Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stained Glass

Christmas makes me think of stained glass. I love how the light shines through it. I thought it might be fun for you and your kids to make stained glass Christmas ornaments for your own family and for Christmas presents.
Here are two different sets of directions for making your own.

Stained Glass #1

Craft foam and plastic wrap are the secret ingredients in these Christmas ornaments.

Materials and Tools
Holiday-shape cookie cutters
Heavy-duty plastic wrap
Black crafting foam sheet (available at craft stores)
Broad-tip washable (water-soluble) markers
Black dimensional paint
Fine black wire
White craft glue

1. Place the cookie cutter on the foam and trace around it. Draw another line 1/4 inch inside the first line to make a 1/4-inch frame. Cut along both lines.
2. Tightly tape plastic wrap to a baking sheet. Color the plastic heavily with the markers, making an areas slightly larger than the foam frame. Make sure the plastic wrap stays smooth.
3. Run a bead of black dimensional paint around the inner edge of the back of the frame. Press the painted side of the frame onto the colored plastic wrap.
4. Bend a 4-inch length of wire into a U-shape loop for the hanger. Slide the ends of the loop between the frame and the plastic and press the frame over the ends of the loop.
5. Flood the inside area of the frame with glue.
6. Let the ornament dry undisturbed for 36 hours or until the color shows through and the glue is almost translucent. Do not touch the glue. Gently peel the ornament from the plastic. (If it sticks, let it dry an additional eight hours.) Turn the ornament over and let it dry on a clean piece of plastic for another eight hours or until dry to the touch.
7. If any glue or black paint leaked from under the frame, trim it off. Add a dot of glue over the ends of the wire hangers.

Stained Glass #2

Materials Needed:
Clear, plastic disposable cup
Permanent markers
Hot glue gun

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray foil-lined cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
Color the cup any way you choose with the permanent markers. When colored to your satisfaction (not all spaces have to colored) place cups on foil-lined cookie sheet and place it in the oven.

Check after a minute and watch closely. The cup will melt and you do not want it to burn.

Each cup will melt in a different shape; play with the placement. Remove from foil when slightly cool to keep from sticking.

When completely cool, make a hole with the hot tip of the glue gun and string a ribbon through the hole to hang in window or on tree.

Both of these ornament activities should be made only under close adult supervision.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Traditions

I was Internet surfing the other day and I ran across several sites that explain the meanings behind many of our Christmas holiday traditions. I thought I would share a few abbreviated traditions with you this month.

Wreaths-were made of woven branches and twigs. They are now used as a symbol of the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus’ head before the crucifixion. The use of wreaths dates back to Greek and Roman times. They were a symbol of victory.

Bells-were used in pagan traditions to scare away evil spirits. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow originally composed the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day in 1864.

Stockings-there are two possible stories about stockings. The oldest reference to the use of stockings is found among in the writings of Washington Irving in New York in the year 1809.His story described how Santa leaves gifts in stockings that children hang by the chimney. Another tale talks about a father who didn’t have any money to give his daughters’ to get married. The daughters left their stockings on the mantle to dry by the fire on Christmas Eve. They were surprised to find in the morning that Santa had filled their stockings with gold coins, and they could afford to be married after all.

Christmas Lights-Edward H. Johnson (a partner of Thomas Edison) introduced Christmas lights in 1882. He hand made a strand of 80 lights, and put them on his own Christmas tree.

Poinsettias-the Christmas legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It is said that a child who could not afford to buy a gift for Christ, instead picked weeds on the roadside while on her way to church. As she entered the church the weeds were miraculously transformed into poinsettias.

Christmas Cards-the first professionally created Christmas card was painted and printed in England by John Calcott Horsley in 1843. He produced the cards for a man named Sir Henry Cole. The first printed Christmas cards in the United States were created by a German immigrant named Louis Prang in 1875.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Family History

November is a super time to think about family history. The holiday season means families will get together. Some families members haven’t seen each other in a long time. It will be a time for sharing favorite family stories, remembering those who have gone on, and celebrating new members of the family.

What better time to focus on putting together a family tree. Your kids can share it with all the family at your family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I am going to give you a few links to help you get started and hopefully give you ideas.

  • This site offers a free lapbook and video for making a family tree.
  • Mila’s Daydreams has ideas for making unique family trees.
  • Family Tree Kids has great ideas and activities to make designing a family tree totally fun.
  • DLTK offers printable templates
  • Genealogy for Kids has free, printable forms to help organize your genealogy records. Made especially for kids.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pumpkin Play Dough

I found this great Fall recipe and thought I would share.

Ingredients for Basic Play Dough
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
3 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Food coloring (when you are creating basic play dough)

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium pan. Add water and oil. Cook on medium heat. Stir continuously. When the dough mix pulls away from the sides and forms into a large ball, the dough is ready to be placed in a small bowl to cool.

To create Pumpkin Play dough add the following to the basic play dough recipe listed above:

Add Pumpkin Pie Spice and orange food coloring to create dough that looks and smells like pumpkin pie.

Add graham cracker crumbs to get that pie crust smell as well.

Adding raw oats will correlate with a Harvest theme and create a new texture.

Mix in a few pumpkin seeds and have your child search for the seeds by manipulating the dough.

* Store in a small plastic container ( butter tubs, carry-out food containers, zip lock baggies). It should last a few weeks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Decoding Skills

Decoding skills are crucial for third graders. They can make the difference between success and difficulty late on down the road. You child should be able to recognize familiar words and figure out new words. They are more independent these days, but they still need you to guide them.

Try these activities for building good decoding skills.

Word Meanings
Your child should work on enlarging their vocabulary skills. Introduce a “word of the week” to them. Play hangman.

Parts of Speech
Kids love silliness, so create your own “Mad Libs.” Write stories with left out words. Have your child figure out which part of speech is needed--noun, verb, adjective, adverb--and ask them to fill in the appropriate words in the blanks.

Say a word aloud, such as dog, and tell your child to write as many related words as possible. They might call out “bark,” “growl,” “spotted” or “doggie, ” “puppy,” or “hound.” Discuss how the list of words are alike and different. Draw a Venn diagram to show the relationship of the vocabulary words.

Make up “crazy” words and ask your child to write them based on how they sound. Include words with digraphs such as “ch” and “sh.” Encourage them to make up new crazy or wacky words and figure out their spellings.

Prefixes and Suffixes
Design a matching game in which your child has to draw lines from prefixes and suffixes to their meanings. In keeping with the “crazy or wacky” word idea, have your child add prefixes and suffixes to their made-up words. If your child says that “dizzle” means happy, then “undizzle” will mean unhappy.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fall Leaf Experiment

Leaves have cells that have pigment-containing chloroplasts. They produce energy and their own food. The chloroplasts within a cell contain different pigments, which are what gives a leaf its color. Green chlorophyll is the most common type of pigment, but there are also xanthophylls (yellow), cartenoids (yellow, orange), and anthocyanins (red). The chlorophylls usually hide the other pigments, except when autumn comes along and chlorophyll begins to break down. This explains why leaves turn different colors in the fall.

Explore leaf pigments with your child in this fun experiment. My daughter and I just completed it and it was very fun. You are going to extract pigments from leaves. Collect several green leaves from different trees, a few from each one. Maples and others that have dramatic color changes in the fall will work best, but you can use any deciduous leaves (trees that lose their leaves in the winter).

Tear each set of leaves into several pieces and place them in a small drinking glass. Next, add just enough rubbing alcohol to cover them. You might want to cover the containers with foil or plastic wrap to keep the alcohol from evaporating into the air. Put the containers in a dish of hot tap water for about 30 minutes, until the alcohol turns green as the pigments from the leaves are absorbed into it.

Next, run a test to find out what colors are really in your leaves. You'll need coffee filters, filter paper, or chromatography paper for this part of the experiment. You can get chromatography at your local school supply store, or at least that’s where I got mine. Coffee filters are just fine.

Cut a strip out of the middle of a coffee filter, about one inch wide, for each of the leaf sets that you want to test. Tape one end of the paper to a pencil or stick, and suspend it across the container, with the other end just touching the alcohol and pigment mixture. A bit of the mixture will travel slowly up the paper. After about 30-90 minutes you should be able to see the "green" color break up into several different colors as the different pigments begin to separate. You'll see different shades of green, and perhaps other colors as well.

Which leaves had the most colorful pigments? Based on your experiment, which trees' leaves do you think will turn the brightest and least brightest colors this fall? Try the experiment again with evergreen leaves or needles to compare the results.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Honoring the Military

You might not like war or fighting, but I think you will agree that we should honor our military. They put their lives on the line every day so we can enjoy freedom. What a great country we live in!

Take some time this month to talk to your child about the military men and women who protect us. Explain how Moms and Dads have to spend time away from their family and friends. Talk about what it is like to serve in a foreign country where they are not used to the culture, food, or language. Touch on how soldiers are exposed to danger.

Here are two ideas that might encourage your child to honor the military:

  • Letters-write a letter or letters to active military men and women. Sometimes they get lonely, miss their family, or just plain get homesick. A letter from your child would be a bright spot in their day. Organizations like Operation Gratitude accept letters to send to the military.
  • Care Packages-Put together a care package. You can get flat rate boxes free at the local post office. Don’t forget to include a letter and maybe a picture. The site, Any Soldier, is a great place to find out more information about what they might want or need, and how to go about sending your package.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Food Chains

A food chain show the steps of who eats whom in a an ecosystem to obtain their nutrition. Simply stated, it shows how animals eat other animals or plants. For example, a fish eats plankton then becomes food for larger fish like mackerel or tuna. The mackerel and tuna are then eaten by larger fish and animals, such as the shark and dolphin. Who eats the shark? Look on menus at seafood restaurants. You just might see shark listed. A food chain always starts with plant life and ends with an animal. Each plant or animal is called a link in a food chain. Most food chains only have about four or five links.

Let your child decorate his room or the kitchen with colorful food chain art. Food chain art projects give visual-spatial learners a better understanding of how food chains work.

Have your child draw animals and plants inside one another to represent the progression through the food chain. The largest element of the painting should be a picture of the highest animal in the food chain. For example, a lion may be painted as the largest animal. Just inside the lion could be a zebra. Inside the zebra could be a drawing of grass, and inside the grass could be the sun.

Create a paper food chain mobile. Make a sun by gluing orange paper triangles around a paper plate that was painted or colored yellow. Use a hole punch to make one hole at the top and two or three holes at the bottom. Put the phrase, "All energy comes from the sun" in the middle of the paper plate. Color and cut out strips of paper with the names and drawings of producers and consumers. Glue the strips together in the right order making a "chain". Attach to the sun shape with string or yarn.

Another food chain mobile can be made by attaching animals in order of succession. The animal that is highest on the food chain should hang at the top of the mobile. Attach the next animal in the food chain, using string and tape. Continue adding the pieces of the food chain in order, with each piece of the chain hanging from the one before it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tracking Your Activities

Homeschooling families are usually involved in many extracurricular activities. These activities can include Boy or Girl Scouts, volunteering, playing a sport, taking musical instrument lessons, attending co-op school, taking art classes, and more. You may or may not be required to keep track of these activities by the homeschooling laws in your state, but you will probably need a log of your student's activities eventually.

*Here are a few ideas for tracking your child’s homeschooling activities:
*Use a notebook or spreadsheet to keep track of your child’s activities.
*Place the date on top of each entry. You will need to know exactly which day your child participated in her activities, in case you ever need to provide detailed information to the state or to a college. It will also help you easily organize your child's activities into weeks, months, and years.
*Note the time and duration of each activity. This will allow you to know when and how long your child participated in an activity. This is especially important in situations where a total number of hours are required. For example, if your state requires a certain number of hours for P.E.
*Record your child’s activities on a daily basis.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


9-year-olds can be quite a challenge some days. Even though children at that age usually enjoy learning, they sometimes become easily distracted or resistant to their schoolwork.

Here are a few suggestions for motivating your third grader:

*Limit distractions in your homeschool area. That means no t.v., radio, or even cell phones ringing (set your phone to vibrate).
*Set easy-to-follow rules. Create three or four rules that put a positive spin on the schoolwork that you expect her to do. For example, "Try your hardest" or "Do your best" are general statement rules that can help to motivate your child. Add rules about time so she will know how long she must work. Third-graders can typically work for at least 30 minutes on one task or assignment.
*Set specific goals, and link them to positive outcomes. For example, tell your child that you expect her to complete a set of 20 addition and subtraction problems, getting at least 18 correct. If she accomplishes this, then she will earn a choice of a sticker, a special pencil, or whatever treat you wish. Track her progress with a fun chart so she can also see how well she is doing.
*Always give her positive encouragement. Be your third-grader's most vocal cheerleader. Focus on the positive aspects of her work. For example, if the assignment is to write 10 vocabulary words, comment on how neat her handwriting is or how well she is spelling the words.
*If your third-grader seems completely uninterested in the schoolwork at hand, try to connect it to something that appeals to her. For example, use the names of favorite characters during a language arts assignment or math word problem.
*Rough words, yelling, punishments, grounding or overly restrictive consequences will not motivate your child to excel. A too-strict learning environment may instill more fear than encouragement.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Games for Listening Skills

Games are a great way to learn and reinforce any skill. Use creative games and activities to teach children good listening skills. Here are a few games you and your child can play together.

Listening and Comprehension
Ask your child to complete straightforward tasks and provide basic directions. "Susan, please go to the pantry, get a can of tomato soup and give it to your brother." "Jacob, ask Linda if she has the glue; if she has the glue, ask her to give it to you." It may be necessary to repeat requests to ensure that your child is focused. These simple activities can teach children to listen, comprehend, respond, and react.

Word Clap
Sit with your child on the floor and read them a story that repeats a particular word many times. Instruct your child to clap every time they hear that particular word.

Draw a Picture
Explain to your child that they are to draw a picture according to your verbal instructions. For example, to draw a picture of a cat, you can begin by telling your child to draw a figure eight with two triangles at the top. Continue to give verbal instructions on how to draw the cat.

Actions and Sounds
Prepare an audio track that plays a variety of different sounds such as a car horn, a whistle, and a bell chime. Explain to your child that each sound is associated with an action. For example, when your child hears car horn he should jump. Decide on the actions before the game starts. Play the audio track and watch to see if your child performs the necessary actions.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Listening Skills

Research says that good listeners usually have above average self-respect and very positive self-images. Teaching children good listening skills at an early age can help them to be effective listeners as adults. Kids up to the ages of 11 and 12 need constant reinforcement in order for listening skills to become second nature.

Here are a few listening skills you and your child can work on together.

~Eye Contact-eye contact lets the speaker know you are paying attention to what he is saying.

~Body Language-teach your child to avoid awkward body gestures that show he is bored or anxious--rolling his eyes, crossed arms, fidgeting…

~Gestures-Teach your child when to nod his head or make affirmative statements without interrupting the speaker.

~Focus-Train your child to focus on what the speaker is saying rather than planning his next answer.

~Paraphrase-Explain to your child how to paraphrase the main idea of what the speaker has said in order to show understanding and to be able to clarify any questions he might have.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Winter might seem dull and boring sometimes, but that is probably because you do not know about the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The GBBC is perfect for kids. This year will be the 13th year bird-lovers throughout North America spend four days in February taking a census of their local birds and submitting their results to one of the largest birding citizen science projects in the world.

The National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada organize the event. They encourage an awareness of winter birds and coordinate efforts to study them.

Plan on spending at least 15 minutes in any location you choose to count your local birds. You can count them at the park or in your own backyard. You will then submit a count checklist of positively identified birds to be correlated with thousands of other count lists submitted from thousands of other birders.

My daughter and I have done this twice. It is fun and educational.

Here is a great craft: Make a Recycled Bird Feeder

Make a bird feeder from the bottles you would normally throw away.

Stuff you need:
Plastic drinks bottles, yogurt containers or milk cartons (make sure they are clean), wire or string, birdseed, scissors.

Cut a hole in the side of the plastic drink bottle that is large enough to allow a free flow of seeds, but in such a way that they will not all fall out on the ground, and will not get wet if it rains.

Make a few small holes in the bottom of your feeder to allow any rainwater to drain away. Hang it with wire, or strong string from a tree.

If your feeder starts to wear out or the seeds get moldy, empty the food and recycle the feeder. Remember to keep your feeder well stocked, especially in winter. Birds rely on them and can go hungry if you forget.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Set a flag out in front of your child and begin a discussion with them about the American Flag (or the flag of whatever country you live in). Ask them if they know what the flag stands for. Ask them where they might have seen the American flag flown. Write down their answers.

Give your child a stack of old magazines and newspapers and let them search for pictures or draw their own pictures of places they told you they have seen flags. Next, have your child write Our Flag at the top of a piece of red, white, or blue construction paper. Then let them arrange their pictures on the paper the way they want them to appear. Finally, let them glue the pictures on the paper. For an extra, encourage them to draw pictures of other flags they have seen.

For the next activity, have your child research the symbolism of flags. They may use the Internet (with your supervision), reference books, and books with pictures of flags… Supply them with miscellaneous craft materials, pipe cleaners, glue, tape, magazines, crayons or markers, scissors, scraps of paper and cloth, paints, and a large sheet of white paper, poster board, or cardstock … so they can create a U.S. flag collage.

For a final project, have your child design a personal flag. Tell them to sketch it first. Remind them to consider what kind of flag would best represent the kind of person they are, or want to be. They can create their own logo or emblem. They might want to use their initials, make a silhouette of them self, and use their favorite colors.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nature Study

Nature study is perfectly suited to homeschooling. It can increase your child’s awareness and observation skills. Getting out in the fresh air is good for everyone's health. It promotes exercise too--nature walks.

Nature study can help your child understand science better. Nature study helps kids understand their surroundings and learn to be more observant.

Here are a few resources you and your children might find fun.

· Nature walks
· Keeping a nature journal
· Collecting leaves, flowers, bugs, acorns, or pine cones
· Photographing nature
· Scavenger hunts
· Keeping critters (such as worms, fireflies, crickets, hermit crabs, pill bugs, butterflies, frogs, turtles) as "pets" to study
· Notebooking about nature
· Lapbooking about nature
· Gardening
· Pressing flowers
· Bird Watching

Friday, May 4, 2012


Stargazing has been a favorite pass time throughout history. Stars are what guided explorers to new lands and guided the African Americans along the Underground Railroad. Star watching helped people develop the calendar and helped them learn to tell time.

Here are two fun and easy astronomy projects for you and your kids.

How to Make Your Own Sundial

Here are the things you'll need:
· A large paper cup
· A plastic lid
· A straw
· A watch
· A pen and pencil
· Sticky tape
· Sand or stones
· A compass pointing north

Here is what you do:
1. Put a hole in the side of the cup with the pencil. Make sure it is about 2 inches down from the top of the cup, and be sure that the hole is big enough for the straw to fit through it.
2. Next, fill the cup halfway with sand and stone and put the lid on the top of the cup.
3. Push the straw through the hole in the lid, and through the hole in the side of the cup. Make sure that the straw sticks out about 2 inches from the lid.
4. Tape the other end of the straw to the side of the cup.

Try it out:
Get up early the next morning and find a place where the Sun is visible for most of the day. Place your sundial on a flat surface where it will not be disturbed. Point the straw to the north (use your compass to find north).
Using your watch and a pen, as each hour passes, mark where the straw's shadow falls on the cup.

Do this every hour until at least 3 pm. If it gets cloudy, just wait for another day to finish your sundial. The next day, you're ready to use your sundial to tell what time it is.

Make your own Solar Oven:

This is one cool Astronomy craft! You will actually be able to cook your own food with the help of the Sun, when you finish this project.

Here's what you'll need:
· A square pizza box (most pizza places will give you a box if you ask nicely and tell them why you need it)
· A black marker or pen
· A straw or a stick
· A clear, sunny day
· Non-toxic tape or glue
· Aluminum foil
· Plastic wrap
· Scissors
· A ruler
· Paper plates
· Black construction paper
· Hot dogs and buns

Here is what you'll need to do:
1. Draw a square on the top of the box and make sure it's 1 inch away from the edges.
2. Cut along 3 sides of the square on the box. Do not cut along the line along the back of the box.
3. Now, make a flap by folding the top of the box back along the uncut line.
4. Cut a piece of foil about the size of the flap and fit it inside the flap.
5. Glue or tape the foil to the flap, shiny side up. Be careful not to wrinkle the foil. Press the wrinkles out with your fingers.
6. Next, cut the plastic to fit the hole inside the pizza box that the flap made. Make sure the plastic is not much bigger than the hole.
7. Tape the plastic to the box, and seal it tightly so air does not escape.
8. Cut more foil and use it to cover the bottom and sides of the box. Glue or tape the foil in place.
9. Cover the foil inside the box with black construction paper and tape it into place.
10. Put the solar oven on a flat surface, in a place that gets plenty of sun and open the box.
11. Put a paper plate or napkin in the center of the box. Put hot dogs on the plate.
12. Keep the back flap of the box open with a straw or a stick.
13. Make sure to turn the flap towards the sun, so that the Sun reflects off the foil and into the box.
14. Make sure to turn the box when you need to, so that the flap is always facing the Sun.
15. Wait 30 minutes to an hour for the hot dogs to cook.

Be careful, the oven can get very hot!

Astronomy is more than just boring text in a book!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vocabulary Games

Building a strong vocabulary never ends. Even adults should continue to work on increasing their vocabulary. One fun way to work on vocabulary skills is by playing games.
Here are a few suggestions for games you and your kids can play.

  • Faceoff- One child sits at the front of the room. Their chair should face the rest of the people in the room. On a whiteboard, blackboard, or poster board behind them (so they can’t see), write down a vocabulary word. Everyone else has the job of trying to get the child sitting in the chair to guess the vocabulary word. They can take turns giving clues. Each child gets 5 chances to give clues. For example, if the word is sensitive, the kids might say delicate, irritable, touchy, subtle etc. They can only give one-word clues, which essentially are synonyms.
  • Snowball Fight-Using white paper, write vocabulary words and definitions (words on one piece of paper and definitions on another). Make one set (word and definition) per child. Crumple the papers up and form into a ball. The paper is light so it shouldn't break things, but the crumpled balls might hurt a little if you get hit in the face, so set up specific rules. Set a timer for approximately 30 seconds or however long you want the fight. When the timer goes off, everyone has to pick up a snowball and find their partner. If you pick up a vocabulary work, you must find the definition and vice versa.
  • Four Square-Divide a sheet of paper or construction paper into fourths (sideways/hamburger). Put a circle in the middle and write a vocabulary word. Label each square with the following: Definition, 2. Sentence use, 3. Opposite, and 4. Synonym. If you have only one child, just have them complete the sheet. If you have more than one child, have a child fill in one square and then pass it to the next child who chooses a different square to fill in. Each child should try to fill in a different square each time.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Have you ever heard of geocaching? Geocaching is a take-off of the 150-year-old game letterboxing. People use a GPS or even a cell phone with GPS to go on a hide and seek type treasure hunt. They look for containers called “geocaches” or “caches” all over the world. Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon started current geocaching on May 3, 2000.

Usually a cache is hidden in a waterproof container. It will contain a logbook that the geocacher uses to enter the date they find the goodies, and they sign it with their established code name.

The items are usually toys or knick-knacks of little value. When you find something and take it, you are supposed to leave something similar or of higher value for the next person. You are also supposed to record the cache’s coordinates. These coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted on an online listing site so other geocachers can find them.

You and your kids might have lots of fun geocaching. Google it and you will most likely find the locations of stashes in your community.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Lapbooks are a great to add a bit of hands-on to your child's homeschool learning. They are also super to add to a portfolio, if you keep one. The lapbook allows your child to look back at things he learned, share what he learned with others, and it helps cement the learning since your child has ownership.

Kids can create lap books about any topic they choose. There are tons of sites on the Internet that explain how to begin lapbooking. They are sites that show and explain different styles of lap books, offer lapbook links, places to purchase lap book supplies, and even offer free lap book templates.

Here is a link on squidoo that is full of free and inexpensive lap books for third graders. Scroll down to "Literature" to find the links. You are sure to find lots of lap books your child will want to try.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Build a Compass

Using a compass is loads of fun, not to mention educational. If you do not have a compass, you can build your own. To create your own compass, you will need the following materials:

· A needle or some other wire-like piece of steel (a straightened paper clip, for example)
· Something small that floats such as a piece of cork, the bottom of a Styrofoam coffee cup, a piece of plastic, or the cap from a milk jug
· A dish, preferably a pie plate, 9 to 12 inches (23 - 30 cm) in diameter, with about an inch (2.5 cm) of water in it

The first step is to turn the needle into a magnet. The easiest way to do this is with another magnet -- stroke the magnet along the needle 10 or 20 times. If you are having trouble finding a magnet around the house, you can use the one on a can opener.

Place your float in the middle of your dish of water. Center your magnetic needle on the float. It will very slowly point toward north. You have just created your very own compass!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Simple Machines

Learning about simple machines gives your child a little insight into engineering. There are six types of simple machines.

*A lever is a simple mechanism like a board or a beam that rotates around a fulcrum.

*Wheel and axle is a simple mechanism that consists of two connected wheels, which rotate around the same axle.
*An inclined plane has no moving parts. Chutes, ramps, slides, and blades are examples of inclined planes.

*A wedge is an inclined plane that is used for lifting, holding, or separating objects.

*A pulley is a simple machine that uses grooved wheels and a rope to raise, lower, or move a load.

*A screw is a simple machine that holds things together.

Help your child execute experiments with each simple machine.

Here are two to get your started:

Messages on a Pulley

A PULLEY lets us change the direction of the force we use to do work.

Question: Can you use a pulley to help you send messages across a room?

Materials: 2 thread spools, 40 feet of string, 2 round pencils, paperclips, message

1. Put the pencils through the thread spool centers. Tie the ends of the string together to make a loop. Have one person hold the ends of one pencil (allowing the spool to turn freely. Have one person hold the other spool. Wrap the string around the spools to create a pulley system.
2. Write a message; attach it to the pulley with a paper clip. Have a third person pull the string to move the message.
1. Did you message travel across the classroom by pulley?
2. Is that what you thought would happen?
3. What did you learn?

Count the Turns
A SCREW is used to hold things together. It has a line that goes around it that is called THREAD (actually a twisting inclined plane).

Question: What type of screw takes more turns to go into a block of wood - one with more or less thread?
Materials: Wood block, same size screws with different sized threads, screwdriver, and masking tape

1. Wrap a screw driver handle with a piece of masking tape. Make a mark on the tape. YOU WILL COUNT ONE TURN EACH TIME THE MARK COMES BACK TO THE PLACE IT STARTED.
2. Place the screwdriver into the slot of one screw. Watch where the mark is and start turning the screw to the right.
3. Count how many turns it takes to get the screw all the way into the wood.
4. Repeat for the other screw or screws.

1. Which screw took more turns to go all the way into the wood?
2. Is that what you thought would happen?
3. What did you learn?

Saturday, February 4, 2012


A volcano is a mountain that opens downward to a pool of molten rock below the surface of the earth. When pressure builds up, eruptions occur. Gases and rock shoot up through the opening and spill over or fill the air with lava fragments.

There are more than 1500 active volcanoes on the Earth. There are at least 80 under the oceans.

Here are two volcano experiments:

Baking Soda Volcano

· 6 cups of flour
· 2 cups of salt
· 4 tablespoons cooking oil
· 2 tablespoons of baking soda
· dishwashing detergent
· food color
· vinegar
· warm water
· baking dish or pan

First, make the cone of the baking soda volcano. Mix 6 cups flour, 2 cups salt, 4 tablespoons cooking oil and 2 cups warm water. The mixture should be smooth and firm. Add more warm water if needed.
Stand the soda bottle in the baking pan and mold the dough around it into a volcano shape.
*Don't cover the opening or drop dough in it.
Fill the bottle most of the way full with warm water and a bit of red food color.
Add 6 drops of detergent to the bottle contents.
Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the contents.
Slowly pour vinegar into the bottle and watch the eruption!

Why does this happen? The red lava is the result of a chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar. In this reaction, the carbon dioxide gas is produced; pressure builds up inside the plastic bottle until the gas bubbles out of the volcano. This is a good representation of what happens in real volcanoes.

Soda Bottle Volcano
· roll of mint Mentos (type of candy)
· clear 2-liter bottle of Coke (diet works better)

Go outside to an area where you have a lot of room. This experiment is messy! Open the bottle of soda carefully. Position the bottle on the ground, so that it will not tip over.

*Diet soda works better than regular soda. Plus, diet doesn't leave a sticky mess.

Unwrap the roll of Mentos. The goal is to drop the Mentos into the bottle at the same time, which is very tricky. One method is to roll a piece of paper into a tube just big enough to hold the loose Mentos. Put a card under the roll and on top of the bottle top, so you can pull the card and the candies will just drop in at once.

Drop all of the Mentos into the bottle at the same time and then move out of the way just as quick as you can and watch the eruption!

Water molecules attract, linking together to form a tight mesh around each bubble of carbon dioxide gas in the soda. When you drop the Mentos in the soda, the gelatin and gum arabic from the dissolving candy break the surface tension. Each Mentos candy has thousands of pits on the surface. These tiny pits are called nucleation sites, perfect places for the carbon dioxide bubbles to form. As soon as you drop the Mentos in the soda, bubbles form all over the surface of the candy. Couple this with the fact that the candies are heavy and sink to the bottom of the bottle and you are just asking for an explosion. When all this gas is released, it literally pushes all the liquid up and out of the bottle in an amazing blast.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pen Pals

When I was a kid, I had a pen pal from Korea. We wrote back and forth and sometimes we even exchanged gifts. I remember my pen pal sending me a book of popular Korean poems. It was fun knowing I had someone so far away to write to. They were interested in my country and I was interested in their country. Having a foreign pen pal is very educational. It is a great way for kids to share their ideas, feelings, jokes, recipes, or whatever they choose. It is a super way to sneak in writing practice too!

Here are a few sites you can check out for pen pals. Please practice safety when choosing a pen pal. The sites below are supposed to be safe sites, but examine their rules carefully. The last two charge some type of fee.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Writing Prompts

Writing is sometimes a challenge for kids. Have many times have you heard, “I don’t know what to write!” Well, this month I am listing 20 writing prompts for you to use with your kids.

1. What do you think the world will be like in 25 years? Use examples.
2. If you could be any superhero, who would you like to be, and why?
3. Describe your best friend using only the letters in his or her name.
4. If you had to eat only one type of food forever, what would you choose, and why? Will you be able to survive?
5. If turtles could sing and dance, what songs would they sing, and what kinds of dances would they do?
6. If you were Jell-O pudding, what flavor would you be, and why?
7. What is the craziest game you’ve ever played? What made it so crazy?
8. Do you like your first name, why or why not? Does it fit your personality, why or why not?
9. Imagine that you are stuck inside a T.V. What will you do? What shows will you visit? How will you escape?
10. If you designed a video game, what would it be called, and how would it work
11. If you had an invisible magic helper, what would you have him or her do, and why?
12. Have you ever saved money for something important that you wanted? Did you meet your goal? Was it worth it?
13. Write a story about your future self getting your dream job.
14. Pretend you are going to travel back in time. Where will you go, and why? What will happen?
15. Imagine living life in the jungle. What will you do? How will you survive?
16. If you were a famous chef, what would you cook, and why?
17. If you met an alien, what would you want to ask him or her, and why?
18. What is the craziest idea you’ve ever had? Why was it crazy?
19. If you were a household appliance, what would you be? A vacuum? Microwave? Blender? Why?
20. If it suddenly began to rain food, what would you want the forecast to look like, and why?