Virtual Dissection Labs for Homeschoolers

If you’re like me, the thought of dissecting a dead animal in your home makes your palms sweat and mind race with a dozen excuses NOT to! Oh sure, a flayed frog was all well and good in the clinical setting of a classroom or lab back in 10th grade… but on my kitchen table? Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to the smell of formaldehyde, so, thanks, but no thanks! The only thing stopping me from skipping the entire process was the worry that my kids would miss out on an important biology lesson that has become a rite of scientific passage! Do any of my neuroses sound familiar? Well, my homeschooling mommy friends, allow me to introduce you to virtual dissections! All the educational richness, with none of the mess or smell! As it turns out, there are a ton of great online virtual options!

The Science Bank

The Science Bank is an amazing online learning dissection and virtual lab that offers a variety of knowledge and tools for all ages. From Pre-K on up, your student can watch videos or learn from models about the dissection process with ease. There are even options for detailed online options to give your child a realistic learning perspective of the dissection process.

The Science Bank offers over 650 different tools for purchase/use to be able to give your child an amazing learning experience in Science. No matter the age of your homeschooler, you can find something that they’ll enjoy and love learning here!

Froguts Virtual Lab

Froguts (from The Science Bank) is a downloadable learning lab that does a really good job tackling and teaching dissection processes to your middle or high school science student.  Audio narration, captioned text, and realistic 3-D interactive simulations of animal dissection and other science experiments come together to deliver key concepts within the theory and foundations of good Biology science education.

Froguts also presents each topic in a layered systems-based approach that integrates inquiry as well as National Science and Technology Standards, making it a great college-prep tool. Students are assessed after each level with randomized quizzes or tests and are given a printable certificate when they complete each module.

The Biology Corner

If a dissection is what you’re looking for, you’ll find it at Biology Corner. Students will have the option to view a dissection of a frog, fetal pig, and rat. There are also virtual dissection options for a cow’s eye and a sheep’s brain as well! Each detailed dissection of the animal will cover the internal and external anatomy, while also providing other information such as anatomy, ecology, and genetics.

It’s also completely free! Find out more information about the Biology Corner right here!

eMind Web

eMind Web is another great place to learn all about the dissection process. And it’s not just frogs! eMind Web also focuses on the anatomy and structure of fish, pigs, cats, and even insects. Your student will have a very well-rounded learning experience when it comes to the offerings of this online virtual lab.

Late Night Labs

The Late Night Labs program is part of the educational publishing group MacMillian Learning. There is a cost to students, but you can watch a demo lesson here.

Dissection videos on YouTube

Feeling like you may need some prep time? Check out these science channels on YouTube! HighSchool Science has an impressive library of science-related content, perfect for advanced middle and high schoolers. Their dissection videos are concise but chock full of information.

Ava Hearts Biology is another great option for high school science content. Most of her videos are dissections so there are plenty to choose from.

More from How To Homeschool For Free

Are you searching for more science lessons and activities? Check out our free AP Biology Resources, free anatomy learning games, and our huge selection of free science resources!

University studies confirm that simulated dissections significantly enhance comprehension of the curriculum objectives when used in conjunction with traditional dissection. Instead of finding reasons to not be a part of the dissection process, log in and join the online adventure. Rich education and learning experiences await you and your homeschooling classroom with the ease of virtual labs!

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The Best Fine Motor Skill Activities for Preschoolers

The skills that enable a child to move are known as motor skills. The two main types of motor skills are gross motor and fine motor. It is important that both of these are well developed in children in order to be ready for school and to function independently.

Gross motor refers to the development of the large muscles of the body which enable a child to walk, climb, balance, etc. Fine motor refers to small muscle development which enables a child to hold a pencil or button a shirt. It includes eye-hand coordination, eye-finger coordination, finger strength and control, as well as the development of muscles such as the toes, tongue, and eyes.

Gross motor skills develop before fine motor skills. This can be seen in preschool children who are skilled at climbing, running, and walking but are still learning to hold a pencil or control a pair of scissors. Let’s take a look at some activities that will keep your preschooler engaged and learning while strengthening these fine motor skills.

Puzzles and more puzzles! When my oldest was turning 3, we used a puzzle to learn her alphabet. Bright colors helped her remember letters, and the action of fitting the letters into their spots on the puzzle board kept her engaged longer than writing or reading them!

Coloring may seem like too easy a suggestion, but it really teaches invaluable motor skills for little ones. From holding the crayon/ marker/ pencil correctly to tracing and staying inside lines, this is a simple, mess-free activity that preschoolers can do daily!

Dry erase markers are super fun for littles as well. Mine really enjoyed the novelty of erasing what they had just drawn. You can print color pages and put them into page protectors so they can create different masterpieces each time. Or give them a plain whiteboard and let them go where their creativity takes them!
Tired of gunk on your whiteboard? Try this great whiteboard cleaning hack!

Activity books are fantastic quiet activities and are sold pretty much everywhere. I used to pick up a new one each week at the grocery store and my kids would pick and choose the activities they liked best!

Lace and trace is a simple activity that helps to develop children’s fine motor skills. Since there aren’t many pieces and they’re not messy, these are great for the car, church, or waiting rooms.

Threading beads is great for hand-eye coordination and finger control! Have them string a color pattern, or make words out of those cute letter beads! Also, check out how to make these adorable Cheerio caterpillars using breakfast cereal and pipe cleaners!

Scissor skills are another excellent example of fine motor skills for preschoolers to master! Check out these great printables over at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Check out this super fun Easter Egg Rescue Game! It uses everyday items and helps with focus and motor skills!

Once your littles have mastered their motor skills and you’re ready to start foundational education, check out our resources on Homeschooling Preschoolers for even more great ideas and activities!

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Budgeting For Kids: Making It Easy

“Please, can I have it, Mommy?”

Haven’t we all been there? I know I have. Just a quick store run for milk and dog food, and bam! There, on an aisle we didn’t avoid fast enough is a shiny new rounder, filled to the brim with bug-eyed, neon-colored stuffed animals, just begging to be lovingly chosen by eager little hands and carried to the check-out line. My friend, from personal experience, I can confidently tell you that this is not the best moment to start a conversation with your 6-year-old about wants versus needs.

The fact is, we live in an instant gratification society. And to a 6-year-old, it may appear that you pick whatever items you want from the grocery store and swipe a magic card that allows you to take them all home. It may seem unfair that her request isn’t ranked the same as yours. I’m sure you’ve also dealt with questions like, “why can’t I spend all my Christmas and birthday money on this toy that I will play with 5 times and then forget all about?” Ok, maybe it wasn’t worded exactly that way, but you get my meaning.

Money and money management, are skills our kids need us to teach!

This is why we have to start this conversation early and have it often. There are many ways to teach money management skills, and you really can pick and choose what works best for your kiddos! From learning to recognize and identify different coin and bill values, all the way to learning the stock market, we’ve got you covered!

Some of our favorite books on the subject

Bunny Money (Max and Ruby) by Rosemary Wells for ages 3-5
Lily Learns about Wants and Needs by Lisa Bullard for ages 5-8
The Everything Kids’ Money Book: Earn it, save it, and watch it grow! by Jamie Kyle McGillian for ages 8-12
Finance 101 for Kids: Money Lessons Children Cannot Afford to Miss by Walter Andal fo ages 9-12

A fabulous resource for mom and dad is Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze

Games are a great way to reinforce newly acquired skills

Monopoly is a classic, and smart management of money and properties is a requirement for success! Another great option that’s not as well known is a game called Payday in which players are required to have a job and wait for payday at the end of the month. But to get there without going broke, they’ll have to be smart about their money. They can earn cash, find bargains, sell items for a profit, and be the player with the most cash in the end to win the game! Check out a huge list of our favorite educational board games here!

Extras from How to Homeschool for Free!

Learn how to teach kids the stock market by clicking right here!
If chores and allowance are part of your weekly activities, then definitely check out our resource for teaching life skills to help you with checking those to-do list boxes!

Additional Resources

123Homeschool4Me is offering this free, printable money booklet! Great for 1st and second graders, it helps them learn to identify coin values and includes fun money counting activities.
Check out this collection of 50 ideas to teach kids about money from Penny Pinchin Mom. These are effective and super easy to implement at home!
Money Confident Kids is a website with free lessons on everything from basic goal-setting to diversification. This is a fantastic resource, with comprehensive lessons that are easy to follow

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement and more great resources for your homeschooling journey!***

The Best Online Writing Curriculum for Struggling Writers

I’ve found that writing is an “all or nothing” subject, at least with my kids. They either love it and look for opportunities to do more, or they completely despise it and act like it’s torture to write more than a sentence. There is no middle ground.

We have loved out-of-the-house writing classes, and many homeschoolers supplement with online options. And these days there are quite a few of those options! Below are a few of the most highly recommended for kiddos struggling with writing.

Write Shop has curriculum grouped for all age levels. Complete curriculum runs up to $130, but they offer bulk discounts and have sales and better rates on individual books. There’s also a placement test so you know where to start.

With Outschool you can sign up for free and classes start for as low as $10. These are live, online classes that meet at scheduled times, multiple days a week. They offer standard writing courses per grade level, as well as short classes based on fun interests, like the Percy Jackson and Wings of Fire series. There are so many classes to choose from here, you can really take your pick!

Essentials In Writing has a writing curriculum available for purchase, as well as online classes. The online classes include college prep and a special course for struggling writers! They also offer a literature curriculum made to go hand in hand with the writing portion. Each is available individually to stream or as a DVD package. You can also bundle them for a better price.

IEW or Institute for Excellence in Writing is a higher cost than the options above, but the comprehensive curriculum is rich and immersive. This is an excellent tool for your homeschool arsenal.

Copy work is another great option for struggling writers. You can read all about the benefits and uses of copy work here!

For even more great options, check out these other fabulous, free writing and grammar resources, as well as this collection of free writing printables, and creative writing ideas and prompts.

 

 

 

Amazing Phonics Resources for Struggling Readers

We know reading is key for learning. But sometimes, for many reasons, reading is a struggle. Luckily, there are a wealth of resources available for all types of readers, whether they are struggling, or showing early aptitude. Below are a handful of those places to start looking for support, most of which are not specialized, meaning the programs or resources are for readers at any stage.

Books

Explode the Code Series is a workbook based phonics program, covering letter sounds and most phonograms. This series starts by laying a strong foundation and building from it, including “1/2” books that provide practice for the skills learned in the whole-level books.

Phonological Awareness and Primary Phonics  – Thomas Gunning. This book is a brief, practical guide for teachers who want or have to teach phonics. Ideal for teaching struggling readers, this book details Dr. Gunning’s system to build on what students know and teach them to analyze words independently.

Teach Your Kid to Read in 100 Easy Lessons – Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox, and Elaine Bruner. The methods in this book are specifically for early reading skills and is not recommended for struggling readers

Reading Apps

Endless Reader is available for free in the App Store and in the Play Store. This app introduces sight words and the most commonly used words through interactive play with cute little Endless monsters.

Homer Learn and Grow is a subscription-based site with games that “deliver playful learning across subjects.”  You can choose the plan that best suits your needs, and they offer a 30-day free trial. There is also a free app available in the App Store and Google Play.

Additional Resources

All about reading has an app that teaches phonics and offers a free readiness checklist, reading assessments, as well as pre-reader resources. Kits are available for different reading levels and there are options to purchase an entire kit or individual items.

Reading Eggs subscription-based with a free trial and apps available, Reading Eggs is a great place to start. A monthly membership is $9.99 and an annual one will run you $69.99.

Communityreading.org is a collection of free resources with tools, tips, information, and support for struggling readers. This is a fantastic resource for dyslexic readers as well!

Progressivephonics.com is another site with completely free resources for new and struggling readers.

The Free Reading Program boasts an extensive library of resources for each grade level, all for free. Just create a free account and get started!

Red Apple Reading is specifically geared for Pre-K through Third grade, whether the readers are new or struggling. Your first month is free, and after that a subscription is $7.50 a month for the first child, and #2.5 for each additional child.

Children Learning Reading offers standard and deluxe packages to help beginner readers of all ages. They also offer a free trial and a 60-day satisfaction guarantee.

The Orton Gillingham Approach “is a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals.” The website has a search function to locate a tutor, parent resources, and detailed information about the program.

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement and more great resources for your homeschooling journey!***

The Benefits Of Copy Work And How To Make It Work For You!

Copywork is a much-loved aspect of the Charlotte Mason education. This understated and simple learning tool packs quite a punch when it comes to what it is capable of accomplishing for a child’s education.

For brand new writers, copywork starts with learning the letters and numbers. Once the basics are learned, children can move right into copying words, then on to short sentences, scripture, and poetry.

Copywork hones the mechanical skills of writing, without the pressure to produce original content.

Oral narration and reading are also used in the early years to develop compositional skills that will later be married with these mechanical skills, therefore, producing great writers.

It teaches grammar in a gentler format

Children assimilate a lot by copying great writing. Even college professors will assign lengthy pieces of copywork, so students might grasp the syntax of composition. Likewise, children learn the natural flow of language by copying literature’s masterpieces.

Another way to gently grow their knowledge of grammar is to point out a simple rule before they begin. For example, you might point out that the first letter of a sentence is always capitalized. As they do their daily copywork they will build their knowledge of grammar rules and will learn to apply it to their skill of writing.

Copywork builds a vibrant vocabulary

Charlotte Mason encouraged the use of good literature for copywork. By giving your students quality sentences, quotes, and poetry that contain rich vocabulary they will be continually enriched and challenged to broaden their use of various words.

It will grow spelling skills

Every time your student writes a word correctly, they are becoming better at spelling. Copywork is also a great foundation for transcribing, which teaches a child to see a word, close their eyes, picture the word in their mind, then spell the word aloud.

Exposure to Literary Geniuses and Gems

Copywork is a bridge that connects your child to great works of literature and the authors who created them.  It familiarizes them with great names, deep ideas, and the beauty of written words.

Builds the Habit of Attention

Short and concise assignments that are attainable build confidence in a subject. When kids can focus their whole attention on a simple task and then accomplish it, they get those all-important feelings of accomplishment and gratification. More than likely, those feelings will be catalysts for future interest in writing. Copywork is a simple task that can be done within 10-15 minutes and yields high results in the areas of handwriting, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and literacy.

You can find incredible copywork material just about anywhere!

  • Scripture
  • Nursery rhymes
  • Hymns and songs
  • Works of poetry
  • Classic literature
  • History books
  • Science books
  • Quotes from founders, leaders, scientists, and philosophers

The possibilities are endless! Here are some additional resources to get you started!

Scripture memorization

A little bit of everything: scripture, songs, poems, literature

Teachers Pay Teachers is a great, low-cost resources for copywork

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

Unit Studies Round-Up for Elementary

We love unit studies! I’ve found that they enable us to deep dive into individual interests, while also bringing the whole family together for discussion and sharing discoveries.

So, what is a unit study?

A Unit Study is normally focused on a specific topic and it pulls all the subjects (except math) from the topic. One topic normally doesn’t last the whole year and can be changed monthly, weekly, or daily. You can stay focused on the topic until you feel you’ve covered everything. The workload varies based on your children’s grade level and ability so it’s a natural way to keep the whole family learning together. And there’s much more than just reading and writing! You can make recipes, projects, or even go on field trips that pertain to your topic.

Check out our library of unit studies for elementary-aged kids!

Science and nature

Autumn Unit Study

Gardening Unit Study – great for younger ones

Weather Unit Study

Insect Unit Study

Winter Unit Study

 

History

Potato Famine Unit Study – upper elementary to middle school

Medevil History

Davy Crockett

 

Civics and Geography

US States

World Geography

Elections Unit Study

 

Literature

Chronicles of Narnia

Boxcar Children

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

5 Winter Unit Studies For Elementary

It may be cold and dreary outside but that doesn’t mean that your nature unit studies have to wait for Spring! There are some beautiful learning opportunities to be gleaned from these winter unit studies!

1. This winter nature unit study covers a little bit of everything, from wildlife to plant life, and suggests books, crafts, and documentaries to enrich your learning!

2. For the animal lovers in your house, this Arctic animal unit study for kids is a fantastic option! Learn about all kinds of different cold-climate animals, and all the inventive ways they brave their harsh environment.

3. Follow your arctic animal study with this hibernation unit study, deep-diving into why some animals hibernate and exploring the ones that do!

4. Here’s one all about snowflakes, where they come from, how they’re formed, why each is different. Included are book and craft ideas, fun for elementary ages.

5. This study on the Arctic and the Inuit is a beautiful exploration of Arctic wildlife,  Inuit history and culture, and is great for upper elementary ages or middle schoolers!

Looking for more great unit studies? Check out the full unit study library at How To Homeschool For Free for more great ideas.

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

How To Teach Kids About The Stock Market!

It wasn’t until my first college finance class that I started to learn a little bit about investing and how the stock market works. Then it wasn’t until my 30s that I implemented some of that knowledge, and added to it, to create a strategy for investing our resources into different companies and ventures.

Now, as parents, we want to give our kids a leg up on where we were at their age and give them the tools that they need to have a basic (and preferably an intermediate) level of knowledge about how different types of investments work. And specifically, how investing in the stock market works.

Here are some resources that you can use for FREE to help your kids have a working knowledge of how the stock market works (click on each title to go directly to the website):

Wealthbase

Join a game and get $100,000 in virtual cash to invest. Pick stocks, ETFs, and cryptos to create your virtual portfolio. Track your performance on the leaderboard! Wealthbase also have a learning center to learn about investing and financial planning strategies to help you build and preserve wealth.

The Stock Market Game

An online simulation of the global capital markets that engages students grades 4-12 in the world of economics, investing and personal finance and that has prepared nearly 20 million students for financially independent futures.

Parents will need to register with the website to create a profile.

Investopedia Stock Market Game

Start with $100,000 in virtual cash and put your trading skills to the test! Compete with thousands of Investopedia traders and trade your way to the top. Join or create challenges with your friends and other investors. Compete to see who has the best investment results daily.

How The Market Works

HowTheMarketWorks is a FREE stock market game that allows users to create their own custom stock game and create educational lessons for their players. It is used by over 400,000 individuals and students each year. Users register for free and receive a virtual $100,000 and access to our Education Center. Users can then create their own custom stock market contest and invite their classmates, friends, family or co-workers to a friendly competition.

Market Watch

If you already have a basic knowledge of how the stock market works and want to put your skills to the test, check out Market Watch! Build your portfolio and react to the markets in real time. Compete against your friends or coworkers to earn your spot at the top of the leaderboards. Market Watch allows you to do virtual advanced trading (like limit and stop loss orders, partial shares, short selling, margin trading, and more!)

Finance and Capital Markets course on Khan Academy

We love lots of the Khan Academy courses! They are completely free and on the topic of stocks and investments they have videos on all the following:

Introduction to stocks
Shorting stock
Understanding company statements and capital structure
Corporate metrics and valuation
Life of a company–from birth to death
Dilution
Mergers and acquisitions
Leveraged buy-outs
Bonds
Corporate bankruptcy
Mutual Funds and ETFs
Retirement Accounts
Hedge funds
and more!

Youtube Playlist on How The Stock Market Works

There are several great video options at the link above for a variety of ages and learning styles.

BusyKid App

It’s not free, but there’s an app called BusyKid App that costs $19.99 per year and allows you to give your kids their allowance through the app. They can spend their money through a (provided) pre-paid debit card and they have the option to use part of their allowance to invest in the stock market and watch their money potentially grow if they invest well.

There are also several books to either check out from your local library or purchase!

Go! Stock! Go!

Go! Stock! Go! employs a cartoon-like “Dr. Seuss” style as it becomes the first truly user friendly book on stock and finance.

A storybook follows the Johnson family as they learn the fundamentals of stocks and bonds, the mechanics of investing, and important lessons on risk and reward. The humorous illustrated story is simple enough for children and teenagers yet is also directed towards adults and kids of all ages.

The book offers an advanced section “Let’s Talk Stock” that provides an added level of knowledge for older readers. While designed with children in mind, this book is sure to become an adult favorite.

The Motley Food Investment Guide for Teens

Budding tycoons and those with more worldly concerns will appreciate The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of by David and Tom Gardner with Selena Maranjian. The editors of the Motley Fool Web site offer sound advice on everything from finding a job, investing in the stock market and avoiding financial pitfalls. “Take It from Me” and “Keep in Mind” sidebars offer brief advice from peers and the authors, respectively. Ages 12-up.

How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000: Earn! Save! Invest!

What are Stocks? Understanding The Stock Market – Finance Book for Kids

5 Easy Ways To Keep Kids Engaged

 

Give them breaks

Younger kids need time to “get their wiggles out.” 15-30 minutes of instruction time should be followed by some time to burn energy. Elementary kids really benefit from this too! Let them play outside, go for a quick walk with you, play an indoor game of hide-and-seek, or turn on some music and have a 15-minute dance party. Anything that gets them up and moving, can really help them focus when it’s time to get back to their lessons.

Work in some activities that they love

If it’s cold or rainy and playing outdoors isn’t an option, take some time instead to explore something your little one is interested in. If your 5-year-old is really into using scissors right now, or your 9-year-old loves legos, allow some semi-structured time for that in their day. This is especially helpful when immediately following a particularly taxing lesson or activity. It gives them a bit of a breather, as well as a quick confidence boost if the prior lesson was a struggle.

Reward systems

In the same vein as above, reward systems can be a homeschooler’s best friend. If you have a kiddo that would rather read all day than do math, double her reading time one day, or take her to the library on Fridays as a reward for a week’s worth of long division. If you’ve got a hands-on learner who has trouble sitting still, working towards a park day or children’s museum trip might be more helpful.

Visual learners might enjoy a rewards chart that allows them to easily keep track of their individual progress toward the goal of their choice. Grab a whiteboard and make a quick bar graph with their name, and let them color a block each day, or use stickers to track progress.

Check out this great hack for cleaning whiteboards, without the yucky chemicals!

Choose the right time of day

No one operates well when they are tired or hungry. Try to do the harder stuff when your child is well-rested and not hungry.

Also, tackle the activity when you can have minimal distractions. If you have more than one child, either have activities for the younger ones planned or work through the tougher stuff when the little ones are sleeping or doing something like independent playtime.

Choose appropriate activities

As with all things, this is all about balance! If the activity is too hard, they might get frustrated and not want to do it again. If it’s too easy, they can get bored and either balk at doing it at all or be done in 60 seconds. Sometimes you don’t know for sure what is appropriate for your child, which is why it’s always a good idea to have some back-up plans. Keep a stash of puzzles, books, and board games close by. They make great back-ups when your child finishes planned activities too quickly.

***Make sure to join our How to Homeschool for Free Facebook Support Group for daily encouragement in your homeschooling journey!***

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