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Last year we started enjoying watching CNN Student News as a family, which has been a quick and safe way for us to incorporate current events. It’s designed for middle and high school, but so far we haven’t seen anything that she hasn’t been able to handle, and we started in third grade last year. We’d sit around the table and watch the ten minutes of student news over dinner. Now normally we don’t have the television on at dinner, but this is a fun way to spark conversation.

It’s a free resource, simply head to Monday through Friday during the typical school year. Each episode briefly discusses a selection of today’s relevant topics as it spins the world covering the chosen events. There’s always a short quiz question which Satori and my husband race to answer before it delves into one of the topics. There’s always a way to preview the transcript if you wish to make sure the day’s news is okay for your child. Here is today’s transcript.

CNN Student news

CNN Student news resumes today

CNN Student News returns on Monday, August 11th, kicking off the 2014-2015 school year! Our commercial-free coverage includes reports on violence in the Middle East and the spread of Ebola in West Africa. We also introduce a new way for schools to get announced on our Roll Call, and we conclude with a “royal” cattle call. Hope you can join us on our first day back! News returns on Monday, August 11th, kicking off the 2014-2015 school year! Our commercial-free coverage includes reports on violence in the Middle East and the spread of Ebola in West Africa. We also introduce a new way for schools to get announced on our Roll Call, and we conclude with a “royal” cattle call. Hope you can join us on our first day back! 


I would love to conclude this blog post with some corny puns, but I guess I’m just not that cool. If you think your kids are ready, check it out today!

BrainPOP has been an exciting video supplement to our studies for over three years now. We use it mostly to supplement our Science and History lessons, but we also spice up almost every other subject as well. Examples include topics from Picasso and van Gogh, authors like Cynthia Rylant or Dr. Seuss, Time Signatures and Note Values, Magnets, to the Metric/US measuring systems. Those are just a few videos we’ve watched this fall from the BrainPop Jr. (K-3) site.  After viewing the video, Satori usually takes both the Easy and the Hard quizzes online.

I’m sure I’ve blogged about BrainPOP in the past, but each individual topic also includes a related game, activity, belly up cartoon, pop a joke, word wall, lesson ideas, suggested related books, and more.  The regular BrainPOP has also been applicable for us, even at a young age, and offers a dizzying array of videos that I learn from myself.

We’ve also always gotten the regular BrainPop site as well (included in the Family Combo), which is geared for grades 3 and up. BrainPOP Jr. features Annie and Moby the robot, and regular BrainPop has Tim and Moby. For those of you with iPad/iPhones, you can also view it on your devices with the BrainPOP app and BrainPOP Jr. app. Either watch the free Featured Movie or the whole she-bang if you already have a subscription. This has come in handy for us while on vacation or waiting at a restaurant. Aside from the full regular subscription, there are two other mobile subscriptions, which can save you some money, which are detailed below). However the BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. app subscriptions are separate, so you’d have to buy both if you don’t have the full regular subscription.

BrainPOP Mobile subscriptions

BrainPOP Explorer Subscription – The free Featured Movie and its quiz plus four additional related movies and quizzes, rotating every day. $1.99 per month

BrainPOP Full Access Subscription – The free Featured Movie and its quiz plus unlimited access to all of BrainPOP’s 750+ movies and quizzes. $6.99 per month (BrainPOP site subscribers can log in from the app at no additional cost.)

While we haven’t taken advantage of the BrainPOP Español version yet (which gets included free when you get the Family Combo), but I think it would be great Spanish listening practice for Satori, perhaps next year, once she learns more Spanish.

The Family Combo is a year subscription to BrainPOP Jr., BrainPOP, and BrainPOP Español that normally runs $175, but with the coupon holiday2012, you get it for 20% off, making it only $140, saving you $35. I haven’t seen a coupon for BrainPOP that I can remember, so I thought I’d blog about the deal. There is a Homeschool version which allows you to have 3 users (I believe simultaneously), but that just gets too expensive. The site doesn’t track what one child watches, so even for families, I would suggest the Single User and watch together or take turns.

To learn more, check out their video lists – BrainPop and BrainPop Jr. and then tune in to their free daily video. New to their offerings is GameUp, which offers free educational games. We’ve only tried that once, as we’ve been more than satisfied with their video selection. I’ve included the free Featured Movie on this blog post below, so you can sample a fun BrainPOP video for yourself!

Last weekend I had all Sunday to myself, so I compiled a list of favorite series offered by Discovery Education Streaming. Almost a whole year went by before we really started taking advantage of this vast resource. It is subscription-based, which makes it all the more important to utilize it if you got it!

There are several thread over at WTM regarding this service, and I took people’s favorites and put them in this list. Clicking on a series will take you to a page listing the episodes in order, as well as a short description. There are several great shows on history, math, literature, science, grammar and much more.

We’re currently using Elementary Spanish and now Satori loves The Number Crew for math! Although I limit video, I do look forward to planning our curriculum and utilizing more of these resources.

Head on over to Smrt Mama’s blog where she is having her first ever contest! Upload a picture of what you think a homeschooler looks like in her “You Look Like a Homeschooler” contest.

I love her blog. She’s got a sense of humor and wit that I could never achieve, but I do like to enjoy by visiting her blog every week. I should actually visit more than once a week, she’s one of the few homeschool bloggers I know that blog more than I do! She’s got a picture of herself in a dunce hat, and has cute misspelled words, but make no mistake, this mama seems to be one of the most intelligent homeschool parents I know.

I splurged today.

I had recently sold an expensive camera lens (I’ve been busy selling tons of books and photography equipment to help pay for homeschooling stuff), and for months now I’ve been mulling over getting a Discovery Plus Streaming annual subscription. If you live in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, you get this for free. But if you’re not that lucky, you can still save 40% by purchasing it through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

Here is the main website for this, I do think they have a 30 day trial period:

Discovery Education Streaming Plus

I have heard some great things about this subscription, from great Spanish language lessons to Magic School Bus episodes. I wanted it for the science and history videos. Other people using it touted that it has tons of those, but also you can print off worksheets to go with the videos.

So after asking around to see if this is worth it, I finally took the plunge and purchased it through Homeschool Buyers Co-op. Within minutes, I was able to log-in to the site and watch videos!

Take a look at their 143 page Title List. WOW! Want to know more? Check out this great review that is posted on the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

We immediately watched some great videos on Ancient Egypt, a story about an egyptian cat, a video on states of matter… Satori and I were enthralled. The advanced search makes it so easy to find what you’re looking for, by age, subject, media type. Some people get this hooked up to their TV, but we’re computer people anyway. When I watch it on Windows Media Player at 700 kbps, the quality is fine for me (to be honest, I was expecting horrible quality).

We’re so excited about this and it is going to be the perfect supplement to much of our curriculum – especially science, history and language!

We also have Netflix, and we do watch their Instant Movies on our TV. But the educational selection is not as vast as Discovery Education Plus.


On a related note, also earlier today I checked out my local library FREE audio book service, and I’m very psyched about that too! I already checked out Treasure Island, which I’m reading aloud to my family this month. It is hard for me to read, and now I don’t have to!

I’ve uploaded our SOTW Lesson Plans on my Google Docs as public today. This is a work in progress and just helps me visualize the lessons in one handy place. Maybe this will help others too that are using Story of the World and the Activity Guide.

Also, I’ve found some great free resources! First up, a free Story of the World workbook that you can download immediately. Use this to write down narrations, illustrate drawings, keep a list of related books you’ve read, store photos of your activities, and more. It has a handy 2-day week, which you could easily extend to a 3-day week. (You’ll need to already own the Story of the World book and Activity Guide.)


The above workbook will help you build the ultimate history binder. I suppose you want a suitable cover and spine for your binder? No worries, download the free cover here or purchase one for just $1.50! (Scroll down for the free covers.)

Want more to choose from? Kathy Jo has over 70 Notebook Covers for all your homeschooling needs, from History to Science to Language Arts and more.

Need some interactive quizzes? No problem thanks to Elizabeth Stapel! She’s got chapters 1-34 covered, and some great reviews.

If you’re a homeschooler and want to be a free beta tester for a very awesome curriculum website, hurry and sign up now! Everyone who has checked it out is amazed at how detailed it is. There are currently 672 Pathways in Science, History, Reading/Phonics, Math, and Language Arts.

Lesson Pathways

lesson-pathwaysClassical homeschoolers (like us) can pick and choose from the pathways to correspond for the appropriate lessons in history/science and such. There are fun activities, projects, learning tools, go-along books and more for each pathway, it is so thorough I cannot believe it.

For example, for their Unit on Egypt, your child will learn about King Tut, the Nile in Ancient Egypt. Activities include crafts like Crown Yourself, How Big is a Pyramid, Design a Sarcophagus, Mummy Experiment, Egyptian Death Mask. It includes links to free learning material like “The Importance of the Nile”, “Sarcophagus Images”, “Print your Name in Hieroglyphics”, Games, Videos, Books, and so much more.

I do not know how much they will charge once your free year is over, but I can already see that this site will save me weeks, perhaps MONTHS of planning time, so it will be worth it!

Check it out now! The free membership is open to Monday, August 10 at midnight only!!!