Sunday, January 31, 2010

Science Experiments -- Repeating Activities

I wanted the kids to be able to repeat experiments they
were especially interested in. As we've done each
experiment, I've written the steps out on index cards
for LD to follow. After we've done the experiment I've
printed photos of the experiments on card stock and
placed them on a key ring. LD can flip through the stack
and choose experiments to repeat (and I have them on
file and easy to access in the coming months/years).

For my own benefit, I put together a booklet of the
science experiments I printed out from the internet (I
have a comb binder that hubby got me for Christmas one year.)

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Avoiding the Stress

These days I've only been posting about our homeschool activities and really haven't talked about life in general at all.  I think that's because I'm avoiding the major things and enjoying the little things.  You see, we've been here a long time (12 years) and are going to be moving.  We don't know where (away from Australia at any rate), though we do know when (probably in about five months).  I get pretty stressed thinking about all that needs to be done in order to move a family of five and a dog half-way around the world. I've been piling things up in the laundry room for a yard sale (and making long mental lists of "oh, I should sell/get rid of that").

We actually have loved (and still enjoy) being here in central Australia.  We have some wonderful friends and I have a lot of fun activities that keep me energized as me.  I play the oboe in a wind ensemble; I play soccer and field hockey; I have some really good friends and go out with them from time to time.  I get scared knowing that I won't have those outlets.  Still, the pull to leave and try new things, to be in a new area, to be closer to family outweighs those other factors.

So, from day to day, I tackle the toys and pick up, do the dishes and the laundry, try to keep the yard reasonable (the weeds have won, but I do try to pull them out... sigh...).  And mainly, I am really, really, REALLY enjoying the lull before the storm.  I'm truly enjoying our smooth homeschooling, our good health and the fun of being with the kids without having major, major things to tackle.

When we move we'll have nearly five households of stuff to deal with.  When we first moved here, hubby and I had only just gotten married.  We had separate households of stuff that went into storage.  Why oh why oh why didn't I get rid of the hand me down, worn out furniture, the silverware that came from someone's grandma's attic??? We obviously have a full house of stuff here (and with so many friends that have moved over the years we have LOTS of stuff that they got rid of on their way out).  Also, my Mom died while I lived here and we have lots of things from her -- and my Grandpa also died.  He and my grandparent's family members had lived in the same house for generations.  Anyway, I have lots of Grandma/Grandpa's (and great grandparents) stuff in boxes in storage too.

Then I also stress about all the stuff we don't have (beds for the kids, household furniture, electronic "stuff" that we'll have to part with -- kitchenware, my PRINTER and LAMINATOR!!! -- not to mention the big ticket items... a house, a car, etc.)

Now that I've worked myself into a mental frenzy, I better get back to the kids and do what's really enjoyable... spend the day homeschooling, playing and doing the little things. Sigh... yes, so when you see me posting like a maniac about all the fun stuff we're doing you'll understand that what's really going on is keeping the thoughts of life six months from now from overwhelming me!

Ancient Greek Unit -- Read Aloud Books

Here are the books we've been reading aloud for our
ancient Greek unit. Aliki's book, The Gods and Goddesses
of Olympus
(top left above; top book below) has
beautiful illustrations and the stories about the gods and
goddesses are engaging. I really recommend that one!

Classic Myths to Read Aloud has no illustrations, but
LD has enjoyed the stories. If you want a book with
similar stories (Daedalus and Icarus; Arachne the
Spinner; Perseus; Odysseus) that has illustrations
there is Greek Myths retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
(bottom book below).

We really like the First Greek Myths series (middle row,
the two on the left) by Saviour Pirotta.

LD has enjoyed Mary Pope Osborne's books: The
Magic Tree House, Hour of the Olympics. And
Osborne's Tales From the Odyssey (a series of six
books), such as The One-Eyed Giant (Book 1) is
written on the same level as the Magic Tree
House series. Again, LD has enjoyed this book a lot
(we're still on the first in the series of six).

myths to download at I burned them
to CD and we have listened to them many, many times
in the car! Her Greek Myths include:

Helen of Troy
The Wooden Horse
In the Cyclops Cave
Circe the Beautiful Witch
The Homecomin of Odysseus
The Minotaur
The Boy Who Flew to High
The Midas Touch

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Woodland Animals -- free three part cards

We're going to be starting our new unit on biomes/animal habitats and will be learning about forests this next week.  It just so happens that there are some beautiful 3-part Montessori cards free for a few days at the Montessori Print Shop that will work in nicely with our studies.   I can't post a picture today of these lovely woodland animal cards, but animals include the skunk, bear, deer, rabbit and more (a total of 11).  The price is normally $1.79 US/dol if you miss the sale.

**Noticed this morning that the new freebie is up now instead.  It's now a Valentine's day matching/memory game.

Spaghetti - Yarn Art

Here's the finished product of the kids' arts-and-crafts
project last week. It took two days to dry thoroughly.

This was a really good project even for ED (age 2) who
could pretty much do it on her own as long as I reminded
her of the steps along the way:

Put the spaghetti (or yarn) in the glue
Stir, stir, stir
Dump it on your plate

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Check out the Giant Crystal Caves

The picture above is a rock called Gypsum. When we
were in Coober Pedy (known for its opal mining), we went
noodling (looking around the piles of dirt brought out
from the mines) for opal. We didn't find much opal, but
we did find some beautiful crystal rocks called gypsum.
It breaks easily into fine, needle-like strands.
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The biggest crystals in the world

I've included a picture with ED's tiny hand. Now want
to see something astounding? Check out this website:

In a cave in Mexico where the temperatures soar to
50 Celsius/122 Fahrenheit, there are gypsum crystals that
make a grown man look like ED's small fingernails!

You can also check out the National Geographic website:

I found even the story of how they entered the cave
(without perishing) and how the caves were found
(water tables sunk so low, the caves were drained
of water) fascinating.

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Making ancient Greek "hoplons"

The ancient Greek foot soldiers were called hoplites. This
word comes from "hoplon," the shield each had to carry.
Each hoplite provided his own armor. The shield was made
of bronze and leather. Each hoplite could choose the
decoration on his shield and often used a symbol of
his family or city.

The shield was very important, so much so that in Sparta
it was against the law for a hoplite to leave his shield
behind in the battlefield. According to Plutarch, King
Demaratus of Sparta explained "This is because they
put on the [helmet and breastplate] for their own
benefit, but their shields for the sake of the battle-line
as a whole
." (Plutarch, Moralia, III, 220, 2.)
[From The Soldier Through History]

Sorry about the blurry picture, I had the flash off!

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Science Experiment: Transparent, Translucent or Opaque

I gathered a number of items from around the house
and put them all into a ziploc bag with a flashlight. Then
before letting the kids sort, I made sure they saw examples
and understood the difference between something that

transparent: you can see obects clearly through and light passes through
translucent: you cannot clearly see objects, but light passes through
opaque: light does not pass through

I was surprised by a number of objects that I assumed
would be opaque, but actually turned out to be translucent!

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Food Groups Sorting

This activity would be easy to create by clipping
food items from an advertisement. I got mine on sale
at some point. There's also a free file folder game at
where kids can sort items into grains, fruit, vegies,
milk and meat.

Anyway, here is DD sorting foods into the various
food groups.

PS -- When I was talking to my hubby about the
"food pyramid" he said, "Oh no, that's outdated."  Happily
I could say that this is the new (US Dept. of Agriculture)
version (updated in 2005).  Here's a poster of the new
food pyramid if you're interested:
and here's a general page that includes some online
food-nutrition games, coloring pages and so forth (again
from the US Dept of Agriculture):

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Spaghetti Art

For this activity we needed cooked spaghetti (we used
fettuccine), bits of yarn or string and glue. We had one
bowl of plain glue, and a bowl of glue + red food coloring
another with glue/yellow and another with glue/green.

This activity worked best when I had them use a fork.
My kids didn't dip it in well enough to get a lot of glue.
They really needed to stir it around a bit (and they were
reluctant to put their hands in the glue to push the string
or spaghetti down in). They then dumped the glue covered
spaghetti or yarn onto a plastic plate, criss-crossing the

Let it all dry overnight. It will dry hard and firm and
you'll be able to pop it off the plate. Put a piece of yarn
through one of the loops and you can hang it up. (I'll post
a picture of the finished product tomorrow!)

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ED's Tot Activities

ED turns two next week! Wow!

She continues to do many of the same tonging,
spooning and sorting activities with ever more
concentration. I love this picture below where
she is just so intent on getting the eraser onto
the right spot!

I usually set up one new activity for her on the
little table in the kitchen each morning. I didn't
get a picture of the rice/bean tub in action, but
put in a picture of the tub below.  I definitely had
a quite a bit of sweeping to do once all three kids had
had their turns!

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Rice and Bean Tub

This tub used to be considerably fuller, but over time
lots of the rice/beans have been tossed! This is a sensory
activity. ED (and the others!) have to feel through the
rice/beans for the hidden objects.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010


The workbox yahoo group I participate in had a great discussion last week about "fun" boxes.  I wrote my own comments and thought I'd share them here too:

I'm a little late adding to the discussion, but I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments and thoughts about fun boxes.  I always enjoy hearing how things are working for others.

I think I'm different from many in that my kids do their workboxes throughout the day.  I couldn't really tell you how many hours we spend doing school because general life is often school with the age of my kids (6,4,2).  You know, collecting and talking about tadpoles/frogs has as much value as the math activities and handwriting practice.  Singing and playing "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush" (musical chair version!!) in the backyard is technically ~music.~

Anyway, we have our main workboxes between two doorways (the hallway and kitchen), near the dining room table. I have to fit in our activities and schoolwork when it happens depending on the rhythm of the day, what my 2 year old is up to and so forth.  The general workboxes have our traditional subjects (a couple of math drawers, handwriting, science, reading books, geography, unit studies and/or lapbook projects, German, preschool reading activities/phonics readers, file folder games, and things like that). I made up a master list and rotate things out doing many things once a week. For example, we do math daily, but twice a week we use our Right Start Math curriculum and the other days we do other activities (clocks, money, addition activities, card games, Montessori math activities, online math games, Peggy Kaye games, etc.) depending on my master (weekly) calendar. 

As for fun boxes, I actually increased the number of "fun" boxes by adding another whole set of workboxes on the other side of the room. I saw how creative the kids were with new things being out and decided I needed more space for that to happen.  That's where I rotate puzzles, games (board games), mind teasers (like kanoodle, tangrams or rush hour), arts and crafts projects, various math manipulatives, design boards, pattern pieces, stacking sorting sets, and various things we have around.  I switch the drawers around about once a week, but that way the kids have access to that stuff (which is packed tightly into cupboards here and there!) more readily.  The kids are free to go into and out of any boxes at any time.

Anyway, my kids are quite young compared to many of you, but workboxes have helped me keep the environment interesting and fresh (well, I hope!) for the kids.

Anyway, I enjoyed the conversation and enjoy that glimpse into everyone's routine!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Science Center Monday -- Sink or Float Activities

I have lots of science experiments that we didn't
get to this past month. Since we're going on to
other units, I didn't want to do science experiments
daily. Instead, I have decided to set up a new science
center every Monday. That gives me time over the
weekend to gather the materials I need and to get
things set up.

On Thursdays, I plan to set up an "old" experiment
that we've done already out on the craft table.  I'll have
the materials needed along with the procedure cards.
I've written the procedures of the science experiments
we've done so far on index cards (you'll see them in
some of my photos). I punched a hole in the cards
and put them all on a key ring.  I also added a
laminated photo  of the experiment itself to the key
ring as a  reminder of what we did.

Today I set up a center about whether things
sink or float.

Part I:

There were a heap of different objects I gathered
from around the house and outside (enough for
all three to be able to have LOTS of turns!).  Before
putting their object into the water they had to decide
whether it would sink or float.  I told them they had to
make a hypothesis about whether the object would
sink or float (I used that term and then told them
it means to guess/predict).

Part II:

Next, they had to go around the house and
gather five things they thought would sink and
five objects they thought would float. Then they
had to test their objects.

If the kids were older I would have had them record
their predictions and findings.

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Sink or Float Experiment Activities (cont.)

Part III: Float a Penny

Test how many pennies can be placed on an index card
before it sinks.

Do the same with a popsicle stick.

See how many rocks/pennies can be placed on a piece
of bark before it sinks or tips over.

Part IV: Float AND Sink

Try to make the following items float. Then try to make
that same object sink. Do not place anything on it. Try:

aluminium foil
a plastic container
a metal plate
a sponge or rag

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Ancient Greece -- Importance of the Seas

When we looked at the geography of Greece last week
we had talked about the importance of boats both for
trade, transportation and as warships. Our science
center led naturally to the construction of their own
"Greek" boats.  We looked at a couple of books we
have, brought out LD's saw, glue, tape and off they went!

We tested their boats in our pool afterwards.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Parthenon Craft

I think I mentioned last week that we started a new
unit on Ancient Greece. (We studied Ancient Egypt last
semester.) We've been quite busy reading and crafting and LD
seems to be having a lot of fun with this unit!

LD and I worked together to on this wonderful
Parthenon craft that we found at
All we needed was a printer, scissors, glue, tape and a cereal box!

We visited this website which was an art history lecture with many
beautiful photos of the Parthenon, its friezes and sculptures.

We've been using the The Usborne Internet-linked Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece as a resource which has great photos, maps, examples of art, sculpture, architecture and more.

See more about our Ancient Greece Unit here.
See what books we used for our Ancient Greece Unit here (The kids were 2, 4 and 6 at the time.)

UPDATE: We've been reading the Story of the World (affiliate link) with my youngest and have some new resources about the ancient world over at our new location.  I'll be sharing this worksheet on Ancient Greece after the holidays! (If you need it sooner, send me an email on my contact form and I'll try to send it to you.) 
Free Ancient Greece Notebook Page (Coming out in January 2017)

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.

See you again soon at our new location or at our Homeschool Den Facebook page. You might want to Subscribe to our Homeschool Den Newsletter! Don't forget to visit Our Store! ~Liesl

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