Connecting School to Real Life

These schools are havens for public school students who have struggled in conventional classrooms. There is a waiting list to get in and once they do, not only do they have one of the highest attendance rates, but there is also a 98% college acceptance rate. What’s more, unlike many graduates of traditional schools, Big Picture graduates say they feel prepared for college and career success.

What’s their secret?
Connect school life to real life by doing things differently.


Learning Happens in a School. Period.

Not for the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon...


3 Ways to Choose-Your-Own-Adventure in Education

Have you ever gotten lost in Wikipedia? You log on to quickly check out Ray Bradbury’s contribution to the world (RIP Ray) and then find yourself down the rabbit hole of tangential articles. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have the learning process go the same way? Focus is great for long-term projects, research papers, etc. But passion comes from happening across an interesting article or surprising factoid that you didn’t set out to find. It also comes from contribution! Being a part of something that impacts the direction rather than passively watching it unfold. That’s the genius of the CYOA books—you decide the story...


Blogging Helps Students Take Risks and Find Confidence

It's worth a try.
Particularly with reading and writing, it is worth trying many different methods, genres and types of experiences to see which one "sticks." We have all seen reluctant readers finally connect with some kind of text, and blog writing could be the kind of writing that really reaches a reluctant writer.  It won't work for everyone, but it's worth a shot.

In a world where students work so hard to avoid making mistakes, blogs are a great place to start taking a few risks. In writing style, in expression, and in thought...


Lessons from a Lemonade Stand: Summer Homeschooling

Lemonade stands are one of those quintessential summer experiences! A couple of kids with hastily scribbled signs, strategically placed at every corner between the entrance of the neighborhood and your house (it’s like they were targeting you and only you!). And if that didn’t work, they’d chase you down in your car and, as bubbly as can be, beg you to drop 50 cents for their refreshing beverage.

Whenever I think of the world “as it used to be” and the world as it’s becoming, I always expect lemonade stands to go extinct. They’re local, there’s a decent amount of overhead (for pre-teens), they require significant man-hours, and they’re not really meeting a need. I mean, I’ve got tons of refreshing beverages in my fridge. Why do I need some watered-down lemonade that’s been sitting in the sun for 7 hours?

But despite the practical downside of it, every summer, these little stands keep popping up in neighborhoods and, while I don’t stop as often as I should, I love seeing them and supporting the entrepreneurial spirit in my community’s youth.

And also, they’re fun! 

You’ve got kids working together with a goal in mind. They’ve taken several days out of the summer vacation to pool their resources and provide a service to their community that gives them something to do with a bit of financial incentive. Pretty neat.

So what do kids learn from running a lemonade stand?



Summer Unit Study: Weather!

So begins the summer! Hopefully you’re getting jazzed for all your adventures, including homeschooling! Every other week, we’ll be posting original Unit Studies for you to use throughout the summer. So let’s get started! This week, we’re learning about weather! Each day, we’ll look at different kinds of weather and natural phenomenon, such as tornados and blizzards. We’ll learn about weather while covering Geography, Science, History, Math, English, and Vocabulary.


Homeschooling: What's The Worst That Can Happen?

Parents who are trying to decide whether or not to homeschool have a lot of similarities with my ESL students choosing to study abroad in an English-speaking country. You instantly jump to the worst-case scenario with each of your fears and even get close to talking yourself out of taking the leap. Homeschooling may not be for you; same with studying abroad. But how bad could it really be and you'll never know until you try! It could change everything...


5 Days of TED-Ed in Your Homeschool

One of the challenges with homeschooling is keeping it interesting and keeping it relevant. OK, that's two things. With TED-Ed, the newest thing to come out of the TED conferences (Technology Education Design), they give the homeschool parent some fantastic starting points. Their videos come out daily, if not semi-daily, and focus on one very concrete topic, such as the development of classical music over time as our "tools" evolved. Often humorous, sometimes controversial, and always illuminating, these are great videos to inspire parents and children to learn and start looking at something with new eyes.


Vigilante Education

Educators, politicians, curriculum specialists, and administrators have spent over 60 years throwing money, training programs, assessment measures, and incentives to come at the education problem in different ways. What is the X factor? Teachers are overwhelmed and lack training/resources. Parents are overinvolved/uninvolved and demand too much/little of their school and its participants. Students are disengaged, bringing guns to school, and dropping out. America’s changing demographics mean multilingual classrooms with a growing gap in socioeconomic background, with all extremes of professional aspirations and learning dispositions. Educators and politicians can keep trying, but some parents have decided to take matters into their own hands. Instead of worrying about 50 million students, they’re concerning themselves with saving just one.

Vigilantes. Rogue parents. Rebels. Homeschoolers.


A La Carte Education is the Future

"I don’t think online self-education will replace college in its entirety. But it doesn’t have to. The world doesn’t need a perfect replica, but more choices. When Stanford offered its AI class free to the public, over 50,000 people signed up. This is just the start."


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Why bother leaving the house?

Cool TED Talk from Ben Saunders on the value of getting out of the house. With so much of the world being streamed to our iPads and TVs, it may feel like there's nothing left to discover. Ben reminds his viewers to get out in the world and get your hands dirty, even if it's been done before. Why, you ask?

"To experience, to engage, to endeavor, rather than to watch and to wonder — that's where the real meat of life is to be found."

Recess matters? Of course!

While this should come as no surprise to anyone, a recent policy has come out from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that confirms the importance of recess.

Unstructured playtime gives children a break from routine tasks and allows them to rest, play, imagine, think and move, according to AAP. Children are more likely to perform better at cognitive tasks after recess.

Homeschool: The Original Flipped Classroom

  Wikipedia describes the flipped classroom as "a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing." Homeschoolers, while...

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