Keeping Busy During the Holiday Break

Keeping Busy During the Holiday Break

Students always look forward to a nice, long holiday break but as much as they look forward to it, it takes them about 3 nanoseconds before they utter the dreaded words: I’m bored! To keep things interesting this holiday break, keep these ideas in your pocket and when you hear those dreaded words, be sure to break one of them out to keep your kids entertained and maybe learning something along the way.

Take a break and bake!

Everyone loves enjoying some delicious cookies or cakes during the holidays so why not use this as an opportunity to whip up some new creations? Your culinary skills don’t need to be reserved just to baking – try making up a whole new dinner and follow it up with a delicious dessert!

Your child will learn all about measurements and how things interact with one another to combine and make a culinary masterpiece. To keep things interesting for your older teens, try having them triple the recipes. You could always freeze the dough for later while using it as a time to work on multiplying fractions. If baking cookies, you could decide to follow two different recipes, one that is for cake-like cookies and one that is for chewy. Discuss why the varying ingredients make a difference in the texture.

Do handwritten thank you notes.

Everyone loves to be thanked when they do something nice for someone and gift giving is obviously no exception. If your teen receives something as a gift during the holiday, encourage them to write a heartfelt note of thanks. This will teach them about gratitude as well as let the giver know how much the gift was appreciated. Challenge your teen to use 5 new descriptive words to practice and expand their vocabulary. Everyone is so used to doing things on a computer these days; it’s easy to forget the art of a nice, handwritten thank you note.

Visit the library.Spending break at the library

Reading doesn’t just have to be done as a school assignment. Reading can be done for fun and is a good way to open the lines of communication with your child. You could set time aside to visit the library and then hold your own mini book club. You could either read the book together, discussing as you go, or read it separately and then talk about it once you are both done. Reading keeps our brains growing and developing and is the perfect way to pass time during the break.

Make a craft.

When the weather is frigid outside and you don’t feel like leaving the house, it’s the perfect time to pull your craft supplies together and make a new craft! Maybe you have washi tape and your teen wants to decorate their school supplies, like their stapler and pencil holder. Let them use their imagination and go to town! Perhaps they want to upcycle some of their old clothes into things that they’ll wear again. Go for it! Get those creative juices flowing.

Enjoy a museum.

There are a lot of things to explore when you turn to your local museums. Your teen could learn all about ancient Egypt and see mummies at the Detroit Institute of Arts. You could venture over to Cranbrook Institute of Science and explore all they have to offer. How about going to visit The Henry Ford? That’s one of our nation’s great treasures and it houses a lot of artifacts that your child is sure to find amazing.Enjoy at Museum

Find activities at your local rec center.

Your local recreation center knows kids of all ages will be bored over break so they’ve been busy planning activities to keep their minds occupied! Head over to your local rec center’s website and check out all they have to offer. They usually do some type of dance classes, yoga, karate, crafting, and other local field trip type activities that will keep your kids busy and entertained.

Send them outdoors.

Cold weather typically brings snow and snow opens up a whole new world of outdoor activities. Why not encourage your teen to go skiing or snowboarding at your local ski hill? They could even join up with a bunch of friends and hit the local sledding hill for a couple of hours of fun. Physical activity is not only good for the body, but it’s good for the mind. Make sure they have warm gear and a snack and encourage them to get outside!

Encourage STEM activities.

STEM activities combine science, technology, math, and engineering to complete a project. Have your kids look up some videos on the internet and have them try to copy their project. Get them using their minds to build and create something. Let them use clay, computer coding, wood, batteries, whatever they need to safely make a STEM project. The internet has a vast array of options for winter STEM crafts and we’ve mentioned some on our blog before, so be sure to check them out.

What activities are you planning on doing when your kids are bored this break? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page! We’d love to hear what other families are planning and your comment might be helpful to someone else in our My Virtual Academy community.

If you have any questions regarding our program feel free to call 800-297-2119.

Improving Your Memory: Tips And Tricks

Improving Your Memory: Tips And Tricks

In our everyday life, as adults we have a lot of things to remember and the same rings true for your child. Algorithms. Schedules. Formulas. Vocabulary words. Writing assignments. Upcoming test dates. Dates with friends. The list goes on and on of things that your teen is trying to commit to memory.

Every time we take in something new with our senses, our brain briefly holds onto that information. This short-term “holding tank” is our short-term memory. This “holding tank” is very, very small. In fact, if we don’t do something with that information, it will be forgotten rather quickly. That’s right – in order to move this information over to our long-term memory, we need to DO something with it. There are some proven tricks to help improve your memory and move this information from short-term storage to long-term. These tricks work great for people of all ages, but they will be very beneficial when your student is trying to retain information for an upcoming quiz or test!

Put it to music.

If you think back to your earliest memories, one of the first things you learned was the alphabet. To this day, if you are asked to recite the alphabet, you will most likely sing the ABC song. The easiest way to memorize those 26 letters was to put it to song and look, it stuck with you all these years! Encourage your teen to create their own song, rap, or rhyme with the facts they are learning. They could even put their facts to the tunes of their favorite song or create a new one. Doing a simple internet search of songs for the periodic table will give tons of examples to get your teen started. When material is interacted with in such a creative way, it is sure to become a long-term memory.

Scan, read, recall.

Does your student ever find themselves reading a chapter in a book and then afterwards they have no idea what they just read? It happens to the best of us all the time! Sometimes we aren’t fully present and our mind is wandering in a million different directions. To make sure they are taking in what is being read, first ask them to scan the reading for pictures and headings. These are clues as to what the material will be about. Next, as they begin to read, ask them to stop and recall what it is that they just read. This pattern of scanning, reading, and recalling will help lock the key points into memory. It may sound time-consuming to read this way, but it beats having to read and re-read the text over and over again.

Acronyms Help Memory

Acronyms!

An acronym is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial letters or syllables in a phrase or word. We’re all used to learning with acronyms because they are so effective. Some examples that many people have heard of include:

  • HOMES: Used for memorizing the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior)
  • ROY G BIV: Used for memorizing the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet)
  • FANBOYS: Used for memorizing conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

The easiest way to make an acronym is to list out what you need to remember and then try to make up a word based on the list you made. Sometimes it takes a moment, but with some creativity, the acronym will be sealed in your long-term memory forever!

Break facts into groups.

It’s impossible to memorize huge groups of information. It’s an overload for your brain and even if you were able to somehow memorize the facts, they Grouping Helps Memorywould soon be forgotten because it’s not a realistic way to have your brain store the information. Breaking large information down into smaller groups is the way to go! Consider this number: 4398071625. Now consider this number: 439-807-1625. The numbers are the same but when it’s broken down into a phone number format, it’s much easier to remember. Grouping facts by what they have in common is the easiest way to sort information. Whether people sort things by color, size, region, or characteristics is up to them and the material at hand. Just remember to make sure the groups make sense to you and then memorizing what is in the groups will come easier.

Give your brain a rest.

If your teen had a particularly hard study session, have them take a brief cat nap. Research shows that resting your brain helps transfer short-term memories into long-term. So, whether it is a short power nap or a good night’s rest, be sure to let your rest give your brain a boost.

How does your teen prep for a big test? Do they have any tricks to lock key information into memory? Leave us a comment and let us know! We’d love to hear from you. Also feel free to share your memory tricks with the My Virtual Academy community over on our Facebook page.

Every Student Can Thrive at My Virtual Academy!

Every Student Can Thrive at My Virtual Academy!

When it comes to your child’s education, it’s best not to have a “one size fits all” mentality because often times, that’s far from the truth. You may have one child who excels in the traditional school setting while another child is falling behind at a rapid pace. The rate and method of how each child learns can be vastly different. Back in the day, there used to be no real option to help out those who needed a different learning environment, but luckily the virtual schools today can do just that.

At My Virtual Academy, we take great pride in helping students with various learning needs. Our school caters to students who have previously been homeschooled, expelled, bullied, are teen mothers, those who have physical and/or mental illness, and even those who are advanced and need a more challenging, accelerated program. Virtual school has been a saving grace for those students who were struggling day in, day out. Our staff works diligently to ensure that every student has the resources they need to succeed!

Often times, when a student starts falling behind, they think their only option is to drop out of school. They are failing classes and they don’t see any way they could turn their situation around. A virtual school like My Virtual Academy could be the light at the end of the tunnel for students in this situation. With virtual schooling, the student learns at their own pace, in the comfort of their own home. It can reduce their stress, allow them to focus on their studies, and get back on the right path. When students make the switch, they often surprise themselves because not only do they make progress, but they thrive in the new school environment.

On the other hand, students who are gifted might be bored in a traditional brick and mortar school. They may need more challenging curriculum and with virtual learning, they will get just that! It is a great option for students who wish to complete their schooling ahead of schedule or want to stay ahead of the game. The rate at which they learn is up to them.

Virtual learning has benefited students with different learning needs, including:

Struggling Students

The traditional classroom isn’t the best learning environment for everyone. Students with learning disabilities find it hard, if not impossible, to learn at the same rate and in the same manner as the other students in their class. They may find it hard to stay seated for a seven hour school day and their minds may wander or daydream and before they know it, they missed the lesson being taught and are further behind. At My Virtual Academy, our curriculum is tailored to each student’s specific needs, making each course more engaging for the student.

Gifted StudentsFrustrated student

When a student has mastered their grade-appropriate coursework, it’s time to step up the game and keep them engaged and challenged. By providing stimulating assignments, they are allowed to continue to grow and thrive at the pace that is just right for them. Challenging coursework is exactly what they need to continue to expand their mind and we provide just that at My Virtual Academy!

Those Who Need More Support

Have you ever been in a classroom where a lesson was taught but it simply didn’t make sense to you? Chances are a lot of us have been in that situation. It can be embarrassing to ask for help in front of your peers. Aside from that, sometimes it can be hard to get the one-on-one help you need from the teacher because their attention is divided between 20+ students. That’s not the case with virtual learning! You have access to certified teachers along with a district approved mentor. There is two-way communication to make sure your student is getting the support they need.

Students Experiencing Social Difficulties

Bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere but it is prevalent in traditional schools. When someone is the victim of bullying, it affects every aspect of their life. They may not want to go to school or if they are there, they withdraw. They may start to lash out and begin exhibiting bad behavior. They may begin to hang with the wrong friends as means of aligning themselves with people who may be viewed as intimidating to the bully. Removing your student from that environment and placing them in a virtual school may be just the thing they need to get back on the right path. Their threat of bullying is removed and they can turn their attention to their studies.

Those Who Face Unforeseen Hardships

Life happens and sometimes it gives us more than we feel we can handle. Whether your student and/or family is going through a serious illness, divorce, or unexpected pregnancy, they can still stay on track with school and keep moving forward. When facing a major hardship, it can be very difficult to focus on school work. With virtual learning, you can set your own pace instead of being locked into a classroom during regular school hours.

Teen moms benefit from virtual school

Our wonderful staff at My Virtual Academy works tirelessly to ensure that every student can succeed. It can be a scary thing to venture out and try a new way of schooling but often times, taking the first step is the hard part. Once you see how much your student loves it and that they are flourishing, it won’t take long to see you made the right choice. We think your student will find that working on their own time, in their own home, in a virtual atmosphere works best.

Give us a call at 800-297-2119 and give your student a fresh start. You can also click here to enroll today!

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year… For STEM That Is!

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year… For STEM That Is!

Christmas is fast approaching and no matter how old you get, at Christmas time you are always a kid at heart! Keep your middle school kids fascinated by the wonderment of STEM by doing a few of these projects throughout the month. They combine science, technology, engineering, and math to form some pretty cool results!

Simple Science with Snow

Soon the snow should be falling and that will be the perfect time to do this cool science experiment! First up, you’re going to need 3 mason jars. Fill one with ice cubes (not crushed ice), pack one with snow, and fill one about half way with tap water. Next, put the lids on tight and leave the jars on the counter.

Melting experimentAsk your child what they think the control is in this experiment. The correct answer is the water because eventually, all of the jars will be filled with water. Next, ask why they think the lids are needed. They might say that they prevent evaporation and that is correct! It helps keep all the water inside the jars and prevents it from evaporating into the air.

Ask your children at the beginning of the experiment which jar would end up with the most water. Also ask them which do they think will melt faster, the snow or the ice. These are their hypothesizes. If they are making a quick guess, they might assume that the jar packed with snow might have the most water after it melts. Let them wait and see what happens!

Changes will start happening quickly, so encourage your child to make observations. They could document what they are observing in a science journal. Times should be noted along with their observations so they see how quickly (or slowly) changes are occurring. They’ll start to notice that the snow actually melts a lot faster than the ice cubes; however, very little water is left over once the snow melted.

Glasses of WaterThe ice could take up to a few hours to melt completely but when it’s done melting, how much water were they left with? The results usually surprise those making the observations. They are left wondering how did the ice cubes, which had a lot of air surrounding them in the jar, melt and give a higher volume of water than the snow? It’s all about the structure of the molecules!

Water molecules take on different structures depending on the state they are in. When water is frozen, it is in its solid state (ice). The molecules are tightly stacked together. If you take a look at the molecules of snow, their molecules fuse together into a crystallized form, giving us the amazing crystal patterns that come to mind when we think of a snowflake.

With this in mind, explain that even though the snow was hard packed into the mason jar, the molecules are still not as tightly fused as they are in the ice cubes. That’s why when the ice and snow melted, the ice yielded more water.

Crafting an Ice Lantern

This is a wonderful, easy outdoor decoration to make that will wow your friends and family every time they come over!

To get started, you will need the following supplies:

  • Large plastic Solo cup
  • Small plastic Solo cup
  • Food coloring
  • Tape
  • Water
  • Room in your freezer (or the outside temp must be below 32 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Candle, battery operated only
  • Decorative items (beads, pipe cleaners, pompoms, tinsel, tiny bells, etc.)

To give you a quick synopsis of how this project works, you will add your decorations to the large cup, and then insert the small cup into the larger cup. You will then be adding water to the large cup, allowing it to freeze afterwards. The end result will be your ice lantern.STEM Project

So, to first get started, have you child think carefully about how they will use their decorations. If you drop your beads, pompoms, and other tiny decorations inside the cup, they will just fall to the bottom. Have them think how they could use all of the decorative items to decorate the entire lantern, not just the bottom. Here’s a hint: they could spiral the pipe cleaners up the side of the cup. The will look like garland in your final lantern and will help to hold the other items in place as they are put in. Let your child know that no matter how carefully they lay out their decorations, they will move some when the water is poured in, and that’s OK.

After the larger cup has been decorated, slip the small cup inside of it. Now you will need to tape the smaller cup in place, so that both cups are level with each other.

It’s time to add the water! Carefully pour water into the larger cup. As you do this, you will notice that the little cup wants to rise. Adding a bit of weight to the small cup will help with that and will keep the cup securely in its place. You can add little stones or rice as easy weights. Fill the larger cup with water until it is about ¾” away from the top of the glass. You can add a few drops of food coloring to the water if you’d like.

Ice LanternPlace the cup in the freezer for several hours until it is frozen solid. Once it’s frozen, have your student look carefully and observe what happened. Even though the smaller cup was weighed down, it has now risen above the larger cup and the water has frozen to the top of the large cup. Explain that this is because the water molecules get tightly packed as the water freezes and it expands in size.

The next step is to carefully remove the cups, starting with the small cup. If the cup doesn’t easily remove, you may need to cut it and remove it in strips. Place your beautiful lantern creation outside for everyone to enjoy! Insert a battery operated candle and it will look beautiful (and since its battery operated, it won’t melt your lantern!).

Do you do any fun experiments with your 5-12th grader during the winter months? Let us know! Head over to our Facebook page and share your experiments with the My Virtual Academy community! If you have any other questions, feel free to call us at 800-297-2119.

Blackout Poetry: A unique way to turn your teen into a poet!

Blackout Poetry: A unique way to turn your teen into a poet!

Have you thought about introducing your high schooler to the art of poetry? Believe it or not, this doesn’t need to be a drag or something they dread. In fact, by using different methods, teens will love poetry and at this age, poetry can be a great way to express their feelings and creativity. Teens from all over are obsessed with using various forms of printed material to create their poetry. This method is called Blackout Poetry and it’s all the rage. With blackout poetry, the words that will be used appear in front of the poet in the form of the printed materials, but it’s up to them to breathe new life and significance into the words. The words will take on a whole new meaning as they work to create their poetry. Blackout poetry is super cool and you only need three things to get started:
  • Printed material (an old book/magazine/newspaper)
  • Sharpie marker
  • Some vivid imagination
The poet will use various words or phrases from the printed material as segments of their poem. Depending on the type of literature they choose to start with, the finished poems would range from silly and off-the-wall, to dark and mysterious. The haphazardness of it all is what makes it fun and unique!

Where to Begin

The student will start with the mindset that creating their poem will revolve around deconstructing their print piece, then reconstructing the words to create their literary masterpiece. How to start blackout poetryFirst, the student should read the full page, just as it is. As they read, they should keep an eye out for one word that stands out to them above the rest. This word is very significant and will be considered their “anchor word.” This word should stand out to them because it is powerful, important, and something that speaks to them. Their anchor word should be chosen wisely because it helps guide their imagination and helps shape their work. This word should allow them to spout off different ideas, themes, and topics for their poem. If they are unable to do that, back to the drawing board it is! With that anchor word in mind, it’s time to reread the page, from top to bottom. As they go, they should circle the words that are related to the anchor word or any words/phrases that speak deeply to them. They will read words that jog an idea or inspire them in other ways – these are the keywords they should circle. Next, get a separate piece of paper and write down all of the words that were circled in order that they appear in the book or magazine. It’s important to keep them in order and write them as they are written, working top to bottom and left to right. As to not confuse the reader, the completed poem will need to be written in this order. Learning to write poetry On another piece of paper, start using some of the words you selected (keeping them in order) to construct the poem. Feel free to remove parts of the word as it might help with the flow of your poem. For example, -ing, -s, -ed endings can easily be removed if it makes the word work better within the poem. As the author of the poem, they may need to try writing several different poems before they find the one that resonates with them and sounds perfect. Often times, they need to revisit the page and see if they missed any words that could be used to help their poem come together. The word needed to complete their poem is usually hiding in plain sight on the page and they just need to take a moment to go back and find it. Once the poem is perfected, erase the circles around the words that won’t be used in the poem. Next, think of an illustration that would reflect what your poem is about. Draw that over the remaining words that are on the page, being careful not to draw over any circled words.  Next, take your black marker and draw lines through all of the words that are not circled or included in your illustration. Doing so will blackout everything except for the illustration they drew and the words used in their poem. The final result is your blackout poetry! Check out the links below for some great inspiration for your poetry. It’s really amazing how creative and imaginative some students are! How did it turn out? Did your teen enjoy creating poetry in this cool, unique way? What was their inspiration? We’d love to see what they came up with! Be sure to take a picture of their finished piece and upload it to our Facebook page so we can share all of the wonderful poetic masterpieces!
Scavenging for All Things Fall!

Scavenging for All Things Fall!

When fall finally rolls into town, we’re all ready for it! The dog days of summer have come and went and we are ready to start nestling down in our cozy sweaters and fall boots. It’s also a time when people love to be outdoors. The beautiful leaves are changing colors and beginning to fall, the air is crisp and fresh, bonfires are to be had and chili is to be made. It’s the perfect time of year, especially in Michigan! To get your kids outdoors and active when the weather starts to dip, why not entice them with a fun fall scavenger hunt? There are all types of things they could look for and places to go do them. You could explore a nature center, a metro park, or even simply your own back yard. Not only will the kids learn about science, but you can also incorporate math and maybe learn a bit about history too, depending on where you decide to hunt. Encourage kids to really take in the beauty and nature around them and look at things with a keen eye. You may want to pack along binoculars, bug catchers, and magnifying glasses so they can observe what they see. Sometimes all it takes is looking at something in a different way to spark a love of nature in someone! Also, make sure to bring along a pencil for checking off the found items and a little Ziploc bag to bring home found treasures! Scavenger hunts can be fun for all ages, too. Even the tiniest of kids can forage around looking for easy to spot things. As your children get up in age, make the hunt harder and include things like certain types of leaves, hard to find nuts or berries, and different types of animal tracks. It really is a fun event for all in the family, regardless of age! We’ll provide links at the bottom to free printable scavenger hunt pages for your younger children, but if you have children that are older in age, don’t fret because there are plenty of ways to get them immersed in the outdoors too.

Middle Schoolers

As the parent of a tween, it can sometimes be a challenge to get them motivated and off the video games or phones and into the outdoors. If there’s something else that we know about tweens, it’s that they love to eat, so pack some of their favorite foods and hit the road. Pack a lunch and make an afternoon of your adventure! Drive a little bit to a new state/metro park where there is lots of room to roam and places to discover!Hiking with family Next, try to look for new things, like fox tracks or unique birds that are native to that area. Kids this age will get bored if you make the scavenger hunt too simple. Asking them to look for harder to spot items will make your exploration that much more fun. If you have a tween who is resistant to the idea of a scavenger hunt, then take the lead and point out interesting or unique things along your walk. This will get them learning about their environment in a more subtle way. Have activity trackers? Another way to get your middle schooler interacting with the outdoors is to put those puppies to use and have a good, old-fashioned competition! See who can get in the most steps by taking different paths to the creek or who can get their heart rate pumping when choosing the hilly trail instead of the flat, lower level trail. Hiking is a sure fire way to build up your appetite so take a minute to meander over to the lake or a favorite spot you found along your path and have a picnic lunch. If you’re by the lake or pond, you could discuss what type of fish you think are in there, how different species affect the balance of the pond, and perhaps you could even discuss the types of boats you see on the water and why people chose to cruise on a kayak or sailboat versus a speed boat. The opportunity to learn and engage your child is everywhere you look when you are outdoors. Nature is your classroom and everything provides a learning experience!

High Schoolers

Getting your teens out for a fall nature hike is a bit easier than it is for those in the tween years. Often times, they are up for the exercise and enjoy a change of scenery. Offering to bring a friend or two along never hurt either! Instead of having a print out of things they are looking for, keep your teens involved by stopping to point out things along the way that you find interesting or that they could research. For instance, if you find a patch of unique greenery, ask them if they know what it is. If they don’t, you could encourage them to bring out their cell phones, do some detective work, and determine what it is. Same goes for determining what type of trees are in their forest around them. Are the leaves broad or narrow? Soft or needle-like? Is the plant they see poisonous or okay to touch? Can they identify a bird just by their song? The questions about things they will encounter are vast and by asking them to research and find out the answer, everyone will be learning! Leaves in the forest

Keep an eye out for the following and try to get your high schooler to identify them:

  • Berries
  • Trees
  • Birds
  • Plants
  • Rivers and where they flow
  • Various types of seeds or pods
  • Animal holes or homes
You can learn things in any environment and at any age! The world is a great place to explore and there are many parts that remain unknown. Getting your child engaged and interested in the world around them will help them care for and protect our planet and is a great thing to do. Have little ones and are looking for free printable scavenger hunt ideas for the fall? Check out these pages for great, easy-to-follow hunts for you child: We have a passion for learning and would love to help instill that in your child too! If they are in grades 5-12, we would love to discuss how virtual learning could help your child. Please click here for more information. The staff at My Virtual Academy looks forward to hearing from you!