Sunday, March 25, 2012

More on internet safety~Action Alert - TOS Review


Recently I did a post on Internet safety and how important it is to monitor what your children do on the computer. Even though it can seem safe when your children are home with you, the Internet can be an open window to the very things we as parents strive to protect our children from. The Internet can be a valuable resource to our children as long as we take measures to keep them safe while they are learning or playing games online.

As a member of the Crew at the Old Schoolhouse Magazine I was given the opportunity to try out a company that strives to provide parents with the tools to keep the Internet a safe place for your family. The company provides "8 Internet Safety Tools in one":


There are two versions of Action Alert.

The Free Version  (easy download!)
•Offers everything you need to set up a kid safe computer in seconds.
The Maximum Protection Version ($29.99)
•fully customizable
•offers multiple user protection
•full social network monitoring.

Action Alert- has won several awards and also been shown on television. The Child Safety Network completely endorses this product.


Our children are the age where they are starting to use the computer and Internet on a regular basis. Action Alert has a search engine that is safe for children to use. I really liked this feature as they are beginning to be able to search out topics that interest them to learn more on their own. This helps my peace of mind as I do not have to hover over the children when they are browsing the Internet. I also like that you can set the time when your child can use the PC.

One of the other features such as screen capture were not as useful for me. It logs everything done on the computer and this really seemed to slow our computer down.  Neither of our children chat or email yet so we are not needing to monitor that. I can see that being helpful perhaps for older teens. For me though, I would most likely tell the teen that chats/emails will be logged so that they may think twice about what they were doing. I would feel really sneaky doing that to an older teen unless I truly had a reason to believe they were doing something dangerous. But then again, I do not have teens yet! (my day is coming!!)

The biggest danger for our family is that our children will accidentally stumble on something they should not see and the search feature truly provides the safety for this concern.

Disclaimer: I received the full download version of Action Alert for the purpose of reviewing it in exchange for my personal opinion. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Please check out what the rest of the TOS Crew thought about Action Alert!!


Spring is here even though it feels like we skipped right over winter. I think we may have had a couple dustings of snow and just a small bit of freezing weather in December. It was the end of January when the first flowers were popping their heads out of the ground! So many things are in bloom now that normally do not bloom until the end of April!

The weather also has been perfect for often taking our "school" outside. Here's a picture of Z~girl soaking up the sun while doing her online schooling on our deck! Who says you can only do computer work and learning games inside the house?

We've also started planting some vegetable plants and seeds. So far we have broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and lettuce growing! I also planted some bachelor button seeds. Growing up those were some of my favorite flowers.

We are also researching getting some chickens for our backyard. Right now we are trying to either buy or find plans on making a sturdy hen house that is attractive enough to be a nice addition to our yard. We LOVE fresh eggs!

In a week or two we will be taking a week long "spring break". We are hoping for a couple days of camping either locally or in Tennessee. Maybe the rest of our spring break will be spent building a hen house! I LOVE spring in the mountains!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lego and Robotics Acadamy

Once a month we are fortunate enough to be able to participate in a Lego club. (it's a 4H club) It is much anticipated every month. I'm going to post a link to our wonderful leaders blog. She is a very good teacher to our group (my strength is NOT teaching a group lol) plus has 6 children, 3 of which are under 4!

Oh and there is a funny story about a certain A~man regarding milk. FWIW the child knows about "mama's milk" but is fascinated about the whole thing and asks moms a lot of questions about it. I have never ran into a mom offended by the questions...thankfully.

Here is her blog entry!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Internet safety for children

As much as I enjoy the Internet and appreciate the diversity it gives us with our homescholing, it can also be a very scary place. Click the wrong link, put in the wrong search word, and I know from experience you can end up where you may not have intended to go. On more than one occasion the kids and I have been watching what I consider an appropriate video and then I will look to the right of the video and the other videos with a preview image are not child appropriate at all. (nor something I care to see) I tend to be over protective a bit ;) but I do not think it's good especially at a young age to see certain things. It's almost impossible to get images unstuck and out of your head! The computer can be a window in which corruption of all kinds can shine through right into your home. That sounds like it's an exaggeration but it's not!

In our house our main computer is in the living room and if one of the kids is on the laptop it is at the kitchen table. When our son is on the computer I am always in the room and often right beside him. The only issues we have had with him on the computer is him trying to buy more game tokens at a game site he likes....with PAYPAL. LOL! Oh and a few times not really knowing what he was doing he would click on popups only for me to come back in the room to a screen full of advertisements. (none bad thank goodness)  For our daughter, she can use the computer more independently and she likes to watch videos on youtube, so we are really starting to think more about Internet safety. Thankfully our main online curriculum and any of the online sites we have tried out for The Old Schoolhouse are big on keeping children safe.

Here are some other ways to ensure your child is protected while using the Internet.

~~Ultimately educating your child about Internet safety is very important. Letting them know not to every give out personal information unless you as the parent are aware and monitoring what they do. Sharing an email address with your younger child would also be a good idea so you can monitor messages.

~Use content blockers and filters to control what your children have access to on the Internet. These tools block sites with explicit material or limits the sites that will come up if your child does a search. It blocks certain images that might not be appropriate and also blocks sites that may contain certain words or key phrases.
 ~Tracking software is another consideration to be aware if what your teen is doing online. Being able to trust your teen is important but also making them aware that you monitor the sites that they are visiting may make them think twice about what they do online. I do not have teenagers (YET!) so I'm not exactly sure what a teens reaction would be to having their parents tracking where they go.

In many cases protecting your child in the Internet world is just as important as protecting them in the "real world". What do you do as a parent to keep your child safe online?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to help a visual learner

When it comes to learning new things I have always been a visual spatial learner. Visual learners typically like to read. They tend to need complete quiet to study, likes colors and fashion, benefit from pictures,charts and diagrams, plus have an avid awareness of the artistic beauty of the physical environment, visual media, or art. I didn't realize this though until I started to teach my own children and became aware of different learning styles. In a typical classrom setting I always did best sitting as close to the front as I could. Yes, in college I was the geeky kid sitting right in front of the teacher. Looking back it was my way of keeping myself from becoming distracted by things going on around me. If someone tells me something and I do not write it down it is likely to go in one ear and out the other no matter how hard I try. Instead if I see it in writing and combine that with typing or writing it is likely to stay in my memory. So throwing in a bit of kinesthetic learning in addition to visual learning is my style of learning.

My son with Prader-will syndrome/autism seems to need an equal mix of visual/auditory/kinesthetic to learn best. Depending on the subject he will need one more than the other. To understand math concepts he has to see it with manipulatives because if you just try to explain it to him it doesn't sink in. If I'm teaching him to memorize something though, I've noticed that he pays better attention if he is standing or moving around. If he was required to sit at a desk for hours it would not work at all. The boy loves to move! Z~girl is highly visual like me and requires complete quiet when she is concentrating. Here are some ideas to help visual learners.

~Draw maps of events in history or draw out a picture of the scientific process.

~Make outlines of the information that needs to be learned.

~Take notes and make lists of importan information.

~Educational videos- We use this a lot! It's so easy to find videos that go along with what the child is learning to back up the information in their heads.

~Copy work/drawing- Sometimes I have the children do copywork that normally goes along with our history and above it they draw a picture that goes along with what they wrote.

~Use dry erase boards with colored markers.

~Use flashcards to help memorize math facts.

~Incorprate art into learning projects!

~One of our favorites is using Lego! The possibilities are endless.

~Provide visual activities such as maps, puzzles, models, matching activities, computers and word searches.

~Diaoramas.  Both of my children (and ME) like to make dioramas. We belong to a homeschool geography club and with each country we will make a scene of some aspect of the country we have studied. Last month we did a presentation on Dennmark and my daughter made a replica of a long house, complete with real mud on the walls!

Utilizing your child's learning strengths is the key to success in helping your child achieve their individual potential!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning to spell

Spelling is one of those subjects that in the summer when I am planning out for the next years learning, I have all sorts of grand plans for. Over the years I have tried out several different spelling curriculum but after a month or two I always go back to doing spelling more casually. Instead of doing it separately I include it in everything we are doing. Fortunately for me also, my daughter despite not teaching spelling to her formally as a separate subject, has very naturally became an excellent speller. I'm not sure if this is due to the huge quantity of books she has read over the years or if it is just something that would have came easily for her no matter how she was taught.

Spelling did NOT come easily for me. I remember as a child before our schools annual spelling bee, my mom drilling words to me for hours out of a book that seemed to have a million words I had to learn. This was never pleasant and tears were always involved. Still, I am glad that my mom spent the extra time with me that I needed as one year I won. (sure it was a small school but don't deflate my balloon hahah)

With my son's extra challenges I have never really pushed spelling with him in the same way I have reading, math and writing. He can spell most simple sight words but for right now he is a year behind the level that he can actually read. He can read many words that he couldn't begin to know how to spell yet- if that makes sense. Both kids also love to do spelling games online. There's nothing like having them learn how to spell when they think they are just playing a game! Also, I love Bananagrams as all levels of learners can play together.

I do think there is a lot of importance in knowing how to spell. The great thing about home education is the fact that I can tailor it individually to both of my children. Z~girl learns naturally with her other subjects and reading on her own. (she writes down unfamiliar words and looks them up later) A~man has learned simple spelling with his sight words and will hopefully continue to learn to spell bigger words as his reading advances. I will say, even though I am a fairly good speller...I am so thankful for spell/check. NOW if I could find similar way to check my imperfect grammar. ;)