I look at Eggs Differently Now

This has been a crazy, wonderful, buzzing summer that is humming right along.  Not much formal homeschooling going on other than daily math lessons with Teaching Textbooks.  Since the homeschool tasks have been suspended, I most definitely have turned my attention elsewhere!  I can’t sit still and do nothing.  Something has to be turning in my mind at all times, or I feel lost and unproductive.

Hence, I’ve been out nursing a garden along, painting the barn, building a chicken coop, and nurturing eleven baby chicks through their first few weeks!  How fun is this!  This is great fun and I can’t recommend the experience highly enough.  Our city leaders see fit to allow up to fifteen chickens in a backyard; even a rooster is allowable provided Mr. Cluck doesn’t annoy the neighbors.  Already I’m watching the chicks for signs of rooster machismo and crossing my fingers that they are all hens.  There’s got to be one or two roosters in the bunch I figure, so we are trying not to get too attached (because the roosters aren’t staying). 

The chicks have been here almost two weeks – they arrived as day-old hatchlings from www.mypetchicken.com.  Their yolk sac sustains them for up to 48 hours post hatch so they can be shipped immediately as long as they are kept warm.  My Pet Chicken is one of the only places I am aware of that will ship fewer than twenty-five chicks at a time, which is great!  During cooler weather they put a special heating pack in the box with the chicks so they stay nice and toasty. 

So, Max and I have been learning the ropes about chickens in the hopes that we’ll have fresh eggs in the spring.  This isn’t formal homeschooling, but I do like that he gets to see where food comes from and what it takes to produce that food.  Right now he’s interested because the chicks are so darn cute!  We’ve named them all and are enjoying our time with them.  We did a little photo shoot last week, so here are a couple of the chicks:

This is Ethel, a white Silkie bantam chick about one week old

Tallulah, an Easter Egger

And Freckles, a bantam partridge Silkie

Crossing my fingers that everyone thrives! 



Using Your Noggin

Mindware has some nifty card sets available that have won some awards – when I see stuff like this I think, “hmmm – maybe we should get some of these, you know, just to have around.”  Each deck contains 30 cards sporting trivia, multiple choice and true/false questions about a variety of subjects.  Mindware happens to package the decks in sets of six, or they can be purchased separately.  I did not check prices on Amazon, but they might be available used.  I always try to check eBay and some homeschool co-op websites – sometimes you stumble upon just what you were looking for!  Here are some of the card sets:

Professor Noggin’s History and Geography Card Games

Professor Noggins Science Card Games (set of six)

Nature Card Set

I’m going to investigate the history card games a bit further being that we’ll be working on American history in the fall.  I bet the nature card series would go over well for rides in the car/longer trips.  These could be entertaining at the dinner table, too – for the whole family.

Noggins are useful for all sorts of things and all noggins can benefit from well-crafted educational games.  Noggins probably like to have breaks from electronic stimulation and all those video screens!  At least that’s the theory I’m going with over the summer – wish me luck.

Unfortunately, the video game lure is strong over here and I have to stay on my toes to keep everything balanced.  It is challenging for me to set limits on Max lately, mostly because I have my head in other places, I’m cleaning up the house, tending to the garden, washing a dog, what have you.  When I look up, he has cleverly noted that I am NOT PAYING ATTENTION and he has furtively pressed the “on” button on the Wii.  During the school year I set a strict (tongue-in-cheek) limit – no electronics until after 5 p.m. when school is wrapped up and preferably, not much video game time at all.  I make a concerted effort to keep him otherwise occupied with friends, playing outside, playing a game, or perusing the entire Calvin and Hobbs anthology.  I can generally hold the video game monster at bay if I’m tuned in and brandishing a big sword.  I wonder how many other moms feel this way.  Generalizing, but I think most dads like to indulge the video game habit as they might enjoy playing video games themselves.  I kind of have a guttural and unpleasant reaction to too much screen time – call me a pansy, but somewhere deep inside me I think too much electronic stimulation is ungood.

Yesterday I had my head down and was butting my way through piles in the house, trying to rewire my genetic code and make it and the house more orderly.  I was deep into piles of mail, piles of dishes, piles of animal bedding in cages that needed cleaning.  I made good progress, but Max is equipped with 3G Mom-dar and can accurately pinpoint where my focus is centered.  He jumped back and forth from the Wii to the computer and filled his day with flashing screens.

Not that video games and screen time is all bad – it isn’t.  I swear, because of video games, he has the dexterity of a surgeon and his problem-solving skills make mine shamefully skitter for the nearest rock to hide under.  His imagination is stimulated, he is moving when he uses the Wii, and we sometimes play together, although his dad is much better about that.  I don’t cotton much to video games and just plain fail to get excited about them.  I guess it’s all about balance, as with everything else – keeping video game time balanced with other activities that engage kids to use their noggins in other ways!

Check out what Professor Noggin has to offer – if not for the summer months, then for next year’s school year when you need a little something to have fun with and encourage learning.  Take care of those noggins and use them well!


Learning Calendar

Sometimes I’m not sure if books that contain lots of trivia are all that effective – I think there has to be some sort of personal association for information like that to stick, but I could be wrong. Some people just seem to have ‘trivia-prepped’ brains and can feed on this stuff.

We had this calendar last year. When I remembered to glance at it, look at the correct day and read aloud what was written, we often learned something cool and interesting. However, there were several blocks of time when I completely ignored the calendar and promptly forgot about it. So, not sure if it’s a good investment, at least for me.

You might like it, though, and find it useful. The 2011 edition is available now:

It makes for a great gift, too.  It is useful to use as jumping-off points or to provide you with unit study ideas, too.  Available for around $20.  FatBrain Toys has it, but right now it looks like it’s sold out.  I didn’t check Amazon or other places, but it’s got to be out there somewhere!

Jay Hosler is One Funny Guy……er, Biologist

I posted once or twice before about Jay Hosler’s writing, but he deserves another plug. This weekend I read Optical Allusions from cover to cover and I just have to tell you that I laughed and learned all the way through it, right into the credits, even.  I really admire this author and what he is trying to do with respect to teaching children and child-like adults.  Here’s the book – you may have seen it in the Unit Study on the Human Body post, or in a previous post about other books by Dr. Hosler.

Max read this book last week, too, although he did not dive very deeply into the heavy-duty science sections between the comic pages (can’t blame him – they were pretty detailed).  I read those particular scientific pages with a great deal of interest, but then again I am some thirty years older than Max and appreciate a hydrophilic protein when I see one, or understand what role messenger RNA plays in coding proteins.  Max is scarcely aware of what a cell is, so these parts were indeed way over his head.  However, he got a bunch of great information about eyesight via Wrinkles the Wonder Brain by reading the comic pages.  If you are an adult prepped to read this book, dig into those sections – they are fascinating!  You will never ‘look’ at your eyes or eyesight the same way again.  What an amazingly complex system.

Please note that this book is HEAVILY evolution-based.  Dr. Hosler received a grant from the National Science Foundation to write this book and then subsequently study the effect of its use in classroom settings on children and their knowledge of science – he is wondering if this teaching approach works.  I do not know if that study is completed yet or has been published, but his aim was obviously to entertain while teach and he succeeded on a grand scale on both accounts, in my opinion.  He is up there with my favorite authors.  We so far have read Clan Apis and Optical Allusions.  His other book is called The Sandwalk Adventures. All three of these are graphic novels that teach biology (and evolution) in various forms.  Kudos to Jay Hosler for writing these books and for his quirky sense of humor.  Your brain will never be the same after reading them!

Ideas for a Unit Study on the Human Body

Boy, am I excited about this one!  Max is still on the fence – he’s concerned that we’ll be looking at pictures of intestines and hearts, bless his little worried heart.  I intend to make this unit as fun as can be while we learn all about how complex and wonderful and mind-boggling our bodies are!  These few resources highlighted below are the beginning of my search for the next six-week period of schooling.  Next week is off (hooray!).  We both need that week to reassemble ourselves.  After that we’ll be trying hard to avoid pictures of intestines at all costs.

I majored in pre-med in college and then did a few years of bench research for a university, for a hospital, and for a pharmaceutical company, all in the area of immunology.  I’m particularly excited about unveiling the way our immune system works to Max – just because it’s so cool.  I hope he thinks so, too.  I need to remind myself that he’s only ten and probably isn’t all that jazzed about the major histocompatibility complex, or antigens, or how an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay works and why it is important.  This is going to be a GREATLY simplified look at how we are put together and what amazing things our bodies do without us even being aware of the goings on most of the time.

I wrote a post on Slim Goodbody (John Burnstein) not too long ago (here) – we saw him recently in our city and really enjoyed his approach.  His main message was to encourage kids to be good to their bodies.  I purchased his activity book when we attended the show, so we’ll begin with it, but the first books listed below are his new publications tailored for 9 to 12 year olds – they look great!

I have not selected the exact materials we’ll be working with, but have narrowed the options down. Fortunately, there are many very good books and games available, so enjoy yourself while perusing.

Click on the pictures to link to Amazon and other places for more information:

By Slim Goodbody, John Burnstein

Let’s hope there are not graphic pictures of the intestines in here!

John Burnstein (Slim Goodbody) also has two others about the respiratory system and the nervous system available on Amazon.

This one is already on our shelf, about to be unveiled!  I LOVE Brown Paper School publications, so am looking forward to using this very much.  In fact, this would be probably all we would need along with a few supplementary materials to cover a pretty thorough introduction to the human body.  Here is a post about other Brown Paper School products – they come highly recommended by many sources and are popular among homeschoolers.  If you’ve never heard of them, go take a look!

Later……we started it and so far so good!  Thorough, entertaining, and factually accurate.  What more could you ask for?

Good introduction to cells and their structures.  Written by Frances Balkwill – she has written several books for kids about the body.

Also written by Frances Balkwill; this one will be helpful in explaining how our bodies fight infection – the immune system!

Looks fiendishly fun, although I can already see that I’ll need to put a book cover on this book…….  The product description says, “The Body Owner’s Handbook is the guide you simply can’t live without. You’ll discover a range of fantastic features you didn’t even know you had, including: an auto-repair function, a built-in cooling system, top-of-the range sensory equipment, and rear gas and waste disposal. So you think you can stomach the sick side of science? This mad manual shows you how to get the best from your body machine. Get the lowdown on the pluses of pus, the vitals of vomit and the science of snot. With trouble-shooting tips, terrific tests and curious quizzes, The Body Owner’s Handbook is bursting with info! Science has never been so horrible!”

Just because DK books are visually pleasing.

Head to Toe Science:  Over 40 Eye-Popping, Spine-Tingling, Heart-Pounding Activities that Teach Kids about the Human Body by Jim Wiese.  This will get kids moving and at the same time engage some scientific inquiry.  Lots of experiments and investigations about our bodies.

If you have some time to assemble these, they could be very helpful.

Okay, to be honest, Mrs. Frizzle’s voice kind of grates on my nerves, so we haven’t done too much with The Magic School Bus series.  I would prefer to read this book over watching the corresponding DVD.  Lots of families love this series – wish I could cope with Mrs. Frizzle a bit better……

Here is the DVD that goes with the book:

The Magic School Bus:  Journey into the Human Body GAME (hooray!)

“Young Scientists bend bones, make joints, map taste buds, expand lungs, build a stethoscope, measure lung capacities and heart rates, perform the iodine starch test, spin glitter, simulate synovial fluid, create a human body poster, and much, much more.”  Recommended for ages up to ten.

Ooooo.  Might have struck gold, here.  This is an interactive DVD that gets kids involved in the study of the human body.  Created for grades 4-8 and meets National Science Standards, so that tells me it might be a bit more thorough.  I don’t necessarily buy into standards, but that’s just me.  Includes short (5 minute) practice tests that are multiple choice, songs, excellent 3-D models, which in and of themselves probably make this DVD worthwhile.  It helps to see the workings of the human body in 3-D.  Note that a motive for producing this DVD is to help kids improve their abilities to take standardized tests, so take that into consideration.  Overall I like it and will look for it or order it.

We have this book, too, and I’ve been saving it for this unit.  The first part of the book is called, “Exploring Yourself” and you learn about your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, hands and brain with silly activities and experiments.  Should be lots of fun to work through – I think Max is going to really like this resource.

As I run across other ideas, books, games, I will add to this post.  For now I feel like we are off to a good start with whatever I choose from the materials highlighted here.  And I have to remind myself………Max is ten!  I’ll try to go easy on him while we work with a subject that I get excited about :).


See? There had to be more……..I did a post on The Mysterious You series a few weeks ago and remembered that several of those books would fit nicely in this unit study, too.  Here’s one of the books.  You can refer back to the post if you’d like to take a look at the whole series.

Here’s another really fun book by Jay Hosler called Optical Allusions:

Jay Hosler is one of my favorite authors.  He has a wild sense of humor and shall we say, ‘a unique perspective’ on all things scientific.  “OPTICAL ALLUSIONS is the cure for all those clamoring for a painstakingly researched, scientifically accurate, eye-themed comic book adventure. WRINKLES THE WONDER BRAIN has lost his bosses’ eye and now he has to search all of human imagination for it. Along the way, he confronts biology head on and accidentally learns more about eyes and the evolution of vision than he thought possible. And, as if a compelling story with disembodied talking brains, shape-changing proteins and giant robot eyes wasn’t enough, each tale is followed by a fully illustrated, in-depth exploration of the ideas introduced in the comic story. Following in the tradition of the author’s first two books, Clan Apis and The Sandwalk Adventures, Optical Allusions uses humor and adventure to weave an unforgettable story about the wonders of seeing.”

“From blistering bee stings to pus-filled pimples, this eye-popping book takes readers on a virtual tour of all of the grossest, gooiest, and most fascinating events that bodies have to endure. Featuring incredible 3-D graphics that reveal the action and body’s response in microscopic detail, Ouch! Combines kid-friendly gross-out value with cutting-edge anatomical and biological expertise.”  The book also comes with a CD that contains videos and supplementary material.  Looks grossly engaging!

Science Jim’s Eggstravagant Eggssperiments

Just a note to let you know that Science Jim (a.k.a. Jim Mueller) is offering a fun class tomorrow (Friday, April 2nd) – all involving eggs! I’m betting we’ll learn about inertia, momentum perhaps – all things physics-related and it should be entertaining and maybe even a little messy!  Science Jim is always entertaining.  He’s a pretty funny guy who is passionate about teaching physics to kids.

You can find the class on http://www.Currclick.com – here’s the link to the egg class specifically:  EGGS

The class was also offered today, but we missed it!

Tomorrow the webcast class is offered either at 12:00 or 1:30 CENTRAL time, so plan accordingly.  Oh – and the class is $5.00, which you can pay via Paypal on Currclick.

Inventin’s the Thing

I don’t know about you, but I invent products in my mind all the time.  Better ways of doing things, at least according to me, that is.  Which doesn’t necessarily mean that my invented thing is the right thing for everyone.  I invent sayings for bumper stickers, too, but have yet to do anything about any of these masterful inventions.  Truth be told, I think my energy resources are reserved for homeschooling and photography.  Those are the two main places I spend my energy dollars.  Maybe there’s a way to ask for a raise in energy money?  Wouldn’t that be the best?  To have unlimited energy to tackle all that our active minds conjure up.  Who do I talk to about that?

Well, I admire a good invention.  Mostly I admire the thought process and ingenuity that goes INTO an invention.  To be a good inventor you need to see things differently, break away from the crowd and go your own way.  This, I admire.  Training your brain and will to go their own way might not be a bad thing!  I found several resources (surprise!) about inventions, the people who created them, and the extraordinary changes wrought because of them.  Some of this stuff is funny and fun.  Some of it is serious business, which we should try to avoid in this blog.  I’ll do my best here to detail the fun and engaging stuff.

Some kids are wonderful inventors but they don’t yet realize it.  That’s YOUR job to help them see how wonderfully their mind works!  Together you could decorate a box with a slot in the top and you could call it “_ _ _ _ _ ‘s Box of Wildly Wonderful Creative GENIUS!”  Whenever a knock-your-socks-off idea comes up, write it down, draw it out, add some notes and pop it into the box.  You just never know what could become of some of those ideas.  Well, the idea here is to encourage your child to expand his or her thinking horizons – to not be afraid to push the boundaries of thought and creativity.  Here are some resources that you could share together as part of your schooling:

You can click on any of the pictures to get more information and read reviews!

Perfect!  It’s silly, educational and hands-on.

It’s no fun to be laughed at; you have to admire the folks who were but chose to push past the laughter and believe in what they were doing.  The author, Ira Flatow, is a host of a weekly science program on NPR.  “An enlightening and fun look at scientific discoveries and the often wacky and accidental ways in which they have led to some of the most important inventions”.

“Ever eaten a Popsicle, kept your ears warm with earmuffs or resealed your breakfast cereal with the built-in cardboard tab on the box top? Thank a kid inventor, because all those things, and quite a few more described in this book, were invented by children. A great inspiration for your own young scientist.”

This books covers the process of inventing something, describing said process in smaller bits.  This would be a great resource if your child already has something in mind to invent.  Also offers many resources for further investigation – camps around the nation, websites,  and competitions.   Definitely more of a handbook to walk you through to a patent and trademark.  Go for it!

Mistakes that Worked:  40 Familiar Inventions and How They Came to Be.  Cartoon format.  Noted in the review, however, is a comment about how Eskimos, Native Americans and Chinese are poorly portrayed in stereotypic fashion, so be aware of that.  Not cool!

Just blogged about this book in the post immediately preceding this one!

Highlights some fifty inventors from the past.  Kind of a busy book – some kids might not like this format.  I can’t see reading straight through it – you’d probably get dizzy.  But it could be fun to look up different people and learn a little here and there.  It’s thoroughly researched by the author, Gillian Clements, though, so is a good reference.  It looks like she sneaks in a little humor here and there, too.  Plus she makes a point to include women and minority inventors who have done great things.

Humorous?  Yes.  The pictures are charming.  “To be an inventor you have to be as stubborn as a bulldog”!  So it says.  So it must be.  These authors also wrote So You Want to Be President/Explorer? The President book was a Caldecott medalist.

There.  That should get you started inventing, yes?  Let your child have fun with it and start filling up that creative genius box with ideas!