Thanksgiving Fun and Science Nifties

I hope those in the states had a fabulous Thanksgiving.

We had quite an adventure.  Bad roads and mild illness kept us home instead of going to Grandma and Grandpa’s, and we ended up rescuing a giant dog roaming the streets dragging a leash and a kennel door behind him!  We had him for about 24 hours before his owner came and got him.  My kids had a blast as dog owners for a day and a night, and he was a giant, lovable house guest (even if he did hog Victoria’s bed!).

We threw together our own Thanksgiving feast, and Victoria asked me to make it vegan.  I did, and it was unexpectedly delicious!  I didn’t bother trying to do some sort of fake turkey (I hate fake anything!) so we just had mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, fettucini in garlic cream (almond milk) sauce, fresh rolls, Victoria’s orange cranberry sauce, sparkling grape juice, apple crisp and maple-pumpkin pie.

Everything was perfect, we were all stuffed to the gills, and the kids proclaimed that the pumpkin pie was way better than traditional and have already eaten almost two whole pies!  🙂

And now, as promised, some science nifties I’ve happened upon lately…

Free Middle School Chemistry Curiculum:

I’ve been looking at this curriculum for the girls.  It looks pretty neat, and who can have a problem with free?

Fabulous Periodic Table of Elements Poster:

I love this PTOE poster from The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.  You can download the PDF to view it, enlarge it and/or print it and you can also order it for free.  What is especially nice is that each element has a list of its applications, plus generally a picture of one of its uses. They say that shipping it outside of the UK will be at their discretion, but they took my order without adding any charges and gave me a confirmation number.  If it comes, I’ll be happily surprised, and otherwise it’s a fantastic online resource.

Take a look at the sun:

Bad Astronomy has an amazing post about the sun that must be seen (and read).  The detail about fitting our earth in that little dark spot was pretty boggling to Jack.  Amazing stuff!

And a bit of science with home ec…

I wrote today about the science of gluey mashed potatoes.   This would be a fun extension when talking about cells!  I’m all for any science that’s tasty.  😉

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you have a fun Friday — whether you shop till you drop or celebrate Buy Nothing Day and stay home and play board games.

Genetic Mutations (and Pilgrims)

We bought the board game Cranium at Good Will last week (for $1.50 and it was like new!) and played it last night.  You  need four players, which can be tricky with Anna away.  Jack (7) is technically younger than the recommended age (12, I believe) but he and I made a pretty good team.

I had to share his sketch with you all though.

The way Cranium works, there are different card types to draw depending on what color your team lands on.  Some ask questions, some have you draw or sculpt the answer with their play dough, etc.

Jack decided to be the artist for this one question, and his job was to sketch and get me to guess the phrase, which was a thing.

This was his sketch…

I was frantically guessing as he drew, shouting out things like WORM! ALIEN! EYEBALLS!  Then he added a pilgrim hat and I was really confused.  Pilgrim worms?  Pilgrim alien worms?

The timer ran out and our chance was up, so Daryl gave me an extra hint by drawing a fish with three eyes.  Ah!  I guessed genetic mutation right away, and then realized that Jack did an awesome job of drawing a very complicated idea, for a seven year old boy!

He was a little down on himself that he hadn’t drawn it well enough for me to guess, and we all reassured him that he did a really good job of drawing genetic mutation.  I could see it all then — extra eyes, legs, changing forms…

But the pilgrim hat?

I asked him what that was about and he shrugged and said, “I just like pilgrims!”.

I love this boy.  🙂

Substitute Teachers

Simple Homeschool had a post recently about what to have people do if someone else takes over watching your kids (and therefore homeschooling them) during times like births, vacations and illnesses.  There was lots of good advice and in the comments people talked about how they left assignments, instructions, homework, etc. and got it done in their absences.

I agree that it all needs to be simplified and pared down in times like those, but I’d take it a step further.   (You know what a rabble rouser I am.)

What regular schoolwork should your “substitute teachers” make your kids keep up with?


Think about it.  The people who will be temporarily teaching your children have an entire lifetime’s worth of knowledge they can share with your lucky kiddos.

Instead of focusing on the same old stuff they can learn any time, let the kids learn naturally from their caretakers about those things that only they can teach.

Grandparents can often pass on skills and stories such as:

  • War stories (to the child’s level, of course)
  • Immigration stories
  • Travel tales of other countries
  • Stories about what life was like during their childhoods
  • Genealogy (where is the family from, are any famous people in the lineage, how far back has the family tree been traced, any interesting stories?)
  • Sewing
  • Knitting, crocheting and other handiwork
  • Gardening
  • Canning
  • Cooking specialty recipes and ethnic dishes
  • Skills related to their careers
  • Talk about historic events they lived through

Family friends and other relatives can share similar stories and skills, and hopefully take them on pertinent adventures.  Whether it’s teaching kids how to surf, talking about growing up in Brooklyn or taking them to the city compost facility, our kids can learn so much more than usual by making the “substitute” the teacher.

This week, Annalee is up north with our friends Guy and Val (her first time staying alone away from home more than overnight!).

Val asked me if she was supposed to give Anna any type of school work and I told her she could work some things like math into their time together (such as asking her to figure out totals and taxes while shopping) but that nothing more was necessary.

Val is an attorney and is planning on bringing Anna to court with her for one of her court dates.  Guy is a computer expert who can teach her computer shortcuts and has already introduced her to new games and programs (and fixed our computer!).

Together, their skills, histories and interests include subjects as diverse as investment training, sociology, the Anishinabe people, domestic violence, poetry, training cats, role playing games, home renovation, biking, legislation, travel in Europe, science fiction novels, health, Jewish culture, primitive technology, cooking and wilderness training — just to name a few.

Talk about some educational opportunities!

The multiplication tables are not going to fall out of her memory in 5 days away from us.

In the meantime, their plans include going to court and the UU church with Val, seeing the new Harry Potter movie, nature photography, computer fun, movies, cooking together, visiting a Mexican restaurant, shopping, reading some of Val’s favorite science fiction books from her younger years… and lots of talking.

How could spelling lists and math facts compare with that? 🙂

Caveat:  Sometimes loved ones are eager to take part in homeschooling because they want to get a feel for what the kids do or just think it sounds fun to play teacher.  It’s a great idea to leave open-ended plans for that sort of opportunity, should your children and caretakers want to take part in it.  Kids may be eager to show off their math skills or do a sugar cube Egyptian pyramid with that favorite grown up.  It’s a great idea to leave some workbooks, art supplies, educational games and so on in case they want to take advantage of it!

Science Cheerleaders

I stumbled onto this video about the Science Cheerleaders, who say they’re “busting down the stereotypes.”  I admit that these women have amazing credentials and they obviously are showing that cheerleaders can be intelligent, educated women.  I’m not sure they’re busting down as many stereotypes as they think though.  What do you think?

Deutsch Klasse

We had our last German class on Monday.  It was sad for it to be over!  We really liked the teacher and we were often the only ones in the class.

Lisa brought some German candy to share for the last class and showed us a You-tube video of her hometown.  She also talked about the differences in how the two countries celebrate Christmas and we all just chit chatted.

I am so glad we took part in the program and I definitely plan on signing us up again in the spring if they do it again!

Who Needs the Zoo?

We headed to Mankato for the last German class of the semester, and before class we got together with my fabulous friend Lonni and her kiddos.  Being short on money but up for something fun, we decided to meet at Pet Expo.

It was such fun!  We’ve been to Petco before but not Pet Expo, but Lonni promised it would be a hit.  It definitely was.

We saw rabbits, ferrets, gerbils, mice, a sea anenome, bazillions of fish, lots of types of snakes, bearded dragons, geckos, turtles, toirtoises, many kinds of birds, guinea pigs and more.

Here’s a few more pictures…

Victoria got pictures of the beasties with fur and feathers, but I was mostly chasing children during those times.  😉   That also accounts for why most of the other kids are so scarce in these photos!  For once, Alex was the one who stayed put!

And that, my dears, was our Nature Study for the day.

I picked up some wild bird supplies to make it worth their while to put up with us, but it was still a heck of a deal.  🙂