Looking for free Audiobooks? Try NetLibrary.

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August 17, 2010

I mentioned last time how we really enjoyed the Hank the Cowdog audiobooks.  I also realized on the road trip out to Utah, that I’d failed to get anything for the grown-ups to listen to during the 2-day drive.

I was kicking myself, since I couldn’t really check out an audiobook from a Utah library for the ride back.  Then I went looking for alternate sources for audiobooks and found NetLibrary. 

Basically, many libraries will pay for their users to have access to ‘e-content’ through Netlibrary.  They offer a variety of books in an electronic format.  But, what I was excited to find was access to lots of audiobooks.  You ‘check out’ the electronic resources, which means that you have a few weeks to access the book or audio file and then you can no longer open the file when your check-out time has expired.  And best of all, it’s free if your library participates.

How to Access NetLibrary

Basically, you either call your library and ask, or go to your library’s website and check under their electronic resources.  You usually need Windows Media Center for the audio files, and the first time you download, you may hit some snags.  Also, take into account how fast your download rate is.  A 10-hour audiobook may take an hour or two for you to download, so plan ahead.

On the recommendation of my sister-in-law, I ended up checking out Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters, which kept both my husband and I interested and awake for an entire day of driving:

It’s the story of Amelia Peabody, a single British woman, who is left a fortune when her father dies.  She’s sure she’ll never marry and sets out on an adventure to explore Egypt.  Along the way, she rescues a young woman who’s been conned, bullies everyone around her to do things her way, and whips out her first aid supplies wherever needed while secretly fantasizing that she’ll be asked to perform an amputation.  She’s hilarious!  The plot is secondary to the characters who really make the story great.  It’s not a fast-paced action book, but one that’s perfect to listen to when you aren’t in a hurry and want to sit back and enjoy a good story.

If you have an audiobook you’ve really enjoyed, would you mind posting the title in the comment section?  I’m always looking for good suggestions.  Thanks!

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Posted under Books to Read

70% Off Melissa & Doug Toys on Amazon

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August 12, 2010

With school supply season here, I’ve been picking up supplies and just found some fun deals on Amazon:

70 % and up off of Melissa & Doug Arts and Craft Supplies

Like this nice sticker collection for your princess – $5.73:


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Posted under Homeschool Bargains

Our new favorite Audiobook Series – Hank the Cowdog

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August 10, 2010

We just finished our first road trip to Utah, 2 days in the car, each way, with 5 kids, ages 10 and under.  Sounds like a crazy endeavor, but it wasn’t that bad.  And if I compare it to road trips I took as a kid . . . how many times can you play the alphabet game before you go insane? 

My kids are spoiled with their DS’s, DVD players and audio books.  Not to mention all the great snacks.  In fact, at the end of the first day in the car, my 4-year-old said, “I want to do this every day!”  

 Since I did a bit of looking to find some good audio stories to listen to, I thought I’d let you know about this great series we’ve really enjoyed:

Hank the Cowdogby John R. Erikson.

These are the adventures of Hank the Cowdog who considers himself the ‘Head of Ranch Security’ and works at solving a variety of mysteries from his ‘vast office complex’ which is really just a pair of gunny sacks underneath the gas tanks.  The stories are pretty funny as he gets into all kinds of trouble trying to solve mysteries or take care of problems on the ranch.  He often gets tricked by ‘Eddie the Rac (Raccoon)’.  Eddie gets him to sit on chicken eggs in the hopes of making then knit back together, and convinces Hank to help him get into the cookies and take the blame.  The stories also have original funny songs included.  My kids love the one from the cookie incident and often sing their favorite line:  “We are cookies, and we want to be eaten!”

What’s great about these audiobooks is that they are entertaining for all ages, from my 4-year-old up to my 10-year-old.  I even enjoy them!

Do you have any favorite audio-books?  Could you leave a comment with the title?  I’d love suggestions since we spend a bit of time in the car and are always looking for good things to listen to.  Thanks!

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Posted under Books to Read

10 Treats to Keep your Children Cool – Guest Post

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August 3, 2010

(Thank you to Kathryn Jones for her guest post and fun ideas for hot summer days!)

When I was little I spent hours outside in the summer. My favorite pastime was digging holes in the dirt with my mother’s kitchen tablespoons. (Boy, did she love that!) Digging long driveways underground for matchbox cars was “the thing” then, and far surpassed playing anything inside the house. Being outside where other kids were doing similar things in their own backyards had its own charm.

I remember one particularly great day, a friend of mine was moving. Although the fact that she was moving away was not great, but what was splendid, was the Going Away Party my mom threw. There, right in the side yard along with my car tunnels, she’d placed a small table with a pretty cloth, and on it were the pinkest, coldest, yummiest looking drinks I’d ever seen.

My friend was smiling grandly. I was probably doing the same. But, what I remember most was how good the drink tasted, and how my friend and I giggled all the way down to the end of the tall glass. It was only later, when my friend was gone, and the tears had dried, that I asked my mom what we’d had to drink.

“Pink Lassies,” she said.

“Pink dogs?” I offered.

“No. It’s a drink made with ice-cream,” my mom said.

And so I offer it today, along with nine other cool summer treats kids (big and small) will love.

Pink Lassie
I cup cranberry juice
¼ cup orange juice
I cup vanilla ice-cream
Mix in blender until smooth; makes two servings.

Easy Popsicles
Fill ice-cube trays with your favorite juice. Place toothpicks inside each cubed section. Freeze until ready to serve. (Or freeze a larger version in a plastic cup with a Popsicle stick inserted).

Frozen Bananas
Skin banana. Cut banana in half. Push banana onto Popsicle stick. Freeze in plastic wrap until ready to serve. (For an extra-special treat, roll banana in melted chocolate before freezing. Place on waxed paper on a cookie tray and freeze).

Frozen Fruit in a Bag
1 bag of frozen or fresh mixed fruit
Small freezer bags
Allow the bag of frozen mixed fruit to unthaw a bit; just enough to be able to work with the fruit. Separate the fruit into small freezer bags. Freeze. When ready to eat, let the bags set out for about 15 minutes. Serve. (Grapes are great as a frozen treat).

Ice-cube Heaven
Place three or four large ice-cubes in a plastic cup. Serve. This treat is especially great for one and two year olds.

Jell-O Squares
3 packages (3 oz.) Jell-O
1 (4 pack) Knox unflavored gelatin
4 c. boiling water

Mix ingredients and pour into glass pan. Set. Cut into squares and serve. Do not refrigerate to set.

Yogurt Fruit Salad
As easy as it sounds. Mix your favorite fruit with just enough vanilla yogurt to cover. (Allow frozen fruit to sit out for a bit and mix with yogurt when it is still partially frozen).

Ice-Cream in a Bag
There are various sites that have the recipe for this great treat. Try MomsWhoThink or Kaboose for some great recipes.

Orange Julius
6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
I cup milk
I cup water
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients together in a blender and serve. (Slowly adding ice-cubes until you get the drink to desired consistency is best).

Yummy Slush
(This recipe comes from my grandmother)1 46 oz. can unsweetened pineapple juice
1 6 oz. can frozen lemonade
1 6 oz. can frozen orange juice
7 bananas, either whipped in a blender or mashed with a fork
2 Quarts 7Up
Place mixture in containers and freeze until solid. To serve, let mixture stand out for a short time, then mix with 2 quarts 7Up. The more 7Up you add the more like a punch it becomes.
With the summer heat upon us, these cool treats are sure to be a hit!

Kathryn Jones is a freelance writer. She is currently a resident writer for Online Schools, which researches areas of higher learning, how to pick an online school, and education. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, home decorating and ice-cream. Learn more about Kathryn and her work at: A River of Stones.

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Posted under Homeschool Life

Squeeze some Education into your Percy Jackson Addict.

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June 24, 2010

My son just finished devouring the Percy Jackson series this year and promptly went to the library and checked out a stack of books on Greek mythology.  He’s really been enjoying the stories of the Odyssey and the adventures of the Greek heroes.  I’m happy to squeeze some history, philosophy, and educational discussions in without him realizing it.  🙂

If you have fellow Ancient Greek enthusiasts, point them to a fun interactive website with a whole section on Ancient Greece called “Odyssey Online.”  They also have sections on the Near East, Egypt, RomeAfrica and the Ancient Americas, with pictures of museum objects, puzzles, games, and worksheets.


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Posted under History Curriculum

Keeping the Cute Rascal Busy While We Homeschool

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June 14, 2010

Doesn’t he look like the cutest little homeschooler who never gets into any trouble?  Ha!

Here’s what I found one morning when I walked downstairs and found all four of his siblings sitting around eating breakfast, watching TV, with Dad in the family room right behind him . . . Yes!  Those are gum wrappers and he has eaten at least 8 pieces as fast as he can. 

Moms, does it ever feel like you’re the only seeing person in a family of blind people?  Why does no one else notice the 2-year-old scarfing down gum as fast as he can, until Mom comes downstairs?!?

So, how do I keep this little guy busy?  I enlist him to help me in whatever I’m doing.  He sits on the counter when I’m making sandwiches, catches the papers off the printer when I’m printing worksheets, draws circles while the other kids are writing, and anything else I can think to keep him busy. 

Here he is helping me hammer a little turtle stamp into some soap I made.  Only afterwards did I shudder a bit when I realized I’d just taught him how to use a hammer.  Eeek!

How do you keep your toddler(s) busy during a homeschool day?

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Posted under Homeschool Tips, Toddler Tips

Homeschool Sushi Boy

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June 10, 2010

Proud boy with a plate of sushi he made himself.  I just love that I get to be home with my kids and teach them things like making sushi.  Here is some of the fun we had learning how to make sushi:

  • looked up recipe online
  • bought ingredients at the store
  • read and followed directions
  • Learned some fine motor and detail work, patience, and perseverance – assembling, rolling, and cutting 10 rolls of the stuff.
  • Math – how much did we save when 8 rolls costs $6 at the store and we made 50 rolls for the cost of our ingredients and labor.  The result is about $40 worth of sushi for about $8.  🙂

The best part?  Everyone got to eat as much as they could until they were full.  The even better part?  My kids are learning how to make dinner!!

How much ‘school’ do you do in the kitchen?  Do you have any kid friendly recipes and activities to share?


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Posted under Homeschool Life

How’d I Get My 4-year-old to Read Books on His Own?

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June 8, 2010

Doesn’t he look so proud of himself?

Well, it was mostly him.  I just kept offering him all kinds of reading and spelling options, and he did the rest.  He’s on his 12th “I See Sam” reader already.  We’ve used a mish-mash of things, letting him set the pace and enjoy it.  He’s switched through a bunch of different activites, since I didn’t want to force him into anything.  It’s worked really well doing that, since he’s so enthusiastic.  And as soon as he starts getting tired with one learning method, I give him a bunch of other choices and he’s gets all excited again.

If you’re curious about the reading ‘mish-mash’ we used or need some ideas, here’s the info:

First, he did the first individual letter lessons in The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise.  It is my favorite of all the phonics instruction books I’ve used and even better, is available for less than $20 on Amazon.  Short daily lessons keep it from being boring, and if you’re looking to help older readers with spelling troubles, this book is very complete, working it’s way through things like the sounds of ‘ough’ or the many ways to spell the ‘oo’ sound.   (Here’s my review)

When we got to the simple word lessons – sat, rat, cat, etc., he had a very, very difficult time ‘adding’ the sounds together.  He would get the ‘s’, ‘a’, and ‘t’ sounds but not be able to combine them at all.  I tried voicing the sounds in a slow drawl and gradually saying them closer together, but no go.  He wouldn’t get it until I practically said the word for him. 

So, I figured it was time for a different approach.  The other kids have been doing themed spelling lists on the amazing free www.SpellingCity.com (Here’s my review).  Tim had been bugging me for his own spelling list, so I told him that instead of reading he could do spelling.  We made a few 3-letter word lists together and I let him go at it.  He loved playing the games with his words and before I knew it, by 4-year-old was acing his 5 word lists – even typing them in by himself.  He was so proud of himself.  I’m also a little astounded by how fast the kids master the keyboard and mouse!

Have fun practicing your spelling words

During this time, he also spent a lot of time playing around with the great phonics and stories on Starfall.com and listened to Tumblebooks for free through our library’s subscription.

The spelling was the key.  Playing with the letters and spelling his own words helped him make the connection needed to combine sounds into words.  After a few weeks, my husband mentioned that with his great spelling, he could probably read a book on his own.  He was excited to try.  We used my favorite early readers:  The “I See Sam” series (My review here).  He’s been reading a book a day and loving it! 

The stories are silly, so the kids enjoy them.  What also makes them so successful is that the words are introduced one at a time, and unlike other early readers, there are no unknown words in the books.  Each book introduces a few new words, and then only uses words you’ve already learned.  This means that after the kids learn the new words for each book, they can read the books completely on their own.  It’s such an accomplishment to read a book on your own at such a young age.  We use the Little Series 1 and 2, and then move on to reading other books.

The “I See Sam” Readers

I hope this helps with reading ideas.  Do you have any books, websites, or reading curriculum that you really enjoy?  I’d love to hear from you!


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Posted under Reading Curriculum

Kids! Read 10 Books Get One Free from Borders

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May 13, 2010

Borders has a great summer reading program for kids:

  • Be 12-years-old and under
  • Read any 10 books
  • Fill out a form
  • Bring completed form to a Borders to get a FREE BOOK!

The idea of listing books and winning a contest might be a great way to encourage a reluctant reader.


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Posted under Homeschool Bargains

5 Days of Free Homeschool Curriculum for Mother’s Day from CurrClick

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May 10, 2010


 Today is the first day of CurrClick annual Mother’s Day Freebie Event.  If you’ve never tried Currclick’s electronic homeschool curriculum, now is a great chance.   For 5 days, they offer a handful of free products as their gift to moms everywhere.

Today they’ve got a free Science Jim class to help moms with ideas for home projects, a Mother’s Day Unit Study, a Horse Preference Project, and a “Tips for Successful Kids Chores” book.

And don’t forget to have your kids write a ‘review’ of their mom and why they like her, and they will be entered to win a free iPod shuffle!


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Posted under Homeschool Curriculum