Finishing Strong #110: Over-Scheduling & Homeschooling Simply

 

Finishing Strong #110: Inspiration for Middle & High School @EvaVarga.netWelcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.

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

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

What Are You Doing for Others? Inspiring Youth to Make a Difference @EvaVarga.net

The impact and legacy of our world leaders has been weighing heavy on my mind recently. It is hard not to be aware of the intensity of our upcoming presidential changeover and all that it entails.

We have been talking about it a lot in our homeschool and it has coincidentally lined up with our history studies (All American History) and our recent travels to the East Coast. Earlier this week, I reflected a little on what we have gleaned and how we hope to make a difference for others going forward. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s question, What Are You Doing for Others? is still relevant today.


homeschool simply teen years

The most clicked upon post last week was How to Homeschool Simply: The Teen Years by Shelly at There’s No Place Like Home. It is the final post in a series looking at how to accomplish a relaxed homeschooling atmosphere.

over schedulingThe Problem of Over-Scheduling is something I see frequently; and not just in homeschool families. Just two days ago, in fact, my daughter and I were attending her Venturing meeting and another girl stated that she would not be able to attend the planned kayaking trip because she was just too busy. “I have Venturing, Girl Scouts Travel Patrol, Sea Scouts, Archery, and Cheer Team.” When does she get her school work done, I wondered. When does she relax? I enjoyed Heather’s perspective on this and encourage you all to read it.

books that captivated usI remember nearly all these titles, what a fun post! Join Megan at Education Possible as she shares the 5 Enchanting Books that Captivated Us in Middle School. I often share my favorite titles with my own kiddos. It’s a fun way to connect with one another.

thesis statementsI was particularly drawn to Beth’s post, Creating a Strong Thesis Statement this week as I have been struggling to convey this information to my daughter. The thesis statement “expresses the main point of the entire essay. It’s often the most challenging sentence for a student to write, but without it, the essay may not reflect a specific direction causing more issues once the student starts writing.”

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As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

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Finishing Strong #108: High School Forecasting & Field Trips

It’s been a joy to get to know so many of you this year through our weekly Finishing Strong link-up. Through your posts, I am regularly reminded why we homeschool and inspired to try new things. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours!!

We will be back with our regular Finishing Strong posts on January 11th. The link up below will stay open until then. Please take a moment to add your ideas and encouragement for homeschooling middle and high school. I look forward to seeing what you’re excited about in your homeschool.

Finishing Strong #108

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


Many homeschool families are enjoying an extended holiday break this time of year. Others seek out fun hands-on activities to engage their kiddos while still incorporating learning opportunities. Mini unit-studies are perfect for this time of year.

Science Milestones: The Engineering Feats of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel @EvaVarga.netWhile substitute teaching last week, I led six class periods of seventh graders through an engineering challenge of building a tower with spaghetti noodles (uncooked of course) and marshmallows. It was a blast to watch the kids collaborate with one another to build their tower taller than the other teams.

As I watched, I realized that the activity fit perfectly with the science milestones study on Alexandre-Gustav Eiffel, I had shared just a few days prior. As his birthday is tomorrow (December 15th), there is no better time to read a short biography of this world famous engineer. Thereafter, try your hand at building a tower.


high-school-forecastingMy post, High School Forecasting: Coordinating Schedules, CLEP Exams, & High School Courses, was the most clicked upon post shared last week. Thank you so much everyone!

Field TripsOne of the posts I most enjoy this past week was, 10 Unique Homeschool Field Trips, written by Tina R. on iHomeschool Network. “These 10 unique homeschool field trips for multi-age children will help you to keep your kids learning together and keep field trips stress-free.”

Story StartersI also really enjoyed Michelle’s 50 Story Starters for Teens at The Heart of Michelle. These 50 story starters are sure to inspire your teen’s next creative writing assignment.

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As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Were You Featured?

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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It’s a Small World: Cover Story Writing Curriculum Leads to Meeting a Disney Animator

This past year, both kids have been working through Cover Story, a writing curriculum specifically aimed at middle schoolers whereby students create their own magazine.  The first task requires students to choose a theme and the writing assignments that follow all are geared towards their theme.

cover story writing

The assignments have been both challenging and rewarding. The experience has opened doors and provided opportunities to meet others who share similar passions. The interview assignment has been the most remarkable.

My daughter’s magazine theme was Japanese anime. She was in nearly in tears when we read through this assignment.

“How am I going to do this, Mom? How do I write an astounding but true story about anime? The director of one anime died before the series was finished, that might work. But no one I know even watches it so how do I interview someone?”

She happened to share her frustration one evening when she had arrived for her violin lesson and her instructor had greeted her in the usual fashion, “How are you?” Upon hearing of her dilemma, she exclaimed, “Did you know that my husband, Chuck, is an animator? He used to work for Disney. I know it’s not Japanese anime but would that work?” 

We made arrangement to meet Charles Harvey at a local coffee shop the following week. She brought along her prepared list of questions (one of the Cover Story writing assignments). They chatted for over an hour. My daughter loved watching short clips of the animations he had done – some of which were older Disney films we had not yet watched. Her favorite was Eliot, the magic dragon from Pete’s Dragon (1977), whom she also chose to feature in her magazine:

 

 

What I Love About Cover Story Writing

We have tried a variety of language arts curricula and writing programs over the years. What we like best are programs that provide real-life writing experiences, as opposed to workbooks and dry grammar exercises. Cover Story fits this criteria perfectly.

Students are led on a fun, thought-provoking journey of exploration and creation through the process of creating the content for their own magazine. A variety of writing genres are used including poems, short stories, non-fiction articles, letters, and many other short pieces. Each writing assignment is geared for use in their magazine. cover story writing

Where to Buy Cover Story Writing

In the summer of last year, I was able to purchase Cover Story at a reduced rate from the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. I am delighted to share that for a limited time, this wonderful writing curriculum is available through the co-op once again. Offer Expires 08-31-2016 at 11:59 pm Pacific

Buy Now

Always Wanted to Write a Novel? Get Started with NaNoWriMo

Have you heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short)? If you or your teen enjoy the craft of creating short stories and fictional novels, you may want to consider participating in NaNoWriMo this year.

We’ve known of the challenge for some time but have never really taken part. Over the past year particularly, my daughter has developed a strong interest in writing and eagerly participates in our weekly writer’s workshop.

During a recent family meeting she inquired, “In November, do you think that I could be excused from most of my schoolwork? I’ll still do Mandarin, math, and music – but could I have more time so I can devote it to writing? I’d like to do NaNoWriMo this year.”

Consider Participating in NaNoWriMo This Year

NaNoWriMo is an annual writing challenge that takes place between November 1st and 30th with a goal of motivating writers to finish 50,000 words within the allotted month. (Younger writers set their own word goal.)

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

If you’re interested in participating, simply sign up on the NaNoWriMo website and create a profile. You will then be asked to publicly announce the novel you plan to write, choose your location (allows you to connect with other local writers and attend events near you), and get writing. You can update your word count progress and access a variety of inspirational resources to help you get motivated and stay on task.

Getting Started with NaNoWriMo @EvaVarga.net

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Though NaNoWriMo doesn’t start for several days, if you want to participate, you may want to start thinking about getting prepared ahead of time. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Sign up on the website and fill our your profile ahead of time.
  • Figure out what you want to write about. Chances are, you probably already have a vague idea (or 2, or 10). Take this time to outline your story arc, setting, and characters before you begin.
  • Review the prep resources on the NaNoWriMo website.
  • Get as many chores and tasks out of the way first as possible. This is especially helpful if you’re the procrastinating type like me. 😉

Young Writers Program

There is also a Young Writers Program for writers 17 years or younger. Though youth ages 13 or older may participate in the adult challenge if they are up for writing a 50,000-word novel.

The Young Writers Program promotes writing fluency, creative education, and the sheer joy of novel-writing in K-12 classrooms. They provide free classroom kits, writing workbooks, Common Core-aligned curricula (for those interested), and virtual class management tools to more than 2,000 educators worldwide. They also offer suggestions for publishing student work.

If you’ve been meaning to start a book but just need a little extra support, NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity. Happy writing!

Finishing Strong #63

Welcome back to Finishing Strong! We had so many wonderful posts shared last week. I hope you had a chance to visit several of the participants posts.

We thank each of you for supporting our link-up by coming by every week to see what incredible posts are shared with us and for sharing your own. As before, in addition to our featured post, each of the participating bloggers will be selecting our personal favorites this week. Be sure to stop by each blog to see if your post was selected.

Myself

Heather at Blog She Wrote

Heidi at Starts at Eight

Megan & Susan at Education Possible

Finishing Strong #63 @EvaVarga.netI loved Annie’s post, Opportunities My Teens are Missing Because We Homeschool High School. It is is no wonder it received the most visits this past week. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.

While college admission requirements is a few years off, I enjoyed BJs post, Our Journey Towards College: Writing a Winning College Essay. I love that she provided examples of current prompts as well as walked readers through the steps she and her daughter undertook.

Another post I enjoyed was Sara’s Top 10 Middle School Vocabulary Tips. This is perfect for us! With our recent travels to Italy and Greece – studying Latin and Greek are on the top of our list. Together with her other ideas, we will knock out that college essay with finesse and pizzaz!  😉

 

What are you going to share with us this week?

Guidelines:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 4 sites. If you were featured, we would love for you to use the “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Please Share!

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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Bloggers, by linking up, you may be featured on our co-hosts’ social media pages or our Pinterest board. We may even select you to be featured in a future post!

We love people who SHARE WITH US!


Integrating Journal Writing with Middle School Students

Journal writing can be easily implemented wherever we, as teachers and learners, happen to be in the process of day to day. Journals provide a non-threatening place to explore learning, emotions, daily events, and language through writing. They also provide opportunities to discover experiences and feelings teachers and students have in common.  Research has shown that teachers who use journal writing have found that when they are sensitive and respectful of students’ attitudes, life stories, and learning processes, the children come to value and enjoy journal writing, and journals become an integral part of the curriculum.

I see the power of personal writing as connecting what is significant in children’s lives with what goes on in an academic setting – whether that is in a public school classroom or at home. Personal journal writing can be a means of validating each child, of saying to each child that what goes on in your life is important, what you think and feel is relevant, and that everyday events are the things writers write about. Children are full of stories, regardless of their backgrounds, but many of them don’t know they have stories to tell. Through encouragement, teachers and homeschool parents can bring out children’s stories and celebrate them. In doing so, we affirm our students, build their self-esteem, and encourage them as writers. Students and teachers also grow to know and respect one another, and a sense of community builds.

Journal Writing with Middle School Students @EvaVarga.netWhen teachers also become part of the journal writing process, students get to know us better and see that we are all connected by our humanness. As students are involved in the task of writing in their journals, teachers can also keep a journal of their own. Periodically, they should model the process of formulating ideas and putting them into words by sharing their journals with the student(s). In this way, students are guided into writing more coherently and with greater ease. I believe that benefits of personal journal writing are significant for both teachers and their students. In time, they will begin to own the journaling process and may even initiate journaling on their own.

Journaling Writing with Middle School Students

Middle school writing skills are essential to building a solid educational foundation in children. To help reinforce the habit of regular writing it is essential to show kids that writing can be fun. Journaling is one way to do so. Journal writing is a fabulous way to reinforce your middle school student’s writing practice because it is creative, versatile and easy to implement into lesson plans.

Journals can take many forms. This variety is perhaps one reason why the value of keeping a journal can be experienced by all individuals. The following list are just a few examples of the many types of journals you may consider:

Travel or Trip Journal

A travel journal documents the events, places, and impressions of a day trip or an extended vacation. It may include sketches, receipts or ticket stubs, labels from packages (especially if traveling in a foreign country), photographs, and perhaps even audio clips if keeping an electronic journal.

Emotions Journal

An emotions journal focuses on the feelings and internal emotions that the writer wants to reinforce, control, or understand. This can be a useful tool if working with a child that is coming grappling with loss or change.

Reading Journal 

Reading journals are useful to record impressions of thoughts or short reviews of books that you have recently read. In today’s technologically savvy world, many avid readers keep a record of their reading via GoodReads or other online book review sites. These have the added bonus of connecting you to others with similar tastes in books and allow you to find related books more easily.

getting started in 5 exercisesNature Journal

As a Charlotte Mason inspired educator, I cannot emphasize the value of keeping a nature journal enough. It is the one component of our homeschool that has stuck with us from the beginning.

A nature journal is used to record impressions of nature including weather, clouds, animals, leaf impressions, quotes, factual information, and other nature wonders. Field sketches, regardless of the degree of artistic talent with which they are rendered, force us to look closely and observe nature as it really is.

Simply put, nature journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world around you. The recording can be done in a wide variety of ways, depending on the individual journalist’s interests, background, and training.

If you are interested in learning more about using nature journals in the classroom while also earning college credit, consider my course Nature Journaling in the Classroom. Offered through the Heritage Institute, the course will help you to integrate nature journaling into your K-12 art and science curriculum. This is an online science course designed for educators in both formal and informal settings.

Dream Journal

A dream journal is best kept at your bedside so that you may record exactly any dreams you have nightly. I find that I don’t remember my dreams if I get up so it’s best to write them down immediately upon waking.

Dialogue Journal

A dialogue journal is much like a private conversation between two people, only in written form. In can take place between and parent and a child, between teacher and student, or even between two students.

We utilize dialogue journals with each of our children. We don’t write in them regularly but the kids know that if they have a questions or concern that they don’t feel comfortable talking about face to face, they may use the dialogue journal to reach out to us. They simply place it under our pillow and we return it in a likewise manner.

Gratitude Journal

Perhaps the simplest of all, a gratitude journal provides you with a few moments of reflection. Within the pages, you record a list of what you are thankful for at a given moment. It takes only 10 minutes or so but should be done on a regular basis, preferably daily.

Some like to write in their journal first thing in the morning. Others prefer to express their gratitude at the end of the day just prior to bed.

Reflection Journal or Learning Log

Providing students with an opportunity to reflect upon what they have learned is the goal of a reflection journal. Students are also encouraged to summarize what they have learned, record any questions they may still have about the particular topic of study, and to communicate how and what she has understood.

We utilize learning logs in both science and history. I will be writing in more depth about each of these in the next few weeks. In brief, however, our preference in science is an interactive notebook. In history, we utilize simple notebooking pages, though we do occasionally include interactive components in our history notebooks as well.

JIAmArt Journal

Artist’s journals are illustrated journals on any theme or combination thereof. It can be a record of your daily thoughts, a travel journal, an exercise or diet diary, a dream journal, a place where you jot down your goals, a to-do lists, or almost any record that you’d like to keep.

We’ve just begun to use art journals in our homeschool. Predominately, we use it as a method of trying new art techniques or media. However, we also use it as a reading journal, creating a visual or artistic impression of books we’ve read.

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Journal writing with middle school students provides a wealth of opportunity to grow individually and to get to know one another. In our homeschool, we utilize a variety of journals (I’ve linked to various posts I’ve written in the past as I’ve address each above). Don’t feel you need to utilize all of them – pick one and give it a try. Maybe add another later on when you are ready.

The journaling process should be gradual – there is no need to rush or feel obligated to complete a certain number of entries within a given time. Allow yourself – or your child – to express themselves comfortably. Over time, you’ll grow as an individual and become more accustomed to the process as well as more accepting of who you are as a person.