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.


Color and ice.

We did a color and ice experiment. Or really, we played with tools, ice, and color.

Here's the bin before the kids started playing with the ice. Food coloring, water, pipe cleaners, and all our tools.

Here’s the bin before the kids started playing with the ice. Food coloring, water, pipe cleaners, and all our tools.

Here’s what we used:

  • A plastic bin to hold the ice
  • 2 plastic containers for water
  • Paint brushes
  • Food coloring
  • Knives and spoons
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Hammers (the ones we use with playdough)
  • Towels

All I had to do was put everything outside, and away they played. For 2 hours.

First, the kids grabbed the food coloring and made their water different colors. Then they dripped it on the ice. Then they rubbed the ice cubes together. They were shocked to find that the food coloring made the ice not stick together. They had previously made ice sculptures by using water to make the ice cubes stick to each other. But with the food coloring, the ice wasn’t sticking. Abby and Nicholas had a great conversation about it. I got to sit and listen to them. It went something like this:

N: Why won’t they stick together with food coloring? Mom?!

A: Maybe it’s too colored.

N: Maybe. Let’s see. Stuck two ice cubes together without food coloring. Then tried to stick two of the colored ice cubes together – and they didn’t stick.

A: See. I told you so.

N: Yeah. But I bet the colored water works.

A: No. Your colored water is too brown (Nicholas had made it all brown).

N: Tries with his colored water, and it worked. Ha Abby, I told you so.

A: Okay. But now my hands are all colored.

N: We can wash them later. Let’s smash ice cubes!

A: Okay. I get the pink ones.

N: They aren’t pink. They are just less red than some others.

Coloring the water and the ice was one of the first things they did.

Coloring the water and the ice was one of the first things they did.

I love listening to conversations like this. They have these amazing conversations where they are playing and discovering things, all without being led somewhere. They are simply exploring the world around them, and these lessons will stick with them better than any other lessons. When they do something that’s similar to this, they can simply flash back to the things they learned while playing. There’s a reason why kids learn best while playing, and why all we have to do – as parents – is present them with opportunities.

It’s really quite amazing to listen to the conversations that go on for hours about this. I imagine we will be discussing the ice activity as a favorite for days to come. My kids tend to get stuck on these things and request repeats. Next time, I think I’ll make ice cubes in different shapes and colors beforehand. Then I don’t have to give them food coloring and watch them color themselves, their clothes, and the patio.

So our AAR (after action report) went something like this (I ask the questions, and the kids give their responses):

What did we use?

  • Ice cubes
  • Hammers
  • Colors
  • Water
  • Paintbrushes
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Knives
  • Sticks
  • Rocks (they found some in the back yard)
  • Leaves (they picked them off the plants and used them as decoration)

    Yes, we were in pajamas. No one wanted to get dressed. It's one of the great things about homeschooling -science and learning in pajamas.

    Yes, we were in pajamas. No one wanted to get dressed. It’s one of the great things about homeschooling -science and learning in pajamas.

  • Water

What did we do?

  • Played with ice
  • Made ice sculptures
  • Colored water
  • Painted ice
  • Smashed ice
  • Melted ice
  • Painted my feet (Abby)
  • Had fun
  • Mixed colors
  • Stuck ice together
  • Colored ice
  • Used a knife
  • Drilled holes

What did we learn?

  • Ice sticks with water.
  • Ice doesn’t stick with too much food coloring.
  • Red, yellow, and blue make brown.
  • Mixing colors makes other colors.
  • Colored ice melts into colored water.
  • Breaking ice is hard.
  • Smashing ice is fun.
  • Smashing smaller pieces of ice is easier than the big pieces.
  • Food coloring colors people too.
  • Water can melt ice in patterns.
  • Leaves can stick to ice.

What words describe our experience?

  • Fun
  • Smash
  • Color
  • Ice
  • Cold
  • Wet
  • Exciting
  • Loud
  • Crush
  • Drop
  • Multicolored
  • Friction
  • Melt

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.

Animal classification.

Classification of animals by what they eat.

Classification of animals by what they eat.

For this lesson we used the Smethport Pocket Chart Card Set Life Science. These are pocket chart cards that have animals and life cycles as cards. They also have index cards for herbivore/carnivore/omnivore, the habitats that animals live in, what class of animal they are…..a bunch of different ways to classify the animals. What’s great is that the back of each animal card has a small blurb about the animal, and then has little circles on the bottom that tell you what classification if belongs to (so the wild animals have a wolf’s head and the domestic animals have a pig- and so forth). The little circles are discreet. My kids didn’t realize they were there until we got stuck on an animal and I had to look at the back of the card to find out what animal it was.

I decided we were going to do two classification: Class of animal and type of food it eats. So we set up the classifications on the pocket chart first, and I pulled out all the animals. The kids worked together to put them in the right spot. Abby sometimes got things wrong, and Nicholas was quick to correct her.

Then we pulled it all down (well the kids did) and I put up the index cards for what an animal eats. These were trickier for the kids. Nicholas wanted to put various animals as herbivores when they were omnivores, and sometimes he was shocked at what a carnivore was. He was surprised that some varieties of frogs and lizards are carnivores and not herbivores.

Classification of animals by type of animals

Classification of animals by type of animals

Why did we do this? Because it is more fun than simply reading a book or drawing lines between the animals and circles of their classifications. Also, it forces the kids to read and see if they can identify things from what they know.

For instance: Some of the animals on the cards have pictures that show their teeth. Nicholas has learned – in the past – that carnivores need sharp and pointy teeth. So when he was confused, the first thing he did was say, “Abby, let’s look for sharp teeth.” He started to think logically and go through steps he knew. I never had to prompt him to look for a way to figure out that class or type of food an animal ate. I sometimes had to help correct him when he got things wrong, but I let him try and figure it out on his own first.

When the black bear came up as an omnivore, he raced to the computer and Googled, “What does a black bear eat,” because he was sure bears were all carnivores. After all, they have sharp teeth and eat fish. Now he knows betters – since Google is such a better resource than mom. It was a great activity.

Mammals lesson.

We are headed to the Oakland Zoo on Friday with Grandma, so Thursday’s lesson is all about, “What is a Mammal?”

A mammal has a couple of characteristics – and I’m only listing the ones I expect my son to know.

  1. Mammals have hair.
  2. Mammals nourish their young with milk.
  3. Mammals are warm blooded.
  • Fastest mammal (also the fastest land animal): the cheetah (60-70 mph = 97-110 kph)
  • Slowest mammal – the sloth (less than 1 mph, or 2 kph)
  • Biggest mammal, biggest animal that ever lived on Earth – the blue whale
  • Biggest land mammal– the African Elephant
  • Tallest mammal – the giraffe
  • Smallest mammals – the pygmy shrew (weighing 1.2-2.7 gm) and the bumblebee bat (weighing about 2 gm)
  • Loudest mammal – the Blue Whale. The second loudest is the Howler Monkey.
  • Smallest newborns – marsupials (pouched mammals, like the kangaroo)
  • Smelliest mammal – the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

So now what to do with the information – I know, a test! So I wrote down the characteristics of a mammal on some Post-its (I love Post-its). I put the numbers 1, 2, and 3 up on our white board. Nicholas had to name off the characteristics and put it on the white board. He knew he got all three when there were Post-it’s next to each number.

Then we did a mammal word search.

And we drew an elephant.

And we went and played around on this wonderful page about mammals.

We also went through our animal stickers and made a collage of “mammals” and “non-mammals.” It was a simple piece of paper with a line down the middle and he had to put the pictures of mammals on one side and non-mammals on the other. Abby did this one too – although I let Nicholas tell her where each of the stickers went on her page.

Lastly, we did some matching. I wrote down the facts about mammals (from the bullet points above) and printed out pictures of each of those mammals. Then he had to match up the fact with the animal. We pasted those onto some construction paper so he could make a poster out of them.

Lastly, we went to the Oakland Zoo’s webpage and wrote down the names of all the mammals he wanted to visit. So that will be our guide while we are visiting the zoo.


Science journals and scavenger hunts

Our science journals for today - and hopefully a few more days. We draw our observations in here.

Our science journals for today – and hopefully a few more days. We draw our observations in here.

I really like PBS. They have great shows and their shows have great ideas. More than a few of my ideas in my 10 minute activity box are from PBS shows. I have scavenger hunts for different colors and shapes. There are leaf walk ideas, basic art lessons, and all kinds of drawing activities. Which leads me into what our lessons for today were all about.

Yes,  I know it’s just a few days after Christmas, but my kids get very over-active if we don’t have things to do. So I went through my activity box and grabbed a few activities for us to do today.

First, our light scavenger hunt. I was lucky that our DVR still had the Sid the Science Kid episode on it with the light scavenger hunt. So we watched that episode first. Then we pulled out our science journals and went on a light scavenger hunt of our own. We started upstairs and worked our way through each room. Then downstairs, then outside in the back yard and the front yard. After we went through everywhere we came back inside and opened up our science journals and drew things that gave off light.

Then we did our basic art lesson. It is pretty stormy outside so we worked on

Our art lesson. We ended up with a rain cloud and some rain, with lightening. I let the kids choose their colors and paper without my influence. So we have a green cloud in this picture.

Our art lesson. We ended up with a rain cloud and some rain, with lightening. I let the kids choose their colors and paper without my influence. So we have a green cloud in this picture.

short lines, zig zags, and small curves. We first drew small short lines on the paper, then small bumps, then zig zags. We flipped the paper over and drew a cloud (with the small curved lines linked together). Then small short lines – for the rain. And zig zags that go from the clouds to the ground. It was a lot of fun to draw, and it helps the kids focus on learning about the shapes of things, so when they really want to draw, they can try.

What else did we do today? Connect Four is a big hit in our house. We play all the time these days. The two kids play together, and it is quite funny to watch. No one ever wins, and they just put all the pieces in and then dump them off. We also play with some remote controlled cars – a Lightening McQueen is a favorite. We have a ride-on pony in the house now; we practiced the names of the various parts of the horse. But other than that – we are just playing and reading. But putting together a few short lessons makes me feel a little better 🙂 It also gives the kids something to do and learn.

Rafts and floating.


Today’s lesson was about floating. We have done versions of this lesson before, when Nicholas was younger. But this time I wanted to make it more about states of matter, density, and him doing things.

Our practice words for the day were : raft, float, density, and on.

We did our normal addition work sheets before we started.

Then I handed him a pair of scissors and asked him to cut the foam we were going to use into strips. Cutting is a skill that takes practice, just like writing. It always takes longer than you would think.

Then we measured how long the rafts might be and cut the duct tape to the length Nicholas wanted the rafts. Then we laid the foam onto the tape and finished the rafts by wrapping the tape around both sides. Abby even got to make her own raft by laying the foam strips onto the tape. You can also do this craft with glue and wood sticks.

Then we took the rafts to the pool outside. We wanted to see if they would float – they did. Then we practiced putting things on our raft to see if we could make the rafts sink.

Rocks, bark, twigs, leafs, grass, toy cars, a Barbie ….they all went onto the rafts. Some made the rafts sink – made them more dense than water- and some things didn’t make the raft sink.

We went back inside and defined density, using the correctness and volume words and concepts.

Then we went outside for some water fun. The fun part was just as great as the rafting lesson. While we were out, the outside chairs got turned over and the rafts were made to float down the river ( hose over the back of the chair = river). Almost everything in the backyard got floated – or tried – down the river. It was another good lesson for them to learn, and they did it all on their own.


Water balloon fun.


The great thing about learning is that it comes in many forms.

Today’s lesson came outside. It has been great weather do we went outside and filled up water balloons.

The filling of the balloons is a great time to talk about tension of the balloon and how things stretch to a snapping point. Even better is when the inept parent – me – breaks several balloons to show the point. Eventually we filled a whole bucket. I figured 30 was enough for the afternoon (I was wrong. They lasted about 10 minutes).

We then talked about force and velocity. Velocity is how fast something travels. Force is the effort we put into throwing the balloon. We then practiced throwing them at various targets I had drawn on our fence. While we were throwing Made sure to point out when we made bigger splashes or louder sounds and how those throws differed.

Then we paused while I filled up more balloons.

Next came our fun. Who can stomp on the balloon? Have you tried stomping on a water balloon lately? The small ones filled with lots of water just wiggle and roll away if you are too gentle. So it took an application of force and a lot of hand-foot coordination, but we stomped a bunch.

Then we had fun throwing them at each others’ feet. It was a fun hour outside. Both my kids had a blast with water balloons. Less fun – according to them – was picking up all the broken balloons. But when you mess it up you clean it up.


Ice lessons


We love to play outside and today I also needed to clean out the ice machine in my freezer. So I took the I e outside and we played.

We learned:

1. Ice melts when you hold the hose onto it. This is because the water from the hose is warmer than the ice. We also learned that Abby likes to drink from the hose.

2. Friction creates heat which melts the ice and let’s you draw pictures with ice on the cement

3. The ice pictures evaporate when the sun dries up the water.

4. We covered evaporation, melting, and how water changes states. We learned about the 3 states of matter.

So we covered friction, heat, the three states of matter as exemplified by water/ice/evaporation, and how matter transforms.

It was fun and we got to play! Thank goodness for hot weather.


Nimbus fish hatchery.


Nimbus fish hatchery started a new program for May and June called “Toddler Time.”

What they do is invite everyone and they read a story, teach about a topic (yesterday’s was “What is a fish?”) and teach a song. Then they take the kids out to the fish runs and give them fish food and let them feed the fish. They said it was geared for 3-4 year olds; I would put the age down to 2. My children really enjoyed it.

The warden did a great job explaining what a fish was. Then she compared and contrasted fish to humans; she had the kids look at a giant stuffed fish and touch their eyes and then asked if the fish had eyes. Then she explained why the fish eyes were different and why they were on the side. She went through a bunch of differences for the kids.

Feeding the fish was a great experience. The rainbow trout are currently in the fish runs and we fed them. They fish jump all over each other scrambling for the food and making big splashes. It creates a lot of excitement for the kids to see it. If you take nickles, you can feed the fish even more. Although the wardens were great and gave my kids tons of fish food – we fed fish for almost 30 minutes.

Another great thing was that we got there early and went through the Visitor’s Center. We learned a lot about salmon and trout. They have a display of stuffed fish – real ones that are dead and preserved – and a board next to the display with the names and silhouettes. On the dead fish they also have the names pinned. Nicholas went through the board and accurately matched each silhouette to the fish.

We did the 1/4 mile nature walk and then ate lunch in their shaded picnic area with the really big fish. It is a fish they can crawl on and play in. We also spent some time walking on the American River Trail.

It was a really great activity and we learned a lot about fish.

I used it as our ocean activity for the day. We also worked on writing the word fish, our math, and our rhyming words.



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