“Once in a blue moon” is tonight!

Picture taken by Otter through his telescope last year

Ever been told something will only happen “Once in a Blue Moon”?
Well tonight is your lucky night!

Otter has been waiting for this all month. He just got a new 3.0mm Orion Edge-On Planetary Eyepiece for his telescope and will be busy tonight exploring the moon. His new eyepiece makes it look like you could reach out and touch each crater. We were even able to see Neptune with it the other day (and yes, it was BLUE, unlike tonight’s moon which is called blue but not actually colored blue)!

Besides tonight’s special moon, you can find Neptune this month (and into October). Click here for instructions. Here’s another site that says you can even see it in binoculars.

If you have a kid interested in astronomy, I can’t recommend enough that you save up for a real telescope (not a toy, which is likely to be frustrating). Otter has spent so many nights out in our backyard studying the sky and learning how to navigate to different stars and planets. He’s even taken some beautiful pictures of  the moon.

He often uses the free program Stellarium to help him locate planets or nebulae.

Anyway, today is the day to tell your kids you expect them to find lots of extra chores to do without being asked because it’s a blue moon after all! Wink

Weather, Astronomy & Physics

Otter has been learning about weather, astronomy and physics lately. He LOVES science, so sometimes we spend a good chunk of our school day on it.


For astronomy we are using some of the materials from WinterPromise’s Sea & Sky program as well as Apologia’s Exploring Creation With Astronomy.

Apologia Exploring Creation with AstronomyThere are lots of freebies that can work with either program. You can get TONS of free notebooking pages and lapbook items from the Yahoo group: Notebooking2Learn. You can also get notebooking pages, vocabulary & study questions, a booklist and some schedule ideas from the Yahoo Elementary Apologia Science group. Another good resource for astronomy lapbooking materials is at Homeschool Share. Check out this free lapbook for planets. Otter is also enjoying the songs over at Singing Science Records.

From what we’ve experienced so far, Otter thinks the Apologia book is more fun than WinterPromise. I think they compliment each other nicely.

Here are some of the lapbook elements he’s been working on:

Sun lapbook

Space lapbook


PhysicsWe are using Real Science-4-Kids for physics. I’ve used this program for beginning chemistry too and we both enjoyed it. The only issue is that each book on its own is pretty short and we don’t get around to doing some of the experiments (sorry son, we’re fresh out of 3 foot long boards and bananas today). Still, Otter is learning quite a bit and so am I! I’m using lots of other “extras” to add depth to our studies like “living” books, BrainPop, a huge K’nex kit on simple machines and freebies.

I made a rough outline to help us stay on track. You can take a peek at it here. We aren’t really following it exactly, but it helps me keep specifics in mind and know what books to check out from the library topic-wise.

Today, after reading part of chapter 5 and learning about stored chemical energy, Otter made a voltaic cell. We hooked it up to a voltmeter from Otter’s Snap Circuits Kit.

Voltaic Cell

Snap Circuits are awesome! Otter received his sets at least two years ago and he continues to use them on a regular basis. Usually when he gets them out, he’s busy for a good hour or two (or more!) making all sorts of neat things like a radio, voice recorder, fan, doorbell & TONS more “experiments” – all the while learning about electronics naturally in the process. The pieces are really sturdy and easy to connect via snaps. The diagrams in the experiment booklet are also easy to read so the projects are not too difficult to assemble (unlike some Lego sets that have been frustrating). If you ever look into getting some, I highly recommend one of the larger sets. Otter started out with a smaller set, but it was worth it to get one of the larger ones to add in some more varied pieces. Now he has enough pieces to complete something like 500 or more projects.

Snap Circuits


As for our weather study, we’ve finished the weather portion of Sea & Sky, but Otter is continuing to keep a weather chart and check out weather related library books and do some occasional experiments and activities. He REALLY wants his own digital weather center.

Weather centerI’m glad we decided to use Sea & Sky this year. If we hadn’t, I don’t know if I ever would have discovered how much Otter really enjoys learning about weather. He loves recording the daily data from Weather Underground and reading books about things like hurricanes and tornadoes. He’s also been watching some videos from Discovery Streaming called Storm Chasers. They are a total fave of his.

Recently we did an experiment from Steve Spangler Science where we created a cloud in a bottle:

Cloud in a bottle

Instead of using a pump as portrayed in the video, we used something called a Fizz Keeper. You can’t see a cloud in the pic above, but the experiment really worked. I think Otter must have done it about 10 or more times, lol!

Another experiment we did was to create a psychrometer to measure humidity:

Wet dry thermometer

I’ve been thinking ahead to what we’ll study next when we finish physics and I’m looking at Ellen McHenry’s Elements for chemistry. You can take a look at the first chapter of the student workbook at her site.

I hope you all have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving next week!

hand turkey