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Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

I just found an excellent FREE web source for “banking” services for children FamilyMint. Let me say upfront that NO money is involved with respect to this website. The site provides a simple front-end for you to set up a bank for your children’s use where YOU are the banker and hence responsible for the security of their deposits. The children are your clients. You/the banker decide where the money is actually kept and it is not linked in anyway to this website.

I teach my children stewardship using a modified version of Stewardship Street from Doorposts. I do not use actual boxes or piggy banks for the individual savings categories. Instead I have been using a spreadsheets to keep track of everything. My children are old enough to understand a bank statement and they no longer need to see or touch the money for it to be real to them. Their money is deposited in accounts in their respective names at a local credit union.

FamilyMint enables you create a bank and name it anything you want. You set up an account for each of your children and then either you or they can set up savings goals such college, a new video game or vacation. You and they can then track deposits, withdrawals and their progress toward each goal. Money can be transferred between account categories and you the banker must approve each transaction as well as make transactions on their behalf. You can also set up a Savings Plan and have each deposit allocated by percentage into the various accounts representing their savings goals. Our accounts are set up similar to the ones in Stewardship Street and when I make a deposit, it is instantly divided up into the separate categories according to the percentages I set up for them.

I sat up my family bank and the accounts for my children including the various savings categories and how the deposits are to be allocated and “transferred” the balances from the spreadsheet to my FamilyMint Bank in less than 15 minutes.

I had a question about how to allocate the deposits and wrote a note to their support staff. I got a reply back within an hour. It turns out that the answer to my question was right in front of me but I know now that their support staff is right in top of things!!

Check them out! I love the concept and I know that you will find it easy to create a family bank and it will be a valuable asset in teaching your children stewardship, financial planning and goal setting.

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Two days lost to sickness and one to taking care of family matters and by the start of the second week of school we are already playing catch up.

We got Mom and Dad settled in their new digs this weekend. It was a hard weekend with way to much going on and Dad was exhausted. He walked as much on Saturday (moving day) as he normally walks in a week and then on Sunday, he wanted to go for a walk at the new place and they got lost in the hallways. It isn’t that hard if it is your first day there. In the end, Dad was so tired that he fell several times and on the last fall he bumped his head. It was a minor bump but the rules where they live say he needed to go to the ER and get checked out. That was a 8 hour nightmare. Next time we will find a 24 hour urgent care facility. He also broke his little finger so now he has a splint on one hand. It makes it harder for him to hold on to his walker. I will need to go down a bit more often than I had planned. That means changing they way I do and schedule homework so that the boys will be able to do some work on those trips.

We did manage to get in several hours yesterday and a whole day today and if I am honest, the only real problem is that MY schedule is off. This kids are doing fine and work hard. The first of the year is designed around review and reinforcement before we hit the harder stuff so the fact of the matter us that they are blowing through pretty fast right now. I just have to get over the fact that MY schedule is changed and the kids don’t know the difference. This whole home school thing as all about me isn’t it? Sigh!

On another subject …

Last October my wife walked out of her job to start her own investment firm. We had been talking and praying about it for a long time and even though the stock market was in a free fall, we knew that God’s timing was perfect. Well it was and things are going well but that is not exactly what I wanted to talk about.

Starting the business meant that we had to budget much differently than we had in the past. As a result, I began to look at open source software to meet my computing needs. I was amazed at the abundance of very high quality, free software that is available. I wrote about some of it in the spring but I have since found a lot more. I will write more about my favorites with respect to homeschooling in my next post. Stay tuned! I found some real gems.

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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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Update on Freemind

I was just visiting the Freemind website and Freemind has made into the top 12 of “Best Project for Educators” category.  I don’t know who the deciding body is but if you read my earlier post you know that I love the program and I agree whole heartily that it is a great program.

They also have a “release candidate” for the latest upgrade that is loaded with new features.  A “release candidate” is one step above Beta testing and is a broader distribution that is offered for final testing.  If you choose to use a release candidate of any software, be sure to understand the limitations and know bugs before converting your existing data to the release candidate version.  If you like to have a part in the development of great software, using and reporting problems during Beta testing and the testing of a release candidate is an excellent way to get involved.  It is not without risk but the more testers there are, the more robust and feature rich a program is when it is finally released.

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Miracles Abound!

On another note, I’d like to take a few lines to share how God has shown his miraculous power at my church, Eastridge Christian Assembly.

We are in the middle of a large building project that includes a sanctuary that will seat just a few short of 1500.  The building will be community oriented with a large atrium, kids area the includes a “splash mountain” style motif, and a long list of other amenities that will make it a great family oriented place for our congregation and the community.  I will try and keep this as short as possible but bear with me as this is quite a “hallelujah list.”

We started our building fund long before we even had a piece of property so for those who have been down this road, you know we started off doing it differently from the very start.  All of the property that had been considered was determined to be unsuitable for one reason or another.  After about two years of adding to the building fund we were no farther along in acquiring any property than we were on day one.  Pastor Steve preached a sermon about God’s feeding the Israelites mana in the desert.  God could have given them, quail, doves, or any other food with which they were already familiar.  He gave them mana so that they could never explain it in any other way but to acknowledge that it was a miracle of God.  The next day, one of our members (who had not heard that Sunday’s sermon) called the Pastor and said that he had a friend who was in some financial difficulty and he had 19 acres that he needed to sell as soon as possible.  The property was two blocks from our current location and our land use lawyer said that in twenty years of looking for property for churches, it is was the best piece of property he had seen.  It was priced way below market and because our building fund already had two years accumulation, we were ready to buy.  The way the property came to us and the timing was just like mana in the desert.  God’s timing is perfect.

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… If you do research either as a teacher or an older student, the this program may just be what you need.  I am a big fan of free software and there is a tremendous amount from which to choose in a variety of subjects but, until now, I had not seen a well thought out program for collecting research notes beyond using either the old index cards or an electronic version thereof.  Enter ZOTERO!  A free add on for the Firefox Web Browser which I might add is also free.   (I have used MS Explorer, Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome and both Mozilla’s Opera and Firefox.    I keep them all installed on my computer so that I can check any HTML or web design to insure that my work is readable on the widest variety of browsers.  After using all of them I prefer Firefox for browsing, but I digress.)  Let’s get back to ZOTERO.

ZOTERO is written by researchers for researchers and even though the target audience is the hardcore research community, one 5 minute perusal of the programs capabilities via their ZOTERO Demo will likely convince you that it this tool has applications in the homeschooling community as well.  It could serve for lesson preparation particularly for unit studies but more likely the older students will find it a great tool for research projects and papers they are required to write.  College bound students?  I WISH I had this program when I was in college!

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