The Perks of an Umbrella School vs. Remaining Independent

At one time or another, many homeschool families examine the possibility of enrolling in an umbrella or cyber school. An umbrella school is a homeschool program operated by public charter schools or directly by regular public schools. We can be counted amongst them.

I eluded to this briefly on a Facebook post in October but have yet to elaborate on our decision until now. I suppose I wanted to give it some time to see how well the administration followed up on their promises. When we lived in California, we tried a charter school for a term but withdrew as we felt we had been misled and the kids spent an inordinate amount of time undertaking one standardized test or another – rarely engaging in the enrichment opportunities we had been promised. Other than this short blip, we had always homeschooled independently.

I am not opposed to public education. I am in fact, a certified teacher. Before beginning a family of my own, I taught full-time. I continue to work in the school system today as a substitute teacher and home tutor. I am an advocate for choice and have always advised those who have asked my opinion to forge their own path.

homeschool teen using ipad with text: The Perks of an Umbrella School @EvaVarga.netOur Homeschool Evolution

A year after we moved back to Oregon, we again began to consider the possibility of enrolling in a charter school. A friend of my daughter (a homeschool teen) informed us she had done so but would be taking all her coursework at the college. “They will cover all my tuition costs,” she explained. “I can do my high school work all online whenever I wish.” 

When we looked into it, we learned that while her statement was true, they wouldn’t be able to continue swimming on our local high school swim team. In Oregon, homeschooled students are permitted to take part in extra-curricular activities including sports with the permission of the principal. While our resident district would allow homeschooled students to participate, they would not permit students enrolled at another school. Being a part of the team was important to my daughter, or so she believed at the time, so we tabled the discussion.

As the 2016-17 school year came to a close, both of my children began to lose interest in swim team. While this is a topic for another post, their decision to close that chapter of their lives lead to new opportunities.

When we began to re-consider, my daughter had already earned 24 college credits which we had paid for out of pocket. It was important for us that she continue to have this opportunity. Our local high school didn’t generally allow students to begin dual enrollment coursework until their junior or senior year. As a high school sophomore, I wanted to assure she would be able to continue the path we had begun independently.

Benefits of a Partnership

There are a variety of advantages cited by homeschoolers choosing to participate in a charter school. Amongst them are the accredited high school diploma, access to enrichment classes, a laptop computer or chrome book, Internet access, software, textbooks, and support by certified teachers – of course these benefits vary by institution.

Often, charter schools offer expeditionary, project-based learning that the district-based school does not. Though publicly funded, their independence allows them to offer specialized courses and approaches that neighborhood schools can not.

The biggest plus for partnering with the school we chose was that my daughter’s tuition costs at the college would be paid (up to 12 credits per term). In essence, she would be able to earn her associate’s degree while also fulfilling high school graduation requirements. Two years of college, paid for. That’s too big a carrot to not give it a try.

I was also assured that their independent pursuits could be translated to credit on their high school transcript. My son’s passion for Minecraft and YouTube, for example, could be morphed into a class on “multimedia technology”. My children’s continued private lessons in Mandarin could be translated into credits on their transcripts.

homeschool teen using pc and ipad with text: The Perks of an Umbrella School @EvaVarga.netThe only obligation on our part was to provide evidence of their work in these project-based experiences, essentially an activity log as well as samples of their work that would be evaluated by a licensed teacher.

Logically, they would also be obligated to take part in state testing. Oregon public schools test students in English language arts and math in grades 3 through 8 and 11, and in science and social sciences in grades 5, 8, and 11. While I am not a fan of standardized tests, I could agree to an occasional test.

Loss of Freedom?

As any homeschool family will tell you, private homeschooling is thriving, with no help from the government. The studies all show homeschoolers are academically above average from the elementary level all the way through college.

Opponents of charter schools that cater to homeschoolers will tell you that homeschoolers returning to government schools puts this freedom at risk. The fear is that as homeschoolers “yoke” together with the public schools through charter school programs and cyber schools, the public schools and the state will once again dictate to us our curriculum, teacher qualifications, and methods.

This could be true, but I am confidant that we can also change the system. The best way to do that is by being involved and proactively seeking strategies and solutions that are in the best interest of our children.

We all want what is best for our children. Education is not a one-size fits all solution. Being involved and willing to give voice to my expectations, hopes, and vision can only help to provoke change.

Must See Art Museums Around the World

I have visited many art museums over the years and through seeing a variety of art I have discovered which periods of art that I prefer: Contemporary and Abstract. This has in many ways also shaped our decisions when deciding upon the art museums we want to see when we are traveling. Today, I would like to highlight a few of my favorite art museums around the world.

This is the first post in many years by guest author Geneva Varga. If you would like to read more of her work or see her original artwork – check out her digital portfolio.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Venice, Italy

Visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy was amazing, amplified by the fact that we had just moment before traveled by gondola. Our brief visit to this museum sparked my joy for the Abstract Art movement and several artists and collectors who contributed to it. In particular, Peggy Guggenheim, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dali. After coming home, I did a research project on the life of Peggy Guggenheim, which was highly intriguing and made me desire to learn more about the lives of her friends, who are famous artists.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Boston, Massachusetts

When we were in Boston, my family and I decided to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on more of a whim then anything. It had not been previously planned in our itinerary before we left for our trip but a brochure we picked up sparked our interest. Our main interest was a special event that they were putting on to get the community involved in art. They had provided a variety of things to do, but I was particularly interested in learning how to make homemade paper.

The building in which the museum is located was the home of Isabella Stewart Gardner, who thought that America was greatly lacking in art. Therefore, she made it her mission to collect a great many pieces, in fact 2,500 objects of paintings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, drawings, and so on. These pieces come from a variety of places, yet each and every piece fits perfectly in her 15th Venetian-style castle.

After each taking our turn in making a piece of paper, my family and I meandered through the museum enjoying the art, gardens, and the ambiance that flowed from the combination of the two. I particularly liked a series of watercolor pieces that were done on watercolor paper cut to the size of the small Altoids tins, altogether it was a miniature sketchbook and journal combined into one.

Even though, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a smaller art museum than others my family has visited, it was pleasurable to visit. I am extremely glad we took the trip to this art museum, it allowed me to realise that some of the best places are the smallest treasures not known to the public at large.

National Portrait Gallery: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

National Portrait Gallery: Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C. there are many art museums to choose from. Like many younger brothers, mine is not interested in art, in stark contrast dad and him were significantly more eager to visit the Spy Museum so Mum and I opted to visit the National Portrait Gallery which was nearby. She was delighted to see many of the works she had written about in her American Art History series for Bright Ideas Press.

In my opinion, the paintings by Albert Bierstadt were far more interesting. His landscapes of real life places, some that my family has even been to, had a fantastical element to them. At one point, I entered into a room with circular couches scattered throughout the floor. Hanging on the walls were several huge paintings by Bierstadt that left me in awe. I mindlessly laid upon one of the couches to simply gaze at the magnificent pieces of art. Often times, I am left in such a state and my family always becomes humored with it, not quite understanding the emotions going through my mind as I study the art.

Art Institute of Chicago: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Art Institute of Chicago: Chicago, Illinois

Our most recent visit to a popular art museum was to the Art Institute of Chicago, obliviously located in Chicago, Illinois. When we arrived and made it through the ticketing booth, I immediately directed my family to the contempary art gallery, skipping over the other time periods and ancient art. We later returned to some sections, such as the medieval armory and Aztec art but we skipped the Greek and Roman sculpture section entirely as we had only last year visited both Italy and Greece.

I was excited to see a few more pieces by Pollock and Warhol. A few pieces in the Contemporary and Modern art section were amusing, to say the least, in their sense of normalcy of explicit content.

Guggenheim: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Manhattan, New York

When we moved back to Oregon in 2015 and during one of our first weekends back we visited our local art museum one afternoon. We happened to go when the Coos Art Museum was hosting a free Zentangle class for the community to participate in for the festival also going on that weekend, the Blackberry Arts Festival. While I enjoyed the class, I was more impressed the art at the museum and what opportunities the museum held. My family first visited when they had the Maritime Exhibit up, which is one of their most popular annual exhibits, yet we have continued to take a peek at the ever-changing galleries.

One of my favorite exhibits was when they featured the artist Jesse Reno. I spent a significant amount of time looking at each piece of art, in fact, I was looking at the art for so long that my mom started to get worried as to what had happened to me. Yet, after I returned to where mom was she chuckled, as I apparently I had a look of utter awe upon my face. That weekend I took a seven hour art class from Jesse Reno himself, the class was entirely about his process and was extremely fun and exciting. You are able to read my more in-depth post about the class on my page.

Local Art Museums: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.net

Coos Art Museum

When we were living in Redding, I always treasured the times we went to San Francisco or another big city as it was inevitable that we would visit a museum or gallery. Redding had only a small science museum focused on the local area. Yet, it seems the Oregon Coast is teeming with artists and with them, art museums, galleries, and studios.

As soon as I heard that the Coos Art Museum allowed youth volunteers I felt the urge to sign up. Initially, as I was just 13 years old, my mother was required to accompany me. Now that the staff have become acquainted with me, I volunteer alone most weeks doing behind the scenes work and Mum only joins me during CAM community days when more volunteers are needed. Volunteering at CAM has provided me with real work experience and job skills that will undoubtly help me succeed when seeking out employment in the future.

 

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 Skills Through Volunteer Work

art museum volunteer

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.

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 Skills Through an Apprenticeship

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 apprentice

At 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.

Celebrate 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 graphic

Drafting 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.

Gain Skills Through Non-Traditional Learning Experiences

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.

Are you homeschooling a teen and looking for practical tools and encouragement to help navigate the journey? You’ll love Heather’s 10 Myths You’re Believing about Your Out-of-the-Box Teen.

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).

Anticipating the 2017 Solar Eclipse: Activities & Lessons for Middle School

On August 21, 2017, Oregon will be the first to see the total eclipse of the Sun. This much anticipated solar eclipse will be visible across much of the United States. I first learned of this rare occurrence a year ago and quickly made plans to be sure we would be in the path.

Solar Eclipse 2017We purchased tickets to attend OMSI’s Eclipse Party at the Salem Fairgrounds and attempted to make hotel reservations in the area to no avail. We have thereby fallen back on a backup plan – staying with family in Eugene and driving up. I fear, however, that the road will be so congested we won’t reach our destination.

Anticipating the 2017 solar eclipse, I am delighted to share with you a number of lessons and activities with which you can engage your middle school students.

About the Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves right in front of the sun, covering it completely for a very short time. It darkens the whole sky, lets you look right at the sun, and shows you the beautiful corona that surrounds the sun. Stars come out, the horizon glows with a 360-degree sunset, the temperature drops, and day turns into night.

Only look at the sun when it is 100% covered. You must use special solar viewing glasses whenever the sun isn’t completely eclipsed or it may cause irreparable eye damage.

The umbra (fully shaded inner region of a shadow) will hit the shores of Oregon at 10:15:53 am PDT near the small town of Otter Rock. From the time the shadow first touches land, it will take only two minutes for the shadow to race eastward. As the eclipse passes over the state, cities will experience various lengths of totality based on their varying distances from the centerline. At the Oregon State Fairgrounds, we will be treated to one minute and 53 seconds of shadow at just after 10:17am.

The eclipse will continue across the United States where Illinois will experience the longest eclipse duration at two minutes and 41 seconds. South Carolina will be the last state to witness the eclipse and the final shadow will be over the Atlantic Ocean near the west coast of Africa. See a map of the full eclipse path.

Solar Eclipse

Three Types of Eclipses

Solar eclipses occur during the new moon phase when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun and the three celestial bodies form a straight line, Earth-Moon-Sun. There are three kinds of solar eclipses, Annular, Partial, and Total. On even more rare occasions, a hybrid eclipse occurs when there is a combination of two.

Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the Sun’s center, yet the moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the Earth. The Sun’s visible outer edges thus form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon. The ring of fire marks the maximum stage of an annular solar eclipse.

We have been fortunate to observe an eclipse in the past. In 2012, we enjoyed an annular eclipse near Red Bluff, California.

Partial Eclipse

A partial eclipse, which are visible to a greater number of people due to its wider path, occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, but they don’t align in a perfectly straight line and thus the Moon only partially covers the Sun’s disc. A Partial Eclipse can be seen on either side of the path of totality where the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun.

Total Eclipse

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and completely covers the face of the sun, letting the sun’s magnificent corona burst into view, and casts the darkest part of the shadow (the Umbra) on Earth. In this shadow, the Earth is almost as dark as night.

Check out the 2017 Solar Eclipse explainer video we created with mysimpleshow.

Hybrid Eclipse

A hybrid solar eclipse occurs when the eclipse changes from an annular eclipse to a total eclipse along the path of the moon as it rotates about the Earth.

Solar Eclipse 2017Bring it Home – Solar Eclipse Resources

◉ NASA’s Eclipse 2017 guide and information by NOAA Portland 2017 Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse for Beginners: General information on the science of a solar eclipse

◉ NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Eclipse Gallery: Scientifically accurate visualizations of solar eclipses including position of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, and path of the Moon’s shadow from different perspectives.

Shadow and Substance: A simulation for Oregon showing where totality and partial phases can be viewed.

NASA Eclipse Simulation: Students discover relative relationships between the Sun, Earth, and Moon, and how the Moon can eclipse the Sun.

NASA Wavelength: A full spectrum of NASA resources for Earth and space science education.

Explore the Earth’s geometrical relation to the sun by calculating where the sun will be in the sky for any date or time given a particular location on Earth.

Eclipse in a Different Light: A Sun-Earth Day page for educators presented by NASA.

◉ In 1715, Edmond Halley published a map predicting the time and path of a coming solar eclipse.

◉ If you are a Scout, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to earn the BSA 2017 Solar Eclipse patch.

  • Cub Scouts: Discuss what a solar eclipse is with your leaders.
  • Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts: Draw a diagram of the positions of the moon, earth, and sun to show how the solar eclipse occurs.
  • Venturers: Research Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s 1919 experiment and discuss how it confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

10 Websites and Genealogy Resources for Kids

This past autumn, we enjoyed a family holiday on the East Coast of the United States and were thereby afforded with numerous educational experiences exploring our nation’s history. One of our most anticipated visits was to Ellis Island and the Museum of Immigration.
genealogy for kids

While here, we enjoyed a guided interpretive walk with a park ranger and thereafter enjoyed the many exhibits on our own. Amongst the highlights of our visit was seeing Norwegian bunad and langeleik, a stringed folklore musical instrument also known as a droned zither. As both my husband and I have Norwegian ancestors, seeing these personal artifacts brought the experience alive for us.

Genealogy Resources for Kids

Genealogy has always been fascinating to me. I grew up listening to stories my dad would share of his childhood and the stories that had been passed on to him by his Uncle Sam who had emigrated from Norway in the early 1900s. We’ve explored many of the branches of our family tree over the years. Today, I share some of our favorite genealogy resources for kids.

World’s Largest Online Resource for Family History

This is a subscription based, very user friendly site that is great even for a novice. This is the site I have used the most in my research. It includes records, links to other users, family trees, resources, pictures, and cemeteries.

Family Search

Family Search is a nonprofit family history organization maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the Latter-day Saints are dedicated to preserving the records of their ancestors, they provide this service free.

Resources for Genealogists

Free database for genealogists that includes immigration, naturalization, military, passport, land, and bankruptcy records.

Researching Records and Archives

A low priced paid subscription web service that provides the user with an abundance of archived records of their ancestors.

Ellis Island History Center

Free immigration information for any ancestors that were processed through the Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924, during their years of operation. Even if the relatives did not go through the port, it is an excellent source with links to other helpful sites.

genealogyforkidsGenealogy For Kids Forms

This site is geared for children with adult help. It has several links to forms kids can use, questions that they would find helpful while interviewing relatives and even a ‘cousin calculator’ that will help figure out how family members are related.

Genweb Project for Kids

This site is a good place for younger kids to start. It has links to several sites that would be helpful, however several of the links aren’t working. As with all internet usage, parental monitoring is needed.

Washington State Genealogy Resources for Kids

Excellent resource for students as well as adults with a wealth of information on researching the family tree.

Climbing Your Family Tree

This is an excellent source of worksheets for children to use when charting their family tree. It has PDF files to be used when interviewing family members.

Companion Website to be Used with the PBS Program Ancestors

An online companion to the series of 13 episodes presented by PBS on researching your ancestry. Each episode takes the viewer on a journey closer to finding their family’s story.