Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Service Learning Project

Students in the Atlantic Home School Assistance Program has been working together on a service learning project during our latest session of enrichment classes.  So what exactly does that mean?

During week one, Tina and I lead the students through an exercise called Blue Sky, which culminated in  the students recording their dreams for our world on a cloud.

In the coming weeks, students identified one local area they wanted to work in and one further reaching area.  They discussed everything from clean water in Africa, and education for girls in Pakistan to our local food pantry and the Friday Friends backpack program.  In the end they decided to do something to help the animal shelter locally, and on a bigger scale, they wanted to do something to come along side the adults in our community who reach out to the homeless in Omaha each Friday.

Our next step was to form teams to work on each project.  In those teams, the students came up with a plan and took the responsibility to execute that plan.  They made phone calls and met in person with people here in our community.

The Animal Shelter team originally wanted to volunteer time to walk dogs, play with cats and maybe clean out kennels.  After talking to personnel at the shelter, they found out that the animal shelter's insurance plan doesn't allow for volunteers younger than 18 years of age.  We discussed how our plan made us feel good, but we needed to do what would help the shelter.  So they went back to the drawing board, asked the shelter what their needs were and came up with a new plan.  They searched Pinterest and found many ideas for making toys for dogs and cats from items that we could collect without raising money.  Some of the ideas worked and others did not.  Through trial and error, the students came up with several designs that worked.

They also designed a cat house to donate.

Dakota even put a plea on Facebook for donations.  
She came in with a box of donated items as well as a case of cat food.

Students also called a local business to see if they could donate pet food that has passed it's expiration date.  They found out that there are laws that won't allow that.

Next week, we plan to deliver our donations to the local shelter.

Our other team had some personal connections to people who go to Omaha each Friday to reach out to the homeless there.  That team started with a long list of ideas to help out.  Could we make peanut butter sandwiches to donate?  Did they need pancake mix?  What about coats, gloves or hats?  

They had a meeting with the adults involved and found out that there really wasn't a need for sandwiches.  They could use pancake mix, but our students didn't have a budget to work with for purchasing that.  They found out that there is a huge need for blankets, hats and gloves.  The boys went to work seeking donations for these items.  They contacted a local thrift store.  They put out a plea within our group.  They also contacted our local middle school and high school to see about collecting donations from other students in our school district.  They are still working on collecting those donations, but have a large pile of blankets and sleeping bags already.  They also have some books that will be donated to the homeless.  We plan on delivering items to a local church next week, where they will then be taken to Omaha and distributed.  

It has been a wonderful learning experience and students of all ages have worked together to make this project happen.  We plan to try this process again in the spring.  At that time we hope to let the students take even more ownership and responsibility in creating another plan to reach out and make our world a little bit better place.  It is our hope that our students will see that they can do big things!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Boston Tea Party in Iowa? Yes!

On a crisp fall day in Iowa the Atlantic Homeschool Assistance Program students took part in a reenactment of the December 16, 1773, Boston Tea Party as part of our Citizenship unit.

We went back in time and gathered for "afternoon tea time" with iced tea and Nilla Wafers served and  we discussed the growing feelings of resentment toward England for the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Quartering Act, Tea Act, etc.  While we ate and discussed these injustices, we hatched a plan.  We determined that we would show the King our displeasure with his numerous taxes by dressing like natives and dumping a shipload of tea into Boston Harbor.

The excitement began by disguising ourselves as natives.

Next we had to sneak from our meeting place out to the East India Company ship in Boston Harbor that held the tea.  It was important to stay very, very quiet so that we didn't draw attention to ourselves.

Once we found the ship we dumped the crates of tea (dried leaves) directly into the harbor.
Finally, we returned to our classroom to discuss King George's reaction to our act of rebellion.  Needless to say, he wasn't very pleased.  He closed Boston Harbor until the city of Boston repayed the East India Company for the tea that was dumped and restricted the ability of the colonists to meet freely.  They were restricted to only one town meeting per year.

In the coming few weeks we'll learn more about how our country was founded and the structure the of our current form of government as we wrap up our unit on Citizenship.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We are off to a good start this fall in the home school assistance program!  Tina and I have been having great visits with families and our first session of enrichment classes is half way done already! We have a new Apple TV in the room which is pretty exciting.  We now have the technology to play on the TV what is on our computer screen or on an iPad.  There are so many ways we can apply this in our teaching.  Of course, this hasn't come without a few technical difficulties, but we are learning.

Tina has been using the Excellence in Writing curriculum with our older students on Tuesday mornings.  I will let her tell you more about this at another time, but kids are writing and they are learning new skills!

I have been doing Visual Phonics with younger students and their moms on Tuesday mornings.  I took a training in early August and am just so excited to pass on what I learned.  Visual Phonics is a multi-sensory strategy that connects sound to print with hand shapes and movement.  I can't believe how fast the children are learning the hand shapes!  Their little brains are like sponges and we are already putting sounds together to make words.  We have been singing songs and playing games to reinforce the sounds and hand shapes and also to work on our phonemic awareness.

One of the beauties of Visual Phonics is that beyond it's success in helping students learn to read, it is also very useful with older students to help them with irregular spellings, and those hard to read words in our language that break all of the rules.

I am also excited to have moms learning along with the kids and giving them opportunities to practice using Visual Phonics in their own teaching at home.

Tina and I have been teaching another enrichment class called, I Want To Be Responsible.  We will be doing six different classes this year that focus on character traits.  So far in this class we have focused on being responsible for ourselves and also money.  Older students spent some time making collages showing ways to be responsible for their bodies while younger students used some paper dolls and dressed them appropriately for different types of weather.  We have also had some fun with money using an online game for the older students and doing some dramatic play with younger students.  In weeks to come we will cover being responsible for others and our world and end with a project to reflect our learning.

As always, let us know if you have questions or concerns.  We are here to help you be a better teacher!

Happy Learning,


Monday, May 5, 2014

For When Things Don't Go Like You Planned

It was a chilly March day.  March 6 to be exact.  Seventeen excited home school students started on an adventure in creativity.  To be more precise, an adventure in original stop motion animation.  We watched short clips of Wallace and Gromit and Gumby for inspiration.  The students were given the task to "fracture" a fairy tale, write a script, design a set, take upwards of 1000 still photos, write and film commercials, and become experts in iMovie.

They were up for the task and over the next weeks, they wowed and amazed Tina and I.  The students chose the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff,  and twisted it into a tale of three secret agents who supposedly had a some great top secret info, and also really wanted to get to McDonald's to eat.  Agent Badguy lived under a bridge separating the secret agents from McDonalds.  AND, he really wanted their top secret info.  Our script writing team consisting of Rachel, Seth and Anthony, (a very diverse age group) got to work, worked as a team, used each others' crazy ideas and wrote a great script.  They timed each line for our film production crew. Things were looking good.

The set building team went to work designing and building our stop motion set.  Angela emerged as the leader and she guided another diverse group as they put together a lake, bridge, trees, clouds and a McDonalds.  Looking good.

We needed a train to zip through the story, so a group of 5-8 year olds designed a funky train out of clay.  Looking good.

We needed some commercials.  Two teams of younger students mastered an app on an iPad and filmed a stop motion commercial for McDonalds and for Target.  Looking good.

Abe and Chris joined our project mid way through and put together some short videos to make up the "credits" on our film.  Some children designed posters for each team of workers.  Still looking good.

Angela, Hunter, Anna, Libby and Rachel took at least 1000 photos.  They put together short 7-12 second clips that each had around 80 photos. We started to move those clips into iMovie...and then it started.  TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES!

We had trouble moving the video clips to start with.  The app would freeze.  We would lose some of our work and have to start again.  We developed perseverance.  We worked on patience.  We exercised creative problem solving.  The students discovered that emailing the clips worked the best.

Rachel, Seth and Hunter spent HOURS moving little clips around.  Editing.  Speeding up clips.  Slowing them down.  Timing them perfectly to fit the script...and then it happened again.  TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES!

After a rather long couple of days and HOURS of work.  We discovered that some of our movie clips are corrupted and they cause iMovie to freeze up.  Then iMovie doesn't let you edit your project anymore.  We developed perseverance.  We worked on patience.  We exercised creative problem solving.  Rachel talked nice to the computer.  Ms. Fincel from the tech office did everything in her awesome techy powers to try to recover our movie.

We lost the movie.

Rachel rebuilt it!

We lost it again.

We shut off the computers and went home for the weekend.

Today, I pieced together a SMALL glimpse of all of our students' hard work.  It has music.  It has some sound effects.  It doesn't include all of their clips.  It doesn't have any voices.  It's wonderful and disappointing all at the same time.  But, it exists and it isn't lost.

Operation Bridge Cross
Narrator:  The three agents, Billy, Noah, and Rita are trying to get across the Pikariva Bridge to get to McDonalds.  The three fat agents love McDonalds.  But, danger is lurking for these agents.  The notorious Agent Badguy is waiting on the bridge between the town of Pakriva and the McDonalds to steal their secrets.

Billy:  Look, there’s the McDonalds, Noah and Rita!!!

Rita:  Great, now we can eat!!!

Noah:  mmm...let’s eat!!!  (walk up to bridge.  Rita tries to cross.)

Rita: (as she walks) Huff puff huff puff

Agent Badguy:  Who’s that huffing and puffing across my bridge.

Rita:  I am a little spy.

Noah:  That sounds like our arch nemesis…

Billy:  Agent Badguy, I never thought I would see him again.

Agent Badguy:  I will steal your secrets!  Ha ha ha! (evil laugh)

Rita:  Don’t steal my secrets!

Noah:  Mine are better.

Agent Badguy:  You may pass.

(Rita passes by Agent Badguy)

Noah:  Let’s go eat!  (walks onto bridge)

Noah: Huff puff huff puff

Agent Badguy:  Who’s that huff puffing across my bridge?

Noah:  I am an average spy.

Agent Badguy:  I want to steal your secrets!  Ha ha ha (evil laugh)

Noah:  Don’t steal my secrets, his are better!

Agent Badguy:  You may pass.

Rita:  You’ve made it!  Let’s go eat!

Noah:  Wait for Billy.

(Random train goes by)

Rita and Noah: (look at each other)  That was weird….Awesome!

(Billy walks onto the bridge)

Billy:  Huff puff huff puff

Agent Badguy:  Who’s that huff puffing across my bridge?

Billy: I am a HUGE spy.  (throws Agent Badguy into the water)

Agent Badguy:  Aaaaaah!

Rita:  We made it!

Billy:  It’s beautiful!  I think I’m gonna cry.

Noah:  Let’s eat!

(train comes into picture)

Train:  Cock-a-doodle-doo! (like a rooster)
(train crashes into McDonalds and destroys it)

Billy:  Nooo! (drops to his knees)

Noah:  Eat? (sadly)

Rita: (sobs) No!  He was so young.  (drops papers)

(Agent Badguy crawls out of the water)

Agent Badguy:  Yes!  (picks up papers and runs away)  Yes!  The secrets are finally mine!

(papers are blank)

Agent Badguy:  Nooooo!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Environmental Day for HSAP families

With snow on the ground on April 4, the Atlantic HSAP families met at Troy and Monica Taylor's house for our environmental day.   

Dan Olson from the Iowa DNR, who is also a homeschool father, brought the stream trailer and talked to us about erosion, some of the things that cause pollution in Iowa's streams/rivers, and how to clean oil/gasoline from waterways.

The stream trailer, pictured above, gives students a great illustration of what happens when no erosion controls are in place.  One side has no controls in place, while the other side of the trailer is lined with rocks and has been contoured to wind like a snake to help control erosion.  We were able to see very quickly as a faucet fed water down each waterway what the effects are in both streams.  The  "sand" that you see is actually cafeteria lunch trays that have been taken out of service and ground up.  

This tube gave us a small scale illustration of how the DNR goes about cleaning oil/gasoline from Iowa's waterways.   The first dam is a traditional dam which allows the oil to flow over the top because it's unable to hold back the force of the stream.  The second dam, which is closest to you in the picture, has straws in the bottom of it.  This allows the clean water to flow through at the bottom of the stream while stopping the oil from passing on the surface.

A big thank you to Dan Olson for spending the morning with and sharing with us many things about his job.  Another big thank you to Troy and Monica Taylor for allowing us to use their garage because of the extreme weather conditions.

We have had so many great experiences together this year.  I am thankful for each and every family who is involved in the Atlantic HSAP.  Your children are so amazingly creative and we have enjoyed seeing and hearing their ideas!

We look forward to one more field trip together on May 2 as we head to the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines!


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Three Kinds of Friends

Ever feel like this?  

Or like this?  

I have been thinking recently about the three types of relationships that we should each be in with other women.  Each of us should have an older or wiser woman in our life that we look up to and who serves as a mentor to us. 

 For me that is my sweet sister-in-law.  She has children older than mine and I have been watching her and learning from her godly wisdom for years.  She listens to my heart and prays with me.  I love her kids like my own and they have been great mentors to my boys as well.  Though she is really only about 5 years older than I am, her stage of life and wisdom make her a wonderful mentor.  My relationship with her has sustained me, molded and shaped me.  And I continue to learn from her.

Look around and make friends with somebody older and wiser than you.  You won't regret it.

The second type of woman we should each have in our life is the good old BFF.  A best friend who is at a similar stage of life.  Someone who is experiencing the same types of things you are.

For me, this is a spunky friend I have been doing life with for about 20 years now.  We have kids similar ages.  We talked for hours on end when our kids were younger about the daily things and how to handle them.  She was there for me when my basement flooded with a shop vac and helped me paint and clean before graduation parties.  Our families have camped together, our children have grown up together. We study the Bible together and our husbands even like each other.  We have shed tears together as our children leave the nest one by one and I shared her joy when her oldest married and then later had her first child.  

Make sure you have a friend to invest in.  Someone to share life with.  Someone who is walking a similar path.  

The third type of woman you should have in your life is a younger woman.  You need someone to pour into.  Someone you can mentor.  You don't need to have arrived or have everything together to do this.  There is a younger woman out there who can learn from you.  Maybe she isn't yet married, or is newly married.  Maybe she has younger children than you do.   Maybe she is new to homeschooling.  

For me, there are a couple in particular that I feel blessed to be in that type of relationship with.  One is a nephew's wife.  We walk together and talk.  We text.  She calls me and says,  "Help!  What do you do when....?" (much the way I do with my sister-in-law)  I don't have all of the answers, but I can share what I have learned through the years.  Maybe it will make her path a little easier.  

Invest in someone else.  That's a part of the tapestry of life that makes it so beautiful.  You may not feel like you have much to give, but you do.  Really.  You do.

And, (now I make a shameless plug) if you want to put some of this into practice.  Join us Thursday, February 27 at Rancho Grande here in Atlantic.  At 6:00 we are having a "Mom's Night Out".  Bring a friend if you want.  Some moms that homeschool and want to get together to laugh, share some stories, encourage each other and eat some great Mexican food.  Hopefully I will see you there!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

There's an app for that?!?!

Hey Moms!

This blog post is for all of you out there who like to use apps to make life a little easier.  I have found a couple that look like they could really be useful, but in the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that I have never used either of the apps that I'm going to share with you today.  They simply appeal to my desire to streamline things in life that are important. . .like chores, allowances, making lesson plans and keep grades. . .but sometimes get put on the back burner.

iAllowance is an app that will allow you to manage each of your children's finances and teach him/her about saving and spending money.  You can pay the allowance in actual money or you may pay with the reward of your choice and the app keeps track of how close each of them are to reaching their goals.  You create the chores and the rewards and you can also choose to let your children manage their own accounts or you can use parental control so that you are entering the information.

You can create reports of any of your children's banks and rewards and e-mail them to yourself to be printed.  If you use a account you can have all of your info saved on the cloud!  This app costs $3.99.

Homeschool Helper is an app to help you with managing an unlimited number of students, personalize your subjects and grading scales for each student, track lessons and grades for each subject and much more.   You can also create book lists, field trips, manage lessons (bump/copy/mass delete), track attendance, calculate grades, manage task lists, reports and more. 

This looks like a pretty amazing app for a homeschooling mom.  You can watch a short 3 minute video of some of it's uses here.  This app costs $4.99.

I'd love to hear about some ways that you use technology to streamline or enhance your homeschooling.  Please tell me about some apps or websites that you use.

Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

February Parent Workshops

Thank you for completing the survey that Tina and I sent out.  Based on the results of that survey, we have planned some Parent Workshops for the month of February.  

The first will be the evening of Monday February 10 from 7:00-8:00 pm.  This is for moms and dads.  Dads will be hearing from Joe Hoye, Dan Olson and Jim Skartvedt about the role of dads in homeschooling.  Moms will be working with AEA Consultant, Tina Wahlert on higher order thinking and questioning.  In order to make it very practical, please bring an example of your curriculum.  Childcare will be provided.

We have also planned 2 Thursday morning workshops for moms.
On February 6 at 10:00 at the HSAP room, 3 experienced homeschool moms will share some of the strategies that worked for them and offering encouragement to you.

On February 13 at 10:00 at the HSAP room, Jessica Fincel from our district's technology department will be sharing some practical educational websites and apps with you.  Feel free to bring your own laptop or tablet if you have them.

During both of these Thursday morning workshops, Tina and I will have activities planned for children in the gym.  Brown Bag will follow at 11:00.

Finally, we have planned a Mom's Night Out for Thursday February 27 at 6:00.  We will meet at Rancho Grande for supper and sharing of ideas.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

And Now the Cold Stretch of Winter...

Winter can be breathtakingly beautiful...

Winter can be fun!  

But some days, winter is just hard...

And long...

 And sometimes you get a little stir crazy... 

And some days you have cabin fever...

So here are a few links and ideas to help you get through the long winter...

Come to the YMCA for a homeschool family swim this Friday January 17 from 10:00-11:30.

Inspiring blog by Ann Voskamp on How to Draft an Ideal Day & Get New Habits Down

How about a date night!

And last, but not least; an oldie but a goodie!
Build a fort, snuggle up with hot chocolate and read some books:-)

Happy Winter!