Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit

Today was a FUN day.  I mean more fun than a lost dog in a meat market! I have no pictures to show for it, but that’s because I was having too much fun to remember to take them.  The temps in our area hovered around 90 degrees – – the first and only time I can ever remember that happening in April.  It was a day right out of a Joe Cocker song…”walking on a sidewalk hotter than a match head.” But did we care? No. We were playing in the “big city” today with friends and leaving our cares behind.

First stop…food.  A place called Barley’s which is famous for its beer and pizza.  Weirdly enough, I don’t care much for either, but the spinach salad was so good it made you want to swallow your tongue afterward just to get the last bit of juice off your taste buds. 

Second stop…Mast General store.  If you don’t live in North Carolina, then you don’t know about Mast General, which is as sad as a mule with a mouth full of bumblebees.  Mast General is just about my favorite place in the world to shop.  Each one is set up like an old general store – – right down to the barrels of old-fashioned candy that you purchase by the pound.  They sell everything from woven baskets to hiking boots and I could basically bookpitch my tent there and take up residence.

Third stop…the bookstore…where I purchased the book that inspired this blog post.  The one that has given rise to the terrific sayings (seen here in italic) that can only be homespun here in the south.  All I can say is that if you were to head over to Amazon and purchase your own copy, you’d be smarter than a tree full of owls.

Final stop…the chocolate lounge!!!   The part of the day I had looked forward to most. AND the place where I learned the most valuable lesson of all…teenage boys can never appreciate the finer things in life.  When three relatively sane boys scrunch their nose up in disgust over a wine glass full of sipping chocolate, you know that bringing them there was about as smart as trying to sling a hammock between two corn stalks.  We moms are already planning our next visit – – sans neanderthals.

It was a glorious summer-like spring outing in the city, and I hated to call it a day, but I guess (((sigh))) sometimes you simply have to pee on the fire and call in the dogs.

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I’m So Excited…And I Just Can’t Hide It…No, No, No No!

You’ve heard, haven’t you??  The great news??  The news to beat all news??

Yup. 

Kindle for the PC is here!!!

Kindle for PC

Ok, perhaps that is CRAPPY news to those of you who shelled out 300 or so smackeroos for the little handheld doodad.  But for the rest of us who either were too skint to splurge, or just knew that if we waited long enough it would come, we are PSYCHED today!!

Today, we feel justified in our reverse snobbery, and are not one bit sorry for rubbing it in the faces of those elite Kindle owners. Nope. Not one bit.

So now that it is here, I find myself just a bit overwhelmed.  I mean there are THOUSANDS of books to choose from.  What do I pick first??  I could really use some input, folks.  What have you read lately that knocked your socks off? 

And please hurry.  My "Click here to Purchase” finger is twitching like crazy!!!

Are You a Buccaneer Scholar?

I see those hands.

We are pretty proud of our doesn’t-fit-in-the-box kind of learning, aren’t we?  Knowing that no matter how much someone tells us “how” to do it, we are probably always going to forge our own path and create our own techniques.  (cue self-satisfied smiles)

I LOVE being a buccaneer…well, except for the fact that I don’t look good in an eye patch.

Other than that, though, I’m so excited to be going on this brand new unschooling adventure this year.  I get almost giddy watching my oldest son make incredible leaps and bounds in his programming skills, and seeing my youngest son take risks and try out chemistry experiments completely on his own! 

It’s thrilling, I tell you!

You know who would probably agree with me?  James Bach.  If you don’t know who James is, it’s time to get with the program, because James actually COINED the phrase “Buccaneer Scholar,” and has even written a great new book called Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar, which describes how he found success in a highly technical field without the benefit or burden of a conventional education.

If you haven’t read this book, you need to, and you might not even have to buy it because I am giving away a copy over at SecularHomeschool.com this month!!  (As well as other great giveaways).  So stop by and enter, or head to Amazon via my link if you need to get your hands on it immediately.

And then keep right on buccaneering out there in homeschool land, OK??

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Readin’, Writin’ and….Meditation??

As always, in a perfect ironic twist, I blog far less when I am teaching the Blog Writing Course.  Time is simply at a premium, I guess – – especially with 18 new bloggers to keep track of!

But the course is going well…even Uber is taking it this go-round! He is having SO much fun with this unschooling experiment.  In fact, I can’t believe the incentive he has taken toward his own education once I handed over the reigns.  I’ve been flabbergasted, to be honest.technology

Currently, Uber is teaching himself lots of techie stuff (no surprise  there).  He is learning LINUX, networking and network administration, and database management.  Those, obviously, take up a lot of his time, but he is also making room for Ancient Greek History, blogging, healthy living and fitness, nature journaling, piano and Japanese.  He is also taking Geometry via YourTeacher.com, which he is really enjoying, btw, if you are ever looking for a cool high school level math curriculum!

H-T needs a slight bit more encouragement, but there is no lack of miracles for him either.  My son with dyslexia is reading like never before!  In fact, he isn’t waiting for the audio-books to arrive via the mail before starting in on new stuff.  Before, he would pick out his books from the library, or buy them, and then order the booksaccompanying audio-book from his Library of the Blind and Physically Handicapped membership.  This way, he had auditory support for following along with words and phrases that might be too difficult for him to tackle. 

No more.  His reading doesn’t wait for anything, these days.  He just grabs three or four books that pique his interest at the library, and next thing I know, he has worked through them.  It’s kind of freaking me out a bit, actually!

He still has his YouTube addiction, but he has been putting it toward worthy endeavors of late.  He has worked his way through an entire series on WWII, and is now studying the holocaust with equal interest.  His other current interests include drawing, meditation (he’s asked to turn his room into a zen room…if you have ideas or info on this, I’m all ears!), guitar, and American history.  And his biggest project of late was that he asked to be in charge of the Halloween decorating of the porch this year.  You can bet I’ll be posting pics of that when he is finished!  He’s still doing math via Time4Learning, as well.

Anyway, that’s my interest-led learning update for this week.  So far so good! 

Hopefully, I’ll find more time to update again in the very near future…

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Literature Helps

fridays hardwired homeschool hints 150X150 It’s back to school for the Topsies (or not-back-to-school as I know some of you prefer)!

That means time to dig deep into my resource bookmarks and find more great Hardwired Homeschool Hints to add to my Friday blog posts!

Today’s subject: Literature Helps

Whether you’re kids are fans of Dr. Seuss or Dostoevski, you want to be able to help them get the most they possibly can out of what they read.  About four years ago, we dedicated an entire year of homeschool to Classic Literature, and it was a blast. 

So here are some of my favorite techie tools for studying literature:

Sparknotes and Shmoop:  Interesting, engaging, relevant, and yes…digital guides to classic literature and more.  (Think Cliffnotes as written by your favorite “hip” college professor tech-geek)

Children’s Literature Database:  This has always been my go-to guide for finding quality books on specific subjects, for specific grade-levels, by specific historical setting, or even which won specific awards.  A must-have bookmark!

Teach With Movies:  If you have visual learners at your house, who happen to remember what they “see” even better than what they “read”, then you might appreciate the website Teach With Movies.  Each movie listed has accompanying lesson plans and learning guides.  Here is the link to their Literature page. (TWM requires a small annual subscription)

Lit2Go: If you love classic literature, but don’t always have time for  it, you might appreciate the free mp3 downloads at this site that you can listen to on iTunes, in the car, or on your MP3 player.

Literary Elements Mapping: Cool graphic organizer tool for helping students map out the elements of character, setting, conflict, and resolution in whatever book they are studying.

WannaLearn Classic Literature List: We used this list extensively when we were focusing on the classics.  Direct purchasing links for each of the books, as well.

Vocabulary.co.il:  I often recommend the games at this site, and I can highly recommend using the topic “Literary Terms” for your next session of game play

Banned Books Online: I always thought it would be so much fun to do a unit study or exploration of solely “banned books.”  If you ever have that strange inclination for yourself, here is a great link.

If you’d like to check out all previous Hardwired Homeschool Hints posts, click on this link.

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Does Your Baby Prefer Frontline or Nova?

Sometimes I get totally fascinated by the most boring subjects.

Like learning styles, for instance.

I’m sure that reading about the way people learn would be lower than say – – watching an infomercial at 2 a.m. – – on some people’s priority scale, but I find it perfectly absorbing.

If you don’t know a lot about learning styles, then I’ll give you my super-condensed Topsy-Techie primer.

Visual Learners  – -  if your kid would steer his baby walker to the tv at age 6 mos., and stop to watch anything on – – even the Newshour on PBS – -  then you might have a visual learner. (Yep, H-T was a huge Newshour fan as a babe)

Auditory Learners – – if your kid talks  non-stop, repeats back everything other people say, or sings from morning till night – – then you might have an auditory learner. (Uber has to discuss EVERYTHING before it takes hold in his head.  He will readily admit that most anything he has retained has been because he has had a conversation about it with someone)

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners – – if your kid has built two Lego castles and one Lego moat before you could finish reading one chapter aloud of his favorite King Arthur story – – then you might have a kinesthetic/tactile learner. (my boys each have kinesthetic/tactile as their secondary learning style)

Now you might be saying…”Topsy is such a genius. Look at all she knows about learning styles!”  And I would reply…”I’ll send you the 20 bucks via Paypal." But the truth is…I had to learn this stuff the hard way.  By slamming into the brick wall of curriculum choice vs. learning style. 

Early in our homeschool career, I desperately wanted to use Sonlight.  I LOVED the idea of reading aloud to my kids all day, and discussing good literature, and doing projects based on what we were reading.  I couldn’t possibly imagine a more lovely way to learn.

SLAM!

That was me hitting the brick wall of reality, when my boys became bored – quickly – – with me reading to them all day, and discussing good literature, and doing projects based on what we were reading.  “This is LAME,” I heard, more than once. 

Impossible!  I couldn’t figure out why this lovely, perfectly educational curriculum wasn’t working for us.  And then I read about learning styles, and how some homeschool materials and curricula are better suited for certain kids, based on HOW they learn.

One cool resource I recently discovered was the Homeschooling Books website, which lets you search for homeschool materials by learning style, thinking style, personality, and expression.  Now THAT’S a good idea!  Understanding the uniqueness of your child and using an eclectic assortment of resources to help him or her learn best. (For more info on eclectic homeschooling, check out my post on Home-School Online today.)

What about you?  Does your child(ren) have a noticeable learning style?  How does it play out in their homeschooling?

(Note: Homeschooling Books has a decidedly Christian slant, but offers secular resources as well)

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Summer Reading Revisited

One of my most popular HHH posts from last year was the one about Summer Reading sites.  I’m reposting because believe it or not, the Topsies are on the last week of the homeschool year, and we will be officially heading into “summer break” as of Friday!!

Can I get a collective bloggy virtual high-five?? 

 

So in honor of our summer reverie, I give you this post about summer reading…enjoy! (Some of the sites have been updated due to pages that had gone dead)

SUMMER READING SITES AND TOOLS:

I hope you will take an afternoon and drop by your local library to see if they have a summer reading program you and your kids can sign up for.  Many libraries have wonderful clubs, activities, and even prizes for kids who get involved.  There just isn’t anything more "summery" than stretching out in the backyard hammock for an hour or so with a good book.  But for rainy days (check out my wishful thinking there – – we are in quite a drought here in my neck of the woods!) or when the kids are looking for something a little more visually interactive, there are some incredible websites that will inspire even the most reluctant reader to get excited about summer lit.

  • Book Adventure – if the Library Summer Reading program isn’t enough of an incentive to read, how about a motivational program that lets parents put in their own rewards – – such as a trip to the local arcade for taking quizzes on books they read.  There are also book suggestions based on your reading interests, as well as online prizes for their efforts.
  • No Flying, No Tights – If you have a preteen or teen in your house, then you probably have more than a couple graphic novels lying around your coffee table.  This website is the all-graphic-novel-all-the-time hub for everything to do with those adolescent reading faves. (not updated in a while!)
  • Family Education Reading List – before you head to the library to pick out your next book, you might want to check out this expansive list of great books by age and grade.
  • My Rocket Book – You remember Cliff Notes, right?  Yeah, well that was so 1980’s.  Nowadays students have access to video study guides for those literature classics.  Feeling old yet?
  • Guys Read – has book lists, short stories, and free classroom visuals to promote reading among boys
  • MightyBook – subscription based site where children get over 500 stories, games, music, puzzles, etc. to increase reading skills
  • Big Universe Book Creator – So what if you and your kids are feeling really creative and want to create your own picture book.  Big Universe offers the software to make and share your very own e-book creation!

These suggestions are just a few of the incredibly motivational reading websites out there…I hope you have some super techie-fun checking them out this summer!