Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Transforming an Art Cart to an Art Cupboard

We do a lot of art but we live in a small house - 4 people in 1,000 square feet.  Also, since I teach part time I have art supplies for 12-15 kids not just two.  My kids had an art cart for most of their supplies and all the other materials were stashed in 3 different spots.  Some of that was self designed as I didn't want a toddler to have unlimited access to paint.   Not only was it annoying to traipse around rounding up all the different supplies needed for painting, it wasn't kept as organized as I would have hoped for.  There were smaller organizing units inside the baskets, like a bin for crayons, one for colored pencils etc., but since all those were kept in bigger baskets when it came time to clean up everything just got tossed in the top of the basket.

Now the toddler is a preschooler and we were all tired of how it was laid out.  I got Mariah Bruehl's Playful Learning book as well, and her lovely pictures of pretty, inviting art spaces helped too.

So we got a cabinet from a local used furniture store, moved our bookshelf to our bedroom, and reorganized.  The toads were very excited about the process and helped quite a bit.  The former art cart has been converted to a science space which I'll do another post about.

The top basket in the original arrangement was for library books but older toad couldn't see in it so even that necessitated help on my part for him to read independently.  That got moved to their bedroom on top of a new small bookshelf because we got to get rid of the changing table (still need diapers at night but don't need the table for that YEAH).  Lastly, I did some purging of our bookshelf and that's much neater and organized.  So, self congratulatory pat on the back for all the organizing, and now I just have to make time for all the new ideas bouncing around from creating such nice work spaces!

I heartily recommend Playful Learning as well.  It's got wonderful sensory based learning activities for all the subjects.  Here is the author's website.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mango Festival

While most of the country gardens in the summer and enjoys the bounty of their local farmer's market, here in FL we lay low.   The growing season is opposite of most places so you only grow easy heat loving stuff like okra and the farmer's market is closed in the summer.  We do have the occasional tropical fruit event like this weekend's Mango Festival at Colorfield Farms.

The highlight of the day was the mango tasting.  The whole family thought the best variety was Lemon Zest.  Our friends we went with really liked the Kent. 

We spent some time cruising through the nursery's fruit tree stock as well.  We saw a ripe wax jambu.  I've heard of this tree but never seen one or the fruit so that was neat.  The Lancitella mango provided the biggest wow.  It was tasty enough but out on the tree it was huge.  They get up to 5 pounds each.

Another neat find was a baby preying mantis.  We don't see them that often so the toads were excited about their find.

Our only purchase was along the bug theme as well.  We have a couple milkweeds but no monarchs are visiting them currently.  The ones at the farm were covered so we brought home some new pets.

The event was supposed to have a food truck rally too.  There were only two food trucks.  We weren't sure how many you needed to be able to call it a rally but we figured at least three was a minimum.  We were glad we brought snacks.

We've been wanting to get a Longan tree and our friends gave us one.  It kept dying back in their freezes every winter and our place is a little warmer than theirs so we're going to give it a try.  This photo is from the festival not our new little tree.

We followed up the festival with a dip in the kiddie pool and BBQ with our friends so it was a lovely day.  If you'd like to learn more about tropical fruits check out this post or the book below.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Train Lap Book

This train lapbook is one of the first lapbooks I made for older toad.

Younger toad sees his brother reading a lot and sits down to 'read' a book also.  Since he doesn't know his letters yet he's got a ways to go but since it's such an interest of his I've been putting a little more effort in to helping him with that.  Since our train unit was such a mutually popular one I recently redid a train lapbook with just the alphabet for younger toad.  What follows are directions for what I did, younger toad's first then older.

I did a post about our version of lapbooks here for anyone who's never made one.

This train alphabet is from the Amtrak Kids Depot.  It's a fun site they put together with some neat downloads and games the toads enjoyed.  This is the direct link to the Railphabet.  I cut the squares out and glued them to flaps.  Under the Amtrak flaps are stickers with the letter in uppercase and lowercase.  I would have liked all one color for uppercase but I used what we had around.

He talks about the train thing on the picture and we go over the letters.  Of course having his own is part of the appeal.

Older toad's had more activities to go with it.  Over several days we labeled part of a steam locomotive.

The image for this came from Wikipedia here.  The corresponding parts from Wikipedia is here.  I copied the components into a word document and edited for length and clarity

Since older toad was working on his letters, he wrote on the outside and the Amtrak images went on the inside.

Lastly, we used citrus (grapefruit, oranges and limes) and metallic paint as stamps for train wheels.  Older toad's had several cars, but here's the engine.

Chugga, Chugga, Choo, Choo!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Basic Lapbooks

There's lots of good resources for making lapbooks out there these days.  We've done quite a few that I will probably post over time but I thought I'd start with our version of the basic template.

First, take a regular file folder, open it and fold the edges toward the original center seam.

Next, flip it over and tape a file jacket to the right edge with clear packing tape.  When you line them up, leave a small, 1/4", gap between the two so they will fold better.  Flip them both over and add another strip of packing tape to the other side.  Most lap book directions do not use a file jacket.  I've found them very helpful for providing a large pocket for storing work.  We often use our lapbooks for unit studies that span a couple of weeks.  Handwriting sheets are something I try to incorporate into our unit studies but every page doesn't really need it's own page in the lapbook, yet it still nice to keep the package together.  It's perfect for that kind of thing or any irregularly shaped object that's hard to make an interior pocket for.  It's like turning the lapbook into a lapbook/binder combo pack.

Now add some interior pages if you want more space.  I use colored card stock for the interior pages, they're stiff enough to hold up and add some color for interest and organizing.  I find for small laps, pages that open left or right, like a book, are more manageable.  However, you can go top and bottom in addition for all four directions if you want.  Again, when you line them up, add a small gap so that they fold well.  Use the clear packing tape, flip over and tape the other side.

Now cover the faces with decorative paper.  Doing all the packing tape first allows you to cover it with the decorative paper now.  I have a large stash of scrapbooking paper that we use but any paper is fine.  Adding the paper both stiffens the book, covers any manufacturers writing as well as makes it easier to identify on the shelf when you have a whole seasons worth staring at you.  I'm using this example to prep for fall and making this our Austrailia/Oceania lapbook.  Scrapbooking paper lets me choose prints that go with the theme too.  In this case, our science unit will be coral reefs so I'm choosing marine paper.  Use the file folder as your template, trace and then cut.  For glue, use glue sticks that are name brand or from the art supply store.  The office supply brands, or generics are poor quality and will not stick

Next, cover the edges in tape.  I like the colored electrical tape.  Duct tape also works well.  Target has been selling some fun decorative tape that looks like duct tape.  The quality is not very good and they don't stick well.  Masking tape, since it's meant to be removed, is also not a good choice.  The tape really adds to the durability of your lapbook by covering any edges that could peel, tear or get worn with stronger material.

Lastly, add a cover or some sort of title.

Now you're ready to fill it up!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our Homechooling Style

Most homeschooling families have a curriculum style.  Some are linked to just one product such as Moving Beyond the Page or some are a philosophical style such as unschooling.

We're one of those families who fall into the catch all style of eclectic.  What eclectic homseschooling means to us:  we use whatever curriculum suits our educational needs at the time and we're not wedded to one philosophical approach so above all we're flexible.

Part of that flexibility stems from the fact that we haven't found just one approach that for us is 'just right' as Goldilocks would say.  Some of the constant chair switching is due to older toads widely divergent skills.  Some subjects he's at grade level (kindergarten), some he's above.  This being our first year of homeschooling, I had a behind the 8 ball feeling for our first several months before I felt like I got a handle on his needs.  These reflections are based on that juggling.

Charlotte Mason - I love the authenticity of the Charlotte Mason approach.  NO readers - real books.  No nature shows on TV - go out and explore nature.  We're a secular family so we rely on that authenticity in a secular way.

Classical - I'm drawn to the intellectual rigor of the classical style.  However, as I describe older toad as Spock with anger management problems, he's not that interested in people; especially historical people.  We will be incorporating more of this approach into the future of our core subjects.  The Well Trained Mind approach to this is great in many aspects but very weak in the arts so we'll take that rigor in the core areas on our journey.

Montessori - Having a kid with sensory issues I really appreciate the sensory nature of Montessori learning.  However, I find the sensory approach harder to implement moving into the 6-9 curriculum without the expensive 'real' Montessori materials.

Unschooling - My kids are so young I think unschooling at our house would involve 5 courses.  Art - the one subject of value.  Projectiles - paper airplanes and sports equipment.  Teasing and Torture - of each other or the dog.  Trash - both collection and hoarding perhaps creatively.  Yelling - there's so much of that going on sometimes I audit this course myself.  I don't consider this a well rounded curriculum so I organize more than this.  Thankfully the toads find learning fun and are ok with more direction.  We'll see what the future brings.

Unit Studies - We did a lot of this.  The nice thing about unit studies is you can customize the subject, customize the level, use the learning style that works for you and do it all relatively inexpensively.

Waldorf - Waldorf education involves beautiful, well made, healthy materials.  I try to incorporate these principles into their art supplies especially but most of the rest does not speak to my toads' brand of creative play.

So that's our eclectic style in a nutshell.  Please comment on your style.

Update 8/18/12

Richele at Under the Golden Apple did a great post called, The Ultimate Guide to Homeschool Methods, regarding various styles with resources.  Here's the link  and below is her button.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Maestro Classics Books on CD Giveaway

 Homeschool Share is giving away 9 CD's from Maestro Classics .  This is the link to the Homeschool Share blog to enter.

Rainbows in our Windows

I was on Pinterest getting lost in all the cool stuff and found these two posts about rainbows from the dilly-dali art blog.  This one is Rainbows Two Ways and this one is the directions for how to make the gelatin.

I will add our observations to her directions.  It's a little stinky when wet so run the fan.  Don't let the gelatin go up the edges of the paper plate because when dry, your sheets won't be completely flat and they won't stick to the contact paper well.  It looks much more likes stained glass if you let the food coloring mix a bit rather than 100%.  Finally, add some sharpie designs for an abstract look.

These pictures are our creations based on Aleacia's directions.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tampa Bay Staycation Tour

Slideshows of other people's vacations can be really boring...

So I thought I'd stick to the highlights of our recent staycation with links for those people planning on coming here or for those of you who like links to the education programming.  We get lots of tourists because it really is nice here.  I once posted on a large mommy listserve about vacation options for places to go for a mom and her toddler together as a vacation (back when I only had one tadpole).  My husband travels regularly and I thought it'd give the toad and I a change of scenery to go away while he was gone.  I didn't mention where we lived just asked for opinions on great places for a mom and kid to vacation.  There were 5 responses and every single person said the beach.  I sighed and we walked to the beach.

Here's our latest adventures.

Lowry Park Zoo - The animal above is an African okapi.  It's always one of my favorites to visit because they're so beautiful.  My husband hadn't been in three years so he had an especially good time.  Here's a link to the education page with PDF's for educational activities (look for self guided curriculum in the center of the page).  I took the opportunity of the vacation this week to start Zoo Story by Thomas French.  It's a book he wrote all about Lowry Park Zoo.  He used to be a reporter for the local newspaper and our recently reinvigorated Friends of the Library had him for a guest speaker at their one year anniversary which is where I picked up the book.  My grandmother used to take me to the zoo and I had not been to one in over 20 years until I had kids.  The author does a good job of talking about the specifics of this zoo and the philosophical implications of zoos in general.  There's a good bit of gender observations too which make for a good laugh.

Selby Gardens - This is only the second time we've been and we have had a lovely time both times. Here they have two PDF's for different ages to do a plant hunt.  I printed them out and attached them to handled paper bags for the kids to collect treasures (with strict instructions that treasure only comes off the ground and absolutely no picking).  I don't think they finished either one but they loved having an official place for all the seeds they found.  The PDF's were generic enough you could use them at a garden near you probably.  Also, they are known as a research institution so the website has lots of articles and resources available.

We went to the Dali for the first time since they relocated and expanded.  They did a wonderful job and the new museum was a great way to spend a morning.  My husband and I went with younger toad while the older was at preschool.  I hadn't taken him to a museum in years since they last time I did we both left in tears.  He was much better this time and enjoyed the scavenger hunt they provide the kids.

Museum of Science and Industry - Always lots to do there.  They have some online activities about water here.  They were having a kid's health fair on the day we went.  I picked up some great paper plates with the suggested portions illustrated and labeled.  The food pyramid never made a ton of sense but having portions divided into pie wedge fractions on a plate is easy to understand.  It looked like all the resources they had available at the fair were at the USDA's website here.

...and of course we went to the beach several times.  Grab your sunscreen and come some time!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Please Tell Us About Your Country

For the upcoming school year we're organizing everything around the 7 continents.  For each continent, we're focusing on the larger nations but also the countries our family has some connection to - ones we've traveled to or our family is from.

I wrote to the following embassies requesting any educational materials they make available, especially maps:
Our nationalities:  England, Ireland, Mexico, Myanmar, Germany (via email as per website)
Our travels:  Australia, Botswana, France, Japan, Panama, and Spain
Other nations we want to learn about:  Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, India, and Russia

I visited each embassy's website and tried to follow their directions for PR materials.  Some, such as Germany, wanted all requests handled via email.  Some, such as Japan, had materials on their website.  Some wanted inquiries sent to a regional consulate.

I tried to customize the communication to each so it was relevant.  Germany's email said, " We are a homeschool family in the United States of German descent.  This year for our studies we are concentrating on world geography and culture.  Would you please send us any materials appropriate for kids to learn about Germany and for teachers to help kids in their studies.  A map would especially be appreciated.  Thank you so much for your time."

The snail mail letters had the above image for the intro.  I wanted to involve the kids in the request for info but it would have been unrealistic of me to expect older toad to write that many letters.  Also, younger toad of course wants to be involved in everything so this did involve him a little bit.

I'm hoping the power of snail mail will bring us some fun treasures.  I'm also of course saving all the addresses so hopefully we can write gushing thank you letters.  I will post back with what we get.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

National Parenting Gifted Children Week

National Parenting Gifted Children Week begins today sponsored by Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted.  The direct link to the 2012 week is here.

We're making education choices for the fall and the announcement made me reflect on what gifted means in our house. There's been a lot of chatter in the gifted press this year about gifted kid's potential and promise.  Are schools doing enough to turn these kids in to the next world leaders, Nobel Prize winners, and 21st century innovators?  I'm a product of a 'gifted' system.  I received two, count them two, years of gifted services in middle school.  I'm now a SAHM and homeschool educator of my kids.  I don't consider my two years of gifted services or 8 years of university wasted even though I'm not making world news headlines.  I'm just a 'gifted' mom trying to raise two 'gifted' boys.

Older toad is freaky smart and younger toad has not been tested but statistics say he's well above average just by being related to his brother.  So they're gifted but what does that mean?  For us that's just normal.  They don't seem exceptional since they've always been our kids.  We don't have imaginary 'normal' siblings we compare them to.  We joke older toad is Spock with anger management problems but he hasn't become that, he's always been that way.  Spock was a perfectly normal half Vulcan/half human kid since he was the only one.

Gifted + Intensity = Welcome to life at our house.  We don't need educational pedagogy to tell us about overexcitabilites, positive disintegration or asynchronous development.  We just need a family road trip.  Cue trip to Kennedy Space Center; two adults with graduate degrees trying to explain advanced physics to a 5 year who is so geeked out by all the absolutely amazingly cool space stuff he can't remember to eat his snacks and devolves into major tantrum enough for public head turning because he can't share with a 2 year old.  That may not be 'normal' for many families but the only thing special for us in that story is Kennedy Space Center.

Normal for most people is what they're used to, normal is what we all do, normal is comfortable.

Since everything is more at our house, gifted just means my kids are more normal.  They may or may not go on to do publicly acknowledged amazing things like the leaders of 'gifted' education would like to see.  I just hope they will be grow up to be exceptional human beings who happen to be gifted.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Travel Ideas

 We're starting our staycation this weekend so my posts might become irregular.  We decided to do a staycation since the toads are not the best travelers.  We've made a no cooking and very little cleaning rule so hopefully it's a bit of a break as well as lots of fun checking out the fun things to do here.

If you are planning a trip in your area or across the country this year, check out this list of organizations.  You can search their websites for ideas that you wouldn't find on the travel websites.

American Association of Museums - Here's a PDF of all accredited museums in the country.

American Association of Zoos and Aquariums - Here's the list.  Their education section has helpful links for studying polar bears and elephants.  Here's the kid's section.

Association of Children's Museums - International list

America Public Garden Association - Searchable database.

Association of Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums - The list.

Association of Science and Technology Centers - The list.

National Park Service -  Get outside!  Here's the teachers section of their website.  Here's the kid's section.

National Registry of Historic Places - Their directory by state is more like a travelogue than simple list so it's still fun and educational even if you're not planning a trip.  Also, they have a whole section devoted to teaching with historic places here and their kid's section here.

If you've got a great resource for finding places to visit that I've left out please add it to the comments section.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Function Box

We made a function box.  It's proving fun to play with.  Older toad understands the concepts of the four basic functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) but sometimes he can be slow since he still usually relies on figuring the sums every time.  He is NOT a flash card kind of kid.  I'm hoping incorporating more games will help him speed up naturally.

How we play - 3" X 5" card goes in one side with a number written on it.
Option #1 -  It comes out and I tell him a number.  He has to say which function was performed on the original number to get the second number.  Example - the card says 3, it goes through the machine and I say, "12", he would correctly say multiplication.

Option #2 - It comes out and I ask him to perform a function and give the answer.  Example - the card says 5, it goes through the machine and I say, "Add 4 and what do you get?".  He would correctly say "9".

That's how I envisioned it but he likes combining them.  So we do, "4 goes into the box and 12 comes out.  What did I do?"  He would say. "You added 8." and I remind him I could have multiplied by 3.  The most important part - you have to make a noise as the card goes through the function box, otherwise nothing will happen.

He of course loves getting to man the box and be the one who figures the problems.  He has surprised me with his accuracy and obsession with negative numbers.

I made our function box out of an old sunglasses box.  When they had their paint out I painted it.  I wrote the symbols for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, one on each side.  Then I turned them loose with star stickers.  I left the ends of the box on so I could close them up and store the cards we write on inside.  It's the perfect size for 3" X 5" cards.

If you'd like to get more fun math ideas check out the Living Math website.  Living Math is all about learning math in context and has proved a very valuable approach for us.

I've shared this post:

2012 Global Peace Index

The 2012 Global Peace Index has been released by the Institute of Economics and Peace.  You can visit the report's interactive map here to see how the different nations in the world are ranked.  Iceland is ranked #1.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Free Media for Homeschoolers

 I did a post last week about ways to save money homeschooling.  You can read it here if you missed it.  I wanted to break out some of the links for clarity.  This post is all about free media sources to supplement your studies.  I've enjoyed all these websites, some more than others, please preview as necessary for your family.

Primary source materials - These are mainly museums that put original documents up on the web.  There are so many more here, please add your favorites in the comments.
The British Library -
Gilder Lehrman - Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History
Library of Congress
Massachusetts Historical Society -
National Postal Museum - a division of the Smithsonian

Audio books and sound materials
Ambling Audio books 
Free Music Archive - free music recordings, audio stories and story books for kids through Kazoomzoom
Kiddie Records Weekly - Vintage kids records - really fun
LibriVox - Free audio books
Lit2Go - stories and poems as Mp3's 
Story Nory - Free audio books for kids
Wild Music - sounds exhibition from the Science Museum of Minnesota

Print books
Amazon freebies for Kindles
Baldwin Project for Children's Literature - ebooks of children's classics
Bartleby - Great books online
International Children's Libray - Mulit-lingual
Project Gutenberg - 40,000 free ebooks
Rosetta Project - Complete Library of kids books - great options for foreign language study

Early America - Short historical films
National Film Board of Canada 
TED talks
Top Documentary Films - Free documentary films
Wolfram Demonstrations Project - Science models

Some of everything
Open Culture

And last but not least, check with your public library.  Ours offer audio book and music downloads for free.

Post in the comments section any wonderful sources I've left out.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pink Oyster Mushrooms

No, it's not our newest favorite band.

One of the activities we rounded out the year with was growing pink oyster mushrooms.  We chose the pink oysters because they were considered easy with high humidity and heat tolerance which you need for FL in the early summer.  They were super yummy, fairly productive for being cared for by a 5 year old and hopefully will give us more next season.

We inoculated a box of wood chips and grass hay with the kit leftovers.

If you're interested in starting your own magic mushroom patch, visit Fungi Perfecti's website here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Beach Safety

The Natural Resources Defense Council issued a report on beach water quality in 2009 called Testing the Waters.  They just released their 2012 update on their webpage here.  We're frequent beach goers and our beach has occasionally had problems.  It's worth a check if you're planning a trip to your favorite local sandy spot.

Also, if you've never researched sunscreens, head over to Environmental Working Groups 2012 Skin Deep 2012 sunscreen report here to research the best sunscreen for your family.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Exotic Tropical Fruit

One of the best things about living in Florida is the exotic fruits you can grow.  Gardening overall is a big challenge between the bugs, poor soil and opposite seasons of everywhere else but you persevere despite the steep learning curve.

One of the best organizations we have is the Tampa Rare Fruit Council.  They put on great plant sales and a huge citrus tasting at the FL State Fair (in February since gardening is different here).

Today was their annual cooperative meeting with the Manatee & Sarasota rare fruit chapters.  One of the highlights is always the buffet table but today it included dragonfruit, ice cream bananas, jackfruit, lychees, longans, 5 varieties of mangoes, mangosteen, rambutan, sapote and lots of other 'normal' foods.

Some of these were provided by the Fruit & Spice Park in Homestead, FL.  If you plan a trip to Miami and you're tropical curious, you should plan a trip there.

Friday, July 6, 2012

We Are Paper Toys

I picked up the book We Are Paper Toys at an author reading at Inkwood books, one of independent bookstores in the Bay Area.  You can visit their website here.  Even if you don't live in western FL it's worth visiting the website for their staff suggestions.  I love other people's reading lists and their staff has good taste.  It's been a fun book because it comes with a CD that has many of the projects in PDF that you can print out.  We've made all kinds of little critters.

The author reading I went to was for Lauren Buckner's Parentwise.  It's been a helpful book.  It's thin but takes awhile to get through because the author requires a lot of reflection through journaling or other ways to see yourself better. I've read quite a few books on how to make the toads 'better' but not enough on both taking responsibility for and care of myself.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ways to Save Money on Homeschool Curriculum & Supplies

 Here's a list of ways I've saved some money on our homeschooling adventures.  Hopefully there's something in here that can help you keep your costs down.  They are in no particular order.

Groupon and Living Social - You've probably heard of these, but 8coupons will list these and all similar deals by your zipcode, making it easier to keep track of them.  I've been able to get deals on Little Passports for social studies and deals on admissions for field trips.

Gift Card Granny - This is a site that compiles gift card resellers.  I've used this for office supply gift cards.  Depending on the store and the site you'll get a certain percentage off your purchase.  Since these get mailed to you snail mail this requires some advance planning.

Refillable Ink Cartridges - I can't imagine homeschooling and using off the shelf manufacturer ink cartridges.  I think that cost alone would pay for private school instead.  I use refillables but even remanufactured represent significant savings. 

Sharing - I shared my All About Spelling vol. 1 with a friend.  She liked it so much she decided to use it as well and said she'd let me use her vol. 3 so we each saved the cost of a volume.  For longer distance sharing try http://market.swap.com for books or movies.

Buy used - There are several options here.  Are you signed up for your favorite yahoo homeschool group?  Many of them allow selling items on certain days or exist just as curriculum listserves.  Homeschool classifieds, home educators resource, Educator's Exchange are all options online.  Addall and Alibris (emails coupons frequently) are online used booksellers for mass market books.  Also, be involved in your local homeschool organizations and coops, they often have used curriculum sales.

Buy in bulk - Homeschool Buyers Coop is an option that many have heard of.  Also, you can organize your own group buys.  A person at our homeschool coop organized a group buy for Nova Natural toys for a 15% savings for example.  Contact a publisher and find out what kind of deal they can give you for a certain number of copies to organize your own group.   Even if you only pair up with a friend, you split the shipping.

Free curriculum options - Homeschool Launch is a file sharing service for homeschoolers.
Currclick - has weekly freebies as well as frequent larger giveaways.  Many curriculum providers have email blasts or facebook freebies so sign up with your favorites.
Free classes & free audio books - The list here is rather long so I'm going to break these into a separate post.  Here is the post for free media.  Here is the post for free classes.

Please post a comment with your favorite homeschool money saving idea!

Update Oct, 2012
Try Freeshipping.org to save too.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Fourth of July

Fourth of July means fireworks and BBQ of course but when it comes to celebrating the country and patriotism, I can't think of anything more patriotic than Woody Guthrie's populism.  Google agrees with me, since I wrote this post Tuesday, and Wednesday had Woody's title above.  Google your favorite Guthrie image today and salute this land!

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

The Woody Guthrie Foundation has free curriculum on how to integrate Woody's life and themes into the core subject areas for elementary and high school students here.  I found the curriculum researching for this post and I'll definitely be working it in to our studies this year.  The toads wore out a copy of Daddy O Daddy and we had to replace it, so they know his music and the curriculum would provide a great format to learn more of it.

 Have a safe and happy holiday everyone!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spiced Lentil Salad

If you've got a solar oven, you're always on the hunt for recipe ideas and adaptations.  Since I've had mine several years, I'm getting pretty solid at producing reliable food from it.  I thought I'd start sharing my successes occasionally to help other people get the most out of their ovens.

In general solar ovens are like regular ovens with no dehydrating properties.  So anything you can do in an oven you can do in a solar oven with less water and more time.  Ditto crockpot recipes.  Anything crockpot works with less water and less control of the timing.

July in FL is usually hot and a great time to not cook indoors but the rest of the country is fairing even worse right now so take as much as you can outside.

This recipe is adapted from A Kitchen Safari. My mom got me this cookbook on her safari to Africa which she summed up as 'amazing'.

Spiced Lentil Salad

Preheat oven in the sun to bring it up to temperature.
Rinse and sort for rocks 11/4 cup lentils.  I used small french green ones.
If your oven didn't come with cookware, choose a dark saucepan and put in the lentils and 11/2 cups water.  Cook til soft but not mushy.  For me this was 1 hour 45 minutes in the noon day sun.
Finely chop 2 cups onions.  Saute in 2 TB olive oil in skillet on stove for 5 minutes til soft.
Add 2 garlic cloves finely chopped and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. anise, 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric, 1/2 tsp.  ground coriander, and 1/2 tsp. ground ginger.  Stir and saute for another minute.
Add 2 skinned (I use the potato peeler instead of dipping in hot water) and diced tomatoes and 1 TB brown sugar.  Cook on low until you have a nice sauce.
Add the lentils and salt to taste.  Stir until mixed and then let sit.  It gets better with age so if you have time, make this the day before serving.  It's great spread on poppadums or on crusty bread.
Serves 4-6

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Alternative to Montessori Dressing Frames

Dressing frames are a great teaching tool, however having a whole set is both space and money consuming.  Outside of a preschool environment it can be hard to justify for just one kid.  Some time ago I made up this substitute for older toad.  I thought it would be a great thing to take on a flight across the country; light, space efficient, cheap if lost and fun.  While it was certainly those first three, toad wasn't very interested.  The only thing that taught him how to dress himself was a lot of patience on our part and time.

Fast forward three years later and we're at the same place with younger toad.  However, he actually thinks using this is kind of fun to learn about these things.

This is too long to fit in a regular picture but starting on the left there is:  velcro, a zipper, lacing, buttons, hooks and eyes and finally snaps.

Some of these things are hard to do for a beginner.  However, if you went to the library and got a basic sewing book this kind of project is a great one to learn on.  It's super cheap since the materials can be leftovers, it doesn't have to fit anyone special, and no one will notice any sewing mistakes.

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