Monthly Archives: May 2010

Summer Reading Programs for Kids

Do you homeschool year round? I used to, but then my kids decided that they wanted to stick to the public school schedule. I prefer year round with 1-3 week breaks throughout the year, myself, but the masses spoke and I listened. So, like so many public school parents, I have to work to make sure my kids brains don’t turn to mush over the summer. Reading is a great way to keep the neurons synapsing during even the laziest days of summer. I really appreciate summer reading programs that encourage my two anti-book lovers. Our favorite summer reading program has always been the one offered by our local library, but here are some others fun reading programs:

  • Barnes and Noble – this program is for kids in Grades 1-6, and runs May 25 – September 7. Kids earn a free book after reading eight books
  • Bookworm Wednesdays – Every Wednesday at 10:00 am beginning July 7th for six weeks. Bookworm Wednesdays entitles kids to free admission to a select children’s film when they present a book report at a participating Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas or Cinema de Lux box office. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report. 
  • Borders “Double Dog Dare” – this program is for kids under 12, who can earn a free book after reading ten books The program runs May 4 – August 26.
  • Chuck E. Cheese Reading Rewards Calendar – Agree on a reading goal with your child. Fill in the reading chart every day that your child meets that goal, and after two weeks, he can turn it into Chuck E. Cheese for 10 free tokens (with pizza purchase). They also have other calendars to work on other goals.
  • Half-Price Books “Feed Your Brain” – I actually posted about this program previously, but in case you missed it… Kids 14 and under can earn a $3 Half-Price Books gift card each week for every week they read at least 15 minutes a day from June 1 to July 31.
  • H-E-Buddy Reading Club – Kids read ten books, submit the form before October 1st, 2010, and receive a prize in the mail
  • TD Bank Summer Reading – this program is for kids aged 18 or younger and runs May 3 – September 30. Kids, who read ten books, get $10 cash.
Labels: Language Arts, Literature, Phonics and Reading, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Free Online Spelling and Vocabulary Programs for Homeschoolers

Spelling and vocabulary review really lend themselves to online review. A computer is wonderfully patient about practicing spelling and vocabulary words with children, no matter how many times it takes (or how few).

  • BigIQkids has spelling and vocabulary programs – you need to register if you want the programs to remember your custom lists, but membership is free.
  • FreeRice not only tests your vocabulary, they donate 10 grains of rice to the World Hunger Program for each word you get right. The vocabulary is fairly advanced, you may find that it is more appropriate for high school students.
  • KidsSpell – uses games to practice spelling words and will save customized lists. Membership is not necessary, but you must save the URL for your list
  • Spelling Bee the Game is a fun way for kids to practice spelling, it will not save your custom lists
  • Spelling City uses your list of spelling words to create puzzles, games, and quizzes
  • has a variety of vocabulary games and exercises for grades K-12
Labels: Freebies, Language Arts, Online Learning, Spelling and Vocabulary
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Free Online Typing Programs

I’ve found that my kids learn quite a lot of keyboarding skills just by using the computer a lot, but I do want to be sure that they are not at a disadvantage by not being able to keyboard at the same speed as their peers (perhaps I am more self-conscious because I never took typing???). Originally, I invested in some expensive typing programs, but I actually found that my kids preferred the free ones that we found online. Here are few free online typing programs that we have enjoyed using:

  • BBC’s Dance Mat Typing is a cute program that seems most appropriate for younger kids (5th grade and younger???) . It doesn’t go into too much depth, but will teach the fundamentals.
  • has some cute games that will fine tune skills
  • The Keyboard Playground offer free games that can help to refine skills
  • Tux4Kids offers free downloadable educational software. Tux Typing has been our favorite typing program. It is a fun and teaches fairly advanced typing skills.

Do you know of any other programs that are good?

Labels: Freebies, Handwriting and Typing, Online Learning
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Science Curriculum

It’s that time of year when many homeschoolers begin to plan and shop for the next school year. For some reason, several people I know have been looking for new science curriculum this year. So, I thought I would list all the curriculum manufacturers that I have learned about over the years. We are secular homeschoolers, but I will try to include religious curriculum companies that I know of. For my list of online and distance learning curriculum suppliers, click here.

Labels: Curriculum, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Teaching Consumer Education in Your Homeschool

I found it easy to teach consumer education during my kids younger years, just by talking to them about commercials, playing board games, giving them an allowance, and helping them to budget their money. As they got older, however, I wanted to teach them about some of the more sophisticated aspects of finances and consumerism. During my quest to find tools to help me with this task, I found many useful websites for teaching financial literacy and consumer education to all ages.

  • Consumer Jungle teaches about contracts, independent living, the health care system, etc. and is intended for teens (we really liked their worksheets)
  • The Federal Reserve has an education site with lesson plans, games, and more
  • The IRS’s website has lessons about taxes 
  • My Stocks hosts the Global Stock Game, where users can trade stocks using virtual money
  • Planet Orange uses computer games to teach basic money skills, such as earning, spending, investing, and savings to kids in grades 1-6
  • The Mint teaches financial literacy to kids and teens with games, quizzes, and more
Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

NASA is Currently Accepting 9th-12th Grade Student Applications for INSPIRE Program

NASA will be accepting applications for students in 9th-12th grade (for the 2010-11 school year) for their INSPIRE online learning program. INSPIRE stands for Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Education Experience. Here is a blurb from their site:

The Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Education Experience, or INSPIRE, is a multitier year-round program designed for students in ninth to 12th grade who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.

The centerpiece of INSPIRE is the Online Learning Community, or OLC. The OLC provides a place for INSPIRE students to interact with their peers, NASA experts and education specialists. Through grade-level-appropriate educational activities, chats and discussion boards, students and their families are exposed to the many careers and opportunities NASA has to offer. In addition, the OLC provides the parents/guardians of participating students with resources designed to help them champion their child’s education and career goals.

Labels: High School, Science, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program from Half Price Books

Half Price Books will be running a summer reading program for kids aged 14 and under. The program runs June 1 – July 31, 2010. Kids earn $3 Half Price Books shopping cards for each that they read at least 15 minutes a day.

Labels: Language Arts, Phonics and Reading, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What Made You Decide to Homeschool?

I am going to forgo on the Friday Mailbag this week as we have managed to catch, yet another cold. Booo! Between that and working on Mother’s Day presents, this is the first chance that I have had to post all week. So I am going to post what I wanted to post on Monday.

Actually, this post is more of a personal post than most of my posts. I was recently reading something that caused me to reflect on why I originally decided to homeschool. My original reasons for homeschooling are not the same reasons that I homeschool today. My path towards homeschooling was a bit convoluted, for one, I had never heard of it. In fact, I came from a long line of educators and like a true public school disciple, I sneered at private schooling. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what homeschooling would be like, literally.

The first time that I heard of anything that might refer to homeschooling was my boyfriend in college had a friend that had not gone to high school. My boyfriend didn’t know why this friend didn’t go to high school or how he got in to college without going to high school. The friend was a bit of a schemer, so I figured he’d run some sort of scam and gotten in that way. It was really the only explanation that I could come up with. I know now that his friend was probably homeschooled, which is amazing given that he would have “graduated” from “high school” in the mid-eighties.

I finally heard of homeschooling from my husband, who brought it up while I was pregnant with our first child,. I thought it was the most insane idea that I had heard of. I couldn’t see how I could teach my kids everything they needed to know. In addition, I had no intention of being a stay-at-home mom, I had things to do, people to see, places to go. Plus, surely homeschooling would make my kids become social freaks (realize that I had no idea that other people actually homeschooled, much less that there were homeschool support groups and classes and that homeschoolers didn’t just stay home all day).

Then I gave birth and my world turned upside down. My son was colicky in the extreme. For the first three months, he cried inconsolably from 10 PM – 4 AM, every single night. In fact, the only way I could get him to sleep, was to lay him down with me. Thus, I began co-sleeping without knowing that such a thing existed. I tried talking to the pediatrician, I told him that my son didn’t appear to like his crib, but liked our bed. He laughed and told me that my job was to make my son like his crib. Of course, he had no suggestions about how one did this and every night, by 4 AM, I did not care what the pediatrician said, I just wanted to sleep. I did feel like a failure. Who has ever heard of a baby that didn’t sleep in a crib? It’s what babies do, right? I began researching infant sleep and in one book I was reading, stumbled on the phrase “co-sleeping” (realize that it was much harder to research these things in the dark ages before the internet was what it is today – believe it or not, the internet was all text and there was no search engine so if you didn’t know what the exact URL you needed was, you couldn’t go to a website).

Once I broke from doing things the “normal” way, everything was up for grabs. Everything that had been taken for granted as being normal in regards to childrearing, was suddenly questioned. It was at this time that homeschooling first entered my mind as a viable option. It was not until three years later, however, that I began to research the option in earnest. At that point, my son had some major issues in regards to his language and fine and gross motor skills. Yet, he was quite smart. He started reading shortly after his 3rd birthday and was doing basic arithmetic by age 4. I knew, based on my schooling in early childhood education, that he was more than ready for kindergarten academically and far from ready socially. I didn’t see how he could possibly fit into a normal classroom. it would be a couple of years later that I would learn why. When he was five years old, he was diagnosed as being autistic.

Once I started homeschooling, I never looked back. The more I learned about homeschooling, the more reasons I had to do it. I never thought twice about homeschooling the rest of my children.

My son is 18 now and attending the community college near us and doing very well. He is never going to become the big man on campus, but he has his social circle and is happy with his life. Meanwhile, I have a one-year old, who will officially start homeschooling in four years (of course homeschoolers know parents actually “homeschool” their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers – teaching them to sit, stand, walk, talk, and more).

What about you, why did you originally decide to homeschool? Is that the same reason that you homeschool today?

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff