Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spanish Numbers for Calendar

Spanish numbers cards for Calendar Time |

I've put together a space-saving way to display Spanish vocabulary and numbers for our calendar time!  As I began preparing to homeschool, I read a lot about moms having "calendar time." I observed my own son while he was in preschool and understand the skills children learn during this time. I am impressed with what parents do in these beginning moments of homeschooling, and am trying to figure out what will work best for us. I checked out a number of morning activities and have gleaned quite a bit from the following blogs: 

Space-saving Way to Display Flashcards 

We live in a small space and I'm one of "those" mom's who doesn't want the house to look overcome by children. So I tuck our school stuff in corners not seen when you first walk in the door. However, being frugal, I also wanted to use what was on hand. So when I found these nifty CD/DVD Plastic Holders at the bottom of my computer paper box, I knew I could make it work. It has two plastic pockets that were designed to be put into a three-ring binder and store CD's.  I slipped in some scrapbook paper, trimmed it to fit, and cut out a space for the divider between the two pockets. 

I left a lot of paper coming out above the pockets in order to give me space to make a heading and still be able to read it even when the flashcards are inside the pocket. To make the heading, I just typed up "Spanish" with "Letter and Word" on one side, and "Number" on the other. I printed this out on white cardstock, cut it out, and use ink to distress the edges a bit for effect.  To adhere it to the wall of our bookshelf, I used Scotch Restickable Strips so they would stay in place, but also be removable if I have to reposition them.

Spanish Vocabulary and Number Flashcards

In the first pocket we put in a Spanish vocabulary flahcard for our letter of the day. I found these WONDERFUL cards at Mr. Printables for FREE. Its perfect. The whole family has learned to incorporate the Spanish word into our everyday speech!  But I didn't find anything I liked to help us with our Spanish numbers. So I made a very simple version myself. Each card shows the number in numeral form, as well as the English word (in red) and the Spanish word (in blue). I'm offering these flahscards as a free download! Numbers up to number 31 to use with the calendar! Enjoy, and I'd love to know if you decide to use these! :)

Free Spanish number Cards for Calendar |

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friction Inquiry Lab

High level inquiry Friction Lab; teacher prep tips and student printable @

Friction is often a factor that comes up in our engineering labs as an extraneous variable that we need to address. Therefore, I decided to dedicate an entire lab to this topic. [The free student handout is available for download at the bottom of this post.]

Without tooting my own horn (beep-beep), I think I'm starting to get a handle on how to plan and implement this whole "higher-level inquiry" thing. (You may want to check out my post on What Inquiry is NOT, and also What is Inquiry?) When feasible, I've stopped writing procedures for students to follow. Instead, I place a wide variety of items on the table for students to see, and then start the lab with a question that leads into a brainstorming session about the topic. In this lab, it is "Is Friction Good or Bad?" Most students remember having to reduce friction in other labs (like in our wind turbine lab) in order to make an apparatus work more efficiently.   

Photo of materials to make available for an inquiry Friction lab |

The Role of Materials in the Creative Process 

Here are the materials I suggest having available for your students:
  • blocks of wood with a hook 
  • a variety of surface types: tin foil, wax paper, sand paper, felt, paper plates, pantyhose
  • a variety of lubricants: oils, liquid graphite, WD-40, silicone spray, hair gel, hand sanitizer
  • a variety of containers: baby food jars, cardboard tubes, plastic baggies, plastic/paper cups
  • a variety of rod shaped objects (different diameters) straws, dowel rods, tooth picks
  • a variety of measuring tools: rulers, spring scales, balances, protractors, pennies, various weights (I also had decorator pebbles) 
  • general building materials: shoe laces, string, twine, rubber bands, popsicle sticks

I'll admit that in my current teaching situation, I never have more than 6 boys at a time. Each group ranges in age and ability. I have some 12 year old boys in the same class with 17 year olds, and the 12 year old, may actually have higher thinking skills than a boy 5 years older. I've learned not to judge their' ability to think and construct apparatus to test their ideas! So,  doing higher-level inquiry labs with low numbers is not logistically an issue. I can empty my cabinets with supplies I anticipate them needing, and easily get more materials when they ask. I've toyed with the idea of NOT putting the materials out to make them think a bit harder about what they need. If you choose to do this, I suggest you introduce the lab one day, have them brainstorm what items they'll need and then give you a materials list.  That way you have time to consolidate the items they want, forcing them to think ahead. This idea would also work if you are homeschooling, except your kids will be able to help you locate the items, and then you can get started right away. 

I have found that the boys need what I have decided to call "Play Time." This is when I just let them use the materials to start putting things together. Its during this play time, that they are figuring out the extraneous variables, what constants they'll need to control for, for I've chosen to have materials out for them to jump start the creative building process. After a short time of playing, they write their procedure and construct a data table for for the trials of their experiment.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tracing Shadows

Tracing Shadows with PreK-K kids: Tracing shadows at different times of day:

Where is the sun in the morning? Noon? and Evening?
How does the the sun's location change shadows?
How does the size of a shadow change?
How does the direction of a shadow change? 

These are all questions we studied during a shadow tracing activity that I shared on a guest post at Enchanted Homeschooling Mom. Head over to Jill's site to read the rest of this activity. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Making a Mummy in Kindergarten

Making a Mummy Little Boy Style |

What can you do with a processed cheese food box, a large Lego Guy, strips of fabric, and a bottle of wine. Me? I helped my son make a mummy! Like many of you, I spend a lot of time on Pinterest getting ideas to supplement the concepts we are covering in kindergarten. Some of the ideas look better on Pinterest, and some unique ideas actually turn out!  Well, this is one of those things I threw together last minute, and I think we will both remember how a mummy is made. You probably have all of these materials already, so if you are doing a unit on Ancient Egypt, this may be up your alley! 

Materials Needed to Make a Simulate Mummy Making:

I used a handout I downloaded from the Homeschool Share Website. This is a great unit by Jodi Small. There are two versions of the "How a Mummy is Made" page, one where your child writes in the steps, and another one that your child can cut and paste. These are found on pages 27 & 28 of the 48 page-unit. Here are the various stages of making a mummy, and the materials we used to simulate the process of how ancient Egyptians preserved their newly dead Pharaohs.   
  • Organs are removed: playdough and film canisters
  • Body washed with wine: Cooking Sherry
  • Body rubbed with oils and spices: baby oil & cooking spices
  • Body covered with natron for 40 days: we counted to 40
  • Strips of resin-soaked linens wrapped around the body: water soaked ribbons and fabric 
  • Resin would dry in 15 days: We counted to 15
  • Mask placed on the mummy: Lego guy mask went on top!
  • Mummy placed in Sarcophagus: Velveta Box and lid 
A large Lego guy played the part of our dead Pharaoh. You'll notice he's missing his head...we did that so we could use it as the mask in the last step! We placed blobs of playdough to simulate organs, nottime to make the scientifically accurate. (Mom...remember he's 5...and his attention span wouldn't let me even put in the lobes of the lungs!) 

A Lego Guy being Mummified: Pladough act as organs that we remove:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

First Weeks of Kindergarten

Well, its not exactly like I'd thought it'd be, but I'm feeling more confident everyday that we've made the right choice to homeschool. I'm loving the time with my boys, learning in everything we do. So here's a quick look into some of what our schooling looks like. 

Phonics are not a favorite, so we try to do these in the morning. Caleb resists doing "school" when its in  workbooks, and I agree it feels less natural, so we try to get this out of the way. Doing it outside helps!     

Boy doing workbook outside on picnic table: STEM mom

With the (high school) boys at the Ranch, we've been doing a series of labs on Wind Turbines, so Caleb wanted a go at it, so he constructed one out of popsicle sticks, corks, and wooden skewers.  This activity tested our patience, as he thinks he has to get it to work the first time! I'm trying to instill in him that failure is part of the creative process, and that we celebrate having to do something more than once. Yeah...not working! 

Boy constructing a Wind Turbine out of popsicle sticks, corks, and skewers: STEM mom

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bible Memory Flashcards for Core A

This is just a quick post to share with you ABC flashcards that coordinate with Sonlight's Core A. I got the template from Yolanthe @ Homeschool Creations who has another set of memory flashcards that use different verses for the ABC's. She also provides tips on organizing and laminating them. The ones I've put together here go with Sonlight's Core A curriculum. 

ABC Bible Memory Flashcards: Free Download from

I will warn you that I only have this first page done so far. We are only in week 1 of Sonlight's Core A, so this page will have to do for now, as I have so much to do, that I've chosen to update the file as the time gets closer for us. If you are interested in getting the rest of these flashcards, be sure to sign up for notifications via my Facebook page, Google+, or my RSS feed (click on the social media beakers in the upper right hand side of the page), so that you know when I update this post. 

These flashcards coordinate with the songs found on "Sing The Word from A to Z" by the Harrow Family that came with our Sonlight's Core A material.  This makes it easy and enjoyable for the whole family to learn these verses! We have the songs on our ipod and listen in the morning while eating breakfast. I've caught my son humming these songs throughout the day. What a blessing! 

Let Kids Break Stuff-Ode to My Mom

I'd like to share two videos of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson that inspired the writing of this article.  This is all in honor of my mother, who raised kids who are naturally inquisitive, willing to take chances, especially if it includes getting dirty and making noise. I know watching videos takes time, but these are definitely worth it! If you're a parent, these  carry a powerful message about letting a kids' environment be their science lab. We need to get out of the way of their discoveries (while keeping them safe). 

I will add here, that I was in the hospital every year up until I was eight for my "natural discoveries." My mom traded the nagging maternal phrase, "No," for trips to the emergency room. For example, my  too-close observation of what happens to rock when it is thrown straight up into the the air resulted in stitches in my forehead.  And honestly, I'm thankful for these "learning opportunities." Over the years, hearing my family tell {all} the stories, I believed that this was because of my naturally inquisitive, unquenchable spirit. But now, seeing my mom with my own kids, I see that it was the pairing my of personality with the parenting style that allowed me to enjoy life and to discover things on my own! And for this I am eternally grateful.