Saturday, November 22, 2008

top homeschooling websites

The best homeschool websites are: - Rebecca keeps the site fresh, relevant, and full of all the best advertisers.

Time4Learning is the prototype of the future mixed system of homeschooling.

Midnight Beach is the longest standing leading homeschool website, albeit not kept up anymore.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Online Homeschool Websites

I'd recommend the following online curriculum websites:

Homeschooling info, an amazing blog about homeschooling online. homeschoolcity

A homeschooling website put together by a collection of homeschooling parents. web-home-school

Isn't a time for a secular homeschool website for us?

What about a homeschool curriculum website? This is the T4L one.

And of course, there is the online homeschool website? Isn't this something that you would want people to know about.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homeschool – Preschool

The information on homeschooling often tends to overlook the earliest years, the preschool years. Let me quote from the Time4Learning website....

Homeschool Preschool is one part of home education that approaches faster than most of us are prepared for. Suddenly, our preschoolers are ready for more…more enrichment…more independence…more learning. Whether parents decide to make a long- term, homeschool commitment or are only interested in early elementary homeschooling, many families are looking for a successful preschool program to implement within the home in addition to or in replacement of public preschool or private preschool.

There are many homeschooling parents in need of preschool ideas and creative curriculum for preschoolers. As we try to find the best preschool homeschool curriculum for our children, consistency and flexibility are important, along with finding a resource that engages young learners, carrying them through their formative years.

Another good source of information about preschool homeschool is from the homeschool website.

The leading source of info on preschools is a website called Preschool education which unfortunately is a spam filled site with lots of nasty popups for sneaky downloads. Don't go there.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Top English Tutoring Websites

Here's my list of the five best tutoring websites for kids to learn from:

1. Build vocabulary
2. Spelling Bee Website
3. Phonics help
4. Writing Lessons
5. Homeschool Curriculum

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Help for Technical Parenting

Top Five Sites for Parents trying to keep-up. There is so much technology. Ipods and computers, Wiis and tracking software. Cell phones and other gadgets.

1. Parental Technology
2. Common Sense Media
3. Net Family News
4. Parents Chat Discussions
5. Educational Games
5. Parenting in a digital age
6. Todays Learners

Monday, October 06, 2008

Best Social Studies websites

This is a mixed bag, some known, some new.

A real time earth quake tracking website. It's cool. It's weird.

here's a similar one that provides weather info pulled from airports.

National Geographic's Map Machine

Google earth

i would love to build an online course using the coolest and newest online GIS tools. Anyone want to help? I got the budget and audience if you've got the social studies expertise and talent.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Five places for math

Today, here are my five favorite places to get info on math.....

Learning math games
Building Vocabulary with Word Games
Math Learning
PBS Kids
Lesson Math Games Demos

For instance, here's a piece on classification skills.

Classification skills, or sorting skills, is another one of those cross-training skills that, when developed, help children in math, reading, and general logical thought process development.

It is one of the most important skills for creating a real thinker. When children begin to classify objects (matchbox cars), sounds ( loud/soft, man-made/machine), flavors (salty, bitter, sweet) , or concepts ( real/make-believe) into categories according to traits they have in common, they begin to develop the ability to make connections. This is the precursor to logical thinking, and the ability to make predictions about the world around them.

Do your kids not like math? Find out if they've developed a bit of math anxiety.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Five favorite learning websites language arts

Here in 2008,
we have it really great,
Here for you are some learning websites
that really should turning up those lights.

(my ditty is not so pretty) still.

Learning with Word Games for kids
Building Vocabulary with Word Games
Spelling Test Games
PBS Kids
Lesson Games Demos
Blog Writing for parents

I started this meme in response to a post on learning fun for kids.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Homeschooling has gotten much easier...

I saw this post on homeschool online and it articulated something that I've been thinking. Homeschooling has gone from extremely hard to.....just hard.

It's about how the Intenet Changes Everything and I quote:

In the bad old days, say a decade ago or more ago, homeschooling was hard and lonely and it was difficult to do a great job. I’m not saying that a lot of families didn’t have the gumption or resourcefulness to make it work great. I am saying that for the average joe, homeschooling was a tough row to hoe.
Everybody thought you were weird
Most publishers wouldn’t sell you, at any price, the basic textbooks that they sell to schools
There was not much homeschool community (depending on where you were)
Other homeschoolers were hard to find.
etc etc etc


And most importantly, the Internet changes everything. It’s easy to find other homeschoolers of your own ilk and products and services galore. Want to find other Christian homeschoolers using online curriculum, no problem. Want to find other homeschoolers within a few blocks of your home? Want to find other families with a children with both aspergers and dyslexia? It’s all doable on the net. And in terms of products and services. Above and beyond finding used textbooks and thousands of other traditional products, there are pure internet products such as: a free spelling program or an online homeschool curriculum or a way to build vocabulary skills or build phonics skills or with the amazing videos of United Streaming. or the great advice of other homeschool discussions.

I now feel sorry for those students and teachers stuck in a traditional school with limited room to innovate or to access the net.

Me too!!!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Homeschooling is Hot - Here comes the suits!

A friend suggested to me that I go to Edgar and type in homeschooling and look at the filings that pop-up. Basically, when companies seek to raise money (like stock or IPOs), they need to register and the registrations are publicly available at edgar. When the internet was hot and new, there was loads of new filings. There seem to be several filings that show up when you search on homeschool.

Learning Priority Inc (formerly Edulink) - My quick overview of this is that they have raised and spent $16M trying to build some software. Now they are out of money and can't raise any more. Some quotes below.


Home School Inc -

Overview--------Learning Priority, Inc. is a development stage company engaged in the design anddevelopment of a seamless integrated Internet educational service, called theSmart Schoolhouse system, for schools and homes, that is intended to be marketedto and utilized by students, parents, teachers and school administrators. Theplanned service will be delivered over the Internet to personal computer users.The Company originally estimated that it needed a total of approximately $8.5million to produce, alpha test, beta test and launch the system for the 7th and8th grades only. The Company subsequently (in August 2001) determined that tosuccessfully launch the system, it was necessary to include curricula for allgrades from 3rd through 12th as well as the homeschool market, and the Companytherefore also needed to license and make third party content available throughits system. The Company estimated that it needed an additional $5 millionthrough June 2002 to complete the modifications required for the system'sapplication for the entire 3rd through 12th grades and to the homeschool market,to license and integrate third party content, to complete production ofadditional enabling tools, to create proprietary curriculum for two additionalgrade levels, to launch the system and conduct marketing activities up to theend of the customary school year (i.e., June 2002), and to provide theinfrastructure to market and exploit the Company's technologies outside of thegrade 3-12 education market. Therefore, having taken into account the revisedcapital requirements, the Company estimated that it needed to raise a total of 6$13.5 million, of which it had raised a total of $8,062,578, net of expenses, asof September 30, 2001, primarily through the private placement of its CommonStock. As of December 31, 2001, the Company had raised only $200,000 of theadditional $5.5 million in capital it needed, and had not completed theproduction of additional enabling tools, had not licensed additional third partycurriculum content, had not upgraded the technology and had not the completedthe infrastructure to exploit its technologies outside of the grade 3-12education market. And as of December 31, 2002, the Company had raised only anadditional $150,000. The Company now estimates that it needs to raise a total of$5 million in capital to upgrade its technology, license and integrate thirdparty content for the 3rd through 12th grades, produce additional enablingtools, conduct marketing activities and launch the system in September 2010 forthe education market. The Company intends to raise the additional $5 million incapital it needs to complete those modifications and enabling tools, tointegrate third party content and to beta test the system while working withvarious school districts, school district alliances and/or State Departments ofEducation. Concurrently, the Company intends to obtain additional content fromeducational publishers, universities and other content providers and to launchthe system upon the start of the next customary school year (i.e.,August-September 2009), as well as to create the infrastructure to market andexploit its technology in other markets. The Company raised $10,417,381, net ofexpenses, as of December 31, 2007, toward the goal of a total of $13.5 million,primarily through the private placement of its common stock. The Company nowexpects that expenses (including software development costs and general andadministrative costs) will be approximately $5 million per year from April 1,2008 to March 31, 2009, to license additional third party curriculum content, toproduce additional software tools, to alpha test and beta test the content solicensed and the tools so produced, to upgrade technologies, to continueoperations, to provide necessary support and maintenance services to licensees,to increase marketing activities for the Smart Schoolhouse system and tocontinue and increase development, marketing and support activities relating tothe Company's technologies for application in markets outside of the 3rd through12th grade U.S. education market.As of January 25, 2008, NASDAQ approved the Company to amend our Articles ofIncorporation to: (i) change the Company's name to "Learning Priority, Inc." andsymbol to "LRNP"; (ii) effectuate a 1-for-1,500 reverse stock split of ourauthorized and issued and outstanding shares of common stock; (iii) increase thenumber of authorized shares of Common Stock to two billion, sixteen million,sixty one thousand, six hundred and thirty six (2,016,061,636) shares of commonstock, par value $0.001 per share


Friday, June 06, 2008

trains and curriculum

I just rode the old narrow gauge railroad here next to Yosemite Park. I was thrilled. It made me think about how much I think my kids should know that they don't.

They don't know how a steam engine works. How wood, coal, or oil is used to heat the boiler and the steam is used to drive pistons. The pistons then turn the drive shaft which drives the wheels. In this case, since it's for an engine that goes up and down hills, it drives all 12 wheels on the locomotive. My daughter (14) didn't even know the words gauge, turbine, or pistons.

I remember a story I heard from long ago that the North and South of the US had train tracks built around different gauge railroad tracks. After the Civil War, as a commitment to rebuilding the Union, the North organized the rebuilding of one side's tracks so that trains could easily cover the nation from north to south. I only heard this story once and wonder if it's true.

Should kids know something about how engines work? I think it's more important than chemical valences in terms of understanding and appreciating the world around us. Yet valences are part of the educational standards: understanding a steam locomotive is not.

Who makes up these rules?


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Homeschool Curriculum

We had an interesting discussion and talk this week about homeschool curriculum. Our goal was to build familiarity with our support team about the different approaches to homeschooling. Here's how our discussion roughly went.

Curriculum in a box - A highly defined day-by-day lesson by lesson workbook approach. The parent reads / teaches lessons directly from the teacher guide. The kids do the assigned worksheets and assignments. While very formulastic, if you follow it, the quality of the education can be high. Saxon math is often cited as a very thorough education. Primarily A Beka, Saxon, and Bob Jones. Usually a very religious approach. Maybe 15% of the homeschoolers.

School at home - A textbook, discussion, and lecture approach which imitates the classroom. Maybe 5%.

Classical - This is the hardest to summarize. It is a Classical approach in the sense of the Greeks of the Great Age of Greece , think 50BCE. They have three stages of education...the trivium -- grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Very roughly, these correspond to elementary, middle, and high school. Since they view the children as being ripe of a certain type of education at each stage, you could perhaps summarize this as the Stuffing stage (make them memorize a lot of great stuff), the Arguing stage (make those middle schoolers take and defend a position. They have lots of logic and passion at this stage, put it to work), and Judgement stage (OK, by high school the kids should be able to evaluate complexity and make an intellectual decision based on a variety of subtle factors, let them think). Excuse me for this rough summary. Other defining aspects on a scorn for textbooks and enthusiasm for original literature and texts. There are great stories and books, read them. Did I mention their enthusiasm for reading, Latin & Greek, reading in Latin & Greek, and then memorizing it all? In the right family, this education is incredible. There are also classical schools. Perhaps 10% of the homeschoolers do this.

Unschool - Perhaps 10%

Eclectic including unit studies - Dominant. Maybe 50%.

This is rough. I'll redo this essay next week


Friday, May 09, 2008

Homeschool Curriculum

For homeschoolers, the concept of curriculum is understood. For non-homeschoolers, this word merits a little explanation.

A curriculum is basically what you are going to study. Unless you are an Unschooler (meaning you base the work on your child's interests as they evolve), you will need to pick a curriculum.

Many people start with the most popular sites such as or AZGomilipitas or homeschool online to get ideas.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Educating children on the autism spectrum

If you are the parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you have probably already had your fair share of educational struggles. Most parents feel overwhelmed at one time or another.....Autism and school often do not mix well. Children with autism have different academics strengths and needs as well as different learning methods. In addition to subject matter, adapting to a classroom and the array of interactions and stimulations in an institutional structure is often a challenge.

One mother said, “My emotions ran from guilt to defeat to exhaustion. I couldn’t stand answering his same questions over and over, or watching him ignore his room full of toys, preferring to peel the paint off of his dresser or the wall. I couldn’t stand to watch him get rejected by other children over and over. There were times when I wished I could just send him away to an autism boarding school. I hated autism, but felt guilty for even thinking it.”

The article goes on to describe one mothers experience with a child with autism's education.

The public school principal promised us the moon and stars and all the autism support we would need. We never got it. He was physically harmed, constantly teased, and his schedule was switched so often that it was confusing for him. Within the first quarter of the school year, my son was miserable. One night, as I was tucking him in, he looked up at me and said, “Mommy I hate school. I want to die.” That was it. I pulled him the next day and began homeschooling.

Although I had been reading about homeschooling for a number of years, and knew many of the methods, I had no idea what to do with my son. We needed help with our education plan. I considered unschooling, but knew that would be a disaster for a child who needed a set schedule just to get him through the day. The eventual abstract nature of classical learning would have been difficult for my concrete little boy. There were a number of good boxed programs out there, but at that point, just looking at a workbook or worksheet made my son shut down.

She then describes how she ended up using an ecletectic mix of materials including an online education program that has proved popular for special needs homeschooling.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Writing courses

Time4Learning has been my main focus for awhile. It's this nifty automated educational system. After repeated requests, we have created another service, some online writing courses for kids. We've called it Time4Writing.

But, while there are less software issues, there are more other types of issues. What type of style guide do we rely on for the more technical questions of writing rules (such as a comma before the "and in a list)? Also, how do we manage the teachers? Do they get to spend as much time as they want per student.

The courses have been fun to pull together but this has created issues. For instance:

For a review middle school course, we help the students write different kinds of sentences: declarative, interrogatory, exclamatory, and imperative. One of our teachers says that some imperative sentences could be said with force and punctuated with an exclamation point.

The other teacher was shocked. She quickly pointed out the need for consistency and that in fact, by definition, once there is an exclamation point, the sentence becomes by definition exclamatory. And they disagreed. Other teachers have long experience, quoted some experts, and was entrenched in their position.

Initially, I was not that involved. I thought: Who cares? (Is that an interrogatory sentence even if it's said as an exclamation?). The point is that we are teaching kids to be educated. They should understand something, not memorize rules. If the rules are unclear or vague, explain that. Tell them that experts disagree. That way they understand the principles and are prepared to deal with whatever future teachers want to insist on.

But that is a little counter to how the educational system works. We have both principles and rules. One teacher wrote me:

According to NCTE and all other "experts" that I have consulted over the last 48 hours, an exclamatory sentence is the ONLY type of sentence that ends with an exclamation point. That said, there are a very few sentences that can be both interpreted as exclamatory or imperative. BUT! an imperative sentence will only end with a period and never an exclamation point. If it has an exclamation point, it is an exclamatory sentence. A short sentence such as Duck! or Watch out! would be considered exclamatory because it implies impending danger. By the way, I spoke with a former English Department Chair and a college professor as well because I wanted to triple-check.

We can mention these certain exceptions to the middle school students, but it should be mentioned as a "by the way." Those students taking this course are remedial and you want to do as little as possible to confuse them, though the English language is confusing at best and ridiculous at worst! (That is an exclamation.) :-)

I am also speaking from experience with all of this as I taught this particular thing for many years over and over as it was a skill that students had to master in order to pass the Florida 8th Grade Assessment Test all through the 80's and into the 90's before the dreaded FCAT.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Teaching Writing

Many homeschool parents find that teaching writing is difficult. Their kids, with a bit too much ego involvement in their writing, don't tend to feedback in this area easily. Kids are proud of what they've written and giving feedback is tricky. At the end of the day, evaluating writing is subjective and requires strong writing skills.

So many homeschool parents look for help to teach writing. Time4Writing provides that help. It's a set of online eight week courses which gives weekly writing assignments followed by indepth personalized feedback on the writing. If a child is not ready to move on, the teacher can decide to repeat that week's unit for that student the next week. Because it's so personalized, classes start almost every Monday.

The course is $99 for the first course for a family. Additional courses, for additional children or for the same students for that family, are only $79.

In middle and high school, a methodology called Four Trait Writing is used.

Four-Trait Writing provides students a framework both to write successfully for today's high stakes test and to discover writing beyond the formal essay. Students have the chance to find their voice when writing for the internet, editorials, and even dialogue.

So, what are the Four Traits of successful writing? They are:

1. Content - Story and Logic

2. Style (Sentence Variety and Structure)

3. Mechanics (Spelling, Punctuation, Capitalization Rules)

4. Media & Voice (Persuasion; Objective Journalism; Internet Writing; Dialogue: Plays and Scripts)

  • Content - Story and Logic covers the flow of a narrative and the organization of an expository essay.
  • Style discusses sentence structure, variety, and fluency and the usage of colorful, descriptive words.
  • Mechanics are the writing basics of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. Learning to use all of these properly and becoming adept at proofreading for errors in these areas, are an essential skill for the middle school writer.
  • The Media and Voice in the modern world are different from that of the past. Today's writer needs to have a separate voice for the different media available to them. In the same day, a single writer might have to shift between writing a blog article with paragraphs with bolded key works, to a formal structured essay for a school assignment, or to a chatty commentary article for a printed magazine with a headline.
  1. Voice for Media (Persuasion) – Students are introduced to and practice writing to persuade to buy, to vote, to think in a similar fashion.
  2. Voice for Objective Journalism – Students discover the five W's and the H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) of objective article writing for an online or hard copy publication.
  3. Voice for Internet Writing – In today's world, students can create web pages and blog on the internet. This is quite different from any other writing they may have learned in the past as much of it is created in a more conversational tone with subheads and bullet points.
  4. Voice for Plays and Scripts – Many students enjoy using their imaginations and creative voice. Here, they have that chance as they write dialogue and stage directions.

The first first course on Four Traiting Writing is available from Time4Writing, which provides online writing courses.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

A child is not a vessel to be filled . . .

"A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit".

Hebrew Proverb


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Abbott and Costello - Who's on First - Computers

This is great.
They've redone Abbott and Costello with Humor: Who's on First - the computer version
The Cate's are great.


Monday, February 18, 2008

History Today - Kosova's War of Independence or Serbia's Civil War?

I would love to be teaching history or social studies. Particularly with a little freedom from standards and lesson plans. Today for instance, I'd start with this news story:

Kosovo Breaks Away: Province declares itself sovereign; Serbia says it's illegal

Kosovo's regional parliament declared independence Sunday, a much anticipated break with Serbia that swiftly triggered an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

The vote during a special session of parliament — boycotted by 11 Serb members but approved unanimously by the 109 other members — set Kosovo on a road to be recognized as the world's youngest nation.

By dusk, this icy-cold city turned into a giant street party, its skies twinkling with fireworks and its main streets filled with families strolling in wonder and youth dancing with joy."Now we have our flag and our state," said Minire Deliu, whose 12- and 7-year-old sons twirled to the beat of folk music in the open air. "During war, my children cried. Now they are dancing."Serbia promptly called the declaration by its southernmost province illegal. Thanks to the Sun Sentinel for this article excerpt.

I would start the discussion by asking how people might feel if they were part of such an effort. Why would they do it? What would they expect to happen? How will Serbia react? Eventually, we'd compare all these questions with what happened when the US declared it's independence. I'd have the kids research whether Kosova had their own declaration of independence. I'd compare it with others. Will there be a war of indepence afterwards? Or should we call it a civil war? What would decide whether it will be a civil war or war of independence?

Like I said, textbooks only get in the way. History needs to be alive and vivid to be worth studying. I have no idea how comparable this declaration of independence is to the American declaration of independence or the Succession by the South from the Union. But, give me a classroom of kids and I'm surely we could learn more from asking, researching, and debating the questions than we could from any of the textbooks.

I wonder if this would work online? That's one of my projects for this year. Want to help?


Textbooks & Education

One of the reasons that I'm interested in developing curriculum is that I'm convinced that we need to end our reliance on textbooks to teach history. Here's the reason.

1. History is gripping riveting stories of empires in balance, public trust betrayed, unlikely heros, tragic downfalls, economic realities, and the march of ideas and progress. It's gritty real-world stuff which told properly, is amazing.

2. Textbooks are committee-created sanitized versions of what some conservative committee felt that history should have been. Almost everything that is interesting seems to disappear in the process. All the drama is replaced with dry factual analysis.

Why does this happen? I'm not sure.
How do I know it happens? Read any decent novel or watch any historical film. Compare it with a so-called educational textbook. Which one has a chance of holding anyone's interest?

So, I'd like to develop some history curriculum in which the "curriculum textbook" connects the dots between popular novels and films which tell the story. And while a school system would surely seek to avoid such an approach, I think the homeschoolers would adopt it in droves.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why did we adopt the constitution? Part 2

The paper (see Why did we adopt the constitution? Part I) that I wrote was on Shays' Rebellion. Rather than quote my old paper, I'll summarize from the web.

Shays' Rebellion "had a great influence on public opinion," as Samuel Eliot Morison notes; it was the fiercest outbreak of discontent in the early republic, and public feeling ran high on both sides. After the rebellion was defeated, the trial of the insurgents in 1787 was closely watched and hotly debated...The rebellion arose in Massachusetts in 1786, spread to other states, and culminated in an abortive attack on a federal arsenal. It wound down in 1787 with the election of a more popular governor, an economic upswing, and the creation of the Constitution of the United States in Philadelphia. Calliope Film Resources. "Shays' Rebellion." Copyright 2000 CFR. Feb 2008

Shays' Rebellion had a generally unifying effect upon the supporters of a stronger national government. It provided the motivation that led to the success of the Federal Convention during the summer of 1787 and the recreation of the US under a Federally oriented constitution and the abandonment of the Articles of Confederation under which the US had originally formed.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Why did we adopt the constitution?

I found a paper that I wrote in college the other day. It was around 10 pages, beautifully written, received an A-, and on a topic that I know nothing about. In fact, if it didn't have my name on it, I would not have known that I wrote it.

It turns out that I used to know alot. And once I started reading it, the subject matter came back to me (in part). Right now, the name escapes me.

The question behind the paper was this. We became an independent country following the success of the Revolutationary War. Then we elected George Washington president, adopted the articles of confederation, and started out as a new country. However, a number of years later (I think 10, the United States decided to change our form of government. We convened a very painful Constitutional Convention and over a long painful summer, wrote the constitutional basis for a new government which is the basis of our country and government today.

What moved the young country to start again after that first decade? I think this is an overlooked point in American history which we can learn from....