Student Contest Roundup October 24, 2014


Once again I have taken a while to do this – here are two more weeks of awesome contests!

Science Olympiad

Science Olympiad Science Olympiad is my favorite competition not only because the team I coach actually made it to Nationals a few years ago, but also because of the huge benefits I see when students participate. All states offer contests for middle and high school teams, but some also do for Elementary. Students compete as a team in 23 events (typically a student will do 2-5 events). Some events are building, some study, some have lab work components – and some are difficult to categorize. They are fun. They are challenging. And they prepare students to become the leaders of future in the science fields.

Vocabulary Bowl

Vocabulary Bowl Champions Students in K – 12 all over the United States compete in the Vocabulary Bowl as part of their school team to see who can master the most vocabulary words in a year. Monthly and annual awards are made – and there are prizes for top individual participants as well. It’s free to compete – so sign your school up!

Medusa Mythology

Medusa Mythology Exam This Mythology Contest is a written multiple-choice test for 6th-12th graders. Each year there is a specific focus for the exam. There are awards for different levels of achievement and the top achievers in high school go on to compete for scholarship money by writing an additional essay.

ACSL Programming Contest

This programming contest is a series of 5 tests over the year that operates on 4 different levels depending on the ability of the students taking it. Students can start in middle school and then move to harder levels as they learn more coding. Past exams are available to help students prepare. Great for computer clubs and classes.

Math Video Challenge

This is last year’s winning entry. Middle Schoolers compete to create videos to explain math concepts.


NaNoWriMo NaNoWriMo the November Writing Challenge has a special Youth Category where students set their own goals as to how many words they think they can write in a month. All students who complete their goals are winners and get certificates and can print off some copies of their masterpieces free of charge.

Vocabulary Video Contest

The NY Times is sponsoring a Vocabulary Video Contest where students get to make videos explaining words. The one above was last year’s winner.

School Band & Orchestra Essay Contest

Students in grades 4 – 12 can write an essay on the current year’s topic and stand to win music products and prizes for themselves and their school. Essays have to be less than 250 words, so this isn’t a lot to write. 5 winners are selected from 4th-8th grader entries and 5 from 9th-12th.



Grow Your Own Business Challenge

Grow your own business challenge

Students between the ages of 7 and 14 can submit their business ideas for a chance to win money – and trip to Omaha to meet the contest sponsor Warren Buffett.

Students can work alone or in teams and there will be 5 individual and 3 group finalists selected.

President’s Environmental Youth Award

Students in K – 12 work together in groups to show environmental stewardship. All qualifying projects receive Regional Awards and the top projects each year also receive National awards.

This is a good contest to make students more environmentally aware.

College ready?

Ready for college?

Are your children ready for college – or will they be by the time they are seniors?

This is a question it is better to ask in middle school so you have plenty of time to make sure the answer is a resounding ‘YES’ by the time it matters.

I recently gave a talk on this topic and this blog post is just a summary of what I shared with the teens and their parents.

Useful Books


This is the book my children found the most helpful in learning the vocabulary they needed for the standardized tests.


A huge book, updated every year that contains many of the scholarships available to students.




A thin easy-to-read book that is packed full of information that is actionable and likely to get students a little closer to their dreams.



Useful Websites  contains lots of good advice and I particularly recommend you get the guide (I got the pdf one). It has some excellent tips that I hadn’t found anywhere else.

Khan Academy is a great place to watch math videos and practice math.

College Junction has a list of all the scholarship websites I used to find scholarships for my children.

College Search on the Collegeboard website helps you narrow down colleges you might be interested in. has both free and paid options of ACT and SAT prep. Errors are well explained and parents can see how their students are progressing. teaches vocabulary in an online adaptive environment and adds a gamification element to make it fun. has college-level courses offered free which are perfect to stretch high schoolers intellectually. One course I particularly recommend is “Learning how to Learn”.I hope you found this useful. If you have any specific questions you would like help with, just ask in the comments. Read more

Student Contest Roundup October 10, 2014

Student Contests

I didn’t get around to putting the round up last week – so enjoy two weeks at once here!

Math Olympiad

 Math Olympiad LogoMath Olympiad is for 4th-8th graders. There are 2 divisions so students are competing against students close to their own age. Over a 5 month period students take 5 30 minute tests. Each test just has 5 questions and they range from easy to hard. Most students should be able to get at least one correct. At the end of the year there are trophies and patches for the top students.


Science Bowl

National Science Bowl LogoTeams of 4 compete head to head in live competition in the Science Bowl. The winners of each State proceed to Nationals.  There are separate competitions for middle and high school. Official homeschool groups can participate. Prizes for top teams at State and National level make it even more fun for students.

History Bee

History Bee

At the school level of the History Bee students compete against their fellow school mates either on a multiple choice paper test or in a typical bee format. The history covered is World History – so anything goes! The top 4 students from each school take an online test to see who advances to the Regional event. At the Regional event students use buzzers to answer questions and the top students move on to compete at the National level.



The North American Computional Linguistics Olympiad is a contest for highschoolers. The contest involves solving linguistic puzzles. This is great fun for students who love logic games. You do not need to know a foreign language or anything about linguistics.


Wevideo Contest: Sudan’s Secret Side Mini Documentary

Students of all ages can enter and try and win a GoPro. Sign up for access to the rules.

Verizon Innovative App Challenge

Verizon App ChallengeTeams of 5-7 middle or high school students must identify a need or problem in their that can be addressed by a mobile app. Homeschooled students and youth organizations are not eligible for this contest. Find more info here.



Teams of 3-4 6th through 9th graders in the same grade select a Mission Challenge which they research over a few months and then present suggested solutions to. More info here.

ShareAwesome Contest

Shareawesome Contest

Each week there is a different theme for teens to submit photos for – all related to Digital Citizenship. After the contest ends at the end of November then the finalists will produce a video to try an win a Surface Tablet. The contest is just for 13-17 year old.


Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud is a high school contest that starts at the school level and moves up to a National contest. Students learn by heart and deliver 2 poems of their choice.

This is a great contest to develop a love of poetry in students.


Wild for Wilderness Art Contest

Wild for Wilderness Art Contest

Grades 2-4 get to show they are “Wild for Wilderness” in this Art Contest.

If your children or students enter any of these and do well, come back here and let us know!

DuoLingo – an app that makes language learning easy

Duolingo app


DuoLingo is one of my favorite apps as it has done a great job of making language learning easy and enjoyable. It is available as both an iOS and Android app – as well as a web-based program. And it is FREE!!

DuoLingo works for any student who can read. We have mainly used the Spanish one – but there currently 8 languages to choose from.

It assumes you are an absolute beginner but if you aren’t, you can test out to get past the easy levels.

The exercises range from matching pictures to words to translating whole sentences. You don’t get to move on until you master your current level but you the gamification elements in the app that award you points and cups as you work, help you stay motivated.


DuoLingo Matching

DuoLingo cups


So far almost everyone I know who has used it, likes it.

Here is what Suzette LaPorte Ayo, FundaFunda’s online Spanish instructor thinks about DuoLingo:

  • Can test out of levels or go through them- your choice
  • Uses listening and pronunciation
  • Reminds you when you have missed a day
  • Earn rewards which you can then use to dual with others
  • Mixes vocabulary with grammar
  • There is no way to see all of the material available and choose or skip around – only within a certain level.
  • Need internet connection

Duolingo Translate

In our family we have used it as an extension to Spanish classes. My one daughter’s take on it is this:

  • The point-earning nature of it and how you have to “level up”. The competitive nature in me feels driven by that. B
  • It’s also nice because it builds on your knowledge and forces you to keep practicing and reusing things you have already learned. It feels effortless, yet the more I use it the better my Spanish becomes.
  • I wish more could be done with the points – more extrinsic motivation I suppose.
  • I enjoy it immensely. Every time I return to Duolingo and invest daily time in it, I notice how i become more comfortable in my vocabulary and grammar. Now they have the “coach” feature which allows you to set personal goals and then will remind you to come online and practice. And its minimal effort on a daily basis – i just put in 10-20 minutes a day andI see dramatic improvement. The key is consistency.
DuoLingo Coach
My one son had this to say:
  •  Ease of use (can do it wherever/whenever on my phone)
  • I’m not sure if it teaches the grammar super well
  • It is more of a help with starting out a language.
  • It’s a good way to get extra practice in.

If you have used it, please post a comment about how you have found it. And if you haven’t, go sign up online, or download from Google Play or the App store.

Student Contest Roundup September 26, 2014



Here are the contests for the week beginning 9/22/14. Remember to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google + to get notified of the #studentcontestoftheday.

Interstellar’s Math Madness

This contest has a middle school and high school division. Teams compete online against each other to solve math problems.

First Freedom Video and Essay Contest

High school students can either create a video, or write an essay on a specific topic related to the Freedom of Religion.


Exploravision is  contest for K-12 which is pretty unusual for a contest. There are various age brackets so students compete against their own age. This contest allows students to research what technology is used today and then dream of what the future may look like.

PicoCTF Hacking Contest

This Hacking Contest is for middle and high schoolers – and it teaches about computer security, but doesn’t encourage students to become hackers! They do get to hack into files etc so it is super fun!

Students work in teams to solve challenges centered around a storyline where participants must reverse engineer, break, hack, decrypt, or do whatever it takes to solve the challenge. There are various levels so that no programming ability is necessary to compete the lower level challenges.

Helicopter Challenge

Students have fun designing the helicopter of the future. This contest is for 9-16 year olds.

Student Contest Roundup September 19, 2014

Student Contests Graphic


Here are the contests for the week beginning 9/15/14. Remember to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google + to get notified of the #studentcontestoftheday.

Geography Bee

Geography BeeThe National Geography Bee has been inspiring 4th – 8th graders to expand their knowledge of the world around them for many years. Students compete to be the best in their school (or homeschool group) and then take a written test to make the top 100 in their State and compete for the chance to go to the National competition

Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee is for 3th through 8th grade and also starts at the school level. There are still the odd occasion one has to write without the benefit of a spell checker, so I guess it is still worthwhile to know how to spell. At the first levels the words are reasonably easy but they get more and more obscure the close you get to National level. Watch Akeelah and the Bee if you have never experienced a Spelling Bee.

Voice of Democracy Audio-Essay

Voice of Democracy

High School students write an essay and then record it on the current year’s theme. This contest is sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and there are prizes at all levels. A great contest to encourage student to think patriotically about their country.

First Lego League

FLLFirst Lego League is a team event for 9 – 14 year olds. The contest consists of a Project Challenge and a Robot Challenge. In the Project Challenge students have a topic to research and they have to present their research in a creative way to the judges. For the Robot Challenge they are judged on the design of their robots and how well the robot performs a number of tasks.

Global Virtual Classroom Web Design Contest

This contest is quite different from most as classrooms work as teams, together with teams from 2 other classrooms (or other youth groups) to build the best website that meets certain criteria. And the winners win prizes they can donate to those who need them. A neat way to teach global citizenship

Introducing our “Student Contest of the Day”

student contest of the week


I have long been a believer in the huge value contests bring to education. I have watched how much my own children and my students have gained as they have participated in a wide variety of different ones. Over the years I have discovered many of them and my husband suggested I start sharing these with our readers. In time I hoped to compile these into a book so this is also a way to help that book become a reality.

Here’s how it will work: Every week day I will post the information about one contest on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. All of them will have the hashtag #studentcontestoftheday so that they will be easily searchable. At the end of each week, I will do a short summary of the 5 contests from that post week.

That gives you 4 different ways to find them. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ – or sign up to get notifications when we publish a new blog post right here:

Don't miss any posts!

So here are the contests for the week beginning 9/8/14:

American Math Contest


American Math Contest - AMC

AMC 8 is for students up to 8th grade and AMC 10 and 12 are for high schoolers. Both contests are offered once a year and contain multiple choice math questions that test and in depth understanding of math contests. A great way to see if students really “get” it when it comes to math.


H & R Block Budget Challenge


HR Block Challenge

In this contest, high schoolers learn real life skills by making decisions on how to use a virtual salary to pay their bills, save and invest. And the students who end up at the top of the leaderboard will be rewarded for their success with nice scholarships!

Patriots Pen Essay Contest

Patriots Pen VFW

Middle school students send essays based on the current year’s topic to their local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. There are prizes from the local level all the way to national level.

Stock Market Game

Stock Market Game

Teams of 2-5 students from 4th-12th grade invest a virtual $100 000 over a few weeks and see how much they can make during the time. Real close-of-day prices are used to make the simulation realistic. This blog post goes into more detail about the contest.


International Student Art Contest


International Student Art Contest

Students from 3-18 from anywhere in the world compete for great prizes by creating art work related to some space theme.




Have your children tried any of these? Let us know in the comments.



Hands on Activities to Teach Kids About Electricity

Hands On Electricity Lesson

Have you ever wished your kids knew more about the force and phenomenon that drives so much of today’s world? Electricity is a huge part of all of our lives, and most people don’t even know how it works at a basic level. There are some great resources on the internet about electricity education, and here are some of my favorite hands-on activities to teach kids about electricity!

Flying Grocery Bag


static electricity


Ever wanted to something fly? Try a plastic ring and a balloon! This fun activity is a cool way of demonstrating of static electricity.

Activity Instructions

Make a Battery (out of a Potato!)


Potato Batteries

This is a fun way to explain how batteries work. This where electrochemistry comes in…which can be a really interesting topic, especially when potatoes are involved!

Activity Instructions

Soda Can Race

This is a great way to show how static electricity can attract, as well. This is fun, and even competitive, to keep every kid excited and involved.

Activity Instructions

Build an Electroscope!

This neat device can be used to test objects for electric charges, and is a great way of visualizing static electricity!

Activity Instructions

Electric Play-Dough

Play Dough Electricity

This is probably my favorite of all the activities, it’s a really fun and interactive way to make circuits and learn how they work! Play dough makes everything fun, and when you add in LED’s and motors, it gets even better!

Activity Instructions


Thanks to Charles Weber for this post, based on activities he did at a local hands on science museum.

5 Ways to Make Geography Fun

A couple of months ago while we were driving somewhere, I asked my daughter a geography question which she got wrong. She had just been singing along with the music she was playing – and I pointed out if she was capable of learning all those words she was also capable of remembering Geography facts. Without missing a beat she responded :”Now if Geography was a Disney musical …”

Geography Fun


And she has a point. She remembers things that are fun. She remembers words if they are set to good tunes. But she doesn’t remember things that she just has to learn by rote, with no context.

And this is true of most students.

If we don’t want them growing up to give the very funny answers I showcased in my post Geography Funnies to Cry About, we have to find engaging ways to teach.

Here are 5 ideas – and be sure to read to the end and enter the Giveaway!

1. Geography Songs


My kids didn’t really like the kiddies Geography Songs on the CDs I bought them, but your kids may. This works better with younger kids, but for older students look out for geography references in regular songs and use those as starting points. Billy Joel has so many geographical references (history too!) in his songs that you can find lots of online quizzes on Geography in his songs.

Listen to We Didn’t Start the Fire and then see how well you do in this quiz:


2. Movies and TV that highlight different countries


We love Amazing Race and have watched it live as a family for years. We love seeing all the cool places the contestants visit and it is a great way to learn about foreign culture. You can find old episodes on various sites on the web.

But movies like the upcoming Paddington Bear and any of the versions of Around the World in 80 Days can be very effective ways of sneaking some Geography in. You can also get all the animated TV episodes for Paddiington Bear cheaply as well as  In a recent geography class I offered Invictus (South Africa), Ghandi (India) and Fiddler on the Roof (Russia) as prizes.

If you use Geography movies in a classroom, be sure to take a look at the great lesson plans offered by Teach with Movies.

3. Jigsaw Puzzles!


4D puzzle of New York City

I know this won’t appeal to everyone, but if children like doing jigsaw puzzles there are WONDERFUL map puzzles available. You can find everything from wooden ones with big pieces, to 3D  and even 4D ones. (The 4D ones include the concept of time).

One of our favorites is the world map one where every piece is in the shape of the country it represents.

4. Geography Apps and Online Games


Geography App

There are plenty of online games you can find with a quick search and I will be using a lot of these in my online homeschool Geography class, and there are also a lot of apps. My favorite online game is Geoguessr  where you have to guess the location based on photos (you can create your own and make it a bit easier!) and my favorite Geography app is Stack the States™.


5. Geography Board and Card Games


Geography Board Games

Games are perfect for in the classroom and at home. I have a HUGE pile I have accumulated over the years for the class I teach. The ones I use are FUN, really fun. If they aren’t, children won’t want to play them and then they won’t learn. Take a look at my post on US Geography Games for some ideas. When I feel the need to buy more – I usually just go to Amazon and look at the ratings and reviews of the ones that show up when I search and take it from there.

One game I own 2 versions of is “10 Days in …” You have to use tiles you draw to plan a trip across the continent the game applies to. Not as easy as it sounds.

You can win one of the 10 Days in Africa game by entering our Giveaway below. Please note – this is ONLY for US residents (sorry the rest of you – most of our giveaways are digital but this time it is a physical product)

10 days in africa

a Rafflecopter giveaway

** Note: some of the above links are affiliate links i.e. we may make a teeny profit if you buy something through one of them

FundaFunda’s Cool Online Photography Course

online photography class

This photography class is aimed at homeschoolers – but any students from 6th-12th grade are welcome to participate. Students taking this class should come out with a better appreciation for photography and better techniques. And they should have fun doing it!

What will your teen learn?

Our course covers all the basics of photography: composition, light, shutterspeed, aperture. We cover different types of photography – portrait, landscape, still life and even photo journalism.

Students learn how to edit their photos with free online software.


How will they learn?

They will watch videos where our instructor, Piers van der Merwe, teaches a group of 4 students. He takes each concept and works through it and then sets the teens a challenge. They bring back the results and he critiques them. There is a lot of fun and laughter as they learn which makes it entertaining. By the way, all the photos in this post were taken by the teens currently participating in the classes that are being recorded

The online students continue their learning through extra videos, or websites. They will sometimes take quizzes too. Each week they will have homework and when they turn it in it is graded. They will share some of their work with their classmates and this is a another way they will learn – from each other as they see what works and what doesn’t.


How much time will they spend?

Students can expect about 2 hours work each week if they take 2 semesters or 4 hours if they do it in one- this includes watching the videos, doing extra online assignments and taking and editing the photos. They can work any time they want as the course will be available 24/7. However, assignments will have due dates so they have to keep up with the work.

There are classes for 16 weeks each semester.

The class is worth a 1/2 credit and can be done over 1 or 2 semesters (pay once for either).


Want more info?

If you want to learn more about our instructor (my husband!) take a look at his website, On Standby.

And to see some demo modules of the courses we offer go to Canvas and use the email and the password tryitout.


How much does it cost?

The class costs $109 in total.

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