Saturday, October 31, 2009

Science: Magnetism Demonstration

There are a number of typical ways of showing magnetic lines of force. I purchased some iron filings from an education store in my area (buying them on-line proved slightly tricky). In order to show lines of force I placed about 2 tablespoons (not measured, guesstimated) in a plastic sleeve protector and then taped the top shut.

The tape is even harder to see than I thought.

Paper underneath makes it easier to see.

The high-powered magnet has north and south on its round faces. The filings align themselves quickly to wrap around the edge. The magnet is so strong that the iron filings are lifting the plastic up.

The bar magnet has north and south clearly marked. The lines of force are seen (though less strongly) arcing from one end to the other.

Fairly simple and a good demonstration for kids.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Candle Science: Carbon Dioxide and Combustion

These are the materials: vinegar and baking soda, and a lit candle (any candle will do!).

The vinegar and baking soda react to produce carbon dioxide gas (carbonic acid in the old days).

Important facts about carbon dioxide that are demonstrated: carbon dioxide will not support combustion and it is heavier than air.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Science: Exploring Some Aspects of Combustion

For this demonstration we used a birthday candle mounted in a glass bowl. To get the candle to stand up I melted the bottom to leave a small puddle of wax and then pressed the candle into it. Then I filled the bowl about half-way with water.

It is no surprise that the candle goes out. You can also see the condensation of water vapor (another by product of combustion) by the fog on the inside of the glass. What may be surprising is what happens afterward.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More and Less Foliage

And now for LESS foliage (the hair cut):

Who is that kid? He must be about three years-old! Makes me think of military marches for some reason....

Friday, October 09, 2009

Homeschool Tip: Notebook Reconstruction

Here are the ubiquitous notebooks all homeschoolers probably have--since they go on sale for about 10 cents every year during back-to-school. I bought enough to cover each kid in each subject and more. And they used them, kind of. They used them one week and then misplaced them and got another. The trouble was that they would write the subjects on the cover and refuse to use it for anything else.

By the time I had four "Hanover Math" notebooks, I was feeling rather annoyed. I did not buy any for this year insisting that I would MAKE them use the old ones. Easier said than done (as always). And then I was irked to see that the new cheap notebooks had great, fun designs on them now. I wanted fun notebooks like that! But I knew it would be a waste.

I did find a way to have fun-looking notebooks AND get the girls to use up the ones they had already labeled with one solution. A notebook makeover. All it took was some scrapbook paper (I have enough of that hanging around so free to me) and a glue stick. I spread a generous amount of glue over the notebook cover and then glued on the scrapbook paper. After pressing it down well all around, I trimmed the edges to match the notebook cover. The darker designs keep the black permanent marker from showing through. The notebooks look much nicer, the kids enjoyed picking out the design to 'personalize' it, and now they are a blank slate for whatever topic needs one.

And I think it is particularly appropriate that these notebooks are being used (if notes are needed) for their art history class.

Much improved!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fabulous Fall

I swore I wouldn't forget my camera when we went apple picking this year. What did I do? Of course I forgot the camera. I am really happy that I have a camera phone now. Though the pics aren't great, I am glad I have them!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Science for Middle Schoolers and Older

There is nothing I hate more than a science curriculum that states "these experiments are absolutely safe." First, BORING! Second, some science IS dangerous and these kids are old enough to deal with it. The homeschooling curriculums have one hand tied behind their backs because some parents become very hands-off at these more advanced levels so the kids need to be able to do most things on their own and because homes lack some of the essential equipment for chemical experiments like hoods and fire-proof chemical storage.

So when a curriculum spends the introductory paragraph explaining how safe it is, I tend to tune out.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

It's Your Weekly Dose of Reason

For the New Intellectual

Once Upon America

Last week must have been a library theme. While Hanover, my older daughter, was reading this American historical fiction, Flurpee was given a choice of another American historical fiction series. Ironically, this series, Once Upon America, is a more difficult read than the one given to my 10 year old.

These books encompass many different eras in American History, like the Dear America series. Yet, they are geared to a younger audience and a younger reader. The books are about as thick as the Magic Tree House series. And like the Magic Tree House books, they are illustrated. Yet, from the few I perused, the language is richer and the intellect of the child is challenged more. I have always felt the Magic Tree House was most appropriate for 2nd graders and I personally did not find the language rewarding at all and could not really imagine a slightly older child getting a lot out of them. These books, even at about the same size, are much more well written in my opinion. I would not hesitate to recommend them to older kids up to 4th and 5th grade.

The history addressed is serious and there are less punches pulled than with the Hannah of Fairfield trilogy. The subject matter also makes them more appropriate for older kids as well. The book about Pearl Harbor addresses some issues of racism since the main character is best friends with a boy of Japanese descent along with describing the events of the bombing. The books cover the depression, the beginning of the labor movement, women's suffrage, poor treatment of Native Americans, the assassination of Kennedy, and the Oregan trail along with more. People the characters know will be killed, murdered, or commit suicide. Concepts clearly geared to an older audience. Not all of the stories include such macabre scenes and there are plenty to choose from.

I would put these books into a category of books that would please older readers without being a huge strain on their reading ability. I know teachers are often looking for books that will get older kids with lower-level reading abilities interested, and I think these books would easily fit that bill. They would also be a less-painful or time-consuming option for those kids who might look at a 200 page historical fiction novel with dread even if their reading level could support it. I would consider these for the historical topics covered because I would not want my kids wallowing in some of the more depressing topics for as long as would be necessary in the thicker books.

Story-wise, the books are short, and as you would expect some of the story-telling suffers. To fit the history, some books may not have even pacing and the character development may be flat. While they may introduce the history, they may not be a compelling narrative. I am realizing that I know very little of what is available when it comes to children's literature, but this may be acceptable if nothing else fits the bill for the reading level or the interest.