"We are all wanderers on this earth...our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams." ~ Gypsy proverb

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Learning around here Part 2

It was really fantastic to read all the responses from my post last week about unschooling and homeschooling, so thank you :).  I have to agree that in the end it's not what you call it, it's how you do it. The beauty is that we all homeschool learn the way that fits for each of our families.

So, about that meme that Suzy tagged me in...

Eight Questions:

1)One homeschooling book you have enjoyed:

I will always be loyal to Mary Griffith's The Unschooling Handbook. It was my first glimpse of what learning could be like and for that I am forever grateful.

One resource you wouldn't be without:
How can I choose just one?! We use everything from the internet and technology (iPad, iPod, iPhone) to books and nature...  But I guess if there was one thing that helps guide our days and leads to fantastic experiences, it has to be the internet and learning what local resources are available to us on a daily basis. At least once a week, I scour the local homeschool groups and boards for activities, the local event websites for plays, musicals, science exhibits, orchestras, concerts, festivals, farmer's markets, co-ops, and enrichment classes. I make running lists of things we want to do or try. It's how E. became interested in running club and swim club, and hence did his first triathlon this year. Museums of all kinds--science, history, art, etc, are consistent destinations, without question, in any town besides our own. Nature preserves and trails, animal reserves and rescues, butterfly gardens, hydroponic gardens...Honestly, I didn't really know how much our town had to offer until we started homeschooling, and not just Orlando, but the surrounding towns near the beaches, near Tampa, Miami, St. Augustine, and Jacksonville. One year we went fossil hunting in the Peace River 2 hours north from here and collected shark teeth, stingray teeth, turtle shells, etc. We get out of the house to explore somewhere or something every week and the only way I know what is happening is by the internet, local homeschool groups and  local family magazines :).

Then there is the technology itself, lately our iPad.  From apps on interactive books and the human body to math games, geography games, word play, phonics play... I must tell you that compared to the rest of the family, I am the dinosaur of the bunch, but I am learning slowly :). I will say that I have a love/hate thing with technology sometimes. I don't like that we are spending more time in front of little screens, but I can't deny the benefits either.  I do my best to get us outside of the house and out in the community, out on the trails and in the nature preserves. It helps us remember that living happens outside of our heads and underneath the sun. I do think this will be our biggest challenges as parents in this technology age... but that's entirely for another post...

2)One resource you wish you never bought:  
Easy peasy.... and whole year curriculum based on grade level. We did that the first year out of panic and the "I don't know what I'm doing!" fear.  Biggest waste of money ever...

3)One resource you enjoyed last year:

With Apps and Websites:

Brain Pop Jr. hands down. Even if you don't homeschool, I cannot recommend this website enough. I think E. is ready for Brain Pop  for older kids now, but the Jr. has been wonderful. We are a computer family. Both my children love games and we do all kinds. Card games, board games (Yahtzee, Life, and Monopoly all time favorites), and now app games have moved in to stay since the iPad came into our home. What apps have to offer are going beyond what I can keep up with. There are interactive reading books, 3D anatomy, Shakespeare, and foreign language learning just name a tiny few. One of my favorite apps right now is Montessori Crosswords. It's phonics and spelling and M. loves it :). E. does too...They want to play the games that offer learning geography, writing, reading, math, but they don't say "Hey Mom, I really want to do math right now." They say, "Mom can I play that math blaster game?" or "Can I do cursive on your iPad?"

Some other online educational sites that I recommend are: ABC mouseMath BlasterPBSkids PlayIXL and Supercharged Science to name a few. And every week I receive email blasts from Clickschooling.com where new links for all kinds of learning, games, activities, are recommended.

With Books:

Rip the Page : wonderful creative writing prompts in this book
The Great Illustrated Classics Series: Adapted versions of the best classics. My kids love them. Of course they don't replace the full versions, but they are great intros for young children. It's wonderful to hear them talk about Moby Dick and Captain Ahab, Captain Nemo and Ichabod Crane. I highly recommend them!

In the Community:

Passes for our local Science Center and Museums. With these passes, we have been able to get in free to other science and discovery centers in other towns and states--including Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, Miami, and Tampa. These passes, as long as they are a part of their respective national associations, pay for themselves so many times over...

4)One resource you will be using next year:
Lovely Angie introduced me to the book How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith of Wreck This Journal fame (which E. is having great fun with currently). We plan on using this book to explore whatever town we move to next...

5)One resource you would like to buy:
Rosetta Stone for French and Japanese, and either a music teacher or a virtual music teacher! M. wants to learn piano and E. wants to do either guitar or drums :).

6)One resource you wish existed:
A weekly social/learning group led by older homeschooling kids but with members of all ages. Parents are guides and resources but try not to interfere with the kids planning their own activities. I imagine a collaborative environment where the kids help each other pursue their interests with problem solving, planning, and learning about resources in the process. A dream right now, but I bet it exists somewhere...

7)One homeschool catalog you enjoy reading:
I don't think I have any homeschooling catalogs! Most of my ideas I find are out here in blogland and online resource land :). You all are among the best resources I have :).

I am suppose to tag 6 other bloggers, but because I am so late in responding to this meme, I won't. BUT, if you want to respond and play along, please let us know in the comments!!

Thanks again Suzy!!


PS: Thanks to everyones best wishes, support and suggestions regarding E's E.Coli yesterday. I may contact some of you for more help :).


  1. oooh! thanks for this mj. just bookmarked about everything. i hope e is feeling much better.

  2. so many juicy links!! thanks so much, i've already bookmarked half, off to see the others...

  3. I hope your son is feeling better and you are able to get out and explore more exciting places!;) xx

  4. So hope your boy is feeling better soon! Funny I did a post about school today as well, I want to try for a more regular post, maybe not weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Thanks for the unschooling handbook reminder, I need to pull that our again. I seem to get overwhelmed with trying to get enough schooling in lately...instead of just letting them learn.

  5. Whoa. I could have written parts of this post myself, lol. I LOVE The Unschooling Handbook! It stays on my desk all the time. We do have an online curriculum we use, but we don't use it all the time. The boys have a huge part in determining what we do during the day, and sometimes their plans don't involve logging on. Even though I can't be categorized as an unschooler, I love having that book as reference to remind that learning comes all the time, and in SO many ways! :D

    I also made the mistake when I first started homeschooling, of buying a complete boxed curriculum. It was awful. Just awful. My son (who was 2nd grade at the time) and I were miserable every single day. :( Lesson learned though, lol.

    We are techy-gadgety junkies as well, and tend to rely on the internet for just about everything. My oldest (who is currently pilfering through Wikipedia looking for information on Commedia dell'Arte) loves to just randomly look up something on google or youtube (there is a video series called Frostbite Theater that spends a ridiculous amount of time putting things in liquid nitrogen to see what happens, but the boys like it).

    We also enjoy BrainPop, and we use sites like www.spellingcity.com and www.learninggamesforkids.com a lot.

    Again, great post! Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to reading more of your blog...


  6. wow wow wow. I will so be digging into all those links! And I somehow missed the post on home-schooling. How the heck?
    Thank you for all the amazing information and the time it took you to write it out for us.

  7. you know I'm so all over this! one of my favorite ever expeditions was peace river fossil dig- we've got manatee ribs and sharks teeth and - well, a big bowl full of ancient fossils! we took a class to identify them - so fun! (need a refresher) we live right near where the peace river (south) dumps out into the harbor and into the Gulf! You could come and camp w me on an adventure before you leave the state you know!!! #just sayin (how much fun would that be?)

  8. A great list of resources MJ, thanks. We have a copy of Rip the Page...and we're starting our writing club. Name to be revealed soon. : )

  9. MJ, this is a fantastic post. I would love to be unschooling, but I know that this is not the right time in our lives. I love hearing how you "structure" your family's experiences with learning...what a blessing!

  10. St. Augustine DOES have camping & it's fabulous! "Anastasia State Park" is where we camped - I would most definitely try to plan a field trip with you to do this- my husband is working all the time and couldn't get away, but it is a pretty safe area if we go it alone. So so much to do there- I was sad because we didn't go again this year so . . . I'm in if you're game for a field trip adventure!


“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
~ George Bernard Shaw