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

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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

A Map of Alaska, the Iditarod Trail, and a Bedsheet – Fun Homeschool Unit Study.

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January 26, 2009

Last month, we found the Iditarod Project (thanks, Beth!), and the kids have been having a blast working on it – always a great time in homeschool life.

The first activity is to make a map of Alaska and the Iditarod Trail.  After considering the daily danger to all fragile items in our boy and toddler-heavy household, I wasn’t so excited about making a large paper map.  It didn’t take much imagination to see ripped map pieces, corners disolved by drool, and chunks of paint being pulled off the wall by tape gone crazy.

Good thing someone more creative than I suggested using a bedsheet to make the map. 

Whalah!  We did a quick math lesson on scale, made 8 x 8 inch squares out of cardstock, and the kids got busy marking a grid on the map in pencil.  (Hey, that laundry in the background is clean, at least)


The next day, we transfered the outline of Alaska, the rivers, the Iditarod Trail, and the cities.  After a discussion of map legends, my oldest designed a cool symbol for the cities, including one with a star in the middle for the capital.  (Since everyone has to be involved at our house, the 3-year-old made his own unsupervised permanent marker line across the scale line – at least he didn’t get the carpet!)


We outlined everything in permanent marker.  To remove the pencil marks, we washed the sheet with the regular mountains of laundry.  And finally, we hung the map proudly on the banister in our entryway.  (Who needs interior decorators when you homeschool?)



We’re also reading Dogsong by Gary Paulsen together to get more of a feel for Alaska and some of her culture.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress. 

Meanwhile, check out these other homeschoolers who have also done/are doing the Iditarod project:

If you’re also joining in, post a comment and link about your progress and experiences!

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Posted under Geography Websites, Homeschool Activities, Social Studies Websites

Wierd Science is Fun! Free Videos and Experiments.

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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!

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Posted under Science Curriculum, Science Websites

Did you know there is a Homeschool Carnival on the internet?

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January 22, 2009


I like to be efficient – Hey, I have 5 little kiddoes. I’ve been known to talk on the phone, slice homemade bread for lunch, use my foot on a towel to wipe up a juice spill, all while using facial expressions to tell my kids to, “Stop arguing, RIGHT NOW! Can’t you see I’m on the phone?”

So, I just discovered the Homeschool Blog Carnival – a great way to quickly peruse an entertaining assortment of homeschool blog articles all in one place. A lot of homeschool bloggers submit their favorite articles, and then a new person each week compiles them all together, usually with a fun theme, so you can take a virtual carnival walk-though, (eating our virtual zero-calorie cotton candy), and pick and choose what articles you’ll stop in and take a look at.

It’s a fun way to take a look at what’s being written out there by a whole assortment of homeschoolers. Enjoy!

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Posted under Blog Carnivals, Homeschool Life

Save your money on expensive Handwriting Paper.

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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.

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Posted under Language Art Websites, Writing Curriculum

Do you ever wonder if you will survive homeschooling?

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January 20, 2009

Take a look at this cute video encouraging homeschoolers everywhere to enjoy ‘surviving’ homeschooling (Thanks Nan for the link!):

(I’m pretty sure my kids and I couldn’t survive public school for 6 hours every weekday – well, maybe we could survive, but not thrive as much as we do:-)

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Posted under Homeschool Life

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

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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:

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Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

The Memory Book – I wish I had this when I was in school!

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January 16, 2009

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

If you’ve noticed, I’ve been writing a few memory-themed posts lately.  By the time I finished medical school, I’d probably memorized and then forgotten enough information to fill shelves and shelves of books. 

My two main memory techniques in school were:

  • Repeat over and over and over and over and . . .
  • Cram like crazy the day or two before the test and hope it sticks.  I was an expert crammer!

It was only when I started teaching my own kids that I thought there had to be a better way.  I found this book at the library and groaned when I realized how much it could have helped me: The Memory Book

It’s a $7 book and one that should be on every school shelf.  Click on the book to get a copy from Amazon, or check it out at your local library and let me know what you think.  To read more posts about memorizing, check out everything I’ve written in this category.

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Posted under Books to Read, Memorizing Facts

Memorize with Us: The Siver Pen and Hairy H’s (Pennsylvania Facts)

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January 15, 2009

Welcome to our series using fun memory techniques to quickly memorize facts. 

The State of Pennsylvania Silly Fact Story

 (Location: Examine the map and imagine the rectangle pulled up in the middle to make the mountain in the story. Imagine the story taking place on the map.)

Once upon a time, there was a pen made from beautiful silver who was very vain and kept herself polished and sparkly at all times. (pen + silver + vain = Pennsylvania)


But she still wasn’t happy and wanted to know how to be even more beautiful.. She heard about a mountain where a wise flower grew named Lord L. He was said to have the answer to any question. (State flower = Mountain Laurel)


So, she started up the mountain, but was wearing her fancy shoe and kept tripping. After she had skinned her knee over and over, she took off her one fancy shoe and went barefoot. (knee = ‘n’ sound = the number 2 using the Major System = 2nd State to ratify the Constitution)


It started getting colder and colder and she had no clothes.  Brr!  She looked for something to put on and saw a bunch of capital H’s hopping around the mountain. The monster H’s were covered in so much hair they couldn’t see a thing, so the silver pen was able to sneak up and rip bits of hair from them, lick it (yuck!) and stick it all over her body to keep her from being cold. Brrr!

(capital H + hair + brr = Harrisburg is the capital city) 

“Give me some of that! I’m cold, too,” said a big mean elf who ran up. The elf stole more and more of her hair, using it to fill his shirt, sleeves, and pant legs so he would be warm. Finally, the huge filled elf waddled off, round as a ball and warm and toasty. (huge + filled + elf = the biggest city is Philadelphia)

The pen only had a little bit of hair left to keep her warm when a whole flock of birds came shrieking out of the sky, pecked the last bits of hair off of her, pooped on her, and flew away to make their nests with the hair. The once beautiful pen looked down at herself. Her smooth pen body was rough from the pecking birds and gross from the bird poop. “Rough. Gross!” She said and cried. She wished she’d stayed home and been happy with what she had. (bird + rough + gross = the state bird is the Ruffed Grouse)

This story uses the keyword technique, linking, and the mnemonic major system

If you liked this Silly Fact Story, check out:

Bonus:  Plus, if you’re studying Pennsylvania, here is a page FULL of information for a Pennsylvania Mini-Unit Study – history, maps, recipes, crafts, etc. etc.

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Posted under Memorizing Facts

Top 10 Signs You May Be An Extreme Couponer:

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January 14, 2009

A fun list I jotted down for my bargain hunting friends out there 🙂

Top 10 Signs You May Be An Extreme Couponer

  1. You have a network of friends who save their Sunday coupons for you and you thank them with gift bags of Glade products the stores paid you to take home.
  2. Your basement looks like a small mini-mart, complete with shelving and a year’s supply of all personal care items.
  3. You riffle through your neighbors’ recycle bins on trash day to get any extra Sunday coupons they happen to throw out.  You smile and wave at the strange looks you get.  What’s their problem?
  4. You regularly explain the store’s coupon policy to their own cashiers and have email documentation from corporate headquarter to ‘prove’ it.
  5. It regularly takes you longer to check out than it does to shop, and you warn people not to get in line behind you since you will be using, “lots of coupons!”
  6. The word crazy has been used when others describe your shopping techniques, even in a lighthearted manner (and you enjoy it).  “She saves a crazy amount of money!”  “It’s crazy, how many coupons she has!”
  7. You save every receipt and use them to enter multiple totals (before coupons, coupon total, after coupons, etc.) into a spreadsheet, so you can bask in the glow of how much money you are saving.  You use above spreadsheet to prove to others how ‘not-crazy’ you are and post the totals on your blog.
  8. Unlike your friends who may sneak clothes and expensive shoe purchases into the house, you now sneak bags of deodorant, shampoo, and air fresheners into the house and put them away before your husband sees them.  “But, they were free,” doesn’t work with him any more.
  9. You fume over the shoulder of someone in front of you using a coupon that you don’t have.  Then you run home and look the coupon up on the internet to see where they got it.
  10. You’ve been proposed to in the check-out line by men behind you who watch in amazement as your total plummets to mere dollars.  (True story!  And when I said I was married, he said, “Your husband is a lucky man!”)

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Posted under Homeschool Bargains, Top 10