Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Homemade Simple Picture Projector - Fun With Science

We discovered from Mr. Wizard's 400 Experiments in Science, that you can hold a magnifying glass over a light bulb (that's turned on), and project the words, written on the bulb, onto the ceiling, only backwards. We thought that was pretty cool.

But, we wondered if we couldn't make it even better. So, we drew a simple happy face on a sandwich bag, and held it tightly over a flashlight.

When you shine the bag covered, flashlight at the wall, it looks like this.

Then, when you put the magnifying glass in front of the flashlight..

...it will look like this...

...and, as you move the magnifying glass forward, away from the flashlight, it will change to this (as long as you're holding your smiley face upside down)...

The kids liked this one, quite a bit.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Thoughts on To Kill A Mockingbird

Hope is the Word hosted a reading challenge this month to mark the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. When I joined up, I was hoping to read the novel, watch the movie version, and peruse the CliffsNotes.

I ended up listening to an unabridged audio version of the novel, read by Sissy Spacek, as the printed version never did come in at the library. I guess I wasn't the only person in Montana interested in reading it, this month.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story though, which was a pleasant surprise. When I signed up for the challenge, I didn't know anything about Harper Lee, or her novel, except that it was one of the American classics I had missed out on by attending high school in Canada I did read a good deal by Margaret Atwood, though. After flipping through the CliffsNotes, which arrived before the audio book, I wasn't so sure I wanted to read the story, about a black man falsely accused of rape, in a southern town.

I was happy to discover, that the novel is about so much more. In fact if anything, it reminded me of Beverly Cleary, with a backdrop of Mark Twain. It's the innocence of childhood, set in an imperfect, and often unpleasant world.

My mother grew up in the 30's in a small, southern, town, and so much of what Miss Lee wrote, reminds me of her reminiscences. I think maybe, her family would have been the Cunninghams in the book, the poor farmers, who sent their children to school barefoot, and never took what they couldn't repay, in one way, or another.

I asked my mother if she'd read the book. I was curious how she thought it matched up to her own childhood. But she answered very quickly, she had never read it, that in fact she'd, "seen enough of that kind of ugliness, growing up, and didn't care to read about it." I took that to mean the darker parts of the story are pretty well on the mark, too.

I have read that Harper Lee approved of the screenplay adaption of her novel. I thought a lot of the heart of the story was left behind in the book, and found the movie on the creepy side. But, even so, it's hard not to like Gregory Peck.

Overall, I'm very happy to have been introduced to To Kill A Mockingbird. The prose is easy, but involving. If it weren't for the adult content of the crime in question, it could be a children's novel.

I think what I enjoyed about it most, was the realization, that while Harper Lee's picture of childhood in America, matches my mother's, mine is closer to Beverly Cleary's, with the Mark Twain removed - and I think, that promises some hope for the future.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Would Noah's Ark Fit on Your Street?

If Noah was alive today, and building his ark, could he build it on your street? Would it fit? That, was our science question for the day, though in the end it turned into more of a math question, because of all the measuring involved.

First, we found the measurements for the ark in Genesis 6:15. It was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high (if you're a cubit fan, you'll have to multiply the cubits out by 18 inches, and then divide the number by 12, to get feet). Then, we went outside to do some measuring.

I thought about having the children run a pre-measured piece of string down the street, but 450 feet of string seemed like a lot to have to wind back up, when we were done. So instead, we used a laser meter. Unfortunately, outside in the daylight, we couldn't measure very far with it, so we had to break our measurements down.

We decided to start by measuring squares on our sidewalk, and then counted the number of squares down the straight part of our street, and multiplied it out.

Can you see the kids at the far end of the street? They were standing 340 feet away. So, the straight part of our street is 110 feet too short for the ark to sit on. Noah would have to take a few houses out, for the sake of length.

But, we discovered the width of the ark was about right to run down our street, just touching the fronts of the houses on each side.

And finally, we figured out the ark would stand about twice as tall as our house.

It was a big boat. And now, every time we walk out our front door, or drive down our street, we'll be reminded of just how big it really was.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Math Manipulatives for Multiplying Negatives and Positives

I was working with my oldest son on the distributive property in algebra, last week, and noticed he was still weak on the concept of multiplying negative, and positive numbers.

I never struggled with a negative multiplied by a negative being a positive. If I don't have none, I have some.

But, to make it more concrete, for my son, who is a tactile learner, I set up an exercise, based on an idea from a Canadian teacher, here.

I started by cutting a door in the side of a box. Kind of a girly box, but that's what happens when you have sisters in the house. The door is marked positive, for entering...

...and negative for exiting.

Inside, and outside are sets of blue construction paper "ice cubes", and black construction paper "coals". Ice cubes represent negatives, and hot coals represent positives.

When given a multiplication problem like (-2) x (-3), the negative two means you will exit the box twice. The negative three means each time you exit the box, you will carry out three ice cubes.

Removing six ice cubes from the box will raise the temperature in the box, six degrees, or positive six.

If the problem was (+2) x (-3), you would make two trips into the box, carrying three ice cubes, each time. So, the temperature of the box would get colder by six degrees, or -6.

Again, if the problem was (+2) x (+3), you would take three coals into the box, twice, raising the temperature by 6 degrees, or +6.

Really, by the time I had finished explaining the idea to my son, he had the whole concept of multiplying positives, and negatives down, but I think I'll keep the box handy for when we hit equations dealing with division.

I'm linking this to Math Monday at Joyful Learner, where you can find math activities for younger children, as well.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Windy Day Fun, and Science for Children

Want an easy, windy day, boredom buster for children? Tie pieces of ribbon, or string, to the handles of plastic grocery bags, and send the kids outside with them (keeping an eye on them, with the plastic bags, of course). If your children are like mine, they'll be entertained for quite a while.

I know most parents would give their children kites to play with in the wind, but we were actually carrying out a science experiment, as part of the activities from Seymour Simon and Nicole Fauteux's Let's try it Out in the Air, Hands-On Early-Learning Science Activities.

The book suggests taking balloons outside on a windy day, and letting them go, then trying to catch them in the wind.

Apparently, we have very sharp grass, because our balloons didn't last long.

So, we switched to the bags, which were a little sturdier, and held the air, quite nicely. We also observed paper bags, as we breathed in, and out, into them.

And, we dropped shoes, and feathers, discovering the air can hold feathers up for quite a while, but not our shoes, and that blowing feathers around the room, is almost as much fun, as running in the wind, with grocery bag balloons.

This is the second of these Let's Try It Out books we've tried out, and I highly recommend them, for younger children, ages 4-8. They explore simple science through hands on activities, and play, and can be read all in one sitting, or one activity at a time, over the course of several days.

We actually tried out most of the activities first, and then read the story together. My youngest two (ages 4, and 5), wanted to read it again, as soon as we were done, which I take as a good recommendation.

Other titles in the series include:

  • Let's Try It Out With Warm Hands, And Cold Feet

  • Let's Try It Out on the Playground

  • Let's Try It Out in the Kitchen

  • Let's Try It Out in the Water

  • and Let's Try It Out It Out with Towers and Bridges (which we adapted for a Sunday school lesson, here).

  • I would love to try them all out, with my youngest three, but in the meantime, we'll look for more fun with science, at this week's Science Sunday link-up, at Adventure's in Mommydom.

    It's great to be a homeschooler.

    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    Hooked On Murder - A Crochet Mystery - Review

    I've been remiss in posting reviews for the 2010 Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge. I have to admit, I've been feeling out of my league. Most of the other participants are reading heavy hitting thrillers - you know, the scary kind, with serial killers, and vampires. I, on the other hand, have been snuggled up, reading cozy mysteries, the ones with recipes, and crafts at the back of the book.

    But, a challenge is a challenge, and with nine out of the twelve books required, already read, and reviewed, it would seem silly not to finish. Not to mention the fact, that our weekend road trip to Helena, afforded me the time to finish up book number 10 - yes, I am one of those people who can read in a moving vehicle.

    ...Betty Hechtman's Dead Men Don't Crochet.

    It's the second book in her "crochet mystery" series. Click here, to read my review of the first book.

    It does, indeed, have a recipe at the end of the book, for cheesecake cupcakes. I decided to give my waistline a break, and skip the recipe, this time. In the story, they are mentioned as a diet food, because of the portion control. Instead of eating an entire cake, you can have one cupcake. But, I know myself, and cheesecake, too well to fall for that.

    The project at the back, is a crocheted shawl, modeled after the prayer shawls popular with church groups, but with a secular twist. These are called "Hugs of Comfort", and are meant to be given to someone who is sick, or in need of comfort, but do not have the prayer attached. Still, a very nice idea, and the pattern is simple enough for beginning crocheters.

    As for the story, it's pretty much like the first. I like, that the main character, Molly Pink, is not a professional sleuth, and it shows. It's as if I suddenly tried to solve a crime. I'd really have no idea where to begin, or how to go about it. Molly, turns often to The Average Joe's Guide to Criminal Investigation, for help.

    In Hooked on Murder, it was Molly who was accused of murder, this time, it's one of her new friends from the "Tarzana Hookers", the crochet group, that meets in the bookstore, where she works. Once again, I was uncertain of the true murderer, until near the end of the story, though I had some suspicions. And, again, I enjoyed the informal, first person, conversational style of the writing.

    But, Molly's love life, heated up, a bit much for me, in this one. There aren't any graphic details, but it's made quite clear, that she is engaged in an adult, and I might add, adulterous, relationship. That, and the the fact, that God's name, though abused less in this novel, than in the first, was still misused, more than once, finished me for the series, I would otherwise enjoy quite a bit.

    It's great to be a homeschooler.

    Microwave Applescauce with Children

    A heavy wind blew in a cooler weather front, this week. It also blew most of the apples off our trees.

    So, even though I would have preferred to leave them on the tree, to ripen for another week, or two, we decided it was apple picking time.

    The little ones gathered the apples from the ground, while the taller, older children, cleared the last few from the trees.

    At first, they were upset to find many of the apples had worm holes. I explained to them, that we had not sprayed the trees with any chemicals to kill the bugs (I wish I could say it was out of a desire for organic living, and not just laziness), but that we could cut those parts away, and use the rest.

    They were still a little uncertain, but they helped me wash them, and supervised as I cut them up. We did have a few close encounters with the yucky little fellows, but still ended up with a nice sized bowl of good, worm free, slices.

    They sampled the slices, but decided they were on the sour side. So, I sent the older children off to the library to find apple themed books, while the little ones, helped me turn our slices into applesauce, and watched the Johnny Appleseed portion of Disney's American Legends (you can find it on YouTube, here).

    To our apples (about 5 or 6 cups worth), we added 1/2 cup of water...

    ...two sprinkles of nutmeg, and three of cinnamon.

    We covered the bowl, and microwaved it for 10 minutes.

    Then, we smashed the apples, with a potato masher, and stirred in 1/2 cup of white sugar. I prefer brown sugar, but the children like the color of applesauce better, when it's made with white sugar.

    Finally, we covered it again, and microwaved it for another 5 minutes.

    The older children returned from the library, while the applesauce was cooling, with Steven Kellogg's Johnny Appleseed. It's different than the Disney version, but explains there are many different stories, some true, and some not so true, told about the man, each one exaggerated more than the next, and that's what makes them tall tales.

    They also had Bernice Kohn's Apples a Bushel of Fun & Facts, which told us, that most of the apple trees planted by Johnny Chapman a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, would not have had apples, that were good to eat. Because, of the hybrid nature of apple trees, you never know what kind of tree will grow from an apple seed, even if the apple it came from was sweet, and delicious. Instead, apple trees need to have good branches grafted on, once they are grown.

    This was a fact I knew vaguely, from having visited my great-grandfather's apple orchard as a child, but that the children, who have only ever seen apple seedlings, already grafted, and ready for planting, at the nursery, did not. Now we're more anxious than ever to see the trees in our windowsill orchard, mature, so we can find out if their apples will be good, or bad.

    Oh, and the apple sauce turned out beautifully, and made the perfect accompaniment to the breakfast-for-dinner, the Man of the House had planned for our Friday night fare.

    Find out what others have been reading this week, at the What My Child Is Reading blog hop, hosted by Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

    It's great to be a homeschooler.

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Water Painting With Shapes - Math Fun for Young Children

    Yesterday, while it was still good, and hot, we took our math lesson outside, with a bucket of water, and a couple of kitchen sponges, that I cut into various shapes.

    The little ones played at making patterns on the driveway...

    ...and turned the shapes into pictures.

    The best part was, they thought they were having a good, sloppy, painting kind of time, but within minutes after we were back inside, the entire "mess", had evaporated away.

    It's great to be a homeschooler.

    The Secret Symbols on Your License Plate

    Did you know there are hidden symbols, down the middle of your license plate (if you live in the US, anyway), that can only be seen from a 30 degree angle?

    I didn't, but Vicki Cobb did, and she was good enough to share her secret, scientific knowledge with the rest of us in her book Don't Try This at Home! Science Fun for Kids on the Go. You can read all about it, and the science behind it, here, on her website.

    It's pretty cool, because when you look at your license plate from any other angle, the symbols disappear, right before your eyes. Apparently, they are there to help the police identify counterfeit plates. And, they can be seen in the daylight, they just look even better, highlighted with a flashlight beam, after dark.

    Not to mention, that a science lesson is always so much more exciting, when it takes place after bedtime.

    As a side note about Don't Try This at Home! Science Fun for Kids on the Go, it is packed full of interesting experiments, investigating science in the world outside the house. However, paging through it, I found at least one experiment, I know won't work as written, and a couple of others that I'm doubtful about. We've found this before with her books, but I still recommend them, because with some research, and a bit of tweaking, they are great experiments, and a lot of fun. Just try them out ahead of time, before you attempt to wow the kids.

    It's great to be a homeschooler.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Carrot and Apple Butterflies

    After dealing with the after effects of red dye, and sugar consumption from our "pinkalicious" cupcakes, I figured it was time for a healthy side with our sandwiches, at lunch, today.

    But, being at the end of a grocery cycle, I found myself with two measly apples, a handful of carrots, a small box of raisins, and the last few broken pretzels at the bottom of the bag, to divide amongst the children.

    That seemed kind of pitiful, until I found the butterfly pattern, at kidactivities.net.

    I like it, because it doesn't require any sticky peanut butter, or sharp tooth picks to hold the pieces together. Just lay everything out on the plate, and you're good to go.

    The festive format didn't entice my pickier eaters to eat the raisins, or carrots.

    But, it did seem to bring out every one's artistic side.

    It's great to be a homeschooler.