Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Stumbled for the First Time Today

 I am not talking about cleverly catching your self just before your face plants on the floor. Or mixing your words together because your incredibly productive brain works way faster than your mouth does. Stumbling is now something you do online. Isn't that great?! No one can see you do it, and you won't get made fun of for the rest of the day. Just kidding. Stumble Upon is a website that I have been seeing a lot of in blogs recently and so I decided to stumble with the masses. You simply sign up (for free) and you are given a huge checklist. Select all of the stuff that seems interesting to you and hit the stumble button. This site will pull stuff from all over the web that match the criteria you selected. If you like the page that you "stumbled upon", then give it a thumbs up and it will be kept in your favorites. Ready to move on to another site? Just hit the "stumble" button. It is a great way to find new sites that fit your interests, and can entertain you for quite awhile. Here are a couple of sites that I "stumbled upon" today.

This chick makes math seem AWESOME!  Vi Hart's personal blog about how cool math really is, with videos to prove it

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity This is a presentation on TED Talks, those are always addicting. This one is about 20 minutes of insight into how important the arts are to education.

And now I want to make one of these A trash to treasure, DIY project that is perfect for anyone who has a little girl.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Did You Know the Space Station Was THAT Big?

The space station has been in the news lately for it's recent appearance in the night sky. I distinctly remember learning about the Space Station in middle school. As a day dreamer I marveled at it's endless possibilities. Over the years, several news stories had caught my attention about all the goings-on up there. There seems to always be a special mission to make repairs, run experiments, or replenish supplies. Even with all the news coverage about the space station, my mental image always stayed the same. That little mental image seems crazy to me now, as I know nothing ever stays the same. Just in case your mental image of the space station is still as it was years ago, here is a link to update that little picture in your brain.

USA Today : International Space Station

The sight also provides a time line of all the additions, and you can click on specific parts for more info on the purpose and other details. Interesting info for a nerd like me :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras!


Free Language Arts Resources

Sorry that the posting has been sporadic lately. We are still alive and very much enjoying the BEAUTIFUL spring weather here in Louisiana. We have been keeping ourselves busy outside and have a few upcoming family events that may be time consuming, so I apologize in advance for the delay of the next post. But know in your hearts that I am still thinking about my wonderful readers, and I promise that I have plenty of free resources for every subject so this little blog must live on to finish out it's destiny. (Yes, I am cheesy. All this sunshine must be frying my brain)

On to the awesome FREE stuff! As usual, the following are my own opinions and I am not being compensated in any way. Also, the resources cover a variety of content for a variety of ages groups/grades, but they are all centered around the Art that is Language. I hope you find something wonderful for your home school family!

Spelling City 
     Spelling City has tons to offer. You can opt for the free registration as a home school family, and have access to parent, teacher, and student resources on their site. This site is mostly geared towards younger kids, perhaps through middle school years, but it does have SAT spelling lists if you need practice for the older students in the class. You can create your own spelling lists and have the site teach the student, test the student, or create games that include the words you chose. This customizable feature makes it a perfect online addition to whatever curriculum you are already using. Spelling City has about 42,000 spelling words and customizable sentences for you to take advantage of, and has a real person to say and spell the words or read the sentences to your child. The site also offers free printables, including handwriting worksheets. Spelling City isn't limited to spelling though, it offers resources for improving reading, writing, and grammar skills mostly through games and skills lessons. First time users can get good use out of video tutorials and support from the site to help you get the most out of the site and incorporate these materials into your home school.

Apples 4 the Teacher
     This site offer resources for multiple subjects, but for right now I will focus on it's Language Arts section. This is a great resource for Pre-K through elementary school aged students.The main advantage of Apples 4 the Teacher is that it has tons of free printables. Coloring pages, crossword puzzles, alphabetizing lists, flash cards, printable games, sentence structure, letter recognition, word families, the list goes on. . . and on. If you need printables for your language arts lessons this site can definitely be a great asset. This site also offers resources by themes (such as a holiday or by season), so be sure to check back next time you are planning your language arts lessons.

Preschool Express
      All aboard the Preschool Express! Another site with resources for a variety of subjects, geared toward the Pre-K crowd. This site offers tons of ideas, lessons, activities, and printables that cover just about everything you need for your preschool lesson plans. I used the Alphabet Station alot to find activities for Crawfish Pie's  Alphabet Scrapbook. The creator of this site has lots of craft ideas, snack ideas, exercise ideas, etc to go along with the famous "letter of the week" (or day) lessons that so many home school families create for their little ones. If your family uses the letter of the week method, you will love this site! They also have the Skills Station which offers activities to build listening, thinking, and pre-reading skills along with many others that are related to other subject areas. Be sure to check out all of the "stations" along the Preschool Express railways :)

     Broken down into four easy to use levels based on your child's ability to read, Starfall offers colorful engaging activities to keep your kid interested while learning the skills needed to read and expand their vocabulary. This site is easy enough for my 5 year old to navigate on her own, or we can sit together and discuss the activities as she plays. And now the first level of learning, the "ABCs" section, is available as an application for iPods, iPhones and iPads.

McGraw Hill Workbooks
     Complete Language Arts and Grammar workbooks for grades 6-12. If you need an extra resource for your older students in the Language Arts area, consider these free downloads of complete workbooks published by McGraw Hill/Glencoe. No registration required, simply download the PDF file.These resources may vary by state, if you are looking for your state's materials you can check here. Just select, parent/student resources, the state you are in, and the subject material you are looking for. You can also check out what other states have if you are nosy like I am :) These are the workbooks that many public school systems are using, so this is a great tool if you wish to compare your lessons to the state's or to see if you child is "on target" with a state approved education.

Scott Foresman Workbooks
     Similar to the McGraw Hill workbooks, but for grades 1 through 6. These workbooks are a great resource for any classroom as the base of language arts curriculum, as a supplement, to see what area your child is struggling with, or to see how your child's understanding of the subject compares to kids in the state schools. These workbooks are also easy to navigate, with a complete and interactive Table of Contents that lets you skim areas of concentration and skip to what you specifically looking for within the document.

Adolescent Literacy
     Developed for the adolescent who struggles in reading, as well as the parents and teachers of students in grades 4 through 12. This site offers tips, advice, and methods to try when your adolescent has a tough time being in engaged when it comes to reading. offers short videos, podcasts, and pdf files to help you find a way to make reading exciting for your student.
     If your child doesn't struggle with reading, check out the Just for Fun section to find links for writing contests, free books, daily quizzes, and events that celebrate reading and literature.

Dr. Grammar
     Created by the University of Northern Iowa, Dr. Grammar is your one stop shop for information on all things related to grammar. Tricky grammar rules, commonly misused words, questions about plagiarism, and punctuation problems, are all covered in this easy to navigate site that tries to keep grammar simple to understand and interesting. I think everyone's grammar can benefit from checking out Dr. Grammar's Frequently Asked Questions. The information is useful for anyone who speaks or writes in our ever confusing English language, and they also provide a cute list of why English is so difficult to master as a language on their Potpourri page.

Agenda Web
     This site pulls resources from around the web, including, to bring you a comprehensive listing of games, worksheets, videos, and lessons. The site is first broken down into specific subject content, once you find the topic you are looking for the site gives you a set of links that are color coded by skill level. Some sections do not have names on the links, just a simple "exe" or "fla" description of what type of link it is. If you have spare time to go through the links, you can find some really useful resources to incorporate into your home school curriculum. Audio books, short stories with simple quizzes at the end, printable worksheets, vocabulary lessons, and other resources from the best the web has to offer are all located within this site. Though this site may not be super easy to use, by clicking the links offered in the topic of your choice you may find a few websites you never knew existed. I think the price tag is worth a little extra time, but this site may not be a good fit for everybody.

The Amazing Handwriting Worksheet Maker
     As the name implies, this website makes amazing handwriting worksheets. More commonly referred to as "tracer pages", you get to pick the font, the size, the color, and the words. You can pick a single word, a complete sentence, or a entire paragraph. The only downside to this website is that it is print only, you cannot save your tracer pages. No copy and paste, no ctrl P, no print screen. . . they have their bases covered. You do however get some of the best free customized tracer pages I have seen on the web.  A slightly less "pretty" site that prints customized tracer pages is Kid Zone. This site lets you pick the font and text you want to print, but there is a gap in the line between the letters and you never know how it is going to fit on the page when it is printed. I used to copy and paste to a word document, that way you can see how it fits on a real page and you can also save it if you choose.

     Just for fun :) This is the perfect site for the imaginative child. It is an online, interactive story building site that lets you collaborate with family and friends to create and illustrate stories. This is also a great site to encourage students to build story telling, grammar, and other language arts skills. Storybird would be a great addition to a lesson plan when learning about themes, plots, narration, characters, etc, and could also be used in poetry writing lessons. You can start with your own story and then find illustrations to add to it, or get inspired by artists already working with the site. There are no profiles to create, and no information is shared other than your story so it is completely safe for younger kids to use. You can view a simple tutorial here to get a better understanding of how the site works.

Glencoe Literature Library
     This is a very useful site centered around pieces of literature that are commonly read in public schools, such as "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" and "Hamlet". The Literature Library does not offer the text, but it does offer a study guide. These study guides offer insight into the literature, point out elements to focus on, details about the author or time period that may have affected their writing, and they also have thoughts to consider or additional resources that may be useful before you begin reading the actual text. The Literature Library is in alphabetical order, so it will be easy to see if they have the literature you planned on using in your curriculum. Simply click the title, scroll to the bottom of the page, and select Study Guide. Voila, a pdf file ready for you to add to your lesson plans.

Daily Writing Tips
     I am sure you already know what this site is about. Tips on using proper grammar in your writing, sent to you daily. Each day there is a short article on a grammar rule, how to use it properly and how to avoid using it improperly. You can go through the archives, see the most popular articles, or use their search engine to find specific articles. They also have short tests that they update each month. I had to check the test features out so I opted for the Grammar test. I failed miserably. Makes me wonder: are my writing skills really that bad? Perhaps I need to brush up on my grammar lessons.

     Is it possible that I am only person who thinks dictionaries are cool? It can't be so. But just in case it is, the folks at Merriam-Webster have created a few sites to encourage kids to love vocabulary. Word Central is an offspring of the dictionary site geared towards the much younger crowd. This site offers fun learning games that take place in some distant universe and feature characters like Robo-Bee and BIGbot. You can also create your own dictionary. Most young kids will make up their own words when they aren't sure how to express their thoughts completely, and this site gives them a fun forum to explore words and keep track of their own new ones. There is also a section for educator resources that can be a useful addition to vocabulary lesson plans or lessons about using the dictionary. Spell It! is a site co-created by the Scripp's National Spelling Bee that is mainly used by students wishing to compete in the spelling bee. This site has tons of words separated into categories based on language of origin, and it has "challenges" in each section that further your knowledge of how the language of origin affects words in our language. This site also has a list of Words You Need to Know that covers words frequently used in essay writing and commonly misspelled words.  Spelling Bee Hive is also commonly used for spelling bees. This site seems way more relaxed than the Spell It site and offers fun games, the word of the day, and daily spelling quizzes. There is also a short article on Noah Webster's Spelling Reform which shows how old Mr. Webster changed words to make them easier to pronounce and spell (thank you Mr. Webster!).

That's all of my free sites for Language Arts. If you have other free sites that you love and want to share, please leave me a comment. And since you are all here, what subject or lesson plan are you working on that could use some free upgrades?