Monday, April 16, 2012

Portfolio Summary

It is that time of year, and what a year it has been! Lots of learning, lots of connections made, lots of firsts, lots of changes.  

Along with the "“...samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student..." which I'll be turning in to the school district with Noor's end-of-year portfolio, I'm also including a summary for each subject we covered. 

Here's the summary along with a few of the samples I'm including:

There is a lot of overlap within the various academics subject covered during the course of our homeschool program. We use a multidisciplinary approach and try to encourage learning across the various subject areas. 
(including spelling, reading, writing, and effective oral communication)
Reading: Noor is working on practicing reading in order to achieve mastery. This is accomplished through daily reading sessions. Reading sessions include reading for informational purposes as well as for pleasure. 
Writing: Noor writes comics, e-mails, and reviews. This includes discussions of audience and purpose. She also writes while playing online games, which require her to type commands, communicate with other players, and use punctuation. She continues to practice handwriting, which is slowly improving. 
Spelling: Noor practices spelling on a daily basis. We are using online gaming platforms to encourage the use of proper spelling and to increase her awareness of phonics. If a word is misspelled within the game, the commands do not work. 
Effective communication: Emphasized the importance of word choice and proper word pronunciation when communicating through written and spoken word. Discussion of types of communication including audience, purpose, and word choice. 
Vocabulary: Noor's vocabulary is expanding as she is regularly being introduced to new words related to concepts that are being studied through out all academic disciplines. 
Punctuation: The use of online games has given Noor the opportunity to practice using proper punctuation, including identifying where each symbol is located on the keyboard. 
Language: Literary conventions and figurative language including: metaphor, analogy, intertextuality, metafictions,point of view, different kinds of narrators: omniscient, unreliable, naïve, first and third person, were explored textually through fiction and poetry as well as visually in film and art.  Alliteration, personification and onomatopœia
were also explored.
Use of word play to demonstrate concepts such as antonyms and synonyms as well as rhyming words. Explored how words are related and can have different meanings depending on the context. Introduced homophones. Used and created puns to further understanding of the English language and its nuances. 
At Open Connections, Noor participated in the creation of a play which she helped stage with her peers. She conducted a research project on Walking Sticks which culminated in a “Mini Peer Facilitation” where she presented her research to her group.  It was an exciting experience for Noor, to prepare and present on a topic of her choosing, and she learned a lot, not just about Walking Sticks, but also about the act of researching (practice using an index, table of contents), gathering information (online and at the library) and critically analyzing sources. 
Types of Literature: Explored the difference between poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.
Peer-to-peer tutoring: Noor has a learning partner in Texas who works with her on spelling, reading, and writing. Together, the two of them explore written and spoken language. In the process, both of them are drastically improving their mastery of the English language. This has also made Noor aware of differences in regional use of language. 

Arithmetic: Noor practiced and further developed her skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, measurements and percentages by creating budgets, collecting data and making graphs, cooking and building with base 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 blocks.
Time: We timed a lot of activities, made notes and worked through calculations between time, speed and miles traveled. 
Various numerical concepts: Introduced concept of averages and means. Explored inequalities. 
Roman Numerals: Discussed the use and purpose of Roman Numerals. 
Place Value, etc.: At Open Connections, Noor worked through exercises on “The Hundred Chart,” with which, addition and subtraction operations graphically demonstrated the meaning of place value, illustrating the difference between the tens and ones places. This chart was also used to explore relationships and patterns of multiples and factors. 
Use and purpose of numbers: Discussed how numbers are used in multiple places for multiple purposes. Numbers are used for telling time, representing amounts, as codes, as well as in other situations. We continually look for the use of numbers in our environment and discuss how they are used and what they represent. 

Biology and anatomy: Studied biological development of frogs. Noor collected frog spawn at the creek by our house. She watched and observed as they grew into eggs, and eventually developed into tadpoles. This led to a discussion of the life cycle of frogs and other living things. Also, identified animals that we saw in the woods. In one case, we found a skeleton of an animal and discussed what type of animal it was and made observations about the basic structure of a skeleton. Drew comparisons between a human skeleton and an animal skeleton. 
Botany: Collected plant specimens. Went on nature walks to explore and discuss plants found in nature. Discussed life cycle of trees and fauna.
Entomology: Collected insects and started her own page on the Butterflies and Moths of North America website, where she was thrilled to submit field notes and specimen IDs and have them verified by entomologists. Noor has also raised two "litters" of Walking Sticks.
Weather: Discussed weather phenomena such as hurricanes, tornadoes, rain, and snow. Discussed weather patterns related to seasonal climate changes as well as global climate changes. Made continuous observations about the weather. Observed and documented ways in which water shapes our natural world.
Astronomy: Discussed moon phases and solar phenomena including associated vocabulary. 
Circuitry: Noor knows how to create a complete circuit due to playing Minecraft. Players can create circuits using red stone to light up lamps and create electricity.
Rocks and Minerals: Discussion of different types of ore and their purposes. Used Minecraft to further understanding of the different types of ore. Visited an old copper mine and collected specimens for further discussion. 
Miscellaneous: Discussed what a biome is. Discussed habitats. Both concepts were introduced and discussed through Minecraft. 
Field Trips: A continued interest in dinosaurs, evolution, gems and minerals took us repeatedly to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, The Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, and the American Museum of Natural History in NY.  We also went to a few local gem and mineral shows, and found a few pieces of fossilized wood at White Clay Creek State Park.
Experiments and Scientific Method: We conducted a lot of experiments at home including, but not limited to, distinguishing between acids and bases, fluids, non-Newtonian fluids, solids and gases, magnetism, gravity, light and color, prisms, and energy.  We built a weather station that was very accurate in gauging barometric pressure.
Noor also attended Earth Explores at the White Clay Creek Nature Education Center in DE.  Noor and her group's explorations ranged from plant and animal identification and classification to waterways, irrigation and water health, with many other interesting topics in between.  
Noor has learned about geography through extensive travel. Noor’s travels this year took her through the North East to Ottawa and out west to Arizona. In preparing for these travels, maps were used to discuss concepts such as cardinal directions and the different types of maps. Topographical maps show the characteristics of the land. This was very helpful in our lessons about rifts, plateaus, tributaries, ox-bows, and other waterways, and the way they effect geography. Noor played an integral part in the planning, map-making and researching for these adventures. 
Noor also has several friends that reside in different geographic locations through out the United States. Noor can identify the geographic location where her various friends live including, but not limited to: Texas, Alaska, Maine, Minnesota, Washington, Israel, Scotland, India, South Africa, etc.  We have both world and US maps hanging in our home which we consult and mark on a regular basis.
Studied and discussed Japan as a result of her interest in Anime.
We studied earthquakes, volcanoes and plate tectonics. 
Through learning about bird and butterfly migrational patterns, we spent a lot of time looking at maps and discussing climate.

Noor pointing out the direction of flow of water and erosion from heavy rain

History of the United States and Pennsylvania:
Noor has learned about past presidents and has been following and has been following the Presidential campaigns with interest. We visited many local and distant historical sites and attended historical reenactments portraying colonial life in our area and Indigenous life in the South West.
In our travels to Arizona, Noor saw many artifacts from life in the late 1800's and early 1900's, which led to discussions of what it would have been like to live without the technology that we have today. 
Interest in her ancestry led to a lot of learning about Czarist Russia, WWII, the founding of Israel, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Native American history.
Noor also has a strong interest in Greek and Roman history, which we explored through books, films and visits to museums.
Discussed prohibition, moonshine, the Civil War, Texas, square dancing, and Sweden.


Noor visited the site of the Occupy movement in New York and talked to many of the organizers about their project. From there, she developed an interest in the history of labor movements and unions, which we explored.
Governance structures: Discussed the difference between consensus (where everyone has to agree) and majority (most of the people have to agree). Differences in Minecraft servers were used to illustrate the different types of governing structures and how there are different rules for different structures.  This was followed by exploring the different types of government systems in existence today including democracies, monarchies, dictatorships and anarchy.  We also discussed the difference between two-party systems and Parliamentary coalitions.
Good citizenship: Discussed how to be a good citizen. Includes following rules, respecting other people’s properties, fulfilling your civic duties, and being an active participant. Discussed rules and laws and why they are or are not necessary. Used the rules on the different Minecraft servers to demonstrate the concept of laws, including possible consequences for breaking rules/laws within virtual worlds, local communities, and within larger governing structures. 
Respecting cultural and personal differences: Noor's participation in local homeschool groups, nationwide field trips, and online gaming has led to a heightened awareness of cultural and personal differences. She found out that her friend celebrates Easter while she celebrates Passover. 

Safety education (including fire prevention):
At home, we conducted two fire drills and had first-hand experience preparing for a hurricane and a tornado. On numerous occasions, we discussed emergency preparedness and evacuation routes.  Noor practiced bicycle safety by always wearing a helmet, boat and water safety by wearing a life vest and we repeatedly reviewed what to do if her canoe or kayak were to capsize. She practiced wilderness first aid frequently during our time in the outdoors.
Included in safety is online safety. Noor plays multiplayer games online so it is of utmost importance that we regularly review online safety. This includes not giving any personal information out over the web, not logging on without a parent present, and ways child predators may coerce children online. 
Noor’s interest in anatomy and biology was heightened when she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the end of February.  Aside from our scheduled learning regarding nutrition, tobacco and alcohol, we have all been receiving a crash-course in hormones, insulin, auto-immune diseases and the lovely (and for Noor, non-functioning) pancreas.  Noor has already learned a lot about this disease, which she will have for the rest of her life, and about how to best manage it.
Due to her diagnosis, we are even more vigilant about discussing what is in our food and how to choose foods that will provide the most nutrition for her growing body. There is a lot of discussion about carbohydrates and sugars and how those impact the body when they are not regulated by insulin. There is also more discussion about the importance of regular rest and exercise to keep the body functioning healthy. 
Physical education: 
Noor swims once a week, hikes a few times a week, and goes rock climbing and biking whenever possible. 
We discuss the importance of getting regular exercise for overall health and well being. Make comparisons between how the body feels when it is sedentary for long periods of time versus when it gets regular exercise. During computer time, Noor takes periodic breaks to go for walks and do exercises such as jumping jacks. This raises her awareness of the different types of exercises and also helps keep her blood pumping, which in turn helps her body function more efficiently. The diabetes diagnosis has led to a greater emphasis on physical education and overall fitness. 
This is one area where I would like to expand on next year.  While we attended a few local musical performances such as the Bridges programs hosted by The World Cafe, I would like to take Noor to more live music events.  At home, we listen to a wide variety of music including but not limited to: classical, blues, bluegrass, ethnic/international, rock and electronic.
This year we’ve spent time discussing the way music influences narrative and the emotional component of soundtracks in both film and video games. Noor spent many hours choosing music for her “speedpaint” videos and used music editing software to create ambiance that reflected the desired emotional responses in her audience.
We listened to and discussed music as it relates to history. A lot of times listening to the lyrics of a song reveals what may be going on in the time period that it was written. 
Awareness of tune and melody as Noor rewrites and sings lyrics to familiar songs. 
Musical awareness and composition are also a focus in playing Minecraft, where Noor crafted musical instruments that allow players to choose what song will play. There are also note blocks that allow players to create their own melodies.
Noor continues to spend two hours a week with her art tutor Daniel.  This year, their primary focus was on digital painting (using Photoshop), animal anatomy, art history, timing in animation, color theory and tonal structure in illustration and film.
On average, Noor spends 2-4 hours a day drawing, sketching, painting and sculpting. She has completed numerous story boards for future animated films and video games. 
She is planning her second solo art show, which will be similar to the one she did last year in order to raise money for a local women and children’s shelter.  Last year, she raised over $200.
In addition to the above, she creates sculptures and buildings on Minecraft using the principles of design gained in her art lessons. 
Personal Computing and Technology: 
Keyboarding: Noor is learning to use the keyboard to type in different codes, IP addresses, create signs, and communicate effectively. This includes identifying special characters on the keyboard. 
Types of hardware and software: Noor learned the difference between a PC and a Macintosh. She has been introduced to the concept of interoperability between software and hardware and across different computing platforms. Noor's learning partner works on a PC and Noor works on a Macintosh. It requires both girls to do research to find programs that will work on both platforms in order for them to collaborate and communicate effectively.  Awareness of the use of IP addresses for locating servers. Awareness of networking and what a server is. Noor is learning file naming conventions and filing systems when saving Minecraft skins, Adobe documents and bookmarks. Noor has learned the difference between uploading and downloading. She is also learning the functionality of different software packages, including but not limited to Skype, Minecraft software, Adobe Photoshop, and others. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012


We had a great trip to AZ to visit with family and seep ourselves in history, both personal and geographic.

The trip started with a family reunion and a wedding

African turtles at (great) Grandma Lena's

About to set on on a hike to the Monetzuma Castle ruins


Abandoned Gold King copper mine

Stamp mill build in the 1800's used to split gold ore

Gold King copper mine

Prescott valley

Grandpa John's "museum"