Need info for a Homeschool State Unit Study?

February 23, 2009


If you’re doing a unit study on one of the states in America, check out this website full of State resources including:

  • State facts
  • Links to TONS of great state-specific websites
  • lots of field trip info
  • local homeschool info

Thank you to The Homeschool Mom for compiling this great resource!

Posted under Geography, Geography Websites

We only write on PAPER! . . . and other tips for Homeschool Handwriting Practice.

January 27, 2009

Writing is an everyday part of a young homeschooler’s life: 


  • Writing ‘I love you’ notes to Mom (or ‘I hate extremely dislike you’ on a bad day)


  • Drawing scribble landcapes as seen out the window. . . on the wall . . . in marker.
  • Adding emebelishments to older brother’s math workbook so it looks much prettier
  • Drawing a mustache . . . on my face . . . with marker (the cheap non-washable kind) . . . oh, and perfect circles . . . around my eyes.
  • Writing my name . . . in pen . . . all over my arms and legs.

You can see why I’m always on the look-out for APPROPRIATE writing exercises.

While searching for printables I found another very generous homeschooler:

I loved the comprehensive set of homeschool handwriting lessons she designed and offers free for personal use.  She includes a whole set of printable handwriting paper, along with 6 handwriting fonts she uses, so you can design your own worksheets.

Also on her website, she offers the following to homeschoolers:

Thank you!  And enjoy!

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Posted under General Homeschool Curriculum, Language Art Websites, Writing Curriculum

Wierd Science is Fun! Free Videos and Experiments.

January 23, 2009


Looking for fun science experiments?

Check out Weird Science, a website that offers a nice list of science experiments you can try at home, along with videos you can watch before you try the experiment yourself.  The videos are great, too, if you just want to avoid another messy science kitchen day.  Now if I could just find a science experiment that magically cleaned the kitchen table, counter, and sink full of dirty dishes 🙂

Have you found a fun science site for homeschooling?  You’re welcome to post a link in the comment section to share with us!

Posted under Science Curriculum, Science Websites

Save your money on expensive Handwriting Paper.

January 21, 2009


I admit, among the awesome curriculum and school material gathering dust on my storage shelves in the basement are a couple reams of handwriting paper – in all the various sizes for progressive ages of students.

Why is it gathering dust and turning that nice shade of yellow that old paper turns? Because it’s easier to use online tools and print exactly what I want.

Here is my favorite writing website called Handwriting Worksheets.  What’s great about this site, is you can type in any copy work you’d like, poetry, scripture verses, famous quotes, or names, and print a sheet with the text dotted on the first line, and then the following lines will print typical handwriting lines (top and bottom solid, center dotted) with a nice little dot to show where to start each letter.

Even better, you can choose between basic print, D’Nealian style, cursive, and large and medium styles.

Also, if you have a pre-writing child who needs help, check out this great blog review by Jolanthe of a program called Peterson Directed Handwriting.

Posted under Language Art Websites, Writing Curriculum

Timez Attack Review! The best and FREE multiplication game ever!

January 19, 2009

Timez Attack

We found an awesome game called Timez Attack that does wonders for practicing the 2 through 12 multiplication facts.  Here’s a review of the pros, cons, and our own family’s experiences.  (my kids loved the free version of Timez Attack enough to fork over their own money for the upgrade.)

There aren’t many things more boring than doing times table flash cards over and over.  The designers of Timez Attack wanted to make math practice more fun, so they designed a real video game with a great environment, graphics, and monsters you defeat by knowing your multiplication facts.

And as their service to kids everywhere, the full functioning base version of the game can be downloaded for free.  If you want to upgrade to the full version, you get extra graphics and worlds to practice your facts.

Free Version Pros and Cons:

  • Pro:  It’s FREE!
  • Pro:  The math is complete = ALL the math facts from 2 to 12.
  • ProShows the concept of multiplication lots of different ways:  a matching number of creatures appear when the fact is presented, a matching number of dice-like dots appear on the door, and the multiplicands appear on the belly of the monster.
  • Pro:  There is ‘exciting’ time pressure to get the answer right.  The monster will ‘bonk’ you if you take too long.
  • Pro:  Children learn where the number keys are on the keyboard, and how to use them quickly.
  • Con:  You only have access to the dungeon level, so each time you complete a set of math facts, you start over in the same dungeon with the same monsters behind the same doors.  It can get a bit boring.

Paid Version Pros and Cons:

  • Pro:  All the great benefits of the free version.
  • Pro:  Two additional levels with MANY more graphics and interactions for the kiddoes while they are practicing.
  • Pro:  The game play is more ‘video-game’ like, ie. lava to dodge and rivers of fire to cross on the dragon level, moving platforms and crawling spiders to catch on the robot level, etc.
  • Cons:  It’s not free – the full version costs $39.99 – (However, this is similar to costs for a Wii, Playstation, or XBox Game)

Our family’s experiences:

  • Kids loved it:  My 9-, 7-, and 5-year-olds all loved the free version and got the rest of their school done so they could play “that cool math game.”
  • Played with friends: My 7-year-old daughter had two friends over to play and dragged them over to play Timez Attack.  The three girls played for half an hour, cheering each other on and racing to yell out the answers in time.  The same girls asked could they please play Timez Attack the next time they came over.
  • Spent their own money: After a month of the free version my children began begging asking politely for the paid version.  I refused, for a while (after all, the math is the same), but then made them a deal.  Any child who put $5 of their own money towards the upgrade could play it, and I would pay the rest.  All three of the older kids gave me $5 from their own savings.
  • Times tables before addition: My 5-year-old completed the 12th level and is probably one of the few in the world who knows his multiplications facts to 12 . . . but not his addition.  🙂
  • Just the facts: The only downside is the lack of real world application or word problem type practice, but I figure that comes in the regular math curriculum.  This game is to make the repetitive practice of the times table fun and addictive until you know them backwards and forwards.  Timez Attack does that better than any game or flashcard system we’ve tried yet.

Having my kids ask to practice math . . . it’s as gratifying as having your kids ask for seconds of broccoli 🙂

For other multiplication ideas, see these posts:

Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

Learn the Multiplication Times Tables Fast and Easy!

January 13, 2009

Lately for math time, my three oldest kids, 9, 7, and 5-years-old, sit around listening to stories like:

“A huge tree (three) decided it wanted to skate (eight). At the skating rink, he was having a grand ol’ time when the owner said he had to leave because he was so big and heavy he was leaving dents in the floor (denty floor = twenty four)”

We’ve finished the whole times table in 6 days or so, spending 10 – 20 minutes a day. Now we review the tables once or twice a week to help them get faster at with the facts.

What a fun way to learn math – listening and remembering silly stories. And unlike repeated boring numbers over and over, you’re a lot more likely to remember the denty floor and the big tree in skates.

Here’s the book: Memorize in Minutes : The Times Tables

And the teacher who wrote this book has a website, with tons of great math ideas, games, and more. If you have a student struggling with multiplication, definitely give him a visit.

And to address the skeptics:

Two main objections to this method:

  1. It doesn’t teach math concepts or what multiplication actually means. You’re right. I teach that separately. This method is strictly an effective way to memorize a fact I want to know without having to calculate it.
  2. It takes too long – you have to translate numbers into ‘tree’ and ‘skate’, then remember the story, then translate ‘denty floor’ back into 24. Yes, it take a bit longer to start with, but your mind quickly learns and will eventually skip the whole story part and you’ll find the answer immediately jumps to mind. The more silly the story the easier you remember the facts with much less repetition. It’s fun, easy, and much faster.

Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

Memorize with Us (Story Tricks): The story of Dell and the pool full of blue chickens.

January 12, 2009

Did you have trouble memorizing facts in school?  Would you like to make memorizing fun and easy for you and your kids?  Read this silly story to them and see how easy it is.  Check back and learn more fun facts with us:

The State of Delaware Silly Fact Story

Take a look at the maps (and point it out to your kids) while you read the following story and picture it taking place on this tiny little state on the Eastern edge of the U.S.  (You can make the pool in the story be the Delaware Bay)

Once upon a time, there was a Dell laptop computer who arrived at a pool party with nothing to wear.  After trying on swimsuit after swimsuit, he couldn’t find one that fit, so he decided to wear a tie instead.  

When he came out of the dressing room, he slipped in the smashed, pink, peach goo that coated the pool deck.  There were peach trees in full blossom all around the pool. 

Slipping and very sticky, he tried to get to the pool, but there was a huge metal capital letter ‘D’ sculpture blocking his way.  He backed up, ran as best he could in the goo and dove over (dover) into the blue pool.

But, it wasn’t blue with water.  Instead, the pool was filled with blue hen chickens (no boys allowed)!  As the Dell was drowning under the hens,  he quickly carved his will into the concrete side of the pool, broke out the heavy piece of concrete, wrapped it in a mink shawl to keep it warm, and threw it up to the pool deck.  The will, made out of concrete, weighed a ton, so it fell back into the pool and sank.

Now Review:

  • What state?  Dell + wear = Delaware.  This uses the keyword memory technique, seperating the sounds in a word, translating them into images, and making a silly visual with them.
  • Which state was it to join the Union? tie = the consonant sound ‘t’ or ‘d’ = the number 1 = the first state.  This is the major number system, which takes a little practice to learn, but is very powerful for translating numbers into sounds and letters, so you can make pictures which are much easier for us to remember than numbers.  More on this later.
  • What is the state flower?  Sticky smashed peaches = The peach blossom.  More keyword technique.  Plus now you add this to a running storyline to link Dover to Delaware.  This is called linking.
  • What is the capital?  capital D + dove + over = Dover.  
  • What is the state bird?  Instead of blue water = The blue hen chicken
  • What is the largest city?  will + mink + ton = Wilmington. 
  • Finally, can you pick out Delaware on a map?

Posted under Geography, Memorizing Facts

Want to go to MIT? Check out their Open Course Work online – For Free!

December 11, 2008

Have you ever thought about your kids going to MIT?  Or wanted to go yourself?

Guess what?  MIT has put TONS of their courses online, free for anyone to use.  It’s called MIT Open Course Ware.  It’s an amazing resource of 1800 courses.  Each course has the course material available which can include a syllabus, images, videos, lecture notes, assignments, and reading lists.

Find full MIT college courses in:

And if you’ve got high school students and want to see what MIT has specifically for them, check out the page dedicated to their offerings most useful to high school students and their teachers.

What a great chance to throw some high quality college course work into the schedule of your older kids, or pick a topic you’ve always wanted to learn more about.

(If you enjoy this blog, feel free to email this website to friends and spread the word.  I appreciate the feedback!)

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Posted under Homeschool Curriculum

Butterflies – A Favorite Unit Study for Preschool.

December 10, 2008


Are you looking for a fun unit study for the little ones with lots of science, biology, new vocabulary, and hands-on crafts?  Butterflies are always a favorite.

Check out this course on buttierflies that is designed to take 1 – 2 weeks for younger kids around kindergarten age.  Take about complete!  It comes with lesson plans, cut-out butterfly patterns, vocabulary lists, butterfly math, worksheets, full color life cycle printables, poetry, and even assesment guidelines.  They’ve thought of just about everything. 

This course is presented by the Alma Project funded by the Denver Public Schools.  It is “a program that provides multicultural curriculum for early childhood education (ECE) though twelfth grade.” 

If you like the butterfly course, or are just looking for an excellent unit study, check out the other 85 excellent unit studies available as .PDF documents.

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Posted under Homeschool Curriculum, Science Curriculum

PBS isn’t just about TV – Check out these Teacher Resources.

December 9, 2008

Public TV is a great boon to homeschool with its educational programs and generally ‘clean’ content.  But, did you know they have a whole section of their website dedicated to providing resources for teachers?

Pick one of the following topic areas and use the drop-down menus to choose your grade level and topic of interest.  There are lesson plans, videos, links to websites, interactive learning experiences and TONS more.  (And yes, it’s all, once again, FREE!)

So, the next co-op lesson or unit study that you find yourself needing ideas for, check out the PBS teacher resource site.

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Posted under Homeschool Curriculum