Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Dangling the Carrot

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic Now you and I know that learning is its own reward.  It is fun to learn.  Exciting even.  The whole premise behind unschooling is that kids have a natural desire to learn, and that a schoolish mentality can simply suck the desire right out of them.

But occasionally you and I also know that our kids need a little extra incentive to get them going in the right direction.  Some kids, in fact, seem to thrive on praise and reward for a job well done. 

One of my boys could care less about educational incentives; the other will go beserk for the chance to win even the most virtual of prizes.  Today’s Friday’s HHH is for kids like him, who enjoy the challenge and potential reward of reaching a specific educational goal. 

Book Adventure – this is a top-notch reading incentive program for kids in grades K-8.  Kids read their favorite books, and then take quizzes on the book.  There are plenty of prizes offered within the site, but I also love that you can create your own.  Back when my boys were in third and fourth grade, I used prizes like: breakfast out with mom or dad, a free video game rental, or a cotton candy at the corner 7-11.  (If you need more suggestions, click here) Let me tell you, there was a lot of reading going on in my house while Book Adventure was around!carrot

SmartyCard – I only discovered this program a few weeks ago.  It is  aimed at grades 3-6, and used educational games and activities to help kids earn all kinds of prizes, including subscriptions to the virtual world associated with the site.  Although I haven’t checked it out thoroughly, I love the interface.  If anyone takes advantage of the free trial, let me know how you like it!

For preteens, virtual rewards are often sufficient.  Whyville is an interesting multiplayer online game that integrates math and science education with interactive gameplay.  The rewards are virtual “clams” which can be used as currency throughout the site.  H-T tried took this site for a spin, and thought it was a bit girl-oriented, but otherwise cool.

You don’t have to subscribe to any particular program to create incentives or rewards for your kids, though.  Giving them an educational “high-five” can be as easy as printing out a personalized award for them.  I have two favorite Award Creation programs online.  The Lakeshore Award Maker is incredibly easy and customizable. You pick the design you like, customize it, and voila – – instant certificate.  My Award Maker is slightly more in-depth, and includes templates for almost every conceivable occasion and accomplishment.

You may or may not agree with educational incentives, but occasionally we all need a little extra inducement to get to where we are going.  The programs above are all a fun and harmless way to get kids excited about learning. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to search for one that will reward me for folding the laundry.



That All May Read…

First of all, an update:  The fleas have been banished from Topsy-Techieland, and all has returned to “normal.”  No, I still didn’t get to see ‘Quantum of Solace’, but we went shopping and I’m pretty sure hubby and the boys covertly got me some birthday stuff, so all is good.

Reading and writing is my life.  No, seriously.  I live in a world of words.  My entertainment, my job, and my thoughts are all based on words.  So words are a VERY big deal to me.

When I find out that someone is functionally illiterate it brings tears to my eyes.  I just feel like they are missing out on this whole segment of life.  Granted, many people throughout the ages made it through life just fine without reading a single word.  But in today’s society, we are connected by the written word.  The internet is still primarily a written medium.  There is a lot more visual and audial content on there than there used to be, but we still spend over 95% of our time on the web getting our info from written sources.

In a culture where we would rather text than talk, the written word doesn’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon. 

Library for the Blind adn Handicapped NJSo…for this reason, I am a HUGE fan of the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. As we head into Thanksgiving, I think this is one organization that I feel especially thankful for.  If you don’t know much about the NLBPH, here is a quick rundown of the services they provide:

  • Full length books in both braille, large print, and recorded format free to members
  • Magazines (more than 70!)  in both braille, large print, and recorded format free to members
  • Playback equipment for all recorded material free to members
  • Braille books, magazines, and materials available on the web via web-braille
  • Assistive devices such as remote controls, breath switches, extension levers, and amplifiers available to those with special needs or requirements
  • Eligibility open to all who cannot use regular printed materials because of visual or physical impairment

Thanks to the NLBPH and your tax dollars, my son with dyslexia can take part in life to the fullest.  He can read anything and everything that he wants.  He is currently devouring Eragon, a book that would normally have sat on our bookshelf unopened because it was too “difficult” for him. 

Not now.  Now the world of words is completely free and available to him.  I couldn’t be more thankful. 

If you would like to find out more about the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, go to their website. Or even better, volunteer with your state branch of the National Library.  Why?  So that ALL may read…

Remember – – every comment on a Topsy-Techie blog post this month earns you one entry into my November giveaway.  So comment away!

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Next Best Thing to Being An Extra on Grey’s…

Yes, I am slightly obsessed with television, and have referred to it once or twice here on my blog.  So what?  At least I’m not quite as over-the-moon over the tube as super-cool Middle Aged Fan Girl.  Now that is one media princess whose life manual happens to be a TV Guide.

Anyway, as if it weren’t fun enough to read her take on the ins and outs of shows like Grey’s, Brothers and Sisters, Smallville, and various TV flashbacks, she was kind enough to host an awesome Celebrity Spa Giveaway.

Can you guess who won??

Oh yeah, baby!  It was ME!!!!           

(pic via

So, in the next couple of weeks, if I go missing for a couple days, it is simply because I have received my luxurious basket of goodies in the mail, and am too busy sitting in my rose-scented petal bath, eating my dark chocolate, and catching up on Tori Spelling’s latest faux pas to give you the time of day. 

Not to worry…I’m sure I’ll be back in business as soon as the Spa Water candle burns down to the wick. 

A HUGE thanks to Jenn over at Middle Aged Fan Girl for sponsoring this wonderful giveaway!

And speaking of giveaways, don’t forget to rack up yet another entry for the HP Printer  by commenting on this post! 

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!!

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Bargain Hunting

It is almost August! Can you believe it??!! As a homeschooling mom, August has often been a time for me to finalize my curriculum choices, and actually purchase my materials for the upcoming homeschool year. (And once in a while, it is also the time I have my “another-entire-month-of-summer-happy-dance”…just thought you might want to know.) So anyway, how do you get the best deals on curriculum for your children? By bargain hunting, of course! And there are some great online destinations for getting some super prices on just about all things “homeschool.” Here are a few of my all-time faves:

Christian Book Distributors – If you haven’t at least perused CBD’s homeschool catalog sometime in the past, then you are either a brand new homeschooler, or have been living in one of those caves that is so dark and remote it makes the fish in it go blind. CBD is the go-to place for almost any kind of homeschool curriculum or tool. They are also a discounter, along the lines of Amazon and other bulk distributors. Don’t forget to check out their bargains page for even more cut-rates on filler items.

Ebay – Especially in the month of August, Ebay is a great source for curriculum deals…both used and new. Homeschoolers often get into panic mode right about now, cleaning out their curriculum shelves to make room for new stuff, and are getting rid of the old stuff – – often at a large discount. You can even use the “search reminder” function of Ebay to let you know when a product you are looking for comes up for auction.

The Swap – This is the oldest used curriculum site on the web, and includes classifieds, want-to-buy ads, and a large forum area. It also has built in safety features to help you deal with any problems you might have during buying/selling.

Best Book Buys – This site lets you put in a book you are searching for, and find the best price across the web. It will search through both new and used sellers, and tallies the shipping costs for you, so you know exactly what you will be paying.  (Don’t ya HATE how much shipping costs have gone up??!!)

1001books – This is a Yahoo Group email loop that lets you post and search through tons of different ads for new and used books, curriculum, and supplies. There are dozens of new items posted daily to the group. As with all Yahoo groups, membership is required, but it is free.

Homeschool Buyers Coop – This is quickly becoming one of my favorite all-time homeschool resources. The idea behind Homeschool Buyers Coop is to pool together the resources of homeschooling families, so that they get similar discounts to the large school districts on educational programs. Once you become a member (free), they begin sending you emails about upcoming deals. You get to choose the level of savings you want, depending on how many homeschool families sign up for the promotion. Just in the last year, I was able to get incredible discounts on programs like NetTrekker, SpellDoctor, UnitedStreaming, SmartDraw Homeschool edition, and Educationalestore.

Educational Estore – Speaking of the estore, this is one you won’t want to miss out on! The estore will be opening this fall, and Homeschool Buyers Coop members will get automatic 25% discounts on anything they buy! The great thing about estores is…no shipping! And, no wait! The books and materials are instantly available through PDF download, right to your computer. For workbooks, this is ideal, because you can use the book for as many kids as you need to, without having to purchase multiple copies. The estore will carry over 10,000 eBooks, music files, audio files, MP3’s, online software, and more.  


Buy Local !!!- Online retailers are wonderful, and convenient, and cheap, but they don’t put a cent back into your local economy. And goodness knows, in these tough economic times, we should do all we can to boost local commerce. So if the difference of what you can buy locally, and what you can buy online is negligible, you might want to consider ordering from one of your local small businesses. Many times, locally owned bookstores will special order just about any book or item you need – – without shipping costs!  Call around and check out the policies about shipping costs and times from your local businesses before you plunk down your credit card online. Just my two cents…

If you have other favorite online or local sources for your homeschool materials, how about sharing them in the comments section? Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Summer Reading

How about some techie-goodness for Fridays this summer?  Check back here each week for a dose of “Hardwired Homeschool Hints” to get you through till homeschool commences again this Fall….

This week’s theme – – 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.

  • Lookybook – this website is brand new and still in Beta form, but it is chock full of reading goodness.  If your kids love picture books, then let them have their book and read it too at this incredible site that lets kids view the entire books from cover to cover just by clicking their mouse!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!  Have a great weekend everyone!

And You Thought The Matrix Was Just A Movie

My mom is on the mend.  She has been at the mercy of me, the physical therapist, and Oprah for over a month now, so she is probably more than happy to be getting closer to recovery.  Her doctor tells her that it won’t be many more weeks before she is putting her full weight on her foot.

In the meantime, Timeworn-Techie has been very productive.  She has read several great books (she highly recommends The Thirteenth Tale, a novel by Diane Setterfield to other invalids, and heck, readers in general).  She has also done some writing. She is currently working on a book about aging – – something she knows nothing about personally, of course, but has empathy for.  And… she has been taking phone calls.  Lots and lots of phone calls.  Not sure what it is about being down that makes people call you.  A captive audience, perhaps?  I guess they know you aren’t able to use that age-old excuse of “wish I could talk but I’ve gotta go (fill in blank here)”.  When you’re incapacitated, people know you don’t “gotta go anywhere”.  You are there for their listening pleasure.  Period. 

So T-T has caught up on the life and times of family, friends, acquaintances, and many folks she probably thought were already dead.  Surprise!  They weren’t dead – – just waiting until she couldn’t avoid them any longer.  One such distant acquaintance called her the other day.  He is a distant cousin once or twice removed, and she has only met him a couple of times, but he felt the strong need to call and check on her and tell her about this amazing opportunity she just shouldn’t pass up. 

It seems that Cuz-Techie (it seems to run in even the most distant of genes) had gotten involved in this wonderful online travel booking program.  Better than Expedia, easier than Travelocity, able to leap small buildings in a single mouse click.  A monkey could use it, he claimed.  monkey computer And your reserved room would always, always have clean sheets.  (Thank God, because the last hotel I went to had excrement and vomit smeared down both sides.  I could hardly sleep.)  This “Perfect Selection Travel” program had let him sign on as an agent, and all he had to do was build a team of agents and representatives under him, then he could sit back and rake in scads of money and bonuses.  In fact, the money was rolling in by the boatloads, he said, and sitting on her arse as she was, he knew that T-T would not want to miss out on this ultimate opportunity.

Sound familiar?  Yep, the pyramid scheme has gone high-tech.  Oh, sorry.  They don’t call them pyramids, anymore.  It is a “Matrix” strategy.  Forget selling dietary supplements and cosmetics to your fellow employees at work, this is SO much better.  This is something people REALLY need.  Everyone needs to travel, right?  And everyone has tons of vague relationships with people they don’t mind pissing off by asking them to join their “team of travel agents.”  So what’s to lose?  What could go wrong? 

Well here’s the funny part.  (And Cuz-Techie will miss the irony here), but T-T still calls me to her house to change the clock on her computer, and to find out why she can’t hear her the sounds that tells her she has email anymore (she accidentally hit the mute button with her elbow).  T-T doesn’t know her hard drive from her modem, and she has been on DSL for over a year now, and is still overcome with awe that people can call her while she is on the computer.  “How does the phone line know to split in two like that??” 

This is the woman that would be an online travel representative…working her magical world wide web powers to refer people to this wonderful program, and of course to build her own team of representatives under her, so she too could rake in the boatloads of cold hard cash and prizes.  I can’t blame the guy for trying.  T-T is in a highly vulnerable position for pyramid schemes, telemarketers, and long lost relatives at the moment.  Thank goodness she is a highly educated woman that is way too smart to fall for such a blatant ruse…       Darn! There’s the phone. 

“Hello?  Mom?  What do you mean you have a wonderful opportunity for me….”