Monthly Archives: July 2010

New Roku Channel Enhances Foreign Language Studies

If you have a Roku, they’ve added a new, free channel called Radiotime. Radiotime plays radio broadcasts from all over the world. Once you download the channel, you can search by language. They have every language you can imagine, including Armenian, Bengali, French, Galician, Kazakh, Latvian, Pashto, Russian, Tamil, and many more! Listening to native broadcasts is a fun way to supplement foreign language studies. In fact, when I was studying German at UCSD (way back in the dark ages), we were required to listen to native radio broadcasts and watch German TV every week.

Labels: Freebies, World Languages
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Free Comic Creator Help’s Kids Get the Creative Juices Flowing


I recently stumbled across this comic creator, which I think could be lots of fun for kids and a great way to get the creative juices flowing. I know, I had some fun playing with it.

Labels: Language Arts, Literature, Montessori, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Free West Point Bridge Design Software

This is my last post for the day, I promise! Did you know that there was a West Point Bridge Design Contest? Well, neither did I! Students aged 13 through grades 12 design a virtual bridge using free software that you can download here. Unfortunately, the 2010 contest ended on March 5 (Boo!). Hopefully, they will have another contest next year. Even if they don’t have another contest, the software and challenge of building a virtual bridge is fun and interesting (not to mention educational).

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

Subway’s Free Physical Fitness Kit for Homeschoolers

Subway, in a nationwide effort to promote fitness and healthy eating, is giving away Random Acts of Fitness for Kids kits to teachers, including homeschoolers.

Labels: Physical Education
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Friday’s Mailbag – July 23, 2010

There is not a super lot going on with homeschool blogs right now – it is, after all, summer, and people are on vacation, enjoying the weather, and so forth. Nonetheless, there have been some interesting blog posts that I thought I’d share (not homeschooling posts per se, but relevant to homeschooling IMHO):

  • This post discusses the use of labels for special needs kids. As my oldest son has an “Asperger’s Syndrome” label and my younger son has a “language-based learning disorder” label, the post really got me thinking.
  • Filth Wizardy is a blog that I just started reading. She is very creative and has some really fun craft projects for preschoolers. I particularly liked these posts: Music Wall (R.I.P. Music Tree) (what a great way to let kids make some music!), Tissue Paper and Glue Window Collage (I think we’ll do this in the winter for a holiday decoration),  and Iron On Decals from Plastic Shopping Bags.
  • I also am hoping to make this DIY: PBK Lazy Susan from the Crafter’s File Box. I think it will make arts and crafts time with my youngest much easier.
  • Finally, there was a post about making these cool scavenger hunts cards on the Saltwater Kids blog.
Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

My Son’s $5,000 Cell Phone Bill


Well, I’ve still been in summer mode in regards to homeschooling, hence fewer posts. In addition, I’ve been dealing with a few projects around here that I hope finish before school starts. One such project that I have been dealing with, has been trying to get Verizon to reverse the nearly $5,000 cell phone bill my son ran up. Can you believe that it is even possible to get a $5,000 phone bill!?!? Seriously, that is like the price of a used car or something! Anyway, I thought I’d post about it as a warning to other parents that this can happen and has a means to vent a bit on my part. My son is 11 and we got him a cell phone because he belongs to a gaming club that runs for 4-5 hours. As we don’t like to hang out at the store the whole time, we sometimes leave and come back. We wanted him to be able to call us, however, if something went wrong or the club ended early. We also wanted him to have a phone that had our number programmed in to it as he might not remember our phone number, due to his learning disabilities (he knows it, but sometimes still forgets it for a while – one of the joys of learning disabilities is their inconsistencies).

We let him use one of my old, fancy phones, so he could listen to music like his siblings do, but we were very clear with the Verizon salesperson when we signed up – block the internet so he doesn’t run up a big bill (like a $1,000 my husband naively joked).

So, my son got home and wanted to download a few apps. As the internet was supposedly blocked, I reviewed the downloads and figured the site he was going to was a special non-blocked Verizon site. So he downloaded the apps, giving me the money to pay for them.

One of the apps had a free trial that allowed him to listen to the radio. Well, it appears that the free trial did not include the internet bandwidth the music would play over (at least that is the best I can understand things as they don’t give detailed data usage charges). And it so happens that Verizon did not block internet access on the phone (they blocked everything but internet access). And it so happens that we went on a couple of short road trips, giving him ample time to listen to the radio.

Our first bill came and the e-mail notice said it was almost $2400. I laughed, “Wow! That is a big typo!” At the same time, deep inside me, my gut rumbled with apprehension. So I checked the bill and sure enough, it was no typo! It took a while to even figure out how we could have such a big bill. Then the Verizon support staff said they would submit the bill to have the charges reversed as internet access should have been blocked. The bill, however, was never corrected, so we called again. It seems that the request to reverse the charges was denied. The Verizon support staff do not know why, so they resubmitted it. Meanwhile, the next bill ended up being even larger.

We’re giving Verizon until next week to sort this out. If they don’t, we’re going to contact our lawyer to see if we have any legal standing on this. I am seriously hoping that Verizon will reverse the charges and that will be that. We will have to go through this all again for the next bill though.

My really big complaint is that I feel that Verizon should contact people when a bill gets to a certain point, just like banks do with credit cards that have a sudden flurry of activity. We’ve been with Verizon for years and our bill has never strayed from a certain range. All of a sudden, it goes up by nearly $5,000! I don’t know, doesn’t it seem like they should give us a call, send an e-mail, or something, when it got to $1,000?!?!

So the moral of this story? Don’t let kids have phones that can access the internet, if that is possible. And as sad as it may make you, realize that though kids with learning disabilities want to do things that their peers and siblings do, they may not be capable of reading or understanding the “fine print” (assuming it was there) like their peers and siblings can. In this day and age, with all of the cyber predators out there, this is even more important for safety reasons. How this will translate with our son as he grows older, I’m not sure.

Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Foreign Language Curriculum for Homeschoolers

Continuing with the series that I started of listing curriculum providers for various subjects, here is a list of foreign language curriculum providers. As with the rest of the posts in this series, if you are looking to use an online or distance-learning curriculum or course, please refer to this post of mine (these lists just got too long when I also include all of the online and distance-learning curriculum providers).

Labels: Curriculum, World Languages
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Free Grammar Curriculum for Your Homeschool

MP900314036[1] Yesterday, I posted about language arts curriculum that you can purchase. Today, I wanted to post about a complete grammar curriculum that is free. It’s called KISS Grammar. I have not had the opportunity to use the program, as I just learned about it recently, but it looks quite impressive.

Labels: Curriculum, Freebies, Language Arts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Suppliers

MP900439523[1] So how are you spending your summer vacation? Are you even taking a vacation from “school”? Or are you an unschooler who never “schools” to begin with? We’re taking a sort-of break. My oldest is taking a true school break, my 2nd is taking summer school classes at the local community college, my 3rd stays busy with volunteering during the summer, my 4th wants to work on science stuff and has been doing some division problems (per my request) as well as reading out loud with me, and the toddler is learning a mile a minute and generally keeps me on my toes. Plus, we’re going on fieldtrips, having guests, playing games, going to the park, and so forth. So, though we aren’t having our usual structured homeschool days and classes, the summer seems to be flying by way to fast.
One thing that I need to complete this summer is my son’s lesson plans for next year. How about you? Are you working on lesson plans or do you do them as you go (or forgo them altogether)?
In the event that you are also working on lesson plans, here are a list of language arts curriculum suppliers that may help you with your endeavor. For my list of online and distance learning curriculum suppliers, click here.)

Labels: Curriculum, Language Arts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Friday’s Mailbag for July 9, 2010

I started Friday Mailbag posts some time ago and then kind of dropped the ball after a couple of weeks. I’ve been meaning to get back to it, but just didn’t get my act together. Until today, that is. So, without further adieu, here are some good weekend reads.

The first blog post I am going to recommend is not at all cheerful, but is something that all parents should know about. It was certainly eye-opening for me. Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning discusses how drowning doesn’t look at all like we see on TV, in fact there are cases where children drown while their parents are looking on because the parent doesn’t recognize real drowning.

The Homemaker’s Resume addresses how we stay-at-home parents can convert our “work” experiences into useful resume material if we find ourselves wanting or needing to go back to work.

Giant Bubbles is a post about, you guessed it, giant bubbles! I thought it seemed like a great activity to try this summer. The post has directions on how to make a giant bubble “wand”.

Why Bike? Y Bike, which you can also watch below, is actually a video segment about a particular brand of balance bike. If you haven’t heard of balance bikes, they are somewhat new in the United States. I’ve also heard them being referred to as walking bikes, running bikes, learning bikes, and training bikes. They offer a new way to teach children to ride bikes. These bikes have no pedals, instead the child learns to balance properly by coasting on a balance bike. When the child is ready for a “real” bike, you can skip the training wheels, which teach bad habits in regards to proper bike balance.

Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff