Finishing Strong #129: Welcome Back to Homeschool 2017-18

Welcome back to Finishing Strong!

Finishing Strong is the premier weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids.

I am so excited for this new school year. My son will be in eighth grade and my daughter will be a sophomore in high school. While they are more independent than ever before, I am committed to homeschooling each through their high school years.

After a hiatus for summer, my co-hosts – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight – and I are back for another year. We look forward to collaborating with one another and with you, our readers, to celebrate the successes and find support during struggles of homeschooling the middle and high school years. 

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A Full Year of Hands-on Science

The back to school season is upon us and I am celebrating with an August Super Sale! For the first time, I have bundled each of my 10-week life science curriculum eBooks and for this month only, have made it available to you for a discount of more than 50% off.
Life Science Bundle

Botany – Plenty O’Plants

Zoology – Amazing Animals

Ecology – Exploring Ecology

Purchased separately, each title in this bundle is priced at $19.90 – but you can get all 3 now for just $27 !  


High School Plan

Finishing Strong

We hope you’ll take some time to check out the amazing posts that have been shared with us. We are so thankful to all of our readers and contributors who help make Finishing Strong a key resource for everyone homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

Below are some of the posts I enjoyed from last week, as well as the one that received the most clicks (in the #1 spot). Did I choose one of your favorites?

Make a Four Year Homeschool High School Plan

from Heather at Blog She Wrote ~ Her first piece of advice is spot on, “You have to know what your state requires for homeschoolers to graduate.”

Eight Out-of-the-Box College Essay Topics

from Kim at WriteShop ~ My daughter is only a sophomore in high school and while she may not actually need to write a college admissions essay (she plans to transfer from a junior college with an associates degree), it is always good to be prepared. Besides, these essay topics just look fun!

Five Ways to Include Dad in Homeschooling

from Leah at Bright Ideas Press ~ “Making a point of [getting Dad involved] can give dads a sense of ownership and connection with the family’s homeschooling.” So true! In our homeschool, Dad is our go-to for conflict resolution, personal management / finance, and skills related to home and auto maintenance. When my daughter begins college level chemistry, you can bet he will take a key role as her tutor as well.

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As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

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Travel the Globe with a World Geography Gift Basket

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Growing up the changing season meant my mother would be in the kitchen canning the fruits and vegetables we had collected at the U-pick farms. My brothers and I would also eagerly await the annual “Back-to-School” shopping spree.

Now that I am mother myself, I look forward to fall for a different reason. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know how much we love to travel. Frequently, our trips abroad happen in autumn when we can take advantage of reduced fees and less crowds.

Thus far, we’ve visited China, five countries in Europe, and Ecuador & Peru. This year, we are excited to add stamps from the British Isles into our passport.

To celebrate our love of travel and the “Back-to-School” season, I have put together a gift basket full of great resources to explore world geography with your kids.

Travel the World Geography

This post contains affiliate links. Contents included in the giveaway are detailed below.

World Geography Gift Basket

The Passport Club

When the kids were younger, we were involved in a wonderful world geography co-op that explored the diverse cultures of our world, one region at a time. We utilized a program called The Passport Club and it was our most anticipated activity of the month.

the passport clubThrough this program, students learn all of the world’s countries plus forty capital cities, the continents, oceans, seas, deserts, and mountain ranges (if they choose Level Five). Each student is given a passport and a study map. At the end of each month, students receive “stamps” in their passports from the countries they have learned.

Designed as an enrichment program, it is easily adapted to a homeschool setting. Included in the basket are two passports, the stamp images, and study maps to get you started learning about the the world in your homeschool.

When students participate in The Passport Club, teachers are able to make geographic connections to authors, folktales, legends, myths, stories from around the world, biographies, books about history, and the arts. Students benefit from a global perspective, which helps them more fully understand and appreciate both informational and literary reading.​

Children’s World Atlas

Included in the basket is hardbound edition of The Children’s World Atlas by Colin Arrowsmith.  With more than 100 easy-to-read maps of all the countries and oceans as well as thousands of illustrations and photographs, this is the perfect atlas for children. It is an incomparable tool for reference and browsing.

Detailed thematic pages give the reader a complete overview of our place in space, Earth’s habitats, and the human story. Each country is featured on a page which provides an encyclopedic survey of each region including information on resources, land use, places and people, natural features, traditions and culture, and history.

Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder. ~ John F. Kennedy

Cuckoo Clock Secrets

Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland, a paperback edition is included in the basket, centers around a homeschool family that travels regularly just as we do. It’s a fun adventure quest guaranteed to immerse the reader in the culture of Switzerland. Your children will delight in this first book of the Case of Adventure travel series.

For fun activities to accompany the book, you may wish to visit Case of Adventure to purchase the Destination Switzerland Unit Study as well as download the FREE Maps Pack and Money Pack to use for your geography studies. Here, you will also find the Mega Travel Activity Pack that goes along with any novel in their series. Filled with spy gear and codes – this activity pack will bring the mystery to life, especially for younger kids.

For a more in-depth review of the book, read my earlier post, Have you ever wanted to visit Switzerland?

Peoples of the Ancient World – 8 Books!

When we travel, we spend a great amount of our time exploring the ancient sites and learning about the peoples of the ancient world.  In preparation for our travels, my kids devoured the Peoples of the Ancient World series published by Crabtree Publishing.

Exploring each culture in advance of our trip helps to bring the peoples of these ancient worlds to life. It also helps us better understand the modern culture. I’m thereby including the following eight gently used titles from the series (they are not pictured in the basket):

North-Star-Geography

While it is not included in the basket, North Star Geography from Bright Ideas Press is a fabulous geography program. Purchase of the hardback text includes a free Companion Guide that includes reproducible outline and reference maps as well as many note-taking pages and graphic organizers. Planning calendars and lesson plans are carefully outlined for easy use.

I’ve used North Star Geography extensively in our homeschool. It is a fabulous program that is easy to use and quick to implement. One of our favorite components of the textbook are the North Star Geography Sidebars – little rabbit trails that we’d explore in more depth.

Enter the World Geography Giveaway

To enter the World Geography Basket giveaway, follow the prompts here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But wait! That’s not all.

There are 27 other homeschool bloggers have joined together to provide one massive back-to-homeschool gift basket giveaway! Take a peek around these 27 other sites and enter to win as many baskets as you like. Each blogger is conducting her own giveaway, so you never know – you may end up winning more than one! All giveaways will be live on Monday, August 7.

iHN Gift Baskets August 2017

Here are just a few that caught my eye:

Middle and High School Living Book Loverís Delight! from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus

American History & Government Back to School Packfrom Blog, She Wrote

Back to High School Giveaway Basket from BJ’s Homeschool

Ocean Learning Gift Basketfrom See Jamie Blog

Life of Fred Math Books Gift Basket from Look! We’re Learning!

Back to School August Super Sale

August Super Sale

It is officially back to school season and store shelves are overflowing with 3-ring binders, composition notebooks, and pencils. To celebrate, your Back to School savings start now!

I am excited to announce that through the month of August, I am offering all 3 of my trimester units (10-weeks each) bundled for just $27!

Life Logic is comprised of three disciplines (Botany, Zoology, and Ecology). The units can stand alone or can be combined for a complete academic year curriculum. The curriculum was field tested in the public school classroom and modified for the homeschool or co-op setting.

Life Science Bundle

Life Logic Curriculum

Botany

Like each of the units in the series, Botany – Plenty O’Plants is a hands-on life science curriculum that provides ample opportunity for kids to explore plant science in-depth.  This 10-week unit is full of inquiry-based activities and lesson plans fully outlined for you.

Zoology

Amazing Animals begins with an overview of the scientific classification system and then progresses through each of the major phyla through hands-on, engaging activities that are sure to captivate your students.

Ecology

The 10-week Ecology Explorations curriculum eBook provides several opportunities to guide your students on an exploration of your local ecosystems.  What better way to learn about ecology than to get out there, collect data, and experience the physical factors that influence the animal and plant communities first hand.

August Super Sale

Purchased separately, each 10-week curriculum is priced at $19.90. Through the month of August, use the special link below to purchase the bundle for just $27.

buynowgreen

In the field for special instructions, enter the coupon code iWant3.

I will then send you a separate email with download links for each of the life science units – Botany – Plenty O’Plants, Amazing Animals, and Ecology Explorations.

 

Exploring Ecology: The Many Parts of a Streambank

The forested land along rivers and streams is known as the “riparian zone”. Riparian comes from the Latin word ripa, which means bank. Riparian zones are areas of transition where the water and land meet and they offer many benefits to wildlife and people.

Only in the past few decades have scientists and land use specialists come to realize the value of riparian zones. Amongst the most diverse biological systems on earth, riparian zones offer many critical ecological benefits:

Overhanging vegetation and trees shade the stream channel, keeping the water nice and cool.

The vegetation along the streambank helps to hold on to the soil and prevent erosion.

These stream side wetlands also act like huge sponges absorbing and filtering the water, which reduces high flows into the stream.

riparian area studyParts of a Streambank

Stream Channel

This zone is the wetted area located below the average water mark or water level. Generally, the streambank soils next to the stream channel have the most erosion because of the constant water flow. When plants are present in this area, the plants are rooted into the soil beneath the water. Vegetation includes herbaceous species like sedges, rushes, and cattails and are found in the low energy streams or in protected, slow-moving areas of the stream.

Sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have bumps all the way to the ground.

Riparian Zone

The riparian zone is the area between the average water mark and the average high water mark. The plants that are found here thrive along the banks so long as their root systems are able to access surface water and subsurface flow. When a riparian area contains healthy, native plants, there is less erosion. This zone contains predominately shrubs, willows, and other water-loving plants.

Floodplain

The floodplain is a relatively flat area located adjacent to a river or stream. This area can experience occasional or periodic flooding. When a river breaks its banks and floods, it leaves behind layers of sediment – rock, sand, mud, and silt. These materials gradually build up to create the floor of the floodplain. Here, the soils are a mix of sand, gravel, loam, silt, and clay. These areas are important aquifers, filtering the water drawn from them through these soil combinations. Plants found here often contain a mix of riparian and upland plants and trees – willows, dogwoods, alder, and birch trees as well as large shrubs.

A few years ago, my STEM Club spent the day inundating ourselves in Stream Ecology. Read this post to discover other activities you can use to engage your students.

Transitional Zone

The transitional zone is located between the floodplain and the upland zone. Here, the area is rarely affected by stream flow and floods only once every 50 or so years. This zone is comprised of drier upland trees and large shrubs that do not need to access the stream water or subsurface flow with their roots.

Upland Zone

The uplands consist of land where drier vegetation can be found. The plants and trees here no longer depend upon the surface or subsurface flow of stream water for their survival. However, the taller trees in this zone do create a valuable forest canopy that helps to shade the stream.

Previously, we partnered with the USDA Forest Service to hear first hand how a forester manages a forest and to get a chance to use the real tools of the trade. Read more of our experience in my post, Field, Forest, & Stream: Forest Ecology.

riparian area survey tableRiparian Area Survey

Materials

  • Pen/pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Field notebook
  • Colored pencils (optional)

Procedure

  1. Copy the table above into your field notebook.
  2. Go to a nearby stream and select an area of the streambank and riparian area to study. Measure the area that you have selected.
  3. Complete the table checking the box for each vegetation type you see. If you are able, identify as many as possible.
  4. Choose a section of the length of the stream surveyed and draw the stream and riparian area from a bird’s eye view (from above).
  5. Once you have the basic outline of the area (stream channel, banks, riparian area), begin by marking where you see each type of trees, shrubs, ferns, etc. Use the symbols in the table above to simplify your sketch.
  6. Make sure to draw an arrow in the stream to show the direction of water flow.

Conclusion

  1. Based on your observations at this site, describe any human influences on the riparian area.
  2. What features of the riparian zone do you think are important to fish?
  3. Do you notice any patterns of certain vegetation types and where they are located in relation to the stream? Why do you think that is?

Ecology ExplorationsScience Logic

You will find more activities like this one in my Ecology Explorations curriculum available for purchase in my store. The Life Logic: Ecology Explorations unit that I have developed for middle school students is an easy to implement, hands-on way to learn about ecology. Students will love getting outside, collecting data, and experiencing the physical factors that influence the animal and plant communities in their local area first hand.

 

Developing Job Skills While Still in High School

In high school, students are expected to spend time on homework assignments, prepare for exams, participate in extracurricular activities, and help out with chores at home. While these responsibilities are important, teens can also develop job skills and work experience that will serve them for a lifetime.

Build Job Skills & Experience Through Volunteer Work

Volunteering is the perfect way to gain experience and develop the skills you will need in the work place when you are an adult. Volunteering is one of a kind work that you don’t need to be a certain age to do. Though some organizations will require that a parent or other adult accompany you – at least until they get to know you and your work ethic.art museum volunteer

This post may contain affiliate links. 

My daughter started volunteering at our local art museum when she was just 13. The best part about it was that she was able to set her own schedule and work as many hours as she wished. In the summer months, she worked 1-2 days each week depending on whether there was a special event. During the school year, she pulled back to once a month.Volunteering is generally regarded with as much respect as paid work. Employers consider it to be as valuable job experience because they know that volunteers have a range of duties and are highly motivated. Often, volunteer positions can also evolve into paid positions.

College admissions officers are also impressed by teens who volunteer. Donating your time shows you are a dedicated and compassionate person – a characteristic that will set you apart from other applicants.

Volunteering will provide you so much more than a good mark on your application, however. You will also learn so much, including:

  1. You’ll meet people of diverse ages and backgrounds.
  2. You may encounter a variety of viewpoints and perspectives.
  3. You’ll observe how people deal with adversity and conflict.
  4. Your own skills and abilities will be tested in a real-world setting.
  5. You’ll gain new skills and experience.
  6. You’ll have a new activity to talk about when meeting friends.

Build Job Skills Through an Apprenticeship or Internship

Apprenticeships and internships are similar. An apprenticeship is a paid position that involves working closely with a supervisor or master craftsman, who trains you to learn a skill or trade. It is a formal method of training for a skilled occupation.

mill apprenticeAt the end of an apprenticeship, you will be awarded a certificate of Occupational Proficiency (recognized by the Secretary of Labor) which articulates that you have participated in the program and corresponding classroom training and have thereby acquired a particular set of skills. Apprenticeships are available in a variety of fields, including:

  • cooking
  • blacksmithing and welding
  • graphic design
  • appliance repair
  • furniture repair and restoration

An internship is a temporary agreement with a profession person, company, or organization. In exchange for your time and labor, you get actual on-the-job experience, plus the guidance of a supervisor who can serve as a mentor. You may work a few weeks or a few months – depending upon the agreement.

While most internships are unpaid, there are some that offer stipends or pay (minimum wage or a few hundred dollars per month). While an internship does not necessarily need to be in the field of work you desire but it is certainly a plus. Internships are often available through government agencies – check the websites of the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife, Watershed Associations, etc.

Share Your Job Skills in a Résumé

When you are ready to seek out a position – whether it is an internship or paid employment, you will want a résumé. Your résumé should serve as an at-a-glance summary of what you’ve accomplished so far. This is your time to brag about yourself and all you have done!

Begin by making a list of the extracurricular activities, passion projects, and work experiences in which you have taken part. Write down all of your responsibilities for each major activity and the skills you have learned – whether you learned them from your parents, a mentor, or in the classroom.

basic invite resume graphicDrafting a great résumé takes time. There are a multitude of templates available online. For youth, a single page résumé is sufficient as they don’t yet have the experience to warrant a second page. The key is to be concise and to use strong action words when describing the key contributions made. This video featuring Amanda Augustine is an excellent overview of how to put together a résumé that pops.

You may wish to consider Creating a Student Resume with Basic Invitethey also have a fabulous selection of stationery products and each template is fully customizable – both the text and the graphics.

For some teens, the traditional four-year high school curriculum is just what they need. Others would benefit more from nontraditional learning experiences—if they knew how to find them and what to do next. Regardless of what path you may consider, I highly suggest the book, The Teenager’s Guide to School Outside the Box.

This practical, inspiring book explores the world of alternative learning, giving teens the knowledge and tools they need to make good choices. It is about enhancing the education teens are already getting and making the most of their time in and out of school.

 

Creating a Student Resume with Basic Invite: Stationery That Pops

My daughter turns 15 this autumn and is now in the process of putting together her first resume. She would like to get  job at our local community pool as a life guard because she knows the staff and the hours are flexible. Its the perfect first job for her.

Yet, how does one write a resume when your work experience is so very little? Even when confining her skills and experience to a single page, there is a lot of white space. How does a teen make her resume stand out?

I was compensated for my time writing this product review.

A Unique Student Resume with Basic Invite

I shared with her the idea of using Basic Invite to create a resume. Among their offerings of baby shower invitations  and elegant birth announcements, they also have a fabulous selection of stationery. I explained to her that each template is fully customizable – both the text and the graphics.

“As the card is smaller than a traditional resume printed on paper, your text will fill the space. Thereby, your skills and volunteer experience will pop.” In just a few minutes I drafted a sample for her by customizing a birth announcement.

basic invite graphic

“That’s cool!” she exclaimed. “I want to try.”

Fully Customizable Stationery

Creating an elegant resume took only a few minutes and it was all so easy. Best of all, everything is customizable. If desired, you can even build your own color theme!

Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers almost unlimited color options. Once you select a design you can change the color of each element on the card to over 180 different color options so you can make sure the card is exactly how you want it down to the littlest detail.

In addition, color photos can quickly be changed to black and white or sepia. Each change that you make is instantly previewed for you and you can move text boxes around easily by simply dragging your mouse until your card is just right.

Through the development of unique technology, they’re able to provide you with limitless options that allow you to instantly create a card that is truly unique.

Basic Invite also allows customers the ability to order a printed sample of their actual invitation so they can see exactly how it will print as well as the paer quality before they ever have to place their final order.

Customers can choose from over 40 different colors when it comes to their envelopes so that they can make their invitation stand out even before it is opened. All of our envelopes are peel and seal so the envelopes can be quickly and securely closed.

Based in Saint George, Utah, their passionate team has been creating the perfect card for every event since 2006.

basic invite grad stationeryMany Stationery Categories to Choose From

Check out the many options at Basic Invite. In addition to the elegant birth announcements that I customized, they also have hundreds of options for other occasions such as:

I love the diverse collection of stationery they offer. I know in just a few years I will be using Basic Invite to order graduation announcements and thank you cards.

Unbeatable prices and value, plus innovative products found nowhere else – Basic Invite is now my go-to resource for personalized stationery products.

They often have a sale – look at the top of this page for the discount code and follow Basic Invite on social media Facebook and Twitter).