Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Life Skills

laundryMy boys are hitting their teen and preteen years, and as you might expect, they are exerting their independence.  This  is all well, fine, and good, except for the small, itty-bitty fact that the two of them together couldn’t wash their own socks.  If someone held a pistol to their temples and demanded fluff and fold, they would be done for.  Kaput. 

This is the year we are focusing on working life skills into our homeschool curriculum.  So I’ve been doing what every normal homeschooling mom would do when they wanted to teach life skills – – asking the internet.  The WWW can’t look over the boys’ shoulders as they pour their first scoop of laundry detergent into the machine, but it does have some pretty nifty resources for introducing kids to “the real world.” 


  • The Goodwill Community Foundation has created several free classes online, called GCFLearnFree, and one really terrific one is called Everyday Life, and includes instruction on things like measuring and baking, making deposits and counting change, using a time sheet, preparing a grocery list, and making use of a subway map.
  • The Friday Zone – This PBS show is designed for ages 7-12, and its aim is to challenge children to explore the world around them.  The companion website includes several of the previous show videos
  • This one isn’t an online tool, but a videogame one!  Nintendo DS has created a videogame called Imagine: Babyz, that is all about learning what the responsibilities of babysitting and housework. (AKA Mommyhood)
  • Land of Cyke – Learn about feelings and how your body works through fun games and interactive Flash movies.
  • Life Choices Online Game – The object here is to get a cool job — but your prospects are affected by choices that you make early in the game. Examines the consequences of various scenarios.
  • – step by step guidance for life after high school
  • LifeSmarts – gameshow style competition that teaches teens to be smart and responsible consumers and citizens
  • LifeKnowledge – pdf resource with links to over 200 lesson plans for life skills training
  • It’s Your Health – podcasts and activities designed to help middle schoolers take charge of their own health
  • Life Skills Information Center – links to toolkits for parents for teaching many different types of life skills

What are your favorite life skills resources?  Please list them in the comments section below….

WISH it worked for me Wednesday

I love the Works For Me posts over at, but since not much ever works correctly around the Topsy-Techie household, I thought I would talk about what I WISHED worked…

Case in point: Using my son’s Wii Remote as an All-Purpose Remote Tool    

Thanks to a blogging buddy’s Teaching and Learning Spanish blog, I discovered some really neat uses for the Wii Remote today.  This one is particularly cool for teachers and homeschoolers:

So I got to thinking that with my Wii remote, my bad-self techie skills, a couple infrared dots, and some duct tape, I ought to be able to save the planet.  Now don’t get me wrong…the Wii remote in our house isn’t gathering dust, or anything, but surely it could be put to better uses than just helping H-T defeat jungle monsters in the latest Lego Indiana Jones game.  My ultimate goals for the Wii remote would be to:

  • Virtually clean the toilet bowls.  I’m thinking that a couple of infrared dots where the Tidybowl man hangs out ought to do it.  Then I would just swish that remote in a circular pattern, and voila!  Sparkly johnnies!
  • Virtually retrieve the mail – – especially on rainy days.  One dot on the front door of the mailbox, and one on the flag, and I should be good to go.  Although those Wii remotes can be pretty sensitive sometimes.  I would hate to overshoot and pick up my bachelor neighbor’s girlie mags by mistake.  That one might need some tweaking.
  • Virtually water the plants – – .  I love, love, love, my houseplants, but I tend to forget about them when they aren’t making a lot of noise.  Squeaky wheel and all. I mean I never forget to water the dogs, you know, cause they sorta make this moaning, whiny sound when they get dangerously dehydrated.  But the plants?  Well, I’m sure they whine and moan too, but non-advanced human that I am, I can’t usually pick up on it.  So my ideal Wii remote gadget would include a timer, and a virtual waterstream from my sink to the plants, because I also can’t be bothered most days to find the watering can.  Do you think infrared dots do any damage to live plants?  Gosh, I hope not.
  • Virtually write my blog while I am away.  Yep, Topsy-Techie will be traveling to Nevada tomorrow, and won’t be back till next week, so I could really use that Wii remote to digitally post for me while I’m away.  What’s that you say?  My blogging software already lets me schedule my posts while I’m gone??  Hmph. That is not nearly as cool. 

Be thinking of you from Vegas, ya’ll.  I promise that if I hit it big while I’m out there, I’ll split my earnings with everyone who leaves a comment on this post.  So comment away…

Carnival Time…Homeschool Style

Yes, I finally remembered to enter a post into the latest Homeschool Blog Carnival.  I’m always meaning to, and then realizing that the deadline has passed about five hours ago.  But this time, I made it in time! 

My post is buried in there somewhere, so you’ll have to dig deep if you want to find it.  This post was from my BlogWritingCourse blog, and it was called:

If You Can Read This, You Might Have Been Homeschooled.”

The smart-alek in me really loves that slogan.  They’ve got it emblazened on t-shirts over at CafePress, so if you like it, go over and get you one, and be smart alek-y right along with me. Kay?

Anyway, as always, there are a lot of great posts in this homeschool blog carnival, so head over to Life Nurturing Education and check out this month’s edition. 

Oh, Fay…you fickle girl, you!

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the center of her forehead
When she was good
She was very very good
But when she was bad she was horrid

I used to LOVE this poem which was in a Golden Book of kids poems that my grandmother read to me when I was a little slip of a thing.  But today, it was exactly the rhyme that came to mind when I thought of Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Fay. fay map

I know what an incredibly bad girl Fay was in Florida. She traveled back and forth  across the Sunshine State like a drunken sailor, causing severe flooding and eleven deaths.  Then she hit Georgia with her tantrum, creating more problems.  But somebody musta’ given her a lollipop.  Cause right after leaving Georgia, she visited us here in drought-plagued NC, and she has been a delight ever since she arrived.  With her steady rains bringing us much needed relief, we’ve invited her to stay for as long as she is willing.

This pic is from our local paper today.  I wasn’t even sure anyone still owned an umbrella. I’ve got to go through the house and track ours down.  The boys are probably using it to prop something up in their room.



Fay…you be a good girl now, and we’ll keep those lollies coming, kay?

Gettin’ Me A Free Airplane Manual…yes I am!

Well, it is only three more days until Uber and I are leavin’ on a jet plane….for the city of lights.  Even with two free plane tickets, though, the trip is gonna cost us.  Food, attractions, our reputation as law-abiding citizens.  So, I’ve been trying to come up with some creative ways to cut corners around the Techie household. 

piggybank I’m cutting coupons…yes I am.  Even printing some, too – – you know, from those Mommy/Frugal Homekeeper/Working Diva-type coupon sites.  But with the cost of my printer’s ink, lately, I’m not exactly sure I’m breaking even on those. 

I’m buying generic…you bet your sweet pa-toot I am.  We have this lovely store that invaded our town a little over a year ago called Aldi.  And almost everything in it is generically-labeled, but quality goods.  It’s a super-duper-cost-cutting kinda’ store, cause you bag your own groceries, return your own carts, and it only accepts cash or debit cards.  My mom would rather pull her left eyelid over her head than shop at a store like this one, but as for me – – I’m never too proud to BMOB (bring my own bags).

I’m buying local…yessirree bob I am.  Heading out early on a Saturday morning to the tailgate market has become something of a “me time” getaway.  Besides, its cheaper than the overpriced grocery stores, its environmentally friendly, and it supports local farming.  And its a little known fact that produce actually tastes better when the farmer hands it to you him or herself.

I’m cooking more and eating out less…yes, sadly, I am.  Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE to cook.  It is an all-time favorite activity.  But who has the time anymore???  Nevertheless, all that fresh produce from the tailgate market ain’t gonna throw itself in a pan, so I’m putting some sweat equity into this cutting-corners business.

I’m visiting freebies sites….shhh, I am, but you won’t tell, will you?  I swore I would never be one of those “freebies” people who spend hours online filling out surveys for free samples of laundry detergent.  On the other hand, there are some pretty cool offers out there if you can catch ’em…especially for homeschoolers.  I came across this great list of free offerings categorized by subject area.  And this really popular site with a homeschool freebie of the day.  The Old Schoolhouse magazine has gotten in on the freebies as well by putting out a list of freebie offers from homeschool vendors.  These seem like really useful lists and links.

But then, there are the well-meaning homeschool bloggers who find a freebie, and highlight it in a post as if they have found the missing link between homeschool conventions and jean skirts.  I’m not going to name names here, folks, so catch your breath now.  That’s right, head between your legs, it will pass soon.  But you know who you are. 

That free “science kit” that includes a magnet, a rubber band, and a 3X5 card?  Please don’t bother sending us to the site. That’s just Susie-homeschooler who recently found 432 spare magnets in the couch she was throwing out, and decided to dispose of them responsibly.  Or the free ebook you discovered highlighting the reasons why people should homeschool.  Choir?  Present and accounted for, sir.  No need to preach here.  Then there was this honest-to-god link to a wonderful set of free aircraft manuals for homeschoolers.  Grey’s Anatomy fan or not, we were all shouting “SERIOUSLY??” at our laptops over that one.  Unless you are homeschooling terrorists, just exactly how much help is that gonna be to the average homeschooler?

I’m cutting corners, yes I am.  But I’ll be darned if I’m gonna order me up an aircraft manual, just because its free.  Now if my plane does happen to get hijacked on the way to Vegas, and a terrorist orders me to land the thing by myself, I will SO be coming back to apologize and to highly recommend the free aircraft manuals to all homeschool travelers.  I’m never one to deny it when I’m wrong…no I’m not.

Sure would love to hear YOUR tips for cutting corners these days…out with ’em folks!

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Learning Styles

I was four years into homeschooling before I knew ANYTHING about learning styles.  Can you imagine how much abacus curriculum we went through in those four years??  Like a total nube, I made the mistaken assumption that I could pick a curriculum that fit with our values system and budget and it would magically work with my kiddos.  Au contraire!

Once I understood that we all learn in different unique ways, and that curriculum could be matched to our particular style, I was in homeschool heaven.  So, just in case you are in the dark like I was, or maybe just need a refresher, I’m going to focus today’s HHH on some tools and sites that will help you determine your child’s (and yours!) learning style and make the most of it this homeschool year….

Hope these links, at the start of a new homeschool year, will help you get focused on how to help your child reach his or her full potential.  Trust me….it is going to be a great year for homeschooling!!

A Thousand Words Thursday

Kerry had a little's fleece was white as (Ok, I can't rhyme, but I LOVE this pic!)

Kerry had a little goat...

…its fleece was white as snow…

Ok, I can’t rhyme, but isn’t this little guy/gal(?)  a doll??

I knew I would regret those Star Trek onesies…


These are my two sons.

This is our backyard.

In this picture, which I secretly snapped from our back deck, it might look like they are about to catch a squirrel.

They aren’t.

It might look like they are starting a primitive boy band.

They aren’t.

You might even think they are preparing for battle against the demon children down the street.

But you’d be wrong.

This picture, which could have been taken on any day of the week, and almost any time of day, is representative of the newest obsession in the Topsy-Techie household.

I am referring to G.U.R.P.S. (Generic Universal Role Playing System).  Yep, my kids are officially geeks.  I know I have kidded about them being geeks on many occasions here on this blog.  I laughed.  I scoffed.  I sniggered. 

But now that both my sons are deeply embroiled in what can only be described as a 2008 version of D&D, I guess it is time to come to terms with it.  I can make peace with it, right?  After all, I probably contributed to it.  Their first playroom was in the basement.  Their first dress up clothes included golden helmets and light sabers.  And a lot of their first reading was out of old comic books.  So yes, I had a part to play in the nature vs nurture cliffhanger.  But I still never expected my boys to be walking around the back yard with a box of dice and a stick. 

It’s just a little surreal.

I guess I sorta wish they were about to catch a squirrel.

Hackin’ When Your Back is Lackin’

Yeah, I’m a songwriter at heart.  Have your people call my people, Gwen Stefani…I’ve got lots more where that came from… 

But I seriously am down with my back.  Not an unusual thing for me, because my back was absent the day muscle tone was handed out. Annoyingly, though, it has become entirely too common of late, and I would have already cashed in on the warranty on the stupid thing, if it hadn’t run out last Tuesday, along with the one on my bum knee.  Wouldn’t ya know?

Anyway, I’m coddling and babying it like Gwen does Kingston (yes, she named her child after the capital of Jamaica, but Jamaica’s sister city is Kalamazoo, so I’m thinking the kid got off lucky!) because it is only nine days until my jaunt with Uber to Vegas, and I want that thing in tip-top shape before I see Tom and Wayne.  How uncool is it to be jumping up and down trying to get your underwear off to throw on stage, and all the time you are holding your back??!!  In the case of the demographic of those who still go to see Tom and Wayne, I guess it might not be all that unusual, though.

As those of you who have read this blog for any length of time know, when I am down and out, I tend to get drawn in by new online “hobbies.”  Remember my jaunt into MySpace during a chest crud episode?? Or last month’s bout with intestinal flu, when I ended up outing myself to the blogosphere at large??  Well, this time, I have been learning how to become a hack…well, not the illegal kind (which of course would make a much more interesting post, but might jeopardize my chance to throw undies at Tom and Wayne) but the social networking kind…as in “Homeschool Hacks.”

This is SO my new favorite website at the moment, because it is where all the cool weird homeschoolers like myself are hangin’.  And yes, it is a social networking site, so you have all the  Facebook/MySpace features like adding friends.  Goodness knows, we homeschoolers need SOME way to feel like we have a posse of likeminded fringers.  So far, I’ve met some incredible homeschool hackers (also called homeschooling hotties – – did I mention I love this site??)

  • There is Tina at Send Chocolate, who is homeschooling two kids with high functioning autism, a teenager, and a couple of schizophrenic cats
  • Anissa, from down in Louisiana (that’s just fun to say).  You can grab her cute little bee butt over at Home Where They Belong …oh, and turn up your volume cause she’s got a killer playlist
  • Can’t forget Michelle who I would be friends with just because of her Avatar pic!  This libertarian from California is bloggin over at Pumpkinshellz Patch
  • Beautiful Karla is Looking Towards Heaven (and in my opinion, heaven is looking toward her as well, OH that gorgeous face!)  This is one fun blog that I am thrilled to have added to my roll!
  • And of course, I couldn’t forget Christine, who I have bragged on here about before…that lady could blog about cabbage and I would read it and beg for more!  Go visit her immediately at Welcome to My Brain! That’s an order!

And these are only a FEW of the over 100 homeschooling hotties meetin’, greetin’, and sweetin’ on each other over at Homeschool Hackers.  If you wanne be in my posse, you gotta be a hacker, man.  Me and my bad back will see you there!!


homeschool hacks

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Learning Disabilities

Yes, the above title is a lie… I had to work a lot on Friday (you know that thing we do to support our blogging addiction), and wasn’t able to spend quality time with my laptop.  So I missed my Friday “deadline.”  But you will forgive me this one time, right?  I promise that Saturday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints will be just as good…so here goes our weekly trip into the techie toolbox. 

tn_Education00003 This week’s focus is tools to help homeschoolers with learning disabilities.  Because of H-T’s dyslexia, I feel that I have done enough research to write three doctoral theses on special education for homeschoolers.  I have certainly written my share of articles on the subject (check out my writing website if you’d like to check some of them out).  And along the way, I have found some incredible tools to aid those who learn “outside of the box.”  Some are extremely pricey, some are completely free, and some are right in the middle, but if you are homeschooling a child with LD, you will probably find something that makes you say “Wow, I wish I had found out about this sooner!”

  • Time4Learning – I have a whole page dedicated to this one, so you can go there if you want to see my take on this incredible curriculum.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that Time4Learning is probably the reason why someone hasn’t found me hanging from a bedsheet in the front closet.  A lifesaver for homeschoolers with LD.
  • Right Start Mathematics – – this was the math curriculum we used for H-T’s first three years of school, and it was perfect for a right-brained visual learner.  Simple. Sequential. Visual.  An altogether great tool for kids who learn math differently.
  • Read, Write, & Type – blends phonics, sight reading, and the hands-on learning of keyboarding to aim at all sides of the brain to teach reading.  A beautifully thought out program for beginning readers/typists ages 6-9.
  • AVKO – This company is putting out more and more materials, and I don’t have experience with all of them, but their Sequential Spelling program is terrific for students who (like H-T) really struggle with spelling
  • TextAloud – Text to speech program for turning any file/text on the computer into natural voice speech.  Very helpful for struggling readers who need to do web research.
  • PixWriter – Helping beginning writers with LD to not get discouraged with their efforts.  Allows them to pick and choose pictures to create sentences.  Also helpful for creating visual instructions for non-readers, such as chore lists, schedules, reminders, etc.
  • Werdz – phonetic spell checker – – a must-have for those with learning disabilities.  Kids with LD often spell words the way they sound (pickcher for picture, for example). Phonetic spell checkers find even those type of errors and help correct them.
  • Graphic Organizers – set of free tools for students to help them take ideas, concepts, and plans and present and organize them in a visual way
  • Co-Writer – one of my all-time faves.  This is a word prediction program that will work with any writing application.  Type in the first couple of letters of the word, and a list of options of words you might be looking for comes up.  You choose the word, and it is automatically entered (correctly spelled, no less) into your writing. This is a godsend program for struggling writers. (for a  free version with less bells and whistles: LetMeType)
  • National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped – If you have a documented learning disability, such as dyslexia, you can qualify for this wonderful service which provides free audiobooks through a mail lending library.  My son has been able to read all his favorite books thanks to this wonderful project.
  • Ms. Reminder Time Manager – kids with learning difficulties are often organizationally challenged.  This reminder service can be tailored to suit your child in the form of voice memos, text memos, or email reminders, so that they can keep track of their time and their tasks. 
  • Talking Calculator – because sometimes hearing it out loud just helps it make sense! (free web tool)
  • Google Notebook – make web research easy by clipping, organizing, and saving text as you surf the web.  Accessible from any computer, too, so you can do research at the library computer, and access it at home!