Free access to Discovery Education for 30 days

I love freebies. Discovery Education has amazing content for grades kindergarten through 12. Once upon a time, the state of Arkansas gave homeschoolers free access to Discovery Streaming. Those days are long gone. The good news is that through the Home School Buyers Co-op you can get a free, 30-day trial to Discovery Streaming.


I like Discovery Streaming because it has video content on a variety of subjects. Students can explore history, art, science, math, and language arts. Parents can assign their children specific content to watch. The trial subscription is unlimited. Parents can preview all video content prior to allowing their children to watch.


In addition to the streaming videos, Discovery Education has lesson plans and activities. Sometimes even veteran homeschool parents need new ideas. I have found Discovery Education very helpful when I am putting together a unit study. Parents have plenty of multi-disciplinary options at their fingertips.


This is truly a free trial. You will not be asked to provide credit card information. If you love Discovery Education Streaming and want to purchase it for your homeschool; make your purchase through the Home School Buyers Co-op before September 30, 2013. They are currently offering a one-year subscription for $99. The retail price for Discovery Streaming is $199, so don’t wait to make a purchase if you want this for your homeschool.


I recommend getting the free 30-day trial. You have nothing to lose and if you like it, you can purchase it at a steep discount. This is a great offer, especially for households with limited TV. At $99 it costs about the same for the year as Netflix or Hulu Plus, but the content is educational.



Hope this was helpful


Posted on 20 September '13 by , under Free or Almost free resources, Freebies. 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.

Kindle book review: ‘Across the Plains in the Donner Party’

I love teaching using quality books. True stories bring history to life for our kids. One book in particular I found very interesting. Across the Plains in the Donner Party, edited by Karen Zeinert, is one of the few books I found that is suitable for middle school aged kids and up. The Donner Party resorted to desperate measures in order to survive a winter in the high Sierra Mountains, in an area now known as Donner Pass and Donner Lake.

The Donner Party
The Donner Party headed out on the Oregon Trail toward California. Along the way, they came across information about a short cut called Hastings Cut-off. At the time, the party had no way of knowing that taking this uncharted and unproven route would lead to their demise.

The Kindle Version of Across the Plains in the Donner Party
I borrowed the Kindle version of the book from my local library. At the Bentonville library, I can borrow up to five Kindle books at a time. Each book has a 14-day rental period. The book is properly formatted for the Kindle and I did not notice any glaring typos or grammatical errors.

This book, unlike many others on the subject, does not base the story around cannibalism. Although it is noted in the book that this occurred, it is a very minor part of the story and it is downplayed. This is what makes it suitable for children in middle school and up–the lack of gory details.

The book, is a compilation of letters, writings and diaries from Virginia Reed-Murphy, James Reed, and Patrick Breen. All three were members of the Donner Party. The majority of the book is from a magazine article Virginia Reed-Murphy wrote about 40 years after she was stranded at Donner Lake. Virginia was 12-years old when the Donner Party was stranded for the winter in the Sierra Mountains. Her accounts are somewhat child-like in description, but she remembers the ordeal as any child would. Virginia is the step-daughter to James Reed.

James Reed was a founding member of the Donner Party. He and the Donners put together the wagon train that headed west. His diary, written after he was banished from the Donner Party, is an account of everything that happened to him. It is the account of a man who did not believe he would survive his ordeal. This account was left so that those who found his body would know where he came from, what he went through, and who to contact.

Patrick Breen joined the Donner Party later on down the trail. His diary starts when the group is stranded at what is now Donner Lake. Like James Reed, this diary is written by a man who is convinced he is going to die.

This book gives a look into the mindset of a child, who managed to survive impossible circumstances. Virginia Reed-Murphy made a deal with God while stranded at Donner Lake. She said if he got her through this and she survived, she would convert to Catholicism. She kept her promise.

Let me know if you find this review helpful


Posted on 30 November '12 by , under Reviews. No Comments.

Homeschool Science Project: Solar Food Dehydrator Part 3

We had  a few set backs with the project. It was more expensive to purchase all of the materials than we first calculated. Then work and cancer treatment schedules got in the way. Finally, the battery to the cordless drill died, so we had to replace the battery – the drill worked fine. So now that things are back in swing, here is where we stand.

Last time, all we had accomplished was painting the heat plate. That was easy enough to do and we have progressed to cutting the wood. Under the direction of my husband, my 12-year old son is learning a lot with this project.

Solar food dehydrator project

Measuring takes time and patience.



Measure twice, cut one. Measuring all of the boards and pieces to cut took some time. But, my boy took his time and we did not waste any of the wood.





Life Skills

This is where the project is invaluable. My son has learned the proper way to use power tools. Now he has experience with a table saw and circular saw, as well as a cordless drill. He has self confidence knowing he is capable of handling dangerous equipment.

Video: Learning to use a table saw


Our first cardboard dryer was a lesson in solar energy. This project will show a similar lesson on a much larger scale. We will be able to compare the outdoor temperature with the temperature inside the dryer. Doors and screens will allow us to control the air-flow better than the cardboard model. This model has a different air-flow pattern. As the heat panel absorbs the sun’s rays, it radiates heat into the unit. The warmed air starts to rise and exits out of two holes in the top rear of the dryer. This upward movement of air, pulls cooler air in from underneath the unit. The cooler air is warmed by the heat panel and continues to rise past the items we are drying before it exits at the top of the unit. Here is a lesson on air currents, heat, and solar radiation.

Stay tuned as we continue to assemble the solar food dehydrator.



Posted on 24 November '12 by , under Free or Almost free resources, Science lesson plans, Solar Food Dehydrator. No Comments.

Homeschool Science Project: Solar Food Dehydrator

We have started to build the wooden solar food dehydrator for our homeschool science project. Those of you who follow Charlotte Mason’s teaching methods know that she feels older kids should have a project that requires the students to use their hands. This is the first of several woodworking projects we planned for the school year.

All materials were purchased at either Home Depot or Lowes. We did not need to purchase window screen to cover the vents, because we had that on hand already. We purchased the screens for the food trays from

One important note: if you plan to build your own solar food dehydrator, do not use regular window screen for the food trays. You must use food safe screen. We purchased ours online, it is food safe poly screen.

metal plate for solar food dehydrator

Homeschool Science Project Food Dehydrator metal plate

Today my son and husband created the metal shelf used to help hold and conduct heat through the dryer. It is a single piece of sheet metal, bent along the sides, with notches cut out so it will fit around the legs. The guys sanded the surface of the metal to get it ready for paint. We used black, heat safe, spray paint. It is the same type of paint you would use to repaint your grill or stove.

After the metal was sanded, the first coat of paint was applied. It dried and then we added a second coat.

We plan to finish painting the other side tomorrow. Then the boys start to work on the wooden cabinet and frame for the solar food dehydrator.

What the kids learned today with this homeschool science project:

  • working with sheet metal
  • preparing metal for painting,
  • proper use of spray painting
  • measuring, cutting sheet metal
  • bending sheet metal

I’ll keep you posted on how this project progresses.


Posted on 27 October '12 by , under Solar Food Dehydrator, Thrifty Homeschooling. 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.

Review: Knowledge Box Central Presidential Election Process Lapbook

The Library of Congress - (Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President. Seated portrait, holding glasses and newspaper, Aug. 9, 1863) (LOC)I’ve changed the way we are doing homeschool radically this year. This is due in part, to my battle with breast cancer. Knowledge Box Central is a company that has reasonably priced, high quality lapbooks for sale. My 12th grader turns 18 in September and will be able to vote in the Presidential election this November. Our family turned to the Presidential Election Process Lapbook  for learning about this important event.


What I liked

The lapbook is inexpensive. At just $5.00 for the e-book version, you can’t go wrong. I like the pdf format–if you make a mistake, just print out another page. The lapbook comes complete with enough information for lessons on the election process. The instructions are easy to follow, even if you are challenged in the crafting department. We used the grades 6 through 12 version.


What needs improvement

I would like to see better references included in the information. As a professional researcher and writer, Wikipedia is not considered a reliable or first-hand source. A better reference for the election process is the actual U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights which is found at the National Archives website. We used this as our source instead of the Wikipedia references included with the lapbook.


What my kids think

I used the Presidential Election Process lapbook with my 7th and 12th grade boys. They were engaged and had a great time researching the answers to the questions for the lapbook. My kids had a blast putting the lapbook together. It is not easy to please both boys with the same curriculum, and the Presidential Election Process lapbook was a definite hit. I plan to use other lapbooks from Knowledge Box Central.


Would I recommend it

I was extremely satisfied with the price, value, and content of the lapbook. The e-book format gives you flexibility to use it with multiple children without having to make another purchase. You can incorporate the lapbook into any style of homeschooling, including Charlotte Mason a traditional school approach and unschooling.


We added copywork and dictation to the lapbook to create an entire cross-curricular discipline on the election process and the U.S. Government. I highly recommend this lapbook, especially since this is a year when we elect a new president.


If you use this or any other Knowledge Box lapbooks, drop me a line and let me know. Thanks.



Posted on 7 August '12 by , under Government Lesson Plans, Homeschooling through high school, Reviews. No Comments.

Free Hair Cuts for Kids

JC Penny is giving kids in kindergarten through grade 6 free hair cuts during the month of August. All you have to do is call or visit one of their in-store salons to make an appointment. This is a great money saver, whether or not you homeschool. If you have more than one kid, the savings are incredible. Click here to learn more about this opportunity.


I would jump on this opportunity but my kids are too old. My youngest is in the 7th grade and looks like he is 15. Hopefully this information will save some of you a few dollars. I’d book my appointment soon because once word of this spreads, their appointment times will fill up fast. You do not need any special codes or coupons to take advantage of the offer. Just tell them when you drop in or call for your appointment.





Posted on 13 July '12 by , under Free or Almost free resources, Freebies. No Comments.

Free Fishing this Weekend: June 8-10

Love to go fishing? Hate the hassle of getting a fishing license? This upcoming weekend is what you are looking for. Each year the State of Arkansas has a free fishing weekend. From June 8 through June 10, 2012, you can fish anywhere in the state without a fishing license. All other fishing rules apply, including size and other limits. The best part about this weekend is that the local fish hatcheries are holding fishing derbies for kids under the age of 12. All you need to bring is a rod and reel, or fishing pole. The lakes are stocked with catchable fish.

Free Fishing Weekend

Beginning at noon, Friday, June 8 until midnight, Sunday, June 10, residents and nonresidents may fish without fishing licenses or trout permits. Regulations for Arkansas waters apply: daily limits, slot limits and length limits must be observed. Anyone can fish, anywhere fishing is permitted.

Kids Fishing Derby

Kids’ Fishing Day at Arkansas Game and Fish, fish hatcheries is this Saturday, June 9 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
The derby is for kids 12 and younger. Each pond is stocked with catchable fish. Kids will need to bring fishing tackle and bait. A Limit of three fish per child is in place so everyone has a chance to catch a fish. One rod or pole per child is permitted.

Kids Fishing Day Locations

Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery
23 Joe Hogan Lane | Lonoke 877-676-6963

C.B. Craig State Fish Hatchery
977 West Fish Hatchery Road | Centerton 877-795-2470

Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery
350 Fish Hatchery Road | Hot Springs 877-525-8606

William Donham State Fish Hatchery
3587 U.S. Hwy. 67 West | Corning 877-857-3876

Jim Hinkle/Spring River State Fish Hatchery
895 Ark. Hwy. 342 | Mammoth Spring 877-625-7521

Checkout the AFGC Fishing Guidebook for great information about fishing in Arkansas.


Posted on 5 June '12 by , under Events, Freebies, Great Field Trips, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

Free First-Grade Literature Curriculum from Hewitt Homeschooling

It is difficult to find quality homeschool resources. Hewitt Homeschooling is offering a free first-grade literature/language arts curriculum. You just have to sign up in order to receive notifications when the page updates.


Starting on September 30, 2012, Hewitt Homeschooling will upload four lessons, student guides and a teacher’s guide to their website. You can download the pdf files as you need them. The program is called Lightening Literature. An outline for the curriculum is available here. Most of the books are available at your public library or you can easily find them online at websites like or


I have looked over the outline and the resources listed on the webpage and it looks like a wonderful free resource for first-grade students. My children are in middle and high school, so this is not something I plan to use. If you decide to go with this program, drop me a line and let me know how it worked out for you.


Hope this is helpful


Posted on 3 June '12 by , under Free or Almost free resources, Freebies, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

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