Review: Tied 2 Teaching STEM Activities

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Our family is always on the lookout for fun, new activities we can add to our learning adventure. Even though our children aren’t as young as they used to be, hands-on activities and group involvement is something we treasure. With the help of Tied 2 Teaching and STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading we’re appreciating a change in our morning routine and exploring a world of fun.

Tied 2 Teaching is an online teaching resource with a multitude of printable bundles available for purchase. There you’ll find fun educational materials ranging from history and mathematics to holiday exploration. Just one of their many tools is STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading. STEM Activities comes with an entire year of opportunity, including over sixty-five challenges from twelve monthly bundles. Students are free to choose from either STEM Design Challenges or Building Block STEM Challenges; both include “Close Reading” which gives students a better understanding of real-life application and offer fun insight into the concept being learned.

For our adventure, our family was given a PDF download of the entire bundle. We chose to include two challenges per week into our routine, allowing one day between to gather materials and manage any printing needed. Mondays and Wednesdays were set aside for our activities; with approximately forty-five minutes given to fully explore the topic at hand. While I highly recommended all our children participate in each STEM challenge, I did not require them to do so. I wanted this to be a fun, optional learning adventure. Three of our kids gladly joined in the fun; our high school senior, junior, and my sixth grade son had a blast. Each morning designated, all materials were openly placed on the learning table for our children to explore. A few of the STEM activities we chose were “Design a House of Cards”, “Construct the Eiffel Tower”, “Design a Paper Airplane”, “Design a Balloon Tower”, and more!

We began with opening the day’s chosen bundle and clicking on the included “Close Reading” link. We were quickly taken to the Wonderopolis website where we could fully explore the topic and complete the day’s reading. We learned a great many fun new facts from each. We then tackled the challenge at hand. Some were a little more challenging than others. Who knew building a house of cards could be a tough job? Others were simple, but allowed for creative involvement. Each challenge included not only a physical activity, but printed sheets which helped us formulate a plan before moving forward with our physical activity and follow-up sheets which encouraged us to take a moment to review what we learned and might do differently next time.

There was so much we gained by using Tied 2 Teaching. We discovered we enjoy STEM activities which involve building projects. We appreciated that all links were provided and easy to access and that printable materials were available for us to use as needed. The challenges were fun, creative, simple to follow, and encouraged our family to work together.

Suggested for grades third through sixth, STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading fits the recommended category. However, we found our older students truly enjoyed the fun of each activity. We, too, learned a few new facts and always appreciate a good challenge. We also believe it to be well within the scope of slightly younger students who might appreciate a little educational push. Approached as family activity, it will help encourage working together and offer the ability to make some memories.

Always on the lookout for fun learning activities, we’re pleased to now be including STEM Activities into our regular Morning Table routine. With a multitude of activities to chose from, we still have many more to go. We can’t wait to see what we’re doing next!

If you’d like to learn more about STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading or Tied 2 Teaching, please visit them at their website and on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest. To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Tied 2 Teaching has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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We’d like to know… How do you incorporate STEM activities into your learning routine?

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The Day FiOS Died

Gasp – “No, no, no, no! You don’t understand. I need this up and running. Like now!” “I’m sorry, ma’am. The soonest we can get out there is in two days time. We’ll be there bright and early. See you then.” 

And, thus, started the day FiOS died. 

FiOS_DiedBreathe. Just breathe. You can do this. Really you can. It’s only forty-eight hours. Nothing you can’t handle. After all, people have lived forever without internet and phones, right? You’re a big girl. You can do it, too. Does it matter that you’re on vacation? Nah. Will the kids fuss a little at not being able to use their new games? Probably. But, we’re resourceful and there’s plenty to keep us occupied. I’m sure the next few days will pass without us even noticing a change.

Let’s put together that Lego kit little man just bought. That should take up quite a bit of time and he’s chomping at the bit anyhow. The dragon alone looks like it should take almost half the day. (Two hours later…) Wow; okay that was pretty fast. Much faster than anticipated. But we’ve got to find a place to put it ‘cause, heaven knows, I’m not tearing this apart now it’s built and he will want to play with it for a few days anyhow. Let’s go clean up his room and make a space for it. (Twenty minutes later…) Okay, now what?

Little man is looking a little bothered. No computer games? No YouTube? He’d already read scads of books. His room is clean, thanks to mom. We’ve already eaten dinner. Now what? Movie. A movie is always a good idea. We’ll watch Jurassic World. Surely he can’t be bored with that already. Score one for mom!

Alas, he might not be bored, but my girls are starting to get antsy. Cards. The kids like playing card games. Spades! We’ll play spades. (Two hours later…) Ah, nothing like beating your two youngest girls at a game of cards to cheer you up! Okay, okay… I’m feeling a little badly about it. But, hey, all is fair in love and card games, right? At least, that’s the way I remember it.

Fine. I’ll ply them with hot cocoa and one last flick before bed. Rocky; not a bad choice for the end of the night. Who doesn’t enjoy an underdog story before bed? That’s right, Joe Frazier is in this movie. Isn’t he the guy who has a statue in Vegas? I think we took a picture of little man there. (You know, Joe standing in front of Joe?) I can’t remember; let me go look it up real quick. And… I can’t. That’s right. No internet. Pictures! I have photographic evidence.

Aw. Look at how little he was back then. Look at how little all of them were. It seems like forever since they were that tiny. Okay. It isn’t Joe Frazier. It’s Joe Louis. Who needs the internet?!

Finally. Bed time. Thank you, Jesus, for getting us through the day.

Ring, ring, ring – Why is the cell phone going off? Oh, right. No house phone. (No smart phone either, although perhaps this might be the time to gently hint at the need for one. I mean a smart phone would come in handy at times like this, wouldn’t it?) It seems my man has a meeting this morning. Wait! This morning? It’s Monday. And, I forgot to post an article on the blog. Great.

Fu-nny! It seems my husband thinks it might be a cute idea to post an article tomorrow about our lack of internet and phone for the last few days. Really? Who’d want to read tha–. Hmmmm… He’s quite brilliant at times, you know. I might not have internet, but I can type it out and have it ready to post the day after. Hmmm… It shouldn’t take too long either. After all, I’m handling things pretty well. I didn’t stress, didn’t fuss. I’ve hardly looked at my device more than twenty or thirty times. By the time I’m done, he’ll be back from his meeting. We can have a quick bite to eat and then head out for a night of fun. ‘Till then I’m sure I can find something to do around here. Laundry. I need to do laundry today. Plus, there’s always something to clean. There’s always something to clean.

It will be a productive day topped off with, ironically, a type-in at a local bookstore. Nothing like having a world of typewriters in your face to remind you that for centuries people survived without computers or internet. I like typing. It should be fun. Wait! I don’t suppose the bookstore will have internet, will it? PLEASE tell me they’ll have internet. Maybe I can sneak in five minutes to check email before my husband catches me and reminds me I’m a little too addicted to my device.

One can only hope…

…..

While this article might have been written tongue-in-cheek, I wonder if our society hasn’t gotten a bit too attached to our devices. This week, our internet – and consequently our phones – were turned off for forty-eight hours. As a family, it was an eye opener to how much we truly rely on our devices. No longer could we simply Google an image, movie details, or even directions to a local event. This was a lesson for all of us.

While I am immensely grateful for technology readily made available for our use, often our devices become a distraction. A diversion from the tangible world around us. When not forced to spend time schooling our kids, cleaning our houses, or cooking meals we choose to wile away our time in front of a screen. May this not be so.

Let’s use technology as a tool sparingly, and live life with the people around us. May our time spent in front of our screens be for the purpose of edifying others and increasing in wisdom. And, may we see the possibilities around us with which no screen can compare.

🔔Time to Chime In: Your internet is down for forty-eight hours. Tell us how you’d use your time.

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Power Rocks!

If you follow any of my social media sites, you know I’m constantly on the go. If I’m not at a Keepers meeting, I’m home schooling in the field, attending an event, working in ministry at church, or taking a few moments to nab awesome items for my closet. Another activity I’m notorious for… taking pictures! I want to have a physical reminder of my memories.

One of the complications of constantly being on the road, is having a device that is always ready for action. With all of our happenings, we can easily run through battery power and be straight out of luck when it comes to recording these all too important events, not to mention having a lack of pictures to include in all our posts.

Luckily, the friendly folks over at Cham Battery Technology Co. Ltd. happened to send me THIS Powerocks Magicstick Portable Charger and asked if I would review it (for the record, I wasn’t paid for this review. I’m merely providing information of my experience with it for those who might be interested.)

Power Rocks

Hopefully, this gives you a general idea of the size of the Magicstick.

So… let’s see how this baby checks out.

First off, the box is easy to open. (Thank goodness!) Some packaging is almost impossible to break into. Thankfully, Powerocks made life easy on all of us; it’s an easy open and a snap to start using. The Magicstick is a sleek, black tube resembling a small flashlight. It comes with a power cord and a nifty bag to stash the device when not in use.

Now to test the performance, which is really what’s important. Wanting to be thorough, I drained my new iPod Touch 5 down to zero battery prior to testing how fast it would charge.  For the sake of experimentation, I went through the cycle of draining and recharging several times, with different variables to get a good idea of how well the Magicstick works.

Upon the first trial, I discovered the Magicstick’s cord is not compatible with my iPod. In fact, the Magicstick’s OEM cord only served for charging itself and wasn’t compatible with any of our devices, so we used the cords which came with our devices when conducting all tests.

For the first test, I connected the Magicstick and charged the iPod while it was turned off; the Magicstick fully charged the iPod in approximately one hour. I conducted the second test while running several gaming apps on the iPod. Under these conditions, it took approximately an hour to fully charge the iPod. For the final test, I turned on wi-fi and watched a movie while the battery charged. This took a little longer; the battery was fully charged in approximately an hour and a half.

I found that the charger worked well for one full charge of my iPod, but about half way through the second charge, the Magicstick ran out of power. Recharging the Magicstick itself took several hours while plugged into my main computer.

While we could connect the Magicstick to our 1st generation iPad with the iPad’s cord, we could not establish an actual power connection (or else the iPod simply didn’t recognize the charger). Information on the charger’s box indicated this might be the case with older devices because of the rapidly changing interfaces between new and old technology.

Now, if only I could remember to bring the device with me when I head out the door!

An Apple a Day

Little Man PlayingAs I mentioned in a previous post, media is limited in our home. Our children are only allowed TV and “free play” on devices from Friday evening until Sunday evening. Even then, they are limited to how much time they get. At times, it can become a little hard to uphold these rules; especially when we develop mobile apps.

My husband is part of Ayars Animation, a small company based in California that develops apps for Apple mobile devices. To date, they have completed four apps and are working on a fifth. Their first app was the classic story, Jack and the Beanstalk.iPod

Working with Ayars Animation has been loads of fun for him. He was mainly hired to handle the illustrations for the apps, but it has become much more. Now, he has become instrumental in helping to develop future apps and the fine tuning of details.

The Tree I SeeOne side effect of developing these apps has been that we are constantly testing them out. Our children are often called upon to check for “bugs” and crashes. While the kids have a blast with helping out their pop, they are taking in a little more media than we often would allow.

It also means that they are being exposed to the world of Apple. Our children know their way around any Apple device that is placed in their hands and can sync any handheld with a desktop. They know iTunes like the back of their hands and, unfortunately, are up to date on the latest and greatest kid apps available. Pirate Puzzles

We now have a large assortment of learning apps, strategy apps, game apps, and book apps; our collection growing larger every day. The minute their friends get a new app, the kids are anxious to try it out.

Cozmo's Day OffAs it is the school year, I still refrain from allowing them to play with media during the week. However, testing does need to be done. We are trying to find a balance between the two; helping out Pop and yet not have media overkill. It isn’t always easy, but we are learning as we go.

However… It is Sunday and the house is filled with the sound of technology. Now, can someone tell me how I am supposed to get the Angry Birds theme song out of my head?