Friday, January 31, 2014

Free Friday: Donna Young Printables

During last week's 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials I mentioned Printables and Resources during my post about Planning.  Well I wanted to highlight that resource here because she has a lot more to offer than just planners.

Donna Printables and Resources are FREE!  Along with general information on Homeschool and ideas for those who are New to Homeschooling Donna Young has helps for every step of the way.

You won't just find a Calendar or two here.  You will find school calendars, blank calendars, 12+ month, horizontal, event, blank dated, big and of course monthly.  On top of that there are tools for teaching the calendars to children.  There are even instructions for making your own desk calendar!

There are printable and helps for teaching Art, English, Handwriting, History, Math, and Science. There are also maps, handwriting paper and worksheets, household helps such as chore charts and so much more!  Here are just a few examples of what you can find.

They have animations for printing letters.  These actually work live on the website.  Check them out!

Math helps that includes making clocks, charts, papers, drills, graph paper and how to make fraction manipulatives.

 If you need some extra help teaching a subject or just want some fresh ideas check out these great FREE resources from

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Creation VS Evolution Debate

Were you aware that on February 4th Bill Nye "the science guy" has agreed to debate Ken Ham, the founder and CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum?   That is one week from today!  I am excited that we are finally getting a few moments in the media to publicly make our arguments for creation known.  I have heard statements from Bill Nye and I am amazed that he has no idea who or what he is even debating.  He seems to be under the impression that creationists don't "believe in science."  That, however, couldn't be further from the truth!

You can watch this debate live online for FREE!  It will also be available on YouTube shortly after it has aired live.  They are not sure how long that will last so if you can't watch live, tune in soon.  A few days after the debate digital downloads and DVD copies will be available for purchase.  Be sure to check out for more details!  I will not be able to catch it live on February 4th but I plan to catch it on YouTube as soon as I can!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Homeschooling Essentials - Free Helps

Every week I try to have a FREE Friday post in which I share a helpful resource that is FREE.  Sometimes it is a temporary deal, sometimes it will be some free printables and other times they are just free online resources that you may not know about. Below are a few of my always FREE resources.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  This is an excellent resource for information, encouragement, support, and ideas.  There are articles for every kind of homeschooling and some are special needs specific.  You can also find product reviews and other curriculum information.  This product is digital and is always free!

If you are struggling to find a curriculum that works and are on a tight budget, try Easy Peasy All-in-one Homeschool.  This is an entire homeschool curriculum!  You can choose to use it for all your studies or just fill in what is lacking for your home.  I know parents who use the entire thing, those who use it for one subject and others, like myself, that just supplement their main curriculum.

Need help drilling your math facts? is a really great free help for memorizing your addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts.  It lets the child practice in a fun and independent way, and then lets the parents see their progress after the fact.  They even have a 6 second extended session for kids who need a bit more time.

 Do2Learn is a great tool for children with special needs.  We have used it's videos to teach safety, it's behavior management to work on emotions, its language development to work on speech and much more.  If you have a child with special needs, this is a tool you want to have!

These are just a few of my favorites.  Be sure to stop by each Friday to see what other FREE resources I have to share. You can also browse through and see my older post FREE Friday posts too.

This has been a great week. I hope you have found some of my Homeschooling Essentials posts helpful.  In the meantime check out what these other  5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials bloggers have to say.

Heather @ Thrift Schooling

Click the banner below to find even more homeschooling essential bloggers! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Homeschooling Essentials - The Classroom

Now that we have prayed, planned and are becoming flexible, we need an area to actually get our work done. There is no right or wrong way to set this up.  In fact, every homeschool room will look different.  I have seen some very extravagant and well organized rooms.  I also know moms that simply turn their kitchen table into workspace for the day.  No homeschool classroom is better than the other.  The important thing is to find what works best for you which is mostly dependent on how much space you have in the first place!  Our school room started out as a corner of one room of our house.


However, after my son graduated from the junior college and went off to the university, we upgraded to an entire room!

Our school room consists a desk for doing seat work and an area to keep all of our books.  As you can see we are not into fancy, just practical.  We have an old school desk that was actually left in the garage when we moved in.  For the books we just picked up some crates.  They are usually really cheap during those back to school sales.

We also have a computer desk in the room.  This makes it nice for school work but we also watch educational videos on them as well.  Instead of having to get up and go to the television and put the DVD in, we can stay right where we are.  That is especially handy if it is a short video to begin with.

This also gave us space to use a whiteboard.  Gess is a very visual learner and I use that a lot.  Not because I want our day to feel like "school" but because it really helps her to see examples on the board.  She also likes working on it too.


Now that we have the classroom all set up it is time to get working.  Since homeschoolers are often on a tight budget, finding FREE Helps can truly be essential.  Tomorrow I will share just a few of my most essential FREE homeschool helps.

Don't forget to see what these other 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials blogs are talking about.

Heather @ Thrift Schooling

Click the banner below to find even more homeschooling essential bloggers! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Homeschooling Essentials - Flexibility

Yesterday I talked about the importance of planning.  Of course, there is nothing more frustrating then spending hours planning something only to find out in practice that it didn't go at all as you planned!  Homeschooling happens in the midst of real life and therefore we have to expect that the unexpected will happen!

My mother got very ill last year.  She was hospitalized with congestive heart failure and it took her several weeks to recover enough just to get back to doing her daily tasks.  After that she suffered a mini stroke.  Believe me, taking her to the hospital and for testing were not in my "plans."  I improvised as best I could.  I took a back pack full of school activities and did them at the hospital with Gess.  When mom had an exploratory surgery, we did lessons in the waiting room.

Even packing all those books around with us, I didn't get everything done I wanted to do that week.  Sometimes that is OK.  Having put two boys through public school I can assure you they never completed a text book either.  There were days they watched movies and days they played more.  No where, not even in a brick and mortar school does everything go as planned.

Sometimes we don't get through our lessons because Gess isn't grasping the material as quickly as I planned.  That is OK too.  The best part of homeschooling is that you can stay on a topic until your child masters it.  It is better staying for awhile on something even though you didn't "plan" to take that long than it is to move on and have your child struggle because they completely missed the concept. 

Flexibility is important in life, not just school.  I heard one Christian author say our biggest source of doubt, fear and failure are due to 2 things.  Unrealistic expectations and misplaced dependency.  When we expect school to always be perfect, we are going to be disappointed.  When we rely on our planning and our own personal power to teach, we are going to be let down.  Place your reliance on God and allow that things don't always go as planned.

There is one trick that I have used to help me personally "feel better" when I can't get everything in during school due to being pulled away by other important needs like my mom's health.  I have decided that paying for an online curriculum is a great back up to have.  If Gess can go and do a few lessons in language arts and math then at least I know she got some core work done for the day.  Even if it wasn't planned!

Tomorrow I will share about the importance of classroom setup.  In the meantime be sure to check out these other  5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials blogs.

Heather @ Thrift Schooling

Click the banner below to find even more homeschooling essential bloggers! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Homeschooling Essentials - Planning

As I said in my previous post about Prayer, I am a planner.  Planning in its proper place is important and is an essential tool in my homeschool. 

Since I only homeschool one child I do great with an simple teacher's lesson plan book like this inexpensive one from Rod and Staff.

However, if you have many kids in different grades, doing different things in each subject, that probably isn't idea.  I know that there are lots of other great homeschool planners out there.  Donna Young's website has tons of homeschool forms available for free.  Among them are some pretty great planners.

The Old Schoolhouse has a really awesome one.  While it isn't free it is worth the money.  These are formatted by a typical school year calendar so this one is half over but hey, it's at a really low price now too!

Once I have my planner I start by making a sample lesson plan for the week.  I try to follow that as best I can but many times I use it to simply write down what we DID do, rather than writing down before hand what we are SUPPOSED to do.  I usually get Monday's lessons laid out, but each day after I pencil in what actually gets done.  Having a daughter with special needs, sometimes thing do not go as fast as expected!

Planning is important.  Knowing what you plan to do will make your day go more smoothly and having a way to keep those plans together is essential.  However, even with all that planning, things won't always go as expected.  So while planning is good, you also need to learn to be flexible.  We will talk about that tomorrow.

Want to learn more?  Check out these other  5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials blogs.

Heather @ Thrift Schooling

Click the banner below to find even more homeschooling essential bloggers! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Monday, January 20, 2014

Homeschooling Essentials: Prayer

I am a huge planner.  I plan everything out, including the birth of my children.  I had it all figured out.  I knew exactly how it would be when I brought my last child home from the hospital.  I saw it all in my head and I was ready.  God, however, had other plans.  We didn't come home, well at least not for awhile.  After almost six weeks in the NICU and another 10 day stay for open heart surgery I learned that things do not always go as planned!  Now, I tell you this not to keep you from planning, but just to remind you that planning is not enough. 

You see, I was going to title my first Homeschooling Essentials post just Planning but I think I will leave that for tomorrow.  Instead, I felt that it was important to first start with the reminder to pray.  Sisters, we should start everything we do with prayer.  That should be such a part of our lives that it should not have to be mentioned.  I might also add that along with prayer comes Bible study.  I can not seem to do one without the other.  Conversation takes two.  God speaks to us through His Word and we speak back to Him through prayer.  Oh sure there will be that still small voice encouraging you on what steps to take to follow His Word, but His Word is what matters most.

One thing I do to help make sure I read my Bible every day is sign up for a simple reading plan at  I usually read through the Bible in a year but this year I am doing it chronologically.  They offer many different plans for various levels of commitment in many different versions and languages.  You can also print the list off on paper if you prefer to keep track of it that way.  I tried that once but I didn't seem to keep up as much. I love seeing that reminder in my email each morning.

There are many ways to make sure you get your Bible reading in. is just one of them.  There are several apps for your phone. I grabbed a simple one in the NET version which is a FREE online Bible.  I have several different versions of the Bible on my Kindle too and most of them were free. 

Since I try to teach the importance of starting your day with Bible study and prayer to my daughter, I make sure that the Bible is the first thing we do each day in school.  After doing the lesson I always encourage my daughter to spend some quite time of her own in prayer.  Then we complete the rest of the lessons for that day.

In order to get my own personal prayer time in each day  I started getting up earlier.  Then my daughter started getting up earlier too.  So I started getting up even earlier and low and behold, so did she!  I later realized that it was good for her to see me in prayer.  I remember the first time she woke up and saw me praying. She didn't interrupt.  She just sat there watching me, waiting for me to finish.  While she was quiet, knowing she was there did distract me, but I think it was great for her to see that.  Now I just tell her when I am praying and she knows to go do something and wait.  Sometimes, however, she joins me.  That is such a blessing!

She has learned a lot by watching me.  We get to church early every Sunday to help get the coffee going and things like that.  Gess generally plays in one of the rooms, coloring or writing on the board, but look what I found her doing a few weeks ago!

She was reading her Bible!  Another time she disappeared we found her in the sanctuary, praying.  What a blessing!

Ladies, our prayers are so important!.  Yes, we need to pray about the lessons we plan, we need to pray for guidance in what we teach, seek wisdom in how to teach it and pray that our kids learn it, but even if we forget to pray for this specific thing or that, we need to PRAY!   Just praying will make a difference  While prayer is personal we can't make it so personal that our kids don't know we are doing it otherwise they can't learn from it.  They need to see that prayer is a part of every - single - thing - we - do!  Let us PRAY!

Now that we have started our school with prayer, it's time to get planning!  I will discuss that topic tomorrow.  In the meantime be sure to check out these other great 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials blogs.

Heather @ Thrift Schooling

Click the banner below to find even more homeschooling essential bloggers! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Friday, January 17, 2014

Free Friday:

At one of our homeschool support group meetings I learned about this handy little website called  This is a great tool to help children memorize math facts and it is totally FREE!

Because Gess has Down syndrome she has really struggled memorizing her facts, but I am giving this a try.  I figure it can't hurt.  What is really neat about it is that it continues to give you problems you miss over and over again until you really get it right consistently.  They also ALWAYS make you put in the answer, even if you get it wrong.  So, once you get the problem wrong, it not only shows you the correct answer, but you must then actually type the answer in to move on.

The other nice thing about is that it takes only about 5 minutes a day and that is all they let you do.  It is simply for extra practice.  Once you complete your lesson it tells you that you are done for the day!  You can't come back until tomorrow.

Here is how it works.  When you first log on you take a placement test.  There is an online teacher to help walk you through what to do.  After that there are simply math problems to work.

Now these are timed tests.  The goal is to answer in 3 seconds but they give you up to 10 before giving you the answer.  If you have a child with special needs like Gess you can choose the "extended 6 second" program to give them more time.

As I said before, if they get the problem wrong they highlight the answer but the child still must type it in before moving on.

At the end of the lesson they see their progress.

One of the practice sessions is called race the teacher.  Gess loves this because the teacher makes funny motions and stuff while he is thinking.  While it is cute, it is a bit of a distraction for Gess.  Once you get through the first lesson or so he does stop talking and guiding them through what to do.

The parent can go to their control center each day and see how the child did on the lesson.  It seems to take about a day for it to show up though.

Again, the best part of all of this is that it is FREE!  Of course they do ask for donations.  If you find the site useful it might be a good idea to give but it isn't required.  We are fairly new to the site so I am not sure how well Gess will do with it but hey, if it lets her work at her own pace, it might just be what we needed.  Go to to give it a try.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Making Music with the Recorder

My son Tim, the one that is studying music and theatre in college and who also went to public school, feels that every child should take recorder lessons in the 5th grade.  It is something he enjoyed and it is an instrument he believes that has true value.

Anyway, when he came home from college for Christmas break he decided that he would give Gess some lessons on the recorder.

To help him he found a really neat website Squeaky's Recorder Playhouse that teaches you all about the recorder and had some great fingering charts like the one below.

Wikihow also had some good instructions on how to play and care for your recorder.

I just love introducing Gess to new things.  What tickled me the most was when she was in her room reading her dictionary one day (yes, she sits and reads her dictionary) and noticed that the word recorder was in there!  She came out, got her recorder and was reading about it while exploring her own.

While we haven't done much with it since Tim has left, at least Gess has learned a bit more about it.  Tim is correct in that a recorder is a real instrument that can make some beautiful music.  For proof of that here is Vivaldi's Concerto in c-minor for the treble recorder.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Logic of English

Last year I reviewed Logic of English  and absolutely love it.  I have people ask me questions about whether it is good for all kids with special needs, and when they should start it, among other things.  So while in my review I told you about how it worked, here I am going to tell you about what all they have to offer.  I am not an affiliate or getting compensated in any way.  It's just a great product and I want my readers to have as much information as possible so they can decide if it will work well for them.

Logic of English has a vastly different approach to learning about English.  You can read that in my review.  They also offer a large variety of information on their website as well as several sample pages for every book they offer.  Read everything and view the video.  It shares a lot about how it works.

I reviewed the Logic of English Essentials curriculum.  It can be used for five to six year old students who are learning to read or for older students up to age 9 and over who are not reading at their current grade level.  Gess, who has Down syndrome can actually read at her grade level, but her comprehension, spelling and grammar are not quite up to par.  This is helping Gess catch what she missed along to the way, while continuing to excell at reading.  It is also helping her speech since the lessons are based upon the phonetics of the language rather than simply the letters.

Ages 5-6 learning to read
Ages 7-9 behind grade level
Adults who need reading help
ESL students

They also offer Logic of English Foundations which is a beginning reader material.  If your child is new to reading, especially if they have special needs, I recommend trying this one out first.  I personally would start my five year old here before trying the essentials.  It is intended for kindergarten through first grade though I might start a child at preschool with it or use it with an older student who has special needs.  It would simply depend on the child.

Begininning Readers

They also have handwriting books that I don't use because we use Handwriting Without Tears and apps which are only for the Ipad/Iphone and I have a Windows phone and an Android tablet or I would certainly use them.

You really need to check out the website.  It has tons of information, explanation, samples and even some videos. You can also read other reviews by the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I have only used Essentials so they might be able to tell you about the other products! 


I hope this has helped!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Free Friday: TOS Magazine Jan-Feb Edition

Here is a great tool to help homeschoolers start off the new year, the always FREE digital edition of the The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  Check out the current edition by clicking on the cover below!

You can also get The Old Schoolhouse To Go by downloading their FREE app available for Iphone, Android, Kindle Fire and Nook!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Digging for Dinosaurs

Ever since Gess saw the video Dinosaurs, Genesis and the Gospel she has been fascinated with dinosaurs.  Every time she picks up her bible she is in Job reading about the Behomoth and she keeps looking up songs from the show on Youtube.  So for Christmas we got her a few new products from Answers in Genesis so she could learn more about dinosaurs.

To add to that theme I  thought I would also introduce Gess to paleontology, in a very hands on sort of way.  After watching I Dig Dinosaurs she got to dig one of her own with another Christmas gift we got her: a Geo World Dino Excavation Kit of her favorite dinosaur T-Rex. (The kit does come with evolutionary information inside, but we just ignored that.)

Gess really had a blast digging for the dinosaur!  It was hard and tedious work but she was so diligent.  I tried to tell her it didn't need to be completed in one sitting, but she was not giving up until she had discovered all the bones!

It made quite a mess!

But it was worth finding all the bones!

Now she just had to assemble the pieces she discovered.

Here you have your T-Rex!

Of course we do realize that you would not discover all the dinosaur bones and that many bones are hand made to help fill in the gaps and put it together.  Then, Paleo-Artists like Buddy Davis use these skeletal remains to draw and build the models we see in museums today.  So while this isn't exactly how it really happens, it is fun to have your own set of tools and dig out your discovery.

Gess had so much fun doing this she is saving up to get another kit.  I wonder what dinosaur she will discover this time!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Curriculum Choices 2014

This will be our second year starting our school calendar from January to December and I wanted to share the curriculum we will be using for 2014.  Of course as I get opportunities to review new products I we will be adding, supplementing or sometimes breaking from these for a period of time, but our main focus will be on the materials listed below.


God's Great Covenant: New Testament - We are going through this again now that Gess is older.  We got so overwhelmed our first year we ended up stopping this before we were even half way through.  However, since our adult Sunday School class is going through the gospels it seemed like it would be a perfect time to pick it back up with Gess.  We started it last fall so we will finish this at the end of the spring semester.


Logic of English - We started this last summer and it has been one of the best finds yet.  I particularly love how it helps us focus on speech and reading at the same time.  They also incorporate spelling so I don't need a separate program for that.


A+ Interactive Math by Tutorsoft - Gess really does well with the way they explain the math problems here.  While I give her helps and tools that allow her to succeed, at least I know she has the concept even if she does struggle memorizing the facts.


Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistry & Physics - We just started this near the end of the year so we have several chapters left to go.  While this won't take us through December we will have enough to fill our first semester!

Social Studies 

Homeschool Legacy - We The People: Getting to Know Your Constitution - While this is set up as a once a week unit study, since Gess has special needs we will do a little bit of this each day and it will probably take us longer than intended.  Still, this unit looks to be really engaging and lots of fun. 


Handwriting Without Tears: Cursive - We will probably move up to their Cursive Success workbook but I think I am going to start the year reviewing each letter first to see if she is ready.  While she likes writing that way, she still tends to fall back on printing.


Essentials in Writing - We loved this program for level 1 and I am planning on moving up to level 2 after we start the year by writing a couple of personal letters and paragraphs for review.

Computer Lessons

Time4Learning -  I am really enjoying have Time4Learning for our afternoon lessons.  This allows Gess to work on her own and I get to see how she does.  I pretty much assign her a lesson in Language Arts, Language Arts Extension, and Math as "homework."  She loves the program and also loves working independently.  If you have never used Time4Learning before you can get a Free 14 day trial by clicking on my affiliate link in the banner below.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...