Finishing Strong #130: Middle School Curriculum & Traditions

Welcome 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-500x500I am delighted that families homeschooling middle and high school age students are coming together and finding inspiration in one another. That has been the goal of Finishing Strong since its inception. Thank you!!

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

I know you will find the posts that have been shared with us inspiring! Grab a cup of tea, kick back, and take some time to check out the wonderful posts shared below. What are your favorites

riparian area studyEcology Studies for Middle School

As the kids have grown and become more independent in their studies, the delivery of lessons has also changed. I no longer coordinate a STEM Club for my kiddos but I do periodically teach lessons to my son’s boy scout troop as part of their rank requirements or for a merit badge.

In the post, The Many Parts of a Streambank, I share an activity I recently taught in which we learned about the ecology of a stream bank. One of their favorite parts of this lesson was calculated the stream flow rate.

In the month of September, each Sunday I will share a post relaying the activities I used to teach the Environmental Science and Soil & Water Conservation merit badges. Follow along to put together a  Ecology unit for your middle school students.


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.

The top posts shared last week

Below are a couple of the posts I most enjoyed from last week. Additionally, we celebrate our first tie – two posts each received the most clicks. How cool is that?!8th Grade CurriculumOur 8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

from Megan at Education Possible ~ I love the literature Megan and her daughter Marianna have selected for history. I hadn’t previously considered a literature based study but now I am so intrigued. I want to put something together of ourselves.

7th Grade CurriculumOur 7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

from Michelle at Freely Learned ~ She and her son are using Writing & Rhetoric books 7 and 8 – just like my son. I look forward to following along.

5 Days of STEM Activities – Solar Cars

from Pat of Pat and Candy ~ This first post from a series of 5 is a review of a kit from Pitsco Education. She walks you through their experience … these little cars look like a lot of fun! I look forward to reading the other STEM posts in her series.

Back to School Traditions for Middle School Homeschoolers

from Latonya at Joy in the Ordinary ~ Latonya shares several ideas for new back-to-school traditions. I particularly liked the time allocation chart and will most certainly be adding this into our lessons – perhaps on a quarterly basis to just check in. As she says, we [both students and adults] “aren’t always cognizant of the ways that they use their time…”

@ @ @

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

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years


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.

 

Science with Harry Potter: Potions (Chemistry)

Potions have always been essential in magic. Stories of witches tell of brewing magical drinks that turn men into mindless animals, restore youth, and make the drinker invisible. Other potions caused false emotion to be created such as when Ron Weasley declares his Love Potion-induced feelings for Romilda Vane.

I don’t expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making… I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.” ~ Professor Severus Snape

First year students will learn many skills that will be important for potion making. Advanced students will apply these skills to the development of a Marauder’s map and wizard wands.

Science with Harry Potter: Potions @EvaVarga.netA wizard or witch who specializes in potion brewing is known as a potioneer or a potions master.

In this course, students are expected to keep a journal to record what has been done (including ingredients, procedures, spells, chants, etc) and reflect upon what was learned.

Print a periodic table of the elements and put it into your notebook. On the facing page sketch out elements 1-10, use color-coding for protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Potions

Knowledge of potions and charms is a powerful weapon against dark forces. Learn about ions, ionic and covalent bonds, and compounds. Write the definitions in your notebook.

Prepare each of the potions described below and record your observations. Illustrate as desired.

Potion 1: Goblin Slobber

Goblin slobber is a potion which is particularly effective against being followed through woods and caves. Just drip some goblin slobber on the path behind you and anything that is chasing you will be driven away.

  • One flask of water
  • ¼ measure instant goblin slobber(dehydrated)
  • 1 full measure Manticore milk
  • 1 full measure water
  • 3 drops goblin blood

Cauldron (mixing bowl will do if you have not yet received your cauldron)

1. Rehydrate the goblin slobber:Pour the instant goblin slobber into the flask of water. Stir briskly with wand to dissolve while chanting “soluloso aqualitem.” Repeat until fully dissolved.

2. Into the manticore milk pour the measure of water and the goblin blood and stir, repeating incantation.

3. The final step is to pour the two solutions into the cauldron and stir well chanting “goblinatum sloberosum.” You may need to adjust the quantities, so add them slowly.

Muggles will know these ingredients as: Instant goblin slobber= Borax. Manticore milk= Elmer’s glue. Goblin blood= green food coloring. flask=quart, measure=cup

Potion 2: Muggle Paper

This bright yellow potion gives you the ability to detect whether someone is muggle or magic.

  • 1 vial nettle nectar
  • 1/4 vial (approx) ground dragon scale
  • filter paper
  • Veritaserum

1. Put your filter paper into the cauldron.

2. Dissolve the ground dragon scale into the nettle nectar, shaking well to dissolve.

3. Pour over top of paper, allowing it to soak in well.

4. Remove paper from cauldron and hang to dry. Dust off any left over dragon scale.

5. Once paper is dry, dip right hand into Veritaserum (pour it into a bowl) and place directly onto paper with a slap.

6. Your true bloodline will be revealed!

Muggles will know these ingredients as: Nettle nectar= rubbing alcohol, ground dragon scale= turmeric, and veritaserum= baking soda and water solution.

Potion 3: Instant Ocean

This potion is very useful for creating a peaceful seaside vacation atmosphere in a small space. If made properly you can see the tiny waves and sea-foam inside the flask. This potion should be done in a place where messes are not a problem in case of sloppy magic by first year students. A calming charm may be needed in case of storms at sea.

  • Narrow-necked flask
  • 2 vials Midsummer Dewdrops
  • 1/2 dribble Kraken slime
  • 3-4 drops of Squeaking-Squid ink
  • 1 teaspoon Pulverized Narwhal Horn dissolved in ~2 tablespoons very warm water
  • Funnel
  • Large Cauldron

1. Stand flask in cauldron with funnel in top

2. Add 3-4 drops of squid ink to the Midsummer dew, shake well to mix

3. pour through the funnel into the flask

4. Add the Kraken slime to the mixture in the flask.

5. Pour the narwhal horn mixture into the bottle and remove the funnel.

Muggles will know these ingredients by their common names: hydrogen peroxide, dawn detergent (preferably green), blue food coloring, and yeast.

Marauder’s Map

In the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, what first appears to be a blank piece of parchment becomes a magical Marauder’s Map. In this lesson, students create their own invisible inks, they learn what acids, bases and indicators are and how they can be used.

Begin by drawing a pH scale in your notebook. Use your “muggle” paper (created with Potion 2) to test a variety of substances around the house (vinegar, wine, lemon juice, baking soda, cola, bleach, ammonia, milk, etc). Make a table in your notebook showing your results. If you have litmus papers you can use them as well.

With your knowledge of acids and bases, create a map of your own using an ink you have devised.

Wizard Wands

Wands have been mentioned throughout time. Popular fantasy stories from a variety of origins have featured characters using wands. It could thereby be reasoned that Ollivander’s (makers of fine wands since 382 B.C.) had provided them.

To begin, learn about molecules and sketch several in your notebook (water, carbon dioxide, methane, glucose, etc.) Consider making models with gum drops or balls of clay and toothpicks.

There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. ” ~ Professor Snape on Potions class

Explosive Enterprises is a line of fireworks sold at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. This group of fireworks included the original Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-Bangs as well as a variety of new and creative pyrotechnic products created by Fred Weasley and his twin brother George.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry) – this post

Alchemy & Divination (Geology)

Magical Motion (Physics)

Science with Harry Potter: Herbology – The study of plants and fungi (Botany)

Herbology is the study of magical and mundane plants and fungi. It is a core class and subject taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the first five years of a student’s education.

herbology

Herbology

Throughout each term, students learn to care for plants as well as learn about their magical properties and how they may be used medicinally. The further into a student’s education the more difficult and dangerous the plants become.

“Three times a week they went out to the greenhouses behind the castle to study Herbology, with a dumpy little witch called Professor Sprout, where they learned how to take care of strange plants and fungi, and found out what they were used for.” ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

All first year students are required to familiarize themselves with the herbs listed below.

  • Chamomile
  • Tarragon
  • Yarrow
  • Caraway
  • Horseradish
  • Dill
  • Aloe Vera
  • Silver Birch
  • Garlic
  • Tumeric

herbologyAs students work through their self-guided journey, they are required to keep a field notebook in which a two-page spread is created for each plant or fungi studied. Each spread is required to include the following information:

  1. Give common name as well as Latin names (genus and species) and family
  2. Press a specimen of the plant (if possible)
  3. Make a sketch of the plant, colored appropriately
  4. Label key parts of the plant, pointing out important features
  5. Explain its cultivation and care
  6. Give a brief natural history of the plant (describe growth cycle, natural range, etc.)
  7. List its household and medicinal uses both presently and historically
  8. Describe its magical properties (if any)

Take it Further

Enjoy a cup of Chamomile tea before bedtime or a glass of birch beer with your noonday meal.

Explore the many wildcrafting and herbal remedies described at Learning Herbs.

Enjoy the fun board game, Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure.

Research the native plants in your local area and learn how native peoples used them for food and medicine.

Visit a native elder, if possible, and learn to how to harvest and prepare these plants for personal use.

As you advance in your studies, be sure to add each new plant to your journal.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany) – this post

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry)

Alchemy & Divination (Geology)

Magical Motion (Physics)

Finishing Strong: High School Science Edition

Understanding science is necessary in the modern world. It is a key part of understanding breaking news, interacting with our planet, choosing and using technology, and even making healthcare decisions. Therefore, high school science prepares students for their adult life regardless of the career path they choose.

According to conventional wisdom, teaching science at the high school level is really hard, intense, and definitely not fun. Most likely, you may have serious doubts about your ability to offer a high school level science course at home.

finishingstrong9_28

Welcome 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.

integrating-science-inquiryThis week, I would like to highlight posts that were shared last week that focus on teaching science at the high school level. Teaching science at the high school level should not rely solely on reading a textbook and doing the accompanying lab activities. Quality science instruction should provide opportunity for students to ask questions and thereby develop investigations to pursue answers to their questions.

I would thereby like to encourage homeschool educators to take a look at the course, Integrating Inquiry for Educators. This is a fabulous online course offered through Cornell University and Bird Sleuth that walks participants through the process of using an inquiry approach to science.


Finishing Strong Favorites

My daughter has started high school and thus, I am more cognizant of what material we cover over the course of the school year. Ann’s post, The Complete Guide to High School Course Descriptions for Homeschoolers, is thereby very helpful. It is not a surprise that her post received the most clicks last week.

altTeaching science is not always easy. It takes time to gather the necessary materials and to set up lab experiences. For many, dissection in high school biology makes them squeamish. Cindy outlines How to Teach High School Dissection in 5 Easy Steps.

“altHeidi’s post, 10 Secular Science Curriculum Options provides a great springboard if you are looking for material from a secular perspective. If you have used any of the materials she lists, I would love to hear your thoughts. Which do you like best? least? Why?

“alt


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


The Evolution of STEM to STEAM: A Book Review & Activity Resources

When I was teaching full time, there was a big push to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering, and math courses and ultimately encourage youth to pursue these careers. In fact, I was hired as an elementary science specialist and was responsible for the science instruction of over 330 students in 4th – 6th grades. In this role, I discovered my true passion … science education.

The Evolution of STEM to STEAM @EvaVarga.netThe Push for STEM

STEM arose from the desire of policy makers to encourage the natural curiosity of youth and their sense of wonder about these fields. These experts say our young people need strong STEM skills to compete in the world market. We must work together to cultivate the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators.

The US Department of Education reports that the number of STEM / STEAM jobs in the United States will grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020, growth that the is “much faster “ than the national average of 5-8% across all job sectors. Computer programming and IT jobs top the list of the the hardest to fill jobs and yet they are not the most popular college majors.

With this push for STEM programs and my broad work experiences, I have written extensively about STEM concepts. For several years, I coordinated a STEM Club for homeschool kids in our local area and shared many our activities here with you.

STEAM is the Future

The inclusion of the arts component into STEM makes it more fun to learn, and more approachable to kids. Arts and creativity are crucial to these fields and are the tool that allows technology to be usable in real life.

STEAM represents a paradigm shift from traditional education philosophy, based on standardized test scores, to a modern ideal which focuses on valuing the learning process as much as the results. The arts are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.

Fostering a strong STEAM education is our best opportunity to boost the spirit of innovation. It’s what we need to help ensure we continue on a prosperous and secure journey. STEAM literacy is also critical because it has a profound and growing impact on our day-to-day lives. Nature, space exploration, the arts, and any STEAM-related interest reveals to us the beauty and power of the world we inhabit.

steam-kidsSTEAM Kids

I am excited to share with you all a fabulous new book by a group of homeschool moms and science advocates, STEAM Kids: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Hands-on Projects for Kids. They authors have pulled their collective experience and wisdom to provide you with a wealth of fun activities young children will LOVE!

They have just launched and I am delighted to have been given a sneak peak at STEAM Kids in exchange for an honest review. I encourage you to take a peak – I know you’ll love it, too. Over 140 pages of fun hands-on STEAM related activities for young children.

If you’re looking for great hands on activities that encourage children to develop their creative abilities while building upon their skills, STEAM Kids is the answer. Teachers and parents alike will find plenty of ideas to captivate young kids and immerse them in an engaging learning environment.

Like what you see? The STEAM Kids ebook is available for just $14.99!  If you have older kids, consider purchasing copies to give as gifts. One activity a week fully outlined using materials easily found around the house for less than 30¢ a week. You can’t go wrong!

steam-halloweenThat’s not all! During launch week (9/14-9/21), you will also received their STEAM Kids: Halloween activity book free. Thereafter, it will be available for $4.99 so don’t delay. Inside you’ll find 59 pages filled with spooky and sweet Halloween activities perfect for the classroom or at home. Things like pumpkin brush bots, spider web science, Halloween building challenges and more.

As an little expression of gratitude, they’ve also created a FREE Printable highlighting 52 weeks of STEAM activities.