Archive for the ‘Free teaching aids’ Category

Hi! I have been away from my blog for far too long, I know. We have been busy, busy, busy (and I am lazy). Dana is currently starting a series of in-depth retesting and re-evaluation at Children’s Hospital in Columbus. We are still homeschooling and still struggling with his severe dysgraphia, which I worry will seriously impact any future academic study success. I am hoping they can help with that.

As we start into his high school years, I find myself balancing our plans between giving him a curriculum that will satisfy a college or technical school (should he decide to go) and providing him with the knowledge and skills that I know will be critical to him for the rest of his life. For some reason, thorough grounding in nutrition (even general health), sex education, and financial literacy seem to receive, at best, only a minor nod in high school requirements. Not to mention other life skills, like shopping, cleaning, etc.. To me, these are possibly the most critically important things for him to learn. Thankfully, since we homeschool, we can cover those. The problem is in finding material to use.

Each year I research online to hopefully identify text books and material that best meets his needs, interests and abilities. When I purchase regular textbooks, I buy them used on eBay or Amazon, usually. In some cases, though, there is just nothing available, or what is available is of low quality or is otherwise unsuitable, or needs to be supplemented. Fortunately, I have found material that is either low cost or free that we are going to try. In some cases, it is in pdf format and must either be used on the computer or Kindle, or be printed out and put in a notebook or bound some way. In some cases, you can actually receive free printed material through the mail and not even pay shipping! In some cases, books are available free as e-books. I will cite some examples which we will be using at some point in the next 4 years.

Financial Literacy: Along with some little books from Bluestocking Press, that seem impressive, we will use some paper back books in a series called “Building Your Future” from The Actuarial Foundation. These 4 award-winning educational books, accompanied by teacher’s guides, are available free on request from the Actuarial Foundation.
(I also purchased “Life Prep for homeschooled teenagers” by Barbara Frank, on Amazon. This book covers a lot of basic skills, including financial)

Sex Education:
(Acknowledging the fact that many do not approve of too detailed sex education,(a mistake in my opinion), I will caution you to check the content of these books before sharing them. Since they are free, this is easy to do.)
These books are available in several formats from CK12. I downloaded them to my Kindle, but also have the teacher guides in my computer in pdf format in case I want to print them, or portions of them. Titles include: “Your Changing Body”, “Human Biology- Sexuality”, “Human Biology-Reproduction.” These were written for middle school to high school ages.
Science and More: CK12 also has many more text books, particularly in the sciences, some of which we will likely use. Usually, teacher guides are also available, and sometimes student workbooks can be downloaded. They are all free.

Physics – Electricity:
Due to Dana’s strong focus on computers and electricity, we will probably go a bit further than most in his study of those areas. I located a site where you can download free open-source textbooks written by an instructor who was disappointed in the textbooks available for his students, so wrote his own. They are for upper high school or beginning college level. Visit “Lessons in Electric Circuits” to download.
There is a strong move toward providing college students with downloadable, free textbooks in e-book format. Sometimes these may also be suitable for upper level and/or advanced high school students as well. Check out “Open Access Textbooks“.

I have only scratched the surface here, I am sure. If you have a free resource for high school students, please post a comment to tell us about it!


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If you are looking for resources for teaching that don’t cost an arm and a leg and will work for your kids and meet their special interests, I want to share some great freebies I downloaded recently. Just about everyone knows about the many great videos online, like Khan Academy for math, science and more. Here are some links you may or may not know about.
The first two I found through http://www.homeschoolfreebie.wholesomechildhood.com/ If you don’t belong to this free site, you should.
KISS Grammar grades 1-12: student workbooks and teacher’s guides: http://home.pct.edu/~evavra/KISS.htm
Lessons in electronics (high school-early college level books) http://openbookproject.net//electricCircuits/
( I have found several great teaching/learning texts like the two above that were written by very knowledgeable and experienced teachers/instructors/professors who were so frustrated at the lack of availability of good texts that they ended up writing their own and making them available for free. The two above have since been tested and edited.
Long ago, I purchased the great SuperCharged Science kit with materials and videos on CD. My boy fell in love with the videos and projects/experiments. This freebie will give you a taste of it for summer science fun.
Science Activity Manual and Video collection from Aurora Lipper: http://www.superchargedscience.com/lnc512-1b.htm  (available for a limited time)
I also download lots of free e-books to my Kindle for reading to my boy or having him read. Most are for pleasure reading, but some are history or science. The CK-12 science texts are good. I recently got “Logic to the Rescue” and “Castles and Chemistry” that are stories which encourage and teach thinking skills and the use of logic in an entertaining way. I also got “Charles Dickens’ Children Stories”, “Thomas Alva Edison: American Wizard,”  and a number of classics. Not only are they free, but my boy can also download them to his iPod Touch as well as having them on my Kindle Fire, and both are in color. Even the pdf files from other freebies are readable on these devices. 
Finding freebies requires the same judgment on quality of materials, suitability for learning level, learning style and interests that you should apply when purchasing materials, but at least, if it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost any money (except for the ink and paper you may have used to print. I printed the grammar book and spiral bound it.) I have never been one to purchase “school in a box” curricula, but “pick and choose” can be expensive, too. I am spending a lot less these days and getting some great stuff!

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CNN recently posted a video about a study done with students who were referred to a website about the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Reports tell us that many of the kids believed the story, even after they were told it was a hoax. However, contrary to the beliefs and slanted reports in the media, education experts agree that it does not prove that the internet is dangerous or should not be used to gather information. Rather it shows the increasing need to teach students how to critically evaluate information, which even adults need to learn. Many adults also quickly assume that online information is accurate and trustworthy without checking it out.

I found a great website which provides background information and even lesson plans and worksheets to teach both safe internet use and critical evaluation of information found on internet sites. I highly recommend Kids on the Net. I particularly checked out the pages for 9-10 year old and 11-12 year old kids and was very pleased.

“CyberSense and Nonsense: The Second Adventure of The Three CyberPigs,” an online interactive for ages 9-12, looks like a good place for us to start. The website says, “In this sequel to Privacy Playground…, the three CyberPigs learn some important lessons about authenticating online information and observing rules of netiquette. They also learn how to distinguish between fact and opinion and how to recognize bias and harmful stereotyping in online content.”

“Deconstructing Webpages” for ages 11-12 provides a complete lesson using a real website containing information which should be evaluated. Worksheets are also available for download and printing. Be sure to look for the download link for the complete package in pdf format (in the yellow box on the page).

Other resources on the site provide materials for teaching cyber safety, which I have also addressed more fully in another post.

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If you are like me, looking at the many free share curriculum ideas online is mostly bo-r-i-n-g! And I say that as a former public school teacher. I do love some of the great free books with facts, ideas, activities and even neat illustrations and worksheets. I especially like being able to select from them what I want to use.

One good one that I found a long time ago and forgot about until recently being reminded of it by another homeschooler on the All Kinds of Learners list is from the American Chemical Society. This 470 page book in pdf format is called “Inquiry in Action: Investigating Matter Through Inquiry.” It is designed to be used with students in grades 3-8 as a resource for guided, inquiry-based activities to supplement whatever physical science curriculum you follow. Photocopying is strongly encouraged!

Activities include investigating scientific questions with M & Ms, investigating physical properties and physical changes in solids with crystals, dissolving solids, liquids and gases, chemical change, and investigating density. The experiments/activities are all simple, safe, and fun, using items available in the home. Key concepts for students are provided, along with chemistry concepts for teachers.

I plan to use some of these next fall when we study chemistry. To download the book, go here. Did I tell you, the best part is,  it is FREE!

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Dana is starting his second year with 4-H, and although he is starting to get interested in some of the many other projects he can do, he is sticking with just robotics again this year. In his club there are only 2 boys who have chosen robotics projects, and the other is a high school senior. Although they are both working on the Robotics Probe, or level 2, project, they will each work independently. Fortunately, one of his homeschool friends who was in his robotics workgroup last year, is also doing the project this year on his own. He is in a different 4-H group, but will come to our house now and then so they can compare projects and learn from each other.

This level gets into physics and mechanical engineering, especially toward the end of the 14 activities. However, only 7 activities per year are required. Dana will do only the first 7 activities, while the older boy in his group will likely complete the book. This year the building and programming involves the use of a rotational sensor and belts, pulleys and gears. This requires understanding different types of gears and gear assemblies and figuring the ratios, as well as new programming.

Besides the workbook/activity guide, 4-H provides online supports. The “Robotics Project Online” has building guides, information sheets and booklets and worksheets as well as slide presentations. These are all in pdf format and can be downloaded and printed. The “Robotics and You CD” online provides instructional narrated videos. The two activity guides for Robotics Explorer, Level 1 and Robotics Probe, Level 2 can also be downloaded and printed. And there is a guide for project helpers. Links to all these online resources can be found here. (This is the only site I have found with a link to download the project books.)

The projects are designed using the experiential learning model: 1. Experience – do before being told or shown how; 2. Share – describe the experience and their reaction; 3. Process – discuss what was most important about what they did; 4. Generalize – relate to their own everyday experiences; 5. Apply – share how they will use the life skill and robotic skill practiced in other parts of their lives.

With the entire set of materials available free online, the child would not have to belong to 4-H to do the project, if they have their own Lego RCX robotics kit including the required sensors and parts. But they would miss the enjoyment and skills developed as they participate in and accept leadership positions with their 4-H club. Of course, they would also miss the experience of having their project judged. If you cannot find a suitable 4-H club near you, you might consider contacting the extension office and asking if you can start one.

Either way, anyone can purchase any of the 4-H project manuals, and there are many, from their local extension office or order online.

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Here are a few links and resources I found for friends on the All Kinds of Learners list:

For a kid’s book and kit to build 20 electronic projects with the same type of chips used inside a computer and learn how a computer works, check out “Fun With Computer Electronics” by Luann Colombo. 

To download Computer Systems: Gateways To Cyberspace and more advanced books in the “Professor and Pat” series, go to https://mathrider.dev.java.net/alm-process/2-ebooks/Programming%20newbies%20series/
A Google search for “Technology Skills Checklist” or “Technology Skills” will give you many pdf files that can serve as guidelines for different ages on learning to use computers.
For learning to use the computer see:
for videos:

I like this quote from Computer Systems: Gateways To Cyberspace:

“One summer afternoon Teacher and I were installing a sonar system on a boat at the lake. “Teacher,” I said “What is the secret to effective learning?” Teacher looked at me, cocked an eyebrow, paused and then grabbed me by the back of the neck and pushed my head under the water. Teacher’s reaction surprised me so much that I did not have time to take a deep breath before hitting the water and I was soon struggling. Teacher finally pulled me up and, after I had recovered somewhat, asked me what the thing I wanted most was when I was under the water. “Air!” I replied, “The only thing I wanted was Air!” Teacher then said “In order for your learning to be effective, you must want to learn the thing you are learning as much as you wanted air when your head was under the water. That which is learned without desire is soon forgotten. That which is learned with great desire, however, is knowledge that will be remembered forever.” (A modification of an old parable). Computer Technologists Must Be Motivated Self-Learners”

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My 9 year old has a hard time getting excited about learning spelling or math, but you hand him some electrical components and you’d better get out of his way! He hates getting books for Christmas. I guess because we have a houseful already and he associates them with everyday life, or at least homeschool. But he got a couple of electronics books with kits this year that really pleased him.

He will talk for hours about spur of the moment robotic inventions and can tell you all about electronics components and schematics. So, I figure this is a passion that should be encouraged and fed. I am also hoping that he will learn higher math more easily and willingly when he sees he needs it for electronics. I have been searching the Internet for resources to help him learn. The problem is that once you are past simple circuits, there isn’t much geared to a boy his age that is both interesting and understandable and doesn’t use too much math.

I recently stumbled across http://makezine.com which is a great website for builder-types of all ages, and I subscribed to their free podcast as well as getting Dana a subscription to their magazine. Then they notified me about a fabulous book for learning electronics. “Make: Electronics –Learning by Discovery,” by Charles Platt is going to be Dana’s next textbook for science, just as soon as we finish “Real Science-4-Kids Physics Level I”. “Make: Electronics” teaches in a fun, hands-on way. As the back cover says, “You’ll build the circuits first, then learn the theory behind them. I love this book! You can find the book on their website or on Amazon.com. Better yet, you can download a free large portion of the book at: http://cdn.makezine.com/make/Make_Electronics_Excerpt_1.pdf (Caveat: This book is not written for kids and may be too difficult as a starting place. My boy started much further back and “grew.” For beginners, you might start with Snap Circuits, and then go to “Fun With Electronics” or “Fun With Computer Electronics,” nice little books with a kit of build and learn projects.)

If you want more, check out the free downloadable article  “Teaching Some Basic Concepts of Electricity” by Laura Spoerri for the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. These lessons are designed to teach a few basic concepts of electricity to middle school students with experimentation, demonstrations, analogies, discussion, work sheets and vocabulary review. Handouts and a materials list are included.

If you go to http://www.tryengineering.org you can find “Get Connected With Ohm’s Law”, a lesson for ages 10-18

Then for high school age, there is “Electricity Visualized: The CASTLE Project,”  by Dr. Melvin S. Steinberg. CASTLE stands for “Capacitor-Aided System for Teaching and Learning Electricity.” It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Dept. of Education National Diffusion Network. This course is a part of the New York State Regents Physics Core Curriculum. The student manual WAS free to download. There is a teacher guide, but I am still trying to get that. (Apparently the original paper has just dissapeared from the internet. It appears that Pasco has obtained rights to change/update it and include it in a kit with supplies which they sell for around $79.00. Since the original student curriculum was funded with federal money and specifically states that it is free and can be duplicated, I have placed links here for you to download the student  files. Go to the bottom of this post for links.) UPDATE: PASCO now has their new revised and updated version available for free download on their website: click here. They also let you request a free download of the teacher’s guide. I have requested it and am waiting for their response.

For more advanced high school or beginning college/technical school level, go to: http://www.ibiblio.org/kuphaldt/electricCircuits/ for a free series of six big textbooks on the subjects of electricity and electronics, revised in 2009, by an instructor who was not satisfied with available textbooks. He encourages full free printing and use (including revision).

To cap this off, here is a great free computer program. For hands-on computer learning for the visual learner who likes to try stuff to see if it works, I recommend that you download Yenka at http://www.yenka.com/en/Free_Yenka_home_licences/  Yenka is a powerful piece of software for learning, which lets you use – and edit – an ever-growing library of free lessons for mathematics, science, technology and computing. It is used in schools, but they specifically encourage homeschoolers to download it for free, as long as you will not use it in a classroom (co-op) setting, etc. My boy tried working with the lessons on circuits already and certainly knew more than I did about the circuits and about how to use the program. Once we exploded a light bulb and it was fun – with no danger or mess to clean up.

Also, check out WatchKnow videos on electricity. And for knowledgeable comments and suggested teaching resources, click here.

Electricity Visualized, The CASTLE Project (Capacitor-Aided System for Teaching and Learning Electricity) Student curriculum. To download the pdf files, right click on each file name.

Intro.Student.09     Section.1.Student.09    Section.2.Student.09    Section.3.Student.09    Section.4.Student.09    Section.5.Student.09    Section.6.Student.09    Section.7.Student.09   Section.8.Student.09    Section.9.Student.09    Section.10.Student.09    Section.11.Student.09

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