Off to a Late Start – January 2018

Normally, we start our school year the last week or so of August; about the time that the public schools in our area begin their fall semester. This year, however, I was out of town the week we’d originally scheduled our annual ‘Not Back to School’ Party (which is the first official Triangle Homeschoolers event for the new school year), and we’d planned on having it the following week. Little did I know I would be returning home right into Hurricane Harvey’s path.

We have three main organizers who plan events for our group. Heather Thomas  (that’s me) is the administrator and oversees most of the group’s day to day operations, including facilitating the discussion groups on Facebook, interacting with new and interested families,  and (occasionally) updating this website; Kandi Champion plans and hosts events for bigs, and Heather Mullin plans and hosts events for the littles. All three of us lost our homes and virtually everything our families own in the flooding during Hurricane Harvey. For all intents and purposes, Triangle Homeschoolers was closed for the fall semester of the 2017-2018 school year.

After much discussion between the three of us and the other members of our meet-up group, we decided that a good target for possible back-to-normal(ish) operations would be January 2018, but that was honestly a shot in the dark. The recovery process is far from over; in addition to the losses to our three families, several other members of our group suffered damage up to and including losing their homes as well. Those who didn’t suffer any damage had their hands full with the cessation of city services in the weeks following the hurricane, and then helping friends and family with their recovery efforts.

It’s been a very long few months, but we are happy to report that our January target wasn’t too far off the mark. We’d originally planned for our big Meet-&-Greet Park Day to be last week, but the unexpected (second!!) snowfall, ice, and week of frozen temperatures pushed it to this week. We had a respectable showing from our regular members and are happy to welcome a handful of new families to our group as well.

We are still not quite back up to our normal weekly schedule, but we’re getting there. Our High School co-op started the second week of January, and orchestra class resumed the same week. We have a Teen Social and Mom’s Night Out planned, and are working on getting the weekly events on the calendar. With today’s discussion, we’ve also added the possibility of a Middle School co-op, and there was interest in planning another Elementary co-op session soon. Things are slowly getting back to normal, despite our late start!

If you are interested in joining our group, but weren’t able to make it to our event this afternoon, we’ll be hosting another Park Day that is open to the public in February. You can join our discussion group on Facebook to find out details.

Happy Homeschooling!
TH

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2017 Spring Semester

Our Spring Semester for the 2016-2017 school year has come to an end, and we wanted to share some of the highlights from our group’s events over the last several months. Our last update was in December, with our Christmas Concert. In January, after a bit of recovery from the winter holidays, most of us were back at work with kitchen table work and field trips every week. Our high school students had their usual teen social events every month, and many of them continued with THINK High School Co-op, enjoying a new series of classes with the Spring semester. Our THINK Elementary Co-op also held their second round of classes, with a six-week long series designed for the younger set.

Texas Aquatic Science lesson (January 2017)

THINK Elementary Co-op January 2017

THINK High School Co-op – Sculpture 101 (January 2017)

We visited the Houston Museum of Fine Arts to see the Ron Mueck exhibition, which was simply amazing!

Our teens joined other homeschoolers in Southeast Texas for the 2017 SETX Homeschool Prom at the MCM Elegante. Their theme was ‘Masquerade’, and they had a great time! We also visited the Houston Health Museum to see the Body Worlds exhibit.

2017 SETX Homeschool Prom

Houston Health Museum – BodyWorlds 2017

Houston Health Museum – BodyWorlds 2017

THINK Elementary Co-op – Spring 2017

At the end of the school year, we put on a Spring Concert & Talent Show for the residents at Pelican Bay Assisted Living Community. Many of our younger performers got stage fright, but some of them put of a great show despite the butterflies!


Towards the summer, we went to Shangri-La Botanical Gardens for a tour of the marsh and grounds.

THINK Orchestra practice 2017

During the summer months, our families have spent time on the beach, gone on vacation, spent time with friends and family, and many of them have continued school through it all. Our 2017-2018 school year officially begins at our next Not Back to School Party, which will be coming up on August 28, 2017. If you’d like to join us this year, send a message through our Facebook Page, and be sure to join our chat group!

Happy Homeschooling!

TH

 

 

 

2016 Fall Semester

th-2016-fall-eventsIt’s been a busy school year so far!  Rather than post several individual posts, we decided to do a re-cap of this year so far. We’ve had quite a few new things added to our schedule this year, including the formation of our two new co-op groups, THINK High School Cooperative and THINK Elementary Cooperative. We’ve also had our usual weekly field trips and clubs. Here’s a look back at what we’ve been up to this school year. Enjoy!

The first official event for each Triangle Homeschoolers’ school year is our annual ‘Not back to School’ party. This year, we also held a mini-conference to help those new to homeschooling find support and community. We also started a dedicated Aquatic Science Class for upper elementary, middle and high school students. We also decided to start hosting ‘mom’s night out’ type events and kicked off the year with a murder-mystery dinner!

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In September, we had an Art Guild class focusing on the art of Georgia O’Keefe, and our first co-op classes began. We also had a Teen Social at a local coffee shop, and visited Seawolf Park in Galveston. Our Public Speaking group met, and we also hosted a Mom’s Night In Painting Nite with the Art Sherpa on YouTube.

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October started off with NASA’s Johnson Space Center Homeschool Day and our Teen Social. We planned a haunted house theme for our Halloween Party, so several times during the month of October, we got together to work on crafts and decorations for the party. It was a huge success, with multiple themed rooms and our students practicing their acting skills as they set the tone in each room. We’re missing the big group picture (but will edit this and post it later) – it was a fantastic turnout though! Our THINK Elementary Co-op ended in October, but will begin again in January, while our THINK High School Co-op continued throughout the month.

 

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just a few of the littles in our photo-booth!

In November, er started the month by attending the Texas Renaissance Festival School Days, a low-key Teen Social with cartoons and card games, and our first visit to the Houston Gem & Mineral Society Education Day. Our THINK High School Co-op continued with the beginning of Home Ec classes, and the students learned to crochet and to knit. We also hosted our third annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, benefiting the South East Texas Food Bank.

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December hasn’t been quite so busy as the rest of the month, but we’ve still been pretty active! Our Teen Social for December saw the kids roasting hot dogs and s’mores over a fire before the rain chased us all indoors. We spent some time practicing for our Christmas Concert and a day creating Christmas Cards to send to veterans who won’t be able to visit their families this holiday season. Our Christmas Concert went off without a hitch! We had a fantastic and enthusiastic group of carolers to sing for us, and it was a great opportunity for our THINK High School Cooperative orchestra students to show off their hard work.

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Wishing you and your family a Happy New Year!
TH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese New Year – February 10, 2016

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Happy Year of the Monkey!
Our group got together to celebrate the Chinese New Year at Tyrell Park’s Botanical Gardens this week. Everyone brought delicious homemade Chinese foods, and crafts for the kids. The littles made noisemakers with paper plates, beads, beans and craft sticks, and all of the kids made dragon masks. After lunch, we passed out wishes for the new year, along with the traditional gift of money in small golden envelopes to ensure luck and prosperity for the coming year. Then the kids lined up in their masks and took off on a Dragon Parade through the park. Lastly, they exchanged Valentines, and departed a happy, well-fed crew!

Homeschool Teen Book Club – Nov/Dec 2015

teen book clubEach month during the school year, our local library system hosts a homeschool book club. It’s broken into two days, with three different age-groups. Since my boys are older, we participate in the ‘teen’ book club, which includes kids from 12 and up. The great thing about our library system (and our librarian, Ms. Robin) is the flexibility. Not only are younger siblings welcome, they’re encouraged to be part of the group.

The format of the club is great. Rather than a traditional, single monthly selection, Ms. Robin chooses several books, one from each of several different categories, including historical, best seller, award winner, classic, etc. The kids are also allowed to choose any book from the College Board Recommended Reading List… but if that fails, any book your student has read can be adapted for discussion.

The kids have a list of questions to consider regarding their book, and to make recommendations to the other students for that book, or others that they’ve read. It’s great listening to the observations and thoughts the students have about the books they’re reading.

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One of the selections for December’s discussion was ‘The Hiding Place’ by Corrie Ten Boom. It’s about a girl who, among other things,  survived a Nazi concentration camp. One of the moms in our group is a descendant of a survivor, and brought a rock from the Dachau Concentration Camp that’s been in their family since 1965.

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VFW – September 9, 2015

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Today, our group had the opportunity to tour the VFW hall in Orange, and find out about the VFW, what services they offer. There was a program about the flag, and then we had lunch at Lions Den Park in Orange. The VFW has scholarship programs, essay contests, and art contests during the year, for students to participate in.

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Big Thicket: Kirby Trail ‘Armadillo Amble’ Night Hike

If you’ve never been  on a nighttime hike, then you’re definitely missing out. Something about being out in the woods after dark makes you feel like a kid again – and there are tons of things to see that you just can’t see during the day.

In Southeast Texas, both Village Creek State Park and the Big Thicket offer occasional nighttime hikes that are family friendly. They’re often themed; in this case, we were hunting armadillos, but past themes have included bats, black-light reactive critters (like scorpions), and insects.

If you’re a nighttime newbie, there are some great tips in this article from How Stuff Works, including tips (like bringing a red-light flashlight or headlamp to help see without destroying your night vision).

If you’re a fan of nighttime hiking, how’d you get started? What’s your favorite location? What do you like best? Feel free to comment and let us know!
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Career Path – Tattoo Artist: Adam Newginz

On Wednesday, May 29th, we got the unique opportunity to visit an uncommon place for school field trips – a tattoo shop. Adam Newginz from Tattoos by Mundo in Beaumont offered to talk to the kids about the ins and outs of the tattoo business and show them around the shop.

The kids got a pretty great rounded-out tour. Not only did they get to learn about the process of tattooing, but also the overview of running a business, and being an artist in this profession.

When we got there, we got to meet Mundo and his lovely wife (with awesome shoes), Aubrey, who is featured in more than a few ink magazines for her beautiful artwork. We were also encouraged to look through the artist portfolios  on the counter to see the styles and previous work that the artists have completed for clients. Adam also explained some of the basic things you would want to look for in both an artist and a shop – namely examples of their work and the shop’s licensing. Mundo’s licences are displayed on one wall to the left of the counter, in full view and easy to check out.

From there, we moved on to the paperwork part of the tour. No ink goes on skin until the paperwork is done. Adam showed the kids one of the machines that they use to make the drawing into a template, and ran one of the pictures through and showed them the template that would be used on the skin to guide the tattoo machine.

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From there, we moved to the sanitation station. It’s kept separate from the main shop and they got to check out the tubes being washed and prepped for sterilization in the autoclave. They also got a crash course in sterilizing the other surfaces of the shop with various bactericidal chemicals and the importance of both safety and cleanliness for the client and the artist. They learned about cross-contamination, and how important it is to take care of new tattoos properly, and how vital it is to your reputation as a business and artist to ensure clean work for your clients.

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Next, we moved on to Adam’s station, where he explained how he goes about prepping his tray and materials by lining or wrapping with foil or plastic. He showed the kids a couple of tattoo machines (not tattoo GUNS, he stressed); an older one that is noisy, and a newer one that is very quiet. He passed around the needles, and explained how it’s a bit of a misnomer that they are called needles, when in reality they function more like brushes. The kids were very interested in seeing all the equipment!

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After that, Adam surprised the two kids with the best questions with Sharpie tattoos, which the kids thought was awesome.

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MANY THANKS to Adam Newginz and Mundo for hosting this field trip for us!

The kids thought it was ‘way cool’, and the parents who were there thoroughly enjoyed it as well!

If you’re looking for educational resources that tie into this field trip, you might find these links useful:

The History of Tattooing  By Cate Lineberry (Smithsonian)

THE CHANGING CULTURAL STATUS OF THE TATTOO ARTS IN AMERICA By Hoag Levins

The Signifigance of Maori Tattoos

Symbolism of Japanese Yakuza Tattoos (Prezi)

Marked Death of the Yakuza (documentary)

The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn on Amazon & Lesson Plans for the book ($17.00)

Auschwitz Tattooing: The Evolution of Tattooing in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Complex by George Rosenthal, Auschwitz Survivor and accompanying curriculum modules (history)

You can also search for traditional meanings of tattoo symbols in certain sub-cultures (pirates, prison, gang, bikers, Yakuza, etc.)

TH

Secular Homeschool Conference – Roger’s Park

Triangle Homeschoolers Summer Mini-Conference

Today, our group held the first ever secular homeschool conference in Beaumont. It wasn’t a big fancy affair; there were a total of 7 moms and 12 kids there. But you don’t need a huge group for an event to be successful!

Our seminar covered the basics of getting started. I said that I would post links to many of the things we talked about today, so here they are:

*Homeschooling and Texas Law*

Homeschooling Law in TX  (synopsis)

HSLDA website

  • In Texas, homeschool families are considered private school and as such, are are not subject to regulation by the school district or state (this includes standardized testing and compulsory attendance edicts), and are exempt from school-time curfews (with identification).
  • Since homeschooling is legal in Texas and operate independently from a school district, you do not have to allow the school district representatives to ‘review’ or ‘approve’ your child’s curriculum.
  • The only the requirement for legal homeschooling in Texas is to homeschool in a bona fide manner, with a written curriculum consisting of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. This can be as simple as a sheet of paper with these subjects written on it.

*Methods and Philosophy*

The method an philosophy has to do with how you think that children (your children) learn best, and what you think school should be. We all start out with preconceived notions about these things, and sometimes, we find that we were right all along. Other times, we may need to choose a new direction. Reading about the various styles of homeschooling that are out there gives you a ‘niche’ for what you are already thinking. For the most part, why re-invent the wheel? Homeschooling has been around for generations. Though each new generation adds a new twist on an old idea, when you’re just starting out, knowing where you fall in the ‘structured…. unstructured’ scale can help find resources that will be closer to what you’re looking for and makes a good place to begin your research. Here are overviews of some of the more well-known methods and philosophies out there:

*Learning Styles and What they Mean to You*

Everyone gathers information about the world through three sensory receivers: visual (sight), auditory (sound), and kinesthetic (movement). Some people rely most on visual cues, others prefer auditory input, and still others learn best through movement. Educators refer to these differences as learning styles. How does knowing your child’s learning style help? By identifying your child’s dominant learning style you can tailor their education to lean heavily in that direction so that they learn best. Public schools tend to be ‘one-size-fits-all’ in their approach. Homeschooling with an eye toward your child’s learning style will help make schooling more enjoyable for you and the, and maximize their learning potential.

 

Learning Styles

  • Auditory – listeners: They may learn to talk early on, and may enjoy listening to tapes and playing musical instruments. Auditory learners are often talkative. They may like to read aloud, recall commercials word for word, or do tongue twisters. In school, they may memorize math facts much more easily in a song or poem than from flash cards.
  • Kinesthetic – hands-on: Kids who love taking things apart to see how they work, or who are obsessed with building toys may be kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic kids are often in constant motion, their movements are well coordinated, and they are anxious to crawl and walk as quickly as possible. In a classroom, kinesthetic learners can be fidgety. They’ll often be the first to volunteer to do something —anything—active. They want to do an experiment not watch it or read about it.
  • Visual – watchers: As babies, they are often drawn to lights, colors, and movement. They revel in colorful toys and piles of picture books. Visual learners enjoy and learn easily from pictures, handouts, videos, and films. In school, they can learn science principles by watching a science experiment rather than having to conduct the experiment themselves.

Not leaving the teacher out, there are different teaching styles, too. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the ability to tailor-make your education program. Everything is yours to try, tinker with or discard in favor of a new or changing idea or need. As a teacher, you’re interacting with your child in a different way than as a parent. The two are closely related, of course,  but what you want for your child may be different at an age, o what they need from you may call for more or less structure. So learning your teaching style is also helpful. I am sure there are more, but the way I like it explained best is Directive, Guide and Facilitator. All of these can work with basically any schooling philosophy or method, though it might take some finagling.

Teaching stylesTeaching Styles

  • Director – had total control over all aspects of the child’s education. Parent sets mood, tone, lessons, materials, and every aspect of what the child learns. I see this as more of an elementary level style of teaching, though some children who tend to be easily distracted may work better having everything laid out for them.
  • Guidance – Parent still sets most tone, but has slightly more input from the child. Parent helps guide the child to subjects, activities and research that are in-line with his/her interests and goals. I see this as more of a middle-school style of teaching, though may work for independent children who work well alone.
  • Facilitator – Parent is solely there to facilitate – to learn about and promote learning through the child’s interests. And/Or the parent is there to help, but the child’s education is largely self-directed. I see this more of a high-school age style of teaching, but also works well for children who are very self-motivated and who need little by way of encouragement.

Obviously, this list is not complete, but may help you determine what your style is, and what your child may need from you. Often, if you have more than one child, each of your children may need something different from you.

*Curricula – Finding What Works*

Finding the exact right curricula can be absolutely overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of options, and often many options associated with different methods. Finding what fits your family can be challenging at best. First, knowing what fits in line with your personal philosophy and what method you want to use is important. That will eliminate may curriculum options right off the bat. Identifying your student’s learning style and your teaching style will further narrow the options. Once you have those things out of the way, there are several places you can begin.

Grade level (or age/peer group) can be a good place to start. If your child is being pulled from school, unless you know they were behind, you should be able to pick up with that grade level work. If your child was consistently getting lower scores, it might be worth it to drop down a grade and work on cementing the previous foundations before moving on. Don’t feel bad if you need to do that; your student will soon catch up and even surpass his peers.

Many parents feel that it’s a good idea to have a ‘spine’ – a framework that tells you what your child ‘should be’ learning. This is often found in the scope & sequence. What is ‘scope & sequence’? A couple of options are:

Core Knowledge K-8th Grade Sequence 

Texas Education Agency Scope & Sequence

You also want to figure out your schedule. Many homeschoolers take more frequent, shorter breaks than public schools. We school for 4 weeks, then have a week break, then pick up again. Others have different schedules; you’ll find out your own. That may be closely aligned to the ISD, or may be totally different. Do what works for your family.

*Getting Started – Homeschooling, Year One*

Tip #1: Don’t buy anything ‘big’ the first year – no curricula, don’t re-model your house. There are PLENTY of free homeschooling resources that you can use the first year. The last thing you want to be is locked into an expensive curriculum that both/either you and/or your child hate(s).

Tip #2: Look at your first year as an ‘exploratory’ year. Try different styles, experiment with times and days, try out different methods. See what works and what doesn’t. After a fully year, you’ll have a much better idea of your teaching style, and of your child(ren)’s learning style. You’ll be able to spend that whole year trying new things and ideas and will have a much better idea of how YOUR homeschool will work when you start planning for Year 2.

For me, setting up our space helped get me in the frame of mind. Having our school space separate from the ‘home’ seems to help us all focus a little better. That’s not to say that we’re trapped in here during school. We’re just as likely to work on the living room floor, retreat to their own bedrooms, have school on mom’s bed, have school outside, pack up and head to the park… all totally valid options. But just having that space helps me out a lot.  Of course, that’s not practical for every family, and many families just don’t want that. Again, do what works for you! There are so many options – if you don’t know what you want right off the bat, start with one thing, then change it if it doesn’t work. Flexibility is one of your greatest ‘teaching tools’.

 

Another tip is to join a homeschooling group. If there’s not one in your area, start one and you can learn together with the other th logonewbies. If there is absolutely nothing in your area, find a good forum or group to join online. Having someone you can talk to to vent, praise your children bounce ideas off of, share resources, talk about your latest field trip, gripe about your non-supportive family or in-laws… whatever – having that support is absolutely essential in my opinion.

The blogosphere is awesome, too. I have learned so much from reading other blogs! Moms that inspire, Moms that I am in awe of, Moms that make me laugh, Moms that really make me think… there are SO MANY homeschooling moms of every variety, of every style and method – it’s truly amazing how much these bloggin’ mamas share. Feel free to check out my sidebar – there are tons of links!

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If you were able to be with us today, THANK YOU for coming out! If there is anything missing from today’s mini-con, please comment and let us know! Hope to see you soon!

TH