Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My new obsession

I've been a very bad blogger lately (Bad Shannon!). We are just wrapping up our fall session at coop - and had tons of fun! The boys had really gotten into it this year! I taught 3 classes - which has totally burned me out (Physics, Geography and Latin). But the kids all seemed to have a great time.

I just signed up as an Usborne books consultant. These are the best books for kids out there - everything from awesomely illustrated reference books, to great early readers, to learning kits for science, math and art. Check out  my website . I just can't believe that I can feed my book addiction and make money at it! It's awesome! I especially love that you can get library bindings on the books. I'll never forget some of the board books my boys loved as toddlers (especially Sandra Boyton's The Cow Says Moo) and how sad we were that the bindings all fell apart! I had been hoping to keep them for when my boys have children, as a keepsake (I have a couple of the books I loved as a kid) but the books completely fell apart. I was so sad. So I love that families can get books that will last with little hands playing with them. And whomever illustrates the books are amazing - they are so colorful and beautiful and don't cost any more than a normal kids book.

Looking forward to the holidays!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Electric Toy Car

It's super easy but I'll give you all the complicated explanations to go along with it.
Example of a simple motor - this helps the student see what will be going on inside their motor. Here's another example of explaining a toy electric car.

My DH had fun assembling our sample car with the kids - we actually had a wood kit car that we used for our sample but the class is making it the long way over several weeks -

Supplies -

Toy motor from Radio Shack (costs about $5)
Wood scraps - ~ 2" x 4" block of 1" thick pine (or whatever is cheapest) to be the base, 2 1/2" long square blocks of the same wood to be the axles and one 2" long one for the 'windshield' base. Small pieces of wood to make the seat so that the seat is raised a bit so it will fit over the motor bracket.
1 pkg small wood screws
1 pkg small brass nails
Wood Glue
Drill with 5mm drill bit
Metal bracket to hold the motor
8 Milk Caps
2 Large Rubber Bands - 4 smaller rubber bands
1 5" Nail
2 small rubber washers
2 metal small washers
4 tiny metal washers for the weels.
1 Curtain pully (from Home Depot costs about $.89)
AA Battery Holder (also from Radio Shack)
2 AA Batteries
Wood Paint
a couple of electrical wires

Procedure -

1. Assemble the frame of the 'car' - glue and either nail or screw on the axles, the windshield. Build the 'seat' but don't affix it to the frame as of yet.
2. Drill a 5 mm hole through the middle of the base cross wise, this will be for the drive train.

3. Paint the car and let completely dry.
4. Affix the motor, battery holder and wires to the base. (If you can, solder the the wires to the motor, otherwise you'll have to keep reattatching them)
5. Glue the curtain pulley to the 5" nail. Assemble the drive train like this:

6. Glue 2 milk tops back 2 back you can use a small piece from a tire tube to be the rubber around the tire if you'd like.
7. Screw the wheels to the axles so that is goes wheel-washer-screw
8. 1 Small ruber band goes from the motor to the curtain pulley, a small rubber band then goes around the drive shaft to each wheel. Finally a large rubberband goes around the front and back wheels.

Final Product.

If it goes backward then you'll need to reverse the wires

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Think! Creative blog for kids

I absolutely LOVE this blog - written by a mom who started her own school, she believes kids should be allowed the freedom to be creative! I remember being a kid with a gigantic washing machine box and being content to play for days in the thing. Well this blog is along those lines - giving ideas on getting the kids creative with stuff you have around - like making robots out of the stuff in your junk drawer!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Free Websites Master Lists

Ok, a while ago I made a list of my most used free worksheet links, there are of course many more webpages that I have found important in my HS - from fun interactive sites for the kids, to sites designed for different types of learners (my oldest is a visual). Here is my list of what is in my favorites list.
Blessings -

Interactive Sites -
Miamiopia - the kids LOVE this site and play it while I'm making dinner.
Big IQ - math, spelling & Geography. The kids play about 30 minutes each.
12 Dozen Places to Educate Your Kids
Click n' Kids (Phonics and spelling) -- ok this is not free, it is about $50/mo but it is sooo fun!
 Head of the Class - this site is a little disappointing - each lesson starts with a great animation, but many (MANY) of the lessons are actually worksheets. But it is free, and great on a day I'm sick or the kids need a distraction.

Geography -

Math -

Science -

Computer Science

Lesson Plans -

more to come!

Our Worse Enemy -- OURSELVES!

I've been running groups like this one for years now. I've been HS'ing my own kids since they were toddlers. I'm the first person to defend HS as a viable resource. I'm the shoulder other newbies cry on. And I shake my head at the worries and guilt new HS parents often experience. But I will fully admit even I can sometimes fall prey to the even twin resting on my shoulder whispering guilt and doubt. I thought I'd write this post for all other HS mom's who stongly defend their decision then, late in the night when no one is watching, bite my fingernails to the quick.

Here are some of my guilty whisperings:

Gosh, we don't spend nearly the amount of time on HS as PS kids do...what with going to school for 8 hours then having a couple of hours of homework when they get home...Now, intellectually I know we don't need as much time as the kids are getting one on one attention, and the curriculum is designed specifically for their learning styles. I'm not trying to fit square pegs into round holes. But even I will sometimes question our dedication. When we do coop once a week, I will slack on the other days, not doing as much (and I know many other parents who do nothing at all on those other 6 days a week)....and I'm one of those parents who think all of life is a learning experience, so technically our kids are learning all of the time...but still I'll feel whisperings of doubt occasionally.

I'm not a trained professional. My oldest son has Aspergers (a form of Autism). I can not conceive of him thriving in a PS setting. And yet I know (supposedly) he'd be surrounded by 'experts' if I put him in the ps system. In fact I had a hard time finding a doctor who a. supported HS or b. would dx him without having a report from a school psychologist. Again my son is in a safe environment where I can give him the freedom to explore his stengths to his hearts content, and work gently on his weaknesses....but I had a hard time learning about his learning style, and I feel (ocassionally) that we wasted those years that I tried to teach him with a different style. I know he would have been bullied and miserable in a group setting (he has high anxiety) but ocassionally I too will doubt my abilities.

My house looks like the setting for an epic war film. One of the hardest parts of HS is getting balance. Especially since I'm legally handicapped and can't be on my feet for long periods of time. So I will shrug off keeping the kitchen spotless to instead watch hours of documentaries with the kids. Or I won't do laundry so we can instead work on building a volcano. Our house is cleaning central on the weekends, which the kids hate. But I will sometimes feel guilty for taking my quiet reading time in the evening after the kids go to bed. Our house would sparkle, but I'd probably be homicidal without it. I'm the first to tell parents the importance of taking decompression time, but it doesn't stop the guilt.

So ladies. Acknowledge your guilt and doubt, own it. I believe the doubt and fear are part and parcel with being a good parent. It keeps us on our toes, always striving to be the best parent/teacher we can be. No matter what your guilt/doubt know that you ARE good enough, you ARE smart enough, and you ARE doing what is right for YOUR family.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Grammar lapbooks
Phonics -
Grammar game -

Great new resources -

Landforms Lapbooks

Vocabulary Lapbook id=12912&external= of the Day /

Lapbooks for the comming year - 2011-2012

Here is a tentative list of some of the lapbooks we'll be using (aside from the ones I'm designing)


Electricity -
(flash cards)

Magnets -

Einstein -

Chemistry/ Elements -

Space -

Hostory/Geography -
Louis & Clark -
Boston Tea Party -
Westward Expansion -
America's Landmarks -
US History -

Ben Franklin -

Presidents  -
George Washington -

Math -
Money -   Money Games
Subtraction -

Government -
Constitution -

Language Arts -
Basic Grammar Rules -*Wb7cxyWqhglrtyYZUu5qvFqKdL5uXVUB3Qbc01PF1gYxd4SoSn/AdjectiveStreet.pdf*jtNcw5dahzTOjqiRGiCsKzzkVGsRPEQ5855EU3Xo/popupfiguresverbs.pdf*5KmGJX0bzqOMS7eirfLGW4W359ZmO7j*4zd-KDL0MgiIZwlIGoVDzoMryEtt/Verbpics.pdf

Music/Art -
Classical Music -

Thursday, August 25, 2011

This come I dead yet?

Well I'm very, VERY excited to report that my Latin curriculum is finally finished! (It only took me 4 months to design the 3 workbooks....of course they are all about 200 pages each). And I'm one of 4 women in charge of our cooperative this year - which is difficult as most of us only participated in 1 co-op semester before being on the board. Check out Latin Fructus for grades k-7.

Now, as most of you know, I usually spend most of the summer designing my comming years curriculum. But, due to the excitement of designing the Latin curriculum, and getting everything together for my oldest sons first appointment with a behaviorist on the road to his Aspergers diagnosis - the appointment is on Monday....gulp!!

So this week I've begun to compile our curriculum. Since it's kind of last minute, and since the boys are getting older (sniffle, sniffle), I'm doing a single combined curriculum. This means the boys will be learning the same subject, with the same topic, but different worksheet levels. I did it this way so I could finish the curriculum quickly - and they always end up joined at the hip for lesson time anyway. The cirric isn't completely done - but here's an example of our September breakdown -

Week 1:
Geography – City/State/Capital Maps
Cursive – U
Reading Comprehension – Main Idea & Supporting Facts
LA – Noun Review
Writing – Capitalization Review
Geometry – Angles
Math  - Addition Review
Western Civ – The Greeks
American History – Native Americans
Science -
Music / Art - to be determined
Economics - to be determined
Spelling - Unit 1
Biography – George Washington  
Week 2:

Geography – Map Scale
Cursive – S
Reading Comprehension – Amelia Earhart
LA – Pronouns
Writing – Capitalization Review
Geometry – Measuring Angles
Math – Addition Review
Western Civ – The Greeks
American History – Native Americans, MTH
Science -

Music / Art -
Economics -
Spelling - Unit 2
Biography – John Addams
Week 3:
Geography – Political Maps
Cursive – T
Reading Comprehension – Automobiles
LA – Possessives
Writing – Capitalization Review
Geometry – Triangles
Math - Subtraction Review
Western Civ – Alexander the Great
American History – French Indian War

Science -
Music/Art -
Economics -
Spelling -
Biography – Thomas Jefferson

Week 4:
Geography – City/State/National Maps
Cursive – Y
Reading Comprehension – Ben Franklin
LA – Look it up
Writing – Capitalization Review
Geometry – Lines, Rays & Segments
Math – Subtraction Review
Western Civ – Start of Rome
American History – Taxation w/o Representation –Boston Tea Party

Science -
Music / Art -
Economics -
Spelling -
Biography – John Quincy Addams

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Designing Your Own Curriculum

As many of you know, I've always designed my own curriculum's for the boys. It's not that difficult and it's waaaay cheaper than a pre-packaged curriculum. The only things I pay for are and which are great for printables I can't find for free or make myself. Here's the general idea of how I go about designing my own curriculum's -

  1. I start my curriculum matrix using the books I have - "What Your ____ Grader Needs To Know", HS Year by Year, etc. I make a large spread sheet for the whole curriculum where I put all the lesson 'topics'
  2. I search the web for free matrix from other boards of ed on what is expected for the spread of grades I'll be teaching (my kids are not in any 1 grade, they advance subject by subject as necessary)these are added, or adjust the curriculum spread sheet.
  3. I make a general matrix of the expectations based on those printouts from #1 & 2. To do this, I usually write in a  list of resourcces for each lesson.
  4. I add or subtract from that matrix based on my own knowledge of my boys - do I think they need more challenge, what units I want to add in, etc.
  5. I organize the Curriculum Matrix by month - Make a plan of how I can overlap lessons. It's very easy to go overboard and plan this insane curriculum. But, especially with multiple students, there are only so many hours and so many lessons you can do at once (there's also only 1 of me, but 2 of them). So I figure out how I can teach 1 lesson for different grade levels, at the same time - this means sometimes I might be teaching my youngest at a much higher grade level (then just making worksheets or lapbooks for his appropriate levels)
  6. I make a plan of how I can combine lesson subjects. Again it can get overwhelming for the kids and me if I have to teach 12 subjects in a given day -- so I'll try to look at a lesson and try to think of how I can work multiple subjects from it - -for instance, The Trans-Continental Railroad, I'll search for ways engineers measured the distance between tracks and stations or whatever - MATH, then I'll find a Magic Tree House book that touches on it - READING, the kids can research which towns were most affected by the railroad and make a Travel By Rail brochure (GEOGRAPHY/HISTORY)....yes this lesson would take a few days, but I would not have to keep switching gears between subjects.
  7. I search the web for resources - not just worksheets but research and teaching materials as well.
  8. .I usually print EVERYTHING and organize it by month, so on the last day of the month (during the school year) I grab the next month's folder and organize it into 'week' folders, then on Friday, I take each week folder and separate it into 'day' boxes (which include manipulative's and such) so the kids can just grab that day's box and we're set. (Kinda like work boxes, but a little different). This organization is based on the Month Matrix.
  9. Then I design any lapbooks we may need (I like to do a couple a month) and I get the boys' input on what they want their reading lists to be, and we choose our night-time reading books (I read these aloud).
  10. Voila, all done!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Physics Progression Questions Answered

In one of my online groups I had a mom ask me some questions about teaching science, and what progressions I's my responses...

What books am I using for Quantum Physics?

We are using "Alice in Quantumland" and "Scrooge's Cryptic Carol" both are awesome for creating that visual picture for things that are so conceptual, as well as "The Cartoon Guide To Physics" and "Janice VanCleave's Physics for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments". But I've always just made my own curriculums.

What sequence did you use for beginning Physics?

Ok basically I taught/will teach them in this order -

Machines (levers, wheels, etc), Motion/Forces (intro Newton's Laws), Light & Sound/Waves, Optics, Matter/Fluids,Probability/Measurement, Electricity/Magnetism, Heat/Thermodynamics,The Atom, Quantum, Astro, Nuclear, The 10 Dimensions, Newton, Einstein, Steven Hawking, Neils Bohr = until the Quantum I didn't teach the formula's that went with the topics (since my kids were REALLY young when we started (toddlers) so much of the formula's were beyond them....that's why I introduced Newton then went back to it later in more depth - where I could include the mathematics (to a certain extent).

Although I also found my background made teaching math easier as well (haha) in that scientists like Physicists realize the 'numbers' in all equations are just titles or names for sets. This is the same in Physics with their advanced equations - each letter/symbol stands for another set. Believe it or not changing the 'number' names to symbols or letters keeps things more organized and less confusing. (of course many of the symbols also stand for other equations, but that's another matter). Many kids/teachers get caught up on the identifiers - the number 3 times the number 5 always makes the number 15 - then once the student reaches middle or high school we throw away the numbers in favor of letters/symbols for algebra when most student's lock up with confusion not understanding what the x's and the y's are supposed to be about, But I think I've digressed, lol...

Online Physics Resources?
Some of the websites I love: (the science of a home run) Demonstrating Physics Concepts with the Amazing Slinky! = For the Physics Teacher

{My husband suggested} to do basic physics, then basic chemistry, before diving into quantum or more advanced/specific physics? He said she will need that basic chem before more advanced physics?

As i sated in one of my previous replies, my oldest is also special needs - he has Aspergers, which makes straight up math (like multiplication tables) difficult. He's way advanced with understanding concepts though - like he can explain multiplication, he just get's confused when it's a worksheet in front of him. Anywho - because of this difficulty we are going a little out of the norm for progression. If we were focusing on advancing through science in the normal way, including most of the basic (if not calculus) equations, then I'd say yes. You want a solid understanding of basic physics and chemistry before going into the conceptual (like atomic and quantum) this is because the math for these are really advanced logrythms and calculus - so if you don't understand the math behind Force = Mass x Acceleration then you'll never understand E = MC squared. BUT, due to the complication of being able to manipulate mathmatics I took a round about root. I'm doing some of the more conceptual stuff first, without the mathmatics. So essentially we are covering the 'discussions' without the 'proof' - which to a physics buff sound really stupid - why discuss something when you have no concrete evidence such a thing is viable? But when teaching on of the hardest things for me was to teach the boys how THEY needed to learn not how I wished I had been TAUGHT. So that's the reason for the book choices I previously mentioned - they offer very little in the way of math. They are discussing the concepts of Physics as well as the history of the science. That's why we plan on going back and focusing on some of the most intrumental scientists later - to focus on the PROOF once my son catches up with the math. I didn't want to hold him back - he loves the discussions - just because learning the equations are much like learning to read a foreign language.
When it comes to Chemistry - we plan on covering basic chemistry when we focus on Atoms and their structure - this is primarily because we have no access to an advanced Chem lab, so again much of our lessons will be more conceptual (how this substance and this substance come together to form this substance). We can do several 'kitchen' experiments and the rest we can postulate on paper, which often involve breaking things down to the atomic level. Then near the middle-end of the year, once the kids have a handle on the structure and behavior of an atom, and how one substances atom reacts/mixes to another we can start filtering in more conceptual/modern discussions on sub-atomic and atomic theory. Which naturally would lead to the next level nuclear fission.

An understanding of basic physics - essentially Newton's Laws - is essential before even entering a discussion on the more specific physics. Chemistry is somewhat debatable. If one understands different types of matter (liquid, solid and gas) and a tiny bit of the structure/differences of matter, as well as some very basic machines, then you can easily have broad discussions in Quantum and Astro Physics. Nuclear really should have a basis in light and heat (as it is all about radiation) and Atomic theory should have a solid comprehension of the structure of matter (atoms and molecules). But again, it all depends on how you teach basic physics. Furthermore for a solid A & P class one doesn't really even need to have physics nor chemistry, you could technically do it before biology as it really focuses so specifically on the human body as a machine.

That's how we've been working things I always say, what works for one may not work for another.

Free Spelling Lists

I found this great link today to one of our hardest subjects - SPELLING -

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This Summer

This year was a wild ride. From my oldest embarking on the long road to an Aspergers diagnosis, our first foray into the world of Co-Op and both my hubby and I getting laid off, it's been an interesting ride. But I've learned so much this year - about myself, my children, and about how best to teach them and encourage the young men they are. This summer i'm hoping it will be fun and interesting and educational. I technically school year round - but our summer months are more like fun projects rather than lots of 'book' learning. Furthermore, both DJ and Xman work on the same project (rather than doing some stuff at one level and other stuff at the others' level). Well, here's our plans - mine and there's

My Homework -
  • Finish designing my Latin Curriculum. It's been beyond frustrating with the crap on the market for young kids in the subject of Latin.
  • Put together a list of Lapbooks to do for the coming year, and complete them.
  • Design the curriculum for the next year.
DJ's Special Project -
  • Design and write Pokemon website, as well as starting Web Store
Boys Joint Projects -
  • Make a Solar Car. We're going to be building medium size wood cars and then building small solar enginges.
  • Percy Jackson & The Olympians series as well as learning about Greek & Roman Gods, Roman Times, and what the world was like in ancient times.
  • Multiplication - get comfortable with Multiplication
  • Alice in Quantum Land & Scrooge's Cryptic Carol - learning a bit about physics and quantum physics.
  • Exploring Painting and other mediums of art.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Amazing new resource!!

As many of you know, I used to use Time4Learning and IXLmath websites for school for the boys....but I'm really cheap so couldn't countenance spending money on them - and Time4Learning really decreases in interesting material for I've been searching for replacement. I've come to like Head of the Class (but they have a lot of printables, which don't work well with my oldest)....and I absolutely LOVE Khan for math, as it is full of videos. But another HS mom happened to mention another great resource to me today - Free World U - it is a free resource, but it is also an accredited online school. If you need to use an accredited program then you can pay $90/year (very reasonable!). It is essentially an interactive flash-card type set-up. I wish they had some sound (as my oldest is very much an audio learner) but still, as a free resource it can't be beat!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Art Fair Project - Optics & Light

We are so excited to finally have the International Fair behind us...and what do I do? Sign them up for another fair of course!! (I'm still looking for a science one in our area for HS' our year will be complete). This time it's an art I'm not super arty - I am crafty (as evidenced by all the craft things we just did for the other fair), but we're now on a strict budget so purchasing a ton of craft supplies is outta the question....

Instead, I spent $30 on all our supplies (and will have whatever film development costs these days, I'm budgeting another $10 for our 36 exposures)...

Purchase List: (from Amazon)
DIY Pinhole Camera - $12.95
Super Sunprint Kit - $14.95
35mm, ISO 100 B&W professional film - $7.44
1 PVC Pipe w/ End Cap
Weather Stripping (aka foam rope w/ adhesive)
1 Roll Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil (for making reflective Surfaces)

  • Pinhole photos (using various light strengths as well as some reflective surfaces)
  • Sun Prints (using the same light strength and reflective surfaces)
  • Digital Photos (will show the progression of photography as well as exposure)
  • Home-Made Kaleidoscope
  • Rainbow on Paper Experiment
  • Blue Sky Experiment
  • Milk-dish soap-food color/ color mixing experiment
Links -
Make and Use a Pinhole Camera, by Kodak
Opaque Surfaces, by Teacher Vision
Reflecting Light Rays, by Teacher Vision
Light Experiments ABC Teach
Fun and Learning With Photography, by Edutaining Kids
How Camera's Work, by How Stuff Works
How Digital Camera's Work, by How Stuff Works
How Photographic Film Works, by How Stuff Works
History of Photography & Processes, by the National Portrait Gallery
Trouble Shooting your Pinhole Camera, by
Understanding Photography, by Wikipedia
Understanding Histograms, by Luminous Landscape
Intro to Photography, by Pieces of Science
Build a Darkroom & more, by Black & White World
Light & Optics, by Physics 4 Kids
Optics For Kids, by Optical Research Assoc
Make a home-made Kaleidoscope, by Univ of Arizona
Experiments with Light, by Hunkins Experiments
Make a Rainbow on the Wall, lesson plan by Lesson Plans Page
Make a Permanent Rainbow on Photo Paper, by
Optical Illusions, by Weather Wiz Kids
Blue Sky Experiment, by Weather Wiz Kids

What a World!

I'm sorry I haven't been posting much in the last couple of weeks - life has certainly taken a few twists and turns! First we had the International Fair  to finish our projects for - they came out fantastic! (but it was a TON of work on all our parts) Then our computer died - The TouchSmart sucks, we only had it 18 mos!!! (Now it will cost almost $400 to fix!) Then just when we were gonna send the computer to HP to be repaired my DH was laid off, which means we're both both of us are looking into doing school (I would have a certification course, he would have a 2 year program, grrr) but that's really hard financially when we were on a tight budget before! So I'm trying to turn myself into one of those obsessive-compulsive coupon clippers (where do they GET all those coupons...anyway), if we could reduce our grocery bill from about $300/month to $150 then it would be covered by our food stamps (something I never thought I would have to be on in the first place).....

Friday, March 11, 2011

Awesome new link!

I'm so excited! I've finally found the perfect math site for my boys. The college kids who started the site deserve medals! The videos are short and sweet and somehow put even the most complex math concepts into terms the kids can understand. I had been using for the last several months, but I don't like that it's mostly a type of review - like a worksheet just on the computer. THere are no lessons or real interactive information, so I was still somewhat at a loss on how to teach my oldest son - the audio learner - math concepts. He was stuck at about 3rd grade, he couldn't remember multiplication tables so we've gone back to the several times with no success. But after watching their video on Khan he went through their practice sheets like he'd been doing them for years! He just suddenly got it!!!

If your child is an audio learner like my 9 y/o you may also be banging your head against a wall. Math is all about working things out on paper (for the most part) and audio learners have close to zero attention span for paper work. BUT I found this great site that's TOTALLY FREE and has video clips explaining every aspect of math in ways kids can understand!!!

Khan Academy

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mummies, Mummies, everywhere!

I have found some great projects for Xman's Egypt presentation. One of the ones we are doing today? Making mummies. We bought some WWF guys (they were bigger than GI Joe) and we'll be using an apple. Since we can't dessicated (dry out) our toys, we will simulate that step - but to get the point across of what this step did to human bodies we'll be doing it with an apple slice.

First the kids used this Interactive Website - How Mummies are Made

Apple Slice Dessication -
  1. Cut an apple into quarters.  
  2. In a measuring cup, measure 1/3 cup of baking soda, fill the cup the rest of the way with table salt.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients - this is very similar to Natron, the compound used by the Egyptians.
  4. Place one apple quarter in a jar or cup
  5. Fill the cup with the salt mixture, making sure the apple is covered completely.
  6. In another cup place another quarter of the apple - leave it uncovered (this will show the comparison in decomposition)
  7. Place both cups in an out of the way place for about a week.

Steps to Making a Mummy -
  1. Delivery of the corpse for mummification
  2. Removing the Organs. The heart remains in the mummy, the brain is destroyed and removed through a nostril, the stomach, liver, lungs and intestines were washed and placed in Natron for dessication - these preserved organs were each placed in a special jar called a Canopic Jar which is sealed with a carved top representing which organ was inside.
  3. The body was covered in Natron for 40 days to remove all water.
  4. The body was then washed and anointed with oils while the Priests chanted and sang blessings.
  5. The body was stuffed with herbs, spices, linen, sawdust and salt - this helps the body have normal proportions instead of just looking like a shrunken raisin.
  6. The head and neck were wrapped in linen
  7. The fingers and toes were wrapped in linen
  8. The rest of the body was wrapped in linen (all of these wrappings also included little amulets being wrapped as well.)
  9. The linen was sealed with a resin (like tree sap)
  10. The face of the mummy was painted with gold to represent the kings face
  11. The mummy was then placed in 3 coffins which (after the funeral) were then lowered into the sarcophagus.
So most of this was simulated by the boys -
Step 2 - we pretended to remove the organs
Step 3 - we covered our 'body' for 40 minutes (1 minute = 1 Egyptian day)
Step 7 - we had to simulate since our dolls didn't have fingers and toes.
Step 9 - We sealed our linen with a home made version of Plaster of Paris - 1 cup warm water and 2 cups flour (we made sure our mixture was a bit more watery than regular glue so our cheese cloth strips could be hardened.)

Spring Garden

Ok I'm the first to admit that up until now I've had a black thumb. But that doesn't stop me from trying! I'm nothing if not adventurous!

This year we are trying to go even more green by starting container vegetable & herb gardens. We live in an apartment with little to no yard space, so planting an extensive garden is out of the question. But the boys are very excited to see something tangible come from our efforts (we We are also learning about making our own compost. This too is our way of going green.

Container Garden -

  • Building the Window box with dad & papa - using recycled wood we have found the kids are building these things. We also make sure there are a few holes in the bottom so we don't drown the poor plants.
  • Decorate the boxes. We have tons of paint and sealant once the kids are done decorating we'll throw on a few layers of sealant to be sure none of the pain washes away.
  • Start seedlings. I know many people just plant the seeds in the boxes but I'm not the best gardener, so I'm learning along with my boys. We are starting the seedlings in the biodegradable little seedling starters in our home. We are using egg shells as our planters - the kids will be decorating them and starting the seeds with their HS group in a couple of weeks.  (just click on the pic if you think you need directions)
  • Once the seeds have germinated and sprouted a bit, we'll transfer the whole thing (egg and all) into the window box. I have a plastic liner for the boxes that I got for like $1. Again there are several holes in the bottom of the planter and we start filling it with a layer of gravel/rocks the kids have been collecting.
  • I always throw a bit of grass starter over the top as well, so even while the little plants are growing or after harvest, there is something in the box.
After some research the 4 boxes we are making will have these plants (which are supposed to grow well together)
  • Box 1 - cucumber (space master), tomato (red Cherry), parsley & chives
  • Box 2 - carrots (short & sweet), lettuce (bibb) & peppers (sweet banana), Mint & Thyme
  • Box 3 - Greenbeans (french dwarf), Cabbage (Bok Choy), Sage &Basil
  • Box 4 - Cabbage (baby head) , Tomato (sweet 100), Peas (Early Patio), Rosemary
Starting your own porch compost -

Prep -
  • Select a plastic storage bin that has a top that locks on (this will help keep hungry critters away) - we used the 18 gallon size. NOTE - you need 2 tops although only 1 has to be able to lock on. The other goes under the container to catch the liquid that drains out, you'll need to re add it back to the compost and if you don't have any type of catch bin then it's totally wasted.
  • RUBBERMAID 18 Gallon Rough Tote Storage Box this is like the one we used.
  • Drill about a million holes through all the sides top and bottom. Air circulation is a major part of decomposition, so you need it to be able to flow through your container.  (first i had the kids paint the container until it was all purrty and I sprayed a sealant onto it to keep the paint from washing off, it will eventually chip/fade but the kids had a great time). The holes should be about 1-2 inches apart.
  • I then lined the bottom of the bin with a layer of gravel, then added a small amount (like a large pail worth) of rich soil, shredded newspaper and dried leaves. (but be careful on adding too much of the paper and leaves as these will help dry the contents of the bin, and you need it to stay fairly moist)
  • Whenever adding scraps to the bin, be sure to chop them small, otherwise they can take quite a while to decompose (trust me, our first batch was a big moldy mess). Great things to add to your compose? - leaves, weeds, fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, and grass clippings.
  • Storing your bin. I actually keep a small pail in my kitchen where I can easily add scraps throughout the day, then before bed I add them to the bin. Some suggest keeping the bin just outside your door for ease of use, but I warn you, the smell of decomposition isn't pleasant. I keep my bin under my porch so I don't have to think about such things. After I add my daily pail, I put the lid back on then give the whole bucket a few shakes to mix things up. When I add my contents I also check to make sure everything in the bin is moist, if it's dry then I add a bit of water (like watering a plant). Maybe once every couple of weeks I add the drippings back into the bin so not much added water is necessary unless you live in a really dry environment. 
  • I use some chicken wire mesh to harvest my compost. Once you can see dark crumbly material, you are ready to harvest. Basically I get 2 large buckets. I lay the mesh over the bucket for the 'good material' and leave the other bucket for the 'not quite ready material'. Then I scoop the compost over the mesh. Everything small enough to fall into the bucket is good to use, the larger pieces go back to the compost bin to continue the process.  
  • When I put the remaining items back into the bin to complete the process I also add a scoop or two of soil again to help the balance factor (see below).
Keep in Mind -
  • Think of Balancing Greens and Browns in your compost - this will balance the microbes and make compost possible. The greens will be veggie & fruit scraps, plant clippings, coffee grounds, etc. The brown are dead flowers, dry leaves, small twigs (think the stuff on the forest floor), that's why I like to add a bit of rich soil to my mix.
  • Adding Worms. Worms help speed up the composting process, and some can live happily in our 18 gallon drum of compost. The most common for our type of composting are Red Wigglers (you can purchase them online). Just be mindful of the temperature. Worms are happiest between 40 and 80 degrees F. If it's boiling outside then your closed bin might get very hot and kill off all your little warriors. If you use worms in your bin this is called Vermicomposting.    

Monday, February 28, 2011

Wow, I did it!

Ok I'm fairly excited. I finally decided to sell some of  my lapbooks, workbooks, worksheets and presentations. Many mom's both here and on CafeMom encouraged me. HUGS! So I finally decided to start another blog (like I don't have enough already? LOL) that was dedicated to just that, selling great resources for our kids.

Home Educators Toolbox

I don't have every single one of my resources up yet, but I do have some. I'm currently working on...

Magic Tree House Books:
Mummies in the Morning (& Ancient Egypt)
Night of the Ninjas (& Ancient Japan)
Vacation Under the Volcano (Volcanoes and Pompeii)

Dr. Seuss Books:One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
I Can Read with my Eyes Shut

Simple Machines
Intro to Chemistry

Math:Mysterious Multiplication
Sly Subtraction
Dubious Division
Intro to Algebra & Geometry

Check out more soon!

Friday, February 25, 2011

This week

THis week was crazy busy for us. Here's a breakdown of our educational travels:

even though dad was home for presidents day the boys blew through their school work.
X-man :
1 hour Time4Learning,com

Make The Grade (3) review book, 1 of each chapter (writing, math, science, social studies)
Reading - Water Conservation

Story of the World - we started learning about Egypt - the boys worked with dad to make a display of the nile river by planting some herb seeds in a tin pan and making the river with aluminum foil.

Our first day of Co-op
Learning math with art & games - he learned about symmetry
Animal Studies

Criminal Investigations/Forensics - he learned about recording evidence at a crime scene
US History (1900's) - he learned about the San Fransico earth quake of 1906

Jazz Dance
Pealentology - they learned a bit about evolution

1 hour Time4Learning,com

Make The Grade (3) review book, 1 of each chapter (writing, math, science, social studies)
Reading - Water Conservation

Story of the World - we did a bit more learning on Egypt  and the two kingdoms, and how the Egyptians saw the world upside down, since the Nile river flows from South to North.

We also went to the Library where the kids made bird feeders

This was a fun museum day - it was Dinosaur Days at the Peabody Museum. There was a puppet show and the scientists had tables out on the floor explaining to the kids what they were studying. The kids got to do a dig for fossils (DJ got a shark tooth). We even went through the exhibit on Black Holes.

This is from their Egypt Exhibit (getting ready for Xman's History Presentation.)

We started on our History Presentations.
Xman - made his Pyramid out of styrofoam blocks
DJ - made a sample of the Great Wall of China
DJ -
Make the grade (5) a page from each chapter
Spelling sentences
A People's History - we talked about the colonists.

Xman -
1 hour

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kids Love Spanish Review & Give Away

Just wanted to give my readers a heads up on an interesting blog and post - this is a review of the product "Kids Love Spanish" check it out!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Some More Cool Links - USDA

While I'm hard at work putting together my own educational resourse site, here's some great tools I've found!

USDA's Educational Coloring & Activity ebooks
USDA's George Washington Carver resourse pages

Cool Charts & Posters


Cool posters and charts for everything from area & volume to physical quantities!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Recently I was asked about our daily schedule. To which I nervously laugh. I'm totally OCD and want to have a rigid schedule, my youngest (as a mini-me) would also enjoy it, but my bohemian oldest bucks at the constraints a schedule would place on him.....tough noogies. When he's older he can be as floppy in schedule as he wants, meanwhile Boot Camp Mama is in charge!

Well, I do have a further confession - I'm so not a morning person. Anything before 10am is just cruel and unusual punishment for me. (again my youngest is definitely cut from the same mold). So we don't start school until later although I start encouraging independant work as soon as the coffee maker starts percolating.

Monday / Wednesday / Friday -
  • 6:30-8:30am cartoons
  • 8:30-10:00am Wii
  • 10:00-10:30 am Snack / Independant Work - DJ (oldest) read the book of the week (usually Magic Tree House coinciding with the Western Civ we're working on), X-man (younger) Hooked on Phonics cd.
  • 10:30-11:00am Minimus CD Latin work
  • 11:00-11:30am Western Civ
  • 11:30-12:00pm Workbooks - Making the Grade: Everything Your ___ Grader Needs To Know (DJ - 5th grade book, Xman 2nd grade) Especially Math and Grammer, they also each have a Spelling sheet they do one page per day.
  • 12:00-1:00 pm Lunch / Independent Work - DJ (oldest) works on the Lapbook of the week (ok usually he's still working on workbook stuff), Xman does Time4Learning
  • 3:00 Music Lessons

Tuesday / Thursday -
  •  6:30-8:30am cartoons
  •  8:30-10:00am Wii
  •  10:00-10:30 am Snack / Science Project- the boys work on it together usually
  •  10:30-11:00am Hooked on Spanish CD
  •  11:00-11:30am American History/Geography
  •  11:30-12:00pm Workbooks - Making the Grade: Everything Your ___ Grader Needs To Know (DJ - 5th grade book, Xman 2nd grade) Especially Math and Grammer, they also each have a Spelling sheet they do one page per day.
  •  12:00-1:00 pm Lunch / Independent Work - usually working on the Lapbook for their stories of the week, or else one for geography/histoty, etc.
  • 2:00 Art/Projects (they get to play with it on their own) I usually put up a picture of a classic and teoll the children a bit about it, and they try to copy it, or else they try to pain a pic from a story we read that day, or they get to do a fun project that goes along with our histoy lesson (like making cuniform tablets or dressing like mummies when we studied Egypt)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Young People's History of the United States

I've had a lot of people ask me lately about what I use to teach history (see my previous post for my full curriculum) and I love telling people about Howard Zinn. You may have heard of his 'adult' book A People's History of the United States as it was mentioned in the movie Good Will Hunting, after watching the movie, I read the book - and was totally wow'ed! So many of my fellow homeschoolers are proud of the fact that we are trying to raise independent thinkers - those who have the intelligence and courage to not follow the status quo but can come up with non-violent, intelligent solutions to a problem. Plus, I know many homeschoolers who daily question their government. One thing I love about Howard Zinn's books are they teach you how to question your government without starting an anti-government commune in the hills. Instead, it's an honest look at the successes and mistakes our forefathers made when establishing our great nation - not to make us hate our nation, but instead to help us to not repeat the mistakes of the past. How better to help the nation we all love, then to be honest about it's histories so we can make educated decisions about it's future?

 Here's an excerpt from his introduction:

"Ever since my book A People's History of the United States was published twenty-five years ago, parents and teachers have been asking me about an edition that would be attractive to youngsters. Over the years, some people have asked me: 'Do you think that your history, which is radically different than the usual histories of the United States, is suitable for young people? Won't it create disillusionment with our country? Is it right to be so critical of the government's policies? Is it right to take down the traditional heroes of the nation, like Christopher Columbus, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt? Isn't it unpatriotic to emphasize slavery and racism, the massacres of Indians, the exploitation of working people, the ruthless expansion of the United States at the expense of the Indians and people in other countries?' I wonder why some people think it is all right for adults to hear such a radical, critical point of view, but not teenagers or sub-teenagers. Do they think that young people are not able to deal with such matters? It seems to me it is wrong to treat young readers as if they are not mature enough to look at their nation's policies honestly. Yes, it's a matter of being honest. Just as we must, as individuals, be honest about our own failures in order to correct them, it seems to me we must do the same when evaluating our national policies.
 Patriotism, in my view, does not mean unquestioning acceptance of whatever the government does. To go along with whatever your government does is not characteristic of democracy. I remember in my own early education we were taught that it was a sign of a totalitarian state, of a dictatorship, when people did not question what their government did. If you live in a democratic state, it means you have the right to criticize your government's policies. The basic principles of democracy are laid out in the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted in 1776 to explain why the colonies were no longer willing to accept British rule. The Declaration makes it clear that governments are not holy, not beyond criticism, because they are artificial creations, set up by the people to protect the equal rights of everyone to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' And when governments do not fulfill this obligation, the Declaration says that 'it is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government.' And, if it is the right of the people to 'alter or abolish' the government, then surely it is their right to criticize it.
 I am not worried about disillusioning your people by pointing to the flaws in the traditional heroes. We should be able to tell the truth about people whom we have been taught to look upon as heroes, but who really don't deserve that admiration. Why should we think it heroic to do as Columbus did, arrive in this hemisphere and carry on a rampage of violence, in order to find gold? Why should we think it heroic for Andrew Jackson to drive Indians out of their land? Why should we think of Theodore Roosevelt as a hero because he fought in the Spanish-American War, driving Spain our of Cuba, but also paving the way for the United States to take control of Cuba?
 Yes, we all need heroes, people to admire, to see as examples of how human beings should live. But I prefer to see Bartolome' de Las Casas as a hero, for exposing Columbus' violent behavior against the Indians he encountered in the Bahamas. I prefer to see the Cherokee Indians as heroes, for resisting their removal from the lands on which they lived. To me, it is Mark Twain who is a hero, because he denounced President Theodore Roosevelt after Roosevelt had praised an American general who had massacred hundreds of people in the Philippines. I consider Helen Keller a hero because she protested against President Woodrow Wilson's decision to send young Americans into the slaughterhouse of the First World War.
  My point of view, which is critical of war, racism, and economic injustice, carries over to the situation we face in the United States today."

Friday, February 4, 2011


One of the women in one of my groups recently asked what I was doing for history. It's a subject that I teach both boys at once even though they are 3 years apart in age. Basically we are doing both Western and American Civ.

American Civ.
For the most part we'll be using the book series - A Young People's History of the United States (Howard Zinn, the author of the book A People's History of the United States, my absolute favorite).
Some Supplements -
The Maya, Aztecs & Incas --
Mayans Aztecs and Incans Thematic Unit
Scholastic Mayas Aztecs Incas
The Ancient Maya (True Books)
 -- DJ's Readers -  The Corn Grows Ripe (Dorothy Rhoads) The Secret of the Andes (Ann Nolan Clark)
 -- Xman, my youngest, will focus more on the coloring book A Coloring Book of the Ancient Incas Aztecs and Mayas (Bellerophon Books)
Macchu Pichu: The Story of the Amazing Incas and Their City in the Clouds (Wonders of the World Books)

The Native Americans --
The Very First Americans (Cara Ashrose)
The Elders are Watching (David Bouchard)
Between the Earth and Sky (Joseph Bruchac)

Western Civilizations:
Our Western Civ is more to DJ's liking, as it's based around his absolute favorite book series - The Magic Tree House. At their website you can even find worksheets and 'stamps for their passport'.  Here's the order of the books we'll be reading:
  1. Dinosaurs Before Dark (yup about the Dinosaurs)
  2. Sunset of the Sabertooth
  3. Mummies in the Morning (ancient Egypt)
  4. Day of the Dragon King (ancient China)
  5. Night of the Ninja's (ancient Japan)
  6. Vacation Under the Volcano (on Pompeii)
  7. Hour of the Olympics (Olympia, Greece & the 1st Olympics)
  8. The Knight at Dawn (medieval England)
  9. Viking Ships at Sunrise (about the ancient Vikings)
-- digression to Myths --

  1. Carnival at Candlelight (Myth from Venice, Italy)
  2. Summer of the Sea Serpent (Scottish Selkie's myth)
  3. Christmas in Camelot (must I say more?)
  4. Dragon of the Red Dawn (1600's Japanese myth)
  5. Leprechaun in Late Winter (Irish myth)
  6. Haunted Castle on All Hallows Eve (history of Halloween)
--End Digression -- Western Civ, Continued

  1. Season of the Sandstorms (ancient Middle Eastern Bedouin Tribe)
  2. Moonlight on the Magic Flute (18th century Europe)
  3. Stage Fright on a Summer Night (Elizabethan England & William Shakespears)
  4. Monday with a Mad Genius (Italian Renessance & Leonardo Da Vinci)
  5. A Crazy Day with Cobras (India, ~1700's)
  6. A Ghost Tale for Christmas (Victorian England & Charles Dickens)
  7. Pirates Past Noon (the era of Pirates)
  8. Night of the Magicians (Paris France, ~100 years ago)
  9. Afternoon in the Amazon (South America)
  10. Tonight on the Titanic
  11. Lions at Lunch Time (Africa)
  12. Tigers at Twilight (more on India)
Some will also coincide with our American Civ -

  1. Thanksgiving on Thursday (the Pilgrims)
  2. Revolutionary War on Wednesday
  3. Buffalo Before Breakfast (Native Americans & The Great Plains)
  4. Civil War on Sunday
  5. Twisters onTuesday (Prairie, 1870's)
  6. Ghost Town at Sundown (the American West 1880's)
  7. Earthquake in the Early Morning (Great San Francisco earthquake)
  8. Blizzard of the Blue Moon (the Great Depression)
  9. A Good Night for Ghosts (New Orleans & Jazz music)
  10. High Tide in Hawaii (Hawaii and Tsunami's)
Explorers/Animals -

  • Eve of the Emperor Penguin (Antartica)
  • Polar Bears Past Bedtime (the Artic)
  • Midnight on the Moon
  • Good Morning Gorillas (African Mountains)
  • Dark Day in the Deep Sea (deep sea exploration)
  • Doliphins at Daybreak (dolophins & sharks)