Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘science’

Mystery Science

Science and I are getting along better these days.

Growing up, and far into adulthood, I never enjoyed science.  It was too…unpredictable.  And it never failed that what I expected to happen, did not in fact happen.  This frustrated me to all ends.  Now, I find myself having to teach it.  Lord have mercy, and He has.

My husband has a scientific mind.  The type that are never satisfied with the activity at hand, but has the innate ability to ask the inevitable, “What if we did…”.  This is also how Builder thinks and revels in getting to do science activities with Daddy.  However, doing science each week with Daddy doesn’t exactly work well into our schedule.  So though it works every now and then, we needed a different solution for a more consistent science experience.

So, I have pressed on and pressed into the Lord to help me in this area.  One of my realizations is that science truly sets you up to continue learning.  There is no failure in science, only an opportunity to learn more.  In the past, every time my outcome did not match my expectation I became frustrated at my “inability to do science”.  Now I realize when something doesn’t work out as expected, we get to figure out why.  This leads to a much deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

Now that I wasn’t scared of, or even angry with, science I was better equipped to decide how we wanted to approach it.  We did some individual units found here and there on the web.  However, I really felt like I was shooting in the dark when it came to a forward motion in science.  We were just kind of hit-and-missing.  Recently, I found MysteryScience.

mystery science screenshot

Builder was the main focus for this choice, however, Princess has jumped right in and joined us in science time.  MysterScience has many units to offer from Plants to Weather to Energy/Motion and beyond.  The material age range listed is from 5-12 years old.  This seems to be about right on the lower end since Princess is 5 and can join right in.  We don’t have experience at the upper level as of yet.

Each unit has a set of mysteries revolving around the theme.  We are currently working our way through Plant Adventures and are on Mystery 3 of 5.  Each Mystery has three parts:

Exploration

Each Mystery has a 20-45 min slideshow/video that is narrated and sets up the mystery at hand.  This section teaches all the information along the way that is needed for the upcoming activity.  The video pauses every now and again with a clarifying or critical thinking question to discuss with your student.

Activity

After each exploration, there is a hands-on activity.  From our experience, these have been very clear and the video leads you step-by-step through the instructions.  This has made it very easy to step into a facilitating role.  The activities we have completed have been anywhere from 25-35 min long.  Both Builder (7) and Princess (5) have loved them.

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The activity from Plant Adventures – Mystery 2: Do Plants Eat Dirt?       (Growing radish seeds)

Optional Extras

Each mystery has optional extras to add to and extend learning.  We have used some of these, but not all.  The total process done in one day pushes our boundaries of focus.  I have tried splitting the whole thing into a two to three day process, but the kids are so excited to do the activity once we get to it that I have not wanted to stop them from doing so.

Mystery Science has a free trial and also pricing for homeschoolers, as well as other school pricing.  We are still in our free trial until June 2017 and we will be purchasing the full version once our trial is over.  It has been so much fun and the work put into it by the creators is spot on.  If you have been searching for a good solid science curriculum, I encourage you to check out www.mysteryscience.com.  For me, it was well worth the exploration.

Your Turn to Play ~ What has been the most difficult subject for you to step into as teacher?

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Antarctica – a frozen field trip

Princess has been studying the continents and oceans.  The continent of study last week was Antarctica.  I have been using a well put together unit entitled It’s a Small World by Molly Lynch.  Mostly, I try to use free resources I find around the web, but this unit I would purchase again in a heartbeat.  Builder went through this unit a couple of years ago, and is having fun going through it again with Princess.

small-world

Back to Antarctica…

We went over the information in the unit regarding Antarctica.  Since there is not a population to speak of, we concentrated on mostly the animals and the ice!  We took a look at all the different kind of animals that live there.  We watched The Magic School Bus episode In the Arctic.  (I know it’s not the Antarctic, but the info translates!)  This gave a lot of information as to the adaptations of animals to live in such a cold harsh environment.  The unit mentioned above has a fun experiment using shortening in between two zipper sealed sandwich bags to make “blubber gloves” which allows you to keep your hand in ice water for quite a long while.  We didn’t have enough shortening on hand so we did a few different activities.

We used Google Earth to zoom in and take a look at Antarctica.  The free part of Google Earth is all we use and is enough for us.  It really helps Princess bring into perspective where the continents are and get a “real life” look at the different environments.  She has had a blast investigating the earth.  Now, when she colors the continent on her worksheet she wants to see it on Google Earth so that she can color it correctly!

After exploring with Google Earth, Princess and Builder did some ice excavation!  I had prepared two containers with objects placed in water and frozen it for a few hours.  So the kids used pipettes and syringes with warm water to melt their ice blocks.  Builder decided they needed forks (a.k.a. pick axes) to explore and excavate as well.  I placed the ice blocks in a larger tray so that as it melted the water was contained.  This gave us a chance to talk about what would happen if all of Antarctica melted.

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They had a blast with this activity and went on to create two more of their own ice blocks.  So much fun!

Your Turn ~ What activities/units have you enjoyed doing more than once?

Rainy Day

Why do I continue to look for the perfect curriculum?  To me it is like the brass ring on a merry-go-round.  I can’t seem to stop reaching for it!  I know that each curriculum has its pros and cons.  Even in my philosophy of education, I believe that no one curriculum is right for everyone.

So why am I still looking!?!?

Recently, we have found the free home curriculum Easy Peasy over at http://www.allinonehomeschool.com.  And you know, I really like it.  We have been using it for three weeks now and it seems to fit really well into what we are doing.

But…

Now, as we go, Builder needs to move on in math.  Princess needs to skip a whole week!  Yeesh.  And I find myself doing the eclectic thing by bringing in the science, spelling, and handwriting that I want and feel is right for Builder.

Yes…

I need to remind myself that truly, I know what is right for my kids.  Deep down, I know if they are challenged, bored, or struggling.  I know if they need to move on, slow down, or speed up.  Or even, just take a break.  It is ok, to pull in this, push out that, and start over again if need be.  It’s ok to jump full force into a sunny day and play outside or go to the park instead of getting all tasks done.  And vice versa, it’s ok on a sunny day to get done what we need to.

In point, this schooling at home thing is far more fluid than what I am used to and comfortable with.  The lessons I learn each and everyday, match or far exceed what my kiddos are learning.  Or maybe, just maybe, they are learning with me and from my mistakes and successes.

Lord, lead me, lead them, lead us.


On a lighter note, springtime is on us in full force.  So, to go along with that oh so sweet sound of rain, we are giving our hands a try at making our own raindrop display.  I’m thinking this may spin off into a full blown water cycle unit.  We shall see.

Here is the project I found over at www.pre-kpages.com:

raindrop suncatchers fine motor for preschool

For full instructions and pictures to boot, click here or on the link above.  What follows are my abbreviated instructions:

  1.  Find a handful of blue crayons.  They can be all the same blue, or different shades of blue.
  2. Peel the papers (great fine-motor skill).
  3. Sharpen crayons over a medium to large piece of wax paper.  Until the wax paper has a good sprinkling of wax shavings.
  4. Place an equal size piece of wax paper on top and iron on the lowest setting.  It only takes a quick moment to melt wax.  Let cool.
  5. Draw raindrop shapes on the wax paper and cut.
  6. Use a hole punch and string to tie onto your raindrops and display.

I will update with pictures once our raindrops are proudly displayed.  I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

My Goals 2015-2016

Yes!

We journeyed our way through the first year of homeschooling…with one.  Toward the end of the school year, the rhythm, technique, and schedule were beginning to fall in place.  M1’s learning style and a structure he responds to well were taking shape.  An ideal time and routine for me to plan lessons, units, etc. was coming together…

and then we stopped for our “summer” break.

We take 6 weeks off from the end of May to beginning of July, and now I sit and think on how to start back to school.  So many plans have formulated and then dissipated in the last two to three weeks.  Where to start has eluded me around each corner.  I am still, somewhat, battling a public education mentality.  It really is such a different paradigm going from a middle school setting of 120 in one hour periods, to two little ones under 6 at our home all day!

Remembering that I don’t have to have a full year of school planned is key for me.  We work in 6 week sessions, so just having a direction for the first six weeks is great.  The question then becomes…

What now?

The answer revealed itself today.  If I can list out the goals for this school year in general and for each child (M2 will be working on some pre-k material, with much less structure than M1) then the direction and beginning momentum will be there.  So without further ado, the goals:

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Goals – School in General

1)  One fieldtrip a month – will utilize as many in town resources as possible and some fun options in nearby towns

2) Stick to the schedule – this I say loosely.  I do want to do a better job sticking to the 6 weeks on, 2 weeks off schedule, but I also want the Lord to be our ultimate Schedule Maker.

3) Create a family tree on the wall – going back as far as we can!

4)  Documentation –  keeping better track/organization of pictures, projects, and progress to pull together for an end of school year binder/book.

 

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Goals – M1 (First Grade)

1) Writing – A focus on writing and spelling – would like him to be comfortable writing sentences and possibly paragraphs by the end of the year (he does not like writing so this will be a place to learn discipline for both of us!)

2) Math – finish up our first grade units and progress onto a second grade path, focusing on as many skip counting charts as possible

3) Science – definitely want to cover weather, plants, animals, energy (more may come into play as we go).  Also we will focus on asking three extra questions to explore on each topic we cover.

4) Handwriting – remediate some incorrect/less efficient ways of making letters, practice for more proficiency

5) Art/Music – incorporate it more consistently this year

6) PE – be more consistent in a 3 times a week approach

7) Bible Study- be more consistent in timing, less gaps during a specific focus

 

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Goals – M2 (pre-k)

1)  Keep it fun and experiential, majority of learning coming through play.

2) Work on beginning handwriting – be familiar and confident in capital letter formation, begin work on correct/efficient number formation.

3) Work on recognizing beginning letter sounds – ‘b’aseball, ‘d’og, etc.  If we progress past that, work on ending sounds

4) Math – recognize and work with groups of 20 objects, rote counting to 30, work on “one more than” and “one less than”, extended 2D shape recognition, begin 3D shape recognition, extend patterning.

5) Fun science experiments, use M1’s topics at pre-k level

 

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Goals – Me

1)  Read 3 fiction books for fun – hopefully I can far exceed this, but I am starting small and realistic for myself.

2) Start writing again – publish two blog posts around the 1st and 15th of each month.

3) Read The Pleasure of His Company by Dutch Sheets.

4) Complete the Make Over Your Mornings course by Crystal Paine.

5) Have a “Me” day once a month.

 

*all clipart courtesy of mycutegraphics.com

 

Soap and Shaving Cream

It is so nice when those days come that things actually work!

This, for me, is a lovely thing mainly in the realm of science and crafts.  I am learning that most of the time, simpler is better.  The simpler the experiment the more chance it will work as it should.  The simpler the craft the more chance it will actually look like the example!

I must say, I am also learning that those two things don’t matter as much as I thought they did.  So we have to modify a craft to make it work…ok.  So the science experiment doesn’t work as it should, or not at all…ok, we can still learn from it.

In this homeschool process, I am being molded and stretched as much if not more than my kiddos.

With M2 (my youngest, 3-year-old daughter), we have started doing an “unofficial” letter of the week focus.  Lately, she is getting “bored” more and more, so we needed to do a few more “structured” learning activities to help challenge her.  One of the success projects comes from this letter focus.

Some time back, I happened upon a free preschool letter of the week curriculum – Look What I Can Do! Preschool Curriculum.  It is in e-book format and in my opinion it is nothing fancy.  Personally, I wouldn’t pay $20 for it, but if you can nab it for free or at a discount, it is worth it.  It helps me to have a letter schedule to follow for each week.  I have learned that it is easier to change a curriculum than to start from scratch and come up with my own.  So, I have been following their letter schedule, but skipping some activities and adding others.

The first successful activity for the day involved soap “exploding” in the microwave.  The letter focus of the week was ‘S’ so we called it Soap Science.  This is one of the activities listed in the curriculum mentioned above.

Successful Activity #1:  Soap Science

materials needed: medium or large glass bowl, knife, bar of IVORY soap, microwave, sensory bin (optional)

Step 1:  take all paper off the bar of IVORY soap

Step 2:  cut bar of soap into 3 or 4 pieces and place in glass bowl

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Step 3:  place in microwave and heat for 1.5 – 2 minutes

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Step 4:  let your kids watch and be amazed

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The soap will be too hot to handle at first.  After the soap cools, it has a really neat crumbly texture so we added it to our sensory bin for the kids to explore.  We ended up doing three bars of soap and had a decent amount to play with in the bin.

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You can find this experiment on YouTube here.  Note:  On the YouTube video she uses a paper plate.  I found a glass bowl does much better at containing the expanding soap.

I will say that the only thing I would warn about is the strong smell of the soap in the sensory bin.  If you or your kiddos are smell sensitive, be ready for a strong aroma.

A great extension for this activity would be to use other brands of soap and observe/compare how much or how little the different soaps expand.  (Evidently, the soap expands due to the content of air in the bar.  The air heats up and expands, causing the soap to “grow”.)

Our other successful activity comes from M1’s (my oldest, 5-year-old son) science unit.  He is studying Jupiter and over at It’s A Boy’s Life,they made a fun paper Jupiter using liquid starch and food coloring.  I didn’t have any liquid starch on hand, so I used food coloring, shaving cream, and white cardstock.

Successful Activity #2:  Shaving Cream Jupiter

Materials needed:  pie pan (or something to contain the shaving cream), shaving cream, food color (we used brown, red, yellow, for Jupiter colors), white cardstock cut into a circle, ruler, parchment paper or cookie sheet (something to scrape shaving cream onto), pencil or something to stir with

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materials needeed

Step 1:  fill pie pan with shaving cream and level off

Step 2:  put a few drops of each food coloring onto shaving cream

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shaving cream with food color

Step 3:  stir the colors to make a fun pattern (we use this time to talk about how Jupiter is a windy planet, and they can pretend to be the wind)

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a windy planet

Step 4:  press firmly (but not too hard) the cardstock circle onto the colored shaving cream.  I like to rub my fingers over the paper to make sure the color is adhering to every part of the paper.

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forgot to take a picture of the circle being pressed into the shaving cream, we used the scrap pieces as well

Step 5:  lift cardstock circle off the shaving cream

Step 6:  place the cardstock circle on the parchment paper and use ruler to scrape off shaving cream

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scrape off shaving cream

And now you have your Jupiter!

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M1’s Jupiter

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M2’s Jupiter

The color adheres immediately and will not smudge or smear.  Here is a YouTube video that can also help…click here.

These were really great activities that captured the kids (and my) imagination and creativity.  Not everyday is like this in our little homeschool, however, when it happens it is a marvelous thing.

 

 

Phases

During the past few months, we have been spending our time learning our style and rhythm of school.  Discovering who I am as a teacher to my kids, and how my kids learn the best has been intriguing as well as challenging.  I spent a decade learning how to know my 6th grade students, but we didn’t have to deal with whether they focused better in the morning, afternoon, or evening.  Or whether they needed playtime in between each activity or if they could do several activities all together.  The day was scheduled and I had my students for an hour.

Period.

I am glad to announce that we are learning!  We are learning both content and more about who we are as people and learners.  In that light, I am not sure where this blog is headed, or what it will morph into; however, for the time being, my goal is to post fun and valuable lessons we have completed, or are working on.  I am thinking of it almost as a journal, something we can look back on to track our journey together.  I invite you to come along with us.

So, let’s get started…

Currently we are taking a trip through the Solar System using Lapbooking through the Solar System by Paige Hudson.  It is a great resource.  I grabbed it as a freebie, but I believe it is worth the $4.50.  It has provided a great structure for our space exploration.

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We spend two to three days learning about each planet and complete a fun activity to go with it.  Once you get into the planet portion of the lapbook, it tends to become a little repetitive.  So, I have been making sure to add one or two of my own (or found) activities to beef up the fun factor for a K-1st grader.  The information for this lapbook comes from whatever books you may have on hand or can find at the library.  So before starting, I would recommend finding two or three books to cover the solar system and/or each planet.  The lapbook gives suggestions for several books.  Since I didn’t have the books recommended, nor did my public library, I used what I (and a friend) had on hand: The Solar System by Rosalind Mist, and planets by Gail Tuchman.

Today, we finished up the section on the moon.  The lapbook has a Phases of the Moon Diary page where you observe the moon for 27 nights and record a picture of the moon as well as the phase that it is in that night.  I found this really cute Phases of the Moon book over at teachinginbroncocountry.blogspot.com.  Mason had a lot of fun putting it together.

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Tonight will be our first night to observe the moon.  So, we will head outside with binoculars in hand and Mason will be able to refer to his Phases of the Moon book and fill in his moon diary.  He is very excited and I love that.

Social Studies – Session 2

In anticipation for our home schooling adventure, I was the most concerned about social studies and science.  These were my least favorite subjects when I was in school and so I feel my background is pretty weak in these areas.  In preparation for this year, I did a lot of praying…A LOT!  And, this is why I had to chuckle when the Lord told me to focus my attention on science/social studies and that math/language arts would take care of themselves.

Well, wouldn’t you know it.  The Lord was right!

Though I still feel a little uncomfortable and stretchy in the science department, social studies has come along really well.  In our first six week session, we did a unit on US Symbols.  We covered the US flag, bald eagle, Liberty Bell, Mount Rushmore, and the Statue of Liberty.  It was a lot of fun, Mason and 3-year old Madison picked up more than I realized and they are ready to find and visit US landmarks.

Love it!

Our most recent social studies unit covered community helpers.  I knew I could use the mass of wealth on the web to pull together many activities for several different community jobs/helpers.  However, I was running out of steam!  A lot was going on in life, and I just needed to find something already made for me.  So the search began.  I’m telling you, there is so much out there!  Thankfully, after not much searching I found a great unit put together by Travis Hutchins for sale on his teacherspayteachers.com store.

community helper pic

Click Here to preview or purchase

I am extremely picky about what units/curriculum I pay for, and I highly recommend this Community Helpers unit.  It is very thorough, with just the right amount of information about 10 different community helpers.  Each community helper comes with good information, a great song, and wonderful cross-curricula activities.

For an example of the cross-curricula activities, when studying the veterinarian we sorted animals into three classifications – pet, zoo, farm.  This is a great science classifying activity and the kids loved it.

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Classifying Animals

While learning about the librarian, the activity to go along with it is to make a reading tree.  A leaf is added to the tree each time Mason reads a book to me, his little sister, his dad, grandparents, etc.  You notice that our tree’s leaves have started turning colors for fall, Mason’s idea.

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Our Reading Tree

There are mazes and learning sheets to fill out for each helper.  A large teacher book can be printed, as well as a smaller student book that can be colored and used to follow along.  A page poster of each helper with a teacher page that can be printed on the back is also included.  Again, this unit is very thorough and completely worth it.

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Teacher Posters

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I found a great freebie over at Mama’s Learning Corner on building your own town!  So, I went out and purchased a cheap white shower curtain from the dollar store and Masonville was born.  Every time we studied a community helper, identified the building where that person would work, then he would color it and place it in his town.  This was a great motivator.  There were mornings that he spent an hour or more working on his town.

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Masonville

All in all, we had a great time with this unit.  We studied two to three helpers a week, and took approximately four weeks total to complete.  Field trips to police stations, fire stations, libraries, etc can easily be worked into this unit as well.  We did not do that this year, but I’m sure we will in years to come.

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