Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Dozen of Our Favorite Science activities

My boys LOVE science.  They always have and that love has grown tremendously since we started homeschooling.

Science is one of those subjects that best lends itself to hands- on experiments, real life observations and lots of trial and error.  The boys have an inherent interest in nature and how things work so even when I don't plan science experiments I feel like we're learning about science.  Many of our field trips revolve around science too-- trips to zoos, nature centers, hikes, children's museums, and even the beach lend themselves to nicely to science exploration.

For those times we're home and I'm planning actual experiments we use books, Pinterest, and Google to help us find extra fun experiments.

Here is a list of some our favorites that we've tried (I know the boys loved them because they still ask to do them all again!). 

1.  Volcanoes!  We have done many experiments with baking soda and vinegar to make various volcanoes.  We made a volcano in an ordinary drinking glass.  We made model volcanoes and filled them with baking soda and vinegar.  We  filled disposable tin trays with baking soda and used droppers to drop colored vinegar onto them; watching them bubble and foam.  We've made snow and sand volcanoes.  We've made fizzing alphabet letters using baking baking soda and water, letter trays and vinegar.  The reactions are endless fun for my three boys to watch and experiment with. 

2.  Make ice cream-- in a bag.  YUM!   It's a simple science activity that yielded a yummy treat; need I say more?? 

3.  Homemade Lava Lamp-- This one was lots of fun and so easy!  We took a plastic jar and filled it part way with colored way and part way with oil and then we dropped Alka Seltzer tablets.  Easy, fun and fascinating! 

4.  Freezing bubbles-- One very cold winter morning we brought our bubble solution outside and blew bubbles.  We got to watch them freeze right before our very eyes.  It was amazing even to me! 

5.  Tornado in a bottle-- My husband drilled a small hole in two soda bottle tops.  We filled one bottle 3/4 of the way with water and put the tops onto two bottles and glued/taped them together.  If you twirl the bottles slowly as you flip them over the water funnels out the holes and into the waiting bottle.  It is very neat to watch that funnel form. 

6.  Bag of Blood (great at Halloween!).  When I saw this on a website at Halloween time I had no idea how much fun it would be.  We filled a Ziploc bag with colored water and using long wooden skewers we poked them all through the bag.  We were amazed at how many skewers we could put through the bag before it started leaking. 

7.  Oil and Water experiments-- We have made an ocean in  a bottle using blue colored water and vegetable oil.  We have filled disposable vegetable trays with oil and dropped colored water into it, watching the water bead up and stick together.  My kids love trying to mix oil and water; it never gets old. 

8.  Ivory Soap Clouds-- We love watching the Ivory soap bars puff up into a huge cloud of soap flakes in our microwave.  The air and water pockets inside Ivory soap, in particular, lead it to puff up into a huge mound.  It's so fun to watch it get bigger and bigger.  Then the boys have fun playing with the flakes afterwards.

9.  Making Goop, Silly putty, snow dough, flubber, etc..  We love making all the fun "play dough" we find on Pinterest and the internet.  Many use normal household items and it's amazing to see how one ingredient change makes a huge difference.  The boys love that these experiments are fun to play with for weeks to come since we save what we make. 

10.  Kitchen Science-- we call any baking activity Kitchen Science.  The kids love to make and eat new delicious creations.

11.  Melting Plastic-- we have tried everything from using Shrink Dinks, making our own Shrinky Dinks using plastic take- out containers and melting pony beads to make Christmas ornaments.   It makes the house a bit stinky but it's still neat to watch the plastic shrink and take on a new shape. 

12. Make Your Own Water Fountain-- We used a soda bottle to make our own water fountain. It was really neat to see the water pouring out into the kitchen sink!  It wasn't all that hard to put together either.  


Linking Up With: The Homeschool Nook 


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

10 math games and hands on learning opportunities

My boys HATE anything that looks like a worksheet.  If I ask them to sit down and work in their math workbooks they whine, moan and complain through the whole thing.

 As we've gotten further and further into our unschooling journey I've started to rely on games and hands on learning a lot during our school day, especially for math.  Math games can be very simple or very complex.  Many of my boys favorite math games have been made up using things around the house (and taken from ideas I found on Pinterest using things I had in the house).

My kids range in age from 5- 9 so we mostly focus on addition, subtraction, multiplication and some simple division.   Here is a list of some of our favorite games for math (in no particular order!).  Many of these games can be used for a multitude of math facts as well as sight word practice too:

1.  Flip 10-- I splayed much like the traditional Memory game.  Using the numeral cards from an UNO deck place them all face down and take turns flipping two over.  If the two numbers add to 10 you keep the match and go again. 

2.  Math fact Bomb-- we wrote equations in sidewalk chalk on our driveway and threw water balloons at them while calling out the answer. 

3.  Math Fact Slam-- I wrote math facts on sticky notes and stuck them to the wall while the boys threw balls at them and shouted out the answer to those equations they hit.

4.  War-- We love the card game war and while we play traditional war with my youngest to learn greater than/ less than we have played war many other ways with the older boys.  They flipped over two card to make two digit numbers (with face cards removed) for a larger number war.  We've had them flip two cards over and add the sum for addition war, we've flipped two cars over to multiply and find the product for multiplication war, we've flipped two cards over and put one over the other for fraction war... the possibilities are endless! 

5.  Candy  math-- we have sorted, counted, graphed and learned many math concepts using candy.  We've read the skittles math book, the Hershey Bar math book, etc.  We used Kit Kat bars and Hershey bars to learn fractions.  Candy always keeps them interested! 

6.  Peggy Kaye's games-- She has written two wonderful books-- one called Games for Math and other called Games for Learning and we've pulled many ideas from these two book.  One of the best was called Target.  We drew up a large target, threw paper clips at the target and wrote a three digit number based on where the paper clips landed.  The one with the largest number after each round wins that round.  It was fun, quick and with multiple rounds they all had a chance to win. 

7.  Board games-- Yahtzee, Life, Monopoly, 9 Men's Morris, etc. all teach critical thinking, multiplication, money addition and subtraction, number recognition, counting, etc.  We have tons of Board games we play for math-- though they're often played "for fun" at night, long after school has ended. 

8.  Recipes-- Through baking and cooking we have learned a lot about math by reading recipes, writing recipes and in working in the kitchen.  I think the most memorable was when all the boys wrote their own recipe and we actually made them the following week.  It was a writing assignment, but we learned a lot about math when we attempted to follow each recipe and realized we couldn't use 4 cups of milk without drowning the entire thing. 

9.  "Old School" games-- we have used old school games like tic tac toe, hopscotch, memory, etc. to learn math too.  We have written up our own tic tac toe boards with equations in each box that we had to solve before putting our marker on them.  We have added equations into all the hopscotch squares before jumping through them.  We have made up memory cards using index cards to make multiplication memory (math the equation to the answer).  We even put little dot stickers on the back side of Hershey kisses to make a fun & edible memory game-- again matching the answer to the equation. 

10.  Playing with math manipulatives & toys-- Don't underestimate this one...   I often give the boys our bucket of pattern block to play with or our container of fraction tiles to "just play with" and they learn so much on their own.  They have discovered various ways to put the fraction tiles away and have them equal "one whole."  They have found ways to put shapes together to equal other shapes.  They build, construct and use all sorts of wonderful architectural skills when using our foam geometric blocks, Lego sets, K'nex, etc. 

Linking Up With: Hearts for Home

A Kreative Whim

Christian Montessori Network

The Homeschool Post

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hands On Lessons Keep Work Fun

After the third time the boys asked me to please start school, I knew I had to set aside what I was working on and start school. I had a few ideas for some fun lessons but mostly let them guide us through our day.

We began by reading and we finished The Robot King.  I thought it was a pretty weird story and at the end none of us were all that certain if we had liked it or not.  We read another chapter in Surviving the Applewhites and then I pulled out our math story for the day. It was called One Hungry Cat and it used division and fractions. 

The boys thought it was a cute story and laughed over the illustrations. 

Before sitting down to read I had written out many multiplication and division problems onto sticky notes and put them over the wall so that Ian and Alec could play math slam (where they throw the ball at the problems on the wall and shout out the answer to any of the papers they hit). 

This turned into chaos. 

They were whipping the balls so hard at the wall they almost knocked pictures off the wall in the other room.  They fought over whose turn it was and kept running in asking me who was right, whose turn it was and tattling on each other.

I had to stop the game and send them into the other room so Evan and I could finish our work.
Evan then breezed through his two books and I showed him our sight word practice board. 

I had written out the same sight words we've been using all week (mat, sat, cat, and, the, on, Sam, sad)  on our chalkboard and I gave him a cup of water and a paintbrush.  He read the words to me and then traced over them with the water/brush to make them disappear. 

He thought it was a pretty fun activity and he got a few of the words right!  He even sounded one of them out with very little help from me.  I felt like that was finally some progress! 

When Evan was done I called Alec over to play the math slam game and then when he was done I sat and watched Ian play.  I think if we tried this game again with the older two boys I would only play it outside.  For sanity's sake! 

I think it was great that Ian came up with the idea to modify Evan's game from the other day to use it as math and I think it was wonderful that he's been asking me for a few days to play and practice his math facts, but I think they're just a bit too big to play ballgames inside.
While I was watching Ian throw the ball and figure out his answers, Evan told me he wanted to make up a sight word hide and seek game.  He pulled out my sticky notes and started writing down the words we've been practicing onto each note (he tried to use the chalk board to help him when he could but not all the letters were visible so he tried sounding them out, asking myself or Alec for help when needed). 

The rules of his game were very unclear to me, but I was happy he was writing and practicing his words without having been asked or even really seeming to realize it.  He hid the sticky notes around the house as he finished writing each word and told us we'd all have to hide later when he was finished setting up... though he never did finish.  I'm not sure if he forgot or just lost interest but I figure at some point he'll want to finish setting it up and we'll get to play.  
In the meantime we went on to lesson two in the Incite to Write series.  The lesson was called The Blank Canvas and rather just talking I gave them each some paper, pencils, watercolors and brushes. 

I told them I was thinking of my favorite dessert and they had to ask me all the questions they could think of in order to draw what I was picturing as my favorite dessert. 

They started asking me things like

  • what does it taste like
  • where we eat it 
  • what kind of cake I liked.  
They slowly started realizing that not all questions would help them draw it.  By the end I think all three boys did a pretty good job of drawing the cake I was thinking of-- don't you??


Oh baby! Welcoming a New Baby Into Our Family

I had every intention of working on some schoolwork with the boys yesterday.  I got an e-mail from my sister asking if we'd be home.  She wanted to come visit with her little 5- day old baby girl!

I was so excited and told the boys we wouldn't be doing school since I didn't want to be in the middle of anything when they arrived.
The boys haven't had a newborn around in many years and I think Evan and Alec were a bit nervous at first.  Ian was a natural though.  He readily offered to hold her and was all smiles. 

At one point during the day he was holding her and she started to fuss so he started bouncing her up and down in his arms lightly while singing to her softly! "Lullaby, Lullaby, Lullaby little baby..."  It was so adorably sweet!

 I'll admit I was pretty proud of myself too.  It was one of those moments where I thought to myself what a wonderful job we were doing raising such a sweet little boy. 

I don't know about you but I always wonder what the boys will turn out like as adults and hope that we're raising caring, compassionate kids. 

By late in the afternoon, Evan was feeling brave enough to try and hold her too. 

He has held a baby before but he was so small himself that he doesn't' remember that.  He was nervous and as soon as I put the baby in his arms and stepped back to take a picture he started giggling like crazy.  He told us she tickles!

Alec avoided the baby at all costs.  He didn't hold her, touch her, and I'm not even sure if he looked at her or not.  All attempts to draw him in caused him to get further away. 

I'm not sure why he was so skittish but I figure in time he'll adjust.

We did talk about how soft the babies hair was, why she had so much hair and some babies are born bald.  We talked about why mom's can't drive after birth, where babies get their food from, and how tiny all the hands, feet, finger toes and nails are.    

Thursday, July 25, 2013

After Hours At the Zoo

With our zoo memberships we are invited to many "after hours/ member's only" nights and while we don't always take advantage of nearly as many as we should, we have learned that friendship night at Southwick's Zoo is not to be missed. 

Last year the boys made masks, had their faces painted, got free ice cream and enjoyed a fun scavenger hunt through the zoo.

This year we planned ahead and actually had friends with us! 

We headed out right around dinner last night with the two younger boys, their friends, and one of the friend's families. 
The boys were all so excited- running from exhibit to exhibit.  The zoo at night is actually very different than during the day. 

Many of the animals are much more active at dusk-- 
  • We saw kangaroos hopping around
  • The Hyenas (which we thought was an empty pen!) were up and right up close to the fence 
  • The monkey's were noisy and chasing each other around from branch to branch
  • We heard the lion and lioness making lots of noises back and forth to one another
  • We heard the laughing Kookaburra laugh
  • We found the sloths were awake and moving s-l-o-w-l-y
 Alec had picked up a scavenger hunt paper when we entered the zoo and actually got stumped on one question so we asked a zoo keeper and learned about the Colobus Monkey. 

For once, I didn't take many photos, but lived in the moment enjoying the kids and watching the excitement on their friends' faces.   Here are the few photos I did take. 

The Aldabra Tortoise was in his pool of water with his head out and facing us!  We've never seen that! 

Checking out the Flamingos-- Evan found a Flamingo feather! 

The hyenas-- We had no idea that their heads were so large!
 They all got a free ice cream on the way out of the zoo and were a bit bummed not to have had a bit more time to see EVERYTHING... but we did see most of the zoo.

Enjoying ice cream with friends! 

This tree looked like it had green beans hanging from it (though we realized it's probably just the leaves) 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Skipping School!

I asked the boys if they'd rather just skip school altogether today and head outside to swim and play for the day.  I realized that we have been so focused on schooling that our summer is passing us by!

That used to be our daily routine here on the lake and I miss it!  The boys surprised me though, as much as they wanted to go swimming, they told me it's boring to just swim all day when it's only the three of them.  They asked if we could invite their cousins over or someone to play and I told them I'd see what I could do.
 My mother called a few moments later and asked if she could come visit.  Just as we were all settling in outside on the patio my sister showed up with her two little boys and so we spent a wonderful "family" day on the lake. 

The boys swam, jumped off the dock and made up games to play both in and out of the water.  Alec brought down the Scrambled States of America game and played a few rounds with my sister and mother. 

It was a perfect, lazy summer day! 

The boys all had fun fishing, feeding the ducks and cooling off in the water.  We had to look up "what do Mallard Ducks eat?"  since the boys kept asking and I had no answer.  We learned that they eat all sorts of fish, eggs, seeds, roots, plants and even frogs. 

Evan caught, what he thought, was a butterfly.  I wasn't so sure since it was pretty drab and just looked more like a moth to me.  Not wanting to tell him he was wrong (in case he was right!) we looked up "what is the difference between a moth and a butterfly?" and found this great site that told us what to look for in identifying the two species.  Turns out Evan caught a moth today! 

We talked about how the moths and the butterflies hold their wings differently and the differences in their antennae. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Moon sand, sight word slam, and Amusement park race

With thunderstorms rolling through our area this morning we decided to just jump into our schooling today and hope that the weather cleared up by afternoon.  We tried to come up with some quick and easy games to play and activities to keep us having fun while learning.

While the boys were finishing up breakfast, I decided to throw the movie Hercules in and start our morning learning about the Greek gods.  They loved it!

The boys took off the minute the movie was done.  Ian and Evan made an alliance today and are getting along quite well.  They were busy working on Lego's in Evan's room most of the morning while Alec was content to play alone in his room with all of his stuffed animals making up different scenarios and acting them out.

Alec came down for a snack and we played a few games: Yahtzee and The Scrambled States of America Game.   My kids LOVE the Scrambled States game and ask to play it all the time.  I highly recommend it too as they are all able to find the states pretty easily on the map now!

For math we read Perimeter and area at the Amusement Park.  It was pretty long and I'm not sure it kept their attention through the whole thing, but they sure did love seeing the photographs of different rides, parks, and attractions.

It was a neat look at the way parks and rides are developed, the history of amusement parks and the attractions found there.  We're an amusement park kind of family and the boys are now asking if we can go visit some of these other parks that they saw in the book.

I set the older two boys up with an area game I found on Pinterest called Racing Rectangles.  In honor of the book we called our game Racing Amusement Parks and I explained how to play:

  • Using two die and a piece of grid paper they take turns making square and rectangles to represent the numbers rolled on the dice.  
  • They have to figure out how many squares are inside the box and write that down. If they can't fit their box on the grid they loose a turn and the one with the most boxes at the end wins.   
  • I didn't tell them that we multiply length times width to find the area (though this book did and the book we read last week did) because I wanted to see #1- if they would remember that and #2 if they didn't remember that, could they figure it out on their own?  
They seemed to enjoy the game (though Alec made pretend Zoo's while Ian chose to make pretend amusement parks) and I liked that it reinforced multiplication as well as worked on the concept of area.  They quickly learned that boxes of all shapes could still have the same area.

While the older boys were working on math I pulled Evan aside to work on some sight words and reading.  We re-read a few Bob Books together.

Then I put up some sight words, written on post- it notes, onto the wall and had him throw a ball at them.  He had to call out the word that the ball hit.  It was fun and funny and he really enjoyed playing this game.   

He was still struggling with finding the words after we had been playing for a while and I thought it might be easier to find the word rather than read the word so I started calling out words and having him hit them.  He laughed a lot and we had such a good time he didn't want me to take the words down when we ended. 

I warned him I'd ask a few times through the day what is this word and I'd point to one.  He then proceeded to tell me "I'm near the word wall mom" every single time he walked by it!
We read another chapter in Surviving the Applewhites and The Robot King and then we turned to some science fun.

We read The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons and made Moon dough/sand by combining 8 cups of flour with 1 cup baby oil.

Once mixed I put a bit in tin pie plates for the kids to play with and had them drop marbles into the dough showing how craters are formed on the moon.  This was such a fun and easy activity! 

They had fun shaping mountains, seas and the like and then dumped out the pie tins onto some large cookie sheets and had fun playing with all their toys in the moon dough/sand.

At the library the boys found some hula hoops to play with.  Ian and Alec decided to see who could keep theirs going the longest and then Alec tried to see how many hula hoops he could use at once.  He managed to keep three of them up for quite some time.  I asked them to try walking in a circle, using the hula hoops around their necks, arms, or legs.  They decided to try meditating in the circle too.  It was a wonderfully, fun and totally spontaneous way to get them moving!