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Homeschool Introduction to Engineering Class

Homeschool Introduction to Engineering Class
Homeschool parents of budding engineers, listen up! Engineering is a LOT of fun, but a future in engineering requires some math and science.

My 14 year old will be participating in the First Lego League in which he will 1) Build and program a small robot to accomplish challenges and 2) investigate a research topic then prepare a presentation. Both activities culminate in a competition with other teams at a regional tournament. This is to build science, engineering and technology skills.

My question is what exact subjects do I categorize this into: obviously science, but which science exactly and since he will be researching and speaking, would it be considered English or Social Studies as well? And how will this look on his transcript?

Thank you for your help.
~Esther in Washington

Introduction to Engineering Class

My son took a class much like that, an Introduction to Engineering class. He took it in COLLEGE. I would call your homeschool class "Introduction to Engineering." Use all of the experiences within the league as one single class to make it a big, beefy credit. At the end, estimate how many hours he spent on it. 120-180 hours is one high school credit. All the papers and speaking will be part of his science credit.

One word of warning: when kids like engineering, they do need to cover the basics of biology, chemistry, and physics while they are in high school. Engineering is more of an elective-science, and he will also need the core sciences in order to do well in college engineering. Science, engineering, and technology degrees also require a lot of math. Make sure you are working consistently on math every day during the school year, so a lack of math doesn't become an impediment later on.

Is your child a budding engineer? What does that look like in your homeschool? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in August 2010 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Prepmatic SAT Vocabulary Prep

Prepmatic SAT Vocabulary Prep
If you are preparing to take the SAT, it’s encouraging to note that there are quite a variety of study aides out there to choose from—and study you should.  Most students can increase their scores significantly with regular review, and higher scores mean more scholarship money.

For those interested in the latest and greatest, a new product has just hit the shelves this summer, called Prepmatic.  Founded by a young entrepreneur, Elie Schoppik, Prepmatic is a “web-based application that combines traditional study methods with the latest research in memory retention,” according to BostInno, an online community publishing platform.

In my day, those ‘traditional study methods’ were flashcards we walked around with in our pockets, testing ourselves (and each other) on vocabulary and comprehension.  Nowadays, my teen-age sons and their contemporaries, who are never far from their computers and smart phones, don’t have to fish out the bits of paper flashcard that went through the laundry in their pockets.  They have Prepmatic.

Using an online, interactive, ‘intelligent’ process, Prepmatic helps students learn up to 3,500 SAT vocabulary words, without a single flashcard in sight.  Using a similar process, however, Prepmatic guides the student through a list of (relatively challenging) SAT words, prompting them to type both the word and it’s meaning, which are initially supplied on the screen.  After going through this process with 6 or 7 words, the program then requires the student to type the word when prompted and supply the meaning from memory.  It tracks their success (or failure), and tailors the program to the student’s academic needs.  After the student successfully completes 60 SAT vocabulary words, Prepmatic adds in SAT-style practice questions, but unfortunately I never progressed that far…

If students are fortunate enough to have a tutor (or mom) keeping them accountable and assisting their study, Prepmatic allows access to the student’s dashboard, with real time analytics to see how often the student has studied, and how successful they have been.  No cheating allowed here.  Tutor/Mom can then adjust the student’s work accordingly.

Interested people can try a free 5-day trial of Prepmatic at, while ongoing usage will cost $19.99/month. Considering the potential benefits of SAT study, measured by increased scholarship awards, that could be money well-invested.

Do you have more questions about high school tests?  I have resources available to help—just call me!
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Internet Addiction and how it Relates to Homeschooling

Internet Addiction and how it Relates to Homeschooling
It used to be that parents were concerned about our children receiving  accidental exposure to pornography, or wasting time with video games. As Internet Addiction becomes a popular topic on the news, I keep thinking about how it relates to homeschoolers.

Read these recent articles warning against internet addiction:

Technology Companies Want Your Kids Addicted    
Internet companies are learning what the tobacco industry has long known -- addiction is good for business. Much of what we do online releases dopamine into the brain's pleasure centers, resulting in obsessive pleasure-seeking behavior. Technology companies face the option to exploit our addictions for profit. As a result, some people can become obsessed with these pleasure-seeking experiences and engage in compulsive behavior such as a need to keep playing a game, constantly check email, or compulsively gamble online.
The Atlantic Monthly

How Does the Internet Affect Children and Adolescents?  
Is the Web Driving Us Mad?  This article in Newsweek says, "a preponderance of research shows "a link between Internet use, instant messaging, emailing, chatting, and depression among adolescents," as well as to the "strong relationships between video gaming and depression." It goes on to say, "The latest Net-and-depression study may be the saddest one of all. With consent of the subjects, Missouri State University tracked the real-time Web habits of 216 kids, 30 percent of whom showed signs of depression. The results, published last month, found that the depressed kids were the most intense Web users"

Here is my advice to help keep your children from becoming addicted to the internet:

1. Reconsider the percentage of classes your children take online.
2. Carefully weight curriculum options, and consider non-computer curriculum when possible.
3. Teach your children to monitor their own behavior on computers and online.
4. Recognize the signs and symptoms of internet addiction.
5. Limit "wasting time" on digital media of all kinds.
6. Balance the need for technology education with time spent on the computer.

Do you  have any other tips or information when it comes to internet addiction?

Homeschooling is NOT the same as doing schoolwork at home.  There is LOTS of freedom!  My GoldCareClub will give you all the help you need to succeed!
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Homeschool High School - Math is Fundamental

Homeschool High School - Math is Fundamental
Math is a fundamental skill required for college and to attract employers. My friend Don is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Seattle Pacific University.   He shares some great insights about the importance of teaching math in high school.
“Math requirements vary by school. You don’t necessarily have to have extra math to get into a college, but you do need it to be well educated. Upper level math can train your mind. Math is a good discipline, and teaches problem solving in a variety of subjects, beyond math."

Math is an excellent way to learn real-life skills critical to getting a  good job.  Employers want problem-solving skills, determination,persistence, and hard work.  They want job-seakers who will strive until they solve a problem and get the job done.  They want workers who know what it's like to work hard.  These soft skills aren't taught by teachers, by they can be learned through pursuing math and keeping children challenged with their subjects.
“Societal expectations have a lot to do with math achievement. I met a Japanese student going into business, and he actually apologized for ONLY having two years of calculus. In the US, our math expectations are so much lower than the rest of the world. We project those low expectations onto kids even from the grade school level; telling them that math is so hard and it’s no fun. That promotes a negative view of math. It is a cultural issue that trains children to think ‘I can’t do this.’ The only real solution is a cultural shift in the perception of math."

Colleges are looking for students that have the best math preparation possible for that student.  It doesn't mean you have to teach calculus to every child, but it does mean they want you to work conscientiously on math every year.

Don't let your own weaknesses in math cause frustration in your children. Not all of us are gourmet cooks, but we can still hand our child a cookbook.  Treat math in a matter-of-fact way, without conveying your own anxiety.  You can explain that your child needs to learn how to learn math on their own, with great video tutorials, without telling them it's your anxiety that gets in the way of  teaching it yourself.
“Math is fundamental to science and engineering. Right now many of our country’s science and engineering professionals are nearing retirement, yet there are few up-and-coming students able to take those jobs. There are too few people with the math skills necessary to take those jobs. Foreign technical workers are taking those technical jobs, because there are simply too few US students who can do the work. For example, right now there is a deficit of aerospace engineers, and they can’t find people to fill those jobs for defense contracts."

Because there is a deficit of engineers, and fundamental math skills may be lacking in public school graduates, homeschoolers have the advantage.  We can provide the math students need to succeed.  Our children can earn grants and scholarships for college based on their math preparation.
“Math is fundamental for all students going into engineering sciences. I have had many students over the years who want to go into engineering but stumble on the math. They may have made good engineers, but they couldn’t take the math. Because this is such a large national problem, the government is working on solutions. Grant money from US government and corporations is promoting science and math curriculum and providing hands-on curriculum for math and science. There needs to be a revolution on how science is taught in grade school and middle school. Portray math as fun and exciting! It can be done!”

Thanks go to Don Peter, M.S., P.E., Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Seattle Pacific University for helping me with this blog post.  Don and his wife JoAnn homeschooled their two daughters for many years. Don used Saxon math and multi-sensory games for a supplement. His family used unit studies for science. He made it clear that his children were required to complete science and math study, and even required his girls to complete calculus for high school graduation.

To encourage a love of math in the younger grades, as Don Peter recommends, I used the book Family Math. It is filled with fun math games and activities for grades K-8. We played math games frequently during the week, and my children loved it!  In middle school I used the book Family Math for Middle School, and Patty Paper Geometry.  In the upper levels, I tried to encourage the love of math using Teaching Company lectures like "Calculus Made Clear" and others.

If you have identified that math is a weak area in your homeschool, you may enjoy my blog post called "First Things First" which will teach you how to prioritize math.  For more help with math, see my article "For the Love of Math"

Read to what others are saying about The HomeScholar Gold Care Club!
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Teaching Technology to your Homeschoolers

Teaching Technology to your Homeschoolers
The great thing about technology classes is that there is NO LIMIT to the kinds of skills your child can learn!  If your child is already good at computers, then they can get a technology credit in one of two ways.

First, you can expand and use the skills they have on real technology work.  If they have computer skills, they could make a website, set up a blog or other social media, create videos, or any other task they enjoys already. Some kids will get a job or internship helping others with their computers, or doing computer skills for a business.   You count the hours that they spend doing this stuff, and when you get to 150 you have the credit for the year!

Second, you can brainstorm other topics that your child would like to learn.  Perhaps they want to learn a programming language, or learn about computer hardware or photo editing.  Then you can locate a tutorial for just that particular skill.  You can often find tutorials free on the internet, or at the library.  If they don't know what they want to study, I often suggest getting a tutorial from the library on how to use Microsoft Office.  That includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint and.... the other one that I can never remember :-)  Anyway, simply taking those tutorials and using those programs on their regular schoolwork, will enable them to become computer savvy and even use those skills in the workplace.

One final word, please make sure to include basic typing skills in the mix.  A good introduction to typing and 10-key will help a lot in the long run.

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