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Homeschooling Multiple Levels

Homeschooling Multiple Levels from Standard Deviants Accelerate

I have 3 children, all at different levels. My youngest child is in elementary school, then I have one in middle school and one in high school. It can often be a challenge to balance time, schedules and needs for kids at such varying levels in their academic lives. The good news is that it can be done! With a little extra planning and preparation you can successfully homeschool multiple levels – without ripping your hair out!

Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Levels

1. Do as much as you can all together.

I often group subjects together with at least two of my children.  Science and history are easier subjects to do together as they are easily adaptable to multiple levels.

2. Have older siblings help the younger ones.

There are often times when one of the older kids can help out with the younger ones. They have been through the material before and can even offer a different perspective than yours. Not only is it great for giving you some time, but it is enriching for their sibling relationships and helps the older one solidify concepts in their minds by teaching them to someone else.

3. Take advantage of down/free times.

Keep constructive play toys, books on cd, just for fun books, coloring or crafting projects, etc to engage your younger child (or in my case my middle schooler too who often takes to reading).

4. Use programs that allow the child to be self-sufficient.

If you can find some programs or activities for one or more of your children that they can do independently, then your time will be freed up to work with the other children. You can set one or two to their independent work while you are working with one child who needs your help at that time.

5. It is ok stick to the basics.

Give yourself the grace and freedom to stick to the basics. Sometimes you just can’t do it all. Your kids don’t always have to have all the extras. If you are struggling for time, have younger kids, have sticky subjects for one or more children, or anything else that comes up in life, know that it is ok to strip it down to the basics.

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How To Develop Your Child's Talents

foster talents

Every child has their own unique talents. Once you’ve found your child’s, how do you go about helping them expand and improve upon their abilities? There’s no simple answer, but we’ve got a few tips to help you develop your child’s talents. Check it out:

  • Give them time: Set aside some time every week for your child to practice or learn new concepts based on their talents and interests. Ever heard of the 10,000 hour rule? It basically states that the key to success in any field is practicing something for about 10,000 hours. Quite a lot! But break it down into bite-sized pieces and work it into your homeschool schedule.
  • Give them room: You’ll want to give your child some flexibility when it comes to fostering their talents. Make a task too routine and they’re likely to get bored with it or feel like they’re being forced to do it. Give them room to explore and experiment on their own, so they can keep things engaging and interesting.
  • Give them support: Maybe what your child likes and excel at isn’t something you personally consider worth pursuing. Hold back, and don’t tell them your personal feelings because they will probably find it discouraging. If they love something (even if it’s underwater basket weaving) what they really need is your support. So give them time, give them room, but above all, offer them your support in all of their endeavors (as long as they’re harmless of course).

Good luck and don’t forget to check out SD Accelerate’s free trial!

Tech It Out: History

Want to incorporate more technology in your history class, but don’t know where to start? History may seem like a hard subject to use edtech for, but there is actually an abundance of tools and possibilities out there. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Time Travel: Okay, we don’t actually mean time travel. But there is a simple way to simulate it. Show your students videos of historical debates, fireside chats, and interviews. This way they can experience the events and contemporary opinions on them without just reading it all from a textbook. It’s a great way to really make students connect with other periods of time and realize that historical figures were people just like us.
  2. Lights, Camera, Action!: Want to help students practice their public speaking skills through oral presentations? Have them take it one step further with multimedia projects. They’ll be able to enhance their speeches with pictures, diagrams, and even supplementary video clips. Logistically, this can present a bit of a challenge, so make sure your students will have access to the necessary equipment. (We recommend checking out public libraries for rentals.)
  3. Empathy: It can be hard for students to put themselves in the shoes of the people they are learning about in class. And thus a bit harder for them to completely comprehend different historical periods and events. A digital diary, like a blog, can provide the perfect outlet for students to craft letters or journal entries as if they were from a certain time or place and boost their historical empathy.
  4. Storytelling: Last, but certainly not least: digital storytelling. Have students create podcasts on different topics. This type of project can combine #2 and #3, expanding both learning and technological skills at the same time. Plus, we bet they’ll have a lot more fun researching to be radio hosts than researching to write papers.

Picture Source


Tech It Out: Math

Last week we covered ways to incorporate technology into an English classroom. This week we’ll be discussing adding a bit of tech into your math classes!

  1. Make it fun: There are hundreds of math apps and games out there that are easy for students to learn and make understanding more difficult concepts entertaining. Not to mention the huge amount of video content out there. From teacher rap battles to cartoons about the quadratic formula, if you look for it you can probably find it.
  2. Make it simple: Drawing apps aren’t just for art class anymore. They can also make it easier for students to work on practice problems. Easy erase functions and the ability to switch colors makes for much more organized and clear work. It can even make it easier to edit and add to student work, and find where they may have gotten off track.
  3. Make it stick: Remembering formulas and methods can be difficult. Edtech can make it easier. Project a particularly difficult problem onto a board or screen, have students do the problem on their own, and then have one of them demonstrate on the board. Have other students dictate each step or even help to correct a single student’s work. Collaboration and active learning will ensure concepts are understood.

How do you incorporate technology into your classroom? Let us know in the comments!

Tech it Out – English

One common discussion topic in the edtech world is how individual subjects can be made compatible with the different technologies being incorporated into classrooms. Over the next few weeks we’ll be breaking down different subjects and the options for using technology to its full extent. While the humanities aren’t generally considered to be harmonious with technology, English is one of the easiest subjects to bring technology into. Here are some examples:

  • Collaboration: Google docs is one of the easiest ways to enable your class to work together on brainstorming and peer editing. The ease of being able to have multiple people working on a document at once and being able to see exactly who is writing what is amazing. It’s a little lower tech, but even standard projection onto a whiteboard can make it easier for teachers to annotate documents.
  • Sharing: Blogs are a great way to get your students writing out there. It’s your decision whether to make them public or not, either way works. And this can be done as a class project or on an individual basis. Both ways will give your students a sense of accomplishment. The same goes for ebooks. There are many ways to go about producing an ebook and like blogs, these can be group or individual projects.
  • Research: Whether students are working on literary analysis or any number of writing projects, BYOD and one-to-one devices can make researching a breeze

Got any other ways you use technology to teach English in your classroom? Tell us about them in the comments!

Redesigned Website is Now Live!

Our website is now new and improved! The features you and your students love have remained, but are sporting a new modernized look and improved navigation.

What’s new?

  1. Easy-to-navigate subject tiles
  2. New navigation tabs to easily switch between activities
  3. New drop-down subject menus
  4. Capability to retake quizzes
  5. Capability to redo diagrams

But don’t worry! You’ll still have access to all of our award-winning content and activities including:

  1. Instructional videos with a dash of humor
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Quizzes
  4. Critical thinking questions
  5. Grading and rubric
  6. …and a whole lot more!

So check it out!

October is for Anti-Bullying

October is finally here, and in case you didn’t know, is anti-bullying month! So in honor of this special month we wanted to provide a couple of tips for students and teachers to prevent cyber-bullying in all of your edtech ventures.

  1. Remember you are all human. Even and especially the people on the other side of the computer screen. The internet may seem like a good buffer and you may not feel as guilty when saying potentially harmful things to the computer rather than in person, but that’s not so. Being rude, mean, etc. on the internet is just as bad as doing the same in person. Keep this in mind and you’ll be golden.
  2. Stand up. If you see someone being bullied or any of their thoughts/ideas being judged particularly cruelly, don’t just ignore it. Politely recommend or suggest the bully recognize their actions and offer support to the person being “attacked.” A little goes a long way and the reward is more than enough to compensate for the very low risk involved.
  3. Give respect to get respect. The more we work to better the online community, the better it will be for everyone.

As the month goes by, and even when it does end, keep these tips in mind!

What do you do to prevent and end cyber-bullying? Got any great stories about doing so? Share them in the comments! 

Four Stars!

Our team has just received the news that Library Video has given our Earth Science product four out of four stars! This is a huge, huge honor for our team and we couldn’t be happier! Check out the review below:

Designed for middle-school/junior-high-aged audiences, this lively addition to the acclaimed Standard Deviants teaching systems series opens with a hilarious bit, as a cartoon planet barfs up magma…and lots of facts. The first program, “Earth’s place in the Universe,” touches on numerous topics, including the Big Bang theory, the speed of light, different types of galaxies, the life cycles of stars, the formation of our solar system, and a “word on Pluto” about the redefinition of the former planet. Featuring a dramatization of Newton’s a-ha moment with a falling apple, this initial installment also looks at the changing seasons, ocean tides, and latitude and longitude – employing peppy, instructive vignettes (featuring a comedic cast), combined with animation, puppets, and imaginative analogies that will help viewers draw connections to key ideas and terms. Also including the programs “investigating Earth’s Past,” “Restless Earth,” “Mountains, Volcanoes, and Earthquakes,” “Earth’s Changing Surface,” “Energetic Earth,” “Atmosphere and Oceans,” and “Earth Systems” – all available separately for $49.98 each – this set features a bonus disc with a digital workbook for the complete series. Highly recommended. Editor’s Choice. Aud: I, J, P. (J. Williams-Wood)

Of course, anything with puppets is automatically good, right? Right.

Five Ideas to Start Next Week Off on a High Note

Happy Friday! We’re sure you’re more than ready for a well-deserved weekend after yet another week of school. Thinking ahead a little, we’re going to talk about Monday. The dreaded first day of the week. When everyone of all ages seem to be at their very grumpiest. Mondays at school can be rough for both students and teachers, so we’ve compiled a list of ideas to start your Monday with a bang.

  1. Storytelling: Start the day off with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” of your own design. This can be related to whatever topic you plan to teach that day – keeping everything relevant. Have students fill in the blanks to get the gears in their minds turning and creative juices flowing. Hey, it might even get you pumped for the rest of the day!
  2. Riddle Me This: Find a riddle that is age-appropriate for your students, set them loose, and watch their minds go to work. This is a great way to wake student brains up from a weekend slump and they’re sure to enjoy the challenge. Give them whatever time limit works for you and maybe even an incentive to guess the right answer. And there you have it, a fun and easy way to transition into another week of school. (Note: Instead of a riddle, a particularly fun and challenging math problem would work just as well.)
  3. Reflection: Have students write for 5-10 minutes. About their weekend, about what they’re excited to learn this week, about their favorite species of fish – you get the idea. The choice of subject is up to you. The point is to get students awake and ready for the rest of the day and the rest of the week. They’ll be happy to share something of themselves with you.

Voila! A couple of simple ideas for making Monday all about learning without any of the feet dragging. What do you do to make your Mondays a little easier? Let us know in the comments!

Taking a Step Beyond Traditional Teaching

Today we’re going to talk a bit about moving a little beyond the traditional linear teaching and learning method. This linear process being composed of three essential steps:

  1. Lesson (lecture, reading, etc.)
  2. Practice
  3. Test

These steps have been in place for a long time, and with good reason. When you boil education down the bare bones of it are learning something new, practicing the new thing, and making sure you’ve mastered the new thing. Simple, effective, basic. But what if we went beyond these typical constructs in a way that could both encourage students in their learning endeavors, but also foster creativity and self-driven motivation? Well, we’ve got some tips for you to take that next step forward.

  1. Make it necessary to progress: This isn’t to say that you should give students bad grades or punish them or anything of the sort. Rather we mean that if a student is going to find motivation internally to learn and develop, you’ve got to make it necessary to master a skill before moving on. Sort of the same idea as working through math problems with multiple steps. They can’t move on to the next step until they’ve completed the one before it. And simply suggesting they finish their current step often just won’t cut it.
  2. Allow students to see their progress: Visible rewards and progression are fantastic motivation for moving forward. Ambiguous concepts of moving forward are neither particularly helpful nor motivating. This connects to the first tip, which is to say, as students progress from one “step” or skill to the next, let them see what they have accomplish. Give them something tangible to pat themselves on the back for.
  3. Build, build, build: Have each new skill build on the ones that have come before it. By continuously utilizing what has been learned in the past, students will be much less likely to forget anything and much more prepared to move forward.

Do you have any tips for moving beyond traditional teaching? Share them with us in the comments!

Building Community in Your Classroom

The end of summer is quickly approaching. Is it just us, or did it fly by? Settling into a classroom with a whole new group of students can be hectic, so we’ve come up with this list to help you start fostering a community in your classroom.

  1. Be yourself: Don’t underestimate the ability of children to tell when you’re not being genuine. And being genuine will get you everywhere. An honest teacher can expect to have more honest students and a more solid foundation for trust.
  2. Listen: This covers a lot of different aspects in the classroom. Listen to what your students are saying, pay attention to their body language, learn how to judge how comfortable they are with different topics by simply listening. You’ll be able to be much more efficient in aiding them. Also, try and get to know them. This can be hard in larger classrooms, so we suggest having them write something about themselves or tell the class something about themselves at the beginning of the year as a jumping off point. If students can sense that you’re truly invested in their experience, they’ll be much more likely to reach toward fulfilling their potential.
  3. Remain flexible: What works for one class may be disastrous for another. Be open to adjusting your teaching method and the way you run things to suit your students. Also, students will love you if you give them options when assigning homework/projects.
  4. Share: Encourage group discussions. Whether it’s question and answer sessions or group work or even presentations that receive feedback from the entire class, share, share, share. Your students will not only be more comfortable and confident among each other, but also with you.

What do you do to foster community in your classroom? Let us know in the comments!

Contemporary Education

The title of this post could be misleading. We’re not talking about education today. Well, we are. But what we mean is making education contemporary for today’s students. Adjusting curriculums and lessons to relate to the world students’ live in. Singing the quadratic formula to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel” just doesn’t quite have the spark needed to make it stick in a modern kid’s brain. So what do we do?

Well, a recent program in New York City public schools attempted to tackle this issue. The Science Genius program had kids from nine different public high schools writing raps about science. A simple project? Not so much. After competing against kids from their own schools, nine finalists went on to a rap battle, performing their own compositions about everything from reproduction to geology. NPR produced a fantastic mini-documentary on the project that you can watch here.

An innovative program that produced more confident, scientifically literate students. An obvious victory for everyone involved! When we make education relevant and memorable, students are given a real opportunity to shine. One they will tackle in leaps and bounds.

Adding a Little Pep to Your Lesson Plan

How many times can you be told that students will remember the most interesting lessons? Or that learning ought to be as fun as possible? The answer is of course, that you could probably do with being told these things a little less, but that doesn’t make it any less of a relevant topic.

Teachers across the country are getting creative with their lesson plans. From educational music videos (like this pretty fantastic one) to becoming real storytellers, they are all doing their utmost to make sure that students are not only learning, but having fun and learning to, well, love learning. Like it or not, the new school year will be upon us before you know it! So in the spirit of always being prepared, here’s a few suggestions for making lessons a little more fun.

  1. Presidential Rap Battles: Not everyone has a soft spot for U.S. history, but after this lesson they just might. We suggest having students debate as though they are different presidents (or presidential candidates) via the more modern spoken vehicle of rapping. Topics could range from the Louisiana Purchase to social programs introduced in the Great Depressions. Really you could go anywhere with this one.
  2. The Statistical Probability of Winning a Hand of Blackjack: All you need for this is a bag of candy and a few decks of cards. Now, no actual playing is necessary, but if you deal a hypothetical hand, see if your students can accurately predict various outcomes using their statistics skills. Right answers = candy. Win, win.
  3. Keep It Simple: Have students teach portions of the lesson solo or in groups. Award points for creativity and how comprehensible the information they present is. We guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Have any other ideas? How do you make your lessons a bit more interesting? Have any great stories or examples? Let us know in the comments!

Just don’t let those rap battles go too far…. Picture Source

Food for Thought

57 Million Children Out of School

The video above provides some rather startling data regarding the state of education around the world. While it is easy to be overwhelmed by statistics like that looming 57 million, this is a great starting point. For discussions, for awareness, for progress. The importance of this data is not the data itself per se, but what we do with it. It is easy to watch something like this and spend perhaps a few minutes or even a few days saddened by the fact. It is easy to share it with a few friends, email it to your colleagues. But the fact remains that that is all most of us will contribute to the cause – which is, in the grand scheme of things, practically nothing.

Some of the most prominent facts include the lack of materials, lack of teachers, and high cost of education elsewhere in the world. These aren’t the easiest problems to solve, but there must be solutions. So while we keep in mind the necessary reforms and changing dynamics in our own school systems, it is important to keep the issues in other parts of the world in mind as well. Who knows, one of your students might be the one to get those 57 million kids in school. Anything is possible!

Listening to Students

On June 27th, a video about the shutting down of the Head Start program made news, largely because it depicts a side-by-side debate as to whether the program has been effective. The two sides? David Mulhausen, a Heritage Foundation scholar, and 10 year old Sakhia Whitehead, who went through the program herself. While Mulhausen argues that the program is ineffective and thus taking it away from 700,000 students could do no harm. Conversely, Sakhia testifies that because of Head Start, she entered kindergarten being able to read and write, while almost none of her classmates could. This advantage apparently carried throughout her education, as she has remained an honor student every year for five years. You can watch the video here.

Anecdotes don’t necessarily override facts in this case, but what seems important is that Sakhia was given the chance to defend a program that she credits with her success. When it comes to all of the reforms going on right now, it seems seldom a student voice is heard amongst all of the arguing. Policymakers and administrators may be more capable of determining the curriculum needed for future success in the workforce. But should not students be able to voice what they believe they need to have a happy, healthy, and successful education?

Sakhia’s testimony may not be enough to save the Head Start program, which has had mixed results. Which brings up another huge issue in education. With large, overarching policies, it is inevitable that something will not work for a substantial portion of the students. There is no one size fits all in education. So what do we do?

What do you think? Should we be listening to students more carefully? Or go on doing what we think is best for them?