Not Back to School Blog Hop 2012: The Curriculum

Wow, this is third year now that I've linked up with the Not Back to School Blog Hop and I cannot help but giggle when I think back on the previous years post and how much our homeschool has changed.

We have been really laid back in  lately following a loose unschooling style. Because of that, it has been a while since I shared what resources we have been using. So today, for the blog hop, I want to share with you the list of books and resources that I have recently lined up for us to use for our school year which will officially start in September, though we have started some now. It is composed of mostly classic text available free from Google Books and other online sources simply because I do not think a home school education should cost you an arm and leg and with proper planning and supplies on the teachers’ part, they are excellent.

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We are just a day away from joining in the Garden Challenge at The Homeschool Village. While most of us already have our garden plans laid and carefully selected reading material and lesson plans to correlate the garden into our homeschoolers spring studies, I invite you to take it one-step further.

Check out the awesome section Discovery Education has set up to teach your students about landscapes and expand your outdoor learning to beyond your garden gate.

Meet TurfMutt

TurfMutt is the adorable pup that serves as your guide as an educator and to your student as you explore the landscapes around you.

Discovery Education describes the TurfMutt projects as a way too

"Foster an appreciation of the environment and an interest in the green space in your community with these classroom resources designed for students in grades 3-5. With TurfMutt as your guide, your class will go outside, investigate the benefits of green spaces and understand the importance of the lawns, flowers, bushes and trees that surround us every day."

The Lesson Plans

There a six lesson plans available in the TurfMutt project from Discovery Education providing enough learning content for 15 individual sessions. Perfect for including one session per week of the Garden Challenge with two weeks hosting two sessions.Photo By The U.S. National Archives

How Green is Your Community?

Using Plants to Save Energy

Breath of Fresh Air

Soil Erosion and Runoff

Helpful Habitats

Eat Your Plants

More Tools for Educators

In addition to the Lesson plans, you will also find three downloadable printouts that coincide with the material.

TurfMutt Crytogram

Can You Find It? Word Search

TurfMutt Cross-Word Puzzle

Don't miss out on the Videos available on the TurfMutt Educators page either, they provide great detail for you and your student to carry out the lesson plans.

US Ecosystems for Students

When your student visits the TurfMutt area of Discovery Education, they can explore the diverse climates of the United States with an interactive map.

Students can learn about the climate zones, rainfall, vegetation and lawn and landscapes (including the grass, plants and trees) when they search the map by region or by state.

Need More Resources

If you find you would still like to use a few more resources to help your homeschooler as they garden and explore your local ecosystem and landscapes, check out the TurfMutt "Additional Resources" page where you will find links to sites such as National Wildlife Federation and National Gardening Association.

Budget Home School Planning with OneNote

Hi there! Before you read, I have an updated version of this post you might want to check out -> OneNote as an Unschool Record Keeper

As promised, I am going to share with you how Microsoft’s OneNote software can work as the one and only home school planner and portfolio you will need. Available as desktop software, a web app and even on your android phone or iPhone, the planner becomes truly portable without having to tote around a binder full of forms.

There are endless possibilities for setting up your home school planner and I am going to share just a few of them with you here today.

When You’re Really Not Sure How to Plan

If you are just starting out with a home education program for your child or are just simply do not like to plan or organize, the easy way to use OneNote as a home school planner is by setting it up using one of the popular print planners on the market that come in digital format.

Then you set up your OneNote Notebook, first creating it and giving it a name such “Our 2011-2012 School Planner.”

Look through your downloaded version of your planner and find the pages you think you will need. For each page, you will click the “Print” button and then select “Send to OneNote.”

If you are using the web app version of the program, you will have to take a “Screen Clipping” of the page and place it into your notebook.

Once you have the pages you need, use the “Section Group” and “Section” tabs to organize your planner in whatever way suites you the best.

Once the pages are all there you will be able to type over them to add your plans or hand write them in with a stylus.

By placing the planner in OneNote you can add or remove pages as needed without wasting paper and keep all of the information organized using a method that works for you.

You Have a General Idea of How you Want to Plan

When you have a general idea of how you want to plan out you home school year you can set up your OneNote planner for free by picking and choosing free forms from around the web to add to it.

The method for setting up the notebook is the same as if you use a pre-made planner but you can snag up only the forms you need from places such as:

Donna Young's Free Homeschool Planner

Homeschool Curriculum for Life

The Homeschool Mom

Full Customization

Finally, you can set up your OneNote home school planner from scratch creating all of the sections you need tailored to the education method you are using.

I’m providing a sample of planner set up for “budget” home school, in which almost all of the curriculum is set up by the parent using free resources on the web.

I have set the planner up for only one student, though it would be easy to transform it into a multiple student planner.

At the beginning of the notebook you will find a “Daily Schedule,” “Goals and Objectives” and “August at Glance.” I have not added the other months, as this is just a sample of what you can do.

If you click on “August at a Glance”, you will see that I placed a calendar for the month and then set up a page for the first week. On this page I gave a brief overview of the lessons for the week. I did not explain them in detail because the full information is available under the subject sections.

To show you a sample of how you could set up the lesson plans in a subject I have provided one week in the math section.

Click on “Math” and then on “Block 2.” Here you will see that I have divided my lessons into weeks and placed the lesson plans I would use for week 1 under that section. I provided a page to record any assessments as well.

Additionally, you will see that in the “


” section I added a section titled “


.” Here I can place any worksheets and teacher pages that I may need in advance for quick access.

Give it a Try

So, if you have been looking for a new way to organize and plan your child’s home education, go ahead and try it.

After some tinkering, you should find that OneNote is an extremely useful resource for you home school. If you have any questions or need help setting up your own planner, feel free to leave me a comment or Contact Me and I will happy to help you out.

Microsoft OneNote and History in the Budget Home School

This week I am going to be talking all about technology in the home school and easy ways you can integrate some great tools.

There are many uses for Microsoft OneNote in the home education program (I’m a Microsoft OneNote Junkie) but I am going to start out today with showing you how this great program can benefit your study of history with your children.

First, I want to tell you a little bit about OneNote though for those who are not familiar with the program.


Microsoft OneNote is like having a traditional notebook with tabbed dividers where you can fill in your own original content, copy content from the web or even borrow a notebook shared on the web and collaborate.

Parents and Students can either type information in or write by hand using a stylus on a tablet PC. This feature comes in particularly handy for having your child fill out worksheets or to practice their handwriting without wasting all of the paper.

When adding content (notes) to a OneNote page there are many tags you can add to a page, such as to-do, book to read, movie to watch and more.

There are many more features as well that you will become comfortable with after using OneNote and would be happy to walk any one along who wishes to try out the program and needs a little help.



There are many ways in which you can buy OneNote, with the prices as of today from Microsoft standing at:

It is available as a standalone program for $79.99 or $69.99 for the Home and Student Version that is suitable for a home educators needs.

OneNote is available as a part of the Office Home and Student Suite 2010, which also includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint for $149.99.

The Office Home and Business 2010 suite is $279.99 and includes full versions of the programs available in Home and Student as well as Outlook.

Finally, there is the Office Professional 2010 program suite for $499.99 in which Publisher and Access are added into the mix of programs.

If you do not have a word processing system or yours is outdated, I would highly suggest the Home and Student package as I feel the price is nothing compared to what you would spend on ink, paper and workbooks.

If you are satisfied with your current software however, just purchase the standalone OneNote, which will quickly pay for itself as you save on paper and ink cost.


OneNote comes in versions compatible with Windows and MAC. The program also has a web app, which provides many of the functions of the full program.

You can also utilize your OneNote notebooks, updating them and more on the go using a Windows or iPhone.

OneNote and History

 Many homeschoolers are fond of using a few good spine text and then supplemental books to provide their students with a study of history complemented by wall timelines or what is called a Book of Centuries.

I have issue with both methods because we just don’t have the space for wall timelines and in my opinion, creating a book of centuries uses up entirely much paper for family that tries to be a sustainable and eco-conscious in our schooling choices as possible.

Choosing to document your child’s history studies with OneNote instead eliminates the need for either. Instead, you can keep a detailed folder of history in which you can add endless pages of information as your child learns and grows.

Here is a sample History notebook I have created for you to view “Our History Adventure.” Simpley click on the notebook and it will open in a view only format. If you would like a copy of this notebook for your own home school that you may edit and add to, contact me and I will be happy to share it with you.

(You can also take the time to click on the Personal/Web notebook to learn about all of the features of OneNote and how to use the program)

In this notebook, I have divided the tabs up by time periods in which information will be filled in as it is studied.

Look under “Prehistory: Paleozoic Era” to see a sample of how information can be filled in. For a younger child you could do what I have done, find relevant useful info for the particular time in history, and paste it in to study with your child. Documenting helpful videos to see, books to read etc.

After studying the information you could quickly add a page to document your child’s understanding of what they have learned filling in a narration or writing up your own multiple choice review for them answer.

There are so many directions in which you could go designing your own history notebook for your child, one like my sample that could serve as your own textbook when finished or a less formal notebook that only holds snippets of information and pictures pasted in by your child to show what they have learned.

I hope you enjoyed learning how you can use OneNote to help our your budget home school history studies and join me later as I share how to create an interactive science textbook with OneNote, how you can turn OneNote into the one only home school planner/portfolio you will ever need and how to replace your child’s worksheets and writing notebooks with OneNote.