Sunday, March 28, 2010

Deal of the Week

Notebooking is one activity that I have loved the idea of, but we just didn't do enough.  My kids balked at a blank page set in front of them (I don't blame them!) and felt overwhelmed.  But last year I found the History Scribe website during their annual sale and it has changed the way we do history.  All of the downloadable Westvon Scribe products are 50% off this week (beginning 3/28/10).

From timeline pages, to essay questions, to maps, all the Scribe products give some structure to the notebooking experience.  The pages are not blank, they have a format - with a place for illustration, text, title, etc.  The pages have prompts to help jog the memory.  But they are not busy, with drawings all over them like some other notebooking pages out there.  Here's an example:
The History Scholar pages are a bit more complex, and will hold a lot more writing.  Each entry is also two pages long, with the second page having a timeline and an essay prompt.  The GeoScribe set contains maps of all the U.S. states and each continent, plus notebooking pages on every state and country (over 500 pages - for just $5!).  Unfortunately because of their sale, they have removed the links to sample pages for the History Scholar and GeoScribe sets for the time being, so I can't share them here.

The History Scribe Full Set, which includes the bonus History Scholar (high school level) set is on sale this week for just $8.  The price will adjust when you place it in your shopping cart.

You can also buy single sets of Scribe products (i.e. History Scribe - Ancient Egypt) and Happy Scribe copywork books at a huge discount this week from Currclick.

Happy writing!

Monday, March 15, 2010

handwriting... do it yourself!

My days of buying copywork books are officially over!  Not because we're done with handwriting (I actually cannot even picture that day in my head) but because I have found a way to make my own sheets.  Finally!  And for free.

I'd been searching for a software program that had connected cursive fonts in the style of Getty-Dubay Italic and Modern Cursive/Zaner-Bloser (of course my two children couldn't possibly like writing in the same style... that would be way too easy).  I found a few programs, each about $40 - $50 that would allow me to type in the connected cursive style, but when I did a trial run with one, I wasn't impressed.  The pages could only be typed in that particular program, and nothing could be copied or pasted out of it.  It was a hassle and not very user-friendly.  The two I looked at were Educational Fontware, Inc. and StartWrite

I gave up and started scouring the internet for free fonts that could be downloaded and used in my existing word processing programs.  I found Fontspace, and was able to download several different styles of connected cursive, all for free.  On the Fontspace site, there's a category list on the left.  Click on the tag "connected" and you'll get all the connected scripts.  Some are a bit flowery, but here were my favorites:  discipuli britannica, ecolier, cursif, farewell, VA-Pe2, and LA-El 2.

One advantage that StartWrite has over the freebies is that you can add starting dots and/or arrows to letters.  That would be particularly helpful for teaching early writers.  Another plus with StartWrite was that you could easily insert blank lines at the end or in between lines for copying.

Educational Fontware sells a CD of traditional fonts, including Handwriting Without Tears, D'Nealian, Zaner-Bloser, Getty Dubay, and many others.  When the fonts are installed, you can type within your word processor, but the letters are not connected.  When you are done typing, you highlight your text, and run a program called LinkLetter, which then connects your script for you.

I've already made a few sheets with spring poems for the kids... and a couple of goofy ones, including this one called My Hamster Has a Skateboard.

Happy writing!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I love a good storyteller

We love audiobooks around here.  We play them in the car, listen to them over breakfast, and everybody has them on their iPods.  I do like reading aloud to the kids, but there's only so much reading aloud one mom can do.  Audiobooks to the rescue.

Our very, very favorite lately is Jim Weiss.  We started out listening to his retelling of the Greek myths, and couldn't get enough.  He's taken us through the middle ages with Robin Hood and King Arthur and Archimedes, and now through the Renaissance with Galileo, Shakespeare, The Three Musketeers and Queen Elizabeth.  The kids can't get enough, and these are the quietest car rides we've ever had.  I can't recommend his stories enough.

If you do a classical 4-year history cycle in your homeschool, Jim Weiss also narrates the Story of the World books by Susan Wise Bauer.  The kids read the books at home, but the audio versions make for a great refresher and a chance for us to talk about the stories as a family.

Happy listening!