Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I discovered something that I just LOVE this morning.  It's called wordle.  It just sounds fun!  Wordle is a free application you can use, and you don't even need an account at their site!  ( I also watched a free tutorial video that showed me how to use the site and gave me some great ideas for ways to use it in teaching.  How fun is that! 

In a nutshell, wordle takes any group of words; a document, poem, speech, blog or any other group and finds the most prominent words.  It takes those words and makes them into an interesting word picture, or word cloud.  The wordle above was created from this blog.  You can change fonts, color schemes etc or just let the program do it for you.

One interesting application for wordle would be to use it as a tool for comparing and contrasting ideas.  You could enter the text from a speech made by Woodrow Wilson and create a wordle, then create another one using the text from a speech made by Teddy Roosevelt.  Have your children put the two wordles side by side and compare and contrast what they see.  Below I have an example of a wordle made from the encyclopedia text on an entry for mammals and one for reptiles:

Try having your child take a poem she has written or a list of vocabulary words and making a wordle.  The possibilities are endless!  Since I just love words and I'm a little bit of an artsy gal who loves design, I think this is really great.  (And so, of course, I HAD to share it!!)

Loving learning with your kiddos,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Does That Work???

The 2011-2012 school year is off to a great start! I have had many encouraging conversations with parents about exciting things going on in your home schools. As always, my hat it off to each of you for the great jobs you do in educating your children!

As you know, the theme for this year's enrichment in the Atlantic Home School Assistance Program is How Does That Work?, and I found myself asking that very question over and over as I was trying to make a change to my blog. You will notice a new feature. The HSAP schedule is now to the right of the latest blog entry. I have decided to embrace technology and am now using Google Calendar to keep track of my schedule. Thanks to a patient (and much younger) friend, I finally got it figured out!

The first thing we will be trying to "figure out" in enrichment is the wonderful human body! Staring with the brain and nervous system and moving on to the circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, muscles, bones and skin, we are off on an anatomy adventure! I hope to make real world connections in our learning to think about how experts in the field would use this information. Who knows, we may be educating future doctors, nurses, medical specialists, researchers and physical therapists!

Hope you are off to a great start this year, and as always, let me know how I can help!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Great Year!

I can hardly believe how fast this year has flown by! I can honestly say this has been one of the most enjoyable years for me in the home school assistance business. I have the privilege of working with involved parents and awesome kids. Not many teachers can say that. So thanks for making my job so much fun!

Some of you were able to be a part of the Abraham Lincoln presentation last Friday given by Lee Williams. He does such a fantastic job of bringing our 16th president to life and the children (and adults too) were a captive audience. Thanks to Kelly for making that happen!

The new Kids' Collection is done and many of you have your copies. Each year I enjoy seeing that come together.

So, time to look ahead to next year. The enrichment theme will be...drum roll please....How Does That Work? A year focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM is the buzzword in education) I have plans to study the systems of the human body, a unit called Engineering the City, some hands on physical science (including the science of roller coasters...hmmm maybe a field trip to Adventure Land?) and some really cool hands on Algebra stuff. I'm excited to try to make science and math come alive for the kids.

Also, if any of you would like help in setting goals for next year, or would like to conference with me for any other reason, let me know. I will have some time open next Tuesday and Thursday and also on Tuesday May 24.

Look for registration packets in the mail by late July, and have a GREAT summer!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

I am currently reading a truly amazing book, Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall & Denver Moore. It is the story of a homeless man and an international art dealer and the woman who bound them together in a deep friendship. It is woven with truth and I find it challenging me in much the same way the book, Crazy Love, by Francis Chan did.

Same Kind of Different as Me is one of those books that you have to stop yourself from reading too fast so that you can slow down and reflect a little, and maybe even consider how it (ok, not "it" but probably Someone a little mightier than a mere book) might change the person you are.

In doing a little personal reflecting, I feel like I need to encourage you to remember that the most important lessons you teach your children are not the ones in the school books. Those lessons are merely a means to an end. The school book lessons give them the tools they need to think , to solve problems , find answers and they prepare them for what their future holds.

But the lessons in how to live, how to treat others, how to be salt and light and how to live with integrity in a sinful world are far more important. Teaching your children to navigate a world that isn't black and white in a way that glorifies the afore mentioned Someone is your top priority and it happens every day. It happens when you set appropriate boundaries, when your give your children age appropriate responsibility and when you don't rescue them from failure. It happens when they see how you treat others, how you love the unlovable and when you choose not to gossip about your neighbor. When you listen to what your kids hearts say and when you talk about your faith and how it lives in your life. You all do an amazing job as parents and I just wanted to encourage you in that!

That's all for now...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Everything Seuss!

With the celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday in March, Atlantic's HSAP has been abuzz with all things Seuss! The creative juices are flowing and students are busy creating their own Seuss-like verses and illustrations. It will be fun to include them in this year's Kids' Collection!

Speaking of the Kids' Collection, I would like to remind you that I take submissions to our annual publication in April and then put it together early in May. If your children have any stories, reports, poetry or art work that you would like included, please get those to me in April.

Also in April I will be going back to my roots in music education with your children and teaching them some music appreciation. I plan to use the children's books, The Bat Boy and His Violin, and Zin! Zun! Zin! A Violin!, as well as the orchestral music from the Romantic period, of Peter and the Wolf to teach the kids about the instruments of the orchestra. I will bring in a few instruments for the children to see and we will take a look at how they produce sound as well. Should be fun!

And finally a reminder that the Atlantic Schools will be closed for spring break Friday March 19 through Wednesday March 23. Because of that there will be no HSAP next Tuesday or Wednesday. We will have regular Thursday meetings.

Enjoy the great weather!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Things I've Been Thinking About

Lately I've been thinking about questions and engaging kids in "substantive conversations". This is something we've been learning about in our teacher professional development time. In order to get children to do higher level thinking, I need to frame questions in a way that draws that out.

So, I ask things like; "What do you think about....?" "How is that the same as...?" "How is that different from...?" "Can you give me some examples of...?"

That can be a little bit of a challenge, but here is the thing I've noticed. I want to answer my own questions! I don't always give kids time to think. It's easier to bale them out and answer for them than to restate the question in a different way. And maybe sometimes, I need to model my thinking (without giving them answers) to help them learn how. Wow! This is hard!

Mike Schmoker, keynote speaker at our In-Service on MLK Day, says that we need to spend more time having kids read, discuss and write about increasingly complex fiction and non-fiction materials. He mentioned historical documents. So I thought, "Ok, I'm going to try this with some homeschooled students."

This is the formula he gave;
I. Teach vocabulary from the reading/ provide background information for the text. Provide kids with a question or prompt before they read.

II. Model to kids how mature readers read critically, underlining and annotating text.

III. Let kids read alone. Have them pair up and share throughout the reading as you check for their understanding. Repeat the process till students can finish the reading independently.

IV. Discuss what you read. Then write about it.

So I pulled up Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's famous I Have a Dream speech and tried this with some of your children. We looked up vocabulary words. We discussed the background for this speech and I gave them a prompt; "Look for the repeated phrases as you read."

I read the first part of the speech to the students and tried to model critical thinking. Depending on the age and reading ability of the student, I had them read all or part of the speech independently. I gave the students a highlighter and told them to underline things they like and things they don't understand. We tried to do the discussion part. Then I had the kids write about their own dreams for a better world.

Here's some of what I observed:
I really have to think about how to frame questions to get good discussion going.

It can be really hard to get siblings to have these types of conversations.

Kids have really good thought processes, but sometimes I have to shut my mouth for awhile to see that.

Sometimes kids try to give you lots of reasons why they can't write, (usually just means they don't want to) but usually if you stick at it and help them to brainstorm a little, they come through!

Persevering and doing something hard gives kids (and adults, myself included) confidence for the next hard thing:-)

Technology makes it MUCH easier to look up vocabulary words in this day and age than it was when I was a kid. If Miss Arnold (my 4th grade teacher) had only known that all of those dictionary drills would be obsolete one day...

So, there you have it. Some of the things I've been pondering lately, that is when I'm not thinking about wrestling meets and the next big tournament. Yep, I'm a mom.

Coming up in February; Groundhog Day, Lincoln's birthday and some experiments with pennies, Valentine's Day and maybe a real heart if I can get one from the locker, and of course, the State Wrestling tournament. Hopefully Rob will make it again this year.

Until next time...