Monday, September 16, 2013

Math: Algebra I

Math is my favorite subject to teach, which usually means I run on and on and bore any interest out of my son. So, I’m trying to back off a bit this year and let him work more on his own. He had a solid pre-Algebra year in 7th. This year’s focus is making sure we avoid the problems I see too often in high school students.

Working with positive and negative terms:
5 – 6 = 5 + -6 = -1

Correctly distributing and not loosing track of terms or signs:
(2x + 3)(x - 5) = 2x2 -7x -15

Being able to quickly factor a polynomial:
x2 + 5x + 4 = (x + 1)(x + 4)

Using dimensional analysis to check if the problem is correctly set up in the beginning: 20 miles/hour * 1 hour/60 min * 1 min/60 sec * 5280 feet/mile = 29.3 feet/sec

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unsticking a Stuck Writer

This year’s writing has started off with a bang. Words are flowing from my son, we have yet to see any tears, and he even said that he was *gasp* enjoying writing this year! He has always struggled with writing: both the physical and mental aspect of getting thoughts onto paper could cause a full emotional melt down. So, a big goal of each year is to help him overcome the struggle and just get something on paper. We’ve tried many things, abandoning some and expanding others. Here are the top five reasons we think he’s succeeding so well at this point:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Social Studies: Timeline

WORLD’S LONGEST TIMELINE!!! OK, so it’s probably not, but it is 100 feet long, which is still pretty big.

My son started this last year when we studied world history. It starts in the 1400’s with the invention of the printing press. Every day he added two to five important events. It helped him visualize how events in different parts of the world influence each other. This year, he is adding American History events to it. We’re also highlighting scientific and engineering advances. My son wants to be an engineer, so my personal goal is for him to realize how big of an impact engineers have had on our society through time.

(We built the holder from an IKEA hack: upside down desk top, curtain rod holders and PVC pipe.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Social Studies: History Through Lenses

What influences today are shaping our history? How will the future generations look back at our times and what swayed our decisions? The economy, religion, world politics, political parties, natural disasters, technological advances and culture have had visible impacts throughout the history of America. You can see those forces act even in recent times, such as President George W. Bush’s terms in office. How would his presidency have been different if he wasn’t faced with the aftermaths of 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina? And, how did those events shape who we are today as a country?

We’ll use the lenses of economy, political power and technological advances to see how and why history has unfolded the way it has. American history is as much about the causes as the effects, and only by understanding that can we help prepare the next generation to lead.

Social Studies: State by State

America is a wonderful patchwork quilt of states, each with unique features. We’re working our way through all the states in the order they were granted statehood, learning about their geography, industry and current political make-up. Between the books in our library and the internet, my son will create a page of information on each state and draw a map of the prominent features. Here are the books we’re using, with a sample page for each:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Social Studies: The Presidents

My son loves using Crash Course to learn about history, but I was still searching for a more chronological source to fill in all the details. Then it dawned on me – the presidents served sequentially, so let’s look at history through each presidency. These are the main sources we’re using, along with healthy doses of Encyclopedia of the Presidents and Their Times and The Presidents (DVD with short and interesting biographies).

Monday, September 2, 2013

8th Grade Social Studies: Crash Course US History

My goal was to find one main curriculum source to use for US History this year that presented a well rounded view of event. Just one source. We’d follow it faithfully and chronologically, utilizing all the questions at the end of the chapters. Social studies would be a breeze to plan and we’d all live happily ever after.

The reality, though, is that most curriculum written for homeschool students is very heavily biased towards an ultra-conservative view. Public school textbooks tend to be too dry and often have subtle biases towards a too patriotic-and-sanitized version of events. We needed something in the middle that was engaging while presenting a balanced view – pro-America but not at the expense of the entire truth.