Preference Projects from Currclick – in Case You Have a Preference

Maybe you’re like this, too.  You hear about something, you become curious about that thing, and then before you know it you surround yourself with all things THING, whatever that thing may be, so you can learn all about it.  Substitute any of the following for the THING:  gardening, skydiving, kayaking, tandem bike riding, Photoshop, chickens, rabbits, lizards, landscaping, eating well, or pick from thousands and thousands of other topics.  Adults who follow their noses according to their interests are generally pretty happy folks, as long as their noses keep them out of trouble, that is :).  Why should it be any different for our children?  What an awesome thing (no pun intended) to teach a child – that it’s wonderful to follow your interests and dig in as you see fit, learn as much as you like!

Last year we followed our noses somewhat while doing unit studies (before setting up a unit study, I sat down with Max and asked him what he wanted to learn about.)  Even though the main topic was one of interest, like whales and dolphins, we still incorporated many of the other subjects like math, science, geography, writing, etc.  It was an all-out look at a topic, which of course, is the basis of a unit study.  I think Max learned well under these criteria and rather enjoyed himself.  I liked it a whole lot, too, although it took a fair amount of set-up and planning on my part.  Unit studies are kind of like that, aren’t they?  You can find many of the unit studies we did last year on this blog – just click on the unit studies category over there on the left.

If you sit back and watch your children on the sly, you will notice that they sometimes show a preference for a particular subject.  If you can manage to get yourself out of the way, your child will happily figure out ways to surround him or herself with information about that subject.  This all starts quite young, doesn’t it?  The Spiderman phase.  Thomas the Tank Engine.  Dora the Explorer?  Teen Titans.  All of these were derived from the TV.  Children without access to the TV (living the best life ever!) might show an interest in caterpillars, constellations, birds of prey, endangered animals, or nifty ways to disassemble your microwave.  Still, the best life ever.  It’s that natural curiosity which is such a beautiful and endangered thing – our public school systems somehow seem to squash that natural way of learning for children.  Homeschooling has some sneaky advantages, and this is one of them; you can unleash the curiosity monster in your child, calmly step out of the way and let the happy learning happen!

Currclick has some newer offerings called ‘Preference Projects’ which may or may not fit the bill for you and your child.  My interest was piqued by them, so on the blog they must go. 

Click on each project to go to Currclick to see the previews and to learn more:

 Bugs……can’t say favorite would land in the same sentence for me.

Easy.  Hummingbird!

There are a few others on horses, constellations, numbers, etc.  Note that these are fairly structured.  Having flown precariously by the seat of my pants last year for our fourth grade adventure, I’m beginning to understand the grandeur of structure and ordered things, although I still think it’s important to inject lots of fun and alternative ways of learning in there – strike a nice balance.  You could easily supplement one of these preference projects with other materials and put a fun spin on it.  Of course, that would involve YOU getting involved, and maybe that’s not the point here.  This is kind of about letting a child follow a trail of interest.  You’d have to use your very best judgement :).

I like for the most part. The name stands for ‘Curriculum in a Click’.  I am a secular homeschooler, so some of their materials don’t jive with my worldview, but that’s something I can easily work around.  Visit their site if you haven’t already – all of their materials are available for immediate download in .pdf format (printer cartridges at the ready!)  The materials are incredibly well-priced and they run awesome sales, so watch for them.  Get on their email newsletter list and you’d be all set.


Free American History DVD

Just an FYI!  The History Channel is giving away free DVDs about American History to schools and homeschools.  Here’s information from their website (i.e., the particulars):

America The Story of US – premiering on HISTORY™ April 25 at 9pm/8c – is a six-week event that provides a fascinating look at the stories of the people, events, and innovations that forged our nation. It will provide you with an unprecedented opportunity to bring our nation’s history to life for your students. This 12-hour series will be supported by educational materials tied to curriculum standards and is copyright cleared for Fair Use in the classroom by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities.

* HISTORY is offering America The Story of US on DVD to every school in the United States. School must be an accredited public, private or home school, grades K-12 and college. In order to receive your school’s DVD, your school principal (grades K-12) or Dean of Students (college) should fill out the request form (that would be on their website) below. HISTORY strictly limits each school to one request. DVD requests must be made prior to July 1, 2010. DVDs will be mailed around August 2010, and free shipping is included in this offer.

That last sentence is pretty important, so get on it if you want to use this series.  Don’t you just love free stuff?

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!

Learning about Intolerance, Learning About the Holocaust: A Gentle Introduction

For the most part, I aim to focus on fun and engaging educational materials in this blog, to help homeschoolers add learning through laughter to their days! That’s my intention and 99% of what you’ll find here will be tailored in that direction.  However, as we all know, life is not composed solely of fun and games. It has a deeply serious, often painful side that most of us cannot escape, as much as we would like to.  Life can be brutally difficult beyond comprehension.
Max and I ran head long into a deep and disturbing subject last week, one we’ve decided to delve into just a little further at this point.  I don’t think he’s old enough yet to handle too much, so we’re scraping the surface.   Max is ten, so I have been very careful with what images he sees at this point as so much of what happened during this part of history  is raw, bitter, horrible and shocking.   I am writing here about the monstrous atrocities of the Holocaust. When he is in his middle school years, I will consider exploring this time period more thoroughly because he’ll be at a different place emotionally.  I want to be careful not to overwhelm him.
This detour started with Albert Einstein.  Last Wednesday we watched the first lecture about Albert Einstein offered by Science Jim as part of his current webcast classes. Albert Einstein is a fascinating character primarily because he never stopped wondering; he likely drove his teachers nuts with all of his questions, his doubts, his need to prove statements of fact for himself. What an active mind he had! We listened to Science Jim describe Einstein’s childhood with interest. At least I did, but then I’m in a different place than Max is because I can focus on a topic for longer than five minutes :).    It was when Science Jim described Einstein’s involvement in the making of the atomic bomb that Max’s interest level perked up.
You may or may not know that Einstein wrote a letter to FDR in the late 1930’s encouraging the US government to begin research on building an atomic bomb – he recommended the government get started as soon as possible because he wasn’t certain how far the Nazis were in any bomb development.  As often happens in homeschooling, the conversations are wide open and can go any which way on any given day.  One thing leads to another. We eventually broached the life of Anne Frank and thus landed on the Holocaust.  It was quite an interesting question/answer period. I was not planning on introducing such a heavy grief-filled subject any time soon, but I listened thoughtfully to Max’s questions and understood clearly that of course he was having a hard time grasping the answer to his main question, “WHY?”

As luck would have it, a remarkable exhibit about Anne Frank’s life and experience is currently on display in our city.  On Friday afternoon we went to learn more about Anne and her family.  We attended with a group of four of Max’s friends, all boys.  Generally they get so wrapped up in each other that the entire outside world becomes background noise.  Not this time.  Our tour guide was exceptional!  They all stood in rapt attention as the tour guide described the two years while the Frank family hid in the attic of Otto Frank’s business in Amsterdam.  They could hardly conceive of having to be quiet for eight hours a day, having to whisper, not being able to walk around, not being able to flush the toilet during the day.  As Anne’s story progressed the kids became more somber and thoughtful.  Max raised his hand and asked a few questions.  He studied on the scale model of the attic.  He gazed at the pictures of a girl not much older than him, at her smiling face.  He tried to comprehend what happened to her and why.  We also sat in on a short talk by a Holocaust survivor, a woman now seventy-two who was a hidden child during the war.  Max’s is the last generation that will get to speak to, to touch, to listen to a Holocaust survivor!  This fact sunk in deep for me.

Today we watched a truly special story about a middle school in Tennessee and how the staff and students came to forge a very unique, very moving memorial to the six million Jewish people and the five million people of other descents who lost their lives at the hand of the Nazis.  Here it is.  Click on pictures for more information:

So magnificent!  A tiny middle school in Whitwell, Tennessee, population 1600, embarks upon a project to learn about the Holocaust.  The project soon takes on a life of its own as you’ll see.  The students wish to collect 6 million paperclips from all over the world to represent the Jews who died – they end up embarking on a meaningful journey that brings a community together and helps to teach others about what happens when intolerance and prejudice goes unchecked.  Ack, I cried several times.

A version tailored to grades 6-12, though I don’t know how it differs from the original.

An accompanying book written for the 9-12 age group.

“Fifteen thousand children under the age of fifteen passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp. Fewer than 100 survived. In these poems and pictures drawn by the young inmates, we see the daily misery of these uprooted children, as well as their hopes and fears, their courage and optimism. 60 color illustrations.”

A well-done allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting

Tailored for 9-12 year olds with lots of pictures of Anne and her family.  Also contains clear and concise text interspersed throughout the pictures.  I have not opened this book yet, so don’t know how graphic the pictures become, but am thinking the authors took precautions for this age group.

I would consider these resources to be “fairly” gentle for opening up discussions about this stand-up-and-pay-critical-attention part of history.  What an opportunity we have to begin to teach our children about acceptance, about injustice, about love and how it’s depths can turn the tide in any situation.  The movie and Anne Frank exhibit is as far as we are going for now.  The others are offered as additional resources to explore as you wish.

I’m worn out from the past few days, to be honest.  Words can’t possibly wrap themselves around what happened.  It’s the kind of thing you have to feel in your body and you must let it rest there while you process.  We’ve “seen” a lot in the past five days, but in truth have witnessed very little of what happened.  As Max grows I hope his questions continue to surface.  I hope I have some answers or directions to point him in.

Girls Rock! And So Can Everybody.

While looking at some more books by Trudy Romanek, I noticed a fantastic theme that can be celebrated in a homeschool environment for both girls AND boys.  We will definitely choose some of these to read.  As a mother to a son, I can help carve his perceptions of women in umpteen ways.  Positive perceptions trickle to the next generation, so I look at it as helping to make my great-great-great granddaughters stronger and more adventurous!

If you are a mom to girls, consider investigating some of these.  They look intriguing and encouraging and fun and ripe with ideas.  If you are a mom of boys, consider investigating some of these.  The foundation we lay now will help all of our children change the world for the better.

It started with this book by Trudy Romanek.  Click on the books for more information!

“Focusing specifically on the fun aspects, this book succeeds at showing how relevant science and technology are in the world in which we live, and tries to entice girls to explore the many possibilities in the field. Beginning at home with the television remote, automatic doors and automatic hand dryers, the author explains the intricate details of how these items actually work and the science involved…..”

Personally, I would like to know how the remote and smoke detectors work, so I would enjoy this book.  I think Max would, too.  The book also profiles several women who have careers in technology.

Girls Who Rocked the World:  Heroines from Sacagawea to Sheryl Swoops by Amelie Welden.  Short biographies of thirty-three women who accomplished something tremendous before the age of twenty.

Girls Who Rocked the World 2:  From Harriet Tubman to Mia Hamm by Michelle Roehm McCann

“This sequel volume features black-and-white photos and drawings to complement the inspiring stories of Golda Meir, Israeli prime minister, ambassador, and U.N. delegate; Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemalan activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; Italian physicist Laura Bassi, one of the first women scientists in western history; Lauryn Hill, American singer and winner of multiple Grammy awards who produced her first album at age 17; Alexandra Nechita, internationally acclaimed Romanian artist; and others. The book also contains photos and writings of over 30 contemporary young women from across America who respond to the question, ‘How do you plan to rock the world?’ In conjunction with the book’s publication, these girls will tour their hometowns, inspiring their peers to go for their dreams.”

Girls Think of Everything:  Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh

Another by Catherine Thimmesh.  The Sky’s the Limit:  Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls

Women discovered X and Y chromosomes, dark matter in the universe, 15,000 year old cave paintings – highlights some discoveries by 11 and 12-year-old girls, too!

“The six women portrayed in this book–Maria Merian (b.1647), Anna Comstock (b.1854), Frances Hamerstrom (b.1907), Rachel Carson (b.1907), Miriam Rothschild (b.1908) and Jane Goodall (b.1934–all grew up to become award-winning scientists, writers and artists, as comfortable with a pen as with a magnifying glass. Often they were discouraged from getting dirty, much less pursuing careers in science. But they all became renowned scientists, frequently the only women in their fields. They overcame opposition and found ways to pass on their vision of how all lives in nature are beautifully connected. Their stories remind us to look and to look harder and then to look again. Under rotten logs or in puddles, there are amazing things to see.”

This theme could easily be expanded into a unit study, and a fun one at that.  The message behind all of these books is:  encourage, encourage, encourage!  When you’re done with that, encourage some more!

Mysterious You Series

Max experienced his first blood draw as an ‘aware’ child today.  I mean, this time he was old enough to piece together the information and realize that he was about to get stuck in the arm with a butterfly needle, 25 gauge to be exact.  The last time blood was taken from him was when he was a newborn and that was the PKU heel stick – i.e. traumatic yet fleeting experience.   Probably more traumatic for me, because I was postpartum and an emotional train wreck anyway.  This time it was Max who carried on with the fits of tears (poor buddy) and I stayed steady.

The whole experience led to a conversation on the way home about blood and what the lab was going to do with it.  Max was very curious and asked lots of questions, some of which I hadn’t a clue as to how to answer.  I couldn’t remember how blood is typed and what type means – something about the histocompatibility complex, protein markers on the red blood cells, antigens………in another life I knew this stuff!  Poof.  It’s gone.  An opportune moment to do some research and brush up!  I have been pondering for a few months over a human body unit study, but will likely save it for next year.  There are some exciting materials out there, so I’m stock-piling and tucking ideas away for when he’s ready.  Here’s a series of books I ran into today while searching.  There are seven or eight books in the series – some got good reviews, some reviewers claimed that the books were too busy, not enough real science offered.  I was drawn to their somewhat goofy nature, the illustrations, and the sense of fun exploration they seem to possess.  I think these look to be about perfect as supplementary materials to use.  They are written for grades 4-6 and cover a range of topics, even genetic cloning.

I always attach links to the pictures, so click away if you want to find out more about each book!

Squirt!  The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Blood. Would answer some questions about today’s trauma and drama (see above for explanation)

Wow!  The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About the Five Senses

Achoo!  The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Germs

Burp!  The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Eating

Zzzz!  The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Sleep

Hmmm?  The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Memory

Baa!  The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Cloning

Most of these were written by Trudy Romanek and I’ll post about a few of her other books shortly.  She has a “how does this work” approach in her other books and a few of them look noteworthy.

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!