Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Picturing America: Paul Revere Week

If you do not have access to the Picturing America pictures, you can still do a unit study using this wonderful art.  One way to do this would be to pull up the pictures on the computer and study them.  You could also order prints, but that might get expensive.  There are many online resources available to aid you in your study.

Our second week of co-op, we studied Paul Revere.  For this co-op, we studied the painting of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley, the painting "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Grant Wood, and  the print of "Silver of the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries".

We first talked a little about Paul Revere's life.  Then, we studied the painting of Paul Revere, using many of the suggestions in the Resource Book chapter for this unit, which can be downloaded.  We talked briefly about John Singleton Copley, including things about his life, his style, and his history.  Then, I read a short biography of Paul Revere.

We studied the silver pictures while talking about Paul Revere.  We compared the two silver teapots pertaining to Paul Revere- the one in the Paul Revere portrait, and the one in the silver print.  We talked about reasons for people wanting to own silver, and the attributes of two different pots.

We then looked at the painting "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere."  After we talked about it for a bit, I read the poem, using the picture book Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, pictures by Ted Rand.

After reading the poem, we discussed why some people might have considered the painting to be disrespectful, and other aspects of the painting.

For our art project this week, I decided to have the kids paint a landscape.  I am not an artist, and most of these children have no art background.  So, rather than attempting to paint a cityscape, or a portrait, I opted for a simple landscape.  I found this project at Art Projects for Kids.  I am loving this website.  I have found so many art projects that I am planning to do with my children.  I am also planning to use several in our co-op.  She has all the steps laid out to do this project.  I will not co-opt her work by repeating them.  I will tell you the process we used in order to do this at co-op, though.

Our co-op lasts approximately 2 hours.  We want to do projects that will be ready to take home by the time we leave.  Keeping that in mind, we started our painting as soon as we arrived.  I had the students do steps 1 and 2 immediately.  Then, we did the first part of the art study, while we waited for the paint to dry.  We then did step 3.  Then, we did more art study, then step 4.  After the students finished step 4, I used a blow dryer to help the paintings dry more for easy transport.  This worked very well, and all the students were able to finish their paintings during the amount of time alloted.  To view more of them, please visit our gallery at Artsonia.

Here are a few examples of our landscapes.
The first one is the 'teacher' example.

The second is my 6 year old son's.

The third is my 8 year old son's.

Enjoy this unit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Picturing America: Pottery and Baskets and Mission Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion

For our first co-op, we studied the Pottery and Baskets: c. 1100 - c. 1960 print and the Mission Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, 1775. These are 1a and 1b in the gallery. If you go to their website, you'll see that they have a lot of resource links for this.

You could go a lot of different directions with this. What we focused on were the similarities and differences between the different art pieces- specifically the Anasazi Cylinder Jars and the Sikyatki Bowl.

We talked about geometric shapes, cliff dwellings, what you can make bowls and jars out of, and how to harden them. We discussed the concept of trade versus money, and talked about the impact that the white man had on the Native American civilization in relation to trade.

We then discussed the the Mission Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion.  Here, we talked about adobe, the reasons for Spanish expansion, the part missions played, and why Indians might have wanted to convert.  We talked about the architecture of the mission, and its similarities to the grounds of a castle.  We talked about the artwork in the mission, specifically the painting in the dome.

After we finished our discussion, which was admittedly short (we have a lot of young children in our co-op), we did some art work. We painted bowls.

Here is what we did. I bought paper bowls, paint, brushes, etc. The kids painted the insides of the bowls to mimic the artwork done by the Anasazi (which was technically on the outside, but we were looking at the geometric shapes, here), the nature related artwork of the Sikyatki, or the sun inside the dome of the mission.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Picturing America

Picturing America is a project by the National Endowment for the Humanities to help get artwork into the hands of students. This particular program is all about famous artwork throughout American history. Our co-op received this endowment and we are currently doing an art history/appreciation unit using it. As we work through it, I will be sharing some of the projects that we make and some of the links that we use.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Magic Tree House Gets Kids Reading

One of my favorite series for young children is the Magic Tree House series. I have always liked these books. They are simple chapter books that are filled with adventure. As a result, most children love them.

When my middle child was struggling to learn to read, I searched high and low for books he could read. Finally, I realized that The Magic Tree House was just what he needed. Why? They are written with simple language. In other words, they are written for children to read, whereas picture books are written for adults to read. I'll be honest with you. I don't particularly like to read them aloud. On the other hand, I don't like reading anything aloud. (Although, I am really enjoying Understood Betsy.)

My middle son read the first one slowly. After that, he had no problem. I am doing the same thing with my youngest son. His reading is going even slower, because he hasn't gotten even halfway through his phonics program. We are sharing the reading. He reads a few lines. I read a few lines. I help him sound out words that he doesn't know the rules for. He is in heaven.

Since our family has had such great success with these books, I have decided to give away a set of the first four books. I hope someone will be able to enjoy them as much as we have.

Here are the rules. Leave a comment WITH your email address! If I have no way of getting in touch with you, you will be disqualified. This contest will close on Wednesday, July 22 at 11:59 PM. I will announce the winner on Thursday, July 23rd. Thanks!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blackline Maps

Learning where things are in relation to the rest of the world is very helpful when learning about a place's culture, history, or current events. There are several ways to do this. I like playing online games. One of the most effective ways to learn the location of countries, states, cities, rivers, mountains, and other land formations, however, is to study maps and fill out blackline maps. Filling out blackline maps over and over again provides for multiple learning styles. We fill out blackline maps for whatever area we are studying.

Here is how we fill out blackline maps. First, we figure out what we want to fill in. If we are studying the expansion of the Roman civilization across Europe, Asia, and Africa, we might fill in important water sources, the path they took, and their eventual territory.

Then, we'll use different colors to color different things. We usually use blue for water. However, we use different colors mainly to differentiate between various paths, civilizations, etc.

If we are trying to memorize where the various states are, we'll color them different colors to help keep them straight in our minds. Then, we'll label them. The different colors help those visual learners. The act of coloring and writing the names in the shapes helps kinesthetic learners. Reading the words while you write also helps visual learners. Have the children say the names while they write them. This will help auditory learners.

There are many resources for blackline maps. You can find many free printable maps online. Maps of the World has a good selection. World Atlas also has a good selection. You can find links to historical maps here. If you can afford it, buying a good blackline map book, made for this purpose, will save you a lot of time. Knowledge Quest has an excellent book and cd set that has every historical blackline map you could want for $45 (for families- it may be more for schools and co-ops). If anyone has any suggestions for other resources for blackline maps, I would love to add links to this.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Understood Betsy: Chapter 1

This is a truly delightful book that all children should read. Xavier and I are currently reading it, and it is the first book he asks for each day.

Summary: Elizabeth Ann is a fragile girl of nine. Because her great-aunt becomes sick, she is forced to go live with distant relatives in the country. She learns a whole new way of living.


manifest duty
correspondence course


Mental math: The book mentions mental math. During these times, children were expected to be able to do long complicated math problems in their head. (This is mentioned in one of the Little House books, too.) Have your child attempt doing long problems in his head to have a comparison for what they have to do.

stethoscopes- Stethoscopes got their start in 1816. Study the history of stethoscopes and the science behind them. This can morph into the science of sound.

scarlet fever- Did you know that scarlet fever is a rash caused by Strep? This is interesting because we rarely see scarlet fever, in America, today thanks to medication. This is a disease that used to be extremely fatal and contagious. Hence the reason for quarantines.

quarantine- There was a time when the only way to stop the spread of disease was to quarantine those that were sick. Discuss what it must feel like to be quarantined. Discuss how this stops the spread of disease. This would be a good jumping off point for discussing the spread of germs in modern times.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Value of Down Time

There is an aspect of teaching children that I think a lot of people forget about. Many people get so caught up in making sure children have all the facts they need stuffed in their heads, that the child doesn't have time to process it all.

One of the things that I have noticed with my children is that when they are having difficulty with a math concept, if I let them take a week or two off from math, they frequently pick up the concept without further instruction. Now, I understand that this is a hard thing to do. The tendency is to try to find other ways to teach the child the concept. After all, the problem may be that they just didn't get what you were trying to teach them. On the other hand, their brains may just not be developmentally ready for that concept. Or, they may just need time to process it and let their brain mull over it without the pressure of needing to apply the knowledge.

Another aspect of this is the actual need for time to play and explore. Many children these days spend hours in school, then turn around and spend hours doing homework, or playing sports, or doing dance, etc. As a result, the only down time they have is during the summer. And, since we don't want them to lose the knowledge that they gained over the school year, or be bored, we feel their days with activities. I truly believe that children's brains need time to assimilate knowledge. I believe that children need to be bored in order to take the things they have learned and apply them to their lives. Children need time to get outside and get to know their bodies. They need time for trial and error. They need to lie on the grass and stare at the clouds. They need to have the time to put their feet up and think about nothing. Their brains need quiet.

If you have the ability, give your child time each day, whether during the school year or summer, to explore his life on his own. Give his brain time to assimilate the things he learned that day. Give him time to really think about things instead of just adding more and more things to his plate. Eventually, things that he has not assimilated will start to leave to make room for more stuff. However, if he takes the time to think about something, really understand it, and make it his own, it will be his knowledge for life.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Copywork is an old form of language arts study. Copywork can be used for a multitude of things. It is a simple process that has many rewards.

The basic premise of copywork is to have your student copy from great literature, or from great quotes. The child learns spelling and grammar in this way. He also learns about different styles of writing. This is not an overt learning. Rather, this is an absorption that all writers need in order to write well. Depending on the quotes or literature you use, you can also use this to further your student's knowledge of history, literature, science, math, current events, foreign languages, geography, citizenship, and more. This also helps them improve their handwriting.

One of my friends likes to do what she calls "Character Quotes". Rather than using a different quote each time her children do copywork, she has them use the same quote all week. She ties their copywork to things she believes they need to work on in their characters.

Some of the quotes we've used this year are:

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." Thomas Jefferson

"Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind." Robert Green Ingersoll

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." Mark Twain

"We can't all be Washingtons, but we can all be patriots." Charles F. Browne

"Where liberty dwells, there is my country." Benjamin Frankly

Copywork has many benefits. My children have come to enjoy copywork, for the most part. I was able to start their copywork with quotes that they enjoyed. I found humorous quotes from their readings for Xavier. I found patriotic quotes for Gabriel. As a result, they got into the idea without much resistance.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Academic Earth- Free Lectures

Academic Earth is a website that provides free lecture series from MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale.

These are full courses. They have courses in Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, English, Entrepreneurship, History, Law, Mathematics, Medicine, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, and Religion.

Here is an example. This is the first lecture, of 24, in the Introduction to Ancient Greek History series.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Learning A-Z Open House

Learning A-Z is having an open house next week, in honor of teacher appreciation week. From their website:
Sample our online learning resources--for free!
Learning A-Z understands the complex challenges facing today's teachers. There's never enough time in the day, and shrinking budgets force many teachers to spend more money out of their own pockets to get the right resources for differentiated instruction.

See for Yourself!
Especially important during these difficult economic times, Learning A-Z provides unparalleled value. Nowhere can you get so many high-quality resources to meet the varying needs of your students at such a low per-student cost. During the week of May 4, we invite you to see the value we offer by exploring our resources and then downloading and using some of them with your students.

One of their websites, Reading A-Z, is having its open house Monday, May 5th. This website was recently recommended in Secular Homeschooling Magazine as a good site to find readers for children learning Spanish or French. They also have readers in English.

If you are teaching your children a foreign language, I recommend checking them out next week. You could save a lot of money.

Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

My sister gave the first Percy Jackson book to my 11 year old son for his birthday. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is a great book. It's all about Greek gods, and their half human offspring, in present day. I will say that some parents may not like these books because they introduce the concept of illegitimacy and adultery. However, if your children have had any exposure to the Greek/Roman gods, they have already been exposed to this. These books are written about the present day. They are excellent books that my entire family enjoys.

For a good review and ideas on lessons to go along with these books, please visit my sister's blog:Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

The reason I am bringing these books up now, is that the last book in the series is getting ready to be released on May 5th.

Tonight, I found a neat "celebration kit" on Rick Riordan's website. It has quizzes, crosswords, art, and more. I highly recommend these books. Other than the adultery issue, there is not anything questionable that I could see in them. They do not have any sexual references or bad language.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pi Day

March 14th, or 3-14, is Pi Day. Pi is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter. This number, which is an irrational number, is typically written as 3.14. So, March 14th is a mathematical celebration of a very famous number.

There are many activities you can do with your students to celebrate Pi Day. Math Forum has several problems available. March 14th is also Albert Einstein's birthday. Surely, celebrating Pi Day is a great way to celebrate Albert Einstein.

Enchanted Learning has a couple worksheets dealing with pi. I strongly suggest the book Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander and Wayne Geehan. The entire series of Sir Cumference books is wonderful, and this is a great opportunity to introduce them to your students.

Enjoy Pi Day! If you have any ideas, please share them with me, and I'll add them to my post, or link to yours!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time Unit Study: Chapters 11 & 12

I am having trouble figuring out somewhere I can group these to make it easier to access all the chapters. If you have any ideas, please let me know. Thank you! In the meantime: Chapters 1, 2, 3 &4, 5 & 6, 7 & 8, 9 & 10

Chapter 11



Science/ History/Math/Language Arts/Art

planets: The planets are mentioned many times throughout this book. You could take the time to read a book about the planets in our own solar system. Make a mobil or diorama.

tentacles: Many children will have a vague idea of what tentacles are. You can read about various sea animals that have tentacles. If you read about octopi inking, you could do a resist painting. I did this in 1st grade and still remember it. This is an extremely easy project. Take thick white paper. Have your child draw an underwater scene. Make sure they do not color in the water. Have them include an octopus in the drawing. Note: the drawing MUST be done with crayons! After they finish the drawing, have them use black water color paint to cover the octopus and the surrounding area. The crayons will "resist" the paint, allowing you to see the octopus "inking" its surroundings.

tadpole: Aunt Beast calls Meg a tadpole. This is a term of endearment to mean "young one." Study the life cycle of frogs. Listen to "Pollywog in a Bog" by Bare Naked Ladies.

Reverberated: This is an excellent jumping off point to study sound. For younger kids, the Magic School Bus has an excellent episode called "The Magic School Bus in the Haunted House" that explores sound.

Chapter 12


Language Arts:
Sonnets: This is an excellent time to study sonnets. Study iambic pentameter and try your hand at writing sonnets.

There is a great quote in this chapter. I'm planning to use it

for my own children.

"We want nothing from you that you do without grace, "Mrs. Whatsit said, "or that you do without understanding."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Learning to Count

Math education starts the day your baby is born. You have many opportunities to help your child excel at math. One of the easiest things to teach your child is how to count. Here are some ideas.

Songs: "10 Little Indians"
"The Ants Go Marching One by One"
"This Old Man"
"Five Little Ducks"
"One, Two, Buckle My Shoe"

Things to do with your child:

When you're changing the babies diaper, count his toes. Tickle or wiggle each one as you count them.

Each time you go up or down stairs, count them. (My oldest son quickly learned to count to 14 when he was two, because there were 14 stairs in our house.)

Once your child is old enough to walk, have him help you set the table. Count each thing as you put it on the table. Say, "There are three people in our family. So, we need 1, 2, 3 plates. How many cups do you think we need? We need 1, 2, 3 cups." Eventually, your child will answer that question with the right answer.

Any opportunity you have for counting, do so. When you're grocery shopping, turn it into a counting game. Count each item you put into the grocery cart.

Sometimes, you can turn snack time into counting time. Occasionally, give your child one bite at a time, counting them as you go. (You don't want to do this all the time. Sometimes, your child needs to just feed himself.;)

You get the idea. You can find lots of opportunities to count with your child. When you do this, they will slowly pick up the concept of counting without needing formal instruction.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time: Chapters 9 & 10

For previous entries, view chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Next week, we will finish this series. I am in the process of adding all the chapters to Google Documents. I'll have that completed by the time I'm done posting chapter 12 here. That way, not only will you be able to go directly to one place to see all the chapters, you'll be able to print or save any part of it that you want to.

Chapter 9:



Science, History, Math, Art, Language Arts:

shipwrecked sailor: draw a picture of a shipwrecked sailor. This would be a great time to watch Swiss Family Robinson. It's not extremely realistic, but a classic.

endurance: NOVA Marathon Challenge , Solo sports: running, mental endurance
myopic: Here, you could do the history of eyeglasses. Definitely, include Benjamin Franklin, if you do.
dome like: US Capitol Building, Capitol Rotunda, Taj Mahal
Declaration of Independence
: Meg quotes from the Declaration of Independence. Rea the Declaration of Independence. Discuss it. Free pocket copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
Gettysburg Address: What can I say? It's a great speech.
Periodic table of elements

Chapter 10:



Science, History, Math, Language Arts:
arctic: Study arctic animals. Study arctic tundra. Draw a picture of what an arctic waste might look like.

heartbeat: Listen to your heart rate. Color and label a picture of the heart.

paralyzed : Study temporary paralysis.

Novocaine: Explore the history, uses, and chemical properties of Novocaine.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

20 Questions

One of our families favorite games to play is twenty questions. As we have progressed, I have found that the game is an excellent way to really get deeper into nouns. A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. The way we play our game is this:

One person thinks of something. We ask them if it is a person? Is it a place? Is it a thing? Is it an idea? They answer yes, or no. At first, this didn't seem to me like such a learning opportunity for nouns, but I was wrong. What I found, is that my children don't always know what category to put their 'thing' into. One child couldn't figure out what category to put an animal into. He felt that animal's should have their own category. After all, they're alive. To him, a thing is an inanimate object that you can buy. Another child had a hard time with descriptions.

This means that we are also learning adjectives and adverbs and ways to use them. We ask the person, "Is it bigger than a car?" We continue to ask these types of questions until we narrow down size, color, etc.

This game also helps with vocabulary. My 11-year-old son frequently comes up with words my 5-year-old son has never heard.

Finally, this game also helps with history. While this aspect is not language arts based, it is significant. When the 'thing' is a person, it is easier to figure out who the person is if you can place the person in time. The same goes for a thing. What if the thing no longer exists? The idea could be one that came to being during a specific time period. This can lead to many interesting conversations, especially if you all have ADD.

Enjoy this game and the trails it can take you down.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

America's Presidents: A Museum in a Book Giveaway

Times Up: The winner is #10, Pat! Congratulations!

America's Presidents by Chuck Wills:

This book is in the "A Museum in a Book" series. It starts with George Washington and goes through George W. Bush. The book has a lot of information, and artwork that is from museums. For instance, on George Washington's pages, there are paintings of the Delaware crossing, and Washington speaking during the signing of the U.S. Constitution. But, what makes this book truly unique, and worth buying, are the copies of documents. Scattered throughout the book are copies of original documents that you can pull out and look at. Washington's page has selected pages from a draft of Washington's farewell address. There is a letter from Thomas Jefferson, and six pages from the thirty-four-page draft of Monroe's 1823 message to Congress, which was later known as the Monroe Doctrine. There is a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and a copy of the Gettysburg Address, written in Lincoln's own hand. There is a campaign poster for James A. Garfield, a copy of the formal declaration of war on Germany, issued April 6, 1917, and signed by President Wilson. There are many more documents. It is these source documents that make this book truly unique. I hope to be able to purchase the other books in the series. The series includes these titles: The Declaration of Independence: The Story Behind America's Founding Document and the Men Who Created It, Inventing America: The Life of Benjamin Franklin, and Lewis and Clark on the Trail of Discovery: An Interactive History with Removable Artifacts This book retails for $34.99. You can get used and new copies at Amazon. You can also order directly through Amazon. It is currently on sale for $23.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Many children struggle with mathematical concepts when the reach fractions. Fractions are frequently their first in depth study of abstract mathematical concepts.

In reality, fractions are not abstract at all. But, for many children, the most they see of fractions are pieces of a circle drawn in their book. In order to make fractions easier for them, when they get to them, it is necessary to lay ground work. I am including several activities that are good for a range of ages.

Rice/oatmeal container: For very young children (ages 1 and up), one of the best activities you can have them do is playing with measuring cups. This activity will also help you get things done in the kitchen. Buy a large storage container (maybe 20 cups or so). Fill it with rice or oatmeal. Put several different size measuring cups inside the container, or in a different container. Not only will playing with these measuring cups begin to give them an idea of the way measurements work together, it is a great way to keep them busy while you work. I will warn you that this can be an extremely messy activity. I had one of these for Dominic. I just swept up when he was finished playing, and threw it in the trash. The small amount of sweeping was worth the quiet time. Plus, he was learning about fractions, and improving his hand-eye coordination at the same time.

Building Blocks/ Legos: I believe that a lot of little girls get gypped out of a good grounding in mathematics because they don't use building toys. If you have an especially 'girly' girl, Lego makes pink Legos, as well as dollhouse building sets. So, there's something for everyone.

Building blocks and Legos provide a hands on fractions activity that most children are willing to learn from. When children build with these, they notice that two square blocks equal a rectangular block. They also notice that two "4 block" Legos equals one 8 block Lego. If you take a few minutes to point out that 1 4 block is 1/2 of an 8 block, they will begin to notice the fraction aspect of it, as well.

Cooking: Obviously, the most common method of teaching hands on fractions is cooking. If you are willing to cook with your child from a young age, they will come to fractions with a good grounding of what they are going to be dealing with. Will that make fractions easier for them? Definitely, it will. But, you can help your child do even better by doubling, halving, and tripling recipes. This makes them begin to see how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions before they ever see fractions on paper.

Counting Money: This is a skill that many children begin learning in Kindergarten. As a result, it is a skill you can put to good use to introduce fractions. The most obvious application being with quarters. If you can find some, get half dollars, too. Explain that a quarter is, literally, a quarter, or one fourth, of a dollar. Have them add and subtract these. You can do this with nickles (1/20), dimes (1/10), or pennies (1/100). You could make some note cards with various fractions on them and have the students make those fractions with coins. For instance, if the note card had 5/20, the child would put 5 nickles on that note card. Then, if you wanted to take it further, you could have the child tell you what the monetary amount of 5 nickles is.

Preschool/Kindergarten Game: This game could probably be used with older children, as well. This is a game similar to the money game. However, instead of using money, you'll use pieces of paper or cardboard. Draw several grids. You could start with halves, thirds, and fourths. You can do this by dividing papers into halves, thirds, and fourths. Also, create matching 'fractions' to go with them. IE papers cut into halves, thirds, and fourths. You may want to color them to make them easier to see.
Then, create note cards with various fractions on them.

First have the children match up the written fraction with the proper grid. Then, have them put the proper number of portions on the grids. Below, the cards read, from left to right, 1/2, 3/4, and 3/3.

Most of all, have fun with fractions!

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time: Chapters 7 & 8

Today, we're doing chapters 7 & 8. If you would like to see all the previous posts, please visit chapters 1, 2, 3 & 4, and 5 & 6. When I have them all up, I'll figure out some way to combine them without making it too long. Thank you for your patience.

Chapter 7:

neurological system

Science, Art, History, Language Arts, Math:
bronze: The CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building is made of a dull bronzelike material.
Here, you can study the Bronze Age, the uses for bronze, and explore bronze artwork.

marble: The entrance hall is made of marble. The benches in the hall are also made of marble. This is an excellent opportunity to explore the differences between bronze and marble. For instance, marble is a completely natural substance, while bronze is an alloy. Bronze is a metal, while marble is a stone. They have some great pictures at the Marble Institute of America that might help children picture what this building might have looked like.

perspective: "Perspective made the long rows of machines seem almost to meet." There are two activities you could do to illustrate perspective. First, everyone needs to be able to draw in perspective, if they want their artwork to be realistic. So, if your children are ready for an art lesson in perspective, this would be the ideal time to do this.

Second, you can do some games dealing with perspective. Hold an object the child is not familiar with far away from him. Ask him how big he thinks it is. If this is a younger child, have him say whether it is bigger or smaller than something, say his head/finger/arm/etc. Then, bring the object closer to him to see how accurate his estimation was. Another way to demonstrate perspective is to go for a walk and try to estimate how close two objects in the distance are, then walk to them and measure them.

"There is definitely something rotten in the state of Camazotz." Most children will not get this reference. This is a play on words from Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 4, Marcellus says, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." This would be another excellent chance to explore Shakespeare. There are so many quotes from Shakespeare sprinkled through the English language.

Chapter 8:



History, Science, Language Arts, Math:
hypnotism: Here, you can learn about the history of hypnotism. You could also attend a hypnotist's show. You could also try hypnotism out on each other.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday Video: The Elements by Tim Lehrer

I like this one because it includes the song a second time with the periodic table, which illustrates how many elements have been discovered since this song was written!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Periodic Table of Videos

The University of Nottingham has put together a really cool website. It is called the Periodic Table of Videos. Basically, They've put together a periodic table on their website. You can click on each element and that takes you to a link with either an experiment and/or explenation of the element. Here is an example (the boys' favorite):Hydrogen

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Learning Parts of Speech

When your children are learning the parts of speech, there are many different things you can do to help them remember the different parts. Here are a few things we've done.

The Verb Game:
In this game, all the children stand up. The 'caller' calls out verbs for the children to do. This is a great way for the children to understand that 'think' is a verb. The caller might say, "Sit. Run. Dance. Think. Walk. Jump. Twist. Pretend. Yell. Whisper. Daydream. Read. Drive." All of these things are verbs, but many children, when first learning verbs, only think of verbs that their bodies can do: run, jump, walk. This game is fun and is a good break from the usual way of doing language arts.

Interjection! A sudden, short utterance; an ejaculation
We had a lot of fun with this one. For several days after Xavier (then 7 years old) learned about this part of speech, we had a rule that when anyone uttered an interjection, someone was supposed to yell, "Interjection!" We also went for a while without saying interjections, instead substituting the word 'interjection' for the interjection. So, if someone were going to say, "Oh no!" They would instead say, "Interjection!" That was a lot of fun, although confusing. It made for a lot of laughter and all three of the boys, including the 5 year old, know what an interjection is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Multiplication: Those Difficult 9 Times Problems

It seems to me that every time I turn around, someone is telling me how hard it is for their child to remember the 9 times tables. I thought I would share a little trick my dad taught me.

There is an easy formula to remember the 9 times tables. Here it is:

The first number in the answer is 1 less than the multiple. The second number in the answer is 10 - the multiple.

If you have your child practice this, first with the subtraction problems on paper, then with the subtraction problems in their head, they will quickly master the 9 times tables.

This Day in History 2/4

In 1789, George Washington became the first, and only, president to be elected unanimously by the Electoral College. He repeated this on the same day in 1792. For more interesting information about this (I didn't know half this stuff) and for more history facts about this day, visit This Day in History, by

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mythmatical Battles

I like the idea of Mythmatical Battles. These are dueling cards that allow children to practice their multiplication tables. I know that my kids would love to use these. They are big into myths, and would enjoy the premise behind these cards. But, I'm impatient, and can't wait to get these in my hands. So, I decided that the boys could make their own game. So, this morning, I set the boys the task of creating a deck of cards to play dueling games with.

They wrote the times tables 2x2-9x9 on the cards as offense. Then, we shuffled the cards, and they did the same thing for defense. This way, the offense and defense on each card are not planned. Now, we're adding to the cards. They can start playing with them now. However, we're also adding characters from books we've read to the cards. On the back, they will draw pictures.

You could also do this for addition, subtraction, and division. You could have the child cut out pictures from a magazine to put on them. We considered cutting out pictures from our Lego catalog and making them Star Wars cards. In this way, you can customize the cards to your child's interests.

The way you play is this:
Each player gets half the deck. Each player takes turns being on offense/defense. EX:Player one plays his card. It's his turn to be on offense. His offense number is 9x5. Player 2's defense number is 4x3. Player one wins that round. He takes both cards and puts them in his pile. Then, it's player 2's turn to be on offense.

You can play this three ways.
  1. You can play until all the cards are gone from the draw pile. Then, whoever has the most cards in his 'win' pile, wins.
  2. You can set a time limit. When time is up, whoever has the most cards in his 'win' pile, wins.
  3. You can play like war. Just keep adding the cards you win back into your draw pile, until one person has lost all their cards.

Have fun!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wrinkle in Time Unit Study-Chapters 5 & 6

Please see Chapters 1, 2, 3 & 4 for more ideas.

Chapter 5


Math, Science, History, & Literature:

tesseract: see chapter 1 for more on this.

Science: protoplasm :"Protoplasm is the living contents of a cell that are surrounded by a plasma membrane." Study cells and create a model of the cell structure. Use this interactive cell model. Compare plant and animal cells.

slaglike:Slag is the by-product of smelting ore to purify metals.

History: Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci (this is a great resource at the Museum of Science that includes lesson plans, pictures, and other resources), Michelangelo, Shakespeare ("The Tempest"), Bach, Pasteur, Madame Curie (I like the book Manya's Dream: a Story of Marie Curie by Frieda Wishinsky), Einstein, Schweitzer, Gandhi, Buddha (I like the book The prince who became a beggar, by Amina Okada), Beethoven, Rembrandt, St. Francis, Euclid, Copernicus

Quotes in this chapter:
"Experience is the mother of knowledge."- Cervantes
"How small is the earth to him who looks from heaven." - Delille
"And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." - Jesus
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on." - Prospero in The Tempest

Chapter 6:


Science & Math:
sumac, birches, pines, maples This would make an excellent nature journal exercise. Go outside and look at all the trees you can find. Go to a park if you need more trees to look at. Take along a journal with blank pages. Do bark and leaf rubbings. Draw the trees. Record the characteristics you notice. Finally, see if you can identify the trees. If you have difficulty, go online or find a book on tree identification at your local library.

goldenrod: Goldenrod is a late blooming flower that supports many different insects.

"I do not know everything; still many things I understand."- Goethe

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Times Tales Giveaway!

The winner is: #19 the Prudent Homemaker. Email me with your info, and I'll get this right to you. Thank you to everyone who entered.

Times Tales: So, wow. I heard about this book, last year, from a friend of mine. Xavier (my 8-year-old son) started doing multiplication at the beginning of this year, and I had forgotten about the book. We struggled with trying to memorize the multiplication tables. Now, I'm a big proponent of memorization of math facts. It just makes using them easier. But, Xavier has understood multiplication for years. And, he was having a hard time memorizing them. Finally, after we had already moved on to division (I refuse to hold him back when he is already learning pre-Algebra from watching Gabriel do it), I remembered April's recommendation. I asked her if she still had her books and she loaned them to me. I brought them home and, one night while Xavier was waiting for Dominic (the 5-year-old son) to go to sleep so that he could go to sleep, we sat in the chair together and read through the book. It was 11:00 at night. We went through it in about 20 minutes. The next day, Xavier still remembered all his multiplication facts. Finally, we can stop worrying about this. I highly recommend these books. At $14.95, they aren't much more than a set of flash cards, and cheaper than some music CDs that teach the multiplication facts. They are faster than either of these approaches.
One caveat to this, Xavier is a right brained thinker. He thinks in pictures. I am a whole brained thinker and learned the multiplication facts while lying in bed at night listening to my dad say them to me over and over again. That did not work for Xavier. This book would have driven me up the wall. Probably with Mrs. Week and Mrs. Snowman in the car. On the other hand, I can't guarantee that. It might have taught me my facts faster.

A funny note about the way Xavier did his multiplication before this book: If the problem was 3x9, he would say, "9x2=18, plus 9=27." If the problem was 4x9, he would say, "9x2=18, plus 18=36." If the problem was 9x6, he would say, "9x2=18, plus 18=36, plus 18=54." That boy could do that type of multiplication faster than most people can do regular multiplication. But, now he's even faster, and he's less frustrated.

So, in honor of the fact that this is such an amazing resource, I'm giving one away this week. This giveaway will end at 11:59 P.M., Tuesday, February 3. Good luck!

For more giveaways, visit the bloggy giveaways!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Schoolhouse Rock: Multiplication

Many children have a hard time memorizing the multiplication tables. Schoolhouse rock multiplication makes learning the multiplication tables fun. You can also use Times Tales. I'll talk about that tomorrow, when I give away a copy of Times Tales. For now, have fun with Schoolhouse rock!









Monday, January 26, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time Unit Study: Chapters 3 and 4

Well, I was able to do all the research for chapters 3 and 4 before posting either, so you get both at the same time. Yay!
Please refer to Chapter 1 for ideas on things to do with various aspects from these chapters.
Chapter 2 is here. Please remember that various children have different vocabularies. This book is rich in vocabulary. If you read to your children, and have your children read, books that have a rich vocabulary, they will pick up on that vocabulary, and their vocabulary will improve as a result.

Chap 3:

Murry house and yard.

New Character:
Mrs. Which


History, Math, and Science:
megaparsec: 1,000,000 parsecs- parsecs: 3.26 light years
There are so many things you can do with light years. Texas Instruments has an activity page dealing with light years. This is a neat activity that allows students to learn how to use their calculators to do show things in scientific notation. EG 900,000= 9 05 Then, they go on to calculate how far light travels in a second, minute, etc and write the calculations in both scientific and standard notations. They compute a lot of different things. Then, they complete Student Activity pages. Whew! Who knew all these companies provide all this stuff ready for teachers to use?

Mrs. Murry is doing an experiment and a blue liquid is moving from her beaker to a retort. Now, what, exactly is a retort? According to Wikipedia (whose information should always be taken with a grain of salt), "a retort is a glassware device used for distillation or dry distillation of substances." And, all this time, I thought a retort was when you answered a question! This could be fun to use a retort in an experiment at home.

Mrs. Murry also used a Bunsen burner. While most adults will know what this is, many children will not. You may want to enlighten them!

Mrs. Who quotes Dante, "What grievous pain a little fault doth give thee." This would make a great character quote. Children are frequently prone to allowing themselves to be so upset by the little things. Ah, many adults are, too.

Chap 4:
Setting: alien planet

corona (not the beer!)

History, Science, and Math:

"To action little, less to words inclined." Horace- a philosopher and writer in ancient times.

"Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything." Euripides- another excellent character quote- another writer from ancient times.

"The more a man knows, the less he talks." French saying
"To stake one's life for the truth.- Vitam impendere vero." This is a hard concept for children to understand, and so worth exploring.

thinning atmosphere: Here, you can talk about the layers present in Earth's Atmosphere. You can talk about cooking in a thinner atmosphere, and you can talk about the extra effort it takes to breathe in a thinner atmosphere (this is what is hit on in the book), and how it effects things like walking, sports, and even just how you're feeling when sitting down.

plateaus: Here, you can learn about land formations. You can do artwork, drawing plateaus. You could also do a craft project, forming plateaus out of salt clay.

corona of clouds: With this, you can start learning about clouds. You can draw pictures of a corona of clouds. You can try to take pictures of coronas. Any other ideas?

As always, if you have any suggestions for me, please leave me a comment!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

National Gallery of Art Free Resources

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) is a great, free, resource. The NGA has many resources available online. They have online tours of their collection. Not only do these online tours provide you with the ability to view fine art from anywhere in the world, they also give you information about the art you are viewing. For instance, on a page dedicated to the work of Thomas Sully, the NGA details Sully's life, his work, Captain Charles Stewart, and the history of the subject of the art. You can see the artwork as a full screen image. This enables your students, children, or you to view art that you might never get a chance to see, otherwise.

The NGA also has education resources. These resources include online resources, and a loan program. The online resources include lessons with art discussion, student activities, printable worksheets, and related resources. This is a great resource that provides a ready made lesson for teachers. The NGA also provides loans of DVDs, videos, slides and image CDs, and teaching packets. The teaching packets, I am especially excited about. For instance, the Picture France booklet and classroom guide (which are available for download online) includes a 150 page booklet, a separate classroom guide, with activities, student handouts, a timeline, resource information, 40 slides, and image CD with more than 75 works of art, 20 color study prints, and a wall map. These resources are available to basically anyone who would like to use them. The only cost is return postage. They are a loan item. But, what a resource!

If your child is in school, you'll want to be sure their school is aware of this resource. If you teach your children at home, you should definitely take a look at this. If, like me, you are just interested in art (although I do teach my children at home), you should also look at it. You may just find an invaluable, free, resource.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Geography Games

There are two websites that I love for geography.

The first website, Test Your Geography Knowledge has multiple quizzes to help you learn your geography. This site has everything from continents to major cities of the world. It is in quiz form, but you can use hints to help you. Each time you take the quiz, you get a bit better, because of the repetition.

The second website, you can use after you know a little geography. has a 'Tetris' game that you can do with countries and states. It's fun to test your knowledge this way.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Giveaway: Life of Fred

Time's Up! The winner is #12- lindsey.hefner at
I've sent you an email. If you don't get it, please email me! There's a 'contact me' button to the left. Thank you for entering, everyone!

Note: This series is good for homeschooled children, traditionally schooled children, and adults wanting to relearn some of what they have forgotten about math!

Life of Fred

We love Life of Fred at our house. Life of Fred is a new way of looking at math. This is a math book in story form. Each chapter covers a different concept, and reviews previous concepts. The books cover, in order, fractions, decimals and percents, beginning algebra, advanced algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and statistics.

Life of Fred is like one long word problem. It teaches students to take the math they’re learning and use it in real life. Life of Fred’s author, Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D. says,
These Life of Fred books are designed to teach the material. They are not merely repositories of examples and homework problems. It is so important that kids learn how to learn from reading.
Once they finish college, they will face sixty years in which virtually all of their real learning will come from what they read.

This exemplifies what these books are all about.

In my opinion, Life of Fred books make a great math supplement. I believe that everyone should use them. They make the student think outside the box. It makes math fun (he’s a very funny author). It makes you expand your thinking about math. It makes math relevant to ‘real’ life and uses applications not typically found in math curriculum word problems.

And, that is why I am giving away Life of Fred: Fractions. I will have it shipped directly from Life of Fred’s website. They are very fast. I have received my books within 3 days. If you would like to win one of these books, and have the chance to try them out for free, please leave a comment. I will decide the winner by random drawing in one week on Wednesday, January 28. Thank you for your interest.

For more giveaways, visit the Bloggy Giveaways!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time Unit Study: Chapter 2

Please refer to Chapter 1 for ideas on things to do with these aspects from the chapter.


History and Science:
sport (biology)
13. Biology. an organism or part that shows an unusual or singular deviation from the normal or parent type; mutation
22. Botany. to mutate.

Look up the word sport, as it pertains to science. Show that there are many different meanings of the word 'sport'. Illustrate a 'sport' plant. Consider that a sport may have a part in evolution.

Mrs. Who quotes Pascal, "The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing."
What does this quote mean? Who was Pascal? Research Pascal, and add him to your timeline. What was Pascal famous for?

Mrs. Who also quotes Seneca, "Nothing deters a good man from doing what is honorable."
What makes something honorable? Research Seneca. Who was he? When did he live? What did Seneca influence? Add him to your timeline.

For handwriting practice, you can have your children copy a quote. This provides them with a model of a good sentence, as well as a good resource to draw on in their mind.

Draw one of the characters from the story. Draw the 'haunted house.' Sew some ghosts. Make a haunted house out of poster board.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Winter Crafts, Ice Sun Catchers

My children don't like to do crafts. So, I, personally, do not have many suggestions for you. However, I do have a few suggestions on places to find craft ideas and directions. Also, I want to talk about ice sun catchers.

First, there are several places you can get ideas for making crafts with your children. My favorite site is The Ramblings of a Crazy Woman. Jennwa has a lot of neat ideas that include supply lists, instructions and pictures. Most of her ideas are doable by young children. Another good website is Family Fun. They have ideas for crafts, costumes, and food. It's a great website.

Now, ice sun catchers.


Plate, container lid, or anything that you can easily lift a disc of ice out of
Yarn, hemp, or twine (enough to go around the circumference of the
lid/plate plus extra to hang from a tree or other high object)
Items from nature - the more colorful the better:
- holly berries
- forsythia flowers, pansies, johnny jump ups, etc.
- small acorns
- acorn caps
- grass

Carefully place your nature treasures in a design on the plate/lid.
Lay the string/twine/yarn around the edges of the plate and let the
rest of the string/twine/yarn drape over the edge of the plate/lid so
that it's outside of the lid/plate.

Slowly (VERY SLOWLY) add water until the lid/plate is filled. You
must go slowly or the force of the water will destroy your design.

Let the plate freeze overnight. In the morning, remove the disc from
the lid/plate and hang from a tree.

You have a beautiful sun catcher to enjoy while the weather is cold. :o)

HT to Eclectic Eccentricities. To see pictures of a completed sun catcher, go to Eclectic Eccentricities.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time Unit Study

The first project we’re going to tackle is a A Wrinkle in Time unit study. Since I am writing this as I create it, you’ll get two chapters each week. This is because we are reading two chapters a week. That makes sense, right? There are twelve chapters in this book. When I have completed all the weeks, I’ll link all the posts together in one place to make it easier. In the meantime, enjoy!

First, I want to talk about unit studies a little bit. Unit studies are basically taking one subject and using that subject across the curriculum. So, for our A Wrinkle in Time unit study, we’ll learn about literature, history, science, math, vocabulary, and art.

For this unit study, my children will be making a notebook. We will make at least one notebook page for each chapter. Each chapter notebook page will include the following information: setting, new characters, short synopsis, vocabulary, history, science, and math. The first page (about the book as a whole, versus a single chapter) will include a short paragraph about the life of the author, as well as some history. Any extra activities done will be added after the first notebook page for each chapter. So, if we do a word search for the vocabulary lesson, the word search will be added to the notebook behind the chapter page.

Note: This unit study guide will not include literature information such as questions, themes, etc. For more literature information, including questions, activities, character analysis, themes, and concepts, please visit Consumer Help Web, and Easy Fun School.

Author Study:
Look up Madeline L’Engle’s biography. Did you know she wasn’t published until she was 40? Write a short paragraph about Madeline L’Engle’s Life.

Look up what was going on in the world at the time of the book’s publishing. Add these things to a timeline, or write about them on a notebook page.

The Murry house: You could have your children draw a cross-section of what they think the Murry house would look like. You could also have them draw the attic, or the kitchen.

In this chapter, we meet Meg Murry, Charles Wallace, Mrs. Murry, and Mrs. Whatsit. Although the twins, Sandy and Dennys, are mentioned in this chapter, we don’t really meet them until later in the book.

There are many activities you can do with a vocabulary lesson. First, a child should understand the meaning of the words. See if your child can guess the meaning of the words before looking them up in the dictionary. Learning to infer meaning from context is an important skill. Look the words up in the dictionary. Have the children use the words in a sentence. If they are able to write, have them write the words and sentences. You can use the words as spelling words. You could choose a few words to add to a regular spelling program, if you already use one. At Puzzlemaker you can make word searches, crossword puzzles, cryptograms, and other puzzles.

Here are some suggested vocabulary words:



Look up tesseracts. If you would like to tie in a history lesson, do a short biography on the mathematician Charles Howard Hinton, the person known for coining the term tesseract. His work, ”A New Era of Thought” is available online.

You could also look up Llewellyn Setters and greyhounds. Your students could draw what they think Fortinbras would look like, based on these studies.

Also mentioned in Chapter 1, are geraniums, and chrysanthemums. You could do a nature study on these.

For math, you could not only study tesseracts, but geometric patterns (mentioned in the description of the kitchen curtains).

If you have any other suggestions for Chapter 1, let me know and I’ll add them. Thanks!

The Reason for "Teaching Your Children"

Most people would agree that learning begins at home. In fact, most schools would agree that children should start Kindergarten already knowing many things. Not knowing those things severely handicaps a child starting Kindergarten. Some parents decide to continue to teach their children after they reach 'school' age. These people are called homeschoolers. There are also many parents who continue to teach their children after school, or during the summer.

This blog is for anyone who ever wanted to teach their children. I'll explore curriculum, unit studies, learning through play, and whatever else floats my fancy that day. If you have something you would like to hear about, please let me know! I'm here for you!