Monday, May 31, 2010

Homemade (Scented) Finger Paint

There are a number of different, homemade finger paint recipes floating around the blogosphere. I thought I'd weigh in on our favorite.

Homemade (Scented) Finger Paint

1/2 cup cornstarch

4 tablespoons sugar

2 cups cold water

Food coloring OR a few teaspoons of various colors of unsweetened Kool-Aid
liquid dish soap

Mix the cornstarch, sugar, and water together in a small pan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes, or until it begins to thicken. You will want to remove it from the heat while it is still slightly thinner than you think it should be for finger paint, because it will continue to thicken, as it cools.

Divide it into the number of dishes, or air tight containers you desire, and add a drop of dish soap, and a few drops of food coloring, or about a teaspoon of Kool-Aid to each.

The dish soap will help keep fingers from being stained. Though, if you use Kool-Aid, there might still be some staining. But, fingers return to normal fairly quickly, and the smell of the paint with the Kool-Aid is marvelous. It's really a lot of fun to paint with.

I like this recipe, because the paint comes out thick, and gel-like, much like store bought finger paint.

While, my children generally just blob it about, it can be used to really paint with, too.

It dries nicely, with a glossy finish, and is not flaky.

In fact, papers painted with it work very well for cutting up into shape crafts, like the dinosaur craft I posted, this morning.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

D is for Daddy-o-saurus, A Father's Day Dinsosaur Craft

One day, Mikey wakes up to find his dad is not quite himself.
He can't (or won't) go to work, drive the car, take a bath, or read books. He's having a dinosaur day, in Diane Dawson Hearn's, Dad's Dinosaur Day - a perfect pick for Father's Day. It's cute, and not too scary, as "Dad" is mostly a harmless, if a bit grumpy, herbivore.
And, so as not to pick on fathers too much, "Mom" gets a dinosaur day of her own, in the end, as well.
To go along with the story, we copied a D is for Dinosaur craft, from Homeschool Creations, using some of our left over, finger painted, pages.

Because, D is for "dinosaur" AND "daddy". I think I'll save these, and have the girls write/draw a little message for the Man of the House, on the back, for Father's Day.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award

I received the Versatile Blogger Award from Phyllis at All Things Beautiful, and from Jolly Green Mommy a couple of weeks ago. I hope you'll take a minute, and check out their very fine blogs.

The conditions for accepting the award?

  1. Thank the person/people who gave it to you. Yes, of course, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Tell 7 things yourself.

  3. Pass the award on to 15 bloggers, who you have recently discovered, and think are fantastic.
So, let's see...7 things about myself...hmm.

  1. My father died when I was 9, and that event has had a major impact on who I am today.

  2. I graduated from a small private high school, which not only did not allow dancing, or movies, but also had a six inch rule for boys, and girls (you weren't to be closer than six inches to the opposite sex - and yes, they checked it with a ruler!).

  3. I'm really looking forward to turning 40 this year. So far, each decade has been better than the last.

  4. Douglas Adams is my favorite satirist, I'm especially fond of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, though I generally don't recommend him, because he borders, too often, on sacrilege, but his humor is very sharp.

  5. I'm one of those silly, middle-brained people, who can't decide if they like math or literature better.

  6. My favorite Jolly Rancher, or Laffy Taffy flavor is green apple.

  7. I wear my hair in a bun, because early in our marriage, my husband and I agreed, I wouldn't cut my hair short, if he wouldn't shave off his beard - and I really like his beard.
As to the 15 bloggers I've just discovered, but think are fantastic:

Dagmar's Momsense - She posted a picture of her son in front of a fortune teller machine (like from Big) recently, with a caption, that made me chuckle.

Moonstruck Mommy - You absolutely have to read her post entitled, "Um... Who WOULDN'T Want a Koala??"

Hallee The Homemaker - Who suggests three chores you should do every morning before your first sip of coffee, and I couldn't agree more (except I'd add a fourth - throw a load of laundry in).

Joy of Desserts - Need I say more?

Wholesome Womanhood - Written by three sisters, with the fresh perspective of young adults.

Minivans Are Hot - Almost (almost), made me wish I had watched Lost.

Sunny Day Today Mama - If her beautiful photos don't make you want to spend more time outside, then nothing will.

Clay In His Hands - Made a trip to Walmart, and the grocery store with her three daughters, ages 2 and under, and still had the energy left to post about the experience!

Stacy's Random Thoughts - Because, I'm always happy to meet other people who also went to small, private, high schools, were dancing was forbidden, and proms were unheard of.

Not So Ordinary Girls - Just started a new tradition of Ice Cream For Dinner, to celebrate the end of the school year/beginning of summer - what fun!

Stacy Says - Has a fantastic, "Friday Films" feature, I've really been enjoying.

Into the Wind - Had a nice post recently, that made me look for the positives during these dreary, gray, spring days.

Many Little Blessings - A homeschool mom of three, with a wealth of household tips.

Jodilightful! - Find out what happens when you put homemade laundry soap (you know the stuff), in a front loader machine.

For the Love of Naps - From whom I got the idea to cut pancakes for children quickly, by using a pizza cutter - brilliant!

It's great to be a (mommy-blogging) homeschooler.

Dipping Dino Head, Fun With Gravity for Science Sunday

Since we've had a kind of dinosaur thing going this week, I was happy to see a dinosaur project in Jill Frankel Hauser's Gizmos & Gadgets, Creating Science Contraptions that Work (& knowing why), that we checked out from the library again, for a second time. It's the same book from which we got the idea for our Tipping Tiger Toy, back in September. This particular project, is really about gravity, more than dinosaurs, but it involves making a cardboard dinosaur - so, good enough.

The idea is to suspend the dino head, on a string, between the two body pieces, over a slit in a handle piece, with another string tied to a spot near the front, and a spot near the back of the head, with a weight hanging in the middle. When the weight swings forward, and back, it causes the head to dip up, and down, demonstrating the pull of gravity.

It seemed like a pretty simple idea, but I failed to notice on the back of the book, that it says, "For children ages 7 to 14 - and their families and friends!" And, believe me, it's not kidding about the age range. The kids helped trace out the dino pattern for me...

...and dutifully helped with some of the gluing...

...but other than that, I was left pretty much on my own for this one. And even I, almost gave up, about this point...

To attach the head, you run a string through a bead, tying the end, then through the shoulder, through another bead, through the head, through another bead, through the shoulder, through a final bead, and finally tie the other side off. It's next to impossible to get the string tight enough to hold the head. I think, maybe using a tooth pick, instead of a string, might be a better option.

I also had some trouble getting my weight, a nut, to swing straight back and forth. It wanted to twist, and slide on the string, and was very frustrating. But, with my husband smirking on, I persevered, added some tape, to keep everything tight, and swinging, and presented the children with their new science toy.

They liked the toy, and even listened patiently as I explained the science behind it (pretty well word for word out of the book). But, then my three year old, in great distress, wanted to know why I hadn't made one for each of them. At which point, my husband's smirk turned into a full blown laugh.

He is sooo in charge of the next science project!

For more fun with science (some of which, can actually be done by children), check out this week's Science Sunday link up, at Adventures in Mommydom.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Salt Clay Dinosaur Tooth Choker

We were inspired by Loralyn Radcliffe's Creative Crafts for Clever Kids, to make dinosaur teeth chokers. I was happy to have a project that interested the boys, though the girls joined in, too. The project called for salt clay again, one part salt, two parts flour, and enough water to make it dough-like, but not sticky. I should mention, while we've enjoyed baking up a few salt clay creations lately, and they've turned out well, for general play dough type dough, we still prefer the cooked dough, with cream of tarter (click here, for the recipe).

It turned out, the actual shaping of the salt clay into teeth, even large dinosaur teeth, was a bit advanced for my youngest two, ages 3 and 5. But, they busied themselves with other projects, while the older children took over the manufacture of teeth.
So, we ended up with a number of projects, from dinosaur nests with eggs, to a non-dinosaur related pencil holder.

But, we also ended up with quite a number of very fine teeth.

Before we baked them (which took a couple of hours at the ovens lowest setting), we used a toothpick to make a hole the top of each one, so we could lace a string through, and tie a knot on, to keep them in place on our choker.

Radcliffe suggests placing several on one choker, and using brown shoe polish to give them an aged appearance. D, opted to keep his natural, and to only wear one.

After all, dinosaur teeth are rare. Oh, and as for Creative Crafts for Clever Kids, it has our recommendation. The crafts really are creative, and despite the dozens (and dozens) of craft books we've perused, this one still had a few, that were new to us.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

What My Child is Reading - May 29, 2010

In preparation for jumping back on the Dinosaur Trail this summer, which I really hope we get a chance to do, I put a hold on a couple dozen dinosaur themed story books from the library. They started trickling in this week, a few at a time, and we've been enjoying the mix of fiction, fantasy, and science, that they offer.

Some have been pure fantasy,

Some fiction, mixed with science,

And some, science (also mixed with good deal of fiction).

No one said studying dinosaurs was simple. We enjoyed all the books above, though none of them were written from a young earth perspective, hopefully those will arrive in, soon. I think Dad's Dinosaur Day was probably our favorite, but I'll be sharing more about it, and a few of the others, in connection with the crafts and/or snacks they inspired, later in the week (Lord willing).

In the meantime, you can find children's book reviews, and recommendations at this week's What My Child is Reading blog hop, hosted by Natalie at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Non-Newtonian Fluid, The Properties of Corn Starch, Pudding Science, and Another Day of Unschooling

Yesterday, the children ask if they could make some more non-Newtonian fluid with corn starch, and water. Actually, they asked if they could make more of "that goopy, corn starch stuff". I said yes, because...

1. It was raining out again.

2. The man of the house was not coming home for lunch, so we were free to make a mess.

3. And, it gave me a chance to say "non-Newtonian fluid", a bunch of times.

But, it also led nicely into a science lesson, when about the time the Lego men were discovering the dangers of struggling against quicksand, someone asked if it was edible. I suppose they were wondering if the Lego men could eat their way out. My oldest daughter answered, that it was edible, but wouldn't taste very good.

That led us into a discussion of what corn starch is, and how it doesn't dissolve well in water, but will absorb water when heated, to change from polymer chains, to more of a mesh, that we call gelatinization (you can find out all about this process, as well as how the starch is removed from corn kernels, and then how that starch is used in all sorts of daily applications, in this, printout from the Corn Refiners Association).

Which in turn, led us to a pudding making "experiment" from Joan D'Amico's The Science Chef. Luckily, the chapter on corn starch, and pudding, can be viewed in Amazon's instant view (just search for pudding), because I had already returned that book to the library.

Since we didn't want quite as much pudding mix as the recipe called for, it also led us into a lesson on dividing fractions.

And, since we couldn't find our 1/8 cup measure, we had a quick lesson on converting cups to tablespoons (and then dividing that number into eighths, and multiplying out the number of tablespoons we needed to make 3/8 cups).

And then, because we had dirtied our 1 cup measures (making muffins for breakfast), we reviewed how many thirds make a whole.

All, in all, it was a pretty good science/math/reading comprehension/home economics/group activity.

Of course, now that we've eaten up the pudding, there's been a request for another batch of non-Newtonian fluid. Which, is still being referred to as goopy, corn starch stuff.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, May 24, 2010

When Unschooling Works

Unschooling, in theory, is a glorious thing. Trusting, that if left to pursue their interests, children will not only seek out the knowledge, and skills they need, but that they will enjoy the process of being educated, too. From a parents perspective it takes a lot of faith though, and there are days when I am just not that trusting.

I've been worried lately, for instance, about how to work more writing exercises into our days. My oldest will be 13 this summer, and I'm sure other children his age are writing book reports, and research essays galore, but it's something we haven't done much of. I spent the weekend wondering whether I could locate any good writing programs for the fall, and added it to my mental to-do list.

Then today, after playing around for a bit on GameFly, picking out new games to rent, my son asked me if I could check something for him. I peeked at the screen, thinking he wanted to know if a game was okay to rent, or not, only to find he'd written a review of one of the games he'd rented recently, and he wanted me to proofread it with him.

It might not have been the writing exercise I was planning, but I'm sure you can imagine my joy.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Pizza Hut Book It! Program Sign-Up Reminder

This is just a reminder to all homeschool families out there, that the Pizza Hut Book It! sign-up deadline is June 30, 2010. If your children attend school, then it's up to the school to sign-up, so you might want to check with them.

Never heard of Book It? It's a wonderful reading incentive program, for children K-6, or 5-12 years old, sponsored by Pizza Hut. You set a reading goal each month for your child, and when they accomplish the goal, from October through March, you give them a certificate for a free, one topping, personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. The program is available in the US, and in some parts of Canada, and Puerto Rico.

But, you have to enroll ahead of time to receive the free pizza certificates for your children. Click, here, to go to the Book It! site, to enrol, or to learn more. Oh, and if your children aren't old enough yet, you might want to check out the site, anyway. It has a preschool page, with story stretcher suggestions, that are a lot of fun.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Young Victoria - A Review

Tomorrow, being the anniversary of Queen Victoria's birth, I thought I'd take a minute to review The Young Victoria, which the man of the house, and I watched recently.

My husband is not a big fan of romantic, period pieces, which this most definitely is, but he is a huge history buff, so I lured him by telling him I needed to preview the movie, to see if it was something we could show to the children. Not that he fell for that, but it was a date night, so he very kindly let me pick the movie.

But, I was really thinking of showing it, at least to the older children (ages 9-12). After all, if your going to teach about the kings, and queens of England, then Queen Victoria, is an excellent place to begin.

Her story has everything - loss of a father, a domineering mother, court intrigue, an arranged marriage (pretty well), family dynasties crossing international borders, parliamentary politics, assassination attempts, a teenage queen, and the tragic loss of true love, that caused her to morn for decades. Her story also leads nicely into a look at World War I, as you follow her children, and grandchildren, into marriages across Europe, leading to both the treaties, and the suspicions, that set the stage for war on a grand scale.

Back to the movie, though. Sadly, even given such great subject matter, excellent costumes, scenery, and acting, it drags to the point of being boring. And, despite the good people at Focus on The Family, giving it a 4 1/2 stars for family friendliness, I would not suggest showing it to your children. In fact, after watching the series of love scenes, which were not exactly raunchy, but still somewhat embarrassing in a voyeuristic kind of way, my husband announced, very firmly, that it was not to be shown to ours.

I know A&E put out a mini-series a few years back, entitled Victoria and Albert. I seem to remember it as being pretty good, but I can't remember if it's something the children would enjoy. I tried to get a copy in from a partner library, in time for Monday's Victoria Day, but the discs had been misboxed, and I ended up with Vanity Fair, instead. Should I ever manage to get my hands on the correct discs though, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, here are a few fun facts about the monarch, for children, I picked up from Project Britain (a great history site, by the way).

  • Victoria was 18 when she assumed the throne.

  • She reigned for 64 years, making her the longest reigning British monarch.

  • She was the first monarch to live in Buckingham Palace.

  • At the age of 21 she married her cousin Albert, a German prince.

  • They had 9 children, though Victoria hated being pregnant, and did not care for babies.

  • After Albert's death, at the age of 42, Victoria wore black for the rest of her life.

  • Queen Victoria survived 7 assassination attempts (though Prince Albert was never shot, trying to protect his wife, as depicted in The Young Victoria).

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Science Kits Worth Buying For Your Children

You might have noticed, that I don't often use boxed science kits for our experiments. Mainly, that is because after you have worked through a few, you begin to realize you can put the same experiments together yourself, and find the science to back them, for a lot less.

But, there are times, when it is good to have everything together in one nice, neat, and organized box. This is especially true if you are just starting out with young children, and don't have all the little pieces of equipment, like magnifying glasses, test tubes, scales, magnets, and the like, that make experiments fun. However, not all science kits are created equal - some are more toy than science, like the Spa Science Kit by Scientific Explorer. While others, like the kits from The Young Scientists Club, are excellent teaching tools.

We have not worked through all of The Young Scientists Club kits, only about half of them. We had a move, that prompted us to interrupt our subscription, and we just never got around to going back to it, but they are excellent kits for younger children, ages 5 and up. They come by mail, either once, or twice a month, whichever you decide, and each contains several experiments around a particular theme such as measurements, electricity, fungi, etc. You can read all about them, see samples, and a list of themes, on their website (by clicking the link above).

Each kit contains everything needed for the experiments, except for a few household items. And, what is really nice, is that there is a list of the household items included, that will be needed for the next kit. So, if you don't have bendy straws, or paper clips on hand, you can pick them up ahead of time.

There is also a booklet, laid out like a scientific notebook, for the children to read through, and fill in, as they work through their experiments. And, there is a separate sheet for parents, filling in extra detail.

I really can't sing the praises of these kits high enough (and, this is just an honest recommendation, they didn't ask for my praise, and aren't giving me anything for it). Children love to get things in the mail. And, my children, loved doing the experiments in these kits. They cost around $15 a piece, by the time you add in shipping, which is pretty reasonable, as far as kits go. And, they provide you with a number of science supplies, that can be saved, and reused, for your own experiments.

I'm linking this post in with the Science Sunday link-up, at Adventures in Mommydom, where you can find more fun with science.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tumblewing Surfing, A Scientific Boredom Buster

The strange pile of junk, I have pictured here - a phone book, a scrap piece of cardboard, and a printout from The Science Toymaker, represents our evening entertainment.

We were blessed by another cold, and rainy day. I'm sure once the forest fire season is here, I'll be very grateful for this rainy spring. But, trapped inside with the children today, I was beginning to reach my breaking point. In fact, I was just about to succumb to the urge to run out, and buy another toy, any toy, in the hope of a few minutes of peace, when I remembered to check with the Science Toymaker. He has a great site, that I've mentioned before, full of toy/science projects for children (and their parents) to make. Some are easier, for younger children, and some really take a lot of work.

We decided to try out the air surfing, tumblewing, a mixture of lift, and magic, folded from a phone book page, and flown with a piece of cardboard.

Our folds are not perfect. Our cardboard is not quite big enough for beginners. And, we made all the rookie mistakes, that the "Toymaker" warned us about. But, even so, we experienced just enough success, to make it fun for a solid hour of gliding, falling, laughing, and not being bored. Science is awesome!

And, it's great to be a homeschooler.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Castle Fit for The Frizz

We've been reading Ms. Frizzle's Adventures by Joanna Cole, this week (thanks to Fairion from Lionden Landing, for recommending them).

They are very similar to The Magic School Bus series, also by Joanna Cole. But, this time Ms. Frizzle is without her bus, and the topic is social studies, rather than science. There are only three picture books in the series, but they are so packed full of detail, they've kept us busy all week.

Our favorite of the three is Ms. Frizzle's Adventures: Medieval Castle, which prompted us to build a castle of our own, today. The little ones helped glue the printable template, we found here, at, to empty cereal boxes, and gathered four empty toilet paper rolls, for me.

I cut the pieces out, and assembled the castle, with tape, and glue.

Then, they decorated it, in beautiful princess colors - perhaps not authentic to medieval times, but still a lot of fun. And, it did provide us with opportunity to review the parts of a castle, such as the gate house, the keep, the parapet, and the bailey, all new words we learned thanks to Ms. Frizzle.

To find more children's book reviews, and recommendations, check out this week's What My Child is Reading, link-up/blog hop, at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

It's great to be a homeschooler.