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Here’s a list of some things I feel is handy to have for homeschooling:


  • laminate machine  -handy in so many ways!  I have made my own flash cards, multiplication cards, ABC cards…  very handy dandy to have around!
  • printer/scanner or photocopy machine
  • lots and lots of paper!  I don’t buy lined paper.  I print my own and save money that way!


  • three hole punch
  • stapler
  • notebooks and looseleaf -TIP:  buy notebooks AFTER the school sale.  I stocked up on notebooks when they were 12 cents (yes you read right!!) after the mad rush parents have to buy school supplies.  Most places like Target or WalMart will reduce the prices significantly and that is when we usually stock up on supplies.
  • pencils, erasers, markers, crayons, paints , scissors, construction paper
  • electric pencil sharpener
  • abacus -Don’t use it anymore but was REAL handy for first and second grade!
  • chalk board or dry erase board
  • alligator clips
  • paper clips -we use these like crazy!!!  We use them as bookmarks, as reminders, you name it we use it!
  • laptop or desktop pc with internet
  • folder/file organizers -has many many uses!  Very handy dandy!
  • microscope
  • Library card!

Typing Program


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So we’ve been doing the Type 2 Learn (by Sunburst) for a month.  They offer a free trial.  My girl enjoyed it the first few times, but then I could tell she just wasn’t interested in doing it.  When our trial ended, I did not go and purchase it.

I asked her what about it she didn’t like.  She told me that it was annoying lol  I asked for more information and she explained that it frustrated her to no end to have to redo the entire lesson if she got one thing wrong.

What bugged me was the animation.  It seemed a bit over the top and a waste of a lot of time.

So anyway, we did not buy the program.  We came across Dance Mat Typing -which is FREE and figured we’d give it a shot before we started looking for something else we could buy.  My girl seems to like it a lot!  She said it was nice not having to redo everything if she made a typing error and it was more straight forward and easier to follow.  She also said, and I quote, “If I enjoy doing it, I don’t mind doing it!”  hehe  how true that is!!  Dance Mat Typing gets two thumbs up from me then!

The Journey


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For the 1st grade, I went hunting ebay and amazon for good gently used books we could use for schooling.  I found some.  A mod podge of books, really.  When someone asked what curriculum I was using I would feel kinda embarrassed to say that I kinda put something together as opposed to using Sonlight, Abeka or whatever else homeschoolers were using in my local group.

I later learned that putting something together is not a bad thing.  Some call it an eclectic way of homeschooling.  The ability to do this is the beauty of homeschooling!  There is no right or wrong way.  You don’t have to go out and buy a boxed curriculum, you don’t have to use all the popular names out there (I honestly don’t know what is popular, just what I hear is being used in my local group).

Anyway, it worked for us for first grade.  By the second year (notice I didn’t say grade?  at this point I noticed my daughter was ahead in a couple of subjects so we started calling it ‘year’ instead) I found Homeschool Supercenter and purchased a whole bunch of nice new books geared towards my daughter’s needs.  She was ahead in reading and math and it was nice to be able to have it tailored to what I needed for her.  But maaaan was it expensive!!!!   I don’t regret the pricey purchase, as I made some discoveries along the way.

I learned that my daughter can fly through Explode the Code that she received in the homeschool bundle.  It was kind of a joke for her and although she loved doing it and finished the book in a mere two weeks, I didn’t feel she actually learned anything from it and it seemed like a waste of money to me.

Then the twins made their arrival and schooling was a bit out of wack till we got into our new rythmn and schedule, but my daughter was so ahead and doing lots of so called 3rd grade schooling that I wasn’t worried.  When we found our new groove and got back into schooling, we noticed that her 3rd grade math textbook that we got was just not working.

Math is my dear hubby’s domain.  I will be the first to tell you that I s.u.c.k. at math.   Especially algebra!  It is my weakest subject and I am not embarrassed to say it because I know that I tried real hard to ‘get it’ and just can’t.  So I told hubby before we agreed to homeschool that he would have to be the sole individual responsible for teaching math to our kids.  He agreed!   But it wasn’t going so well with the textbook.  It was a houghton mifflin edition and my husband felt it wasn’t giving proper explanation on how to do the examples.  We also found several typos in the answer key.  It just got to the point where out of frustration we wanted to throw it out the window!

Yah, I know…  why in the world did I go with a textbook used in public schools!?  Because I didn’t know better, that’s why!!  I didn’t know that there were so many BETTER alternative options to teaching math.  So I started doing research on how else we can teach the kid math.  She was technically in second grade but flew through it and had just started third grade math.  I needed help!!  And then I came across ALEKS math.  Oh, how I love theee ALEKS math!!!!

You know what’s sad (but perhaps good)??  That I am finally learning math I should have learned many, many years ago!!  Instead of having my husband sit with her during the ALEKS math explanation, I am sitting with her and I am actually learning, too!  I realize now that perhaps the reason I didn’t do so well in math is because I had some crummy teachers back then who just didn’t know how to explain it properly.  Things are clicking, things make sense and I am actually enjoying the process of learning right alongside my daughter.  So thank you ALEKS math!!!!  Although this is something my daughter can technically do on her own, I choose to sit with her and work with her on the new stuff together.  She does the quizzes, the assessments, reviews, etc. all on her own though!!  And she really is enjoying it.  She totally mastered multiplication thanks to the Quicktables.  Very incredibly glad to have found ALEKS!

I also love that eventually she can get some college credits for the upper levels of math.  OH! and they also have chemistry!  Very cool.

So anyway, back to learning the hard way… it’s all about experience.  You learn through trial and error and experiences.  I honestly don’t mind the stumbling along the way because we’ve learned a lot together.  We know what works, we know what doesn’t and we’re enjoying the process.  I’ve also taught my daughter that it’s never too late to learn (just look at her momma learning math!).  And what’s really cool is that she is learning that we’re all human, we all make mistakes, we all learn from our mistakes and we can improve and be better.  Her momma is not infallible.

We also recently stumbled upon Time 4 Learning and couldn’t be happier!  What an amazing idea for a kid who loves using computers.  We’re using it for the core subjects (but sticking with ALEKS for math) and we’ve added a few things here and there to our Third Year.  Yes, we’ve officially begun our third year.  Very exciting!!

So alongside T4L and ALEKS math, we’ve added some creative writing, we’re trying Time 4 Art (we’re experiencing some technical difficulties right now -we’re hoping they call us soon so we can continue working on it!), and I got my girl an awesome software so she can learn how to play her keyboard.  She really loves playing and hopes to play on a piano one day!  She’s also doing the 30 day trial for Type to Learn which is a web based game that teaches her to type properly.  I’m on the fence as to whether we’ll keep it or try something else.

On our wish list is a Spanish program that my girl wants.  She really really wants to learn Spanish, but from someone who doesn’t speak the language, I am finding it real hard to teach.  I’ve read from other homeschoolers that you need to have some basic know of the language to use Rosetta Stone (not to mention how incredibly pricey it is!) so we did some digging.  I came across this.  My kiddo really wants it so she insisted on putting it on her birthday wish list.  How cool is that??  :)

Anywhooo that’s all I got for now!  If this weary momma can think of anything more I am sure I’ll pop back on and post.  :)

Universe Verse


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Just had to post this!!  I downloaded the books for my girl.  She is always asking about the Big Bang and Evolution.

It’s Alive! The Universe Verse: Book 2 tells the story of our Earth and how it was that life could have developed here from non-living elements. It covers the formation of our solar system, Earth’s early history, the fundamental principles of evolution and natural selection and the basic structures and systems of life as we know it. And all of it is wrapped in a river of well-written rhyme and richly detailed illustrations. Thanks to the generosity of my Kickstarter backers it is available for free as a PDF eBook, and it has been illustrated in full color.

Please download it and take a look. If you like it, please forward this email to anyone and everyone. I bet you know a lot of people who would find it interesting and would be happy if you sent it to them. And I bet they, in turn, know a lot of people… With your help, this could go viral and people (kids!) everywhere could have access to this wonderful resource.

It’s Alive! The Universe Verse: Book 2

Free Download: It’s Alive! High-Res (80MB)

Free Download: It’s Alive! Low-Res (5MB)

Preview online

Purchase the paperback ($15.95)


BANG! The Universe Verse: Book 1
Free Download: High-Res (30MB)

Free Download: Low-Res (5MB)

Preview online

Purchase the paperback ($12.95)

(These PDF download links will expire eventually. If that happens, just email me at to get a fresh set.)

There’s much more about me and all of my books (including a book of river riddles & a children’s book about calculus) on my website If you really like these books please consider buying a paperback or two. You can also become a fan of Jamie’s Books on Facebook or write a nice review on Amazon. As an independent author, illustrator and publisher with no marketing team or advertising budget, I can use all the help I can get spreading the word.

Many thanks!
Jamie Dunbar