Learning Geography with State Quarters

My son is learning geography with a state quarters map.

I remember entering junior high and having a quiz on US States and capitals. For many kids memorizing names and locations of each state was daunting, and no fun at all. Therefore, whenever my kids are motivated to learn on their own I try to encourage them.

For Christmas, my kids all received state quarter maps. They say the maps are one of their favorite gifts. Now, each time we receive a quarter as change they want to look at it. They know exactly which states they have and which states they are missing. Learning state locations has been no problem. Now we just have to figure out a similar method for the capitals.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children. 

Braided Rug

We made a braided rug out of old clothes.

When the pioneers were busy settling America they didn't have a huge amount of available resources. Recycling was a top priority and fabrics were frequently used in several different ways before being discarded.When clothes were too worn or too small, it was possible to reuse them by making them into a rug for the floor.

Pioneers would have used clothing available, but we had lots to choose from. The first step was selecting materials for the rug from the large pile of old stained clothes.

Next, the shirts were cut into strips about 3/4 of an inch wide.

Three strips were selected to start with. They were tied together in a knot and then braided.

 The braid was coiled into a circle and hand-stitched into place.

Next, additional strips were knotted to the end of each strip as they ran out. It was important that each strip ran out at a different place, so the knots would not be clumped together. The braid was continually coiled and stitched into a circle.

Progress was rapidly viewed at the initial stages of this project as the circle required only a short length of braid to grow in length. However, as the diameter increased it seemed like a lot more effort was required for the rug to grow.

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Dividing a Circle into Eight

Mandala Creation: We wrote down the steps to divide a circle into eight parts.

Mandalas are fun to make because they combine artistic creativity with logical thinking. The first step to creating a mandala with a straight edge and a compass is to divide a circle into equal sized  parts. Six or eight sectors are the most common divisions.

In order to have the steps for circle division available for future mandalas, we created a small instruction book while performing the steps of dividing a circle into eight parts. The exercise was an excellent way to focus on mathematical vocabulary in a natural way.

Step 1 - Draw a line.
Step 2 - Create a perpendicular bisector. (This is created by setting the compass point on the end of the line and drawing tick marks above and below the line near the center of the line, then repeated by placing the compass at the other end of the line).

Step 3 - Draw a circle with the center point located where the two lines intersect.
Step 4 - Bisect the 90 degree angles. (This is done by setting the compass point on the point where the line and circle intersect and drawing tick marks above and below the line, then repeated by placing the compass on the two adjacent circle line intersections).

Once the steps were recorded, it was possible to create the mandala in the photo below.

 With the circle divided into eight parts, a very tiny concentric circle was drawn as well as a larger concentric circle to create both of the interior squares. With the initial lines and the two circles all the points were visible to create the mandala. The only tool required was a straight edge.

For additional mandala math ideas please visit my Math Page.

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Stonehenge - Simple Machine Activity for Kids

We learned about Stonehenge and made a simple machine similar to the type which may have been used to move the enormous blocks to Stonehenge.

Although the exact purpose of Stonehenge and how it was built remains a mystery, there is much that is known. Chapter 11 of Our Island Story (a narrative book for children on the history of England) both peaked our interest and left us with many questions about Stonehenge so we turned to the documentary Secrets of Stonehenge for more information.

Built around the year 3000 BC by stone age people living in Brittan, Stonehenge is aligned with the sun during the winter and summer solstices. In ancient times, stone was a symbol of the dead and wood was a symbol of life. Henges (circular structures) were built of both. While nothing but the post holes remain of the wooden henges, the remains of many stone henges can still be seen in the British Isles today. It's likely that the henges were locations where special religious ceremonies took place.

Coincidentally, hundreds of carved stone balls which date to the same time period in which Stonehenge was constructed have been discovered in Scotland. Historians have puzzled for years over the function of the balls. Recently, one researcher noticed that nearly all of the balls were constructed to a precise diameter of 2.75 inches and proposed a theory that they functioned as bearings in simple machines.

Based upon this theory, historians constructed a replica system which could have been used to move the large stones at Stonehenge. Although we may never know for sure how they were transported, we made a much simpler version of the simple machine using tennis balls, and pieces of wood.

Since the carved stone balls are similar in size to tennis balls, we placed several tennis balls between two channels of narrow wooden beams.

Next we placed a folded up table on top of the tennis balls as a platform and tested the system to see if the table could be easily moved.

It worked, so weight (one child) was added to the table and she was easily moved along the track.

Further testing revealed that heavier weights could be moved by persons with less strength.

To see our other projects which involved simple machines, please visit our Science Page.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Romero Britto Dinosaur Art Project for Kids

We created bright, patterned, dinosaur artwork using oil pastels in the style of Romero Britto - a successful living breathing artist.

Romero Britto is a self-taught Brazilian artist who's use of bright colors and geometric patterns appeals to a wide audience. He works in a variety of mediums from sculpture to automobiles to paintings. He has a very active community service record, has worked for corporations such as Disney and Coca-Cola and been featured at the World Cup.

The blog Art Projects for Kids often features simple drawing tutorials. Since many dinosaur tutorials were posted over the summer, we each selected a different dinosaur or prehistoric creature for our artwork.

Once our sketches following the tutorials were complete, the drawings were outlined in marker.

A few additional lines were added to the sketches in order to divide the paper into large chunks for the patterns.

Next oil pastels were used to fill in the backgrounds.

Most of the spaces were filled with simple patterns such as dots and stripes.

This is the finished parasaur from my seven year old daughter.

Here is my finished pterodactyl.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Sorting Objects into Categories

We sorted objects into different categories.

Sorting, patterns, and design all go hand-in-hand. Not only are these useful skills, but kids get lots of enjoyment finding different ways to sort the same materials.

Seashells, old keys, silverware, paperclips, stamps and many other objects work well for this activity.

Objects can be sorted based on size, color, shape and many other unique attributes depending on the characteristics available.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Fetal Pig Dissection

We dissected fetal pigs.

As educators of our own children, many of us are intimated by the highly technical high school course work such as biology with dissection. Despite our reservations, creating opportunities in these fields can have a profound effect on our children.

Recently, my daughter experienced biology via dissection. A local mom put together a series of classes designed to teach biology. Over the course of several weeks, my daughter dissected a pig eye, a sheep's heart, a sheep's brain, sheep's kidney, created marrow slides from the long bone of a cow, and dissected a fetal pig. Some of the specimens were ordered through a school scientific supply company and others were obtained from a local butcher.

Since there were around twenty children involved in the class, who eagerly participated, several doctors were invited to assist with the final class. There was an overwhelming response from the medical community. In fact, some offers had to be turned down. In the end, three doctors and two veterinarians met with the kids to teach them more about anatomy.

Having the doctors there was wonderful. They were able to point out different internal parts and answer questions which would have taken parents lots of time to research. Not only that, they explained how different parts of the pig related to their jobs and experiences in medical school. In school, they had to dissect very carefully (not in a destructive way), so they could use their specimen over and over again throughout the course. They taught the kids to cut a little, and then dissect with their fingers. It had been a long time since they had done a dissection, and were just as excited as the kids. Several of them admitted to brushing up on their pig anatomy before coming to class.

Once the detailed lab was complete, both the kids and doctors were interested in viewing the brain and spinal chord. They all worked an extra hour to uncover the brain and spinal column visible in the above photo. Overall, the kids spent about 2 1/2 hours dissecting their pigs.

I'm still intimidated by dissection, but have a few years before it will be necessary to revisit the topic. Now I see how vital this exposure is and will make sure my younger kids get a similar opportunity.

Finishing Strong - Homeschooling the Middle and High School Years
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Contracts, Loans, Constitutional Freedoms - An Activity for Children (ages 7-13)

We acted out the the court case Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell (1934).

 Today a large percentage of the American population feels entitled to certain benefits. Many feel the government should provide for people. In the Freedom Answer Book by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, he addresses many aspects of the constitution and how Government Laws and Policies have changed the United States Government and served to slowly move the United States in the direction of a country in which Government Policy tries to protect the people but actually creates greater damage.

In the court case Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell, the court had to choose between two conflicting laws. The first was the Contract Clause of the Constitution and the second was a law passed by the State of Minnesota preventing lenders from foreclosing mortgages. The law was passed during the Great Depression and meant to slow down the effects of the depression while helping citizens get back on their feet. However, the law was in direct conflict with the Constitution.

The decision the courts ultimately made was to uphold the Minnesota law thereby protecting citizens from their own financial problems and ignoring the Contracts Clause of the Constitution. According to the book, it marked a turn away from the constitution and a turn toward the government protecting the common good. Here's a quote.

The Court was no longer concerned about keeping the markets open and free. It was no longer concerned with keeping the government small. It was no longer concerned with enforcing freely consented-to agreements. Its new priority was "the common good" and making sure the government would provide for it.

The court decided in favor of the Minnesota law, but I wanted to see how my kids would decide the case.

First the small hedgehog named Vegie 3, decided to purchase a house from the pink hedgehog named Snowflake.

They wrote out a bill of sale and both signed.

Next, Vegie 3 secured a loan from Hedgie, the banker.

Hedgie agreed to loan Vegie 3 $70,000 and Vegie 3 agreed to give Hedgie $1000 per month for 70 months and agreed to give Hedgie the house if she didn't pay. Hedgie did not charge interest.

Next, the hedgehogs working in the government decided to pass a new law. Banks shall not be allowed to foreclose mortgages. They discussed how sometimes people (or hedgehogs) sometimes just need a little time to get back on their feet. When they are down-and-out taking their house can only make matters worse for them.

The government wrote and signed the law.

Then Vegie 3 went to work. She earned $2000 per month and happily gave Hedgie $1000 each month. The rest she sometimes saved and sometimes used to purchase food and go on vacation. Everything went fine until October came. Vegie 3 was told she was no longer needed at work. She tried desperately to find a job. She asked the bank if they were hiring, the government and even the courthouse, but nobody had any work for Vegie 3. After a few more months she ran out of money and was brought to court.

Hedgie wanted her money, but Vegie 3 couldn't pay. Therefore, Hedgie asked for the house. She brought her signed contract as evidence to present to the judges. Vegie 3 apologized for not paying, but said she couldn't and shouldn't have to because there was a law that said her house couldn't be taken away.

The judges heard the case and then went away for deliberation.

Obviously, this case was greatly simplified so that it could be understood by young children. Nonetheless, it presented an opportunity for discussion and consideration of significant issues.

The kids really had a difficult time deciding this case. They wanted to rule in favor of Hedgie, but provide a one year time period for Vegie 3 to find a new job. I instructed them that that was not an option. The case needed to be decided on the basis of which law took priority and was more important.

Their final verdict - Hedgie wins! Hedgie gets the house and will give Vegie 3 $10,000. The amount repaid on the loan. The reason - Vegie 3 did not pay. Hedgie loaned Vegie 3 money without interest, and the contract said she must pay the money back or she would loose the house. Hedgie is out a significant amount of money and needs her money back. Maybe Vegie 3 could find a job. She's smart. Unfortunately now she's jobless and houseless. Maybe she could find a rich husband, maybe she could sell her car to get some money, or maybe she could find a lower paying job like a food bagger at a grocery story. It's not really Hedgie's concern what Vegie 3 does. Hedgie feels bad, but doesn't deserve to loose the money she loaned.

I think in the end they decided the case on the basis of right and wrong. Regardless of whether a written law protects contracts or forbids the foreclosing of loans, they could see that the hedgehogs made a deal, one broke the deal, and the deal seemed reasonable.Therefore, it was fair that the remaining (yet undesirable) portion of the contract to be enacted.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.
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