Writer’s Toolbox Giveaway!

Writer's Toolbox book

Writer’s Toolbox is a great resource for budding writers. It contains 6 separate books in one and helps teach students how to write letters, fairy tales, poems, reports, and more!

A customer recently posted asking if Writer’s Toolbox was scheduled in the Guest Hollow Language Arts Curriculum. It wasn’t (the individual book titles were), but it is now, and for those of you who choose that option (instead of buying the individual titles it contains) should save some $$! As an added bonus, there are two more stories in the Writer’s Toolbox in addition to the ones I scheduled in – one about journals and the other about writing scary stories. Writer’s Toolbox is a nice resource and a bit easier to handle than trying to get all the individual book titles. Now you have BOTH options! 

Even for those of you who aren’t using Guest Hollow Language Arts, Writer’s Toolbox is a great resource to have on your homeschool shelf.

Now that I’m done using a copy to schedule in pages, we are offering this NEARLY brand-new copy of The Writer’s Toolbox in a giveaway! Just post in the comments to be entered. We are also hosting the same giveaway via the Guest Hollow Facebook page. You can post and share there instead of here if you wish! A winner will be announced on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Drops Language Learning App Giveaway!

Drops language app

I’ve been really busy working on creating a high school geography and cultures curriculum. One of the things I recommend when learning geography is to learn a foreign language. Today I’m hosting a giveaway in honor of the up-coming geography program and the goal of learning about other cultures and languages: Drops!

Drops is an addictive, colorful app that teaches you individual words. It’s not a full-fledged language program that deals with grammar and conversation, but that’s part of its charm and ease of use. With Drops you learn vocabulary (along with some travel phrases and scripts for languages like Japanese) in a way that’s simple, easy, and fun.

There is something about it that just makes you want to sit for a while and tap/swipe/learn. Drops is the perfect app for when your brain is too tired for a more rigorous language learning effort, when you only have a few minutes, or to introduce a new language learner to something that isn’t intimidating and difficult. It’s also great for learning a LOT of words.

I made a quick video to show the different word categories and how the app works:

There are 35 languages available:

Drops has quite a few categories of words you can practice – from the very basic (food, colors, weather, etc.) to more advanced vocabulary that has to do with things like biology, computers, geography, politics, and much more:

Drops app review

You can choose your level to get access to more difficult words as you progress. Drops also allows you to practice scripts where you can trace with your finger or stylus to make the characters you are learning:

Learning hiragana with the Drops app

The free version of Drops gives you access to most features with a 5-minute time limit. Purchase a premium subscription and you get additional benefits like access to the word dojo (that helps you practice/retain the words you’ve already learned with a special algorithm), offline learning, no ads, no time limit, a word collection (where you can see all of the words you’ve practiced with instant pronunciation, etc.), all topics are unlocked, and you can restart a topic. One lucky winner of our giveaway will get a one YEAR premium subscription!

drops language app review
I can look at all the words I’ve been learning and practicing from the collections screen.

Enter our giveaway for a free subscription to Drops. You can also download the app and give it a try. Everyone can play for free!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’d like more language learning suggestions and ideas, click here to read a previous article I wrote.
Homeschooling with Guest Hollow

We’re having a “Back-to-Homeschool” sale!

Guest Hollow sale

We’re having a “Back-to-Homeschool” sale! Enter in the coupon code: 1234abc and get 15% off your order.

If your kids don’t love their homeschool curriculum, make the switch to Guest Hollow. We receive rave reviews from parents and kids:

Some reviews and comments:

Beowulf’s Grammar

“My nine year old says Beowulf is his favorite subject!”

From a 9-year-old student: “I used to hate grammar and now I love it!”

Chemistry in the Kitchen

“This curriculum took my kids that both absolutely HATED anything science oriented and turned them into science geeks!!”

“The things my kids are learning with this program are being learned organically and the concepts are coming up in everyday situations. They know their stuff!!!”

High School Anatomy

“My 10th grader is loving the curriculum so far. I was worried about all the reading at first, because my daughter is not an avid reader, but she has loved all the novels so far. It’s good to see her enjoying reading, and learning so much! I highly recommend this course for any kids interested in going into the medical field in college.”

Biology

“I cannot even tell you how much Biology curricula I looked at before I finally (thankfully) found this one! It saved our year! It went along with my daughter’s learning style so much better than a boring textbook-only approach, heavy on the math with expensive, impossible labs. This one made biology do-able.”

“I hated biology before I found Guest Hollow! I am a visual learner, and Guest Hollow Biology gives tons of videos to watch, reading interesting books, and hands-on activities like dissecting and experiments. Now I love biology thanks to Guest Hollow!”

We hope you join the Guest Hollow family!
Visit https://guesthollow.com/ and don’t forget to use the 15% off coupon code in our store:
1234abc

Happy homeschooling! <3

LingoDeer Giveaway! One of the best apps for learning a language!

Lingo DeerI mentioned how I’m learning Japanese in a previous post about learning languages. I have tried just about every app in existence to see which one works best and have finally found one I absolutely LOVE based on a recommendation from one of my customers: LingoDeer!  To celebrate this terrific find and thanks to LingoDeer’s generosity, I’m hosting a giveaway where 3 lucky winners will get a lifetime subscription to LingoDeer. Before I get to the giveaway details, I want to share the details of this terrific language-learning app!

LingoDeer currently features 9 different languages: Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Russian. I was told that they are also going to add Italian this year and are open to adding other languages in the future when the right talent joins the team. LingoDeer is also committed to expanding and improving the languages they currently feature especially the Asian language courses.

The app was originally designed for Asian languages (and that continues to be the main focus), but when I use it to brush up on my German, it shines just as much as it does for Japanese!

Lingo Deer currently features 9 different languages.

Japanese hiragana

Learning any language can be difficult, but learning an Asian language (for an English speaker) is a bit more of a challenge (at least for me, lol). First, you have to learn an entirely new “alphabet.” In Japanese, this means you have to learn hiragana, katakana, and finally kanji.

Lingo Deer starts you out learning the basic alphabet with the proper stroke order for some of the languages like Japanese and Korean. With Japanese, LingoDeer teaches you the basic hiragana and katakana. Kanji are introduced as sight reading. but you can always have the option to see the phonetic hiragana (or the English letter based romaji) above the kanji to help you read.

Other languages in LingoDeer also start out with the alphabet, so you can learn any special characters or pronunciation. The Chinese lessons teach pinyin and a set of “survival” characters. I think LingoDeer alphabet lessons are the best for Korean and Japanese, but they are always working on making their app better and adding more features, so it’s possible the other languages will get the same level of introductory “alphabet” lessons.

After the optional alphabet section, you start the lessons. After trying a boat load of other apps, Lingo Deer turned out to be one of the BEST with just the right amount of difficulty, perfect lesson lengths that aren’t overwhelming, and grammar explanations to help further your understanding.

Lessons start out with optional learning tips. After you’ve completed a lesson, you can click on the stopwatch icon for a quick pop quiz to practice vocabulary and other concepts.

The exercises are varied to keep interest high and to help build retention and understanding. Some of the exercises are:

  • Match a picture to a spoken word
  • Match English to Japanese
  • Choose the correct translation
  • Fill in the blank
  • Drag and drop to spell words and create sentences
  • Multiple choice
  • Drag a phrase into the correct position in a sentence
  • Listen and choose the correct word
  • Speak and compare your pronunciation to a native speaker

In the screenshot below, you can’t just guess to get a correct answer! You have to build the sentence by dragging and dropping the correct hiragana and spell out every word.

I found this to be challenging at first, because with other programs I could just “guess” the correct answer by reading one or two words in a sentence. Having to spell out every word in an exercise like this really reinforces the material in a way that discourages cheating. 😉

When I was using other Japanese programs, I had a hard time differentiating between some of the basic grammar concepts. Lingo Deer has you learning things in context AND provides additional explanation, so you aren’t left guessing.

In the above screenshot, I can touch each word to see a detailed explanation. I can also press the microphone icon to record myself saying the sentence and then compare it to a native speaker. Unlike some apps, speaking is optional, so if you are in a quiet environment, you can still progress through the lessons without having to make a peep.

There is a review for each lesson so that you never forget what you’re learning. You can review grammar, vocabulary, or both at the same time. Review is also built into the lessons so that grammar and other things you learned from previous lessons are reinforced gently.

There is plenty of review. You can practice vocabulary and grammar individually via different modes.

Knowledge cards in the review section give you more info about grammar and structure:

Knowledge cards help you understand grammar and structure.

You can also download your lessons to work offline!

LingoDeer also features a progress chart, badges, awards, and a ranking system to stay motivated and to track your learning.

With other apps I sometimes felt frustrated during my language lessons, but LingoDeer leaves me feeling encouraged and happy with my progress. I also find myself retaining the lessons better than most other apps due to the lesson structure.

LingoDeer is available via Android or the Apple app store:


…And now I’d like to share LingoDeer with three of my readers via a giveaway:

THREE winners will get a LIFETIME subscription to LingoDeer!

Take a look at the gallery for more LingoDeer screenshots:

 

How to Save Money When Using a Literature Based Curriculum

literature-based curriculum - How to save money?

Using a literature-based curriculum is one of the best ways (in my opinion) to engage students. It steers clear of boring textbooks, adds variety, and builds retention. While it may be one of the best ways to engage a student’s interest, it can also really engage your pocketbook!

I homeschooled my children for 20+ years, and during that time we used (and created) LOTS of literature-based programs. We were also always on a tight budget. In creating curricula for Guest Hollow I haven’t forgotten the struggle to balance what’s best for your kids with what’s best for your budget!

In this post, I’m going to share ways of obtaining the books for a literature-based curriculum without breaking the bank…

Use the Library

This may seem like the most obvious way of saving the money, but there are lots of specific tips for making the most out of this free resource!

  • Install the Library Extension for the Chrome browser.Library Extension for Chrome
    This free extension can check your library’s online catalog while you are browsing sites like Amazon and Goodreads, and it will display the availability of an item on the same page. Here is a screenshot of the extension in action on an Amazon page. If you click on it, you can see a larger version. The extension is featured on the right side of the page:

library-extension-screenshot

Click on the picture to see a larger size.

I am a member of several local libraries. The extension checks all of my libraries – both the physical copies and e-books. I can click on the “borrow” button to go straight to the library and check the book out. This is one of my FAVORITE money-saving resources!

The authors of the plugin are also really friendly and helpful. One of my library systems wasn’t in their database. I wrote an email requesting it, and it was added literally within 30 minutes. I can’t recommend this plugin enough! I highly recommend you look at the Library Extension’s support page. Even though it’s free, this extension is worth a little extra thank you!

  • Research the electronic resources your library has access to such as:Hoopla

Hoopla 

Hoopla Digital provides a wide range of digital content and allows library patrons to download or stream media content for free. Hoopla has videos, books, music, and graphic novels available!

Overdrive and Libby – Overdrive gives you access to tons of e-books and audiobooks. Use the free Libby app to sign into multiple libraries or use more than one card for each library.Libby appLibby can also send books to a Kindle and show you all of your loans and holds on a single shelf (even if you are using more than one library’s access to Overdrive).

FlipsterFlipster – You can check out digital versions of magazines from Flipster. What’s available will vary from library to library, but there are usually some really great offerings like Time, craft magazines, Consumer Reports, Babybug, Cricket, cooking magazines, health & nutrition magazines, and more!

RBdigital
– This library subscription gives you access to audiobooks, ebooks, videos (including videos from The Great Courses), magazines, and comics.

rbdigital

  • Use your library’s inter-library loan program. This will allow you to check out books that aren’t available in your local library system. Be careful, though! Sometimes this service costs a few dollars per book or, if it’s free, you can rack up nasty fines if you turn in these books late.
  • Make requests. If your library doesn’t have a book, there is usually a way to request it for purchase. Our library system purchased a bunch of books I wanted to read while creating the High School American History curriculum.
  • See if you qualify for an educator’s card. Some libraries have a card for educators that allows longer checkout times and lower fines.
  • Consider joining a library that isn’t local for access to their e-books and digital resources. Some libraries will allow someone who is not in their area to have a library card if they are willing to pay a yearly fee. You can then use the card to access digital items and subscriptions. Click here to check out an article about libraries with non-resident borrowing privileges. Do a Google search to find other libraries that allow this.

The Amazon Ecosystem

There are quite a few online resources that can help you save your pennies via the Amazon ecosystem!  Also, when you click on and then shop through our Amazon links, you help support Guest Hollow (we get a small commission)!


  • Kindle Unlimited
    has a 30-day free trial and sometimes has special deals where you can get a 3-month subscription for 99 cents! A subscription gives you access to the Kindle Unlimited Library of 1.4 million titles in eBook and audiobook format. Some of the books in our language arts program are free through this subscription like the books by Brian P. Cleary. I’ve found some really great books through K.U. for the upcoming high school geography curriculum!

  • Amazon’s Free Time Unlimited gives kids access to books, apps, and videos for an inexpensive subscription. Try one month for free to see if the books available are a match for the program you wish to use. Note: The iOS version of the app only gives you access to books and movies. You need the Android version to access apps/games and other features. Some of the books in our Guest Hollow programs are featured in Free Time Unlimited (at the time of this writing) like An Ambush of Tigers, What do Authors Do?, National Geographic Readers: Sea Turtles, Eye to Eye, The Trojan Horse, and Phineas Gage.
  • Use Audible for audiobooks. Try it out for free for 30 days and get TWO free books you can add to your homeschool library. Audible is great for reluctant readers or for listening to “on the go.” Quite a few of our customers purchase some audio books to use with our curricula, especially the high school courses like Chemistry in the Kitchen and American History.
  • Use a Kindle or other tablet and purchase Kindle books at discounted prices. Ebooks are often less expensive than physical books. Some classic books are also FREE. The Kindle also has a feature where you can tap any word to see an instant definition and save it in the Kindle Vocabulary Builder. Kindle books can also be less intimidating to reluctant readers and there is also a special font for Dyslexics. Some Kindles also have a text-to-speech feature that can read books to your student. Kindles and eReaders are a great resource when using a literature-based curriculum.
  • Try the free trial for the Amazon-owned ComiXology app. One of our customers shared that she was able to get two free comics for our American History Curriculum with her 30-day free trial!
  • Look for used versions of the books you need (see the screenshot highlighted in yellow):
    used-books
    You can save a LOT of money purchasing used books on Amazon.

Other Subscriptions and Online Freebies

scribdScribd allows you to subscribe and borrow tons of eBooks, magazines, audiobooks, and various documents (like sheet music). You can get a 30-day free trial. I’ve used Scribd several times to borrow books when creating Guest Hollow curricula. It’s saved me a bundle!scribd

 

Openlibrary.org lets you borrow hundreds of thousands of books in digital format. You can read the books online or download them in ePub, PDF, text, and sometimes Kindle format. A lot of the books in the Guest Hollow programs can be found at the Openlibrary website like A Patriot’s History of the United States, Colonial Living, The Cartoon Guide to Genetics, and many more.Open Library

Archive.org has lots of free books, magazines, movies, software, music, and more. You can search and see if it has the book or magazine you need in a digital format.Internet Archive

Used Book Websites

There are lots of websites besides Amazon where you can get used books. Two of our customer’s favorites are:

AbeBooks.com. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

After researching them (and seeing how great they are) we became affiliates for both. Please bookmark this page and click through the links if you plan to use AbeBooks or Thriftbooks for your used book purchases! We’ll get a small commission. 🙂 <3

Other Online Resources

  • https://buynothingproject.org/ – No trades or swaps are allowed via Buy Nothing Groups – just gifts that are freely given. You may be able to find (and share!) some homeschooling books and resources.
  • Paperbackswap.com and other book swap sites – List books you would like to swap, mail it out, and then you can choose from the other books listed on the site. You pay for the postage on books you ship out. Books you receive come to you postage-paid!

Looking Locally

Don’t forget to look at local thrift stores, homeschool consignments stores, and yard sales! Try to keep a list on hand when you are out and about with the titles of the books you are looking for.

Planning Wisely

  • Every Guest Hollow curriculum comes with a printable book list to help you with your planning and shopping. Some of the book lists even rank the books in order of importance to help you potentially cull some titles out, if necessary, for time and/or budget constraints.

    Guest Hollow homeschool curriculum book list

    Screenshot from the Chemistry in the Kitchen book list. Notice the timeframe of the book’s use is marked (weeks 1-2). There are also boxes to check to help you decide whether each resource is something you need to buy or borrow, as well as the format (physical book, e-book, audio book, etc.).

  • Purchase books a “chunk” at a time. No one says you have to get every single book all at once. You can purchase or borrow books on an as-needed basis. Get “spine” books and books that are used multiple weeks at the beginning of the year. Separate your other purchases into more manageable bits and pieces in 4-week intervals or so, if possible.

If you are using a different curriculum, check out your curriculum’s boards, homeschool groups, and Facebook groups to see if buying and selling of books is allowed and encouraged.

Using a literature-based curriculum like Guest Hollow can take a bit more work when you are gathering materials (since we don’t offer book packages you can click on and buy in one swoop), but there is the potential to save SO much money! What homeschooler doesn’t like that? 😉 Using the tips I’ve shared above will hopefully help you do the best not only for your child’s education but also for your pocketbook!

Don’t forget to pin and share this post! Spread the Guest Hollow love! Let me know in the comments if you have any other money-saving ideas! I would love to read them!

Homeschooling with Guest Hollow

American History Year 2 has been released!

Homeschool American History Curriculum
Guest Hollow’s American History Year 2 Curriculum is finished! Check it out:
 

 
We are having a flash sale that will end tonight at midnight Pacific time. Use this coupon code to get $10 off your purchase of American History Year 2:
 
FlashSale!
 
We’ve received some great feedback about American History Year 1. We’re so excited to release Year 2!