Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

E (age 5) drew this picture of me, and I don't know... she says the hippy part is a puffy skirt...but I'm thinking, maybe it's time to up the exercise.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

What My Child is Reading - A Journey Into American History

You might have noticed our crafts are transitioning toward Thanksgiving. Our history lessons, and reading are, too. This time of year we tend to fall naturally into a study of early American history.

This year though, after enjoying a little pre-Columbus Day foray into the voyages of the Vikings. I'm hoping to cover more with the children, than the usual Plymouth fare.

I'm thinking conquistadors, and early Indian slave trade (Squanto couldn't have been the only one captured, and taken off to Europe), and some of the non-English colonies, early in the country's forming.

Finding good books for children, on this time period, has proved challenging. I have a few ordered in at the library, but for the most part, the choices were dismal, and disheartening. I did happen onto a radio interview of Tony Horwitz, on YouTube, discussing his book A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. It is not written for children, but it does seem to cover exactly what I was looking for.

So, it's become our family read-aloud for the month. So far, we've made it through the prologue in which Mr. Horwitz promises to take us on a journey through some of the lesser studied parts of the American past, and the first two chapters, about the Vikings, and Columbus.

It's part travelogue, part history book, and written in a very accessible, conversational style, that so far, has kept the entire family engaged (as long as the little ones have coloring sheets). It is not written for children however, and the language from time to time, is colorful - but nothing that the careful reader can't sidestep. So, while it's not one I'd give to the children to read alone, it has made for some interesting, and entertaining evenings, together.

Find out what other families are reading, at this week's What My Child is Reading blog-hop, hosted by Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Crochet Pilgrim Finger Puppet Preview

Do you remember last year's crocheted turkey finger puppet?

I think I've found him a friend.

This is what happens when I stay up too late, watching Netflix, with the Man of the House. Anyway, it's a work in progress.

I have a little more tweaking to do, and then I'll try to get something like a pattern up, for anyone who's interested. So, check back.

In the meantime, I'm going to get some much needed sleep.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Pilgrim and Indian Windowsill Egghead Planters

C (age 4), still had some crafty energy left, after all our thankful turkeys were complete. Actually, I don't know if she so much wanted to craft, or if she just wasn't ready to relinquish the glue stick.

At any rate, I cut, and she glued, and together we turned three more toilet paper tubes into a seasonal change of clothing, for our egghead planters, on the kitchen windowsill.

Thankfully, two of the scarecrow mouths were drawn with pencil, so I could easily erase their stitchy grins, and give them normal smiles. For the one in pen...

My first attempt, at disguising the scarecrow, cross-stitches, caused the Man of the House, to say, "How doest thou?" in his best, Italian-Pilgrim-English, every time he walked by. So, I ended up turning the egg around, and drawing a new face, altogether.

Now, our pilgrim gentleman is two-faced. Which, depending on your view of the early American settlers, and their policies toward the native peoples, might be fitting. We weren't going for symbolism, though, just for something cute to put on the windowsill.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Our Flock of Thankful Turkeys

Our crafting energy today, went into tracing...

...cutting, coloring...

...and gluing beaks, and bits, with all six children (bribed with candy corn) working assembly line style... make the 24 turkeys we'll need for our turkey tree - a Thanksgiving countdown tradition, we started last year. Admittedly, T (age 13), worked mostly in a supervisory capacity. But, for a while, all six children were cutting, coloring, or gluing, together at the table.

24 hand print turkeys are a lot to make in one sitting. But, we got them done, ready for the first day of November, when we will write something we're thankful for on one turkey each day, and place them on the tree. Just in time too, because the tree, which up until now has held our fall to-do list leaves, is beginning to look bare.

I'm not sure if slaving together over paper turkeys will turn out to be a fond family memory, or not - but it's time together, I don't think we'll easily forget, and for that, I am thankful already.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Runaway Pumpkin Craft

I picked up Robert Lopshire's How to Make Snop Snappers and Other Fine Things, from the library, without really knowing what it was. Robert Lophsire is the author of Put Me in the Zoo, one of my childhood favorites, and there was no way I could pass up a book with an illustration of his on the cover.

It turns out to be a craft/science/toy project book - just the type we really love around here. So, I pulled it out today, when the little ones started begging for a craft. Admittedly, most of the 52 projects are aimed at the middle elementary school set. But, I saw one I thought we could modify a bit, to go along with a pre-naptime story, for my youngest two.

I gave the girls each a paper plate, and set them to painting the backsides orange, while I did a quick Internet search for a runaway pumpkin themed story. The older children had all headed off to the library, but reported back, that all the pumpkin books had been checked out. Happily, I found Kevin Lewis' The Runaway Pumpkin being read here, on

I should mention, that this story takes place on Halloween, and does have children in costumes, and Jack-O-Lanerns, but it's really about the great big, runaway pumpkin, and what becomes of it, more than anything else.

I played it for the girls, while their plates dried, and then I hot glued a rock near the inside edge of one of the plates. The rock needs to be secured pretty well - even with hot glue, our rock eventually broke loose, and had to be re-glued.

Finally, I hot glued the plates together, to make our runaway pumpkin (the girls added a bit of tissue paper for a stem too, because they thought it looked too plain). The idea, is to roll the pumpkin (wheel-like), and watch its silly, runaway path, as it swerves, and curves, because of the weight of the rock.

Lopshire's book does not call for hot glue, but I was in a hurry, because nap time was approaching, and the girls were anxious to give it a try. So, I didn't want to wait for school glue to dry.

I rushed them out onto the driveway, pumpkin, and camera in hand, to try to capture a video, explanation of what it's meant to do. However, my camera only allows for about two minutes of video, before the memory is used up, and rolling glued together, paper plates proved to be a bit tricky for my four and five year old. Of course it didn't help, that while videoing, my communication skills sink to the level of the museum curator from Night at the Museu...(am I making myself clear?).

The girls did however, manage to get one good, runaway, roll in, before the camera stopped filming. So, for your viewing pleasure, I present - "A Runaway Pumpkin Craft, and a Tiny Slice of the Homeschool Life in Montana".

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Zucchini for Breakfast

This morning, we had breakfast...

...and a story. While the children chowed down on some yummy bread, I read "The Zucchini Houdini" to them, one of four, recipe laden, short stories from Johanna Hurwitz's The Just Desserts Club.

When the Kaufman family kitchen becomes inundated with zucchini, from well meaning, and generous friends, and neighbors, and it turns out Mrs. Kaufman only knows two ways of fixing it - steamed, or with a tomato sauce, Cricket is forced to take things into her own hands. A quick trip to the library turns up a surprising wealth of delicious, and sweet, recipes for the abundant fruit.

Of course, I was only a few sentences into the story, when the older children guessed the "secret" ingredient in their breakfast bread.

The little ones knew ahead, because they had helped me prepare it...

...after first examining...

...and sampling...

...two of the tiniest zucchini I think I've ever seen.

Even so, there was enough to make a loaf of zucchini bread, following the recipe from the book (which, turned out very well), with enough left over to take on the recipe for zucchini cookies, or maybe even zucchini brownies, this afternoon.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pepper's Ghost in a Box for Kids

We managed to descarify (I'm officially declaring that to be a word), another bit of Halloween imagery, thanks to some help from Michele Torrey, and The Case of the Graveyard Ghost.

I hadn't actually planned on doing any "ghost" projects with the children this season, and I really hadn't intended on mentioning another book in this series, so soon. But, when it arrived in at the library, last night, and I flipped through the experiments in the back, I nearly nerded out with excitement to see a simple, "Pepper's ghost" in a box project.

I've been looking for a project like this - though I'd been searching for "holograms for kids", since we watched The Magic School Bus Gets a Bright Idea (you can find that episode, here, on Torrey not only has easy to follow instructions for making one, and a short Doyle and Fossey story to go with it, but a child-friendly history lesson about Professor John Henry Pepper, the 19th century scientist, who created the "holographic", stage ghost illusion, which is still known today as "Pepper's ghost".

All that we needed to build our own holographic machine, was an old (and somewhat decorated) cardboard box, a piece of Plexiglas (I have an one, taken from a poster picture frame, that I keep around for experiments), some black construction paper, a flash light, some scissors, and a couple toys (we used Lego men, and a sheep finger puppet).

I won't give you a step by step on building the project, because Torrey's instructions seem to be unique, but the idea behind the illusion is to reflect an lit image, not seen by the audience, through a piece of glass (or in our case Plexiglas)... make it appear on stage, as a ghost.

The kids had a great time moving the toys around, and creating "ghostly" hands, grabbing at them.

And, in the process, they got a lesson in optics, history, and the theater. I am now officially in love with this series of books.

If you're looking for more fun with science, well, stick around. We usually have some experiment, or other coming down the pike. Or, if it's history, or even geography you're interestied in, then click on over to this week's History and Geography link-up, at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ezekiel and the Dry Bones - X-ray Craft

Here's a very quick x-ray/skeleton craft we did last night, to go along with reading Ezekiel 37. You know the passage..."Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones." In fact, I couldn't resist playing the Wiggles singing that song for the children (you can find it here, on YouTube), before we read the passage.

Then, we made our craft...

...and watched The Magic School Bus Flexes Its Muscles, which you can find, here, on

I have to say thanks to Ticia at Adventures in Mommydom, for getting me thinking about skeletons, which led me to singing the song, which reminded me of the passage in Ezekiel, because it is a fun passage - prophecy, skeletons, analogy, and some really cool special effects!

If you want to show your children an actual x-ray image of a hand, we found a good one, here.

Or, for more Bible themed crafts, and fun, head over to this week's Bible Alive! Tuesday, hosted by The Fantastic Five.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Candy Corn Math

For the Math Monday link-up, hosted by Joyful Learner, we enjoyed some candy corn themed, math. Shocking, I know.

First, as a nod to Patricia Reilly Giff's The Candy Corn Contest (click here, to see our review of the book), we had an estimation contest of our own, last night.

A estimated there were 100 candy corn in the jar.
C guessed 5.
G guessed 200.
T guessed 300.
D guessed 50.
And, E guessed 200, causing G to register a complaint of cheating.

The actual number, was 221. I made the children count them, to be certain. Luckily, commercially manufactured candy corn are not nearly as tasty as the homemade kind, slowing down the sampling.

Then today, I dumped a bag of Harvest Mix, candy corn, and pumpkins, into a bowl for the younger girls to sort.

When they had them all sorted, we worked on patterns. I labeled the different colored corn, and pumpkins, A, B and C, and demonstrated different types of patterns - "ABBA", "ABA","ABC", and so on. Finally, I asked the girls to make patterns of their own.

And, when they were tired of patterns, I gave them a couple of dice, one marked with letters on stickers...

...for a game of "Grab the Candy Corn" printed from Mathwire (Joyful Learner is correct in saying you should check that site out - it's great).

The game involves number recognition, charting, and ordered pairs, using tally marks, counting by fives, and telling greater, and lesser numbers.

It was decidedly easier for E (age 5), than C (age 4) to understand, but they both enjoyed playing it quite a bit.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Meet Doyle and Fossey - Science Detectives

The folks at Blue Slip Media, publicists for author Michele Torrey, were good enough to send us a copy of the author's latest book in the "Doyle and Fossey, Science Detectives" series, in exchange for an honest review.

The Case of the Terrible T.rex, is the sixth book in the series, aimed at 7-11 year olds. You can find a video preview for it, as well as a nifty give away, of the two latest books in the series, and a set of test tubes, on the author's website.

The story, which is actually 4 short stories, revolves around the scientific, detecting adventures of two 5th graders. Each story has a corresponding experiment, for children to try themselves, as well as additional Internet links, and information on using the scientific method, and setting up your own laboratory.

The stories are quirky, and fun, if a little unrealistic. My children questioned some of the science the two detectives used, and whether the events depicted in the book could really happen. That was perfect though, because it sent us scampering for more information about fumaroles, trilobites, and radio waves - which I think is the point of the series.

My only caution is the story dealing with the dinosaur fossil is written entirely from an evolutionary standpoint. As young earth creationists, we took some exception there - but that is not unusual when dealing with dinosaur stories.

Also, I might suggest to the author, that the experiments at the back of the book could be made a little more accessible for families at home. One experiment, for instance, called for a evening gown sized dry cleaning bag, and a cold, but windless day. Another, required water from a creek. And, another needed a fish tank, and a bag of play sand. These are not things we generally have on hand, and so probably not experiments we will try.

However, the final experiment involved the Morse code, and included wonderful follow-up links, as well as a history lesson on ham radio, and Morse code.

So, we found fun stories, the children enjoyed reading, some science, some history, and enough questions to get us researching. Not too bad. I've already put several books, from the series, on hold at the library.

Now, just to be clear - I did receive a free copy of the book, but the opinions written here are mine. I'm sure, sooner or later, we would have bumped into this series at the library, and fallen in love with it, on our own.

It's great to be a homeschooler.