Saturday, February 28, 2015

Learning Geography with State Quarters

My son is learning geography with a state quarters map.

I remember entering junior high and having a quiz on US States and capitals. For many kids memorizing names and locations of each state was daunting, and no fun at all. Therefore, whenever my kids are motivated to learn on their own I try to encourage them.

For Christmas, my kids all received state quarter maps. They say the maps are one of their favorite gifts. Now, each time we receive a quarter as change they want to look at it. They know exactly which states they have and which states they are missing. Learning state locations has been no problem. Now we just have to figure out a similar method for the capitals.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Opposite Hand Day

Have you ever wondered why the handwriting of some children is so sloppy? or why other children make such a mess in the kitchen? Try doing all of your normal activities with your non-dominant hand for one full day and you will quickly understand their challenge.

I spent several days trying to perform normal daily tasks with my left-hand. I wanted to see how challenging it would be, but also felt like spending long hours in front of the computer, always cutting food, brushing my teeth and doing everything with my right hand had left me a bit unbalanced. Sometimes I felt like my spine was a bit crooked and muscles on one half of my body were developed differently than the other side. Would doing things with my left-hand have any effect?

Writing, cooking, brushing my teeth and operating the computer mouse were four main activities that were extremely challenging. In addition, unlocking doors proved quite difficult. Both number 5 and 2 came out backwards on paper. Wow! That was a wake-up call. In the kitchen, cutting tomatoes and potatoes, my hands did not know how to hold the food. I didn't cut myself, but a few of my fingernails ended up a little shorter. Using the vegetable peeler proved to be an interesting challenge. It took several swipes just to get the cutter to cut. Unlocking the front door, I turned the key in the wrong direction and consistently clicked the wrong mouse buttons. Eating took up about twice as much time. It's really difficult to cut an egg with a fork, and even more challenging with the left hand. It took forever just to get the cut piece of egg stabbed onto my fork, and I had difficulty getting out every last drop of yogurt from my bowl. My teeth did feel clean after I clumsily wiggled the brush around for a few minutes in my mouth. My right hand is an expert, but my left needs definite practice.

Two main things struck me while working left-handed. One was the amount of brain power involved in theses seemingly automated tasks. Once I switched hands, these activities were no longer automatic and required my brain to wake-up. The other was the muscle control which had been developed unsymmetrically.

After using my left-hand for a full day, I decided to continue the experiment for the entire month. By the third week I became quite proficient using the mouse and was able to cut my food much quicker. At the swimming pool I realized that my flip turns were right-handed and doing them backwards caused new muscles in my stomach to wake-up.

If you try using your opposite hand, be sure to leave a comment to say how it went.
Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Braided Rug

We made a braided rug out of old clothes.

When the pioneers were busy settling America they didn't have a huge amount of available resources. Recycling was a top priority and fabrics were frequently used in several different ways before being discarded.When clothes were too worn or too small, it was possible to reuse them by making them into a rug for the floor.

Pioneers would have used clothing available, but we had lots to choose from. The first step was selecting materials for the rug from the large pile of old stained clothes.

Next, the shirts were cut into strips about 3/4 of an inch wide.

Three strips were selected to start with. They were tied together in a knot and then braided.

 The braid was coiled into a circle and hand-stitched into place.

Next, additional strips were knotted to the end of each strip as they ran out. It was important that each strip ran out at a different place, so the knots would not be clumped together. The braid was continually coiled and stitched into a circle.

Progress was rapidly viewed at the initial stages of this project as the circle required only a short length of braid to grow in length. However, as the diameter increased it seemed like a lot more effort was required for the rug to grow.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dividing a Circle into Eight

Mandala Creation: We wrote down the steps to divide a circle into eight parts.

Mandalas are fun to make because they combine artistic creativity with logical thinking. The first step to creating a mandala with a straight edge and a compass is to divide a circle into equal sized  parts. Six or eight sectors are the most common divisions.

In order to have the steps for circle division available for future mandalas, we created a small instruction book while performing the steps of dividing a circle into eight parts. The exercise was an excellent way to focus on mathematical vocabulary in a natural way.

Step 1 - Draw a line.
Step 2 - Create a perpendicular bisector. (This is created by setting the compass point on the end of the line and drawing tick marks above and below the line near the center of the line, then repeated by placing the compass at the other end of the line).

Step 3 - Draw a circle with the center point located where the two lines intersect.
Step 4 - Bisect the 90 degree angles. (This is done by setting the compass point on the point where the line and circle intersect and drawing tick marks above and below the line, then repeated by placing the compass on the two adjacent circle line intersections).

Once the steps were recorded, it was possible to create the mandala in the photo below.

 With the circle divided into eight parts, a very tiny concentric circle was drawn as well as a larger concentric circle to create both of the interior squares. With the initial lines and the two circles all the points were visible to create the mandala. The only tool required was a straight edge.

For additional mandala math ideas please visit my Math Page.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Build a Hanging Funicular - Gravity Car

A funicular is a counterbalance system in which two vehicles are attached with ropes through pulleys or rails to bring goods up and down hills. They were commonly used in remote mountain villages especially in the Alps, and also believed to be used for building the pyramids in Egypt.

The Neroberg Bahn in Wiesbaden, Germany is a funicular powered by water.

This picture shows two rail tracks; one for each vehicle. In the lower left-hand corner of the photo, the cable attaching the cars as well as the pulleys it rests upon are visible.

This picture shows the water being discharged from the vehicle at the bottom of the hill. The water tank is filled at the top of the hill, and the weight of the water plus the passenger weight must overcome the passenger weight of the other vehicle (plus friction).

We had a kit for our funicular, but I think the kit is simple enough it could be easily duplicated with a trip to the hardware store.

The first step was to set up a string in a loop, across the room, with a difference in height.

Our kit enabled three different set-ups. The funicular set-up only required a loop, so the three pulleys visible in the attachment mechanism were not required for this activity. Only a way to attach a string in such a way that it stayed open in a loop and could be tightened was required. (c-clamp and piece of wood)

Two carriages each containing two pulleys and connected by a string were rested on the looped string.

At the top, the string connecting the two vehicles passed through a pulley.

When coins were added to the upper vehicle the extra weight made it travel down the cable.

A similar set-up can be achieved using only one vehicle. Instead of the second vehicle, a person is required to pull the string down at the top lifting the single vehicle up the slope. The third way this system can be set-up is by using the big pulley with the hand crank. When the ropes connecting the vehicles pass through the large hand-crank pulley at the top of the slope, the crank controls the vehicle location on the loop instead of gravity.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Stonehenge - Simple Machine Activity for Kids

We learned about Stonehenge and made a simple machine similar to the type which may have been used to move the enormous blocks to Stonehenge.

Although the exact purpose of Stonehenge and how it was built remains a mystery, there is much that is known. Chapter 11 of Our Island Story (a narrative book for children on the history of England) both peaked our interest and left us with many questions about Stonehenge so we turned to the documentary Secrets of Stonehenge for more information.

Built around the year 3000 BC by stone age people living in Brittan, Stonehenge is aligned with the sun during the winter and summer solstices. In ancient times, stone was a symbol of the dead and wood was a symbol of life. Henges (circular structures) were built of both. While nothing but the post holes remain of the wooden henges, the remains of many stone henges can still be seen in the British Isles today. It's likely that the henges were locations where special religious ceremonies took place.

Coincidentally, hundreds of carved stone balls which date to the same time period in which Stonehenge was constructed have been discovered in Scotland. Historians have puzzled for years over the function of the balls. Recently, one researcher noticed that nearly all of the balls were constructed to a precise diameter of 2.75 inches and proposed a theory that they functioned as bearings in simple machines.

Based upon this theory, historians constructed a replica system which could have been used to move the large stones at Stonehenge. Although we may never know for sure how they were transported, we made a much simpler version of the simple machine using tennis balls, and pieces of wood.

Since the carved stone balls are similar in size to tennis balls, we placed several tennis balls between two channels of narrow wooden beams.

Next we placed a folded up table on top of the tennis balls as a platform and tested the system to see if the table could be easily moved.

It worked, so weight (one child) was added to the table and she was easily moved along the track.

Further testing revealed that heavier weights could be moved by persons with less strength.

To see our other projects which involved simple machines, please visit our Science Page.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Romero Britto Dinosaur Art Project for Kids

We created bright, patterned, dinosaur artwork using oil pastels in the style of Romero Britto - a successful living breathing artist.

Romero Britto is a self-taught Brazilian artist who's use of bright colors and geometric patterns appeals to a wide audience. He works in a variety of mediums from sculpture to automobiles to paintings. He has a very active community service record, has worked for corporations such as Disney and Coca-Cola and been featured at the World Cup.

The blog Art Projects for Kids often features simple drawing tutorials. Since many dinosaur tutorials were posted over the summer, we each selected a different dinosaur or prehistoric creature for our artwork.

Once our sketches following the tutorials were complete, the drawings were outlined in marker.

A few additional lines were added to the sketches in order to divide the paper into large chunks for the patterns.

Next oil pastels were used to fill in the backgrounds.

Most of the spaces were filled with simple patterns such as dots and stripes.

This is the finished parasaur from my seven year old daughter.

Here is my finished pterodactyl.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sorting Objects into Categories

We sorted objects into different categories.

Sorting, patterns, and design all go hand-in-hand. Not only are these useful skills, but kids get lots of enjoyment finding different ways to sort the same materials.

Seashells, old keys, silverware, paperclips, stamps and many other objects work well for this activity.

Objects can be sorted based on size, color, shape and many other unique attributes depending on the characteristics available.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fetal Pig Dissection

We dissected fetal pigs.

As educators of our own children, many of us are intimated by the highly technical high school course work such as biology with dissection. Despite our reservations, creating opportunities in these fields can have a profound effect on our children.

Recently, my daughter experienced biology via dissection. A local mom put together a series of classes designed to teach biology. Over the course of several weeks, my daughter dissected a pig eye, a sheep's heart, a sheep's brain, sheep's kidney, created marrow slides from the long bone of a cow, and dissected a fetal pig. Some of the specimens were ordered through a school scientific supply company and others were obtained from a local butcher.

Since there were around twenty children involved in the class, who eagerly participated, several doctors were invited to assist with the final class. There was an overwhelming response from the medical community. In fact, some offers had to be turned down. In the end, three doctors and two veterinarians met with the kids to teach them more about anatomy.

Having the doctors there was wonderful. They were able to point out different internal parts and answer questions which would have taken parents lots of time to research. Not only that, they explained how different parts of the pig related to their jobs and experiences in medical school. In school, they had to dissect very carefully (not in a destructive way), so they could use their specimen over and over again throughout the course. They taught the kids to cut a little, and then dissect with their fingers. It had been a long time since they had done a dissection, and were just as excited as the kids. Several of them admitted to brushing up on their pig anatomy before coming to class.

Once the detailed lab was complete, both the kids and doctors were interested in viewing the brain and spinal chord. They all worked an extra hour to uncover the brain and spinal column visible in the above photo. Overall, the kids spent about 2 1/2 hours dissecting their pigs.

I'm still intimidated by dissection, but have a few years before it will be necessary to revisit the topic. Now I see how vital this exposure is and will make sure my younger kids get a similar opportunity.

Finishing Strong - Homeschooling the Middle and High School Years
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