And our daily trips to the airport begin….

One great thing about having an airshow in the community you live is getting to visit the airport up until the day of the show. On the day of the show, there are lots of people and lots of fun, but the days before are a special time too.

I got the Live ATC feed app off iTunes and we headed off to the airport this morning to see what we could see.

It is quite neat to hear the tower feed so you know where to look for incoming planes. By the end of the first hour Nicholas knew what the words “clear to land” meant and, more importantly, what they sounded like over the ATC radio.

What a rewarding experience this morning was. The California Capital Airshow has a Facebook feed where they post when planes are coming in (some of them – I think they should post more when they are on approach so we can see the big planes come in – like the C17, C5, and B52). But it is a neat service that we took full advantage of.

We sat there and watched for a bit this morning and we went back this afternoon.

Why are the days before the airshow cool?

The pilots are walking around, as are the aircraft crew, and you can ask them questions. Nicholas has tons of questions that he simply starts to blurt out whenever he sees someone in uniform. He inevitably calls them a soldier (even when I try to correct for rank or branch of service) and says, “I have a question for you….” and simply spouts off.  What’s better is when he gets answers. Almost everyone takes a few minutes out to answer his questions and point things out to him.

The firemen let him go onto their truck. The Highway Patrol man let him, and Abby, crawl into his car and look around. The pilots answered questions and showed their wings (that were pinned on). The service technicians told them about their jobs and that they need to learn lots of math and science (thank you!!!). It is fabulous.

It’s not that you can’t ask these questions at the airshow, but the airshow has lots of exhibits and things going on. There’s more to do and see than you can do in one day. By making sure to go over early and just watch, and wait, and ask, we get lots more information.

It was also neat to see all the information on lift, thrust, drag, and parts of the airplane come to life for him. He asked one of the servicemen if his plane had ailerons (all planes have them). The serviceman said yes, and radioed over and had the jet move them up and down. That one experience made Nicholas’ day. Abby’s day was made when we saw a yellow plane in a hanger and she got to run around yelling “yellow plane.”

Once again I want to thank the California Capital Airshow for letting me have a press pass for tomorrow. We all thank you for the wonderful opportunity to bring our lessons to life-  which is what homeschooling is all about.


Famous airplanes.

There were two websites that really helped me with this lesson:



I figured if we could recognize each of the famous planes and the heritage flight planes, then we would be pretty well covered on types of planes.

So I printed out the pictures of the various planes and made flash cards with the picture on the front and information on the back. Then I put all the flash cards on a key ring, so they are all kept together.

All we did was work on the flash cards and see if we could identify the planes and their information from the picture.

We also made sure to identify the type of wing the plane had – because wings are important.

Our writing words for today were:

B52 Bomber, plane, stealth, fly, air, and wing.


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.

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!

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