Understanding Weather & The Air Environment

This post is dedicated to learning about the weather, the atmosphere, the climate, and weather forecasting based on my recent Civil Air Patrol Education material arriving.   My materials came with an activity book and key terms as well as a weather station.  I pulled other resources to make sure the kids had additional places they could go to learn more.  I also wanted to have a book and video list.  Those not participating in Civil Air Patrol can use the links provided to learn more.  I know there are more resources out there for learning about weather and weather forecasting.  The information listed is definitely a great start.

The following list of terms came directly from the Civil Air Patrol’s Aerospace Dimensions Module 3 Air Environment:

Advection – lateral transfer of heat.

Air mass – a huge body of air with the same temperature and moisture characteristics.

Atmospheric pressure – the weight of all of the atmosphere’s gases and molecules on the Earth’s surface.

Autumnal (fall) Equinox – usually on September 22nd or 23rd; the time when the sun’s direct rays strike the equator resulting in the equal length of day and night.

Beaufort Scale – a scale for estimating wind speed on land or sea.

Condensation – the process of converting water vapor to liquid.

Conduction – heating by direct contact.

Convection – heat transfer by vertical motion.

Coriolis Force – winds associated with the Earth’s rotation that deflect a freely-moving object to the right in the Northern Hemisphere.

Dew point – the temperature at which the air becomes saturated with water vapor.

Doldrums – a global area of calm winds.

Fog – tiny droplets of liquid water at or near the surface of the land or water.

Front – a boundary between two air masses.

Global winds – the worldwide system of winds that transfers heat between tropical and polar regions.

Heat – the total energy of all molecules within a substance.

Humidity – the amount of water vapor in the air.

Hurricane – a tropical cyclone of low pressure and very strong winds; usually with heavy rain and possible thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Ionosphere – region of the atmosphere where electrons are gained or lost.

Jet stream – a strong wind that develops at 30,000 to 35,000 feet and moves as a winding road across the US, generally from west to east.

Lapse rate – the rate of decrease with an increase in height for pressure and temperature.

Mesosphere – a layer of the atmosphere extending from about 30 to 50 miles.

Microburst – a downdraft or downburst phenomenon that creates unstable air and thunderstorm turbulence.

Ozonosphere – a region of the atmosphere where ozone is created.

Precipitation – the general term given to various types of condensed water vapor.

Polar easterlies – global winds that flow from the poles and move to the west.

Prevailing westerlies – global winds that move toward the poles and appear to curve to the east.

Radiation – heat is transferred by the Sun.

Relative humidity – the amount of water vapor in the air compared to its water vapor capacity at a given temperature.

Revolution – the movement of the Earth revolving around the sun; full revolution about 365 days.

Rotation – how the Earth turns (rotates/spins) on its axis at an angle of 23.5 degrees while it revolves around the sun; full rotation takes 24 hours.

Saturation – the condition of a parcel of air holding as much water vapor as it can at the air temperature at that time.

Stratosphere – a layer of the atmosphere extending from the tropopause to about 30 miles.

Summer Solstice – usually on June 21st or 22nd, when the longest day when the sun is at its northernmost point from the equator in the Northern Hemisphere.

Temperature – a measure of molecular motion expressed on a manmade scale.

Thermosphere – a layer of the atmosphere extending from 50 to 300 miles.

Thunderstorm – cumulonimbus cloud possessing thunder and lightning; usually accompanied by strong winds, rain, and sometimes hail.

Tornado – whirling funnel of air of very low pressure and very strong winds; may be powerful enough to suck up anything in its path; must touch the ground to be called a tornado.

Trade Winds – a warm and steady wind that blows toward the equator.

Tropopause – the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere.

Troposphere – the first layer of the atmosphere where most of the Earth’s weather occurs.

Vernal (spring) equinox – usually on March 21st or 22nd, when the sun’s direct rays strike the equator resulting in equal day and night.

Water Cycle – continuous movement of water as it circulates between the Earth and its atmosphere.

Wind – a body of air in motion.

Wind chill – temperature and wind speed used to explain how cold it feels.

Winter solstice – usually on December 21st or 22nd, is the shortest day when the sun is farthest south of the equator and the Northern Hemisphere.


The following are links to online resources (videos, lesson plans, e-books) that can be used to better understand weather cycles, weather monitoring, and the climate:


The following are weather websites for getting current local weather information:


The following are books about the weather (all are at our library):

  • Weather by Catriona Clarke
  • Weather: A Visual Guide by Bruce Buckley
  • Weather by Brian Cosgrove
  • Weather by Ralph Hardy
  • Weather by Clare Oliver
  • Storms by Angela Royston
  • See-through Storms by Gill Paul
  • Storms of the Past and the Future by Karen J. Donnelly
  • Eye of the Storm: Chasing Storms with Warren Faidley by Stephen P. Kramer
  • Basic Illustrated. Weather Forecasting by Michael E. Hodgson
  • Guide to Weather Forecasting by Storm Dunlop
  • The Kids’ Book of Weather Forecasting by Mark Breen
  • Doppler Radar, Satellites, and Computer Models: the Science of Weather Forecasting by Paul Fleisher


The following are DVD series about the weather (all are at our library):

  • Weather by DK Publishing
  • All About Meteorology by Schlessinger Media (they have 5 other weather related videos)
  • Twisters Nature’s Deadly Force by VCI Entertainment
  • Natural Disasters: Hurricanes by Topics Entertainment
  • Hunt for the Supertwister by WGBH Boston Video
  • Bill Nye the science guy: Storms by Bill Nye the Science Guy (the have 6 other weather related videos)
  • Natural Disasters by DK Publishing
  • Tornado Intercept by National Geographic (they have other weather videos as well as lots of planet earth videos)
  • Forces of Nature by Warner Home Video

Traveling With The Quirky

I admit to having travelust!  I love traveling and have quite a long wish list of places I still want to visit.  We traveled a lot before a child and continue to travel a lot since our son was born.  In fact, his first trip was when he was 8 weeks old. Even with having a child who is a poor sleeper and has an overactive brain, we’ve still managed to travel the world while maintaining our sanity!  Traveling is a necessity since we live in TX and our immediate family lives in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Hawaii with friends and extended family living in many other states and countries.  Despite having food allergies and sensitivities in the family combined with 2 family members being overthinkers, we still travel. In fact, traveling is part of our homeschooling and road schooling philosophy.  

Roadschooling is literally homeschooling or learning on the road.  And, we are notorious for doing that.  I wrote a blog back in 2014 highlighting one day of road schooling to demonstrate that so much learning can occur outside of the home.  Part of road schooling for us is travel.  And thanks to having friends or family in far away places, we have gone to some special places.  I have 4 previous blogs on world schooling in which I discuss where we went, places visited, and special things we learned: New Zealand, GermanyEnglandand Hawaii.  I know Hawaii is not really international but it is not part of the mainland and offers some unique cultural experiences.  In addition, getting to Hawaii requires multiple flights making it a long-haul trip.

Due to my overthinking and the need to satisfy my son’s constant curiosity I am quite the planner for our trips.  On every trip, even when visiting family and friends, I travel with a list of museums, zoos, or parks of interest.  I also denote which places our membership have reciprocity for or links for discount codes.  When traveling with our friends abroad we tend to come up with an itinerary and places we want to visit before we leave.  Of course, we have lists of back-ups if the weather doesn’t cooperate.  And, I’ve surprised myself as well as others with some of the places we have found.  If nothing comes up on my list of reciprocity organizations I will google the towns near where we are staying to find something.  In fact, some of the small towns have museums that are free and run by local volunteers which are often very friendly and willing to ask the 20-100 questions my son will ask.  The only downside is that some of these small town museums do not have websites so you are just left with an address, phone number, and hours.

Here are my top resources for planning activities:

  • Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Travel Passport Program Our children’s museum is a member and it gains reciprocity at 100’s of museums across the US and some foreign countries. We have found that many museums honor the pass for the same number of guests we get at our home museum, saving us and the friends or family we are visiting money.
  • Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Reciprocity Program Our zoo participates in the AZA Reciprocity program and gains access to 100’s of zoos and aquariums across the US and some foreign countries.  Like the ASCT program, this is a money saver when traveling.
  • Factory Tours USA has a list of over 500 factories offering tours.  Some tours are free and some are for a fee.  Some have age restrictions.  We have taken several factory tours such as dairy farms, cheese factory, chocolate factory, vineyards, breweries, fire trucks, etc.  In a couple years he’ll be old enough to do the hard hat tour at Harley Davidson.
  • Roadside America allows you to search your state and highways you will be traveling for a variety of roadside attractions and oddities.  I admit to making several photo-stops at strange places.  It also helps for finding places that could be used as a rest stop when driving across Texas.  It is always good to have more than one option for breaks.
  • Find Your Park allows you to find national parks by state.  I previously wrote a blog on the national parks and the free 4th-grade pass offers (they were still running this offer).  In my blog, I provide links to various lesson plans and junior ranger programs the park offers.  We try to visit the national park system yearly.  There are also lists of national forests national wildlife refuges,  national historic monuments, world heritage sites within the US, and BLM land that has hiking or camping.  The park pass works on all of these.

Here are apps that we use for those long-haul flights or drives (we have more that we use at home for homeschooling):

  • Minecraft Pocket Edition (when on free wifi we play multiplayer as a family)
  • Google Hangouts (how we text the grandparents, other family members, and friends)
  • EE Toolkit
  • Musyc
  • GarageBand
  • Google Keep
  • Numbers
  • Brain it On!
  • Crossy Road
  • Flow Free
  • Mega Jump
  • Make7!
  • TinkerBox
  • Circuit Scramble
  • Toy Blast
  • Mega Run
  • Khan Academy
  • Desmos (awesome graphing calculator app)
  • goREACT
  • Here Maps & Google Maps (on our phones and very entertaining while flying)
  • iNaturalist
  • PlantNet
  • Merlin
  • Google Camera (on our phones and used as a magnifier by our son)

Here is a list of things we pack or have packed for any travel adventures (easy airplane carry-on):

  • Boogie Board is our new must have item but not available at all stores.  It is a tiny LCD writing pad and reminds me of the old etch-a-sketch.  Our son draws complicated designs or does his algebra on it.  When travelings his friends and cousins like doodling on it.  We have the cheapest one in which stuff is not saved, so we do take pictures of neat projects.  But the fun part is the doodling and then one button click it’s blank again.  We are no longer packing a ton of art supplies.
  • Sticky Mosaics is found almost at every craft/hobby store, Target, Walmart, and online.  There are several varieties out there.  And we have found girl, boy, and neutral kits out there.  They are the perfect quiet activity and travel easily.  Our son is now 10 and just started to outgrow them.
  • Scratch paper is also found in a number of places.  This one is still fun.  And we’ve learned, you don’t need a special stick (most come with one) as you can scratch it with coins, pencils, and just about anything.  Our son has received scratch paper activity books as gifts in the past.  These too make a great quiet activity.
  • Color Wonder Markers & Papers were a huge hit when our son was a toddler through about 8 years old.  He was given a travel set which came with a case that carried 4 small markers, blank papers, and some activity pages.  The best part is we could sneak in other things into the travel case to make packing simpler.  Although not reusable paper, at least with color wonder markers you do not have to worry about colored marks on your child’s clothing, the rental car, the plane, or whatever you are traveling in.  There are so many kits and designs out there as well as blank pages which make this an easy to pack art activity.
  • Clipboard of any kind.  We have a relatively flat version so it is easy to pack.  It is used as a hard surface for writing or drawing.  We always have some blank papers of various types packed in it.  And makes writing easier for our son when he is doing his writing journal, a junior ranger activity book, or any other workbook.
  • Eye Loupe or Magnifier is small and easy to pack.  Our son was given a great eye loupe from his grandfather but there are lots of varieties out there.  Small magnifying glass will also work.  We take ours everywhere as my son loves looking close up at just about anything.  We have even purchased tiny magnifiers that attach to my phone.  And, Google Camera has a magnifier feature for phone cameras.
  • Refillable water bottle is a must.  When flying we go through security with them empty and then fill them as soon as we get to our gate.  We have been on some flights that had no in-flight service due to turbulence.  And, we also don’t want to purchase plastic bottled water at every stop.  It is so much easier to travel with our own.  Drinking water can also help with ear pressure during takeoff and landing, just like eating food.
  • Our own food is always packed.  I have food allergies and our son can’t eat certain foods due to his reflux and currently dealing with expanders.  It is easier and cheaper to pack as much as we can.  I have a bag of food for the 3 of us that I pack in our carryon.  And, I always pack a stash of gluten free foods and my son’s favorites in our checked luggage.  On the return that space is filled with any goodies we pick up while traveling.  We will hit the grocery store when we arrive as we find cooking our own food the easiest way to make sure food is safe for me.  We found gluten free travel is very easy in New Zealand, Canada, and England.  Thanks to an amazing friend who was willing to translate everything and talk directly to the cooks, Germany was doable.  However, in the US we have found it difficult in some rural parts.   We also know that airlines can’t accommodate all food allergies.  Aer Lingus and Air New Zealand were the best by far for having gluten-free and shellfish free meals!  Their meals had the biggest selection.  However, on US airlines we have not had good luck.  Thus, we have to pack our own food.  And, I have not had any troubles bringing my own food through security.

Seriously, go and travel with your kids.  Experiential learning is the best kind!

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Traveling With Gifted Kids.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.  Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:




Over Thinking All the Time!


Here are some synonyms for “over-thinking:”  Ruminating, worrying, evaluating, deliberating, considering, languishing, lamenting, brooding, over analyzing, pondering, inordinately contemplating, over theorize, being pensive, overly plan, introspective, obsessive, etc.  If I thought longer or searched more, I’d come up with even more synonyms.

Here are some quotes:

“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.”  by Anthony Hopkins

“Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It’s important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.” by Robert Herjavec

“The more I think about it, the more I realize that overthinking isn’t the real problem. The real problem is that we don’t trust.” by L.J Vanier

“Over-thinking ruins you. Ruins the situation, twists things around, makes you worry and just makes everything much worse than it actually is.” by author unknown

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” by Albert Einstein

“Things won’t get better unless you think better” by Karen Salmansohn

“Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.” – Plato

I could keep going with quotes on over thinking too.

Honestly, over thinking can be about anything.  It simply means to spend more time thinking about something than is necessary or productive.  Overthinking is often seen in gifted individuals as well as those with anxiety and/or inattentive issues.  In fact, one of the hallmarks of anxiety is over thinking or worrying about everything.  The key word there is “everything.”  There is a difference between daily and periodic or constant and situational or subject and project related.  Some level of overthinking is healthy but when overthinking gets in the way of functioning, it is time to get help.  If overthinking is preventing one from doing anything productive, help is needed. For many overthinkers, they may benefit from the guided practice of a variety of self-help strategies. Of course, if overthinking is interfering with daily functioning than seeking professional help is warranted.    

Here are some self-help ideas for overthinkers:

  • Detective thinking
  • Learning mindfulness
  • Focused breathing
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation Exercises
  • Checking stress levels
  • Going outdoors
  • Talk to a mentor
  • Set time limits for decision-making
  • Writing action plans
  • Use progress monitoring or daily trackers
  • Set a timer
  • Use of a journal
  • Consistent bedtime routine
  • Focus on the present

Here are some children’s books for teaching mindfulness/relaxation and helping them understanding their worry/fears that can contribute to their overthinking:

  • A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee Maclean
  • What Does It Mean To Be Present? by Rana DiOrio
  • Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids by Maud Roegiers
  • Silence by Lemniscates
  • Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth
  • Anh’s Anger by Gail Silver
  • Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein
  • Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story by Mariam Gates
  • I Am Yoga by Susan Verde
  • From Worrier to Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Fears by Daniel B Peters
  • What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner
  • Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing with Sensory Overload by Jennifer Veenendall
  • What to Do When Mistakes Make You Quake: A Kid’s Guide to Accepting Imperfection by Claire A.B. Freeland
  • Don’t Feed The WorryBug by Andi Green
  • David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety by Anne Marie Guanci
  • What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming OCD by Dawn Huebner
  • Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook

Here are some other articles on overthinking:

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Over Thinking.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:


You Can Be Anything You Want! Can you?

Many talented and gifted individuals are told, “You can be anything!”  But for some, they really can’t.  Some individuals are truly talented or gifted in many areas.  There are even individuals considered globally gifted because their scores are so high in all academic areas.  This is often called multiply talented or multipotentiality.  And for them, being talented in many areas makes it too difficult to choose one area to specialize in or focus on.  Some people use the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none.”  So, for the individuals with multipotentiality or giftedness in many areas, they could be anything they want but they can’t pick or decide on just one.  But, maybe this is where society is wrong.  Multipotential individuals should not have to pick just one.

Multipotentiality is a huge issue for the educational-vocational counseling of gifted youth.  It is too hard for them to choose what they want to be or do as adults because they are capable of doing well in too many areas.  They have too many choices and a tendency to get bored easily because they are inadequately challenged.  Some have a constant need for something new and challenging.  These youth tend to become adults that jump between interests and passions.  They often are misunderstood and judged as flaky, immature, or indecisive because they have multiple interests and do not focus or specialize in one.  Problems arise if they don’t master at least one of their interests or skills.  And, having so many possibilities to choose from can be a great source of stress.

There are some ways to help gifted youth understand their multipotentiality and cope with it.  They need to be reassured that they do not need to pick just one career choice.  They can have multiple degrees and careers.  I know many people who have both music and engineering degrees.  It is possible to pursue multiple areas at the same time.  Multipotential youth need to be encouraged to develop a hobby or use a leisure activity to continue to work on an ability, interest, or passion that is separate from the career they are pursuing.  It is possible to continue to do art or music or sports while doing an academically focussed career.  They need to see adults doing this and they need to realize they don’t have to stop one activity just because they get a job.  Many inventors tinker at home after their day job.  We have friends who use their musical and artistic talents as their form of stress relief from their day job.

Another aspect to helping multipotential youth is to help them explore broad categories of life satisfaction.  Career counseling and career exploration are great ways to learn more about job pursuits and levels of job happiness.  But, youth also need to learn about other ways of judging life satisfaction such as determining happiness for them, making a difference, helping others, creating, varying personality features, their own family values, and life experiences.  Having other multipotential youth discussing these issues can help them realize that they are not alone with their concerns or worries.  Having a discussion with other adults that are not related to them can also help.

Some will say “it is the generalist that often runs the company versus the specialist.”  Thus, it is important to not minimize the difficulties in career and life planning of multipotential youth.  They need help in finding the positives and in finding a way to balance multiple interests.  They really do not need to specialize in just one area.  More importantly, they need to come to their own terms with a dying or fading interest and understanding that there will always be something new to do or learn.  Multipotential youth can develop into adults with a broad range of transferable skills.  There is no reason to force them to pick one area to specialize.

Additional readings on multipotentiality:


This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Multipotentiality.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:



What Are My Choices for Educating My Child?

Having a child that is gifted doesn’t mean that traditional school is going to be easy or that it is the best educational choice.  Sometimes traditional schools can work but many times they do not work unless there are special programs, modifications, or acceleration.  And then, there are some gifted kids that completely exceed the resources of traditional schools and need even more.  However, as parents, we often do not even know where to look for school choices or educational options that are available.  The truth is, there really are tons of school choices if we expand what we consider as “school.”  Here are some of the most common educational options for meeting the needs of gifted children:


  • Traditional School – Traditional school is the everyday public school that most people think of when they hear the word school.  Each state has their own curriculum guidelines and policies for identifying and serving gifted students.  If your school does not have a gifted program, they may have pull-out services during the school day or they may do differentiation within the classroom.  The National Association for Gifted Children has a list of each state’s’ association.  Many gifted students are in traditional schools but the level of services varies greatly and many parents find themselves being advocates for additional differentiation, acceleration, or modifications.  In addition, many parents of the gifted have to find resources for after school or during their summer to better meet their child’s educational needs.
  • Gifted and Talented  Programming in Traditional School (GT or GATE or TAG) –  There is no federal mandate (explained here) and funding for the grant program keeps getting reduced and is on the slate for elimination.  Gifted education is in need of a federal mandate similar to that of special education.  Due to the lack of a federal mandate, states vary to such extremes on what they offer, when they offer, and who qualifies.   Not all states have gifted mandates and not all states have gifted funding which makes it hard for parents to even know about GT programs.  The Davidson Institute has a listing of where states fall.  Gifted programming and services completely vary by state and the districts within those states.  Some places offer GT services starting in pre-K while other places wait until 3rd or 4th grade or even later until middle school.  Some places offer a self-contained GT class while others offer only pull-out or after school services and others offer nothing.  Some places offer single subject acceleration while others require a whole grade.  Some places have restrictions on how far ahead a student may work within any given subject while others let the child soar.  There is no cookie cutter GT services in the US.  In fact, it even varies within the same school district.
  • Acceleration or Grade Skipping – Although, acceleration seems to be a controversial issue, the research has consistently documented the benefits and that it is more damaging to hold a child back in a grade they have already mastered.  In addition, acceleration should be viewed as two possibilities: single subject and whole grade.  One type of whole grade acceleration is early enrollment.  This is when children younger than kindergarten age test in and are allowed to start their formal schooling early.  Another type of early enrollment will be discussed later and has to deal with early college entrance.  Acceleration or grade skipping be beneficial to many gifted students but also to some high achievers who may not have met the formal GT eligibility.  In addition, acceleration is an affordable GT service in areas where there are not enough GT students to have self-contained programs or pull-out programs.  Single subject acceleration is the best way to meet the needs of asynchronous gifted students who have certain areas that are extremely far ahead of their peers.  For some profoundly gifted students, one grade acceleration is not enough.  For our son a double grade acceleration still would not have been enough for his math and science.  We opted to homeschool and leave the public school system.  However, acceleration has lots of supportive research  for meeting the needs of gifted students.  The Acceleration Institute has lots of research and resources that can help you pursue this for your child if that is a choice that may work for your student.
  • Afterschooling – Afterschooling is a term used to describe how parents meet their gifted child’s needs since they cannot homeschool.  The enrichment occurs after public school hours and at the parent’s expense.  Afterschooling is basically the enrolling of your student in a multitude of specialty programs that match your student’s interest or online gifted classes that occur at night or are self-paced (EPGY from Stanford University, CTY from John Hopkins, GLL from Northwestern University, etc.).  In some cities there are speciality enrichment programs that focus on learning a foreign language, extra science, robotics, programming, music, theater, and arts.  In addition, there are lots of online classes available.  We were doing afterschooling for 2 years before we switched to homeschooling.
  • Homeschooling – Homeschooling is a broad term to cover many types of educational styles that occur outside of a traditional school setting.  Some consider homeschooling education occurring in the home.  In fact, homeschooling covers a wide spectrum ranging from unschooling, coops, secular homeschooling, religious homeschooling, classical conversations, eclectic homeschooling, roadschooling, world schooling, radical unschooling, radical homeschooling, play groups, etc.  Homeschooling can be completely free to whatever dollar amount you choose to spend.  There are lots of resources online for homeschooling for free.  It takes a little more work to find secular resources, but there is a growing number of secular homeschoolers.  In addition, the public libraries have a wealth of books, textbooks, and curriculum aides. There are tons of online programs that are both free or for cost.  We are lucky to be in Houston as there are 100s of homeschooling resources from all the museums and theaters.  With the help of the internet (FB, google, Pinterest, etc.) you can find all kinds of educational resources to help.  There are also infinite numbers of homeschooling groups on FB, meetup, yahoo groups, and Bing so you can find support in your area.  In addition, there are also many groups specifically for homeschooling gifted students and homeschooling Mensans.
  • Self-contained Schools for the Gifted – Some public schools offer self-contained gifted schools.  In our zoned district, they only have self-contained gifted program at the middle school level.  There is nothing like it for the other grade levels.  A neighboring district has self-contained schools for gifted children starting in 1st grade and uses dual enrollment at the community college starting in 9th grade.  The Davidson Academy is the only self-contained public school for the profoundly gifted.  This is great for those who live in or near Reno, NV.  They have recently started an online high school.  Many major cities across the US have private schools for the gifted and the quality of their programs vary.  Sadly, self-contained public gifted schools are rare.
  • Private Schools – There are many types of private schools ranging from religious, secular, international, to specific schools for various types of disabilities.  The kind of private schools available really varies on the city and state.  In addition, prices vary widely.  For us in Houston, secular and international private schools ranged from $13,000 to $25,000 per year not including fundraising requirements and uniforms.  Other parts of the country have more affordable private schools.  Some parents of gifted children have found private schools to be more flexible for their gifted child as well as offering more challenges in classroom settings with smaller class size numbers.
  • Hybrid Schools – Hybrid schools is a subtype of a private school that blends private school and homeschooling.  In many of these schools, students attend a campus for 2 to 3 days a week while homeschooling the other days and having group field trips.  The hybrid school is really a more flexible scheduling of school for some gifted students and families who full-time homeschooling is not an option.  Around here, hybrid schools cost between $3,000 and $10,000.  In our area, most of the hybrid schools are religious but in some parts of the country there are secular ones too.
  • Online Schools – There are two types of online schools, public and private.  The public online schools are free just like public school and they follow the traditional school’s curriculum but it is done at home and online.  If you choose to do your state’s online public school your child will still have to do the state testing.  There are also private online schools which are significantly cheaper than physical private schools.  The private online schools may not follow your state’s curriculum guidelines but may follow a different or be completely different.  For some gifted families, this is what they use to homeschool so they do not have to locate any curriculums or programs.  The online schools provide everything for you.  Some online programs even provide computers and printers.
  • Charter or Magnet Schools – In most cases charter or magnet schools are alternatively run public schools that have admissions based on a lottery system or application system.  Some are schools within a school physically on the campus of a traditional school.  There are some private charters in some states.  However, not every city has charter schools or magnet schools.  Some gifted students benefit from them if the schools theme or emphasis matches the student’s area of interest and talent.
  • Dual Enrollment – Dual enrollment is the concurrent enrollment in high school and college.  Some public high schools have established dual enrollment programs with their local community college or university.  Others do not, but if you contact the nearest community college the option may still exist. If not, you may want to contact the nearest 4 year university or look online.  There are several universities that have online programs that any student can enroll in.  In the Houston area, many of the community colleges extend their dual enrollment program to homeschoolers and private school students.  In some dual enrollment programs, students graduate with an associate degree at the same time as they receive their high school diploma.  For some dual enrollment programs, the classes are actually offered at the high school.  For others it is either offered online or at the college campus.  Dual enrollment programs are different at each community college or 4-year university.  Their admissions department should be of assistance.
  • Early College Entrance – Early college entrance is different than dual enrollment because it entails a student at any age younger than 16 enrolling full time as a college student.  Dual enrollment programs have a cap on the number of college classes taken at a time.  Early college entrance is full time student enrollment at a college or university.  There have been several articles on students as young as young as 10 entering a university program. We know a student who is 14 and working on her PHD.  It can be done, but it is rare.  Another type of early college entrance are the specialized college high school programs that begin when a student is a junior and as young as 14.  These students then attend college full time, finishing high school requirements while at college.  Hoagies’ has a list of early college programs that are in various universities across the country.  If you have a profoundly gifted student ready for full time college under the age of 16 you need to set up a special meeting with admissions to go over their early entrance requirements.  For some it will be passing the standard college entrance exams, taking their placement exam, and interviews with your child.  I have heard of some universities wanting to see the IQ and achievement testing of applicants under the age of 12.  In addition, many universities have policies requiring parents being on campus or even in the class depending on how young the student is.  And, most universities will not let young students live on campus.  This is a tough choice and only fits a small percentage of gifted students.

As you can see, there are many educational options for our gifted children.  Some parts of the US and other countries may not have all of these choices available.  Each choice is going to have its own pros and cons that are different for each child.  There is no one solution or option that works best for all gifted children.  Just like all other children, there is no one size fits all.  We as parents have to choose the best option that works for our family.  For us that is homeschooling, but we have friends doing early college, dual enrollment, traditional public school GT programs, private, or self-contained schools for the gifted.  You will need to find the school choice that works for your child and fits with your family.  

Additional readings:


This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Educational Options.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:



World Schooling Round 4

In my World Schooling Round 1 blog, I explained what world schooling is and our adventures in New Zealand.  In Round 2 , I discussed Germany.  In Round 3, I discussed England.  Well, Round 4 is Hawaii and specifically the island of Maui.  I know that Hawaii is not technically an international trip. However, due to the cultural uniqueness from the mainland US, it is 3,814 miles from our house, and it has a foreign language (Hawaiian), I am counting it as world schooling.

Hawaii is far from home but we have the privilege of having family living there.  My husband’s Aunt lives on the island of Maui on the side of Haleakala.  She has been living in the Hawaiian islands for almost 50 years.  Thus, we make a point to go and visit periodically.  We would love to visit more often.  This was our son’s second time visiting.  So for us, Maui is a great cultural experience and a time to be with family.  My husband’s parents joined us for part of our stay too.  Thus, my son gets time with his grandparents and his great Aunt.

Besides lots of beaches, here is what we experienced during this trip to Maui:

  • Kula
  • Malolo Protea Farms
  • Ali’i Kula Lavender
  • Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area
  • Emmanuel Lutheran Church
  • The Road to Hana (64 miles of winding roads with one lane bridges and one lane road sections)
  • Waikamoi Ridge
  • Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park
  • Pua’a Ka’a Falls
  • Hanawai Falls
  • Hana Lava Tube
  • Wai’anapanapa State Park
  • Fagan’s Cross
  • Hana Bay
  • Entabeni Cottage & Gardens
  • Koki Beach Park
  • Wailua Falls
  • Kipahulu of Haleakala National Park which holds ‘Ohe’o Gulch, Pipiwai Trail, and Waimoku Falls
  • Palapala Ho’omau Church and Charles Lindbergh’s grave
  • St. Joseph’s Church
  • Kaupo
  • Summit Visitor Center and Crater of Haleakala National Park
  • Sugar Museum
  • Kula Botanical Garden
  • Maui Brewing Company Tour
  • Pacific Whale Foundation whale watching tour
  • Wa’alaea Harbor

A fun part of visiting Hawaii is that although English is the language you will hear and see Hawaiian phrases.  The native language has influenced many of the names of the people, streets, and towns too.  Thanks to my son’s great Aunt, our son has been exposed to the Hawaiian language through many books she has sent us as well as through some Hawaiian music.  The Hawaiian alphabet only has 13 letters: a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l ,m, n, p, w(v) and the ‘okina or glottal stop.  Thus, we find it a fun language when we are there.

Here are a few of the phrases we know:

  • Aloha – hello and goodbye
  • Honu – turtle
  • Humuhumunukunukuapua’a – the state fish, a type of triggerfish (just fun to say)
  • Kane – male, men and seen on boys bathroom signs
  • Wahine – female, women and seen on girls bathroom signs
  • Kapu – forbidden, keep off, no trespassing
  • Keiki – child, children
  • Lei – necklaces of flowers, leaves, nuts, or shells
  • Mahalo – thank you
  • Malama ‘Aina – respect the plant and animals (from the junior ranger program)
  • Haleakala – house of the sun (name of the volcano)
  • Haole – foreigner or Pidgin slang for white person
  • Mele Kalikimaka – Merry Christmas
  • Pau – finished, all done
  • Pono – proper, fair

Here are some of the Hawaiian Books that our son has read:

  • The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark
  • Winter is for Whales: A Book of Hawaiian Seasons
  • Mo’o’s Colors
  • Limu the Blue Turtle and His Hawaiian Garden
  • Goodnight Hawaiian Moon
  • This is my Piko
  • Too Many Mangoes: A Story About Sharing
  • Old Makana Had a Taro Farm
  • Tick-Tock Sharks

Just like international trips, even domestic trips allow our son to experience some frustrations: long travel times, flight delays, time change adjustment, Hawaiian agriculture inspections, and lack of free wifi everywhere.  Travel to Hawaii was a great way to physically experience and learn about: time changes, climate, continents, geography, Hawaiian culture, WWII history, the life of volcanoes, geology, waves, trade winds, landslides, solar power, accents, customs, and much more.  

We truly believe travel is a great educational tool.   Remember, travel could be local, regional, your own country, or foreign countries.  If you can not physically leave, please consider traveling via “arm chair” with the use of books, videos, and computers.  Traveling is a great educational experience and exposure to the world is so important for our children.  Now, be inspired and go explore!

Teaching Media & News Literacy


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There clearly is a misunderstanding of what media and news literacy actually is.  Media literacy is not the bashing of the media but rather involves the teaching of critical thinking skills, understanding arguments, and learning how to analyze all forms of the media.  Teaching kids media literacy is more than just looking for political agendas and stereotypes, but that is a part of it.  Instead, we need to teach students fully about the media, all aspects of it, including the various types and the systems making them.  We need to teach students how to make arguments and how to understand logical fallacies.  True media literacy is the ability to examine claims from multiple positions and viewpoints.  It involves teaching the ability to use and watch media carefully while thinking critically.  Sadly most students and many adults do not have this skill.  This should be a huge concern for our society given how much time children and adults spend on social media and/or in front of a screen (TV, computer, or device).

Having skepticism is okay, especially in our times of high reliance on social media.  Scientists don’t believe everything people say as truth but rather make sure there is proof or evidence.  Everyone should have this same attitude.  We need to be open to new ideas but we also need to be able to examine claims and find evidence or proof.  We need to teach our children how to analyze the media they are exposed to.  We need to teach our children how to do research and analyze evidence.  Our children need to be critical thinkers.  Our children should be asking for evidence to support the claims they hear or see just as us adults do.  Thus, you will find lots of teaching resources in this post.

Here is some additional reading on the issue of news and media literacy:

Here are lessons or curriculum resources for teaching media literacy, in the home or in the classroom:

Here is a list of books to help teach children about media literacy (many of these are for students to read):

  • “Arthur’s TV Trouble” by Marc Brown
  • “The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Commercials” by Jan Berenstain
  • “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV” by Stan & Jan Berenstain
  • “Let’s Find Ads on TV” by Mari Schuh
  • “Learning About Ads” by Martha E. H. Rustad
  • “Hey Kidz! Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on corporate and Governmental and Artistic Activism for Short People” by Anne Elizabeth Moore
  • “Identify and Evaluate Advertising” by Valerie Bodden
  • “Let’s Think About the Power of Advertising” by Elizabeth Raum
  • “Does Advertising Tell the Truth?” by Aubrey Hicks
  • “Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know” by Shari Graydon and Michelle Lamoreaux
  • “The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills” by Nathaniel Bluedorn
  • “The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning” by Nathaniel Bluedorn & Hans Bluedorn
  • “The Influencing Machine” by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld
  • “Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom” by Frank W. Baker
  • “Media Literacy” by Melissa Hart

Chemistry Homeschool Style


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In many of the traditional schools around us, Chemistry is no longer as hands on as it used to be.  Instead, they do dry labs, teacher demonstrations, and videos.  We wanted Chemistry for our son to be different than that.  We wanted it to be very hands on.  Thus, we played with several different kits or programs before coming up with our game plan. Due to several of my homeschooling mom friends asking us what we are doing for high school level chemistry, I wrote this blog.  This blog highlights our plan and resources so others can see that it is completely possible to teach high school chemistry at home.  One huge benefit of homeschooling is covering appropriate level material for our son regardless of his age.  In addition, we are going at a more in-depth and slower pace than traditional schools.  We started it this summer and plan on taking more than one school year to complete.  We are using a combination of books, videos, online resources, model building, and experimentation.   

Here is our plan for a year-long Chemistry study (Realistically, it will be more than 1 calendar year.):

The Thames & Kosmos Chem C3000 Experiment Kit was chosen because it not only contains 333 experiments, it comes with 95% of the materials and chemicals needed.  It was not hard to obtain the missing ones.  In addition, it has a more advanced manual than I have seen in any other science kit.  This kit alone will far exceed the number of experiments students in traditional schools in our area get to perform or observe.  We also played with other Chemistry kits and found them too easy or overly simplified.  One other set out there that was intriguing was MEL Chemistry but it is a monthly subscription program that was more expensive with less experiments than the C3000.  

I selected some traditional textbooks to make sure we covered all areas as well as to give us even more experiment suggestions.  But, I also used lots of other books too.  I wanted Chemistry books that  were interesting and appealing to my son.  The books we are using for this year-long study are:

  • “Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything” by Theodore Gray (The book has stunning photographs, is well written, and is very fascinating to our son.)
  • “Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom” in the Universe by Theodore Gray (It compliments Molecules and really should be read together.)
  • “Chemistry for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work” by Janice VanCleave (It is older but lots of experiments with materials most people have or are easy to get.)
  • “The Periodic Table of Elements Coloring Book” by Teresa Bondora (I loved the idea of learning the periodic table of elements via coloring.  The book goes in the order of elements and is a great complement to Theodore Gray’s Elements book.)
  • “Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter & Change” by Silberger (This is a traditional chemistry textbook.)
  • “Chemistry: The Central Science” by Brown, LeMay, & Bursten (This is a traditional chemistry textbook but also has a student’s guide.)

For videos we used the following  DVD’s (all from our public library) prior to what our son is now watching on Khan Academy:

  • Great Discoveries with Bill Nye: Chemistry by Bill Nye & Discovery Education (well done)
  • Chemistry by the Standard Deviants Core Curriculum (only okay)
  • Bill Nye the science guy: Chemical reactions by Bill Nye (good)
  • Chemical reactions & electricity by Schlessinger Media (good but simple)
  • The Periodic Table for students: Using the Periodic Table by Schlessinger Media (good)

The final component of our plan is centered on molecular model building.  We are using a combination of Zometool, The Prentice Hall Molecular Model Set for Organic Chemistry, Legos, and Happy Atoms.  Aquarium of the Pacific has a 5th grade lesson plan for using Legos to build molecules.  It would be easy to modify this up to make harder molecules or have more in-depth conversations.  Zometool has a lesson guide for covering Chemistry in addition to other subjects beyond just math.  You can find all kinds of molecular building ideas online.  Happy Atoms is a unique digital and physical building set but it is not as unlimited in molecular construction as Legos and Zometool. Happy Atoms is brand new but all other sets mentioned can be found pretty cheap online, especially used sets.

Here are some chemistry related apps my son has on his device:

  • Molecules
  • Particle Zoo
  • Nova Elements
  • Chemist’s Virtual Lab
  • Nuclear
  • Elemental
  • goREACT
  • Periodic Table

Here are some other chemistry books that our son had previously read (We purchased Horrible Science series, but all others were from our public library.):

  • “Chemistry: Getting a Reaction” by Simon Basher & Dan Green
  • “Basher Science: The Complete Periodic Table: All the Elements with Style!” by Adrian Dingle, Simon Basher, & Dan Green
  • “Chemical Chaos” by Nick Arnold (This is part of the Horrible Science series and there really are lots of other titles that my son has read that would also be great for Chemistry and science understanding.)
  • “The cartoon guide to chemistry” by Larry Gonick

Other great resources that we use:

For those with children or teens who like board or card games (sadly our son does not), here are Chemistry themed games:

  • Compounded
  • Molecules: A Chemistry Card Game
  • Chemistry: An Atom Building Card Game
  • Meltdown: A Nuclear Board Game
  • Periodic Quest
  • Covalence: A Molecule Building Game
  • Periodic Table Playing Cards
  • Elementeo
  • Element Quest Game
  • Periodyx (we won this and my son thinks it is okay)
  • Ion: A Compound Building Game (we have this and my son thinks it is okay)
  • Periodic Table Illustrated Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Nefarious The Mad Scientist Game
  • Science Ninjas

Now go enjoy the Periodic Table Song! It is updated to 118 elements.

Feds Coming to Texas to Listen to Parents, Advocates About Special Ed

Feds Coming to Texas to Listen to Parents, Advocates About Special Ed

They want to hear from parents, advocates and others about how students with disabilities are identified and evaluated for services.

Texas set a benchmark for special education at 8.5 percent for school districts.

Federal authorities are headed to Texas to take a closer look at special education in the state’s public schools.

The U.S. Department of Education will hold a series of “listening sessions” on special ed later the week of Dec. 12.

They want to hear from parents, advocates, school personnel and others about how students with disabilities are identified and evaluated for services.

The feds raised concerns about Texas meeting federal law on special ed in October after a major Houston Chronicle investigation. It found that Texas set a 8.5 percent benchmark for how many children could receive special ed and that cap may have prevented thousands of children from receiving needed services.

The Texas Education Agency has told authorities that no child has been denied services, but they plan to make changes.

The new hearings will be held across the state, including Austin, Houston, North Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. The schedule is below:

Dallas, Dec.12 from 6-8 p.m.
Region 10 – Richardson
400 E. Spring Valley Rd.
Richardson, Texas 75081-5101
(972) 348-1536

Houston, Dec.12 from 6-8 p.m.
McKinney Conference Center, Room 100 A-F
7200 Northwest 100 Dr.
Houston, Texas 77092
(713) 462-7708

El Paso, Dec. 13 from 6-8 p.m.
Region 19 – El Paso
6611 Boeing Dr.
El Paso, Texas 79925
(915) 780-6570

Edinburg, Dec.13 from 6-8 p.m.
Region 1 – Edinburg
1900 West Schunior
Edinburg, Texas 78541-2234
(956) 984-6180

Austin, Dec.15 from 6-8 p.m.
Region 13 – Austin
5701 Springdale Rd.
Austin, Texas 78723-3675
(512) 919-5313

Learning via Theater Arts


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A huge perk of homeschooling in Houston is the access to theaters.  We have taken advantage of the educational or school performances at the various theaters.  Homeschoolers are given the same discount and access to the same shows as public and private schools.  And, these shows have been an amazing experience.  Some of the theaters offer “talk backs” after the performance so the students can ask questions to either the actors or the stage crew (costume, lighting, sound, stage, etc.).  Some of the theaters offer open set changes during intermission so the students can see what is going on behind the curtains.  Some even have a cast member narrating this and offer explanations.  The traditional shows are great, but it is such a learning opportunity at the educational shows.  Most of the theaters have curriculum guides filled with resources, suggested readings, and additional activities to help tie the performance to other learning areas.  In addition, the educational shows are affordable.  We would never be able to see this many performances if we could only go to their traditional shows.

Here is the list of shows and theaters we are seeing this fall:

Midsummer Night’s Dream at Alley Theatre

Elixir of Love at Houston Grand Opera

A Christmas Carol at Alley Theatre

Scrooge at Theatre Under The Stars

Nutcracker at the Houston Ballet

Panto Wonderful Wizard at Stages Repertory Theatre

In addition to the above shows, my son has taken a two-hour theater lighting class at Techland .  We have made additional trips to talk with their employees and pick colored gel filters so we can do our own light effects at home.  Every theater trip for us is a chance for him to analyze their lighting and sound design as well as stage effects.  He loves the shows, especially musicals.  Theatre is a great way to incorporate music, arts, and literature into learning.

In a previous blog, Houston Has More To Offer Than You Know , I discussed all the theater options and more as well as information about group pricing and educational shows.  Houston is one of 5 cities in the US that have permanent theater companies and performances year round.  Houston is also recognized globally and is listed as a top theater city that is not London or New York .  If you are in Houston, I encourage you to check out our theaters!  If you are not in Houston, come visit or do some research for theaters near you.

Here are some other readings on the benefits of theater: