Summer Education

Summer break can be a wonderful balance of relaxation and growth if we lay plans early for how we want our children to spend their time. Here are a few FREE resources that will help you direct your children’s time and avoid those day-long video gaming sessions (surely my kids aren’t the only ones).

Khan Academy offers instructional videos and practice exercises in math, science, economics, art and computing. Parents can create an account and add profiles for child(ren) in order to monitor progress and reward achievements. All learning is self-paced. Videos are translated into many foreign languages as well. I used this with my sons last summer, and I plan to use it again this year.

Moby Max falls under the “too good to be true” category for younger students. They offer curriculum for sale, but simply register for the free version and create a classroom for your child(ren). Tailor the curriculum level for each student and each subject.  Levels will automatically advance as activities are successfully completed. Parents can log in under their administrative account to see progress.

Code Academy offers free online college-level courses specifically for computer programming. The academy has been in existence since August 2011, but I’ve only heard of it recently. I will be exploring it with my boys this summer as well.


Connecting Teens with Authors

TeenBookCon is coming to Alief Taylor High School April 11! I’m going, and I’m bringing my three boys.

TeenBookCon brings together local and national authors and illustrators to discuss their books with an audience of teens. There will be 27 authors at the event this year; their books will be sold on site, and they will be available for book signings throughout the day.

TeenBookCon is sponsored by publishers, generous individuals, Blue Willow Bookshop, and others, which means it is FREE to us! Registration is required, but you can visit the web site to preregister for quick entry the day of the event.

Aspiring teen writers can also apply to participate in the free writer’s workshop. I will be happy to serve as a recommendation for any Cornerstone Christian Academy student who applies to be part of the workshop.

online publishing products for readers and writers

Sometimes writers just need a way to get their stories out to an audience, and sometimes readers just need a fresh source of material to choose from. Digital publishing houses are stepping in to fill that gap. Here are three products to check out:

Inklewriter is a free tool for writers to create multi-branching, interactive stories online. Account creation is easy. Teachers can use it to integrate technology and creative writing. Once a story is complete, it can be shared via a unique url. It can even be converted into a file for Kindle for a small fee. Readers can find Inkle products through the app store, and Kindle products are listed on Inkle’s site. Inklewriter was created by two game designers, so it’s not surprising that the apps created with Inklewriter interact like role-playing games, blurring the lines between game and book.

Atavist is both a publisher and a publication. Atavist produces original, primarily non-fiction stories that are not just electronic “paper” versions, but video, images and audio are embedded to take full advantage of the electronic medium. Readers can purchase stories individually, or subscribe and receive monthly stories. Writers who are interested in publishing through Atavist will need to set up a Creatavist account. A free account will allow the publication of one story. Monthly charges apply to standard and professional accounts. Users must be over 13.

Medium is free and open for writers and readers, however the account must be linked to a Facebook or Twitter account. Writers can create using Medium’s composition tool or they can import files. You can share a pre-publication link with your friends if you’d like to ask their editing advise before final submission. Then authors can build an audience through Facebook, Twitter or personal invitation. Readers can head straight to the Medium home page and browse stories. As you share stories you like, your connections will share back.

All of these services explicitly state that the authors are responsible for honoring copyright and the authors remain the sole owners of all of their intellectual property.

Meet the Author

One way to get excited about reading is to meet the author of a book. There’s something really cool about hearing about their writing process, the ideas that inspired their story, and even their thoughts about art. Here are a few places to see authors face-to-face.

YAK Fest 2015 will be January 24th in Forth Worth. It’s geared toward middle and high school students, as well as adults who enjoy reading YA literature.

Bookworm is for beginning readers and people who write for them (think 4 year old childen – 2nd grade students). This one will be in Houston on January 31. Five authors will be there to present and sign their books.

Bluewillow Bookshop is a well-known Houston bookstore that regularly schedules author visits, book clubs and other events. Check out the events tab to see the latest news. January is a rich month for middle school readers.

Free Teacher Tools

Public, private, home school, and “just for fun” teachers will appreciate the free resources available through the Discovery Education web site. Start at their home page: and scroll all the way down to the bottom to see the links.

As with any free tool, you’ll have to put up with a little bit of advertising, but the sites are fairly well organized and easy to use. I didn’t run across any tools that required the user to set up an account. What a relief, in this market-driven world!

One of my favorite links is Learning Adventures under Free Teacher Resources.


Hour of Code – computer skills for the next generation

Hour of Code is happening this week! Hour of Code is an organized push to introduce students of all ages to computer programming–for free! Activities are designed for all skill levels, all platforms (laptops vs. tablets vs. smartphones), and several different computer programming languages.

Here is what the Hour of Code founders say about themselves:

Launched in 2013,® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. We believe computer science and computer programming should be part of the core curriculum in education, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, such as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra.

Hour of Code activities can be enjoyed without signing up for an account. But if you love it, you may want to create an account. It’s still free. Activities will be available after this week as well. It is a fun enrichment activity that will help prepare our students with skills for life.

Get started here:

Electronic Media for the next generation

Did you know most libraries have electronic books and electronic audio books? No, you don’t have to walk into the library and check out a disc, you can check them out from home, on the go, or anywhere you have internet access.

Usually, the electronic media catalog is a separate link from the regular library catalog. Cornerstone Christian Academy has a link to Follett eBooks on the library web page. Third through eighth grade students receive usernames and passwords to check books out.

Fort Bend County Library uses Overdrive Media to check out their electronic media. You need to have your FBCL card and your password handy, and you may want to look at the help menu to get started. But once you walk through checking out your first ebook, a world of access will open up before you.

Update: Cornerstone Christian Academy now also has access to Capstone Interactive eBooks. Login in with the school-provided username and password through the library web site.

Equipping and encouraging with information and knowledge