Monday, February 28, 2011

Toady-Woady Times Two

Source: Google Images
We went to the pet store a couple of weeks ago in search of something new to add to our tank, something we could add to our fish family and came home with two African Dwarf Frogs. I highly recommend them, they easily overcome the blues when you buy them in pairs (or just more than one at a time) and they play together all the time. I am IN LOVE with these things!

Teaching the kids about how to take care of them and letting them pick them out in the first place has been a rewarding thing, let me tell ya.They are tickled pink that they have a living thing in their room (we decided to keep them there, separate from the fish because it's just easier to take care of everybody that way- their needs are a little different from the fishies').

We just pick a random time of day to sit quietly and observe them doing what they do, like swimming vigorously to the top only to float down gracefully slow like a parachuter, one on top of the other. They also sit on each other's backs when they get scared sometimes and that's endearing, too, like they're comforting one another, and NO, they're not mating.
Source: Google Images

One thing to get used to: they play "Freeze" quite often and it took a full week for my mini-heart attacks to subside, everyday five times a day saying "OMG are you dead? Please don't be dead!?!" only to tap the tank and get good, strong, healthy movement. I'm smitten with these guys and so are the girls. I pray we have many happy days ahead of us together! Here's to you Toady-Woady 2 and Toady-Woady 3 (another story for another day...)!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chemistry for Kids, Part 5: Endothermic & Exothermic Reactions

Lesson 5/Week 5: Endothermic & Exothermic Reactions

Today we will be working with some acids and a base we learned about before: Vinegar and Citric acid (which is found in fruits like lemons and oranges), and baking soda, which we use for lots of things such as cooking, removing bad smells, and cleaning.

Remember that when you put an acid together with a base, they create something called a reaction. A reaction between chemicals happens when two chemicals are mixed together and the molecules of one chemical break their bonds and form new ones with the molecules of the other chemical to form a new chemical. A reaction does not always have to include adding chemicals together, though.

Endothermic Reactions
Endothermic Reactions are reactions that need energy in the form of heat, to happen or proceed. You put heat INTO it.
Examples of some endothermic reactions:
-Ice melting is an example of an endothermic process** (not a reaction) (corrected this oversight as per the 11/13/12 comment below)- it needs heat energy to happen.
-Trees and plants use an endothermic reaction called photosynthesis to make food. They need the heat and light from the sun to do this.

Activity: Feel an Endothermic Reaction
  • Mix Citric Acid solution in a plastic cup with baking soda solution
  • Allow kids to place two fingers into the cup to feel the reaction. They should feel it bubble more vigorously and their fingers should feel cold after a bit.
  • Ask them to describe what they feel/felt. See if they can explain where the heat in their fingers is going.
  • Explain: When you put your fingers in the solution, it will bubble and speed up because you're giving the acid and the base mixture the heat energy it needs to get going and keep going.
  • Also, it's taking the heat from your fingers so your fingers will feel cold in the solution and when you remove them.
Exothermic Reactions
Exothermic Reactions give off heat as they happen. They are the opposite of an endothermic reaction.
-When salt is made from Sodium and Chlorine (remember our periodic table), this is a reaction that gives off heat, or an exothermic reaction
-When you light a match, this is an exothermic reaction

Activity: Feel an Exothermic Reaction
Make Hot Ice ahead of time according to the recipe and method at the link below. Touch it to demonstrate how it crystallizes. Let the kids feel it giving off heat.
**I tried making this and got nothing TWICE and this did not work for me either time. I have no idea what I did wrong but I'd be interested to know if you're able get it to work.** 

Activity: See a chemical reaction between Mentos & Diet Soda (Teacher-Demonstrated, Outdoors)- An exothermic reaction
What we did: We used a bottle of Diet Coke (because there's no sugar, it easily washes away without becoming sticky) and added the Mentos to it using a rolled. I used I strongly recommend if you want real fireworks that you add at least half to three quarters of the pack. I stuck with a website's recommendation of "4 Mentos" and this was a disappointment for me, although the kids thought it was great either way. Needless to say, I will be repeating the experiment with a bigger "bang" next time. Can't wait!

Show video either before or after demonstration:

Activity: Coloring Page:

All images taken from

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ice Skating: The Coolest Lesson EVER!!

B/N: Written Sunday 2/20/10
We taught our 5 year old to ice skate today and it was the best thing ever. We'd never been out on the ice before and I was deeply regretting the hefty admission fee right away, but once I got used to how oh-so-very-slippery that stuff is, I did quite alright.

Ice Skating
Image Source
Determined to help my baby girl enjoy herself, I did everything I could to chase away that intense, scary look on her face and I'm so glad that in the end my efforts were not in vain. We decided on a whim to go out to do something as a family, MIL and out-of-town niece included, and the wheel stopped on ice skating. My saucer-sized eyes glazed over at the thought of finally going, but then I thought 'Why not, I've been meaning to do this forever. I can do this'.

So today, I bit the bullet and it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared: everywhere I looked I saw dangerous, sharp blades, 60mph skaters zipping through the heavy, unsteady crowd, lots of careless, carefree falling and the hardest, most unforgiving ice EVER (mommy gasp!), but as they say, good thing worrying definitely works because none of the stuff I worried about ever came to pass.

I can roller blade pretty well so I drew on this skill to help me (safely) ice skate. Once I got my confidence up and became more comfortable, I was giving mini-lessons to my daughter, my husband and two total strangers on how to...ready for it?...skate backwards! And to think I was petitioning DH to dole out over $200 for lessons, pfft!

It was the most fun I've had- we've had in along time and we'll definitely do it again. We have to- the baby girl was asking to go back again really, really soon. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chemistry for Kids, Part 4: Polymers

Class 4/Week 4: Polymers  
B/N: I missed a week in-between posting Chemistry lesson plans I thought I had posted it already (oops!). Enjoy!

Colourful Plastic Polymer Gran...Plastic Granules,polymersBoard

Remember we talked about solids, liquids and gases and how they are all made up of tiny things called atoms. Remember also that elements are the type of atoms we can have and that when atoms join together, they make molecules.

Today we are going to talk about Solids and Liquids that behave in a funny way when we do certain things to them. Specifically, we are going to talk about something called a Polymer.

Fresh Sugarcane PilesContainerGrating
What is a Polymer?
  • A Polymer is a long chain of made of up many molecules. How a polymer will act when you do things to it depends on how its atoms are connected, as well as which atoms or elements it's made up of in the first place.
      Teflon Model
      Teflon Molecule
    • Some are rubbery like a bouncy ball, some are sticky and gooey, and some are hard and durable like a skateboard.
  • Polymers can bend and twist and get tangled up. The longer a polymer chain is the more likely it is that it will get tangled up, just like a jumprope or some string. Since the chains are hard to pull apart once they get all tangled up, a polymer ends up being very strong. So, things made out of polymers are hard to break.
  • Polymers can stick together. Some polymers don't get tangled up, though, but they are made up of very neat, straight chains. They are still very strong, though. For example: cellulose is a natural polymer found in wood, which makes trees and wood very very strong and tough to break apart.
  • Polymers are lightweight, strong, durable, recyclable- some are easier than others to recycle. However, they last a very long time and this can be bad for the environment when they are thrown away. We should try to recycle the polymers that we can.

  • The longer it takes a fluid to flow, the more viscous it is.
  • Polymers are very viscous- they move slower because they're so big. The longer the chains, the slower the flow.

Activity: Explain & Observe Viscosity Using Honey (Teacher-Demonstrated)
  • Explain viscosity and demonstrate using honey. Show how honey moves more slowly and becomes more viscous when it's cold and less when it's hot/warm (put some honey in a container on ice and then have some at room temp so they can observe the difference in how it flows or behaves.
  • Press on each to show that pressure has no effect on it. It is a Newtonian fluid.

Activity: Show kids this video of people running across a pool of Oobleck:
  • Ask them to watch what happens when they run vs. when they stand still.
  • Explain that Oobleck is a Polymer. It changes viscosity because of pressure, not because of temperature. 

Activity: Observe Oobleck, a Non-Newtonian Fluid (Teacher-Demonstrated)
  • Make Oobleck ahead of time, using 2 parts Cornstarch: 1 part water. Place it in a plastic dish that is large enough for your entire hand to fit in if pushed flat into the dish. Cover with a lid until ready to use. A plastic baggie is also great for observing how this fluid behaves- it's very neat and contained but the kids can still press on it then allow it flow inside the bag.
    • Allow the kids to observe how it behaves: gently swirl or shake it, press on the liquid firmly to see what happens, pour it to see what happens. Allow kids to take turns pressing on it to feel how it responds to pressure.
  • Contrast it with honey in terms of flow, and water (in another dish) in terms of how it behaves when pushed. Water does not clump together and separate from the dish cleanly when stirred with a fork.

Activity: Observe and Play with something like Silly Putty (Silly Putty is a brand name but that's not what we're calling it here)
Make putty Ahead of time using the recipe below and place in individual snack-sized ziploc bags until ready to use. Or, if you have a smaller class, you can allow the kids to make it in class. Be sure to provide plastic snack baggies for them to take their creation home.

Putty Recipe
This will bounce and pick up pictures from the paper just like the name-brand stuff.
  • Add: 1/2 cup water to 1/2 cup Elmer's glue (Not School Glue!)
  • Mix and add 3 drops of food coloring (optional)
  • Make Borax solution: Take 2 tablespoons borax (You can buy this at a grocery store or online) and add to 1 cup of water and stir.
  • Add 1/2 cup of Borax solution to water and glue mixture
  • Stir and store in a plastic bag
Mix well. Add food coloring if you wish. Let it dry about an hour. When ready, it will be smooth and rubber-like. Store in an airtight container.

Activity: Make Fake Snow
  • Give each child sodium polyacrylate beads in a small, snack-sized ziploc bag and allow them to add a small amount of water to it. Encourage them to observe how super-absorbent it is by watching it expand and change appearance with the addition of water.
  • Explain that it's used for many things, but the most common we'd recognize is for fake snow in the movies or in baby diapers to keep them from leaking.
  • Emphasize that they can play with it but that they must wash their hands and never, never put it in their mouths or swallow it. It's safe on your hands but not in your mouth!!!!
All Images taken from

Monday, February 14, 2011

Educational iPhone Apps

If ever I was to have a love/hate relationship with a device, it would be my iPhone. Some days it's my best friend, other days, my worst enemy. But overall, I can't live without it. Here's one of many reasons for that: it helps me teach my kids and they love it.

It's such a great teaching tool for kids because it allows them to do something hands-on and fun, outside of the normal way of learning. They see, hear, and touch what they are learning, thereby making it stick beautifully, because after all, it's been proven that the more senses you get involved in learning a thing, the easier it will be to remember.

Here are some apps I swear by and that my kids enjoy. Remember, my kids are 5 and under so you may have to do a little researching (it shouldn't be hard) to find some age-appropriate apps for your 6 and ups. Although, they generally enjoy and can easily use games and apps designed for much older children, so don't totally rule this list out.

Arabic Letters
ABC Shakedown
I Hear Ewe
Dora Saves The Crystal Kingdom
Nick Jr.'s A-Z with Moose and Zee
Team Ummizoomi
Thomas Game Pack
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Wheels on the Bus
Matching Zoo
Kids Can Read- Barney the Dog

If you find more that you like, either paid or free, please comment back and let me know so that we can try them, too!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Math: Not/So Scary!

Image Source: Flickr
Are you one of those people who are afraid of Math? Have you kinda always been? I sure have and still am a little at times, even though I've mastered it up to a pretty respectable point. If I'm being honest, the idea of teaching it to the littles, even while it's still easy (you know, the parts before they start mixing in the alphabet, i.e. Algebra and family) still gives me mini-anxiety.

In the same way I get all nervous around strange dogs because the phrase "They can smell fear" conveniently goes onto an auto-playback loop in my head the second I see one, my kids' little curious eyes trained on me for a math lesson makes me figuratively sweat. In fact, I even procrastinated on introducing official math lessons on addition and subtraction until midway through this first homeschooling year.

I just feel like they can sense my near-trepidation when I try to explain the subject and that they'll be more focused on that me acting all weird than the material. I just want them to form their own opinions and not pick up any slant from me, however unintentional.

Image Source: Flickr
Then, one day I had a firm talking with my self (yes, I know, but it's 1000% genetic and therefore beyond my control) and decided to just get over it and go for it. And, as if intuitively supporting me from afar, shortly thereafter, my wonderful fellow homeschooling moms passed along this link for

This lovely gem has all kinds of worksheets, free, printable Math worksheets- color or b/w, it's your choice. It covers kindergarten math all the way up to algebra, so no matter how old your child(ren) are, I hope you can use it, too. Just take a deep breath and go for it.

An Article on Choosing a Homeschooling Math Curriculum
A Website with Math Activities for Kids

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chemistry for Kids, Part 3: Crystals

Ice Crystals

Lesson 3/Week 3: Crystals

Establish what a pattern is: draw a series of three (or more) incomplete patterns on the white board and ask the kids to finish each one. You can either invite the kids up to finish each pattern or you can poll them and then fill it in yourself.

All Images from
Activity: Using M & M's, separate them into colors ahead of time and place them in individual plastic ziploc bags. Hand them out in class, along with a napkin or white paper for the kids to lay the candy out on. Have kids mix up candy to show how the molecules of solids normally arrange themselves randomly. Then ask them to arrange the candy into a repeating pattern to show how the same molecules will line up to form a crystal. Their reward if they get the concept and do it right is to eat the candy.

"Remember in our first class we talked about how lots of molecules together make up things that we can see and we talked about solids, liquids and gases. Well today we're going to talk about solids whose molecules form a pattern, or crystals. Not all solids have a pattern, their molecules are scattered all about randomly, but crystals follow a regular, repeating pattern".

"It's possible to "grow" crystals, and when we grow then, we are separating all the building block molecules into individual little pieces in water, and letting them falling into their natural repetitive pattern once the water evaporates, or "dries up"."

Types of Crystals:

  • Ionic (salt)
  • Molecular (sugar, ice), where the molecule's actual shape can be seen once the crystal has formed; we were lucky enough to still have snow on the ground, so I also used this as an example.
  • Covalent (diamond and other gems), Some elements can make more than one crystalline form. For example, Carbon has different forms can be graphite like in a pencil or added to steel to make it stronger, OR it can be diamond like in jewelry
  • Metallic (atoms of metals)

Crystals have different shapes and properties.
Activity: Show different pictures on laptop of crystals and of salt, water, salt + water molecules.

Crystals can only grow from a saturated solution. When a liquid is saturated, nothing more of what you add to it will dissolve. For example, you can dissolve sugar by adding it to a cup of hot tea. If you stir it well, the sugar crystals will disappear and you won't see them anymore. BUT if you keep adding huge amounts of sugar, after awhile no more will dissolve and all you'll see is crystals from the extra sugar you added. That is when the solution/liquid/tea has become what is called saturated.


Experiment: Growing Glow-In-The-Dark Crystals:
  1. While stirring a cup of boiling water, slowly pour in Epsom Salts, adding about 1/4 cup at a time. It will hold quite a lot. As soon as the solution won't turn clear with stirring, it is time to stop.
  2. Take one or two pretty, colorful pipe cleaners. Bend it into some shape at one end, leaving the other end for a "hanger."
  3. Paint it with GITD paint and allow to dry for 15-30min.
  4. Hang it over a pencil suspended over a STRAIGHT SIDED container, or you won't be able to get your crystal out.
  5. Pour the Epsom Salt solution over the pipe cleaner in the container. Set it in the warmest room in your home where it won't be disturbed. In about 3 weeks, the water will have evaporated, leaving long, lovely crystals behind on the pipe cleaner.

Experiment: Making Rock Candy***
Explanation: When growing sugar crystals, the sugar in solution is not "happy" so it comes out of the water-sugar solution because there's too much sugar and not enough water to balance it out. When it comes out of the solution, it's called a precipitate. The more water that evaporates or dries up out of the cup/solution, the more sugar will come out, too, making the crystals grow, because there's already not enough water to make the sugar "happy".

  1. Heat 2 cups of water to boiling.
  2. Completely dissolve 4 cups of sugar and stir using a wooden spoon until solution is clear.
  3. Pour the cooled solution into a glass jar & cover the jar with a paper towel.
  4. Wrap a pipe cleaner around a bamboo skewer, with the tip removed, leaving about 1 inch in between the bottom of the cup and the pipe cleaner. It should not touch the bottom.
  5. Dip the pipe cleaner into the sugar solution, remove it, lay it on a piece of waxed paper, straighten it out, and let it dry for a few days.
  6. Gently suspend the pipe cleaner in the solution and let it sit for about 7 days. Be careful not to move or touch it during this time, except to observe daily crystal growth.

***I prepared a kit ahead of time for each student and handed it out at the end of class for them to take home. It consisted of a plastic ziploc sandwich bag 1/3 of the way full of sugar-saturated and colored (with food coloring) solution I made ahead of time at home, a 9oz plastic cup, a half of a bamboo skewer and a white pipe cleaner cut in half.

I placed the bagged solution inside of the cup to avoid leakage, then tucked the skewer and the pipe cleaner in the cup next to it. I placed each kit into a brown paper bag and stapled an instruction sheet for parents to the outside of each bag. I made sure to demonstrate the process for the kids in class so that they could guide their parents on how to assemble the kit at home, if they were unsure or got stuck.***

Last, show them the video at this link so they can see what their crystals will look like at home.