Free Math Videos Done By Teachers –

December 1, 2008


Looking for some help with upper level math?  Math Vids is a new website, launched in March, that is connecting math teachers and students via online video math lessons.  As the website is getting up to speed collecting video math lessons, they are offering a free membership along with their paid subscription service.  So, if you have a middle school up through college math student, sign up right away while the free membership is still available. 

How it works: 

  • Math teachers (like you) make and contribute videos. 
  • Math Vids staff review the videos for appropriateness and accuracy after which the video is posted.  Student rate the videos and the best ones move to the top of the list. 
  • Since there are multiple videos on the same topic, so you get a variety of teaching styles, which makes it more likely one will fit you.

Are you a good math teacher yourself?  MathVids also offers an opportunity to earn free stuff, like a graphing calculator, if you can make high quality math tutoring videos that are consistently highly rated by the students.  It’s your chance to contribute and get a few prizes as well.

Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

Looking for an Awesome Preschool Curriculum? For Free?

November 19, 2008


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This amazing site was one of my first introductions to the generosity of so many people who use the internet to give back and share their work with us all. 

Katrina Lybbert has homeschooled her children from birth, and on Letter of the Week, she shares her entire curriculum with us.  It is aimed at children from birth to age 8.  When I first discovered her website, the main premise was to pick a letter to study each week.  She has laid it out so that it is very easy to understand and implement.  There is a general plan for the week, showing an outline of what to study and for how many minutes. 

Instead of a boring lesson on the letter “C“, how would your children like to read Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, listen to Aaron Copland, sing “Never Smile at a Crocodile”, eat Cantaloupe and Crackers for snack, read about The Creation, learn about a Calendar and how to Classify for math, study Cougars and Crabs for science, Christopher Columbus for social studies, mix Colors for Art, and play Catch for sports?

No, not all in one day, unless you’re an over-achiever 🙂  This is over the course of a week . . . or more.  Whatever works for you and your child.

For each letter, she has a list of specific resources including:

  • Language Arts
  • Theme Words
  • Poetry and Rhymes
  • Books to Read Aloud
  • Music with specific composers and songs
  • Snacks
  • Bible stories and character traits
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Art Project
  • Sports and Games

Over the years, her site has expanded to offer even more excellent curriculum outlines for tons of other topics including:

  • Nursery Curriculum
  • Sound of the week
  • Story of the week
  • Science of the week
  • Country of the week
  • 2 Levels of Spellbright – her spelling curriculum
  • Journal Ideas
  • Orchestral Beams – music appreciation
  • and much more . . .

I have really appreciated this curriculum for my younger ones!  Thank you! 

And best of all?  Once again, it’s free 🙂

Do you have a favorite resource or curriculum for your preschoolers?  Please share it with us in the comment section or email it to me at HomeschoolBytes @  (If you’re looking for more ideas for early reading and phonics instruction, check out this series or other posts under “Reading Curriculum“.)

Posted under General Homeschool Curriculum, Internet Curriculum

Part 1: Our Vacation is a School Trip – Science Classes

November 14, 2008

I’ve been a bit absent from the blog the last couple of weeks while our whole family went on a vacation an educational school field trip.  People always say how hard it must be to home school.  I keep insisting that it really isn’t.  We just have to open our eyes to all the educational moments around us.  Here’s how our vacation was actually a school trip.  I thought you might enjoy a sample of our studies:

The Great Salt Lake – a science smorgasbord!

Tracks in the sand – Can you guess what animals made them? Answers at the end of the post.  (The first one is much smaller than the second ones)


We learned about the brine shrimp in The Great Salt Lake and how the cool sand is made of oolites which are “particle(s) with a shell of concentric layers of calcium carbonate deposited around a central core–usually a tiny piece of brine shrimp “poop” or a mineral fragment.”

States of Matter – liquid turning to solid salt crystals – A splash of water from The Great Salt Lake happened to land in a perfect teardrop and dry into this cool salt crystal shape.


Biology and Animal Husbandry Class – We watched the Great Bison (“Buffalo”) Roundup on Antelope Island where they roam free the rest of the year.  We watched the tagging, immunizations, and pregnancy tests that are part of the yearly health maintenance routine for these amazing animals.

Cranes, Pulleys, Shapes, Patterns, Blueprints, and more at the Salt Lake Children’s Museum.

And a final lesson in nature:  The wondrous autumn molting cattail!  Moms everywhere dread them and boys love them.  Here are two of my boys shreading them into a huge pile of fluffy ‘cotton’ to make a bike trail booby trap.  They loved watching me ride right through their trap, cotton flying everywhere.  Just remember to get the vacuum hose out before letting any ‘cotton’ covered clothes in the house.

(Answers:  The first track is an everyday dog print.  The second are bison tracks, something you’ll have a hard time finding nowadays)

See.  Science is everywhere and a lot more fun to experience than to learn about sitting in the house reading a book.  This lighthearted series about our great vacation school trip will include followup posts of how we learn art, gym, language arts, and the infamous socialization while having a fun vacation.  Enjoy!

How do you turn your everyday life into homeschool moments?  Please share with us in the comment section.  I appreciate all your input!

Also in this series:

  • Part 2:  Art Classes
  • Part 3:  Gym Classes
  • Part 4:  Language Arts
  • Part 5:  Socialization

Posted under Field Trips, Homeschool Life, Science Curriculum

Phonics and Learning to Read – Part 3 –

October 24, 2008

This series wouldn’t be complete without at least one post on an awesome internet resource to help with phonics, so I’ll write about one of my favorites:

This site is amazing!  If you only check out one internet educational site, this is it.  I stumbled on Starfall a few years ago and have watched the site improve and grow with new features all the time.  Here is an explanation of the site for parents.

The first thing I really loved about Starfall was the founder’s story.  Although Stephen Schutz went on to earn his PhD, he struggled to read as a 9-year-old and was always at the bottom of his class in reading.  As an adult, he was inspired to give something back that would help other children who were struggling like he was as a child.  How cool is that?

What we like:

  • How interactive it all is.  The kids can click everywhere – on the letters to hear the sounds, on the characters to watch them do something funny, on the words to hear them read or sounded out, etc.  And it’s all very intuitive with big buttons even my 2-year-old can navigate.
  • It’s progressive, starting with beginning sound and letter skills and moving all the way through advanced reading skills.
  • My kids really enjoy the games, videos, and stories that go along with the early reading section.  It’s a fun way to reinforce early reading skills.
  • You can buy books and other educational supplies that parallel the online phonics stories for a very reasonable price.  But even better for the bargain hunters in the group, they offer some great printable PDF documents for FREE.  🙂  You can print cut-up take home books, printing practice sheets, reading/writing journals and more.
  • And my usual favorite, once again, it’s free 🙂

Do you have a favorite reading site online?  Please share it with us in the comment section.  Thanks!

Other Posts in this Series: 

Also, since this blog is still new, feel free to post links to articles and the website, or to email links and recommendations to friends.  The more readers the better!  Thanks!

Posted under Language Art Websites, Reading Curriculum

Phonics and Learning to Read – Part 2 – I See Sam Readers

October 14, 2008

If you’re looking for a great series to help your beginning reader gain confidence and skill one word at a time, this is a great one:

The “I See Sam” Readers

 Little Books Set 1 & 2

I learned to read from these little readers back in the 70’s before I went to Kindergarten.  I remember how excited I was to finish the last book in the stack of over fifty readers, and how disdainful I was when I went to kindergarten and the teacher began introducing a letter a week to us 🙂 

In my opinion, this is one of the best first reader series. 

What I like:

  • Progressive addition of words – The first book has only three words: “I”, “See”, and “Sam”.  Each book builds on this reading vocabulary by slowly introducing new words.  What’s great about this compared to other early readers, is that there is never a word in the books that the child hasn’t seen before or learned to read.  For example, another phonics book may use lots of words ending in “-at”, but they’ll throw in random larger words the child can’t read, like “The fat cat ran after the rat.”  The young reader may stumble over “after” and not be able to read the book ‘all by himself/herself’.
  • With the “I See Sam” series, your child can read every word in each book.  It is a great confidence builder and sequential learning process.
  • Funny and engaging stories – It’s amazing to me, but somehow these books can tell a funny story only using four or five words and line drawings.  Each of my kids have favorites.  “Remember how the bull knocked over Sam the lion because he dressed up like a king and had a cape on?”  or “When Sis the Snake wanted Mit’s apple, so he tricked her into a hollow log and tied her in a knot so she couldn’t get it, but he shared with her in the end.” 
  • Each book has reading aids and confidence builders in addition to the story including: a pronunciation guide, sound practice, word practice, new word list, and coming attractions to introduce upcoming words.
  • Comprehension questions in small print at the bottom of many pages for added skill practice.
  • See a sample ‘Little Book’ here.

What I don’t like:

  • The cost:  Each set of 27 ‘Little Books’ is $30.  This seems a bit pricey to me, but our set has been through three kids now, so that spreads the cost out quite a bit.  In my opinion the first two sets are the crucial ones.  After completing the second set, my kids have developed the reading skills to move on to the more typical early readers available in most libraries at no cost.
  • The books are paperback with cardstock covers, not glossy, and need more care to last through multiple uses by little hands.
  • The line drawings look much like coloring books and are quickly used as such by crayons in those same little hands 🙂

Other posts in this series:

Do you have a favorite first reader book or series?  Please share with us in the comment section.  Thanks!

Posted under Reading Curriculum

Phonics and Learning to Read – Part 1 – Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

October 13, 2008


Learning to read is a huge milestone in a child’s life and can be a source of much concern for parents, thus all the fancy (and expensive) reading and phonics programs on the market.  My third child in now an ‘early reader’ and my fourth is just learning his letter sounds.  We’ve used a variety of programs to teach reading, so I am starting a short series to highlight our favorite and most effective methods.

First is simply a book, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise.  It is my favorite of all the phonics instruction books I’ve used, available for less than $20 on Amazon.  It is also in many libraries or can usually be requested.  We purchased our own copy after renewing the library’s copy four or five times. 

What I like:

  • The lessons are broken up into a page or two a day and are easy and short enough for the limited attention span of a young child.
  • The lessons start with vowels and then move on to the consonants.  Both are taught with fun rhymes that were easy for my kids to learn. 
  • The book doesn’t stop after the usual simple blends of “th” and “ch”, but goes all the way through ‘eigh’, ‘tion’, all the vowel combinations, and so on.  I was excited to finally find a phonics program that was complete.
  • The reading parts in the lesson for the child are in larger print which is easier for their young eyes to see.
  • There are lots of suggested game and activity ideas to supplement the lessons.
  • There is an second section in the back with lots of ideas for preparing, teaching, and presenting reading instruction to children.
  • The cost = about $20

What I don’t like

  • Some of the reading parts in the lessons can get a bit repetitive or arduous for the beginning reader.  But, in the true tradition of homeschool, we have skipped parts, or taken a few days to master a particularly difficult lesson.

Other posts in this series:

Do you have a favorite book that has helped you teach reading?  Please share with us in the comment section.  Thanks!

Posted under Reading Curriculum

Science, Flubber Slime, and Fun!

September 26, 2008

Need a cool science and craft idea that is pretty simple but also has some great science instruction potential?  It only requires one special ingredient:  Borax, which can be found in the laundry section of most grocery stores as a whitening agent to add to the wash.

Flubber/Slime/Polymer Experiment

Bowl #1 – Mix thoroughly

  • 1 cup white glue
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • food coloring (opt.)

Bowl #2 – mix thoroughly

  • 1/2 c. warm water
  • 2 t. Borax (20 Mule Team is one brand)

After mixing each bowl separately, mix them together.  It is amazingly cool as a polymer is formed.   Read about the science behind the reaction here

Stir with a spoon, or for the more adventurous, mix with your hands.  Don’t quit, the gluey slime will suddenly harden into a great cross between slime and silly putty.  Both kids and adults love playing with the stuff.  Just keep it away from fabrics and carpets, since it will slowly soak in and become very difficult to remove.  (This means I need to keep checking the seat of my 3-year-old who inevitably ends up with pieces in his lap that result in lovely dots of permanent rubber color stuck all over his pants.)

Make a couple of different colored batches for more fun.  Store in Ziploc baggies or plastic containers in the fridge for the longest life.  It will eventually go bad.

‘Make It a Lesson’ Ideas:

  • Learn about the states of matter: solid, liquid, gas
  • Practice color mixing with younger children:  what will 4 drops of blue and 1 drop of red make?  How about adding a drop of yellow?
  • Scientific method practice:  Discuss a hypothesis of what each child thinks will happen when you mix the two bowls, write them down, then discuss the actual result and write it down.
  • Why does it bounce:  Discuss the physics of elastic collisions & equal and opposite reactions.
  • Creativity:  Pick a subject and then see what everyone can make or have children guess what the others have made.  Examples:  design a person, a fruit, a shape (more complex shapes for older children), mystery thing, etc.  Use 20 questions to help figure out what the mystery things are.

Posted under Science Curriculum

What Do I Teach, When?

September 23, 2008


Probably the scariest part of homeschooling (besides the ‘science experiments’ you find growing under the couch) is figuring out what to teach and when to teach it.  Many potential homeschooling parents never take the plunge because they are sure that there are vital pieces of scholastic knowledge that would get left out if they took over teaching their kids – scarring them for life.  OK, maybe it isn’t so dramatic.

But, amazingly enough, it really is pretty simple to homeschool kids.  After all, what do they really need to know in elementary school?  Reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic cover most of it, and there are plenty of books and resources to teach those.

The rest of an education is also taught beautifully by homeschooling: 

  • History during the trips you take when everyone else is in school
  • Civics by going with mom to the voting booth
  • Science by examining mold that grew on the forgotten cornbread on top of the fridge (we did that last night)
  • Social skills by roleplaying how to handle the bully at the park next time.
  • How to soothe a wild animal . . . when Mom has been up all night with the baby, finds a red crayon melted into the dryer load of laundry, and trips over the broom on the floor on her way to find the culprit.  (We all have those days)
  • etc., etc.

If you’re still worried that you will miss a vital subject when trying to homeschool, here is a great resource to help you out:

A handy $10 paperback book found at the library or on called “Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp.

I love this book!  It is to-the-point and packed full of great resources.  Rupp includes:

  • A detailed list of what your child should learn during each year of school, sorted and numbered by subject.
  • Book sources
  • Websites
  • And more supplements, each with their own succinct review paragraph.

Here are a few examples:

  • What age is appropriate to teach your child the upper- and lower-case letter of the alphabet, both in and out of sequence? 
  • How about a list of ten great alphabet books to help with that? 
  • What resources will help you teach inorganic chemistry to your 11th grader? 
  • A list of texts, programs, and a compilation of internet chemistry resources, including games, quizzes, and a visual dictionary? 
  • The secret to children who do what you ask, every time . . . and never fight, . . . and keep the house immaculate . . .  just kidding – let me know when you find that one!  🙂

It’s a great aid for both the extreme planner who wants to itemize each task for the coming school year and the parent who just likes to read through it on occasion to make sure nothing important is being left out. 

For $10, how can you go wrong?

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Posted under Books to Read, General Homeschool Curriculum