March 2012

Kindles Boost Reading Confidence in Middle Schoolers

E-readers improved student self-esteem in remedial reading classes

Encouraging middle school students to think of reading as an enjoyable activity rather than just a mandated one has been a mounting challenge for teachers as digital distractions grow all the more plentiful. How do you convince a 12-year-old that an entire world waits for him between the covers of a novel when an endlessly growing and infinitely interactive universe lies behind his computer screen? The dynamic interface of the Web and the constant innovation in the devices used to access it make for stiff competition with the old-fashioned written word. But a new study indicates that it's possible to make old words cool again--by putting them on the screen of a digital device.

A Princess of Mars

Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

The recent failure of Disney's “John Carter” movie may have convinced you not to give the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs a chance. I haven't seen the movie yet, but even if it's the worst movie ever made, nothing should stop you from reading the Martian novels if you have any interest in adventure fiction at all.

Take advantage of Enchanted Learning with younger children

Inexpensive online tool beneficial for teaching



I loved using Enchanted Learning with my daughter when she was younger. There are plenty of portions of this website that parents can access for free, but if you intend on using the website frequently like I did, you’ll want admittance to all of the information. There are more than 30,000 curriculum pages to choose from and the cost is only $20 a year. That is less than $2 a month.

As a home-schooling mom, I appreciated the extensive holiday lesson plans, crafts, and printable activities that Enchanted Learning provided. That was additional information that I didn’t have in the textbooks I was using with my daughter. Most of the lesson plans also gave the background for each holiday so that my daughter was learning while she was working on something fun.

Naked Economics

A decent primer

Naked Economics is written for people like me – people who don’t know too much about the subject and have no desire to sit through boring lectures or, even worse, perform calculus equations. But, to satisfy an interest in economics you can find a range of literature, from The Wealth of Nations to The Communist Manifesto.

Economics isn’t a hard science, full of rules and laws, but a “soft” science open to interpretation. Therefore I’m sure that an expert would find plenty to disagree with in Naked Economics. Author Charles Wheelan tows the party line, calling both recent Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke geniuses and praising their handling of the economy both before and after the crash of 2008.

A Dance With Dragons- At Long Last

George RR Martin

 

After a long, long wait, “A Dance With Dragons” is finally out. The latest volume in George R.R. Martin's excessively epic fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire” has been delayed for five or six years now, so it's only to be expected that some frustrated fans would be disappointed with it when it finally arrived. If you look at the reviews on Amazon, they're pretty mixed, and a fair number of readers outright hated it.

Free Typing Resource for Homeschoolers



Children start using computers at such an early age that before you know it, they are typing incorrectly. I have tried a few typing software packages in the past, but was very excited to find out from another homeschooling parent that TypingWeb has a free typing tutor program that I can use.

Another perk to using TypingWeb to teach your children how to type correctly is that it offers a specialized typing and 10 Key certification. You will be able to print out certificates for your kids as they achieve various goals throughout the program. Once again, this program is completely free to use. You will never be asked for money, or to enter a credit card.

Encyclopedia Brittanica is Dead - Hooray!

Here's hoping from now on, families can invest their $1,400 in something more useful
It took a long time, but the world finally killed the print edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. And I for one couldn't be happier. The tyranny of this multi-volume sales scheme was as crushing as the books were useless. I'm glad they will no longer be around to burden aspirational families with their trademarks: cost, clutter, and awfulness.
 
The EB will continue to exist online. Hooray. As Farhad Manjoo points out, have you seen their web pages lately? Each entry's page is clogged with disreputable ads, of the "Dermatologists hate this local mom" type. That alone should set your warning bells off. 

The History of America’s Genocide

1491 by Charles C. Mann

1491 by Charles C. Mann isn’t just the story of America’s genocide. It’s the story of the culture, development, invention, success, and decline of an entire continent. For example, did you know about the mounds found throughout what is now the United States, evidence of what were once large cities? I didn’t. I think, at least for people my age (30s), the history forced on us by embarrassingly bad grade school textbooks was a laughably inaccurate one.

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

Amos Tutuola

Languages always morph as they encounter new groups of speakers and new situations, and the English spoken in Nigeria has a number of unique characteristics as a consequence of borrowing syntax and vocabulary from African languages along the way. This is reflected, to some extent, in the fiction of Nigerian novelist Amos Tutuola, and this has led him to be a controversial writer in his own homeland.

Books Of Lessons

 Although I seldom read children’s books any longer, there are some books that have remained burned in my childhood memories. Books that I hope will carry on from generation to generation; each child in my family hopefully feeling the same thing about these stories as I did. The Berenstain Bears series decorated my book shelves and the lives and lessons of the characters danced through my mind.

Mama, Papa, brother and sister bears lives jotted down through the lyrical rhymes of the author. Each book providing valuable lessons to the readers. I remember reading about stranger danger, the dentist, lying, manners, watching too much television, cleaning, fighting…essentially anything you can think of that can apply to children.

There are hundreds of thousands of children’s books out there. Each and every day, there appear to be more and more released. Sifting through each to find those to purchase for your collection or to add to someone else’s, can be a challenge in and of itself. Given the sheer magnitude of books, I rely on word of mouth and reviews of new ones to guide me.

Free Printable Paper

I just came across this invaluable resource a few days ago and couldn’t wait to share it. The website freeprintablepaper.net has over 900 different types of paper that you can download and print completely for free! Amazingly, this website was featured on the Today Show, in Women’s World Magazine, and on LifeHacker.

As a homeschooling mom, I appreciate any resource that saves me money. This website has graph paper, which I use during my daughter’s math lessons, and music paper, which she could utilize during her piano lessons. My daughter and her friends will also undoubtedly make use of the storyboard templates, as they enjoy writing and creating comics.

Dies the Fire

S.M. Stirling

Imagine if all the high technology in the world just suddenly stopped working, and modern civilization collapsed overnight. Just a few years later, the few survivors would have lapsed into neo-tribalism or neo-feudalism, waging war with swords and bows in an almost completely unrecognizable landscape. That's the premise of the extremely fun “Emberverse” or “Change” novels by S.M. Stirling, which follow the deeds of a few survivors after the modern world collapses.

On "Strong Female Characters"

What's the difference between a strong and a "strong" character?
Mur Lafferty recently posted a counter-point to a somewhat dissatisfying NYT article from last summer. This is an ongoing conversation in feminist circles, the difference between strong female characters and "strong female characters." Winter's Bone, for example, has a strong female character. Whereas Dragon Tattoo is stuck with just a "strong female character."
 
The line basically falls along the "male gaze." Lisbeth Salander, for example, is clearly meant to entertain men. She is custom-designed to appeal to male readers. Everything about her is titillating, from her sexual degradation (which Larssen describes in graphic, lurid detail) to the way in which she helpfully assists the book's (male) protagonist. And I would argue that her characteristic silence is part of that.

Liberals Rule the Libraries

As a liberal, I wouldn't have it any other way!
As a staunch liberal, I was somewhat chastened by Alan Levinovitz's recent article at The Millions. As liberals, we need to acknowledge that we have a belief in our own underdog-ness which frequently goes unchallenged. In fact, there are several cultural areas where liberals rule the roost, and choosing which books end up in libraries is one of them.
 
Is it because liberals read more books? (I stop short of adding a sassy and completely out-of-bounds, "Which is why we're smarter," but only just.) Or is it because libraries are the quintessential public utility, the pinnacle of society's sane use of tax dollars? Regardless, we liberals are the gate keepers. This is an arena where conservatives are the ones who find themselves protesting outside the door, lobbying for the inclusion or exclusion of a particular work.

Purchase Homeschool Curriculum from CBD


CBD is short for Christianbook Distributors, and I have been using them for years to purchase my homeschool curriculum. I honestly haven’t found anywhere else to buy brand new curriculum that is cheaper than CBD. You can definitely score used curriculum cheaper if you know where to look.

Just this week I ordered my daughter Apologia’s Anatomy course with workbook. Apologia sells it directly on their website for $39.00 and $24.00 respectively. Fortunately, I know that CBD always offers the same course at a nice discount. I was able to get the textbook for $27.30 and the workbook for $16.80. That is a savings of $18.90.

The Lorax

Dr. Suess has been in my heart and on my bookshelves for years. Green Eggs and Ham will always hold a special place in my childhood memories. The books are clever, unique and often a little strange – yet that oddness tends to be one of the best ways to hold the readers’ attention. Recently, the television is inundated with previews of the Dr. Suess Lorax movie. The characters have snuck into The Voice commercials, childrens’ store, etc.

Given the popularity and excitement surrounding the movie, I looked into the book – for me, books have a tendency to always be a bit better than the movie. The Lorax by Dr. Suess, is a great children’s book – filled with the usual lyrical banter of the characters and a childrens’ level explanation of pollution, the effects we have on Mother Earth, and the role we each play in making the world a better place.

The Lorax

 

Dr. Suess - The Lorax

Dr. Suess has been in my heart and on my bookshelves for years. Green Eggs and Ham will always hold a special place in my childhood memories. The books are clever, unique and often a little strange – yet that oddness tends to be one of the best ways to hold the readers’ attention. Recently, the television is inundated with previews of the Dr. Suess Lorax movie. The characters have snuck into The Voice commercials, childrens’ store, etc.

Given the popularity and excitement surrounding the movie, I looked into the book – for me, books have a tendency to always be a bit better than the movie. The Lorax by Dr. Suess, is a great children’s book – filled with the usual lyrical banter of the characters and a childrens’ level explanation of pollution, the effects we have on Mother Earth, and the role we each play in making the world a better place.

The Lorax

 

Reading "Flowers in the Attic" For The First Time

Spoiler alert: NO. Just... no.
Oh, where to begin? Chronologically, then: when this book came out in 1979, tons of teenage girls flocked to it guiltily. I myself was puzzled by its popularity, and too enmeshed in the world of Dragonlance and Star Trek novels to bother.
 
A few weeks ago, I realized that I'm only a few months shy of 40, and I had yet to read this "timeless" "classic." (Picture me using actual "air quotes" here.) When I confessed this on Twitter, half a dozen other women responded with shock, that I had made it this far in life without even trying it once. I purchased it post haste and sat down to read it and… I must confess, I was less than gripped. In fact, finishing the book was a real chore.