Free diagnostic test for Dyslexia

Dorothy van den Honert has some amazing resources over at "Reading from Scratch" for helping dyslexic learners. 

One thing she has on her website is a free diagnostic test to help you know whether your child might be dyslexic.

She also provides a fascinating history about how we finally learned about what is going on in the brain of folks with dyslexia. Hint: dyslexics DON'T reverse their letters and dyslexics are intelligent!

She asserts that phonics is one key part of helping dyslexic learners, along with with other brain retraining steps.  Here are some spelling rules that are part of that phonics instruction and can be useful to all types of learners.

Mammoth Math Curriculum

After reading so many frustrating reviews with many of the more expensive math homeschool curricula, I decided that Mammoth Math would be worth a try, especially since it was so inexpensive by comparison and appeared to have a very clear comprehensive approach.

But considering our own teaching/learning styles and the learning styles of our kids, it seems wise to investigate a number of options and check the reviews for whatever materials you are considering.

Mammoth Math Reviews

Crayons = Chaos

Given the name of the blog I thought this NPR story on "Crayons And Choice: A Headache In 120 Colors" was very fitting to link here!

Crayola's Law, states "The number of Crayola colors doubles every 28 years"

Who knew that the increasing complexity of crayon choices mirrors the information overload that brings chaos to our lives?

When is the next orbiting object flying over your house?

When is a satellite flying over your zip code? You can find out!

Check it out here:

This one is coming my way in 10 minutes!

As the homeschooling author of suggests "Wave hello to the astronauts!"  Of course not all these satellites are staffed, but you can search for the ones that are.

Yet another way to encourage hands on science activities and learning what amazing real time data is available to us all.

Music to the ears of this homeschooling mother

I was really thrilled to have this validation from a very successful teacher!  We've always felt like delving into our books is central to our homeschooling!!

From 3rd Grade teacher Mrs. Powell: (emphasis mine)

I encourage you to read the book, “Reading Strategies” by Regie Routman. It will revolutionize the way you structure your reading time and will leave you feeling energized and read to simplify all of your instruction. Ms. Routman believes that students should spend the majority of their time in school reading, not doing activities about reading.

While you’re teaching small groups, she suggests having students:

-Do independent reading (each student chooses a book on his/her reading level)

-Finish reading or re-read the book(s) you began during reading groups or explore a related/ extension text alone or with a partner

-Work on meaningful projects (generally related to shared reading experiences)

Mrs. Powell's classroom ideas I want to use!

3rd Grade Teacher, Mrs. Powell, has a website full of great ideas for using materials that I want to steal as a home educator! 

Her ideas seem to fit well with a Montessori approach.

These ideas include using centers, pair-work, providing instruction and guidance about the subject and materials and then facilitating self-guided exploration and reinforcement.

I tend to prefer that for my home learners and I think they prefer it too, especially my son who wants to be in constant motion.

So our house kind of looks like these rooms full of tubs, shelves, and stuff on display too!

Her tips acknowledge an awareness of students with different learning styles and abilities, including ADHD, though it could certainly be expanded and updated in the "behavior management" section.

She has great photos, tips, and even a book with her ideas.  I'm happy to have stumbled upon it. 

It's given me some more ideas to add to our already large selection of "activity tubs."

Her tips span the range of subjects relevant to elementary education students.
Check out these gems:

  1. Basics and best practices for setting up subject center ideas
  2. Fabulous creative Literacy center ideas
  3. Creating math tubs for partner games
I'm looking forward to exploring this site more!

Recipe for something like Wikki Stix

Call them Wikki Stix, Wax Works, or Bendaroos -- they are all the same wonderful pliable waxy strings that kids (and teachers!) love for so many reasons.

They are so tactile. They aren't messy. You can make and un-make anything your mind can imagine. They are good for a variety of learning styles and abilities. 

You can use integrate them into so many subjects, including reading, spelling, math, geography, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Here is a recipe to let you make your own and save lots of money while also unleashing your creativity.

This photo is with the recipe from Bethany at the "Happy to Be Called Mommy" blog. 

Aren't the colors just scrumptious?  It's so much better than the standard colors from the store! 

This recipe uses 1 toilet sealant wax ring, 1/2 cup of paraffin wax, and a ball of colorful yarn.

If you like fun, crafty projects for yourselves or your kids you need to check out Bethany's fabulous photos and ideas!!!!

While our blogs don't have the same political views, I really appreciate her art and her wonderful ideas as a homeschooling mom sharing her ideas online!

There is another very detailed and helpful recipe with loads of ideas for using the finished product from the folks at Early Words.

There are a few other recipes online with the same basic ingredients, only the proportions vary somewhat.  Some folks also suggest coloring the wax mixture with food coloring or crayon shavings.

Other examples:
  • Teachers offer recipe and ideas for using wikki stix
  • Another recipe from a group working with visually impaired students
  • 3rd Grade teacher Mrs. Powell uses wikki stix and other wonderful items to create centers for her students -- She's got TONS of resources that parents and parents can use. Check it out!!

Tracking real-time earthquakes -- science tax dollars in action

Map of Earthquake in Haiti from U.S. Geological Survey

USGS: As an unbiased, multi-disciplinary science organization that focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information, and water, we are dedicated to the timely, relevant, and impartial study of the landscape, our natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten us.

Remember when the politician Bobby Jindal decried the "wasteful" spending to monitor volcanoes in Hawaii only to learn the importance of such tracking when it averted disaster by keeping a plane from flying into the ash a short time later?

Sure, we've got some pork programs out there.  But it's disheartening to see how little we use, value, and understand our scientific knowledge as a country...especially compared to China where scientists are the equivalent to rock stars!

We in the U.S. scientific community must also do a better job communicating the use and importance of the research we do.

Futurity is an amazing website that provides daily soundbites of cutting edge research findings with direct implications to our daily lives.

And take a look at some pictures of what your tax dollars are funding in government research:

Teaching kids about earthquakes and tsunamis

We are all so saddened by the recent earthquake tragedy in Haiti.  -- And it must be heartwrenching for those waiting to hear from loved ones.

From Red Cross: There has been an outpouring of support from the public. To help, people can make an unrestricted donation to the International Response Fund at or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).

The public can also help by texting “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross, through an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. Funds will go to support American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.

As a human community we will surely reflect on what we can do to help Haitians, including an awareness of their longstanding conditions of poverty. 

Could such conditions left their physical infrastructure vulnerable?  I've heard Haitian supporters talk about how Haiti was not built to within this kind of disaster.

Hopefully we will be thinking long and hard about the human and social aspects of this disaster, how to prevent this, and how to support Haitians.

In the face of tragedy we seek information to try to help make sense of things.  While we might not be able to ever understand why such tragedies occur, we can try to learn and understand more about the physical aspects of hurricanes and tsunamis.

Here are some K-12 sites that use real-time data to learn about the natural disasters, locate them on maps, discover their causes and impacts and how to predict them.

A Study of Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

A Study of the Large Unusual Waves

5 minutes, 5 dollars, 5 friends -- quick ways to do good

Time magazine's Sept. 21, 2009 issue had tons of good links in this article "New Ways to Make a Difference".

Here are the links I particularly liked:

Bored waiting? Use your smart phone to view and label museum photos at or make progress toward curing cancer at

Help promote and then map random acts of kindness at

Browse the vast array of volunteer opportunities in your zip code at

Support an emerging business in a developing country at with as little as $25.

Learn more about where to invest in socially responsible funds according to your priorities at

Go for a reverse boycott at Help local businesses do better with a massive shop-in in which owners use portions of the shopping day to do good.

Support causes through social media sites like facebook, twitter, and or

Curriculum resources for teaching kids Chinese Calligraphy

My 4 year old daughter re-discovered her bamboo writing instruments today as she rummaged through her "office" of craft supplies.

She then promptly declared she wanted to do "Chinese inking."

So we printed some tracer pages with Chinese characters for her.  I watered down some washable tempra paint for the "ink" and she was happy to work on some chinese writing.

Teaching resources: There are more printables (and gobs of activities) available at Activity Village (UK) and at Circletime kids's world library along with lesson plans at Scholastic. Don't forget to celebrate Chinese New Year!

Children's story books referencing Chinese calligraphy:

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin - download free activity kit corresponding to the book and learn to write some of the Chinese characters related to the book

Round is a mooncake by Roseann Thong and illustrated by Grace Lin - pictures and references to "name chops" and "inking stones"

Henry's First Moon Birthday by Lenore Look and illustrated by Yumi Heo - explanations of characters and mishaps with ink!

My Little Book of Chinese Words by Catherine Louis (Illustrator), Shi Bo (Illustrator), MaryChris Bradley (Translator) - introduction to context and meaning for the visual aspect of the characters

Hiss! Pop! Boom! Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morrissey - Chinese calligraphy are integrated into the illustrations

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, The Children's Museum Boston, and illustrated by Meilo So - includes activities for making prints and characters

More resources for learning to write and appreciate Chinese Calligraphy

Online Chinese Tools

Just for fun -- Get your own Chinese name and find your Chinese zodiac

"Hogwarts Approved" Games for Hands-on Learning in Homeschool or during School Breaks

For homeschool folks participating in the Hogwarts Correspondence Courses, here are some games to supplement the coursework. Shh! Don't tell anyone they are educational!!

Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game: A cooperative board game that teaches edible and medicinal plants and can be adapted to different age groups.  This one worked fabulously with the Hogwarts "herbology" lessons!

Enchanted Forest: Find "once upon a time" fairytale treasures & inherit the kingdom! Cinderella's glass slipper, Aladdin's lamp, Puss' boots, the Emperor's crown, 13 magical surprises hidden in the Enchanted Forest. Explore the lovely forest, peek at treasures. When the king asks for help, race to the palace to become the next to take the throne.   This one is recommended for fostering imagination and teaching emotional intelligence, something every responsible Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry graduate needs to know!

Frog Juice: A Clever Card Game of Spells & Concoctions. Cast spells, brew concoctions, melt witches...Use a smidgen of math and a pinch of probability. Perfect for the Hogwarts "charms and potions" classes -- a wizard does need to know his or her math to correctly concoct those potions!

Sleeping Queens: A Royalty rousing Card Game. Rise and Shine! The Pancake Queen, The Ladybug Queen and ten of their closest friends have fallen under under a sleeping spell and it's your job to wake them up. Use strategy, quick thinking and a little luck to wake these napping nobles from their royal slumbers. Play a knight to steal a queen or take a chance on a juggling jester. But watch out or wicked potions and dastardly dragon! The player who wakes the most queens wins. Logic and probability are important for any wizard protecting muggles and others from danger!

Hands on science curriculum K-12 education

There are a variety of projects here at for classrooms and home educators to use for hands on-science learning. 

Some involve tracking real data online or sharing data from your backyard or school yard for real science projects.

These can be great projects for our distracted learners and kids who hate seatwork or need lots of physical activity.

Learning the Natural Way with Math Games

Games for Learning Math, Logic and Strategy - This website has links to board games, internet games, books, and more for learning math in fun and naturally integrated ways

Games for teaching math with TLC - Here is a circles and stars game with dice to help practice addition and multiplication

Multiplication concept and tables games - A variety of math games, though many are for assessment/testing of the skill rather than acquiring the skill and would not be useful to the learner who is already frustrated.

Let's Play Math - This blog is about learning, teaching, and playing around with K-12 mathematics.

Digital technology for boys and other distracted learners

Here is a math website for kids in pre-K through 6th grade.

We have been enjoying using this website for tracking mastery of state standards for math curriculum at

It's interactive and self-correcting which is great for the "distracted learner."  As educators are discovering, computer-based learning can be very useful for a wide range of learning styles. 

It provides immediate reinforcement and virtual rewardsfor completing tasks -- much like the popular "Club Penguin" or "Build-a-Bearville."

Get organized in the New Year with free calendars!!

For those of us organizing our life, schedules, or homeschool activities on old fashioned paper....

There is no need to buy those expensive calendar pages for the new year!

Here is a source for free printable calendars in a variety of forms including a daily planner.

Am I the only one NOT using a Blackberry or equivalent device?  I just found it too hard to keep everything in sync and charged

I currently have a hate-hate relationship with chargeable devices. 

I mean really -- 10 pictures per set of batteries???  I charged a dozen or more batteries for use over the holidays and ran out halfway through Christmas morning! argh!

Well -- then there is also the fact that sometimes I'm just much more productive if I don't open up anything on a computer or electronic device. 

Relying on paper for some things keeps me focused, or maybe just less un-focused. 

Deliciously scented playdough

Some people get the urge to bake cookies and goodies around the holidays.  But I prefer to get cooking on my playdough projects!

These colorful balls of dough goodness are are also delightfully scented.  This picture shows fruit punch, orange, lemonade, lime, blue raspberry, and grape.

Shh! Don't tell anyone how easy these are to make!  Here's the recipe:

Mix dry ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
1 package unsweeted powered drink mix (aka Kool-aid)
2 Tablespoons cream of tartar

Stir in wet ingredients:
1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Additional food coloring if needed to strengthen color (rarely needed)

Cook over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes until it forms into a ball.

(It was more economical to buy the 25 pound bag of flour for our playdough making project. So here is what I figured out to do with some of the remaining 15 pounds!)

What to do with the leftovers from the 25 pound bag of flour?!

Well, the playdough project lead me here!

With 15 or so pounds of flour left I was inspired to make some bread.

I was inspired by my amazingly talented and thrifty sister-in-law.

She never buys bread anymore but always bakes it on Tuesdays with her two little boys.

Over the holidays she brought some over to mom and dad's and it was so yummy.

And I practiced making mom's cinnamon rolls under her tuteledge.  So I figured I was ready to go back to trying some yeast breads of my youth (aka my 20's!)

During my youth we passed around "Amish bread starter" at my Mennonite place of work. So for a while I was making bread quite a bit.  And it was pretty good.

Then I went all "crunchy" and started using only whole wheat flour. Then all I could make was bricks and I lost interest.

Fast forward two decades and here I am with a successful attempt at baking honey wheat bread using this 5 star recipe.

This success is monumental given the fact that I *do not* cook. 

I basically wreck boxed mac and cheese.

My husband is a foodie so we rely on his talents.

But I make awesome fruit platters for my kids!!
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