Make This Ghostly Game with a Box and Ping Pong Balls

I saw this idea in a Halloween book and thought we’d give it a try! All you need is a cereal box or shoe box, black paint and ping-pong balls to make this Ghostly Game! Paint the box black, cut out a ghost, and glue it on. Have a parent cut holes in the box and push the tabs down. Once you’ve decorated your ping pong balls, the game is ready to play!

The kids each made their own and have been trying to get the eyes and mouth into the right holes ever since! The kids have been having a lot of fun with this game!

You might be interested in this related post: 15 Halloween Party Games (You can download and print out these ideas for your own evening of spooky fun!) 

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Earth Science: Earth’s Geologic Timeline

We spent about a week learning about Earth’s four eons and most recent eras.  Today I wanted to share several of the activities we did to go along with this part of our unit.

As you may recall, we reviewed the planets in the Solar System, talked about the age of the Earth (4.6 Billion years)  and did an impressionistic activity to show how short human history actually is compared to the age of the Earth, talked about the Layers of the Earth and did a hands-on activity, and learned about latitude, longitude and how to use a compass. We then took a closer look at how time on Earth has been divided:

  • Hadeon Eon
  • Archaean Eon
  • Proterozoic Eon
  • Phanerozoic Eon: Paleozoic Era (Sometimes known as the Cambrian explosion.)
  • Phanerozoic Eon: Mesozoic Era (Sometimes called the Age of Reptiles.)
  • Phanerozoic Eon: Cenozoic Era (Sometimes called the Age of Mammals.)

We did another activity to help the kids understand the vast stretches of time.  The Montessori teaching albums have an exercise called the “Clock of Eras.” When I first did this activity with the kids, my youngest two didn’t really “get” the idea of a clock fully. I didn’t think it would really teach them the enormity of time as well as a long set of ribbons would… so instead I used the proportions of the clock and made a very long geologic ribbon (it’s almost 60 feet in length)!

I used red for the Hadean Eon (a time of flaming gasses, volcanoes, etc.) — 9ft 4 inches
I used sage green for the Archaean Eon (a time of great rains, poisonous oceans) — 17 feet 4 inches
I used yellow for the Proterozoic Eon (a time when cyanobacteria and the sun worked together to put oxygen into the atmosphere) — 26 feet
I used blue for the Paleozoic Era (a time when most life lived in the seas to protect it from harmful rays of the sun) — 3 feet 9 inches
I used gold for the Mesozoic Era (a time of the great reptiles, among other life) — 2 feet 5 inches
I used green for the Cenozoic Era (a time  with plants, animals birds, humans) — 10 inches

For the activity, I explained in general what happened during each eon and era. The first day, we slowly unrolled the ribbon and I explained that there were four eons.  As we got down to the Phanerozoic Eon, I explained that we break time into smaller chunks called eras to keep things straight.

Another day, I printed out some pictures, brought out our collection of fossils (a set that I bought years ago), and added in some plastic animals (dinosaurs, mammals, etc.). The fossil set included a trilobite, dinosaur coprolite (dung), crinoids, brachiopods, fern fossils and things like that. I gave the kids the pictures and fossils and as I went over each eon/era, we put down the pictures and fossils. When we saw where all the fossils were placed, it really drove home how old the Earth is:

I then brought out a copy of the Clock of Eras and we talked about how the clock explains the passage of time in a different way than our ribbon timeline.

I made timelines that the kids filled in with some basic information:

The last activity we did relating to the Geologic Timeline was “What Came First?” This was based on activity I found at the UC Berkley’s website.  I wrote out index cards and let the kids try to put them into the correct order. The cards included things like

green algae
spiders ferns
the first mammals
the first birds

We found it amazing is that grass came into the fossil record *after* camels (ants, dinosaurs and so forth). I will share the Geologic Timeline pages I made in the Earth Science Packet I’ll be sharing soon. Because of copyright issues, I cannot share the pictures and information I used, but I got a lot of my information from Fossil Facts and Finds, which is also where I got the Clock of Eras pictured above.

Next on our agenda for Earth Science is a study of Pangaea and Plate Tectonics, followed by a study of volcanoes and earthquakes. Neat stuff, that’s for sure!

You might be interested in these related posts:

See you again soon here or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!



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Do You Have Trouble Getting Everything All Done?

Sometimes our family is on such fast-forward speed, I have trouble getting to everything I want to.  I have a list of about 10 blog posts to write (we’ve done such great things in our homeschool lately!)… but somehow life gets in the way of actually putting pen to paper — errr… fingers to keyboard! Happily, it’s fun stuff that’s getting in the way these days (rather than all my doctor’s appointment and ear dramas last year).

The kids are happy and busy with activities… They really enjoy everything, but sometimes getting everybody everywhere keeps my head spinning… not to mention the car wheels!!

We’ve also packed in fun stuff this fall.  Last week when Hubby had off for Columbus Day, we took a family trip to the National Museum of the American Indian.

One of the highlights for us was their exhibit, Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and Native American Nations.  We talked about Wampum belts the week before and were excited to see those!

And since we had begun talking about Indian Removal, the movie they had at the museum was fabulous and we read all the materials about Andrew Jackson, the Cherokee, Muskogee and Seminole Indians with particular interest.

Another of the highlights of the museum was the cafe where we got to try buffalo steak and various other Native American dishes…

  • Cedar planked salmon
  • Grilled buffalo skirt steak
  • Artichoke puree
  • Roasted sunchoke, quince and wild onion dressing
  • Grilled cucumber, radish, seaweed, fireweed honey

We’ve enjoyed a number of hikes — like Saturday’s hike with DD and ED (while LD was at gymnastics practice).

We went to a pumpkin carving party with friends…. The girls are posing with some of the finished jack-o-lanterns:

DD and I went on a two hour trail ride. DD had a birthday recently and she didn’t want a birthday party. Instead she wanted to go horseback riding with me. We sure had fun!

With everything we’re packing into our schedule these days, it’s been harder to keep on top of everything else. But I’m certainly not complaining (about having too much fun!) ;)

Have a great day! ~Liesl

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How Do I Get Started Homeschooling?

I frequently get asked, “How do I get started homeschooling?”  This past summer I wrote a very long series to try to answer some of the questions that might come up–including the baffling dilemma… “How do I know *what* to teach the kids?” and “How do I find homeschool curriculums?”  I have tried to gather all these posts and link them in one place so you can pick and choose the topics/questions you might have.  If you have any other questions I might not have addressed in this series, feel free to leave me a note over on our Homeschool Den Facebook page and I’ll try to answer them.

Getting Started with Homeschooling. And answering some basic questions about homeschooling:

I put these posts together with some of the homeschool curriculum options available. There are posts for each “subject area”:
Science: Be sure to browse around our blog.  If you click on the CATEGORIES button in the right sidebar you can browse through all of our units… like the Human Body, Rocks and Minerals, Earth Science, Simple Machines,  Chemistry and so forth (though remember these will come up in reverse-chronological order). You’ll see how our family covers various topics and what hands-on activities we’ve done to make learning more interactive.
History: Again, be sure to check out the various units in the CATEGORIES button to see how we’ve covered various topics.
Language Arts:


Other Helpful Resources:
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Signing with Babies and Toddlers (Baby Sign Language)

Signing with Your Baby and Toddlers

Baby Signing — Our family decided to sign with each of our babies/tots. Our children all had normal hearing, but I learned that kids could control their hands and fingers and could therefore communicate by sign much earlier than with speech. It seemed like a good idea and most of my friends were doing simple signs with their babies/tots too.  We were SO glad that we did because our kids each developed quite a large signing vocabulary and could communicate by sign months before they were able to speak those same words.

Why sign with babies?  Well, for one thing it’s fun and it creates a wonderful bond between parent and baby.   It is interactive and allowed us to  communicate with our babies/toddlers (and them with us) at a younger age. It can also help with baby’s frustration at this young age. By being able to sign simple things like drink or all done, babies and toddlers can express their needs (or desires). Hand-eye coordination develops much earlier than verbal abilities.  Babies who sign often speak earlier and may improve language and vocabulary.  Sign has also been found to be helpful for kids with developmental delays.

Benefits of Baby Sign LanguageWikipedia explains that in a study done with young children who signed (and those who didn’t), those who signed had a significant developmental advantage:

An American team led by Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn studied 11-month-old children. The children were assigned into two groups in this study; the first group consisted of children that used Baby Sign Language and the second group consisted of children that did not use Baby Sign Language. Up until the age of three, the children’s speech and language development was monitored. Results showed that the average scores of children in the study that were in the group that used Baby Sign Language were found to be higher than the control group who did not use Baby Sign Language. By the age of twenty-four months, the signing children had a developmental advantage of three months over the non-signing children. By the time these signing children reached the age of thirty-six months, this advantage had increased dramatically. The advantage had now increased from a three-month developmental advantage to an equivalent twelve-month advantage in their overall language skills and comprehension by the age of thirty-six months.

How do you start? We started with simple signs like milk, all done, eat, potty, and simple foods in our daily routine. We added in words like where, shoes, bug, bird, cat, Mom, Dad, flower and so forth. We even signed as we read books together. We never set out to “teach” our babies, but just included signs and gestures in the course of everyday speech.

Our family’s experience with baby sign:

When LD was about 15 months,  LD learned the sign for “where.” (Pointer finger shakes back and forth. See picture below.) We had been signing “Where are your shoes?” and LD would fetch them for us. Once he got the concept of “where is __?”, he quickly used it to have us hunt for bugs. He would wake up in the morning and sign “where?” He immediately wanted us to go searching outside for the black and red bugs that frequented our backyard. He quickly became enamored with spiders and geckoes as well. He’d spend oodles of time hunting for critters and  creepy-crawlies — all the while signing “where?”

LD, my oldest, learned about 75 signs, but he was an early talker so that quickly faded as his oral vocabulary grew. When DD came along, we signed right from the start since we, as parents, now had a firm grasp on those first easy signs. DD’s signing vocabulary grew to over 200 signs!

At 12 months DD really started to take off with her signing and communication. She clearly signed all done, where, light, milk, hat, dog, and gorilla. [I also wrote that at that time "she makes the fishy sound for fish and more or less says mama, da(d), ball, bear and that. She also waves bye-bye and night-night and gives kisses"... She was a pretty normal little tot.]  By 16 or 17 months, DD was signing 2-4 word sentences. ED learned to sign as well and learned 200+ signs as well. 

How do parents learn these baby signs?  There are lots of great resources out on the web now. We loved the series, Signing Time, and my kids learned many of the signs presented in that series.  I found this to be a wonderful way for me (as a Mom) to learn signs to share with my kids. As I learned signs from the videos, I incorporated them into our everyday life. The videos themselves are best for toddlers (not babies), but I used the signs with my second and third kids right from the start. I really recommend watching at least a couple of them and learning some basic signs to use with your baby/tots… like milk, more, all done, and things like that.

I noticed that the first season of Signing Time is available over at Netflix now.

Product Details

Learning Sign Language for  Older Kids (and Parents!) Several of the high schools where we live offer ASL as one of languages students can take to fulfill the foreign language requirement.   I have my own reasons for wanting the kids to learn some sign with me…  I’ll write more about that tomorrow and provide some great resources for older children and adults.

Other posts you might be interested in:

Baby Sign Language: An Introduction
Baby Sign Language: An Introduction
Baby Sign Language: An Introduction

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