Friday, September 28, 2018

How to learn Xcode

My son created his first app using Xcode.

Although we are not following an unschooling approach, this year the kids have had a lot of say over their education. Because their activities need to be approved, the philosophy is a little more in-line with Montessori if that philosophy were used for older children.

When my son said he wanted to learn Xcode, I was apprehensive because he was entering a territory of information completely beyond my knowledge base. Despite this fact, I was excited because he was following his interests. Since my husband is a computer programmer, he has been my son's primary support system in this endeavor. However, he himself doesn't know how to program using Xcode, so the material my son is learning is also beyond his scope of knowledge.


After a week of persistent effort to get Xcode up and running, my son began creating his first app. Thank goodness we have the INTERNET and TUTORIALS. Because of my husband's experiences, he was able to point my son to the Ray Wenderlich Library of Tutorials for Computer Programmers. Some tutorials are free and some require payment to become active, but my son was able to find a free tutorial to help him get started.

The app my son created is called the "Hit Me" app. Basically it is a simple game where the person playing is given a number and asked to move a slider bar labeled 1-100 closest to the number given. In the photo below, you can see the game being simulated on a phone within the computer screen.

Although the app is mostly finished, it is not quite complete because he is having difficulty getting it transferred to an actual iPhone. It seems lots of developers have had this issue and he is currently searching the internet for different solutions that worked to help others overcome the problem.


I know app development is not for me because these types of issues would frustrate me too much, but these are precisely the types of challenges my son and husband thrive on once they are conquered. It is great to watch my son persevere, research and be self-motivated. He is so proud of his incremental accomplishments and we are both proud of him.

It's amazing how you can help kids to gain knowledge without being familiar with the material yourself.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Homeschooling to High School and back to Homeschool

My oldest daughter is a senior and considered a homeschooled student. She was a full time student in Kindergarten, and 11th grade. This year she is taking AP psychology at the local high school and Organic Chemistry and Anatomy and Physiology at the community college. The rest of her day she is homeschooled. Next year she will be going to a technical college and has already been accepted.

Her schedule is strange I know, and she knows. Sometimes it bothers her a little, but she mostly just jokes about it. After being a full-time student last year, she was hoping to graduate from the local high school. Unfortunately that didn't work out.

First day shadowing at dental office

The main issue was the Anatomy and Physiology class. You see, my daughter wants to be an orthodontist. Who knows if that will happen, but that is the path we are working towards now. She completed AP chemistry during homeschool as well as most general education requirements such as government, history, English, foreign language, etc. Last year she completed AP Physics and AP Biology at the local high school.

Therefore, the next classes required for most biology degrees is Anatomy and Physiology and Organic Chemistry. We thought she would be able to be dual enrolled at the high school and community college there by letting the local district pay a portion of her educational expenses. While this was possible, the high school said they would not pay for the Anatomy and Physiology class at the community college since the high school offers Anatomy and Physiology and she had not taken it there. They said this despite the fact that she has met all of the requirements to graduate from the high school and that the high school A&P is not a prerequisite for the college A&P.

While this could work, we felt it would be a huge waste of time. Although by all accounts the high school A&P course is excellent and college-level, there is no way to obtain college credit for taking the course. She would have to take the college A&P course the following year thereby delaying any courses for which A&P was a prerequisite. In other words, she would delay herself a year and take a very similar course two times.

Since the high school said they wouldn't pay for it, they also would not offer credit for it. She could still take the course but to graduate from the high school, she would have to take four classes. (They would pay for and give her credit for two classes for the organic chemistry course, and two additional class credits would have been given for A&P if it was approved.) Unfortunately, there isn't time in the day to take four high school classes plus two college classes especially when driving time and course schedules are considered. That made the decision easy for us. Homeschool again.

As I said earlier, she is taking one class at the high school. This will enable her to stay in contact with the friends she has made at the high school as well as participate in the school play. (Homeschooled students in Michigan are allowed to take any elective courses and participate in any clubs the school offers. No competitive sports.)

Her exposure to the public school system has been good. I think it was important for her to take a few classes and see how the more traditional education systems works. She learned a lot! Not only did she learn the course material, but she saw how structured the system can be. She now understands how much freedom and say she had over her own education which allowed her to progress at her own pace. She sees the difference between learning to seek knowledge verses learning to get good grades. She sees inappropriate behavior and also found kids who can challenge her academically. Although she is quite independent and thinks for herself, she now cares about her appearance and has learned a little about fashion.

Although I'm mildly sad she will not be able to graduate from the local high school, it's probably more appropriate for her to graduate from homeschool. After all, she spent 11 years as a homeschooled student and 2 as a public schooled student. We're just glad we have a good plan for this year and that she has been accepted to the technical college she wanted to go to.

Friday, September 14, 2018

One Way Homeschooling and High School can be used Together

Last week I described how we are using a Montessori inspired approach to middle school and my son's progress in learning to program in Xcode. In addition to programming in Xcode, he is working on a math patterns book and taking two courses at our local high school.


At the end of the last school year we were studying a book together entitled Pattern Explorer. He liked this book enough to decide to complete it on his own. I really like the Pattern Explorer book because it teaches students to think about math in a non-traditional way. The book he is completing is perfect for kids who are at the pre-algebra and algebra level of math. It is a level 2 book, so there is also a level 1. For more information on this book click here.

At the high school my son is taking an engineering class and band.  In Michigan homeschooled students are allowed to take any non-core classes. That means they may take anything that is not specifically required for graduation. Parents must provide transportation, but for us the school is close enough for him to walk. My older daughter has taken many art classes as well as AP biology, AP physics, AP composition and a dentistry class at the tech center.

So far he is really excited to go to the public school for a portion of the day and I'm happy this opportunity exists. He will get to see some of his friends from scouts and see what public school is all about. Taking two morning classes will require him to wake up with an alarm clock on a very regular basis with no slack for sleeping in. Although we have had a regular schedule for school, the school system will be much more rigid and structured. It will be good for him to see this system. He will get to learn from people new to him and he will be expected to meet their expectations. Overall, I hope he has some fun, learns new skills and finishes knowing that he is smart and capable.

Although it is still too soon to tell, the first few weeks were good. I'm optimistic that the two hours he spends in public school each day will be beneficial.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Montessori in Middle Homeschool - Xcode

Last week I mentioned we are implementing a Montessori inspired approach to middle school. After giving the kids a long list of research topics mixed with hands-on activities and small projects to choose from, my son exclaimed that he wanted to learn to program in Xcode, an Apple programming tool used to create Apps. Well that wasn't on the list, but an acceptable topic none-the-less.

After completing three days of school he unfortunately hadn't gotten too far with Xcode, but had been very persistent and learned a lot. His main issue was getting access to Xcode which was a real challenge since he has a Windows computer. In what must be an effort to increase sales of hardware, Apple makes it quite difficult to run Xcode on a non-Apple machine.



He actually did get Xcode running but it runs slow on his Windows machine. To get it going, he figured out how to create a virtual Apple desktop on his PC. This was quite a process which involved lots of trial and error, and an unwanted bit-coin mining virus. In the end, Xcode will run on the virtual desktop, but runs too slow to be an effective solution. Next he investigated remote logging-into my husband's Apple machine to see if he could run Xcode that way. Well it tuned out that the best way to access Xcode was directly through an Apple computer. Now he is in the research and tutorial phase of learning Xcode. I can't wait to see where this leads him.

Most Montessori programs are designed for pre-school through elementary. What I like about the Montessori philosophy is that students are motivated by selecting their own activities. However, un-like an unschooling approach where the student has complete control over what they study, I like the way the Montessori approach sets-up the classroom and effectively gives students acceptable choices. I see our approach to education as Montessori inspired because the choices are given by the adult but selected by the student. It tends to be quite hands-on and often involves learning life skills. Since middle and high school students are capable of reading, a list of acceptable topics and activities for this age works well. Also, unlike the elementary years where students are learning the basics and have necessary manipulatives readily available, for this age, resources are gathered and research completed based on what the student selects to pursue.

So far this approach to education is accomplishing a few of my educational goals for the year including teaching the kids to persevere, making them more independent learners and getting them excited about school. They have been motivated to read and research because they have selected what they want to study. Both my husband and I assist them and try to offer suggestions when we see them getting stuck or progress slowing.

Although this project has taken the majority of his time, he has a few other smaller projects he is working on. I will explain more next week.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Homeschooling Middle Schoolers with Montessori

Welcome back to another school year! My kids will be in 6th, 9th and 12th grades this year. Last year I didn't do too much blogging because we focused a lot on the basics (reading, writing, and math). We actually followed a writing curriculum and it worked well. Since we followed lots of curriculum, we weren't doing many unique things for school, so I didn't have much to say.


This year, with the new school year approaching, I felt the need to change things up a bit and am moving more towards a Montessori approach to education. We've already finished week one and it is working great! We will probably keep working with this approach until Thanksgiving at least, and then I will re-evaluate.

If you are familiar with Montessori, then you know it's a philosophy that is typically used for elementary aged students. If you are familiar with this blog, then you know I admire certain aspects of many education philosophies (Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Unschooling), but stick with an eclectic approach I call Highhill Education.

My initial goals for this year are to make my 6th and 9th graders much more independent and excited about learning. We have always done a variety of book and hands-on activities for school. Some of which have worked great and others which needed to be rethought. Anyway, anytime I mention school, my younger two kids roll their eyes and get ready to fight anything I have planned. The bottom line is that school just cramps their style by taking a large chunk of time out of whatever it is they would have been doing. In other words, they start complaining. Since they haven't spent much time in traditional school, they have nothing to compare homeschooling to and just don't realize how good they have it.

My youngest would spend all of her time sewing, painting her nails, designing clothes, reading and doing crafts. My son would spend all of his time riding his bike to his friend's house to hang-out, swimming and playing video games. I don't have an issue with their activities, what I have an issue with is what they aren't doing. That's why this approach is currently working well. Let me explain.

To start the year, I gave the kids a long list of items they could choose to study. Some things on the list include:

If Hitler was so bad, how did he get a whole country of people to follow him?
What did Steve Jobs do before starting Apple?
Learn to program in Python
How are math and origami related?
Study the Life of Fred Geometry book
Why is poetry so difficult to understand?
How do producers create special effects for movies?
How did jazz music evolve?
What is the Picot-Sykes Line?
Install a water bottle holder on a bike
Repair the sprinkler system
Refinish the kitchen chairs
How are rising oceans effecting coastal cities?
Plan a weekend family vacation within a three hour driving distance

Hopefully you get the idea? My husband and I told them they need to pick a minimum of one thing and maximum of three things to investigate. Each of these topics are meant to keep them going for a few days to months. We also said they should be prepared to discuss their projects and findings and shouldn't look into something for an hour or so and give us a quick answer. These questions/topics are meant to inspire, so we asked them to select something that interests them. I'm hoping that the lines between when school starts and stops will become blurry and that they will be so interested in what they select, that they will work on it during much of their non-school time as well.

I already mentioned that we finished week one, but I didn't mention that they have been constantly working on the projects they selected. I will describe them in the next few posts. What I'm worried about and haven't figured out yet is how to get them to do a variety of activities without much prompting. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Anyways, I'm happy with their progress thus far, but the lack of variety is what is likely to cause us to shift gears again in November. I will keep you updated.

Welcome back. I hope your school year is off to a great start.
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