50 Ways to Use a Pumpkin for Homeschooling

50 educational ways to use pumpkinsI should be doing a million things and need to drive part of the family to Mankato soon, but I miss this space and you all (or you one person perhaps at this point!) so I thought I would bop in here for a quick post.

Yes, only I would decide to post 50 ways to use a pumpkin for homeschooling off the top of my head for a quick post!  LOL  Some people play video games to get their minds off things and have fun.  I write.  🙂

So here goes….  All kinds of crazy ways to learn with that pumpkin before it goes in the compost pile or pie.

  1. Measure the circumference
  2. Guess its weight
  3. Roast the seeds and experiment with different seasonings
  4. Do a rubbing of its skin
  5. Find a recipe for stuffed pumpkins and bake dinner in it
  6. Draw it
  7. See if it floats in water
  8. Use a mallet and golf tees to poke a pattern of holes (immensely satisfying if not terrible educational)
  9. Write a haiku about it
  10. Print out these pumpkin life cycle printables
  11. Roast it and bake with it
  12. Leave it outside and see how it changes over time
  13. Finger paint on it, clean and repeat
  14. Plant some of its seeds
  15. Figure out its capacity (how much it holds)
  16. Think of an alternate way to figure out its capacity
  17. Compare its weight to other foods
  18. Bake two different pie recipes for pumpkin pie and see which one is better
  19. Write out pumpkin on a paper and see how many other words you can make with the letters (pump, kin, pin…)
  20. Write a short story about a pumpkin
  21. Use the seeds for math manipulatives
  22. Use the seeds for a collage
  23. Look up how to say pumpkin in another language
  24. Read books or stories about pumpkins
  25. Write letters on clean pumpkin seeds and use them to spell words
  26. Look up the history of jack-o-lanterns
  27. Look up the nutritional information for pumpkins
  28. Watch videos of pumpkin trebuchet launchers
  29. Or instead of launching pumpkins, use mini pumpkins to make small pumpkin catapults
  30. Build your own (or a small scale one for smaller objects)
  31. Make a list of as many words as possible to describe a pumpkin
  32. Estimate how many seeds a pumpkin will have and then see how close everybody got
  33. Read these pumpkin riddles and try to make up your own
  34. Write a song about pumpkins
  35. Make construction paper jack-o-lanterns with all kinds of faces
  36. Write the word pumpkin in your fanciest handwriting
  37. Think of 10 ways to use pumpkins besides for carving or baking
  38. Give a short report on the history of pumpkins and/or jack-o-lanterns
  39. Predict and observe what the inside of a jack-o-lantern looks like before and after having a candle in it for several hours
  40. Take artistic photographs of pumpkins
  41. Write or tell a funny short story about what it was really like for Cinderella to ride a pumpkin coach to the ball
  42. Put pumpkin seeds outside near a window and watch to see what kind of wildlife eats them
  43. Use pushpins and rubber bands to make a geoboard on a pumpkin
  44. Challenge the kids to think up other things you could make jack-o-lanterns out of besides pumpkins
  45. Ask the kids to describe a pumpkin using all 5 senses
  46. Invent a pumpkin spice drink or dessert together
  47. Use a small pumpkin as a ball for playing catch outside
  48. Use a small pumpkin as a planter and plant seeds in it
  49. Write a pumpkin acrostic poem (write the letters PUMPKIN down the side of the page and each line starts with the corresponding letter)
  50. After Halloween, cut your jack-o-lantern into one-inch pieces and put pieces in all different environments and record how they change (freezer, fridge, outside, in a plastic bag, uncovered at room temperature, in vinegar…)

Got more?  Leave them in the comments!  Happy Halloween!

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Where Did Our Food Originate?

I stumbled onto this fantastic infographic showing where many of our foods first originated, and tracked it back to a scholarly article, Origins of food crops connect countries worldwide, published by The Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences).

Origins of food crops connect countries worldwide

(Click on the image to view full size)

The graphic and the article itself are published under a Creative Commons license, meaning it can be shared freely as long as the authors and original source are credited.

This could be used for so many ways in the homeschool — for geography, social studies, biology, math…

  • See what part of the world each component of lunch or dinner first came from.
  • See which common foods your family eats are not on the map and see if you can find out where they originally came from.
  • See which of the foods can now be grown in your area and which ones need a different climate.
  • See what part of the world has your favorite foods.
  • See what similarities you can find in foods from each region.
  • Categorize the foods into groups (fruits, grains, root vegetables, greens, etc.) and see if you can find patterns for the regions.
  • Which region has the most foods listed?
  • What percentage of the foods on the map are eaten at least once a month at your house?

The authors of the paper are:

Colin K. Khoury, Harold A. Achicanoy, Anne D. Bjorkman, Carlos Navarro-Racines, Luigi Guarino, Ximena Flores-Palacios, Johannes M. M. Engels, John H. Wiersema, Hannes Dempewolf, Steven Sotelo, Julian Ramírez-Villegas, Nora P. Castañeda-Álvarez, Cary Fowler, Andy Jarvis, Loren H. Rieseberg, Paul C. Struik
 .
Clearly they did a lot of work to assemble this.  Check out the paper itself for more graphics and a lot more information.

 

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An Afternoon Visit 7 Miles Under the Sea

Most of our family went to Sioux Falls today to do our regular trek to Costco, the science museum and thrift stores.  We try to combine fun and educational things with practical trips like grocery shopping every time we can so we have memberships to the science museum and zoo to help make it easy to stop by even for an hour or two any time we head to the city.

We usually get there in the afternoons and miss the free films at the cinedome, but this time we got there early enough to catch today’s movie, which was James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge.

Alex, Fiona, Rhia, Toria and I went and saw the 39 minute 2-D film (I suspect it may be longer in the 3-D version in some theaters) and we loved it.  It was just wonderful.  It was educational, inspirational, beautiful, exciting…. all you could ask for, especially for kids ranging in age from 4 to 17.  Here’s the synopsis:

As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. This film is the dramatic fulfillment of that dream. It chronicles Cameron’s solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench—nearly seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface—piloting a submersible he designed himself. The risks were astounding. The footage is breathtaking. JAMES CAMERON’S DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is a celebration of science, courage, and extraordinary human aspiration.

 

I visited the film’s site when I got home and saw that they have all sorts of lesson plans for educators.  If you get a chance to see the movie either in theaters or once it’s available at home, I highly recommend it.

In the movie, Cameron talks about how he’s been obsessed with visiting the deep sea since he was a child.  He also talks about how important it is for us to keep discovering and exploring, and how today’s children will be going on their own wonderful explorations.

Afterwards, Alex (8) really wanted to talk about how Cameron did his job (making movies) in part to pay for fulfilling his dreams (going 7 miles down to the deepest part of the ocean where nobody had ever been).  He’s really thinking about what jobs would be best for him and what dreams too.  Hopefully he can combine the two.  🙂

 

What I Learned the First Dozen Years of Homeschooling

 

Okay, there is no way I am really summing up twelve years of homeschooling in one blog post. 🙂

It just occurred to me today that I’ve been officially doing this for 12+ years, since we decided to homeschool for Victoria’s preschool years and then kindergarten and so on, and she’s now in 10th grade.  Counting two years of preschool, that would make this her 13th year of homeschool.

Add in an eighth grader, a fifth grader, a first grader and a toddler, and that’s an awful lot of homeschooling.

No wonder I get a little burned out once in a while.  😉

I honestly have no idea what big lessons I’ve learned along the way, now with five kids of all ages.

But I think the biggies for us would be…

  • Kids learn best when it’s fun.
  • Kids learn best when they feel control over what they’re learning and how.
  • Homeschooling isn’t fun for anybody if you don’t keep it fun for kids and parents.  And yes, it can be fun for parents too.
  • Your homeschooling should fit your personality, and your children’s.  If you love schedules and deadlines and following directions, you’ll thrive using “boxed” curricula.  If that’s not how you roll, don’t try to make that your homeschooling MO.  Likewise, don’t try to make your kids homeschool in ways that fit your learning style and preferences and not theirs.
  • Everything is easier when it’s hands-on or there’s a pile of fun books to expand the learning.
  • Learning opportunities are everywhere.
  • Games are invaluable as educational tools.  All types.
  • It’s okay to hang around in your pajamas and play unschoolers for a while even if you’re not unschoolers.  “A while” can be however long you need.
  • Never underestimate how much your kids can learn just through copious trips to the library and huge piles of books.
  • Scope and sequence lists are for suckers.  Teach each subject until it’s fully mastered to your satisfaction and your child’s need, at whatever pace that takes, in whatever order works for your kid.
  • There are excellent free educational materials out there for every grade and subject.  Sometimes you just need to look a little bit to find them.
  • There are also more and more free educational materials that are not excellent and have ulterior motives.  From free history curricula that teach political agendas to free nutritional curricula that are paid for by GMO companies, there are lots of organizations working to buy off your family with a free poster and some lesson plans.  They are not worth it.
  • Your enthusiasm will set the tone for everybody else’s.
  • Sometimes the best way to teach a difficult subject is to step back from it for a while and do something else.  Nine times out of ten, it won’t be as difficult a subject next time.
  • If you homeschool, you have even more of a moral obligation to provide your kids with things to fuel their passions.  That means you consider it an educational expense to buy cool science materials or zoo memberships or art supplies or legos (I recommend thrift stores for those or you’ll need to start selling body parts).
  • Life is too short to stick to the lesson plan.

Okay, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the things I learned the first dozen years, but those are some big ones to come to mind.

Any you’d add?

10 Fun Ways to Learn Today

It’s been a while since I posted one of these so I thought it would be fun to do another.  Here are some fun ways to work in all sorts of subjects with a bit of fun…

  1. Spit ball geography: Get a big world map and play a different game with it every day this week.  For today, try launching spit balls at countries that other people call out!  Here’s how to make spitballs, or you could also use a dart gun.
  2. Balloon challenges: There are all different variations to try with this one.  Blow up a balloon and bop it with family members as you take turns calling out math problems.  Kids have to answer before they bop it back up in the air, and everybody works as a team to try to keep it from hitting the ground.  Or take turns calling out items in a group (for instance, elements from the periodic table, states, words that start with M….).
  3. Sistine Chapel Art: Lots of folks have done this classic art idea.  Tape coloring pages of the Sistine Chapel on the underside of your table and let the kids color them on their backs as Michaelangelo did.  Here are coloring pages to print out if they want to use those (or they can create their own masterpieces) and here’s information on how Michaelangelo created the Sistine Chapel.
  4. Lego homeschooling: Here is a compilation of all sorts of Lego lesson plans, from Lego chemical reactions (complete with printables) from MIT to a Lego balloon-powered car to plans for building the Nile River from Legos to a subscription to the free Lego Magazine and more.
  5. DIY flash cards: Give the kids index cards and art supplies to make some really fun flashcards to teach any math facts they have trouble remembering.
  6. Famous person Who Am I: Gather the kids and put a sign on each one’s back with a famous person written on it.  Have them go around the room asking questions to figure out who they are.  You can use historic figures, artists, authors, you name it.  You can also use elements for older kids (Am I a gas?  Am I poisonous?).
  7. Make an educational video: Challenge the kids to give a 2 minute report on any subject they want to research and record it as a video.  If they like, they can use fun editing apps to add text and music.  If they get excited about the project, you can even start a family blog with a new video every week.
  8. Use window markers to do math problems: Enough said.  🙂
  9. Photography Challenges: Let the kids use a digital camera and agree on some fun challenges such as taking a picture of something for each letter of the alphabet, 3 kinds of clouds, each state of matter, etc.
  10. Do the purple cabbage pH experiment: This is one of our all time favorite science experiments.  Even I have fun mixing and matching to make the cabbage water turn colors (and even turn it back!).

Anna is off in Arizona visiting one of her best friends, so I have one less child to occupy and educate for the week.  Now I’m off to find some Lego fun to play with Jack, and then I have a small girl who’d like to “eed yots of books!,” a boy who’d like to play a phonics game, a teen who wants to do some poetry exercises and a house that could use several hundred hours of cleaning (let’s be honest, it’ll be lucky to get one!).   🙂

Mummy Dearest

Anna has decided she wants to learn lots more about ancient Egypt.

She took these photos at the Egyptian display at the Science Museum of Minnesota and she got even more hooked on that fascinating time and culture.

Anna's pictures 2011 November 212.jpgAnna's pictures 2011 November 095.jpg

So it looks like we’re diving into some Egyptian fun!

Here’s a bit of stuff I’ve found on the subject to start us out tomorrow…

I haven’t looked at those in depth but they look quite thorough!

I also found this list of resources online and filtered out some dead or for-pay links but haven’t checked them all out yet…

That should keep us busy for a while!  🙂

And a few of my latest yappings elsewhere…

The web site has lots of info and examples of past winners
Playing Candy Land phonics-style
Now, I have to go run lines with Daryl, who was promoted to the lead in the mystery dinner theater next week.  There’s a neck rub in it for me as I read, so it’s win-win!

Five Fun Ways to Homeschool This Week

It’s been forever since I’ve done one of these posts so I thought I’d throw out some fun alternative HS ideas for the week…

  1. Play a homeschool version of Balderdash. Write up a list of vocabulary words and make up some fake and real definitions.  Challenge the kids to name the right definition for each word.
  2. Start a micro-journal. Give the kids a blank sketch book and ask them to draw a picture of at least one tiny thing viewed under the microscope each day (with labels and a bit of info).  Alternately, have them draw the pictures on index cards and keep them in a recipe box.  Have other members of the family try to guess what various micro-drawings are.
  3. Set up a math obstacle course in the back yard.
  4. Head to a local nature center and play. Most have free admission and air conditioning, and there’s generally all sorts of fun actitivities to involve the kids.
  5. Make a map dart board. Spread a US or world map over a large cork board and hang on the wall.  Take turns calling off locations and then tossing darts to see who can land their darts closest.  For younger kids, try doing this with spitballs.  😉

And with that, I’m off to catch up on 1800 hours of TV shows that my sweetie taped for me while I was off playing in Nebraska!