We Found a Crayfish!

One of the things I enjoy about homeschooling is the flexibility of our schedule. The other week the boys were outside and found some crayfish laying in the road. They rescued the one that was alive and Otter spent a great deal of the rest of the day observing this interesting creature.

Crawfish, crawdad, crayfish

We put him in Otter’s critter keeper and fed him some tadpole food we had in our school closet. The nice thing was that it didn’t matter if it was math time or time for grammar. We stopped everything for awhile to look up some information online about our new, temporary pet and watched all the fascinating things s/he was doing. I love that we are able to do that.

Every kid should have a critter keeper. We’ve used ours for all sorts of temporary guests like spiders, a giant grasshopper, a praying mantis, frogs and other interesting “things”. They are easy to clean and you can feed whatever is inside without taking the entire lid off. At just a little over $5, it’s a bargain too!

We’re moving along in our WinterPromise program: Adventures in Sea & Sky. Things are a little dull in the current section because Otter has already studied quite a bit about the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart. He did enjoy some recent craft projects though – related to the things he’s learning. While studying about air, he made a pinwheel:


For a weather craft he made a rain stick:


Otter pushed small nails into a paper towel tube along the seam. Afterwards he put in a handful of rice and we closed off the ends. When you tip the tube the rice falls over the nails and makes a sound like rain.

Rain stick

Bear has stopped using WP’s program and started up Sonlight’s Core 200: History of God’s Kingdom. He needed a more meaty core to work with, but will still be dabbling in a few of the books and movies Otter will be using from WP.

Learning About the Weather, Flight and Air

In our Adventures in Sea & Sky program we are studying flight, air and weather. Otter LOVES studying the weather. Every day it’s a big highlight for him to fill out his weather chart. I didn’t like the one WinterPromise designed because I wanted Otter to see the changes over time in a graph form. I was using a chart I found online but it didn’t work out exactly how I wanted it to so I made my own. You can download it here.

It has a bar graph to graph the daily high and low temperatures (we use blue colored pencil for the low temp and yellow for the high temp), a point graph for the barometric pressure and places to record precipitation, wind speed, humidity and observations. We don’t get subzero temps where I live, so the chart only goes down to 0 degrees. The graph lines are in a light gray color so that the data is easier to see/read.

Weather chart

Otter started a free lapbook recently from Homeschool Share. I never did manage to get the book The Glorious Flight from the library, but we read all about Louis Bleriot in the free NASA guide The Courage to Soar.

This Venn diagram is from The Courage to Soar guide but Otter’s putting it into his lapbook. It shows the differences and similarities between the Wright Brothers and Louis Bleriot:

venn diagram

Excuse the blurry pics. My camera’s focus settings was wonky and I’m too lazy to retake the pictures, lol. Here is a pic of his flight timeline:

Flight timeline

When you open it up there are different dates and events in lift-the-flap style.
Otter LOVES dates, so he really enjoyed this lapbook component.

flight timeline

Airplane vocabulary booklet:

Airplane vocabulary

Otter wrote a summary inside:

Louis Bleriot

Label and airplane

Labeling an airplane:

label and airplane

We also did some science experiments from the Courage to Soar guide. The guide has some wonderful sheets to print out that are geared to your student(s). For the experiment pictured below, Otter stuffed some toilet paper into a glass and placed it into a bowl of water. It didn’t get wet. He then thought the water in the bowl just wasn’t high enough to reach the toilet paper so he filled our kitchen sink completely up and then completely submerged the glass into that. He was thinking he was pretty smart and the paper was going to get drenched.

water and air experiment

To his amazement the paper still didn’t get wet!


It was fun to hear him exclaim “Woah!” from the kitchen and then, “How come it didn’t get wet?” and then, “Oh! I know! The air was in the way!”

September 30, 2009


Today in science we started a book calledAir (Science Alive!). It’s full of easy to understand text and simple experiments to answer and explore some of the following question and ideas:

  • What is air?
  • How much oxygen is in the air?
  • Air changes when heated
  • Air resistance
  • Wind is the energy of moving air, which produces a force
  • When warm air rises, cold air rises to take its place

and more! Most of these experiments are things you can find for free online, but it’s nice to have them available in an easy to reference book. Each experiment very clearly illustrates the steps you need to take with cartoon like graphics. The pages following the experiments feature text that talks about the concepts recently learned from the activity, colorful photographs, questions to ponder and small “Did you know?” sections with interesting facts.

In today’s experiment, Otter learned that fire needs oxygen to burn.

Candle needs oxygen experiment

Sometimes I forget that he still hasn’t learned some simple concepts. He was totally fascinated by the fact that the flame started slowly going out and then eventually was extinguished. He wanted to do it over and over again and lift up the jar just before the candle went out. I loved watching the excitement in his eyes as we did the experiment. That’s one of the blessings of getting to homeschool. *I* get to be there for these kind of moments instead of having him come home from a long day at school, ask him what he did and get the common answer “Nuthin”.

Sea & Sky Projects

School is coming along nicely. The kids have been enjoying their work and everything has been really lovely and peaceful. I decided to squash a couple of Winter Promise weeks together since we are getting sick of the sea portion of Adventures in Sea & Sky. It’s been interesting and educational, but I think we’re all ready to move into the sky portion.

Otter has recently been working on a jellyfish lapbook I got for free from Homeschool Share. Here’s a pic of a couple of “matchbooks” and fast fact files.

Jellyfish lapbook

A jellyfish lifecycle booklet:

Jellyfish lapbook

A small shapebook about sizes and a fold out about protection from predators:

jellyfish lapbook

We also continue to work out of the 1-2-3 Draw Ocean Life book. Otter made this squid after reading about the giant squid in one of our science books:


I liked that he included creatures from the book I’m currently reading out loud to him (Pagoo) like gooseneck barnacles and sea anemones.


Pagoo is a wonderfully illustrated book about a hermit crab. While you read about his adventures you learn about the lives of many little creatures of the tide pools and all kinds of ocean science.

You can get free notebooking pages and lesson ideas over at Homeschool Share to go along with the book.

Take a look at the book on Google Books to see some of the detailed illustrations. You can read it all the way to page 25!

Another activity we did this week was make a model of a clam. You can get it free from Ellen McHenry’s wonderful printables.

Clam model

The clam’s “foot” can actually move in and out of the shell. Notice how the clam’s siphons and gills are 3-D. We learned a lot from this project. It was easy to put together and well worth the 15-20 minutes we spent on it.

Clam model


Coral Reef Lapbook

Today Otter glued into a folder all of the lapbook elements he finished last week about coral reefs:

An ocean food pyramid

Ocean food pyramid

Lift-the-flap venn diagram

Coral venn diagram

A lift-the-flap matchbook style booklet about fish and shrimp “cleaners”. After completing this booklet we watched a great little movie online:
Cleaning stations in Hawaii.


“My skeleton” vs. hard coral skeletons shutterfold


Inside of the skeletons shutterfold (He forgot to circle the inside/outside words!)

Clam shape book with sentences written inside

clam book

Coral reef creature cards and pocket

coral reef creatures

Fish defenses

fish defenses

Parrot fish “story”

parrot fish

Coral reef matchbook

coral reef matchbook

Some more booklets:

lapbook elements

Barrier Reef facts shape book

Great barrier reef

We also finished reading Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter.

Pirate Diary

Otter really enjoyed both the story and the illustrations. While we went through the book we used the free unit over at Homeschool Share for some vocabulary and discussion ideas.

He enjoyed the story so much that I put a couple of other books on hold at the library:



I’d also like to get the newest book in this series, but our library doesn’t have it in yet:

Roman diary

Roman Diary: The Journal of Iliona of Mytilini: Captured and Sold as a Slave in Rome – AD 107

This series of books has really great, detailed and action oriented pictures with fun story lines. In the back of each book there is an illustrated notes for the reader section that explains the real history behind each fictional story.

Today as an extra activity for science to go with Adventures in Sea & Sky, Otter made a pop-up barnacle:


You can get the free printout from Ellen J. McHenry’s website.

He also worked on a coral reef lapbook we got for free from Homeschool Share. Today he mapped out where coral reefs are in the world and learned why they are important.

The top part of the picture below is blurry but I was too lazy to take it again!

Coral reef lapbook

Otter is also doing science activities with The Young Scientist Series kits. The kits come with everything (just about) that you need for the various experiments. The experiment he’s working on this week is growing some wheat grass, measuring its growth daily and making a graph of the measurements.

wheat grass measurements

He loves the kits and so do I because I don’t have to hunt down all of the materials. The only downside is that the kits are expensive. On Amazon they run from about $15 to $24 or you can get all twelve kits from Steve Spangler’s Science for $299.95. Each box comes with 3 different themes with several experiments to do per theme. We started out with Set 1. It has the following kits inside:

Kit 1 covers recycling with activities for decomposition, making homemade paper and labeling recycling bags/boxes with homemade labels.

Kit 2 is all about scientific measurements. You grow wheat grass & beans, measure them and graph the results. Another activity is to measure towers of ice cubes as they melt and graph the results. The last activity is to measure and graph some foam capsules after they get wet (and slowly expand).

Kit 3 covers magnets and has activities where you do different things with magnets like make a compass.

Each kit comes with instructions for the teacher covering the purpose, materials, methods, results and conclusions. They also come with student pages. The student pages guide you through each step of the experiment with Celsius the Science Bug explaining concepts and asking questions as you go along. There are also areas to draw pictures, write down data and answers. Writing is kept to a minimum, but you end up with a nice record of each experiment to put into your student’s science notebook.

I got these kits as a sort of “science treat” for Otter. He loves science so much – it’s nice to be able to hand him a kit every now and then to “play” with.

Treasure Coins

We are on week 12 in Adventures in Sea & Sky and currently learning about pirates. To add a hands-on element to that part of our learning, I added in a fun component: historical replica coins! I got the Treasure Coin Set awhile back in anticipation of our getting to this point in our studies.


Otter loves coins and has a small collection so I thought these replicas would be a fun addition to our studies. I pulled them out today and he LOVED them. It really made history “come alive”. After looking at them, we looked each one up on the Internet to get more information and found out where some of them were made and how they were used as well as how much they would be worth today, if they were real (as well as how much they would have been worth then).

Here is one site we looked at for some of the information: New World Treasures.

The coins were such a hit I’m thinking about ordering the other sets for our future studies:

  • Coins of the Bible
  • Colonial Coins
  • American Revolution Coins
  • California Gold Rush Coins

You can order them from Rainbow Resource. Search for coin and/or coins to find the sets.

In the past, when the big kids studied the Romans I ordered some REAL Roman coins from Dirty Old Coins. The kit (Emperor in a Box) is expensive, but it’s really something to hold a genuine, coin that was used in ancient times. I plan on re-ordering a kit for Otter so he can experience the excitement of restoring a coin himself.

I highly recommend using real coins (or replicas when the real coins are too cost prohibitive) to add to your history studies. The real coins are not only fun but also a small investment in a real and potentially valuable collection. Most kids really enjoy collecting coins and there is a lot to learn from them. It’s also fun to imagine who might have held each coin and wonder about where it might have been and what it might have been spent on.

Sea & Sky and Pirates

Today in Sea & Sky we did an experiment that demonstrates how bioluminescent fish camouflage themselves when they swim in mid-ocean depths where there’s scattered light.

Camouflaged fish activity

Otter punched a bunch of holes into one end of a shoe box. He then took two identically shaped fish cut outs and placed them into the box in front of the holes. The paper fish on the left is solid and you can see how a predator can more easily see the outline of the fish. The paper fish on the right has holes punched into it to simulate the bioluminescent camouflage of some deep sea fish. It’s outline is harder to see, especially when there is movement and different parts of the fish “twinkle”.

The Great Pirate Activity BookWe also have a book scheduled to start this week called The Great Pirate Activity Book. It has nice illustrations and some interesting information but it encourages kids to pretend to be pirates (which is all about stealing and so on). I didn’t feel 100% comfortable with encouraging that, so instead Bear set up all the pirate Playmobil. Now otter is playing that the good guys are capturing the bad pirates.

This book will give me some good opportunities to discuss some things with Otter like the title of one of the pages: A Short Life But A Merry One. Sometimes doing bad things IS fun. I’m going to talk to him about that particular issue. There are also some other things I will go over with him like the following quotes from the book:

“Others had run away from jail, slave owners, or unhappy marriages!”

From that I’m going to discuss running away from things, trying to get out of consequences and about what God says about marriage.

“Pirates could make more money out of one lucky raid than an honest sailor could earn in all his years at sea!”

We’re going to discuss “getting rich quick” and how doing it the honest way usually takes a lot of time and hard work and why it’s worth it to do it God’s way.

“They also liked to dance and sing, and to drink rum and brandy – when they could get it!”

This one’s pretty obvious. Our family doesn’t drink alcohol. That doesn’t mean we condemn responsible drinking, but we personally have decided to abstain. I will go over what the Bible says about drinking and specifically drunkenness. We’ll go over some of the popular pirate songs that feature drinking and they way pirates approached alcohol (like in the book Treasure Island where the pirates do some really stupid things and make some mistakes in their plan because they were all dead drunk). We’ll talk about what alcohol does to your body and brain.

We’ll still do some of the crafts in the book like make a sword (good guys need swords too!), make a porthole, create an ancient map and so on. I think it’s an easy book to adapt to our own personal beliefs.

Here are some picture of Otter’s Playmobil pirates (with a few Fisher Price pirate stuff left over from when Emily was about 6, LOL):

Pirate playmobil

playmobil pirates


playmobil pirates

I don’t think you can get the pirate island we have anymore (I bought it for Emily and Bear YEARS ago), but Amazon has some pirate sets:

Playmobil SuperSet Pirate Island

Playmobil Pirate Corsair

Playmobil Pirate Dinghy

Playmobil is a fun way to act out what you are learning. I REALLY love the new Egypt and Roman sets. I think we have so much Playmobil now though that I won’t be able to justify getting anymore, LOL!


Otter finished up his shark lapbook today. He also read a couple of books about sharks to help wrap up our couple of shark themed weeks from my “extras” study.

Great White Shark The Great White Shark: King of the Ocean

This book was easy to read with large text and full page color pictures. Afterwards we watched National Geographic’s Great White Shark for free online over at Snagfilms.

Great White Shark Ruler of the Sea The other book Otter read was Great White Shark: Ruler of the Sea.

This book is chock full of great verbs like: feast, rip, scavenge, launches, gorge, dives, hunts, twitches, struggles, protect, grazes, etc.

We had a little impromptu language arts lesson when I had Otter point some out to me.

We’re really enjoying all of the free lapbooks I’ve found online. I’m so thankful to all of the moms who share their hard work and talent with the rest of the homeschooling community. This particular lapbook is available at Homeschool Share.

Here are some pics of some of the shark lapbook elements Otter completed:

Shark cards

Shark safety

Shark lapbook

Shark tabbed book

Shark anatomy

I like how you can incorporate lots of different subjects in lapbooks: reading (information), dictation, writing, handwriting, copywork, science, history, art and even math:

Shark graph

Putting up pics of Otter’s work has really been a recent motivator in his quality of handwriting. So thank you all for looking…you are helping me out! LOL! All it takes it just a little reminder, “You know this is going up on the blog…”

Shark pop-up:

shark pop-up

3 tabbed booklet:

shark lapbook

Match-up shark cards we downloaded for free from Ellen McHenry’s website.

We finally finished reading Stowaway in our Sea & Sky program. It turns out in the end that Otter decided he liked it. I’m glad we stuck with it. Although there were parts that were tedious at times, I don’t think either one of us will soon forget Captain Cook’s first voyage around the world and the discovery of Australia.

Raiders of the SeaOur new book is Raiders of the Sea, a story about some children captured by Viking raiders. The book is written from a Christian perspective and so far Otter really loves it.

I think it should be switched out as a reader and Voyage of Ice (which is a reader) be made a read-aloud. The text and reading level of Raiders of the Sea is more appropriate, in my opinion, for the target S&S age and I haven’t found anything inappropriate in it.

This Week’s in Sea & Sky

This week in Sea & Sky we are studying the “Age of Exploration” for the history portion and how the ocean affects the weather for the science portion. Today we did an experiment: “rain in a jar”.

Rain in a jar

As the hot water from jar evaporated, it hit the plastic bag containing ice, condensed and fell back down as “rain drops”.

Before our experiment we watched a movie about the water cycle over at BrainPop. I tend to use BrainPop a lot because the explanations are short, easy to understand and entertaining. I also like it that I can check Otter’s comprehension afterwards with an interactive 10 question quiz.

Bear also finished one of his projects he did for Sea & Sky (not scheduled via WinterPromise), a model ship:

Model ship

Paper model ship

It’s constructed entirely out of paper and you can get the printables and instructions to make it for free from the Canon Website.

Otter also started a new lapbook. As an extra, he is studying sharks. There is a free lapbook over at Homeschool Share I printed out for him to work on. One of the elements he made today is a little vocabulary book:

Shark vocabulary

He also read a printable book from A to Z reading: Sharks.

A to Z reading is a site with lots of printable books with accompanying worksheets and other activities. The levels span from beginning phonics an approximate 5th grade reading level. The books are great for Otter and very helpful for building fluency. They aren’t too long, there are lots of different and interesting subjects covered (as well as some non fiction) and there are tons of books spanning different levels that work very well with our Sea & Sky program this year.

Viking Lapbook and More

I haven’t been able to get around to blogging because I’ve been working on a project with a deadline of August 1st. I’ve been writing a guide and creating some materials for a “major” homeschool curriculum company. I’ll post more info on that when I get the official “O.K.”.
Now I’m finished (I hope!) and so I can get back to working on American History 2 and updating my blog. PHEW! I must say, it was a lot of work in a small amount of time. Homeschooling itself is a full time job (which we ARE doing over the summer) and my husband and I also had a website job for a local service club. Besides all of that we were melting in 108 degree temps! Ok, so those are my official excuses for not keeping things up to date.

Now that you know I am still alive, here are some pics of Otter’s viking lapbook he’s been working on:


Viking lapbook

Don’t you just love the messy handwriting and the lack of capitalization? (To Otter’s credit, he does have some processing difficulties and writing is one specific area we continue to work on).

Viking lapbook

If you lift up the big flap, there is a drawing of a longhouse underneath. The other flaps will be answered when we glue everything into the lapbook folder. One thing we’ve learned is to WAIT to glue lapbook components down until the very end of a project. Otherwise, sometimes things don’t “fit” as well as they could have.

Viking longhous

Lift the flaps

lapbook items

Inside the little red booklet is a map. Inside the other are some questions Otter had to answer about Vikings and education. He decided today he’d like to be a Viking since Vikings got to farm and learn how to fight with swords instead of do school.

Viking lapbook

Below is a lapbook element with a fold out area for a story. Otter actually got into it and even included a moral at the end Aesop style: “Never underestimate someone and don’t be greedy.” After writing his story, he said he wanted to rewrite it tomorrow. You would have to understand his history with writing to know how totally thrilled I was to hear those words. The cool thing about it too is that it didn’t take an expensive writing curriculum to get that result! Maybe the moral of “this” story should be never underestimate free homeschooling stuff… or at least to sometimes be creative and not afraid to try something new or different (like lapbooking, etc.).

This time we have a capital letter, but no period….hmmm…..

I don’t know why, but I love these little matchbooks:


Here is part of the inside of one of the lapbook components about Viking weapons:

Viking weapons

All of the above components and more are available for FREE from Homeschool Share.

We are in week 8 in Adventures in Sea & Sky. This week’s history is about Columbus and this week’s science is about ocean currents.

Otter still likes to do little crafty things so he made this stand-up Columbus:


He also did an experiment from Awesome Ocean Science that demonstrated how deep water ocean currents move. He took a pan of warm water and then placed an ice pack at one end. We put a drop of food coloring in front of the ice pack and waited to see what would happen. As you can see in the pictures below, the colored water began to move toward the other end of the pan.

Deep Water currents experiment

Last week, when we were studying some maritime medieval history, Otter made a T-O map:


You can get FREE instructions on making the map from Ellen Mc Henry’s Mapping the World program. Just click on the link for chapters 4-6 and look at pages 19-20 of the pdf.

Otter’s latest…

Here are some pics of things Otter has worked on lately.

His WinterPromise Viking shield notebook page:

Viking sheild

He also continued working on the viking lapbook we started a couple weeks ago. We are a bit behind in it, but that’s the nice thing about homeschool – it doesn’t really matter!

He pointed out to me that the I in the middle booklet wasn’t originally capitalized. He “fixed” it and said, “Mom, maybe you ought to tell WinterPromise they made a mistake.” I informed him that WP didn’t make the lapbooks but that they are extra elements I scheduled in. He exclaimed, “What?? You mean all the fun stuff isn’t really WinterPromise??”

I had to remind him of all the great books and other activities we’ve been doing lately that ARE WinterPromise.

Viking lapbook

This week we are reading these books during our “adventure reading time”:




The Strange Intruder

The Strange Intruder

Otter doesn’t really like Stowaway because the story is in a “journal” style with daily/weekly entries. Here is an example from p. 58:

” Saturday 4th …Mr. Banks is unwell, and Mr. Perry says it’s the scurvy, the disease Captain most fears. I helped Surgeon Monkhouse prepare for Mr. Banks a drink the doctor calls a rob, made from the juice of lemons and oranges.”

I’m going to continue with it as it gives a good account of what it was like on Captain Cook’s ship voyaging around the world in the 1700’s. The story is fiction, but it’s based on actual journal entries and is about real people, including the main character, an 11 year old boy. I don’t blame Otter for not liking it though. Despite winning awards and getting good reviews, it is a bit slow and sometimes slightly tedious.

He likes the other book, The Strange Intruder much better probably because the writing style is a bit more action oriented. WP scheduled it as a reader, but I’m actually reading it out loud.
We got totally sidetracked and looked up the Faeroe Islands (where the story takes place) on Google Earth and then ended up watching a 20 minute video on YouTube. What a neat place! The Faeroe islands were settled by the Vikings a thousand years ago and look like a place out of a fairy tale with sod roofed houses, etc. I like being able to take rabbit trails!

We had an experiment to do in our Awesome Ocean Science book last week. We took two tuna cans, made a mark on them with waterproof marker in the same location and placed them in two same sized bowls. Then we put ice on top of one can (simulating a glacier) and put ice directly into the water around the other can (simulating ice bergs). After this, we filled the bowls with water up to the marks on the cans. Otter had to guess which water level would rise the most after all the ice had melted. You can’t really tell by the picture, but we started out with about an equal amount of ice in the two bowls.


Otter was surprised to see the bowl with the ice on the TOP of the tuna can caused the water to rise the most. Thus he learned that melting glaciers would cause more of a sea level rise than melting ice bergs.

In math Otter is working on multiplying 3 digit numbers.

Teaching Textbooks

He enjoys the fact that Teaching Textbooks is on the computer. I enjoy the fact that it’s all pretty much self contained. Besides the occasional clarification by me on something that isn’t absolutely clear to him, he pretty much “gets” each and every lesson with little or no help. The only problem he’s having with his current lesson is that he keeps forgetting to multiply the third number on the bottom.