So Busy!

I am so busy right now! Right now, a bit of what’s going on is…

  1. I am writing a novel for NaNoWriMo.  It’s about a crazy family of 7 who homeschools!  😉  My current word count is about 32,000 words (I need 50,000 to finish and there are only 5 days left!).  Eek!
  2. Daryl has a play that he wrote being performed in two cities.  The first is this Saturday.  It’s a short Christmas play with a surprise funny ending.  He and I are going to see it on Saturday.
  3. Jack has been doing oodles of science tinkering with the odds and ends we got him from American Science and Surplus.  Anna had fun with it too.
  4. Daryl took all the kids (plus an extra) to the merchant movie last Saturday.  Local businesses pay for area children to see a children’s movie for free each weekend during December.  While they’re there, parents are invited to shop downtown at the stores!  So brilliant and so great, huh?  🙂
  5. I’ve been very busy with THIS BABY.  Look at that face?  I love this little bug… 

Oh yes, and we all learned about Buddhism at our UU church yesterday and had a vegan feast, and we’ve been playing with friends, and Victoria has introduced us to the British series “Sherlock” (so good!) and we’ve been baking and making messes and all the usual trouble!  🙂

10 Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

I’m still trying to get into a new rhythm when it comes to keeping up with everything, but I thought I’d pop in and do a quick 10 thing post.  No pictures, or I’d never get it done.  😉

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to…

  1. Victoria finished Animal Farm from her 9th grade reading list. She did not really like it, and especially did not like the pigs.  (I think this is the first book from her list that she didn’t actually enjoy, which I think is great.)  She asked me all sorts of questions about Stalin and communism, since she read that the pigs were supposed to represent Stalin.  I had to read Animal Farm in school but nobody ever taught me a thing about Stalin, so I had to refer her to her father and a google search.  I now know lots more about Stalin than I ever did.  I love how I learn so much because my kids homeschool.  😉
  2. I ordered a bunch of odds and ends from American Science and Surplus for Jack to tinker with, such alligator clips and tiny motors. He had a blast creating all sorts of electrical experiments with his dad’s supervision and assistance.
  3. Alex has been playing on Dreambox. We bought an inexpensive membership a few months ago for both of the boys and Alex really likes it.  Daryl does it with him and feels that he may have run out of things to do at his level, though.
  4. Anna has been learning history through the History Lovers for You-Tube channel. She came in the other day and started rattling off facts about King Henry VIII.  I asked where she learned it all and she said “History Lovers! I love their videos!”.  I call that a win.
  5. We started fires. Yep!  I told all the kids that we were going on an adventure yesterday and to dress for hiking.  Anna swore up and down that she didn’t want an adventure and I finally told her she could just stay home then and we took the other four kids.  We drove to a nearby park with a creek and campground and I told the kids they got to start their own campfires.  Well, Jack and Victoria, anyway.  Alex will be able to once he’s a little bit better at following safety rules.  We set them both up at fire pits and we assisted as little or as much as they wanted.  It was awesome.  They loved it.  They learned quite a lot about how to properly start a fire and what fire needs, plus how to keep it going.  We ended up having a ton more fun with all sorts of other activities and adventures too.
  6. Anna is doing chemistry with a friend. We’re into our third week of Friendly Chemistry.  We meet once a week and do the games and activities, plus read over the chapter together.  It’s going pretty well.
  7. The kids are entering the Neuroscience for Kids drawing contest. Okay, technically this isn’t something we’ve done lately because we haven’t done it yet, but it’s on the agenda for this week and if I blog it I’m more likely to remember.  😉
  8. Alex did baking soda and vinegar experiments with a friend. He gets to do easy science experiments with his friend while Anna and her friend do chemistry.  He loves it.  This week it’s painted soap clouds.  (Okay, one picture, since I just linked to the post!) 
  9. Jack has been making LEGO stop action movies. He made a nearly 100 frame movie of a space battle scene he wrote and then he took each picture on his camera and moved the pieces for the next shot.
  10. Jack, Anna and a friend are on the set crew for Daryl’s Christmas play. They go with him every Saturday to Pioneer Village to set everything up, help paint, etc.

The weather has been fabulous, so the boys have been spending lots of time outside.  The kids have all been reading magazines, reading books, watching educational shows, playing computer games, playing educational apps, cooking, playing games, etc. as usual too.

It should also be noted that at 13+ months, Fiona is still not walking.  Silly little girl.  She prefers to scoot at 180 mph instead.

10 Awesome Educational Gifts for Curious Kids

Looking for some really great holiday gifts for your kiddos that won’t just end up as clutter by the end of the day? Here’s some of our all-time favorite educational gifts, plus some that are on the list for giving this year (good thing Jack and Alex don’t read this blog!).

Makey Makey:  We got our Makey Makey kit when it was still a Kickstarter campaign and we’ve just started playing with it.  This is just amazingly creative stuff and the possibilities are endless for kids to create. 

“MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between.”

Snap Circuits: I think this was Jack’s all-time favorite Christmas present ever.  I was so impressed by the kit and all of the amazing things he could make with it.  I was also impressed with how much he learned about electricity, and how much his little (then four year-old) brother learned by watching and playing along with him.  We got the 300 project set, but it’s also available in larger and smaller sizes and a few neat alternate sets.

Electronic Playground 50-in-one:   This is one of Jack’s big Christmas presents this year and I’m so excited about it.  He loves science and inventing/tinkering, and this is very well reviewed. 

“Have you ever wondered how those finger-touch lamps really work? Discover the answer to this question and more on the 50-in-1 Electronic Playground. The “playground” is a kit of easy-to-build projects that will teach you how more than 50 electronic circuits work including those in a finger-touch lamp, voltmeter, alarm, electronic keyboard, transistor radio and more. No tools or soldering required! Components just snap onto the built-in breadboard. A great way to learn about voltage, current, resistance and more, the playground comes with an easy-to-read 76-page illustrated instruction manual.”

Jelly Marbles – Clear Spheres Kit:  From Steve Spangler Science, this seems like a really good kit to get into the crazy weirdness that is water beads.

“Place these tiny, solid spheres in water, and in just a little while you will have your own Clear Spheres. These superabsorbent spheres are the newest craze around the Spangler Science offices! What starts out as a 3mm pebble, quickly becomes an approximately 20mm ball of jelly! Similar to our Water Jelly Crystals, these spheres absorb a lot of water, plus they maintain their spherical shape when they are done growing. Want colored Clear Spheres? Just add our True Colors Color Mixing tablets to the water and you’ll have your own colored Clear Spheres. We’ll even provide one of our popular Mini-mixing Trays to perform amazing feats of color mixing with our Splash of Color experiment! Not only are these super absorbent spheres fun, they teach a valuable lesson about the power of polymers. In fact, Clear Spheres are an example of amazing Hydrogels… superabsorbent polymers that are saving the environment. Recommended for children ages 6 and up.”


Erector 3 Model Set – 110+ Parts:  This seems like a really great gift under $10.  This is another for Jack, who is a huge LEGO lover.  Erector sets are highly recommended as the next step for LEGO kids, and this one seems like a nice, small set to find out how well he likes them.  There are oodles of larger sets for kids to start out with something bigger, too.

Elenco AmeriKit Learn to Solder Kit:  I was happily surprised to find this reasonably priced soldering kit for kids.

“This kit is a must for the beginner. After practicing your soldering techniques on the special area of the board, you’ll be ready to assemble this European siren with flashing LED’s. This a soldering iron and wire cutters. Requires one 9V battery. This kit requires soldering. Recommended for ages 10 and up.”

Quercetti Tecno Building Toy: This is one on my list for five year-old Alex this year. 

“Create three dimensional structures or intriguing images by screwing unique shapes onto the special white board. Includes two types of screwdrivers, allen wrenches and traditional wrench as well as screws, nuts, bolts and a variety of basic shapes. Encourages developing fine motor skills as well as imagination. Ages 4 years and up.”

Qwirkle:  This matching game for all ages has over 400 reviews and a perfect rating, which has it on my possible gift list for this year.  It’s also currently about half off its retail price on Amazon, which is another plus. 

“An addictive strategy game in the tradition of Sequence, Scrabble, and Othello, the Qwirkle Board Game from MindWare has a simple, straightforward premise: match tiles and win points. But the real joy of the game lies in plotting and scheming your way to victory. Winner of the Parent’s Choice Gold Award and a Mensa Select National Competition Winner, Qwirkle is destined to be a family game night favorite. This game is designed for ages six and up and for two to four players.”

MindWare Q-Ba-Maze Marble Run Maze:  This is one of my front-runners for Alex, since he loves to build and he’s obsessed with physics.  We love marble runs, but a lot of them are poorly reviewed because of poor construction, and this one has extra building prospects. 

“Q-Ba-Maze 2.0 is a unique system of colorful cubes that interlock to form a marble run. The big difference? You can create marble maze sculptures in the form of animals, geometric shapes or any other design! Configurations are unlimited, allowing for unpredictable action when steel balls travel the various routes. It’s a live demonstration of probability, physics and art, all in one! Big Box includes 72 cubes in five different colors and 20 steel balls. Q-Ba-Maze 2.0 cubes are not compatible with original Q-Ba-Maze cubes.”

American Science and Surplus:  I always get at least some stocking stuffers from this oddball science surplus site.  Some of the stuff is really junk, but you can find neat parts like alligator clips, motors, kits, litmus paper, pipettes, geodes, etc. to make all sorts of silly and scientific fun. 

My gift possibilities for the girls will have to wait, in case they read this. 🙂

I’ll post more great ones later!  That’s a start!  What have been your kids’ all-time favorite gifts?

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Note:  I am not affiliated with any businesses linked in this post.  In the past, I was an Amazon affiliate program member but I am not any longer and I have removed links that go to Amazon.  I receive no compensation for any products purchased as a result of this post.  🙂

Scientists Perfect Invisibility Cloak

How cool is this?

Duke University scientists say they’ve succeeded for the first time in building a truly effective invisibility cloak.

When the team first developed a cloaking device back in 2006, one of the biggest problems was the appearance of minor reflections around the edges.

These were similar to the reflections seen when looking through a clear piece of glass, and made the cloaking less than perfect.

Now, though, they say they’ve cracked the problem….

Head to TG Daily for the rest of the story and some of the science behind it.

My Filing Card To-Do System

My filing card to do systemThis is the filing card system I’ve been using lately for my to-do lists.

I have a crazy amount of things I have to do on an ongoing basis, and I couldn’t find a program, list or app that would work for me until I started doing my cards again.

I made it up years ago and later lost the box. I found it recently and have been using it again.

The system is kind of cool.  I adapted it from the book that inspired FlyLady (something about Sidetracked Home Executives?).

The cards are color coded for daily (yellow), weekly (orange), monthly or seasonal (white) and personal (pink — not chores but stuff like writing, mothering, personal stuff to remember) and you have all 12 months and numbered days, so you move things to the next day, week or month in the box as you complete it.

I just have SO MUCH I have to do every day to keep everything going regarding laundry, meals, kids, HS, work, housekeeping, etc.  I never make it through all the cards I have filed for that day, but it does help me do a lot more than I would otherwise.

I like it better than my apps or written lists because once I write the cards up I don’t have to keep doing the work of writing/typing up the lists every day and I can easily move them to the day or month I’ll next need to deal with them. A lot of apps either repeat the same things every day or you have to enter them new. This works for all the things I have to do twice a week, every Monday, once a season, etc.

And I like the pretty colors. 😉

Next up — I’m going to make up homeschooling cards to stock in it too. It’s getting very hard to keep up with all of the kids and all of the subjects, and I think this system will work well for making sure we get to the things I want to get to.

Maybe I’ll just give each of the kids his or her own box, with chore cards too….

I’ll keep you updated!