Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: American History

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic H-T is studying American History this year in his Time4Learning Social Studies curriculum.  It is quite a thorough course, going all the way from the native peoples to inhabit the land all the way through the Clinton administration.  The best part is the Time4Learning trademark of fun, interactive lessons that make American History really “pop” – – especially for a visual learner such as H-T.  But, sadly, not everyone has Time4Learning, so….it is my goal this week to reach into the Topsy-Techie toolbox and help you find the next best thing – – websites and tools to make American History “pop” for your kiddos as well.

 

  • Great American Landmarks Adventure – If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you know that I am a big supporter of the National Park Service.  And if I weren’t before, I would be after seeing this terrific website that takes kids through the history of the U.S. as a time travel adventure. There is a great teacher’s guide on the site as well.
  • Nobody does history better than the Smithsonian, so head over to their Our Story in History website to find a seemingly unending supply of American history activities (including printable ones), objects in the Smithsonian archives, and plenty of quality literature suggestions.
  • Meet Amazing Americans – I always found history to be a lot more palatable when it had a human face on it.  That approach is the core behind this terrific website by the Library of Congress that puts the “story” back in hi”story”!
  • Who doesn’t love timelines?  The Digital History website chronicles our dates and places of importance all the way back to the 15th century!
  • African American History – I haven’t found a better or more thorough source for studying African American history than this MSN Encarta entry.
  • The History Channel Classroom is the companion website to the cable network.  Because of these ties, you will find lots of multimedia footage on the site, as well as great ideas for integrating the History Channel programming into your curriculum
  • Firsts in America – I love fun factoids, and this site is full of them, including the first “woman elected governor of a state” and the first “postage stamps issued”
  • This Day In History Widget – this fun download is the widget that keeps on giving (knowledge, that is).  Each days history factoid includes a link to an online encyclopedia to find out more about the event.
  • HippoCampus American History –  Who can ask for more?  A free online history course for Advanced Placement students that includes great multimedia content.
  • Picture History – American history through pictures.  A simple idea – – but incredibly effective.
  • American History Lesson Plans – Ordered by era, and then by grade, this is a one-stop shop for U.S. History lesson plans
  • Oregon Trail – Still one of the most popular American History SIMS of all time – – now in its 5th edition.
  • US History by State – check out the unique history of each and every state in the Union in this great “How Stuff Works” site

How about sharing your favorite American History resources in the comments section??

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WISH it worked for me Wednesday

I love the Works For Me posts over at RocksinmyDryer.typepad.com, 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…

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: 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!

There Are Two ‘T’s in Clutter

The first hour of homeschool this morning threatened to be a disaster.  Hyper-Techie was in his usual morning funk and morning prayer was interrupted twice as neighborhood sirens sent our dogs into two choruses of painful yowls (I try to empathize – – I guess it must be like getting the radio stuck on an Alanis Morissette song.  At least I have opposable thumbs to stick in my ears).  Worst of all, though, we couldn’t find The Writer.  It wasn’t in any of its normal spots-underneath the computer chair, dropped into the hamper, between the cushions of the dog bed—I mean how was I supposed to find it if it obviously wasn’t where it was supposed to be??  

But my search got me thinking about how dependent our homeschool has become on our assistive technology.  The Writer is a portable keyboard that we use for daily journaling and keyboard practice.  It includes built-in word prediction software, so when H-T (who has dyslexia) is journaling, and can’t remember how to spell o-v-e-r-b-e-a-r-i-n-g   m-o-t-h-e-r, all he has to do is type in the first couple of letters of the word he’s looking for, and word options will come up for him to choose from. 

We’ve acquired a good bit of assistive technology over the years.  Some of our favorites have included:

  • As-U-Type – – a computer spellchecker that tracks all your misspellings so you can know what words you need the most work on (and, as a perk, lets you know when hubby has been looking at things he shouldn’t – – honey, voluptuous is spelled with one ‘p’)
  • Audio Books from the Library of the Blind and Physically Handicapped – – people with dyslexia qualify to receive these audio books, which are ordered online and come through the mail.  H-T reads along in the actual book as the cassettes (soon to be digital files) are read aloud by wonderful dramatic voice artists.  The upside of this technology is that I get to catch up on some terrific books as I am busy “lesson planning” on the couch while H-T reads
  • MathPad – – electronic worksheets that help kids line up and solve math problems on a computer screen – – if you have ever tried to do long division or multiplication on scratch paper, you will recognize how invaluable something like this can be…no more forgetting to drop down your zero or writing your number in the wrong column.  For me, it means no more shots of tequila before lunchtime because H-T’s math didn’t come out right, and he wants to know, for the thousandth time, just when he will actually USE this stuff in his lifetime??
  • Inspiration (and Kidspiration for the younger set) – – a graphic organizer software that lets you create reports, projects, and papers the visual way, with diagrams, pictures, and notes.  Perfect for visual learners, and those who like to “see” things before they put them to paper. 
  • Post It Digital Notes – – God’s representatives on earth to help keep a highly distractible family from falling to ruin.  They are little digital versions of the popular stick on reminders that sit on your computer screen and remind you when to take a quiz, when to upload your assignments, and when to tell Mom it’s time for Regis and Kelly.  Well, I mean, sometimes in the business of homeschooling, you can forget the important stuff.

Homeschool got better by mid-morning, by the way.  We finally found The Writer. Someone had the bright idea to put it back up on the school supply shelf.  If people keep putting things back in their proper place around here, I’m never going to be able to find anything.  My house is, and I’m afraid, always will be – – Topsy Techie.  Unfortunately, they don’t seem to make assistive technology for that.