Newton’s Three Laws.

nlmWe’ve been focusing a lot on Physics these past few months. Nicholas just wants to keep learning more and more, so we do more and more. I’m big into child-directed learning (as you probably know), and like to follow his lead. It doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything else, but we do a lot of things that he likes.

I’ve liked the whole “lapbooking” thing for a while. But what I don’t like is that so many lapbooks are cut and paste – they don’t have room for the kids to write or draw. So when I use someone else’s lapbook, I tend to add things into them.

In this case, we used this small window book of Newton’s Laws from Jimmie’s Collage. I simply printed out the file and then cut everything out. We also didn’t make a real window book, I simply stapled the sides of the paper together. But instead of having it be a cut and paste activity, I added things in.

First, we cut out the picture of Newton and put it on a cover page and Nicholas had to write “Newton’s Laws” on the front page. Second, he cut out the boxes that titled each law (the ones that say Newton’s First Law, etc) and glued them to a page. he then had to copy what each law says under the pasted on box. He wanted to use markers, so I let him. He still doesn’t write really well, which is fine, so sometimes it took two pages to write the law.

Then we stapled it all together and he got to make a book. He was really proud of the book – which is a good thing because I like it when he’s proud of the work he does.

After we completed the book, we went online to view some images of Newton’s Laws. This site has an amazing series of little GIFs about the laws that was really helpful for Nicholas to see.

Lastly, we pulled out his toy cars. Toy cars? Yes. Toy cars. After seeing the GIFs and writing the laws, I wanted to see how much he really understood about them. What better way than a practical exam?

So I would say a law and he would have to demonstrate it with his toy cars, and use the correct words. Nothing in our house can go “fast,” it has to “accelerate,” have “constant speed” or be “in motion.” It’s important to use the correct words from the start. When he decided he was confused, he could refer to the book he made.

Surprisingly, he did quite well. He wanted to play at this quiz a lot longer than I did. We spent about an hour with me saying things like, “First,” and  “Second” and having him use his cars (and crash them together) to demonstrate the laws of motion.

So that was our study of Newton’s Laws.


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.

Learning to use the Periodic Table of Elements.

Learning to use the Periodic Table of Elements is important. But it can be more fun than simple memorization of where things are an their classes.

Learning to use the Periodic Table of Elements is important. But it can be more fun than simple memorization of where things are an their classes.

Nicholas has a serious science bent. He loves science books (Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure)). He’d rather read a book about science than a fiction story everyday. And mostly I indulge him in his reading habits because I think that reading is important – so long as you are reading I’m not likely to make a fuss. Because of this, we tend to do a lot of science lesson.

From my classes in science, I know how important the Periodic Table of Elements is. The Periodic Table can tell you the configuration of atoms, how reactive they are, and a who bunch of other things (like whether they are a metal or non-metal). Nicholas likes to learn about science, so we spent some time with our Periodic Table out.

To make the lesson fun, I wrote down the clues on cards. I had the following “clues” written for him:

1. Find three noble gases.
2. Find the heaviest element.
3. What element is Na?
4. What is the atomic number of…. carbon, oxygen, lead, chlorine, californiaum, uranium, gold. (each one had it’s own card).
5. Find two metals.
6. Find three non-metals.
7. What are the atomic numbers for the elements that form life? (N, C, O, He. H)
8. What element is first on the table?
9. Find me an element whose symbol isn’t part of it’s name.
10. Find me a really reactive gas.
11. Find me two man-made elements.

Nicholas then got the cards, had to read the cards, and then answer the cards. He wrote the answers down on the cards. He really enjoyed this activity.

Then we had to do it again. He made me pull the “find me a metal” and “find me a non-metal” cards out of the pile. I let Abby pick each one up and read it to Nicholas (since she had memorized the cards), and we went around an around on metals and non-metals for a while. Then he wanted to memorize the noble gases – so he made a song to remember them.

It was a great lesson because (1) he rally enjoyed it, and (2) it involved all of use, and (3) it took on a life of its own. That’s how you know it is really a good lesson.

Flight lesson

What kid doesn’t like to learn about planes and how they work? My son loves this, and since we are headed to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space museum in a few weeks, we are doing a lesson on flight.

First, we reviewed the important words. has a great section on motion and those are the words you need for flight. I wrote the words (motion, force, acceleration, velocity, mass) on index cards and their definitions on other cards. Nicholas had to match them all up. He did just fine using the regular, scientific definitions for things. There was no need to make it simpler or less complex.

Then we moved onto how things fly. We read the poster the Smithsonian puts out. Then we went onto this website and clicked through their “how things fly” section. It simply reiterated the original points of the Smithsonian poster, but it was a different media and he got to click around and do some stuff online. After that, we went to explore more about Bernoulli’s principle.

Then we made some paper airplanes and flew them around the house. While we were flying them we used the appropriate words (lift, velocity, mass, air, etc) to describe what was happening. We made paper airplanes out of different types of paper (scrapbook paper, construction paper, tissue paper, tin foil, wax paper, and brown paper bags) and talk about why each plane flew the way it did – or in the case of the tissue paper plane, didn’t fly.

We also wrote the words airplane, helicopter, lift, and velocity. He won’t use these words often, but he does better with writing and practicing letters if they are related to lessons.

It was fun, and next time we will do the history of flight instead of simply flight.

Friction and force.

Today’s lesson is a science one. Believe me, no kid is too young for science!

Friction is defined as: The rubbing of one object or surface against another.

Force is defined as: Something that acts on an object. You can calculate force with this equation – force = mass x acceleration.

Today’s lesson used ice cubes and our driveway. I needed to clean out the freezer and the kids needed to go outside so, presto, two things accomplished at once.


We took the ice cubes out onto the driveway. It was a cold day, so I wasn’t sure this would work, but it did.  I told my son the definition of friction and asked him to find a way to create friction with an ice cube.

First, he rubbed it against his hand. But that got too cold for him. “Mommy, the ice cube is making my hand cold and my hand is making the ice cube melt.” Thus we had a transfer of heat/energy and another topic for discussion. He repeated this on each hand, on his nose, and on his sister’s hands before deciding that the “ice cube transfers too much cold energy to me.”

Second, he rubbed ice cubes against the driveway. This is what I wanted him to do in the first place because with enough rubbing you get the ice to melt and you can draw pictures. He made all sorts of lines all over the driveway with friction. He calls it “friction painting.”


Then we moved onto force, which was his favorite part of the lesson. I told him that force is something acting on an object. I said the ice cube will be the object, and we will be the force. I let him figure out how to be a force.

His first “force” move was stomping on the ice cubes. He got to make cool sounds. As a variation, I told him that we can change the amount of force we put on the ice cube to change the result. So we stomped slower and with less force and jumped with lots of force and everything in between.

His second “force” was throwing the ice cubes down on the ground at various places and watching them break. We repeated the same variations as before.

We had a blast with this lesson. It wasn’t intense, it didn’t involve writing. It simply involved doing something he likes (throwing and stomping on things) in an environment where I was okay with it (outside and ice cubes).

A special thanks goes to Rader’s Physics 4 Kids. They gave me a lot of ideas on thing to do in the future and helped with the definitions.

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