Monday, November 29, 2010

Earth Science Unit -- Gravity

We're off to do a unit on earth science -- studying concepts such as gravity, horizontal/vertical, directionality--N,S,E,W, and then moving on to the layers of the earth and the surface of the earth -- the "ups and downs, ins and outs" of the landforms and waterforms and how wind, water and earth's forces change the surface of the earth.

I get asked every now and then how I plan for our homeschool units.  I'm pretty much always a unit or two ahead (in my head), knowing that we'll move on to a new history/science/culture/child-interest-led unit or whatever. So in my spare time (??ie. late at night mostly!!) I think and read and jot notes in my "rainbow" notebook as things cross my path for 3 or 4 weeks before we actually start a unit.

In this case, I've been wanting to cover landforms and waterforms--mountains, valleys, plateaus, peninsulas, isthmus, bays and that sort of thing.  I have some beautiful cards from, but wanted to go beyond just looking at the forms and making clay models (we'll do this too, but I wanted to flush the unit out a bit since LD is now in second grade).  For the past week or two my bedtime reading has been Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2 by Bernard J. Nebel. I looked through this book a year or so ago, but found it too advanced for our family at the time.  But now it has some great lesson plans that I plan to use.  I also decided to sign up for the teacher file box (30% discount through homeschool buyer's coop) because I felt I could use a lot of their resources in the next 3 or 4 months. (At some point in the next couple of months I'll be doing a fairy tale unit with the kids and the teacher file box had a lot of cute/creative ideas for that!)

Anyway, today was our first day of our earth science unit-- and the kids were both totally engaged (and begged to go on!).  Yay! A good start! Here's what we covered:
I started off dropping things -- AHHH!  Gravity pulled my pencil to the floor!!  AHHH! Gravity pulled my book to the floor!  And then I asked the kids what gravity was.  From there we talked about gravity's pull on objects -- and used the scale to see what gravity's pull on LD, ED, a box full of plates etc. was in pounds.  They ran around collecting things to weigh!  We also read a handout/mini-book about gravity.
Next we placed LD and his best buddy Bradon on the globe.  I asked why Bradon there in Australia wasn't falling on his head... Gravity, of course!  We talked about how the concept of "up" and "down" doesn't always work -- and so we use other terms -- horizontal and vertical to talk about our relation to the earth. (More about that in a sec.)
I had DD make me this picture of a girl with a helium balloon (while LD was continuing to weigh things and write them down).  I asked why the balloon wasn't falling to the ground? Why wasn't gravity working on the balloon?  They were able to answer that really easily but we still went on with our next little demonstration.

Here the kids poured water and oil in a jar and examined it to see which was heavier. We've done this many times before, but they still were entranced watching the oil rise to the top. And, of course we talked  how this is similar to the helium balloon as it is lighter than the air around it. 

Finally, we went into the living room to do a quick "Simon Says" round which included lots of "horizontals" and "verticals."  We also demonstrated horizontal/vertical with pencils -- and we'll go on to talk about that more tomorrow (or when we next get to science).

Every few years, we circle around to cover basic material again. You may be interested in the Earth Science Unit we did more recently -- and be sure to check out our Earth Science Unit Study Packet It includes worksheets about the solar system, the layers of the Earth, plate tectonics, the ring of fire, earthquake activity and volcanoes. I also included more than a dozen hands-on activities we did with this unit including activities about plate tectonics, using a compass, earthquakes, volcanoes, instructions on how to make a shake table and more!
 Homeschool Earth Science Unit Study

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to Make a Pin Map of Europe

We are heading off to Europe in our world music class this week and to get ready for that, I made a pin map of Europe.  I'll explain how I made mine in case someone else finds it useful.

Step 1: I printed off a blank map of Europe from  I also printed off the labeled Europe map from that same website as a control. I laminated these two maps.

Step 2: I cut out a piece of plastic for the base (so the pins don't go through all of the foam), 4 pieces of foam and placed the laminated map on the top. I used the sticky side of the foam to hold the plastic base and the map in place.

Step 3:  I cut out a piece of contact paper so that it was about an inch and a half wider than my foam/map pile.

Step 4: I put the contact paper across the bottom and under the laminated map on top.

Step 5: I used clear packing tape (which I find more durable and stronger than the contact paper) and place about a half-inch of tape across the map's borders and wrapped it around to the back.

Step 6: My laminator broke on its way across the ocean, so I used an iron (heated up and then cooled) to quickly move down the laminating sheets and seal them. This is not as good as a laminating machine, but will do for now until I replace my old one.

European country flag and labels: I used the smaller version of the flags of Europe free to download at Montessori Materials

 Step 7: I cut out the flag/labels and then put a push pin through the left hand side.  Then I used packing tape and covered both the front, the pin and the back of the flag.

Step 8: I trimmed the tape around the edges.

 Here's the finished product once again:

I've also made pin maps of the continents, Asia and of the world biomes (scroll through the "geography" entries on the left sidebar if you're interested in seeing those).

You might be interested in this free Europe printable map, which is over at my new location

Europe – Countries and Flag Maps Free Printable
 See you again soon over at! Be sure to visit our store for more of our packets - in science, history, math, spelling and more!!

Happy Homeschooling!  ~Liesl

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Top Left is by ED, Middle Top is by DD, Top Right says (from bottom to top Time To et Me -- Time to eat me -- by DD). Bottom cards are by LD.
This past week we've been singing this lovely Thanksgiving song together called "Thanksgiving Day" by L. Maria Child during our collection time:
Over the river and through the wood
To grandfather's house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood--
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the rings, "ting-a-ling-ding!"
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

So, we're off to Great Uncle J and Great Aunt M's house -- to join Great Great Uncle L and the rest of the family for a Thanksgiving feast!  

Off we go!  And a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Catching Up

Our internet has been down for a week. Ugh! Hope to be up and running in the next day or so.  ED has had a horrible case of hives (from head to toe) and it turns out that she has Strep. We're taking it easy and will just enjoy some nice weather outside since we can't go anywhere until she's not contagious. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lots of Math Manipulatives! A glance at DDs work.

 Here's a quick glance DD's math work for the day (she just turned 5).  I had her set up the numbers.  She counted from 10 to 100 several times before I had her build double-digit numbers.
I put a large handful of tiles in front of her and asked her to figure out whether there were an odd or even number of tiles (meanwhile, ED is making a tower!!).  Also, next to her foot you can see the tally sticks. We worked on tally sticks from 1 to 9. She also had to slide over 1-10 beads.  We're working on her visualization of 6 as 5 and 1, 7 as 5 and 2 etc.  There's a song that goes with that (from Right Start Math) that she's been learning.
Here she's counting by 2s to 20. (The tiles were left over from another activity.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fall Fun (Indoor Activities-counting,letters, crafts, etc.)

We've been enjoying fall both inside and out! This post has actually gotten quite long, so I'll post more of our outdoor adventures in a bit.  Here are some of the fall-themed activities we've been up to inside. 
Here are some more activities I've had ready to pull out for ED when I'm working with the older kids. I just want to add that suddenly ED gets it!  She's easily counting up to 7 or 8 while pointing at each object and counted up to 16 (remembering number 4!!) for the first time yesterday.  It's amazing how quickly they jump when for so long she'd count "1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3" or "1,2,3,5,6,7..." never remembering number 4.
I used some leaves I got from a dollar store and wrote letters on them to place on top of the letter card sheet. Those were from that new website I found the other day ED seems to be enjoying the sandpaper letters at this point too. You can make them yourself, but I bought mine a couple of years ago.
Just a cereal box with slits to "mail" the letters!
It has been several months since we last did an eye-dropper activity.  I cut coffee filters in the shapes of leaves and let ED go at it. Then I had to start cutting up napkins because she wanted to continue on and on and on! She spent at least 30 minutes on this!
Later she added the leaves to this tree I cut out.
I had things out for the girls to make turkeys.  This is what DD came up with!
Here's our (growing) front porch display--finally got the Halloween stuff put away!
I brought out pipe cleaners, fall themed stickers and some styrofoam balls and let them at it. They all came up with such different ideas. EDs were suns, DD made a fall ball and a fall creature and LD made rockets.
We did a lot of fall activities a few weeks ago too so if you want to see more of our crafts and stuff, click on the FALL THEME on the sidebar to the left.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Addition/Subtraction Game --Mmm Brains

We try to play lots of games -- and this one is worth a mention because it involves addition, subtraction and simple multiplication.  It's called Mmm Brains -- so it also had great appeal to LD in particular!
There's a large selection of brains.  Red brains are each 5 points.  White brains are 1 point.

There are 5 dice -- with the numbers 1 through 5 in different colors (yellow, red, green, black and blue) and also a picture of a brain on each die.

The object is to try to get as many of the same color numbers as possible. You get to throw the dice three times keeping whichever dice you want to collect. You add the numbers together and that how many brain-points you get that round. (DD had 9 points in the picture to the left.)

It's also to your advantage to save the dice with brains on them, for if you have three black numbers (as DD does in the picture), plus two brains -- you get to multiply the sum by 2. So for example, if her yellow and blue 3s had instead been pictures of brains she would have had 18 points.

That's just the first part of the game (you do 3 or 4 rounds of this). The second part involves trying to subtract brains from your opponents pile.

Anyway, the kids and I had fun with it and anything that makes math exciting and practical (well sort of, right??) is a bonus!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Snowflake Math (2 1/2 yr old's activity)

Since we had our first frost last week, I guess it's okay to bring in some snowflake-themed math, right?  Actually, I just stopped by a hobby store and saw the pretty snowflake ornaments. Since ED is STILL doing the spider counting, I thought it was about time to change it up for her as she ALWAYS comes running when I tell DD or LD that it's math time.

ED is learning to count out 4 objects (not just saying the numbers and pointing to as many objects as she can!) It's a big step for her (she's 2yrs9mo).

Below there are three different basic counting activities:
We had leftover numbers from putting up mailbox numbers.  Bright and shiny for this activity!  ED simply has to place the sparkly snowflake ornament on the small snowflake that is glued on the paper.

For this activity I made lots of black strips with numbers and crayon-drawn snowflakes.  ED really enjoyed using the snowflake stamp to punch out the snowflakes from the strip.  I told her she could also glue snowflakes onto the strip, but she wasn't interested.

For the last activity I glued very small homemade snowflakes onto Popsicle sticks.  I covered a cereal box with aluminium foil and contact paper and stuck on numbers (again from our mailbox set).  Then I used a knife to put slits next to the number.  ED LOVES LOVES LOVES this activity! She did it over and over.  After a while I held up 4 (and 2 and 3, etc) snowflake sticks and asked her how many there were. She was correct each time!
This had huge appeal for ED and I suspect I'll do the same type activity for matching  letters sometime soon!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Morning Collection (our version of "circle time")

Quite a number of years ago, I taught history at a Quaker boarding school.  At the beginning and end of the day, the students and staff gathered together for collection--10 minutes of silence together. At the end of that time, students or staff could share something with the community -- music, a poem, etc.  Now as you can imagine, 10 minutes of silence wouldn't really hold for the kids, but I decided to adapt this idea to bring in a bit more routine to our mornings. We'll see how it goes, but the kids responded well this week.
So here's what it entails: for collection we gather in the homeschool room and hold hands and are quiet for about a minute.  Then I share a poem.  We determine the day and date and choose an artist's picture to add to the calendar (which is from Oriental Trading). We also sing one song together (right now we're learning/singing "My Country Tis of Thee").  I'll use this time to bring in things I'd like to work on as a family -- a few minutes about etiquette/manners, religious studies, or family rules.  Perhaps I'll even just read a story that has a moral and talk about that. At the end, one of the kids chooses a game to play together and then off they go.
The book pictured above is called Come Look With Me. It's an interactive art appreciation book for children. It has large pictures and a series of thoughtful questions to discuss with the kids.   (For example, for Starry Night it asks the kids to pretend they have a paintbrush in their hand and show how the artist painted the sky.  It goes on to point out how the town is done with small strokes and the trees are painted in strong, upward motions.)  I'd recommend this book, especially if you can buy it cheaply used or borrow it from your library.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Great Preschool Printables Website

I was looking for the alphabet and number cards with certain themes -- fall leaves, snowflakes, and penguins.  I stumbled across this terrific website that has all kinds of beautiful free printables: Communication 4 Some of the early learning themes include space, pirates, minibeasts, animals, dinosaurs, under the sea, castles, India, months and seasons, the water cycle, and other themes. Just thought I'd share my discovery in case someone else finds this useful.

Indian Corn Science -- update

Some time back, I shared our Indian corn activity. It's now growing quite tall in big pots at the end of our dining room table!
So here's the corn after about 1 week of being watered.

After a while we decided to plant the corn in some empty flower pots.

The corn grew steadily.
And now it's about 12-15 inches high!
Unfortunately, the corn cob attracted lots of fruit flies.  I learned from Flylady that you can get rid of fruit flies by covering a cup with glad wrap and sticking a paper funnel (I used an index card) through the wrap.  The fruit flies are smart enough to crawl down in, but can't get out because they fly to the highest point (up to the glad wrap) and are stuck in there! The Indian corn cob is gone and hopefully the fruit flies will be gone shortly too!
You can see a little critter crawling down the funnel!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Snippets of Our Week (for our 7-yr old)

This post is a long time in coming; it's taken forever to get this posted! I wanted to share some of the curriculum choices that are working well for our 7 year old this semester.
MATH: These past five months or so, we have been using a math workbook for much of LD's math practice.  Only recently have started back on our beloved Right Start Math curriculum. It was written by a Montessori trained teacher and you can read more about it here from the RS website or see some fantastic handouts written by the author that explains the value of visualizing math.   Right Start is very Mom-intensive and with the move I needed a bit more independence on LD's part during these settling months. So, LD usually does a number of problems from the workbook, some Montessori style math worksheets (pictured below as well) and a bit from Right Start. 
LD is just now working on the concepts of regrouping in addition and borrowing in subtraction. I really like these worksheets I found at Montessori for Learning because of the color scheme for units, tens, hundreds and thousands. Also it seems to help LD that the problems are quite large.  These sheets were under the "math" section rather than the "free" section if anyone's interested. They were free to download and I just happened to stumble across them.

READING:  LD has been making his way through the Magic Tree House series this semester. He has to read at least three chapters, but he'll often read more because he's engrossed in the book.

Handwriting and writing in general are still not LD's favorite.  Handwriting Without Tears has worked well for him and we're making slow but steady progress.
We also added in All About Spelling this semester (I heard great reviews about it) and we're almost to the end of Level 1 which starts with the basics.  Again, this is working really well for LD and I can highly recommend this especially if you have a child like mine, who struggles with writing because he doesn't want to get ANYTHING wrong. Sigh...

MUSIC: LD started with the glockenspiel at age 5. Then moved to piano at age 6 using Teaching Little Fingers to Play. Since we moved here, LD has been ready for putting two hands together.  We are using one of MY old piano books called Play That Tune. If it's available, it's wonderful for that next step.  LD is also learning Jingle Bells from Merry Christmas! Complete Level 1 for the Later Beginner.
Jingle Bells
Mary Had a Little Lamb and A Tisket A Tasket (You probably can't tell from this photo, but it is dated 1976--when I was assigned to learn these pieces!)
Geography just happens... We have this placemat at the breakfast bar where LD likes to eat.  As I'm cooking I often ask him to find 4 or 5 countries (particularly the ones we've covered in our world music class).

This was a really cute game for practicing reading coordinates.  It's played similarly to the game "Battleship."  I got this from

PRACTICAL LIFE:  I stuck this in LD's workbox and he has successfully learned how to open a combination lock. 

We've started our studies of Ancient Rome -- of course starting with a physical map of the Roman Empire (made with cornstarch clay).  Then we added blue water and talked about the seas surrounding the Roman Empire.

I loved how closely they were studying the map in the book!

I guess you can't see it well in the photo, but LD wanted to add in Mt. Vesuvius.

We watched parts of the very old (but famous) movie Spartacus.  Quite spontaneously, LD and DD started playing "gladiators"!!
**Soccer season just ended on Saturday.  LD had lots of fun and liked his teammates and coach a lot.

**LD has continued with gymnastics (we did it overseas as well) and we'll continue on with that through the winter.  We finally hung up our gymnastics rings down in the basement area and all of the kids are enjoying those!

**All three of the kids just started a session of swim lessons this week.

**Music class -- and of course we have our group music class and the kids LOOOooove having their friends over for that!