Finishing Strong #118: Math, Science & Project Based Learning

Finishing Strong is the place for families who are homeschooling middle & high school kids to meet up in order to share tips, encouragement, advice, and more. We know it can be stressful homeschooling teens, which is why we’ve built this community.

Finishing Strong is hosted each Wednesday here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan and Susan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.

Finishing-Strong-500x500

Featured this week is German chemist Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen who was born on March 31st. He is best know for engineering a burner with a hot, sootless, non-luminous flame by mixing the gas with air in a controlled fashion before combustion. Bunsen burners are now used in laboratories all around the world.

bunsen burner

Find more STEAM biographies with accompanying hands-on activities in my series, Science Milestones.

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.


High School MathThe most clicked on post shared last week was Heidi’s How I Teach Homeschool Math at Starts at Eight.

“altEarning Credits with a Project Based High School, shared by Heather from Blog She Wrote was one of my favorite this past week. “Often as our children get older, we think their time is better spent doing more traditional academic work. Fight the urge to regard project time as less important!

You might also like Independent Study Projects: Learning Science While Exploring Interests

Robotics in Your HomeschoolMy son has dabbled a little with robotics through his experience with FIRST Lego League earlier this year. It is a fascinating subject area that can be integrated into many content areas. I’ve thereby selected Marci’s post, Robotics in Your Homeschool as another favorite shared this past week.

Writing & RhetoricI would also like to highlight Writing & Rhetoric Curriculum Review posted at Freely Learned. I was previously unfamiliar with this curriculum and am intrigued to learn more.


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.

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Finishing Strong #117: Hobbies, Student Passions, & Unschooling

Welcome back to Finishing Strong!

Finishing Strong is a place for families who are homeschooling middle & high school kids to meet up in order to share tips, encouragement, advice, and more. We know it can be stressful homeschooling teens, which is why we’ve built this community.

It is brought to you each Wednesday by the ladies at Blog She Wrote, Education PossibleStarts at Eight, and myself.

Finishing-Strong-500x500

In honor of International Women’s Day, featured this week is a post celebrating the work of Anna Botsford Comstock, the esteemed author of the Handbook of Nature Study. Her words are as valuable and relevant today as they were back at the turn of the 20th century when her book was first published, Nature Study with Anna Botsford Comstock.

naturestudy

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.

Middle School Hobbies20 Middle School Hobbies For Education by Our Unschooling Journey was our most read post shared last week.I really enjoyed this because it helped me to realize all we really do experience in homeschool. While the kids may not pursue each with fervor, her post is a little reminder of all that we have accomplished.

Opportunities for Homeschooled Teen

Relatedly, I also enjoyed reading Heather’s post, Creating Opportunities for Your Homeschool Teen as it provided encouragement for me to allow my kids to pursue their areas of interest in more depth. “High school is all about how to help your teens … [have] authentic experiences which prepare them for what lies ahead.”

It is so easy to fall victim to the comparison game. Even with over ten years of homeschool experience behind me, I still catch myself thinking we aren’t doing enough, we aren’t covering enough material. These two posts help me to realize that life experiences and child-led interests really can (and do) prepare students for their future.

Homeschool Teen Behind

On a similar note, I also enjoyed Ann’s perspective in her post, When You Fear That Your Homeschooled Teen is Behind. “College is NOT for everyone, and neither you nor your child are a failure if you decide on another path.”


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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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years


Finishing Strong #102 – Our Winner is Announced!

Last week was so much fun! I just love being part of this community – finding inspiration from one another as we each strive to do the best we can to homeschool our tweens and teens has always been the cornerstone of Finishing Strong. Last week – we were able to giveaway $100 cash to one lucky winner.

Martha S. ~ Congratulations on winning Finishing Strong’s 100th Edition Cash Giveaway.

Finishing-Strong-500x500Welcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan and Susan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.


Just prior to the spring primaries earlier this year, we enjoyed a A Visit to Our County Clerk’s Office. In Oregon, we utilize a mail-in ballot system. Our field trip was thereby very enlightening and the kids have both been able to explain this process in more depth in recent discussions with their grandparents.

elections

As our national election is just around the corner, I encourage you all to reach out to your county clerk. I understand that even during the voting cycle, they encourage citizens to observe the process.


Last week’s most popular post, What’s the Difference Between Unschooling and Radical Unschooling, was shared by RedHeadMom8 who blogs at There’s No Place Like Home. Every time I read about Unschooling, I think “That’s me!”

Unschooling and Radical Unschooling

Home education is not always about academics. There are many lifeskill that we strive to impart upon our children whether we choose to homeschool or utilize a brick and mortar school. I thereby really enjoyed Susan’s Teaching Kids Life Skills: How to Tie a Necktie at Education Possible this past week. It is a great reminder that even the little things are important.

How to Tie a NecktieAnother post I really enjoyed was Why Spending Time Growing in your Talents is Worth It by Belinda at Live Life with Your Kids. As she shares her philosophy for “productive free time” it reminds me a lot of what my family as coined “passion projects”. As she elaborates she also discusses “… developing these skills [talents] to be about how we can benefit others, not just self.” I love this and plan to incorporate this mindset into our passion projects in the coming weeks.

Time Talents

@ @ @

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!

Add our button to your post.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Were You Featured?

Grab an “I was featured” button!

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years


Unplug and Get SMART: How goal setting can help teens achieve their dreams

These days, nearly everyone seems to have a device of some sort – be it an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Laptop, or Android. Many families – including my own – struggle to find balance between device time and other activities.

It’s no surprise that kids of all ages – adults, too – can get addicted to electronic devices. That’s because every text, every Instagram ❤️, every point scored during a video game, and every chat message on a Minecraft server creates a little hit of the feel-good chemical dopamine. This is the same rush that a drug addict gets from a hit of cocaine. The same rush you get from eating a Voodoo doughnut.Unplug & Get SMART: Goal Setting for Teens @EvaVarga.net

I know from experience. Finding a balance between devices and other areas of life is something we are struggling with in our home. I’m not going to lie. Somedays, my kids spend more time on their device than they do talking to one another.

We have attempted numerous strategies and most have failed. We are making progress, however. While we haven’t found a perfect solution, what we have discovered is that focusing on our goals – both those we share as a family and those we have for ourselves – has been a huge motivator. The process of setting goals helps to keep us focused on what is important to us as a family and to each of us as individuals.

Setting goals help us to make the best use of our day. When tackled correctly, goals force us out of our comfort zone and help us to grow more each day. Most importantly, goals put us in the driver’s seat and give us control. By setting a goal, we are taking an active role in achieving our dreams. What could be more important than that?

Unplug & Get SMART: Goal Setting for Teens @EvaVarga.net

We have been talking a lot about goal setting in our home. We have each made lists of things we want to accomplish – both short term and long term. Achieving our goals takes more than good intentions, however.

We know we have to take action and then systematically measure our progress. During our family meetings, we’ve thereby brainstormed the milestones or steps we need to take to achieve our goals. Having a clear action plan has helped us to stay focused and limit our dependency on our devices.

Getting SMART

Setting Goals with Your Teen or Pre-Teen doesn’t have to be a struggle. Begin with a family discussion on what their dreams are and where they see themselves in 5 years, in 10 years. What do they want to accomplish? Consider academic goals, athletic / health goals, as well as personal / spiritual goals.

With a few goals in mind – both short term and long term – you can then help your child create a list of milestones or steps necessary to achieve a specific goal. When you ask your children to write their goals, guide them to create SMART goals that support your own goals for the same period.

A SMART goal is defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timely. I have created a template to help guide teens through this process. With this planning tool, teens can create a plan for two different goals.

SMART Goal Setting with Teens @EvaVarga.net

Download the free SMART Goals Template here.

  • Specific: Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you are going to do.
  • Measurable: Goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal.
  • Achievable: Goals should be achievable; they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough so that you can achieve them.
  • Results-focused & Realistic: Goals should measure outcomes, not activities.
  • Timely: Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal.

There are many other templates and apps to help guide you along the process of setting and achieving your goals. One of the tools that has really helped us in regards to staying on task is our online homeschool planner. The online system is so much more than a lesson planner. The kids have begun to use it themselves to block time for their passion projects or earning commissions.

~ ~ ~

Most importantly, we parents must set a good example ourselves. No matter how much I may desire to check my Facebook and Instagram notifications, I must resist the urge. Whatever rules I have set for my child, I must be able to follow them myself.

Teaching Our Teens About Money – Part 2: Developing Entrepreneurs

My parents were in many ways great role models. In addition to hard work, my parents instilled within me the drive to seek out creative ways to earn money.

You might also be interested in my earlier posts, Lessons Learned from My Mother & Lessons Learned from My Father

When I was a little girl, my two younger brothers and I would periodically set up a lemonade and craft booth in front of our house. We lived in a small coastal community and our home was on a main street through town. The majority of our customers were tourists and I remember fondly, when one group of young cyclists offered to pay us with Canadian money – we were overjoyed! Their money was so different from our own!

We never made a lot of money but it was a fun way to pass the leisurely hours of the summer. The money we did earn we split evenly between the three of us and generally spent it on candy at Wilson’s Market up the hill.

Last week I spoke about how teens can earn commissions doing work around the house. Today, I wanted to share with you ideas for developing entrepreneurs.

Creative 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.

You’re never too young to develop your talents and, in turn, make money from your skills. ~ Dave Ramsey

Teaching Our Kids About Money (free printable) @EvaVarga.net

Jeffrey is shown here constructing several Mason Bee Nesting Boxes. He was very successful at the Earth Day festival, selling his entire inventory.

At a local Earth Day fair earlier this year, the kids set up a booth to share with the community the efforts we had undertaken as part of our Roots & Shoots club. In addition to showcasing the projects we had undertaken (primarily our Bottle Cap Mural still underway), each of the kids developed a product that demonstrated their knowledge of and passion for the environment.

The previous year, our club had created Insect Hotels. Jeffrey shared that he had really enjoyed this project and wanted to make a difference for pollinators like the Mason Bee. He thereby reached out to his papa one weekend when we were visiting to procure the wood he would need to make a half dozen nesting boxes. He brought the cut pieces home and began to construct the boxes. He sanded down the rough edges, nailed the pieces together, and finally filled the interior space with nesting material.

Geneva had borrowed a book from the library some time ago, Terrarium Craft, and was intrigued with both the simplicity and beauty. When we began to plan our booth space for the Earth Day fair, she expressed interest in creating terrariums similar to those she had enjoyed in the book. She thereafter ordered a variety of air plants and a half dozen glass terrariums from wholesale vendors online.

Teaching Our Kids About Money: Developing Entrepreneurs @EvaVarga.net

As an extension of our nature studies, Geneva created several beautiful glass terrariums and was also very successful selling these at the Earth Day festival.

There are thousands of ways to make money doing something you love. As we listened to the book Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze in August, we spent time brainstorming more ideas for each of our kids – ideas that they were both capable of doing and that were of interest to them. Here’s just a few of the services and products that they came up with:

  • Babysitting
  • Pet Care
  • Insect Hotels
  • Terrariums
  • Yard Maintenance
  • Auto Detailing
  • Play Piano at a Dinner Party
  • Baked Goods (cupcakes, cookies, etc.)
  • Wild Organic Herbs
  • Create an iPhone App
  • Upcycle

Many of their ideas require very little startup costs. I am particularly impressed with their creativity. Regardless of what avenue they choose, I encouraged them to use a notebook to keep track of their progress.

After listening to Smart Money Smart Kids and our family brainstorm in early August, Geneva has grabbed onto an idea and has shown remarkable resolve. She won’t allow me to reveal what she is working on but I can share a few of the steps she has taken in pursuit of her new passion.

She set up a binder to keep track of everything including the name and the graphics she has created for her business, a list of products she plans to offer, market research she has done (comparable prices, etc.), materials needed, and of course, expenses.

As part of her market research, she created a survey using Google Docs and spent a morning at a local farmer’s market to poll the community. While she wasn’t able to use an electronic device as planned (no wifi), she sat down later and entered all their responses by hand into the document to create a spreadsheet of her results. As an introvert, I was very impressed that she followed through. I can’t wait to see how far she takes her project!

 

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books

From fly tying and whips to architecture and Lego, passion projects don’t just provide educational value, they fuel students to take control of their education.

Passion Projects, or how we have come to refer to the independent study projects that my children have pursued over the years, are an excellent opportunity for middle and high school students to invest in themselves.

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books @EvaVarga.net Many thanks to DK Publishing for providing these books to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.

Passion Projects build a sense of ownership, improve communication skills, help develop research skills, and encourage entrepreneurship. It is not unusual for children to also have a variety of interests.

My son, for example, is passionate about Lego, Minecraft, aeronautics (as well as container ships and trains), and music. Some weeks he will devote his leisure time solely to music theory and composition. The following week, he’ll move on to Lego and spend hours building models and redesigning his Lego city.

This summer, I wanted to find a book for each of my children that not only complemented their interests but also really inspired them to take their passion projects to the next level. DK Books provides a wonderful selection of books providing inspiration to middle and high school students.

Lego Architecture: The Visual Guide

For my son, I selected LEGO Architecture: the Visual Guide by Philip Wilkinson. The book comes in an extremely durable slipcover with glossy matte finish and Lego artwork.

Each of the twenty-two offerings in the Lego Architecture line get their own section. Each also includes interesting information about the design and  many photographs of the complete piece, each from different angles. Footnotes provide additional tidbits about the design process.

You also get photos of the real architectural structure the Lego set was patterned after. There is a side by side comparison of the real thing with the Lego version, and also a history of the building and its chief designer(s).

My son has poured over this book for hours on multiple occasions. He shared, “Mom, this book is really cool. It helps me get an idea for how I want to design my Lego city buildings.”

Sketch Book for the Artist

For my daughter, I selected Sketch Book for the Artist by Sarah Simblet. My daughter has always been interested in art and in recent months has devoted considerable time to improving her drawing skills. She has watched video tutorials on YouTube, taken online illustration classes, and worked diligently in her own sketch books.

She has been delighted with Sketch Book for the Artist. The book shows many of the author’s works and is also beautifully illustrated with inspirational and exemplary works by significant artists from the Reniassance to the current era.

A variety of mediums including pencil (graphite), pen and ink, chalk, etc. are well represented. The reproductions are great and help create new ideas and directions. The author also gives tips as well as suggested exercises for improving your own skills.

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books @EvaVarga.netGetting Started

Passion Projects work well in a public or private school classroom as well. Here, students are asked to complete a mini-research project on the topic of their choice and are given an hour each school day to work on their projects. This hour is sometimes referred to as the Genius Hour. Because the topics are selected by the students, they truly enjoy the research process and presenting their findings.

Getting started is easy. Ask your children or students about the passions they already have:

  • What do you want to know more about or learn how to do?
  • How does that passion inspire you when things are tough?
  • In what ways can your passion inspire others? Who do you want to help?
  • Can you be inspired to learn more about another’s passion?

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books

Whatever topic your child chooses to pursue, you’ll surely find resources and books from DK Publishing. Whether their interests are related to art, cooking, or super heroes, you’ll surely find something for everyone.