Ancient Continent Found Under the Indian Ocean

Have you heard this exciting news?

National Geographic reports:

Evidence of a drowned “microcontinent” has been found in sand grains from the beaches of a small Indian Ocean island, scientists say.

A well-known tourist destination, Mauritius (map) is located about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) off the coast of Africa, east of Madagascar. Scientists think the tiny island formed some nine million years ago from cooling lava spewed by undersea volcanoes.

But recently, researchers have found sand grains on Mauritius that contain fragments of the mineral zircon that are far older than the island, between 660 million and about 2 billion years old.

In a new study, detailed in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists concluded that the older minerals once belonged to a now vanished landmass, tiny bits of which were dragged up to the surface during the formation of Mauritius. (Also see “World’s Oldest Rocks Suggest Early Earth Was Habitable.”)

The BBC says:

Researchers have found evidence for a landmass that would have existed between 2,000 and 85 million years ago…

…Until about 750 million years ago, the Earth’s landmass was gathered into a vast single continent called Rodinia.

And although they are now separated by thousands of kilometres of ocean, India was once located next to Madagascar.

Once land started to drift towards their current positions, Mauritia was no more

Now researchers believe they have found evidence of a sliver of continent – known as a microcontinent – that was once tucked between the two.

Fascinating stuff!

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

Fiona wearing Anna's glasses, photo by Toria Bayer

We’re plugging on here. It’s been 3 1/2 weeks now since Daryl’s hip replacement surgery and he’s still on bedrest.  He’s recovering well, all things considered.  I keep saying that if you have to be stuck inside for six weeks in Minnesota, you might as well do it in February when there’s not much to miss!

We’ve fought our way back from several colds, flus, mastitis, sinus infections and other maladies.  We’re all hanging on, though.

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to here…

1.  Jack and I played Roll 100, a dice addition/multiplication game I picked up at the MHA conference vendor area one year.

2.  Toria and Anna have been doing Khan Academy for math.

3.  Jack and Alex had a playdate with friends. This was the second Saturday in a row that Alex got to go to his HSing buddy Alex’s house for the day, and Jack’s first time joining them to hang out with Alex’s older brother Zach.  The boys had a fabulous time and we’re on for next Saturday too.

4.  Toria and Jack completed the Dragon Box algebra game. It’s a paid app available on apple and android devices and is very clever.  I downloaded it for my Google Nexus and I think it cost $6.  Both kids got through all of the levels in a day (by choice!).  It allows for four individual accounts and is fun enough that Daryl even did the levels for fun.  Recommended.

5.  Toria has been going down educational rabbit holes. I always smile to hear the latest things she’s educated herself about.  Some of the topics this week include ghettos, maps, psychology, the U.S. budget for military spending and NASA, and crime, just to name the few that I can remember.

She has also signed up for a psychology class through Coursera that starts in May.

6.  I’ve been experimenting like mad with GF baking. I’ve made three cakes and one batch of muffins this week!  The muffins (blueberry-cranberry with fresh lemon glaze) were especially fabulous.

7.  We’ve started a presidents project. I printed out small pictures of all of the presidents and bought some large index cards, and we’re pasting them to the cards with a few important events and facts on each card.  Once they’re complete, we’ll tape them in order along the wall next to the ceiling as a temporary timeline.

I’ll post links and pictures once it’s finished.

8.  I’ve been reading Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths as a read-aloud to Anna, Jack and Alex. We are enjoying the book but Anna (quite an expert on Greek mythology) keeps interrupting to complain that the stories are “wrong” compared to the stories she knows from her other sources.  It’s led to many talks about various interpretations of the myths.

I think the book is fairly well written but the teacher’s kid in me cannot get over the many sentences that start with conjunctions in some of the stories.  About every other sentence in some places starts with “And” or “But.”  I have no problem with breaking this picky grammar rule once in a while in conversation, blogging or occasional writing, but it annoys me to see it used really excessively, the way it is in some of the stories.

Also, some of the stories have incomplete sentences such as:

For they were joyous scenes.

Again, I can get on board with occasional bad grammar for the sake of good writing, but I dislike masses of it when the author seems to simply not know the rules.

Yes, I’m one of those.  😉

That said, the author was apparently one of the most highly regarded on mythology, and did just fine with his writing as far as the rest of the world was concerned.  According to Wikipedia:

Bernard Evslin (1922-1993) was an American author best known for his adaptations of Greek mythology. With over seventy titles, which include both novel-length retellings and short stories, Evslin is one of the most widely published authors of classical mythology in the world. His best-known work is Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths, which has sold more than ten million copies worldwide and has been translated into ten different languages. An estimated 30 million students have come into contact with Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths due to its repeated use in high school and college classrooms over the years. This bestselling anthology includes such well-known stories as “Theseus and the Minotaur” and “Perseus and Medusa.” He also published non-Hellenic titles such as The Green Hero, based on the Irish mythological character Finn McCool.

Evslin won many awards for his writing, including the National Education Association Award in 1961, National Education Award nomination in 1975, best television documentary on an Educational Theme Award, Washington Irving Children’s Book Choice Award, and Westchester Library Association Award.

So that shows what I know.  😉

On the plus side, we are enjoying how many gods, goddesses, demi gods, nature myths, fables and such are in the book.  I like that they are short enough to keep the kids’ interest and they do a good job of succinctly telling each story.

I have been reading a few at a time, while giving the kids colored pencils and paper to illustrate the stories (however they like) as they listen.  I find this is a good way to keep their hands happy so they can concentrate.

(Note:  I got a review copy for my Kindle via Net Galley.)

9.  Jack has been inventing and creating. He’s been using recycling to make robot arms, throwing stars, rocket shoes and more for Alex and others.  He also came up with the idea for a moveable tail.  He planned to string tin cans end to end with a string through them, with the end attached to Alex’s shoe, so when Alex moved his foot it would pull the tension in the tail.  Alas, the bottoms of all of our cans are rounded and he has to come up with a new prototype.

Look at this robot he made for Alex for Christmas.  I think he rocks at recycled creations!  🙂

10. The kids have been… blogging, reading, watching MythBusters, writing songs, writing novels, drawing, painting, doing ATCs (Artist Trading Cards), talking to friends on the phone, cooking, playing in the snow, doing chores, watching shows on Netflix, emailing, helping care for D during his recovery (Anna is quite helpful for the night shift so I can sleep!), shopping, beading, playing with Legos, using blocks, doing copywork, playing educational iPod games, taking pictures, chatting online, running errands, playing physics games online, making up jokes, doing Suduko puzzles, watching Crash Courses on history and science, organizing their rooms, redecorating, and so forth.

On the agenda this week: The Bill of Rights, more myths, some lapbooks, more math, lots more crafts, lots more reading aloud, cooking with one kid each day, handwriting with the boys, starting a poetry unit with everybody, signing the kids up for the writers’ conference, and doing at least 5 things I have pinned on my educational Pinterest boards.

Wish me luck!


How Should Non-traditional Homeschoolers Navigate the High School Years?

We’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming about how to log Victoria’s high school years now that she’s in 9th grade.

There’s so much conflicting information out there about high school, homeschool and transcripts, especially when it comes to eclectic homeschoolers and unschoolers.

It’s absolutely important for homeschoolers to reproduce typical transcripts.

It’s absolutely unimportant for homeschoolers to reproduce typical transcripts.

You could go nuts trying to follow all of the advice out there.

Ultimately, I decided that it has always worked so well for us to homeschool in our own way that it made sense to handle the teen years and transcripts in our own way too.

I have compiled all sorts of links and quotes here that helped me solidify our goals.  I’m also sharing how we’re handling transcripts in case it helps others.

I’ve written about the various ways of compiling transcripts (such as traditional and narrative styles) and have compiled lots of links to free transcript templates and information from colleges here.

The first conclusion I’ve come to is that it is not necessary to try to suddenly pretend we’re traditional schoolers.

Here’s a wonderful point from an unschooling list archive about unschoolers and college:

Kelly Lovejoy’s response to this comment:

As I said earlier, I will be putting a transcript together (probably along with a narrative) for her and just wondering what I’ll put on it, if she doesn’t complete more “traditional” classes. I know, not very unschooly of me, but I just think that a more traditional route might be easier for school people to understand if she does decide to pursue college at some point.

So….your goal is have her unique learning experience look like every other traditional high school student’s in the US?*WHY* would that be appealing to a university? What about that would make the college stop and think, “Hmmm…maybe *this* student would be a good match?”

If her transcript looks like every other transcript that passes across the admissions desk, WHY would the admissions officer look twice? Why would he look once? It’s just the same ol’ same ol’—nothing new. Nothing inspired. Nothing diverse.

Colleges and universities are looking for students who SPARKLE! Make her transcript sparkle! SHOW that she’s different! Unique! An *honor* to have her as a student there!

They don’t NEED another “A” student cheerleader president of the student body. Seriously! Those are a dime a dozen.

What they want is diversity. What does *YOUR* child have to offer the school? What does *your* child have that NO other applicant has?

Submit THAT!

I talked to one unschooling mother on a public Facebook group about compiling transcripts, and she happily informed me that she’d pretty much made everything up on her daughter’s transcripts. She said she listed textbooks she found online, books that were in the house that her daughter had only browsed, and so on.  She was unapologetic, blaming colleges’ outdated system and their ignorance about real learning, and reported that her daughter was accepted with no problems.

I am so not comfortable with that — for so many reasons.  I value honesty and don’t don’t want to teach my kids to lie and cheat, for two.  And also:

I talked to the admissions officer at Stanford University. He told me that if an unschooled kid made up a transcript that made it look like they’d taken classes and gotten grades, and if he found out later that it was all made up, that they’d consider the kid had gotten in fraudulently and they’d evict him from the school. He said he wanted the truth about what the kid had been busy doing during those years, not something made up. He said that courses listed and graded by a homeschooling parent didn’t mean much to him anyway because ALL homeschooling parents pretty much give their kids all “A’s.”

AND he said he’d be FAR more likely to take a close look at a kid without a traditional transcript, too.

This wise mama went on to say:

When we chose to unschool, we chose to NOT school and that meant we don’t get the trappings of school. So – to later make up something that implies that we DID school, that is clearly dishonest. I’d far rather have my kid never go to college then to go based on a complete fabrication like that.

But it really is not a choice of “lie or miss out” – to create a transcript that describes what the child REALLY did, that is honest and can be pretty wonderful, is very possible. It doesn’t have to list courses he didn’t take with grades he didn’t earn and it doesn’t have to be done under the pretense that he “did school.”

If you ask them, colleges will say, “Yes, he must have a transcript.” But the transcript can very often be a narrative, not a course/grade listing. Even when they want it in a more traditional format, it can be without grades, just a list of subjects that the kid has spent time learning something about during the previous few years. It certainly does not have to be a course list divided into semesters with credits and grades EVEN if the college says that is what they want, when they actually get the application, they’ll review it. IF the student has high SAT or ACT scores, they will barely look at it.

There ARE universities that will not take homeschoolers based on coursework at all – unschoolers or otherwise. University of California is one of those. They have coursework that is required and it has to be pre-certified that it meets their requirements. This means they have to have, in advance, approved the textbooks and subject matter for the courses. Most public schools have had their courses approved and some private schools. But there is no way an unschooler is going to qualify based on “coursework”. Still, unschoolers get into UCLA and Berkeley and other UC’s all the time. They often do it based on high SAT scores and they also do it based on community college coursework. And all schools have a “special admissions” category.

When you step outside the mainstream, it is not honest to suddenly jump into the middle of the river and pretend you’ve been swimming along with everybody else all those years. And, it is the nonmainstream activities that will get a child noticed anyway – pretending to have done coursework just like everybody else makes the kid look just like everybody else. Not an advantage for getting into a prestigious university and not necessary.

-Pam Sorooshian

(emphasis mine)


So anyway…

What are we doing?  Well, we’re doing a mixture of everything.

My goals and considerations include:

  • Victoria is considering medical school and Harvard, and I don’t want to find out at the 11th hour that her particular high school path got in the way of whatever college path she decides on.
  • We have never been traditional school-at-home homeschoolers and none of us have any desire to change our lives now.
  • Eclectic, interest-led HSing in our family has led to kids who love to learn, have rich lives full of unique experiences, and consistently score miles higher on standardized tests in almost every subject.
  • Victoria will need some rigorous classes in order to get into med school or a school like Harvard.  That doesn’t mean they have to be taken in a boring, traditional way, though.

So what we’re doing, together, as a team:

  1. Victoria is continuing to read through the American Lit list of books, authors and short stories that we developed at the beginning of the year.
  2. She’s logging those books that she reads, in addition to logging the many fiction and non-fiction books she’s reading on her own for pleasure.
  3. I have started a google document where I am compiling lists of reading and activities she’s doing in various subjects.
  4. We are aiming for the basic subjects covered per year of: 4 years of assorted sciences (including chemistry, biology and a combination of half credits for others), 4 years of assorted math (starting with algebra), 4 years of foreign language (not all colleges require this much), 4 years of English, 4 years of social studies (world history, American history and the others will probably be half credits such as women’s studies and government).
  5. We are logging her many extracurricular activities like acting in the Wilder Pageant, volunteering at historic sites with the family, entering photography exhibits, etc.
  6. She is allowed to use whatever means she enjoys in order to fulfill the requirements.  For instance, she can use Khan Academy, CK-12 flexbooks, library books and iPod apps to cover the learning in Algebra.  Any combination of textbooks, living books, you-tube videos, games, apps, magazines, solid Wikipedia articles, etc. can be used.  Good mastery and enough hours of study are the only things that matter.
  7. She is planning on taking PSEO classes in her junior and senior years of high school at local colleges, which will provide additional transcript credits from an outside source.
  8. She is planning on taking some free college level classes through organizations like Coursera (see links below).
  9. She tends to test very well, so her SAT scores should also be very helpful on her applications.
  10. We are researching the specific requirements for each of the colleges that she is most interested in, to be sure we are on track for meeting their requirements.  I cannot recommend this step enough.

For the purpose of our records, I am assigning one credit for 150 hours of study on that subject and a thorough understanding of the topic. One half credit is assigned for 75 hours of study.

It is not enough to spend 150 hours reading about black holes (one of Toria’s fascinations) and then count it as a credit in basic astronomy, for instance.  If she rounds that out with reading through a basic astronomy textbook or reads a good assortment of general astronomy books so she has really mastered astronomy in general and then supplements that with lots of reading about black holes, that definitely counts.

I feel pretty confident that we can easily satisfy both her need for a rigorous high school education with her desire to continue being in charge of her own education.

This is a kid who got a blood typing kit for Christmas and considered it one of her favorite presents, after all.  😉

So far, this is working remarkably well.

I’ve found that my lifelong learner reads so much and educates herself so well that it is not a problem to come up with the requirement of minimum hours and mastery.

If anything, I’m worried about the appearance that we’ll be padding her transcript, since she will easily earn many credits in the arts and sciences every year with her interests in psychology, astronomy, anatomy, photography, visual arts and more, not to mention her fascination with American government, world issues, women’s issues and social justice.  Careful documentation of her resources and her own application and test scores should show that she has earned every credit and more, though.

She is not as enthusiastic about the math portion of her studies, but she understands the need to do it to attain her goals.  She doesn’t mind math so much via Khan Academy and she’s willing to do the work because there’s a reason to.

Obviously, this is a very individualized plan. What works best for every student will vary.  We may go with a slightly different plan for Anna, then Jack, Alex and eventually Fiona.

I hope it shows just how flexible we homeschoolers can be in navigating the homeschool high school years, though.

As nontraditional homeschoolers, our choices are not merely to adopt some sort of traditional high school model or to make everything up, and our kids don’t have to sacrifice scholarships or college choices because of the way they learn in their high school years.

These articles may also be of interest:

Free homeschool diploma forms online

Design your own curriculum: 9th grade language arts

Free 76-page grammar guide available from Capella University

18 Ways to help your teen test well

CK12 Foundation offers complete math and science textbooks online — free

50 Fabulous electives for homeschooled high schoolers

Coursera offers hundreds of the world’s best college courses free

“Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe unveils anti-college scholarship program

Cursive now required on the PSAT and SAT

100 Fantastic college scholarships that are open to homeschoolers: 1-10

Free science DVD’s for educators

Survive Bio offers free biology games, flashcards, videos, tests and more

Free 52-week Western history video course offered online

Teens can win $500 helping to end childhood hunger

IHA offers free U.S. History textbook online

Crash Courses use fun free videos to teach kids about science and history

Purdue offering high school level computer programming course online (FREE)

Free algebra games, lesson plans and curricula for all ages

Teens can win $10,000 in Feed the World competition

32 Science books that are free on Kindle

21 History books and documents that are free on Kindle

21 American Literature classics that are free on Kindle

Over 4,000 science books now free online

21 American Literature classics that are free on Kindle

A Montessori education for high school years

10 Fabulous free educational apps for kids

New teen writing network launches

Homeschoolers are eligible for Duck Tape’s “Stuck at Prom” $5,000 scholarship

Teens can hone English and math skills with the SAT question of the day

Fabulous FREE resources for Spanish language learning for all ages

Free Japanese lessons offered online

Authors write letters to their teen selves in moving new site

Homeschool 101: Where can I find standards and skills lists for every grade?

Homeschool 101: What tests can I use for standardized testing?

Homeschool 101: How do I teach my older kids with little ones around?

Absolutely free curricula for science, math, history and more!

Over 100 free psychology classes and textbooks online

Free guide helps autistic students prepare for college life

Excellent free astronomy classes and lesson plans online

Homeschool 101: But how will you teach Calculus?

New chemistry kit caters to homeschoolers

Class rings for homeschoolers

Students can use free public domain classes to learn over 40 languages

More than mowing the lawn: Chores help teens prepare for life

Also see my Homeschooling High School Pinterest board for lots more.

What about you?  What are you doing to compile transcripts?  Have you changed the way you homeschool to appeal to colleges?