Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hey, Homeschool Dad!

Hey Homeschool dad!

You are “the man” to your family.  You are the foundation on which the whole family is supported and they simply could not do life without you.  It’s important for you to know that you are deeply and heartily appreciated.  Today your wife might have nursed the baby, taught the other children, made a homemade lunch, cleaned up multiple messes, read storybooks and did 5 loads of laundry, but nobody gets as much glory as dad when he plays toss the kids up in the air and gives them whiskery kisses.  You are more than just a breadwinner, you are a hero to your kids.

Because you are “that hero” (shameless VeggieTale reference) your children view you as a powerful role model.  I want to encourage you to set a high vision for them no matter what their ages.  The behavioral expectations for children in society today are appallingly low and part of changing that is setting the bar a bit higher.  Your children need to see you behaving honorably in every circumstance, so they understand clearly what good behavior looks like.  They need to see you try your best at tasks and they need to be encouraged to do the same.  

Let’s be honest and acknowledge that your children are not always going to clear the good behavior bar that you have set for them and that’s when Dad needs to flex his proverbial muscle.  There seems to be no substitute for a father’s influence when it comes to matters of discipline.  When kids know that Dad is going to back Mom up it makes a tremendous difference in their behavior.  So, if Dad checks up on how things went during the day then the parenting power multiplies because the kids know that Mom and Dad are a united front.  

Your relationship with mom is vital to more than just good discipline.  Dr. Mark Lowery, professor at the University of Dallas writes, “In a word, a crucial contribution to the homeschool on the part of the father is his attitude toward his wife.  Needless to say, children pick up very quickly on the quality of relationship between their two parents and are profoundly influenced by it.”  The investment your wife is making in the lives of your children by teaching homeschool lessons, developing character, and instilling lasting values is time consuming.  She may have little time left over to create gourmet meals and keep a spotless home.  Your children are watching and listening to you to find out what you value the most.  

Thank you for all you do, Dad.  You are a busy man with many responsibilities and your family would be lost without your leadership.  You are that hero!  (Sorry. . .the same shameless VeggieTale reference).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sharing the Love

Last Thursday our home school students took thank-you cards, cookies, hot chocolate and a great big bag of stuffed animals to the Atlantic Police Department.  Chief Green welcomed us and told the
 kids they would distribute the toys to children who participate in Shop With a Cop.

 This morning the kids donated about 25 children's books to the Cass County Memorial Hospital and Atlantic Medical Center.  The books will be distributed throughout waiting rooms. 

We also took a trip to Heritage House where the children visited with 
some of the residents and wished them a Merry Christmas.

A box of 20 pillowcase dresses sewn by our homeschoolers was put in the mail to go to 
Little Dresses for Africa.  Based out of Brownstown, Michigan, the organization
 distributes dresses and shorts to children in orphanages all over the world.

Next Thursday morning starting at 9:30 the children will read books and play with children at the Ann Wickman Center and the preschool classrooms in our building.  We will also be making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to send over to Omaha with one of our parents who goes on Fridays to help out the homeless there.  We will finish off the morning with a good old-fashioned Christmas party!  
Tina and I are planning party games, treats and music!  See you then :-)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Writing & Reaching Out

The writing continues in our writer's workshop during December.  The older children are writing an original story using dialogue punctuation in one of the following genre: mystery, old western, comical fiction, comical non-fiction, humorous poem, or a poem that tells a story.  Above are a few of the students composing their stories or poems using laptop computers.

The younger students listened to the book "Snowmen at Night" by Caralyn Buehner which is a fun and imaginative book about what snowmen do after dark.  They also heard several short, humorous poems about snowmen.  The students were then challenged to write their own version of what they think snowmen do at night or an original poem about snowmen.  They each received a paper with a snowman template on it and were asked to write around the outside of the snowman. . . and then move to the inside if they needed more space.

When we were done writing we switched gears to our Operation Outreach project.  The younger kids frosted sugar cookies and decorated them with sprinkles.  These were paired with a large jar of cocoa mix and handmade thank you cards for the officers.  The goodies were then taken to the Atlantic Police Department where they were happily received on behalf of the police officers by police chief, Steve Green.  The children also donated stuffed animals to the police officers to share with families they are serving this Christmas.

We returned to the warm, cozy classroom for Brown Bag & a Book.  Linda is reading "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" to the children.  This funny Christmas classic never gets old!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Writer's Workshop

Students in Linda's Writer's Workshop have been analyzing writing by several excellent authors and applying what they learn to their own stories.  

In week one, we read the first two pages of Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare, by Patricia Polacco.  In this compelling opening, the main character uses metaphors to help describe her brother,
" He was the black hole in my universe.  The embarrassment of my life.  The frog in my punch bowl. The spider in my cereal. The wart on my cookie. The slug in my jello. The snake in my soup...."

Students discussed how this was a much more effective way to hook in the reader than just to say, "My brother was awful."  

In week two we looked at a few pages from chapter 11 of Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo.  In this chapter, the author describes a dog's fear of thunderstorms.  We discovered that the author doesn't just tell the reader that the dog is scared.  She shows us how he reacts and uses interesting words like "pathological fear" and "sproi-i-ing" as well as dialogue like " Winn Dixie came shooting back out of my room went running right past me and I screamed, 'Daddy, watch out!'"

Students have all finished a writing plan and started on their own story.  We have three more weeks to work on writing, editing and revising our writing.  Our goal is to have a final draft before Christmas.  Some students may need to work on their writing at home in order to meet that goal. 

This week we are going to spend some time looking at the way author Tomie dePaola uses dialogue in his book, Big Anthony.  We should discover that writing dialogue into your story adds the illusion of reality.   It also makes reading easier by breaking up large blocks of writing and adding white space to the page.  Writing dialogue is also a great way for a writer to reveal details about characters, share secrets and develop relationships between characters among other things.   (from Eight Good Reasons To Use Dialogue by Jenna Kernan)

Remember to ask your child about their writing.  Encourage them to get their ideas down on paper without worrying too much about mechanics to start with.  That keeps the student's creativity flowing.  They can go back and edit to fix spelling, capitalization and punctuation.  Happy Writing!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Little Elves Have Been Busy :-)

Shoeboxes packed for Operation Christmas Child
Christmas cards to send to soldiers

Little Dresses for Africa

Cinnamon & applesauce ornaments to give away in December

Monday, November 4, 2013

Operation Outreach

At 10:00 on Thursday November 7, Tina and I will begin a new Enrichment Class called Operation Outreach.  Our goal is to get the kids excited about serving others and put into action ideas that they come up with themselves. 

We will spend the first week making some ornaments to share in our community.  We will also be making Christmas cards to send to men and women who are serving our country in the military overseas.  

During week two, students will be packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  OCC sends shoebox gifts to children all over the world for Christmas.  Since 1993, more than 100 million boys and girls in over 130 countries have received gifts through this program.  This is something we have been doing since 2008.  Our home school assistance program has provided somewhere around 40 shoebox gifts over the past years.  That translates to 40 children who may have received their first Christmas gift because of the love of Atlantic homeschoolers.  

Week three we are going to put the students to work brainstorming ideas to reach out to our community.  People take more ownership in something that they plan and are invested in.  We want the kids to take some ownership and do something for our community.  We have no idea where this will lead, but we are excited to see what the kids come up with.  We will spend the first two Thursdays in December (weeks 4 & 5 of the class) carrying out whatever plan the students come up with.

There are so many good reasons for being involved in this type of project.  This morning I was reading some research done at the University of Michigan, and the benefits range from psychological to social to cognitive.  Most of all though, I think this type of projects molds our hearts.  We all come to this world with a great big ME problem.  We are by nature self-centered, greedy and prideful.  Doing this type of project gets my eyes off of me and onto something bigger.  It helps me to see that I live in community with others.  When I am helping others, I am also helping myself.

With this in mind, and the upcoming holiday season, I have started a couple of new boards on Pinterest. One has service ideas and the other has holiday ideas.  Feel free to use these resources in your family to bring more meaning to this time of year.

And finally, let me just invite you to bring your kids to Operation Outreach.  We start this Thursday at 10:00.  All I ask is that you let Tina or I know you are coming so that we have enough supplies for everyone!  




Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Island of Flappy Flap Radio Show

Today, students in the Home School Assistance Program's Creative Learning class, put together the final touches on their  live radio show.  Sound effects were perfected, dramatic voices rehearsed and music was cued.  They survived technical difficulties and persevered.  So proud of how they worked together.

I present to you,  The Island of Flappy Flap, a live radio adventure.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Junior Lego Creations!

The kindergarten through 3rd graders have been busy thinking and building with Lego's.  We have had a different theme each week.  The first week we had a "Snack Attack!" and we discussed our favorite snacks and where the snack ingredients come from.  We also talked about all the people who keep our food safe from the farm to the table.  There were many surprising people including veterinarians, truck drivers and the people that stock the grocery shelves to name a few.  The students worked in groups to create a lego model of where applesauce comes from by making an apple orchard, a truck for transporting the apples, and a kitchen with a cook making applesauce.  Our other group worked to create a truck to transport the ingredients needed for pancakes and also a restaurant that makes and serves pancakes.  I am amazed by the ideas and building skills of the students! 

Our second session was called "Body Forward" and we discussed biomedical engineering, which is when doctors, scientists, and engineers work together to create medical innovations to help people. Some examples of this are prosthetic limbs, Band-aids (someone had to come up with adhesive that worked on human skin!), and vaccines.  The students created a special cutting edge x-ray lab to scan the entire body for broken bones.

Today we had fun during a session called "Smart Move."  The theme was transportation and we watched a video about how bananas go from the plantation to the grocery store.  We also watched a video about all of the different way people get from place to place from horse drawn carts to helicopters! The students were challenged to choose an item that needs to be transported and then build the system to get that job done.  One group built an orange grove and moved oranges over bridges and then used trucks to get them to the grocery store.

I can't wait until next week when we think about how things are powered and where that power comes from.  We'll see you all then for "Power Puzzle!"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apples and Bees Galore!

We had a great time at the 3 Bees Farm in Griswold!  After a hayrack ride through the orchard and a walk (or run) through the corn maze, we learned much about apples and bees and how they relate to each other.  Did you know that each bump on the bottom of a red delicious apple represents one bee that pollinated that apple?  The apples trees need bees to carry the pollen from flower to flower and the bees need the nectar to make honey and build their honeycomb.  We learned that the best way to know if an apple is ripe is to just take a big bite and see if it tastes right.  In the picture above, Steve is showing us how they shine the apples up and then sort them by size.  The smaller ones go into cider and the larger ones get sold for eating, baking, applesauce, carmel apples and many other things.  Just thinking about it makes me hungry!  What kind of apple will I eat today?  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Old time radio program


Creativity is happening today in enrichment!  Students are working hard to write their own radio story.  Brainstorming and generating ideas for a story is the first step.  Once the story is written, students will assign parts, and then find music and sound effects to add to their production.  Younger students are working with Tina to make an advertisement to go with our broadcast.  On Thursday October 24 we will record their broadcast live!  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oh Say Can You See

Last week's music class was all about patriotic music.  The kids were pretty familiar with most of the music we sang, but they were shocked, as many are, to find out that the Star Spangled Banner has three verses.  Francis Scott Key penned all of these verses after observing a British attack in Baltimore Harbor during the war of 1812.  When he realized that the Americans had successfully defended Fort McHenry, he set pen to paper and wrote the famous poem.  It was later set to a popular British tune.  In 1931 the US Congress adopted the song as our National Anthem.  

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the Star Spangled Banner, oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vic'try and peace; may the heaven rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust."
And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Francis Scott Key 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Flora & Ulysses

This book.  This Thursday.  Brown Bag and Books.

Be there :-)


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Self Portraits

We have been having so much fun doing self portraits.  The younger ones have been using a method taught by Mr. P on YouTube, which uses the number 2.  The results are pretty amazing.  Even 5 year olds are able to follow this method.  We took our photos and portraits and made an ebook using the Story Maker app for iPad.  This app allows you to send the book through email as a PDF file.  If your child created a book, you got an email :-) 

Older students created a Doodle Summer Self Portrait using a method taught by Kathy Barbro.  Their portraits tell the story of their summer.  You can see, the results are fantastic!  

I'll keep you posted...


Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Above is a scene from last week's Creative Learning class.  Didn't you just love love love playing dress up as a child?  I know I did.  Did anyone else have a pair of plastic Cinderella shoes or is that a '60's thing that you are all far too young to have experienced?  The best dress up stuff was from my grandma's closet.  Those were the good old days...

Turns out that playing dress up is pretty important in the life of a child.  A child learns about himself and others in this type of play.  When playing dress up with others, kids learn teamwork and negotiation.  They take turns and agree on topics and rules.

They learn empathy, putting themselves in another person's shoes. It expands vocabulary. It stimulates their cognitive skills.  To engage in dramatic play, a child must recall what mom looks like when she cooks supper, or think about how a lion roars or how a horse would gallop.  This moves them toward abstract thinking as they create their own scenarios. 

Kids have to work on decision making. Who's going to be the nurse and who is the patient?  What is the role of the dragon in our world?

Best of all, this kind of dramatic play stimulates creativity in children.  As they go from role playing the familiar to the less ordinary,  kids start to think outside of the box.  A large scarf becomes a set of wings, and ordinary becomes extraordinary. Allowing children to have the time to play in this way contributes to their ability to be think creatively, be innovative and inventive.  And that is awesome.  


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Today we enjoyed having some new students join us for Lego Robotics.  All 11 kids learned to program the robots how to do both a swing turn and also a point turn.   Swing turns are similar to how you would turn when you're riding your bicycle and a point turn is a sharp 90 degree turn.  In the above photo you can see the kids busy programming their robots for one of the challenges that was performed today. 

The students started off with programming their robots to navigate through a simple maze.  This robot made a nice 90 degree turn within the track allowed inside the maze and the team celebrated a victory.  All three teams were able to program their robots to move through the maze without going outside of the lines.

The next challenge was to program the robot to move around the outside of a square.  This was most easily accomplished by using another new programming concept we learned today, the loop.  A loop is simply telling the robot to perform a task multiple times.  For instance, with the square they told the robot to make a sharp 90 degree turn and then move forward 2 wheel rotations and to loop that process 3 more times to make a perfect square.

I'm so pleased to have these enthusiastic and intelligent students perform these challenges because it's fun to watch how they problem solve glitches with their robots.  They are creative and have done an amazing job of working together in teams.  I am looking forward to next week when we'll learn how to program the robots to avoid obstacles using two different sensors!!!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Getting Creative With Leaves and Petals


New creatures emerged from plain paper last Thursday as some of the younger homeschool students created put their creativity into practice.  A short nature hike provided us with leaves, petals, sticks and other interesting things combined with markers and a little glue to invent new creatures.  

A little later the same group learned folk songs, played an echo singing game and learned some simple rhythms.  Everyone enjoyed playing some of the old classics like London Bridges, The Farmer in the Dell and the Hokey Pokey.  There are so many great American folk songs and games.  It's no wonder that children have enjoyed these same ditties for years and years.  What a fun group of children!

To finish off the morning, many of the children stayed for our weekly Brown Bag and Books activity.  We started the year off with the 2013-2014 Iowa Children's Choice Award winner, The Luck of the Buttons, by Anne Ylvisasker.  This charming story about tomboy, Tugs Esther Button, takes place in small town Iowa in 1929.  Seven chapters into the story, there is mischief, pie, an upcoming 3 legged race at the annual 4th of July celebration, and a shady character form Chicago who promises to bring progress to their sleepy little town.  The children don't trust him, but they love Tugs, and can't wait to come back to hear what happens next!

Looking forward to next week!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Getting Creative at Enrichment Classes

Seven eager students arrived this morning ready to learn about Lego Robotics.  Lego Robotics is a combination of legos, software and creativity.  The sky is the limit when you use these kits!  Our students are getting a basic introduction to how to use the Robotics kits to perform simple tasks. 

Today we built a very basic robot called the Simplebot.  The students worked in teams to build their robots with very little help and in very little time which was IMPRESSIVE.  They are quite a bright group and cooperated well to get the job done!    Team building is an important skill that is emphasized when using Robotics.  

In the photo above Rachel and Angela congratulate each other on their robot performing the task as programmed.

 Libby, Anna, Ethan and Carli are busy programming the robots that they built in the classroom.

After the robots were built we moved into the gym to program them.  A robot really isn't very smart, so the students had to tell the robot which functions to perform in a systematic, step-by-step approach.  Once again, these bright kiddos had the robots performing tasks in no time at all.
 Ethan and Heidi are working diligently at getting their robots programmed and ready for the drag race challenge!

The most difficult challenge that was carried out today was a drag race!  We sent the robots straight down the gym floor about 12 feet and then it had to return and stop with its wheels ON the starting line.      
We ran two heats and the older students won the first one and the younger students won the second round.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the kids can do with the challenges I have prepared for them next week as we incorporate a few more programming tools!

Remember, tomorrow morning we have our first Friday Field Trip!  We are meeting Brayton at the Old Glory Park (the only part in town, you can't miss it) with our bikes and a picnic lunch.  We will ride on the T-Bone Trail and end with a picnic.  Hope to see you there!


Monday, August 26, 2013

From Discounts to Pinterest

Good Morning Everyone!

It's going to be a hot week outside.  Are you the type that will just hibernate with a fan and the air conditioning cranked up, or will you take the opportunity to play in the sprinkler and blow some end of the summer bubbles?  No matter which you prefer, I am pretty sure some ice cold lemonade or raspberry tea is in order!

This is also a great time of year to look for the back to school bargains that we all enjoy.   I found a couple of websites that list many discounts available to homeschool families and teachers.  One great place is The Frugal Girls.  Their website is great.  Who doesn't get hooked in with a motto like, "Living Well with Less $$$"?  Another list is found at The Home School Mom.    I also found The Complete List of  77 Teacher Discounts at Gift Card Granny.

Many of these businesses ask for some type of identification to prove you home school your kiddos.  So, I have created a business card size membership card for the Atlantic Home School Assistance Program.  Stop by the room sometime and pick yours up!  You can keep it in your wallet and then, presto!  You have your proof when you need it.

Another great way to find discounts is to sign up for the weekly newsletter from CurrClick (Curriculum and Classes in a Click!)  If you follow the link, there is a place to sign up for their weekly newsletter.  It comes to your email and is always full of freebies and discounted home school resources.  You can scan it quickly to see if anything catches your eye and might be useful and delete it just as quickly if you don't see anything you can use.

A goal of mine this year is to use Pinterest as a place to collect ideas for you.  I currently have 13 boards on Pinterest that deal with education.  And here's the thing.  If there is something you would like to know more about and I don't have it there, just let me know.  I can create a board just for you.  For instance, you may notice that I have a board called All About Turtles.  A homeschool mom told me her daughter wants to learn all she can about turtles, so I made a board to help her out.  Now she has several online resources all in one place that are easy to find.

If you can think of other ways that I can help you be a better teacher, please let me know.  That's what I love to do :-)

Try not to melt this week,


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fun Changes in the Atlantic Home School Assistance Program

This fall brings cooler weather and some exciting changes for the Atlantic Home School Assistance Program. We are expanding! Tina Olson has joined the staff and will work with Linda Nichols. Together we will continue to offer services as supervising teachers and as a resource to you.

In addition, we will also be offering monthly Friday field trips and Thursday morning enrichment classes. At 9:00 and at 10:00 on Thursday mornings there will be classes offered for K-3rd and 4th-8th grade students. They will be in 4-5 week sessions, and we will offer three sessions each semester. You will have the opportunity each month to sign your children up for the next session.
Brown Bag & Books will follow from 11:00-12:00 on Thursday mornings. 

We have also added a new Mom’s Corner in the room. Come and check out resources and ideas that we will have posted there.

Enrichment Class Calendar

September 5, 12, 19, 26

9:00 K-3 Creative Learning-Linda

9:00 4-8 Lego Robotics - Tina

10:00 K-3 Folk Music - Linda

10:00 4-8 Lego Robotics, build time - Tina

11:00 Brown Bag & Books

October 3, 10, 17, 24

9:00 K-3 Creative Learning - Tina

9:00 4-8 Creative Learning - Linda

10:00 K-3 Lego Fun - Tina

10:00 4-8 Folk Music - Linda

11:00 Brown Bag & Books

November 7,14,21  December 5,12

9:00 K-8 Writer’s Workshop Linda& Tina

10:00 K-8 Operation Outreach Linda & Tina

11:00 Brown Bag & Books

January 9,16,23,30

10:00 K-8 YMCA Fun Linda & Tina

in YMCA back gym

11:15 Brown Bag & Books


Break for testing & parent workshops

11:00 Brown Bag & Books

March 6,13,27 April 3

9:00 K-3 Music of the Masters-Linda

9:00 4-8 Art of the Masters -Tina

10:00 K-3 Creative Learning-Linda

10:00 4-8 Creative Learning-Tina

11:00 Brown Bag & Books

April 10, 17, 24 May 1

9:00 K-3 Art of the Masters-Tina

9:00 4-8 Music of the Masters-Linda

10:00 K-3 Creative Learning-Tina

10:00 4-8 Creative Learning-Linda

11:00 Brown Bag & Books

Field Trip Fridays

We have a fun slate of Friday Field Trips planned for this year!
September 6 - T-Bone Trail Ride
MEET at 10:00 in BRAYTON with BIKES

October 4 - 3 Bee Farms
November 1 - Atlantic Food Pantry
January 17 - Swim at the YMCA
February 21- Brinks Flowers
March 7 - Hy Vee
April 4 - Environmental Day at Camblin Addition
May 2 - Des Moines Science Center

Thursday, April 18, 2013

USA Treasure Map Progress

Some of the projects still need some paint, but here is what we have on our map so far:
Animals of Alaska
State animal of California, the bear
Lego Land, California
Hachi, movie made in Hollywood, California
Henry and his big dog Mudge in Oregon, the home state of author Cynthia Rylant
Mount St Helen in Washington
Fisher Towers in Utah
Texas longhorns and Texas bluebells
Bethany Hamilton in Hawaii
A bar of gold and the state flag of Colorado
A fighter jet at the Air Force Academy
Mt Rushmore in South Dakota
The state symbols of Nebraska
The large globe at the Henry Doorly Zoo
Amelia Earhart's airplane in Kansas
Busch Stadium in St Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
The Iowa Capitol Building
Farm ground (rich soil) in the midwest
Sheep in the midwest
Secretariat in Kentucky
Parisien, the first Simmental bull imported to the USA
Disney princess castle in Florida
George Washington in Virginia
Washington Monument, Washington D.C.
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
The Statue of Liberty, New York
Red Maple tree, Rhode Island
A map of the routes of the Underground Railroad
The Panama Canal (built largely by the USA)