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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The Daily List is a Fun Way to Get Kids Writing

I’ve been working on getting Jack and Alex to do more writing lately.  Victoria and Rhiannon always loved writing and it was one way they quite naturally improved their handwriting, spelling and composition skills over the years.  Since the boys aren’t as keen to do it on their own, I’ve been finding fun ways to get them writing.

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As long-time readers know, I’ve never been a fan of forced activities.  I want my kids to love to write (and read and learn in general), not to put up with it because they have to.  After all, I want them to be lifelong readers, writers and learners, and this only happens if they learn to love reading, writing and learning.  This has always worked for us, in part because we come up with ways to show them the joy of these things.

Daily lists are a fun and easy way to get this going with writing.

I gave Jack a notebook and asked him to make a list of any 20 things each day.  The list could be of things he wants for his birthday, jobs he might like to do when he grows up, birds he can ID, characters who annoy him on TV, things he likes about Minnesota… Anything.  I help brainstorm list ideas if he comes up blank, but he chooses what he wants to list.  Alex will be starting his own notebook this week, too.

They don’t have to list 20 things in one list if there aren’t that many things that apply.  They can do a couple of shorter lists, such as who their best friends are and who they’d like to get to know better, or states they’ve visited and states they’d like to visit.

 I shared this idea with a friend and she used it quite successfully with her son yesterday.  He has Downs Syndrome and tends to balk at writing.  She asked him to write a list of 10 things he likes on pizza (which he loves).  After he wrote his list, she sat and helped him correct the spelling and they talked about sounding out words and spelling rules.

One of the great things about this is that it works with any age and it can become a journal of sorts.  Keep all the lists in one notebook and have kids date them, and they can look back to see what their favorite books or songs were, what they considered their best qualities, and so on.  It also just helps get you into a creative mindset, and get thinking about those bigger topics like possible careers and things you’d like to get better at.

As always, it helps to have fun notebooks and pens to use, too.  Everything is more fun when you have cool materials to use.  😉

I’m thinking of making up a big list of lists now, and printing it up as books for the boys.  This is working really well for now, though, and I’m excited to get Alex started.

I kind of want to start my own list journal too!

 

 

New Book!

My Kindle book went live on Amazon this morning!

You can find it here: A Magical Homeschool: Nature Studies (52 Wonderful Ways to Use Nature Studies in Every Season to Teach Science, Math, Art and More) (affiliate link).

This is utterly terrifying new territory, but very exciting nonetheless.  🙂

It’s broken down into four seasons, with 13 activities for each season (enough for one every week of the year).  They are designed to work with multiple ages, so families can do the activities together.

Examples of the activities include:

Spring:

  • Test your garden soil pH with vinegar.
  • Make homemade playdough and dye it with a variety of natural materials to make all different colors.
  • Use an empty Valentines Day chocolate box to start a rock collection.

Summer:

  • Count cricket chirps to tell the temperature (with information about how crickets make the chirps and why they speed up when it’s warm).
  • Use a magnet to find micrometeorites at the beach.
  • Use ants for nature studies (draw a chalk maze to see if they’ll run it to avoid the chalk lines, watch how they’ll follow an invisible path on a piece of paper if you turn it after they start walking a line on it, test out various natural repellents, etc.).

Autumn:

  • Use glycerine to preserve a branch of colorful fall leaves.
  • Use apples for a variety of science and nature (and homemaking) projects.
  • Do an amped up scavenger hunt with all the kids (past the usual find something blue kind of stuff, find something Native Americans used for food or medicine, find an insect that’s an omnivore and one that’s an herbivore, etc.)

Winter:

  • Carve avocado pit pendants.
  • Measure the volume of snow when it’s frozen versus melted (and extensions from there).
  • Make a tabletop observation garden from root vegetables.

It’s $2.99 in the Kindle store, or free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.  It should be free sometime soon and I’ll post and let you know when that happens.

 

10 Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

We’re 2 weeks into 2017 and hanging in there.  I had a birthday a week ago and Rhia has a birthday next week.  She’s turning 17 (how did that happen?) and I won’t tell you what age I turned.  😉

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(Yes, our kitchen ceiling is completely covered with the children’s art!)

We had some more sadness, as my grandmother died right before the new year.  She was 93 and impatient to move on to her next adventure, but that doesn’t make it easier.  I am very glad that we made so many trips to Ohio for the kids to really get to know her, especially this year (3 trips in 6 months).

That doesn’t mean homeschooling was happening, though.  Or magical moments.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

  1. Daryl has been doing “Teach Your Monster to Read” with Fiona just about every day.  She is beginning to get the hang of how phonics and words work, and she enjoys it.
  2. I got out an old science kit that I found at a thrift store years back, dusted it off, and started doing science experiments with Alex.  It contains a hand-held scope and lots of gadgets and chemicals.  We did things like examined different cloths under the scope, compared types of salt under magnification (black lava salt just looks dirty!) and did some simple experiments.  We’re going to try to finally start putting it to regular use.
  3. Daryl is acting in a winter play.  He has the lead in a community theater production in Worthington.  It’s a comedy and he plays a detective.  Rhia goes with him to rehearsals and all of the kids help him run his lines.
  4. Toria is working on getting our family Etsy store running.  She has some beautiful glass fox pendants that I got her for her birthday as a start to her own business (I purchased a large assortment wholesale for her to sell).  We are planning to sell a variety of things out of a family store.  Rhia creates elaborate zentangle-like artwork that she’d like to list and I have been creating magical homeschool sort of printables (such as colorful cards of hands-on ways to do all different subjects).  It has been a fun learning experience for all of us so far. Toria is taking pictures this week and then we should be able to finish creating the storefront.
  5. Rhia has been writing songs.  She is very talented on the guitar and writes amazing songs.  She wrote one last week that is quite feminist, and wrote another for a friend who needed cheering up.  She also has been learning how to cover other songs on the guitar.  Daryl and I heard a song I really liked during “Listen to Your Folks” on campus radio last week (Painting Houses) and she and Daryl learned to play it and performed it for me.
  6. I wrote a Kindle book.  I decided that it was time to start writing about the things that I am passionate about again, and that I finally needed to learn how to write Kindle books and give it a try.  There’s a steep learning curve but I got my first book written.  It is part of a series I’d like to write under the umbrella of “A Magical Homeschool.”  This one is A Magical Homeschool:  Nature Studies (52 Wonderful ways to use nature studies for science, math, art and more).  I am working on the cover today.
  7. Rhia is learning Spanish.  She has started doing Duolingo and has progressed quite far already.  Toria has been using Duolingo to master German for years, and Daryl does the free language app daily in German, French, Spanish, Norwegian and Swedish.
  8. Jack has been running D&D games for Alex.  This role playing game involves creating a world, drawing out maps, storytelling and running the game to create the adventure as the players go along.  Players roll dice to determine the outcome of decisions, battles, etc. and use miniatures to represent the players and the world.
  9. Alex, Fiona and I played a US states geography board game.  It involves drawing cards of states that you need to travel to and then answering questions about the states to move across the board and try to reach your state.  Once you visit all four of the states you’ve drawn (driving across the country in your car token), you win. A friend lent it to us and Alex really enjoys it.  Fiona doesn’t have to answer the questions.  We just let her roll the dice and travel across the country, and she is still picking up geography from the states she “visits.”
  10. Daryl and the kids have been shooting winter footage for a movie.  Daryl has a friend making a movie down south and she needs to incorporate footage of winter memories for the characters, who are supposed to be in Montana.  They have been shooting footage of snowy scenes and of the kids running in the snow and so on.  Daryl, Toria, Jack and Rhia have all shot footage, and Alex and Rhia have been in some of the scenes.

Of course, we’re doing all the usual homeschool stuff too — reading books, playing games, texting, blogging, using educational apps and shows, nature studies, cooking, chores, math pages and so on.

And now, I’m off to work on that cover and pretend I’m going to get housework done.

Okay, really try to at least get a little housework done….

Have a magical week!

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.

 

 

Ten Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these lists so I thought I’d post quickly before catching up on my mile-long to-do list.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

1.  We got a ton of snow last week and the kids had a blast building snow forts, making snow ramps for sleds and playing in it.

2.  Victoria has taken up knitting again, and she’s so good (and fast!).  She made a lovely multi-colored scarf for a lady at church, and this hat for Fiona.

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3.  Our couch was sagging and shot, so this morning Daryl and Jack took it apart.  They repaired and reinforced the insides so it’s as good as new.  It’s always been important to us that the kids get an education not just in academics but in life skills — knowing how to cook from scratch, repair household items, sew and mend clothes, preserve foods, find bargains, treat minor illnesses and so on.  I love that they’re growing up learning these skills that we had to teach ourselves much later in life, and that they have the knowledge to live well on very little since they won’t have to pay others to do jobs for them or just toss things out and buy new.  (See 10 Homesteading skills every child should learn for more on that).

4.  Victoria and Fiona keep drawing together.  I love that Victoria has passed on her love of drawing to Fiona and I love seeing their little joint drawings.  🙂

fividrawing

5.  We’re reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever as a read-aloud, which has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember.  The kids never get tired of hearing that book.  🙂

6.  Rhia has kept busy with her photography, art, politics and her boyfriend, among other things.  She and Tyler are still going strong.  He continues to teach her things like car repair.  He fixed an old rusted manual typewriter for her that they found, and got it working as good as new.  He also fixed an old light that they found, wiring it and everything.  His mechanical skills are impressive and I love that she’s learning that from him.  She teaches him things too, and it’s nice to see how well they complement each other.

7.  I got a 75 cent calligraphy kit from a thrift store and got it out for the boys to use for handwriting practice.  They both need work on their handwriting but they say they hate to write.  With the pen out, they couldn’t wait to write.  Jack spent quite a long time writing out words and phrases, and Alex took a turn, too.  Later on, Victoria even asked if she could use it.

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8.  We’ve been watching Drunk History with the kids.  The older kids and I get a lot out of it, and there have been so many times that I turned to Victoria and asked, “Did that really happen?” and she did a quick google and declared that yes, amazingly, that did.  It’s been a fun way of learning less-known history.  🙂  The younger kids have been watching more respectable Netflix shows like MythBusters, Odd Squad and Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

9.  We’ve been participating in Bountiful Baskets, a non-profit produce coop that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to cities around the country every weekend.  They also have different add-ons every week, such as organic bread, granola, fruit by the case and themed boxes (such as all different kinds of citrus  or masa mix with corn husks and Mexican produce to make tamales).  Last week we got a 40 pound box of organic Fiji apples for $32.  It’s entirely volunteer-run (even the women who run it at the national level) and our family volunteers every Saturday to help out.  The little kids help clean laundry baskets (they use designated laundry baskets to portion all the food out for people to pick up and put in their own containers), smash boxes and carry things.  The older kids help people carry their boxes and baskets to their cars, and Daryl and I help check people in, load the baskets and so on.  It’s been a fun way to volunteer as a family, a great way to extend our grocery dollars (a basket full of fruits and veggies is only $15 and an organic box is only $25) and a neat way to discover some new fruits and vegetables.  Some of the produce we get in the boxes isn’t even available in our grocery stores.

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10. We learned all about wassailing and it’s very pagan roots.  Daryl and Victoria tend to go down educational rabbit holes on our long car drives, and Victoria googles the topics and then reads everything she finds out to us.  Last week, that led to our learning more than we ever thought we could know about radon (which states have the worst problem, how radon led to lung disease in coal miners, which homes are at risk, what it does…).  This week, it was wassailing.  Now THAT was a wild tradition once upon a time.

There’s been all of the usual stuff, too, of course — Khan Academy, reading, worksheets, playing with friends, doing art, nature studies, games, cooking, talking, blogging, educational apps, playing Minecraft, playing with pets, fighting illnesses and so on.

And with that, I’m off to go read another chapter about those awful Herdman kids and try to get my downstairs remotely tidy looking.  Happy Wednesday!

 

At This Moment…

I thought it was about time for a check-in!

It’s a dreary Wednesday here, the third rainy day we’ve had in a row.  The cold and wet has actually been rather nice, since it was so hot and dry for so long.

I haven’t had to water the garden.

There’s no need for air conditioning.

I can cook without making the kitchen unbearably hot.

We can cozy up inside.

It’s kind of nice, as long as it eventually gets back to a bit of summer before fall hits!

Daryl and Victoria are out gathering elderberries during the break from the rain.

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I’ve spent the last 3 days drying three trays-full that Rhia (our Rhiannon Lee no longer goes by Anna or Annalee, but Rhia these days) gathered for us Sunday.  She climbed down into a very deep ditch near our rural UU church to gather them, and a hummingbird mistook her bright pink hair for a flower and kept whirring alongside her!  🙂

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I have one quart jar and one pint all safely filled with dried elderberries that we’ll use for the best anti-flu remedy in the world, elderberry syrup. (Daryl has info on how to find elderberries and harvest them in his foraging column, if you want to get some in your neck of the woods, but honestly the easiest time to find them is when they’re in flower and you see them all over — this is what that stand looked like six weeks ago and how we knew to send Rhia down there this week!.)

Jack is taking a break from the story-writing that has consumed his past week in order to watch Fiona for a few minutes.  I love how he’s thrown himself into this book, and how he comes to Daryl for help in correcting the capitalization and punctuation to make it perfect.

This is his second draft of this book, since he worked on it for three days straight and then accidentally deleted the entire first draft and replaced it with the word “barbarian.”  He was trying to look up the spelling and somehow not only copied over his whole manuscript but closed the program in panic, leaving us unable to save him by undoing it.

It’s going to be a very long time before he sees the humor in that!  Poor kid.  🙂

On the bright side, he now does admit that I was right when I told him the second draft would be even better.  Even though it’s so much frustrating extra work, I promised him that second drafts are almost always better.  Luckily, he concurs and he’s once again happy with his book.

Alex is copying a page of sight words I wrote out for him in his homeschool journal.  I’m rewarding him with two chocolate caramel cups.  I’m okay with that.  🙂  Writing doesn’t come easily for him so I’m going to stock up on some fun ways to help make it easier, as I’m sure he doesn’t want to do copywork every day for the next months even for chocolate.

Here are some of my favorite ways to make writing come easier:

Victoria and Daryl took part in an acting workshop last night.  They went to Mankato and she spent some time with a friend of hers first.  They learned how to do convincing slaps, punches and foot stomps, for one thing, and they’ve had fun teaching Fiona and Alex how to do the same.  Fiona doesn’t quite get it, and keeps actually punching people in the stomach.  😉

Victoria also has a new job that she’ll start soon.  I can’t say too much about it, but it’s a government job and she’ll be picked up in one of those shiny black government SUVs every day that she works (which will be for about a week each month, during the day). She’s very excited and will start training soon.

We have our first monarch chrysalis in a habitat on the piano, with two more caterpillars happily munching on milkweed leaves to “J” soon.  It’s exciting to raise butterflies again after a couple of summers off.  (Here are some pictures of the process from one of our earlier years.)

Otherwise, things are going well. Alex has a new best friend who lives a block over that he spends most hours of sunlight playing with. They are pretty much always at each other’s houses — either she’s playing with our kids in our yard, or he’s over at her house.

cassandraHe also has a best friend at church who he is happy to get to see again (our church doesn’t have service in the summertime, which I guess is an old UU tradition).

jocelynHe’s been doing a lot of reading and bike riding, too, along with lots of the usual building and playing and watching science documentaries.  Toria and Rhia have both been spending lots of time with friends who live in nearby towns, and lots of time reading and studying.  All three “big” kids are doing math online through sites like Khan Academy, and Toria is also still learning German on Duolingo.  Rhia has been reading poems to Fiona (particularly Edgar Allen Poe).  Everybody reads to Fiona and takes turns watching her, playing with her, drawing with her and keeping her happy.  I love how the older kids dote on her, and how she is such a reflection of every one of them!

We’ll officially start homeschooling next week.  You know we are never “school at home” types, but we’ll start doing more projects and unit studies.  I’m once again committing to doing country studies every week.  I know I won’t get to anywhere near all the countries I want to, but it’s fun to plan.  😉  I’ve also made a list of 60+ different topics I’d like to cover with the kids this year, and that’s before asking them to add theirs!

And while typing this, Daryl and Toria came home with a bucket full of elderberries to process, Alex finished his copywork and wants me to check it, and the sun came out.  I went outside and it felt absolutely marvelous on my skin.  I guess I can deal without rain for a while after all!

I’m going to grab a towel to put down on a lawn chair, dole out some chocolate cups, and invite my kiddos to play outside with me.

What’s new in your homeschool?