The “Everything About Homeschooling in One Place” Website

November 24, 2008

In my few free seconds of the day – (or way late at night, because the kids are asleep and I finally have some of MY OWN TIME), I like to surf the web for homeschool websites and ideas.

Here’s one I can’t believe I’ve missed for so long.  This is one of the most authoritative, complete sites on homeschooling I’ve seen in a while.  It is run by Ann Zeise, a ‘retired’ homeschool teacher:

Home’s Cool from A to Z

First off, isn’t that a fun word play on ‘Home school’?  Get it?  Home’s Cool.  Ok, it’s a Laffy Taffy class joke, but pretty cute.

And her site has so much information, it’s hard to even scratch the surface.  Here are a few of them:

  • Just getting started homeschooling?  Check out this great list of guides, articles, and FAQs for the beginning homeschooler.
  • Methods & Styles Directory – Once you’re past the beginning stage, check out some of the homeschooling styles and methods out there.  Pick and choose what fits your family and also each individual student.
  • Scheduled homeschool chats – check out the upcoming chats if you’d like to get into a virtual conversation with some homeschoolers.  
  • Homeschool Discounts – saving money has been my latest hobby, and this is a great article with lots of outgoing links on the topic.
  • Curriculum Advice – Lots of links and info on a variety of homeschool curriculum topics.
  • Lessons and Ideas – And if you’re just looking for a fresh idea, check out some of the sites listed here.

Enjoy this free resource!

(FYI – many of these free sites are paid for by the advertising you see throughout the site.  If you enjoy a resource, consider clicking on some ads or going through their site to buy something on you already planned to purchase.  They will appreciate it and get a small commission.)

Do you have some favorite internet homeschool resources?  I’d love it if you would post a quick link in the comments section.  In the future, I’d like to compile the ideas suggested by all of you into some “Top 10” lists or homeschooling resource guides to share with everyone.  Thanks!!

Posted under Homeschool Websites

Can Art Skills Be Taught? Try “Learn to Draw with Billy Bear”

November 20, 2008

Of course they can be taught.  Still, how many time have you heard kids and adults say, “I’m not an artist,” or “I can’t draw.” 

(And for the grammar teachers out there, where does the “?” go in the previous sentence?)

Well, I think much of artistic ability is a learned skill, like anything else.  I can at least progress past the boxy stick figures of my childhood, even if I’ll never be a Michelangelo.

Here’s a really fun starter website for the kids:  Learn to Draw with Billy Bear.

There are drawing sheets and step-by-step drawing lessons for lots of kid friendly characters.  And the drawing lessons even include instructions to draw the images in popular paint computer programs for the kids who want to dip their toes into beginning computer graphics.

Try a lesson on drawing cartoon faces, one on how to draw eyes using Paint Shop Pro, or the weekly Grid Art showcasing a black and white drawing with an overlying grid to help the novice artists.

The pros?  It’s full of resources that are once again, free 🙂  Enjoy! 

The cons?  The site is a bit advertising heavy with pop-ups (my browser is set to block those, so I don’t notice so much.

Do you have some favorite art and drawing sites?  Please share in the comment section.  Thanks!

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Posted under Art 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

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

Why Planes Fly, Space Science, and NASA Freebies.

October 22, 2008

Do you have kids interested in space ships, rockets, airplanes, or the solar system?  Would you like some detailed, well-organized teaching guides for free?  Well, you might as well go to the experts:  check out NASA’s For Educators Website.

Here are some of my favorite resources they offer:

Thank you NASA for giving back to teachers and homeschoolers! 

Please share your favorite space and science resources with us in the comment section.

Posted under Science Websites

Want to Make Spelling Fun? Try

October 21, 2008

Have fun practicing your spelling words  

Practicing spelling lists can often be boring for kids, and we’re always looking for creative ways to make learning fun.

We found a great website that offers lots of great help for reviewing spelling lists:  Spelling City!

What we like:

  • You can enter your own spelling lists, name and sort them.  Totally customizable!
  • The ‘Teach Me’ section will read the spelling word to you, read the letters out loud, and then even recites a sentence using the word.  Their database has over 37,000 spelling words along with contextual sentences for each!
  • The ‘Test Me’ section will read the words to you along with the contextual sentences and then you type the word into the testing box.  After the test you get a score and can even print a report showing your score along with all the words including correctly and incorrectly spelled answers.
  • The ‘Play a Game’ section has nine games for a lot of fun reviewing.  Games include classics like HangMouse (Hangman), crossword puzzles, and word searches.
  • Lots of Spelling Lists are already entered.  You can search among many spelling lists to find ones that suit your children.
  • Parents can create a Login and then save and manage lists for kids to practice, so you don’t have to reenter the words each time.
  • Did I mention it’s free?  You’re also welcome to make donations to support the site.

When I find sites like this, I take a moment to be grateful for dedicated people who do so much to share their skills and give back to society.  Thank you!

Do you have a suggestion for making spelling work more effective or more fun?  Please share it with us in the comment section.  I really appreciate the suggestions and feedback!

Posted under Language Art Websites

Screaming Balloons – A Fun Science Experiment!

October 17, 2008

Looking for a fun and easy science experiment to spice up your homeschool day?

We love Steve Spangler’s science website!  We especially like the science experimentssection, where the experiments are grouped by category and have great instructions, pictures, and videos. 

The site is commercial and sells all kinds of science equipment, but they offer excellent free resources.  Plus, I think the products are great gift ideas as alternatives to more toys. 

This morning we did the very easy and fun “Screaming Balloons” experiment.  All you need are a few balloons, various hex nuts, and a penny for contrast:




(The kids were dancing because the deck was cold and they are in bare feet – Autumn, please don’t go yet!)

‘Make it a lesson’ ideas:

  • Discuss what force is and how it is generated using mass and acceleration.  Demonstrate by hitting one of the balloons. 
  • Discuss how changing the mass, changes the force:  Vary the mass you hit it with but keep the acceleration the same – for example, hit the ballon with a small paper clip versus a book. 
  • Discuss how changing the acceleration changes the force:  Vary the acceleration – hit it slowly with your hand and then quickly.
  • To introduce how vibration is generated in this experiment, roll a plate on it’s edge across the table and listen to the lack of noise it makes versus trying to roll a clunky object like a book, end-over-end across the table.  Put a penny in one of the balloons to demonstrate the lack of vibration.

Posted under Science Websites

Never too Young to Learn to Vote.

October 9, 2008

With politics everywhere you look today, what a great opportunity to discuss and teach about the election, voting, democracy, women’s suffrage, The American Revolution, taxation without representation . . . ok, this is like the joke about how many homeschoolers it takes to screw in a light bulb:

One to hold the ladder while discussing stabilizing forces, one to check out a biography of Benjamin Franklin, one to analyze costs of turning on the light and the resulting monthly electricity bill, one to role play how to motivate the group effort . . .

Life is learning.  It’s really lots of fun, and not that hard 🙂

Back to the vote.  Here are some fun resources:

  1. Inspired by memories of being taken to the voting booths by their own parents, Take Your Kids 2 Vote is an awesome website dedicated to helping instill the desire to participate and vote in our children.
  2. PBS Kids has a site about the process of voting and how important each vote is.  Also, if you’ve seen PBS’s show Zoom, check out this “Zoom out the Vote” page for more election learning and fun.
  3. For lots of great info and lesson plans find your local affiliate of Kids Voting USA.  If there isn’t one nearby, browse through some of the other websites on the page, most of the sites have a link to activites or lesson plans like these on Ohio’s Kids Voting USA site. 
  4. CurrClick is having a mock election for kids.  They are a company that sells lots of high quality curriculum for decent prices and is also having specials on all their election time material.  (Plus, if you sign up for their email newsletter you’ll get a free downloadable product each week.) 
  5. Texas Public Schools have a “Project Vote” and have posted some of the curriculum here.  (It is around the 8th grade level)
  6. Washington State has a mock election and great election curriculum posted here that is sorted into three grade ranges.
  7. Finally, check out the National Student/Parent Mock Election for more great information on how to get involved.

(And for the parents who are looking to untangle all the rhetoric, I just discovered, which seems to offer unbiased and referenced clarifications of the issues, voting records, and accusations on all sides.)

I hope you enjoy these resources.  Do you have any ideas on teaching children about the election process?  Please share with us in the comment section.

Posted under Social Studies Websites

Teaching Geography with Free Outline Maps

October 6, 2008

Teaching kids about the bigger world outside their community is lots of fun, and even easier with this great site of printable outline maps

There are outline maps of the continents, lots of countriesThe United States of America, and much more.  Do you have a child learning the states and capitals?  Try this pdf with labels to learn from, and this one without labels to practice with.  There is plenty to beef up any geography lesson!

This is a great resource offered by the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.  Check out the other classroom resources they offer.

(Do you have a favorite geography website?  Please add one to the comment section.  Thanks!)

Posted under Geography Websites

Free Online Scholastic Math Mysteries!

September 20, 2008


Scholastic has some great free online teacher tools, one of which is a whole list of math mysteries sorted by skill and difficulty levels called Math Maven Mysteries.  Each mystery includes a PDF printable and/or you can listen to the mystery with clickable audio buttons.  There is also a Teacher’s Guide to give you more ideas and instruction.  So, if you’re looking for a change of pace in your math lesson today, enjoy!

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Posted under Math Websites