7 Lessons for Kids Inspired by the Icelandic Volcano

April 20, 2010

I love using real events to teach from – this goes for both at home with my own children, and in the classes I teach at our local co op. This week I will be using some aspects of the Icelandic volcano erupting in my middle school economics class, and as I started planning for that, I realized how many other lessons can be taught around the topic, so here are my ideas:

1. Economics

I will be getting my class to think about the economic implications of the volcano – I will ask them who is impacted economically and will steer them in the right direction so that they consider the impact on the airline industry, people stranded on vacation who aren’t back at their jobs, countries who export perishable goods etc

2.  Linguistics

The volcano’s name is so unusual to us westerners that it will provide a great study of how different languages are – and why. Let the kids learn how to pronounce it – click here for an article to help you.

3. Earth Science

What a perfect time to study volcanoes and how they operate. It will be so much more real to children while this is headline news.  And there are wonderful photos of the volcano you can share with them.

4. Geography

Now is a perfect time to study Iceland – and the countries the ash is blowing over. There are nice simulations of the way the ash is moving and you can get the kids to work out which countries it is most affecting. Use Google Earth to take a ‘closer’ look at these countries.

5. Creative Writing

Let them imagine they are a traveller ‘stuck’ somewhere because the airports are closed. They can write their adventures trying to take another route home, or their feelings as they just wait and wait. Or they can pretend they are in Iceland and can write about the actual eruptions.

6. History

Compare the effect of this eruption with other eruptions in history like Vesuvius when it decimated Pompeii or when Mount St Helen’s erupted.

7. Ecology

How does all that ash in the air affect the world we live in? As humans we can wear masks and move to other areas, but what about the plants and animals in the nearby areas? How are their habitats affected? Will there be any long term consequences?

I hope that gave you some ideas … please post any more you may have in the comments section.


How to teach kids to write well

October 10, 2009

Essay writingOne of my sons had to take the BJU Writing Evaluation yesterday – so writing is on my mind. Teaching a child to write well is one of the hardest things I have had to do. If you are hoping I am going to give a foolproof method of doing it, sorry. I can’t. All I can do is share with you some things that have worked with my kids:

1. My Access

My Access is an online writing program that provides immediate feedback. I started using this with my oldest daughter when she was in 8th grade. She did not agree with the feedback I gave her on her writing, and I was tired of arguing with her. My Access solved all my problems. It became the ‘bad guy’ telling her all the things I had told her, and I became the ‘good guy’ helping her fix her errors and improve her score.

My Access allows multiple submissions of the same essay, so students can polish their writing until they receive a decent grade. I now use this program for all my children. And if you are a homeschooler you can buy it through Homeschool Buyers Co-op for $49.95 for a year for 3 students. Other students can purchase a package for 3 students at $99.95 from Vantage Online Store.

My Access has improved my children’s grades  by 20-30%. There is also a SAT essay add-on that you can purchase which my 16 year old has been using this year.

2. Give them a good reason to write

Children often see writing as a form of torture. An 8th grader I know wrote this recently for a writing assignment:

Creative writing! The curse that beckons us all to come and waste our time on this misleading demon. Our parents have already been enraptured. Why do you think we are forced to do it regularly? Why do we even need to write?

I try to let my kids write ‘for real’ whenever possible. And as I homeschool, I try to get them to write for an audience other than me. One way is through contests. View my lens on Contests for Students to read more about History Day which has a research paper option, and other writing contests.

And I get them to publish what they write online. My 16 year old son chooses to publish many of his essays on Facebook and invites comments. He also has  blog and a website which reviews computer hardware. He now understands why he must learn to write well.

And then a few months go, I discovered Squidoo. Squidoo is free and it allows anyone to quickly put together an article on anything. They call these articles ‘lenses’ as they focus on specific topics. And what is even better, Squidoo makes it easy to add in links to Amazon, Cafepress etc – which adds the possibility of making money from what they write! This has been sufficient to energize my own kids to write – and I have managed to convince a number of students in the Business Class I teach at our co-op to make lenses too. All of them have written about subjects that interest them

My son wrote one on  Airsoft, one student wrote one on How to Give a Speech and one wrote on Authentic Beauty. You can also use Squidoo to publish any book reports your kids might write – see my son’s on Fallen Angels.

My kids have also written for our church mission’s magazine and for our co-op’s newspaper. And my oldest daughter had a letter she wrote to the editor of our local newspaper published.

Knowing other people will read what you write, and that you may make some money if you do it well, can be a great motivator.

3. Try to find a writing program that fits your child.

Each child is unique. I have tried to adapt writing assignments and even the programs we use to fit each of my children. My oldest daughter is a good writer and she entered many writing contests, and won some of them. My 11th grade son is gregarious, and as I have already shared, he likes putting what he writes in cyberspace for all to read and comment on. My next son (9th grade) is good at writing stories, so this year he is doing something completely different and using the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum and by the end of this school year, he will have written an entire novel! My youngest (4th grade)  is using My Access and publishing her work for her grandparents to read.

So, if you are frustrated by your kid’s lack of ability to write well, try some of these ideas – and brainstorm for a few more. Try changing what you are doing, and hopefully you will eventually see some improvement in your kids as I have in mine.