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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

If you give a mouse a cookie...

Or...if you give a homeschool mom a bug...

Eyed Click Beetle

First, she'll want her camera so she can take a picture of it.

Then, she'll call her kids to come see it.

When they see the bug, they'll want to know what kind it is, and if it can fly, and they'll show you its mouth and eyes.

When the bug flies away, the mom will tell the kids to get the field guide and try to find one like it.  Then the kids will draw a picture of it in their nature journals.

The mom will look for information on the internet and in her books and figure out a way to make a lesson out of it...

And then she'll ask for another bug.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day freebie

Currclick is offering a free Memorial Day unit study download--you do have to create an account, but you don't have to enter any payment information.  Once you checkout, your download is immediately available. 

This is a really nice freebie and includes step-by-step projects and full-color artwork.

Ever wonder how Memorial Day was created? Or, why we play taps on this day? Or, what you and your family can do to remember our soldiers dead and living?
This Memorial Day Holiday Helper is meant to give you a useful and beautiful way to celebrate the holiday. It contains a short collection of high-quality literature, artwork and quotations which are easy to use during and after the busy holiday. Read aloud and enjoy the stories and poems. Encourage the practice of copywork and especially take time for the artwork.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The garden is full of life and showing changes every day.  Seeds are sprouting--nasturtiums, broccoli, corn, and beans, and tiny tomatoes and peppers are beginning to appear.  Squash plants have flowers, and the eggplant is growing purple leaves in the center.  The worms are hard at work devouring all the delicious veggie scraps we add to the compost tubes.  Every day that we check on the progress, we have a new discovery, and we are getting lots of science and nature study.

The beans are all in various stages of development.  One is just bursting open, while its neighbor is about to open its leaves.

Some are shy and slow, while others stand tall and bold.

The Let's Read and Find Out Science books are favorites at our house.  How a Seed Grows gives a good explanation of how seeds become plants for younger learners,

and it includes a seed growing experiment using dry beans and eggshells to plant them in.  Each day, the child pulls up a different bean to see its changes.  If you can't plant a garden, this would be a fun and simple (and inexpensive) way to make science come alive for your little learners.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How does your garden grow?

We decided to start tracking the growth of our veggies in the new garden, especially since the corn has started coming up so fast.  My son did a TOPS science unit study a while back called Green Thumbs:  Radishes, and one neat part of the experiments was tracking the growth of the sprouts...  "They grow up so fast!"

To make a plant tracker for the garden, we started with a yardstick and screwed it onto a dowel rod with the dowel going several inches beyond the end of the yardstick.

 This way, the dowel can go into the ground and leave the end of the yardstick level with the ground.  Now we can track the corn  sprouts from 0 inches on up to 3 feet, and it can easily be pulled up and placed near different plants. 

Now that our pole beans are starting to emerge, we're going to track them too, and I'm preparing this germination stencil activity for the kids to use in their nature journals.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Friday photo


Strawberry fields forever...

Our surprise strawberries
My mom gave us a pot of strawberries last year, and I set it out in the flower bed at the foot of our porch stairs.  We got a few berries from it last year, and I left it out all winter, not really doing anything to "tend" it.

We now have strawberry plants spilling out of the pot and spreading around the flower bed with pretty green strawberries all over them!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

What can you do with vinegar and eggs besides dye them for Easter?  How about some science fun? 

 Place one raw egg in a jar with a tight fitting lid, pour vinegar until it covers the egg, place the lid tightly on the jar, and wait.

You will really notice some changes within 24 hours as the shell seems to melt away.

The eggshell will completely melt away, but the membrane of the egg remains intact.  When held up to light, you can see the yolk inside the egg.  Warning:  if dropped, it will go splat!  (Ask me how I know.)

{The scientific explanation for this is that the vinegar, an acid, will break up the eggshell, calcium carbonate, and the calcium particles will float away.  The bubbles you will see are carbon dioxide, resulting from the carbonate.}

To learn more about eggs, check out these books:


Monday, May 16, 2011

The garden

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,

And pretty maids all in a row.

Here is my Mother's Day present--my first garden!  My boys built me a raised bed using these directions.  We did some research, and decided on a mix of 1/3 soil, 1/3 manure compost, and 1/3 peat moss for the filler, and we made two worm tube composters like these to add more good stuff to the soil as the garden matures.  We buried a soaker hose, zig-zagged throughout, to make watering easier.  We have hot, dry summers here, and I'm sure we will have to water every day.

Since we got a late start, we bought some plants and only planted three rows of seeds.  Hopefully we will be harvesting some delicious veggies this summer, but it is going to be an experiment and a learning experience since we've never done this.  We are planning to start everything from seed next time and are hoping to save some seeds from our plants, if we can figure out how.

I'll post updates with progress reports as we go along.  It's so exciting to see the changes that have already taken place, as little seedlings have popped up and squash flowers have appeared!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

When life gives you laundry . . .

With a zillion things to do, and folding laundry being one of my least favorite chores, I let the pile get really big over the weekend before finally deciding to tackle it.

My first feelings were dread, and then, the sooner I get it over with . . .

But as I started to sort and fold, I thought about the blessings of this pile of laundry:

The napkins are from a big family dinner we hosted last night, with grandparents and cousins, and baby back ribs that we had cooked all day.

The shorts and t-shirts are from three healthy boys who go running with their dad through the neighborhood and down the nature trail, making memories together that they will always keep.

The towels are from the baths and showers those sweaty boys take, making them fresh and sweet and huggable again.

The bathrobes are from playing "Nate the Great" where they become trench coats for a detective on the case.

Yep -- each piece became a blessing instead of a chore.

When life gives you laundry, make lemonade.

{I hope I"ll feel the same way when I dig into the ironing pile! :)}

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gardening buddies

When I was out working in the garden yesterday, this little family kept tabs on me.  I counted 5 in all, but I couldn't manage to get a photo of all of them together.  They are really fast!  They scurried in and out of their little hidey hole under the leaning stump, keeping me company while I planted.  Can you spot them all?  

P.S.  Blogger went a little crazy last week.  If you left me a comment, and it didn't show up, I apologize.  I approved them all, but then they disappeared after Blogger came back online after their glitch.  Please visit me again!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

DIY: Homemade fossils

Before you throw away the used coffee grounds from your coffee maker, try recycling them into a fun fossil craft. My recipe makes enough dough for three kids to make one large or three small "fossils" each, and it uses just the right amount of leftover coffee to empty my coffeemaker. {Note: If you use a K-cup type coffee maker, just save a week's worth of used K-cups}

    You will need:
  • 1 cup of wet, used coffee grounds
  • 1/2 cup cold coffee
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup flour

Mix together with your hands, and add more flour if dough is too sticky. Divide into even pieces and place on waxed or parchment paper.  

Send kids out in the yard to collect specimens to "fossilize." My kids each tried various things from plant leaves, flower petals, and tree bark to sea shells and pine cones. Press the items in the dough using fingers or the back of a spoon and carefully lift out each item after the desired impression is made. {If desired, use a drinking straw to make a hole through the fossil near the edge for hanging with twine or yarn when dry.} Set "fossils" out to dry overnight. You may need to turn them over and let them dry a little more on the other side for even drying. Ours got hard like stone after 24 hours. 

A great way to recycle the leftover coffee and do a little science and nature study at the same time!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hands and Hearts History Kits

As part of our studies, we have used three different Hands and Hearts history kits:  Ancient Far East Kit, Early American Kit, and Westward Expansion Kit. My favories part of these kits is that the materials you need to complete the projects are included (a great plus for a busy mom,) and they are of high quality so the finished projects become true keepsakes.

We use a mixture of curriculum resources but rely primarily upon Sonlight as the backbone of our studies. Hands and Hearts history kits are a perfect complement to Sonlight's history. My "hands-on" learners enjoy doing the projects, and I enjoy extending their learning with the additional commentary and resources included on the CD that comes with each kit.

Buffalo tooth necklace from Westward Expansion kit.

I have chosen to print out all the project instruction pages and keep them in a binder, printing out the notebooking pages as needed. We have especially liked using the notebooking pages as the base for each of my boys' field trip scrapbooks where they paste photos and brochures from places we visit that correlate to our lessons.

Buffalo horn whistle from Westward Expansion kit.

In addition to using Sonlight, we spent a year doing The Prairie Primer by Margie Gray (see my sidebar for a link) along with the two Hands and Hearts American history kits. Using the Early American kit, the boys made apple pomanders which they gave their grandmothers for Christmas, beeswax candles, bamboo flutes, bone cross necklaces which they still wear, and authentic-looking wooden hornbooks among other projects.

Hornbook from Early American kit.

Some of our favorite projects from the Westward Expansion kit were the leather pouch and glass marbles, the buffalo whistle, and the buffalo tooth necklace.  My boys are proud of the crafts they have completed, and ask frequently if I have a project for them to go along with something we are reading or learning. My 7-year old carries around his marble pouch all the time, and even brings it along when we travel. The necklaces have been worn around town as well as during dress-up play time. The boys enjoyed comparing the buffalo tooth to their teeth, our dog's teeth, our cat's teeth, etc...

Leather pouch and marbles from Westward Expansion kit.
 (My son added in some of his other mables, too.)

A nice aspect of these kits is that once you buy the main kit, you can order additional student kits for a reduced price since some of the materials can be shared. My boys appreciate having their own materials, and they proudly wear, display, and play with their completed "artifacts."

Buffalo bone cross necklace from Early American kit.

The kit instructions are clear, and though some of the projects are more challenging than others, the kits are easily adapted to various ages/grades. I have successfully used the projects with a preschooler, an elementary schooler, and a middle schooler. I have used the background material as a resource which I refer back to time and again. Though I have used these kits as an accompaniment to our other curriculum resources, I believe you could use them as stand-alone history courses.

Though I purchased all of my own kits, Hands and Hearts has graciously provided me with a coupon code for my blog readers for 15% off any order. Simply use the code "learningtable" with your order (expires at midnight on June 11, 2011.)