Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Candy Scientists

Bob the Builder and Super Why
I realized today that aside from Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, our kids don't eat candy. It's not a conscience thing, they do like it and they're not allergic. We're just not in the habit of purchasing it, and we don't encounter it in other places we go. So for the boys, Halloween candy is a like-new experience every year. So I thought it would be fun to record our candy in a scientific way, making observations about each candy. It will practice identifying tastes and textures, and will give us a good idea of the sorts of things they like for future buying (making comparisons!)

I made a chart for our observations. We will tape or staple the candy wrapper in the spaces on the right side (above the stars.) Builder Boy will check the boxes that apply and give it a starred rating.

I am sharing the picture freely if anyone else wants to do this. (I hand drew it, scanned it in, and added stars with Paint.)

Happy Halloween!

Added later: Check out the Candy Experiments website! There are a tun of cool science experiments you can do with candy (that doesn't require eating!) If we have any duplicates we might try some of these.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What Does It Take to Make a Brick? Part 2

Well, this turned out to take longer than I thought it would.

Before Baking
It was 86*F weather when we started the bricks, so I thought they would dry just fine. But then it got cold and damp. I brought them inside before it started raining (which, as my dear husband pointed out, it what I get for attempting this project in October.) We had read in one of our books that the ancient Indians (India, not America) backed their bricks in ovens, so after a week of the weather not getting any warmer, we tried baking the bricks. I had learned my lesson; we did not try the broil setting. We turned the brick forms upside down and tipped the mostly solid mud/dirt kept it's form. I kept it in the oven on 200*F for a few hours. I can see how this might work well if the brick mud had clay in it, but ours didn't really have any. Also, it made me wonder if the baked bricks the ancient Indians made were significantly better than the wood they had to burn to bake the bricks. Because it doesn't seem very efficient to me.
After Baking

The Winner

We only had room for three bricks, so we baked bricks 1, 2, and 3. Number 2 was the only one that didn't crumble, so Number 2 is the winner. Builder Boy declared it "absolutely perfect" and "brilliant."

(Click here for the beginning of the project.)
The brick making idea came from the Activity Book One: Ancient Times. This activity was for Chapter Nine The First Cities of India.

Homemade Halloween Costumes (2010/2011)

Here are pictures of the Thomas and Percy costumes I made for Builder Boy and Early Bird two years ago. At the time Builder Boy was obsessed with Thomas and Friends. He wore this shirt every single day for two weeks after I gave it to him. We had to sneak it off of him at night to wash it. He loved it so much that he wore it again for the next Halloween. I used a sticker to base the painting on. I painted the train's number on the backs of the shirts.

Halloween 2010

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Homemade Halloween Costumes (2012)

I am fortunate that my boys are happy with very simple, inexpensive, homemade costumes. I finished Early Bird's costume today. He's Super Why from the tv show. I bought a $3.50 green shirt at Micheal's and $3's worth of fleece at Walmart. I painted the Super Why logo on the t-shirt and sewed the green fleece on the shirt shoulders. The cape is suppose to be blue, but I forgot that when I was at the store. Thankfully the kids don't mind. It's big enough to wear for years, and it can be worn over a jacket for trick-or-treating. We have a stuffed dog that is the same color as Woofster, so I got a blue cape for his dog.

Builder Boy's costume was even easier. He wanted to be Bob the Builder (shocker, I know.) I already had the hat that I had picked up at a thrift store or a garage sale years ago, and the tool belt came as part of a tool bench that was a present for his 2nd birthday. We also had an orange shirt from last year, so ta-da! Bob the Builder. I searched the thrift stores for denim overalls, but I didn't find any. Thankfully, Builder Boy doesn't mind wearing just pants.

Last year, and the year before, they were Thomas and Percy. I'm glad they let me make new costumes this year. Last year Builder Boy insisted on wearing the same costumes as the year before.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another off week

Well, this week turned into another "blah" week. I wasn't feeling well, Early Bird was grumpy and coughing all week, and Builder Boy developed a fever. Stuff like this makes me glad we already planned on schooling year-round. But two weeks in a row worries me. It will make it harder to start up again. My kindergarten plans were ruined by frequent sickness and other problems. We were never able to be consistent, and things just didn't get done. I've spent the past 10 weeks or so reviewing math and reading that we learned in kindergarten. We are only just now getting into newer stuff. True, we were ahead to begin with, but now it feels behind. We only just a few weeks ago finished kindergarten level handwriting.

Instead of feeling rested, I'm feeling more stressed. I have to get us started again, and get us started with enthusiasm. Having the brick experiment turn out the way it did doesn't help. But I've got to pick myself up, and get back the fun.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kids Book Review: Hurray for Today (Cat in the Hat Learning Library)

My kids like the Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That tv show; at least the episodes that are on Netflix. We have three of the Cat in the Hat Learning Library books, and we like them, too. They are cute and a good way to introduce topics for further learning.

Halloween is coming up and I've never really sat down with the kids and a calender and talked about holidays throughout the year. So when I saw "Hurray for Today" at the library, I thought "perfect!" and put it in the take-home bag. I am very glad, however, that I did look at it before I read it to the boys. And then I looked at it again, and I couldn't believe what was in this book.

I wrote a much longer review of this book, but it turned out to be longer than the actual book, and I thought people might think it was a big rant over a little thing. So I have condensed it to

8 Reasons Why This Is a Bad Book for Kids

(In the order they are found in the book)
  1. Instead of starting at the beginning of the year and going January to December, it starts at Winter Solstice. Confused? Because I was, and I am pretty sure kids would be, too.         
  2. It lumps Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza all together and gives the reason for these holidays as just excuses to "hang wreaths, light up candles, and string colored lights" to "make folks forget they'd see less of the sun." Really? I get not wanting to offend anyone, but they couldn't even make it about peace on Earth or remembering to be nice to other people or charity? It's just an excuse to have pretty lights when it's dark?                                                                    
  3. Valentine's Day, according to the book, is because a priest (religion not specified) "made sure that all lovers could be man and wife," so they made him the saint of all lovers. 
  4. "A long time ago,/every Irishman knows,/snakes crawled over Ireland/(or so legend goes)./A great Irish person,/who called himself Pat,/drove out all the snakes--/and, by gosh, that was that!" A) He was English, not Irish. B) He wasn't some "person" who just happened to be there. He was a Christan Bishop. He was there because he was a missionary. C) There were never any snakes in Ireland! Is this what kids should be learning? Three things that are completely untrue to keep from having to mention God or Christianity?
  5. "Easter fest." Not Easter, "Easter fest." A goddess called Eastre turned a dying bird into a bunny who could still lay eggs. He was so happy for his "new life" that he painted his eggs different colors.
  6. Out of 12 lines on Mother's Day, 6 of them are about worshiping Mother Earth and the mothering cake. That's half of the whole thing on Mother's Day! But it's still better than Father's Day, which doesn't even warrant a couplet. It gets a small "banner" at the bottom of the first day of summer page, in smaller print, saying "Don't Forget Father's Day." The exact format they use to inform us about National Poetry Month and Library Card Sign Up Month.
  7. "Poor Jack was a bad man/ who passed away, so/he went up to heaven. But God told him, GO!/The devil did, too, so/he just walked the night." This is where they chose to mention God?! As the mean guy who rejects "Poor Jack" from heaven?! Why avoid mentioned God for Christmas, St. Patric's Day, and Easter, but bring Him up on Halloween in such a negative light?
  8. Thanksgiving: no mention of Pilgrims. No mention of being thankful! Just "pray for peace and plenty/in all the world's lands." No mention, of course, to who or what it is we're praying too. And then the book's over; at the end of Thanksgiving, because they started before Christmas.

Friday, October 19, 2012

We need a do-over week

Once again the flexibility of homeschooling is going to save my sanity. Wednesday was our regular out-if-the-house-activities day, which is normally fine. Thursday I had a doctor's appointment and everything was okay until I lost my keys. I spent 3 hours trying to find them! And I found them in a place I had already searched 2 times. Today I had to go to the re-scheduled doctor's appointment, and run some errands. All of this might not quite so bad if we had two cars. But we only have the Purple School Bus Mini Van, which means we have to get up early to take Principal Daddy to work so that I can have the car.

Honestly, I don't know how parents and kids who have to get up and go early in the morning, every weekday, do it. I am not a morning person. And despite Early Bird's nickname, he is not either. And no matter how much earlier the kids go to bed the night before, if they have to be woken up the whole day is going to be more tired/emotional/difficult. Kudos to those who do! And thank you, God and Mr. Warde that I don't have to.

And there's been some overcast weather so the bricks aren't drying.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Does It Take to Make a Brick? Part 1

For Story of the World : Ancient Times Chapter Nine The First Cities India we started an experiment to see what combination of local dirt would make a good brick (I'm not sure if any of them will work, but it's worth a try.) I prepared cardboard frames ahead of time, and we lined them somewhat with plastic cling wrap.

We have local dirt that seems like it has a lot of clay in it, but it was WAY to hard where we are to try to dig up a significant amount. We did find two other types of dirt around our complex. Dirt A is sandy-ish and we had to sift small rocks out of it. Dirt B we got from the top of mole hills in the lawn area; it was darker and had grass roots in it. We also used sand from the sandbox (we bought the sand at the store) and dried pine needles instead of grass.

Dirt A
Dirt B

We wanted to be a scientific as we could, so we measured and recorded our mixtures.

Brick 1:
  • 1 cup water (which turned out to be WAY too much water)
  • 2 cups Dirt A
  • 1 cup sand

Brick 2:
  • 2/3 cup water (still too much water)
  • 2 cups Dirt B
  • 1 cup sand
Brick 1
Brick 2

Brick 3:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup Dirt A
  • 1 cup Dirt B
  • 1 cup sand
  • some broken up pine needles
Brick 4:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup Dirt A
  • 2 cups Dirt B
  • NO sand
  • some broken up pine needles
Brick 3
Brick 4

I am hoping they will dry out in 2 days (we had 80+ F weather today.) I'll post the results when we get them.

(Click here to see how they turned out!)

The brick making idea came from the Activity Book One: Ancient Times.

The links are to the author's printing press website where you can buy Story of the World directly from the author. The below pictures are links to the book on

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Making a Cardboard Brick Frame

Chapter Nine of Story of the World: Ancient Times introduces ancient India. As an activity for this chapter we are going to experiment with different mud/sand/grass mixtures to discover what mix makes the best bricks. But for that we needed brick forms, ideally identical in size and shape for the most accurate comparison.

I started with a Carnation instant breakfast box (I got it at Sam's Club.) I measured and drew a line around at exactly the half way around point. I cut all the way around in half.

Then I measured and cut the top and bottom in half. I used the cardboard back of a pad of colored paper to make the missing side on each of the frames. I used masking tape on any edge that could possible leak.

The original box was 6 in X 11.5 in X 3.75 in. I turned it into four frames  3 in X 5.75 x 3.75.

The brick making experiment is from SOTW Activity Book One: Ancient Times. Making the cardboard frames was from me.

The beginning links are to the author's printing press website where you can buy Story of the World directly from the author. The below pictures are links to the book on

Friday, October 12, 2012

Supplementing FLL1, Lessons 21-30

A continuation of what we did to teach lessons from First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1 in a kinetic way. (Click here for my post about the previous ten lessons.)

Learning our address (Lesson 21, 29)
   Learning this importing information was not clicking just looking and saying it, so I made another index card set. Builder Boy remembers the name of our town and our state, and understands that our house has a special number and our street has a name, but he couldn't put it together. So I drew pictures of a house, a street, a town, and our state. On the other side of the cards I wrote [house], [street], [town], and [house] in different colored marker. Then on separate cards I wrote our house number, our street name, our town name, and our state name (FLL1 recommends you write out the full name of the state at first. The zip code is not used in lesson 21, but is introduced in lesson 29.) I showed him the cards picture side first in a 2x2 grid. I showed him the house first, then the street, then the town, then the state, showing how the parts of the address gets bigger and bigger. Then we flipped them over and looked at the words. Then I gave him our address parts (not in order) and had him match those parts up with the words. It turned out well and he said that he "got it."

   I always love playing "post office" with my siblings as a kid, so I thought this would be a good time to play it with the boys. I looked at the boxes I have (I save a lot of boxes for future projects) and after messing around a bit I figured out the simplest mailbox I could make would be out of paper. (Click here for my post on how to make the mailbox.) I made addresses in a way that demonstrated the "bigger, bigger, bigger" concept of addresses. I made up a number for each of the three mailboxes. The street name was replaced with the room the box was in, the town name was replaced with "Our House," and the state name was replaced with the name of our apartment complex. Builder Boy had a blast making letters and cards for everyone, and we put the "addresses" on all of them. I only had him write the name of the person it was for and the number and I wrote the rest. Ahead of time I wrote letters, cards, and wrapped small presents for the boys. Builder Boy wanted to know why Early Bird and he did not have separate boxes. I explained to him that they both "lived" in their bedroom and that people don't have separate mailboxes in real life and that was why it was important to have the names on the envelopes as well as the rest of the address.

Hearts Are Like Doors poem (Lesson 27)
 We know a few signs thanks to Signing Time and two great sites online, so we worked out signs and hand motions for this poem. Blue words in the descriptions are linked to that sign on an awesome, free website that has videos of the signs. All hand motions are official ASL signs, though we do "open" bigger and "key" we use the finger tip instead of the knuckle. The descriptions in blue are official, the black/gray is our own interpretation.

Hearts Are Like Doors, by Anonymous

Hearts, like doors, will open with ease, touch your heart, sign open door

To very, very, little keys, show a tiny amount with your fingers, twist a finger on the palm of your other hand (held vertical)

And don't forget that two of these swipe your hand over your forehead, show two fingers

Are "Thank you, sir" and "If you please!" sign "thank you" by touching your chin with your hand, then bringing it down and away from you, rub the palm of your hand in a circle over your chest for please

Enrichment Activity (Lesson 30)
   The Enrichment Activity for lesson 30 has your child drawing a picture of things in a room, and then labeling them. I had saved a bunch of mailer adds so that we could cut out pictures of people, places, and things and make a sorted collage with them. But Builder Boy was adamantly not interested, and instead asked to draw a person, place, and thing instead.

(Added 10/15) We did the collage! As I was preparing the paper to have different background colors for easier sorting, Builder Boy decided he wanted the "Things" area to be a full page, so we did that; it is too long for the scanner to get all of it, but there are more things than just a computer.

(The furniture set represents a bedroom as a place.)

  *Click here for my post about the next 10 lessons.* ___________________________________________________________________________________ The original link takes you to the author's printing press online store. The picture is a link to the page. All extras ideas are my own, and I don't get paid for reviews.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ancient Mesopotamia Book

I realized recently that I haven't been using the encyclopedias with Story of the World. And it is good to have them, since SOTW has so few pictures. I have been trying to get good supplementary books at the library, but a lot of the book are geared for older kids. Even then there aren't many books (in my library) about the region in ancient times.

I found a treasure in Mesopotamia: Iraq in Ancient Times (Picturing the Past). It has been a perfect review for parts in chapters one (the first cities,) three (Sumerian cuneiform writing,) five (Sargon and Akkad,) six (Ur,) seven (Hammurabi's fair laws,) and eight (war with Assyria.) It has illustrations with real-artifact pictures connected to them, two-page spreads on different topics that cover the region like Irrigation and Farming (did you know date trees are only male trees or female trees? I didn't!) Crafting, Trade, Writing, etc. Each spread has an "How Do We Know?" box that applies to that topic specifically. I think this book is pretty perfect for Builder Boy's understanding and maturity level, though we did skip the "Great Death Pit" pages. It also has web links for all the topics, though I didn't try all of them, and most of them didn't work for me. The British Museum Mesopotamia website was cool.

It is simple and short enough that we read through it in two days, but there was enough review that Builder Boy could connect it all together, and enough new stuff to keep him interested. I wasn't going very in-depth with the last 4 chapters, so this was a really great. I highly recommend it!

(For sensitive/young children, please pre-read the sections on The Great Death Pit, Warfare, The King's Laws, and Empire.)

(Picturing the Past) Mesopotamia: Iraq in Ancient Times by Peter Chrisp, Enchanted Lion Books. ISBN 1-59270-024-1, Dewey # 935.

(I don't get paid for this review.)
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