Archive for the ‘Web sites’ Category

Resource Review: TumbleBooks Library

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I know that some in classical homeschooling circles are not fond of electronic media.  Some materials can be the equivalent of intellectual “junk food.”  Junk food is OK in moderation, but what about using electronic resources as an everyday part of your curriculum?  The Internet is an inextricable part of daily life in our family–in fact, our family wouldn’t be here without it!  I firmly believe content is much more important than format.  That’s why I really appreciate when I find a quality e-resource.  TumbleBook Library is one such resource.

TumbleBook Library is free to me (and to any of you who live in my hometown), since it is offered on the website of my local public library.  I’m not sure how it authenticates, but you may be able to access it from the link on the Marion Public Library’s home page.  If not, ask at your own library.  If they don’t have TumbleBook Library, chances are they offer some great alternatives!

A screen shot showing an e-book in the Tumblepad interface

TumbleBook Library includes interactive fiction and non-fiction titles for kids in the elementary grades.  If you’re looking for classics, there aren’t many in the collection. However, it does include many good quality selections from contemporary children’s literature.  Also included are several fun modern-day interpretations of classics, such as the version of of The Tell-Tale Heart pictured here (this one includes tell-tale beets).  Really, this fits right in with the classical education concept of introducing basic ideas to build on later.  When we get around to Edgar Allan Poe in later years, the story will sound familiar.

Once a book has been opened, the electronic interface is easy to control, even for young children.  Levi can easily navigate through a book on his own.  He isn’t able to handle searching and browsing yet, but an older child should be able to do so.  The stories engage children’s interest with animation and sound effects, but maintain a literary feel by providing the entire text along with the narration.  As the narrator reads, the corresponding words are highlighted in the text.  Some books even provide reading help, which allows users to click on a word and hear it pronounced.  Users can watch the book on “auto” mode, or navigate the pages manually.  So far, I have mostly used the e-books, but the database also includes games and puzzles that go along with the books.

TumbleBooks provides an excellent choice for entertainment and recreational reading.  I find it especially helpful these days when most library materials I bring home end up having helicopters drawn inside the covers.  TumbleBooks are delivered through a web browser, so we don’t have to worry about lost or damaged books.  I like to cue up several stories and play them for the kids while I’m working.  Of course, e-books are no substitute for sitting together as a family and enjoying a good, old-fashioned traditional book, but TumbleBooks gives us yet another way to enrich our home with literature.

Free Resources: Storynory

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I briefly mentioned Storynory.com in a previous post, but I thought it deserved a post of its own.  This is one of my absolute favorite free homeschool resources.  Each week, Storynory posts a podcast of an audio story for children.  They share an impressive variety of tales, including classics, fairy tales, and fascinating original stories.  For free, you might expect amateurish recordings, but you won’t find those here.  Each professional-quality mp3 features one of several engaging storytellers.  Their “guiding spirit,” Bertie the frog, acts as a spokesperson and stars in several original tales of his own.

You can download all of the audio stories free of charge from their website, or subscribe by iTunes, iPhone app, email, or RSS feed.  If you prefer your children to follow along as they listen, the transcript of each story is published on the website.  I imagine the text would work well for copywork, although we haven’t gotten that far in our curriculum.  For variety, we incorporate the audio stories into the kids’ bedtime routine from time to time.  We haven’t done many long road trips, but I plan to load up my iPhone before we leave on our upcoming family vacation.

Storynory has become a staple around our house.  I understand the importance of reading to my kids, but with three kids under five, I don’t get much time each day to sit down and read.  Storynory allows me to expose the kids to good literature when I don’t have a free hand to hold a book.

Note: We did not receive any compensation for this unsolicited review.  We just wanted to share this wonderful resource with you!

Free Resources: Slow and Steady, Get me Ready

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Thumbnail of Slow and Steady Get Me Ready progress recordThe Well-Trained Mind, at least the version we own, recommends using Slow and Steady, Get me Ready by June Oberlander as a preschool curriculum.  The book describes one developmental activity for each week of a child’s life from birth through age five.  It covers everything from developing gross motor skills to packing a travel bag.  Not only is it well-recommended and comprehensive, it’s free!  You can download a PDF copy from the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC).

Levi will only benefit from one year of the activities, but I intend to try some of them with the younger kids as well.  If nothing else, it will give me fresh ideas to entertain them.  To keep track of their progress, I created a spreadsheet with cells that correspond to each week the program.  I’ve shared it here in PDF and Excel formats. Feel free to customize the spreadsheet, print it out, make copies, and share with your friends!

Levi, reading and Starfall

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Levi watching starfall.comLevi is watching Starfall.com on our TV. It has everything from letters to small books. Levi and Isaac both have enjoyed and learned from this web site. It has helped Levi in his love of letters and in starting to read.

I would call it like an interactive Sesame Street. Not only does it teach letters in language in a fun way. But, it also provides small game “quizzes” that make the learning fun.

Levi really loves his letters almost to obsession. One of his favorites is the silent E video. Starfall uses songs and games to teach phonics and exceptions in a fun and memorable way.

Starfall pumpkin

Another favorite of both boys is the the Pick a Pumpkin game. It gives them different options to make their own pumpkin. This game specifically teaches the short U sound. I still can hear it sing “uh, uh-uh, uh-uh-uh.” Yeah, I have heard it that much.

In closing, Starfall.com is an excellent resource for teaching children to read. It requires Adobe Flash Player, so it may not work on your smartphone. It should work on your Mac or Windows based PC.