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Archive for the ‘Teaching Aids’ Category

Well another two months have gone and is it seems like it was just yesterday that I posted here. The spring has passed way to quickly and summer is almost here, at least officially. If you don’t live in the NW, then you probably don’t know that this has been the coldest wettest spring in decades if not ever. So far we have set many new records for monthly rainfall but the worst is that we have yet to have had a 75 degree or better day. That is right, it has not yet risen above 75 degrees in Seattle since last October. We are usually well into the 70s by this time of the year but I just glanced at the 10 day forecast and it doesn’t look like we will get to 70 for the rest of the month. Here’s hoping they are WRONG!

I have made about 2 trips a week to see my mom and help her navigate the Federal State and local bureaucracies to get her and my dad the VA benefits and Medicaid that they need and to which they are entitled. By the time we go to Mom’s, then to the nursing home to see my father stopping at various places for doctors visits, places for mom to shop or do paperwork and then backtrack do drop of mom and come home, it is about a 200 mile, 6+ hour day. It pretty much kills the day for anything else. The kids still get some school work done but they have already competed more than a years worth of work so they are far enough ahead that my main reason for keeping them doing school work is so that they will not forget what they have learned and get disconnected. We will continue with school on a reduced schedule for the summer so they are ready to go in the fall. I am a believer in a year round school with more week long breaks instead of one long summer break.

I have signed up to be a teaching/educational/curriculum materials reviewer TOS (The Old Schoolhouse). I will be posting my comments here on the blog as the various materials come my way. Please check in here, friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. If you friend me on Facebook, please be sure to let me know that you are either a reader of my blog or a fellow homeschooler as I try to keep my social accounts manageable.

I am going to the state curriculum fair in Puyallup WA on Friday. I plan on dropping my children of at my oldest daughters house so I will be able to browse at my leisure. That is one thing nice about having older married children nearby. My grandchildren are only slightly younger than my youngest children so they play well together. I will share any neat finds early next week.

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I recently decided to try a few unit studies to see how my kids took to the concept and how well they understood the various core subjects when presented within the context of a unit study.

First a little background for those who have not dropped by before this visit. This is my first year homeschooling my two boys, ages 8 and 9. They are in the 2nd and 4th grades and the oldest is highly energetic. He needs the subjects to be interesting to hold his attention. The youngest, like most 8 years olds, would rather be outside digging or destroying something. We are currently using the ACE Curriculum after a mid year change. The boys have take to it very well and like the independence it gives them.

The unit studies gave us more opportunity to work as a group and for everyone to contribute. We started with “When I grow up I want to be A FIREFIGHTER” and then did “Expedition Australia” from the “Download N GO” series. Both unit studies are from The Old Schoolhouse Store.

The first thing I did after downloading them was to print them out on inexpensive inkjet paper excepting the first and last pages which I printed on stiff glossy photo paper. These pages became the front and back covers. We then took a trip to KINKO’s and had them each spiral bound for about $4 per book. That might be more effort than you wish to go through but it works for me. I get a well bound book that won’t fall apart in the hands of two young boys and it is rugged enough to travel which is important as we have been spending a lot of time on the road since my father became ill.

“When I grow up I want to be A FIREFIGHTER” was by far the more popular of the two. The kids already knew a lot about firefighters and how they live as they had been on several field trips to the fire station over the years. This unit study talked a bit about the regular things that kids learned on these field trips but moved quickly to subjects not generally covered in these more common field trips.

The portion on building codes triggered some very lively discussions as there had been a large fire on the news a few days earlier and this kids had asked why that building burned so quickly while others seemed to have only minor damage. We were able to discuss what building materials are flammable which are not which lead to a discussion on how our house is constructed.

The section of salaries lead to the discussion of cost of living when they asked why salaries for fire fighters in LA were more than twice that of salaries in Charleston SC. This section also listed the salaries of the various positions in the command structure. This was a good teaching point for understanding why they needed to study hard and do their best to excel. Only the best can be fire fighters and only the best of the best can be Chiefs and Captains.

The unit study includes math, vocabulary, art and history, all integrated so that it flows quickly and easily. This was one of the few studies/subjects that the boys begged me to “go further” each day until we were down. Undoubtedly part of the enthusiasm was due to the subject matter but it was facilitated by the excellent way the material was integrated and presented.

I have already purchased about 5 additional unit studies which we will use in addition to our regular curriculum through out the rest of this school year. I will let you know how they go but for now, if you have a child with even the slightest interest in firefighting “When I grow up I want to be A FIREFIGHTER” will be well received and you will both enjoy the study very much.

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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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Summer is over! … But then I suspect you knew that already.

We started homeschooling this week and now the flu has swept in, slowing things down some. At least no one will be behind “the rest of the class” when we get started again.

I spent the better part of the summer researching curriculum and finally settled on a mix of curriculum sources. We are using:

Math-U-See
KONOS
Stick Figuring Through the New Testament
Phonics Road
Artistic Pursuits
and material from the folks at Critical Thinking.

Our science materials are due in any day. We went with Academy of Science for Kids.

KONOS is a unit study format and the other subjects such as literature, history, science and social studies are covered therein. Some of the other subjects like science are also included in the KONOS but I am a bit of a geek/nerd so I really wanted the science kits to play with …. er I mean to use as a teaching aid. Yeah that’s it!

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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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