Ethan Turns 12!

A few days ago, my wonderful second son turned a whopping twelve years old!  It’s hard to believe that next year we will have two teenagers in the house!  We celebrated just as a family a few days early with dinner at home, cake and ice cream and (for Ethan, best of all) opening gifts.  Several sweet family members sent Ethan some money and Bryan and I gave him two games: Ticket to Ride and Pit.  I remember playing pit with my grandmother as a child so I thought our kids might enjoy it and I was right!  They love being able to yell out numbers as they play and everyone gets excited about ringing the bell at the end when they have made a full set. After we played the first time, I came up with the idea of using ear plugs and then I enjoyed the rest of the rounds even more!  Ticket to Ride has also been really fun to play (though less noisy!) Katie even spent her own money to buy Ethan a super hero Lego, so we all felt the sibling love!

On the actual day of Ethan’s birthday, four of his best guy friends came over for food, cake, and hours of Nerf dart gun battles (topped off with a few rounds of Wii).  This was his first time to have an all guys birthday party and everyone seemed to enjoy the freedom to get the downstairs messy and shoot at each other.  Bryan and I just hung back and let them enjoy themselves.

It has been neat to see Ethan growing and maturing over the years.  He has a great sense of humor, is good at relating to people of all ages, and is very fun to be around.  He is also really interested in science and nature and is great at noticing things that no one else does.  I am excited to see him keep maturing!  It will be fun to see how God directs his life in the future.  Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Candy Fractions Game – Homemade Educational Fun!

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Years ago, I invented a homemade board game for Austin and Ethan called “Candy Fractions.”  Katie knows about this game and occasionally requests it for homeschool math so she can eat some candy while learning about fractions.  We played a round recently, so I thought I would write a short post about the game.

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I hand drew circles divided into pie pieces and rectangles divided into several sections.  Players start at the first shape and take turns rolling the dice and placing small candies like m&m’s or chocolate chips onto the board.  The first player rolls the dice and whatever number they get is the number of candies they place on their square or circle.  One candy goes on one small space within the larger shape.  That player then has to say what fraction of the shape is covered with candies and what fraction is not covered.  The candies are then cleared and it’s the next person’s turn to roll the dice and place candies on the next shape.  The game ends when all the shapes have been covered with candies.

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Then each player gets to pull a fraction card from a small pocket on the back of the game board.  The cards are marked 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4 to decide what fraction of four candies they are allowed to eat.  My kids enjoy playing the game several times so as to maximize their candy intake.

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This has been a fun way to add variety to homeschool math and I think it has really helped the kids get a basic understanding of fractions as well.

 

Katie’s First Quilt!

A few days ago, Katie decided she wanted to make a small lap quilt.  She saw a basic explantion of how to make a simple quilt in this book and wanted to give it a try.  We’ve been trying to get more exercise into our lives recently so we hopped on our bikes and rode to the nearest mall where there is a fabric store.  Katie picked out three fabrics she wanted on the front of the quilt and then chose a pink quilted fabric for the back so that she could skip the step of adding batting in the middle.  Since this was her very first quilting project, we both felt that simple was better.

After we rode our bikes home, Katie got started right away on making her project.  I helped her with the cutting and with pinning the pieces together, but she decided the design and sewed the three pieces on the front together.  I also helped with ironing down the seams on the back of the pieces she had sewed together (since the book said we should do that).  At this point, Katie was feeling a bit tired out from all her sewing but she wanted to to finish the project that day, so she chose a fancy stitch and I offered to topstich around the quilt to finish it off.  So, I guess this time the quilt was a team effort!

The lap blanket turned out great and to my surprise Katie later wrapped it up and gave it to me as an early birthday present!  I didn’t realize we were making it for me!  In the chilly months it will be great for putting over my lap during homeschool read aloud times.

Here are some photos of Katie working hard on her quilt and enjoying the results.

Learning About Our Insides by Making an Anatomy T-Shirt

 

 

In my proactive search for cool hands-on science activities, I came across this blog post that explains (with free printable templates) how to make a t-shirt with a realistic drawing of human internal organs on it.  While the kids already know basically what their heart, lungs, and stomach look like and where they are located, I thought this activity would be a great way to help them remember the names and locations of some of the organs they might not be as familiar with, such as the pancreas, appendix, and spleen.

To do this project, I bought white long-sleeved kids’ undershirts, which came two in a pack and were less expensive than regular shirts.  Since I wasn’t sure how excited the kids would be about going around town with their organs in full view, I thought they could just use them as pajama shirts or for wearing around the house (especially when we are doing science together!)  The t-shirts could easily have been short-sleeved, but since it’s winter I thought that long-sleeved would be cozier.  I printed out the templates from the website on white card-stock.  The templates were two pages so I stapled them together to make the full picture.  Then I inserted them inside the t-shirts so that the picture was where we wanted the drawing to be when it was done.

The kids then used fine-tip black permanent magic markers to draw the outline of the organs.  Since the card stock paper was in between the two layers of the shirt, it kept the pen from bleeding through to the other side.  The t-shirt really needs to be white so that you can see through to the template underneath.  This part of the project was a little bit tricky because depending on the light in the house it was harder or easier to see through to the picture on the template.  Austin and Ethan moved around to different locations until they found a spot where they could see best.  They also had to be very careful not to move the template if they moved the shirt so that the picture would end up in the right spots.

After the kids finished tracing the organs the best they could, they used another copy of the picture that I printed out that had the organs labled (also from the same website).  This helped them see where the different organs began and ended.  They then colored the different parts their colors of choice using fabric markers and fabric crayons I had gotten on Amazon Japan.  With both the markers and crayons, you have to place a piece of paper over the colored places and then iron it for a bit to make the color permanent when you have finished coloring.

We all really like how the t-shirts turned out and they came in very handy when we were reading about digestion the other evening!  When the book mentioned a certain body part involved in digestion, I had them find it on their t-shirt.  We also used our science textbook’s description of where each body part is located to see if their t-shirts placed their intestines, heart, stomach, etc. in anatomically correct locations.  They weren’t perfect (the amount of intestines is a bit less than in a real human body) but they were pretty close!

All in all it was a worthwhile project that will hopefully help our anatomy studies “stick” in their brains better this year.  Katie was actually so excited about her t-shirt that she wore it to school and showed it off to all of her friends and teachers!  So, I’m calling this project a success!

 

Learning about DNA – the Hands-On Way

One of my goals for 2015 is to get back to blogging more frequently.  Another is to make sure I include plenty of hands-on activities in our homeschool on a regular basis.  I feel like the hands-on component of our school time has waned recently.  It’s easy to feel like I just don’t have enough time to fit it all in.  But reading blog posts like this have been reinspiring me to make sure we don’t leave out the fun stuff!

We’re studying about the human body in science this year with the Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body as our base.  It’s a fantastic book with lots of great photos, but it is still easy to have the content of the book go in one ear and out the other, especially when the topic is something complicated like DNA.  So, I decided to take a chunk of our day yesterday to first brainstorm together what we already knew about DNA and then watch several youtube videos like this that did a great job of explaining what it is and what it does.  Then I let the kids make edible models of DNA out of Twizzlers and mini-marshmallows with this method to help solidify what we have been learning.  It worked out great and we all had a fun time doing it!  Now that the kids are getting a little older, the hands-on projects aren’t quite as chaotic as they used to be.  My kids actually don’t like the taste of either Twizzlers or mini-marshmallows, so they still haven’t actually eaten their projects yet, but they turned out to be terrific materials to use!

Yesterday’s success definitely inspired me to keep the hands-on activities coming on a regular basis again and I will be sure to write about them here.

Here are some photos of our learning time yesterday.  You can click on individual photos to enlarge them.

Mom and Daughter Beret Sewing Project

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Sewing and crafting are in Katie’s blood!  Unfortunately, I don’t come naturally to those arts.  However, I do my best to encourage Katie in her crafting and to help her find projects to try when she expresses an interest in creating something.  So, when Katie developed a passion for sewing a beret, we searched the internet and discovered this website with instructions that looked easy to follow.  We don’t have a sewing machine (yet!) so we had to sew it by hand, but it was very easy and turned out super cute.  The instructions call for taking an old t-shirt and “upcycling” it into a cute kids’ beret. Katie sewed what she could, I sewed what she couldn’t, and I ended up sewing over her stitches to make them a little tighter so that there wouldn’t be gaps in the seam.  Though Katie wasn’t quite able to do most of the project herself yet, it was a great learning experience and a bonding experience as well.   Katie wears her beret whenever she can and often gets compliments on it, so we dub this project a success!

 

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Katie trying to look elegant in her beret.

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The t-shirt we used for the project had a heart design on it so that became the top of the hat.

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Looking stylish at the park.

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Katie wore her beret to a recent bridal shower with a matching t-shirt.

Crazy couch jumping photos

Our family is a little bit weird. One of our kids’ favorite pastimes is taking photos of each other jumping on our couch. It’s weird (and hard on the couch!) but it gives us a chance to laugh together and what family doesn’t need that?! Here are a few of the kids’ best shots so far…

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