Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Current Events

I mentioned in a previous post that I have had issues with the news.  I really don't like it and for much of my life I haven't felt that the pro of knowing what's going on in the world outweighed the con of it being full of horrible, depressing negativity.  A fact for which my husband has teased me mercilessly. 

He's also been bothering me for most of this school year about current events (especially for our 6th grader).  Now that I'm homeschooling, am I going to teach my kids about current events?  He tells me they need to know how to find out what's going on, to be exposed to news around the world, and possibly learn to like knowing what's going on.  All things I happen to agree with, but still, actually DOING something about it is another story. 

I figured the first step in implementation is to figure out what my options are.  How exactly do I go about adding current events to our school days?  And, even more important for me, is it possible to meaningfully involve my younger kids (2nd and Kindergarten), which means keeping it quick and simple?

After spending a few hours researching around on the web, I've decided yes, it is.  Now I just need to decide which of the options I've found I'd like to do.  Maybe you can help me. 

For those who have easy access to the Internet in or near your school room, there are lots of different websites you can go to that are geared towards both kids and education.

My favorite (without using it, yet) is Student News Daily.  It showcases one article a day, which I love from the simple and easy perspective, and each day is a different type of article: world events, media bias, editorial, cartoon and then every Friday there is a quiz testing your retention and understanding of the articles you've read throughout the week.  The articles are shorter, easily printed and could be used during the start of each school day. 

I also really like Learn The News because it has two reading levels.  You can choose a lower level (which would be great for my boys) or a more challenging level (much better for my daughter) depending on your needs.  There are comprehension questions and worksheets to go along with the articles and a cartoon character Jimmy who teaches you about journalism and how to write a story.  The downside?  It's not free and it's not cheap.  It costs $90 for a one year subscription (which comes out weekly), but it's meant for a classroom, so perhaps you could use it in your co-op or go in on it with a few friends to create your own "classroom."

Time For Kids has a variety of different articles you can choose from (top story, kid reporter scoops, world and nation).  They also have quizzes, worksheets and more (according to their website), but you can't access anything beyond the articles unless you are a subscriber.  The good news is that you get a print booklet with your subscription and they're pretty cheap.  The bad news is the subscriptions are geared towards normal classroom sizes so you have to order at least 10 subscriptions (the same holds true for all Scholastic magazine subscriptions, and they have lots of different types not just current events).

If you're a fan of the New York Times, they have a teaching and learning website where you can go more in depth with some of their articles through lesson plans, student opinions, questions and quizzes.

This last website I read about isn't geared towards students or kids, but I like it.  I am often stuck in my own little world.  What obviously directly affects me is what I focus on, but in our world today, the world can affect me.  Even when I read about world news, it's definitely viewed through the lens of the United States, World News might help me to view the news differently.  From another perspective, which a good thing.  But this wouldn't just be good for me, it would also be great for older kids.  Helping them to realize that the stance of their country of origin is not the only way to see things.

I already mentioned two up above Time For Kids and Scholastic, both of which require at least 10 subscriptions.  But, on the plus side, both are the cheapest (by a lot) per subscription if you have friends to go in with (a co-op, park or support group?).

My very favorite subscription is from God's World News.  There are a lot of bonuses.  First, the magazines come in different grade levels.  If you more than one child, they're probably not all in the same grade (crazy, I know) and you can get them each their own level to read.  Even cooler?  There are correlating articles in each level so you can still talk about the news you've learned together!  It also ties news into other areas of learning for you (there are teaching tips on almost every page).  For example, if the article is about someone from India, it'll teach you about India.  There are also fun games and worksheets that tie into the news throughout the magazines. 

If that isn't cool enough, with your subscription, you also have access to all articles they've written, answer keys, lessons and a variety of biographies (the sample one you can check out is of Abraham Lincoln, which would be a great Presidents Day activity!).  To look at samples of each level, click the link above and then click on which level you want to look at.  Or check them all out. 

You can get a full year subscription (it's not really full year, they don't deliver in May or December, so a 10 month subscription) for $28 each, which could get a little price-ey with multiple kids.  Or you can order a school subscription (September through April minus December) for $21 a piece.

No matter what you choose to do for current events, there are a few other ideas you can incorporate into your study.  On Elemental Blogging, Paige talks about a few steps, including questions to ask you rkids and writing a summary to show understanding (plus it'd work on summary skills which my kids could always use!).

I also found an article on the HSLDA website that has some pretty good ideas.  Have your kids keep a running list of words they come across that they aren't familiar with and then look them up later.  Learn more about the area an article talks about using at atlas, encyclopedia or even google.  And as they get older (or even not so old), they can start their own newspaper using the skills they've picked up by reading the news.  I especially love this idea, they get to choose topics, do research, look for stories and LEARN disguised as fun!  Oh wait, learning is fun.  Right.  I knew that.

Eclectic Homeschool Online talks about how to learn history through current events by asking yourself (and your kids) one simple question: It all started when...  Look for links from history you've studied, time lines you've made (or purchased) and the news today. 

I've learned that the most important part of teaching is to just get started.  Figure out how much time I want to spend (or have to give), examine my options and then pick one.  I think we might start with Student News Daily for the last few weeks of this year and then add God's World News next year (you couldn't tell I liked that one, could you?).  But I'm still open to ideas.  Do you have a great one I didn't mention?  I'd love to hear about any tips, websites or magazines you've come across!

Disclosure: This was not a sponsored post.  I'm not affiliated with any of these products or websites, I just like how they look!  Any opinions expressed are mine.  Yep.

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