Build your own airplane.

So today’s lesson was more about synthesizing all the information we have gotten this week than anything else. In order to make all the information, and vocabulary, applicable, we played some “build your own airplane” games.

The interesting thing was, on the websites for these games, there were other videos and stuff that captured our attention. So what I thought was going to be a short time on the computer playing games turned into a 3 hours exercise of playing games and watching airplane videos.

The best design game was by GE:

Next was this one:

Finally, we played this one: This one requires some problem solving skills too, so we got to work on more than just planes.

However, essential to this lesson was using the vocabulary and terminology we had learned over the past week. Wings were wings, the body of the aircraft was the fuselage, the tail had the tail, vertical stabilizer, and rotor. We had ailerons, landing gear, nose/tail wheels, horizontal stabilizers, aft wings, propellers, and jet engines. We used the right terms (lift) for the force the plane needed to get off the ground – it’s not simply that the plane takes off. Using the words, ideas, and concepts we had worked on over the week made these concepts solidify in Nicholas’ mind as we played our games.

We also made paper airplanes and put tape, paper clips, and other things on them to see if we could still “generate enough lift and thrust” for the planes to fly. It’s amazing how long we can go doing activities like these where he is really engaged.

Our practice words for the day were sort of random: Falcon (for his favorite fighter), design (because that is what we were doing), paper, maze (because I wanted a word with z), and flight.

We did our regular math and rhyming words practice too – but mainly we got to focus on the planes. I sure do love having the Internet to help me with homeschooling.

Free app: Classical Kids Education

So you want your child to learn about music? Here’s a new and wonderful app – Classical Kids Education (the link is below). It’s free today, so get it and try it out.

It has quizzes, a recorder, and stories to go with the various songs. It also has a metronome to help kids learn how to stay on a beat. It is really a neat app. I hope you go try it!

Here’s the link to the app:

How airplanes work.

There are at two parts to this lesson. Part one is about lift (it includes Bernoulli’s Principle). Part two is about the actual functioning of the planes.

Part 1: Lift.

Lift is the name given to the force that pushes up on an object in the air. In order for an airplane to take off, the lift must be more than the gravitational pull down. There also must be more thrust (motion forward) than drag (force pushing against the plane).

Lift is created by the airfoil. The airfoil is the shape of the wings – and the plane in general. The top of the airfoil is curved. This curve forces the air on the top to move faster than the air on the bottom: It will cover more distance (the curve is longer than the line from point to point) in the same amount of time. By moving faster, the air lessens the pressure on top of the airfoil (the pressure pushing down). That allows the pressure pushing up to be greater, and push the object up. This is the basic definition of lift.

For a more scientific definition of Bernoulli’s Principle, visit this website.

For an animation of how Bernoulli’s Principle works, click here. 

For experiments to do at home to explain lift, click here.

What we did: We pulled out our little planes again. I applied pressure down, and Nicholas applied pressure under the wings. When I lessened the pressure, he was able to lift the plane up – and that demonstrates how lift works with air pressure.

Part 2: Actual control of the plane.

Planes can be controlled in more ways than cars. Cars can go fast and slow, forwards and backwards, and left and right. Planes can do all of that (except backwards), and also go up and down, roll, and spin. The terms for these are roll, yaw, and pitch. For video demonstrations of what roll, yaw, and pitch are, click here.

After we saw the videos of roll, yaw, and pitch, we pulled out our planes (we have a few of the Matchbox planes in various shapes and sizes – we also have a F-22 Raptor which is Nicholas’ favorite plane).  Then we had them go through the motions of the roll, yaw, and pitch. We used the correct terms to describe what we were doing.

Finally, we sat down with our cockpit, our planes, and the computer. We looked at some videos to see how ailerons produce rolls, the rudder makes the plane yaw, and the nose makes the plane pitch. Then we used our planes and said things like, “I’m pushing the nose of the plane down, so we are going which direction?” We used all our normal terminology and talked about not only how the plane moved, but what parts of the plane we were moving to get it to move.

Finally, we’re done.

We finished with writing our words for the day: yaw, pitch, roll, aileron, rudder, nose, and lift.

I made out a few worksheets that have pictures of all of this, and the worded explanations I used. If you would like them, please email me and I’d be happy to send them to you since they won’t fit on the website:)

Happy plane day!


My favorite website for all things flight related is right here: have all kinds of explanations, examples, websites, and activities. If you are more interested, go visit them and see all their fabulous things.

Biplanes, propellers, jets, and other famous planes.

Today’s lesson was a bit of a hodgepodge lesson. I wanted to cover propellers vs. jet engines, and also bi-planes. Why bi-planes? Because they are a unique form of propeller plane with 2 wings. They hold a fun place in history. Ever heard of the Red Baron? He flew a bi-plane. So we are including that.

First, I printed a maze of a bi-plane. Then 2 coloring pages of bi-planes (one for Nicholas and one for Abby). That takes care of the fun activities for the lessons.

Next, I had to make our word sheets. I have found that getting Nicholas to practice his letters is a lot easier if he’s writing words that relate to our lesson, rather than simply practicing each letter. I take a piece of writing paper (the kind with the lines for beginners – I found them on sale at Target for $0.05). I chose: airplane, bi-plane, propeller, jet, and engine. Those were our five words. I write them once on the left side, and he writes them twice. I also write them twice on a sheet for Abby. She colors the paper while we practice writing letters. It is nice to include her, and this is an easy way to do so.

Then onto our major activity.

Since these lesson are gear towards Nicholas going to the air show at Mather (California Capital Airshow), I looked up the planes attending the airshow. I printed pictures of those planes, along with others – including bi-planes. Then we cut them all out – together. I made him use scissors because it makes him work on his motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Then we took a big piece of poster board and glues them on there in two groups – propellers and jet engines. He had no trouble with that. Then I had him stick stickers on each of the bi-planes that said “bi-plane.” He did that fine too.

Lastly, we opened up Google and found videos of various planes flying. He had a good time yelling at the planes on the screen to “move those propellers faster,” and “make those jet engines roar.” I have no idea where he got those comments, but he was making them. It was interesting to see him name the parts of the plane that we talked about yesterday. When we saw planes taking off I made sure to point out the way the flaps and wings were moving, and same with landing. It helped to focus his aviation-related vocabulary on planes.

That was our lesson for the day!!

Parts of an airplane.

The first in our series of airplane lessons is on parts of the plane.

Here’s a website that has a great picture of a plane with all the parts labeled:

The FAA also has two handouts – one on the parts of a plane and one on the parts of the instrument panel in the cockpit. It is here:

First I printed out the FAA’s pages. Then I scanned them back into my computer so I could play with them. I did a few things to them. First, I made the plane and instrument panel bigger. Then I blanked out the words that describe each part, so instead there were only lines. Can you guess what we are doing today? I laminated them so we can use them over and over, because I imagine this is going to be one of those activities my son will enjoy.

So we started the day by looking online at the color picture of the plane with the parts labeled. Then we moved onto the FAA’s pages. We first looked at all the parts of the plane. Then we grabbed all the toy planes we could find and named their parts, according to the FAA’s definitions. That was fun. I didn’t realize how many planes we had in the house.

Then we did our quiz – could we name all the parts of the plane on our own? We sure could! We had a few pronunciation issues – and who wouldn’t with words like airfoil and stuff. But Nicholas did fine. Yes, he’s only 4. But when he’s sure he

Here’s our “cockpit” where we flew the plane. We also gave all the instruments their correct names and used them as best we could.

wants to do something, he can do it.

Lastly, we made a cockpit panel out of cardboard. We both decided we’d like to fly the plane, so we took the FAA’s picture and made one on cardboard. It was interesting to be directed by my 4 year old on my drawing of the instrument panel. He had no problems telling me what went where. Then we sat down, pretended we were pilots and named all our instruments.

Then we got to “fly” our plane. For the better part of an hour we flew our plane.

We did one more thing – a “Propeller or Jet” plane test. I know he knows the difference because we go by the local airport all the time and talk about the difference. So we, once again, pulled all his toy planes out and I made him sort them by whether they were propeller planes or jet planes. We also looked at a bunch of picture online of planes and labeled them as propeller or jet planes.

So we learned a few things in this lesson: parts of a plane, parts of the instrument panel, and whether things were propeller or jet planes. It was a lot of fun!

American flag class.

So I am teaching a K-6 grade civics class – also known as a hodgepodge of American history, CA history, and general civics trivia. The first class in on the American flag, and flags generally. I have included, at the bottom, the jpegs of the class handouts if you want to do this lesson on your own.

First, we talked about flags in general (see the “What is a flag?” below). We described what a flag is: a symbol, something that means something, something to mark your way, a reminder to come back to a page. Then we listed off types of flags we had seen: parade flags, race flags, bookmarks, flags in the ground as goal posts, flags on cars….the list went on and on forever. These kids were great!

What is a flag? Here’s the worksheet.

Then we did our reading and reading comprehension questions on the first handout. After that, we did a word scramble for important flag words.

Next, we moved on to the American flag. I posted a big flag in the classroom – I have one, and the bigger the visual the better. I printed out the history/story of the American flag and had the kids read it with me. If they could read, I let them help, if not, they listened. If you need a history of the flag to use, simply Google it and find the story you like.

Then we played “true or false.” This is a great, active game.

I posted the word “true” on one side of the classroom and the word “false” on the other. Then I read a series of statements about the flag that they should have learned in the story. If the statement was true, they ran to the true. If it was false, they ran to the false. It was a great way of getting them off their rears and moving around after sitting for a little bit.

Here were the statements:

1. The American flag is red, white, and purple.

2. The first flag was sewn by Betsy Ross.

3. The first flag had 20 stars.

4. The first flag was commissioned in June 1777.

5. The flag has 18 stripes.

6. The flag has stars for each state.

7. Each President has a stripe on the flag.

8. The American flag is also known as a standard.

We moved on to what the American flag stands for.

Since we had talked about the original flag having 13 stars (for the 13 colonies), we talked (and counted) out the 50 stars for the 50 states.

What is the meaning of the American flag?

Then we talked about the meaning behind the stars, stripes, and colors of the flag (see the handout below). As we talked, the kids pointed to each thing on the flag.

Then they got to draw their own flags! I gave them a blank piece of paper and some crayons and asked them to make their own flag. They had to describe what each thing on the flag was. For those who were good writers, they wrote their own stories. For those who couldn’t write, I helped them. Then they presented their flags to the class.

Believe it or not this whole thing took 1 hour. It seemed like the kids had fun in their class, so I hope they all come back next week! Watch for next Monday’s lesson on K-6 Civics.

California Capital Airshow.

Our next few weeks – until September 7th – are going to be focusing on airplanes and flight. Why? Because I said I would. I wrote to the California Capital Airshow requesting press credentials to cover the show on the day before because I am doing lessons based on the planes, history of the planes, and how planes fly. I wanted to make it a fun series of lessons that culminated in attending the airshow. And so they agreed – they normally don’t hand out press credentials to anyone but real press, but they agreed. Provided I do the lessons, and make sure people know that the point of the lessons is to get ready to attend the show – so go see it people!!!

Anyways, in the next few days our lessons on planes will be going up! I’m excited to get going on them.

School checklist.

Here’s the checklist I made for our school work. It’s Nicholas’ job to check things off as we go.

I have had some questions about how I keep track of what we are doing, and when we are doing it. Here’s my answer: file folders and a checklist.

I printed the checklist at home and laminated it. It is Nicholas’ job to check things off when we finish them. When we finish everything, he gets a treat 🙂 I also have all my handouts/paper stuff in a file folder. There is one for each day of the week. If we forget to do a day, we simply move everything around in the folders and start where we left off. Sometimes this means we are doing lessons on Saturday, but that is okay. I also let him do more of certain types of things (puzzles and mazes come to mind) than I put in the file folders. But he has to finish what is in the file folders.

Then I also have a lesson planning book. In the lesson book – which is broken down by week – I put notations of books we will read, stories, websites, and things that cannot be put into the file folder. On Saturday night I review what we finished and didn’t finish and rework the plan for the next week.

I hope that helps everyone!


So we have been a hit or miss family this summer – some days we do good lessons, and some days we skip lessons.

I’ve been a lot more focused when I have been aiming towards something – like a vacation. If I’m simply trying to keep us on track during the summer, I have lost focus. But I have learned something about what I need to keep homeschooling going well, so that is a plus.

We recently took the mother of all vacations in California – Disneyland. Now that we have been there, I know we will go back in a few years, and our summer is officially done – time to buckle down and get the lesson plans ready.

I have applied for a media credential to the California Capital Airshow. I’m hoping that they grant me one – it would be great to use that as our aiming point for the aviation lessons we are going to engage in during September. How cool would that be?

I’ve gotten all our books, now I just need to sit down and organize. Thanks to the thrift stores for all the wonderful finds.

I hope everyone is having a great summer and is enjoying getting back to learning!

Team sports.

I love team sports.

As a homeschooling mom, I always hear questions about socialization. When my child goes and plays team sports, I feel like I’m doing my part to remove that annoying question from my life. It’s not that my son doesn’t get socialization – he does – but it seems that people always want to “see” him socialize. So we do team sports.

It’s soccer season. So soccer is what we play. It is nice. We meet other kids and other moms. The other moms bring their littler ones to practice and my youngest gets to play with them. We all get to laugh over our kids’ inability to actually play the game. We cringe when we think about the coming season and the kids actually having to play soccer. Because practice gives us lots of laughs, we realize that the games won’t be too competitive if our kids are constantly laughing with each other and chasing each other around.

But team sports do more – they force my son to cooperate. Play dates are great, but you can only have so many children over before they drive you bonkers. Plus, play dates are “so for babies,” as I have been told. Instead, he wants to go do things with his friends. So team sports are great.

Soccer also forces my son to run around. It’s fabulous. He gets tired and everything and enjoys it. He doesn’t realize he’s learning an important lesson – that team work tires you out – but he is 🙂 We love soccer. I can’t wait for the games to start so that he learns about winning and losing too. Sometimes, these lessons are simply best taught be others – like his soccer coach.

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