Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mystery Puzzles - Excercises in Reading Comprehension

We worked on a number of puzzles, together as a family, during Grandma's visit. 

Our favorites by far were a couple from the Bepuzzled Mystery Puzzle series (non-affiliate link).  They turned out not only to be challenging puzzles (the picture on the box is not what the puzzle actually looks like),
but also a great reading comprehension activity for the entire family.  Each puzzle comes with a short mystery story.  After reading the set-up for the mystery, you are instructed to stop reading, and put the puzzle together.

There is no picture guide for the puzzle, as the completed picture contains clues to help you solve the mystery.

However, as details from the story are represented in the puzzle, the story also contains clues to help in piecing together the puzzle.  The more attention you pay while reading the story, the easier it will be to put the puzzle together. 

Once the puzzle is complete, you can scan the picture for clues to solve the mystery (you might need to reread the story, at this point to refresh your mind to any forgotten details), before reading the solution (printed upside down and backwards) to the story to see if your guess is correct.

There are a number of different puzzles in the series - even one based on a Sherlock Holmes mystery with the complete story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included (I couldn't have been more thrilled).

We found the 1000 piece puzzles were more suited to the teens, than the younger children in the family, but everyone enjoyed the stories.  In fact, we had almost as much fun reading the story together, as we did in putting the puzzles together, and solving the mystery through the clues in the puzzle. 

I really can't think of a better introduction to the mystery genre, especially for teen readers, and puzzle lovers in the family.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

David And Goliath - 5 Smooth Stones Snack Idea

This week in my preschool Sunday school class, we studied the story of David and Goliath.

Our story started with David helping his family by delivering bread and cheese to his brothers on the battlefield.  I had a few small loaves of bread and some spreadable cheese (out of the fridge) as a visual aid for the children.

This was not our snack, because as I suspected, the 3s and 4s thought the bread smelled funny, and the cheese looked icky.

So after we read the story, and played a game where we stacked up nine blocks (for Goliath's 9 feet), and then threw a smaller block at them, to knock them down (because it seemed like a natural thing to do), and then measured ourselves next to a nine foot measuring tape, and made craft stick puppets of our families (to compare with David and his brothers) as directed by the Lifeway Sunday school lesson...

...the children counted out a snack of five smooth grapes, and five wrinkly raisins each (with extras on hand for the hungry children), and we talked about the difference between smooth and wrinkly - and why David would have chosen five smooth stones instead of rough ones for his sling shot.

Then to finish off the lesson, we listened again to "Little David Play on Your Harp", while I traced silhouettes of the children out on a roll of paper, to cut and put up on the wall next to a 9 foot cut-out Goliath (which I hope to have hanging for review, next week).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fall Science - Leafy Insulation

The children had a fantastic time raking up a small pile of leaves...

...for playing...

...and jumping...

...and burying each other in.

While they were taking their respective turns in the leaves, they noticed it was very warm inside the pile.  So, never one to miss an opportunity for science, I ran in and grabbed a couple of thermometers for them to experiment with.

First, they left one thermometer on top of the pile of leaves, and buried the other in the leaves.

After about fifteen minutes, they checked both thermometers.  The temperature outside was about 69°F.  Inside the pile it was only 60°F.

The children thought that was because when they were inside the leaves, the leaves were holding in their body heat, but on their own, the leaves were not generating heat.  To test this, A (age 14) offered to let the younger sibs bury her again, but this time with one of the thermometers placed on top of her...

...with the other, again, on top of the leaf pile.

This time around, she didn't think it was as warm inside the pile - until we removed the leaves, and the cooler, outside air, hit her.  According to the thermometer, she had been wrapped in a toasty 80°F blanket of leaves...

...while the air outside remained a nice, but slightly chilly 69.

It turns out leaves work very nicely as insulation for keeping heat in, or out - depending on what you're going for.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Lunar Eclipse - What Makes a Blood Moon Red?

We realized there was a lunar eclipse going on, last night, in a very last second kind of way.  My mother mentioned, after a phone call with one of my siblings, that they had to get off to go and see the lunar eclipse. 

I did a quick computer search (we couldn't see the moon through our windows - as it was still very early in the evening), realized it was the super-moon eclipse, and the last of the tetrad of "blood moons", and the last total lunar eclipse until 2032 - clearly we didn't want to miss it

We threw the kids - some with shoes, and cameras in the van, and went out in search of the moon.  We found our neighbors gathered in a nearby park, which afforded a view of the moon rising.  It was great, because being more prepared than us, they had arrived while it was still light enough to set telescopes up on tripods, and were nice enough to share with the children (while we ran back for coats and the rest of the shoes).

G (age 16) was working with a newish camera in the growing dark, but managed to get three pictures she was happy with.  They don't capture all the craters we could see, but they do give a nice image of the shadow.

What makes a blood moon red?  The best explanation I could find was right in Google search.

Earth's shadow is red at the edges for the same reason a sunset is red: When sunlight is scattered by passing through Earth's atmosphere, the other colors of the spectrum are removed.

I think we'll be repeating the Blue Sky - Red Sunset experiment from Science is Fun, today.

It's great to be a homeschooler!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Owl Cookies - Another Fun Fall Family Tradition

We made a batch of adorable owl cookies, yesterday (click here for the recipe and instructions).

We make them every year as a family, and it's always a hoot.

This year, with Grandma visiting, and a busy day, we were a little discombobulated, and so were our owls.  Not only did I roll the dough backwards (chocolate maple on the inside instead of vanilla).  I see now from looking at the pictures, that we all placed our dough slices...

...upside down from normal, too.

Still, the cookies were yummy, and we enjoyed the tradition together... woo cares about a few mistakes.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Psalm 23 - Preschool Sunday School

Our lesson in Sunday school, this week, was on David playing the harp for Saul, but really more about his time as a shepherd, playing the harp, writing songs/psalms, and focusing in specifically on Psalm 23.

We started out making craft stick and rubber-band harps (an idea from Toddler Sunday School Crafts) to play while we sang our Sunday school songs. 

I pre-glued the craft sticks, so the children just had to add rubber-bands, and decorate the sides with markers.  They don't make much noise, but they are fun to hold up next to your ear, and pluck away at while you sing "Little David Play on Your Harp".

As we talked about what a shepherd is and what he does, we played a game of "protect the sheep".  The children blew through straws to knock lions, wolves, and bears (gray, tan, and brown pom-poms) away from the sheep (white pom-poms), while trying to keep all the sheep together on the table.

Then we used some of the white pom-poms and bendy straws to decorate pictures the children drew of a shepherd.  I quickly wrote the beginning of Psalm 23 at the top of each page, and then we set them aside to dry...

...while we moved on to a snacktivity to help us better understand the Psalm.  First, each child made a sheep of their own (slightly modified from those at WHOSTHEFARRIS) using a jumbo marshmallow, a mini marshmallow, two pretzel sticks, and one mini pretzel.

We broke the pretzels in half (it's a good idea to have extra pretzel sticks on hand)... make 4 short legs to stick into the bottom of the marshmallow.  I let the children push the pretzels into the marshmallows on their own - and they really did a good job.

Then, we stood the sheep up, and pinched the fronts, to make a sticky part (having wet wipes ready, is a must)...

...that we kind of pushed the mini pretzels into, so they would hang down, like heads.

Then we tore the mini marshmallow in half, and used half to stick to the backside of the sheep for a tail...

...and the other half, torn in half again, for ears.

We placed our sheep on plates next to green pastures (green frosted graham crackers), and still waters - cups of water, that first we jiggled around to make waves, and then we held them steady, to still the water.  Of course, I poured too much water into one cup, so we could talk about cups "flowing over" - with more water than we need.

As we ate our high sugar snack (I would have loved to have come up with something healthier -these are other people's children, after all - but I was at a loss) we talked about how sheep like to eat green grass, and drink fresh water almost as much as we like frosting and marshmallows.  The Shepherd (Jesus) leads his sheep (us) to all the good things they (we) need. 

And when things do get frightening (like when the sheep were surrounded by lions, and bears, and wolves) the sheep know the Shepherd has his staff (like we had our straws) to keep the sheep (us) safe, and where they (we) belong.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Seeing Science With the Eyes of a Poet

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
W.B. Yeats

 Our week has been filled with wonders - rainbows, dragonflies, and rabbits in the yard - just the sort of things that usually lead us into science studies and adventures.

However, our week started out with a visit from our favorite fall insects, wooly aphids (or fairy bugs as we like to call them).  Up close they're not much to look at, but zooming through the autumn air, quickly, with newly formed wings, moving from summer to wintering trees - they look like a snowstorm of fairies.

Watching the girls (and D) jump up from lunch to rush outside to catch a fairy bug or two, I couldn't help but think that sometimes it's nice to take our scientist caps off, and to think like poets.

Instead of labeling our photos, or searching out BBC-ish documentaries about our finds, for the rest of the week we tried to match what we saw to poetry.

So, for the dragonfly sunning himself on our sidewalk we read...

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

"Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew."

And, when the sun shifted just enough in the sky to wash our walls and entryway in morning rainbows, we found...

The Rainbow Never Tells Me
by Emily Dickinson

The rainbow never tells me
That gust and storm are by,
Yet is she more convincing
Than Philosophy.

My flowers turn from Forums --
Yet eloquent declare
What Cato couldn't prove me
Except the birds were here!

 And, for our fuzzy friend, nibbling the grass out front, while we couldn't find just the right poem, we found a poem by an author who, we are sure, would have loved our guest as much as we do.

We Have a Little Garden
by Beatrix Potter

We have a little garden,
A garden of our own,
And every day we water there
The seeds that we have sown.  

We love our little garden,
And tend it with such care,
You will not find a faded leaf
Or blighted blossom there.

Because sometimes to think like a scientist, you have to start out as a poet, don't you think?

“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”
Albert Einstein