Tag Archives: science

Lesson in a Can

P1150861A few weeks ago, for my son Luke’s sixth birthday, we had as many family members that could drop by for a party. It was a pretty day, so we ate outside at the picnic table, and with so many cousins, we created quite a mess. As my husband went to take out the trash, however, we were all met with a interesting surprise. There, stuck in the bottom of a plastic garbage can, were two small opossums.

They must have been there a while, as we hadn’t used that particular can for quite some time. We decided they had climbed in looking for something to eat, but because the sides were so slick, they were unable to climb out again. They were curled up in the bottom of the can, one on top of the other.

We decided to wait until dusk to let them out, as opossums are nocturnal and they’d have a better chance at escaping safely from any would-be predators such as the neighborhood dogs. We covered most of the opening of the can with the lid, to help them “hide” for the rest of the day, and then we went on with the party.

At dusk, before everyone left, our opossum lesson continued. We carried the can out back behind our house to the woods, tipped it over, and dumped them out. One of the opossums took off right away, while the other managed more slowly to find his way through the trees. They were both glad to be free, and we were glad for the opportunity to see them go.

We’re much more careful, now, about leaving the lids on the cans, though we’ve still had some opossum sightings around our trash bin. And just when we had gotten the cats and the chickens to leave it alone…

Time Management Strategies Part II

h 039With all the busyness of life recently, I haven’t spent as much time reading as I should. It seems a little ironic that I’m too busy to read about time management. 🙂

However, I have read through the planning chapter of The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum W. Smith. Like the chapters before it, I have found this chapter to be very helpful as I try to get my days more under control. In it, the author provides a sample page from the Franklin Planner, the planning tool he helped create. He describes how he uses the daily pages to keep track of appointments, phone calls, and anything else he needs to remember.

Although I’d love to purchase that planner, it’s really not in our budget at this time, so I decided to make my own planner pages on the computer and make copies for my notebook. As I was doing so, my 13-year-old son came in and said, “Mom, I have so much homework to do for co-op.”

“What do you have to do?” I asked. He answered me with a long list of things he had to finish for his science and geography classes. He also had some scout projects that needed to be completed. That’s when I realized that he needed some planning pages too.

I pulled out some extra copies I had made and sat him down. “Okay,” I began, “this is where you list all the things you have to do. When you’re finished, bring it back to me, and I’ll show you how to prioritize them.” Within fifteen minutes, he had a written list with every assignment and a number by each one, indicating the order in which they needed to be accomplished. Then he got to work.

How easy that was to show him, and what a difference it made! Instead of scattered thoughts of having this and that to do, he had a concrete plan of what needed to be done and how he was going to do it. The day went smoothly, and he finished everything on time.

Having a plan really does work — for all ages!

Nature Craft: Bird At Home

Here’s a fun craft to go along with a nature lesson. You can even work at it with your very small ones to help them learn their shapes.


  • Brown paper lunch bags
  • Newspaper
  • Rubber bands
  • Construction paper- yellow and brown
  • Googly eyes
  • Shoe box

1. To begin, cut three small triangles from the yellow construction paper, two large triangles from the brown construction paper. While you can cut out these shapes for young children, older children can cut them out by themselves.

2. Give your child a paper bag and some newspaper. Have your child tear the newspaper into strips and place some in the bottom of the paper bag. Twist the bag near the bottom to form the head of the bird. Wrap a rubber band around it to keep it in place.

3. Have your child tear another sheet of newspaper into long strips. Stuff these strips into the paper bag as well, filling it halfway.

4. Twist the bag again, wrapping another rubber band around it to keep it in place. Spread out the un-stuffed top of the bag to form the tail.

5. Find the three small yellow triangles. Glue one small triangle on the head with one angle pointing downward, creating a beak. Glue the two remaining yellow triangles to the bottom of the bird, forming feet. Affix each foot so that the straight side of the triangle can be seen when facing the front of the bird.

**TIP: While glue sticks are less messy and will work well when gluing paper to paper, white school glue works better when affixing the googley eyes to the bird. Be sure to allow for sufficient drying time when using white glue.

8. Glue the two brown triangles to the sides of the birds for wings.

9. Glue googly eyes to the head of the bird.

10. Have your child tear another sheet of newspaper into strips. Place the strips into a shoebox, forming a nest. Place the bird in the nest. You can also use this time to talk about all the things birds might use to build their nests.

For books to go along with your craft, you might try About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill ; Birds, Nests, and Eggs by Mel Boring; and Bird Songs by Betsy Franco.


timeliner pics 003If you are looking for ideas for new lesson plans, take a moment to visit Viatouch.com. This education resource site has a great deal to offer both traditional classroom teachers and homeschooling parents alike.

Once you’re on the homepage, find the “Learning and Leisure” section. You’ll follow the link to a page with a number of categories listed on the left — these pages provide further links to other websites regarding these particular topics. If you’re searching the Internet for information about any of these subjects, this is a good place to start.

My favorite part of the site, however, is found when you click on “Teacher Resources.”  We use an eclectic mix of curricula (books from several different publishers), so I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. Under “Teacher-Created Resources,” you’ll find lesson plans for students from elementary through high school in a variety of subjects. The “Teacher Articles” section includes nonfiction articles for elementary students in science and history, as well as more lesson plans and teaching techniques for other subjects such as writing and math.

The site also includes a link called “Story Station” which features original fiction stories for children and young adults. These are also free to access.

And there’s still a lot of room for this site to grow. Every time I check back, new content has been added. And if you have resources you’d like to share, this site may be for you as well. Put your ideas in writing and submit your lesson plans, tips, charts, and articles for publication on the site. Viatouch offers payment for each teacher resource that they publish. Just follow the link for “Teacher Resources submission guidelines.”

The information Viatouch offers is free, so check it out. You might find something you’ll be able to use in your next lesson.

Order in the Classroom!

gaveljanjpgThis school year, like many of our previous school years, has gotten off to a bit of a rough start. But I’m working on changing some things that hopefully will get things flowing a little more smoothly.

Recently, I read an article online that said homeschoolers sometimes have a difficulty with delayed gratification. They are often used to having a question answered right away, and they have the freedom to make comments during a lesson. Although I know this isn’t true of all homeschooled children, I can say it’s true of mine. They interrupt me if I’m reading a science or history lesson aloud, often saying something that has nothing to do with the subject. If I’m helping one with math or reading, the others are quite comfortable breaking in with a question about their own work.

I know it’s not the children’s fault — this is how I’ve been schooling the last few years. I used to feel like I was multi-tasking, answering a question for one while teaching a concept to another while handing out an assignment to a third. But I wasn’t really multi-tasking — we were just losing time, as nothing was being accomplished efficiently. So this year, I’m bringing more order in — for their sakes, and for mine!

For the first hour, I’m working with my Kindergartener while the other three work on their math. If they have a question about a problem, they just have to skip it and go on to the next one. Their math work will continue into the second hour, at which time I’m free for questions.

After math we’ll go into our group lesson of history or science. Then it’s back to individual work in Language Arts, giving me time again to help with grammar, spelling, and writing if necessary. Reading and music practice are subjects they can do on their own.

The next few days will be hard — reminding the children again and again that they will have to wait. But once they get used to the new plan, they’ll have an easier time with school — and I will too!

Blue Ghost Fireflies

The_MoonOver the Memorial Day holiday weekend, we went to the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee for a camping trip/family reunion. Late Saturday and Sunday nights, we saw a most amazing sight: the blue ghost fireflies. 

I had first seen these fireflies last year when a friend told me about them. A gentleman in our community, Mr. Don Lewis, has acreage out in the country that is heavily wooded, and each May he invites people to his land to watch the fireflies. We went on Mother’s Day, a good time to go since it wasn’t crowded, and witnessed these beautiful insects. 

The blue ghost fireflies don’t blink – they just glow – and fly low near the ground. If you catch one and shine a light on it, you can see that it’s dark in color and only about as big as a grain of rice. But when you let it go again, it will fly and glow a beautiful luminescent blue color. There were quite a few of these fireflies in Tennessee this year, glowing back in the woods, much like little blue fairies. 

Mr. Lewis has found other types of fireflies on his land as well. Besides those that blink intermittently, he’s also discovered some that blink at exactly the same time, as if they were synchronized. 

Though we’ve learned a lot about fireflies from Mr. Lewis, he taught us another lesson as well. He encouraged us to go out and watch the fireflies in our own yard and woods, to sit in the dark and just see what appeared. What amazing wonders of nature we could observe if we just took the time to slow down, sit down, and see what comes into view, both during the day – and at night.

Rattlesnake Steak

file000838868154Our camping trip in Tennessee over Memorial Day was a fun time of visiting with family members. It was also the first time I had ever eaten rattlesnake. 

On the last full day of the trip, most of the children and a few of the adults decided to take a short hike to a deeper place in the river known as the Swimming Hole. The hike involved following a path through the woods; a large group of children went on ahead and my brother, his grown son, and two of his son’s friend brought up the rear. It was on this path that my nephew nearly stepped on a rattlesnake. 

Thankfully, all the younger children had already gone by. My nephew and one of his friends went into action and quickly killed the snake. They brought it back to the campsite among the excited shouts of the kids. 

My niece’s husband, a true southern boy from Alabama, knew just what to do. Surrounded by a host of curious children, he skinned and gutted the snake. They saw the two mice it had eaten recently along with its heart and entrails. Quite nauseating to me, but great science for the kids. 

My nephew then sautéed the snake in salad dressing and put it on a grill over the campfire. When it was well-done, he cut it up and passed it around. Now I’m not an adventurous eater at all, but how often do you eat rattlesnake fresh out of the woods? Everyone took a small piece, including me. And you know, it wasn’t bad — sort of a mix between fish and chicken in flavor. Even my peanut-butter and jelly eating five-year-old gave it a try. 

Camping is always an adventure, and this trip was no exception. Next time we eat rattlesnake, though, I’d prefer it to be in a restaurant. I’d rather avoid the snakes on the path.

Sylvan Dell Publishing

One of my late night hobbies is writing and illustrating for children. I enjoy writing articles, poems, and stories, and I’d like to illustrate my own picture books some day. Writers will tell you that to have a book published, you have to study the market and know who publishes the type of story you’ve written. As I’ve researched the different publishing houses, I’ve discovered Sylvan Dell, a small publishing company established by homeschoolers with education in mind.

Sylvan Dell publishes picture books about science and math — subjects such as the planets, sea turtles, rivers, and odd and even numbers are presented in a fun and enjoyable way. What makes these books different from other picture books, however, is that they are purposely created to be used in the home or school classroom. To reinforce the educational component, the company also adds three to five pages of extra activities and information in the back of every story. Now, though, they’ve added even more – their website also offers free online reading and math quizzes, teaching activities, and crafts.

And that’s not all.  For the past two years, the company also sponsored a writing contest for homeschooled high schoolers. Students followed the guidelines to create their own picture books, and winners received cash prizes and possible publication. I haven’t found information about a contest this year, but I hope they continue – what a great opportunity for students interested in writing.

I’ve found a number of Sylvan Dell books in our local library, and my children have really enjoyed them. It’s easy to take one of their books and create a unit study around it, especially for younger elementary students. So if you’re looking for a science lesson for your little one, check them out! Their titles can be found on their website at www.sylvandellpublishing.com.

By the way, I’ve only sent one picture book manuscript to them to consider for publication, and it was rejected. Ah, well!  They still publish great books!

Apologia Science

One of the great things about homeschooling today is the huge variety of curriculum available. Some families prefer to use an entire curriculum produced by one publisher; for our family, however, I’ve found I like to use texts from different publishers for the subjects we study. For science, my favorite is Apologia.

The Apologia Young Explorer Series was written for upper elementary/early middle school. We’re enjoying our third book this year, Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day. Other titles available are Astronomy, Botany, Zoology 1:  Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, and Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. Middle school and high school subjects include General Science, Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Each one is written from a creationist perspective.

Although I enjoy science, teaching it has never been my strong suit, and there have been years I struggled to fit it into our school day. What a shame, since children love learning about nature, and science readily lends itself to hands-on activities. But I don’t have that problem anymore — the Apologia texts make it so easy. The information is clearly presented, and within each chapter are interesting and fun activities that correlate with the lesson.

And these books are so user-friendly! The beginning pages feature contact information where you can find help by mail, phone, or on the web. Then comes a brief description about what the lessons include. The next couple of pages are my favorite – complete lists of all materials needed for each activity or experiment found in the lessons.

The writers of the text state that it can be read aloud to younger students or worked through individually by older students. I’ve found this to be true. While I’m reading the Land Animals text to my fourth and second grader, my seventh grader is working through the General Science text on his own. His book not only includes experiments but also review questions that I have him answer in complete sentences. Tests and solution manuals are also available for the subjects for older students.

All in all, the Apologia Science series gets an A+ from me!