Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brand New Website! How to Homeschool Today

I have just launched my new website, How To Homeschool Today! I hope you will check it out and share the link with other homeschoolers that you know. 

I created this website for owners of The Checklist; however, it’s available to anyone interested in educating children. On this site, you’ll learn about homeschooling, discover how to choose the best curriculum, and have access to free record keeping forms, worksheets, and unit studies, as well as many other educational resources.

You'll also learn about my products including The Checklist Assistant, a subscription-based database to help you find specific resources for specific topics of study.

Other features:
I would love to hear your thoughts about the new website! Please check it out and post your comments. 

Thanks! Cindy Downes

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The LessonBoard

Don’t let your child develop “two-finger” typing skills. You can easily teach your children to type as soon as they begin reading, using the right tools.

Chester Creek has developed a keyboard that I highly recommend for teaching young children to type. It’s called the LessonBoard.

The LessonBoard is a color-coded keyboard designed to teach the correct fingering. Each finger is assigned a color, making it easy for children to learn which finger to use when typing the letters, numbers and function keys on the keyboard.   

The LessonBoard is standard size, but yet lightweight. It includes all function keys as well as a numeric keypad. The keys are large and easy to press; and, it’s sturdy, a definite plus around young children!

The LessonBoard is compatible with Windows and Macintosh computers and comes with a USB connector, as well as a PS/2 adapter for older systems. It even includes a free, 3-month subscription to ClassroomTyping.com, an online typing training and testing system.

I LOVE this keyboard for young children! It’s bright, colorful, and lightweight. It’s easy to use and extremely helpful for teaching children the correct fingering. And at $39.95, it’s not an expensive investment. The LessonBoard is perfect for new learners and for   with vision and/or dexterity problems.

I taught my children to type at age eight, and I wish I had had this keyboard. It would have made the job a bit more fun and easier. One suggestion I do have is this: after your child learns the keys, cover the letters and numbers with adhesive tape. This will keep them from being dependent on reading the keys and help them increase speed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

State History by Joy Dean - A Review

As many of you know, I publish Oklahoma History Online, an online curriculum for studying the history of Oklahoma. Many of you have written asking me to write a curriculum for other states, but sadly, I just can’t seem to find the time.

In August, however, I was perusing the vendors at the Homeschool Convention in Texas and discovered a resource I hadn't seen before: State History by Joy Dean.

Joy Dean, the author of these wonderful resources, was very helpful. She showed me the resources she created and let me take a few of them home to examine more fully.

I chose Fifty States Under God, Fifty States Under God for Young Learners and Geography of Fifty States. Using these three resources, you could create a wonderful unit on the 50 states for all grade levels.

Fifty States Under God is a workbook study of all 50 states in the order of statehood. It includes a timeline of statehood and map worksheets that correspond to the timeline. Then, there are four pages of interesting facts and worksheets for each state. Activities include pasting in a few of the state symbols, the state flag, state seal, and picture of the state capitol (full-color, pictures included in the back of book); writing in facts about the economy of the state; writing in the abbreviation, capital city, and nickname; writing in the name of bordering states; decoding the state motto; and unscrambling the state nickname. Students will also use research skills to complete the book. I particularly like the short anecdotes at the end of each lesson. They are stories from history such as “William Penn’s ‘Holy Experiment’,” “John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry,” and the “Klondike and Alaska Gold Rush.”

Fifty State Under God for Young Learners does not include a timeline. Instead, it includes four pages of worksheet activities for each state. These worksheets include painting activities (You’ll need paint, markers, crayons, and glitter.); cut out and paste state symbols, flag, seal, motto, and nickname; and color by the number map study of bounding states. Again, there is an anecdote about each state to read. These anecdotes are different from the other book.

Geography of Fifty States includes a complete, day-by-day lesson plan on how to combine all three of these books, as well as State History from a Christian Perspective and My State History Funbook, into a one-semester or one-year course. How cool is that! You can also use the geography book by itself or combined with any one or more of the above books. (By the way, this geography course is also an introductory American history course!) Lessons include information about the geography of the U.S. and individual states, as well as a map study. Students will mark major land features and major cities. There are also quizzes and tests included.

Whether you are looking for a 50-state study or a study on one state for one student or a crowd, Joy Dean has plenty of resources to choose from. Website: State History.net.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

App Review: 123 World Geography HD

What I really love about the iPad is that it’s not only fun, it’s educational, too. Why not take advantage of this feature by not only entertaining your children, but educating them as well. 123 World Geography HD can help you do just that.
123 World entertains your children by providing “coloring book” fun as well as exotic music from places like Cuba, Ireland, Asia, and Japan. And, while your children are “coloring” and enjoying these cultural sounds from around the world, they’re also practicing color, number, and letter recognition.
They can also practice foreign language skills. With a simple change in the settings, you can modify the voice-over language to speak English, Spanish, French, or German. Now, instead of one, two, three, it can say uno, dos, tres or un, deux, trios.
Your children can learn world geography, too. They will practice identifying the continents, the oceans, the states of the U.S., and the countries of the world. The app includes 10 different maps from around the globe on which to practice.
And when they have completed a picture, they can save it or e-mail it to a friend.
123 World Geography HD is a winning combination of fun and learning. Check it out today!  
Works with iPad and iPhone. $1.99 in app store.

Link to YouTube Video.

Teach your kids about the Constitution!

Are you looking for a way to teach your children about the Constitution? Check out the U.S. Constitution app available from MultiEducator, Inc. It's free! For the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

On the same note, if you'd like to explain the Constitution to your children, I've found a workbook that I recommend to educators that will help - Our Living Constitution, Then and Now. It breaks the Constitution down point by point and "interprets" it in everyday language (the Founders of our country spoke a bit differently than we do today!). These two items are great resources to use to learn more about our Constitution and government.

App Review: Preschool Memory Match

Preschool Memory Match might be for preschoolers, but I had fun with it, too!
Preschool Memory Match is colorful, fun and educational. Your kids will enjoy delightful sound effects as they successfully find the pairs of animals, instruments, and other symbols. When they complete the game, they are rewarded with three wacky buttons that spin, whirl, pop, and fizz. What I like most about this app - kids will have fun and learn at the same time!
Choose from the Settings menu whether you want sound or not, which symbols you want to use, whether or not you want to show the words or hear the words. A super duper hard category uses all the symbols! 
  • Over 220 different pairs to match in 5 categories! (Transportation, Musical Instruments, Animals/Bugs, Food, and Objects)
  • Brilliant graphics  
  • Amazing Sound Effects  
  • Studio voice recording of a speech therapist who specializes in Early Childhood Development!
  • Unique reward system with 64 weird and wacky buttons!
  • iOS4 Multitasking enabled for devices running iOS4 who can take a phone call or leave the app which automatically will pause the game!
iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
$1.99 in the app store

App Review: Charles Peattie's Animal Alphabet

Charles Peattie's Animal Alphabet is bound to be a favorite with young and old alike.
Are you looking for a way to entertain your preschooler? Teach him or her the letters of the alphabet? Either way, here’s an app to do it, and you’ll discover that you’ll be entertained as well!
You can view the app by proceeding through the alphabet from A to Z or you can select one from the icons that represent each animal. The animations and sound effects are awesome!
My favorites were the elephant with an attitude – I loved his expression! The Hyena has an adorable face and a hysterical laugh that will put a smile on anyone’s face! And I loved the lovey-dovey fish that burps in front on his new girlfriend! (By the way, you’ll never guess what x is. It’s very innovative, and I haven’t seen this before. You’ll have to buy the app to see!)
There is also a quiz. Personally, I think the quiz is too hard for preschoolers. For instance, the jaguar is a black square with the imprint of a paw in white. That this was the letter "j" was hard for me to figure out, but then I'm not a preschooler! Some are easier than others, and I assume that if you play it enough, you’ll soon learn which picture represents which letter. I also had several crashes while using the game, so this part was frustrating for me.
However, I’m sure they will fix the crashes in a future update. In the meantime, it’s a fun way to reinforce the letters of the alphabet while having a good time with your child or grandchild. Highly recommended!
Can be used on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
$2.99 in the app store.