Curtains, please.

When I first began blogging in January of 2008, it was sort of an “experiment.”  I was taking a Blog Writing Course, and knew that I wanted to write about something.  That “something” seemed most naturally to be our tech-infused life.  So Topsy-Techie was born!!

It’s amazing how many things change in just two years.  We went from cyber-crazed homeschoolers to unschoolers.  Our passion for technology, while certainly still active, has taken a sort of backseat to spending time with new friends, becoming active in our local homeschooling group, and adventuring in the outdoors.  I went from working around five hours a week, to closer to twenty-five, which left me not quite as excited about spending MORE time on my laptop when I clocked out for the day. 

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t feel so much Topsy-Techie, as I do just “Topsy” most days.  And I kinda feel like I’ve said all I have to say about our digital life.  I’m sort of wanting to move in a new direction with my blogging, and I don’t even yet know what direction that will be…but that is the exciting part!!!

I guess what I’m beating around the bush about is that I have decided to put Topsy-Techie on the shelf for now.  The most difficult part of that decision is that this blog is where I have met some of my dearest cyber-buddies.  You know who you are.  You know more about my life than 80% of my family members, and probably visa versa.  I have loved sharing my ups and downs, my warped sense of humor, and my techie tips with you.  I have truly felt blessed by your virtual laughter and encouragement and reality checks. 

I will definitely still be dropping by your necks of the woods to keep up with your goings on.  And I will still be accessible.  Some of you are already friends with me on Facebook.  Others of you bump into me most days at my website,  And for everything else, there is always email

I can’t thank you enough for letting me share myself, Resistant-Techie, Uber-Techie, and Hyper-Techie with you these last 2+ years.  You have made this more than just a BLOG for me – – you have made it a community. 

I will never forget this Topsy-Techie experience……………



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 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 


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.

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Environmental Education

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic My ecological footprint has definitely shrunk in the last ten years.  Our family has made both big and small changes to help nurture our favorite planet back to health. For instance, we’ve moved completely to cloth napkins, which I discovered you can get for about 10 cents each at most thrift stores – – cheap enough to keep even my messy family clean!  And we did the whole “lowering the thermostat by 2 degrees” this winter, which I honestly can say I’ve barely noticed.

Environmentalism has been an important issue for our family since our kids were knee-high to grasshoppers, so integrating environmental education into our homeschooling has been fairly seamless.  But if you have been looking for some concrete ways to study ecological concepts with your kiddos, here are a few resources you might want to check out…

  • First things first…to help your kids even understand why they need to be environmentally conscious, have the whole family take this quiz to get a good hard look at your ecological footprint
  • There is a social network for everything, but if your teen shows an interest in environmental activism, you might want to introduce him or her to Teens for Planet Earth
  • For the younger set, I really like EduGreen for interactive explorations into the environment
  • Of course the EPA has some great educational resources as well. Scroll down to the bottom of the home page where you can choose from elementary, middle school, or high school materials
  • If your kids appreciate hands-on learning, you might want to check out the GLOBE program for a chance to really get involved in the solution
  • Finally, just for its “coolness” factor, be sure to stop by Pulse of the Planet for a daily 2-minute “sound portrait” of planet Earth…just to build the love for our home

Check out the full collection of Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints here

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Art

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic I have just about the least amount of natural art talent of anyone I know.  Stick figures are the highlight of my art portfolio.  Thankfully, I married a fella with MAD art skills, so I hoped it would sort of even-out our gene pool.  The boys were lucky that they took more after their dad than me.

But when dad’s not around, you can bet that if I want to teach art, it’s going to have to involve the computer somehow.  So I thought I would share with you some of my favorite art-related sites on the web  – – just in case – – like me – – your idea of modern art also happens to be those cool Google doodles at the top of your search page!

  • Creativity Express Online– This awesome art program is like a full multimedia art curriculum. With great lessons on things like Lines, Shape and Form, and even Fibonacci! this is one of the premiere art programs available to homeschoolers. (Creativity Express is now offered as a free bonus elective for Time4Learning curriculum subscribers in grades 5 and up!!)
  • Art Attacks – comprehensive collection of great projects that can be done at home.  Also includes lists of everything you will need to accomplish each project.
  • smART kids – Chicago Museum of Art’s website for children. Includes interactive games and activities that help kids (7-12) get a different perspective on art.
  • KinderArt – probably one of the largest collections of free art lessons on the net!
  • NGA Kids – The National Gallery of Art Kids site, which has some way-cool online art gadgets for exploring creativity
  • Artcyclopedia – For looking up just about ANYTHING you could possibly want to know about art and artists
  • In the Gallery – Explore both a traditional and modern art gallery and see how what you think about the pieces matches up with professional art critics
  • The Power of Art – High School level material from the BBC about the affect art has on our thinking and our emotions.
  • Eyes on Art – sequential series of activities that lead teachers/students through exploration of many different aspects of the visual arts
  • Artsonia – and finally, what are you going to do with all that art your kids create?  Well, you are going to upload it to Artsonia where you can not only share it with friends and family, but even turn it into cool gifts!

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This is “The Big One”

I don’t think I’ve mentioned on T-T that I recently got myself a new-to-me vehicle!  Those of you who stalk me on Facebook can go ahead and yawn now.  But for the rest of you, please allow me a brag post, won’t ya??

Just before Christmas, I was out delivering presents like a good little elf, and fulfilled my mom’s favorite prophecy: “NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED.”

I was rear-ended by a lady looking down at her cell phone. 

Not only did I have an accident, but it was such a CLICHE accident!!  I mean, couldn’t she have been painting her toenails or something like that?  It would make for a much more interesting blog post, anyway.

But hopefully some of you were looking for a cautionary tale to share with your teenagers about cell phones and driving, and I provided the fuel for your tirade.  You can thank me later.

Anyway, cell phone it was, and it took the back hatch of my 2000 Ford Taurus wagon and smushed it in a bit.  No biggie, right?  That’s what I thought too, until a few days later I stepped on my brake and the dome light started blinking, the seatbelt warning started dinging, and the doors started unlocking and locking.  And this continued to occur each and every time I stepped on my brake.  It would have been hugely annoying if it hadn’t been so damn funny.

It was like traveling in the Starship Enterprise after it had been attacked with its shields DOWN. 

So although it didn’t LOOK that bad from the outside, the damage had done a number on the electrical system and the insurance company totaled it.  My poor, well-loved, completely-paid-for, still-had-at-least-one-good-year-in-it vehicle was suddenly no more.

Well, during the period while I was car-less the insurance company supplied me with a rental – – a cute little white Prius.  As some of you who’ve been following me for a while know, I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of owning an electric vehicle someday, so trying out a hybrid was at least a partial fantasy fulfillment.  And I DID love that little thing.  But with a hubby of 6’2” and two boys of around 6’ each and counting it didn’t seem entirely PLAUSIBLE to make one my next family vehicle.

So…I began investigating other hybrids, and searched the internet and all local used car lots and finally settled on a spiffy candy-apple-red Saturn Vue Hybrid that my hubby says I look “hot” in. 

I began calling my new ride “Red Fox.”  Its sleek. And sexy.  And sly with the way it saves me money on gas.

AND when I drive home, I might as well be pulling into Sanford and Son, so it is really quite a PERFECT name!  (if that little joke went over your head, not to worry.  It just means you are young enough not to NEED a candy-apple-red mid-life crisis vehicle, which is all good!)

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Secular Homeschooling

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic I don’t know the exact percentage of homeschoolers who consider themselves faith-based, but I’m guessing it is in the high double digits.  And resources and websites for NON-faith-based homeschoolers on the web are scarce, to say the least.  So I wanted to dedicate a Friday HHH post to those who sometimes feel like a minority within a minority.  If you are a secular homeschooler looking for web resources here are some sites you might want to check out…

  • – – website run by yours truly dedicated to being a one-stop shop for all things secular homeschooling
  • Homeschooling Freethinkers – – site supporting the international non-religious homeschool community
  • A to Z Home’s Cool – – Ann Ziese’s terrific and comprehensive site about everything you could want to know about homeschooling.  Includes info for both faith-based and secular homeschoolers
  • Secular Homeschoolers Yahoo Group – – over 2000 members strong!
  • Secular Homeschooling Magazine – – print magazine targeted to secular homeschoolers
  • Secular Thursday – – new and growing group of secular homeschoolers who blog about… what else…secular homeschooling on Thursdays!
  • Evolved Homeschool Wiki – – wiki for homeschoolers who espouse the theory of evolution and are interested in finding homeschool materials that take this theory as the basis for teaching

If you are a secular homeschooler, or just curious about secular homeschooling, drop by any of these great sites this week!

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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.

For my unschoolish peeps…

Just had to pass along this interesting article, which most definitely was not written for unschoolers, but it SO makes a point, nevertheless!

What If Video Games Were Like Schools

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…