Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marble Run

I plopped a marble on the floor and explained Newton's First Law of Motion to W: a marble standing still will keep standing still until you roll it.  Then I rolled it and explained it keeps rolling until the floor slows it down to a stop.  W was unimpressed by my lecture and insistence that this law is in fact a landmark of scientific achievement and human thought (even if it is obvious to any 6-year-old).  So we spent the next hour putting Newton's Law into action in the form of the marble run, which has since replaced Uno as W's favorite object of play.

Here is one of the runs W created:

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Here is a baby porcupine we saw in our yard this evening. The quills still appeared very soft but we did not want to get too close to find out. The mommy is nowhere in sight, so I am hoping this little one can avoid the predators and go back into the woods. It is still out on the same tree over an hour later. 

Other animals we have seen recently are frogs, a salamander (Red spotted newt), squirrels, chipmunks, wild turkeys, various birds and our resident hummingbird. No bear, owl, or deer sightings recently. We have however heard coyotes so it makes me glad we keep our cat indoors! 

A couple of weeks ago W read the book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen for Five in a Row, and we found a great website on Owls as a supplement to learn about different owl species. Both the boys especially enjoyed listening to owl calls. The book gave W some good food for thought as well about nature, bravery, and peacefulness. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Force, Mass, and Acceleration

So it's still a tad early to expose W to the mathematical explication of Newton's Laws of Motion, but that doesn't mean we can't start building an intuition for them.  Now, kids who engage in non-schooled, extraneous, and wasteful activities such as "play" probably build a pretty good intuition on their own.  Perhaps any lesson I design merely risks muddying the mental waters, but in any case, I was not going to pass up an opportunity to heave rocks out of a window.

I asked W whether a light or heavy rock would fall faster, and he thought the heavy rock.  This is a great answer and suggests an intuition that Force is directly proportional to Acceleration.  I suspect this intuition is largely built from physical play, where one learns something like "the harder you push, the faster you go."  When you hold up a heavy object, you feel it push down harder, and as a result you would think it should accelerate faster when released.

But of course, the intuition fails.  W learned that a big rock and little rock will hit the ground at the same time.  The same goes for sticks, plastic balls, and rubber boots.

So what happened?  I explained to W thusly: "gravity acts on all things the same".  Sometimes a bigger Force means a bigger Acceleration, but not always.  In Newton's famous equation F=mA, a bigger force can result if one holds Acceleration constant but increases Mass.

Of course, then I screwed it all up by dropping a rock next to a leaf: "but you also have to think about air sometimes".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reading Together: Little House

W is currently reading Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I am so happy he likes it! Even if he scoffs it when he is older I will treasure these memories with him. This is the book for spring for our homeschool book club which meets next week. He is now able to read full chapter books on his own, but we are doing this book as a family read aloud so we often read together and take turns reading a page at a time out loud. It is so neat to re-read this book in a new way for me and see it through different eyes. Occasionally we watch episodes of the show (keeping in mind that a lot of the things in the show differ greatly from the books and real life.) But we enjoy it anyway for what it is. ;) 

In case I haven't mentioned it enough on this blog, I love Laura Ingalls Wilder, her books, history & home sites. I recently bought the book The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure, which is a hilarious romp through modern day Little House culture. It isn't meant for kids, although teens into the world of LH may appreciate it, and Moms definitely will. Wendy also has a blog and book tour so check out her site! The World of Little House by Carolyn Strom Collins is a book that young readers would enjoy, and it is available used on Amazon. If you and your child wants to learn about the real-life history of Laura Ingalls, I highly recommend visiting Nansie Cleaveland's brilliant Pioneer Girl website and blog. Also the Beyond Little House website is a wonderful resource. It makes me want to visit all the LH sites again, hoping to when C gets a bit older! 


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Homeschool Day at the Fisher Cats

On Friday we took part in the Homeschool Day parade at the Manchester Fisher Cats baseball game in Manchester, NH. We got group rate tickets through our homeschool group and it was a fun experience! This was the boys' first time going to a baseball game so we weren't sure if they would last for the duration, especially C, but being a minor league team there was always entertainment and it was a relaxed environment.  There were a few thousand people but it was not nearly as busy as a Red Sox game. We stayed for the fireworks show afterwards and were very glad we did. It was terrific! All in all a very memorable experience for the kids. They hope to make this an annual event for NH & MA homeschoolers.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Maps in Three

The goal of the first lesson was to produce a scaled map of the interior of our house.  W enjoyed using the tape measure on the walls, and I did the work of translating the measurements to a floormap.  I motivated the lesson by letting W know that we would be using the maps in the second lesson to do treasure hunts.

The treasure hunts were a blast!  I photocopied the map and gave W one of the maps with an X on it.  At the X, he found a candy egg and another map for the next hunt.  I spent a lot of time with W showing him how to orient the map and determine the general area in a room where the X was.

In the third lesson, I printed out Google maps of our town, state, country, and world.  On the town map, I circled our property; on the state map, I circled our town, and so on.  After looking at these maps and discussing them, we went out on the road for a drive around town, with the task for W to navigate our way to the ball field (where we threw a frisbee around) and back.  W did a good job of keeping track of where we were on the map and letting me know what the next road would be, but he had trouble with determining whether a turn would be a left or a right.  Since we were doing a big loop, he eventually learned that every turn we were making was a left turn.

Maps are a great way to learn concepts around abstraction, spatial reasoning, and data visualization.  They also help us explore and learn about the world around us, and they can be employed for activities that are actually fun.  I suspect we'll be seeing lots of maps in future Daddy lessons.

Monday, May 2, 2011

International Postcard Swap for Families

We will be participating in an international postcard swap organized by Zoe from the Playing by the Book blog. On the postcards families will be sharing childrens' book recommendations from around the globe. This is not homeschool specific so any family can sign up, just click the link below to check it out! Sign-up ends May 17th 2011.