Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Exploring Space: Builder Boy's Discovery, the Wall, and the Logbook

Tuesday, the day after our late night sky gazing, I was really tired. A loud something or other woke me up at 5:30 in the morning and I had trouble getting back to sleep. I wasn't feeling so good pregnancy-wise, either, so when the late afternoon came and we still hadn't started Space School, I decided I needed the day off. That didn't stop Builder Boy, however, from learning.

Early in the afternoon he started making "books;" drawing pictures of space objects and labeling them with some spelling help from me.  Then he made a book about stars and drew different diagrams of the sun and the Earth, showing the orbit, what sunrise and sunset looks like from Earth, etc. His last picture was of the sun's job in the water cycle. He talked to me about it and made the point that without the sun there would be no evaporation, no redistribution of water through clouds, and eventually all the water would be accumulate in the oceans and that would be that. I was really proud of him for thinking of that, which applied to what we were talking about on Day 4.

Today I continued to feel run down, so we just reviewed what we already knew and took down all the papers we had put up on The Learning Wall. We had filled up The Wall and we are only half way though Exploring Space. The Evan Moor Scienceworks for Kids books are set up to turn the workbook pages into a logbook, so that's what we did today. The "_________'s Space Logbook" pages I pasted on the front and back of a three prong folder ("duotangs," to my Canadian friends.) Most of the pages we did actually turn into mini books, so those went in the folder pockets. I want the space books Builder Boy made on his own with these as well, so those went in the back pocket. We will fill our Learning Wall with the rest of the pages before putting them in our book. There's just something more satisfying seeing it fill up The Wall than just adding pages to the logbook, a few at a time. We're leaving the solar system picture, the verse, song, and Builder Boy's extra drawing on The Wall.

I feel a little said about something I found out today. A few weeks back Builder Boy discovered a chart in the back of the, unfortunately outdated, Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System book. In the chart it had the current (at the time of printing) number of moons per planet, and Builder Boy all on his own memorized the number for each planet. Well, I looked it up today, and there have been many more moons discovered since that book was printed. And there are varying reports on how many each have, as some still need to be verified. Right now Builder Boy thinks that Saturn has more moons than Jupiter, with Jupiter having 16 and Saturn having 17. But my Googling says that they both have over 60, and Jupiter has a few more than Saturn. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a source that will give enough specifics to make a new chart for him. This feels like "Pluto isn't a planet anymore" all over again.

I've got an afternoon doctor's appointment tomorrow and out of town visitors in the evening, so I hope I can get my pregnant butt in gear and move on soon to our next concept.

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2013 Announcement

Sceleratus Classical Academy is very excited to be participating in the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2013 from June 14th-21st. 

This international blog tour is organized by parents who met on The Well Trained Mind Message boards.

We come from different parts of the world, different school choices, and different social and economic backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common. We know that parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding.

If you have ever woken up at 3 AM in the morning wondering “What am I going to do with this child?” then this blog tour is for you!

From June 14th-21st the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

On June 14th Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.”
On June 15th Only Passionate Curiosity will share “Maturity vs. Ability; It’s a Big Deal”.  Childhood Inspired will write about “Nurturing Other Aspects of Giftedness Besides Academics”.
On June 16th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature “Harry Potter, Muggles, Mudbloods, and Giftedness in Family Trees”.
On June 17th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “Nurturing Musical Talent in the Gifted Child”.
On June 18th Strader Spiel  will discuss “Homeschooling a Gifted Child with Special Needs” and The Washington Collation of Gifted Education will share “I’m an Advocate and So Are You”.
On June 19th Northwood Classical Academy will write about “The Making of a Mathlete”.
On June 20th Homeschooling Hatters will share “Just Let Him Be a Kid”, and Sceleratus Classical Academy will end our tour with a guest post titled “When a Flower Blooms”.

There is still room for more contributions, so please email teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com if you are interested in joining the tour!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Exploring Space: Day 5 (Stargazing Activity)

Well, we have learned something we did not expect to learn. Spring time is ether a really great time or a really horrible time to stargaze with kids. It's a HORRIBLE time because enough stars don't "come out" until long after bedtime. But if you're doing this in the summer time, staying up late may not be a big problem. Thanks to springtime weather, our skies are relatively clear, which is much less likely in the winter time.

Thankfully there was not too much light pollution in our back yard, so we were able to see stars without going anywhere. It took a little while for our eyes to adjust, and for it to get a little bit darker, but we DID see the Big Dipper. And we were able to use it to find what we think was the North Star, though I was expecting the North Star to be brighter than that?

Principal Daddy downloaded Google Sky Map for his Android smart phone (get the app free here) and that was helpful and fun to use. (It really wasn't dark enough to distinguish any other constellations, and it was almost 11:00 pm!) Builder Boy was very excited that it identified where the planets were in relation to him, and Early Bird had a lot of fun pointing out North, East, South, and West. 

Also, I would like to point out that the Alaskan State Flag has the Big Dipper and the North Star on it.

Good night!

Exploring Space: Day 5

Groups of stars seen together are called constellations.

Today's lesson went a bit differently from the book's plan. I do not have any books specifically on constellations or the history of naming constellations. Evan Moor's Exploring Space had worksheets/printables that required that background information, especially about the Big Dipper. So I thought a bit, Googled a bit, and came up with what we did today.

I started with reviewing Psalm 148:3 and the song we learned on Day 4. Builder Boy really loved learning about the layers of the Earth, so I showed him a picture of the layers of a star that I found in a Children's Encyclopedia. I'm not expecting him to memorize the layers like he did the layers of the Earth, but it was "cool" to him, and it also showed sun spots and flares/a prominence.

Then I re-read the two page section in Seeing Stars about constellations. We talked a bit about who named them and why. We used the Exploring Space pages on six constellations and matched the picture to the star configuration, after first just showing them the stars and having them guess why they looked like their name. Builder Boy was very good at picking out the patterns.

Then we moved on to some pages I found online. First I gave some connect the dots constellations to the boys for them to do. I gave Early Bird some basic shape dot-to-dots that I found at the Flutterbud Club (never heard of it before, I ran across it in the Google image search.) Builder Boy got the Connect the Constellations from Then I gave them each a copy of Make Your Own Constellation found at the blog Early Childhood Science Activities. It has a field of stars and lets kids connect them however they want and encourages them to come up with names and even stories for their constellations. Early Bird connected every single star and named it "Giddy, the Giant Dog." Builder Boy made "The Cup" and "The Chair." The picture link on the site is broken, so I am including the image I saved from Google images, but the quality is poor and unreadable when printed at full page size. We finished off with a worksheet I found at Preschool Printables that has kids try to copy some star configurations from an example. They also have cool Constellation Discovery Map and Certificate that I didn't notice until after we were done for the day, and probably makes a better replacement for the Make Your Own Constellation page that we used, if you have a color printer.

Being in the play room with the kids books reminded me of a story in The Children's Book of Virtues, The Legend of the Dipper. I had to keep telling Builder Boy that this was a pretend story, as he kept getting hung up on the dipper changing materials throughout the story. But at least it was an example of the old stories people made up about constellations.

Once we were done with that we went back to the book and made their Star Box with an old tissue box. I made the piece of paper for the constellations a bit too big, and the holes were kind of wonky, so it wasn't exactly a planetarium show. But the kids didn't seem to notice that it wasn't perfect. Builder Boy wanted to make one of the constellations, and he chose Orion, which I thought would be do hard for him, but he actually did a really good and accurate job! He used a white crayon on black construction paper and I popped the holes for him. My camera wouldn't pick up the lights on the wall, so I took a picture of the card on the star projector.

Tonight we'll do the last activity and go outside and see if we can find the Big Dipper. Thankfully the book provides examples of how it can look at different seasons, since apparently it turns around and over throughout the year (I learned something, too!)

Yesterday while unpacking a random box we found our wall stickers that the boys love so much. Yesterday Builder Boy put up the Outer Space Peel & Stick Wall Decals above his bunk bed. Probably not tonight, but tomorrow we will put up the Celestial Glow in the Dark Peel & Stick Wall Decals that we got for his birthday. (I posted about them with pictures previously here and here.) Now that we've learned about constellations we'll probably be more inventive with putting them up. And as before, we'll use the constellation chart to put some authentic ones up.

Here are some cool things to do with constellations that I found on Pinterest, but didn't end up doing.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Exploring Space: Day 4

I started this day with some of the preschool activities from the Astronaut Preschool Printable Pack found at There are a lot of neat things available for free, and it's wonderful that the information is out there and I don't have to reinvent the wheel. The printable pages are in color, and we only have a black and white printer, so I only printed the things that I thought would work. Early Bird loved the rocket ships to put in size order. He said "blast off" for each one, with a tiny, high pitched voice for the smaller ones and a low, gravely voice for the biggest ones. There was also a picture and shadow match game that I initially thought would be easier not being in color, but because there was a lot of silver or light gray was actually harder. But with some help, he did okay. I did these activities just with Early Bird.

The printable pack also came with the words for the Psalm 148:3 "Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him all you shining stars." We put that up on the wall and we will work on memorizing it. There is also a song to sing to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" that the kids love and sang over and over.

Then we started on the next concept of Evan Moor's Exploring Space:

Our sun is a star.

This is something we've been talking about since the beginning, so it wasn't a new concept, but I'm committed to going through the whole book to make sure we don't miss anything new, and to cement information we've talked about. I had fun asking the kids the questions from the book and hearing their answers to:
  • If our sun is a star, why can we see it during the day?
  • Is our sun the largest star in the galaxy?
  • Could people live on the sun?
  • Why shouldn't we look at the sun?

Then we talked about why we need the sun, and wrote down three reasons on the provided worksheet. As a thought experiment I asked the boys what they thought would happen to the Earth if there was no sun exerting gravity on it. Builder Boy decided that the Earth and planets would stop moving because there would be nothing to orbit.

Next we read and colored the "Our Sun" mini book, which among other things had kids look at a picture and circle things that need light from the sun (plants, people, animals.) Early Bird's second guess was the house in the picture, so we had a good discussion about living vs. non-living things and how non-living things don't need light from the sun.

Then we went to the bathroom with a flashlight, small paper globe (I couldn't find our inflatable globe) and a plastic tomato to demonstrate eclipses. I also used this opportunity to show that not all the sun's light and heat are taken up by the earth. The tomato wasn't exactly the right scale for our size Earth, but it showed what it needed to.

Then Principal Daddy held the kids in his lap and watched two YouTube clips he found on eclipses,
What is a Lunar Eclipse? and a Solar Eclipse Educational Video. The "What is a Lunar Eclipse?" video was fairly kid friendly, but the "Solar Eclipse Educational Video" had no sound so Principal Daddy read what it said on the screen and narrated/interpreted where necessary. He did a really wonderful job at that.

As before, we finished up with playing TO THE MOON. I was able to add some of the question cards we'd left out before, since we're LEARNING!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Product Review: Paint Porcelain Party

This was my Mother's Day present. Last year we lived very near a paint-your-own-pottery place, but it was expensive and we never ended up going there. But I LOVE kids made/painted/created things. So when I was looking for a place near where we are now and my Google search came across the Alex Toys Paint Porcelain Party for much less than getting in a car and driving out to a place to pay more money for the pieces, I ordered it! (Yes, I ordered my own Mother's Day gift.)
The set comes with a mug (not large, but not tiny,) a small yellow vase, a small heart shaped cup and saucer set, a shiny silver painted frame and heart jewelry box. It also comes with an acceptable range of color paints, but only two paint brushes. All the pieces but the frame should be put in the oven after at least 24 hours of drying to set the paint and make it water-proof (though you still have to hand wash the dishes.) It made a stink when I opened the oven door, but the hood vent took care of it, and it wasn't overwhelming, even to my pregnant nose.

Both boys wanted to paint the mug, though Early Bird agreed to paint the vase. He decided he was going to paint it like a rainbow. 
Builder Boy used the same colors at the same time as Early Bird, and ended up painting a red suspension bridge and a green tree on my mug. 

Principal Daddy spent a lot of thought and time on the tea cup and saucer.
Showing the scale of the teacup

I wanted to paint, too, so I painted the jewelry box.

I am very happy with the quality and variety of the pieces available with this kit. It was easy, fun, perfect for kids, and much less expensive than a pottery painting shop. I recommend it!

Afterwards Builder Boy came and told me that I was going to get a special present from him: Special Mother's Day Cuddles! It was a really wonderful Mother's Day.

I did not get paid for this review, all opinions are my own. The picture of the box and the name of the product are Amazon Affiliate links. Thanks to you guys, I finally got my first $11 from Amazon a little while ago!

Exploring Space: Day 2 and 3

Earth is part of a solar system in the Milky Way galaxy.

Finishing up the first concept in Evan Moor's Exploring Space took longer than I thought it would because Early Bird out of the blue decided he needed to nap at the time I had set aside for school on Tuesday. So wrote down our space address with Builder Boy (where we are in the known universe down to our house) and re-read Seeing Stars: The Night Sky (Bright Sparks) (which was actually on the recommended list of Exploring Space) to give the information for the next concept:

Stars are huge balls of hot, glowing gases.

The two things took about 30 minutes and Builder Boy was feeling very sleepy (we did this in the afternoon) so we stopped there and picked up where we left off on Thursday.

On Thursday we colored the pictures of the planets to put them in order on black paper. I used three pieces of paper instead of 2, as they needed more space (pun intended.) I also added a sun because we needed a "starting point." Builder Boy insisted on drawing some asteroids for me to cut out for an asteroid belt. He was not impressed when the "Our Solar System" mini-book from Day 1 did not include an asteroid belt in one of their solar system pictures, and drew one in for that book, too.

When we were done putting the solar system up, we shifted to focusing on stars. We went into a windowless bathroom and lit a candle. I expanded the conversation from just "we get light and heat from stars" to demonstrating how distance from the source effects how much light and heat the planets receive. We also reviewed red dwarfs and blue giants, the fact that there is only one star in our solar system. That turned into a discussion with Builder Boy on what you need to make a solar system, and we also reviewed the name of our star; Sol. I wrote out the word "solar" to explain that the name of the sun is in the word, and he remembered the terms "solar power" and "solar energy."

Then we continued to talk about stars and galaxies as we colored in the "Stars" mini-book. I was NOT impressed with the match up options on star facts. They were NOT very clear, and the first parts of the sentences were so similar that multiple ends would work for each. Also, Builder Boy could not guess why our galaxy is called the "Milky Way." I eventually told him people named it that because it looked like milk drops. Builder Boy didn't think that was applicable because "milk gives our bodies energy and galaxies don't."
We finished up with another game of TO THE MOON and I let Early Bird use the solar system display we put on the wall to help him figure out some of the answers.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Exploring Space: Day 1

Earth is part of a solar system in the Milky Way galaxy. 

On our first day of working though Exploring Space I wanted to be prepared to offer the whole of activities for the first concept, but I knew that there was quite a bit of coloring and writing and for boys who haven't done formal schoolwork for a while. They did pretty good, but I didn't push finishing the concept. The workbook starts with taking the kids outside and having kids identify things they see in the sky and thinking about what they see in the sky at night. (Things like clouds, airplanes, the sun, etc.) Once you have a list you're supposed to go over it and cross off things that "are part of the Earth." I changed that and we separated the list into two categories: Things in our Atmosphere and Things in Space. I used a small globe and talked about the basics of the atmosphere before we went over the list and categorized each item. Later, when Early Bird was taking a nap, Builder Boy and I watched the Bill Nye episode about Atmosphere on YouTube.

Thanks to the books we've already read, the "Gather More Information" section "Objects in Space" page I showed them was all review, and Builder Boy and Early Bird got to show that they could read the big words. Next was a "What Is It?" worksheet that had pictures and a box of words that the kids needed to match up. I took Early Bird to one corner of the room to do it with him and had Builder Boy attempt it on his own. They both did well (this was review for them) and I made sure we defined the terms more specifically and had Builder Boy tell me what comets and asteroids are made up of.

We finished up with coloring and writing in the "Our Solar System" mini books and the Logbook page. That might not sound like much , but by the end of it the kids were done with anything that had to do with coloring or writing (remember, we haven't done much of this lately. That's one reason for doing this: getting us back in the swing of more formal learning.) There really isn't that much writing; the difference between this book which is for grades 1-3 and the other books that we did that were for K-1 is the space for writing what they want to you write. They're expecting older kids to be able to write in smaller spaces, and Builder Boy isn't quite there yet.

So I put off writing our address in the galaxy and coloring planets to put in order on the wall for tomorrow. We should have no problem doing that and then moving on to the next concept.

We've decided that the "wall" against the stairs is the perfect "Learning Wall" so we're putting what we do up there before we put it together as a logbook. I didn't realize it until the pages were up, but this house didn't feel like home until I saw my kids' schoolwork up there.

We finished the day's "work" with our first playing of the TO THE MOON game I got from Before we started playing when I was cutting out the trivia cards I sorted out the cards with questions that my kids hadn't learned the answers to yet. I'll add them back in, plus more of my own, as we go along. I plan to play with game with them at the end of each day's lesson.

I forgot to look at a clock, so I have no idea how long all of this took. (And we took extra time outside, too, going on tangents as Builder Boy talked about photosysthsis and air, weather, compass directions, and other outdoor nature related things.)


Exploring Space: The Plan

Here's one of the benefits of homeschooling: when you've got a kid who becomes really interested in something, sometimes you can just scrap the plan and study what your kid is interested in. Builder Boy has been all about space for the past month, so I decided to plan 3 weeks of "Space School!" Last summer we had such a fun time going through the Evan Moor book Learning to be a Scientist. I wasn't thrilled with Evan Moor's Learning About Animals, but I decided to give their Exploring Space book a try. We will spend the first two weeks going through Exploring Space, and then we will spend another week learning about astronauts, spaceships, the moon landings, and the International Space Station. And, like last year, I will be blogging about our learning adventure as we go along. Exploring Space is intended for grades 1-3, but Early Bird will be tagging along with us, doing what he can and is interested in. After hearing non-stop from Builder Boy over last month, Early Bird has actually picked up quiet a few facts. Some of Exploring Space will be review for the kids, and I'll be supplementing where needed, where other things are areas they haven't had covered yet.

I also made a Space Pinterest Board.

Previous space learning resources used (in order the kids were introduced to them):

The Amazing Pop-Up Geography Book
The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System

Amazing Space Facts (found at the thrift store)
Seeing Stars (another thrift store find)

TV Show Episodes on YouTube: 

I don't get paid for reviews (but hey, Evan Moor representatives! Leave a comment if you want to get in touch about promotional offers or discounts I can offer readers!) and all opinions are my own.
I do get a small percentage if you purchase something on after clicking on one of my links (the pictures of the books are links to their listings.)
You can purchase the e-book version of Exploring Space here at Evan-Moor's website. This eliminates the need to scan the reproducible workbook pages for printing, but since it's the same price as the book on Amazon, I chose the actual physical book.
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