Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Science Comics, Volcanoes: Fire and Life

My review of Science Comics: Volcanoes: Fire and Life by Jon Chad is live at Learning Tangent Homeschool Magazine. I've collected a list of (most) of the vocabulary covered in the book, shown at the end of the post.

Get your copy of Volcanoes here on IndieBound:

Or from Amazon:

Take a look at some of the vocabulary! You can download the file here.

Layers of the Earth:
  • Crust
  • Mantle
  • Inner core
  • Outer core

Plate Movement:
  • Oceanic and continental plates
  • Convergent boundary
  • Subduct
  • Divergent boundary
  • Geotherm

Lava & Eruptions:
  • Magma
  • Magma chamber
  • Lava
  • Mafic, felsic
  • Viscous
  • Lava haze
  • Pillow lava
  • Convection currents
  • Pyroclastic flow
  • Outgassing

Types of Volcanos:
  • Shield volcano
  • Composite volcano
  • Stratovolcano
  • Parasitic volcano
  • Hotspot

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fibonacci Sequence Books for Children

If you had asked me a month ago about the fibonacci sequence, I would have said, "I think I've heard of that." I certainly would not have said that I'd be reading fibonacci books to my kids.

Then my husband said he wanted to burn a fibonacci pattern into wood like this using high voltage electricity. The kids have loved learning about Benjamin Franklin and electricity, so I had to admit, that would be cool. We haven't done it yet but if we do I'll be sure to share a photo.

The next day, I saw this book, and I couldn't resist...

What's nice about Growing Patterns is that it's simple and short. You could read a book like this and then go count flower petals and paint pinecones.

Along the same lines, I'm eyeing Wild Fibonacci. The illustrations look beautiful:

And then there's Blockhead for those who like the history and personal side of things. Mine have been enjoying biographies so this was right up that alley:

Another book I'm eyeing is The Rabbit Problem:

This one calls out to me because it presents the basis for understanding animal population growth (decline is another matter entirely!). If your family is interested in ecosystems and how animals fit into them, this looks like a fun way to explore a related concept. It also explains why you won't get your child an unneutered male and female pair of anything. Next thing you know, you'll have a house full of rabbits!

Not enough fibonacci for you? Look! Art inspired by the Fibonacci sequence.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Parts of a Plant

Where we live, it's almost time to plant a garden, and the perfect time to talk about plants. Here are PreK-2 ideas to get you started!

  • Dissect a plant. Pull up a weed such as clover and talk about the different parts of a plant. Here's a cool diagram.
  • Roots: Water and the Nitrogen Cycle 
  • Stem: Capillary Action

  • Leaves
    • Oxygen and Carbon DiOxide: If you stick a leaf under water in the sun, after a few hours, bubbles of Oxygen will form.
    • Photosynthesis (Glucose, Chloroplasts/Chlorophyll)
    • Plant ID: Collect leaves and ID plants with these free ID Cards.
      • Get really crazy by studying simple v. compound, alternate v. opposite, pinnate, palmate, parallel, and entire, serrate, undulate, crenate, and lobed
  • Flowers: A simple google search will turn up a ton of flower parts diagrams.
    • Bees!
    • After flowers comes...
  • Fruits & Seeds:
    • Fruits & Vegetables: Here's another opportunity to dissect the real thing! Can you find the seeds in a strawberry and a tomato? What part of the plant does spinach come from? Carrots?

At, under Life Science Extras, you'll see worksheets for parts of the plant, photosynthesis, and the root system.

Here's a nice book to help you out:

"From Seed to Plant" by Gail Gibbons

Have fun!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Craft: Easter or Spring Equinox Painted Pinecones

Can you feel spring approaching? To me, spring means color, and actually crafting with my kids because we can do it outside where cleanup is easier.

March 20th (2017) is the spring equinox!

Easter Sunday will be April 16th (2017)!

This time of year I'm always picking up pine cones and raking (oh, joy...) and one year a friend asked me what I was going to do with them. Um, set them out for yard trash pickup? Obviously? We had tried to do some crafts with pine cones in the past and found that they were too, well, pokey! Peanut butter and bird seed works pretty well, but what else could you possibly...

Oh! Paint! My kids love to paint!

We picked up over a hundred pine cones and ended up painting them all between the "four" of us. I say "four" because one is a toddler and only painted parts of hers. As you do.

TIP: Wash and dry the pine cones to get rid of bugs and dirt. The pine cones will close up like this first:

Dry them in the oven or microwave to open them up again:

Cleanest Pine Cones in the Universe.

Our most successful method (pictured at the top of the post) uses tempera / whatever kid paint you have and sponges. Sponging was SO easy and we hardly noticed the sharp bits. Go ahead and glop that paint on if you're using tempera. For a quick project, you can skip washing and drying the pine cones and use washable paints. For a more crafty, durable project, wash, dry, and use acrylic paint and a finishing clear poly coat. (Did you know you are also supposed to wash and dry acorns before painting them?)

Sponging also worked best for "snow" pine cones!
They look even better in person!

If you want these to hang outside, you will want to use a spray sealer. When we did this, some of our paint dissolved -- disappeared right off the pine cone!

Now... you are probably wondering about spray painting the pine cones to begin with. That is actually what we did first because my oldest can operate spray cans and I thought that would be the best method. The spray paint then turned into "my" project to touch up what he had started, and another run to the store for more glitter paint. So, while the final product does look nice, it was a lot harder and cost 5 times as much because where we used only a little of the regular liquid paint, we used up four entire bottles of glitter spray paint. The pine cones kept moving around while I was trying to spray them and I felt more like I was attacking them than painting them.

They have a beautiful silver glitter finish ranging from a light dusting to "did you dip that?"

The red looks more impressive in person but not as nice as the silver.

If you do go with spray paint, I'd pick silver and maybe gold unless you are going to go really crazy and do a white coat underneath first. At that point you'll be spending several dollars a pine cone!

In hind sight, the sponges were more kid-friendly even though you hold the pine cones to do it. I'm happy with how all of them turned out but will probably never use spray paint on a pine cone ever again (except maybe to seal it).

To hang them as ornaments, hand-screw in eye screws and tie on ribbon. Or skip all that and lay them in a neat basket or bowl as a center piece.

Let's look at that finished product again...

Perfect for an Easter tree!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Make Your Own Booklet Project

Hand-sewn Booklet: Make Your Own

It's no secret that we're book lovers and storytellers over here. We've been studying the 7 continents in our homeschool co-op and, as one of the teachers, I've gleefully brought our family's passions to class, introducing the kids to folk tales from each region. Later, I'll post a mega list of all the picture books we've used.

Oceania/Australia presented a unique challenge. For Africa, we chose a particularly hilarious Anansi story and performed a puppet show for my son's presentation at co-op. But for Australia, we struggled to get a hold of picture book at all. 

So, we made our own!

I wanted to do a true booklet so my 3rd grader could hand sew it, which he enjoys, and because booklets like this are more durable and feel more like a "real" book than simpler projects. We already had a manual craft drill, a darning needle (they are blunt), and strong thread.

What we do NOT have is a wonderful but expensive program like InDesign to order the pages for easy printing. When you make a booklet, you lay the sheets on top of each other and sew through the middle, so each page becomes two half-sized pages--the numbering can get complicated. I've made pdfs and docs with blank, numbered pages ready to print using standard programs like Word and Open Office. Get them along with instructions and other booklet project ideas on my teacher pay teacher site to Make Your Own Booklet.

You could staple it if you don't want to sew it, but for us, the sewing is half the fun.

For Australian mythology, we used the story of Crow Steals Fire, broke it down into plot points, and rewrote it in my son's words using his illustrations. He enjoyed retelling the story and sewing the book, so we'll be doing more booklet projects in the future!

Have fun!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Get Messy With Quicksand!

Need a messy science experiment / sensory play for those cold days? We've got you covered...


Let's be real, here. It was MESSY.

It doesn't get more real than a photo of our house...

My kids asked me about quicksand and animals dying in quicksand. I'm pretty sure this is related to their obsession with dinosaurs, since at the time they were smashing tiny dinos into play dough.

First, we read How Quicksand Works together. I found it perfect for their age.

This Myth Busters video is also neat although it has a little language.

Next, we had fun with two cornstarch recipes. First, if you add just enough cornstarch (1/2c to 1c water), you make oobleck, a non-neutonian liquid. This link explains more what that means, but basically, it acts like a liquid and like a solid. If you punch it, it acts like a solid, but it will also ooze off of your hands like a liquid.

Add a little more water and you make a kind of quicksand. A total of 3/4c cornstarch to 1c water will do the trick. (So, if you started with 1/2c cornstarch, add 1/4c more). Now is the time to drown your tiny animals. Ours come from the science museum, birthday parties, and other random places. Actual rocks work even better because they are heavier.

Finally, to satisfy their dinosaur fixation, I read and told them about Utah's Dinosaur Deathtrap.

Bye, bye, tiny dinos!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

For fun: Dragonbreath #1 by Ursula Vernon

We've been loving the Hamster Princess series by Ursula Vernon and so picked up this series as well:

Dragonbreath #1 by Ursula Vernon:

Danny Dragonbreath can't breathe fire, but he has no fear. And that comes in handy when a bad grade at school inspires him to enlist his cousin the sea-serpent's help with a research project. Using a hybrid of comic-book panels and text, Ursula Vernon introduces an irresistible set of characters that will have readers laughing until smoke comes out of their noses!

Dragonbreath is listed as middle grade just like Hamster Princess, and I'd say that it's more violent but also more goofy, because Danny Dragonbreath is so reckless. Some of the other children - er, animals - make fun of Danny and his friends.

The newest installment, Knight-napped, comes out this week, Jan 6th!

Ursula is the creator of Hugo-Award winning graphic novel Digger, which is for more mature audiences, as well as many other graphic novels and otherworks which you can find out about at