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

Friday, July 31, 2009

Locker Stories

As soon as August approaches I see all these ads related to lockers. There's locker magnets, locker wallpaper, locker whiteboards, locker shelves...

I don't get it! You're going to have to help me out here. What is this whole thing about lockers? I never had a locker in school in Scotland.

So, tell me your locker stories, good or bad. Do you have fond memories of school lockers, or bad locker stories to share? Fill me in. I need educated!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Costco Back to School

Below are my picks from the Costco back to school offers, taken from the Costco Connections magazine August 2009 edition. Interestingly Costco this time dedicated one page to homeschooling with articles highlighting two homeschooling moms and their families.

Back to School Books
Books on sale at Costco in August which my family has enjoyed:
  • Ripley's Believe It or Not: Seeing is Believing - I can't think of a book more suitable for intriguing and entertaining a preteen boy. Ripley's is a firm favorite in my home. What a great conversation starter! It's not just parent-grossing - it gets kids thinking about science and human behavior and it's the kind of book grasped by many a reluctant reader.
  • Dorling Kindersley Hardback Titles - every home with school age kids needs a collection of fact-filled encyclopedia style books and Dorling Kindersley make some of the best. Pictured in Costco Connections are the titles Bird, Flight, Earth, Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life, Encyclopedia of Space, and Encyclopedia of Animals. I'm not familiar with any of these specific titles. What I can say is I remember a whole host of library trips where I carted home DK titles for my son to pore over. DK make great books - they're perhaps Usborne's biggest rival in non-fiction children's books.
Worth a Look
  • Inkheart, Inkspell and Inkdeath by Cornelia Funk - a great trilogy collection recommended for read-aloud dad and daughter time.
  • Casio fx-300ES Scientific Calculator and Texas Instruments TI Plus 84 Silver Edition Graphing Calculator - Costco price and quality can't usually be beaten so if you have a teen who needs to move up in calculators this year check these ones out and compare to what you can get from and office supply stores like Staples.
  • The Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook - slow cooking can be such a help when you have a busy home schedule, whether you homeschool or not. Costco describe the Fix it and Forget It Cookbook as follows "offers more than 800 tried-and-true slow cooker recipes for any occasion." There is also the Fix It and Forget It: 5-Ingredient Favorites cookbook. Sounds to me like recipes a homeschooler would want to have to hand to 1) keep the day on-track and 2) teach the kids simple, everyday cooking.
  • Olympus VN-5200 PC audio recording device. Writing can be hard work for kids, especially so when they have dysgraphia. A recording device could really have a lot of uses in homeschooling - think interviews, recording personal thoughts, taking lecture notes in co-op or in community colllege classes. I don't know how the Olympus VN-5200 PC compares but it's worth a look if this a need you have.
If You Like It
The two homeschool moms interviewed for Costco Connection talked about using the craft supplies, office supplies, workbooks, CDs, and computers available from Costco in their homeschooling. I'm not a personal fan of most of these items but your mileage may vary. If you have needs in these areas do check out Costco's offerings.

Two Costco office supply offerings which have stood the test of time in my home are: the multi-packs of white view ring binders and the Avery sheet protectors. I purchased these years ago and they circulate around my home finding new uses and lasting really well.

Where do you like to shop for your homeschool books, materials and supplies? Have you seen any great deals?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Animal School

Animal School - it's what happens to the wonderful, unique children in our lives all too often. I hope that as a reader of my blog you are already working to help your child thrive. A reminder is good for all of us though :-)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Brave Writer Writing Classes

Today Julie at Brave Writer announced release of her first online FREE workshop audio session. If you are searching for either an online writing class for your homeschooler or a full language arts curriculum I highly recommend that you take a look at the offerings from Brave Writer. The audio session should be a good way to introduce yourself to what is on offer. Every single person I've heard of who has worked with one of the Brave Writer programs has loved them.

What you can expect from Brave Writer
Brave Writer instructors are top notch. When you sign up for an online writing class with them you can expect help in finding your own natural writing voice. These are not classes where you are taught to write to a formula. Instead they help you find the writer within you. How they do that I don't really know, but I can tell you that the results are good, even for reluctant writers.

The range of writing products
I don't have personal experience of the full range of products from, but they have offering which go right up to college prep. Here's a quick guide to what they have:
  • Online Classes - Kidswrite Basic is the foundation class which is suitable for ages 9-18 years and actually involves training you, the homeschool mom, on how to develop writing abilities in your children. If you'd rather your child work directly with the instructors take a look at Just So Stories for 9-12 year olds or Kidswrite Intermediate for 12-17 year olds. Kids and teens who've not taken an online class before will likely need some support on the home side of scheduling to get their assignments done. If they are familiar with forums they'll likely be able to handle the other aspects independently.
  • Home Study Courses - while I highly recommend the online classes, they are pricey and need the commitment of a fairly intense 4-6 week period of work. This fall I will be trying out one of the home study courses from Home study courses come in the form of a printed manual and access to an online support forum. They are designed to allow the homeschooling parent to learn and apply the skills to nurture writing in their kids. You can read all about the main home study course The Writer's Jungle at
  • Full Language Arts Program - if you need a full language arts program which includes spelling, dictation, copywork, grammar and punctuation take a look at Language Arts Programs. I have no experience of these particular products, but I can only imagine that they are top notch like the other offerings from
Do you have a stack of discarded language arts and writing curricula? Have you found one you'd love to share about? Leave me a comment, pretty please :-)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Homeschool Buyers Co-op Picks

Here are my picks from the current Homeschool Buyers Co-op offerings. Most of these deals run out at the end of July or in early August so go on over there and check them out NOW!

Thinkwell Online Video Courses
After 6 years of homeschooling I've been through evaluating a large number or products. Thinkwell products are some of the ones that have impressed me the most. If I were to choose math or high school science for myself I'd go with the Thinkwell online video courses. I love the format, the teachers are engaging, and the price through Homeschool Buyers Co-op is very reasonable. My own kids chose to go with CyberEd instead because they found it distracting to watch the teacher - for me that's half the fun! If you need a high school math, science, or social studies program check out Thinkwell at Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

PLATO Learning Online Science (formerly CyberEd)
After evaluating a variety of science courses last year my kids chose to go with learning online science through PLATO learning (CyberEd). I was pleased with how thorough the PLATO courses are. They are just plain learning with no unnecessary frills or games. I particularly recommend them for kids who get easily distracted. PLATO courses make good use of your homeschool efforts and leave plenty of time to supplement with experiments, field trips, and supplementary reading. Check out PLATO Learning online science at Homeschool Buyer's Co-op for Middle School Science and High School Science.

For Kids who need to know how stuff works
Here are a couple of cool homeschool things my son would have loved when he was younger.
  • BrainPop is just full of fun learning stuff about how things work. It's a bit pricey, but just remember that kids learn when they're having fun. Maybe you'd rather they had fun on BrainPop than on video games or in front of the TV. Check out what Homeschool Buyers Co-op is offering then sign up for the trial at BrainPop. Basically you can get a CyberEd course for free when you register at Homeschool Buyers Co-op before signing up for BrainPop.
  • Lego Education Kits - again these are pricey. If you just happen to have a little lego maniac on your hands this looks like a great way to do some math and science learning at home. I'm guessing these would have good resale value, if only you can keep the parts from disappearing off into the big lego black hole, otherwise known as the disorganized lego collection in the child's bedroom!
Even if you don't see something of interest right now it's worth signing up for the Homeschool Buyers Co-op mailing list so that you can be kept informed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Free E-Books at the World E-Book Fair

Between now and August 4th you can download a selection of free E-books at the World E-Book Fair. Here are some links to check out:
  • World E-Book Fair - the whole list of books.
  • Children's Literature Collection - includes A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, A History of Animals published in 1843, A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, and Abducted to Oz by Chris Dulabone.
  • Classic Literature Collection - includes Heidi, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Treasure Island, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dracula, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Frankenstein, The Time Machine, Beowulf, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Art of War, Robin Hood and Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
There's nothing beats a good read, unless it's a good read for FREE! I just read A History of Animals. What is particularly interesting is the definition of TOYS - take a look at the back page of this book to see what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

LEARN - Kansas City Homeschool Support

For those of us homeschooling in the Kansas City area there's some excitement in the air. The LEARN homeschool support group is once again offering memberships and is planning an Unprom.

When I first started homeschooling, several years back now, the group known as LEARN was the most active secular homeschool support group in the area. Now there is a much wider variety of groups meeting needs all across the Kansas City metro, but LEARN was the first. It's the group through which many of us made friends, found people of like-mind, and got involved in activities. I'll never forget the homeschool conference I attended through LEARN.

So, if you're new to homeschooling in the Kansas City metro and need information on how to get started, were involved in LEARN before and want to know about reunions, like the idea of a great big homeschooling Unprom party for the whole family, or need to belong to a group to get teacher discounts, check out the LEARN website.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Google the Galaxy

There may not be internet service out in space yet, but at least you can Google the galaxy.

In honor of the 4oth anniversary of the first moon walk Google is taking us out from the Earth, into the Galaxy, and onto the moon. With Google Earth on your computer you can go right in and check out the moon stuff. Otherwise, you can view the promotional Moon in Google earth video and see what it's all about.

Another couple of things to check out:
  • Mythbusters debunk the moon conspiracy theory myth.
  • Buzz Aldrin didn't just hit a conspiracy theorist with words, he packed a punch and was taken to court. I'm not one to condone violence, but where do these conspiracy theorists get their crazy ideas and the nerve to pursue them?
Did you do something yesterday to commemorate the moon landing? Got some more links to recommend? Please share.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Staples Back to School

Staples back to school promotions include several items for Free this week. In my area there are discounts on laptops, monitors, graphing calculators, USB flash drives and scientific calculators. I'm not sure how much the offers vary from store to store.

Here is the Staples back to school ad for my local store: Staples Back to School. Since I'm pretty sure you don't live close to my store be sure to enter your own location to get the relevant ad.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

17 Year Old Sails Solo

I just read about a 17 year old homeschooler from California who is returning from his solo sail around the world!

Here is his blog:

A Few Fun and Useful Learning Links

An interview with a children's author and illustrator who loves nature: Jennifer Thermes at The Grass Stain Guru.

Get out and do World Water Monitoring Day: a great homeschool, school or club project.

School supplies for a penny at Staples: here is the ad - the sale ends today.

For the Kansas City metro folks: enter a local art exhibition (scroll down) in Merriam, Kansas.

Open House tonight to learn about Currclick's new online classes coming this fall.

International Youth Camp - your homeschool teen might like to learn about this.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bonnie and Clyde by Paul Schneider

I first heard of Bonnie and Clyde back in the 1960's when I was too young to have any clue who they were and what they did. Their names really stuck with me.

Bonnie is of course the Scottish word for beautiful and the Clyde is the big river which flows out through the city of Glasgow which I grew up practically on the banks of. It took until a couple of weeks ago when I picked up Bonnie and Clyde - the lives behind the legend by Paul Schneider for me to really learn what they were all about.

If you're looking for a cheerful read, this book is not for you. However as an interesting journey into the human condition and America in the 1920's I'd recommend it. I really found myself absorbed by the downhill slippery slope these two people were on. Of course I already knew the ending, but the twists, turns and agonies which led them there were in a way compelling.

I think this book would make a good college-level, or upper high school read. There's plenty of blood, violence and law breaking of course, so bear that in mind. There is even one really bad photo. The author doesn't turn it into a circus act though - I found myself enlightened about their story without much emotional attachment, either good or bad.

It would also be great for a homeschooling parent who just wants a change of pace and to be reminded that life in the 2000's is overall pleasant and safe, at least for most of us in America.

You can see inside Bonnie and Clyde, the lives behind the legend at

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw

If you've ever wondered what it's like to live on a small island, off the coast of America, I'd recommend you read The Lobster Chronicles. I picked this book up at my local library earlier this week and read it in about 4 days. Given the viewing figures for The Deadliest Catch, fishing is apparently fascinating to quite a few Americans these days.

Linda Greenlaw is a female lobster fisherman. She is 40 years old and lives on a small island off the coast of Maine, the same island which is home to Acadia National Park. Linda has already written one bestselling book, which I've not read, yet, The Hungry Ocean.

Personally I have a kind of fascination with the way other people live. What does a female lobster fisherman who lives at home with her mom and dad get up to all day? What are her thoughts, challenges and joys? And will she find a husband and get to raise the island family she longs for?

I liked this book because Linda writes well, shares an interesting story with sufficiently detailed and slightly weird characters, and communicates some of the rawness and challenge of life, without being either objectionable or depressing.

Check it out. Let me know what you think.

Read more about The Lobster Chronicles at

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Homeschooler's Guide to the Galaxy

The Homeschooler's Guide to the Galaxy is changing over to occasional postings of learning links and book reviews. Learning links will be anything useful I come across for online reading and learning which isn't related to nature, gardening etc. Book reviews will mostly be adult reading level and of interest to folks who are lifelong learners.

My green posts, stuff about gardening etc are up at Loving Nature's Garden. Please take a moment to visit, leave a comment, and let me know what you think. I'll be clearing out The Homeschoolers's Guide to the Galaxy of everything nature and sustainability related within the next week.

I'm still looking for more regular readers to join my Ranger Rick give away. It's my way to thank you for reading here. Just page down to the next post for details.

By the way, my visitor numbers at Loving Nature's Garden are already matching those here after less than 10 days of posting and without Google indexing. It's a testament to the reception of a self-hosted Wordpress blog within the online community compared to one on Blogger.
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