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Lego Robotics, Sibling Friendship, African American Resources

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, November 20, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 54 November 20, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- First Lego League
Helpful Tips
-- Capturing Memories
Resource Reviews
-- Best Friend Siblings
Question of the Week
-- Your Questions
-- Your Answers
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

[NOTE: Just FYI -- There will be no Friday issue this week due to
the Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy your families -- and don't forget to
support your local small retailers if you go out shopping on Friday!]


First Lego League Robotics -- A Great Opportunity!

This past Saturday was our regional tournament for First Lego League
robotics.... wow, what a fun day! Our club has 3 homeschool teams
this year, 2 boys' teams and an all-girls' team. Out of a little over
30 competing teams, all 3 of our teams won spots in the top 12 and will
be going on to our state competition on December 16th.

If you are not familiar with FLL or Lego Robotics, I'll give you a
little summary here. First of all, it is great for homeschoolers! We
touch on many different elements in a very hands-on way -- programming,
physics, trial-and-error, research, project development, statistics,
public speaking, teamwork, creativity, perserverance, compromise,
fine motor skills, troubleshooting -- the list goes on!

FLL is for children ages 9 to 14. It is considered the 'little league'
of robotics competitions. But, as I found out, it is FAR from easy!

The majority of the points you earn at competition come from running
your robot base with an on-board program (autonomously) that makes
it perform several tasks with different attachments that have to be
quickly changed out in order to accomplish as many tasks as possible
in the time allowed. It is hard to describe that in a nutshell, but
I'll include some websites at the end of this article for you to find
out more!

Your team also earns points for demonstrating team work with a project
that is unknown until you enter a room with some judges. The project
my boys had 'sprung' on them (I have 3 boys on one of the teams!) was
to build a bridge out of Legos that could support a bottle of water.
They had 8 minutes to complete the task! I was very proud of them. They
finished the bridge successfully and they all gave input into solving
the problem, demonstrating kindness and politeness the whole time. That
was a LONG 8 minutes!! You try getting 8 boys together and seeing if
they can agree on ANYTHING for that long, especially when some of
them are siblings. ;-) If they had been even slightly rude or disagreed
about something (what is wrong with disagreeing - I don't know!) they
would have gotten ZERO points for that segment. I was so proud of them!

Points were also awarded for the boys being able to demonstrate that
they understood the physics of their robot design and the programming.
They also were to research and develop a project related to the theme
for this year, which is Nanotechnology. (Last year was 'Ocean Odyssey'.)

I helped out with the research project. We probably put over 40 hours
into it! First the boys had to decide what to research. Out of ten or
so different nanotech products we looked at, they settled on liquid body
armor. Half the project was presenting the research we had done...
and the other half was identifying a problem and designing a solution
or improvement. The boys did a fantastic job! We even surprised
the judges at the end with a funny short video had created. :-)

The initial investment for sponsoring FLL teams is pretty big... you
need computers and the robotics equipment. But it is pretty easy to
get corporate sponsors, especially technology companies who are
interested in promoting science and technology among youth.

One incredibly devoted homeschool dad, Doug Auxier, mentored all
3 of our teams with help from another homeschool dad, Charlie Rice.

Doug's lovely wife, Melissa, graciously opened their home to get
completely overrun with about 40 people twice a week the past few
months. She is superwoman!! (((((Melissa)))))

Here is our club's website. My sons were on the Nanonians' team,
an all-rookie team this year. http://rclahs.com/

Here is the main FLL site, where you can learn lots more about it:

Wondering what nanotechnology is? Here is a website you can
explore with your children: http://www.nanozone.org/


Have you had experience with FLL or another robotics competition?
Please write! Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Capturing Memories

"I used to keep notes of our family's activities; brief conversations,
cute comments, pictures drawn and taken, etc. Once a month I grouped
them into categories like 'Dad did... ', Mom; child; family; pets;
studies - (you can do whatever makes sense to you).

Then we produced a newsletter! After I had typed out the text, my
husband did the computer magic of adding graphics, changing fonts,
a different banner each year, etc. (That was 1989 -- I'm better with
a computer now!)

I took his printout (the first issue was one single sided page, later
on they were 4 double sided pages) and started photocopying. One
copy into the family photo album; 2 copies for each child (one was
for their photo album - 'Never remove until your spouse wants to
read it', the other was their 'read and lose' copy.) 40 copies for
grandparents, extended family and friends.

It took about a week for the entire process and my deadline was to
mail on the 1st of the month. They were fun to do -- grandparents
had new drawings to show off -- and there might be a word search or
logic puzzle. Eventually I got the grandparents talked into writing
short life stories and about their vacations. One year the local news-
paper had a 12-part Christmas story we enjoyed. A few years later,
it showed up in our family history in monthly installments. Now, I'm
scanning those papers and burning CDs for grandchildren." -- M.H.


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Resource Reviews

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends
-- reviewed by Cindy Prechtel

To purchase visit: www.homeschoolingfromtheheart.com

Just the title alone will make a mom want to peek into the pages
of this delightful and helpful book! Rather than emphasizing the
'minimum' of at least getting along, "Making Brothers and Sisters
Best Friends" aims for something so much higher -- truly deciding
to treat one another as best friends.

Written by three homeschooled siblings, "Making Brothers and
Sisters Best Friends" is filled with stories from their own family
experiences. Rather than looking through family life with rose-
colored glasses, the authors treat the everyday irritations and
challenges of living with others from a VERY realistic perspective
and challenge readers to look at those struggles we have as
opportunities to allow God to grow us. Written from a conservative
Christian wordview, every chapter contains a section written by
each sibling, a Bible story, a self-evaluation quiz, and delightful
cartoon drawings by their father. Being cat lovers, we often get a
chuckle as we read the cartoon illustrations that feature cats and
dogs learning to get along.

This book came highly recommended to me by a friend and I'm so thankful
I heeded her advice! Although older children could read this on their
own, I believe it is best enjoyed and then 'lived out' as a family.
The writing style is humorous, so we enjoy laughing together, but the
topics hit very close to the heart and it has encouraged serious con-
versations as well. We have chosen to use this book for our family
devotional reading. It contains lessons adults need to learn too! This
is one of those books you'll want to have handy even after you've
read it once. Highly recommended!

Last Issue's Reader Question

"Our children are African American and we are not. It seems that
most homeschool materials do not include African American history
or culture beyond slavery. Stores seem to carry items on the same
few people and events. Can anyone help me find good resources
that will help me educate my children about their rich cultural
history? Thank you!" -- L.L.

Our Readers' Responses

"Rainbow Resource catalog - http://www.rainbowresource.com - has
some wonderful biographies that our children love. There are the
'A Picture Book of ---' series by David Adler and many others. We
have biographies of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther
King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and so on. The 'I Can Read' series
also has a wonderful book called 'Wagon Wheels'. We cry whenever we
read that. Other books that we have loved: 'Follow the Drinking Gourd',
'Uncle Jed's Barber Shop' (a definite tear-jerker), and 'Sweet Clara
and the Freedom Quilt'." -- Negin in Grenada

[Editor's note: The books mentioned above are all EXCELLENT
choices for families of any heritage! If you can locate the combo
packs which include both the book AND a cassette story tape for
"Wagon Wheels" and "Follow the Drinking Gourd", they are well
worth the extra few dollars. I cry every time, too! -- Heather]


"There are many websites that you might utilize.


Also, I would try biographies on African-Americans.

And you can always trace backward from slavery to before they
got to America. Cultures of Africa are very important and easy to
glean information from. You can then relate those cultures to
slavery and how the slaves kept elements of their culture.

Another suggestion would be to seek out African-American
cultural experiences in your area. I am not sure where you are
but many areas have experiences such as these whether they
be museums, special events, etc." -- Kim M.


"A Beka Book's New World History and Geography in Christian
Perspective contains a lot of African American bios and history."
-- Madelyn Lang


"I don't know about the history part, but I have some story books from
Rod and Staff Publishers (P. O. Box 5, Hwy 172, Crockett,KY 41413
or 606-522-4348) and they show African American children in everyday
life. You could call and ask for curriculum help -- maybe ask for Nancy.
She was helpful to me before and seems familiar with the material they
have. Maybe she might have some insight. God Bless!" -- Ann


"We are missionaries and knowing that we were bound for East
Africa, we created our own unit studies. We got a lot of information
off the Internet, drew maps, wrote to various embassies, invited
anyone over for dinner who had ever been anywhere in East Africa for
interviews, watched lots of videos, and basically created a portfolio
of information about one country before moving on to another. We also
bought Swahili language tapes so we could learn ways to greet and
useful phrases. There's a lot of useful information out there, but it
takes diligence to dig it out." -- Dwayne and Rhonda E.


"NationalGeographic.com has lesson plans that span grades K-12
and on just about every subject. Click on 'Lesson Plans' on the home
page, select your grade level and area of interest." -- Linda from MT


"The Story of the World history series, 4 volumes, by SusanWise
Bauer, who co-wrote The Well Trained Mind is the only history series
that I’ve ever found that includes African history throughout the ages
in a matter-of-fact inclusive way. By no means is it 'just' about
slavery. In each of the four volumes there are several chapters about
what is going on in Africa during the times that the volumes cover. I
find the series to be excellent. It’s geared toward early elementary
(one volume for each year, starting in any of grades 1 - 4). Very
literary oriented; i.e., very few pictures. But it is written in a very
engaging way. I have read it aloud with my son, who at 10 years old,
just loves it. There are also excellent activity books that accompany
it." -- Cathleen C.

Answer our NEW Question

"Is anyone aiming to send their child to an Ivy League school or
top-tier University? What are your thoughts on the best ways to
prepare? What do you think needs to be included in my curriculum?
Do you know of any resources that would be helpful? I wish I could
find 'Getting into Harvard for Dummies'. -- Monica


Do you have some recommendations for Monica?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!

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