Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Free Typing Resource~ Typing can be a Welcome and Needed Change for our Struggling Writers

We have a "new to us" free typing resource that we tried out today.
Thanks to a wonderful AKOL member who posted about this no-nonsense, easy to use, free versatile typing program.
My ten year old really likes to type and had been using a few other typing programs but did not like them too much. He tried this one tonite and absolutely loved it. He started at the beginning level and flew through much of the first lesson. He liked how it had no bells or whistles going off, he could see instantly after he had finished with the quick lesson how he did and really seemed engaged in wanting to do more.. - big relief here...
Typing can be a very helpful strategy for our special needs learners. Many who have graphomotor difficulty or dysgraphia can benefit greatly from learning how to type instead of the pressure of "perfect penmanship or cursive handwriting".
Don't misunderstand handwriting is very important but for some learners it can take away the love of writing a story or the ability to, in some cases. For older children with these difficulties typing can be a real way for them to excel and let's face it computers and technology (emails, texting, IM etc.. ) are here to stay~ we might as well help our learners adjust as best they can.
I think this program may finally be a great fit for my youngest. It can be hard finding just the right program for your learner. Mine tends to become a bit resistive to computers and using a program that has too many things going on all at once, this free typing program "fits our bill".
Here is some further information on typing programs and typing~
Attitude Magazine, an article on: Recognizing Dysgraphia in Children with ADHD
LD Online, an article for strategies for children in the classroom but can be also adapted in our homes~ Helping Children Who Struggle to Write Classroom Strategies
Kid on the Keyboard lists several age appropriate typing programs.
Here are a few typing programs that we have found over the past few years over at AKOL:
There are many, many more like typing games Penguin Typing... Gamequarium has many fun typing games, etc... there are just too many to list.
I hope many will consider typing as a real alternative to the dreaded handwriting for their learners if they are struggling. Writing doesnt have to be dreaded - quick 10 minute daily practices forming letters and writing signatures along with copywork should suffice. Typing can be a welcomed tool for many of our special children~
Happy Typing!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Printables for Teaching~

I had been searching for manipulatives for specific math activities and found this great new resource.

Has many great teaching resources and many are FREE.

Laura Candler's file cabinet is full of great teaching printables for many levels of learning.

There is also a free newsletter you can sign up for along with joining her group on Facebook to discuss more teaching resources you might want to share or look for.
It's always fun to find new resources to share with others ~ and free is even better!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Online Health Science Program~

While working our new schedule- Thursdays is a split day for us where we do an artist or musician study along with some sort of health science learning.

I was looking for something that was different and fun. I really liked this site and wanted to share it with everyone.

I have both a teenager and also an elementary student I am teaching. This program fits them both very well.

I love exploring the lessons and also the online health journal you can do. I think it will bring great fun while learning important health issues in our home.

Aside from this site we will also be learning First Aid as well~
Here are a few websites I am planning on possibly using for them;
Kids Health First Aid
Teens & Health First Aid
Teens Health & Staying Safe

We plan on making some posters, practicing certain first aid techniques in case of an emergency, role playing in an emergency etc.. I think the boys will enjoy it, and it will be important lessons for them ~ for staying healthy and safe.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Changing Science Teachings~ for your Right Brained Learners~

Changing Science Teachings~

“Home schooling is too important a task to rely on an inefficient method that “teaches” information to your children, just to have them forget everything they learned in a couple of weeks. If hands-on learning helps information stick in children’s long-term memories, mothers need to incorporate more hands-on strategies in their day-to-day teaching. Most left-brained moms, however, want to stay step-by-step with the traditional scope and sequence and traditional teaching methods. They often feel uncomfortable with hands-on, non-traditional teaching, yet they know their children are not retaining their textbook studies. Many children are crying out for a new and fun way to learn.” ~ Wade Hulcy ~ meet Wade Hulcy

We are changing how we teach science instead of allowing a particular program or a curriculum dictate to us how my “learners at home” are “supposed” to learn their science and we are having a ton of fun doing it~ :)

We adapt the curricula, books and resources to our learners here at home. We might turn things upside down or find creative ways to use a science text or encyclopedia, biography of a scientist or workbook page.

Some might recall how we were using Apologia General Science for my 13yo. (I dont normally go by grades, although ask my son and he will tell you 7th, lol ) anyway, he started to REALLY dislike this program.
It is very “textbooky” even though Simply CM recommends this as a Living Book program~ I don't see this when it comes to this program as much, however, there was no denying just how great this program is for the middle school learner. My Right Brained learners need to be directed in their learning just a big different and I have found some really fun ways to do just that~ here are some ideas I wanted to share with you.

First off, I have had my youngest son now 10 ½ ask me if he could also accompany my 13 yo while working on his Middle School Science. I had been planning on having them both work on the same science topic so this was very welcomed and I agreed to allow him to sit with us while listening to the audio CD for the Apologia General Science. We were working on the first Module which was entitled “ A Brief History of Science”.

The 13 yo is working the program using a Lapbook by Knowledge Box Central and after each portion will answer the “On Your Own Question” on notebook pages provided in the lapbook.
I quickly created this morning a notebooking page for two scientists that my youngest found of particular interest ( I am not too worried about starting over from the beginning since this will be a more broader approach to science history and will adapt more to his age and ability, he will be doing this program in far greater depth once he is a bit older, so for now it will be more delight directed) Isaac Newton and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. These tied in nicely since we are also working on NOEO Science – Biology and studying the Microscope.
Here is a link to the notebooking page
for Newton and van Leeuwenhoek and the microscope page (scroll down to science pages)
(I couldn’t find one I liked so I quickly made my own to use).

We finished up listening to the first module this morning and it was then time to prepare for studying for the “test”. Hmm, well I am not big on tests (I agree with assessments and diagnostic testing) so I found a fun way for him to “review the information” and see just what he has learned thus far.

We (all three of us) are putting together a “brief history of science timeline” we are using poster board and will create the timeline with all the bits of information for each scientist from the module. We will add dates and a snippet of information or drawing if they would like. Sometimes we make them folded so they are 2 dimensional sometimes not, sometimes they like to draw a picture or make a symbol to remind them of something about the person, whichever they choose it will be a great review of the time periods and contributors that were outlined in the chapter.

We plan to add to the timeline at any time with any particular information the boys would like. They find timelines very helpful and I think, when dealing with so much information having it in a logical, sequential order really helps to make much more sense of things during historical time periods. We find it answers many questions and can add even more insight to a particular topic.

Another thing my older child is doing is instead of writing out the answers and using note cards like the text recommended, we are making a HUGE poster. Taking each piece of information outlined in the study guide and creating fun organizers or cartoons or 2dimensional folds on the poster so that all the information will be there visually right in front of him~ I explained he could get as creative as he would like~ He loved the idea and got right to work.

Changing the way the science was presented, how the activities that were recommended had to be done and allowing the old saying “the more the merrier” turned what I thought was going to be one more program set to the side into a GREAT program for teaching and learning science on different levels.

I also think seeing the interest and intrigue the 10 yo had shown while listening to the audio brought perhaps a new insight for the older child and he was able to orally go back and “recap” briefly to him what had been read thus far, a really great way for me to listen to his thought processes and understanding of the information.

I will be writing more and more about a few more (some may call) bold steps I have taken to bring more fun with our learning science at home~ but just wanted to share these ideas.
I find it can be really empowering to take a program and twist it around to suit the needs and abilities of the child/learner. Every child and every learner is different -why do we sometimes try so hard to teach them all the same? We should embrace their differences and bend our books more ( or if your like me cut the bindings and drill three holes in them) to meet "our" needs rather than meeting the expectations of textbook writers and publishers. :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Autumn is in full swing- time for those seasonal chores inside and out

I think Autumn is a beautiful time of year, living in New England we have the opportunity to really reap the benefits of Autumn - the cranberries, apples, picture perfect landscapes right outside your window, bright sunny days with a bit of a "nip" in the air~ it is really a great time of year, here in New England.

With all of those wonderful things we still have many things we have to do and prepare for this time of the year. The Fall Season is full of chores outside and inside preparing for winter and the upcoming Holiday Season.

I have learned over the years to try to prepare the best I can for things; bad weather, sickness, holidays etc... it is a very busy time of the year for all of us.

Homeschooling can add to our already busy schedule~ I am thankful I have taken time over the ears to make seasonal lists. They have helped me stay on target (somewhat)- I use these lists to help me remember, because like so many, I tend to get wrapped up in things and would forget some pretty important things if I did not use these things as reminders.

Here is a sample of my Fall To Do List~


* Fall Cleaning; windows and blinds cleaned - screens taken out and washed down and stored
* Pantry and Kitchen cupboards organized and food re-sorted, purge old foods from storage. I also make a list of foods I might be in need of like extra coke (for sickness) or possibly pastas or something like extra kleenex or chicken soup for cold/flu season.
* Call doctors for children to set up fall physicals (this year we skipped b/c of the flu epidemic and I will re-schedule for the Spring)
* Take out Fall Decorations and platters/candy dishes etc.. for house.
* Radiators taken apart and cleaned and vacuumed "before" we turn heat on.
* Call heating company to set up furnace to be service for long winter.
* In bedrooms wash all summer bedding and pack away and add winter comforters and bring out throw blankets from storage to be used as wraps on cold days.
* Clean out medicine closet and purge all old medicines that are out of date, make list of medicines to pick up in case of sickness and also call doctors for any prescription refills needed to inhalers, or breathing machines, etc.. add to the list a cool mist humidifier and purchase extra filters for continued cleaning throughout winter months.

** Wash and bring out all winter hats/mittens and snow pants etc.. check to see if things fit and are ready along with their boots, before snow gets here.

* pick up batteries for flash lights and check to see if we need candles.

Items I keep in my linen/medical closet:

Digital Thermometer

Cool Jel Ice packs



Tylenol for adults and children ( I check dosage according to the childrens changing weight as well)

Ibuprofen for adults and children

Peptobismol tablets and also liquid form.

Vicks vapor rub

Chapsticks one for each person in the family (usually buy extra too for chapped lips and nose therapy)

Saline mist nasal Spray one for each person in the family, I print their name on it so no one gets confused.


Muscinex for children and adults

Robitussin CF and DM


Cough Drops


Gatorade in closet also to make for popsicles



Cars maintenance for winter months – oil change, fluids filled, tires rotated etc.. I also keep a dishpan and also paper towels for unfortunate tummy troubles. Also snow shovels and windshield snow brush and blankets are added as well. (we have jumper cables, but choose to purchase AAA a well worth purchase as they have really come in handy during emergencies)

Shrubs covered for snow damage

Christmas lights put up before snow comes

Snowblower maintenance for winter use.

Salt/kitty litter purchased for ice removal

Snowshovels checked and brought out along with roof snow rake.

Snow sticks hammered into ground for snow removal of driveway before ground completely freezes.


Lists like these can really help when the weather is bad and your not as able to just run out and get something if you are sick or have a sick child.

It is near time I get out my Christmas Journal and begin planning for the Holidays ~ but I will save that for another time~

Happy Autumn preparation and planning ~

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A New Schedule and our Math Day~!

We have been working on our new schedule which started this week and we are doing great!
The boys really enjoy the new plan and studies are more fun, hands on and comprehensive ~ it may seems a bit radical I would admit, but in looking a bit closer it really is not.
Our study week reflects one core subject per day that is taught. (This excludes any therapies or remediation that is needed or have been started)

note: before reading further I wanted to mention that consistency in learning is very needed in our home with my kind of learners so before working our core subject for the day, we sit and do our daily reading and a math five a day (MOTL) and it is then we are ready to begin our core subject).

Our new schedule looks like this;

MONDAY - Language Arts; which includes reading, writing, grammar/usage, phonics, vocabulary.

TUESDAY- Science Day; anything to do with the topic of science we are working on. Activities include Lapbooking, Notebooking, making posters, experiments, nature walks, field trips, projects, online games, and research~

WEDNESDAY: History/Geography Day; activities include mostly what is included with science- I am starting to see as we dig deeper a real integration between science and history for the boys it is quite exciting. - we also might do cooking/baking for history (which ties into math also) if we have recipes from that time period and also an art study (again, which ties into the time period of study).

THURSDAY: ART/MUSIC/HEALTH/ LANGUAGE DAY; this is the only day of the week where we have shorter times for things and is more working on several areas. They really like this day since it is so eclectic and we have a bunch of fun learning fascinating new things in art, music and even Health (first aide, hygiene etc.) and our new foreign language - FRENCH!
This is also a day that I take to do errands with the boys, we schedule cleanings, doctor check ups, grocceries, visit people and have friends over and such.
FRIDAY: MATH DAY- our activities on this day includes "Teaching Time" of a new topic in math if they are ready. More practice and review of what they have learned and games, games, games. Each child also has their own Math Reader they are reading also and spend time doing that as well.
Our Math Day yesterday was great fun~ I first sat down with my older son and we went over his five a days that he had worked on over the week. (these had already been corrected, we did this each day after he finishes, however we do not go into any teaching at that time we save it for Friday). We look things over and decide exactly where more work is needed and if not will jump to the next topic of study. This week was a review of Decimals and we sat and went through review and teaching of using decimals/money for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Several notes were taken in our math journal and some notebooking pages were created for his math binders.

More wipe board work was done and then he had his "teach me time" on the concepts.

Afterwards he played a few math games on his computer that were math related and then had time to read his new math reader book; Confessions of Howard J Fingerhut .

Our youngest worked on his times tables with a fun online game that has a penguin that serves ice cream. It is a nice change of pace from the Times Attack he has been working with. He likes Times Attack, but depending on where he is at in his multiplication practice and how he is feeling that day will depend on if he wants to be timed and have all the stimuli ~ (for some learners Times Attack can be quite fun,but STRESSFUL, lol )

He then (while I was still working with older son) decided he wanted to do his Penguin Diner a bit so he did that as well (loves this one too) :)

Afterwards it was time to switch so Peyton came into to work with me on some math concepts to review and I could see it was not quite time to move forward with new concepts so we did Math ball and practiced further with our times tables. We also started a poster that will have all his math facts on it so he can go back and review these when he wants.

Then it was time for him to begin his new math reader; 7X9 Trouble . Another great book and as we read, we discussed multiplication and he made connects between estimating and rounding up numbers along with addition to get many of his answers. I was amazed at how his little mind works.

Our math day is done~ other days may be a bit longer and more comprehensive but for today we did a great job and what is really important is that they are looking forward to our next "Math Day".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New World Explorers~

We are starting our American History this past week and I wanted to share some resources and ideas we are doing.
We are building a timeline starting at the time of Columbus (1400's) and moving forward from there. I am going to be using a large Project Board that you can find at Staples and will be glueing long colored strips out of card stock to the project board and adding the explorers and events as we read about them.
For our notebooks prior to adding to the large time line board I found some resources to use for timelines in their notebooks: (we are going to be using graphic organizers for our timelines).
Some graphic organizers I found helpful in trying to consolidate and process all the information. - I used the Time Order chart and - the History Frame - the Tree Map and the Chart and the Timeline were very helpful. the two BEST I found for us were the Timeline and Timeline2 these were going to be perfect for what we needed. (see page 5) - another timeline I found from ABC Teach.
We also started creating some collages/posters for our Explorers Notebook. These are usually just simple illustrations we either cutout, draw or copy onto our cardstock and then write about. This is replaces the "traditional" lapbooking style a bit and we also add some lapbook folds to the posters for a 2D effect.
I created a lapbook fold page for Columbus' ships here, along with a cutout of Columbus and Da Gama for them to do a quick write up and glue to their pages.
For our maps and coloring pages I found the following resources to use:
Maps for learning Geography:

World Coloring page of Continents to track the journey of the explorers: - I liked coloring and laying out the entire world and continents for him so we can go back and map out the actual voyages everyone had taken.
I found color pages of that states and needed one specifically for Florida since Ponce de Leon was the first to visit Florida ~ here is the main site for maps of the states.
I plan to print out the states as each is explored and write the founder and facts within the state outline to add to their notebooks~ ( a great "visual" reminder of the state and also helps to remember "who" was the person who first, was the founder). :)
Here is a Notebooking page I made about DeSoto and his men. (scroll down to History Pages)

Explorer Coloring Pages: - these are great to use for cutting and pasting to your notebook pages for writing~
One other fun idea I had was to read aloud Pedros Journal - a story about a boy who was aboard Christopher Columbus' ship the Santa Maria, it is a daily log of his account of what had happened on the journey. While using this my older child will read over Christopher Columbus' Log found here.
One other page I created to add to our notebooking/lapbooking style is for Cabot, Balboa, Vespucci and listing the seven continents, you can find it here also.
While reading these the boys are going to make their own journals. I cut up some brown paper bags I had saved and cut them in 5x5 size squares and we burnt the edges so the looked old and withered. They also smelled musty and old like they just came off of an old ship~ the boys are going to write down some reflections of the reading we do from the logs and date them and add it to their New World Notebooks.
Here are some other resources I found and will be planning on using also:
Resources for lapbook ideas:

I have found that sometimes “premade” lapbooks are kind of frustrating for us~ we really enjoy creating our own lapbooks and lapbook folds so I use many different templates and add we add the information we are learning to those. Here is where I get many of my templates:

Lapbook template for Vocabulary Words- (this is one I used for vocabulary words for the chapter). - paths of exploration - this gave me the idea of creating a poster and also using a graphic organizer for keeping track of all the people and facts that went on at this time period.

Additional Resources for working on an Explorers Unit~ - activity - breaks down each explorer in depth (European Explorers)
Our texts we are using for our American History is a combination of Homeschooling in the Woods CD for hands on history and Abeka History grade 4, 5 and 6. Also America's Story by Harcourt and the DK Childrens History Encyclopedia and America's Story Book One by Steck Vaughn.
As you can see I pull many resources because it makes it so much more in depth and interesting.
An "afterthought"~ We are working with the Language Arts Program that is inpired by a Ruth Beechick approach and as I was looking through one of the book studies for the 6th grade I decided I will use this once we finish Pedro's journal as another read aloud. The book is called "Carry On Mr. Bowditch" by Jean Lee Latham - an excerpt from the back of the book-
"In her Newbery Medal-winning book, Jean Lee Latham chronicles Nathaniel Bowditch's journey, from his modest beginnings, to his first sea voyage, to his rigorous self-education, to the triumphs of his fine-tuned mastery of navigation and eventual publication of his famous work, " The American Practical Navigator"- also knows as "Sailor's Bible". Nat's amazing discoveries and accomplishments are brought to life for generation of reader in this engrossing maritime biography. "
Nathaniel Bowditch was a mathematician and astronomer in his time~
The book study includes learning about navigation, mapping, geography and also parts of a ship. The story takes place in the 1700's and will correlate nicely to the time period we are learning about.
If your looking for books to use for your math, history or science one book I would recommend and that I refer to often is Maureen Whittmans book "For the Love Of Literature" it really helps bring concepts for learning and living literature together for me and I found it a great help. ( I have Maureen's book in my slide show of books here for you to check out and purchase if you would like )
I believe a trip to Boston may also be a great field trip idea since we live here in New England :)
Happy History Exploring! ~

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