Outside The Box Homeschooling

A site to help moms teach their "outside the box" kids.

Moving Site

I am sorry to have to ask this of my subscribers.  In order to offer more features for you, I am having to move the site to a self hosted site.  Outsidetheboxhomeschooling.com is now up and running.  Please go to the new site and enter your emails.  I will leave this site up for a few weeks, and then it will be deleted.  All new posts, giveaways, etc will be added at the new site.  Thank you.


Literature Based Curriculums

As this workbook and textbook mom has been slowly pushed from the security of traditional curriculum, our homeschool has become more interesting and literature based. The most exciting part about homechooling is when you realize that your children have learned how to learn. It thrills me when they come to me and ask if I can find a unit study on a topic they want to learn about. Can we learn about this for science? I think it is pretty cute when they brag that their mom can figure out a way to count ANYTHING for school. That is a big compliment in my book. I also took a statement about Sweet Pea as an ultimate compliment. In a conference to decide our next steps in helping Sweet Pea, it was pointed out that even though her test scores are low, due to her dyslexia, she has a huge amount of knowledge on a large variety of topics. This has been a main goal for our homeschool. I want well-rounded kids who can hold their own in any environment. I believe that a literature based approach has been a big part of the equation.

So how do you incorporate a literature based philosophy into your homeschool? There are many options from being semi-literature based and continuing to use some textbooks, to a complete living book approach where almost all topics are taught by reading literature books on various topics. In future posts, I will be looking at different elements of this approach. Here are just a few curriculums to check out if you are interested in literature based homeschooling.

My Father’s World
Illuminations by Bright Ideas Press
Charlotte Mason
Five In A Row

Every family needs to figure out what works for their family. After five years, I am just now feeling that we are hitting our stride and using a method that works for us. I just want to encourage my readers to evaluate how their kids learn and what fits their homeschool environment. Every family is different. Look at other homeschool families for ideas, but don’t feel that you need to compare yourself to or incorporate everything into your unique homeschool environment.

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Spaceboards by NeoLithix

I am REALLY excited about this product!!!  OK, it’s a sneaky way to push my “In the Box”, workbook loving, friends over to the “DARK SIDE”!!!!!

These workbooks are really nicely done.  They also are yet another extremely economical option for iPad homeschool users.  Each workbook is only $1.99, or you can buy the whole grade level curriculum for $19.99.  They load into a free app that you download from the app store.  Each grade level can be purchased from the app store, but if you would like samples or individual books, you need to visit their website.  Once items are purchased from the website, they automatically show up in your app.  I did find that the refresh button in the app doesn’t refresh your account like I assumed.  You do need to log out and back into the app in order for your new purchases to show up.   Oh, and I appreciate that they had the tutorials already made and available on youtube.  You can visit youtube to view more videos on their products.

At first glance, I thought that the workbooks were a bit low in skill level, but after more review, I think they are right on track.  I am a hard one to please when it comes to grammar and language arts curriculum.  I do find that I would like a workbook format for this subject.  I am excited to try this product for Sweet Pea and will update you on how well it works for her.  Oh, and I appreciate that they had the tutorials already made and available on youtube.  You can visit youtube to view more videos on their products.

For more information on their products, visit http://www.space-boards.com


Digital Workbooks Tutorial

 Several publishers are offering their workbooks in pdf format.  What does that mean?  It means they load perfect to the iPad!  By using the Type on PDF app to open the workbook, the students can write, type, highlight, etc. directly on the workbook pages.  This is awesome as it reduces one more book you need to add to the pile as you homeschool on the go!!!!  I am hoping that Critical Thinking Co. will offer all their products in this format, but for now, I will just demonstrate the app using a couple of pages from their sample e-book.  You can purchase their products at http://www.criticalthinking.com

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Kindle Fire Apps

While we do have a Kindle Fire, I have not spent much time or money purchasing apps.  We have so many on the iPad, that the Kindle has been left more for books.  I will have to say that iStory and iStory History are fantastic.  The Kindle Fire also allows you to borrow one book per month if you have a Prime Membership.

I invite those who do own Kindles to leave comments on their favorite apps to help out those wanting to homeschool using this device.  I would ask that you click on the actual blog post and comment via the blog rather than on FB.  That way I can just update the post and they will all be in one place.  Thanks for the help in adding these suggestions to the blog for fellow homeschool moms.

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Map Trek- Ancient World by Knowledge Quest Inc. and iHomeEducator Inc.

Map Trek- Ancient World is an excellent app to go along with any ancient history curriculum or Bible study.  I am currently using it alongside The Mystery of History Vol.1.  I have managed to get my Wondermaps to partially open on the iPad, but this is the only one I have found that is made for iPad and covers similar information.

Map Trek does differ from Wondermaps.  Wondermaps is basically fabulous atlas that allows you to change the items desired on the line maps.  Map Trek is a timeline.  Along the timeline, are maps covering different topics.  For instance, they have one entitled “Abraham’s Journey”.  This map shows Abraham’s journey from Haron and ends just above Egypt.  Along the way, different towns and cities of interest have what looks like little push pins.  You can click on these push pins and pictures of the location expand in a separate box.  It tells a little bit about the significance of the location along with a picture.  Some of the pictures are of ancient ruins and some show current pictures.  Three quizzes and a review are provided on the information included in the text boxes.

I found this app to be informative and interesting.  By providing the text boxes and quizzes, it makes this app more than just an atlas.  I believe that any time you can get the kids truly interested in geography, you have a winning teaching aid.  The pictures and additional information provide this piece to the puzzle.  Knowledge Quest has several other programs for the computer, but this is the only one currently formatted for the iPad.  The only negative comment I have about this app is that you can’t print out the maps.  I would also want to be able to change them to black and white maps before printing.  Overall, it is a great app.  (**** )

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Grammar Jammers by Reading Street

Gammar Jammers have several levels and are super cute and educational apps. They have fun and catchy songs to learn the parts of speech. After the songs are finished, they provide a review quiz where the child practices picking out the parts of speech. Sis thinks the songs are annoying, but mom thinks the songs help them to remember the parts of speech. I recommend this app to change up a grammar lesson and make a boring subject more fun. (**** )

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Homeschooling Sis

I have touched a bit on the challenges homeschooling Sweet Pea. Sis is a challenge all her own. With her, she falls more into a philosophy I hold in teaching any gifted or accelerated child. My philosophy comes from being one of them, and growing up educated in a private school, followed by a public gifted and accelerated program. I hope I can explain my opinion in a manner that is accepted in the way it is intended.

My experience in education was mostly positive, but I have developed some philosophies that are probably not the norm. I have also personally watched and experienced some of the psychological problems that can be overlooked in this group of kids. They look perfect on the outside. Their grades are usually perfect. They are gifted musicians, ASB officers, varsity members of sports teams, volunteer at multiple organizations, etc., etc., etc., and are grabbed at and pulled from every direction. Gifted children put expectations on themselves that are unreasonable, so they don’t need to be pushed and pulled on by everyone who wants a piece of them. I was nicknamed “The All American Kid” by a teacher in highschool. I was a class officer, varsity cheerleader, played softball, took AP classes before they were the norm, held down a job, and participated in church youth group activities. I graduated from highschool in the top 10% of Washington graduates. I also felt that I never measured up to expectations put on me by other people.

So how does this transfer to Sis? I want to provide her with opportunities, but I am very careful to not overschedule her and protect her from everyone who wants a piece of her. I am determined to allow her to experience childhood. It is a bit difficult to educate her alongside a child who struggles and compares herself as not measuring up to her sister. Part of this is Sis’ drive and desire to learn. She pushes herself. She doesn’t need me to push her. Sis works incredibly hard for what she accomplishes. Right now I am focussing mostly on character qualities. We have talked privately about how proud I am of her. I have been very pleased to see the compassion she has developed towards her sister. She used to have a need to show her superiority in everything. Somehow, she has finally figured out that she will always beat her sister at pretty much everything. There is no longer a need for her to let her sister know this fact. After her last accomplishment, I took her out to a special lunch where she and I celebrated. Her sister was on a date with Grandma. This worked well. I am really proud of her as she has joined us is making a huge deal out of Sweet Pea’s successes. Sis understands that we aren’t overlooking the fact that she makes those same accomplishment everyday.

Along with her compassion she has developed for her sister, I am seeing it transfer to her friends. She has her best friend, with whom it is okay to compete. Both are on a similar level and are competitive. This gives her an outlet for her competitive personality. She is not allowed to compete with the other children or compare scores. With her other friends, we encourage her to just have fun being friends and doing kid stuff. What other interests do they have in common? We try to focus on these. They don’t need her to tell them about her academic accomplishments. Our goal is to focus on lifting them up and congratulating them on their accomplishments. Focus on being a good friend. Sis’ test scores are so high, my focus has turned a bit from academic achievement to learning how to be a good person and learning life skills. She can lose quite a few percentage points on a standardized exam and be just fine.

Don’t get me wrong, she is expected to put out work at an expected level, but it is not our focus. We are focussing on being a kid, learning things she is interested in, and being a solid, well-rounded kid. I think we are accomplishing it. It is my goal and prayer for her life. Sis is smart enough to be anything she wants to be, but character is not something a multiple choice test can evaluate. I also want her to go into adulthood knowing how to do things, not just pass a test.

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Geobee by The National Geographic

My mom bought this app for me so that I could study for the geography bee at our parent partnership.  I had won first place out of all the kids in my class and needed to study because I would be competing against kids up to eighth grade.  I like this app because it is easy to use, fun, and I think you learn a lot.

The game is divided up into 15 rounds.  There are three different types of rounds: the multiple choice challenge, the map challenge, and the photo bonus round.

  • For the multiple choice round, you have a big map and you have about a minute to answer the question.  The question might be, “Which of the following states has the largest desert region? A. Oklahoma B. Arizona C. West Virginia”.  You tap on one of the answers and either get it right or wrong.  If you answer correctly and tap B. Arizona, it will say you are correct and you will be awarded points.  If you answer incorrectly, like if you tap A. Oklahoma, it will say you are incorrect and you will be awarded no points.  There are five different questions in each multiple choice round.  You have to get a certain amount of points in each round in order to move on the next round.
  • In the map round, like the multiple choice round, you have a big map.  It will ask you were a city, a famous landmark, or some other location is on the map.  You can zoom in on the map to find places too.  Also, like the multiple choice round, you have about a minute to find the location and tap on it and if you find the correct location you will be awarded points. If you don’t tap on the correct location, you will be awarded no points.  In this round you also have to get a certain amount of points in order to move on to the next round.
  • In the last round, the photo bonus round, like the others, you have a big map and you are shown a picture.  You have to look at the stuff in the picture very carefully, because there might be a clue in the picture as to where the picture was taken.  For example, you might be shown a picture of a town and if you look closely you can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance.  So you know that the town is at least around Paris, France.

I really like this app because you kind of learn about every thing that has to do with geography. You learn where the different major cities are, and you learn what kind of climate different places have, because it might ask you “Which of the following states is hottest in the summer?”. It also sometimes tells you where big earthquakes or hurricanes happened. I don’t think there is really anything that I don’t like about this app, but I know that it is an awesome app. I played it a lot and it really helped me study. Well, I got third place and I was competing against fifth graders to eighth graders, so I think it helped. I can definitely say that this app deserves 5 stars! (*****)


Are iPads an economical option for homeschooling?

I truly believe that iPads are a great investment for homeschooling. The initial investment may seem daunting, but there are a few things to consider.

The iPad3 has just been released. When the iPad2 released, Best Buy had an incredible sale on the first generation iPad. We unfortunately missed the sale, or I would have picked another one up. Sis saved up to buy her own. This can be a great opportunity to teach your kids about finances and saving to make large purchases. We were able to find her a 64G iPad on Craigslist for $550 including the cover and screen savers. They are very easy to return to factory settings. The initial owner has to do this for you using their Apple ID and password, so I was comfortable that it was not stolen. The economy has provided the frugal shopper with some killer deals if they take the time to look for them. They also provide a portable homeschooling tool at a fraction of the price of a laptop.

Games and apps are extremely economical for the iPad. We have purchased several for $1-$5 that other parents have commented run $45 for a Nintendo DS. Many apps are free. These are great for providing educational variations to your homeschool day, and are easy to take along to appointments. Kindle has so many free books that my library is overflowing. I will note that the Kindle library doesn’t work in the iPad app.

Publishers generally run their promotions in e-book or download format. I have received more free curriculum than potentially the cost of both iPads. Anything that is published in pdf format works perfectly on the iPad. These include ebooks, unit studies, and actual textbooks are now being published as well in pdf and iPad app formatting.

I am not sure how to place a value on the space and reduction in mess that an iPad saves. I can download worksheets and some workbooks, which they can complete on the iPad without having to print them. By doing digital workbooks and notebooking, there is an additional saving in ink and paper.

I have been very happy with how well the iPad has fit into our homeschool. I am very frugal, ok a penny pincher, and have been pleased with this investment. I find that I really enjoy teaching off the iPad, and it allows me to use e-book and pdf formatted curriculum without being gathered around the extremely ancient iMAC that was given to us by my husband’s IT friend. He was tired of removing viruses from our PC that plagued us homeschooling.