Build Confidence and Success with Mr. D Math

I can not begin to tell you how much we LOVE Mr. D Math. It has made a world of difference to my daughter as she has begun to tackle the tough advanced algebra concepts.

I received access to these online math courses and I was compensated for my time in writing this post. All opinions are my own.
Confidence & Success with Mr D Math @EvaVarga.net

We had been using Life of Fred since she completed the elementary math concepts presented in Singapore Math. The self-directed approach has been very good for her and until recently, it has been all she has needed. She has begun to struggle with some of the concepts, however, and I have been unable to help her.

Now that we have discovered Mr. D Math, I am confidant that she can continue to work at her pace and find the support and guidance she needs to be successful.

Mr. D Math Algebra I and II

When we began the course material, I enrolled her in the Algebra II course presuming that this would be a good match for her based on the work she had previously completed. As she got underway with the live class after the holiday break however, we discovered that though some of the material was familiar to her, there were some concepts with which she struggled.

I was very pleased that Mr. D reached out to us after class and shared that she would be better suited for the Algebra 1 course. It was clear to me that he had spent time with her in the live session and was able to assess her skills. He was gentle and encouraging, explaining that it is more important to learn the material than to just move on.

We thereby made the switch to Algebra 1 the following week and she was much more comfortable. Jumping in mid-year, she was able to catch on immediately.

Confidence & Success with Mr D Math @EvaVarga.netBenefits of a Mr. D Math Online Course 

Mr. D Math offers two options for each of the online courses: 1) Online Curriculum + Live Classes, or 2) Online Curriculum only. The online classroom and lesson materials are easy to access and require very little preparation.

My daughter likes to print the course work each week and to work through the problems as she watches the corresponding video. Thereafter, she checks her work with the solutions guide. “I really like that every problem is worked out clearly. If I make a mistake, I can see where I went wrong and it helps me improve.”

She really enjoyed the weekly live class and felt it was a key component that she had been missing previously. She was able to ask questions – especially important when parents struggle with this level of math – and work through the trouble spots with guidance.

Most importantly, Mr. D has an excellent rapport with the students and learned their names very quickly. When students answer questions in the live class, only the teacher sees the student answers so there is no risk of a timid student feeling like others are watching her.

My daughter is able to maintain the same level of independence with her work as she has come to enjoy and her confidence is growing knowing that she can reach out to Mr. D if necessary. I highly recommend the online courses from Mr. D Math.

Mr. D Math Curricula 

I encourage you to check out all that Mr. D Math has to offer.  Classes range from Pre-Algebra up through Pre-Calculus, as well as SAT and ACT test prep courses.  Extra help sessions are available, as well as emailing questions to Mr. D throughout the week.  Take some time to browse the site to discover all the math and test preparation courses available.

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Travel Around the World with a Back to School Giveaway

Like many homeschool families and educators, I have spent a fair amount of time browsing the internet and making wish lists of books and curriculum I would like to have for the new school year. There are so great products and resources available that adhering to a budget can be troublesome if not near impossible.

“If only we could get curriculum for free!” I have often heard my friends proclaim. I am delighted to take part once again in the annual Back to School Toolkit Giveaway.

This post contains affiliate links for resources we absolutely love and truly depend on. 

Travel Around the World with a Back to School Giveaway @EvaVarga.net

Back to School Giveaway

This year, I am giving away a geography themed basket loaded with resources that will provide you and your children with activities and lesson plans to keep you busy all year long.

wondermapsBright Ideas Press has donated their popular WonderMaps CD. Designed with easy-to-use layers that allow you to enjoy great customizable features with just a click, WonderMaps is the perfect addition to your geography resource library. WonderMaps was created not only with hundreds of world maps but also a large selection of historical maps that cover everything you need for The Mystery of History vols. I–III and All American History vols. I & II.

Also included in the Travel Around the World basket are the following resources:

Discovering China (Multicultural Education Series), by Dianna J. Sullivan, was written for grades 4-8. This paperback guide provides a great start to a unit study on the culture of China. It includes many printables and activities to learn a few Chinese phrases and to explore the Chinese calendar, holidays, folktales, and cultural traditions. It even includes recipes for popular stir fry! 48 page paperback

Australia: An Interdisciplinary Unit by Merle Davenport was developed for grades 6-8. It covers the physical geography of Australia as well as the cultural geography. Some of the activities include making your own Boomerang, creating a timeline of historical events, graphing natural resource exports, making a star projector to learn about the constellations to compare how navigation differs in the southern hemisphere, and learning the strike (slang) of Oz (Australia). 48 page paperback

galapagos unit

The Galápagos islands were originally called the “Enchanted Isles” because the capricious meandering of the Humboldt Current had the effect of making the islands disappear and reappear to passing ships. The Galápagos Across the Curriculum is a fun, hands-on life science unit study that provides ample opportunity for kids to explore the diversity and remarkable history of the islands.  This unit study is full of inquiry-based activities and lesson plans that can be easily integrated into a larger life science curriculum. 12 page eBook (PDF)

The perfect accompaniment to your Galápagos unit, Galapagos Bedtime Stories by Paula Tagle Saad is charming book with many watercolor depictions of the animals in the archipelago. As the protagonists of the tales, most of the tales are told from the perspective of the featured animal. Factual information about life cycle, habitat, feeding, etc. are woven throughout. It also includes a glossary of terms in the appendix.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find more giveaway baskets at the iHomeschool Network’s annual Back to School Toolkit Giveaway – Giveaways Galore! There are over 34 baskets!!

Gift-Basket-Collage-2015

There are so many wonderful products in these baskets, I encourage you to enter them all.

You won’t want to miss Barb’s Handbook of Nature Study basket or Brenda’s Essential STEM Supplies.

 

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!

Build Your Homeschool Library & Used Curriculum Sale

Build Your Homeschool Library @EvaVarga.netAs the kids jump in the pool and you have your feet kicked up with an ice cold glass of lemonade in your hand, your mind likely wanders to the upcoming school year. You are likely asking yourself, What curriculum do I need? What living books should I invest in to complement our unit studies?

I know I am! My daughter will be entering 8th grade, my son 6th, and I want to assure that they are challenged as well as provided with ample time to pursue their interests.

Summer is often the time educators plan out the next school year and begin to build (or build upon) our classroom or homeschool library. We reach out to seasoned homeschoolers to inquire about what worked for them. We scour the online sales of our favorite curriculum vendors. It can get a little overwhelming however – especially if you are just getting started.

You can find a lot of helpful reviews and suggestions across the web. A few posts that compile the wisdom of experienced homeschool moms include Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices and Our Favorite Children’s Books (by age or grade).

I love non-fiction books and my home library is overflowing with Living Books for Science Education.

Build Your Homeschool Library: Book Sale @EvaVarga.netMy Used Curriculum Sale

With our upcoming move, I have purged our shelves and would love to offer these books to you for minimal cost. Consider it a Homeschool Used Curriculum Sale from the comfort of your home

I’ve photographed all the books I have available for sale and have uploaded the images to the album, Eva’s Books Sale, at Flickr. Take a few minutes to browse – perhaps you’ll find a title or two of interest. Prices and conditions are noted in the item description. In addition to the cost of each title, I do charge for shipping (media rate). Just let me know which title(s) you are interested in purchasing. Shipping is $3.00 for 1-2 items in the same envelope and $6.00 for a box of three or more items.

Most everything has sold. The few that remained have been donated as we are moving and I needed to downsize.

I’m not the only one selling used curriculum. The bloggers at iHomeschool Network are collaborating this week to provide you with used curriculum for all ages. Hop over to see what else may be available. If you have curriculum you’d like to share – link up!

Build Your Homeschool Library: Book Sale @EvaVarga.netMy Favorite Places for Books

There are many online resources and vendors to help you build your homeschool library without breaking the piggy bank. I have summarized below just a few of the ones of which I am the most familiar.

Paperback Swap – I have been taking part in this online book exchange for longer than I have been homeschooling. It’s super easy -simply list the books you’d like to swap and browse the titles available. When a book is requested, mail it to the club member. The books you receive come to you postage-paid. You pay for postage for the books you send out.

Amazon – I’m sure you are already familiar with Amazon. I always go to Amazon to check the price on a book. Often, I am able to find a used copy for significantly less.

Heritage History – I love this company because they take all of the classical children’s historical books and they offer them on CDs with amazingly useful study guides, maps, and timelines. All of the books in their collections are G-rated and were written before 1923, during an era when virtually all children’s books were respectful of Christianity.

Library and Educational Services – I’ve only recently discovered this company – it is a true hidden gem. Their prices are unbelievable. You won’t regret signing up for their newsletter. A wholesale distributor, they sell to libraries, schools (including homeschools), and more.

Homeschool Buyers Co-op – you have probably heard of this, but just in case…this company is exactly what the name implies, it is a buyer’s co-op. If a certain number of buyers agree to purchase a product through the co-op, the publisher will greatly discount the price. We have purchased products like Mapping the World by Heart at 30% off, Cover Story at 30% off, and ??? at up to 40% off.

Networks and Facebook groups – two of my favorites are: Homeschool Swap USA/Canada and Homeschool Buy Sell Trade. It is a really fast and easy way to purchase used books. Plus, through browsing, you often come across books that you never knew you needed.

 

7 Awesome Homeschool Products FREE for the Summer!

We all love freebies! This is one you won’t want to pass up! 7 awesome homeschool products that kids and moms love .. free all summer long!

7 Summer Freebies details @EvaVarga.netWe homeschool year-round but we love to shake things up in the summer – incorporating innovative activities and programs that are fun and educational. The free homeschool products available through this limited time offer are perfect.

My son is passionate about Minecraft and has spent many hours researching and teaching himself how to code mods to build his own server. He is very excited about the opportunity to use Mod Design 1 by Youth Digital, one of the products included in the bundle.

My daughter loves art – especially Japanese Manga – and is always looking for lessons on animation. Mark Kistler’s Virtual Classroom will be perfect!

I have been wanting to find an online planner to help me to stay on top of their lessons while on the go. I am really excited to give Homeschool Planet a try.
FREE for the Summer

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Check out MORE GroupBuys at the Co-op!
It’s FREE to join and membership is private!

Free Science Curriculum for Middle School

Before I was blessed with children of my own, I had the honor of working as a science specialist at two public schools in Oregon. Teaching middle school science was my dream job! We explored a variety of topics and enjoyed hands-on labs every week.

As a homeschooling mom, I understand that budgets are tight and we have to make tough decisions about what extra-curriculars and curriculum we can afford. The best things in life are indeed free so I have compiled a list of free science curriculum for middle school.

This is NOT just a list of free printables and a hodge-podge of activities – but complete curriculum units!

Free Middle School Science Resources @EvaVarga.net

Life Science Curriculum

A secular middle school science text that is available for free on Amazon is CK-12 Life Science for Middle School. As a digital text, the 1143 pages won’t weigh you down and it contains all kinds of embedded media and related educational videos.

For nature study, you’ll absolutely love the Handbook of Nature Study!  Barb has an incredible collection of tutorials and resources for using nature study in your homeschool. I’ve linked to her Getting Started post here, but be sure to browse around her site – there are enough printables and lessons to keep you busy all year long!

humananatomy

I have shared a number of great human anatomy lesson plans and activities here on my website. STEM Club: Introduction to Body Systems is the first post in the series. Read each for a complete unit study on the human body.

For great ecology lessons, your local extension agency is a fabulous resource. California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom are two examples.

Earth Science Curriculum

Also available from the CK-12 Foundation is CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School – a combination of various earth science disciplines encompassing geology, oceanography, climatology, meteorology, and even for the purposes of understanding the position of the Earth in the Universe, astronomy.

For those who desire a faith-based curriculum, Old Earth Ministries Online Geology Curriculum is designed to be a complete, web-based learning experience, with pictures, animations, and links for further learning. They also have an Earth History Curriculum.

Physical Science Curriculum

While I didn’t find a CK-12 Physical Science text, there are high school level physics and chemistry available on Amazon.

The American Chemical Society shares a complete chemistry unit, Middle School Chemistry. They have also developed a unit on plastics, including a Plastics Analysis Lab.

The Periodic Table of Elements – A lesson about every single element on the Periodic Table from TED-Ed.

Teach Engineering has also compiled an extensive list of physical science lessons – including complete units on Rockets and Exploring Energy.

Science Journals for Middle School

Scientists report their research in journals, which enable scientists to share information with one another.

The Natural Inquirer is a middle school science education journal published by the US Forest Service. They also have a series for upper elementary entitled, Investigator.

There are many free issues to download and read. When you click on each issue, it tells you what the theme will be and some of them have additional lesson plans to download.  Each free issue is full of pictures, ideas, and questions to stimulate the science mind.

natural inquirer thumbs

In addition to the journals, the US Forest Service also provides a wealth of other educational resources to accompany the journals including Lesson Plans and Games & Activities.

Science News for Kids is another great source for current events and news. It is an online collection of articles and resources for students and educators. Some of the recent article titles include: Something’s Cooking on Saturn’s MoonChickens Spread Latest Deadly Bird Flu, and Corals Dine on Microplastics.

Science Notebooks

Scientists keep notebooks. The scientist’s notebook is a detailed record of her engagement with scientific phenomena. It is a personal representation of experiences, observations, and thinking – an integral part of the process of doing scientific work.

The science notebooks of Charles Darwin, Linus Pauling, among other scientists are also available online. These primary source documents capture the words, the thoughts and the intentions of the past. It is fascinating to look at the illustrations and sketches famous scientists have made and to compare them with our own.

notebookingYou can find many notebooking resources on my Science Notebooking Pinterest board

As developing scientists, middle school students should be encouraged to incorporate notebooks into their science learning. Read more about using Science Notebooks in Middle School in this PDF by FOSS.

Students today enjoy creating interactive elements for their notebooks – mini books and foldables to record new vocabulary or gather data from a lab activity. There are many science notebooking printable available online to accompany a wide variety of topics.

Subscribers to my newsletter will receive the Human Anatomy Systems printables and interactive notebooking set shown here:
humananatomyprintables

Subscribe to my newsletter today!


Stephanie, at Harrington Harmonies, also has a wonderful collection of notebooking printables. Subscribe to her newsletter and you’ll receive her Solar System Pages FREE!

Online Resources for Hands-on Labs & Activities

SciGirls is a television show for kids ages 8-12 that showcases bright, curious real tween girls putting science and engineering to work in their everyday lives. SciGirls Connect provides  inquiry-based STEM activities for a variety of science topics.

I am sure everyone is already familiar with Steve Spangler‘s store but did you know he also has a number of Fun Science Experiments?

Another great resource for junior high science teachers and students is The Science Spot.

Citizen Science Opportunities

One the most exciting ways of teaching science to middle school students in engaging them in real science. Citizen science projects and service learning opportunities are exploding. The internet makes it super easy to collaborate with others and share research data.

citizenscienceYou can find more on my Citizen Science Pinterest board.

Involvement in citizen science projects enables students to make connections with relevant, meaningful, and real experiences with science. Most also provide lesson plans and curriculum to help you get started. Here are a few great citizen science projects to consider:

  • The Great Sunflower Project – Take counts of the number and types of pollinators visiting plants (especially sunflowers).
  • Darwin for a Day – A web application that allows you to explore the Galapagos Islands through Google Street View and document its unique plants and animals.
  • Old Weather – Help scientists recover Arctic and worldwide weather observations made by United States ships since the mid-19th century by transcribing ships’ logs.

Real Scientists

As students develop their own science skills, it is equally important that they get a feel for what scientists are actually doing. Integrating career exploration gives students an opportunity to learn about real scientists and the variety of jobs available with a science degree.

scientistsThe US Forest Service has put together a great set of Scientist Trading Cards. Print the cards to learn more about each scientist and then create your own. The USFWS – Pacific Region has an incredible set of photos on Flickr, #ScienceWomen.

I periodically write about science career options – Entomology and Hydrogeology are two thus far you may wish to explore. More to come soon!

In my history of science series, Science Milestones, I highlight architects, engineers, inventors, and scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us. In each post, I share learning guides or unit studies featuring basic facts about the person, questions for discussion, and places to read, watch and otherwise learn more.

Bestthings

For more FREE resources on a variety of topics, be sure to visit The Best Things in Life are Free link-up at iHomeschool Network.