Thursday, May 5, 2016

Homeschooling for Free

homeschool for free

As you can probably tell from this blog, I’m a bit of a homeschool curriculum “junkie.”  There are so many wonderful products available and I love to try out new things! To tell the truth, though, I think some of my favorite homeschooling years were ones when we spent very little money. There really are many resources for homeschooling that cost little or nothing.

There is a bit of a trade-off for free homeschool, though. Generally, you will spend more time putting together a curriculum, searching the library catalogs, and even teaching when you go the “free” route. You could end up with a program that perfectly meets your goals and is as rich as anything you could buy, or you could just end up with “cheap” and substandard. That is why it is important to carefully evaluate your goals and choose materials that will meet them.

Here are some possible resources:

1. The Library—my absolute favorite resource! Your children will have a much richer education if they read “real” books instead of textbooks. You can pick a subject to study, visit the library and come home with a stack of books to browse, read, and study—anything from insects to pyramids! For the early grades, I love the Five in a Row curriculum. Many of the required books and supplements are available at most libraries, so all you need is the manual and you are ready to go! You can even put together your own phonics/reading program. Libraries usually have sets of phonetic readers (like the Bob Books) that help you teach your child to decode words in a sequential manner, one phoneme at a time.

2. Notebooking is a great way to solidify learning and to keep records. Just have your children draw or write about the topics in those great books that they borrowed from the library (see above) and keep their pages in a binder. You don’t need all those workbooks—notebooking is a fine way to learn and to document your learning. If you need some inspiration, sites like offer a variety of free pages.

3. Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool has a program laid out for homeschooling preschool through high school, all using free internet resources. Course include “extras” like art, foreign language, and PE in addition to core classes. If you want something that’s “open and go” and fully planned, this might be perfect for you.

4. Kahn Academy has full math programs and many resources in other subjects as well. Content in non-math subjects is more geared for middle schoolers and up, but even your little ones could do math here. If you sign up for a teacher account, you can direct your child’s learning and monitor their progress.

5. I’ve found many free Spanish Resources:

  • Salsa is a series of Spanish videos for younger children featuring puppets.
  • Destinos is a video series and course for high school students and above. The videos are free online, as are computer-based practice activities. You can make this into a full 2-year course with the addition of the text and workbook, which I found on Amazon for about $3 each. (We’re using the cheaper first edition, which works just fine.)
  • Mi Vida Loca also has videos and teaching activities for Spanish. We haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks like a lot of fun!
  • is a great resource for learning basic concepts and grammar. Because it offers direct instruction and grammar charts, it’s also helpful as a resource for quickly looking something up, such as how to conjugate a verb in a particular tense.
  • Duolingo offers free instruction in many different languages. It’s also available as an app for mobile devices. I’ve used this and it’s fun!

6. Want to teach geography? These sites have free map games that will have you naming off countries in no time!

7. We’ve been watching CNN Student news each day and have found this 10 minute show a great way to help teens learn about current events. Since I’m not a regular news watcher myself, it helps me keep abreast of what’s happening in the world as well.

This list is really just the tip of the iceberg of free resources, but I hope that you can find some useful resources here and get inspired to search for more!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mermaid Tail Giveaway!


I’ve been making and selling mermaid tails for swimming on Etsy for a few years now, but I’m happy to announce that my Mystic Cove Mermaid store now has its own website! My fabric mermaid tails can be used with or without a monofin and are fun for swimming, dress-up, or bathtub play. (Swimming in deep water is recommended for strong swimmers only and with adult supervision.)


Tails can be used with or without a monofin. The bottoms are partially open to allow walking. Please visit my website to learn more!

Enter below to win your choice of a MERMAID TAILAND TOP ($50 value) or an American Girl DOLL MERMAID SET ($20 value). 



Don’t want to wait for the contest to end? The Mystic Cove Mermaid website isn’t currently set up to take coupons, but you can use the coupon code “DEBHSC” on my Etsy shop for a 20% discount on mermaid tails or doll sets.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

They Say We Are Infidels (Review)

They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians from Iraq and Syria  -     By: Mindy Belz

They Say We Are Infidels, by Mindy Belz offers a close-up look at the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the rise of Isis. Belz has been a foreign correspondent for World magazine for over 25 years, so she has a first hand look at the tensions in the Middle East. This book shares her experiences visiting Iraq and Syria from shortly after 9/11 to the present.

When Belz visited Iraq and Syria, she didn’t stay in the safe zones as many reporters do. She traveled from city to city, meeting with and staying with Christians in different areas and learning about their experiences. She describes life under Saddam Hussein, the hope and increased freedom in the midst of the material devastation after the Iraq war, then the increasing persecution and attacks on Christians as radical Islamists pushed their way into power in the new government.

Personally, I have never had a good grasp of Middle East conflict. Mainstream news covers the conflicts, but recently, I’ve been wondering about the causes of these conflicts, the extent of Muslim hatred toward Christians and the West and whether there are any solutions toward peace in our time. I was surprised by what I learned. Although we don’t hear much about Christians who live in the Middle East, this area was the birthplace of Christianity and there are still churches that date back to well before Islam began. Ten years ago, the Iraqi population was 10% Christian, although that number is rapidly approaching zero because of ISIS’ goal of creating a pure Islamic state. Many of the Christians who have been forced to leave simply wanted to live in their homeland side by side with their moderate Muslim neighbors. It was heartbreaking to read about the devastation that non-Muslims have faced and about the role the U.S. had in this by removing Saddam Hussein and the Baathist government, but failing to put forth the leadership that might have prevented ISIS and other radical Islamists from filling the vacuum. I can’t say that this was a hope-filled book, but it gave me a vivid picture of the situation. Education is the first step in effecting change.

They Say We Are Infidels is a “must-read” for anyone who wants to learn more about Islam, ISIS, and the Middle East. I will definitely be sharing my copy with family and friends.

I received a free copy of these book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What is Greemu? (Schoolhouse Review)


Over the past year or so, I have loved trying out several different products from Koru Naturals, including emu oil, manuka honey propolis soap, skin clear cream, and emu oil shampoo and conditioner. While I enjoyed all of these products, my absolute favorite has been the emu oil. Since my initial review, I have purchased several more bottles, both for myself, and to give away.

While I have no problem with using animal products, many people do, so emu oil would be something they would not want to use. Because of this, Devonian has created a new type of beauty oil called GREEMU that has very similar composition to emu oil, but is made entirely of plant oils. (GREEMU is also distributed by Koru Naturals.)

GREEMU is marketed as the “green alternative to emu oil.”  It contains macadamia seed oil, palm oil, shea butter, sunflower seed oil, and rice bran oil, creating a lipid composition very similar to emu oil.

My GREEMU oil arrived in a 4 oz. green bottle. I expect, from my experience with emu oil, that the bottle will last a long time since I only need a few drops per application!

My primary use for GREEMU oil was as a facial lotion. I spread a few drops over my face every morning and evening. It soaked in quickly and left my face feeling very soft and moisturized. Although it is an oil, it didn’t make my face break out or feel oily because it absorbed so nicely. Occasionally, I smoothed a few drops into the ends of my hair as a conditioning treatment. I had to be careful here—a little bit does go a long way! It leaves my skin so soft and works as well as any expensive wrinkle cream I’ve used.

I compared my Koru Naturals emu oil and the GREEMU by using the emu oil on the back of my left hand and the GREEMU oil on my right. The GREEMU oil was a bit thinner without the slightly creamy texture of the emu oil. It also took just a bit longer to absorb into the skin. Both worked very well for moisturizing, though. I also thought the oil was wonderful for my dry feet-rubbing it in before bed left my feet well moisturized the next day.

A year ago (before I discovered emu oil), I would have been very wary of the concept of putting oil on my face, but I have fallen in love with both these products (emu oil and GREEMU) and their ability to moisturize and soften my skin. I still would give a slight edge to emu oil, but really like both of them.

Greemu Devonian Review

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Learning from Finnish Schools

I’ve read several articles lately about Finnish schools. The schools in Finland are some of the top performing schools in the world, yet their approach to education is opposite to that of the U.S or Asia. School days are short, children do not even begin formal education until age 7, outdoor play is an important part of the school day, and little or no standardized testing is done. Children are allowed to be children. They are expected to have fun at school and the teachers trust that they will learn when ready. It sounds like they let kids be kids instead of pushing them to do more and more.

Finnish schooling seems similar to the philosophy of many homeschoolers. I’ve been picking up some additional ideas for our homeschool, though. For example, craft time is an essential part of the school experience. And “craft time” doesn’t mean cutting, coloring, and gluing paper! Even in elementary school, children are learning to use sewing machines, knit, crochet, cook, and to use power tools. Not only are they learning practical life skills, but they are using academic skills in real life by measuring and figuring out problems as they create useful items. Teaching Emily some of these skills (or finding people who can teach her) is one of my goals for her last few years of high school. But now I’m thinking that it would have been a great idea to have started teaching life skills much younger!

One trend in Finnish schools is “teaching by topic,” or incorporating all of the subjects into one topical theme….sounds like unit studies to me! It’s funny that schools are just “discovering” the advantages of something that homeschoolers have been doing for years!

It seems that few children are “left behind” in Finland because any child who struggles, including immigrants and those with learning disabilities, get the attention they need to keep up with the group. On the other end of the spectrum, though, there isn’t a lot of support for gifted or advanced students because of the country’s focus on equality rather than achievement.

I think a lot of Finland’s child-friendly techniques would be wonderful in American schools (that are heading in the opposite direction), but at least we homeschoolers are free to individualize our children’s learning, teaching what our children need when they need it and fostering a love to learn. I’ve linked several articles above in case you want to learn more.

Heroes of History: Ronald Reagan (Schoolhouse Review)

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

YWAM Publishing publishes a large selection of books for young people about Christian heroes and “Heroes of History.”  We recently finished reading Heroes of History- Ronald Reagan and using the accompanying  Heroes of History-Ronald Reagan Study Guide.

I’ve read several books from the Heroes of History series, and Ronald Reagan: Destiny at His Side, by Janet and Geoff  Benge is my favorite. Possibly this is because he is a recent “hero,” and I remember many of the incidents in the biography from his years as president. The biography gave a complete look at his life, but never felt bogged down in details.

The book begins with Reagan’s early years, telling about his childhood in Illinois growing up in a working class family with a father who had trouble holding down a job because of his drinking. It tells of Reagan’s struggle to pay for college and his perseverance, his rise to fame as an actor, then his years as governor of California, and president of the United States.

Portions of many of his speeches were included in the book, reminding me of Reagan’s love for his country, his devotions to the principles of freedom and smaller government, and his unique ability to unify rather than divide. These speeches were actually my favorite parts of the biography. There is a reason Ronald Reagan was called the “Great Communicator!” As we go through this election season, I am reminded of the qualities a leader should have—a heart to serve the country rather than to grab power, honesty, and the desire to be the president for all the people.  I hope that reading this book will help my daughter and other readers to identify which personal qualities are important to develop in order to be a good citizen and Christian witness.






The accompanying PDF study guide includes a variety of activities for enhancing the book:

  • Comprehension questions for each chapter
  • Essay questions
  • Creative Writing
  • Hands-on Projects (Learn to can food, make a newspaper featuring Reagan.)
  • Arts and Crafts (Build a crystal radio set, pop-up book, or collage about his life.)
  • Suggestions for field trips and community resources (such as people to interview on related topics)
  • Mapping activities
  • Vocabulary

There are enough activities and content in the guide to create a month-long unit study if desired.  I would rate the book as an upper elementary to middle school level, although it was interesting for me and my high school student as well. Some of the study guide activities, especially the writing assignments, are very appropriate for high school students. Although the guide could be used to simply study the book and the life of Ronald Reagan, suggestions and activities are provided to expand the content into other areas, such  as related literature, the geography and history of Illinois and California, and science exploration. It is suggested that the student organize a culminating event with displays, food, and presentations. Finally, a list of additional resources is provided—books, websites, and movies about or featuring Reagan. .


We used the comprehension questions and picked a few of the other activities to try. Emily completed a fact sheet and timeline that summarized Reagan’s life and I plan to have her work on some of the writing assignments as well.

We have have enjoyed YWAM biographies, and this book in particular. I would recommend the Heroes of History Series as a supplement to any history program.


Connect with YWAM Publishing:

Twitter: @YWAMpublishing @YWAMpublishing
The YWAM Publishing Blog:

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

More Freebies from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

I’ve shared coupon codes from several great resources from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine over the past two weeks. (Be sure to look at my previous posts if you missed them!)

Some of my Crewmates are sharing some different freebies, so be sure to visit their blogs as well. Here are some of my favorites:

Homeschooling for His Glory is sharing:

E-Book #4: Growing Authors and Illustrators
E-Book #5: Helping the Reluctant Writer
E-Book #6: Why Does My Child Hate to Write

Running With Spears is sharing:

Free gift #1 is the God Made Them All Wonder Bundle! It includes 5 e-books about hummingbirds, bugs, butterflies, creepy crawlies, and alpacas!

Free gift #2 is Heart and Soul Homeschool Mama, which is an e-book written by a homeschool mama of 6 that’s full of tips and encouragement.

Free gift #3 is Molly’s Money-Saving Digest Summer Fun From A to Z — a super fun digest full of activities, recipes, science experience and more!

Grace Christian Homeschool is sharing several e-books on organizing your home, organizing your homeschool, and working from home. Who doesn’t need organization ideas!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Have a High Schooler? Here are Some Free Resources!



This nice little bundle from the Old Schoolhouse Store includes 4 ebooks:

Career Exploration for High School Students Pursuing Their Dreams

Transcripts, CLEPs, and Other Ways to Get into College

Career Training, Mentorship, and Parenthood

College Success Begins at Home: Seasoned Homeschoolers Share Their Experiences

Some of these resources are short, read-in-one-sitting mini books and others are more meaty. I just downloaded the set and am hoping to pick up some good tips!

Get the High School and Beyond Bundle free at the Old Schoolhouse Store free with coupon code: DLCREW16 (good until April 30, 2016).

Monday, April 11, 2016

Homeschool Diploma (Schoolhouse Review)

Exclusive High School Diploma Review
Homeschooling has come a long way over the past generation. Not only do we have access to hundreds of options for math, science and so on,  products such as diplomas are now available to honor the hard work that our students have invested in their education. I just ordered a Exclusive High School Diploma from and am very impressed. (No, Emily isn’t graduating until 2018—we just ordered her diploma early because of this review opportunity!)
My older three children graduated from public high school. Their diplomas are nice, but are probably just like every other public high school diploma. On the other hand, I had many options while ordering this diploma, with prices ranging from $29.99 for a standard diploma to $51.97 for a gilded diploma. The standard diploma offers the typical wording and a nice cover with few options for customizing. It’s perfectly acceptable and appears similar to most school diplomas.

I loved the old-fashioned look  of the Vintage Diploma. Ultimately, we didn’t choose this design because it only offered one wording option, but it is really pretty.
Vintage High School Diploma
The Personalized and Exclusive Diplomas offer 4 different wording choices, the option to add a imageverse or motto, and the ability to make a minor change or two to the signature lines or the wording. There are several seals to choose from—gold seals for the Personalized High School Diploma and engraved for the Exclusive High School Diploma.
We ordered the Exclusive High School Diploma and found the ordering process to be quite easy. We proceeded through the various options, choosing a seal, entering personal information, choosing our preferred wording from 4 major options with several variation of each, and choosing a cover. I could have chosen to add an honors seal. I didn’t because at this point (2 years until graduation), I don’t know what level of honors Emily will qualify for. I did request a change of the word “diploma” to “honors diploma,” though, since she is doing a rigorous college prep selection of classes and I wanted the diploma to reflect that just as my older children’s public school diplomas said “Advanced Diploma.”
I was shocked at how quickly the diploma arrived. I ordered it on Sunday and it was at my door on Thursday. Very impressive for a personalized product! We were very happy with the diploma as well. It is truly beautiful—much nicer than my other children’s standard diplomas. I loved the option to choose the wording, “With thanks to God and in acknowledgement of His enabling grace, we joyfully present…. We added “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Prov. 9:10” to the bottom to acknowledge our belief that all wisdom ultimately comes from God, and our commitment to honor Him in our school.
We chose this engraved “Christian Education” seal for Emily’s diploma.
Emily wanted a black cover because it looked more “official”! We were able to choose from several designs and colors for the cover and could have chosen to add her name on the cover for a small additional charge.
P1050608’s selection is not limited to diplomas. They also sell graduation announcements, thank-you cards, caps and gowns, class rings and more. One stop shopping for graduation! There are even supplies and diplomas for kindergarten and eighth grade graduations.
I received a few samples of the announcements. They are very nice—classy, but more individualized than the typical school announcement. offers photo announcements as well. We plan to return to the site to shop when we are planning Emily’s graduation in two years.

Exclusive High School Diploma Review
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Communication Skills Bundle (Free!)



As a speech pathologist and a homeschooling mother, the topic of communications is dear to my heart. This bundle of mini-ebooks focus on several different areas of communication, for struggling learners to gifted children.

E-Book #1:Just How Important Are Communication Skills Anyway? By JoJo Tabares

Don’t let the words speech and debate scare you! With 20 years’ experience and a degree in speech communication, Mrs. Tabares shares some essential insights that could help you.

Here’s a hint of what you’ll discover among the pages of this WeE-book™ . . .

  • Learn from President Ronald Reagan—The Great Communicator.
  • Effective communication assists professional success.
  • Which skills are needed for personal achievement?
  • How do good communication skills affect learning?
  • Successful families need effective communication skills!
  • Communication courses: the Say What You Mean series. Learn more . . .


E-Book #2:  Play What You Mean: Creative Ways to Teach Communication Skills By JoJo Tabares  offers creative ways to make learning communication skills fun. Topics include: 

  • Preschool: What do you see?—How do you play . . . ?—Look at me!
  • Elementary: Talk `n Listen—Find the Ice Cream—Telephone.
  • Junior/Senior High: Feed Me—Invention—Dress Up (no, she’s not kidding)!

E-Book #3: Communication Skills and Your Gifted Child

Is your gifted child somewhat lacking in communication skills? Is she highly emotional and does she have a hard time relating to others? Would you like to help her develop the skills which are so very important for getting along in a world where she already feels “different”? Glean comfort and understanding as you help your child develop the communication skills that are vital to getting along in everyday life. Recognize the problems involved and how to deal with them in the WeE-book™ . . .

You can download the Communication Skills Bundle for free at The Old Schoolhouse Store  if you use the coupon code: “DLCREW16” (valid through April, 2016).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Have you Started Your Garden This Year? (Free Resource!)

I don’t usually do a lot of vegetable gardening because our yard is so shady. I have had success growing tomatoes in pots, though, because I can set the pots in sunny spots (like the driveway!) This year, I’m getting into the gardening mood and have planted several different vegetables in pots and have started a hydroponic tower garden.
If you have the gardening bug too, you should download this book from The Old Schoolhouse Store. For the month of April, you can get it FREE with the coupon code: "DLCREW16".  I just downloaded my copy and am hoping to get some good tips from it!