Archive for 'Free lesson plans and ideas'

Homeschool freebie: Make it Real by Math Mammoth

If you are not familiar with Math Mammoth, you should check them out. There is a ton of free math worksheets and materials on their website. One of my favorite freebies from this website is the Make it Real, Volume 1, activity sampler. The ten lessons in this sample book show your child exactly why math is important.


The lessons are real life situations that your child will eventually come across. Make it Real starts off with a lesson on choosing a cell phone plan. Your child is given a data set—rates for different plans—and they must choose which plan would be the most cost effective for a given situation. This lesson is for kids who have already been exposed to working with linear equations. After completing the lesson, why not have your child examine your current cell phone plan to see if you are getting the best deal.


Cooking in the Kitchen is the second activity in the sampler. This lesson involves working with fractions and percents. Students will explore the importance of fractions and percents by working with a recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. You can take this one step further and perform the practice exercises in your kitchen.


Several lessons include higher level math including calculus. Some lessons, such as the lesson on investigating cubic functions, may not be suitable for younger children. This particular lesson uses teen pregnancy statistics as the basis for the lesson. I know many parents who would prefer not to touch on this subject with younger children.


The ebook is free to download as a pdf file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader or other program that can read pdf files in order to use the book. You can download the Make it Real ebook here.

Hope this was helpful


Posted on 14 September '13 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Free or Almost free resources, Freebies, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

Homeschool Freebie: Math Mammoth Percent

I like things that are free and here is a good one. Math Mammoth is offering the Math Mammoth Percent ebook for free, now through August 18, 2013. The book is designed for middle school students or students performing in math grade levels six through eight.

If you are unfamiliar with Math Mammoth, this is a good time to check them out. They do not sell their math worksheets and curriculum directly, you have to go through one of several vendors, like the Home School Buyers Co-op,  to purchase it. All of the products are available for download, some are available in print and CD format.

Click here for the free Math Mammoth Percent ebook.

Hope you find this useful



Posted on 16 August '13 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Freebies, Homeschool Curriculum, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

Homeschool is not just the 3 Rs

Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic–the 3 Rs. Sometimes it seems that we as homeschool parents focus too much on them. Granted, reading, writing and arithmetic are extremely important. Our children must learn to read and write and calculate. But what about the other things they need to learn. It seems that we spend so much time focusing on the core subjects (especially when our children are being less than cooperative) that the fun stuff seems to take a sideline. We’ve come up with a system that keeps things fun while covering the basics. In our homeschool, we do quarterly projects.

The projects do not have to be elaborate or something that will win a national science fair, but the project should be complicated enough to challenge your children and to last an entire eight weeks. Since we implemented quarterly or semester-long projects in our homeschool, the basics get covered as they are included in the project.

This school year we started with a solar food dehydrator project. The first one we made was constructed out of cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, tape and window screening. We added the tray from a broiler pan to dry the food. This went well but it certainly did not qualify for a quarterly project. The kids and my husband built it in a couple of hours. But then, the magic took over. The kids got a kick out of dry hot peppers. We use them a lot on pizza. Fresh ground dried peppers are so much more flavorful than store bought. Our cardboard version of a food dryer did not last long. Early morning dew and moisture trashed the boxes in a couple of weeks. The kids wanted something sturdier, so I went looking for plans.

That is when I found the book: The Solar Food Dryer: How to Make and Use Your Own Low-Cost, High Performance, Sun-Powered Food Dehydrator

Our next project is definitely a semester-long undertaking. We decided to start an aquaponics project. This is where you raise fish and food in a symbiotic system. Waste from the fish is run through growing beds. Plants in the growing beds feed off of the fish waste and the clay pellets the plants grow in filter out the solid fish waste. Clean, oxygenated water is returned to the fish and the cycle starts again. So far, we have built a small system in order for us to understand all the concepts.

Again, we turn to books and the internet for help. A plethora of aquaponic videos are available on YouTube. The book we used to get started was: Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together

After doing research the kids decided on a modified barrel system. They found an inexpensive source for food-grade 55 gallon drums and they have built several different models of bell siphons. My boys have shopped around for pumps, growing medium, PVC pipe and tubing. We are currently in the process of putting everything together and deciding where we want to put this operation. Space in our suburban backyard is very limited. Once we get it up and running, I will post pictures.

Mesh your project to your children’s interests. If your kids like crafts, try a woodworking, quilting or needlework project. Perhaps you could create something to enter into the state or county fair. The object is to create something, it could be a garden, a craft, a piece of music or a short-story. You are only limited by your imagination. Start a project this quarter and see how it brings excitement into your homeschool.

Posted on 9 February '13 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Solar Food Dehydrator. No Comments.

Homeschool Science Project: A Solar Food Dryer

Several months ago we embarked on a homeschool science project which took on a life of its own. What started as a couple of cardboard boxes turned into a major undertaking. There were many issues with the original solar food dryer plans. So we decided to take it one step further. Now, we are building a wooden food dehydrator that has an electric backup.


Our First Solar Food Dryer

solar food dehydrator

Our first solar food dryer was made from 2 cardboard boxes.


We constructed our original solar food dehydrator from a couple of cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, black paint, old screen and a rack from an old roaster. Duct tape held everything together. This food dryer presented many challenges.

It is not very sturdy. To preserve the structural integrity of the dryer, you have to bring it in every night. Otherwise, morning dew gets the cardboard wet and it becomes too weak to hold the rack. We left ours out 24/7 and found after a week, the boxes started to deteriorate. If rain threatened–we moved the dryer indoors.

Another issue was the loss of critical heat. The original plans called for screening over the top of the dryer. This allowed too much heat to escape. We replaced the screen with plastic wrap and added screen-covered vents on the sides of the box. This helped marginally.

The cardboard dryer was a great first attempt at solar food drying, but with so many critical problems we decided to look for a sturdier model.


Bigger and Better

We loved the idea of preserving our garden harvest without incurring the cost of electricity. Canning works beautifully in many situations, but dried foods take up less space. We love ground cayenne peppers on pizza and other foods. Canning cannot replace drying and vice versa.

Our new project is building a solar food dryer out of wood. While it is possible to reduce costs by using recycled products, we decided to purchase everything we did not already have. This is not an inexpensive homeschool project. To date we have invested about $250 in materials, tools and supplies.

Once the new dryer is built, it will be used outdoors as much as possible. Two incandescent light bulbs supply backup heat when it is too cold or lack of sun prevents solar drying. I will keep you up to date on our progress so check back often–especially after the weekend.


Educational Experiences

Our first project made for a wonderful solar energy experiment. It was a good lesson in recycling, as the cardboard solar dryer was made from items we had at the house. We didn’t have to buy anything to make it.

The new project becomes more involved. In addition to the obvious food preparation and storage, and solar energy; we are learning about woodworking, safe use of power tools, comparison shopping, wiring electrical circuits, following plans, math, budgeting, project management and team work.

Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted on how this progresses–we may turn it into a video blog. Let me know what you think.



Posted on 23 October '12 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Science lesson plans, Solar Food Dehydrator. No Comments.

Writing Professionally Changed How I View Language Arts

When I look back on the first pieces I published, they read like a high school essay. I always thought my writing was good. Every English teacher I had gave me an A on my writing assignments–even in college. It wasn’t until I started writing professionally that I realized everything I was taught, was wrong.


Writing is not about spewing forth what you think the teacher wants to see in an assignment. I always did this, I put forth beautifully written essays that said nothing, showed no voice. All my essays proved was that I could write an essay that conformed perfectly to the rules of essay writing and that I was really good at knowing what the teacher wanted to read. This is not good writing, it is good structural format and the writing was excruciatingly boring. There was no voice. It was mechanical.


Working professionally, I learned that in order for writing to be good–it needs a voice. In traditional schools and language arts programs, nothing is done to help young writers find their voice. All the writing prompts in the world will not get you there, voice comes with experience, and experience comes from writing–lots of writing.


How do you get kids to write? Mine hate it, many of yours probably do too. The best thing you can do to get your kids writing is to back off. Forget grammar, sentence structure and spelling. Forget about the rewrite. Set aside time every week or several days a week for them to write in a journal. The only rule is that they have to write at least one sentence worth of words. The other rule is–you cannot look at it if they do not want you to see it. Respect that, eventually it will change.


When you give a writing assignment, place the heaviest emphasis on voice. You want to know why your child feels the way they do about the subject. You cannot teach feeling and voice, you have to coax it out of them. If you ask them to write about a passage they have read and they say, “it was dumb.” Go with that, tell them you respect their opinion but you want to know why it was dumb, boring, stupid, or “I hated it.” What exactly made your child feel that way. If you get something positive–great. You have a lot to work with. Ask your child what excited you, how did it impact you, what was it that made it so interesting.


Good writing is about voice, feelings, and being able to convey that emotion to the reader. Encourage your child to write from the heart. When this is accomplished, their writing skills will soar.



Posted on 22 July '12 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Homeschooling 101, Homeschooling through high school. No Comments.

Family walks and hikes: A guest post from Andrea Coventry

Keeping your elementary children entertained and educated over the summer months can feel like a daunting task. The new trend is to overschedule everyone in expensive summer camp programs. Kids need some down time to just be kids, though. Family hikes and walks can provide plenty of opportunities for relaxation, bonding and learning.


Check the Internet for hiking trails near your area. You can find all kinds of maps and recommendations. Some trails are specifically geared toward educating children and adults about various plant and animal species, habitats and even physical endurance. Keep your eyes open while you are out and about running errands, as well. Some trails and parks are somewhat hidden and not always detailed online.


Work together to determine a plan. Remember to start small. Carry a map. Make sure everyone eats and uses the bathroom before you head out. Especially in this summer’s heat, bring plenty of water for everyone.


Bring a digital camera to record different animals and plants you encounter along the way. You’ll also find some great family shots that will bring back lovely memories for years to come. If you find something you cannot identify, you can look it up on the Internet or visit your local library to research it. Go in reverse and create a scavenger hunt ahead of time. Collect items by taking their pictures. Turn it into a game to see who can find the most species.


Some of these parks and trails also offer some history. You can take the same path that explorers took and visit some famous former homesteads. Try to imagine what life would have been like back then. See if you can recreate some of the situations.


Remember to check out local cemeteries, too. Larger ones have plenty of areas to walk. All are full of all kinds of history. Make up stories about people whose headstones you see. Sneak in a little math by trying to figure out how old someone was when he or she died. Use this time to teach respect as you carefully navigate the pathways. It’s also a great time to share family history and memories.


Andrea Coventry is a Montessori child, now Montessori educator, dedicated to bringing learning and happiness to all children. She loves to read and write on a variety of topics. Access her book blogs and other works via her website at

Posted on 2 July '12 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Guest Blogger. No Comments.

Get Kids to Eat Veggies with a Taste Taste

Portrait with vegetables

Use creativity to get kids to eat vegetables

It is difficult to get kids to eat vegetables. Many don’t like the bitter taste of some veggies like broccoli, cauliflower or green leafy vegetables. You can get kids to eat veggies with a taste test. This home school lesson plan will teach children about the scientific method and data collection. The activity works best with multiple children. If you have an only child, invite friends over to help.



Talk about the scientific method and about data collection. Ask if your kids know what a blind taste test is. Inform them that they will be conducting a blind taste test with vegetables and dipping sauces.


What you need

This lesson plan uses four different dips; hummus, almond-miso dip, creamy tofu dip, and bean dip. Click here for the recipes.


1) A variety of sliced raw vegetables. Try broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, sweet bell peppers and jicama.


2) Paper for data sheets, ruler and pencils.


3) Plastic cups for dipping sauces.


4) Labels for the sauces, use the letters A, B, C, and D.


5) Water for drinking in between tastes.



Place dipping sauces in cups marked with letters. Write down which letter belongs to each sauce but do not share the information with your children. If two adults are available, have one mark and record the sauces and the other adult can work with the kids.


Place a tray of assorted sliced vegetables on the table with the dipping sauces.


Have each child make a data sheet. Put four headings on the top of the paper labeled A, B, C, D. Use a ruler to create four equal columns.


Taste test

Each child should select a vegetable from the tray and dip it into one of the sauces. They should mark on their data sheet if they liked the sauce or not, and indicate which vegetable they selected. Very young children who cannot write, can draw a smiley face or a frown to indicate if they liked the dipping sauce.


Have each child drink water before tasting the next dipping sauce (with a new vegetable slice.) Continue until everyone has tasted all four sauces.


Compile the data

Have a master data sheet. Select one child to count and make tally marks in each column. When all the data is collected, have the students make charts or graphs to show which dipping sauces were preferred. Ask the children if they think their choice of vegetable influenced whether they liked a particular dipping sauce or not.



Posted on 23 June '12 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Science lesson plans. No Comments.

Freebie: Learning Resources from Patrick Henry College and HSLDA

Here is a freebie for all of the thrifty homeschoolers out there. Not specific to Arkansas–any home school family will be able to use at least one of the resources listed on the page. They are in pdf format, so you will need Adobe Reader or another pdf reader to view the files.

Courtesy of HSLDA and Patrick Henry College, a full page of free learning resources geared toward high school students. The material is Christian based. Feel free to share the information with your family and friends.

Hope you find this useful.

Posted on 6 July '11 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Free or Almost free resources, Freebies, Homeschooling through high school. No Comments.

Homeschool Lesson: Meal Planning and Shopping

In keeping with the thrifty homeschooling theme of this blog, I have set forth a challenge to my family. I want to keep the food budget to $125.00 per week or $25.00 per family member per week.

We plan our meals 2 weeks in advance. Last night all five of us sat down to plan the meals for June 19th through July 3. We started with dinner as this usually the most expensive meal and it is the only meal we eat together as a family. The dinners included more ground turkey than normal. This is because I have been buying it in bulk quantities at Save-A-Lot. It is on sale for $1.00 a pound until June 26. I also scored a great deal on hot dogs last week and I bought 20 packages.

I did part of my shopping for the upcoming two weeks today. We spent $16.00 at the farmers market where we bought a quart of blueberries, 2 bunches of Swiss chard, 1 bunch of baby bok choi, and salad greens. I had the kids help me match-up coupons with deals at the stores. They decided that buying cereal at Save-A-Lot at two boxes for $2.00 was cheaper than making a separate trip to Walgreens where the same cereal is on sale for $1.99 a box. They took gas and travel time into account when making this decision. We bought 4 boxes of cereal and used two $0.75 off coupons. We decided that lunches would focus around Butterball turkey bologna as we had four $0.65 off coupons making it $.94 cents a pound. As a treat we bought 5 cans of Seattle’s Best Coffee. I had five get one free coupons so these did not cost anything. All total we spent $38 at Save-A-Lot. Before the coupons the total was $50.00.

Our goal for this week is to spend no more than $125.00 on food. With the kids input into the meal planning I think we will be able to make this work. the boys at ages 11, 16, and 18 should be involved in the meal planning and family budget. It is important to teach your kids how to budget and how to shop. I will post the final meal plans as soon as I have everything completed.

Hope you found this interesting.


Posted on 18 June '11 by , under Coupons, Free lesson plans and ideas, Ramblings and Rumors, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

Currclicks Offers Child Safe Chess Club For Homeschoolers

Currclicks is offering an online chess club for homeschoolers. This is a great option for kids who love to play but are having a difficult time finding a chess partner. The club is set up to be child safe and parents can monitor who their child is in contact with.

Signing up is easy. I suggest that you read their chess club blog prior to signing up.

If you are unfamiliar with Currclicks, I would recommend checking out their website. There is a plethora of inexpensive homeschool curriculum available.


Posted on 21 January '11 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Free or Almost free resources, Freebies. 1 Comment.

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