Looking Back on My Years with VIPKID

Nearly two years ago, I signed my first contract with VIPKID. My original intent was simply to make a little extra money.  Our family aimed to live a debt-free life and we were intent on paying off our mortgage.

I also expected to develop a broader perspective of the world of education. Yet, I had no idea just how much it would change my life. While it started out as a side hustle to earn extra cash, I have fallen in love with teaching all over again.

Rediscovery

I first began my teaching career as a student teacher when I was yet in college. Since then, I have volunteered to teach aboard (summer 1993 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico), served as an elementary science specialist,  and taught every grade but high school. I have been a substitute teacher and currently teach professional development courses online for other educators.

I have taught homeschool co-ops and have lead hundreds of students on nature walks. I have also worked in informal education settings – teaching natural sciences at the estuarine reserve and marine life center. And would you believe, I am now my son’s Scoutmaster?! 

I have focused so much of my energies on homeschooling my own children in recent years that I have missed having direct interaction with students and the fulfillment that comes from cultivating those relationships. VIPKid has helped me rediscover this joy. 

I don’t invest my time and energy into something just because it’s a job. I do it because it’s my passion. I must admit though, working from home in the comfort of my favorite pair of leggings is pretty hard to beat. 

Personal notes from my students

Building relationships

To build a rapport with my students, I generally spend the first few minutes of the class intentionally getting to know my students. This is especially important with students I have not taught before. I ask probing questions to learn about their interests. 

As I leave feedback for parents, I ask for input about how I can customize  lessons to better suit their child. I am a more effective if I am able to make the lessons more personal. I believe strongly that this personal touch and extra care for the families with whom I interact has helped me to develop a close friendship with several of the parents of my students.

Through conversations we have shared over time, either through the VIPKid platform or through WeChat,  we have discussed not only their child’s education, but we have also shared insights about our unique cultures, traditions, and beliefs.

My own children have been learning Mandarin Chinese since they were in preschool and as a family, we traveled to China in 2013.  I am familiar with the culture yet the relationships I have developed with my VIPKid families has enriched my life exponentially.

Are you seeking employment?

If you have a bachelor’s degree (no matter the content area) and experience working with children, I strongly encourage you to consider VIPKid. The hiring process has been simplified and there are a wealth of resources to help you get started.

I would love to help coach you along the way. My personal referral code is EVA000007 – reach out to me with any questions.

Using Teaching Textbooks for SAT Prep

My daughter plans to take the SAT exam this summer. However, she feels that she is rusty and needs to brush up on her math skills. We thereby wanted to an SAT prep course to freshen her memory on concepts taught in algebra and pre-calculus.

As most of my readers know, my kids are dual enrolled at the local community college. I thereby spend more time in the role of chauffeur than as teacher. In fact, I do very little direct instruction with either of them anymore.

My daughter has been taking courses full time at the college for two years now and has just completed the first year calculus course. She has done very well and this fall, she will begin tutoring.

It was thereby a surprise when her first SAT scores came back last year. She took the exam twice (once in the fall and again in spring) and yet her math score remained the same. Though she surpassed the benchmark, she didn’t feel it was a true reflection of her ability. After all, math is her favorite subject (next to foreign languages) and she excels in the classroom.

She has thereby challenged herself to take the SAT a third time at the end of the summer. In order to brush up on the skills tested on the SAT, she wanted an SAT prep online program she could use at her pace – to set her own schedule and course plan to help her review and practice. Teaching Textbooks is a math curriculum designed for independent learners – perfect for her! Best of all, the first 15 lessons of any level are free. Try one level or every level with no obligation with this link, Teaching Textbooks.

I received access to this product in exchange for a review. I was compensated for my time and was not required to make a positive review.

Homeschool SAT Prep

One of the main features of Teaching Textbooks is that it provides step-by-step explanations for every single problem in a multimedia form. The lessons are written directly to the student and do not assume the presence of a teacher.

Students can thereby work through the material independently in just three easy steps: watch the video tutorial, do the practice problems, and if you error, an audio tutor explanations the solutions.  The explanations are clear and complete and plenty of practical examples are provided throughout the curricula.

The program is very easy to use. Teaching Textbooks is a particularly good choice for the student who might have struggled with other math programs and needs a less pressured pace and style of delivery. While my daughter does not struggle, she likes that she can move along at her own pace and even skip sections when she is comfortable with the material.

Though it is not considered a specific SAT prep course aimed at testing strategies and SAT question format, it provides practice with the content of high school level coursework. We opted for Pre-Calculus but the high school courses also include Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry.

Her test isn’t until the end of August so we do not yet know her newest score. However, she is enjoying the program and has expressed that she feels more confident.

At the college, she has alternated between two professors and had become accustomed to their word choice and approach. She states that the vocabulary and the specific wording of the problems in Teaching Textbooks has challenged her to more carefully analyze each question. It has also given her practice with another approach to solving each problem.

Regardless of what her score may reflect, her comfort with the material is what is important. As a tutor, this flexibility and confidence will serve her well.

Online Learning Improved

Teaching Textbooks now works a little differently than previous 2.0 versions. The academic content is the same as always but the course is now delivered online as a 12-month subscription. Also, physical books have been replaced by eBooks. No more discs!

The 3.0 version of Teaching Textbooks course material is easy to access from computers, tablets, or phones. This makes it easy to access from anywhere! If you prefer a more traditional textbook, an electronic textbook is available and includes a printing option.

Because all of the content in 3.0 is available online, the price is significantly lower. With 3.0, you purchase a yearly (12-month) subscription for one child and one course. Large-family discounts (for families with four to eight students) are also available.

Teaching Textbooks Giveaway

You can find placement tests on the publisher’s website to guide you in selecting the appropriate course. The series is a college prep curriculum though it is not as rigorous as some other courses.

NOTE: The Free trial does not require a credit card and does work for the first 15 lessons with no time limit. You may try any level or all of the levels.

Because we were using the course to review for the SAT exam, we were not concerned with the grading options. However, I was intrigued to discover that grades can be accessed anytime from anywhere (even after a subscription has ended).

Celebrate America’s Independence and Explore the Science of Fireworks

With Independence Day upon us this week, the fireworks stands are popping up all over town.  With the dry weather and heat wave many are experiencing this year, I am confidant many cities will be enforcing strict prohibitions against fireworks.  Why not then take the time to explore the science of fireworks and perhaps try making a few simple ones yourself?

Learn about the science of fireworks with this awesome video. How do fireworks work? Where do the cool colors come from? What makes the big explosions?

Creating firework colors requires considerable art and application of science. Excluding propellants or special effects, the points of light ejected from fireworks, termed ‘stars’, generally require an oxygen-producer, fuel, binder (to keep everything where it needs to be), and a color producer.

The bright colors visible when fireworks explode are a result of pyrotechnic stars —pellets of chemicals that generate certain colors or produce sparking effects when burned. When the bursting charge is ignited, the main fuel explodes first, transferring energy to the colorant chemicals, which prompts these chemicals’ electrons to move into an excited state. Then, moments later, when the colorant chemicals cool and the electrons fall back to their base state, they release the extra energy as colorful radiation when they are flying through the sky. The specific color depends on the chemical:
fireworks
To achieve unusually-shaped fireworks, such as double-rings, hearts or stars, technicians pack the fuel and colorant chemicals inside a tube in different formations. Chemists design fireworks to burn as slowly as possible, rather than explode rapidly – a slower burn means that a visual effect will last longer and cover a greater area of the sky. To achieve this, the fuel and oxidizer chemicals used are relatively large-grained, about the size of a grain of sand. Additionally, chemists avoid mixing the fuel and oxidizer together thoroughly, making it more difficult for them to burn.

Flame Photometry

If you wish to delve into the science of fireworks even further, consider undertaking flame photometry experiments.  Rainbow Fire, is an exciting activity kit that you may wish to consider; it is available for purchase at Science Buddies. The necessary materials and the experimental procedure are outlined for you on their website.  Of course, adult supervision is required.  The four chemicals used in the kit are:

  • Copper sulfate
  • Strontium chloride
  • Boric acid
  • Sodium chloride

Things to Ponder

  • How are the colors produced by a chemical when it burns related to the atomic structure of the chemical?
  • What is flame spectrometry and how is it used by physicists and chemists?
  • How does this science project relate to what astronomers do when they are trying to identify the atomic makeup of a star?
  • What are metal ions? In the chemicals used in this science project, which elements in the compounds are metals?

Black Snake Fireworks

Do you remember watching long carbon worms emerge from growing tablets our parents lit with matches on the 4th of July?  For a simple do-it-yourself recipe, a homemade black snake is sure to delight.

CTCMath & College Prep

My son started dual enrollment at the community college this past fall. The assessment test placed him in Intermediate Algebra. I felt confidant that all would be well – after all, his sister had forged the same trail two years prior.

Things didn’t go quite as planned however. He struggled to manage his time well and follow through on the homework. We thereby decided that he should repeat the course. He improved the second term, particularly in the latter part of the term.

This term, however, the instructor he wanted to take was not teaching the next course. He thereby opted to wait until Fall. Yet, I wasn’t comfortable skipping two terms of instruction time for fear he would slip back after the gains he has made.

I received access to this product in exchange for a review. I was compensated for my time and was not required to make a positive review.

Teen boy using CTCMath online math program with text overlay CTCMath & College Prep

CTCMath College Prep

When I discovered CTCMath I was immediately intrigued. I loved that the concepts were introduced with video tutorials. My son is a visual learner and excels when material is presented in this way.

CTCMath video tutorials are perfect because as my son puts it, “They are S cubed!” Simple – there is no gimmick designed to entertain which he finds annoying (let’s be honest, he often finds ME annoying!), Short – each video ranges between 4 to 9 minutes, andStep-by-Step – the problem solving method is explained succinctly and clearly.

The CTCMath video tutorials also use synchronized audio and animation which harnesses both audio and visual learning styles simultaneously.

He especially likes to skip forward or speed through the concepts he understands. Often, he’ll jump right to the practice problems and only refer back to the videos when he gets stuck.

We have been using CTCMath for a short time and I’m already seeing his confidence grow. Thus far, he has been skipping around and trying out concepts that he is both familiar with (polynomials and simplifying equations) and even challenging himself with higher trigonometry concepts.

Parental Support within CTCMath

I also like the detailed summary report that is provided. It’s broken down by course and can also be download as a PDF if, for example, I needed to provided documentation to a learning partner or charter school.

I like that there is also an optional worksheet that he can download and print out for extra practice. Upon entering his answers into the online portal, the solutions are shown to help him identify where he went wrong.

My son was interested in the Speed Skills activities. Unfortunately, these skills do not exceed level four, order of operations. As he played around with this, he decided it wasn’t as useful as he had hoped.

As we continue to progress, I am excited to try out the tasks (where I can assign specific problem sets). I want him to review concepts he struggled with previously and then also begin to work through the material he will encounter in the college course this fall. I am confident that his confidence will continue to grow and he will rediscover the joy of math he had in elementary school.

Want to try CTCMath in your homeschool?

If you have multiple children or simply want a budget friendly curriculum, CTCMath is perfect! As a homeschooler, you can receive a massive 60% discount off of the regular price.

Better yet, if you purchase any 12 Month Membership and receive a bonus 6 months for FREE! That’s a total of 18 months of online math instruction for under $7 a month!

Purchase a 12 Month Membership Here

Still not convinced? You can test CTCMath before purchasing. Simply sign up for the FREE CTCMath trial and check it out before you commit.

CTCMath Giveaway!

Right now, CTCMath is also doing a giveaway! One lucky family will have a chance to win a free one year membership for their homeschool. You can enter below. Best of luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Science with Harry Potter: The Magic of Motion (Physics)

Charms is a core class and subject taught at both Hogwarts and  Ilvermorny Schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is a required subject for all students. Throughout the course, students learn specific wand movements and proper pronunciation of the charms outlined in their course texts.

Levitation

You don’t need a magic wand to create levitating objects. Simple gather a few things from around the house and you will be underway.

1. Levitating Ping Pong Ball

You only need two things to perform this science experiment.

  • Ping pong ball
  • Drinking straw (preferably a bendy straw)

Procedure:

  1. For the best results, use a bendy straw instead of a regular straight straw. Bend the neck 90 degrees so it points straight up. While holding the straw with one hand, hold the ping pong ball over the end.
  2. Blow a constant breath of air into the straw under the ping pong ball.  If the air pressure is strong enough, it will lift the ball off the tip of the straw and the ball should be able to float at least one inch off the straw.

How does it work? Simply put, it’s air pressure.  The air coming from the straw is moving faster than the air around it, and this means that it also has a lower air pressure than the air around it.  The ball is kept within the column of lower air pressure because of the higher-pressure air surrounding it.

2. Static Flyers

In this experiment, if you know how static electricity works, you can make the students at Hogwart’s envy your skills. Here’s a great TEDEd video to get you started, The Science of Static Electricity.

  • Plastic produce bag
  • Balloon
  • Cotton towel

Procedure:

  1. Use a pair of scissors to cut a strip from the open end of the produce bag. Once the strip is cut, you should have a large plastic band.
  2. Blow up the balloon to its full size and tie off the opening end. Rub the the surface of the balloon for 1 minute with the cotton towel.
  3. Flatten the plastic band on the table surface and gently rub the towel on the band for 1 minute.
  4. Hold the plastic band about one foot over the balloon and let go. The plastic band should levitate.

How does it work?

Rubbing the towel against the balloon and the plastic band transfers a negative charge to both objects. The band floats above the balloon because the like charges repel one another. If you really want to impress someone, just tell them that it’s a demonstration of “electrostatic propulsion and the repulsion of like charge.”

In a related demonstration you may have tried picking up small pieces of paper confetti with a charged balloon. Though the paper isn’t charged, it is attracted to the balloon because the negative charge on the balloon repels the electrons in the paper, making them (on average) farther from the balloon’s charge than are the positive charges in the paper.

As something gets farther away, the electrical forces decrease in strength. Therefore, the attraction between the negatives and positives is stronger than the repulsion between the negatives and negatives. This leads to an overall attraction. The paper is said to have an induced charge.

3. Levitating Spiral Orb

One more fun activity is the Levitating Orb. For this one, you’ll need:

  • PVC Tube about 60cm long (a regular balloon will also work)
  • Mylar tinsel (typically used to decorate Christmas trees)
  • Cotton towel (or your clean hair)
  1. Arrange 6 strands of mylar together and tie them together in a knot at one end. Do the same at the opposite end (each knot should be about 15 cm apart). Cut off any excess strands on the ends that protrude beyond the knot.
  2. Charge the PVC tube by rubbing the towel back and forth along the length of the tube for about 30 seconds.
  3. Hold the mylar orb (by the knot) above the charged tube and let it drop and touch the tube.
  4. It should repel away and start floating. If the tinsel keeps sticking to the tube, the tinsel is probably not thin enough and you will need to try another kind of tinsel. You will also need to “recharge” the tube each time.

Projectile Motion

In the Harry Potter movie The Sorcerer’s Stone, Malfoy throws Neville’s remembrall and Harry races after it, making a spectacular catch (all while flying on broomsticks).

Magical Motion ~ Using this film as a starting point, students are immersed in concepts related to projectile motion. They explore the relationships between displacement, velocity, and acceleration.

Projectile Magic ~ In the next lesson, they learn to use equations of linear motion to describe the behavior of a system as a function of time.

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)

Alchemy Astronomy & Divination (Geology)

Magical Motion (Physics) – this post

Homeschooling High School: GPAs and Transcripts

My daughter is a junior in high school this year and has begun to apply for scholarships and is considering early admission to the university. As the year begins to wind down, we are giving more thought to her high transcript.

Teen girl holding hands in shape of peace symbol with text overlay "GPAs and Transcripts", magnolia tree in bloom in background

Many homeschool families get stressed by this aspect of homeschooling and fear the university will not accept a “homemade” transcript. The process of calculating your child’s GPA and creating a transcript is not difficult. There are many tutorials online to help guide you through this process.

Through our research – talking to local high school teachers and admissions counselors at our state universities – we have found it is best for high schoolers to use an unweighted GPA. In other words:

  • A’s receive a 4.0
  • B’s receive a 3.0
  • C’s receive a 2.0

I strongly suggest that the course be taken over again if the student earns anything lower than a C. Though our preference is to keep it simple, you can use half-points or quarter-points if you want to use a plus/minus grade system.

However, as many of the courses my daughter has taken are dual-enrollment course at the local community college, I opted to not use letter grades on her high school transcript. Instead, we will use a mastery approach. We do not consider a course complete until the material is mastered at the appropriate level.

The Core Courses

To apply for admission to a university in Oregon, the courses that students must have completed are outlined as:

  • Language Arts – 4 years (12 trimester credits)
  • Math – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • Science – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • Social Studies – 3 years (9 trimester credits)
  • World Languages – 2 years (6 trimester credits)

In a future post, I will share more details about the language requirement and different avenues by which to fulfill it as homeschoolers.

What About those Electives?

In addition to the student’s GPA, admission requirements also assess student preparedness and academic potential by looking at the unique context of each student’s personal experience.  Academic performance is not the sole criterion and successful applicants demonstrate a wide range of passions and life experiences.

Teens have many different interests and as they pursue their passions, homeschool parents often wonder how they might translate these hours onto a transcript. I previously wrote a post detailing the ABCs of High School Electives and provide a peak into how this can be done easily.

Academic Rigor

Often homeschool families and/or high schools will weight the GPA because they want to show that students with a weighted grade have completed an academically rigorous course (as in 5.0 for a rigorous course instead of 4.0).

However, it is much easier and more effective to show academic rigor by simply including the level of rigor in the title of the course on the transcript. For example, if your homeschool high schooler completed an honors level language arts course their senior year, the transcript might say: English Language Arts IV (Honors).

Please note that the College Board owns the term AP, so all courses that call themselves such must have approval. However, students may prepare for and take AP exams without having completed an approved AP course. It is important to confer with the university of choice whether they will accept AP exams for university credit.

For more information on homeschooling high school transcripts, two of my favorite resources by fellow homeschoolers are:

The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Unschooling High School Transcript from Joan Concilo at Unschool Rules

Do You Make This Big Homeschooling High School Transcript Mistake? from Heather at Blog, She Wrote