Category Archives: Home Schooling

Free Kindle books for the Homeschooler

This is just awesome.  I love technology and it has brought learning to a point where it has never been more accessible than it is today.  Sometimes I wish I was a kid again.

I’ve had several Kindles for a while now and received some great resources for my professional career thanks to Microsoft’s Downloadable content for eReaders.  But it doesn’t stop there.  A couple of months ago I won a Kindle Fire at a Microsoft event.  Already having an iPad and the previous Kindles, I basically toyed with it for a few weeks and rooted and hacked it to run Icecream Sandwich OS.  Then I found this little gem:

Project Gutenberg: Children’s Book Series (Bookshelf)

How great is it that?  All sorts of children’s books right there in the palm of your hand.  So my daughter now has my Kindle Fire (she calls it her mini-iPad) and has access to all of these great stories.  She loves The Bobbsey Twins.

And it doesn’t stop there.  21 American Literature classics that are free on Kindle is another great resource.  She’s not quite ready for Little Women but how great is it to know that these classics are available to her when she is ready.

And that’s just the start…

The National Academies Press announced last year that all the PDF versions of its books will be available free to download.

Topics include:

And while PDF is sometimes hard to read on a Kindle, I love the Calibre eBook Management program by Kovid Goyal because not only does his program do conversions of .pdf to .mobi, he gives his amazing software away for free.  I use this program on a regular basis for loading all of my reading needs into my Kindle/iPad.

It’s not all learning of course.  Since we’ve got a Netflix account, she can also watch the Electric Company streamed right to the Kindle Fire, along with several other great educational series.  I know it’s not a free resource, but at $8 a month, it’s tough to beat.

Homeschooling Through Technology

The educational process can be tough on kids and parents alike. It can be difficult to prevent it from becoming mundane. That’s why I think apt use of technology is so important—it allows both the student and the educator to remain excited with their educational journey.

Having done homeschooling for a while a bit now, I can definitely say that my child is given the opportunity to choose what they want to learn and that we have a wealth of resources to draw from beyond the traditional classroom.   What to learn biology and butterflies?  Order a kit to raise your own butterflies, watch them grow and learn about what a chrysalis is and what metamorphosis is.


Google Maps is a great tool to use if you’ve reached a point in your learning path dealing with either geography or history. At this point, I think we’ve all messed around with the satellite or Street View feature in Google Maps (how many images of people “caught out” have we seen Google capture?). However, thanks to tools built into the service, it can also be a rather useful educational resource.

History and dates are tough for young children to grasp, but let’s say your currently teaching a unit on the Civil War. Rather than simply looking at static maps, plot out Grant’s march to the South or Lee’s penetration into Union territory. By actually engaging in the geographical reality of history, it becomes much more real.

Wikipedia is another great resource on just about anything. You’ll often hear people claim that it’s either unreliable or inaccurate. While it’s true that literally anyone can edit or add information to Wikipedia, take a look at this interesting statistic from a CNET article from back in 2005, before it really even took off.  And of course, research may start at Wikipedia but it doesn’t end there, it is a jumping off point to more interesting avenues of deeper understanding that your child will love to explore.

The best thing about home schooling?  Each day can be tailored to your child’s interests.  It turns the learning process on its head.  It is not, “Here’s what you must learn today”, instead it is “What would you like to learn today?”  Children are active and engaged in the learning process.  How many times can children put the words “fun” and “education” in the same sentence when they are in a room full of 40 other children?

Solar Power Projects for the Evil Genius

Ok, this isn’t a book review per say, as I have not yet read this book, but as a father geek, with a geek in training, how cool is this?


Solar Energy Projects for the Evil Genius
by Gavin D J Harper

Read more about this title…


The book, filled with projects on how to harness the sun for your own personal gain immediately drew my attention as some cool projects I can do with my daughter.  Since my wife and I were recently talking about the pros and cons of converting to solar and getting a bit more “off the grid”, I thought this would be a fun book to check out from the local library as well.

I really think the Evil Genius series has a lot to offer some of us geeks and geeks-in-training and I’m looking forward to reading this book.  Here is a sneak peak at the table of contents:

Chapter 1. Why solar?
Chapter 2. The Solar Resource
Chapter 3. Positioning Your Solar Devices
Chapter 4. Solar Heating
Chapter 5. Solar Cooling
Chapter 6. Solar Cooking
Chapter 7. Solar Stills
Chapter 8. Solar Collectors
Chapter 9. Solar Pumping
Chapter 10. Solar Photovoltaics
Chapter 11. Photochemical Solar Cells
Chapter 12. Solar Engines
Chapter 13. Solar Electrical Projects
Chapter 14. Tracking the Sun
Chapter 15. Solar Transport
Chapter 16. Solar Robotics?
Chapter 17. Solar Hydrogen Partnership
Chapter 18: Photosynthesis–Fuel from the Sun
Appendix A: Solar Projects on the Web
Appendix B: Supplier’s Index

OpenCourseWare Initiative

I recently learned about this initiative from a co-worker. As a constant advocate of continuous learning, I am always looking for new avenues of learning that i can do in my spare time. I have really been on the lookout for not only myself, but my daughter as well. Even though she is only three, my wife and I have decided to homeschool her. What this means to me personally is that I get to have an active hand in helping my daughter not only as a father and a mentor, but also share in the joy of learning as she discovers the world around her. What this also means is that I need to learn this stuff too so that I can one day teach it to her. I am a college graduate, but as they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

The OpenCourseware Consortium web page lists several colleges in the US that participate in this program, including the following:

Now, being a Southern California local, I was especially interested in UCI, and found a really great course on the Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning The coursework looks like it’s about 25 to 30 hours, and covers everything from taxes, insurance, investing, retirement and estate planning (I am especially interested in the estate planning since my father is an attorney who specializes in this field). The course description is as follows:

This course is not intended to replace the professional financial planner, but to help to make the general public better consumers of financial planning advice. The course was created to help those who cannot afford extensive planning assistance better understand how to define and reach their financial goals. It provides basic understanding so informed decisions can be made. The course can also be seen as a reference for individual topics that are part of personal financial planning.

Financial planning, in the broadest sense, is an effort to manage all aspects of a person / family’s financial affairs. Classically that begins with planning family spending and extends through risk management (insurance), taxes, wealth accumulation, investing, and wealth distribution (retirement and estate planning).