Clue Finders

Well, it all started with Carmen Sandiego, which led to me paying attention to the software company, which led to me looking up said software company, which led to finding all of this OTHER software…..this is how it always happens!  Following these trails is exciting because the end result is usually good.   Mapless, no global positioning system – just hunting for out-of-the-ordinary materials to make our school days more creative and fun.

The Learning Company produces a few noteworthy products for sure.  We have thoroughly enjoyed chasing Carmen Sandiego hither and yon all over the globe, learning world geography along the way.  She’s just so darn slippery!  Kind of like those games in Las Vegas, if you ask me – she’s rigged to get away every time.  The Learning Company is responsible for the Carmen Sandiego games and here are some others to hopefully get you and your kiddo excited:

[Click on the pictures to get more information and to read reviews]

Learn Essential Subjects in an Egyptian Adventure!

  • Math – Multiply the two numbers on the sign above each jeep to figure out which one can make it all the way to Cairo.
  • Reading – Build reading comprehension skills as you interpret reading passages and earn valuable Cairoglyphs to gain your next clue.
  • Geography – Master U.S. and world geography as you help ship packages around the world. Can you locate the city west of Denver?
  • Vocabulary – Learn antonyms, synonyms, and homonyms as you move blocks of stone one at a time to complete a sentence.
  • Science – Develop your knowledge of mass, force, and angle to construct a bridge across a river. Watch out for the crocodiles!
  • Math – Solve math problems with decimals as you stack the correct column sections to build a miniature palace.
  • Word Problems –  Solve word problems to gain access into a mysterious ancient pyramid. More adventure awaits inside!
  • Spelling – Spell your way across the chasm to stop the evil archaeologist before he takes over. Be careful, one wrong letter can spell disaster!

***UPDATE AS OF 3/24/10Well, I had high hopes for the above-mentioned software.  I purchased it used on Amazon and we have stumbled upon some computer glitches.  We are able to get maybe 15 minutes into the adventure and then the computer crashes.  We’ve tried two different computers (Windows platform), to no avail.  I’m really disappointed!  I may contact The Learning Company to see if the problem can be resolved because what I saw of the game so far I really liked.  Math, geography, history…….Max was having fun while it lasted.  So, read the reviews and decide if you want to give it a try.

A tsunami, a lost island and a volcano ready to erupt add the adventure to this edition – this is probably the one we would start with.

Mutant plant warriors (?) threaten to take over a town and it’s your job to protect it through sheer brain power!

All of these tap into math, reading, science, vocabulary, geography and spelling skills.  They are formulated for your PC or Mac and are not expensive.  Don’t forget to check eBay or your local homeschool co-ops – you might be pleasantly surprised at the inexpensive or free materials floating around out there!  Good luck on your hunt.


Revel in Grossness!

The analytical study of gross is called grossology.  Subject matter perfect for boys around the age of ten!  Some of these would make for interesting adjunct studies within a human body unit study, so they are going on the list.  Max tends toward the squeamish, so I will have to wait until he’s ready to handle some of this material, or we’ll have to pick through them and hit the high points.  In the meantime, I’ll tell you about them!  There seems to have been an explosion of ‘gross’ books of late…….but that just gives us more to choose from, though, doesn’t it?

On with the grossness!  Click on each book for further information or to exercise your purchasing prowess!

Blisters and toe jam.  Ugh.  Enough to make you want to open up and take a peek?  Lots of interesting body biology here.

A veritable treasure trove of activities celebrating the ‘grossness’ of our bodies.  It’s all in how you look at it and this book makes learning about your body FUN (and biologically educational).  This would be a fantastic material for an adult to teach to several kids in a class format – imagine the laughter!  I’m not even going to tell you about the cookie recipe in here.

There’s more than likely some overlap between these books, so take a look at their table of contents and decide which direction to take off in if you are inclined to head to Grossville – there are certainly numerous ways to get there!  You can even look at the 100 most frequently used words for each book to get a feel for content.

Extending beyond the domain of the human body.  Vomit munchers, blood slurpers, slime makers and dookie lovers.  Have you ever met one?  You probably have!  Ugh.

Sylvia Branzei is the author of the above Grossology series.  There are other authors out there who write within this fascinating genre, too:

Unusual foods throughout history and within different cultures.

Then there’s the Oh Yikes! and Oh Yuck! series – but they seem a little too strong for my tastes.  I didn’t post any of their materials here.  You can search for them if you like.

Stuff to get you started on getting grossed out.  Nothing could be more gross, which is a gross understatement.  Have fun squealing and getting squeamish!

Learning with the Adventures of Riley

These books are written for a slightly younger set (ages 4-8), but we remain intrigued with them, even though Max is ten.  There is much valuable information to be gleaned from each book and applied to whatever subject you might be covering at the moment.  We used the Dolphins in Danger book during the unit study on Cetacea.

Riley follows his uncle Max, a research scientist, around the world.  Riley gets around!  Here are a few examples from the series.  Click on each book for a link to Amazon:

There are many more subjects in this series and I bet they are accessible at the library.  Have fun exploring with Riley and his uncle Max!

Real Life Geography – An Idea

Back in first grade Max’s class made elves out of fabric, stuffed them, dressed them and named them (the whole process was a huge undertaking for the teacher, let me tell you) with the intent of sending them with someone they knew who was traveling anywhere, even if it was to the next town over.  The kids made a journal to send along with the elves and the person traveling was supposed to make notes in the journal of where the elf had visited, or take pictures if the person was particularly motivated to help your kiddo out.

Max’s elf traveled to Spain and a few places around the US.  The idea was, at the end of the travels, to send the elf and journal/pictures back to the child so he or she could trace the elf’s exploits into foreign territory.  Great idea in theory!  More than half of Max’s class never got their elves back, which was kind of a let down after all that work and excitement went into them.

You could attempt something along these lines and ask the traveler to send periodic emails to your child instead of completing a journal.  The digital age makes this sort of endeavor much less cumbersome these days.  So there’s an idea!  When you get the emails, it’s off to the map or globe you go to locate where your wanderlust ‘elf’ has landed!

We are trying to pay attention to where friends and family members are traveling.  Recently a Haitian friend flew to the Dominican Republic to grab a bus to earthquake-devastated Port Au Prince.  His trip is taking him to Santo Domingo and then cross-country to PAP.  We are following his adventure on our map (he is there to deliver supplies to an orphanage and to check on family members).  Another friend is in the armed services stationed somewhere in Somalia, so that information took us to the world map on the wall, too.  It helps to have a personal connection for information to sink in a little further than it normally would.

Take advantage of these events.  Get your kids interested in where others are going.  You might be surprised how much geography you learn together!

Poetic Math

Yes, you can mix poetry and math together! You can mix mustard and whipped cream together, too, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Yick!  The math/poetry thing seems like a more palatable endeavor, so why not give it a try?  Afterall, math and poetry are just two forms of language and expression  The idea also fits nicely into the Living Math approach (die-hard fan, here), which is another reason to consider a few of these books.

Click on each book to link to more information:

Theoni Pappas wrote this one; she is the author of The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat and the Further Adventures of Penrose (two books which we’ve read – Max really liked them.)  This book is designed to be shared by an adult and a child, reading together.  Nice rhythmic language about another type of language……math!

Students will learn math concepts and operations, place value and fractions, geometry and graphs, measurement and money, and word problems.   Elements of poetry are in fresh context, including similes, metaphors, alliteration, line breaks, and poetic language and forms. And perhaps best of all, the creative process enhances your child’s recall of the concepts taught.

Marvelous Math is a playful look at the sometimes surprising ways math is part of our daily life. The poems cover a vast range of topics from multiplication, division, and fractions to time, counting and measurement, but all relate math to our everyday world.

Julie Brennan of has this to say about this book (she’s a phenomenal resource, so straighten up and pay attention!):  “Okay, it’s not like regular poetry, it’s *mathematical* language. This is an unusual book in which the text mixes language with mathematical concepts, symbols and vocabulary to produce some really interesting connections.

Many children have difficulty connecting math with language. Math readers help bring math in this world, rather than it being isolated as a bunch of abstract symbols. The poetic “equations” in this reader are logical, artistic and creative uses of symbols and ideas. All of my kids from ages 5 to 13 love the book.”

One of my homeschooling idols has spoken!

So, I’m wondering…….how big can Amazon wish lists be?

Science can be so HORRIBLE!

I posted awhile back about the Horrible Histories series.  Now let’s mention the Horrible Science books!  They are published by Scholastic and written by Nick Arnold.  Tony de Saulles is the fantastic illustrator – what a team!  I’ll list most of the books here; you can click on each book to get to Amazon and explore each one further if you like.  They get good reviews and look to be fun supplements for the science bookshelf.

This one (above) is available in hardcover and covers, well……everything!

Might have missed one or two, but you get the idea!  I want them all.