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Science Activities for Ages 4-6 or So

Friday, August 15th, 2014

In writing my series for new homeschoolers about choosing a science curriculum, I came upon this post from last year.  Since many people are planning or just starting the new year, I thought it was the perfect time to share this again.

We have always done a lot of hands-on science. In the early years, I just want the kids to think science is cool!!  We’ve done a lot of science experiments and I shared some of our favorite science experiments in this free packet. These are some of the experiments we’ve done when the kids were 4-6 or so…

Here’s another post with a few more experiments appropriate for the kindergarten age (roughly 4-6).

Three Fun Science Experiments for Kids

Other years, we’ve done various science units and really delved into one topic or another.  I’ll link to some of the ones we’ve done at the bottom of the post.

This year, we may repeat some of these experiments, but I’m going to rely on some other resources to continue introducing ED to some basic science topics. What I decided for this year was to use a wide selection of science books and use those to jump off for a day or so.  I typed up a list of our 50+ science books… most of these are probably at your local library.

I’m using many of these read aloud books as jumping off points. For example, this week ED and I read a couple of books about the solar system (below).  I brought out our pretend solar system and someoriental trading planet sticker scenes I bought a while back. We talked about the planets, their sizes and distance from the sun, how hot and cold they are, etc. as she and DD put the stickers on the page.  (No surprise, LD, my oldest, wasn’t interested in this. He did, however, quickly read through the books and said, “Whoa DD, did you know it takes Pluto 248 years to orbit around the sun!)

There are lots of resources out there to go into much (much) more depth. We could have done a whole unit on the planets, the moon and all that , but since we have a lot on our plate and since we’ve covered this before, I just wanted to touch on this with ED.  For example, we did a lot hands on activities about the moon, etc. some time back.  I’ll put some links in down at the end of this post…

The other three main resources I’ll be using for ideas for ED’s kindergarten science are from

  1. Cut and Paste Science,
  2. Science Starter (I liked the questions and topics in this book. It’s probably available used at Amazon) and
  3. The Pre-Level 1 Biology from Real Science for Kids.

For ED my goal is to touch on a lot of subjects that we might not get to otherwise.  She’ll also participate in the units my older two are doing (coming up soon — Simple Machines).

We also have some “fun” science activities squirreled away.  This week ED has been working on a dinosaur dig (yes, she’s in her pjs!! She wasn’t in a big rush to get dressed yesterday!)

So that’s what we’re doing with ED. She’ll be covering a lot of basic science through those books, fitting in short activities. Meanwhile, she’ll participate in the science units I have planned with the older kids.

You might also be interested in some of our previous astronomy activities:

Inner and Outer Planets — Activity – ED still has this in her science notebook. We took it out and looked at the inner rocky planets and our gas giants… and the asteroid belt.

Astronomy Unit (Moon Activities) Day 1

Moon Activities Day 2

Phases of the Moon Activity (plus homemade Oreo recipe! Yummy!!!)

Other Units We’ve Done in the 4-6 Age Range:

Animal Habitats and Biomes

Earth Science Unit

Human Body Unit

Natural Disasters Unit

Ocean Unit

Penguin Unit

Rain Forests

Rocks and Minerals

Simple Machines

Vertebrates and Invertebrates

Whale Unit


Oh–I just remembered that last year we started out with some activities on mealworms that were a real hit too!

You might also enjoy these related posts:

See you next time or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!

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Homeschool Science Curriculum Options

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

We tend to create our own units and I’ll highlight some of our most popular posts below, but first I wanted to share some of the science curriculums available to homeschoolers. Once again this is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you a place to start.

Real Science 4 Kids

NOEO Science

R.E.A.L Science Odyssey

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (by B. Nebel) – K-2 Science Curriculum

Elementary Science Education: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, Vol. II, grades 3-5

Science Detective

Adventures With Atoms and Molecules: Chemistry Experiments for Young People – Book I (Adventures With Science)

A Reason for Science

Janice Van Cleave’s Science Experiment books

 Free Middle School Chemistry Curriculum

Free High School Chemistry Resources about Energy

Steve Spangler Science–A fantastic resource for your young scientist who loves to do hands-on science.
Super Charged Science

What has our family used?  We have used the Real Science 4 Kids student textbooks. I like the way they are written. They are clear and easy for the kids to follow.  In my opinion, they aren’t long enough to cover an entire year, but they are the perfect length for our family because our units tend to last 2-5 weeks. I always heard great things about NOEO science, so we tried out the chemistry unit. The kids were a bit on the young side, but I loved the books the suggested. We’ll return to NOEO for their resource suggestions when we get back to chemistry.  We use Janice Van Cleave’s books all the time in our homeschool. She has books on most every topic of science and has wonderful, hands-on activities to help bring science alive!

I’ve heard people rave about Real Science Odyssey as well. Since our family is now in the groove with our science units and materials that I pull together, I haven’t checked it out.

Creating Your Own Science Curriculum:

I don’t have the space here to cover all the units and topics that you might consider. I’ll paste in the links instead. What works best for us at this point is to choose a unit or topic, pull out 15-20 books from the library, find hands-on activities and science experiments and delve in!  If you browse around our blog (select the categories button in the right side bar and look at our Human Body posts, Astronomy Unit posts, Rocks and Minerals Unit, Ocean Unit, Earth Science posts and so forth. (Just remember that this is a blog so the posts are not in chronological order!)


Click here to see an expanded list of some of the topics and units you may want to cover with your kids:

Creating a Homeschool Science Curriculum — Ages 4 to 6

Creating a Homeschool Science Curriculum — Elementary

 There are some of my most popular science posts… They”ll give you a flavor of the kinds of materials I make for my kids (after reading through all those books from the library and stuff!) These posts all include free download. The links will take you right to that post. We did a lot of hands-on science activities with each of these units.

Number 6

Free Weather Packet

Free Water and Water Cycle Resources – This is a post I put together with lots of colorful posters and printables.

Number 5

The Three Types of Rocks– Our Activities and a Free Worksheet Packet about igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks

Number 4

Free Rocks and Mineral Packet

Number 3

Simple Machines Unit

Number 2

Digestive System Free Worksheets:

Number 1

Human Body Systems: Free Worksheets


Just as with history, there are lots of resources available if you plan to create your own science units. For example, I’ve bought a number of lapbook and notebook units by Homeschool Bits. There are pre-made science experiment kits such as those by Thames and Kosmos.

If you have a particular science curriculum you use and love, come tell us over at our Homeschool Facebook Page and I’ll add your suggestions to the list!

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Hands-On Geography Activities for Ages 4-10

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

There are so many fun things you can do with your kids to help them gain an understanding of the geography of our amazing world! Here are some of the geography activities we use in our homeschool.

Over the years we have made maps…

with sand, dirt and grass seed like our Nile River Valley

Out of clay, like our Ancient Greece (and Mediterranean Sea) map  (Ancient Greece Geography ProjectAncient Greece Geography Project, Part 2)

Out of graham crackers, like our map of Britain

and out of cookie dough like our map of South America (with the Andes as chocolate chips!)

You can study and color world flags

And use world flags with pin maps, like we did with the countries of Asia

and with the countries in Africa

You can use geography puzzles:

You can toss a globe around and identify the continent (or country) your thumb lands on when you catch it:

You can study famous landmarks and make replicas

You can locate famous rivers and lakes:

And you can study all the geography land form (and water form) terms like lakes, peninsulas, isthmus, bay and create them at home:

You can make your own world globe!

You can play board games like Ten Days Across Europe (or Africa or Asia)

You can make food from different places… like our almond soup when we tried different foods from Africa

or pretzels from Germany

You can study a specific country and learn all about their history, culture and music like when we studied Japan,  India,

and Australia

You can try to arrange a country box exchange, which we’ve done with homeschoolers from or living in Singapore, France, different states in the U.S.

Country Box Exchange: China

Country Box Exchange: Gambia

Or you could participate in a postcard exchange from around the U.S. or around the world!

Here is the printable I made for making your own World Biomes pin map:

We also sing a lot of educational songs in our homeschool including geography songs.

Here is the post with the kids singing the 7-continents song and the Montessori style pin map you can download and make:

We also have learned the Fifty States that Rhyme Song: You can listen to the 50 States That Rhyme Song here.

You might want to visit the post about the Animals Around the World. You can access free Montessori cards of animals from each continent at that post:

Don’t miss this post about using the free Montessori US landmark cards I made (Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, etc.) and how we used them.

Hopefully you’ve found an idea or two that you can use in your homeschool or classroom to make geography hands-on and fun!

See you next time or at our Homeschool Den Facebook page!

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Choosing or Creating a History Curriculum

Monday, August 11th, 2014

When we first started homeschooling, I read The Well Trained Mind. The thought of covering history in four year cycles sounded like a wonderful way to approach history. After all, the kids would build on their former knowledge… learning about the ancient world several times, but going into more depth each time round.  History was broken into  these four year cycles:

  1. Ancients
  2. Middle Ages and Early Renaissance
  3. Late Renaissance/Early Modern
  4. Modern Times

That was the path we set out on, but it didn’t work out that way for us. For one thing, we went much slower… taking our time and exploring different topics in different depths. And by the time we were “ready” to explore and read about Modern Times I had a preschooler and I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to talk about the World Wars and so forth since history is one of the subjects we cover together.

So our family’s history journey has looked more like this. Each dot is roughly one year:

  • Ancients – pre-history, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece
  • Ancient Rome, Middle Ages, Age of Exploration
  • American Geography, American Landmarks (We moved back to the USA this year), Age of Exploration, Frontier history, Early American History, the American West
  • A year-long study Africa (plus a unit on slave trade/triangular trade and slavery in the New World)
  • A history of India (and after studying Gandhi… the Civil Rights Movement) and a semester on China
  • This year we’ll be doing a large unit on Native Americans.  I also plan to have us study the Middle Ages which wasn’t as in depth the last time around as I felt it should be.  My big question mark is that I feel like the kids need some basic civics and economics. They could definitely use some study of not just how the federal government works (see our free Constitution pages here), but also how our state and local government function.

But the amazing thing about homeschooling? I know what we’ve covered… and I know what holes are there for the kids. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be flexible… and it’s okay to follow rabbit trails through history.


History Curriculums: This is NOT a complete list of options, but this list will give you a starting point in your research!  You might also want to order the (free) Rainbow Resource catalog which has extensive reviews. Their catalog is larger than a phone book!!

Story of the World – The history books have wonderful stories that are written in an engaging way. Most every homeschooler I know has the books. Not everyone has used them from beginning to end, but most of the families I know have at least used selections from these books. There are four volumes.

Story of the World Activity Guide – I am listing this separately because these are an outstanding resource if you want to create your own units or areas of study.    The activity guides have wonderful project ideas and lists of fiction and non fiction books to supplement any unit.

History Odyssey – This program combines the classical approach with real books. It includes both fiction and non-fiction titles that help bring history alive. Students create a portfolio of their work. You can read more about this program at Cathy Duffy Reviews.

A Child’s History of the World - We use this as a supplement to our units. The books is written in a child-friendly tone.  I wouldn’t use it as a stand-alone curriculum, but I glad we have it as a resource.

Sonlight – This program uses a wide selection of books both fiction and non-fiction. The book recommendations include biographies, non-fiction and historical fiction selections. There is an instructor’s guide with daily (and weekly/semester) lesson plans.

Joy Hakim’s American History Series - She has written an  eleven-volume set of narrative history books. I know a number of homeschoolers who have used her series as the core for studying American History. We’ll be using the first volume in this series this coming fall.

Mystery of History - I don’t know much about this curriculum, though I’ve heard other people mention it from time to time.  It is marketed as a “classical, chronological, complete user-friendly, christian curriculum for all ages.”

Tapestry of Grace - I have heard good things about this program. I’ve heard parents mention that it is fun and has lots of project ideas. Like the Story of the World, it approaches history in 4-year cycles. This curriculum program is from a classical Christian perspective.

Usborne History or Kingfisher Encyclopedia – I like having these colorful resources on hand, though I don’t find them in-depth enough for our needs.  I often use them as a review and supplement in our units.

Other  resources:

  • Evan-Moor History Pockets
  • Draw and Write Through History
  • Classical Conversations – I have a number of homeschool friends who participate (or participated) in the CC co-op.
  • Hands-On History Activity Guides: These days you can find project ideas for almost any history topic.  Here is just a small sampling:
Classes Taught By Professors: There are also resources such as Coursera which allow adults and students to take college level classes free.  The Great Courses offer DVD classes that you can purchase. The price on these classes can be a bit high but  they go on sale fairly regularly.

History Videos and Documentaries: And of course, there are amazing history documentaries on Netflix, you tube and elsewhere.

*You can also create your own unit studies combining the resources mentioned above. We often go the library and check out 10-20 books from the library including activity guides with hands-on projects for kids. Many homeschoolers have covered history with lapbooks or by notebooking.  If you look around, you’ll find various history unit studies and lapbooks available at places like Homeschool Share, Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus (free lapbooks) or  Currclick.

On a related note, I thought I’d share some of the ways hands-on projects we’ve done to make geography more interactive. That post is coming up tomorrow.

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


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I’m Going Deaf Today (Single Sided Deafness, That Is)

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Yes, literally! After 10 months of ear problems , I am heading into my 6th (and hopefully) final ear surgery this morning at Johns Hopkins. [You can read about the previous 5 surgeries to address my semi-circular canal dehiscence and the crazy symptoms  here.] My symptoms these past months include

  • severe dizziness and balance issues,
  • vision problems (things blur when I turn my head and bounce around when I walk/move),
  •  problems with noise sensitivity (loud noise makes me dizzy and makes my eyes blur),
  • continuous, never-ending loud jingle bell noises (and other sounds),
  •  intense sensitivity to my own voice,
  • and over the past six months (after each surgery) my hearing has declined so that now there’s virtually no hearing left in that ear :(

You wouldn’t know anything was wrong to look at me, but let me tell you, it has been challenging and debilitating. If I go out (say to Target or something), I feel so sick afterwards that I have to lay down for a couple of hours to get my system back in order.

So last Wednesday, I had all kinds of tests last week at Johns Hopkins… from an MRI to testing hearing and dizziness tests which examined my response to noise and vibrations.

My new doctor said that my balance system has been destroyed… the membranes within the semi-circular canals have collapsed and some materials from the plugs (from former surgeries) have been pushed into the utricle (hmm.. or maybe the saccule–I can’t remember what he said when he showed me the MRI) area of my inner ear/labyrinth.  There is no saving my hearing… even my eardrum has retracted, etc. etc. The only option is removing much of my middle and inner ear (which will result in complete deafness in my left ear)  or doing nothing (which is not an option if I want normalcy back).

It was an easy decision to come to… The only times I feel “normal” is when I’m at home and it’s (mostly) quiet, I’m not talking AND I’m not moving around.  Not too much of a life. In fact, hubby and the kids have gotten to go on a number of trips this summer… but all without me. :(  Luckily I love reading and have this amazing outlet writing the blog (and other things) to keep me occupied and upbeat.

What does the surgery (today) entail?  They’ll be removing my ear drum, middle ear bones and the semi-circular canals and so forth. Then they’ll take some abdominal fat and fill in the middle/inner ear and plug it up. My doctor said he’ll seal it up and it’ll look like a belly button in my ear canal. Wild, huh?

Since I will then be SSD, single sided deaf, and because I am hard of hearing on the right side already (due to infections when I was a child) I decided to also have a procedure done for a  bone anchored hearing device. They’ll drill a small hole in my skull to attach an abutment (that looks sort of like the inside button on your jeans) . Once that has healed and the bone has grown back (2-3 months from now), I’ll be able to use a processor that will conduct sound through my bone to my (working) right cochlea (I put a big orange X over the side that is going deaf in the picture below):

This is hopefully the last and final chapter of this long, arduous journey.  With six surgeries, believe me, I’m ready to be better!!

Ironically, as I’ve looked into all of this I found that this procedure is under review in Congress right now (July 11 through September 1, 2014). The proposed ruling before Congress  will remove coverage for this type of hearing device under medicare. If that happens, then the private insurance companies will follow suit. The proposal reads:

In section VII,  Scope of Hearing Aid Coverage Exclusion, it states:

 we propose to interpret the term “hearing aid” to include all types of air or bone conduction hearing aid devices, whether external, internal, or implanted, including, but not limited to, middle ear implants, osseointegrated devices, dental anchored bone conduction devices, and other types of external or non-invasive devices that mechanically stimulate the cochlea. We believe, based on our understanding ofhow such devices function, that such devices are hearing aids that are not otherwise covered as prosthetic devices, in that they do not replace all or part of an internal body organ. Therefore, we propose to modify the regulation at § 411.15(d)(1) to specify that the hearing aid exclusion encompasses all types of air conduction and bone conduction hearing aids (external, internal, or implanted).

To place the Baha in the same category as over-the-ear hearing aids and to end coverage would destine people without money and means to live a life of solitude and isolation. If you google “BAHA” images, you’ll see that this type of implanted hearing device has made a world of difference not only to adults  like me, but also to little toddlers and kids.  It baffles me that hearing and deafness are so often shafted by insurance (I’ve worn hearing aids in both ears since I was 12 and they’ve never been covered by insurance).  We’ve always had to pay for my hearing aids out of pocket (which cost $1,800+ each because I need such powerful aids).   I guess hearing is just a luxury, right?! (Sarcasm here.) Seriously, though, hearing loss can have a devastating  impact on people’s quality of life.

If the new proposal were to be accepted (in 2015), the United States would be one of the very few industrialized nations not to cover this life changing technology for patients in need.

I signed the petition at  arguing for continued coverage for the Cochlear Baha Implant system.  It’s such a life changing hearing solution. Luckily (or whatever the appropriate word is here), I am able to have surgery and will have access to this amazing technology. I sure hope others who come after me can too.


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