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Archive for April, 2009

In case any of you doubted, yes I really am the stay at home dad and I do the cleaning. Yesterday I was cleaning in preparation for the visit of my wife’s father and step mother and my Hoover died. Well is still sucks but is the self propelled version and it was that portion the quit. Now in order to vacuum carpet you have to plant both feet and push with a great deal of strength to get it to move. I vacuumed one room that way and I felt like I had spend an hour at the gym. So I got on the phone to my lovely wife …

“Hi sweetie. How has your day been?”

“Good, I’ve gotten a lot done today. Have the cretins been helping with the cleaning?” she asks, knowing the answer beforehand.

“Well Matthew is picking on Jack and Jack is whining louder than that vacuum cleaner. Speaking of the vacuum cleaner. Can you stop by Subway and pick up dinner on your way home and oh …. stop by Costco and pick a new vacuum? I am glad to hear you had a good day. I’ll talk to you when you get home. Bye dear”

“Hold on just minute there big guy … why do we need a new vacuum?”

So I tell her the story and she agrees that we haven’t much choice. She calls from Costco and we discuss the selection and decide that since there are only two “better” vacuums to choose from and one of them is self propelled we’d go with the other one … the Dyson. The $400 Dyson. Gulp!

My wife quit her job of 9 years in October and started her own investment firm in January so our cash flow is under constant scrutiny. A $400 vacuum is a big purchase right now and I wondered whether it would be worth the price.

Well … after one day of use I have to say that it is the best vacuum I have ever used. In the past 10 years I have burned up two Hoovers, a Eureka and something else my wife had when we got married. None of those vacuums ever came close to the cleaning ability of my new Dyson. I had vacuumed one room before the Hoover quit and this morning I re-vacuumed the same room with the Dyson. I was stunned at the amount of dirt that came out of that carpet. The Hoover was a model that rated tops in Consumer Reports and had been serviced within the year. In other words, it was doing as good a job as it was designed to do and yet the Dyson was able to get a significant amount of dirt out of the carpet even after the Hoover had given it’s best. I love this machine!!

Yes, I am a 56 year old retired Army Sergeant swooning over a vacuum. Get over it! I like it and I don’t care who knows it!

You laughed. You know you did so share it already!

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Did you know that you can report the rain hail and snow that falls in your area to a data collection point and that information is then used to forecast the weather, predict floods, monitor water resources and becomes part of a large historical database that will help forecasters increase accuracy when predicting precipitation in local forecasts. Hows that for adding realism to your weather studies?

As you know weather reporting stations are located across the country but the weather between any two of those stations can vary dramatically. The result is that forecasts must be more general in nature and creating accurate forecasts for specific areas is extremely difficult. The other problem that plagues forecasters is that the computer models use historical data that was collected at the weather forecasting stations. While this data covers decades and in some cases more than 100 years, it is woefully lacking in coverage. In other words the distance between reporting stations is to great for the historical records to help the computer models predict more localized precipitation amounts accurately. What is the solution? Enlist the aid of volunteers and increase the number of reporting stations by as many are willing to participate.

Enter CoCoRaHS – Community Collaborative Rain Hail & Snow Network.  This organization was born out of the Colorado State University after a flood devastated Fort Collins in 1997. It was determined that the then current network of precipitation reporting stations was not adequate to met the needs of the forecasters. In short the variation of precipitation from one location to another was greater than could be determined with the reporting systems in place. As a result the weather models used to predict precipitation were not able to anticipate the tremendous amount of rain that fell on Fort Collins and the surrounding area. The answer was to enlist volunteers across the country to record rain hail and snow and report that information daily to the data collection center at the CoCoRaHS website. Currently 42 states are online and collecting information to be feed to weather forcasters, researchers and a host of other agencies. Check out CoCoRaHS About Us to read more.

Currently 42 states are participating so there is a good chance that your state is included. It is a growing program and four of the remaining states will be added this year. Your participation could help make the weather forecasting more accurate in your area. Give them a look and consider participating. You will need to purchase a rain gauge at about $25.00 but that is the sum of the cost to participate in this valuable weather data collection program.

Let’s get lots of homeschoolers involved. Share this!

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Today’s post will be short as I have not had much time to be trolling the internet. I have been deeply absorbed in the book “Teaching the Trivium” by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn. I will be posting a review of the book at a later date. I am not yet half way through the book and already it has changed the way I will approach homeschooling when we start later this hear. It hasn’t changed my goals or philosophy about homeschooling so much as it has given me the tools to do accomplish what I already felt I needed to do. I will write more about this in the book review. Stay tuned.

Today I have two websites that are packed with educational tools, links and materials. Then I have two sites that are more fun stuff but yet still have use to homeschoolers. So let’s get started.

The Best on the Web for Teachers   This web site offers 1000s of pages and links to 1000s of other sites containing, lesson plans, worksheets, teaching ideas, themes, workbooks, tutorial, sheet makers and printables. I spent an hour on the site and decided that instead of trying to bookmark a few selections that I liked, I’d make it one my first stops when I am looking for supplemental material for the curriculum I am using.

Sites for Teachers offers the same type of information and I am sure that there will be some duplication as both of these sites act as collecting points for a vast array of tools. This site is not as well laid out and it is smaller in total content but for that reason it may be easier to find some of the more common materials you need.

Clipart ETC   I like this clip art site because I like this style better than many of the other clipart sites. It is in black and white, line drawings with a bit of a “wood cut” feel to them. They have an old school look and feel to them and yes, it kinda fits with my classical style. These will make good enhancements to workbooks and lapbook pages.

If you have favorite clip art sites that you use in your homeschooling, please let me know. I’d like to do a post on just clipart sites some time in the future.

Our final site today will have a narrower audience but if you use a GPS for hiking, traveling or exploring in the course of your homeschooling activities, then you MUST check out this site. Everytrail is a place to upload the tracks from your GPS and the photos you took to create a travelogue of your hike, trip or wanderings. You can then create links to your own blog or website and share the trip including maps, photos and your comments. Photos can be geotagged so you can not only share what you saw but where you saw it as well. Geotagged you ask? Yes, the GPS not only keeps a log of your route but it also keeps a detailed date/time log as well. That digital camera that you use, keeps date/time information for each photo you take. Match the date/time log from the GPS and the date/time stamp on a photo and viola! you have a geotagged photo. You can get standalone software to accomplish this task but in this case Everytrail does it for you. All you have to do is upload the GPS track and the images then let the web site link the photos to the GPS log via the common date/times. Your friends can see your pictures and see the exact location where they were taken. Neat!!

So grab your GPS and your camera and record that next science walk-about. Post it to Everytrail and share it with all of your homeschooling friends!

Now share this whole post too!

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We all like to find free stuff especially if it is something we were already looking for. In today’s installment I share two site for free books, one site for swapping books, movies, CDs and DVDs, a site for creating screencasts and finally something fun.

Project Gutenberg has been a favorite of mine for many years. The site contains over 28,000 books in many different formats from text files to files that can be read on mobile readers such as Palm handheld phones. The list includes Shakespeare, Longfellow, Browning, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, da Vinci, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, George Elliott, Homer, Jules Verne, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austin, Aesop, Plato, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Tolstoy, Kipling … just to name a few. If you are going to read to children from the computerized version of a book, I recommend doing one of two things. If an HTML version is available, use that version and once you have it loaded into your browser, hit CTRL + several times until the font is sized for easier reading. Some books are only available in text version. Load these into a word processing program and change the font size for the whole document. Your eyes will thank you and you will avoid the headache from straining to read very small type. The larger type also works well for times when the kids are reading along with you.

eBooks have become popular with the advent of hand held mobile devices like the Palm series, the iPhones and other similar devices. The advantage to eBooks is generally that the reader on each platform does the necessary formatting for you particular device and you only need one eBook. The same eBook file can be read on your computer and your hand held. eBook readers are generally free and can be found at most eBook websites. So without further adeau here are two sites that offer FREE eBooks. ManyBooks and Feedbooks.

It is worth noting here that the eBooks sites will contain a lot of contemporary works and the range of subjects is very broad. I would not suggest sending your children to these sites to look for reading material. The sites themselves are fine but some of the eBooks cover subjects best passed by.

The 10 Best Websites To Swap Books, Movies, Games & CDs
Ok so now you know another one of my secrets for finding these sites and guess what, I wasn’t using Stumble! So there! I can quit anytime I want to! For a while … maybe? The accompanying article says everything that needs to be said so I will move on.

The next site makes quick work of creating “movies” of things that you do on your computer. Let’s say your friend in another state is having problems figuring out how to embed a photo in their blog. They are using the same blogging service as you and no matter how you have tried to explain it over the phone, it just didn’t work. Go to Screencast, click on the onscreen button. A java applet will be installed on your computer and a small screen will appear that allows you to start the program. It is small and very quick. At the top left corner of the screen will be a “Start Recording” button. Click the button and go through all the steps for embedding an image into a blog using your computer. When your done, move your mouse pointer to the red line at the top of the screen and the recording will stop. You can restart recording if you wish or click stop. That is all there is. You’re done. You have created a movie of every thing you did. Every move of the mouse, every character you typed including corrections and errors. The program then gives you the option of previewing what you just recorded. If you are satisfied, save it and Screencast provides you with several ways to link or send that movie to someone. You can’t edit in any way but it is quick, easy and it is FREE! So if the mistake is bad, you can afford to go back and re-record it.

The last entry for the day is Flipbook Printer. If you don’t know what a flip book is then ask your parents and if they don’t know then it is time to call the grandparents and remind them that you love them. Try creating flipbooks of stick figures walking or jumping. This is a good way to teach children to think through each step in a very literal way. They can also get an idea of how to create animations. How knows, you may have a budding Dreamworks artist in your house.

Well that is it for today. I sill have more to share so be sure to check back soon.

Oh, I almost forgot … share this?

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Ok, so I have been at it again. I know it is starting to look like I have an Internet addiction but I am really filling out my list of resources before I start homeschooling later this year. Really it isn’t a problem.. I can quite any time. Honestly I can … I promise!

Let’s change the subject a bit. Let me show you what I found and maybe you’ll see that this internet thing of mine is really for the best. Today is the first of several installments that are mainly educational resources. Each installment I will try and add a link that just might make the rest of your life easier.

Lexipedia is an interactive online english lexicon. Type in the word of your choice and get a graphical representation and definition of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, fuzzynyms, synonyms, and antonyms. There really isn’t anyway to explain the graphical representation other than to say it is unique and functional. So what are fuzzynymz? They are all the other words that related to the selected word but don’t fall into one of the other categories.

WOW Library   Put words together and you get books. This website will send you a weekly list of all the new books that arrive at you local library. You have to sign up for an account but it is free and seems to be ad free as well. You enter your zipcode and then select from a list of the libraries in and around your zipcode. Then you wait. Unfortunately I did not see a way to get in immediate list. The lists are generated weekly and emailed to subscribers. It would be nice to be able to get a list immediately now that we are in the age of “instant gratification takes to long.” Maybe in the next upgrade?

LibirVox   Since we are already talking about books, how about free audio books from the public domain. This site provides over 2000 audio books free to download in a couple of formats. Many are classics such as Shakespeare and Aesop’s Fables and the price is right. New books are added all the time so be sure to check back often. “Hey kids, close up your Nintendo DS’s and lets listen to Macbeth till we get the hotel.”

Flash Card Flash   There are plethora of good flash card sites on the internet. This site allows you to search the top 6 all from one interface. Actually you get results from many more than the top 6 because many of the top 6 tap into other sites as well. On one search I ran I counted 12 different sites listed in the first 30 results. This could very well be your one stop resource for flash cards.

Grocist is not just another grocery list. Add a bar scanner and you can almost eliminate the typing. When you empty a package, just scan the bar code and it is added to your shopping list. What? You don’t have a bar code scanner? You probably don’t but they can be purchased new on ebay for as little as $20. (NOTE: Many bar code scanners are cordless and battery operated. The scanner is all that you need in the kitchen if you want to keep your new laptop away from the various spills and splashes.) This program and a $20 bar code scanner can save you a lot of time. I think that this is could be about the best $20 spent on efficiency I have seen in a while. YMMV

I have many more items in my list and I will share them with you in the next few days.

Please share this post. Thanks!

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