October 2nd, 2017

Encourage Your Child’s Creativity With Destination Imagination

Encourage Your Child's Creativity With Destination Imagination

Every school year, my kids talk about which clubs they want to join. My son does archery, which doesn’t start until later in the school year but is a lot of fun. My youngest daughter chose Destination Imagination this year. It’s a club I strongly recommend if you want to help your child be more creative. My oldest daughter has participated in Destination Imagination in years past, and I think it was a good boost to her creativity.

What Is Destination Imagination?

Destination Imagination is an organization that encourages kids to come up with creative solutions and apply them in a variety of ways. The kids are challenged to use a variety of skills. It’s not all technical, and it’s not all performance.

The challenges the kids choose from change from year to year. There are some basic types – fine arts, technical, scientific, structural, improvisational and service learning, as well as a challenge for younger kids. The details, however, are always different.

Choosing a fine arts challenge doesn’t mean your child won’t use their skills to build something. Choosing a scientific challenge doesn’t mean they won’t need to come up with a story to go with their presentation. Teams build multiple skills as they complete their challenges.

Then come the Instant Challenges. Your team won’t know what their Instant Challenge is until they walk into the room at the competition. They’re sworn to secrecy about the challenge until after the world competition is over. This is so that no team gets an advantage on the Instant Challenge by knowing what it is in advance. There are penalties for revealing what happened at an Instant Challenge after you’ve taken it. The revelation can impact more than your own team. Keeping the secret until after the World Competition is a huge deal, even if your team isn’t going that far.

Teams can practice Instant Challenges on their own before competitions, as old ones are released. These involve a lot of very quick thinking and planning. One of the most important things the kids have to show is teamwork – no leaving a team member out of the challenge.

Every school year, Destination Imagination puts out a variety of challenges for teams of children to work on. There are regional and state competitions, and an annual world competition for teams that make it that far.

Destination Imagination is run by volunteers, and that includes any team your children may join. Be prepared to volunteer, whether as a Team Manager, Appraiser at a competition, or other roles. Teams must provide a certain number of volunteers at competitions in order to participate. This can be difficult, especially if you have a small team, but it is an absolute requirement. It’s best to choose your volunteers as the team forms.

What Do Destination Imagination Teams Do?

The kids on the teams with Destination Imagination must do all their own work. Adults aren’t even supposed to give them ideas. The kids sign a statement at competitions saying that all work is their own – having an adult help can disqualify the team. Adults can teach kids skills needed, but the kids have to figure out what they need to learn and ask for it.

This is where the kids learn a lot about creative thinking. The solutions the kids come up with are amazing. They might build things out of old toys, cardboard boxes, or anything else they can figure out a use for. They might spin a tale that will keep everyone laughing.

There are some expenses you may need to help pay. Each challenge has a budget that the teams are not allowed to go over. Expenses must be tracked to prove that the team did not spend more than was allowed. This helps level the playing field. Keep your receipts, as they will be turned in.

Expect a scramble to get things done as competition time approaches. The kids will almost always seem to be running way, way behind, but somehow it comes together just in time for competition.

What Can Adults Do?

Adults can handle the required volunteer roles their kids need in order to compete. These roles may involve a couple training sessions. Appraisers have to learn how to grade team projects. That means at least one day of training done in person, usually at a reasonably local school. You’ll try out some of the old Instant Challenges with the other volunteers there so that you better understand what the kids go through. You’ll learn what to look for.

Being an appraiser is a lot of fun. They encourage silliness and silly hats. The idea is to make things comfortable for the kids as they present their ideas.

Adults can also be Team Managers. The role of the team manager is to keep the team on track, not to give ideas or help make anything. The team manager can store the team’s supplies, but there is a point at competition, where they aren’t allowed to help with so much as carrying supplies. They also cannot give guidance during the competition itself.

Being a Team Manager can be a heavy commitment. Teams will meet at least weekly as they make their projects, and may need extra meetings as competition approaches. The year I managed my oldest daughter’s team, I sometimes had them come over to my house to work. One student used my sewing machine to make a backdrop. Weekends get gobbled up as the team works hard to get everything done on time.

Adults are allowed to teach kids skills as well. If the kids on the team don’t know how to make something, they can find an appropriate adult to teach them the skill. The adult may not make the item for them. Adults may also make sure the team is using tools safely.

Overall, the entire process with Destination Imagination is a lot of fun. Everyone will probably be tired at the end of the competition day, but it should have been a good day overall. Whether your team makes it to the state competition or even World shouldn’t matter as much as what they’ve accomplished together.

I’d like to finish off with a TED Talk shared by the California Destination Imagination Facebook page. It’s about raising successful kids without overparenting. It goes well with DI’s rules.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

August 15th, 2017

5 Things Your Family Can Do To Watch The Solar Eclipse

solar eclipse

Many people are excited about the upcoming total solar eclipse. Most of us won’t get to see the total eclipse, but will get to see at least a partial eclipse. Even this can be a lot of fun. These are some things you can do to enjoy the eclipse safely with your family.

Get Solar Eclipse Glasses

You can order solar eclipse glasses from Amazon for your family to use during the eclipse. Make sure you buy glasses that are safe for use during a solar eclipse. Amazon had to recall some glasses because they weren’t certain that they were safe for the eclipse. They decided that they would rather recall the glasses than have people risk their eyesight and permanent damage.

Whatever you do, do not look directly at the eclipse without proper eye protection. The damage can be permanent. If you want more information you can look at the NASA website. They have excellent information on when you can remove your glasses if you are in an area with a total solar eclipse.

If your children are using solar eclipse glasses, make sure they do not peek around the dark lenses to look at the sun. This can damage their eyes. If children cannot be trusted to keep their solar eclipse glasses on, find another way to allow them to enjoy the eclipse, such as watching it online.

Watch The Eclipse Online Or On TV

NASA will be live streaming the eclipse. This will run from noon to 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The Science channel will also broadcast the eclipse. Obviously watching the eclipse on television is completely safe because you will not be exposed to the excessive brightness of the Sun.

Make A Pinhole Camera

You can make a pinhole camera to observe the eclipse as well. The advantage to this is that you will not be facing the Sun directly. There are instructions on the NASA website.

The basic idea is that you poke a hole in one card, then you project the image onto another card. This allows you to see an image of the eclipse without actually looking at the sun. This is a very good idea if you have young children who cannot be trusted with the glasses.

Take Cell Phone Or Camera Pictures

Using your cell phone camera or any other camera can damage the camera if you point it at the eclipse too long. The heat from the Sun can damage components inside the camera. If you want to take pictures, you will need a solar filter for your camera.

Do not expect exceptional pictures with your equipment unless you really know what you are doing. Cell phones can only do so much. The same goes for most cameras. If you have ever tried to take a picture of the Moon, you know how difficult it can be to take a good picture of it with a regular camera. The same goes for a solar eclipse, except you need to protect your camera. If your equipment isn’t up to the task, you will probably get very poor results. It can be fun to try regardless, so long as you protect your camera, eyes, and lenses appropriately.

Take A Look Around

The sun is not the only interesting thing during an eclipse. As things get darker around you, you may notice that birds and animals are reacting as though it is evening. They can be quite confused by this.

We watched a partial eclipse when I was younger, and one of the best parts was seeing how confused the birds and animals were. Things were getting dark quickly, so they acted as though it was night already. Our cats could not understand why we weren’t calling them in for the night and kept wandering around looking at us. They knew something was different, but not what.

It can also be interesting to see which stars you can see during the eclipse. Think of them as what you would see in about 6 months at night, although the visible planets may be different.

Shadows are very interesting during an eclipse. You will note that the shadows around you change shape especially under trees and places where just bits of sunlight break through. It is somewhat like the pinhole camera in that the shape of the eclipse is projected through the leaves.

Take time out of your day to observe the solar eclipse, whether you get the total eclipse or just a partial one. It’s an event that doesn’t come around too often, especially for such a large audience.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

January 17th, 2017

How To Use Udemy To Improve Your Home Business Skills

One of the hard parts about running a home business is learning how to do all the things you need to know how to do. Some things are better outsourced, but other times it’s the most effective to learn to do it yourself. When you don’t need a formal degree or certification, it can make a lot of sense to pick up new home business skills through Udemy.

Many kinds of courses are offered through Udemy. There are courses that cover many aspects of running a business, such as marketing, social media, finance, office software and tools, branding, analytics and more.

These are not courses that will get you college credit or make you certified by an accredited agency for things. A well chosen course can help you learn to run your home business better. They’re good for when knowing how to do something is more important than where you learned it.

I’m taking some courses there myself. One is on social media marketing, and one on podcasting. They’re areas I would like to be better at or just plain get started.

My oldest daughter uses Udemy too. She’s trying an app development course because, like most kids her age, she dreams of making a really popular app. She’s also taking a course on 3D animation, because she wants to be an animator someday. I bought her an Intuos tablet to help her with that goal, and the course to give her some guidance once she learns the basics included with her tablet. Now she just has to get around to it, a challenge many people face.

Some courses do offer a certificate, but they only mean so much. It’s not like you’re attending an accredited school or anything. Still, there are times when showing that you’ve finished any course is enough, especially if potential clients can take a look and see what was involved in completing that course.

If you sign up for a course, make a plan so that you’ll actually finish it at some point. Commit to doing a certain amount of it each day, even if it’s just one item a day. One of the courses I’m taking has 82 items, so that’s about three months or more if I don’t do anything on weekends. It’s all too easy to sign up for a course and then do nothing with it, so have a plan for when you’ll actually do the work before you pay your money to sign up. Otherwise it’s money down the drain.

One of the great parts is that you can repeat each item or course as necessary. You get lifetime access. Keep an eye out for discounts on courses you really want to take. Udemy has some pretty good sales every here and there.

How Do You Pick The Right Course?

If you’re going to spend money on a course, or even take time on a free one, you want to know that it will be worth your while.

Take a good look at reviews for any courses you’re considering. Not all courses will be worth your while. Course levels range from beginner to expert in most areas, so you can find the courses that best suit your needs.

Courses offer a preview video so you can get an idea what is offered. There’s also a “What Will I Learn ?” section that gives an overview of the topics covered.

Also take a look at the requirements for the course. It will cover the equipment and prior knowledge that you will need to be successful with the course. There’s not much point in signing up for something you aren’t prepared to learn.

And of course there are student reviews. Don’t give too much weight to any reviews that are along the lines of “best course ever.” Pay more attention to reviews that really get into what was good or bad about the course. Negative reviews can be particularly informative. There also may be reviews of the course on other websites.

If the course doesn’t have a lot of reviews, see if the author has other courses which have been reviewed. This will give you an idea as to how good they are. You can also look them up online and see if they have a website where you can learn about them.

Udemy has a 30 day guarantee. If you’ve tried the course and it’s just not what you need or not good enough, ask for your refund. They might get difficult if you do this too much, especially if you always complete the course before requesting a refund.

Do not assume you will get a lot of interaction with the course creator or fellow students. Some will interact with you, but others pretty much leave you on your own. Considering that people can sign up at any time and be at any point in the course, I’m not surprised by this at all.

If you want to get the most from the courses you take, treat it as you would any other class and be ready to take notes. If the course is at all worth the time, there will be things you will want to write down to remember better and refer back to easily. Most of us don’t memorize things based on one hearing, after all.

Udemy even offers programs for businesses, so they can get their employees trained in different areas online. There’s exam prep for various certificates.

You don’t have to stick to learning about business. There are also music, fitness and personal development courses.

And don’t forget that you can also teach the skills you know on Udemy. You can use Udemy’s tools to create and sell an online course of your own. If you’re good at something you can teach online, Udemy could become another income stream for you. You retain all control and rights to your content.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

May 16th, 2011

How Do You Combine Working at Home With Homeschooling?

This has been quite the challenging year for me. We made the choice to homeschool my oldest, as the neighborhood school was doing poorly. I knew at the time that it would be difficult to add in the time it takes to properly homeschool a child to the time I need for working, but sometimes that’s what you have to do.

Despite the quite reasonable concerns of many, it went pretty well. The school year is nearly over and I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make working at home and homeschooling work.

Be Realistic About Time Commitments

Homeschooling takes a lot of time out of the day. How much depends on the curriculum you choose, the rules you have to follow in your area for the program you choose, and how fast your child works on assignments.

Many homeschoolers manage to get it all done in much less time than their kids would be in school. That’s not always the case and you should be prepared for the fact that sometimes days run long.

Sometimes kids try to goof off rather than work on assignments. They may need a lot of help on some assignments, and less help on others.

You’ll have your own obligations to have things ready for your student each day. Some assignments will need advance preparation on your part, which may take away from time in the evenings that you had hoped to work.

With all that the homeschool requires, you still have to keep up with whatever time commitments you have for your work. This is especially important if your family relies on the income to get by financially.

Heavy Duty Time Management

If you’ve worked at home or homeschooled, you know how important time management is. Put them together and you have some serious time to manage.

As with working at home, adding in homeschooling means talking to your spouse and the other members of your family about where you’re going to need extra help. You still have all the rest of your daily routine to manage around the house, and you shouldn’t expect to be doing it all alone. Look at chores the kids can help with as well as places you need more help from your spouse.

Many homeschool families have a schedule. They’re often pretty flexible, so that you can change things around at need. Nonetheless, they’re necessary for most families, at the very least to help ensure that everything gets done that is needed.

You will quickly become aware of your child’s best working time. My daughter often does well in the mornings, getting her going again after lunch is often difficult, taking a day from one that had looked like an early finish to a late one.

Your schedule will also help you to remember when you need to work. You should still try to take at least one day a week off to enjoy time with your family, but that means you need to be absolutely certain you’re getting everything else you need to accomplish done on the other days of the week.

Be Sure Your Work Is Flexible Enough

You aren’t going to be able to cope with both homeschooling and working at home if your work schedule doesn’t cooperate. I work for me, so it’s pretty easy to make things flexible enough that I can deal with both schedules. Tiring, but possible.

Most times, you’re looking at the ability to mostly work evenings and/or weekends. If your child is self directed enough, you may be able to work as he or she goes through the schoolwork, so long as your work may be interrupted as questions and problems arise.

My work computer and my daughter’s school computer are side by side, which has been a great advantage since I can be interrupted when she needs me. It’s not like she wants me hovering as she writes a report or works a math problem, but if she has a question it’s nice having me available to her. Because I don’t usually need to talk to people on the phone for my work, this isn’t a problem.

Are we homeschooling next year? No, the situation at the neighborhood school has changed, as they’re becoming an International Baccalaureate charter school in the fall, so we’re giving that a try. The district decided to close the old school at the end of this school year due to poor performance, pretty much justifying my homeschool decision, I’d say.

I did enjoy the homeschooling, and if it weren’t for the change in the neighborhood school, would have continued with it. California Virtual Academy was a great choice for us, and now I know what to do if we ever have such problems with a poor quality school in the future. Their program is really challenging but fun to work with.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

September 23rd, 2010

Coping with the Extra Work Homeschooling Adds On

I have to admit, these past few weeks have been just hammering me. Very challenging. It’s hard getting used to the demands of homeschooling a third grader. Especially since the K12 program is so demanding. The amount of work is pretty amazing some days.

It’s mostly good. But some days are really draining.

I have a love/hate thing for taking my daughter to Community Day classes. They’re classes she takes with a credentialed teacher with other students. Her class is a group in grades 3-5.

The break from teaching is great. I get to run errands with only my youngest along. Then I have to pick my son up from kindergarten, give the two kids a quick lunch, then pick my daughter up from her classes, and finish off her school day, as the Community Day only covers 3 subjects, and to keep up more has to be done.

That drive time really adds up fast. Messes with the daily routine pretty seriously, and so those days tend to be on the long side.

Her online teacher-led classes do much the same, but at least they only eat up an hour of the day. It’s just that it throws the routine off.

There’s some benefit to both, although it’s frustrating when they’re covering something we already did on our own. But I know my daughter isn’t always catching on to everything right away, so even if it’s review I consider it a benefit.

I’m learning a lot about my daughter’s learning style, and trying to teach her better study habits. She’s used to being able to skim through and get enough of an idea to do well in her classes. That isn’t working with this program. She’s having to make more of an effort than she’s used to.

When things are quiet, I work while she studies. When she needs something, I’m right there to help her. But things aren’t quiet too often with a toddler in the house.

The hardest part is when we have a rough day and I just feel exhausted in the evening, but still really need to get some of my work done. My productivity for my business is down, and I know it. I hope to get things into a better routine so that I’m not always struggling to find time and energy to work.

On the plus side, my daughter loves some of the advantages of homeschooling. When we remember, I turn on music for her to listen to as she studies. She loves that, and tends to be more cooperative. She also likes to stand while working at times, which never went over well at public school. The ability to fidget really is a help.

The ability to take breaks at need has been nice, although we have to be careful about how often they happen. I had to remind my daughter tonight that she can ask for a break when she thinks she needs to get outside and play for a little. Much better for her than sitting at her desk all day. She’s more focused if she can be physically active occasionally.

It will be interesting to see how she and I feel about this as the school year goes on. Homeschooling through an online public school is challenging because there are so many more rules to deal with than in traditional homeschooling, but it’s the style that appeals most to me and gets the least resistance from family members. We’ll see if I continue to enjoy it, which despite my complaints, I mostly enjoy tremendously.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.