Do you have to fight with the school to get services for your child?

This article "Nudging Schools to Help Students With Learning Disabilities " from New York Times gives a brief overview of what parents can to do navigate the process of getting help from the public school system.

This is particularly useful for parents of children with "unrecognized" disabilities, like sensory processing disorder, which alone doesn't usually qualify for an IEP, or ADHD which might not seem as important to address as a more overtly physical disability.

With strapped budgets, it is not surprising that our struggling public school systems try hard to triage students, using limited funds to serve those with the most pressing needs.

So this article can help parents fight for those limited resources for their kids.  Unfortunately, this doesn't solve the bigger problem of too many children being systematically denied services that would brighten their future.

Citizen Scientist Projects for Grades K-12

There are some fabulous opportunities to teach math and science through hands-on projects at The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education.

Students observe and collect data and contribute it to an international database. There is no cost to participate.  Classes occur at various times throughout the year and are geared for different age groups.

Help for kids who hate writing

I know I am not alone in having a son who HATES to write. 

I've heard occupational therapists complain about how lots of kids (especially boys) are forced to write in school before they are really physically ready to do so.  Boys fine motor skills often develop later than girls.

And I know there are LOTS of homeschooling families and homeschool curricula that introduce actual handwriting until later than is introduced in public school, again, especially for boys.

So we follow tips provided by educators, occupational therapists, and seasoned home educators.
  • aproach handwriting as it's own separate subject (when the student is ready)
  • take handwriting out of other assignments so it is not a barrier to learning
  • use oral reports, tiles, and other manipulatives as a substitute for writing lessons and answers
  • write using computers or other keyboard-type devices
  • make writing enjoyable and motivating when you teach it

 So here are some resources for making writing more enjoyable!

60 different multi-sensory strategies for spelling, some of which involve writing and use tools like these:

iwritewords - $1.99 application for ipod touch that makes sure your kids trace and form numbers and letters correctly and in a fun way, also teaches spelling, winner of several awards and highly rated by parents

Mr. Pencil's Learn to Draw and Write by Leapfrog - $25 application that works on all leapster systems, teaches correct formation of letters and numbers, has several more games and drawing applications to learn about color theory, drawing lessons, freestyle drawing and coloring, highly rated by parents

Handwriting without tears - popular curriculum for home and school use, multisensory strategies, therapeutic use

Student response boards - a HUGE selection of dry erase boards for different subjects including writing, just a sampling below

2nd Grade Spelling Lists

East Lansing Public Schools Sitton Spelling Lists - 2nd Grade

Sacred Spiral Kids - 2nd Grade spelling list, (and 2nd grade math workbook)

Super Teacher Worksheets - 2nd Grade

Geneva Schools Spelling Lists - 2nd Grade

Homespelling words - 2nd Grade

All About Spelling - Free Spelling Lists Grades 1 to 7

Chinese New Year - Lesson Plan

Scholastic has a nice set of lesson plans for studying China and incorporating that into a celebration of Chinese New Year

Chinese Unit overview

Lesson 1: So many inventions! 

Book: Uses Ms. Frizzles Adventures in Imperial China by Joanna Cole.

Supplements: You can supplement this lesson with these websites describing Chinese inventions:
Chinese inventions from MiKids
Chinese inventions from

Activities: The lesson plan calls for making a compass as an example of one invention.  Another option would be to make an abacus out of beads and popsicle sticks or cardboard. Though I think I might prefer the more modern version that is base 10 to the authentic version which is more like base 15 in some ways.

Lesson 2: Story of silk

Book: Uses The Empress and the Silkworm by Lily Toy Hong

Activities: Sequencing cards for silk harvesting and pulling your own silk from a cocoon. You can purchase pre-dyed silk cocoons available for $5.95/10 in a variety of colors for the activity. These particular ones are cut so perhaps they are the "humane" type of silk harvest. You can also purchase the kinds where the pupa have been killed before they are able to emerge out of the cocoon and thereby making a hole and shortening the length of silk threads.

Lesson 3: Chinese New Year Celebration

Activities listed: Recipes, Banners, Signs, Puppets, Make lucky money envelopes, Learn to use Chopsticks, etc. One suggestion is to create good luck sign (The link on the scholastic page is not useful so you can try this link). To print more Chinese Characters click on this earlier post on Chinese Calligraphy books and resources. The link for making a dragon puppet is missing on the scholastic site so use this one.

More suggestions: Make an awesome paper machie dragon puppet from "That Artist Woman" blog. Visit activity village for a large array of Chinese New Year printables!

Family Fun Calendar of Events - Greater Lansing Area

While I'm trying to rebuild the "Family Fun Calendar" I thought I would post the links to the many calendar of events that I search.  (There are also many events that come through various homeschool networks that might not be found in an online calendar. So thank you to everyone who forwards the information!)

These calendars include events for both free and paid activities.

Delta Township Library - Calendar of all events

Capital Area District Libary - Calendar of events for "all ages children's" activities

Kresge Art Museum - Calendar of all events

Lansing Capital Area Homeschool - Yahoogroup calendar of events (viewing restricted to members)

Pure Michigan Events - Calendar of events for statewide activities

Go Outdoors Michigan - Calendar of events for statewide activities sponsored by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan Historical Center &  Library Events - Calendar of events for activities at the Library located in Lansing as well as events at other historical sites around the state.

Spartan Youth Programs at MSU - Database of skill-building activities at Michigan State University for pre-K through high school age students.

Impression 5 Science Museum - Activities and events for drop-in as well as homeschool classes. Fee and/or membership required.

Phenomenal Flips Gymanstics - Offers regular classes in gymnastics and cheerleading and daytime homeschool classes in Lansing. Call for fees and schedule.

Red Cedar Gymnastics - Offers regular classes in gymnastics and cheerleading and "open gym" times. Call for fees and schedule.

Lansing Parks and Recreation - View current list of activities

Delta Township Parks and Recreation - View current list of activities

East Lansing Parks and Recreation - View current list of activities

Meridian Township Parks and Recreation - View current list of activities

Fenner Nature Center - View current list of activities

Woldumar Nature Center - View current list of activities

Lansing Area Homeschool Athletic Association - View list of activities and opportunities

YMCA of Greater Lansing - view activities for all area locations

CHESS homeschool organization - Requires membership approval including fees, volunteer requirements, and ability to sign a form stating adherance to religious tenants.  Note that these tenants EXCLUDE the views of non-Christian faiths (Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) and many Catholic and Protestant believers.

Lansing Symphony Orchestra - Youth and Teen outreach and education program offers free and low cost events.

Lansing Concert Band - View concert schedule

Meridian Community Band - View concert schedule

Wharton Center - Educational programs available at no or low cost

MSU Abrams Planetarium - View current schedule of regular and homeschool programs

National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at MSU - Outreach and education programs available

Center for Sensor Materials at MSU - Outreach and education programs available

Packaged programs and tours at MSU - Various programs available. Can sign up for email notifications.

Free Foreign Language Courses Online

Do you want to spend some free time at the computer learning a foreign language? 

Do you want to incorporate foreign language lessons into your homeschool curriculum for free?

Check out these great resources!

Open Culture - lists free online and mp3 courses for 37 different languages

New York Times - (Jan 2010) lists free and paid online language courses

New York Times - (Feb 2010) lists free and paid online language courses

Free phonics and spelling lessons

Free Resources for Teaching and Learning Phonics for Reading and Spelling

Phonics Primer -- from National Right to Read Foundation
What are all the different sounds in the English language? In what order should the sounds be taught?

Decoding sounds for spelling and reading -- from The Phonics Page
What are the different ways to spell the same sounds? What is the likelihood that a certain sound (e.g. long a) is spelled a certain way (e.g. a, ay, eigh, ai) in the English language?

Free complete phonics lessons online -- from The Phonics Page
Uses quicktime player tutorials to teach sounds, rules, etc. and provide self-tests. While the actual lessons are non-sectarian, Biblical texts are read after each lesson, with newly learned syllables or words highlighted.

Comprehensive list of spelling rules -- from "Reading from Scratch" at

P.S. Check out another homeschooling journey with spelling and phonics and learning styles....

Free online resources for learning math in alternative methods

Photo: by Paul Bourke, Swinburne University AU featured on website "An Introduction to the fascinating patterns of Visual Math"

Free online games, ideas, tools for learning and teaching math

Learning math through visual patterns at Right Brain Math -- Great help with learning mutiplication and times tables.

Find lots of ideas and exercises at Visual Math Learning and Visual Fractions -- Google "visual math" for many more resources!

Watch youtube math tutorials (and other subjects elementary through college+) at Khan Academy -- Yes, it sounds sketchy but this site is a winner of a 2009 Tech Award in Education.

Multisensory lessons for Math Education and learning Fact Families

Fact families are numbers that are related. For example: 3, 5, and 8 form a fact family because they are related through addition and subtraction. There are four sentences or "facts" that go with these related numbers: 3+5=8; 5+3=8; 8-3=5; 8-5=3

Here are some ideas for learning addition fact families with games and manipulatives.   
Specific fact family "partners". I like to work with all the fact families of one sum at one time. ( E.g. all the fact families with 3 as a sum are these: 0+3=3, 1+2=3, 2+1=3, 3+0=3, 3-0=3, 3-1=2, 3-2=1)
Here are games that focus on the pairs of numbers that equal one constant sum: 
  • 0 through 12 fact families - Domino parking lot
  • 10 fact families - block ten solitaire or tens solitaire (or solitaire pyramid modified where cards equal ten instead of thirteen. All face cards equal ten.)
  • 12 fact families - Dividing two different types of objects in different ways into the spaces in a dozen-sized egg carton, e.g. 2 candy corn + 10 jelly beans = full carton (12)
  • 13 fact families - solitaire pyramid 
  • 14 fact families - re-arranging balls (can be used for fact families of any sum)
  • 5 to 18 fact families - uses "partner pair" tubs
Personal note of caution: I would avoid using many of the fact "family" descriptions suggested. Many of the explanations I have seen describe the fact families as having a daddy (big number), mother (medium number) and baby (small number) with the daddy always going first or last in the equation to protect the family. This would seem to me to be a potentially emotionally charged situation and learning barrier for children whose family does not fit this pattern. Children of single parents, living with grandparents or guardians, with gay or lesbian parents, children with mother and disabled father, etc.

Integrating Art into Nature -- trees and leaves as art sculpture

The Crafty Crow is a delicious resource for finding hands-on food, art, craft, etc. ideas to do yourself or with the kids. The site aggregates findings across the web and indexes them here.

I was particularly enthralled with the entries under "Art History" including this tree sculpture from One Golden Apple that I'm looking forward to trying next fall in our neighborhood park woods.

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