Learning about the Solar System (Hands-On Kit the Kids Loved)

I have been really looking forward to our Earth Science unit this fall. It has taken a while to start in on all our activities, but now that we’ve started we are learning TONS and having lots of fun!

To start of the unit, I felt like we really need to cover some basics about the Solar System again.  We got a hands-on kit called the Solar System Planetarium ($9.27 from Amazon in Sept. 2014) that my homeschooling friend used with her kids last spring. I got one for each of the kids and I’m really glad I did. They all really enjoyed putting it together and painting it. I know we could have done something similar with foam balls or paper mache or what have you, but to be honest it was really lovely just opening the box and letting the kids go.

This kit required the kids to pop out the plastic pieces, snap the planets carefully together, paint the planets, and assemble the model’s base. The kids really enjoyed this.  For some parts, my 6 and 8 year olds needed help from me (like snapping the planets together.), but for the most part they worked on their own. ED really loved that it glows in the dark (after it is painted with the “glow” paint.)

While they worked on the project, I read a number of books about the planets. I would definitely recommend this as an easy, hands-on project. If you have a science-loving child I think they would really enjoy this as a gift (mine would!).  I would recommend it for ages 6-11 or so. (And just so you know, I’m not affiliated with them or anything, I’m recommending it simply because the kids enjoyed it so much!)

I tied all this in with a number of books. We borrowed a lot of books from the library for this unit. Some of the books and curriculums we used included:

The Solar System by Howard Trammel (Good for ages 7-11)

The Solar System by Laura Hamilton Waxman (Good for ages 7-11)

The Planets by Martha Rustad (Good for ages 4-6)

Planets Around the Sun by Seymour Simon (Good for ages 4-6)

Planet Earth/Inside Out by Gail Gibbons

Real Science 4 Kids (Homeschool Science Curriculum we have used a lot over the years.)

Focus on Middle School Geology, Student Textbook

Focus on Middle School Astronomy, Student Textbook

I also made a large packet of Earth Science materials for the kids and a day or two later, we did the first page of that packet together.  I’ll be sharing that in the next week or so. It’s still a work in progress and not quite ready to share.

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Pre Algebra Resources We’re Using

This is just a quick post to update you on LD’s Pre Algebra work.  We are really very happy with the Art of Problem Solving: Pre Algebra. We set the timer for twenty minutes each day and LD and I read/go over the book together. I am really impressed with how clearly it explains (and proves) why various math properties work.  I suspect it will take us two years to go through the book, but the way it is written and laid out is really terrific. There is a solutions manual that goes along with this book.

LD really, really likes this book. Although he’s pretty good at math, he’s never been passionate about it like some kids are.  But this book is well written, packs in a lot of good information and is easy to follow.  He really enjoys sitting down to read/work on it.  That’s the most important endorsement, right? Straight from the kid’s mouths!

After our session together, LD has been using Khan Academy’s PreAlgebra videos.  LD really likes these lessons too.

So far, LD said the videos are really easy to follow, the problems are good and he likes that there are avatars to unlock as you go.

I know a lot of people use agmath.com Algebra packets to go along with the Art of Problem Solving-PreAlgebra. I’ve opened these (free) worksheet packets and they really look useful. We may use them in the future.

So those two resources along with Math Reasoning (Level G) make for a really full math curriculum. (He’s in Grade 6.)  At the end of last year LD did the first few dozen pages of the Kelley-Wingate Pre-Algebra. The first dozen pages or so focus mainly on fractions and decimals. These are followed by problems with integers, etc.  Pretty soon, I’ll have him work through some of these problems as well (adding and subtracting integers and so forth).  There’s nothing fancy about the problems and little explanation for what you’re doing, but as a workbook I find it really useful for the 5th-7th grade level of math.

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Free Equivalent Fractions Packet

DD is just starting a new unit on fractions.  I used this packet with LD a couple of years ago and brought it back out to go over with DD.  It’s 12 pages and you might only find a couple of pages relevant or useful, but I still thought I’d share them here.

The picture collage below gives you an idea of what’s in the packet.

You can download the Equivalent Fractions Worksheet Packet here. As always, it’s free to download! :)

We’ve been using this in conjunction with some fraction manipulatives that we have on hand:

Working with the manipulatives has really made a difference for her. Our plastic sets were made by Didax–Fraction Circle Manipulatives. They were worth purchasing since we have three kids, but you can also make them or print them off the web (such as these Fraction Circle Templates at Worksheet Fun or these Fraction Circles at DocStoc).

She then does fraction problems from her math workbook, Spectrum Math (grade 5).

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DD also is using the Critical Thinking Company’s Math Reasoning (Level F).  I like the wide variety of problems they have.  She’s been doing a couple of pages of that each day. (That is part of her “Rotations” checklist. See this post on Creating Daily Homeschool Procedures and Routines). She also practices math facts each day on the index cards — in our new index card pouch-system. :)

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Plus, DD and I sit down together as she works through Primary Grade Challenge Math. I like that there are 4 levels of problems, from easier ones in Level 1 through “Einstein” level problems.

That’s about it for today.  Tomorrow I’ll be talking about the materials LD is using for math. He’s 11 and in Grade 6.

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Fun Math Activities for Ages 2 1/2 to 3 1/2

Over the next few days, I’m going to focus on our math activities. I thought that before I share what my older kids are doing these days, I’d share some of the activities they did when they were younger.  This post highlights a few things I did with my kids for math in the 2 1/2-3 1/2 age range.

Here are some activities I did with ED when she was 2 1/2.  She was just learning to count up to 4 objects at the time. You could do this with any theme — flowers, ladybugs, trucks or whatever your tot is interested in:

One-to-one correspondence, counting out objects:

We used Montessori beads for counting:

And we made up all kinds of little games with numbers:

We used little wooden numbers and put them over our oversized dice: 

I used numbers and various fun manipulatives we got at craft stores or the dollar store: 

For this activity I made lots of black strips with numbers and crayon-drawn snowflakes.  ED really enjoyed using the snowflake stamp to punch out the snowflakes from the strip.  I told her she could also glue snowflakes onto the strip, but she wasn’t interested.

For the last activity I glued very small homemade snowflakes onto Popsicle sticks.  I covered a cereal box with aluminium foil and contact paper and stuck on numbers (again from our mailbox set).  Then I used a knife to put slits next to the number.  ED LOVED this activity! She did it over and over.  After a while I held up 4 (and 2 and 3, etc) snowflake sticks and asked her how many there were. She was correct each time!

We were VERY active with math when my son was young. We did a lot of jumping on numbers (and letters!), racing to find 3 trucks and things like that!

Simple counting with any object on hand:

Number recognition with Fly Swatter Math!

I called out a number, she swatted the number as fast as she could!

Clothes Pin Counting Cards like these Dinosaur Egg Counting Cards from Making Learning Fun. The child puts a clothes pin on the correct answer.

Numbers and stickers:

Math Links:

Counting (you could do this with number recognition):

This counting Pete the Cat button counting activity was so cute, it’s also worth a mention!

ED loved this button activity and did it independently several times while I worked with the others. It was made by Heidi and she offers it free over at Heidisongs Resources:

You’ll find lots of other very cute Pete the Cat resources at this post about our Pete the Cat unit and More Pete the Cat Resources.

Grid Games:

I’ve used lots of the math grids made by Karen over at PreKinders.com. We took turns rolling a die and covering a square with that number of tokens. These games are great for learning about one-to-one correspondence.

Here’s a link to the squirrel grid game you see below or here’s another link to a cute puppy grid game. She has a good selection of themes and printable to choose from. Be sure to check out her website.

 Be sure to visit yesterday’s post to download a free Apple-themed grid game:


Here are some counting kitty pages I made for ED a year or so ago:

ED has been asking for her own independent work while the older kids are working on their studies. This is an activity she has no problem completing on her own… if not a bit on the easy side. She practices writing the number as well as filling in the bar graph.

I drew the kitty myself using a computer drawing pad Hubby got me for my birthday.:)

Click here to download the Counting Kitties Activity Sheets (there’s a total of 9 pages):


Teen Numbers:

Here is an activity I made for ED when she was ready to tackle the teen numbers.

When ED is counting, she often skips some of the numbers after 13. I am using a homemade version of the Montessori seguin board (download the packet I made here).  It’s a board with lots of 10s in a row. The child then places a digit over the zero to make 11, 12, 13, etc.

1) First ED counted the number of animals on the cards I made.
2) Then she pulled out the same number of beads-one golden bead bar (10) + single beads.  I made a big deal about the group of 10 beads being called her special ‘golden beads.’ She promptly fell in love with them!
3) Next she chose the proper digit and placed it in the ones column to make it “one ten and one” (for 11), “one ten and two” (for 12) and so forth.

If you’re interested in the printout packet I made of the seguin materials you can download them here.

You can also buy a proper wooden seguin board (such as this (from Alison’s Montessori) or  this teens and tens board from Kid Advance), but I never used them enough with my older two to warrant the price.


Other resources:

I got a great question about how to learn more about Montessori method of introducing the teens and tens to your 3-6 year old.

There is a series of videos at ehow that shows a teacher using the seguin board and Montessori beads.  Teen Board-Montessori video  In the sidebar you’ll find related articles and links.

Another fabulous resource is the online Montessori album (teacher’s manual for ages 3-6) at moteaco.com. There you’ll find a whole series of lessons on how to introduce the  teens and tens to your preschooler.

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Apple Grid Game: Free Math Printable for Ages 2-4

It’s apple season! The perfect time to do apple-themed activities with the kids. When my kids were little, we played Math Grid Games all the time.  I made an Apple-Themed Grid Board to share with you today. Here’s a picture of the game board:

How to Use Math Grids with your Preschooler:

  • Print 2 Grid Boards per player
  • Gather two different sets of tokens and one die.
  • For Younger Kids: Take turns rolling the die and covering that number of apples with your tokens.  This helps kids develop one-to-one correspondence.
  • For Older Kids: You can print out the grid boards with 48 apples. Then use two dice, add them together and cover that number of spaces.
  • Three-in-a-Row Game: Using two sets of tokens, each player takes a turn placing a token down. The object is to get three (or five, if you are using the larger board) tokens in a row. The first player to get three (or five) in a row wins the round.
Click here (or on the pictures) to download your free Apple Grid Game Boards.  
This file has both the 20-apple grid above and the 48-apple grid pictured below:

Apple Tissue Craft: If you’re on the apple theme, here’s a quick craft DD did when she was a toddler when we were doing an Apple Unit. It’s nothing fancy. All you need is a toilet paper tube, green construction paper and bits of red tissue paper that your child wads up, sticks in glue and attaches to the paper.  Easy & fun!

As you may have noticed from the pictures above, I saved the lids from glass jars to use for glue or small amounts of paint. It makes clean up easy as I just throw the lid in the rubbish bin when we’re done.

Other related posts you might be interested in:

 See soon here or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.
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