What's Your Birthday Element?

We’re following along with Friendly Chemistry this summer so I can review it for the Examiner.  One of the projects we did recently was such a hit I had to share it.

We’re studying elements and the kids are memorizing element names and symbols, plus learning a little bit about them.  One activity that the book suggested was to make up birthday element models.

What’s a birthday element?

It’s the element whose atomic number is the same as your birth date.

Anna’s birthday is January 19, so her element was Potassium (19).

Victoria’s birthday is May 1, so her element was Hydrogen (1).

Their task was to make up visual representations of each element.  Since each element has (generally) the same number of protons, neutrons and electrons as its atomic number, the girls had to research their elements and find 3 types of things to use to make their element.

The protons and neutrons would be in the middle (the nucleus) and the electrons would be in a circle around them.

Anna picked bananas (high in K), purple (items with K in them burn purple) and tin foil pieces (K is technically a very thin metal).

Victoria picked a toy bomb (for the H bomb), a purple crystal (when electrically charged, H glows purple) and a candle (H is highly flammable).

We had so much fun with the project that we looked up all of our birthday elements at dinner that night and then researched the rest of the family’s!

For the record, Daryl is argon, I am boron, Jack is lithium and Alex is zinc.

It got to be even more fun when we looked up our elements on Wikipedia.  Daryl is one of the most inert elements on earth and won’t react with almost any other element.  Daryl is so mellow and tends to get along with everybody that it fit him well.

What are your family’s birthday elements?

Go here to look them up!

(Forgive any scientific errors, formatting errors or general nonsense you come across in this post.  My computer is on its last legs (operating in safe mode as I type this) and I can only see half the screen as I type.  I’m also nauseous and distracted, so I cannot be held accountable for any momentary lacks of intelligence in this post!)  😉

Life Here Lately

Life has been busy here lately! Here’s a bit of how we’ve been learning and playing…

  • Playing element bingo (Anna won the prize — wacky glasses!)
  • Visiting the railroad museum
  • Getting Victoria back from visiting friends in the Cities
  • Experimenting with our new telegraph machine
  • Gardening
  • Hanging out with fun friends
  • Finishing testing for the year
  • Doing tons of art
  • Learning about currents, conductors, etc.
  • Finding four leaf clovers
  • Losing teeth
  • Taking pictures
  • Reading “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”
  • Bike riding, swimming, scootering and climbing trees
  • Rehearsing for the play and the Irish dance scenes
  • Memorizing elements
  • Baking bread
  • Planting flowers
  • Calling friends
  • Watching campfires
  • Bird watching
  • Playing with LEGOs
  • Playing Wii
  • Going to the lake
  • Playing educational apps
  • Reading

We’ve started Friendly Chemistry and did the first experiment and activity today.  It was great fun.  We had 6 white substances (all edible) and the girls had to determine what they were by using their senses and then by seeing how they each reacted with water, vinegar and iodine.

Do you know how to tell the difference between baking soda, corn starch and baking powder with nothing but vinegar and iodine?  I didn’t!  I don’t know if I should admit that, but one of the nice things about homeschooling is that I get to learn things along with the kids that my schools didn’t teach me the first time around!

I’ve also finally begun writing my Magical Childhood book, and have 98 pages done so far.  I’m quite happy and keep pushing myself even on the days I really don’t feel like writing.

This next week will be busy with our CSA starting up, play practice continuing each weeknight, our chemistry classes continuing and some baking and cooking.  I’ve been moving towards cooking most of our staples myself (or helping the kids do it).

Foods to make on this week’s list (involving a child in each one, if possible):

  1. Sandwich bread
  2. Whole wheat buns
  3. Rhubarb iced tea
  4. Rhubarb jelly
  5. Apple jelly
  6. Mix and match quick bread
  7. Mayonnaise
  8. Mix and match granola bars
  9. Ranch dressing
  10. Grape juice kefir (with grape juice from grapes we picked and canned ourselves!)

I was brought up so far from this life and these skills that I love knowing how to do them now — and being able to teach them to my kids.  It also saves buckets of money, especially since we make organic goodies in most cases.

We’ll also be making most of our supper elements from scratch (refried black beans from dried beans, homemade alfredo sauce, etc.) and I was going to try homemade tortillas again but it turns out I have some in the fridge to use this week so I get a week off before I attempt those again.  🙂

Do you make any of your own food staples?  If you have any favorite recipes or tips, please share them!



Okay, it turns out I’m quickly getting addicted to Pinterest.

I joined the other day and have been having a great time “pinning” web sites to the categories I’ve created (homeschooling, crafts, all natural recipes, organic gardening, attachment parenting and green so far) and also have been having fun looking through other people’s pins.

I love that it’s so visual, and is such a captivating way to bookmark sites for projects to try and keep my links organized and handy.

If you have a Pinterest account (especially with a homeschooling page) please let me know!  Here’s mine.



Folktales, Freebies and more

Jason snatches the Golden Fleece. Greek Vase from the 5th century BCE (Metropolitan Museum, New York).

Here’s a round-up of stuff I’ve been meaning to share…

Fairy Tales, Folktales, Fables, and Folklore

This great web site contains hundreds of stories from mythologies around the world.  From Finnish folk tales to Anderson fairy tales to parables of Buddhism, there’s something for everyone.  This would be great to combine with studies of countries or family heritage.

70% of science fair winners are children of immigrants

Only 12 percent of Americans are foreign-born, the NFAP report says. Even so, children of immigrants took 70 percent of the finalist slots in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search Competition, an original-research competition for high school seniors.
Of the 40 finalists, 28 had parents born in other countries: 16 from China, 10 from India, one from South Korea and one from Iran.
“In proportion to their presence in the U.S. population, one would expect only one child of an Indian (or Chinese) immigrant parent every two and a half years to be an Intel Science Search finalist, not 10 in a year,” wrote the report’s author, NFAP director Stuart Anderson.
…”Our parents brought us up with love of science as a value,” David Kenneth Tang-Quan, whose parents emigrated from China to California, told Anderson, according to the report.
Pinterest pages
I’ve heard about Pinterest, where you “pin” web sites you like and can see what others pin, but I wasn’t all that interested.  Until I saw this mom’s homeschool pins and realized what fun this site could be.  I could lose a lot of time here!
Newest homeschool writings
Here’s what I’ve been churning out in the HS front lately at the examiner, on everything from free transcript templates to how Montessori changes from middle school to high school years…

And here’s the latest in other subjects…

And a little sap…  🙂

The Never-Ending Parent

On the personal front, the baby is now very, very wiggly.  He/she doesn’t have a certain time of day or night to bounce around.  It seems to be most of the time!  Hopefully we’ll get an ultrasound next month and finally get to know whether it’s a girl or boy.  I’m so impatient to know.

Victoria is visiting homeschool friends a few hours away this week.  I’m impatient for her to come home, even though I’m sure she’s having a blast.

Anna is taking Irish step dancing lessons for a performance she’ll be doing with a small group of girls in the pageant this year.  The teachers are local homeschool graduates who taught themselves to do Irish step dancing years ago and have performed all over through the years.

Jack and Alex are currently helping Daddy at the cabin and museum.  They’ve been spending much of their time outside and generally end each day covered in mud, sand, scrapes and who knows what else.  I do like summer!


Why I'm Not a Fan of Summer Reading Programs

It’s summer time and summer reading program are springing up in every library, book store and web site.

And my response is… meh.

I have never been a fan of summer reading programs and my kids are pretty lackluster about them too.

Some of the reasons:

  1. My kids love reading for the pure sake of reading and I don’t want to send a message that they need to be bribed in order to do it, as if it’s a chore.
  2. Most of the rewards are junky things we don’t need that would clutter up the house.   One of the local libraries lets the kids earn points to cash in for Oriental Trading Company merchandise.  Ugh — cheap plastic toys from China that are going to fill up the landfills.  I don’t even want to encourage that sort of spending by budget-strapped libraries.
  3. Since the focus is on numbers, it tends to get my kids to read less quality books during these programs.  There’s no way one of my girls is going to pick up Jane Eyre during the summer reading program, for instance, because it’s like 600 pages and counts as one book.  When we’ve taken part in the past, the kids have purposely chosen short books because they can fly through them and rack up numbers.
  4. It’s hard for us to even keep track of all of the books we read.  When I’ve tried to remember to log our books, I’ve tended to still forget to write down half of them.  And frankly, it became a chore.
  5. Summer is the time when we read the least because there is so much to be done outside.  The kids still read voraciously, but I don’t feel a need to “encourage” any more reading.  I like that they’re outside in trees, on bikes, at the pool and so on.

If we get a chance, we may pick up a form at Barnes and Noble towards the end of the summer and turn it in to earn some free books.  They’d reach the limit early in the summer on how many they could turn in for free books if they took part now, though, and I just don’t care if they focus on that right now.

Right now I am looking out my second story window at Jack and Anna sitting on the grass in the twilight.  They’ve been riding skateboards.  They saved an injured bird and carried it to the bushes.  They were across the street at the playground.  Anna helped Jack get down from the tree he was stuck in.  They were searching the yard for dragon tears I hid earlier.

They are doing all good things.  If they decide to read one book this week or twenty, it will be the perfect number.