Crash Course Kids: Month by Month

I’ve been a long-time fan of Crash Courses for older kids, but we hadn’t used the newer version for younger kids yet, Crash Course Kids.  Fiona, Alex and I checked it out last week and we’re going to incorporate it into our video watching.Crash Course Kids Homeschool ScheduleThe series is designed for 5th grade but Fiona (starting 1st grade) easily comprehended everything so far and it still kept Alex’s attention fine (6th grade).

The series consists of 7 main playlists and 2 extras (one compilation and one blooper set).  I’m tentatively planning on using one playlist per month this year (September through May), other than the longest set (earth science) from February into April with the blooper set added in for April (April Fools).  🙂

Here’s our schedule for watching them, as we have spare minutes:

September:  Space and stars

October:  Space and the sun (weather, seasons, etc.)

November:  Engineering and Physics

December:  Physical science (matter, chemistry):

January:  Life science (biology, ecosystems)

February and April:  Earth science (weather, natural resources, climate, etc.)

April:  Outtakes and bloopers

May:  Physical science (gravity)

View full playlist (5 videos)

We’ll supplement with good books, art projects, and hands-on learning.  This won’t be the younger kids’ sole science curriculum, of course, just a fun way to add some extra stuff in.

Fiona’s First Grade Math Goals

Fiona is loosely doing first grade this year (and some second grade).  You know we don’t strictly follow any skills lists or curricula, but I like to keep track of what kids her age would be covering in school and find ways to playfully teach those concepts through hands-on activities like using Cuisenaire rods, playing games, playing with math tools, measuring and making things, and so on.

a week's worth of fun mathI found this great resource at Houghton Mifflin that provides outlines, teaching tools, free printouts and family homework assignments to correspond with the concepts their textbooks teach in each year’s math books.  Here’s the general outline for their first grade math:

I plan to play with all of these concepts in the following months, and to make up some fun worksheets to reinforce the concepts.  I don’t generally print out worksheets and instead I write out problems myself in my kids’ homeschool notebooks.  It allows them to be more personal (I’ll often write out silly word problems or have sweet or funny copywork that is tailored to them, for instance), saves ink and cost, and makes it more fun for them.

They also provide these great teaching tools for the year:

CK01A Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit

I’ve had my eye on this chemistry kit that caters to homeschoolers for a while now.  I featured it in my column back in 2011 here  and wrote:

If you’ve ever tried to put together your own chemistry kit for homeschooling, you know what an overwhelming (and expensive) task it can be. A new chemistry kit is now available to make it easier and more affordable for homeschoolers.

The CK01 Chemistry Kit contains everything needed (other than a few basic supplies like table salt) for a one year chemistry course, along with lecture notes.

The kit contains over 40 chemicals (such as Phosphoric acid, Thymol blue indicator solution and Copper), 25 types of equipment (with multiples of many of these, such as pipettes, beakers and alligator clips) and other related consumables such as cotton balls, cotton swabs, a lab notebook and pH test strips…

I have not tried the kit and have no affiliation with the company, but it sounds like an easy and affordable way to assemble a pretty thorough year of chemistry.

The kit now costs $184, with shipping available at an additional cost to countries such as Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

The manufacturer says:

Because chemistry is widely considered to be the most difficult lab course to do well—particularly on a tight budget—we offer the CK01A Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit. It provides a comprehensive, rigorous laboratory component for a first-year high school chemistry course, and does so affordably. With the exception of standard household items (such as table salt, sugar, vinegar, aluminum foil, foam cups, and so on) and other minor items that are readily available locally, the kit contains all of the special equipment and chemicals you’ll need for a complete chemistry lab course…

It’s a serious science curriculum, too, which can be modified to make a lighter version:

For a student who will go on to major in college in chemistry or another science, the kit provides a rigorous, comprehensive first-year chemistry lab experience. For non-science majors, you can, at your option, reduce the rigor and scope of the chemistry lab experience simply by doing only selected core lab sessions, while still providing an essential introduction to chemistry lab concepts and procedures.

I still have not tried the kit myself, but I have tried the book that it was created to accompany, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science) (affiliate link), and I love the book!

This is truly a book for kids who want to do real science with real materials.  I loved reading about how the author discovered science as a child and how he worked to create a chemistry kit like those of his youth, before they were so “dumbed down.”  The book makes for a very thorough chemistry course/lab, and it is perfect for kids who love science or for kids who want to love science.

The book is not necessary to use the kit.  It comes with a complete PDF manual.  I do recommend the book in addition, just because it’s such a fantastic, thorough resource.

The CK01A kit provides 39 hands-on chemistry experiments in 14 topic areas:

Topic I. Separating Mixtures

Session I-1: Recrystallization
Session I-2: Chromatography
Session I-3: Solvent Extraction
Session I-4: Salting Out

Topic II. Solubility and Solutions

Session II-1: Solubility as a Function of Temperature
Session II-2: Conductance of Ionic and Molecular Solutes
Session II-3: Colligative Properties of Solutions: Boiling Point Elevation and Freezing Point Depression

Topic III. Chemical Reactions and Stoichiometry

Session III-1:  Observe a Composition Reaction
Session III-2:  Observe a Decomposition Reaction
Session III-3:  Observe a Single Replacement Reaction
Session III-4:  Observe Double Replacement Reactions
Session III-5:  Stoichiometry of Double Displacement Reactions

Topic IV. Reduction-Oxidation (Redox) Reactions

Session IV-1: Observe Oxidation States of Manganese

Topic V. Acid-Base Chemistry

Session V-1: Determine the Effect of Concentration on pH and the pH Range of Indicators
Session V-2: Determine the Molarity of Vinegar by Titration

Topic VI. Chemical Kinetics

Session VI-1: Determining the Effect of Temperature, Concentration, and Surface Area on Reaction Rates
Session VI-2: Determining the Effect of a Catalyst on Reaction Rate
Session VI-3: Determining a Reaction Order

Topic VII. Chemical Equilibrium

Session VII-1: Observe Le Châtelier’s Principle in Action
Session VII-2: Determine a Solubility Product Constant
Session VII-3: Observe the Characteristics of a Buffer Solution

Topic VIII. Gas Chemistry

Session VIII-1: Observe the Pressure-Volume Relationship of Gases (Boyle’s Law)
Session VIII-2: Observe the Volume-Temperature Relationship of Gases (Charles’ Law)
Session VIII-3: Determine Gas Mass Ratios by Effusion (Graham’s Law)

Topic IX. Thermochemistry

Session IX-1: Determine Heat of Solution
Session IX-2: Determine Heat of Fusion of Ice
Session IX-3: Determine the Specific Heat of a Metal
Session IX-4: Determine the Enthalpy Change of a Reaction

Topic X. Electrochemistry

Session X-1: Observe Electrolysis
Session X-2: Observe the Electrochemical Oxidation of Iron
Session X-3: Measure Electrode Potentials
Session X-4: Build a Voltaic Cell

Topic XI. Photochemistry

Session XI-1: Photochemical Reaction of Iodine and Oxalate

Topic XII. Colloids and Suspensions

Session XII-1: Observe Some Properties of Colloids and Suspensions

Topic XIII. Analytical Chemistry

Session XIII-1. Determine Boron Concentration with Curcumin
Session XIII-2. Determine Salicylate Concentration in Urine
Session XIII-3. Determine Vitamin C Concentration in Urine
Session XIII-4: Detect Lead in Household Materials

Topic XIV. Synthetic Chemistry

Session XIV-1. Synthesize Esters

If anybody out there has used this kit, I’d love to hear your experiences with it! 

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.

A Little History of the World

I mentioned that we’d been reading A Little History of the World the other day and Kat commented that she’d love to know what I thought of it.

So far, we love this book!  Having started out with Story of the World, the kids and I all much prefer the charming conversational tone of this fun little volume.

We also adore the history of it — written in a matter of weeks nearly a hundred years ago by a German art student, and then updated recently by the author in his old age, when it was still highly in demand after all of these years.

I think that SOTW attempted in many ways to copy this book, but that series failed for us where this one shines.

That one is full of so many names and dates that we could never remember past the paragraph when they were mentioned.  This one limits the amount of details and focuses on the big picture, plus cheerfully reminds us of the characters and events we need to remember later.

That one drones on and we had to keep pushing ourselves to read more.  This one makes us laugh and makes us love the author, and the kids ask for one more chapter.

So far, religion seems to be treated very differently in this book compared to SOTW as well.  I’m curious to see how it plays out as we go along, since I know the spread of various religions is supposed to be a big theme in the book.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

This is an unusual work for Yale: a children’s history originally published 70 years ago. But it is a work one can quickly come to love. Gombrich, later known as an art historian, wrote this primer in 1935, when he was a young man in Vienna (it was soon banned by the Nazis as too “pacifist”). Rewritten (and updated) in English mainly by Gombrich himself (who died in 2001, age 92, while working on it), the book is still aimed at children, as the language makes clear: “Then, slowly the clouds parted to reveal the starry night of the Middle Ages.” But while he addresses his readers directly at times, Gombrich never talks down to them. Using vivid imagery, storytelling and sly humor, he brings history to life in a way that adults as well as children can appreciate. The book displays a breadth of knowledge, as Gombrich begins with prehistoric man and ends with the close of WWII. In the final, newly added chapter, Gombrich’s tone sadly darkens as he relates the rise of Hitler and his own escape from the Holocaust – children, he writes, “must learn from history how easy it is for human beings to be transformed into inhuman beings” – and ends on a note of cautious optimism about humanity’s future.

We are on about chapter 6 or 7 and have MANY chapters to go, but so far the book not only teaches us but makes us smile.

I have heard that parts about America are completely inaccurate and I’ve told the kids as much.  We are anxiously awaiting our country’s mention so we can see how we’re portrayed.  The kids understand that all history is a reflection of who gets to tell the stories, and that it should all be taken in context with other sources.  We’re also planning on researching the areas that are supposedly inaccurate to see how far off he was, too.

I also understand that SOTW is much longer and has multiple volumes to cover all the history out there, so obviously this one is not going to teach as much.  But just in terms of what the title says… we love it.

It is also available as an audio CD, on Kindle and as a new illustrated edition, which are all tempting me as well (edited to update that now they have a whole series of little history books for United States, literature, economics, religion, science and more).  I’ve heard of a lot of families that use the audio version in the car and enjoy it, and we are always on the road….

In any case, we’re very happy with it so far.

I’ll update as we go.  Considering it’s so inexpensive, it was definitely worth getting for our gang.


** Note that this post contains affiliate links.




Why I'm an Eclectic Homeschooler

I just finished a series of articles for the Examiner that really solidified for me why our homeschool style here is so eclectic.  I wrote about five great lessons to take from all different types of homeschooling, including Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason and Unschooling.  They are all parts of what we do here, and why I love the freedom we have as homeschool parents.  We truly can take the best of all worlds and adapt it all to perfectly suit each of our children.

If you want to check out the series, here it is so far…

Montessori Methods:

Five lessons to take from Montessori for your homeschool

Making your own Montessori materials

Waldorf Methods:

Five lessons to take from Waldorf for your homeschool

Making your own Waldorf Materials

Charlotte Mason Methods:

Five lessons to take from Charlotte Mason for your homeschool

Make your own nature journals

Make pocket-and-handle nature journals from paper bags!

Unschooling Methods:

Five lessons to take from unschooling for your homeschool

Five great blogs by unschoolers for inspiration, projects, games and more

And next in the series… Five lessons not to take from public school in your homeschool.  🙂

A Thought Provoking Math Experiment

a thought provoking math experiment

…For some years I had noted that the effect of the early introduction of arithmetic had been to dull and almost chloroform the child’s reasoning faculties…

I found this article so interesting!  It was originally published in the NEA’s own journal in 1935.  Basically, L. P. Benezet, a New Hampshire superintendent, tried a revolutionary experiment to try to improve the terrible math skills of his students.

Benezet was frustrated by his district’s students’ inability to master math (or other subjects) despite how much they were forced to study from a young age.  In a letter to the superintendent of New York schools, he wrote:

In the first place, it seems to me that we waste much time in the elementary schools, wrestling with stuff that ought to be omitted or postponed until the children are in need of studying it. If I had my way, I would omit arithmetic from the first six grades. I would allow the children to practise making change with imitation money, if you wish, but outside of making change, where does an eleven-year-old child ever have to use arithmetic?

I feel that it is all nonsense to take eight years to get children thru the ordinary arithmetic assignment of the elementary schools. What possible needs has a ten-year-old child for a knowledge of long division? The whole subject of arithmetic could be postponed until the seventh year of school, and it could be mastered in two years’ study by any normal child.

Deciding to see what would happen if he gave children freedom and just taught the very basics of education, Benezet virtually abandoned all formal math instruction in the first 6 years of school in 5 classrooms.  Instead of teaching drills, memorization and “pencil work,” he had his teachers concentrate on his “new 3-R’s” — to read, to reason and to recite.

a thought provoking math experiment

He writes:

The children in these rooms were encouraged to do a great deal of oral composition. They reported on books that they had read, on incidents which they had seen, on visits that they had made. They told the stories of movies that they had attended and they made up romances on the spur of the moment. It was refreshing to go into one of these rooms. A happy and joyous spirit pervaded them. The children were no longer under the restraint of learning multiplication tables or struggling with long division. They were thoroughly enjoying their hours in school.

He had the teachers work on measurements and problem solving with the students– estimating distances and the like.  Not only did he find kids who were enjoying school more in his new classrooms, but they became much better at reasoning in the absence of math lessons.

The results of his experiments are really astounding.  I really related to the fact that the traditionally schooled kids kept trying to figure out how to squash numbers together to get an answer to a word problem (multiply this by this? Or maybe add this and this and this?) without understanding the nature of the problem, so they were never able to solve them.  The kids who had not been formally taught math tackled the problem itself and quite easily figured out the answers.

By 1932, it was working so well that he got permission to convert about half of the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classrooms to his experiment.  When they tested the math skills of the 6th graders later, comparing those who had been traditionally schooled in math the whole time with those who had just that year been exposed to formal math for the first time, these were the results:

In the earlier tests the traditionally trained people excelled, as was to be expected, for the tests involved not reasoning but simply the manipulation of the four fundamental processes. By the middle of April, however, all the classes were practically on a par and when the last test was given in June, it was one of the experimental groups that led the city. In other words these children, by avoiding the early drill on combinations, tables, and that sort of thing, had been able, in one year, to attain the level of accomplishment which the traditionally taught children had reached after three and one-half years of arithmetical drill.

This is a long article and it goes on, but I found it all so interesting!  He also gives his schedule for what math concepts are taught each year of the first 6 years (not counting kindergarten, which was not the academic class that it is now).  Food for thought…