All green, nature, and sustainability posts have been moved to Loving Nature's Garden

Monday, August 31, 2009

Costco September Offers

Here are my education picks from the Costco September magazine. Just out of curiosity I've compared the prices at Costco with the same item at
  • The Human Body Book and The Human Brain Book. These are hardback books which come with an interactive DVD. Price at is below the price at, but then you'd have to pay shipping if you order online from Costco. If you're already making a trip to the Costco warehouse buy there. You can look inside at If I were ordering online I'd probably go with
  • Alera Wire Shelving. Shelving really is an essential item for homeschooling. Sturdy, pantry type shelving is great for storing totes with craft, math, and science supplies. Again the Alera Shelving at is a very similar price.
  • Oceanology, Dragonology, Pirateology - these fun books were very popular with my kids when they were aged about 10-12 years. They are high quality and interactive with great little flaps and things. Again prices are very similar between Costco and Pick them up at the Costco warehouse, or take a look at the Ology books at
  • Magic Tree House books are a classic chapter book series. Costco will have them at the warehouse in September. They don't appear to be selling them at so I don't know the price. Here is the link to see them and check the prices at Magic Tree House Books.
  • Big Blue Book of Beginner Books and Big Green Book of Beginner Books are bind-ups each with six of the Dr Seuss early readers. I love the Dr Seuss books for early reading because they are so wacky. If you want to see the contents of these they are also available at
  • Sibley Guide to Birds and Sibley Guide to Trees are going to be in the Costco warehouse mid-September. Books at the warehouse are going to be hardbacks. I imagine they'll be a pretty good deal. If you want to know more and see inside the bird book here is the Sibley Guide to Birds in paperback at
  • ECR4Kids is child-sized activity furniture, or kid-sized tables and chairs of the sort you'd find in schools. These are not going to be available at the warehouse, only at Table prices range from $100-200 and chairs come in packs of 6 or 10. I looked around online and the price on these looks really good. Be sure to check the shipping charge though because these are large items. don't have anything similar. Here is the link for ECR4Kids tables and chairs. If you are in the Kansas City area though check out Constructive Playthings because they have something similar and you can pick up and avoid the shipping.
I hope your school year is off to a good start. Let me know if you need help with something.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homeschool Math Examination

I've spent the last couple of days absorbed in an examination of homeschool math options for the middle school and high school years. This is most certainly not a new area of research for me, but each time I take a look at homeschool math options I learn something new. Rather than let this research go to waste, here are a few things I've discovered. Today I'll cover online instruction options.

Computer Based Math Instruction
There are several math instruction methods suitable for middle school, high school, and college level math which are entirely computer based. I'm going to write a few notes on things that seem to me unique about each different program.
  • iPASS - designed to catch up a student who may have gaps in their learning. Covers math through pre-Algebra - math taught in grades 4-8 in most states. This is a comprehensive program which breaks down math into all it's component parts. The student is not aware of which grade level they are working - levels are simply labeled with letters from A-V and moving from one grade to the next is seamless. For each topic the student completes a timed assessment and they can test out of a lesson if they reach the pass rate. Questions are not multiple choice so a student must actually know how to calculate the answer to get it right. Once a student has mastered the topic they pass on to the next topic. If needed the student will be given more questions from a large pool of questions to provide adequate practice. Students who need additional time for tests can be accomodated. Review is incorporated throughout the program so that the student continues to practice concepts they've mastered. iPASS does not have a free trial - I was quoted a cost of $20 per month and you can sign up for one month and see if it works for you. Find out more about iPASS. You need to talk with a sales representative to sign up. The person I spoke with was Kim and she is very helpful.
  • Thinkwell Math begins with their Pre-Algebra course. Their courses cover Algebra from Pre-Algebra to College Algebra, Pre-Calculus and Calculus, and Trigonometry. They don't list a Geometry course - I'm not aware of whether geometry is integrated into their other courses perhaps. Each course must be purchased separately. You can save 39-48% by purchasing through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. The current offering ends on August 21st. I've looked at this course before and I really like the way the teacher covers the work. The software workspace is divided up with the teacher on one side explaining the concept and working the problem, a place to show the math problem being worked on and a key ideas area. It does make for quite a busy screen. You can see the demos at Thinkwell's site and take a look at what the Thinkwell Homeschool Buyers Co-op offering. There is no free trial, but watching the demos should give you and your children a pretty good feel for this program.
  • PLATO Learning Math has courses covering everything from Pre-Algebra to Geometry, Calculus 2 and Trigonometry. They do not appear to cover Statistics. This year is the first time these courses have been available to homeschoolers. Homeschool Buyers Co-op is able to make them available through the Kentucky Virtual Campus. While I am not familiar with the PLATO math options I've used some of their science courses in homeschooling my teens and we've liked them a lot. The offering for these courses involves signing up to get access to a very wide range of middle school and high school level courses. At a cost of $299 for the year it would be a really good deal if you can take advantage of several of the courses. The courses cover math, science, social studies, language arts, and job and life skills. The Homeschool Buyers Co-op deal ends on the morning of August 23rd. If you're interested take a look at PLATO demos and Kentucky Virtual Campus then sign up through Homeschool Buyers Co-op. There is no trial period for this software.
  • ALEKS Math cover everything from Grade 3 math to college math courses in Algebra, Trigonometry, AP Calculus and Statistics, and Business Math. I'm not very familiar with ALEKS but I've heard good things and they do have a free trial. At the ALEKS site you can see all of their offerings, take a tour and sign up for a free trial. One thing I like about what they are offering is that you have access to all their courses for the one subscription of $19.95 per student.
  • Indian Math Online is an online math program I just discovered. It is based on the teaching method used in India. Given that India is now producing some of the leading math and science majors I think it's worth a look. You can sign up for a free trial and then the subscription costs $15-20 per month. Indian Math Online covers grades 1-10 math.
If you are looking for a math curriculum I hope these comments will be of help to you. I also have plenty to say about textbook math, but I'll save that for another day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Juggling Homeschooling

I am not a very good juggler. In fact I can't even keep two objects in the air at a time. I don't even multitask very well. You might be excused for thinking this is not a good recipe for homeschool success. I mean, isn't homeschooling all about juggling time, juggling the needs of one child against another, and juggling the housework against homeschooling and the time to be an adult? All I can say is that I drop the balls over and over, but I just pick them up and keep going. I believe that if I can do it, anyone who really wants to can homeschool too. You, for instance, can do it!

The good thing about juggling homeschool is that things never stay the same for long. I mean, I might be getting frustrated that one child has no current interest in writing. The strange thing is that letting that sit for a while, and mindfully exploring options, seems to lead to some kind of spontanteous solution. It's like the watched kettle never boiling. A watched child never seems to be ready for the next step. It's like when you are juggling, or trying to catch a ball - when you are tense and worried there's little chance you'll catch it. The more anxious you are for your child to do something, the less likely it seems they'll be able to satisfy you.

Parents who are thinking of homeschooling the elementary years seem to come in two sorts.
  1. A parent who thinks that, no matter what, they're bound to do better than the schools would. This is usually the big picture thinking parent.
  2. A parent who knows that kids in school are kept busy all day and wonders how they can possibly learn and do enough to provide all that to their child. This is usually the detail oriented parent.
Whichever side you approach homeschooling from doesn't really matter. The truth is that parents can make mistakes, but children benefit from consistency, love, and personal attention during homeschooling in a way that no school can provide. At the same time, kids don't need to be fully occupied at home the same way they need to be when placed in an environment with a class load of same-age peers. You really don't need your kids completing a stack of worksheets to find out what they know. If they don't learn to read until they are 8 or 9 years old it actually may not indicate they have a reading problem. They can learn to count with pebbles outside just as readily as in a classroom with shelves full of bright primary colored mathematically designed doo-dads. Maybe the pebbles even work better.

So, give yourself a pat on the back. You can do it! As I enter the 7th year of homeschooling with my kids there's one thing I have learned. Kids are not eggs. If you haven't mastered homeschool juggling and you drop something a time or two (or even over and over again) they really won't crack and be irreparably broken. Go for it. You'll learn something in the process, and they will learn a ton, even if you NEVER master juggling.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Homeschooler's Guide to the Galaxy!

It's hard to believe it, but today, August 13th, 2009, is the 1st birthday of The Homeschooler's Guide to the Galaxy. In honor of this august occasion, I think a little reflection is in order. Herewith, some things I have learned, some posts others have enjoyed, some writing which still makes me glad I did it, and some great homeschooling (and not) friends I've made through my little blog.

Most Frequently Visited
I used to think it was somewhat possible to figure out how to get Google to send traffic here. The more I learn though, the more it seems to me a mystery. The following posts are the ones most visited, largely due to Google picking up on them for some inexplicable reason.
Most Popular With You
You are more important to me than a casual visitor who happens here while searching for a lesson plan. I love your comments, but you keep me guessing as to what you'll enjoy reading and benefit from. Here are the posts which have attracted the most conversation in the form of comments. This time I'm excluding any posts on green/nature/gardening.
  • In the clear lead with 15 reader comments is Santa = Books. This post was entered in a carnival and brought many new visitors over who appreciated what I said enough to comment. It is one of my favorites too.
  • With 8 reader comments, My Family and Other Animals. I think we all love our pets. They are such an important part of our lives.
  • And in joint third place with 6 reader comments each are Why Homebaked Bread is a Necessity and A Voting Story.
My Favorites
At this point I seem to have forgotten many of the posts I've written. Looking back through is giving me a nice little dose of nostalgia. Sometimes I even think, "Did I write that? It's not half bad!"
And My Friends
You, dear reader and friend, are the reason I write a blog. I could write a diary, but for me this is about sharing. Who wants anyone to read their diary - a diary is only relevant to the author. I hope that during the last year I've brought you something good. I enjoy the conversation with you and I'm sure we'll continue to develop our friendship. Since you are reading this, you are on my list of people I'm thankful for and who's friendship I enjoy :-)

It's hard to believe it's been a whole year since I started this journey. I've learned many lessons here, made mistakes, moved ahead, shared in your world. I'm sure my kids have learned a ton second-hand through my journey. It's a great journey and I look forward to the future and to our continued connection.

I'll leave you with my first ever post which I hope conveys some of the joy I feel in exploring on the learning journey: I Love to Go A-Wandering.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Horse Therapy for Kids

I just have to share this video from a local, Kansas City, horse therapy for kids camp. I've seen this therapy in action and it's amazing what they do for kids on the autism spectrum.

The horses are used to help children on the autism spectrum to recognize first the feelings of the horse and then their own feelings. The children also learn to follow directions so that they can do the things they want to do on the horse. All of the riding is done without stirrups and the children learn balance and co-ordination too. They are actually taught how to fall off safely.

Places like this need volunteers to help - often they need 2-3 adults working with each child at a time. It's a great learning opportunity for a teen who might be interested either in working with horses or with special needs kids.

Bravewriter Online Classes

Remember that sign-up for Bravewriter's online classes opened today. Some of the classes have very limited space - the one I signed my daughter up for takes just 20 kids. If you're thinking of signing up and haven't yet you'll need to make a decision today to ensure a place.

Here is the list of Fall Bravewriter Classes.
Here is more information about Bravewriter Online Classes.

Everyone I know who's taken these classes praises them. See my previous article for more about Bravewriter including a conference audio presentation by Julie who started Bravewriter. Back to School Back to School includes a variety of offers. I'm going to give you the general links here then write about a few things, my picks, which I think are particularly worth checking out, and may not be so obvious, below that.
Many of the promotions make me cringe - they are suggesting new bedding, computers, scanners, and a whole host of expensive items which seem to me to have no connection to back-to-school. I do recognize that you mileage may vary. For all I know you may want to buy ahead for the holidays or you may be waiting for just the kind of deals they have. Anyway, here are my picks.
Happy browsing. I'll have more links later on savings.
Purchases made through the above links support The Homeschooler's Guide to the Galaxy.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

10 Books for $15

Until August 10th you can sign up to start an Usborne Books and More home business for just $15 (plus tax). Amazingly, there are no monthly minimums.

You will get an effective lifetime homeschooling discount on Usborne and Kane/Miller books of 25% and upwards. If you want to earn money by being a book seller you can do that too. All the training you need to make this a business is FREE.

For more information:
What are you waiting for? These are some of the best educational books on the planet and this is the best deal I've ever seen for getting started with Usborne.
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