Saturday, July 31, 2010

Making a Rainbow - Preschool Science

The little ones were in bed last night, and missed our rainbow, so I decided to help them make their own rainbow tonight.

That, and it ties in very nicely to the study of Isaac Newton, we're just starting, since he performed experiments involving prisms, in an effort to understand the nature of light, and color. Our experiment was a very simple one, drawn from The Usborne Book of Science Experiments (our second try at an experiment from this book, but I'll tell you about our first experiment another time - Lord willing).

We covered a flashlight in painters tape leaving only a slit, for light to shine through (the Usborne book suggests covering the flashlight with black construction paper, with a slit in it).

Then, the Man of the House held a hand mirror in a large bowl of water, and let the light shine through the water, to reflect off the mirror, back to a piece of white paper, where it became...

...a rainbow.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

What My Child is Reading - July 31, 2010

This was a week of ups, and downs in our reading. We finished Kathleen Krull's Leonardo da Vinci. I'm happy to say, that after the first four chapters, the information on his sexual preferences calmed down, and I was able to read to the children with less editing. But, there was some pretty graphic information about his research involving cadavers, that the children objected to.

Still, overall, I can recommend the book. I'd just say, you might want to read it yourself first, before handing it over to your children. And, it's probably more suitable for middle school aged children, than the very young, though I did read it to all of mine (ages 4-12). When we were done, I printed out a copy of the cover art, so we could cut, color in, and glue Leonardo, to our time line.

I tried playing an audio version of The Magic Tree House Morning With a Mad Genius, Mary Pope Osborne's more child friendly take on the scientist/artist, to the children, but they wanted nothing to do with it. The older children have read the book before themselves, and enjoyed it, but they objected to the reading by the author. They didn't like the way she voiced characters.

I tried to tell them, since she is the author, it's probably the way they are meant to sound, but they didn't care.

We also checked out Maxine Anderson's Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself. There are some interesting looking activities in it, but all too complicated for us this week, so we'll have to return to them later on, when we're feeling adventurous.

In the meantime, I'm anxious to move on to the next "Giant of Science" in Kathleen Krull's series. I read her book on Albert Einstein, this week, on my own, and found it a good deal tamer than her Leonardo da Vinci. But, judging from the reader reviews on Amazon, I'll still be doing a good deal of editing for the children, as we read through Isaac Newton.

I have several more books of children's fiction, involving, or revolving around, Leonardo, on hold at the library, but I'm not sure when they will come in, so I think we'll move on, and leave our da Vinci study incomplete - like most of his own work.

Find out what others are reading, or join in and share your favorites, at this week's What My Child Is Reading blog hop, hosted by Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Friday, July 30, 2010

If You Don't Like The Weather in Montana, Wait 10 Minutes and It Will Change

That saying, apparently, goes for views from your deck, too. Remember the forest fire from last weekend?

This is the same view, from tonight.

And, in case the clouds look a little dark, and ominous (I wouldn't want to traumatise any other young children out there ;), this...

...was the view, at the same time, looking in another direction, off our deck. They really aren't kidding, when they call this big sky country.

It's great to be a homeschooler - in Montana.

Magic In The Morning, Or More 30 Second Science

Want to wow your children, with science, before breakfast (or anytime of day)? All you need is an empty, plastic bottle, with a cap, and some hot tap water.

  • Fill the bottle with hot water, as hot as you can handle, but not hot enough to melt it.

  • Dump the hot water out of the bottle.

  • Put the cap on, as quickly as possible

  • Place the bottle in the middle of the table, and watch it magically crush itself.

It really never gets old.

There is a science lesson here too, of course. As the hot air trapped inside the bottle cools, the pressure inside decreases, allowing the force of the air pressure outside the bottle, to push in the sides (or something like that, it's really hard to find a clear explanation of this experiment).

But, one way or another, it's cool to watch, and when you open the bottle, it pops right back to its normal shape.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toilet Paper Roll Stethoscopes

We learned from Paul Showers' Hear Your Heart, a "Stage 2 Let's-Read-And-Find-Out About" book, that an empty toilet paper roll makes a pretty good stethoscope.

Of course, my youngest two, thought they needed to decorate the tubes. I suggested covering them in tissue paper. C, wanted purple, but settled for overlapping the red, and blue we had in the cupboard (which sort of gives you purple).

I had them brush on watered down glue, and then stick tissue paper squares to the tubes.

They had a great time brushing on the glue. In fact, it may be several days, before their stethoscopes are dry enough to use.

Be sure to check out the other story stretching arts and craft, at this week's stART (story + ART) link-up, at A Mommy's Adventures.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Educational Reform

The children, and I didn't do a craft, science, or art project this morning. Instead, while we ate our morning muffins, we watched President Obama's speech on educational reform. In case you missed it, here's what we gathered from it.

  • Teachers need better pay.
  • Teachers need to be held accountable for what their students are learning.
  • We need better tests, to assess what children are learning.
  • Some schools need to be restructured entirely.
  • "No Child Left Behind" was a failure.
  • Parents need to be more involved in their children's education.
  • We need to teach our children to say "Yes, we can!"


It's great to be a homeschooler (and I don't mean that in an arrogant way, it's just nice to be free from some of the same old, same old).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Got Invisible Ink?

E (age 5), and I were inspired by Jim Wiese's Spy Science: 40 Super Sleuthing, Code-Cracking Activities for Kids, to try our hand at some undercover art, today.

First, I gave her a piece of paper, a bowl of milk, and a q-tip.

She dipped the q-tip into the milk, and used it like a paint brush, to draw a picture of a weather girl (I think). Not wanting to be left out, I wrote a quick message on another sheet of paper, myself, and we left them to dry for a couple of hours.

When we returned to our papers, the milk had dried clear, if a little shiny. I thought my message was still too legible, so I crinkled my paper up, hoping it wouldn't ruin the "ink".

Then, we covered the papers with bits of graphite, by rubbing a pencil, on sandpaper, over the sheets.

We smoothed the graphite out with a napkin, and our drawings, magically, appeared.

Wiese suggests using whole milk, because it's the fat, the graphite sticks to. So, the higher the fat content, the better the experiment will work. We were happy with the success we had with 2%, though.

It even worked, for the most part, on my crumpled up paper, where the message had been rendered completely invisible.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Cookies, Pudding, and Plate Tectonics for Children


We combined our afternoon snack, with a lesson in plate tectonics, thanks to an idea from Geography Crafts for Kids: 50 Cool Projects & Activities for Exploring the World by Joe Rahtigan and Heather Smith.

We started by patting out a single batch of sugar cookie dough, into one, large, oval shaped cookie.

We popped it in the oven at 35o degrees Fahrenheit, for about 12 minutes, and I used the time to trace, and cut out rough, paper outlines of the continents.

When, the cookie was baked, and cooled, but still warm, the girls placed the continents onto it... use as a guide to cut the continental plates around, labeling each plate with an edible marker, to make sure they didn't miss any. You can find a nice diagram of the continents, and plates, here, at Enchanted Learning (just page down a bit, after you click).

I trimmed the edges of the cookie, so it would fit into a 9 x13'' pan, full of our chocolate pudding, mantle.

Once in place, the older kids used a spoon to demonstrate how the the plates float, and move on top of the mantle, and we talked about continental drift.

Then, they dished out servings of the cookie plates, and pudding mantle, to their younger siblings...

...who eagerly devoured the lesson.

For more fun with geography, and history check out this week's link up, hosted by Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's In the Play Dough? A Lesson in Deductive Reasoning

Our boredom buster for the afternoon came from Janice Vancleave's Chemistry for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work, and is actually a lesson in deductive reasoning.

In case you've been wondering what's up with all of the science books I've been referencing, lately - I'm hoping to eventually work through enough of them, with the children, that we can put together a top 10 list of the those we recommend. We still have quite a few books, at our library alone, to work through, so I'm not sure if this book will make the cut, or not, but I can pretty well guarantee, that something by Janice Vancleave will be there.

As to this project, I took a random assortment of the children's toys, and hid them in play dough balls.

I gave the balls to the children, with a notebook, pencil, and some toothpicks. Their instructions were to try to determine what sort of toy was hidden in each ball, by poking into the play dough with the toothpicks.

They were not to squeeze the play dough, or peek into the holes made by the toothpicks.

Then, when they thought they knew what the toy was, they were to draw it in their notebook.

Finally, after they had drawn what they thought was in the dough, we pulled it out for comparison.

This being their first time at the activity, they failed terribly. But, it gave them a good lesson in what scientists have to go through when trying to identify something they cannot see, or hold directly. And, it was a good lesson, as well, in the dangers of listening to the crowd.

When one of them thought there was a dinosaur in the dough, they all decided there was a dinosaur in the dough. Then, after they saw what one of the toys was, they decided all the toys were that same thing. They were going with what they believed, instead of what the evidence presented.

For younger children, I would suggest showing them the toys ahead of time, and then letting them determine which toy is in which glob of dough.

And, of course, you should be prepared for some independent play dough time, once all the objects have been revealed.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Straw and Loop Airplane

We were rained in last night - a good thing for the forest fire, but not so good for restless children. Luckily though, we had just checked out another stack of books, full of science experiments, from the library, so we were armed with plenty to do.

After, perusing a couple of the books for something simple, but fun, we settled on the straw, and loop airplane from the Ontario Science Centre's Scienceworks: 65 Experiments That Introduce the Fun and Wonder of Science.

To build one, all you need is a normal size drinking straw, clear tape, and two strips of paper - one 12 cm by 2 cm, and the other 9 cm by 1.5 cm. The book also gives the measurements in standard units, but I thought using metric would be a nice change for the children.

Take each strip of paper separately, and overlap the ends, to form a loop, taping one end inside the loop, and the other outside the loop. There should be enough overlap to stick the straw in the gap between the ends, where they come together.

Place a loop at both ends of the straw, as described above, and toss the "airplane" javelin style.

I was worried our loops were too small. They didn't seem to match Tina Holdcroft's illustrations. But, the straw flew a good 25 feet, hampered only by the size of the room. And, not only did it fly far, but it glided with surprising grace, as well.

It's great to be a homeschooler.