Homeschool Posts

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Homeschool Library Builder

Looking for inexpensive books for your homeschool? Introducing:

This is an online bookstore for homeschoolers owned by two homeschooling families, the Huffmans and Weatherfords in Flower Mound, Tx. Their offerings range from used to new books and each book is rated for condition. Many of their books are remainders in new condition. And many of their prices can't be beat. And now through Nov. 6, get free domestic shipping!

And if you become a member (it's free!), you will also receive an HSLB book point for every dollar you spend. For every 15 book points you earn, $1 will be added to your account to use towards your next purchase. You will also have the opportunity to earn more book points by spreading the word. Click here for more info.

Use the search engine to look for a particular book on this site, browse by category, or if you are looking for books used in Ambleside, Beautiful Feet, FIAR, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, or by Veritas Press, check out the "Search by Curriculum" option.

And while you are there, be sure to check out the Operation Hurricane category. For all books purchased from this category, HSLB will make a dollar for dollar donation to Samaritan's Purse. You can save some money and help someone in need at the same time!

HSLB's regular Media Mail shipping rates are quite reasonable, starting at $4.50 for up to $25 in books. Priority Mail and International is a bit steep and may wipe out any savings, so be sure to calculate your shipping when considering placing an order.

They accept Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and checks from a US bank. If you pay by check, your payment must clear before your books will be shipped.

While I would not expect to do all your homeschool shopping here, this site is definitely worth a look. Be sure to check it out: Homeschool Library Builder

(post updated Nov. 3, 2008)

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Due Date

Those of you who notice these things will notice that the due date has changed on my pregnancy calendar. We had a sonogram yesterday and the baby's size is 16 weeks...doesn't really surprise me all that much as my cycle has never been the textbook 28 days (32, 38, 45...I once had a 60 day cycle:) At least no one will be rushing me to have this baby before the right time. And before you ask, no we don't know if we're having a boy or a girl.

Click on the sonogram picture for a closeup. I've labeled the pertinent parts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Burdastyle MiniChallenge

Looking for a sewing challenge? Take something old and transform it into something new. You can use one of Burda's patterns off their site (lots of freebies available), some of the techniques shared there, or... well use your imagination. Deadline is October 26th. For full details and the rules, go to this link:

Friday, October 10, 2008

National Ichthyosis Awareness Week

National Ichthyosis Awareness Week is a time when we try to help people become more aware and understanding of this group of misunderstood skin conditions. Our youngest child, Peter, has Lamellar Ichthyosis. It is a very rare condition, estimated to afflict about 1 in 200-300,000. It is a genetic condition caused by a recessive gene---it is not catching, but he will have it for his entire life.

When Peter was born, he was covered in a collodian membrane, a thick, tight, brittle "skin" that made him look as though he were tightly wrapped in plastic. His eyelids were slightly everted and he could not close them, the skin around his mouth was so tight that he could not close it, nor could he breastfeed, in fact he could barely suck through a preemie nipple. Over the next few months, the collodian membrane would crack and eventually peel off, causing fissures in his delicate skin. His entire body had to be kept well lubricated with a thick ointment applied about 7-8 times a day, to help reduce his skin cracking and protect him from bacterial infection. Clothes were a real bane to him...we usually just wrapped him in thin blankets because sleeves and things would pull on his skin and since he had to be totally undressed several times a day anyway...

After the collodian membrane came off, Peter's "real" skin slowly emerged. In "normal" skin, there is an enzyme that causes the microscopic, dead skin cells to shed constantly. With Lamellar Ichthyosis, that enzyme is either missing or malfunctioning so that the dead skin cells collect as plate-like scales. This skin is extremely inflexible and itchy. When the scales do come off, they can tear the thin skin beneath. The inflexibility of the scales can also cause fissures in the skin. (Click on the pictures for a closeup of Peter's skin) Because of this, Lamellar patients have a greatly increased risk of skin infections. We try to keep Peter's skin well moisturized with heavy ointments to help protect it, but he greatly dislikes feeling greasy all the time and often resists being creamed. We use medicated creams to help remove the scales, which are very uncomfortable, but sometimes these creams burn, and so we have to be careful. All of his creams leave residue in his clothes that even after soaking them and washing them in hot water does not completely come out. He wears out clothes even faster than most boys!

The thickness of the scales also makes Peter prone to overheating...there are parts of his body that cannot sweat, so there are many hot summer days he must stay inside.

Many people we know are not aware of Peter's condition...his face, arms and legs are almost clear of scales (he seems to have a sub-type of Lamellar the doctors call "bathing suit Ichthyosis" because it primarily affects the trunk of the body), but he still often gets stares and sometimes rude questions. I don't want you to feel sorry for Peter...he is truly a wonderful, happy child and we are very blessed to have him. And his skin is much easier to manage now that he's a little older. But I would like to take this opportunity to educate the public a little more about this little known and much misunderstood condition. For more information on Lamellar or other types of Ichthyosis, go to the F.I.R.S.T. (Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types) website.

And please comment on this post:->

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Free Software for Pre-K to Elementary

GCompris is free open source educational software designed for ages 2-10. In addition to promoting education, the developers also want to promote the use of Linux, so the free Linux version has over 100 activities. The Windows version has over 40 activities (you can obtain the full 100 activities for Windows, but the price is 20 euro). We have Windows XP on our machine, and I have to say the the activities provided in the free download are well worth checking out, particularly if you have preschool to kindergarten-aged kiddos.

There is a wide range of activities, starting with practicing mouse manipulation.

In this activity, the player simply practices moving the mouse (no clicking needed) in order to "erase" the rectangles and reveal the picture in the background. There are several boards, with the rectangles getting progressively smaller, thus increasing the difficulty. The next activity requires the player to click on the rectangles to reveal the picture.

In "Click and Draw", the player clicks on each dot as it turns blue and the computer draws lines to complete the picture. The computer colors in the completed picture and you get some fanfare. Each set of puzzles gets progressively harder with more and smaller dots to click on.

These activities do work for improving hand-eye coordination. Less than a week ago, Peter (age 3) was super pleased to be erasing the rectangles all by himself by rolling the trackball. Today, he was completing these pictures by clicking on the dots and extremely proud of himself.

There are also alphabet and spelling activities, math activities and just for fun activities. For your older children, try the "Experimental" activities:

See if you can figure out how a canal lock works.

And puzzle out how to make a submarine dive to go under oncoming freighters and keep it's current depth to go through underwater gates.

One caveat: some of activities have very minimalist instructions. The canal lock, for example, will require some adult explanation of the underlying principle (there's no explanation given, but don't worry, it's just a matter of pointing out how water fills open spaces). The Submarine activity could also use more explanation as to how the controls work, what their impact is, etc. (this one almost baffled me, but in the end I figured out how to make it work and even how to explain it. I must say, it is quite challenging). That said, this is essentially a game, not a lesson, so I suppose I shouldn't expect too much explanation of scientific principles.

You can see more screen shots and explanations of some of the games here:

To download it (warning this is a 90meg download):

Monday, October 6, 2008

Creation Animation

This is a well done little animation of an abridged Genesis 1 (make sure you have your speakers on):

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Model Colosseum

"To introduce the Romans,
that's what I'm here to do.
So it really makes me happy
to build a model for YOU...

(Can you tell we've been watching the Muppet Show lately?!?)

This model can be downloaded from Canon Creative Park.

Mom: "Never again!"

Next time I will pick a much easier/simpler model to build. See the levels inside? Each level consists of 4 strips that need to be curved and a seemingly infinite number of tiny triangular tabs to fold...We are studying Ancient Rome and so I thought this would be fun...but very complicated for small hands (and big hands, too).

I don't want to turn you off from Creative Park, though, they have dozens and dozens of models to choose from and they vary in difficulty (I wish they gave a difficulty rating:-). Everything from architectural models like this one to science models, like a sundial and a globe that you can open to see the layers of the the earth's crust. Next time I'll just take a closer look at the pieces and the instructions before I actually print it out.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Review: HelpMe2Teach

HelpMe2Teach is a professional looking subscription site aimed at teachers and homeschoolers that provides links to over 2000 free and moderately priced resources. The claim: Yes, you can teach your child for free using these resources and never buy a single textbook. Sounds promising, but does the site live up to its promises?

Let's start with the dollars and cents (always a real issue for me and any resource I am considering). You can purchase a trial 3-day subscription for $4.95, 1-month for $9.95, 3-months for $15.95, or 1-year for $29.95. This could be a real bargain if site lives up to its claims! If you want start a fundraiser to earn money for your homeschooling group, you can earn $15 for every full-year subscription you sell.

Now, what do you get for your dollars and cents? First of all, make no mistake, HelpMe2Teach is NOT a search engine, it is a searchable list of educational sites. There is also a Table of Contents((TOC) which lists 23 different topics, from "Academic Benchmarks and Standards" to "Language Arts" and all the other main subjects to "Specialty Topics," which includes driver's ed and virtual fieldtrips. Many of these main topics are further divided into sub topics, for instance "Science" is divided into various different earth science, life science and physical science topics. Click on a topic and you will be given a numbered list of sites to check out. Some topics will have only a few sites and others will have a few dozen sites.

What I like:
  • It works fine in my chosen browser, Mozilla Firefox (also works great in Explorer).
  • Sites are coded with symbols for age-appropriateness (P=primary, E=elementary, S=secondary, T=teacher)
  • It's easy to find what you are looking for.
  • It's "safe" for kids.
  • No ads.
  • Most site listings have a paragraph description from the site itself to give you an idea of what to expect.
  • Quick personal response to emails. I contacted Elaine Taylor at HelpMe2Teach with some questions about the site, and received a response within a few hours.
  • New sites are added regularly.
  • The owner of the site does NOT receive compensation from sites HelpMe2Teach links to. All compensation comes from subscriptions.
Some things to note:
  • Right-clicking is disabled on this site. This is obviously to keep users from copying links and pasting them elsewhere, but as a Firefox user, I really dislike having to click back and forth from the TOC. I would much rather right click to open in a new tab and keep the TOC open for reference
  • Newly added sites are marked with a "New" icon. Ordinarily this would be a plus, but Elaine tells me that the icon stays there for about 6 months. She is trying to get the site programmed so that the "New" icon will automatically removed after a month.
  • A few of the links are out-of-date or dead. Elaine says that the site has an automatic check that runs at midnight everyday and notifies her of any dead links, but some sites still slip through the cracks between her manual checks. Along those same lines, one site was described as being completely free, but it is not free any longer (Elaine has since fixed this). Understandable with content on the internet constantly changing, just something to be aware of.
  • The resources can at times be repetitious. For example, if you go to "Physical Science" you will find 34 sites listed, 10 of which are about or related to "bubbles." If you go to "Ancient History" you will find 35 sites, 11 of which are links to the domain, and 6 of which are links to the domain course, they are both excellent sites!
  • Most of these sites are already bookmarked in my browser (although I can't find them because I have so many bookmarks)...good resources, but nothing a google hound can't find...given enough time, that is.
  • No sites of a religious nature are listed. This is a matter of policy, born out of not wishing to give offense to anyone.
Now, the big question: Is it worth the cost of the subscription? It really depends on what you are looking for.

This is a great site for someone looking for good supplemental resources for their homeschool that are easily contained in one place: you can access your account from any computer, you don't have to organize a bunch of bookmarks because it is already done for you, and you can look forward to new resources becoming available. Your subscription also comes with a quarterly newsletter containing further teaching resources and unit study suggestions---the fall newsletter is on the Autumnal Equinox, hurricanes and tornadoes, plenty of material for a great unit!

This is also a good site for someone who likes to use internet resources but does not enjoy (or have the time for) hunting and pecking for them through the internet labyrinth. Personally, I rather enjoy finding my own can be fun, but it can also be frustrating, I know.

I would not, however, say this is a complete curriculum source. The resources listed here are very piecemeal and it would take a lot of planning to fit everything together and make sure you are not leaving any gaps (and I think there would be gaps). For instance, the elementary math resources consist mainly of worksheet generators and games. While these are good for supplementing a math program, they do little to help you actually teach the underlying concepts. In that same vein, the science resources cover various topics, but you need to find a way to tie them all together into a cohesive whole. This is a shame, because there are free and complete math and science curriculums available on the internet that would be great additions to

For more information or to subscribe, please see the HelpMe2Teach website.
For more reviews of this product, please see the TOS Homschool Crew.