My girls had a splendid time meeting last week’s Think! challenge: building a bridge out of cups, spoons, spaghetti noodles, paper, and tape. I forget the tally of coins their construction was able to hold, but the fun was in the doing, anyway.
This week’s challenge looks like even more fun. We are loving this nifty idea blog!
Particularly Cool Stuff My Kids and I Have Learned a Ton From or Just Plain Had a Good Time With:
Settlers of Catan, the board game. Jane got this for Christmas last year. We’ve been obsessed ever since. Except when our friends hijack it and keep it for weeks because it is that great a game.
Signing Time DVDs. Catchy songs, immensely useful vocabulary in American Sign Language. I trumpet these wherever I go. We talk about Rachel like she’s one of the family.
Prismacolor colored pencils. Indispensable. I was amused to see that Jane mentioned them in the first line of her “I Am From” poem. She’s right; they have helped color the picture of her life.
Uncle Josh’s Outline Map CD-Rom. Because maps are cool, and maps you can color (with Prismacolor pencils, hey!) are even cooler. The kids are constantly asking me to print out a map of somewhere or other. You can find other outline maps available online (for free), but I like Josh’s for clarity. And once when I had a problem opening a particular map (it’s a PDF file), I called the help number and it was Uncle Josh himself, a most amiable gentleman, who quickly solved my problem.
The Global Puzzle. Big! Very big! Will take over your dinner table! (So clear off that laundry.)
Set. It may annoy you that your eight-year-old will be quicker at spotting the patterns in this card game than you will. There’s a free daily online version as well.
Quiddler. Like Scrabble, only with cards. This, too, can be played online.
Babble. Like Boggle, only online and free.
Chronology, the game. Like Trivial Pursuit, only with history.
Speaking of online games: the BBC History Game site is awfully fun.
And Jane was fairly addicted to Absurd Math for a while there. Need more free math puzzles? Nick’s got a bunch.
A Case of Red Herrings and Mind Benders. Logic and problem-solving puzzles: a fun way to pass the time on long car trips or in waiting rooms.
Zoombinis Logical Journey computer game and sequels. Stretch your brain trying to get the little Zoombinis to a village where they can bounce in peace.
Oregon Trail. The game that launched a massive wagon trail rabbit trail for my kids a couple of years ago—and they still aren’t tired of the game. (Now there’s a Wii version, too!)
Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots : Gardening Together with Children. Plant a sunflower house! Up-end a Giant Bucket of Potatoes and dig through the dirt for your rewards! Grow lettuce in rainboots! Boots! With lettuce growing in them!
Wild Goose Science Kits. Fun experiments with a low mess factor. Note to self: remember the Wild Goose Crime Kit come Christmastime. (Sadly, these are no longer available. Wild Science offers similar kits.)
A microscope. Sonlight sells a nifty set of prepared slides with paramecium and other fun stuff for the kids to peer at.
If the scope sparks an interest in dissection, there’s a way to do it online with no actual innards involved: Froguts! The site has a couple of free demos to occupy you while you save up for the full version. (Which I haven’t seen yet, but it does look cool.) HT: Karen Edmisten.
Klutz Books. Over the years, we’ve explored: knitting, embroidery, origami, magic, Sculpey, paper collage, paper dolls, beadlings, and foam shapes. Look under any piece of furniture in my house and you will find remnants of all of the above.
Which reminds me: Sculpey polymer clay. Is it possible to get through a day without some? My children think not.
Usborne’s calligraphy book and a set of markers.
But while I’m on Usborne, my kids also love and use at least weekly: Usborne Science Experiments Volumes 1, 2, and 3.
Muse magazine. The highlight of Jane’s month. From the publishers of Cricket. We also like Odyssey, Click, and Ask.
Classical Kids CDs. Beanie’s favorite is Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery.
Refrigerator poetry magnets. I gave Scott the Shakespearean set a couple of Christmases ago. Note to self: You are not as brilliant as you think! You were an English major, for Pete’s sake, with a minor in drama. Thou knowest full well old William was a bawdy fellow. If you don’t want your little ones writing poems about codpieces, stick to the basic version. But oh how I enjoy the messages Scott leaves for me to find and then pretends he doesn’t know who wrote them:
And of course of course of course, Jim Weiss story CDs. I rave about these every chance I get because they have added such riches to my children’s imaginations. For years, they have listened to Jim’s stories after lights-out. Greek myths, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, folk and fairy tales, the Arabian Nights, the Jungle Book: of such stuff are dreams woven.
Check out my Giant List of Book Recommendations too!
April 9, 2008 @ 7:19 am | Filed under: Science
…when she sees this Home Chemistry link. Thanks for the heads-up, Andrea.
Updated to add a link to an easy and stained-glass-gorgeous density experiment, courtesy of Poppins.
March 22, 2007 @ 1:28 pm | Filed under: Science
I think I first heard about Robert Krampf’s Science Experiment of the Week from Karen Edmisten, font of many great ideas. Now Robert has taken his nifty experiments to video. Fun and free. Check it out.
This is the first year in seven years that my kids and I haven’t signed up for Project FeederWatch, a birdwatching-and-counting program sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In New York and Virginia, we spent every winter spying on chickadees and juncoes out our kitchen windows. In fact, when we moved to Virginia in January of 2002, the very first box I unpacked was the one marked BIRD FEEDERS.
This year, I figured we were too busy settling into the new California life (after all, at the time of that last move, there were just three tiny girls to keep track of), so I let the FeederWatch deadline come and go. Besides, our Eastern Birds poster won’t help us here in the land of scrub jays and parrots.
But I woke up this morning missing the fun of our Counting Days, and I popped over to the FeederWatch site to see if it’s too late to join the project this year. Turns out you can sign up through February 28. And this year, it appears the good folks at Cornell Lab have tumbled to watch a fantastic match Project FeederWatch is with homeschoolers. They now have a whole page devoted to the connection.
Your $15 registration fee gets you a nice little package of materials:
- Welcome Letter
- Instruction Booklet
- FeederWatcher’s Handbook, full of information on birds and bird feeding
- Full-color poster of common feeder birds with paintings by noted bird artist, Larry McQueen
- Bird Watching Days Calendar, to help you keep track of your Count Days
- Data forms—ten Count Forms for your region, one for each Count Period, and one Count Site Description Form
- Envelope for returning data forms to FeederWatch
(You can also eschew the paper data forms and submit your data online instead. You’ll still get the handbook, poster, and calendar.)
Like Journey North, this project is a wonderful way to bring living science (not to mention math!) into your home and homeschool.
January 21, 2007 @ 1:41 pm | Filed under: Science
I seldom cross-post, but I posted this on the bread blog today and thought it might be of interest to my Lilting House readers too:
Jane and I are exploring the science behind the sourdough loaves we’re baking. Found this fun site: The Science of Cooking. An excerpt from the sourdough page:
In addition to flour, water, and yeast, your starter also contains
bacteria. When these bacteria feed on the sugars in flour, they produce
acidic by-products. This is what gives sourdoughits sour taste.
Actually, all doughs contain at least some bacteria. So why aren’t
all breads sour? In doughs made with bakers’ yeast (the kind you buy in
the store), the yeast outnumber the bacteria. Since both compete for
the same sugars, the yeast win out, and the bacteria don’t have a
chance to produce their acidic by-products. In sourdough, yeast and
bacteria are more closely balanced, so the bacteria have a chance to
add their flavors to the bread.
Sourdoughs and other raised breads also differ from one another
because of the eating habits of the yeasts that make them rise. The
predominant yeast in sourdough, Saccharomyces exiguus, cannot
metabolize maltose, one of the sugars present in flour. Baker’s yeast,
on the other hand, has no trouble feeding on this sugar. Since the
bacteria that give sourdough its taste need maltose to live, they do
much better in the company of sourdough’s yeast because they don’t have
to compete for this sugar.
Wikipedia on sourdough
How Stuff Works on sourdough
The history & microbiology of sourdough
That Science of Cooking site has a lot of other neat stuff. The candy page is especially interesting. We might just have to do a unit study on candy one of these days…chemistry AND physics! (And with sourdough we’ve got biology too.)
Hmm, the high educational value of this topic might make it a good post for Lilting House.
Jane and I are exploring the science behind the loaves we’re baking. Found this fun site: The Science of Cooking. An excerpt from the sourdough page:
In addition to flour, water, and yeast, your starter also contains bacteria. When these bacteria feed on the sugars in flour, they produce acidic by-products. This is what gives sourdoughits sour taste.
Actually, all doughs contain at least some bacteria. So why aren’t all breads sour? In doughs made with bakers’ yeast (the kind you buy in the store), the yeast outnumber the bacteria. Since both compete for the same sugars, the yeast win out, and the bacteria don’t have a chance to produce their acidic by-products. In sourdough, yeast and bacteria are more closely balanced, so the bacteria have a chance to add their flavors to the bread.
Sourdoughs and other raised breads also differ from one another because of the eating habits of the yeasts that make them rise. The predominant yeast in sourdough, Saccharomyces exiguus, cannot metabolize maltose, one of the sugars present in flour. Baker’s yeast, on the other hand, has no trouble feeding on this sugar. Since the bacteria that give sourdough its taste need maltose to live, they do much better in the company of sourdough’s yeast because they don’t have to compete for this sugar.
Wikipedia on sourdough
How Stuff Works on sourdough
The history & microbiology of sourdough:
Sourdough culture is a yeast living symbiotically with a friendly
lacto-bacteria. We need to start with enough of the right organisms so
that they can become the dominant culture, food and water and the right
Given the right organisms, the optimum temperature is just
over 80F/27C. Much hotter and the activity of the yeast declines. Above
95F/35C the yeast is effectively dormant or dead. The bacterial
activity peaks at 93F/34C, so some bakers choose to ferment at 90F/32C
to get a sourer bread. At 70F/21C the activity of the yeast has roughly
halved, so the fermentation will take twice as long.
January 13, 2007 @ 11:27 am | Filed under: Science
Via Boing Boing:
Video of a boat floating on gas. Not water, gas. Sulfur hexafluoride, to be exact. Watch the model boat sink after a hand swamps it with cups of the invisible gas.
July 12, 2006 @ 5:29 am | Filed under: Science
The Relative Size of Earth. Hat tip to my pal Suzanne, who (alas) does not have a blog.