Finishing Strong 100th Edition ~ Plus a Giveaway!!

I am so excited! Today we celebrate our 100th edition of Finishing Strong! It delights me to know that Heather, Heidi, Megan & Susan, and I have been able to provide this avenue with which to connect with families who are homeschooling middle and high school students. Finishing-Strong-500x500

Finding inspiration from one another and learning about the variety of learning opportunities and approaches to education with teens has been so rewarding. I love reading the posts that everyone shares each week – I always learn so much.

Our favorite posts shared last week

Heidi’s Blogs to Read if You Are Homeschooling Middle School was the top clicked post shared last week.

Blogs To Read If You Are Homeschooling Middle School from Starts At Eight Looking for more inspiration and material directed specifically for middle schoolers? Heidi has compiled a list of her favorite blogs targeted for middle school.

topo-3-11As a family, we have always loved topographical maps and navigating. In fact, Orienteering was one of the first merit badges my son has earned on his trail to Eagle in Boy Scouts. Heather’s post, Trail Planning Using Topographic Quadrangle Maps at Blog She Wrote is a great activity to add to your repoirtaire.

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Unlocking the Plot: Literature Studies for Teens posted at Bright Ideas Press by Betsy Strauss. She shares a few simple tools to guide your students’ observations to help reveal the author’s purpose in writing the story. Her tips make discussion plot, conflict, and other elements of literature much more enjoyable.

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.

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We are celebrating with a cash giveaway!!

To celebrate our 100th edition, we are giving away a $100 cash prize. Share your posts below and hop back over to enter the giveaway.

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!

Add our button to your post.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years


iHomeschool Network Wishlist Cash Giveaway

Homeschool Wishlist Giveaway 2016Who’s ready for the homeschool cash giveaway? We’ve got a sweet surprise for all of you homeschooling families out there! iHomeschool Network Bloggers and Friends have teamed up to bring you the Homeschool Wishlist Cash Giveaway! One lucky family will win $800 (paid via PayPal) to put towards your homeschooling needs!!! How neat is that?! Woot!

To enter, follow the directions below:

1. Follow me on Instagram (if you aren’t already). Then like this giveaway image.

2. Tap on the image to find the next person in the loop. Tap on their name to go to their profile.

3. Find this same image on their Instagram page.

4. Repeat steps 1-3 on every photo/profile until you make it back to the profile you started with.

When you make it back to the person you started with, you’ve completed the loop.

This Giveaway will run for 10 days (September 5th – September 14th midnight your time). The winner will be announced by @marlenegriffith within 72hrs of the giveaway closing.

*Money will be sent via PayPal (this giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with PayPal.)

RULES: All entrants must make their account public for the duration of the giveaway. This is to verify entries and ensure that you are following all of the participants. The winner will be chosen at random and will have 24 hours to claim the prize after being tagged in this post. If within 24hrs we do not hear from you, another winner will be chosen. Account to contact: @marlenegriffith

DISCLAIMER: This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are at least 13+ years of age, release Instagram of all responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.

How to Build a Connection with Nature in Your Homeschool

Nature study has always been a major focus in our homeschool. In fact, throughout their primary and early elementary years, nature study was primarily the only science we covered.

While easily accessible, nature study incorporates so much more than just the study of plants and animals in our backyard. It can include the study of weather and climate patterns, even ocean currents and tides.

To help you kick off the new school year with gusto, I am giving away a basket load of wonderful nature study goodies that I know you and your kids will absolutely love.

How We Approach Nature Study

I try to incorporate a nature lesson each week. This begins with spending quality time outdoors. With a tween and teen, this basically means we go for hikes or evening walks as a family. When they were younger, however, it meant playing in the creek near the lake, building imaginary worlds in the backyard, and even climbing trees.

Foraging for Mushrooms: A Wild Edibles Nature Study @EvaVarga.net

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Your purchase at these retailers helps to support my family.

Read my post Keeping a Nature Journal to learn how to get started in just 5 simple exercises. I’ve written more extensively about How We Approach Nature Study but how it is done is less important than just getting outside and exploring the world. Here are a few of our lessons from the past:

Here are some Summer Nature Activities to get you started before school begins next month.

nature journaling

If you would like to take it a little further or if you have an older child, consider learning about a master naturalist like Anna Botsford Comstock, Jane Goodall, or Carolus Linneaus.

For classroom or home educators, I also teach an extensive class on Nature Journaling in the Classroom if you’d like more guidance or are interested in earning course credit.

Nature BasketNature Study Giveaway

As promised, this basket of goodies is sure to delight you and your kids. I have included several of our favorite field identification books, a practical guide to discovering the natural world, and an outdoor workbook for families and classrooms. The contents of the basket are worth over $90!   

The Nature Connection by Claire Walker Leslie ($15.95)

The Practical Naturalist from DK Publishing ($22.95)

National Audubon Society Pocket Guide: Familiar Birds of Sea and Shore ($9.00)

National Audubon Society Pocket Guide: Familiar Birds of Lakes and Rivers ($9.00)

Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by Their Leaves by May Theilgaard Watts ($5.95)

Rocky Mountain Tree Finder by Tom Watts ($5.95)

Millie & Cyndi’s Pocket Nature Guides:

Painted Ladies of North America ($7.95)
Hummers: Hummingbirds of North America($7.95)
Talons: North American Birds of Prey($7.95)

 

Bonus: NaturExplorers Incredible Creeks eBook ($8.95) … to be sent separately

Enter to Win This Bundle

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Back to Homeschool Gift Baskets

But Wait! That is not all ~ 52 homeschool bloggers have joined together to provide one massive back-to-homeschool basket giveaway! Take a peek around these 52 sites and enter to win as many baskets as you like.

Gift Baskets 2016 CollageEach 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 15.

100 Tips for Traveling with Kids in Europe: A Book Review & GIVEAWAY

I am so very excited! Several months ago, fellow travel blogger, Ashley Steel, reached out to me to inquire if my children would be interested in submitting their photography for a new book she was writing with Bill Richards. The focus of their new book was on traveling with kids in Europe and we had just returned from a three week excursion to Italy and Greece.

100 Tips for Traveling with Kids in Europe This post may contain affiliate links.

My kids were delighted to take part and submitted several photos each – their favorites from each of the two countries we had recently visited. We didn’t know which photographs would be selected and have been looking forward to the discovery.

Our wait is now over! Traveling with Kids in Europe is now available in paperback from Amazon. We couldn’t be happier with the final product. The layout of the book is fabulous and I just love how the children’s photographs are dispersed throughout the book to augment the many wonderful travel tips provided by Steel and Richards.

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Traveling with Kids in Europe is divided into three sections: preparing for your trip (get the kids involved in planning and setting an itinerary), the trip itself (navigating the airport, finding your hotel, etc.), and finally logistical tips and safety (alerting your credit card company prior to departure). There is so much packed into this book.

While we can’t list all of the tourist activities across this exciting continent, we sow the seeds for what your trip can really be. Don’t settle for just the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, and Big Ben. Explore Europe! Dance to street musicians, learn about politics, eat seven kinds of waffles, go punting, and see fairy tale scenery (literally!).

Whether you are new to foreign travel or are planning your first trip aboard, you’ll find ideas and suggestions to ensure your excursion is memorable and enjoyable!

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Traveling with Kids in Europe is a fabulous book full of great tips for traveling with kids. What I love best are the photographs on every page – taken by children of all ages as they traveled in Europe with their families. Though I could be partial – I just love seeing Europe from the perspective of the kids. Their creativity brings to life the culture of each country through the eyes of the young travelers themselves.

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You might also be interested in their earlier book, Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids. You can learn more about their works by visiting their website.

Chasing a Sports Scholarship? Think Again {College Savings Giveaway}

College tuition is expensive. I attended a state university in the 90s and even then, the cost of tuition, fees, and books was more than my parents could afford with three children and a blue-collar income.

I was compensated for my time in writing this post but it’s an awesome giveaway. I really hope one of my readers win!
Sports Scholarship?We all want what is best for our kids. When it comes to sports, though, sometimes our parenting instincts get a little carried away. I am sure we all know parents who are pushing their kids to excel at their sport.

Only 2% of high school athletes are awarded sports scholarships at NCAA schools.

Sadly, only six sports offer “full-ride” scholarships: football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, tennis, and women’s gymnastics. Most college athletes have only partial scholarships. Even then, the amount of time they spend training and practicing their sport can severely impact their performance in the classroom.

A relation was awarded a “full-ride” scholarship in volleyball. She originally dreamed of becoming a doctor but the course load was not possible with her volleyball schedule. She graduated with a degree in business and after graduating, realized she would need to get an advanced degree (on her own dime) to be marketable. My brother in law also sought an additional degree after graduating with his bachelors degree on a track scholarship.

CNBC says you have a better chance of being admitted to Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford than receiving an athletic scholarship in a major sport.

My kids are both swimmers. My son has had great success early and some of our team parents have encouraged us to pursue a more focused training regimen. Sports can be a great teacher. Our kids learn about teamwork, discipline, work ethic, being a good loser, and so many other important life lessons.

However, we are not chasing a scholarship. Swimming is important to us but we made a decision as a family long ago to strive for a simplified, joyful life. Conflicts arise regularly and we therefore don’t participate in all the swim meets on the team schedule. We weigh the pros and cons and make choices as a family.

It is inadvisable to spend more money on your child’s sports than you are putting in their college fund.

So — with all that said, how does a family provide for the higher education of their children. How can we manage to pay the rising cost of tuition?
Teaching Our Kids About Money (free printable) @EvaVarga.net

Teaching Our Kids About Money

One of the most important steps to financial independence is teaching our kids about money. We have never given our kids an allowance, expecting them to earn commission for their hard work when they were yet toddlers. 

We began applying Dave Ramsey principles to our life in earnest last year after listening to the audio book Smart Money, Smart Kids. Ramsey encourages kids to earn their own money and to set aside a percentage for their college education by earning commissions as well as through entrepreneurial endeavors.

Earning Commissions

Chores are something everyone in the family does to contribute to the family.  Chores not only teach responsibility but are part of being needed and valued by the family.

Developing Entrepreneurs

Being a young entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to think of a new idea to make money. It just means you need to find a way to make money doing something you love. You have to think out of the box a little.
Carson-Dellosa College Saving Contest

College Savings

In addition to encouraging our kids to save their own money for college, we also set aside a percentage of our income into their college savings plans. Two smart ways to save for your kids’ college are 529 college savings funds or ESAs (Education Savings Accounts). These are both tax-advantaged savings vehicles that let you save money for your kids’ education expenses.

My daughter Geneva will be entering high school this fall, so college is something we have been talking about more regularly. Her dad and I set up a 529 college savings fund for her when she was just an infant and we’ve been adding to it gradually every year. In addition to her own savings, she has begun keep a list of potential scholarships for which she will be eligible.

I’m happy that together we have some savings earmarked for her higher education, but of course, it’s not enough. We know we will have to supplement by paying out of our earnings and hoping for scholarships. Our ultimate goal is to NOT take out student loans and we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make this happen.

Enter to Win Money for College

I have most assuredly entered the Carson-Dellosa College Savings Giveaway to win up to $2,000 for Geneva’s education! This would be a huge help.

Grand Prize: $2,000 (only one winner)
Second Prize: $1,000 each (two winners)

If I win, the money will go straight into her 529 college savings plan.

You’ll NOT want to miss the opportunity to enter the Carson-Dellosa College Savings Giveaway to win up to $2,000 for your child’s education!

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Click here to enter the Carson-Dellosa giveaway today!

Travel Around the World with a Back to School Giveaway

Like many homeschool families and educators, I have spent a fair amount of time browsing the internet and making wish lists of books and curriculum I would like to have for the new school year. There are so great products and resources available that adhering to a budget can be troublesome if not near impossible.

“If only we could get curriculum for free!” I have often heard my friends proclaim. I am delighted to take part once again in the annual Back to School Toolkit Giveaway.

This post contains affiliate links for resources we absolutely love and truly depend on. 

Travel Around the World with a Back to School Giveaway @EvaVarga.net

Back to School Giveaway

This year, I am giving away a geography themed basket loaded with resources that will provide you and your children with activities and lesson plans to keep you busy all year long.

wondermapsBright Ideas Press has donated their popular WonderMaps CD. Designed with easy-to-use layers that allow you to enjoy great customizable features with just a click, WonderMaps is the perfect addition to your geography resource library. WonderMaps was created not only with hundreds of world maps but also a large selection of historical maps that cover everything you need for The Mystery of History vols. I–III and All American History vols. I & II.

Also included in the Travel Around the World basket are the following resources:

Discovering China (Multicultural Education Series), by Dianna J. Sullivan, was written for grades 4-8. This paperback guide provides a great start to a unit study on the culture of China. It includes many printables and activities to learn a few Chinese phrases and to explore the Chinese calendar, holidays, folktales, and cultural traditions. It even includes recipes for popular stir fry! 48 page paperback

Australia: An Interdisciplinary Unit by Merle Davenport was developed for grades 6-8. It covers the physical geography of Australia as well as the cultural geography. Some of the activities include making your own Boomerang, creating a timeline of historical events, graphing natural resource exports, making a star projector to learn about the constellations to compare how navigation differs in the southern hemisphere, and learning the strike (slang) of Oz (Australia). 48 page paperback

galapagos unit

The Galápagos islands were originally called the “Enchanted Isles” because the capricious meandering of the Humboldt Current had the effect of making the islands disappear and reappear to passing ships. The Galápagos Across the Curriculum is a fun, hands-on life science unit study that provides ample opportunity for kids to explore the diversity and remarkable history of the islands.  This unit study is full of inquiry-based activities and lesson plans that can be easily integrated into a larger life science curriculum. 12 page eBook (PDF)

The perfect accompaniment to your Galápagos unit, Galapagos Bedtime Stories by Paula Tagle Saad is charming book with many watercolor depictions of the animals in the archipelago. As the protagonists of the tales, most of the tales are told from the perspective of the featured animal. Factual information about life cycle, habitat, feeding, etc. are woven throughout. It also includes a glossary of terms in the appendix.

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Find more giveaway baskets at the iHomeschool Network’s annual Back to School Toolkit Giveaway – Giveaways Galore! There are over 34 baskets!!

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There are so many wonderful products in these baskets, I encourage you to enter them all.

You won’t want to miss Barb’s Handbook of Nature Study basket or Brenda’s Essential STEM Supplies.