lunch makes a mean hot plate, and there are many fabulous antique stores to poke around in.  However, none of them had the umbrella we desperately sought on this day...
We finished off the trip with a stop at Opie's Candy Store, where the boys each got to fill a brown bag with a half pound of penny candy.  So many choices!!  Each piece was carefully considered before making it into the bag, and then slowly savored over the next two weeks.

Character Ed Unit with Andy Griffith

This lesson accompanies episode 4 of the first season, but there are some for the complete series of the show.  Old family tv shows are a great way to help reinforce character education without your children being the wiser.  It sure beats most of the stuff on tv today!

Finding the Way Back to Mayberry - Lesson 4 - Opie and the Spoiled Kid
Opie has become acquainted with a new boy in town named Arnold Winkler. Arnold is a spoiled brat who believes he can get away with anything. When Arnold discovers that Opie gets a mere quarter-a-week allowance and has to do chores to get it, he tells Opie that he’s being taken advantage of. Arnold doesn’t have to work for his allowance and believes that no kid should.

Opie decides to quietly demand that his father raise his allowance to 75 cents (the amount Arnold gets), and he says he should not have to do any chores. Opie is obviously uncomfortable making these demands, and he takes it well when Andy refuses to comply. Arnold tells Opie that "man to man" talks always fail. He advises Opie that throwing a temper tantrum will get him whatever he wishes. Arnold says it always works...

Lesson Points
  • Value of a Good Work Ethic (Gal. 6:7) - Where it Starts; Appreciation of Money; Physical and Spiritual Rewards (1 Cor. 3:8)
  • Letting Ourselves Rule Our Lives - Arnold - I Want it My Way; Society’s Emphasis on "Me"; Disrespect for All Authority
  • Skills of Parenting - Andy - Talking Straight; A calm demeanor (Eph. 6:4); Firmness in What is Right; Being Accessible
  • Learning from Mistakes - Opie - Realizing Mistake and Making it Right; Honoring Authority (Eph. 6:1); Attitude Adjustment
  • How can we in our professional lives "shoot for the good feeling"?
  • If Arnold was allowed to continue his lifestyle, what kind of problems might he face as an adult?
  • Discuss Andy’s approach to dealing with Opie’s (attempted) tantrum.
  • Did you notice a change in Opie’s attitude after witnessing Arnold’s final tantrum?
Final Thought
"If we don’t teach children to live in society today, what’s going to happen when they grow up?"

Tuesday, February 25

Testing in High School & College (Study Skills)

Even if you know the material and are prepared for your test, it's completely normal to experience test anxiety.  In fact, to a degree, anxiety helps you perform better on the test!  However, too much can prevent you from doing your best...

Look for more in-depth discussion of this topic and more in Through the Door: Homeschool to College Success! This book & worktext set will help you and your high school student breeze through the steps of college and scholarship applications, as well as brushing up on study habits and life skills. The worktext includes activities, worksheets, and planning pages, and accompanies the book.

In Through the Door, we do an in-depth examination of the various placement tests - SAT, ACT, CLT, ASVAB - and college credit tests such as CLEP and AP, with test-specific strategies for tackling each!

Strategies for Test Types:

True / False
  • These questions often contain clues to help determine the answer.
  • There are few absolutes in world, so words like all, always, every, only, none, and never will usually indicate that answer is false.
  • True statements tend to have words like some, usually, seldom, sometimes, probably, mainly, often, except, and rarely.
  • The order of the statement matters.  The facts might be accurate, but if the order is wrong, then it is false.  (eg, The president following Herbert Hoover was Calvin Coolidge.)
  • One trick used is the negative statement, where one word makes the difference.   (eg, The Nazi party 'did not' send Jews to concentration camps during WW2  -- as opposed to they 'did.')
  • If any part of a statement is false, then it is false.  The whole thing must be true to be marked true.
Multiple Choice
  • Read the question and attempt to answer it before reading the answer choices.  Is your answer one of the choices?  If so, it's probably right.
  • Eliminate answers that you know for sure are wrong -- narrow down the field.
  • Look for negative questions (see true/false above); they might try to trick you.
  • Make an educated guess based on what's left. (Very rarely, you are penalized for guessing wrong - like on the sat - but most likely not in the classroom.)
  • If bubbling in answers on a test form - MAKE SURE YOU PUT THE ANSWER IN THE RIGHT PLACE.  For real.
Fill in the Blank
  • If you're not sure, leave it blank.  Continue reading through test, and you might find the answer somewhere else!
  • Also, another question further down may jog your memory.
  • If provided with a word bank, do all of the ones that you know for sure.  (Mark them out once used.) Make an educated guess about the couple that are remaining after this.
  • Don't leave anything empty.  At least try to answer it, and you might get partial credit.

SchoolhouseTeachers has many excellent course offerings, including test prep, for high school.  We have used their website for several years and love it!  They also have courses for parents, a print magazine, and extra goodies and giveaways just for their subscribers.  You can try them out for only $5 - with complete access to everything on the site - to see if it's a good fit for your family.  Two good places to start are High School Courses and High School Help.

Let's look at ten ways to help you beat test anxiety:
  1. Study your old tests.  Do you know how to use your old tests as a type of cheat sheet?  Learn strategies for putting those old tests to work for you in Through the Door!
  2. Come prepared.  If you've studied, you'll be less anxious about how to answer the questions.  Have questions?  Don't wait until the last day to ask for assistance from a teacher, or even research your answer online (remember to use legitimate sources).  Finally, remember to bring the right tools for the test....calculator, scratch paper, lots of #2 pencils....having the right tools is part of preparedness!
  3. But don't cram.  If you stay up all night before the test trying to study everything at the last minute...that's not going to turn out well.  You'll be physically and mentally tired going into the test, and cyclical studying (going over the same topics several time over the course of your semester) helps to imprint the material into your brain.  Study at a steady pace all the way through your course.
  4. Stay positive.  Imagine yourself doing well on the test, and it will boost your confidence.  Dwell on thoughts of doing poorly, and it will dramatically increase your anxiety.  That's pretty simple and straightforward, right?  Go to your happy place...
  5. Frankie says, Relax.  If you got that tagline, you're probably the parent of someone preparing for a test.  Help your son or daughter to stay relaxed by focusing on things other than the test in the few days prior to a big one (such as the ACT).  Students should also learn to do deep breathing -- when they hit a snag during the test, they can zone out for just a second to take some relaxing breaths and refocus on the task at hand.
  6. Go with your gut.  Don't spend too much time on a single test question.  Choose the answer that you think is best, and then move on.  No idea?  Mark that question as one to return to later.  Revisit those questions at the end of the test if you have some time left.
  7. Check your work.  If you finish the test with time to spare, go through and look for any questions that are missing answers.  Complete those, and then look for any mistakes.  Do not overthink the questions, and be very sure that your first answer was wrong before changing answers.
  8. Exercise.  Keeping yourself physically fit actually helps you to stay mentally fit.  It also reduces anxiety.  Don't have time to exercise?  Take your book to the gym and read while you use a cardio machine!
  9. Sleep.  This goes hand in hand with 'no cramming.'  When you sleep well before a test, for several nights prior, you'll have less fatigue and less anxiety, which leads to more confidence!
  10. Eat.  Never test hungry.  This depletes your physical energy and your brain functioning.  If your stomach is in knots just thinking about the test, then have a granola bar or something light.  Try to include both protein and carbs to prevent blood sugar dips mid-testing.  If your test is long and the site allows, bring a healthy snack.  Consider this - how many bad decisions have been made when someone was very hungry and / or tired?

Monday, February 24

Roadschool Trip to Cornwall Iron Furnace

Why were cannons important during the Revolutionary War? What can you do with a cannon that you cannot do with a rifle or musket?
First, cannons can shoot a very long way. Even during the Revolutionary War a cannon could shoot almost a mile.  Also, you can stuff a cannon with a whole bunch of round bullets, called grapeshot, and shoot them all at once.  Sort of like a long-range shotgun.
The British army had a lot of cannons, the colonial army didn't have very many. That is why the capture of Fort Ticonderoga early in the Revolution so important. It had a lot of cannons. 
Built in 1742, the Cornwall Iron Furnace was a very important supplier of both cannons and cannonballs, as well as other iron-workings, during the Revolutionary War.  Thanks to the war, it's owners became Pennsylvania's first millionaires.

From the cannons to the the cannonball storage areas, you can walk in the footsteps of those who armed Patriot soldiers.  A big part of the tour is learning about the process of making iron.  In our mini-unit below, you can watch a short video of this process.

This fact-filled tour is about forty-five minutes long, and much more interesting that it sounds to the average mom!!  At the lowest point, we see where the men would have been in a blazing fire for 12-14 hours each day, working with molten iron.  The life span for a laborer was around forty.

Iron Furnace Mini-Unit

Monday, February 17

Roadschool Trip to Cabo San Lucas

We had the chance to visit beautiful Cabo San Lucas with the whole family.  It was a holiday delight!  There was sand, surf, culture, and one kid even took the opportunity to take a full-day Dolphin Training course at the local marine center...  

While one of the kids spent the day in the (very cold!) water learning how to train dolphins, the others went exploring in caves and out for a day of sea fishing.  Then, we parents wrapped up the evening with a sunset cruise...   
Our hotel was amazing!  The architecture and natural elements brought into the design were beautiful and peaceful.  Being way high up with an oceanfront view didn't hurt either!
Some fun activities we got to experience were a pirate ship ride, snorkeling, and taking a family boat ride!  A long, sunset dinner on the beach was a delightful treat.  We spent a lot of time enjoying the beach, too, from hiking over the rocks to watching the gulls.  We found this one rock that looks like a plesiosaurus...
Dolphin training was admittedly pricey, but one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that we felt would be worth the expense.  (It turned out to be...while he enjoyed it, he decided that this was not the career path for him after all.  I call that money well spent!)
Facts About Dolphins:
  • Dolphins are mammals, they breath air, feed their young milk, are warm blooded, and have hair on their bodies.
  • Dolphins make clicking and squealing noises to communicate.  You can approximate a dolphin’s whistles with a balloon by letting the air out slowly with the neck stretched.
  • Dolphins like humans and can be trained to do everything from tricks in an aquarium to carrying the mail for underwater research labs.  Some dolphins have been trained to swim with handicapped children.
  • Dolphins can stay under water for fifteen minutes at a time.
  • If a dolphin gets sick or injured, other members of its family help it swim and get breaths of air until it can swim on its own.
  • Dolphins work together to protect the group from predators like sharks.
  • Dolphins use echolocation to find food.
  • Dolphins eat fish and squid.
  • Dolphins are really interesting mammals, especially when it comes to their interactions with humans.  They are incredibly friendly and trainable, so we can observe them and their behaviors.  They are used by the military to find mines, by many resorts that allow you to go swim and interact with them, and by Sea World and other similar attractions for shows.  They do amazing tricks.

Real-World Math for Students who ask 'WHY?' {Printable}

For so many students, math is thought of as boring and unnecessary.  They just don't see the reason why they need to learn the material.  Do you have one like my middle school student...who struggles constantly with math, and is always asking WHY?!  

Hands-on learning and real world applications are the most effective way to teach these types of students.  Remember in preschool and elementary school, when you used the math manipulatives and blocks to teach addition and subtraction?  Older kids can learn in a similar way through design and real-world scenarios.

We've put together a short workbook of real-world math problems that incorporate many facets of daily life.  Download the book here 

Some of our favorite ways to get middle and high school kids interested in math include...
  • Treasury Direct - Four lesson plans for grades 7-9 that focus on financial skills.
  • Math Motivation - Twenty projects for young adults that focus on life skills.
  • Discovery Education - Nine lessons for middle school and seven lessons for high school, all featuring conceptual math.
  • PUMAS (Practical Uses of Math & Science) - Ninety-three (currently) real-world applications for math, sorted by grade range and keyword.
  • Education World - Math lesson on inflation and costs yesterday vs today.
  • Math-Kitecture - Applied math skills for measuring, computer-aided design, and basic architecture.
  • Instructables - Guides for building simple engineering projects using math concepts.
  • Real World Math - Lessons incorporating Google Earth, including proportion, measurement, and more upper grades concepts.
  • Construction Center - Industry-based math problems using daily life concepts.
  • Daily Math - More than 200 supplemental math worksheets and drills for mastering concepts.
  • SchoolhouseTeachers - Two separate workshops featuring Fractions and Decimals.  These two concepts are crucial for real-world application. 

Did you know you can get SchoolhouseTeachers (and access to EVERYTHING on their site, plus a print magazine) for only $45?  (Regular price $59.97)   Use code FINISHWELL through 3/18 to try out these amazing math courses and SO MUCH more!
decimals class

The Call of the Wild novel study

The Call of the Wild opens in theaters today, and we are so excited!  This is a family movie that is especially boy-friendly as it brings to life a dog and his journey from pampered pet to sled dog.  The movie is a hybrid of actors and animation, and it includes some great effects that make you feel like you're really in the wilds of Alaska!

The book is set in Yukon Territory just prior to the turn of the 20th century.  At this time, the area was flooded with gold prospectors seeking their fortunes.  When three men found gold in the Klondike River in 1896, it set off another huge gold rush!  Thousands of hopefuls set off for Canada’s Yukon Territory, hoping to strike it rich.  The Alaskan towns of Skagway and Dyea became boomtowns, as these were the starting points of the 600-mile journey to the riches.

Both members of the Canidae family, wolves and domesticated dogs share many characteristics, but have been bred over thousands of years to differ in their sizes and temperaments.  Scientists believe that dogs were the first animal to be domesticated, as archaeologists have found evidence that dogs were living alongside humans more than 8,000 years ago!  It is believed that the dogs were domesticated from does this relate to Buck's change throughout the course of the story?

Learn more about the Klondike Gold Rush!

Our spine novel for this unit is The Jack London collection - Includes The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Sea-Wolf.

Access the complete unit in the Fantasy & Fiction Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes eight novel studies covering the fantasy and fiction genre. Each novel addresses a new topic, primarily falling into social studies and language arts categories.
  • Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including one featured novel – the spine of the unit.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
  • Some units also have cooking projects.
These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Make a Historic Newspaper

Bring a time period or historic era to life through a homeschool newspaper!  This activity incorporates many styles of learning and modalities of intelligence, and will help to cement the concepts and events you are studying...

This is a fun and educational way to reinforce many concepts, including research, writing, art, and teamwork.  (It can be done alone, but is more fun to complete as a group project!)  Because there are so many different aspects to a newspaper, there is something perfect for every child's strength.

One of our favorite resources for completing the comparative history required in this project is the Timechart History of the World.  It begins with divine creation and traces the past up to to current events, following the entire history of mankind and showing what was happening concurrently around the world.  It includes illustrations of many major events, discoveries and prominent people.

Above the Fold
  • Group project or individual?  
    • For a group project, aim for a five to eight page paper.  An individual might want to write a shorter daily bulletin of about two pages.
  • Decide on what era you'll be writing about -- typically the era you're studying in history.  
    • For ancient times, the newspaper should focus on a particular era of history.
    • More modern studies may want to focus on a decade or singular year.  
    • If you feel really up to the research challenge, you can create a newspaper that centers on the specific date of a singular event!
  • Scout out free resources to help create an authentic newspaper.
    • Historic Stock Images offers photographs that are free to download and use.  It also contains an excellent lesson on copyright, public domain, and how to determine usability of an image.
  • Give your newspaper a catchy name, like the Medieval Messenger, Roman Record, or Viking Invader.
Choose Your By-Line
  • At an old-fashioned newspaper, each department was assigned a section of the room...there were desks with typewriters and phones, and various departments could yell across the room at each no story was missed!
  • Assign each child a section of the newspaper to work on.  Students working individually can choose a couple of sections to complete for the shorter daily bulletin.
  • Each section should contain four to six articles / pieces (eg, comic strips).
    • National News
      • Research the religious, political, and cultural news of the era.  What are the important issues of the day?  (eg, Romans might be concerned about the newly-formed religious group calling themselves Christians)
      • Find at least five major stories that were happening at the time, and write a story about each.  (You may use Wikipedia, but use other sites to back up that information.)
      • Extra, Extra!  Include a catchy headline!
    • International News
      • What else was happening in the world at the same time?  
      • Find four to six other stories, from different parts of the world, to add to the international section of your newspaper.  
        • Some eras, such as World War 2, will be easier to write for this section.  If you are writing about ancient Mesopotamia, this section might be a bit thinner.
      • Use the world history timelines (BC and AD) or the Timechart History of the World for research.
    • Local News / Letter to the Editor
      • If your paper is modern, it might be based out of a big city.  What is happening locally in this city during the era?
      • As long as there have been people on this earth, there have been opinionated people!  Write a letter (or two) to the editor expressing your opinion about an event that occurred during this era.  (eg, 'Should slavery be outlawed?' during the Civil War)
      • Bear in mind who could and could not express their opinion.  Could a Roman slave write this type of letter?
    • Happenings
      • If you flip through your local newspaper, you'll see obituaries, marriage announcements, birth announcements, and the police round-up.  
      • How old were people when they got married?  Create a few happy unions!
      • Do some research on life expectancy and common causes of death, then complete the birth announcements and obituaries.  What famous people were born during this era?
      • What were the common crimes of the day?  Theft and murder have always been around, but in what form?  Were there any famous criminals or crimes in this era? Get creative, and maybe a bit silly, while rounding up the usual suspects.
      • Finally, if your paper is from a war era, a common newspaper feature was the list of local war casualties.  This is separate from the obituaries.
    • Puzzles / Comics
      • Newspapers include entertainment as well as news.  This might take the form of puzzles, games, or comics and cartoons.
      • Make a crossword puzzle that features some of the vocabulary or people and places of the era.  You can use the Teacher's Corner to make one for free.
    • Feature Columns
      • Similar to Ann Landers (an etiquette columnist), many newspapers carry syndicated columns that cover a topic such as health, sports, or advice.
      • Compose a feature column for each of those three categories that addresses the health issues and sports games of the day.
      • What problems might people face during this era?  Answer a few letters from people seeking advice.
    • Advertising
      • The often-forgotten section, this is the newspaper's bread and it stays financially afloat.
      • Depending on the era, you might include help wanted ads (apprentices in the middle ages), for sale ads (chariots in the Roman era), or an ad seeking to find a runaway slave (Civil War era).
      • Find out what kinds of things people bought and sold.  Was this an era where trade was more common?  You might have an ad trading a goat for three chickens!
Start the Presses
Once everyone has completed their sections, use a tool such as Microsoft Publisher or the free online app Canva (magazine) to assemble your newspaper.  Save as a PDF document, and you'll have the ability to print it out and assemble or distribute electronically.  History, meet the future!

SchoolhouseTeachers has a fantastic unit on studying the news with discernment!  Reading the News is a reading instruction program that uses Associated Press news articles for reading material. The program is appropriate for middle school through adult students, and employs specific learning strategies that improve students’ reading and spelling abilities. The learning strategies focus on repeated reading, timed reading, vocabulary, and comprehension. The strategies are built into audio learning and workbooks. The program challenges students to read at higher levels. They make progress in reading and develop the real-life skill of newspaper reading.

Know what's even better?  It's included with your family membership!  Every Subject. Every Grade. 

Looking for an open-and-go option? Take your homeschool to new heights with!  Explore the world with! Use code: EXPLORE at checkout to pay only $179 for a two-year Ultimate Membership (reg. $224.97/yr). Explore the World Tote included. Certain restrictions apply.

Pick up a printable copy of this unit in the Humanities Unit Study Bundle!

Includes seventeen unit studies covering history and language arts based topics. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning ancient through modern history and various writing styles.
  • Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
  • Some units also have cooking projects.
These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!