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Posts Tagged ‘education’


I’ve learned lessons the hard way over the years, especially about education. Today, I share a few of those with you over at Home and School Mosaics. You may be an “expert” in education, a compassionate teacher, a parent of a unique student (they are all unique), or a struggling student like me, but I think my lessons learned the hard way might either rub you the wrong way or ring true as a bell. Regardless, with an open mind and heart, you might learn something or at leas see things in a different light. Read Experts Without Answers to find out.

 

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/experts-without-answers/

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Today on Home and School Mosaics, I share some of my favorite things. These are things that have helped me to be more independent or confident in the Dark Silence. These are things that have just helped me do and feel more like a normal person from day to day. You might be surprised to find out that you can use some of these things, too, even if you aren’t deaf and blind. Some are just plain cool for anyone to use and love!

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/my-favorite-things/

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I saw a blog post today from a friend that reviewed a book about Helen Keller. Because of my friend’s wonderfully worded description of the pictures I can tell you that the book is a great resource for understanding DeafBlindness. You might just start to “Get it” that DeafBlindness isn’t just adding deaf and blind. It is exponentially multiplied. So, I am going to give a little link love to my friend. Please check it out. There is no way, being DeafBlind, that I could have written a review with the descriptions of the illustrations and intent of this book so well. So, this post is to my friend at Mom’s Musings, http://hexwit.blogspot.com/2013/07/concept-building-and-coolest-book-on.html

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My Homeschool Grades Logo Image using blocks with the initials and the company name beside each matching letter block.If you are like me, you must have a grade program. I don’t like figuring out the grades, and I need something to keep everything organized digitally because there is too much paper and too many things for a grade not on paper. There are a few homeschool programs out there which are fine, but none that are accessible. Some, though, are just public school oriented re-packaged for homeschoolers which makes them too complex for most homeschoolers to bother. We don’t need discipline logs, parent-teacher conference notes, lunchroom fee modules, and the like. We need something flexible in regards to assignment types, grading styles, and keeps transcripts. Some of us need attendance sections, too, along with simple lesson plan listings. Anyway, flexibility allowing uniqueness is hard to come by in grade programs because most think too much like regular schools. My Home School Grades does an excellent job, is constantly listening to their consumers adding and adjusting, and is accessible, too!

My Home School Grades’, an online program, main appeal is its simplicity. It has an uncluttered view even with numerous students or classes listed on the screen. Though simple and easy to use, the program has the features you need in the homeschooling world. You can have as many students as you need, and each can have as many classes as you like to provide. You can add activities that can include experiments, films, theater, field trips of every destination. That simplicity allows you to have your unique feel to your student’s academics and experiences. You can choose the curriculum descriptions of numerous popular publishers or list yours as custom. You can’t list your description, but if you’d like to suggest that the vendor add that feature or any feature, click support at the top right of the screens and suggest away. They are adding people’s suggestions all the time, so they make it very easy to suggest something to them. In fact, the company is working on including attendance now because consumers suggested it. This company is really listening, so ask away!

Set up of your school information which is used for transcripts takes only a couple of minutes including setting up your name, address, and style of grade display which can be edited any time in the account area along with your password. Then you add your students and their classes in a matter of minutes even if you have several students. When you add a lesson, it is just as simple, and you can list ahead and add grades later or add them as the students complete them. There is nothing complicated here, and it is all easy to find and figure out on your own. But, if you have trouble or if you want to see how easy things are before you buy, check out their tutorials on the steps that are found on the front page of their web site.

You can also designate your classes as Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors which will automatically be given a higher GPA point value by default. You can list your grades by lesson plan for individual assignments and grades or by a single, final grade for the course. If your student is doing Dual Enrollment, you can designate that and list the college where the course is taken. You can adjust credit when applicable for .25, .5, .75, or even 1, 2, 3, or 4 credits depending on the type and schedule of course. You also have an option for non-credit if you just want to list the experience, but no credit is given. You can list  the course as full year, Spring, Fall, Summer, or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Quarter.

Using your student and course data, transcripts are clear and professional showing school name, address, grading scale, course and credit list, total credits, and GPA. The transcript’s second page lists the activities the student has participated in during their academic career. You can export your transcript to a saved file or print for your records. The grading scale calculates the GPA by using 5 points for Honors courses down to 0 for 59 and below and 4 also given for classes you deem as Pass/Fail. I love the fact that Social Security numbers and graduation dates are not stored on the My Home School Grades server, but is entered each time you export transcript. You click the settings buttons on the Export Transcript screen and enter the Social Security Number and Graduation date and then hit print. You can print without that information if you desire. Settings options also allow you to hide certain grade levels and activities, if desired.

With these features, you will certainly find My Home School Grades simple, but flexible and professional for use. In addition, the online program is fully accessible for low vision and screen readers and braille display. At this time of writing, it is the only homeschool grade tracking program that is accessible to my knowledge, and that knowledge is extensive though not complete. There are a few screen reader focus issues with My Home School Grades that hinder navigation slightly like when a pop up screen is present for adding/editing a student or lesson or course, the braille display advance command or the keyboard tab still advances on the back page for several places before finding the pop up page. This is an easy fix, but it needs to be addressed because a blind person will have no way of knowing that the button they clicked actually worked by popping up a screen. Again, it is easy to fix, and I am certain based on the knowledge of the vendors’ customer service reputation which is excellent that this will be handled in the near future. Despite this little hang up, the program is definitely usable by a low vision or blind user, and that makes this reviewer extremely happy.

To make it even better, My Home School Grades works well on most tablets and smartphones connected to the internet. On the iPhone, My Home School Grade’s web app through Safari is also completely accessible to Voice Over and a braille display compatible with Voice Over. You can keep up with activities and lessons while on the go which makes handling your homeschool even easier.

Now, it is your turn. You can check out My Home School Grades on their web site at https://myhomeschoolgrades.com. You can try it out for a 14 day free trial, see how the online program works with their tutorials on their home page, and get the facts on their “Learn More” page. The price is one of the best things about this program because you get a lifetime membership for just $49.99. With that, you are set for all of your students throughout their homeschool years.

I have received a copy of the above product to help facilitate a frank and honest review. A positive review is not guaranteed. All opinions are my own. Your results and opinions may vary.

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Thinkwell is an online math education site. I have heard so much about it that I thought I would try it out. I wanted to see if it was accessible for the deaf, blind, and deafblind. I also wanted to see if the program would be suitable for an accredited umbrella program that required the parent-teacher to submit documentation such as copies of tests and grades for credit. I had heard from many that it covered several age levels from middle school through high school and Advanced Placement and college level, too. While educationally, it might not be a suitable option for everyone, the program is high quality and proves beneficial to many.

While, I may not be discussing the academic portions of this program, I will quickly describe it to you. There are numerous chapters in each course covering a full curriculum of objectives for each course. Each chapter has a video lecture followed by practice assignments, a quiz, and a chapter test. There are also interactive activities for added interest, practice, and enrichment. Along with that, you will also find printable worksheet type exercises for off-line practice, too.  A fellow contributing writer and co-founder of Homeschool Mosaics reviewed this site a few months ago following actually using the programs for two years with her own son. You can get her educated opinion by reading her review on Homeschool Mosaics here:  http://homeschoolmosaics.com/thinkwell-for-math/ .

Now, let me tell you what I found out in regards to accessibility and umbrella programs. Although, the site isn’t totally accessible to a braille display, I was impressed by how much the site developers did try to consider handicapped students. Their lecture videos which are the key to the program are closed captioned. You can turn them on from the buttons at the bottom of the video window. In addition, I was shocked to see that they had a complete print transcript of the video’s audio with detailed descriptions of the examples written on a chalkboard in the video. This would make it very easy for a hearing blind student to follow the video during play. It also would make it possible for a blind student to use a screen reader to read the transcript for the video to further understand the teacher’s lecture. A deaf student could also use the transcript to augment the closed captioning, if needed, since the problem examples are described well. In addition, the transcript file is a text .pdf making it accessible to a braille display, too, so a deafblind student could use this transcript to access the all-important teacher lecture. I highly commend the site developers for taking this much needed, but rare extra step to add accessibility to the site. Normally, the deafblind student would not have the ability to use a site at all even if a transcript is provided, since most provide image-based rather than text-based .pdf files. The practice worksheets, quizzes, and tests that I have mentioned that follow each video lecture are also available in two formats:  the online, computer checked format and the .pdf format. There is no audio connected with the practice tests, quizzes or tests, so a deaf student can easily take the on-line test to receive their results. A hearing blind student can possible do the on-line format with the screen reader. I can’t verify that because I am DeafBlind, so I am unsure if the screen reader is voicing the on-line version. Regardless, the .pdf format of the worksheets, quizzes, and tests are also text-based instead of image-based, so a braille display will be able to read these. To facilitate this use, open the on-line version and let the student orally answer or open .pdf version , print,  and use a braille and slate to record the answers for these assignments. The teacher can then use the on-line format to record the student’s answers for computer grading and record-keeping.  This is definitely an easy way to do the program for the blind and deafblind. There are some animated flash interactive activities that are not accessible for blind and deafblind and possibly not to the deaf for the ones that have audio that is needed for completing the task. However, these are enrichment activities that are not critically needed to ensure successful completion of the courses. Although the blind and deafblind can’t do the entire site independently, the quality of the education is high, and there is sufficient access along with a simple step for modification to make this program a beneficial choice to those students who are already good with using a computer with a screen reader and/or braille display. So, if you need or want an on-line choice for your student’s math curriculum, Thinkwell is a beneficial option to try.

In addition to usable access for the disabled, Thinkwell pleases me as Principal of an accredited homeschool umbrella program, too. Regardless to whether the program is a divided home/center program or a home only program such as mine for the most part, Thinkwell has the capability to fit your documentation and contact hour requirements. The courses cover objectives for each subject and level well with suitable instruction and practice for a typical school year. All assignments can be printed as blank assignments to be used for on-site observation, as needed. Completed on-line activities can be printed with answers to show correct/incorrect questions specifically, as well as, the overall grade on the assignment. In addition, there is a suitable number of activities to allow for the programs that meet one, two, or three days a week and allow for practice at home through practice worksheets and interactive activities, as needed. Since there are also courses that are Advanced Placement level, students in these programs have access to AP materials that can be difficult for some students to obtain easily or affordably. Some colleges also use Thinkwell to provide actual college courses for them, so that adds to the evidence that Thinkwell provides quality instruction with a high quality content level, too.

A twelve month subscription to Thinkwell is $125-$150 for full year, full credit course, but there are many places that provide discount codes if you look for them. Either way, it isn’t too bad for a high quality program that is accessible and suitable for many accredited umbrella programs, too. You can find out more at http://www.thinkwellhomeschool.com/.

 

I was not asked by Thinkwell or anyone else to review this program. I chose it to review to provide options for disabled students and students involved in umbrella programs. I did use their advertised free trial to gain access to the program as any consumer can do. I have not and will not be compensated in any way for this review. The review expresses my honest opinion of this program.

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Labels are words we use everywhere. We have labels in the educational world, the medical world, everyday living, and even among the DeafBlind. Some are good. Some are destructive. Check out my column today on Homeschool Mosaics to learn more about when labels are good and when they aren’t.

Words

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I was watching a popular Bible teacher this morning, Joyce Meyer. I enjoy her. I feel she is anointed by God even if I may not agree with everything she teaches or believes. Today, she was talking about not having to be perfect and not having to be constantly worried about whether we are doing right or wrong. God loves us even though we are imperfect. He is pleased with us despite of our imperfectness because we want to do right. We are trying to do right. He also uses us despite the fact that we aren’t perfect. She told a story about when she thought she was hearing from God to be a preacher or Bible Teacher. She wasn’t sure if that was really from God. Many of us struggle with knowing if we are hearing from God. Often times, we have acted on something and made a fool of ourselves because it wasn’t from God, so we become afraid to try to listen and act on God’s will for us. Joyce went on to say that she took a tiny step in faith to test it. She started teaching a Bible study in her home. God blessed it. People came. It grew, so she knew that her desire had been God speaking to her. That was interesting to me. I have learned to do the same thing in my life as I try to follow where God is leading me.

What interested me more, though, was what she said next. Joyce Meyer said she taught that class in short shorts and smoking cigarettes. She smoked so many cigarettes, she said, that smoke filled the room where she and her guests couldn’t see each other. I thought to myself that I know some people who would have tried to shut her down if it was a church sponsored or advertised event or at the very least they would have stopped going and told everyone they knew about that woman who was disrespecting God by reading scriptures while dressed so inappropriately and smoking like a “choo choo”. I know in my own life that I have had people criticize me and tell me to stop doing something that I felt God was leading me to do because I wasn’t perfect. I had sin in my life. I sometimes sinned while I was doing what God wanted me to do. I wasn’t necessarily meaning to sin. I just did. I sometimes have a temper. I sometimes get passionate about something or angry and use certain colorful expressions or even profanity. I was trying to do right. I often failed, but I was trying. I wanted to be good at what I was doing for my Lord, though, so I kept trying. Doing it in the face of harsh criticism was very difficult at times, but I kept trying.

It is obvious though that God wasn’t disrespected. He wasn’t offended or angered. God was pleased with Joyce Meyer. She was doing what He wanted her to do which was teach His word to others. God was pleased with her even though she wasn’t doing it in perfectly the right way. He blessed her efforts and brought her more students and increased her borders of influence. God is still doing that today. God anointed her though she was imperfect because she wanted to do His will. That was enough. Along the way, God helped her to learn how to do His work in better ways. Eventually, He used her husband to point out that she really should dress more appropriately. Eventually, God showed her that she should stop abusing His temple, her body, by smoking and helped her to stop.

In the same way, God was pleased with me. My teaching improved. He sent me to various places to teach that were difficult in many ways, but honed my skills even more. God showed me patterns in some of the students I taught that were more of a challenge and helped me to develop better ways to teach them. When I was better prepared, God gave me the desire and life situations to confirm the desire was from Him to prompt me to begin teaching first just a few students out of my home to now a growing, accredited school that helps all kinds of students including some with needs that other schools haven’t been able to reach. God is helping us to reach those students’ needs successfully. He is even now using my more recent situation of being Deaf and blind to help me to understand even more the needs of people like myself and giving me the desire and resources to begin helping others like myself become more independent. Along the way, he has helped me with my temper to learn more how to control it when it isn’t appropriate, but given me the courage to use it to help fight what is wrong. I am still not perfect in so many ways, but God is pleased with me, and He is anointing me to do the work He has for me.

The criticism is often still there from those I don’t know to even those very close to me. It can still be difficult at times, but I have learned that it is more often the work of Satan in those voices and in the voices in my own mind trying to lessen my impact and weaken my spirit. I have to focus on the lessons I have learned.

From that knowledge that God is pleased with me and blessing my efforts of doing His will for me, I am learning a new lesson that I also see Paul teaching in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5.

3But [as for me personally] it matters very little to me that I should be put on trial by you [on this point], and that you or any other human tribunal should investigate and question and cross-question me. I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself.  4I am not conscious of anything against myself, and I feel blameless; but I am not vindicated and acquitted before God on that account. It is the Lord [Himself] Who examines and judges me. 5So do not make any hasty or premature judgments before the time when the Lord comes [again], for He will both bring to light the secret things that are [now hidden] in darkness and disclose and expose the [secret] aims (motives and purposes) of hearts. Then every man will receive his [due] commendation from God. Amplified Bible (AMP)

I am learning to let go of the worry about my mistakes and the fear that I will displeased God with my mistakes. That is true freedom found in knowing Christ as Savior and Lord. God is pleased with me in spite of my mistakes. He already knows my flaws and what mistakes I will make. He knows we aren’t perfect. He knows what we are going to do wrong before we even do it. He also sent His Son, Jesus, to live like us. Jesus understands what we go through. He didn’t sin, and He can help us to learn how to live right. We find these promises in Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Hebrews 4:14-16. He is pleased with me simply because I have chosen to love His Son and chosen to try to do what is right with the help of Jesus. I can be free because I am confident that God loves me and is pleased with me. I can be free because I am confident that because I am trying to follow that God will lead me in His way and bless my efforts.

This freedom can be found by everyone. It is found by choosing Christ and wanting to do right and allowing Christ to help us learn while we are also being used to reach others in spite of our imperfections. Part of that means we also have to learn that we can be blessed by others who are imperfect, but anointed, too.

 

 

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