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Ellen McHenry’s Basement – a Homeschool Resource

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , , — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

One of the TOP TEN (of the Top 100) Educational Websites for 2013–and a site you may not be familiar with is–

Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop

The website reads, “I’ve been building and inventing educational things for the past 20 years, including educational games, projects, songs, activities, skits, plays, textbooks, hands-on science exhibits, and published books. This site really is like putting my basement online. One by one, I am working my way through the stacks of things sitting on my shelves, digitalizing them, and posting them for anyone who might find them useful. Individual items are posted as FREE DOWNLOADS.” reader Nancy, one of our readers that recommended this site wrote, “I’d like to recommend Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop.  I challenge you to find better free stuff on the web. Her offerings are incredible — a full botany course, lots of Latin games, the Elements, math, classification and animal learning activities, and more. Not only is the quality superb, but it’s shared generously. Unlike many sites where 2-3 things are free while everything else is for sale, on this site nearly everything is free (the 5 or 6 things that are for sale are reasonably priced, BTW, and I found them well worth the price).

Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!

Ann Simpson


Homeschooling Question-Does that Count as School?

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

Guest Blogger Cindy Rinna


A friend of mine and I have an inside joke that involves PBS…

Does Word World count as doing reading today?

I can already hear all the gasps of the critics…”I knew this homeschool thing was a hoax…”

Don’t let me be misleading; it started with a sick week. My kids had been passing a stomach bug and as I tried to plug school in here and there between helping whomever was vomiting at the time, I realized we’d had PBS on for about three. I also heard one of my five-year-old twins parroting back to the TV as Word World assisted me in teaching him how to read. As I felt my mommy guilt overpowering me, I called in for backup; a more seasoned homeschool mom.

“We’ve been watching PBS for three days. Does that count as school?”

She quickly reassured me that, yes, all circumstances considered, it does.

We have a reading curriculum. We have a curriculum for every subject. And on top of that, the twins get services at the public school three times a week for two and a half hours at a time. And although the focus of that time is socialization, reading and other learning is happening while they’re there.

My kids are learning. And not everything they need to know comes out of a text book. In this bizarre race to make kindergarten the first grade of our generation and in essence fast forward through a whole year of development and play and social skills, we’ve become trapped in the “smartest kid gets ahead” mentality. A preschooler should not feel pressure. It’s okay if a five-year-old cannot read yet. And for mom’s we should not feel this abnormal need to perform and thereby rush our children into milestones they are not yet ready for. It’s stressful for everyone and it’s unnecessary. And sometimes, yes, sometimes, it’s okay to take a break from trying so hard.

This is what I’ve learned thus far on my homeschooling journey in terms of what is most important: read, read, read to them. Play with them. Leave room for imagination and free play. Structure is good but you can have too much of a good thing. Our kids are like flowers; they need good soil (home/foundation), good food, lots of sunlight and water and above all, love.

The seeds will grow.

You can read more of Cindy’s blog at

And as always, fun learning is forever learning.

Ann Simpson

The Ever Changing Homeschool Curriculum

One awesome family losing sight of the shore…and searching for the next laundromat!

Guest Blogger Mary Carlton

As many of you seasoned homeschooling moms (and dads) know, the homeschool curriculum is a growing, changing beast.  That dark, negative voice that we attempt to suppress on a daily basis sometimes breaks through to the surface creating a blanket of doubt and fear.  Are we pushing them too hard? Are we not challenging them enough?  Are they falling behind in Math?  Should they be reading at a higher level?  These questions, and many others, lead us on an almost constant quest to find the perfect homeschooling curriculum.  Well, my friends, I have a nugget of wisdom that I am willing to share with you (and yes, it’s free!).

There is no such thing as the perfect curriculum.

*GASP*  Shocking eh?

The fear of failure is a massive motivator.  But when we, as homeschooling parents, take a look at what and who we would be failing, it creates a deep seated panic down in your belly.  For me, it’s like falling from a great height, knowing you are going to crash, but still having time to reflect on where it went wrong…it drives me to distraction.  I am constantly wondering if I’m doing it all right, or all wrong.  This fear has created a revolving door in regard to our courses of study. However, after a measly two years, I think I just might have pieced together a curriculum that suits our family rhythm.

When we started homeschooling we lived in a house.  I went to the resale homeschool bookstore and grabbed a few basics in the three R’s.  This worked well for about a month and then the ugly beast took control and I went searching.  We added in a few more subjects and I felt a bit better about what we were doing throughout the day.  When we decided to hit the road, we also decided to revamp the manner in which we studied.  We wanted to try to go digital with everything.  So, off I went in search of a curriculum that would help us do that.  I looked at boxed sets, they were too heavy (weight is an issue in the camper) and too expensive for us. I also looked at the curriculums that offered 100% online courses.  The only thing I worried about with that was how I would handle it if we didn’t have internet.  I eventually came across a curriculum that seemed to be the perfect fit.  It was all on a CD which would allow me to print anything I needed or just use the computer.  The library of classic literature that came with it was astounding.  The entire curriculum was based on reading, which we all love, and pushing the kids to be self-reliant.  Sold!

A few months went by and I realized that I needed to be able to have a book in my hand, along with a schedule for each subject, in order for me to feel in control of our progress.  So, off I went searching again.  And through a few trials and errors, I arrived at the curriculum we now use in our roadschooling family.  It’s a hodge podge of items that seem to work well with the ebb and flow of our daily lives.

As I look back at what we went through to arrive at this point, I realize that it’s not a curriculum that I was searching for.  It was more about finding what made me comfortable in my position as teacher rather than the subjects and courses I was teaching.  You see, kids really can learn anywhere.  It can be by reading something in a book, watching a video, visiting a museum, or simply exploring the outdoors.  Along that same line of understanding, parents can teach in a multitude of ways as well.  We can buy lesson plans, use boxed sets that have all materials included, use the online/virtual schools that are very hands off, or we can pull together daily and weekly lessons from local resources as we see fit.  I realized that my job wasn’t to necessarily teach them science, or fractions, or diagramming sentences.  My job is to teach them how to find information while still encouraging that love of learning new things.  And for me, the best way to do that is to have a scheduled way to measure progress.  I can see, daily, what excites them, interests them, and bores them.  For me, not having to create lesson plans allows me to direct my focus on other aspects of our traveling lives. Such as finding locations that jive with their interests J Not having to worry about where a library is, wondering if we’re going to have internet, or figuring out what comes next takes a load of weight off of my shoulders and frees me to simply enjoy the day with them.  Sometimes, I find myself learning right beside them!

So no, there is no perfect curriculum.  And realizing that has helped me figure out what works.  Once I figured out the “how”, then the “what” followed along quite well.  The kids have a workable schedule that encourages them to be self-sufficient, while allow me to see, at a glance, where they are in their day.  And we all know that a happy and relaxed Momma means a happy and relaxed family!

Information regarding roadschooling can be found here.

You can read more of Mary’s blog at

Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!

Ann Simpson

101 Effective Earth Science Demonstrations

On Monday, Guest Blogger Sierra shared with us how she made a bottle rocket. For additional FUN science projects, check out 101 Effective Earth Science Demonstrations Using Only One or Two Items!

FYI–This site made our Top 100 Educational Websites for 2013.  Have you seen the list?

It’s an interesting and fun list–and fun learning is forever learning!

Ann Simpson

The Bottle Rocket — A Homeschool Project

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

The Bottle Rocket — A Homeschool Project & Newton’s Third Law of Motion

Guest Blogger Sierra Ruch

Who doesn’t like rockets? Besides the fact that they are pretty cool looking, you can watch them launch up into the air. I will show you how we made a rocket using Newton’s third law of motion which states that when a force acts on an object, the object will push back in the opposite direction with equal force.

You Will Need:
Empty plastic bottle
A cork
Air pump with needle adapter

First use the card-stock and tape to decorate your rocket anyway you would like (we cut out four fins for the sides and a cone for the top). After you’re done with that, fill a quarter of your bottle with water. Take the cork and press your needle adapter to your pump all the way through it. Next place the cork inside the mouth of the bottle and attach the back of the needle adapter to your pump. Start pumping air into the bottle, making sure to aim it away from you and anyone else.  After a few seconds you should have liftoff!

You can read more of Sierra’s blogs at

Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!

Ann Simpson

A Homeschool Science Project You Can Eat!

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , , — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

Geometry… molecules…. pretzels and marshmallows…  oh my!

This is a  homeschool science project you can eat!

Guest Blogger Celena Janton

My kiddos had fun for hours with this super easy, not-too-messy, very affordable science craft you can eat!  They practiced their shapes, creativity, and writing, brushed up on teamwork, and they had very much fun doing it.  Maybe just as great as Lincoln Logs, and much more affordable.  As my daughter said, “This is crazy cool!”  I must say, Science class at our house is soooo much more fun than I ever had in elementary school.  I love it!

Print out this idea sheet to give your kiddos some inspiration while they work.

You can read more of Celena’s postings at The Traveling Sisterhood.

Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!

Ann Simpson


Tomorrow–Our Top 100 Educational Websites!

Tomorrow is the big day!

Check your inbox for this informative newsletter!

Our Top 100 Educational Websites!

Maple Sugaring–a Fun & Educational Activity

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

Maple sugaring is a fun and educational activity to get the family outdoors in late winter/early spring.If you have a mature maple tree (at least 12 inches in diameter) and live the in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic/ Mid-West, then you are half way there!

Tapping maple trees offers hands on lessons in nature, math (boiling sap to syrup is a ratio of 40 to 1), science, and the origin of our food supply.  And what a great family activity!

Everything you need can be found at the Tap My Trees website. The Starter Kit with aluminum buckets ( includes all the equipment to tap 3 trees.  Each tap will yield approximately 10-15 gallons of maple sap. Boil it down and make 1 quart of maple syrup! The Tap My Trees site has helpful information and lesson plans oriented towards the beginner.

Joe at Tap My Trees is your go-to resource for maple sugaring info and advice.  He welcomes any and all questions during any part of the process and enjoys hearing about your experiences.  Be sure to contact him via the website.

What a fun and educational activity!  And fun learning is forever learning!

Ann Simpson


Our Top 100 Educational Websites for 2013!

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

How exciting!  Our Top 100 Educational Websites for 2013! Coming next week!


Kidpreneurs, Young Entrepreneurs with Big Ideas!

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , , — dailynews @ 8:00 pm

Kidpreneurs, Young Entrepreneurs with Big Ideas! is a book that introduces basic business principles and the rewards of entrepreneurship to young children.  The book outlines basic tools and strategies kids can use to gain valuable experience in starting, managing, and growing a successful business.

The chapters in the book include the following-
·    What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
·    How Grown-Ups Earn Money (Love this title)
·    Are You an Entrepreneur?
·    Getting Started
·    Sample Businesses You Can Create!
·    Money on the Internet
·    Green Business and Ethics (Great addition)
·    Networking (Very important)
·    Giving Back  (Again, very important)
·    You Can Do It!
·    Resources (Very helpful)
·    My Business Plan

This is a charming and informative book–it’s visually appealing for younger kids. A video regarding the book can be seen here.

The Kidpreneurs Parent/Teacher Guide, is a great companion to the book, and it helps both you and your kids, make the most of the Kidpreneurs book. The guide contains over 100 pages of fun activities, reproducible worksheets, and complete instructions to help you guide your kids in their entrepreneurial journey.

Both books are written by Adam and Matthew Toren.  The Torens pride themselves as being “serial entrpreneurs”.  They are the founders of – the largest and fastest growing social networking forum for young entrepreneurs, as well as – a blog that helps Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners, and of course – a site for Young Entrepreneurs with BIG ideas!

As the Torens state, “You’ve heard the saying, It’s never too late.  We say, It’s never too early!  Even children can be introduced to basic business principles and the rewards of entrepreneurship!”

Several children have left reviews on the site.  One of them writes, “Kidpreneurs has assisted me in learning the important factors of starting a business, I think all kids should read this book.” – Alexis T. (10 years old)

Gotta love it!  In fact, I don’t think I need to add anything more!

And of course, fun learning is forever learning.

Ann Simpson

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