Oodles of fun science inspiration

I’m loving this middle school science teacher’s blog, The Simply Scientific Classroom, for fun science inspiration.

Among the ideas I’m excited about incorporating in our homeschool this year….

End of Year- Vocabulary Photo Album

“I had purchased photo albums/brag books from a local dollar store. We used the photo albums to store the completed vocabulary cards….”

I’m thinking this could be a great way to do all sorts of subjects, from math cheat sheets to presidents to countries.  :)

Element Superhero

“Students were assigned an element and were instructed to create a superhero based on the element’s properties….”

(Her students just did one each, but I think it would be fun to do a whole set with the kids here.)  :)

Science Notebooking Ideas

“Make notebooking enjoyable for all!  The best way to do this is by using creative activities with notebooking.  Allow the students to get creative as long as they don’t lose focus of their learning target….”

There’s lots more to explore on the site and I subscribed by email, too.  Neat stuff!


10 Fun Ways to Learn Today

It’s been a while since I posted one of these so I thought it would be fun to do another.  Here are some fun ways to work in all sorts of subjects with a bit of fun…

  1. Spit ball geography: Get a big world map and play a different game with it every day this week.  For today, try launching spit balls at countries that other people call out!  Here’s how to make spitballs, or you could also use a dart gun.
  2. Balloon challenges: There are all different variations to try with this one.  Blow up a balloon and bop it with family members as you take turns calling out math problems.  Kids have to answer before they bop it back up in the air, and everybody works as a team to try to keep it from hitting the ground.  Or take turns calling out items in a group (for instance, elements from the periodic table, states, words that start with M….).
  3. Sistine Chapel Art: Lots of folks have done this classic art idea.  Tape coloring pages of the Sistine Chapel on the underside of your table and let the kids color them on their backs as Michaelangelo did.  Here are coloring pages to print out if they want to use those (or they can create their own masterpieces) and here’s information on how Michaelangelo created the Sistine Chapel.
  4. Lego homeschooling: Here is a compilation of all sorts of Lego lesson plans, from Lego chemical reactions (complete with printables) from MIT to a Lego balloon-powered car to plans for building the Nile River from Legos to a subscription to the free Lego Magazine and more.
  5. DIY flash cards: Give the kids index cards and art supplies to make some really fun flashcards to teach any math facts they have trouble remembering.
  6. Famous person Who Am I: Gather the kids and put a sign on each one’s back with a famous person written on it.  Have them go around the room asking questions to figure out who they are.  You can use historic figures, artists, authors, you name it.  You can also use elements for older kids (Am I a gas?  Am I poisonous?).
  7. Make an educational video: Challenge the kids to give a 2 minute report on any subject they want to research and record it as a video.  If they like, they can use fun editing apps to add text and music.  If they get excited about the project, you can even start a family blog with a new video every week.
  8. Use window markers to do math problems: Enough said.  :)
  9. Photography Challenges: Let the kids use a digital camera and agree on some fun challenges such as taking a picture of something for each letter of the alphabet, 3 kinds of clouds, each state of matter, etc.
  10. Do the purple cabbage pH experiment: This is one of our all time favorite science experiments.  Even I have fun mixing and matching to make the cabbage water turn colors (and even turn it back!).

Anna is off in Arizona visiting one of her best friends, so I have one less child to occupy and educate for the week.  Now I’m off to find some Lego fun to play with Jack, and then I have a small girl who’d like to “eed yots of books!,” a boy who’d like to play a phonics game, a teen who wants to do some poetry exercises and a house that could use several hundred hours of cleaning (let’s be honest, it’ll be lucky to get one!).   :)


Bethany had to do a lab for science, then she did it and found out she didn’t have to do the lab after all. I think it will count for extra credit. Anyway, while she was doing the lab we found a virtual lab that works on the same question, it has more variables to control and not as many slopes, but it’s still a good lab for seeing which slope/rainfall amount washes away more soil. It’s here. Too bad it didn’t have more slopes to choose from, it would have saved me a trip to the nature center to use their sand and water table.

James is off with Grandma trying to find someone to fix her glasses, it’s not going well. It’s such a pretty day I really want to get out and hike, so hopefully they are done soon and he can come home and get us for a trip.


It was a gorgeous day outside, great for the park (which we did in the afternoon.) Bethany went to her CC for History and English, then worked on some essays. Grace went down her short list for school and Hannah had everything except History. We watched a video about Aquarius which showed how the underwater lab came to be set up, who runs it, how scientists get down there and stay down there and what they look at in the ocean. Grace has a new friend who works with kelp and will be going on the Mission 31 adventure; Alex writes for Deep sea news and we watched a video on there about superfusa (a kind of coral.) We’re working on topography and earth layers using some worksheets from this site (lots of cool geography coloring sheets on that site too.)

We are going to start on the Bob the bag video tomorrow, Bethany is putting the glass tiles on her sculpture, Hannah is ready to tour France via the library tomorrow, Grace has a bunch of ocean based Skype lessons coming up in November, and I finally scheduled my shoulder surgery.

Another Birthday Week Survived

We made it through another birthday week here.

Jack turned 10, Victoria turned 15, and Alex turned 6.

I made a lot of cakes and cupcakes.  :)

Here’s a quick round-up of ten fun ways we played and learned during birthday week….

  1. Victoria chose books for birthday presents, and picked out an awesome assortment at Barnes and Noble (see pic above).  She also bought herself the Les Miserables soundtrack and we’ve been listening to a lot of French Revolutionary songs in the car.
  2. We’ve been doing a lot of bird watching. Daryl and the kids have spotted a white-faced ibis, an osprey, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, lots of song birds, vultures, many kinds of migrating ducks, returning pelicans and a fantastic battle between two hawks in the road this morning, along with a very determined crow dive-bombing a red-tailed hawk on a pole this afternoon.
  3. Victoria taught her younger siblings about Nihilism. Of course.  ;)
  4. Anna has been writing poems and doing song rewrites. She has one about Corn and Snow (living in Minnesota) based on Carrie Underwood’s tornado song (I can’t remember the name now) and “I Knew You Were Homeschooled” instead of “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift.
  5. Jack graduated archery class and did an awesome job. We bought a family membership for the rest of the year so we can use the facility and the gear any time.
  6. Alex has been working on sight words. He knows about 30 now.  We have a goal of 50 by the end of the summer and I keep track in my journal.
  7. Anna has headed up to Bemidji for the week with family friends. She stays with Guy and Val once or twice a year.  They love getting to play parents and she loves getting to be an only child.  They also teach her about legal stuff (Val is a lawyer), computers and all of the many subjects they are so knowledgeable about.
  8. Victoria and Daryl went to a writers/actors/artists workshop. They learned about everything from collage to Taiko drumming to writing to charcoal and paint.  It was at a nearby college and Victoria made some cool new connections and they both had a great time.
  9. We have seedlings on all the windowsills and have started many gardens. We got a ton of snow on top of my freshly planted seeds, but they’re cold tolerant so hopefully they’ll fare okay.  Inside, I have heirloom tomatoes everywhere, along with some exotic eggplants and interesting cabbage.  I can’t wait for it to warm up enough to really get serious in the garden.
  10. Daryl, Anna and Jack auditioned for the Wilder Pageant. Victoria is sitting out this year (she has been in it every summer since she was 6), but Alex may join in as one of Daryl’s kids.  Daryl will probably be Reverend Alden and Elias Bedal (Walnut Grove’s first mayor) again.  We haven’t received official word about roles yet, but the cast photos are on Saturday so we’ll know this week.

We’ve also talked about… European travel, youth hostels, abortion, the Gosnell trial, townships, voting registration and more.  The kids have also been doing… finger knitting, Big Wheel riding, ball playing, tree climbing, drawing, Lego building, Wii playing, video chatting, hiking, bike riding, sticky ball tossing, solitaire playing, Free Rice earning, dog walking, cooking, chores, talking on the phone with friends, reading, reading, reading and a whole lot of playing.

If you haven’t seen them, here’s my latest homeschooling articles elsewhere….

Students can use free public domain classes to learn over 40 languages


Here’s a great free resource to round out your child’s foreign language studies.  FSI Language Courses offer dozens of foreign language programs in mp3 format and in print for languages ranging from Finnish to Swahili…

Kids can take part in virtual Maker Camp this summer


Kids are invited to take part in Make Magazine’s six-week Maker’s Camp again this summer, with all sorts of great science, technology and crafting fun.The annual program boasts 30 days of “awesome projects…

Elemons turns the Periodic Table of Elements into a Pokemon-style card game


The best educational games are ones that kids would choose to play anyway because they’re enjoyable, well made and easy to play.  Elemons is a great example of this kind of game…

Free geometry book available from Wikijunior


Wikijunior has created a free geometry wikibook for the elementary level that’s a great introduction to geometry for all ages.The 72-page book, Geometry for Elementary School, covers basic information such as points, lines, symmetry, congruence, how…

Minecraft homeschool: Incredible educational Minecraft inspiration from all over

Do your kids love Minecraft?  Why not take advantage of that and use Minecraft to help teach history, science, language arts and more? There are dozens of wonderful sites on the internet designed to help parents and teachers… 

50 Simple household items that help your child become a math whiz


Want to raise a child who loves math and is great at it?  One of the easiest ways to do that is to fill your house with hands-on materials that encourage kids to play with numbers, puzzles, shapes…

Free 700-page middle school chemistry course available online


Looking for a comprehensive chemistry course for the middle school level?  The American Chemical Society provides their entire 691-page curriculum for free as a PDF download or online resource…
And now, I have one final cake to bake (Victoria would like a gluten-free Red Velvet Cake) so I’d better get to it.


Ahh, finally, my fractal co-op was today. We talked about why fractals are cool (because they are relatively new, Mandelbrot only named them ‘fractals’ in 1975.)

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mandel_zoom_00_mandelbrot_set.jpg)

We went over the math for fractals:


The area is:


We talked about complex numbers and how you would graph them on a complex plane (care to do it by hand – go here to find out how.) We talked about how a fractal tree starts with one stem, breaks into 2, then 4 and so on, kind of like your family tree. I passed out some of my Mandelbrot set postcards, they are very cool. We watched this Vi Hart video to see binary trees, fractals and Sierpinski triangles.

If you want to try fraction fractals, watch this video.

Watching the binary video led us to the Sierpinski triangle, I printed out some 1/2″ triangle graph paper from here and we drew Pascal’s triangle onto it and then colored in sections and…voila!

You have Sierpinski’s triangle. (Pascal’s triangle has some amazing number qualities in itself besides the fact that you can doodle a fractal out of it, check out more about Pascal’s triangle here.)

We went here and looked at a Mandelbrot set fractal generator (it’s fractal generator number one.) I put it on the projection screen and the kids pointed to the area they wanted me to zoom into.

We did CD fractals with paint. Just get a CD case and take it apart (so that you can put 2 flat sides together.)

Put small amounts of paint on one side, slap the other side on, squish and pull apart.

We did the same thing with paper, place paint on one side, squish, pull apart.

The CD cases came out very cool, some looked like leaves, coral reefs, brains, trees, flowers. We ended with some examples of fractals, like these.








Fractals are fun, cool, interesting, amazing and you can find them all around!


Hannah was studying roots in science today. Here are her CD case plants, the radishes are growing out of the CD and the lima beans have finally sprouted. Here is a site with interactive plant stuff.

Grace started her new science -Earth science. Bethany was working on factoring monomials and polynomials, grammar and reading Lord of the Flies.

I went to NIA class this morning, we have dance this afternoon and we are going to the shelter tonight to babysit the kids there while their parents are in a class. We’re going to be making ziplock bag butterflies and reading Amelia Bedlia stories and trickster tales. Tomorrow I’m going to see a movie with friends (Les Miserables), Wed. is park day, seeing Grandma and a hike, Thursday is my history co-op and Friday Grace gets to meet with her marine bio mentor for some citizen scientist work.

School, Storytelling, Shalom

This morning we did school, I guided Hannah through Greek history and phonics while helping Grace with her math and checking Bethany’s science (homeschoolers multitask well.) We left late to head to the Fox theater for the storytelling show. It was a tribute to the late storyteller Pat Mendoza, whom we saw once at the Fox many years ago. Some of his fellow Rocky Mountain Storytellers showed up today to tell us stories about coyote, how to help your local pizza place, why it’s good to be yourself and how the sun came to be (according to Bush mythology.) If you don’t know how to tell a story, there is a book on Project Gutenberg about it. We’re about to take a break in our school and one of the things we will do is create stories about things, like how the sun got into the sky or why the beaver has a flat tail and so on. Kids can get quite creative with stories!

After the theater show we picked up a friend and went over to RAFT. The girls found the biggest bag they could and filled it with stuff from the back for $1. I snagged some CD cases to use for a seed project and wouldn’t you know it – I was perusing this site and now I need plastic bottles (and I was just there, and they are cheaper than buying coke from the store and drinking it to get an empty bottle.) We got home and the girls played while I worked on getting my links for school stuff organized. I have a whole section for Grace (marine biology) now and found this site for Bethany to pick some work from. We school year round and we’re about to have a break from the K12 curriculum as we end one grade level and wait for the other to show up. Then as we reach summer we start to slow down so we can take advantage of lazy days in the river, hiking, camping and in general being outside. One of our favorite outdoor spots to laze away with a good book is under the Weidenblume sculpture. In the summer it’s so cool and shady in there (and it’s a great place to take pictures.)

I guess I’m thinking of summer because it was 60 and sunny today, but a foot of snow is on the way this weekend, so it’s not summer yet. But, tomorrow is another pretty day, nice enough for a Park day! The Shalom part was just the feeling of peace that I got as I talked to my friend about Jesus. I found these verses in Romans today – wonderful.

Romans 9:25-27

Hosea put it well:

I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.”

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:

If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.

Angus Augustus Burleigh

Wednesday we drove to the Springs to see Hassan Davis use his Chautauqua skills to become Angus Augustus Burleigh for an hour. Angus was a slave during the Civil War who ran away from his owner to join the Union Army, he soon found out that a uniform did not negate the color of his skin.

Just that morning we had finished reading Chains, I won’t spoil the ending (actually it’s part of a trilogy, so this is just the beginning of the next stage in Isabel’s life..) Mr. Davis made reference to the Revolutionary war during Q and A, stating that most slaves during that time were in a quandary as to whether to fight for the British (who offered freedom) or fight with the Americans and hope that ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’ included them. Mr. Davis said that though the founding fathers did own slaves, he believes that the document that they wrote was inclusive of All men, it just took awhile for that to come about. You can see part of Mr. Davis’s presentation here and he also talks about the research that he did for the role (lots of research time and about a year to memorize the monologue.) One thing that we thought was really neat is that Angus Burleigh was one of Berea College’s first graduates and Mr. Davis is also a graduate of Berea, that is very interesting. You can read more about Burleigh and other characters that Mr. Davis portrays on his site, here. You also have one last chance to catch him in Denver before he goes back to Kentucky (he will be speaking as York from the Lewis and Clark expedition):

Program:Performance-York, Black Explorer of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Sponsor: Blair -Caldwell African American Research Library evening Public Program
Location:2401 Welton St. Denver, CO 80205
Date:February 9, 2013 2:00PM

Are all men created equal?

(public domain)

This year marks 150 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It also marks 50 years since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Today the girls and I talked about the Proclamation, slavery, the Declaration, the Constitution, Civil Rights, amendments, laws and the timeline of slavery (go here to see that, it’s very interesting.)

This gorgeous drawing from 1863 shows a happy family in the middle and the struggles of slavery around them.

(public domain)

We listened to Dr. King’s passionate speech, not just the ‘I have a dream part’, take some time to listen to the whole speech – he was an amazing orator.

Here are just a few quotes from that speech: ‘In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

‘I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.’

Colorado was not yet a state when the Proclamation went into effect, but it had been a territory since 1861 – that meant that when the 13th amendment (Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation) was passed in 1865, Colorado should have had no slavery within its boundaries. But, we know from readings that Colorado had its share of slaves, mostly Native American slaves.

It is very hard for my children to understand the whole Civil rights movement because they are a recipient of change. They have seen an African American President serve not one, but now embark on two terms. They have never been to a public water fountain marked ‘white only’ or ‘colored’. They have never been told that the color of a persons skin makes them any better or any worse, as Dr. King said, I hope that character counts more than skin color too. They have been told of slavery, even now we are still reading through the book Chains and are horrified at the treatment of the slave Isabel by her Revolutionary war masters. And now that they can connect the timeline dots, they realize that Isabel is still almost 100 years away from the Emancipation Proclamation.

So, just as we talk about and study other important dates in the year (September 11th, Veteran’s day, Memorial day, Constitution day, Independence day, etc.) today we remember those who pushed forward and made the world a better place. Those who changed laws and those who promoted peaceful gatherings that incited the nation to become better, to do their best to make good on that promissory note written by our founding fathers. That, yes indeed, all men are created equal and should be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Resources for today (or any day you want to study slavery, emancipation and civil rights):
Transcript of ‘I Have a Dream’ speech here.
Emancipation Proclamation document here.
Civil rights movement lessons on video here.
Eyewitness History, Emancipation Proclamation here.
Life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in pictures here.
Slavery in North America and other links here.