Interested in learning German at home? Or maybe you are teaching German to your homeschooled children? I speak German, but when I went searching for materials to teach German to my own children, I became frustrated with the lack of quality in many of the products available to homeschoolers. There is a wealth of material available online, but it takes a lot of time to assemble it all into a coherent, sequential language program. That’s why I began creating this free online German course for my own children and decided to share it with you! My long term goal is to have the two to three years of high school German most colleges require available here for free.
For this self-directed German course, I pulled together free resources from across the web. There are video lessons, songs, stories, games and quizzes to teach concepts and give your students an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned. Where I couldn’t find appropriate materials, I created my own to fill in the blanks and make a more comprehensive curriculum. The only thing that is really lacking is a conversation component, but if you find a friend to take the course with, you can practice together! I’ll share some more ideas later to help fill this need. And if there is enough interest, I may add on a weekly conversation course.
I have had quite a few requests for materials for younger students, so have added a free homeschool German course for young children as well. This is basically an introduction to the German language and will expose your child to the sounds and vocabulary of the language through stories, songs and videos, many of which are the same that German children enjoy.
There are some small required purchases (you can’t very well learn German without a dictionary, the biggest purchase!), but even after purchasing these books, you will have a fairly complete German course for less than the cost of a traditional text book. Check out the course description, and please share this valuable resource with anyone you know who may be interested in teaching German in their homeschool!
I’ve also created a course facebook page, Learn German at Home, which will have daily language fun to make learning German a little more engaging.
The first module will be available August 28, but you can go ahead and register now! Just click on the above link, register via the form and don’t forget to click enroll when you are done!
Summer can be a welcome break from formal lessons, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a break from learning. A collection of toys that are probably already in your beach bag is all you need to turn the pool . . . or a storage tub full of water . . . into a floating summer science lab. Check out these five simple science activities and brush up a little on your own science knowledge to help your children understand science without even having to think about school!
Exploring Bernoulli’s Principle With Your Child
OK, who of us hasn’t stuck their hand out the window to feel the force of the wind rushing past? Young children are natural explorers and will discover quickly how to make their hand dive and rise again just by tilting their hand in the wind. Connecting that to how an airplane’s flaps works is pretty easy and if your child has actually seen the flaps on an airplane’s wings, he or she may make the connection immediately.
Why does it work?
It’s all about Bernoulli’s Principle. OK, so for you physics people, there is a whole lot more to it than that, but for your children who are still young enough to pretend to be an airplane on the way to the pool, Bernoulli is enough.
Bernoulli’s principle states that the increase in the speed of a fluid (and yes, air is a fluid ←That link takes you to another simple experiment to demonstrate) occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure. An airplane’s wing is flat on the bottom and curved on top. Since the air has to get to the back of the wing at the same time, whether it goes over or under the wing, the air traveling over the top goes faster. This faster air creates a low pressure area which helps give the airplane lift.
Of course, with your hand plane, you are feeling the force of drag, the wind pushing against an object, more than the lift caused by the changes in air pressure. But there’s no better time for discussing the principles of flight than while pretending to be an airplane! Go ahead and throw in how the car’s engine is providing thrust and how the weight of your hand determines how much thrust is necessary and you’ve discussed all four forces involved in flight!
Exploring Drag With Your Child
Drag is the force that acts opposite to the direction of motion. Thrust pushes you forward while drag literally sucks you backward. It is much easier to feel in the water because more pressure is involved. You can feel the effects of drag even as you just try to walk through the water because humans are not very hydrodynamic.
Find some aerodynamic (hydrodynamic?) toys. Those weighted bombs are perfect for this. Race them under water. Feel how smooth they move through the water. Then find (or make) a small parachute. How does it feel as you pull it through the water? What you are feeling is drag. For smooth motion, the surface of an object has to be smooth to “cut” through the water. The shape of the tail area is important as well. If you look at several objects designed to be aerodynamic, you will likely notice that they have the same basic shape. Take a close look at a submarine, an airplane and a shark. What basic shapes to they have in common? And when you look at their tail area, what do you notice?
Why are they shaped similarly?
Water and air are both fluid (see above). The same laws apply to both, however the drag is much easier to feel in water because the pressure is greater. As water (or air) flows over your toy, it looks something like this:
See that space at the back, before the arrows join? That’s a low pressure area, creating a vacuum at the back of your toy. It “sucks” at the back, slowing it down (and decreasing fuel efficiency). This is the drag we have been talking about. The tail area of anything made to be aerodynamic (or hydrodyamic) is designed to minimize drag while maintaining balance. The fins help keep the machine upright, but they also increase drag. The tail area is tapered to decrease drag, but tapered too much and it can be hard to keep the machine from simply spinning in the water. Mathematicians and engineers work out the perfect balance for decreasing drag while maintaining balance and then build models to test in wind (and water) tunnels to see if their theories worked. Try turning the pool into your own test lab with a variety of differently shaped toys. If you have an older toy, it could be interesting to carefully cut the fins off and see what happens when it moves through the water.
Exploring Buoyancy With Your Child
“Float and Sink” is kind of a staple science center in early elementary classrooms. Children are born scientists, always questioning and always testing. What can be more fun than gathering all your favorite (water safe) things to throw in the water?
Even young babies seem to delight in just dropping things in the water to see what will happen. Older children can begin sorting objects by whether or not they float. Which of the floating toys could carry the sinking toys across the pool?
Once they are old enough to begin to make predictions about which objects will float and which will sink, they are old enough to begin to understand buoyancy. Gather several items and have your child predict which will float. Most important, ask why. She may think the dive ring sinks while the bottle floats because it is heavier, but why does a huge cruise ship float? Can you find items in your collection that float even though they are heavier than the sinking ones? Can any of them float while carrying one of the sinking toys?
Why does it work?
Archimede’s Principle states that the upward force (buoyancy) of a fluid (in this case water) is equal to the amount of water displaced by the object. So if you have a 10,000 pound ship, it has to displace over 10,000 pounds of water to stay afloat. That’s why a ship stays afloat unless something cracks the hull and it begins taking on water. Once enough of the ship is filled with water, it no longer is displacing enough water to stay afloat and it begins to sink.
Can you find anything with neutral buoyancy?
This is easier to demonstrate in a sink or pitcher, but you can actually measure the amount of water something displaces. Mark the edge of water and see how much it rises when you place something in it. What happens if you take an empty container and force it mostly below the water? And as you let the water rush in?
To really demonstrate the principle, try making this simple (if you know a little origami, anyway) paper boat and then recording how many pennies it holds before sinking.
And if you want to take a look at how buoyancy and Bernoulli’s law work together to make a submarine surface and dive, check out this short video on how submarines work!
Exploring Air Pressure With Your Child
For this, you need squirt guns. Or seahorses, dolphins or even soap bottles if you don’t like toy guns!
Water fights on a hot day are always fun, and some of the newer squirt toys for the pool can shoot whole columns of water quite a distance! Have you ever wondered why the water doesn’t just come pouring out of the hole, even when you aren’t squirting it? OK, so you may know, but have you explained it to your children?
Start out by getting your children curious. Hold several different squirt toys upside down. Some may dribble, but unless there is a hole somewhere, they really shouldn’t drain out. What happens if you open the stopper? If you poke a nail hole into the soap bottle? How about if you fill a milk jug and just turn it upside down without a lid?
There are actually two things going on to keep the water in.
First, nature abhors a vacuum. For water to come out, it has to be replaced by something. If the hole in the dispenser end is big enough, air will go up through the liquid while the liquid is coming out. That’s why milk jugs and soda bottles “glug” if you dump them by turning them upside down.
Second, air exerts pressure. 14.7 pounds per square inch at sea level, to be exact. In the case of your squirt gun, the air is exerting more pressure on the water than the water is on the air, so the air actually holds the water in the gun.
Once you squeeze the trigger, the pressure increases enough to send the water shooting out.
Really want to impress your kids? Try some water glass magic. Fill a glass of water to the top and place a note card over the top. Flip it quickly and watch as the air pressure holds the note card against the opening, holding all the water in!
Exploring Volume With Your Child
Assemble a variety of toys for filling and dumping. Don’t forget a set of measuring cups. These are great for teaching young children about volume and measurement. How many quarter cups does it take to fill a cup? How many cups fill a pail?
To really challenge their concept of volume, take several different sized containers and put the same amount of water in each one. Especially young children have a tendency to see height more than width, so they will think a tall thin container has more water in it than a short fat one. Help them to see that they contain the same amount of water by pouring the water back and forth between the different containers and the measuring cup.
If you have a set of geometric solids, try filling them up with water and comparing their volumes as well!
Are there are any other must-have toys or games you take with you to the pool to squeeze a little learning into the fun? If so, please share!
Next semester, my son enters high school. Homeschooling high school is a whole different level of commitment. There’s more work and more pressure. The count down to college and career has begun. And although I’ve done it once before, it’s still a little scary . . . and a little exciting.
He’s feeling it, too.
“Mom, is this going to be the hardest school I’ve ever done?”
But that isn’t so easy to answer. It is more work. But it is also more interesting work. You have more control over what you are learning. You start to explore ideas and careers. And your curriculum starts to look more like you.
It is an exciting time.
My son has decided he wants to be a YouTube millionaire. I am not one to squash dreams. In fact, we loosened our media restrictions so that he could start to learn more about recording and editing and publishing. YouTube could use more Christian channels. But is he going to make his first million on YouTube? Eeee . . . probably not.
So we also sent him to a sort of university open house thing where he got to talk to advisers and see what the University of Nebraska has to offer. He came away energized and determined to be sure that the curriculum we developed would be accepted. He also decided to study something in the general category of new media, journalism or film studies.
You know, as a fall back in case the YouTube thing doesn’t work out.
But this I can work with. This is something I can understand and write lesson plans around. And if he makes a million on YouTube somewhere along the way, I will have no regrets.
Also, he is hoping that we can put together some sort of forum where teens can discuss current events, history or writing. If that is something that would be at all interesting to you, please leave a comment or shoot me an email and we can see what would work best.
High School Communication Studies
To start with, he is starting his own YouTube channel. Ok, so he has one where he posts gaming videos, but this one is going to be more serious. It’s going to be something about the intersection of faith and politics, though I’m fairly certain it will comprise primarily of cringe-inducing rants. He is, after all, 14. And the world is so black and white when you are 14.
This, however, is his motivation. And mom is going to milk it for everything she can. He’s working on cover art and a title now while he learns a little about branding. I don’t have a curriculum, per se. Just experience and the internet. But what better resource is there for learning about communication on the internet? And you will likely notice just how many of my plans have at least a tangential link to his little pet project . . .
High School Writing
His writing is a little weak. He’s good at dialogue and at developing character and setting. He is not, however, very good at developing a plot. I’m not sure if he gets lost in the characters or if he doesn’t have a clear idea of where he wants to go to begin with. I suspect the latter because his nonfiction essays tend to meander and not really arrive anywhere, either. And I think I found the perfect writing curriculum for us: Write With World. Granted, it is actually a middle school curriculum, but I think the emphasis on studying quality writing, reasoning through images and articles and regular journal exercises are exactly what he needs. I can scale the assignments up a little for him, and we may push through and do one book per semester.
The only problem is that it seems that Write With World is no longer being serviced by World Magazine. I am glad I didn’t go ahead and get the Teacher’s Manual and access to the associated website, but the curriculum is still available new from christianbooks.com.
We’re also diving into rhetoric. ‘Cuz you gotta stick the classics in there somewhere.
We kind of already started this one, but it is fun, so why not? I haven’t hammered down the exact format, but he is going to fill out a summary sheet on each film we watch and write a paper on some topic. The first film we watched was The Poseidon Adventure (the orignal) and his paper was on the Reverend Scott as a Christ figure. As soon as I get the format down a little more, I’ll share it along with the summary sheet I come up with.
One of the biggest criticisms I have of most literature (and particularly poetry) studies is that they require the student to analyze them to death. We turn some of the most beautiful works in the English language into drudgery. So with that in mind, I am planning on only looking at one aspect of each film closely so we don’t lose the simple joy of popping popcorn and enjoying a good movie amidst the study.
High School Current Events
This ties together closely with the writing curriculum we are using, but for some time I have wanted to put together some lessons on discerning the quality of a news source. So our “literature” for the first semester at least is going to focus on news articles, editorials and essays. We are going to get a subscription to World News and each issue, he is going to choose one article to research further. The plan is for him to find two articles from different news sources which cover the same story but from a different perspective. He’s also going to look a little into the history of the topic and then report on what he finds.
High School Civics
There was this one speaker at the NCHEA conference, and, well, when I realized the guy that got my son all fired up at the teen conference was the same guy I had listened to in one of my sessions, it pretty much sealed my decision to go ahead and get the curriculum: The US Consitution Course by The Institute on the Constitution. It’s a self-directed video course with accompanying reading selections, quizzes and tests. He’s hoping to go through at least the video section with his best friend. He’s already looking forward to this one!
High School History
We are actually (sort of) following Hillsdale Academy’s online reference guide to organize our high school studies. We’re following the history curriculum a little more closely than other subjects . . . if you disregard the fact that American history comes junior year and he’s just a freshman. But it’s where we are at in our history cycle so I adjusted. Our main text is American History, a Survey (Volumes 1 & 2), by Alan Brinkley. I haven’t actually received it yet, so I’m taking it on faith that it is as good as the last texts they recommended.
Honestly, I have a stack of materials for US History and he already knows a lot of it. I think covering this in the ninth grade will be a nice transition for him to start getting used to the more academic requirements with a subject he is already interested in and knows a bit about.
High School Math
OK, so this is really middle school for most students. He’s just starting algebra as a freshman. We are currently using Life of Fred, but my daughter’s biggest complaint was that it didn’t have enough practice problems. So we’re switching to Saxon. Yippee. That’s about all the enthusiasm I can muster for that.
High School Foreign Language
He’d like to learn just about anything other than German, but I speak German. Probably about as well as he speaks English. So he’s stuck. If time were not an issue, I’d love to learn Russian with him. Or Swedish. Or Dutch. Actually, maybe I should see if Dutch would interest him more. I can read it. How much more difficult could speaking be?
Except I don’t have over 100 books in Dutch sitting in my library. So German it is. I am actually contemplating putting together a series of short Bible lessons in German for the kids in which I speak and draw and they use their familiarity with the Bible and my nonverbal cues to decipher what I’m saying. Let me know if that would be of any interest to you and I might record them.
Are you homeschooling high school? What resources are you using? I don’t feel nearly as lost as I did designing my eldest’s high school curriculum, but she just graduated and seems to be turning out just fine!
We all face challenges in our homeschools. Whether it is special needs, unmet expectations, attitude, behavior or our own lack of motivation, we all have those days when we wonder whether it is all worth the effort. How do we overcome challenges?
Unfortunately, for most of the challenges in life, there is no magic formula. Otherwise I could title this post Five Steps to a Problem Free Homeschool! Except the only thing I can think that would accomplish that is actually a two step process:
Remove the children.
Remove the parents.
So this is really more about focusing, prioritizing, giving yourself (and your children) grace and praying while you are working through solutions. And to do that, you have to start out by defining the problem.
What are your challenges in your homeschool?
Go ahead and write them down. All of them. I’ll be waiting right here.
After Mattias died, getting out of bed was a challenge. You can imagine what just about everything else looked like. Each day was this monumental task before me with only one real goal: Get through it. I noticed my children were falling behind. I noticed that they were starting to get out of work they didn’t like because I didn’t have the energy to fight them about it (much less train them). All of the life was draining out of our homeschooling because it had pretty much drained out of me.
And I was starting to fear that they would be better off in public school.
Thankfully, that’s not where I’m at now. Hopefully it’s not where you are at. (And if you are struggling with the loss of a loved one while trying to homeschool, please feel free to contact me. It can be a dark and lonely journey and so few people truly understand what you are going through.) I’m sharing this to say that this was my darkest place and yet here I am on the other side. All of my children are still homeschooling. My 18 year old will graduate on time and may be launching her career in less than a month. My children are still catching up on math, but they’re catching up. Things are pretty good. And I’m glad I was able to hang on.
It took years, but we’re in a good place now and I have a different perspective on the journey now than I did walking through it.
Why are you homeschooling . . . right now?
I don’t mean all those grand and lofty goals you may have had when you started or the 101 reasons you shared on facebook. I don’t even mean the ones you tell yourself to talk yourself down from the ledge. I mean really. Right now. You’ve likely thought about sending your kids to school at least once. If you’ve read this far, you may even be fantasizing about it. What has stopped you up to now?
Be honest with yourself, even if you burn your notebook after writing it down and keep your thoughts between you and God forever.
For me, it was a mixture of reasons.
I had been a relatively successful homeschool blogger. My blog was never a “big blog,” but I enjoyed the conversation and the extra money that wasn’t included in our budget was nice. There was a feeling of expectation and failing to live up to everything I had ever written about if I quit. And I did feel like I would be quitting.
Most of my friends homeschool. I am sure most of them would have understood if I threw in the towel, but what would we have in common if I stopped homeschooling? I didn’t care to listen to any lectures on how I was turning my children over to Pharoah’s schools. It was hard enough being told that I should question my faith if I did anything but rejoice at my son’s death.
And you know what’s really kind of funny now? I was just as scared of people telling me, “It’s about time!” As if it took this to recognize the error of my ways rather than realizing it was a sign that I was really struggling just to cope.
I also was afraid of having them out of my sight. I am not kidding when I say I wanted to tie them all to the couch and not let them do anything at all because they were safe there. In the first two months after Mattias’ death, I had heard at least 200 ways for a child to die. Straight from that child’s mother. I was neurotic. I obviously never acted on those impulses, but that didn’t mean I was ready to put them all on a bus and not see them for most of the day.
Take a close look at your reasons.
Are they any good? What do they tell you about your thinking? My thinking was clouded, but do you know what I noticed? A sense of failure . . . social expectations . . . fear. None of them were very good and all of them were about me. None of them were about what was best for my children.
So you would think that would mean that I would have marched them straight down to the school and enrolled them.
But I didn’t. Why? Because I hadn’t thought about what would be best for them, yet.
Why should you send your child to school?
Public or private, whatever your next step would be. Private school was never in our budget so it wasn’t an option. But be honest about what your child would gain being sent to school.
For me, it was academics. They would get the daily repetition they needed to improve their math skills. They’d have more structure than I was able to do on a consistent basis. Maybe my eldest would finally learn to spell well. I could take the time I needed to grieve and figure out this “new normal” everyone talked about and they wouldn’t fall any further behind.
That was the only reason I could come up with. For some people, that may have been enough. But fortunately, I had written out my educational philosophy long before any challenges had cropped up.
If you don’t have one now, in the midst of trials, it will be harder to walk through the process. Stress clouds judgment. Try to think through the basics of what you think “education” is. What is its purpose? What is the role of your children? What is the role of the teacher?
Take those answers and ask yourself if those goals are better met through homeschooling or some other form of education.
If you clicked over to peek at mine, you will notice that academics aren’t really at the forefront. They are important, but not for the same reason they are important in a public school. I have different goals in educating my child than the state. And while there certainly may be a point when an alternative to homeschooling is viable, for me, struggling in math was not compelling enough to give up everything else I believed about education.
And then there was the fact that I wasn’t the only one grieving. My children were grieving, too. Perhaps, they needed that time to heal just as much as I did? Perhaps we are where we are now because we took our time, even if it plagued me with feelings of guilt and failure.
So the key to overcoming challenges is?
Different for everyone. But you can’t get there without knowing precisely what your challenges are. Face them, define them, remember what you are striving toward. Never forget that the journey is part of the goal. It strengthens all of us. Confront your challenges head on and hold fast to the vision of the end goal. That is what gives you strength to keep going even when it seems too hard. You have to believe the struggle is worthwhile to keep struggling.
And pray. Asking yourself these questions will give you a clearer picture of what you are praying for, but He understands the groanings of our spirit, even when we do not.
So many new people have joined me on this little homeschooling adventure since I restarted my blog back in November. I really appreciate all of the comments, emails, likes and shares. I know I was pretty quiet for a LONG time as I battled doldrums of my own (more about that later . . . ) but it really has been a great encouragement to me to connect and reconnect with so many of you. As a thank you and as a welcome to all of my new readers, I thought I would assemble all of the free homeschool lessons I have offered on this blog into one post. Make sure to come back next Thursday for a special Easter message (or sign up for my newsletter to have it delivered straight to your inbox!)
First off, since it is the Easter season, is Walking With Jesus His Final Days, a week long study for Holy Week to share with your kids. It has some verses to share each day and suggestions for items to add to a small indoor garden to help bring the scriptures to life. I’ll be sharing our little virtual Holy Land tour on our facebook page (but don’t be surprised if we fall behind. It’s kind of how we roll around here!) and we’d love you to join us! Just click on the image to start the download.
Spring is also upon us and with it, gardening season! If you are planning on starting a garden . . . or even a small container garden . . . or even an indoor garden for the above lesson, you might find Developing Christian Character Through Gardening useful. It walks you through the parable of the sower with science, language and math lessons. And of course you will be sowing the seeds of faith and Christian character throughout. It has one of my favorite writing assignments in it, too. (I’ll share my other favorite assignment after Easter!) Again, just click on the image to start the download.
While you are planning out your garden, why not add on a unit study on honeybees and other native pollinators? This isn’t as structured because the idea is more to set the stage for multiple conversations over time. It is my favorite way to teach. It’s like manufacturing those ever valuable teachable moments. This isn’t a download, but the post will give you all the information you need to get started.
If you are stuck on teaching poetry, I also have a set of twelve free poetry lessons for young children. It teaches literary devices and how to have fun with language while appreciating great poetry. Then your child applies what he or she has learned to his or her own poetry. I changed the title to make it a little more playful, so if you already downloaded my poetry unit, you already have it. This one does require you to sign up for my newsletter (weekly or only for special offers), but then you won’t miss anything!
And last but not least, if you are teaching kindergarten, I have a free guide to calendar time. This one will take you to another site, but the download is free as well. (It may ask you to set the price, but free is a perfectly valid option!)
Thank you so much for your support. Y’all keep me sane (and just a little twinge Texan). I hope there is something here you find useful. If there isn’t, drop me a note and maybe I’ll add it to my list of ideas as I continue working on improving this site!
And if you’d like to be receive my newsletter with subscriber only content, subscribe here!
Part story telling, part encouragement. Part homeschooling, part whatever is on my mind. Pour yourself a cup of tea and join me for a spell as we reflect on this journey of life, education and faith.