Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Favorite Homeschooling Resource

bunny wearing swag

I don't remember when I first discovered the BrainPOP website, but over the years it has become my favorite source of learning for my boys. The movies cover a huge variety of topics, are entertaining, and above all, educational. The creators of the content are even happy to accept input from their fans as we learned when JT discovered an error in one of their movies.

When I begin to put together outlines for each science unit, I always check to see what kinds of movies and activities I can find on BrainPOP for that specific subject. For example, when I started the planning for our astronomy unit, I looked under the space tab and found this collection of topics. Many of these fit right in with the outline I had already designed. Each movie also has other associated content. The FYI section has pages with further reading on the movie topic, like this one for the Mars movie. I can also print out activity sheets and quizzes to go along with what they are studying.

teacher's answer key

In addition, I can log in to the BrainPOP educator's site to print out answer keys for many of the activities. This feature is very handy when we are covering topics outside of my knowledge base. The educator pages also have other teacher created content, suggestions for using the movies, and lesson plans arranged by subject.

The activity sheet on the left came from a recent lesson on stars. That week we watched a lecture from the Great Courses DVD Our Night Sky, read a chapter from Our Universe by Debbie and Richard Lawrence, watched the BrainPOP movie Life Cycle of Stars, followed by this activity sheet, and finally read a chapter from Janice VanCleave's Constellations for Every Kid. I like being able to spread our learning across multiple formats to keep it interesting.

Science is the topic I seem to use BrainPOP for most often, but I also find myself using it for geography, history, art, music, math, and even grammar. I really like the activity sheets I found in the grammar section and hope they will help EM with some of the difficulties he has when it comes to that subject. Grammar can be very dry, especially for such a kinesthetic learner. Fun videos can make it a little easier to swallow.

I know there are plenty of free resources out there on the web that I could use instead of BrainPOP. But I really feel like the quality of the content makes it worthwhile for me. All of the free help on the educator's site allows me to tie it all together into a great learning experience.

And Tim and Moby crack me up while teaching me, not just my boys.

This was not a paid review. I did not receive anything from BrainPOP for writing this post. I just love the site and want to share that with other homeschoolers.

Friday, February 15, 2013

When Mom is Occupied

My husband's cholecystectomy and recovery has kept me busy for the last week. I decided not to take the week off from schooling because I knew it would be harder to get back into things the following week if we just dropped everything. I also knew that a full week of schooling was not going to happen because I just couldn't focus enough to plan and carry out my part of the deal. On top of that, I knew the boys were stressed out by the whole ordeal so I figured they might need some time to unwind.

We started the week off by finishing the things that we had to put aside last week when our schedule was interrupted by appointments and trips to the hospital. Tuesday we had our bi-weekly book club meeting, so that filled most of our day. For the remainder of the week I only assigned math, reading, American history, and art. Our American history studies have been focused on the industrial revolution. Yesterday we finished reading Samuel Slater's Mill and the Industrial Revolution. Then I found this PBS documentary called Mill Times with David Macaulay that we watched today.

nothing like Monopoly
Obviously, that short list of work has not kept the boys busy all week. What they have been spending a lot of their free time doing is playing board games with their dad. Since my husband has not been able to work and can't move around much, board games have been a good activity for him. This game of Runewars has been set up for three days on the library table. They play a little each day when they finish their school work. I am not a big gamer like the rest of my family, so I usually use the time they are playing to get other things done around the house.

Ahoy, mateys!
Tonight, my daughter and her husband came over for dinner. After we cleared the table, they all set up Merchants and Marauders. EM and I did not play, but JT did play with my husband, daughter, and son-in-law. During a quick break to take his shower, JT was explaining to me how the chances of him getting a specific action could be calculated using a linear inequality. I was very excited to hear him say that since he's been working on inequalities for math this week and was struggling to understand their application. Interestingly, my algebra class on Coursera is also covering inequalities right now, so I was just as happy to see real life application.

Next week I hope to get back to a full schedule. Having the flexibility to slow down and take life as it came this week was a real blessing for our family. There are few times I appreciate our homeschooling lifestyle more than when we are dealing with a crisis. And now I'd like to appreciate it a little less with no new crises this year. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

We Interrupt This Homeschooling Life...

surgery instructions
...for a little laparoscopic surgery.

The gallbladder is an interesting organ. It doesn't really do much on its own. It's more of a storage location for the work of the liver. The liver makes bile, dumps it into the gallbladder, which in turn, squeezes it into the first section of the intestines, called the duodenum. But sometimes the gallbladder rebels. Sometimes it gets angry.

This week my husband's gallbladder got very angry, so it was decided gallbladder temper tantrums would no longer be tolerated. Hence our side trip to learn more about the digestive tract and all about a procedure called laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

They really are the best!

First step, dig out Mom's all-time favorite book of anatomical charts. Don't all moms have this book as their favorite? No? Strange...
I have been just a little extremely stressed out by this whole process. I am a control freak; as I may have mentioned one or two or a thousand times in the past. Control freaks do NOT like unplanned medical issues. One of my many ways of trying to cope with things like this is through knowledge. Since I needed to know all about what was going on I thought I might as well take the boys along for the ride. Before explaining why their Dad's gallbladder needed to go, we needed to explain what it usually does, what it was doing wrong, and why it really isn't necessary for survival.

small but temperamental
We showed the boys this chart so they could see exactly where the gallbladder is located. We talked about what it does. We also explained that the current problem was that their Dad's gallbladder had stones, made of cholesterol, that had formed at some point in his life. We don't know for sure how long they have been there, but statistics show that about 20 million Americans have them. Not all of these stones cause problems for the people who have them. But when they do, watch out. The hard stones cause pain when the gallbladder contracts to squeeze the bile into the duct. Sometimes the gallbladder walls thicken and get infected. Sometimes stones get stuck in the ducts. Fortunately, it looks like our situation has not come from a stone trapped in the duct. More than likely the passing of a few stones caused the problem.

not drawn to scale
After we met with the surgeon, my husband drew this picture to show the boys what the surgeon was going to do. If you are laughing at the simple picture here, believe me, it looks almost identical to the one the surgeon drew for us in his office. We explained how if the gallbladder is removed, the liver continues to produce bile, but instead of being stored it just goes directly into the intestines. Then we watched an instructional video on our hospital's website about how doctors perform laparoscopic cholecystectomies. I also learned that they are sometimes called lap chole, which is a whole lot easier to say than that tongue twister!

Life offers us many opportunities for spontaneous learning. I am glad that we have access to such a wealth of knowledge online. It's good to know we can take these experiences and run with it when necessary.

But next time, I'd prefer that it be something a little more mundane, like mold identification or maybe word etymology. No more anatomy lessons needed in the near future, thank you.