Five Ways to Introduce Coding to Your Homeschooler

Coding is a computer language that is prevalent in our world today. Frankly, our children are all digital natives, so they will be expected to know some form of coding as adults. While coding as a language may feel foreign to many of us, there are websites that can help introduce our children to coding. There are lots of different types of code that we should all be familiar with, such as html. If you want to learn more yourself, or teach your kids more about coding, there are several resources that can assist you.

As computer science fields continue to advance, coding will be a new normal, and will be used in many careers and across various industries around the world. The need to learn to code is especially important since many jobs of the past are now automated and machine driven. To increase our children’s marketability, we should provide them with the skills they need to be the brains behind the machines.

I believe exposing children to this language early is critical to students learning it thoroughly. Thankfully, there are many free options that are now available for any person to learn coding. While “free” sounds good, we also want to think about safety and how to offer our children ad-free options. Here are a few resources that I trust to give my kids access to coding.

Five Free Computer Coding Programs

Tynker

5 Ways to Introduce Coding to Your Homeschooler

The recommended age is children seven years old and older. Children will have an opportunity to code robots, build apps, explore stem, create mods for Minecraft, code drones, and build games. Tynker is great because it makes learning coding exciting and student-directed. Kids will feel like their playing games, while in fact, they are learning a new language.

Scratch

“Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.”(1) It gives kids an opportunity to create, innovate, and problem solve from a computer.

Hour of Code

The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week. It is both a movement and event that takes place each year. The activities section of their website has tons of games that introduce young students to coding adventures.

One cool aspect on the Hour of Code website is that there is a resource for teachers that tells you exactly how to teach computer science at each appropriate grade level.

Code.org

This site provides online classes for kids to learn how to code. It is a nonprofit agency that wants to connect more women and minority groups to computer science fields. The 100 percent free curriculum is helping code.org reach their goal.

Stencyl


Parents are sometimes relieved when they find out their kids want to create a video rather than just play on one. Stencyl is offers a block-snapping interface and games, so kids can create their video games.

Lego Mindstorms EV3

This program is a paid program that kids and adults who are Lego enthusiasts will enjoy. The learning game comes with three interactive servo motors, remote control, a color sensor, redesigned touch sensor, infrared sensor, and 550+ LEGO® Technic elements. The EV3 Programmer App is a free download available for iOS and Android tablet devices.

These programs provide great free starting points. While the basic levels that will give students a good understanding of how to use the program are free, if parents and kids want to go into more depth with coding there are some paid components available as well.

Proverbs 1:5 states that, “A wise [man] will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsel.”(2) As our world changes, the information that we teach our children will change too. Of course the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic will always be there, but now we owe it to our children to give them a language that they can build upon later in life.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, share it with others and connect with me online. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram where I share many of the homeschool activities that my daughters and I are enjoying together.

Reference:

(1) Scratch.mit.edu. (2017). Scratch – About. [online] Available at: https://scratch.mit.edu/about [Accessed 21 Aug. 2017].

(2) Kingjamesbibleonline.org. (2017). PROVERBS 1:5 KJV “A wise [man] will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:”. [online] Available at: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Proverbs-1-5/ [Accessed 21 Aug. 2017].

Cool bug facts for homeschool kids

6 Cool Bug Facts Kids Should Know

Not long ago, I wrote a post entitled “Teaching Kids Entomology While Hiking.” Because we share our world with millions of insects all around us, it’s important for our kids to learn about the benefits of bugs. Although insects are often considered a nuisance, they serve a very important role in our ecosystem.

Adam Zagajewski once wrote, “In summer the empire of insects spreads.” As summer approaches it’s a great time for homeschooling families to watch the wonder of bugs and learn about why God made them.

6 cool bug facts kids should know

This summer teach kids about insects by sharing these six characteristics with them:

  1. Insects have three sections that help distinctly identify them from other creatures. The segments are head, thorax, and abdomen.
  2. Insects have compound eyes. Compound eyes are also called Arthropod eyes, which help insects see in multiple directions.
  3. They also have two antennae, which are movable organs that carry out different sensory functions for different insects.
  4. Insects have three pairs of legs.
  5. Just like reptiles, insects are exothermic, which means they are cold-blooded. Have you ever noticed that insects seem to disappear in the winter? Some insects migrate south like birds to stay warm. Other insects may die or temporarily freeze. When an insect lies dormant through the winter, it is considered a special type of hibernation during called “diapause.”
  6. One other interesting feature that insects possess is that they can molt. Molting is the shedding of their outer skin as it grows.

Feel free to download this original word search I created:

Entomology Word Search, click on the image to view the word bank.

Insects are critically important in our environment because they help break down other organisms and make room for new ones. We can thank insects for our produce because many are master pollinators. We can also thank insects for cleaning up our waste and other decaying matter.

6 COOL iNSECT FACTS KIDS SHOULD KNOW

Purdue University asserts that…

Insects are underappreciated for their role in the food web. They are the sole food source for many amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Insects themselves are harvested and eaten by people in some cultures. They are a rich source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and are prized as delicacies in many third-world countries (1).

If you’ve discovered that your child is completely enamored with bugs and nature, here are a few resources that you may want to incorporate in your lessons:

Be sure to let me know if you found this post helpful in the comment section below.

All of my articles on this blog can be found here.

Reader question: Name one characteristic about bugs that you find interesting and share why?

Reference:

(1) “Who Let The Bugs Out? | Purdue | Entomology | Insect | Collect | Supplies | Specimen | Mounting | Identifying | Displaying | Preserve | Labels”. Extension.entm.purdue.edu. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

Teaching Your Kids About Acids and Bases

Kitchens can easily become a science lab. Have you tried baking homemade dishes with your kids? Cakes, cookies, pies, and other baked foods can all be considered chemistry experiments, but there are also other projects you can try to get your kids to explore science at home? Here’s one cool way to teach your kids about acids and bases.

To begin the science lesson, let your kids watch a kid-friendly video about acids and bases. Then, see if they can tell you the difference between the two.

Recently, while teaching my daughters the difference between an acid and a base, we needed a way to understand the difference visually so we conducted an experiment. They also wrote down the definitions on a white board:

    • Acid – An acid donates a hydrogen ion, which is also called a proton.
    • Base – A base receives a hydrogen ion/proton.

Although I didn’t have any litmus paper, we were still able to show how acids and bases react differently. The experiment we conducted used red cabbage and different household items like vinegar, baking soda, hand sanitizer, bleach, etc. We used the key below to understand the outcome of the test results. Bases typically range in color from blue to yellow, and acids range in color from red to purple.

Red Cabbage Indicator Chart

Image source: handsonmuseum.org

I let the kids guess which household items were acids and which were bases, and then they recorded their hypotheses. Next, we boiled two red cabbage leaves and used the water as our indicator.

Acids and Bases Printable

I have included an original downloadable printable that you can use to record your kids’ science experiment results. Click here for the pdf.

acids and bases worksheet for kids 2nd grade +

Click on the image to download a printable pdf

On the back of the paper, have your children draw the experiment and indicate the results that were seen. This will help your child remember the difference between acids and bases, especially if he or she is a visual learner.

When conducting the experiment, don’t only use liquids; you can use powder substances as well, like home spices.

Be creative and let your children pick items to test; just be cautious and aware that some fumes can be harmful to breathe in. If you are planning to use bleach, open your windows are conduct the experiment outdoors.

Materials needed:

      1. Red Cabbage
      2. Pot
      3. Strainer (optional)
      4. Chemicals/ substances to test
      5. Glass jars for each substance
      6. Measuring cup (1/4 cup)
      7. 1 Tablespoon

To conduct this experiment, do the following:

      1. Remove 2 red cabbage leaves. Place the leaves in a medium pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil.
      2. Add a tablespoon of each substance to their respective glasses.
      3. Place 1/4 cup of indicator (the cabbage juice) in their respective glasses.
      4. Record the results on the worksheet as the colors change.

Watch our home video:

Teaching Science on a Budget

I Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” As we homeschool our children, we must train them to seek knowledge and learn how to recognize and solve problems, test, research, and come to well-founded conclusions.This is our role as their guide and instructor.

However, teaching science can seem like a daunting task. In fact, one aspect of homeschooling that can be challenging for parents is its cost. Choosing to homeschool can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Thanks to the internet, libraries, and discount stores, you can teach science to younger students for less than $50 for the entire year, which also includes supplies for experiments.

Here are a few ideas you can try.

Science Curriculum

You can buy science books for $5 or less from stores like the Dollar Tree and Five Below. The materials are usually aligned with the current state standards and have been pre-tested by teachers and students for their effectiveness.

Cheap Science Curriculum

From Five Below

Here are some examples I use.

Dollar Store (by Teaching Tree)

Science Experiments & Inventions: This book provides standards-based worksheets, and enough ideas to last the entire year. In addition, most of the experiment supplies can also be purchased while you are at the Dollar Store.

Dollar Tree Workbooks

Writing Prompt Dollar Tree Science Cards

Dollar Tree Finds

Also, don’t hesitate to check out your local library for books on specific science topics after you check online to see what skills are recommended for each grade level. Another cheap way to obtain science curriculum is through your local thrift store. This last option is not guaranteed to have what you need in stock, but you can often find something you can utilize. I have found new science kits, science flashcards, gently used microscopes, and more.

Thrift Store Finds

Cheap Science Kit

Use Internet Videos to Reinforce New Concepts

Use internet videos to reinforce new concepts. You will need Wi-Fi; however, many public spaces like libraries, some parks, museums, some train stations, restaurants, etc., offer free Wi-Fi. Also, did you know that YouTube has a free app just for kids on Android and IOS devices? Using Youtube Kids helps streamline the content so it is more child-friendly and safe. In the search field add the topic that you are teaching and the closest relevant video will appear.

Use free educational websites for related printable worksheets. There are a lot of free options available too. One of the first places that you can check out for free resources is your local library. Many areas often pay for expensive subscription services that your budget may not allow. Many libraries also have special STEM workshops and classes available for children.

Free printable worksheets: If you are keeping a portfolio of your child’s work, you may want to add worksheets to your curriculum to help reiterate the lessons you are teaching.

  • IXL.com – This is the site I use the most often to print check grade level standards and print worksheets.
  • Jumpstart.com – The site has worksheets categorized by grade level, but the page also lists the topics, which is useful.
  • Super Teacher Worksheets – Not all of the printable pages are free on this site, but usually several in each category are free, and the subscription for individuals is inexpensive. However, if you like a lot of printable worksheets, I recommend that you get a workbook like SPECTRUM, because the workbook is a lot cheaper than printer ink.
  • About.com – The worksheets are categorized by subject.
  • Pinterest will also give you some great ideas.

Reader Question – Do you have a favorite place to find cheap curriculum to help you homeschool effectively? If so, please tell us about it in the comment section.

Teaching Kids Entomology While Hiking

white-caterpillar

Hickory tussock caterpillar

Homeschooling offers families the chance to go outdoors in nature and learn together. Although we are called “homeschoolers,” we are not required to stay in our homes and teach our children from books all day. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to make the world our classroom. As parents and educators we have the responsibility to teach our kids about the world we live in, how to protect it, admire it, and grow with it. One fun way to give kids a hands-on science lesson is to go hiking with them. One of the lessons that kids can learn about while hiking is entomology.

bug-on-flowers

Dog fennel plant

Entomology

The study of insects is called entomology. In our vast world there are millions of insects worldwide. Bugs can have a bad reputation, but are the most plentiful animals on earth. Thus, hiking can be a great way to teach children about bugs and their global contribution. While hiking, have your children answer these questions: Who, What, Where, and When? (This is a also wonderful chance for parent/teachers to ask students to jot down their answers in a science journal.)

moths

Two white moths

 

  • Who – While hiking look for bugs. Students should snap a photo or draw a picture of the bugs they find. Kids should observe the bugs with their eyes and not their hands. Allow students a few minutes (about three to five) to watch the bug and follow it briefly, if possible, to see what it does.
  • What – Try to identify the bug on your own. If you cannot, visit insectidentification.org; there is a bug finder at the bottom. You can also try to identify adult bugs with information from BugGuide.net, a site managed by Iowa State University Department of Entomology. Also check out Bug Info from the Smithsonian Institution to learn more cool facts about entomology.
  • Where – Encourage your child to record where the bug was found. A description of the bug that includes color and size is helpful. What state or country or region of the country the bug was found? Answer whether the insect can fly, or identify how it moves from place to place.
  • When – Also, jot down the time of day the bug was found, the weather, and if it was found alone or with other similar bugs. Does the bug live in a colony? Older students can look up the bug and find out if it is used for special purposes by scientists and researchers. Also, find out if the insect is native to the region it was found in.
Cunningham Falls State Park

Cunningham Falls State Park

Compare and Contrast

Discuss whether you have seen the same bug in the past and if so, what similarities are present. Also, write down the differences.

Giving our children hands-on learning experiences is one of my favorite reasons to homeschool. Many children may not like bugs, but by learning more about them, their habitat, and how they live and survive, will help us learn to appreciate the role they play in our huge world.

*images by David Cavins*