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.  🙂

 

Oodles of fun science inspiration

I’m loving this middle school science teacher’s blog, The Simply Scientific Classroom, for fun science inspiration.

Among the ideas I’m excited about incorporating in our homeschool this year….

End of Year- Vocabulary Photo Album

“I had purchased photo albums/brag books from a local dollar store. We used the photo albums to store the completed vocabulary cards….”

I’m thinking this could be a great way to do all sorts of subjects, from math cheat sheets to presidents to countries.  🙂

Element Superhero

“Students were assigned an element and were instructed to create a superhero based on the element’s properties….”

(Her students just did one each, but I think it would be fun to do a whole set with the kids here.)  🙂

Science Notebooking Ideas

“Make notebooking enjoyable for all!  The best way to do this is by using creative activities with notebooking.  Allow the students to get creative as long as they don’t lose focus of their learning target….”

There’s lots more to explore on the site and I subscribed by email, too.  Neat stuff!

 

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!).   🙂

Another Birthday Week Survived

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We made it through another birthday week here.

Jack turned 10, Victoria turned 15, and Alex turned 6.

I made a lot of cakes and cupcakes.  🙂

Here’s a quick round-up of ten fun ways we played and learned during birthday week….

  1. Victoria chose books for birthday presents, and picked out an awesome assortment at Barnes and Noble (see pic above).  She also bought herself the Les Miserables soundtrack and we’ve been listening to a lot of French Revolutionary songs in the car.
  2. We’ve been doing a lot of bird watching. Daryl and the kids have spotted a white-faced ibis, an osprey, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, lots of song birds, vultures, many kinds of migrating ducks, returning pelicans and a fantastic battle between two hawks in the road this morning, along with a very determined crow dive-bombing a red-tailed hawk on a pole this afternoon.
  3. Victoria taught her younger siblings about Nihilism. Of course.  😉
  4. Anna has been writing poems and doing song rewrites. She has one about Corn and Snow (living in Minnesota) based on Carrie Underwood’s tornado song (I can’t remember the name now) and “I Knew You Were Homeschooled” instead of “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift.
  5. Jack graduated archery class and did an awesome job. We bought a family membership for the rest of the year so we can use the facility and the gear any time.
  6. Alex has been working on sight words. He knows about 30 now.  We have a goal of 50 by the end of the summer and I keep track in my journal.
  7. Anna has headed up to Bemidji for the week with family friends. She stays with Guy and Val once or twice a year.  They love getting to play parents and she loves getting to be an only child.  They also teach her about legal stuff (Val is a lawyer), computers and all of the many subjects they are so knowledgeable about.
  8. Victoria and Daryl went to a writers/actors/artists workshop. They learned about everything from collage to Taiko drumming to writing to charcoal and paint.  It was at a nearby college and Victoria made some cool new connections and they both had a great time.
  9. We have seedlings on all the windowsills and have started many gardens. We got a ton of snow on top of my freshly planted seeds, but they’re cold tolerant so hopefully they’ll fare okay.  Inside, I have heirloom tomatoes everywhere, along with some exotic eggplants and interesting cabbage.  I can’t wait for it to warm up enough to really get serious in the garden.
  10. Daryl, Anna and Jack auditioned for the Wilder Pageant. Victoria is sitting out this year (she has been in it every summer since she was 6), but Alex may join in as one of Daryl’s kids.  Daryl will probably be Reverend Alden and Elias Bedal (Walnut Grove’s first mayor) again.  We haven’t received official word about roles yet, but the cast photos are on Saturday so we’ll know this week.

We’ve also talked about… European travel, youth hostels, abortion, the Gosnell trial, townships, voting registration and more.  The kids have also been doing… finger knitting, Big Wheel riding, ball playing, tree climbing, drawing, Lego building, Wii playing, video chatting, hiking, bike riding, sticky ball tossing, solitaire playing, Free Rice earning, dog walking, cooking, chores, talking on the phone with friends, reading, reading, reading and a whole lot of playing.

If you haven’t seen them, here’s my latest homeschooling articles elsewhere….

Students can use free public domain classes to learn over 40 languages

Here’s a great free resource to round out your child’s foreign language studies.  FSI Language Courses offer dozens of foreign language programs in mp3 format and in print for languages ranging from Finnish to Swahili…

Kids can take part in virtual Maker Camp this summer

Kids are invited to take part in Make Magazine’s six-week Maker’s Camp again this summer, with all sorts of great science, technology and crafting fun.The annual program boasts 30 days of “awesome projects…

Elemons turns the Periodic Table of Elements into a Pokemon-style card game

The best educational games are ones that kids would choose to play anyway because they’re enjoyable, well made and easy to play.  Elemons is a great example of this kind of game…

Free geometry book available from Wikijunior

Wikijunior has created a free geometry wikibook for the elementary level that’s a great introduction to geometry for all ages.The 72-page book, Geometry for Elementary School, covers basic information such as points, lines, symmetry, congruence, how…

Minecraft homeschool: Incredible educational Minecraft inspiration from all over

Do your kids love Minecraft?  Why not take advantage of that and use Minecraft to help teach history, science, language arts and more? There are dozens of wonderful sites on the internet designed to help parents and teachers…

50 Simple household items that help your child become a math whiz

Want to raise a child who loves math and is great at it?  One of the easiest ways to do that is to fill your house with hands-on materials that encourage kids to play with numbers, puzzles, shapes…

Free 700-page middle school chemistry course available online

Looking for a comprehensive chemistry course for the middle school level?  The American Chemical Society provides their entire 691-page curriculum for free as a PDF download or online resource…
And now, I have one final cake to bake (Victoria would like a gluten-free Red Velvet Cake) so I’d better get to it.

Five Good Reads (and one bad joke)

Happy Thursday!  We woke today to find some of that pretty white stuff all over.  I’m not sure I’m ready for winter but at least it waited until after September.

On the agenda today:

  • Have Victoria take her online CAT.
  • Do algebra with Victoria.
  • Start poetry lessons with Anna.
  • Have the boys do math on Dreambox.
  • Play in the snow.
  • Watch the crash courses on world history and biology with the three “big” kids.  We love these!
  • Read aloud to lots of children from lots of things.
  • Clean, do laundry, cook, repeat.
  • Find time to write at least one or two articles.
  • Throw educational things at Anna.
  • Make gluten free cupcakes with the kids and decorate them with ridiculous amounts of colorful sprinkles.  Those who know me know that I’m generally a health food tyrant, so this is big.  🙂

Here’s five interesting things I thought I’d pass on from elsewhere….

  1. Arts education (specifically painting) dramatically improved kids’ performances in math and reading. I really wish we could all just embrace art for the many fabulous things art does for kids (emotional outlet, creativity, beauty, expression, fun…) but if it takes math scores to convince administrators that children should be allowed to create then I’ll still take it.  Click here for the article on Yahoo.
  2. Looking for great high school biology courses? I love this post on LaPaz Home Learning about biology! Cell and Molecular Biology for high school. I am intimidated by the sounds of it but would love to try it with my girls.  I’m also floored by this full biology curriculum by Quarks and Quirks but I know it’s out of my league for doing on my own.  🙂
  3. I shared a bunch of cool links recently on A Magical Homeschool on Facebook. Check the page for pictures and info about solar flares, the winners for the best micro pictures of the years (amazing stuff), make your own bubble pages and more.
  4. I’ve started a series on gifted children on my national AP column. So far there is Attachment parenting your gifted child and How to know if your child is gifted — and why it matters.  If you’re up for some more great reads on gifted kids, Is it a Cheetah? is a wonderful article about how GT kids can appear in the wrong settings (such as schools that don’t support them) and this is a wonderful article about gifted teens and existential dread.  If you have a gifted teen and have not read up on that subject, I highly recommend it before your world goes several shakes of upside down.  I also recently started a yahoo list for parents of gifted teens.  If you’re in that boat and want an invite, let me know.
  5. Lastly, here’s a roundup of a few of my recent homeschooling articles: Minnesota makes free online learning illegal and then Minnesota reverses decision on free education ban and for some fun social studies projects, check out Fabulous projects to get kids hooked on social studies (Star Trek history lessons and such!) and 10 Signs you’re doing something right as a homeschooler. There’s also Coursera offers hundreds of the world’s best college courses free and Free 52-week Western history video course offered online for some pretty fabulous freebies.

I started this entry this morning. Since then, I’ve had my computer crash, did algebra, made lunch, started laundry and a few dozen other things, and now I’m finally finishing it. At least it’s still Thursday!

And okay, that’s way more than five reads, but it’s sort of grouped into five categories!  😉

As promised, though, one really bad joke to finish off…

    A farmer wants to know how many sheep he has in his field, so he asks his border collie to count them.

    The dog runs into the field, counts them and runs back to the farmer.

    The farmer says, “How many?”

    The dog says, “40.”

    The farmer is surprised and says, “How can there be 40 – I only bought 38!”  

    The dog says, “I rounded them up.”

    🙂

    August Homeschool Fun

    Happy August! Here’s a round-up of ideas I’ve written for ways to work some hands-on, educational fun (and just plain old fun!) into homeschooling this time of year…

    Water balloon math, tracking and graphing temperatures, comparing apples and oranges, nature angles…

    Sprinkler rainbows, sunflower sun dials, finding micrometeorites at the beach, campfire colors and bird watching

    Ice melting, dead bug dissections, story stones, temperature comparisons and nature photography

    Diving for math answers, trivia obstacle courses, sidewalk whales, making salsa…

    Strew messy science experiment ingredients outside, make nature prints, do weed experiments and other open-ended science explorations…

    Glow in the dark bead constellations, toad houses, timed track running, hammock reading nooks, cave exploration…

    How many can you knock off in a month?  Climb a tree, memorize a poem, press flowers, write a review on Amazon.com, learn how to build a camp fire…

    More things that are too good to skip!  Ant science experiments, produce taste tests, footprint painting, license plate maps, nontoxic weed killing experiments, rock painting, time capsules…

    Estimating temperatures with kitchen ingredients, melting contests, cooling methods…

    Lots of just for fun ways to stay cool, like ice necklaces, sponge balls and tarp slip and sliding.

    My favorite list.  We MUST do the waterbed trampoline before the summer is up!

    What’s on your to-do list before summer ends?

    Hunger Games Poetry, Facebook Timeline for Biographies, Pinterest & More

    Have you been to Teachers Pay Teachers yet?  They have some great freebies and some great lesson plans, printables and more for low cost too.

    Here’s a couple of the current freebies that I especially loved.

    Also, I’ve been pinning oodles of cool homeschool pages on Pinterest if you’re on there.  Here’s my boards if you want to peek.

    And I’m on these collaborative homeschool boards:

    I also have boards on organic gardening, fun with kids, fun and learning for each season, gluten free and dairy free cooking, vegan cooking, all natural cooking, cooking with kids, yarn crafts, drawing and journaling, green living, cleaning and organizing, attachment parenting, babies and toddlers, projects, crafts and way too much more if you want to look.  🙂

    Things are going well here.  Life with our new dog is a lot of fun, and spring has given us all an extra bounce in our steps (not that Alex needs any extra bounces!).

    (photo by Victoria)