Squee!!

Just had to pop into T-T tonight to brag about my baby.  (No not THAT kind of baby, silly!!  When my biological clock ticks, I just open a new website!!) 

The source of my pride is SecularHomeschool.com which just reached the 500 member mark today!!  I know that in web terms, that doesn’t sound like much, but if you’ve ever tried to find other secular homeschoolers, you’ll understand that getting 500 of them together in one place is much akin to winning the lottery TWICE…in one WEEK!!

Besides the growth in numbers, though, the forum activity has just exploded in recent weeks, which has been so fun to watch.  Everyone is so supportive and helpful to each other, too…it’s like a lovefest over there.  Plus, we got a brand new header makeover today and a new logo!!

Come join us, won’t you???  Why shouldn’t you get in on the excitement, and help us get closer to the 1000 mark?!

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Keyboarding

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic

I have to think back a bit to remember my beginning keyboarding days.  It was called “typing” back in the day, and there were about eight of us in the back of a classroom listening to our instructor over the whir of the electric typewriters.  “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” A-a-a-S-s-s-;-;-;-L-l-l 

(zzzzzzz…)

But it worked, I suppose.  I took to typing quite well, and can easily break 90wmp when I’m on a roll.  My kids, however, learned typing QUITE differently.  And yet, even their techie keyboarding tools are quickly becoming outdated.  So I’m going to share with you a mixture of my favorite tried-and-true programs, along with some cutting edge tools that are in store for THIS generation’s typists.

  • Read, Write, and Type – – my absolute fave multisensory, multi-learning-style phonics program for kids!  By combining hearing sounds, typing keys, and writing words, in my opinion this is one of the best programs out there for young readers and keyboarders.  It’s also now available online!
  • If you are REALLY serious about having you or or child learn to type, you might consider a device made just for this purpose.  Both my boys perfected their keyboarding skills by using  The Writer
  • Another no-nonsense program I’ve heard great things about is TypingWeb.  You can even be “certified” by the Typing Institute of America (hey, sometimes those things matter to people!!)
  • If you have a dedicated typing program, but just want some fun practice, I highly recommend the keyboarding games at LearningGamesForKids.
  • If you, like me, aren’t sure keyboards are going to look very much like they do now in the next ten years, then you might want to have your child also focus on some skills for the very near future…touchscreen typing.  Think I’m kidding?  Check out this technology that could leave us key-tappers in the dust:
    My other question is…can accurate voice-directed typing be far behind??  In fact, maybe this whole POST is basically obsolete!! (((sigh))) I’ve never felt so useless in all my life…

 

To view ALL the Fridays’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints posts, click here.

Trouble in Gotham

The Bat-Signal as seen in Batman

Image via Wikipedia

So thanks to the recent Snowmageddon that crossed the country and wreaked havoc on the whole eastern seaboard, yours truly was out of power for about a day.

For many of you, that is a laughable number.  I mean some folks are facing six and seven day power outages!  But for the Topsies, I assure you that 24 hours of being disconnected from the matrix is traumatizing in the extreme.

The trauma began even before the power went out.  Poor H-T would jump like a soldier with PSTD every time a branch would snap.  “Oh God!” he would exclaim.  “Do you think THAT one hit the power line??”  Uber and I weren’t so vocal with our concerns…we were too busy looking for every charger in the house and making sure every possible techno-gadget was fully powered up before catastrophe struck.

And strike it did – – right after noon on Friday, as I was making lunch.  Never has there been a more depressed and sorry crew eating lukewarm soup in a dimly shadowed kitchen. 

We definitely tried to make the best of things.  At first, that consisted of basically taking naps near the gas logs to make time go by faster.  But when R-T got home from work, and the power had not returned, we knew it was time to get into survival mode.

Room temperature burritos for supper gave us the fuel we needed to withstand the brutal hours ahead with no tv, internet, or game consoles.  Instead, we lit all the candles we own, and got punchy on lukewarm gatorade.  That, and the obligatory boredom gave us the idea to make some fun crank calls to friends via cell phone.  When that got old, we pulled out the board games, and then tried some word association games to pass the time.  Off and on we also tuned into the local am radio station in hopes of hearing news about the heroic men and women in jumpsuits and hard hats who we like to call “the power company.”  

R-T even got the bright idea to paste a bat-shaped piece of cardboard over the front of his spotlight and shine it up into the clouds in case it would hasten our rescue.

Finally, at 9:00, because unlike Ma and Pa Ingalls, we don’t even own musical instruments that don’t require voltage, we decided to call it a night.  We blew out the candles and prayed for daylight.

Unfortunately, not even the morning sun brought us the electricity we craved, so we forsook our powerless prison, and headed over to the homeless shelter where hubby is the director, and where warmth and light abounded.  As the rest of our friends and neighbors continued to suffer, I’m not too proud to say that we spent the morning playing air hockey and ping-pong and watching the Today show. 

When a call back home was finally greeted with the lovely computerized voice of our answering machine, we knew we were saved and all was right in Gotham again.

Thank you, you wonderful, hard-working, power company employees.

And yes. Thank you Batman.  Wherever you are.

The Good News and the Bad News

So wow!  I can’t thank you folks enough for all the well wishes on my behalf after I shared my basically nauseating tale of having a mole on my upper back removed. 

The good news, though?  The little creep was innocent of all charges, and had been taken to the slammer unjustly.  However, as a result of the experience, he has decided to travel from school to school as a cautionary tale of what can happen when you forget to use sunscreen.  Be looking for him at an assembly near you…

On a totally unrelated note, however, I’m sad to report that my eldest son also has a growth that I have no idea how to get rid of.  It would seem that he and his netbook have become a single entity. 

Where my son goes, the netbook goes.  Coffee shop, grocery store, church, mall, homeschool gatherings. 

In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw him take it with him to the bathroom yesterday.

It’s becoming a little worrisome.  I’d like to separate him from his new gadget, but I fear it may take more than a visit to the dermatologist to get rid of this foreign body.  I’m not even sure a surgeon has got the skills needed for an excision like this one. 

Nope… this one is going to need some heavy-duty psychoanalysis, I think.  If I could only remember how I got H-T to finally give up that pacifier…

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Best iPhone Apps For Homeschoolers

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic Once Uber received his netbook for Christmas – – ahem, should I say his second netbook – – he had no need to share the iPod Touch with me anymore, so it finally became mine – – all mine!!

Oh boy, it’s been like Christmas for me every day because every day I discover some cool and exciting new application that I hadn’t dreamed of before.

Now granted, the majority of them are about as useful as a raincoat in the Sahara, but there are a few that are incredibly handy – – even for homeschoolers!!

  • Amazon Kindle for iPhone – the absolute first application you need to download – – period – – is the Kindle app.  Instant access to books, magazines, periodicals, etc. is an absolute MUST for a homeschooling mom.  Every homeschooling book you can think of is probably available via Kindle, but don’t shell out 300 smackeroos for a Kindle device, just add it FREE to your iPhone and voila!
  • Evernote – The ultimate online organizer is also a terrific iPhone app!  You can create text, photo, or even audio notes of everything you want to track in your homeschool – – lessons, projects, field trips, grades.  You name it – you can organize it in Evernote and then sync it with any computer.
  • Poptiq – If you are a car schooler – – even every once in a while – – you will want Poptiq.  Download educational videos from anywhere on the net, and then take with you on the go.  Why shouldn’t your kids be able to watch Discovery Channel on the way to gymnastics??
  • Classics – for your bibliophiles, be sure they have access to a fun and easy way to read the best of classic literature!
  • Google Earth – you love it on the web and you’ll love it on the iPhone!
  • Today in History – what an incredibly fun way to open up each school day!  Take turns with your iPod touch and let each family member have a day sharing what important events happened on this day.
  • Wikipanion – Free app that provides easy navigation, search, and use of Wikipedia.  Awesome tool!!
  • WorldCat – locate any book in any library, worldwide!
  • Oregon Trail – there is a free and a paid version of this great program which has come to iPhone in all its glory!
  • Brain Quest for iPhone – those cards that every homeschooler had somewhere in the back of their minivan have gone hi-tech! You can download Brain Quest apps by grade and subject.  Still great for car rides or waiting in the doctor’s office.
  • Mathomatic – solve even the most complicated math problems in step by step fashion so you can finally understand WHY you get the correct answer.
  • Narrator – multimedia storytelling platform for the iPhone and iPod touch.  Great for students with learning differences!
  • iVocabulary – perfect foreign language tool for beginning learners.  Learn vocabulary for multiple languages.

If you have a favorite iPhone app for homeschooling that I haven’t listed, be sure to mention it in the comments!

Just Exactly How Wired Am I??

wired So the first thing in my inbox today was a surprising email from Obi-Mom letting me know that we had both made a list for “Top Ten Wired Mom Blogs!”  I got that feeling akin to what Tom Hanks must feel when his agent calls him on the day of the Golden Globe Nominations.

Well, if Tom Hanks were a geeky homeschooling mom, of course. (hey, he DID wear that dress back in the 80’s!!)

Anyway, I had to think for a moment (not exactly pleasant before breakfast) what it means to be a “wired mom.” 

Does it mean I have all the latest gadgetry?  Not even close.

Does it mean I keep up with the latest techie news?  Ok, maybe a little in between the de-cluttering and the waterfalling.

Does it mean I am 100% obsessed with the world wide web?  You bet your cotton-pickin’-mobile-wifi-enabled-laptop it does! 

I’m a wired mom.  And if you need me…I’ll be here. 

On the web. 

Forever. 

Or until my charge runs out. 

Whichever comes first.

Share-It Saturday: Charity Gift Cards Make Great Holiday Gifts

Share It Saturday On Saturdays, (when I think of it, of course), I thought it would be nice to share one of my favorite blog posts I read during the previous week.  This way, you’ll get to see some of my blogroll up close and personal, and I get to share info that really spoke to me! This is from a cool blog I read daily called “Connect with Your Teens Through Pop Culture and Technology

I love this idea about a cool stocking stuffer for teens (and ANYONE, for that matter)

CHECK IT OUT: Charity Gift Cards Make Great Holiday Gifts

It’s a Major Award!

Cover of "A Christmas Story (Full Screen ...

The movie A Christmas Story is a major part of our holiday traditions.  Ralphie, Flick, Schwartz, Farkus, and yes…even the Bumpuses’ dogs are more familiar to our boys than Dasher, Prancer, or Comet could ever hope to be.

We have watched the movie as we’ve decorated our tree every year since the boys were knee high to an elf.  (Ok, there was that one year when we had too much eggnog and decided that we’d give Polar Express a try instead, but we kindly refer to that as the “Christmas Debacle of 2005”)

Of course we know every line by heart now, and we use dialogue from the film in every possible holiday situation.  Every time a package arrives in December, we always shake and declare it to be “fru-gee-lay.”  We can’t even listen to Deck the Halls without chiming in with the correct pronunciation of the chorus: Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-rah.  And no dinner that includes mashed potatoes can be finished without someone doing the piggy noise.

It’s just OUR movie.  I can’t explain why.  We just GET IT.

So with our new Blu-Ray barely a month out of the box, we knew what our family Christmas present to each other was going to be.  The ULTIMATE COLLECTORS EDITION of…A Christmas Story!!  Not only did it include the beautiful, crystal clear Blu-Ray quality film, but an incredible bonus…

A STRING OF LEG LAMP LIGHTS FOR THE CHRISTMAS TREE!!!

You have no idea how much fun it was to add “the soft glow of electric sex” to our beautiful tree this year!! 

I dare you to figure out a more fun way to celebrate the big day…in fact, I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU…

(Note: If you have recently returned as a POW from Vietnam, then you have a valid excuse for not understanding anything about this post.  Otherwise, there is no credible reason I will accept for not having seen this movie multiple times.)

We’ve Still Got It

Increased Geek Quotient

Image by bpende via Flickr

So from time to time, I look back at my bloggy beginnings, and I’m a bit in awe of the way things have taken shape over the last couple of years.  I wish I had a saved screenshot of Topsy-Techie in it’s humble first months…it would be a hoot to do a before & after shot here!

But I also occasionally look back to my goals for what I wanted to accomplish with my blog.  I happened to think a wanna-be techie mom, raising two geeklings – – one a techie-genius and the other a techie-addict – – was somewhat hilarious, and I hoped other people might find it to be so as well.  And then, of course, I wanted to share all the fun ways I had found to integrate technology into our day-to-day homeschool lives.

In some ways, I’ve really stuck to those original ideals.  My Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints series, for instance, has been a way to share my favorite educational technology for homeschoolers on a weekly basis.  But in terms of other content, I’m usually all over the map.  Maybe that’s not a bad thing…it might possibly get REALLY boring to regale you with the tales of Uber’s latest programming conquests.

But today, I’m heading back to my roots.  Gonna fill you in on a little of the true geekiness that’s been going on around here in T-T land.

  • Uber loves coffee.  He loves coffee shops even more.  Our town has its fair share of ones to choose from, and several are within walking distance of our house. So, Uber starts out many of his mornings by walking to a local coffee shop and chilling.  This morning when I asked him what he did while sipping his java, he matter-of-factly explained that he was working through some hexadecimal problems and figuring out how they could apply in real-life situations.  He then told me he had given the barista there his email in case she needed some tech support.  I didn’t bat an eye at any of this.
  • H-T loves video games.  You would think I mean that he loves to play them, but trust me – – that is a secondary interest.  His first love is watching videos ABOUT video games online.  Ratings, reviews, cut scenes, and sometimes people actually just acting out the game as the game characters.  Scary thing is, I’m pretty sure H-T would be making these videos himself if he weren’t so pre-occupied with watching them.  It’s the weirdest pastime I’ve ever heard of.  And he can spend HOURS at it. 

The thing about raising two geeky teens that I find the MOST hilarious, though, is listening to them call each other to their respective rooms:

Hey Uber!  Com’ere!  You’ve got to see this new video game trailer!!

Hey H-T!  Com’-ere!  You are going to FLIP when you see this new Linux interface!

I consider myself fairly technologically savvy, and I assure you that this is all greek geek to me.  But I adore it.  It is a unique and unusual way to live…and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

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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!!!