Well, I'm glad that's over!

Is it sacrilege to admit I’m happy the holidays are done with? 🙂  We don’t even have stressful holidays.  They’re rather nice and low key, but the whole tone of the world is so frantic and annoyed this time of year, and you can’t go anywhere at all because of the masses of people out shopping day and night.

And the disparity among the children — my kids have some teenage friends who got new cars and computers, and others who got next to nothing (some family friends weren’t going to be able to have any Christmas at all but that has been remedied).  I’m always acutely aware of how tough it is to be a really poor kid the week after Christmas.

Not to mention the friends who are dealing with grief this time of year — death, divorce and so on.  The only thing harder than dealing with something devastating is dealing with it while everybody else seems to be blissfully happy.

In any case, we had a nice holiday (or set of them).  We celebrated the Winter Solstice and opened our presents together Solstice morning, then Daryl took all of the kids to the matinee while I cooked and visited with a friend who stopped by.  We had an evening feast that night.  We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa, braving quite a lot of snow and terrible roads to get there.  We had a lovely feast there too, and the kids got to play in the snow and spend time with family.

 

And now, I’m preparing for the new year and all sorts of goals and resolutions.

I am not at all the type to make New Years resolutions other than ones like these better homeschool resolutions for 2014 but I am looking at the new year as a time to try to implement some fun schedules and changes.

They go along with the new winter schedule that I posted recently, wanting to have some daily activities (reading aloud educationally and for fun, math each day and so on) and some weekly ones (messy art on Wednesday, field trips and literature on Friday, and such).

I am still trying to figure out how to balance it all better… homeschooling such different ages, spending quality time with five kids, keeping up with four columns and two blogs, cooking, chores and so on.

I think it ought to be one of my personal goals for 2014 to be completely caught up on laundry even one day.  🙂

In any case, I’m working on it and will report back on anything that works well.

In the meantime, here’s a few odds and ends that might be of interest…

Bradshaw & Sons: how to make snow lollies...  Maple syrup, snow & a stick. Looks fun!

How to make snow lollies (boiled maple syrup, snow & a stick)

Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it's cold outside?

Cold weather exercise ideas… Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it’s cold outside?

Cold weather science!

Vaporize hot water in the air, blow frozen bubbles, testing the freezing points of various liquids and more… Cold weather science!

Waldorf ~ 3rd grade ~ Math ~ Vertical Subtraction ~ main lesson book

An interesting (Waldorf-inspired) way of doing subtraction (I couldn’t find a link, just the graphic on someone’s Pinterest page from their iCloud, but it is pretty self explanatory)

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

And more… Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

Graphing with sponges from teachertipster.com (no more info, just the pic)

And a nice little set of goals…

Now on to that laundry…..

 

 

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.  🙂

It's the First Day of Spring on Mars!

Fall may be just around the corner here in North America, but that’s not so for all of the world — or the galaxy.

Today is the first day of spring on Mars!

Discover Magazine says:

Today, September 14, 2011, is the vernal equinox for the northern hemisphere of Mars!

If you want to be technical, it’s the time when the axis of Martian rotation is perpendicular to the direction of the Sun, and the northern hemisphere is headed into summer (making it the autumnal equinox for the southern hemisphere). When this happens here on Earth, it’s called the first day of spring…

Mars also gets a spring that’s twice as long as ours, which I think would be pretty nice (since their year is twice as long, all their seasons are, too).  Here in Minnesota we only get winters that are twice as long.  😉

Head over to Discover to read more!

 

Apologies…

I am a terrible blogger lately. I am also a terrible house cleaner, homeschooler, bedtime book reader, writer and general person.

I mostly hold my belly and groan.

Hopefully I’ll be done with my progesterone soon and perhaps that will help.  Next week I have my first prenatal appointment (the doctor won’t see me until I’m done with the first trimester) and if all looks good I should be able to stop the supplements.  Actually, if it’s all bad then I’d be able to stop the supplements too, so either way I should be done with those soon!

I’m trying so hard to do good mama things.  I’m just so sick and so tired and so weak, I’m not that good at it!  🙂

Here’s some writing elsewhere to make up for my quiet here…

Easy ways to give kids the gift of good handwriting

Sure, you could have your kids do endless copywork and penmanship lessons, but for many kids that’s about as fun as watching paint dry.  Luckily for parents, there are lots of sneaky ways to improve their handwriting that they’ll…

Free lapbook and lesson plans to teach children about Japan

In the wake of the tragedy in Japan last week, many families are focused on the country.  If you’d like to do a unit study on Japan, here are some great resources around the web.  Lapbook Lessons has a wonderful free lapbook on the country with…

Happy Saint Urho Day!

Sure, much of the world will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, but how about joining in with the Minnesota-born Finnish-American festivities of St. Urho Day today?  St. Urho is a mythical Finnish hero who was created by imaginative…

Review: iHomeEducator’s Wonders of Old Ancient Timeline app

iHomeEducator has teamed up with Knowledge Quest to present Wonders of Old: Ancient Timeline, a unique educational app that uses photos, links and facts to create a new kind of timeline…

Researchers find that attached babies grow up to be better partners

A new University of Minnesota study shows that attachment parenting doesn’t just help children in the short term, but also helps them in their romantic relationships when they are grown up.  Researchers found that young adults who had been…

12 Great sources of natural mulch for your vegetable gardens

Do you mulch your vegetable gardens?  If you don’t, you should.  The right mulch helps retain moisture, prevents weeds from getting a foothold and even enriches the soil as it breaks down.  Here’s 12 great sources of natural mulch …

Anti-GMO groups call for boycott of Land O’Lakes for secret GM seed company

Minnesota-based dairy giant Land O’Lakes has quietly created a company to team up with Monsanto and produce genetically modified alfalfa, leading sustainable farming advocates and anti-GMO organizations around the country to call for a boycott…

Review: Thugs, Drugs and the War on Bugs

Every once in a while, you come across a book that makes you question everything you thought you knew…

Sixteen ways to save money on organic foods

Yes, organic foods do often come with a higher price tag.  The more you’re willing to work and be creative, the lower that price can get.  Use these strategies and you can eat delicious organic meals at less than your neighbors spend on drive-through…
Goals for tomorrow:
  • Get outside and puddle stomp with the kids.
  • Do a fun craft.
  • Order neat sounding books through interlibrary loan for Daryl to pick up, so I can still read buckets of books to the kids.
  • More laundry
  • Finally remember to get the beans soaking in the morning so we can have Mexican for supper (I may be unable to stand up, but I’m still going to make refried organic black beans from scratch for our burritos!) .  😉
  • More writing.
  • Brainstorm creative HS assignments and projects to throw at the kids.
  • Serve some green things!
  • Be gentle with myself, no matter how much I get done.
  • If all else fails, lots of snuggling.

Wish me luck!

Monday is Pi Day!

Don’t forget that Monday is Pi Day — 3/14.

In honor of the day, here’s oodles of fun ways to work it into your homeschool.

Celebrate Pi Day with fun games and activities

Crafts, songs, links, lesson plans and a video to help celebrate Pi Day (from yours truly).

Let Them Eat Pie!

Beth has posted on the MHA blog all sorts of links, pie recipes, lesson plans and more to help celebrate the day.

Here’s a few pics from our celebration last year…

(Check out the first article for instructions for the paper plate pi game.)

Lastly, here’s something I posted here a while back, Pi Poetry!

Here’s a mnemonic for pi in the form of a poem about Archimedes by A.C. Orr. The number of letters in each word helps you remember pi to 30 spaces.

Now I, even I, would celebrate
In rhymes unapt the great
Immortal Syracusan, rivaled nevermore,
Who in his wond’rous lore,
Passed on before,
Left men his guidance
How to circles mensurate.

 

3.141592653589793238462643383279

And here’s a cute one to remember to 7 places

How I wish I could calculate pi…

3.141592

Happy Pi Day!  (3.14)