Ten Educational Resources for Your Teens

We homeschool year round and our new school year has just begun. This year marks a huge transition in our home with one child entering junior high and another entering high school. Though we are not beginning new educational resources or curriculum until August, July provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what resources we have enjoyed, what courses we will be taking in the coming school year, and what resources we want to purchase.

We are excited for this new school year. With both kiddos increasingly independent in their studies, I trust we’ll be learning a wide variety of skills and material. Below are a few of our tried-and-true favorite educational resources and a couple we look forward to adding to our curriculum.

list of educational resources

Educational Resources for Teens

If your child is interested in Minecraft, architecture, languages, or you name it … you can transform your child’s interests into a fun lesson. Keep scrolling to check out what’s new and what’s popular.

What’s new?

3D Animation Course – My son is passionate about Minecraft and is intrigued by the 3D character animation concepts in this year-long online course where he learns to create animated short movies using his favorite Minecraft characters. How cool is that!?

Learn to code with minecraft

Buy Coding Game For Kids

Mixing with the Masters: A New Twist on the Old Masterpieces – My daughter and I just love Alisha’s style and are delighted to learn about the masters through her mixed media art workshop. Mixing with the Masters is the first of several volumes that will be released over the course of this year and the next.

Beginning Architecture Course – Frank Lloyd Wright never had it this good! This three-part series of Beginning Architecture online course is the perfect gift for young Lego and Minecraft enthusiasts like my son.

North Star Geography Online Class – We absolutely LOVE the geography curriculum by Tyler Hogan. Now North Star Geography is offered as an ebook and audiobook, automatic grading of each lesson’s quiz & mapwork, and a direct helpline with the author. Perfect for an on-the-go family like us!

Bright Ideas PressExplore Our World with North Star Geography

What’s popular?

Learn to Code with Minecraft – One of my son’s favorite things to do is to modify the Minecraft game with special mods. With this year-long online course, kids learn Java programming skills to code their own Minecraft mod from start to finish. They will delight in watching when their work results in a unique, shareable Minecraft mod that they built from scratch.

Life of Fred High School Math Books – Say good-bye to drill and kill exercises. We’ve been using Fred since middle school and my kids love the approach. Instead of nothing but dry exposition and endless drill exercises, they contain fun stories about Fred Gauss, a child prodigy math genius.

math books

Buy Life of Fred

Online Language Program  My daughter loves languages and has set out to add Italian to her repertoire. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to include foreign language into your next year curriculum. Choose from Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Russian or ESL English Videos, songs, and games help learners become bilingual or trilingual FAST!

Tegu Blocks – I don’t know about your kids but mine still enjoy playing with blocks from time to time, especially when they are watching their young nieces and nephews. Tegu Blocks are magnetic wooden blocks and are just the right size for on-the-go fun. If your teen is an entrepreneur who enjoys babysitting, Tegu Blocks are a fabulous addition to his “bag of tricks”.

Educents Tegu Blocks

Educents Tegu Blocks

The Ultimate Middle School Digital Resource – The Ultimate Middle School Package provides you with 24 comprehensive educational resources for Sixth through Eighth Grade in the areas of Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies! Includes both the Student and Teacher’s Edition!

 

Hanbridge Mandarin: Stepping Stones to Fluency

My kiddos have been studying Mandarin for years. For this reason, I am always on the lookout for resources to provide them with a rich experience.

When Hanbridge Mandarin reached out to me to review their online courses, I jumped at the chance.

Hanbridge Mandarin

I was provided a free trial of the courses as well as compensation for my time in writing this review.

The virtual classroom was easy to navigate and the instructor was excellent. A native speaker based in Shenzhen, China, she was able to customize lessons for both myself (a beginner) and my daughter (an intermediate/advanced learner).

I share more details in my HubPage, Hanbridge Mandarin: Stepping Stones to Fluency and encourage you to look into this great resource. For a limited time, they are also offering a significant discount via Educents:

Hanbridge Mandarin 4 Online 1-on-1 Lessons ~ Jump start your Chinese learning with online classes from native live Chinese teachers for a significantly reduced rate. Educents offers a package of 4 lessons for just $11.25 per lesson!!

Bowls of Happiness: Exploring Chinese Culture through Books

I feel very strongly that a comprehensive world view is important in today’s society.  In our homeschool we strive to develop an awareness of other cultures and lifestyle choices by reading great books, diving deeply into history, and immersing ourselves in other cultures through our travels around the world.

As our communities become more diverse, many parents are looking for literature and other tools to help their children develop a deeper understanding of their neighbors.

Through our studies of Mandarin language, we have developed a greater understanding of the Chinese culture than I had dreamed possible. My children enjoy cooking Chinese foods and celebrating many of the holidays unique to China (Mid-Autumn Festival, for example).

multiculturalbooksdayI received these books in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions below are mine and I was not required to write a positive review. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Exploring Chinese Culture with Children’s Books

One of the best ways to learn about another culture is through children’s books. China Institute has published four hardcover books about the Forbidden City, one of the world’s most fascinating landmarks. Each of the books will have its own interactive e-book app, which will feature a bilingual option to toggle between reading and listening in English and Chinese.

For Younger Readers

Bowls of Happiness: Treasures from China and the Forbidden City by Brian Tse  teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The loveable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum’s collection.

After reading the story, my kids both wanted to create their own bowl of happiness. We went to a local pottery studio and painted our own. I’ll be posting pictures about this experience on Facebook and Instagram very soon.

Brian Tse has also authored This is the Greatest Place! The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals. This charming book teaches children about Chinese architecture, how nature’s influence can be seen around us, and how people and animals can live together in harmony. The illustrations capture the majesty of both the natural world and the Forbidden City and are enhanced by interactive components for readers, including a gatefold spread and lift-flaps.

multiculturalbooksdayFor Older Readers

In the book What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? Life in China’s Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu and Eileen Ng readers will journey through the average life of an emperor and learn about the real people who lived in the palace, including the prince who fought off a rebel invasion, the palace maids who lived in the Inner Court, the emperor who ruled twice, and the emperor who loved crickets. This book can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, with lively illustrations that encourage reader interaction.

In the Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu is a large format book which conveys the grandeur of the Forbidden City through highly detailed line drawings of its buildings, gardens, and courtyards with numerous foldout spreads. Each page is populated by a large variety of characters and peppered with entertaining anecdotes. Every book includes a plastic magnifying glass for looking at the drawings more closely.

Be sure to check out the lesson plans and interactive activities that accompany these delightful books.

forbiddencity

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

The Mission

The mission of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book.

The annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day is made possible by a team of 12 amazing Co-Hosts (you can view them here), the initiative’s non-profit status, and 200 participating bloggers like me.

We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The Reading Challenge

The Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge is a special project connected to Multicultural Children’s Book Day ~ 26th January 2016 ~ that gives classrooms the opportunity to earn a FREE Diversity Book for their class!

The goal of the reading challenge is to help teachers build their classroom library with diverse, inclusive and multicultural books! This special project is free of charge to all teachers and schools and helps MCCBD achieve their mission of getting multicultural books into the hands of young readers and teachers. The MCCBD 2016 Classroom Reading Challenge has begun, learn more here.

MCBookDay-white-21-300x234Special thanks to all our Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors:

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books * Lil Libros
Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk * Candlewick Press
Silver: Lee and Low Books * Chronicle Books * Capstone Young Readers
Bronze: Pomelo Books * Author Jacqueline Woodson * Papa Lemon Books * Goosebottom Books * Author Gleeson Rebello * ShoutMouse Press * Author Mahvash Shahegh * China Institute.org

The Raven: A Mini Unit for Middle School

I have been fascinated with ravens since I was a child. I recall my mother reading aloud Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven at Halloween. Poe was one of her favorite authors and she delighted in reading this glorious poem in narrative voice.

Ravens Mini Unit @EvaVarga.netNew research has found that ravens remember prior interactions with people and even communicate these interactions with others of their kind. I’ve read stories of ravens leaving trinkets and gifts for those who have shown them kindness. My father has a pair of ravens that visit him regularly and when we visit, they can always be seen perched nearby keeping an eye on things.

Raven Mini Unit

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an Audubon post, How to Tell a Raven From a Crow on Facebook and the wheels in my head immediately started spinning. Would not this make a wonderful Halloween themed mini unit? Yes! I must put something together …

Science

The Audubon link I shared above is the perfect place to begin. While ravens and crows may look similar in some ways, there are several distinctive traits that help set them apart.

You probably know that ravens are larger, the size of a red-tailed hawk. Ravens often travel in pairs, while crows are seen in larger groups. Also, watch the bird’s tail as it flies overhead. The crow’s tail feathers are basically the same length, so when the bird spreads its tail, it opens like a fan. Ravens, however, have longer middle feathers in their tails, so their tail appears wedge-shaped when open.

Go outside and watch them. Bring along your nature journal and record your observations. How many do you see? How do they interact? What are they eating? Do they scratch at the soil with their feet? What sounds do they make?

Consider adding several quick sketches in your journal or taking photographs. When you return indoors, take more time to illustrate the birds you observed. Feel free to use a field guide or photograph to help you.

Literature

Ravens are perhaps the most common bird symbol in the mythologies and religions of ancient cultures. They assume a variety of roles, ranging from messengers of deities and sages to oracles and tricksters. They play a central part in many creation myths and are typically associated with the supernatural realms lying beyond the ordinary experience.

The Raven: Mini Unit for Middle School @EvaVarga.netThe history of ravens as mythical birds can be traced as far as the 1000-year-old Norse mythology. Odin, the chief god in Norse mythology, had a pair ravens called Hugin and Munin perching on his shoulders. Each morning they were sent out into the world to observe what was happening and question everybody. They would come back by sunrise and whisper to Odin what they had learned. Sometimes Odin himself would turn into a raven.

Hugin and Munin
Fly every day
Over all the world;
I worry for Hugin
That he might not return,
But I worry more for Munin.

Huginn ok Muninn
fljúga hverjan dag
Jörmungrund yfir;
óumk ek of Hugin,
at hann aftr né komi-t,
þó sjámk meir of Munin.

I encourage you to research the symbolism of ravens in a culture of your choice. Here are two of my favorites:

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

How Raven Stole the Sun (Native American Myth)

Art

Ravens have appeared in the mythology of many ancient people. It is no surprise, therefore, that ravens are also popular subjects in art.

I have often been inspired by children’s books. My kids and I will periodically try to recreate the illustrations we enjoy in picture books. I am not alone.

Ravens Mini Unit @EvaVarga.netOn the website, Native American Art Projects and Lesson Plans, I found two lesson plans centered around children’s books featuring ravens:

A Man Called Raven (Oil Pastel)

How the Raven Stole the Sun (Crayon Batik)

 

Hurra for Deg: The Norwegian Birthday Song

Two things about birthday celebrations that remain consistent in every culture are songs and greetings. These are universal ways of honoring and sharing with others the special moment and the joy of the guest of honor. Did you realize, however, that the song is not the same in every culture?

Hurra for Deg @EvaVarga.netOne of the Norwegian traditions I like best is the singing of Hurra for Deg (Cheers for You),  the Norwegian birthday song. It was written by Margrethe Aabel Munthe (1860 – 1931). Though there are two verses, more often only the first verse is sung.

The kids are at heritage camp this week learning Norwegian and the traditional handcrafts of our heritage. This year, parents have been provided little glimpses of camp life via Facebook. I was delighted that one of the counselors shared a short video of some of the girls singing Hurra for Deg as they worked on their Rosemaling. While I am unable to share the video, it inspired me to share the lyrics with you.

Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år!
Ja, deg vil vi gratulere!
Alle i ring omkring deg vi står,
og se, nå vil vi marsjere,
bukke, nikke, neie, snu oss omkring,
danse for deg med hopp og sprett og spring,
ønske deg av hjertet alle gode ting!
Og si meg så, hva vil du mere?
Gratulere!

Hurray for you for celebrating your birthday!
Yes, we congratulate you!
We all stand around you in a ring,
And look, now we’ll march,
Bow, nod, curtsy, we turn around,
Dance for you and hop and skip and jump!
Wishing you from the heart all good things!
And tell me, what more could you want?
Congratulations!

Hurra for Deg is a lively tune and a lot of fun to sing. Consider adding a few dance movements for a more rousing version:

Everyone stands in a circle around the birthday honoree. Begin singing while you are standing in the ring.

When you come to “march”, then march all around the birthday child with high knee-lift, while looking at him/her.

On “Bow, nod, curtsy, we turn around”, make these movements wholeheartedly and with enthusiasm.

On “Dance for you, hop and skip and jump,” begin to dance in a circle around the birthday child. Try to make eye contact with him / her, as this gives attention.Continue the dance the rest of the song.

After the song is finished, deserves celebrating a real generous applause!

If you are interested, here’s the second verse:

Høyt våre flagg vi svinger. Hurra!
Ja, nå vil vi riktig feste!
Dagen er din, og dagen er bra,
men du er den aller beste!
Se deg om i ringen, hvem du vil ta!
Dans en liten dans med den du helst vil ha!
Vi vil alle sammen svinge oss så glad:
En av oss skal bli den neste!
Til å feste!

We wave our flags up high! Hurray!
Yes now we’ll really celebrate!
The day is yours, the day is great,
But you’re the best!
Look in the ring who you want to choose!
Dance a little dance with who you want to!
We’ll all turn around together so joyfully,
And one of us shall be the next – to celebrate!

Curriculum Plans for 2015-16 (8th and 6th grade)

This upcoming school year promises many new challenges and experiences for us. We are very excited to be moving back to Oregon, more specifically to the southern coast where Patrick and I both grew up.

While we will be surrounded by family, the transition will not be without obstacles. The homeschool community is much, much smaller compared to the previous two communities in which we have lived (Bend, Oregon and Redding, California). Therefore establishing connections may require a little more effort on my part.Our Curriculum Choices @EvaVarga.net

Geneva will be entering 8th grade this fall while Jeffrey will begin 6th grade. I will continue to teach the same material to them both. Their skills are relatively equal in most areas so as a homeschool mom of two – it works. Best of all, it requires less planning on my part.

Science & Nature Study

These past couple of years, I have been coordinating STEM Club for our local homeschool community. With our move, I have decided to step back from this for awhile and see what opportunities are available. My daughter has also expressed interest in volunteering at the local interpretive center as well as initiating a long-term study of the impact of invasive turtles on the local ecosystem.

As we will be living on the Oregon coast, the ecology is significantly different than that of the High Desert or the Central Valley and Cascade Foothills of Northern California. I am very excited to explore the area more in-depth with the kids. We will thereby be resuming our regular nature studies in conjunction with Barb’s monthly Outdoor Hour Challenges at Handbook of Nature Study.

Both kiddos have asked to learn more about astronomy so I will be putting together lesson plans and projects to follow their interests. Thus while I will continue to develop my own curriculum for science, we will be engaging in lessons independently rather than with a small group of other homeschoolers. I will also be require more reading of each of the kids. I will be using CK-12 Life Science and CK-12 Earth Science in addition to other free science curriculum I’ve found. 

Math

Life of Fred has been working very well for us since we transitioned from Singapore 6B a couple of years ago. Jeffrey is presently in the middle of  Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology. Geneva is using Advanced Algebra. When they struggle with a concept, we have used Khan Academy.

One of the biggest benefits of our move is being close to family. Patrick’s uncle is a retired high school math teacher. We will be reaching out to him in hopes of meeting once every couple of weeks to go over their assignments. This will be a huge relief for me as I always struggled with algebra myself. Additionally, we will be looking into the possibility of concurrent enrollment for math at the local community college.

Language Arts

Writing

As the summer was just getting started, we started using Cover Story which I had purchased at a discount from Homeschool Buyers Co-op. Cover Story takes middle school students – 6th through 8th grade – on a guided tour through the process of creating the content for their own magazine. In a single school year, students are led, step by step, on a fun, thought-provoking journey of exploration and creation. They write poems, short stories, non-fiction articles, letters, and many other short pieces. We’ve only just begun (having completed the first three weeks) but we look forward to jumping back in when the dust settles from our move. { Homeschool Buyers Co-op will again offer a GroupBuy savings for Cover Story on 07-27-2015. Save up to 20%. }

Literature

We utilized a few Brave Writer Boomerang single issues a bit last year. We liked it but I just didn’t follow through and plan ahead as I should have. I know I need to do better. My goal therefore is to create a plan or a list of books for each of the kids for the upcoming school year. I will be sharing more details on this when I’ve mapped it out better.

We will also begin an in depth study of the history of English utilizing King Alfred’s English.  This unique combination study of both English and history will provide a look at words, grammar, Shakespeare, the Bible, and language. The supplemental activities and materials (including primary sources!) provided on the website will help guide us – we are very excited to explore our language from this perspective.

Our Curriculum Choices: Mandarin @EvaVarga.net

Foreign Language

Fluency in a foreign language is very important to me. My daughter expressed her interest in learning Chinese when we were just beginning our homeschool journey so that is the path we have followed ever since. I have shared a little about How I Teach Mandarin previously. Though Shawn has moved across the country, we have had success with continuing our Mandarin language instruction via Skype or FaceTime.

We will continue to use Discovering Chinese Pro, the middle school curriculum developed by Better ChineseOur Road to Mandarin Fluency has been very rewarding as we’ve been able to travel to China as well as make life long friends. We have taken some time off these past couple months as Shawn was traveling back home to China, conflicts with summer camp, and soon our travels abroad. We plan to resume our regular twice a week sessions come late September.

At summer camp, the kids are learning Norwegian. I would really like to continue incorporating our ancestral language into our weekly lessons but I always slip up. Perhaps our move will ensure I stick with it. We shall see.

History & Geography

We love to travel and like most, we learn best by immersion and first-hand experiences. Thus, to really understand the history of ancient Greece and Rome (our focus this past year has been ancient times), we will be traveling abroad with Trafalgar. We will first spend ten days in Italy (Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Assisi, and the Italian Lakes) followed by Athens and the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. I will be sharing snippets of our trip along the way via Instagram and I’ll post more in-depth travel posts soon.

To prepare for our trip, we have been moving very slowly through Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World. We are only half-way through the book so we’ll continue to work through it upon our return. Hopefully, by January we will move on to the medieval times. So much for my original plan of following a four year cycle; it takes us 6 years!   How We Use North Star Geography @EvaVarga.netAdditionally, we will continue to incorporate activities from North Star Geography. Designed specifically for middle and high school ages, it is an engaging Geography curriculum. We are excited to continue with this program and will be creating our own world atlases (one of the many projects described in the companion guide).

Performing Arts

The kids are both adamant they want to continue to study music. I am confidant we will be able to find a piano instructor for Jeffrey. I am a little apprehensive for Geneva, however. The preliminary leg work I have done thus far has only generated one name and she is only available intermittently for one year as she is a graduate student and will be relocating at the end of the school year.

The community has a great lab band but there is youth symphony is not an option. I’ll have to reach out to the local schools to inquire whether they accept string instruments.

big book homeschool ideasThe Big Book of Homeschooling

To get tons of great advice, and move beyond the basics of academics, pick up a copy of The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Topics include active learning, inquiry science in middle school, learning with video games, using LEGO bricks for learning, teaching on the road, learning with movies, high school literature, and stamp collecting.

This book can carry you through all your years of homeschooling, covering the stages your children will mature through: preschoolers, elementary grades, middle school, and high school. As your life situation changes, you will find new chapters that apply to you. You can view the full table of contents to see all 103 topics!

 

Our Homeschool Planner

Working from home as well as homeschooling my kids requires me to be organized. As I have every year for the past six years, I will be using the Well Planned Day homeschool planner. I have tried a few others when we first began homeschool and I have perused others, yet I keep coming back to this one. It just works for me.

I love that it provides templates for meal planning as well as keeping track of the books the kids have read and an ongoing record of their grades. They have student planners available as well but my kiddos prefer that I send them an email each week. They thereby create a note on their iPad and delete each assignment as they go.

This post has been linked to the 2015 Not Back to School Hop.  Join the fun!