Homeschool conventions beginners guideIt’s homeschool convention season, and my daughter and I will be heading to Cincinnati in about 2 weeks for the Midwest  Great Homeschool Convention.  We live in Florida, but we’ve been traveling to Ohio for the past 5 years to attend this convention.

Why I attend the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention:

I am mostly interested in being inspired through academic lectures.  For example, three talks that I am interested in attending are:

  • First, Teach the Teacher: How to Create a Family-Centered Learning Lifestyle, to be given by Janice Campbell
  • The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters, to be given by Michael Gurian
  • Beauty Over Decadence: Winning the Battle Against Pop Culture, to be given by Carol Reynolds

The workshop topics that I’ve seen scheduled for the Florida convention tend to be more focused on religious reasons one might want to homeschool and inspirational talks.  While I know that many people enjoy these sorts of talks, it is simply not what I am looking for.  I wish I could just attend the vendor hall at the Florida convention, but a ticket for just the vendor hall hasn’t been an option in the past.

Why I take my daughter:

Once my daughter turned 7 and I was reasonably sure that she could sit quietly through talks (with the aid of her iPad if she wasn’t interested in the topic), I started bringing her with me to the convention.  There were several reasons for doing so:

  • It makes a huge impact on anyone when they see how many people gather to celebrate the merits of homeschooling.
  • We get to have a girls’ weekend.
  • She can see the products in the exhibit hall up close and share her opinions with me.
  • It makes her feel more a part of the homeschooling process.

As an aside, there are many people that bring their younger children and newborns with them.  As long as they do not interrupt the session being given, then they are welcome to stay (at the Great Homeschool Conventions, check first with other conventions)

How to organize your time:

  • Sit down with the list of workshop titles and determine what sounds interesting to you (don’t worry yet about choosing your favorite from each time slot…we will narrow it down later)
    • You can either print out the list and highlight away, or if you’re like me you will want to copy and paste the talks that are interesting into a new document file
  • Try to be realistic about your schedule:
    • When do you wake up?  Perhaps trying to make it to an 8:30 session is not the best idea.
    • When do you tire out?  Maybe staying up until 9 pm walking around a convention hall is not for you.  Or, perhaps, a midday rest is what you will need to make a late night possible.
    • When do you want to eat?  Plan your meals or else you will find yourself or family members hangry and that is no fun indeed.
    • When do you want to devote a block of time to wandering the vendor hall?  I like to set aside 3 separate hours for browsing a third of the hall each time, and then another hour to go back and look at anything further or make purchases.  It’s really difficult to slip in and out of the vendor hall in the 30 minutes between workshop times, and I don’t recommend it.
    • You will need down time if you plan on attending a multi-day conference, especially if you have family members with you.  Walking all over a convention center and toting a bunch of stuff to boot gets tiresome, especially for young ones.
  • What to bring:
    • Notebook(s) and pen(s) for taking notes during the workshops.  Some lecturers will have handouts, but most will not.
    • Water and snacks: convention halls are huge and running around looking for food that you want to eat can be time-consuming
    • Some sort of bag to hold all of your things.  Some people will bring rolling carts so that they can easily tote around their accumulated stuff from the vendor hall.  I prefer to drop things off twice a day at my hotel room since I stay close by, and it also keeps me leery of accepting curriculum catalogs that I know I won’t open.

But, there are so many talks to listen to:

It can be overwhelming to see that there are four talks that you find interesting and they are all given during the same time slot.  What you may not realize is that at larger conventions all of the talks are recorded and you can purchase those recordings before the end of the convention.

I like to select a primary and backup talk from each time slot that I want to listen to, especially if the primary talk is being given by a person I am unfamiliar with.  There have been a few instances where I did not enjoy the speaker and/or I misread the topic and it was about something entirely different than I anticipated.  Don’t worry about respectfully leaving a talk just a few minutes after it’s started so that you can go and listen to another (or go off to the vendor hall): we all have a limited amount of time and should make full use of it.

When trying to make my decision about which talk to attend I also think about which talks might be just fine to listen to on a recording.  For example, I usually attend a panel-led discussion about classical education.  Since there are several panel members talking, I think that this would be a difficult session to follow on a recording.  Also, if you notice that a talk will be given in a large space, such as a ballroom, then that is usually an indication that there will be little audience interaction and it should be fine to listen to it as a recording.

And lastly, use those family members, if possible!  Send your spouse or the grandparents to talks that you are mildly interested in and go to the ones that are most interesting to you.  Then later you can share the ideas that each of you picked up.  I must admit that I am a bit jealous of those people that attend with multiple family members/allies.

Do you have any other tips for making homeschool conventions more enjoyable?  Please comment below as I am always looking for ideas to help keep me fresh at this large gathering. 🙂

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Beast Academy 3A Guide BookOne of the math programs that I am using with my daughter on a rotational basis is the Art of Problem Solving’s Beast Academy.  This is a relatively new program and not all grade levels are currently available.  The company has already published material for grades 3 and 4.  They are currently working on grade 5 (only the first book has been published thus far) and expect to be finished at the end of 2016.  Then, work will begin on their second grade curriculum.

What it is:

Beast Academy is a full program even though we use it in a supplemental fashion (you can read about our math mash-up in an earlier post).  According to their website the scope is loosely based on Common Core standards, but covers topics more in-depth and offers more problem-solving opportunities.    As you can see from the photo, in year 3 the topics include: shapes, skip-counting, perimeter, area, multiplication, perfect squares, the distributive property, variables, division, units and measure, fractions, estimation, and area.Beast Academy 3 Topics for Third Grade

Each year is divided into a four-book series and there is a guide book and practice book for each section.  The guide book is in full color and contains the main story that teaches the student about the topic at hand.  You then follow up with the practice book (in black and white), and sometimes there is a very short story line before the student begins the practice problems. You can read the entire chapter before setting off on the practice problems, or you can read the guide book section that pertains to the practice book section you want to work in.

Within the guide book there are stop signs (seen towards the upper portion of the page in the left most photo below) placed where the student is supposed to pause and try to figure out the answer before reading on.  At the end of each guide book section there is also a read bar containing the corresponding page numbers in the practice book  (seen at the bottom of the page in the right-hand photo below).

In the back of the practice book there are hints to the starred challenge problems, and the full answers for every problems (shown in the fourth photo).  I always ask my daughter to check her answers and read how the authors solved the problem, as there have been a few times when their solution was a little more elegant than hers.

Beast Academy 3B Guide Book page 23 Beast Academy 3B Guide Book page 25

Beast Academy 3B Practice Book Page 82Beast Academy 3B Practice Book Answer Page


Why we like it:

My daughter loves the comic book style guides and I think she likes them even more when we read them together.  The math stories are entertaining while teaching the topic.  For us, the practice books give sufficient repetition, and we don’t bother doing every problem.  Although my daughter (somewhat) dreads the starred challenge problems I like that they make her think just a bit more.  After she has thought about the problem for a few minutes, then she either tries to solve it or she takes a peek at the hint page.

Comparison to Rightstart Math:

Rightstart Math is our main math program.  In my opinion, Beast Academy is quite rigorous, but I think there is a different flavor between the two programs.  Both are discovery based, but I feel that Beast Academy is a little quick to point out what the algorithm is while Rightstart gives plenty of examples and then has the child discern the pattern to discover the shortcut.

I think both programs are teacher intensive with Rightstart being just a bit more so.  At first I thought that I could let my daughter read through Beast Academy on her own, but I don’t think that she would pause at the stop sign points to ponder; plus, she really enjoys reading it with me.  Most of the time she can work in the practice book with little guidance from me – she checks her own answers and then lets me know how she did.

How to schedule:

This is probably the biggest difficulty with this program.  I begin by looking at the problems in the practice book and I circle the problems that I want Beast Academy 3B Practice Book Recommended Sequencemy daughter to complete.  I include almost all of the challenge problems (those with a star next to them) and about half of the other problems.  I typically assign 2-3 pages of problems a day, unless there are several challenge problems or lots of reading from the guide book for the day.

I also think it is easier to see which pages in the guide book and practice book align by checking out the first page of each chapter in the practice book. As you can see from the photo it is simple to tell which pages go together in the recommended sequence.

Where to buy:

I have included affiliate links to Amazon within this post, but you can also buy the curriculum from the Beast Academy website or other homeschooling stores, such as Rainbow Resource.

Typically, a full year of curriculum will cost $108.

If you are unsure if your child is ready for Beast Academy, there are pre-assessment tests available for all books that are currently published.

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.
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Memoria Press Latina Christiana programMy daughter started Latina Christiana (a Memoria Press product) when she was 8 years old.  Before that we had done Prima Latina, and before that was Song School Latin 1, Minimus, and I Speak Latin.  I find Latina Christiana to be a very rigorous program and I now see why people say that English grammar study may be superfluous when Latin grammar is being studied.  However, I will add that we have only covered nouns, verbs, and adjectives thus far in Latin.

Why teach Latin:

There are several reasons.  I’ll list a few and then link to more articles if you’d like a more in-depth treatment.

  1. vocabulary: most of our “academic” vocabulary is derived from Latin
  2. a great way to learn English grammar
  3. critical thinking skills are employed during translation exercises
  4. it makes learning another language easier

Articles for further reading on Latin’s virtues:

3 Reasons to Study Latin by Martin Cothran

Why Latin Is Not an Option by Cheryl Lowe

Forget Mandarin, Latin Is the Key To Success by Toby Young

The Latin Vote

My Latin background:

None.  In school I studied French for 6 years, and later I picked up conversational Spanish whenever I visited my husband’s home country.  I thought that I would need to know more than my daughter to help guide her in learning Latin.  I tried to work ahead in her book and I tried using Visual Latin on my own, but it just didn’t get done consistently.  Now I simply learn alongside my daughter.

The parts of the Latina Christiana program:

  • Student Workbook
  • Teacher Manual
  • Pronunciation CD
  • Instructional DVDs (optional)
  • Flashcards (optional)
  • Ludere Latine (supplemental activity book)

We use the student workbook, teacher manual, pronunciation CD, and Ludere Latine.  I had read reviews that the instructor on the DVDs had a strong southern accent which made me shy away from them.  But now Memoria Press has a preview video on their website that you can watch for yourself.  Also, I passed on the flashcards since we use the Anki free flashcard program, but I would highly recommend flashcards of some sort for vocabulary study.

Lesson Layout:

Latina Christiana consists of 25 lessons, and after every 5 lessons there is an additional review lesson (for a total of 30 lessons).  Each lesson has a two page spread and begins with a Latin saying, new vocabulary, and grammar.  The second page of each lesson includes translation and grammar exercises, as well as work with English vocabulary that is derived from the lesson’s Latin vocabulary.  There are also quizzes, tests, and a supplemental Roman history section that can be incorporated.

Our Schedule:

Due to my daughter’s age I am not in a hurry to get to First Form Latin (the next step in Memoria Press’ Latin program) since it appears to be a big step up. I also didn’t want to spend more than 15-20 minutes per day (on average) on our Latin studies.  So, we spread out each lesson over roughly 2 weeks, and I do not cover the derivatives portion of the lesson plan.  The first lessons of the book only took about a week  since there was very little recitation material and translation exercises to complete while the later lessons are taking  two weeks or just a little more.

The first week:

Monday-new lesson vocabulary and grammar, word search in Latina Ludere

Tuesday-review flash cards with new ones added in, recitation material

Wednesday-Exercises from Part A and B in the student workbook

Thursday-review flash cards, recitation material

Friday-Exercises from Part C

The second week:

Monday-Exercises from Part D

Tuesday-review flash cards, recitation material

Wednesday-parse strings page in Latina Ludere and half of the grammar crossword

Thursday-review flash cards, recitation material

Friday-finish the grammar crossword in Latina Ludere

For example:

We just finished up Lesson XX (20) this week, and here is how I divided everything up.

Latina Christiana recitation work Latina Christiana Lesson 20 page 1 Latina Christiana Lesson 20 page 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Week 1 Day 1: We went over the new vocabulary words and listened to the pronunciation CD.  Then we talked about the future tense for second conjugation verbs.  My daughter did the word search in Latina Ludere (shown below) and I added the new vocabulary into Anki.

Week 1 Day 2: My daughter reviewed her flashcards and then recited orally the conjugation of amo and voco, and then gave the first declension noun endings.

Week 1 Day 3: We orally completed exercises A and B.

Week 1 Day 4: My daughter reviewed her flashcards and then wrote down the conjugation of sum, and declined mensa and servus (shown in above photo).

Week 1 Day 5: My daughter wrote the answers to the first 5 exercises in part C and then we completed the rest orally.


Week 2 Day 1: We completed the exercises in part D orally.

Week 2 Day 2: My daughter reviewed her flashcards and then recited orally the conjugation of moneo and vocabo, and then gave the second declension noun endings.

Week 2 Day 3: My daughter completed the parse strings worksheet (shown below) and the across portion of the grammar crossword (shown below, but photo is taken before she began working on it).

Week 2 Day 4: My daughter reviewed her flashcards and then wrote down the conjugation of possum, and declined donum.

Week 2 Day 5: My daughter completed the grammar crossword in Latina Ludere.


Ludere Latine word search for lesson 20 Ludere Latine parse strings for Latina Christiana Lesson 20 Ludere Latine grammar crossword for Latina Christiana Lesson 20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

I hope you enjoyed this little peak into our Latin studies!

 

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Evernote logoI had briefly used Microsoft’s One Note for collecting ideas (mainly places to go and things to see on our travels), but it was too cumbersome and wasn’t really portable.  I didn’t want to have to bring my laptop on vacation with me and printing out all of my notes was a disaster…so One Note was abandoned.

Then, I learned about Evernote (about a year ago) and quickly eventually adopted it and adapted it for our homeschool lifestyle.  When I first began using it I wasn’t too sure what to make of it.  It was billed as another note-taking system and I was worried that it would end up discarded like One Note.  But, as I put more time into it and committed to getting rid of all the bits of paper that I had in my house I realized how much more versatile this program is.

What is Evernote?

Evernote is a digital collection of notes and notebooks that can be used however you want.  Think of it as a huge bookcase or filing system that can be accessed from your desktop/laptop computer and your mobile devices.

Or better yet, visualize all of those home management binders and homeschooling planners that look so gorgeous on Pinterest.:

Evernote is not quite so pretty as that, but it does the same thing…it organizes your thoughts into notes that can be tagged with keywords like crazy and then be filed into notebooks.  And it all lives in the cloud so that everything can be effortlessly synced to all of your devices.  You can have up to 100,000 notes and up to 250 notebooks.  I don’t even come close to those numbers, but it’s nice to know what the limits are.

Do I need to pay for it?

No!  There is a basic version that served my purposes for quite some time.  The basic version allows you to upload 60 MB monthly and have notes up to 25 MB in size.

I decided to upgrade to the Plus version when I started to upload all of the sewing projects and recipes that I had torn out of magazines to save for a later date.  I quickly burned through my monthly upload allowance, and I also liked the idea of supporting a product that was helping me immensely when it came to taming the paper monster.

a screenshot of my Evernote notebooksHow I use Evernote:

I have notebooks for all major areas of my life.  My Inbox is where I forward all of my e-mail messages that I want to save.  I have a To Do notebook that holds all of my to-do lists for each day (I make a new note every night for the following day).  I have a notebook for my daughter’s to-do lists so that she can access those lists from her iPad.  And then I have an education notebook stack (stack=collection of notebooks), a projects stack, and a reference stack.

I have all of my housecleaning routines saved, recipes that I have come across that I want to try, sewing projects, an inventory of clothing that I have bought for my children to be used the next year.  Lots of things can be saved, and then they are available whenever you need it.  For example, the clothing inventory that I just mentioned….I can pull up that chart when I’m out shopping to see if I already have socks for my children in the next size if I find a good sale.

One caveat: I still like to plan out my months and weeks in a paper planner.  I need to see the big picture and this seems to be best for me.  But, I put all of my day-to-day plans and all of my reference material in Evernote.

How I use this in our homeschool:

I’ve saved book lists and lists of other resources to evaluate in notebooks.  If I see someone say that they love a certain physics program I can save that to my physics notebook.  Then, when it’s time to pull together physics resources I will open up the notebook to see what I have saved.

I’ve also discovered how easy it is to make voice recordings in Evernote.  I save all of the dictation sentences that my daughter needs for her All About Spelling work and then I’m free to work with my son while she can work on her dictation by replaying those sentences from her iPad.

If you like the idea of reducing the amount of paper that you handle and haven’t looked into Evernote then I suggest you give it a try.   Just start by creating a bunch of notes (as suggested in the getting started section of their site): maybe curricula to try, chores that need to be completed, photos of recipes to try, or whatever you have laying around that you would usually try to file.  Then you can start thinking about how you would group them and what you might want to name your notebook.

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Rightstart Math FractionsWe have been Rightstart Math users (almost) from the very beginning.  When my daughter finished level E at the end of last year I didn’t feel confident that she was ready for pre-algebra…mostly due to her young age.  So, I looked at my options and I put together a mish-mash of Rightstart Fractions and Level G, and threw in some Beast Academy and Hands on Equations as well.

Today I thought I would show you the new fractions book.  This book is new (copyright 2014) to the Rightstart line-up…before it was simply levels A-E and G (for geometry).  I’ve read many comments over the years from people who felt that level E (1st edition) was not quite enough in the fraction department.  Having just finished level E at the end of last year, I do tend to agree with this assessment.  While my daughter became fairly proficient at adding, subtracting, mulitplying, and simplifying fractions, I was worried that she may not retain that information.  Many people remedy that situation by playing math card games that involve fractions for several weeks.  But, I’m just not a big game player.  I do play every now and then, but the idea of playing a math game every day is just not that appealing to me.

In the end, I decided that it would be worth trying out this fraction level.

Rightstart Math Fractions Table of Contents Page 1Rightstart Math Fractions Table of Contents Page 2

The first thing that you notice is that this level is only meant to be used for 42.5 days.  If you used it 5 days a week then you would finish up in about 2 months…it’s certainly not meant to fill a full year.

I’ve decided to mix up levels F and G with the AOPS Beast Academy 3B-3D with Hands on Equations.  Why?  We had already added in Beast Academy 3A and Hands on Equations while we were finishing up Rightstart Level E, and my daughter enjoyed them.  She also wanted to move on to Rightstart Level G, but I wanted her to cement her understanding of fractions first.  Each day we do 1-2 problems from Hands on Equations and then we continue with one of the three other programs.

Here is our Frakenstein math schedule:

  • Monday-Hands on Equations (HOE) and Rightstart Fractions
  • Tuesday-HOE and Beast Academy
  • Wednesday-HOE and Rightstart Fractions
  • Thursday-HOE and Rightstart Level G (these lessons take the longest of everything)
  • Friday-HOE and Beast Academy

Back to Rightstart Fractions:

You will need the following cards to play the games: fraction and percent cards, basic number cards, and multiplication cards.  On page iv of the lessons book it tells you what needs to be on the cards so that you can make these yourselves (I highly suggest laminating them), or you can find them in Rightstart’s math card games kit.

There is also a booklet of worksheets in addition to the lessons book.

What the lessons look like:

I have included photos of several of the lessons so that you can get a better idea of how Rightstart approaches fractions and what a typical lesson looks like.

Rightstart Math Fractions Day 7 LessonRightstart Math Fractions Day 7 GamesDay 7:

This lesson is part of the introductory lessons.  The intro to this lesson is a teacher-guided lesson to introduce how to divide rectangles, make tick marks, and crosshatch.  It should take only a few minutes.  Once you are sure that your student understands this process then they will fill out a worksheet – one of the few found in this program.  As you can see we are on day 7 and the student will be using worksheet number 2.  If you like a worksheet based approach, then Rightstart would not be for you.

After the worksheet is completed (notice how they work on equivalent fractions) there is a game suggested.  We have played probably half of the games so far, depending on the amount of time we have that day and if I feel that my daughter could use some extra practice or fun.


 

Rightstart Math Fractions Day 20 LessonRightstart Math Fractions Day 20 GamesDay 20:

This lesson is all about emphasizing the fact that division and fractions are the same. It is very similar to day 7: the intro is teacher-guided and then there is a worksheet (number 9).  After the worksheet there is another game suggested to help cement the concept of equivalent fractions.


 

Rightstart Math Fractions Day 30 LessonRightstart Math Fractions Day 30 GamesDay 30:

This lesson covers subtracting fractions.  Previous lessons have focused on simplifying fractions and finding the lowest common multiple, so the student should be well prepared to subtract fractions that do not have a common denominator.  What I love about Rightstart is that there is rarely any busy work.  As you can see in this lesson the teacher/parent goes over 4 problems with the student.  If your student understands and shows mastery then you move on.  If your student needs more practice then you can easily make up your own problems and/or play the fraction subtraction game that is on the next page.


Rightstart Math Fractions Day 35 LessonRightstart Math Fractions Day 35 GamesDay 35:

I wanted to include this lesson because many people are confused as to how to teach multiplication and/or division of fractions without relying on teaching the standard algorithm.  In my opinion, we are doing our students a disservice if we don’t allow them the opportunity to discover the algorithm, allowing them to really own the right to use it.  I know that I wasn’t taught in this manner and so many light bulbs went off in my head as I went through the various Rightstart levels with my daughter.  I think that Rightstart really excels in this area…better than Singapore and AOPS Beast Academy.

My thoughts thus far:

We are on day 11 (a little more than one-fourth of the way through the lessons) and so far it’s all been far too easy for my daughter…but I like that. She definitely is not afraid of fractions and she enjoys having some “easy math.”  In my opinion, this has been a good review and I’m glad to see that she learned quite a bit in level E.  We will see how she fares in the next few weeks as we go through the operations and simplifying with fractions.

 

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