Monday, November 5, 2012

Make your own soda, or not!


One of the quick and easy things we did this summer was making our own soda. 

Soda water is carbonated water so we used everyone’s favorite carbon dioxide releasing reaction to create our bubbles… a little baking soda and acid (we used orange juice instead of vinegar).

baking soda and vinegar balloon

  Bubbles were made,

but as you can see…

not delicious!

Then they had to experiment to see the dancing raisin experiment with our soda versus a can of soda.

It worked!  Although the fresh fizz of the can gave the raisins a little longer dance.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Magical Eggs

Have you ever made an eggshell disappear?

This is a great experiment, but does require some patience.

Keep in mind that eggs are very specialized animal cells and some of the structures are similar to a plant cells. Eggs have a cell membrane and a hard outer covering (similar to a plant cell’s cell wall).

You are going to use vinegar to cause a chemical reaction. What are the signs that a chemical reaction is occurring? BUBBLES. Scientists know that bubbles in a liquid either come from air escaping to the surface. This air was either trapped in the liquid to begin with or a chemical reaction has occurred. In this case, the vinegar reacts with the shell of the egg and causes the release of carbon dioxide.


There are all different versions of this experiment, but 24 hours was all my kids could last before getting the eggs out.

I am a big believer in the scientific method so we did an experimental egg and a control egg. Our question was, “ What will happen to an egg in vinegar?” . Our hypothesis was, “ An egg in vinegar will behave the same as an egg in water”. We were wrong!

As mentioned above, the vinegar reacts with the components of the shell and causes the shell to disappear. This leaves the membrane behind and you get a rubberized egg.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good pictures of the egg out of the solution.  The egg you see her has the shell completely dissolved.

We played with them for a little while (over the sink) and even dropped it to watch it bounce, but eventually it broke. Leaving the membrane behind.


Then we were able to see that the inside of the egg was still raw.  Of course we had to “see” what would happen if we threw our control egg into the sink.

My kids LOVED this and we will be using this idea as part of our gift giving this season (more on that later). Have fun and use what you have around to explore the world!

- Kim

Monday, October 22, 2012

Muddled Part II by Rebecca

In order to minimize some of the chaos that comes with practice times, I have been experimenting with some ways to keep things exciting. Here are some of our successful methods of making practice times calmer, and more fun.

Everyone said, “make it a game” when I first talked about our practicing woes. My first real success came when I got a large sheet of butcher paper and made a colorful trail of giant squares on it, like a path in the game “Candy Land.” I wrote the names of all the songs he had learned, one in each square, and then I taped the paper to the floor.

The Chief was interested in following this path, and he gave me no trouble when we used it for practice. He liked to follow it, playing each song as he stepped on it’s square. He liked that he could see his progress, and he could see the end. He felt secure and in control with the path and was very enthusiastic. We used it with dice after adding numbers to the squares, and when he had added more songs to his repertoire, we made it longer. It is possible to do this several ways; a path that we follow, rolling the dice to determine the number of steps forward, or back, or you can use colors for the squares on the path, then make or find cards with the corresponding colors on them and draw from the deck to move around the path (it helps to make the path a circle or figure eight for this). You can determine how many times he will go around the path, or how many times he will roll the dice before the practice is finished, or you can say, when all the cards are drawn, then practice is over.

This was a great way of practicing because it got his whole body involved, there is an element of surprise, and it is never the same twice, so it takes a while for them to get bored with it.

Now, when you get into needing to repeat a song or a musical phrase over and over, I found some other things that worked well for that. First, there is a counter. My hubby made ours, and I got the idea directly from our music teacher. All we did was get a block of wood ($1.29 from craft store), a wire coat hanger, and some wood beads ($1.00 for a bag of 20 at the craft store). Hubby drilled holes in the block of wood that would snugly hold the wire hanger, threaded the beads on the hanger (make sure they will slide easily), and then secured the hanger into the holes with a little super glue. He twisted our hanger into a fancy turn as you can see, but a simple U shape will work fine. We used all twenty beads, but the one our music teacher has only uses ten. With this you can say, repeat a phrase 10 times, and slide the counters over after each repetition. It eliminates the need for mom to count in her head so she can focus on other things, and it keeps anyone from counting too many or too few repetitions so there will not be any arguments. As an added bonus, younger siblings can move the counter for you to “help.” They are often still while they listen and count, which helps everyone with fewer distractions and a boost to their confidence.


Stay tuned for more in the Muddled Series by Rebecca.

I think the counters would work great as a way to practice anything (I am thinking about the tears over spelling words especially)!- Kim

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Muddling Part I

Muddling. That is the way I usually feel that I am getting through the day. Everything is a jumble, very chaotic, disordered, lots of confusion, tangles, and generally messy (sounds like my hair too). My husband and our older son, the Chief, are lovers of control and order. They like to have a plan, and they like to work the plan. Schedules, maps, these things make them happy. Living with their muddled wife/mother makes them a bit cranky, and they are forever trying to get me in touch with a system for un-muddling their days. One area we have been working on is practicing for our music lessons.

The Chief has been taking violin for the last 2 1/2 years. The Mad Scientist takes piano lessons, and this is only his 5th month to do so. The Mad-Scientist begged to take piano lessons. He was two and a half, nearly three years old when big bro, barely six, started taking the violin and he was fascinated. At first he thought he wanted to take violin too, but at four years old he was convinced that it was the piano for him, and asked every day when he was going to get to go to his piano lessons, what his teacher would look like, and how was he supposed to get his piano to and from the lessons. He asked that, or a version of that every day for a little more than a year. We started last fall, and he couldn’t be happier. He typically stops whatever he is doing when I call and will practice for about twenty minutes at a time. He likes to play a tune and have us guess what it is, and he loves to play for anyone who visits. Workbook pages are no problem for him, and he will ask me to play the CD that accompanies his Suzuki songs over and over. I cannot say that his practices are all joy, and he has moments when he refuses to cooperate, but over-all, he genuinely wants to play the piano.

By contrast, the Chief has been known to sabotage his violin to get out of practice. There is always crying and screaming, frequently pouting and stomping when I call him for a thirty-minute session. The moment the violin is mentioned, he stops swinging from the ceiling fan, becomes simultaneously deathly ill, and exhausted, realizes he has not eaten in the last ten minutes and must have “something hot” immediately. While I try to negotiate him into putting off his swoon and feasting until we can do this practice, the phone will ring, or the Mad Scientist will start a construction project in the other room. Once we finally have the instrument out of it’s case, tuned and in the proper position, the Dane will come to “help.” The Dane will “sing” with some of the music, he will “lean” on the chief while he tries to play, bring him toys, bark just to hear his own voice, and terrorize the mad scientist into screaming fits while we try to review our scales, and work on new pieces. While I am trying to corral the Dane, my violinist is screeching, flailing, and complaining about all of the interruptions and his ailments. Add to this my grandmother’s love for listening to the music, which consists of her sitting in a chair across the room, gazing at her great-grandson with love, which feels to him like she is “staring” at him, and to me like she is monitoring my terrible attempt at parenting. Doesn’t this sound like fun?


Believe it or not, we usually do get some practice done. It isn’t pretty, and I typically lie awake at night and worry that my desire to teach my sons delayed gratification, working toward a goal, and the joys of playing music is actually scarring the older one. I hate all the drama and stress, and am always glad for Christmas vacation, and a break in the summer. Why continue, you ask. Well, you probably won’t believe me when I tell you that the Chief loves to perform. He will ask to play for any and all visitors who come to our house. The cable guy, piano tuner, friends, neighbors, and especially family, all get lengthy performances. He loves the praise and their surprise at his skill level. He loves the attention and the satisfaction of playing in concerts and at the recitals. Quiet and reserved, occasionally high-strung, he never has any nerves when he plays, and takes his violin places that he thinks people would enjoy hearing it. Go figure. - Rebecca

In the next part of this series, Rebecca will talk about the different things that she has done to make practice time a little less of a chore…

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Joy of the Hunt, Scavenger Hunt that is!

The joy and sometimes defeat of parenthood is that each child is so different.  My bigger little guy adores all things math and science.  He has never left a science experiment without suggesting more things to explore.  He is always happy when they have actually done math at school.  My little guy is a Kindergartner this year and adores school, except MATH.  So this is for him.
He is having a hard time with number recognition, especially that pesky 6 &9 (we are a little inconsistent with 5 & 8.  What is interesting is that he can put the numbers in order perfectly he just can’t call their name.  So off we go….
cars, trains, legos, candy, anything will work.
number cards

The idea:
This one is easy.  When they get home from school I hand them each a number.    They go around and search for a bag with that number of dots on the outside. To keep competition to a minimum I assigned each boy a color.

Inside that bag are the number of candies or counters that matches the number card and another number card with their next number. 

This part is tricky.  They should take the new number out and put the matching number in the bag.  While they eat snack, I review the bags with both of them.

You could do the something with math facts, colors, sight words, etc.  Have fun.  This is a great way to engage them in learning at a time when they want to collapse and you do too! My little guy loved the search and was totally engaged (although he wasn’t too keen on checking them at the end).  My bigger little guy has asked to do this every single day!  It took me about 10-15 minutes to get everything ready.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Introducing a new contributing writer! Can you tell I’m excited?

This year my kids are all in school and I will be afterschooling, but I have a wonderful friend who is a homeschooler and willing to take up the task of writing from the homeschooling prospective this year. Without further ado, let me introduce Rebecca our new contributing writer….

Hello, my name is Rebecca. I have graciously been invited here to periodically share with you the experiences of my home-schooling family. I have a bachelor’s degree in English, with an almost double major in History because, like breathing, I have always found it necessary to be reading or writing something. Currently, I am blessed, especially by my husband, and have a day job that is actually way better than anything I could have imagined, and occasionally I get to read and write too!

We have found it is impossible to live in the same house with “our mad-scientist”, and “the chief” and not get ‘schooled’ somehow- regardless of age or species. Therefore, I consider myself a home-educator not only to our newly turned, five-year-old son and our eight-year-old son, but also to my eighty-three-year-old grandmother, and two Great Danes. My husband participates when he can, or when he feels carnage, in one form or another, might be imminent.

Our family chose to home school because we want to enjoy time with our children. My husband and I choose to invest all our resources in them, because to us, they are everything. We realize that the opportunity to really know, and be known by them will be over in an instant. We want to look back on their fleeting moments of childhood and know that we were present and as involved as they needed us to be. We do not need them to achieve academic perfection, land specific jobs, earn piles of money, or win fame and glory. We only hope they find happiness and fulfillment in the lives they choose to live when they are all grown up. We want to provide them with as many opportunities as we can to help them, and have fun in the process!

photo        Sam intro

Do not be fooled by my lofty goals; we are not living with only sunshine and rainbows here. In fact, there are lots of days when I think I am doing everything all wrong. So we go to bed, get up the next day, and we try again with a different approach. I take comfort in thinking, if nothing else, they will learn that making a mistake is a tool for learning, not failure.

Kim said in her introduction to this blog last August that she felt education needed to move from “the knowledge of what something is to an understanding of how and why.” I agree! While I do feel at times like our family is in a mine car racing through dark tunnels, with no knowledge of where we’ll end up (think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), I also feel like our choices allow my children opportunities. These opportunities allow them to grasp that there is a reason that we learn beyond the worksheets, and the tests. We learn so we can comprehend our world, how it works, why we’re in it, and how we can use our knowledge to further understanding.

In my posts to come, I will provide proof of our adventures. We do lots of science and math, and it feels like we’re usually doing lots of re-dos with everything else. I hope to share success and failures, and anything I find in-between that worked for us, in case they will also work for you!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beach Trip Science

We have been busy loving on our kids and spending special time with my mom.  One of the things we did was a great trip to the beach.
This was our first real trip to the beach. We had taken the boys to the beach for the day, but never actually stayed there. Unfortunately, we had double red or red flags most of the time.  We tried to make the best of it in this inlet.
My little guy was mesmorized by the pull of the ocean and my bigger little guy was on a critter search, but wasn't too thrilled when we found a crab.
Now that we are back I want to capture some of that enthusiasm and start our science discovery back again. This is a simple experiment that you can go into a lot of detail about or just a little to explain.
You put two eggs into two different solutions and observe the egg floating in the salt water solution.  The reason the egg floats is density.  The density of the two eggs (or you can use a single egg in two different solutions) will remain the same, but as you add salt (which has mass) to the bowl of water without changing the volume of water (the salt will dissolve in the water) the density of the water increases. 

The math equation for this is density = mass/volume.  If math isn't your thing, a conceptual definition of density is how tightly the particles in a substance are packed together. In order for something to float it has to be less dense than the liquid it is in.
This also explains why it is easier to float in the ocean versus a chlorinated pool.  The saltwater has more density and it can lift/carry/float you more easily.
Since this experiment introduces the idea of density there is a lot more you can do with density.  You might pick the detail depending on the age and interest of your child.  To add an interesting twist you could use saltwater in the sink or float experiments or add varying amounts of salt.  Explore!  Kids love to experiment.  Here are a few ideas to jump off of:


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