Animal tracks.

Todays’s lesson is all about animal tracks.

We know the names of our animals in English (and German!), so it’s a fun lesson. The first part involves some worksheets. The second part is doing stuff.

Here are the worksheets we used:

These are four worksheets that have animal prints and animals. The fun part is that the kids have to look at the animals and figure out which tracks go to which one. We started with the last worksheet (the North American one). Then we went in random order. Each child got to pick one.

When the kids got stuck, I used some simple (very simple) questions to help guide them. Here are the questions:

1. Does the track have claw marks? Can you find animals with claws?

2. Is the track a big foot or a little foot?

3. Are you sure?

I love asking my kids “Are you sure?” The question forces them to stop for a moment and revisit whether or not they are sure about their choice. Sometimes it’s a simple yes answer. Other times the kids stop and reason their choices out loud to see if they are right. Regardless, getting used to making sure you are correct about your choice is a good habit.

Then we went outside. I laid out and taped down butcher paper. We put our feet into paint and made our own tracks. First we walked, then ran, then jumped. We looked at our tracks for each of the movements. The kids played a “same and different” game – what is the same about each of the tracks and what is different.

Lastly, we went on a track hunt. Our neighborhood has tracks  – mostly dogs and bunnies and cars. It was fun to go out and watch the kids looking around for tracks and trying to see if they could find anything new for tracks. Nicholas, my imaginative child, decided that the lines he saw in the grass were from a snake. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but I certainly was laughing hard. He explained to Abby why a snake leaves a long line as a track. His explanation: It has no legs and slithers, like this….. (he proceeded to get down on the ground and slither).

I can’t wait until we go hiking and get to see more tracks. Maybe the kids will remember some of their lessons.


Spy unit.

We like spies, secret agents, puzzle, and the rest. So I thought, for a good change of pace, we would do a spy unit for our lesson.

First, we got dressed as spies. Nicholas and Abby went through the dress up box and got dressed as spies. She put on her Ariel dress; he put on a hat and lab coat. Okay. Well, it was their disguise.

Next we did some worksheet problems:

Help the spy find the right laser angles.

Write your own detective comic.

Which agent?

We did some code breaking worksheets:


We also went onto the NSA’s code breaking webpage and played around for a while. We brought it up on the laptop, and spent some time as a family working through all that the website had to offer.

Then we did some mysteries. Nicholas did most of the reading of the problems to me and Abby. Then all three of us had to solve the problems. They aren’t as easy as we thought. And sometimes we had different solutions from the answer codes – but so long as the solution fit the problem I was fine.

Lastly, we learned about fingerprints and made fingerprint charts for each of us.

When we completed all the activities, I handed everyone their “detective badge” because they had earned it with all the work they did.

You’ll notice we worked on reading, writing, critical thinking, math, problem solving, and science….all without using those terms. Most of all, the kids were so involved in the fun and lesson that we spent 3 hours on the lesson before we realized all the time that had passed. It was awesome!

Our science article for the week: Saturn and moons.

This week, a discovery was made about Saturn – it might (or might not) be gaining a new moon (or two). It wasn’t so much a discovery as it was a list of possibilities.

Here’s the link to the article we used:

I know we use science articles most of the time. Here’s why: There’s always one main point to a science article.

In an article about other issues, the children might need to have additional knowledge. But in science articles, the knowledge is all given up front. This is especially true in science articles written for non-scientists (which is what the Wired and Slate science articles are). Nicholas can read the whole article and understand it – from top to bottom. There are not too many odd science words, and there are not too many complex ideas.

Science articles are easy to grab one main point, three supporting points, and then make one sentence that describes the article. It’s why we use them.

We also use them because that’s what my child is interested in. It’s best, when doing reading and summarizing, that the child actually like what they are reading. Everyone remembers a book in school they struggled to get through; mainly because they weren’t interested. Therefore, we use things Nicholas is interested in as reading topics.

Makes sense for us.

When mom has things to do……

One of the more challenging aspects of being a homeschooling family is what to do about school when mom has things to do.

Different families handle this differently. I always make sure our basics get done first, then I find something else to do with the kids. Sometimes it means a free play day. If the task is short, they might get to do a couple of things out of our 10 minute box. If the task is longer, we might watch a movie. Is the task is really long, we might watch a Science channel program I recorded earlier in the week.

Other times I use worksheets. Yes, worksheets. Not your normal boring worksheets, but worksheets like puzzles, brain teasers, crosswords, critical thinking exercises, sudoku…….you know it and I have used it – and do use it.

For instance, I found these great number puzzles. I have them printed off and into envelopes. When I am stuck on a task for a time, Nicholas gets some puzzle worksheets, and Abby gets these puzzles. I hand her an envelope and ask her to put it together. She then checks with Nicholas when she’s done and he helps her get it right – if it’s wrong. Then they work together to glue it or tape it (Abby gets to choose), and then show me. It’s a pretty nice deal for me because it covers a bunch of things – and I’m not involved in any of it until the end.

Still another activity we use is our iPads. I know, I’m goofy. But my kids have an iPad (Nicholas) and a LeapPad (Abby). Abby can also use my iPad. I’ve put games and stuff onto both kids technology. The kids love playing with them and I love that they like playing. Abby mostly does art on hers. She loves art apps. Nicholas tends to play games. Either science games or the free Lego games. He likes those. all of them teach the kids things – critical thinking and problem solving is top of the list. They have to figure out, in the game, how to work it. My general rule is that I don’t help with technology. I might show them if the controls are complicated, but otherwise, they can run the tutorial and figure it out. It makes them solve their own problems.

So, what do you do when you need time to finish tasks and the kids aren’t cooperating?

Literature for the week: The Swing.

The image of a girl swinging - which is what my children like to do at the park. So I thought that a lesson based around a poem about swinging would be great.

The image of a girl swinging – which is what my children like to do at the park. So I thought that a lesson based around a poem about swinging would be great.

Our literature lesson for this week is based on “The Swing,” a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.

To find the poem, visit this link:

I printed the poem out so that each child would have a copy of the poem. Then we did a differentiated lesson.

Nicholas got to read the poem to Abby. Then he had to help her point out the word up – and he wrote the word “up” at the side of her paper. Abby then got a highlighter and had to highlight all the “up” she could find.

While Abby was highlighting, Nicholas got to answer the following questions – in writing:

1. What colors does the poem mention?

2. What does the child see when they go up in the swing?

3. What does the child see when they go down in the swing?

4. Does this poem make you want to go swing? Why or why not?

5. What do you see when you swing?

Then, when we were all finished (Abby also got a highlighter to highlight all letter E’s in the poem – since E is the letter for today), I had them each write their own poem.

Except they decided not to write them and to perform them instead. Which is also okay. Nicholas and Abby ended up doing a joint performance where Nicholas told Abby what to say. They dressed up in outfits from the dress up box so that they could put on the performance. Nicholas grabbed a paper towel roll and used it as a microphone. Then they performed for me. I did record it for future reference – they were super cute.

I’m always happy when lessons take on a life of their own. To see them engaged in creating their own lesson and poem and performance is amazing. I love watching the kids grow as they learn to do things like this.

What came next? Well, a walk to the park and a ride on the swings of course!

Rocks and minerals lesson.

Our newest rock and mineral lesson. It was great fun and had a lot of interaction.

Our newest rock and mineral lesson. It was great fun and had a lot of interaction.

We have a real love of rocks and minerals in our house. Lots of rocks are “found” for rock collections. When we go to museums, the kids pick up rocks as souvenirs. So we are back to another lesson on rocks and minerals. If you want to get the rock sets that I used for the lesson, they are linked to at the end of the post.

We learned a rock song. We watched this video on the three types of rocks from YouTube and then learned the song. Abby and Nicholas only took two times through to learn the song. I had watched it three times the night before, and written out the lyrics, so that we would have the right words.

Then we reviewed the rock cycle. I created a worksheet that had “fill in the blanks” in various spots. Nicholas simply drew lines from the words to their right spot. Then he cut the words out and glued them into the correct spot. It was a fun time. Abby got her own worksheet, but she simply colored in the blank ovals.

Then we worked on the difference between rocks and minerals. We watched another fun YouTube video. It was made for an older grade, but it was fun to watch and listen to. A great change from the traditional teaching songs you hear.

Next task was for Nicholas to read the cards I had made and sort them onto the “rock” side or the “mineral” side of the paper. I took the properties of rocks and the properties of minerals and put each on its own index card. I made a sheet of poster board (because there’s more to do!), and divided it into “rocks” on one side and “minerals” on the other.

Here’s the list of properties:

Rocks: Groups of one or more minerals, igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.

Minerals: Inorganic, naturally occurring, crystal structure, definite chemical structure.

Next, Nicholas got all his rocks out and had to classify them onto the correct side – rock or mineral. It helped that they all come from boxes that tell you what they are – well most of them do. It was fun to watch him take the ones he doesn’t know and try and figure out whether they are rocks and minerals. He used his magnifying glass to look at all the rocks. He took his job very seriously, going through all the steps he could think of to identify the rock and minerals.

Here are the steps he took (and I guided him through). Sometimes he’d had enough exposure to rocks that he could get it right away. Sometimes he needed to take several steps. If he really wanted the name, we looked in our rock and mineral guide to figure out the exact name. I was happy with simply the class of rock it was.

  1. Does it have crystal formations? Are the parts that are showing regular formations?
    1. If yes – it’s probably a mineral and move onto the mineral questions.
    2. If no – keep going.
  2. What is the rock made of? Layers? Flecks of crystal?
  3. Does the rock float?
  4. How hard is the rock?
  5. What color is the rock? Is it many colors?
  6. Does the rock have pores?

*********Remember – most sedimentary rocks have layers and many components because they are rocks made from other rocks. Igneous rocks have pores or are glassy. All other rocks are metamorphic rocks! (This guide holds generally true).********************************************************************************

The next part was fun. Nicholas had to take the rock and mineral identification cards I made and put them onto the correct side – rocks and minerals. However, before he put them on the side of paper they belong to, he had to circle whether it was a rock or mineral, and if it was a rock, what type of rock it was.

Then we simply spent some time reading about rocks and minerals. Nicholas was reading to me and Abby from his  Basher: Rocks & Minerals: A Gem of a Book

Materials we had:

My lesson plan (available on TeachersPayTeachers). This includes the mineral and rock identification cards.

Rock boxes:

Educational Insights Igneous Rock Collection

Educational Insights Metamorphic Rock Collection

Educational Insights Sedimentary Rock Collection

American Educational Classroom Collection of Rocks and Minerals


Rainbow Day.


Today is Rainbow Day in the good old USA. Normally I frown on these “special” days. But rainbows are awesome. They can have their own day.

In honor of Rainbow Day we did a treasure hunt. I made little slips of paper for Abby (1-5)and Nicholas (math problems with answers 1-6) and the letters that spell rainbow. I put stickers on them and taped them up all over the house. Prep time was about 10 minutes.

Then the kids went treasure hunting to find all the slips of paper.

It didn’t take long- I didn’t hide them very hard.

Then Abby had to put hers in order from 1-5 and Nicholas from 1-6. Then Nicholas was in charge of making sure Abby put the letters together right to make the word rainbow. It’s always fun to watch him teach her something.

That was our fun Rainbow Day activity.

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