Archive for February, 2012

  • Also For Opportunity HomeSchoolers: Free Phonetics Program Download

    Date: 2012.02.08 | Category: Opportunity Schooling | Response: 0

    Southern Savers .com announced that Funnix is available for free download until Feb. 16th. All materials must be downloaded by March 1st. This is normally a paid 2 year reading program. I have not used it yet (only downloading it just now myself…) but several homeschoolers (and non-homeschoolers) on the site have used it and recommended the download. Particularly, one of the other commentators, Megan, had this to say:

    “I downloaded it last night and my daughter loves it.  She is almost 4 and we have started teaching her to read using “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”… the same book my mom used to teach me when I was little.  I was thrilled that Funnix uses the same arrows and ‘say it fast’ tools to teach. It is a fun way to reinforce the skills she is learning in our lessons together.”

    Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is THE BEST program out there for teaching your child to read. It is simple for the parent to use RIGHT because the instructions are laid out simply and accompany the lesson; no 200 page book to digest with dozens of rules to remember. You read roughly 20 pages before starting the program, then skim the new lesson (2-3 pages) each day just before administering it. It is also superior in its comprehensiveness. Most programs take one approach (pure phonetics) or another (sight-reading) but few run the gambit; Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons covers phonetics, sight-reading, decoding, comprehension, visualization… If there is one flaw, it would be that it is not quite slow enough toward the middle. Your child can bog down around lesson 25-30, so try reading two halfs each session–the last half of what you read last time and the first half of the next part. This seems to cover the gap well (seen this tried with multiple readers). The other complaint would be that somewhere around lesson 50, some small formatting errors and a couple diagraph typos still exist twenty+ years after I first went through the program myself; watch for them, a few do throw your budding reader. However, since they have never reissued a new book and it’s been around for forever, it is exceedingly cheap to buy, which puts it in reach of any parent. Ours was acquired used for $3, and even new it is typically available for less than $20.

    If you intend to teach your child to read at home, for homeschooling or to prepare for public school, go with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

    And if you happen to stop by here before January 16th, 2012, you might as well grab the Funnix download too. You can’t beat the price.

     

  • An On-line Education, Now For Preschoolers

    Date: 2012.02.03 | Category: Activities | Response: 2

    My Mom and I were talking the other day and she asked on behalf of a friend, what some child friendly sites and games are for very young children. So tonight the time to sit down and actually summarize what little I’ve come across…

    My favorite online educational site for small children so far is Starfall.com. As I understand it, Starfall was designed as an online Headstart-style program aimed at teaching phonetics and basic reading skills to young children. Joshua has used it since about 18 months old and still loves it. The site ranges from the basic alphabet up to advanced letter sound combinations with videos, songs, and games reinforcing concepts. Additional concepts such as counting, sign language, shapes, and more are sprinkled throughout. Think of it as a very cartoonish, interactive Sesame Street. One of Joshua’s favorite areas is the classical Jukebox where he loves to endlessly play clips from Beethoven. Starfall has added a secondary section in the last year that branches out beyond phonetics, but except for a few samples (a math machine, bowling to add up to ten, the color red, etc.) that area requires a paid membership to access. To me, the best part about Starfall is that there are no ads or third party links anywhere that they can click out of the site through. Also, because the site is self-contained, I can lock the single site (Starfall.com) as one permitted zone in their user via Microsoft’s Family Safety software, so they cannot even randomly type their way into internet trouble. This site was a great precurser to our reading lessons in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (the best reading program out there for parents teaching their children).  By the time we started reading lessons, Joshua already recognized and differentiated between all of the letters and knew many sounds, which allowed him to better focus on decoding the word (recognizing all the sounds as a whole unit with meaning) and comprehension.

    Another site I enjoy is Webkinz.com. The focus is not directly educational and it targets children who are a little bit older (Joshua at an advanced computer savvy for age 4, is probably just about ready for it), but it shares the same safety component I love about Starfall: it is a single contained site that kids can’t just click out via ads. (Edit: logged Joshua into the site today for the first time in a while. They have started adding some ads that will occasionally take you to third party sites.) While not deliberately educational, most of the games are logically challenging and most of the activities are positively stimulating for young children. You gain access to the site by buying a stuffed animal Webkinz. It comes with a code that grants one year of access (codes will not grant more than a total of one year, so don’t enter more than one at a time). The child then ‘adopts’ an electronic version of the animal and cares for it. They earn funds playing games, most of which are based off of logic puzzle classics such as Pipes, Waterfall, Minesweeper, and more. They can then spend the money to buy food for their pets, decorate the pet’s  house, etc, and even purchase more games to put in their house (ex. checkers, battleships). A friend can be specifically invited to play with your child, but only if you both know each other’s username. (Edit: adding new friends has been made easier, which does post more of a risk.) There is a chat zone, but the “chat” consists of pre-filled options, rather than permitting open typing. There is a lot of room for a child to learn computer skills, practice logical thinking, learn about spending, very basic nutrition, and visual organization. Especially if a parent is willing to watch what they are doing every so often and talk about it.

    Brainpop.com and BrainpopJr.com (an extension of the Brainpop site) have also come to me highly recommended by several people, but I have not yet taken the time to check them out, in part because they are a paid site that was until very recently out of our budget. There is a free trial if you are interested; a paid membership is about $90 for a one year subscription.

    If you have updated to Windows Vista or 7, there is another great game for kids that came on your computer. Purble Place has games some great games that, by adjusting the settings, can be either played by the youngest of children or be made challenging even for adults. Memory, a dress-up version of Mastermind, and a copy sequencing game (cake building) are all included inside. Good for basic logic skills and mousing skills.

    Finally, I stumbled across a new online resource today for printed worksheets. There are dozens of sites offering these, but they vary in quality and many are virus riddled, ad-plastered, money-making operations with low quality worksheets posted to bait you on to the site. Education.com is something very different. It is a high quality site built by a group of family-oriented entrepreneurs. Because it is already backed by venture funding, it lacks the typical hyper-present ad garbage of other sites that attempt to do what this does. The site is for parents who wish to be involved in their children’s learning process and ranges from pre- pre-school to college prep. There are videos, articles, quality worksheets, and more. These range from pre-writing skills and activity building videos for working with younger children, to science fair projects and geometry worksheets for older kids (including college prep helps), to school reviews and help topics for parents such as bullying or whether homeschooling might be a good fit for your child. Joining the site is free and looks to remain that way for the near future. They appear to make their money via affiliate links and selling premium workbooks for people who do not care to hand select and print all materials onto loose sheets at home.

    There you have it. Off the top of my head, these are some great resources for those opportunity-schooling homeschoolers among you.

    Do you have a site you love that I don’t know about yet? Please share YOUR recommendations!

  • Moving is Crazy, But Also Pretty Much Finished

    Date: 2012.02.02 | Category: Life, as it happens | Response: 0

    So we’ve moved. We signed our lease January 14th. January 17th, Mother dear generously watched the kids while Dear Husband, his brother, and I packed the moving truck. Then they went their respective directions (work and home) and I drove the truck to our new place.

    We would have gone with Penske (better condition trucks, better prices), but they only had 10 foot trucks. So we went with U-Haul… who only had 10 and 26 footers. Apparently everyone around here decided to move this January. So I ended with a 26 foot moving van, the largest thing you can drive without a commercial drivers license. Once I got over the initial nervous adrenaline rush, it wasn’t much different from driving a street sweeper on the military base I worked at during my High School summers. Except I was going 70 MPH with other vehicles, rather than 5 MPH through empty parking lots. The thing shook so much that the side view mirrors made the headlights of every car behind me look like flashing lights. Hopefully, I won’t have to drive one of those again anytime soon.

    The stuff and I all arrived safely, if after dark. Couldn’t find a flashlight, so was stuck digging out the essentials using my cell phone to peer through the gloom. Note to people moving in the near future:  hold out a few essentials when you pack the truck–I had clothes put aside, but forgot about dinner and a place to sleep. About 20 minutes of rummaging turned up enough sleeping bags, couch cushions, and bedding to make a reasonable mattress, the microwave, and even a mug and hot cocoa.

    The next day, we moved everything in with help from a few local church members then returned to Mom’s and picked up the kids. Then the 19th was spent unpacking most of the boxes. Anna and Joshua enjoyed getting into the spirit of that, and have helped (for better/for worse) hold me to my goal of unpacking at least 2 boxes each day since. We’re now down to the books (which need bookshelves first), office supplies (which had just been stacked at our last place, anyway), tools (which are waiting for a shed to move in to), and decorative stuff waiting to be hung.

    I was going to do decorating Monday. Instead, the handyman showed up to install a replacement for the sliding glass door the landlady had order a week or two before we moved in. So I spent the day keeping the kids out of his way while DH helped him remove the old one and put in the new. But there were several problems because the old door was installed improperly, so it took all day, instead of just a few hours. He scheduled to show up the next morning and finish the job. I did have time to start on the decorating, getting a curtain rod up and adjusting the position of the shower curtain (so it would no longer attack when the shower was turned on), but was cut short when Anna pulled out a bottle of bright red, quick drying nail polish, tried to opened it, and end up spilling it across the bathroom. I was able to finish getting it all up, after the kids were in bed. Thus, the day ended.

    Since dishes and laundry had piled up, I planned to do those Tuesday, in the morning, then go grocery shopping before DH had work. I woke up nice and early to make breakfast… and opened the small freezer to discover it had thawed overnight. Everything was still refrigerator temperature. So I spent the day processing thawed fruits and raw meat, while the handyman struggled through new problems to finished squaring the new french doors and replace the brick trim he’d had to chisel out the day before to get the door in. Our landlady (bless her soul), went out and replaced the fridge that day; the appliance delivery men brought it about dinner time, just an hour or two after the handyman finished his doors.

    Yesterday, Wednesday, I was finally able to get to the mountains of dishes and laundry. Pretty much everything was dirty, so it took the whole day. Joshua and Anna now have an enormous bag of socks they can match to earn pennies, but the rest of it is put away. As I spoke on the phone with my brother, just before bed, I heard a strange sound in the kitchen and went to investigate. The light was swinging around and as I reached up to steady it, I wondered if it might have anything to do with the sounds Hubby thought he’d heard in the wall the night before; perhaps a rat in the ceiling set the light swinging. Then I realized the light shouldn’t be able to swing: it’s ceiling mounted. The screws had come loose from the drywall and the (improperly mounted) light had come totally out from the wall, left swinging by its wires. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it, except remove the heavy glass light cover (so it wouldn’t come totally crashing down), then crawled into bed. Dear Husband re-installed it properly this morning after breakfast.

    I finally made it out the door to go grocery shopping today, making it back just in time for DH to leave for work. I’m not exactly sure what I did after that. At one point, I found myself staring off into space while random thoughts rolled around in my head, coming out of it to realize that Anna had been trying for several minutes to get my attention. Not sure how long that had lasted… Zoned out again later, holding Anna, only to realize finally some unknown period of time later that she was sleep and Joshua had gone and put himself to bed.

    It’s been crazy. We’ve worked hard, all of us. We’ve tried to play hard, too; taking a little time to meet the neighbor kids and get out to enjoy the yard (We do have a yard now!). We’ve made it to church and a Primary activity. We’ve unpacked way too many boxes. But the laundry is done, the dishes are (mostly) clean, and there are no more sealed boxes. Perhaps tomorrow we will finally be ‘settled in’, able to breath again.