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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Pre-reading Fun

Fiona has asked me to help her learn to read and since she’ll be turning 5 in the fall, I know that it will all start clicking for her in the next year or so.  We don’t use a formal reading curriculum to teach the kids to read.  With all of the older four, we just did lots of reading readiness in the form of reading together, playing letter games, having fun with phonics, doing early writing, and so on.

I found a fish puppet in the broom closet the other day as I was trying to reorganize.  Of course, there was a fish puppet in our broom closet!  🙂  I had also picked up a bag of assorted decks of kids’ games at a thrift store that week, and there happened to be a deck of letter cards in there.  Voila!  A pre-reading game came together!

I posted a pic online and on the Magical Homeschool page, if you want to peek.

Today's reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

Today’s reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

I explained:

Here’s how we play games to help learn reading. This particular one involved a puppet I happened to find in a closet as I was cleaning. I had some letter flash cards so I made a game with Fiona where the fish puppet would ask in a silly voice for her to feed him things that started with each letter. She’d have to find the letter and then he’d gobble it. Then we moved on to spelling words for him, such as HI. She ran and got her colored pencils and paper and wanted to copy the words, so she wrote simple words such as HI, MOON and CAT that we “fed” to the fish. We also used the cards to change words, such as changing MOON to SOON by moving one letter.

I was going to post more, but my noisy crowd (well, those who aren’t off at the ocean) just got back from pageant rehearsal and mayhem has once again ensued.

I have promised Fiona that we will continue to do some sort of reading fun together just about every day.  I’ll keep updating here with a peek at what we do.

 

 

Snow Days

bootswinter

We’ve been snowed in for two days with a winter blizzard that’s led to closed highways and canceled plans.  While I’ll be awfully tired of this business in a month or two, I kind of like this part of Minnesota winters for now.

We’re forced to slow down, stay home and do cozy things like read, play games and bake.  I take long baths and browse seed catalogs to plan my spring and summer gardens.  I use up apples, pears, berries and pumpkin puree that we put up last summer and fall in homemade muffins and gluten free mix and match snack cakes.  We watch silly British math shows.  The kids have tickle fights and show each other funny videos.

We picked up this geography game for 99 cents at a thrift store and finally got around to playing it yesterday. It was quite old and exceptionally well made, and luckily every piece was still there. It led to quite a lot of great learning about geography and history for Jack,  Victoria and even me.

nationalgeographicgame

This morning, I set the little ones up with a giant bin of snow and ice cube trays of colored water.  They had so much fun mixing colors and experimenting with making tunnels with water.

snowday

Later, Victoria did marshmallow homeschool with Jack, Fiona and Alex while they warmed up with hot cocoa after shoveling the driveway.  She asked them questions related to math, social studies and spelling for them to earn marshmallows (examples for Jack: What’s the difference between a slave and an indentured servant?  If 4x + 4 = 20, what is x?).  She googled questions for various grades in order to come up with good questions.  My kids always love doing marshmallow or chocolate chip homeschool.  Afterwards, Jack asked me to do more algebra with him (no treats involved).

marshmallow

Hopefully, we’ll be able to dig our way out in the next day or so.  If not, I can live with a longer break from the outside world.  We have plenty of groceries, a warm house and a nearly endless supply of games, books, shows, Pinterest crafts and other goodies that I’ve been meaning to get to for far too long now (which led to last February’s Use it Up challenge).  🙂

Stay warm!

Beanie Baby Biology Class

Beany Baby Science

Here’s a fun way to learn about animals in all kinds of ways.

We’ve started a collection of animal beanie babies for the younger kids and it’s turned into such a fun and educational collection.

We get them at thrift stores for about .50 each on average. They make just about every species you can think of.

We have a robin, moose, fox, beetle, rhino, loon, starfish, zebra, aardvark, dragonfly, squirrel, goldfish, seal, lobster, elephant, butterfly, gecko, snake, blue jay, flamingo, giraffe, poodle, ladybug, fox, wolf, black bear, raccoon, koala , octopus and lots more.

We keep them in a large basket in the living room and just about every day we find a new way to make an educational game out of them.

For instance, I’ve asked the little ones if they can sort by whether they live on land or water, the ones who lay eggs from the ones who give birth, by birds and bugs and mammals and so on.

Or sort by how many legs they have, whether they have scales or fur or feathers, whether they hibernate, whether they’re carnivores or omnivores or herbivores, or whether they can be found in our part of the world……

There are so many ways to use them.  I’m thinking we could even work language arts and such in (sort by syllables in their names or whether they start with vowels) and social studies (sort by continents).  You get the idea!

Fiona (four) loves to line them up and make up her own games with them too. And since they are pretty small, they don’t take up much room.

They also work for bean bag games and are fun to toss back into the basket to clean up.  🙂

All five of the kids now look at every thrift store we visit to see if there are any new ones to add to our collection.  Even I have fun looking for fun new species to add!

 

Felt Foods!

While we were in Nebraska a few weeks ago, Toria happened upon a stash of felt that Tiffany wasn’t using.  With Tiffany’s blessing, she used some to make a little felt waffle for Fiona, dents and all.  And then a little felt strawberry, and then a felt orange wedge, and then a felt strawberry (complete with little embroidered seeds!) and then felt salad ingredients and felt pizza ingredients and on and on.

felt3Fiona ended up with an entire set of darling felt food, and Toria made a set for Tiffany’s two year-old daughter, Millie, too.

She made so much that we had to run out and buy her more felt.

It was a darling project and both girls loved their new play foods.

feltfelt4(No, she doesn’t need glasses, she just likes to swipe my reading glasses!)

I’ll have her share some tips when she’s back from Oregon, and I’ll post better pictures then.  Fun stuff!

felt2

Another Nebraska Getaway

fifipainting

We were lucky enough to get to spend another week at the fabulous Baker house in Nebraska last week, and it was a wonderful break.

The original plan was for me to go down with just Fiona and Anna since Daryl and the boys have pageant practice, but Alex missed me so badly that Daryl brought him and Jack down to join us a couple of days later.

Tiffany is doing day care out of her home now, and it was fun getting to help out.  Most of her day care kids are around toddler and preschool age, so they were great fun for Fiona to play with.

There was lots of painting, lots of messes and lots of chaos (though still less than there generally is in my house with just my kids!).  🙂

The big kids even joined in the day care fun on some days!

kidspainting

The theme for the week was dinos, and we did all sorts of dino-related fun such as……

  • Drawing the length of an apatosaurus on the sidewalk and marking its stride, and then seeing how long the kids’ stride was in comparison.
  • Having dino snacks (carrot sticks carved like dino teeth, hard boiled eggs, etc.).
  • Reading dino books.
  • Singing a dino song each day about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores (we considered it a great success when Kennedy was overheard singing “carni, carni, carnivore….” on Friday).
  • Cutting out life-sized T-rex feet and putting them on the dining room wall at the proper spacing for how far apart their footsteps were (it took up the whole wall!).
  • And so on!

I’ll try to post some examples after I download the pics from my camera.

I’m inspired to do some themes around here each week now, even for the bigger kids.  Some of the ideas I have are seeds, space, fire, continents, oceans, mammals, fish, birds, invertebrates, amphibians, weather, the periodic table, colors and senses.  I am thinking of having a different general theme each week, and maybe doing lots of science themes too — magnets, electricity, evolution, etc.

As always, Tiffany’s house has inspired me to try even harder to get organized too.  Hope springs eternal.  😉

A Quick Little Learning-to-Read Game

read Here’s an example of how we play with words to help our kids learn to read.

This is a game Alex and I played yesterday.  I’ve done something similar with all of the kids and it always works well and is fun.

I wrote and illustrated 15 sets of words (drawings on blue, words on yellow) and then I just spread them all out and have him look for pairs.

Our words (short and easy to draw) were hand, sun, moon, egg, ball, flag, fish, owl, boot, door, cup, car, leaf, bug, hat and tree.

Owl ended up being a fail. My owl looked like a buddha.  😉

Later on, the game can be played concentration style (flipped over, try to remember where matches are) but when kids are newly learning to read, just spread them out facing up.

Have the child look for matches.  Try not to help much, other than when asked for help remembering how to sound out letters.

Alex (5) was able to figure them all out with occasional reminders about letter sounds.

He can read MUCH easier in this sort of way than just sitting and sounding words out. As a matter of fact, when I just flipped through the cards afterwards, he got very frustrated trying to read the same words he had just matched up.

The pictures give just the right amount of help to let kids see themselves as successful readers.

He really enjoyed it and was very proud of his stack of accomplished words.

When our kids learned to read:

Victoria sounded her first word out (boo) at three and was reading fluently at four. 

Anna was nearly six when it really clicked. 

Jack was five. 

Alex is five now and I think he will be six before it really clicks.

We did not use a phonics curriculum, How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Bob books or any of that.

We read to our kids a lot, we played phonics games, we talked about letter sounds and we let it happen naturally.  (See the articles below for more examples.)

It’s important to note that all of our older kids are voracious readers now (at 9, 13 and 14).

Remember that when a child learns to read has no bearing on how well the child will eventually read. Children walk, talk, read and learn to use the potty at their own paces.

If you do “walking lessons” with a baby who is not ready to walk, I sure hope you make it fun.  It will not help the baby walk much sooner and is completely unnecessary.

Reading lessons are the same.  If you’re going to use phonics curricula and reading lessons with a young child, do be sure to make it fantastically fun.  🙂

 

 

 

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