Monthly Archives: March 2013

Moms On The Loose: What Would You Do With A Week At “Mom Camp”?


Sun Princess or Moon Mama?

Whether we are stay-at-home, work-at-home, or working moms, single, married, happy or not, we all work very hard to keep it all going, no matter the circumstances. I got to thinking today about how I have been searching endlessly for great summer opportunities, camps, classes or just good old summer fun for my 5 year old, and started to muse about what it would be like to go to camp myself. Mom Camp! How about a great group of moms set loose for a whole week (could this even be possible we are all wondering? Well, let’s just ride with it for the sake of imagination!) cooking around the campfire, telling stories, hiking, resting, reading, and singing?¬†Why stop there? I started to add things that sound great, like a massage therapist on staff, mineral baths, and a chef preparing healthy meals. There would be wine for those who like that (I would be one of those ūüôā ) or whatever else we wanted, and an entire hut full of chocolate and other treats to balance out the healthy stuff…

We would each choose things we wanted to get rid of from our lives and write them down on little pieces of paper and, after reading them mysteriously to each other over the glow of candlelight, we would cackle like witches and toss them into the fire like teenagers! We would beat drums, squish our toes into the mud and dance like wild children. We would have days of Art Therapy where we created mighty canvasses of color, squished clay into theraputic blobs and glazed it in kilns. Our Art Therapy Guide would be a wonderful, timeless woman, who seemed to understand each of our unique needs to be free, to express ourselves in our own ways, and she would have endless patience for us all.

We would star gaze. Oh, how we would dance under the stars and be our most wonderful moon-mama-selves (but only if we wanted to!). Age, religion, sexual preference, social or economic circumstances, why, none of it would matter at all. We would simply arrive, just like the kids do when they go to camp, and check in for some fun. We would all share the connectedness of being women and moms, of seeking to better ourselves with adventure, of loving our kids so deeply that we would be homesick for them sooner than we thought…

Okay, I am coming back to Earth. Perhaps others would think that I am a nut, that semi-luxury in the mountains and being a moon mama wouldn’t be fun, or that taking a mineral bath in the privacy of beautiful pine trees, or throwing balloons full of paint at a wagon wheel, wouldn’t be worth it. I feel I should add that I love my life as a mom and wife, and really have nothing that I am trying to “get a break” from. I’m not feeling that I need to run away from anything, it is more a feeling of running to something. Know what I mean?

A whole week of moms on the loose. Sharing life and new experiences. Just imagine!

If you are a moon mama, or a sun princess, what would you like to see at a “mom” camp, or festival? We would all love to hear your thoughts. Until then, I am off to hug and kiss my little sweetheart and read her a story before bed. She loves the idea of flying carpets and magic stones. Someday she too will be a moon mama, humming a little song to herself and looking for her own brass gong to bang and, ooohh, what a glorious sight that will be!

Good night, and good thoughts to all, Karen

Categories: Mom's Junk Trunk | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Tempera Still Life Painting Project With Kids!


When my daughter painted her very first still life, it was amazing to watch her really envelop herself in the whole process, and have so much fun doing it. ¬†She arranged her fruit, mixed her own paints with 3 primary colors, sketched, and then painted, her subject. ¬†Watching her delight as she discovered that adding a few simple lines gave the bowl depth was priceless. It was such a wonderful experience for both of us, that I would like to share our version of a still life painting “learning unit” for kids. This is just what we did, you can adjust along the way to suit the child’s needs. ¬†This is a project to delve into when the child is relaxed and feeling creative. This is not a project to do today if mom or kiddo is feeling rushed. ¬†Early still life painting is special and needs as much time as it takes. ¬†Here goes!

Supplies to have ready:  bowl, fruit, pencil, powdered tempura paints in red, yellow and blue, paint smock or old shirt, paint brushes, newspapers, black marker, glass of water and rag to rinse brushes, thick paper suitable for paint, popsicle sticks or spoons for mixing the paint, and a small plastic palette or little cups for the paints.

Step 1. ¬†We talked about what a still life is, as we gathered materials. Basically, a still life is a picture of ¬†inanimate objects, such as fruits, flowers, books, etc., usually grouped on a flat surface. ¬†I also took this opportunity to reiterate the terms “landscape” and “portrait” in terms of placement of the paper. ¬†Portrait is when the shorter side of the paper is at the top, and landscape is when the longer side is at the top.

Step 2. ¬†Captain chose a bowl and as she arranged her fruits just so, I took a moment to talk about the term “arrangement”. ¬†Help your child take the time to arrange, and not just throw the objects in the bowl or on the counter. ¬†This is a still life, and composition is important.¬†I told her that an artist usually takes their arrangement very personally. ¬†How the artist places the fruit is important for composition.¬†(I didn’t explain exactly what “composition” means to her at this time, just threw it right out there with everything else.) ¬†We were low on fresh fruits, so we used some plastic bananas and grapes to fill it out. ¬†She really enjoyed placing everything just so.¬†She took her time with the arrangement and decided that the grapes were too squished-looking by the pear, and changed it around and placed the banana gently on top. ¬†Voila! ¬†Now THAT is how we arrange things. ¬†Fantastic! ¬†Make sure there is good lighting for the objects. ¬†A small lamp can even be used to enhance the light source. ¬†Before she started sketching, we talked about lighting and depth. ¬†“See how the light shines from one direction and changes the colors and makes shadows?”

Step 3. Captain sketched her still life by drawing a large circle for the bowl in pencil, and then drawing many circles bunched together for grapes, and other shapes for the rest of the fruit.  It was great!  After she sketched, we took a break and then returned to mix the paints.

Step 4. From the 3 primary colors we had, Captain was able to make all of the colors she needed to paint her still life.  She measured out about a teaspoon of powdered paint into her cups and mixed water, a little at a time, to make her colors. (I wish I had offered her a dropper to use for the water as I think she would have really liked using one with the paints.  She could take her time and add drop by drop, because that works with her personality!) She needed red, green, purple, yellow and orange to complete her project.  She mixed her colors and painted her fruits and bowl.  This is a good time to remember that red and yellow make orange, and so on!  The painting looked wonderful already!

Step 5. ¬†The paints dried quickly, and, after a snack, we talked about outlining the fruits to give them more drama. ¬†It was just a choice that I offered to her and she leaped to the idea immediately. We didn’t have black paint on hand, and she was ready for a change, so she used a black marker to outline each fruit and to add a line inside the bowl to give it more depth. She was amazed by this. ¬†I held it up before she drew the line, and after, so she could see the difference, and she exclaimed “Wow! ¬†It really looks like a bowl!!!”

Step 6. ¬†After lots of ooohs-and-ahhhhs over the painting (!), now is the time to ask the child if they would like to give their still-life a name (always refer to it as a “still life” and not “picture”). Captain didn’t want to give hers a name and so we called it an “untitled painting” and talked about it. ¬†I have found that kids like to discuss their paintings after they are done. ¬†She wanted to talk about the colors, the arrangement and how she felt while she was doing it. ¬†She was positively lit right up! I just can’t express how cool it was to be with her while she talked about her art with such animation. ¬†We hung it right up and she couldn’t stop admiring it. When her dad came home, he barely got into the door when she rushed him over to admire it. ¬†Even now, a few months later, when someone comes visiting she often takes them right to her still life to tell them all about how she did it. ¬†She is so proud and I am even more proud than she is!


Captain’s very first still-life! ¬†She LOVED this project and wants to do more and more…

After the fact, it is wonderful to show some examples of famous still lifes throughout history. I prefer to show Captain other artists’ works¬†after¬†she has done hers. ¬†I just want art to be pure and open for her so that she can approach things with her own creative mind and heart, without preconceived notions of how it “should” be.¬†There are so many still lifes to choose from in art books, magazines, online etc. I will leave you with 4 wonderful examples to share with your little artists. ¬†Thanks for reading.
Cheers!  Karen


Still Life with Apples, a Pear, and a Ceramic Portrait Jug (1888) Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)


Bouquet (1599) Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625)


Pfirsichzweig (Peach Twig) (1630)  Georg Flegel (1566-1638) 


Dishes and Fruit (1901) Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Cool Field Trips Ideas For Kids!


It never hurts to Ask!” ¬†I have found that educating my child at home, and in the world, requires a lot of new experiences, ideas, and other people to share their gifts, talents, and knowledge with us.¬†We¬†are always learning, individually, and together, and I wanted to share some of the ideas we have come across, quite successfully, because we simply made a phone call or email, or simply asked. ¬†

Anyone who homeschools with their kids knows that a big part of the experience is to seek out and discover new ways to excite imagination and learning. ¬†This is true of kids who attend brick-and-mortar schools as well. ¬†Kids who do go to a seat-based school usually have opportunities to go on field trips to museums, community services, and other fun things. Homeschooling kids need these opportunities too, and it is our job as educators to provide new experiences to learn and just have a great time with other kids and parents. Here are some field trips that Captain and I have arranged, and enjoyed, and they didn’t cost a thing (except for some stickers and badges that we got for the kids). We recommend trying these out…


#1. Visit Your Local Fire Department!: ¬†We did this 2 ways. ¬†In California, I arranged a tour with the local fire house for a large group of moms and kids from The Mommy Network. ¬†I simply looked up the local fire department online and sent an email to their public relations department explaining that I had a group that would love to tour. ¬†The captain called me back immediately and we set up a date. ¬†It was awesome! ¬†This was an extensive tour of the facility’s barracks, kitchen, garden (with chickens!) and then on to the firetrucks themselves. ¬†The kids learned about fire safety and even got to try on the gear and climb all over everything, with lots of cool firefighters on hand to help. ¬†The guys were great and even had a tug-of-war and other fun stuff to do on the lawn. ¬†At the end, the firefighters gave each of the kids a goody bag with fun stuff AND their very own plastic fire hats. What a great tour! ¬†At another time, on a visit to Troy, Ny, we were simply walking by and poked our heads in to the firehouse and the wonderful Captain on duty let our little Captain climb around inside the truck and was there to answer any questions we had. Both ways are fun, but I highly recommend arranging an actual tour with the fire department as if it very informative and fun. For a firehouse tour, you will generally need to gather a group of at least 8 people, but you can arrange this when you call or email.


#2. Visit your local Police Department!: For this tour you will need to do the same thing as above and contact your local police department’s tours/relations department. ¬†We did this in Paso Robles, CA and they had regulations on the size of the group (6-10) which wasn’t a problem. When we arrived, we had a tour of the building and jail cells. ¬†The tour leader talked about safety and showed us how people are fingerprinted, searched, and processed through the jail. ¬†Captain and I handed out stickers and each kid got a small, metal police badge that I found very cheaply online through a wholesale sticker outlet. ¬†It was fun and informative, and once again, I was surprised at how easy it was to arrange.


#3. Visit a Veterinary Hospital! : This is as simple as emailing your local animal clinic or hospital with your request to tour the facility and learn about what veterinarians do and how animals are cared for there. Include a time frame of possible dates and the number of people who will attend. We toured Paso Petcare in Paso Robles, CA, and they are awesome!  We ended up taking our new puppy there, actually, after we had visited and saw how clean and nice their clinic is, and how they care for the animals.  They were wonderful and welcomed us all. Dr. Lucy gave us the tour, and we all learned about the rooms, the surgeries and care that the animals need. There were things to touch and animals to see and we got to meet the resident one-eared cat that had been rescued by the staff. Lots of questions were answered and the kids loved the animals.  Getting to see how they are cared for was a wonderful experience!


#4. Arrange a tour with your local Ambulance company!

Yet again, it never hurts to ask!  I called a local ambulance company in Atascadero, CA and made arrangements for a group of moms and kids to learn about ambulances, and what paramedics do to help people.  Mostly the kids enjoyed climbing all over inside the ambulance and getting strapped into the gurney.  When I called to make arrangements, I was told that the ambulance could come to a school, or other facility, and since I had a good-sized group, they were willing to meet us at a local park. They let me know right away that they would call me in on the morning of the tour to confirm, and also that if an emergency came up that required our ambulance, that we would need to wait, or postpone.  It actually did happen that an emergency occured and our ambulance was needed somewhere, but I got a call on my cell that they would be an hour late.  No problem!  The location being a park was ideal and all of the kids played and ate lunch until the ambulance arrived.  It was great!  They pulled right up and the paramedics came out and introduced themselves and talked a little about what they do and answered questions.  Then, they opened up the back and told the kids to jump right in.  It was really fun for everyone!



Learning about what people do in the world is awesome, and I would like to thank all of the people who took the time to share with us their experiences in helping people and animals in the world.  If you have arranged any cool tours for kids and parents, we would love to hear about them.  I look forward to all of the adventures in learning to come.  Thanks for reading!

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Easy Dough Ornaments For Easter, Or Anytime!


Here is a very simple recipe for craft dough for making cool ornaments. These dry quickly so there isn’t an overnight-wait period for little crafters ūüôā

This dough is great to use for any ornament shapes, using cookie cutters, and you’ll want to have some colorful yarn, or ribbons, on hand for hanging the sweet creations when finished. ¬†After the paint dries, Captain likes to write her name and the date on the back with a black, fine-tip permanent marker, which adds such a nice touch for gifts for family. ¬†This is a perfect Easter craft too, as a simple egg shape looks adorable with any colors or patterns!


4 cups flour, 1-1/2 cups water, 1 cup salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Combine flour, salt and water (excellent time to let the kids measure & mix!) and after mixing well, knead for 10 minutes (let the kiddos set the timer and help knead too!).

Roll out onto floured surface and cut into desired shapes.  Make a hole for hanging.  Bake for 30 minutes and allow to cool.

Paint with tempera paints and allow to dry. You can now write on them with permanent markers, if you like. Spray with clear polyurethane on both sides. ¬†Hang from ribbons.¬†¬†I hope you enjoy making these with your little ones…

Good thoughts, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

From Tree To Table: How Maple Syrup Is Made!


Scrumptious gift from the beautiful maple tree:  home-canned maple syrup!

I would like to share with you the wonderful information we just learned, as a family, about how maple syrup is made at home.  Kids love to learn new things about trees, and as is the case of my kiddo, food too!  If you live in the northeastern part of the US, or in the Canadian regions where maple trees flow with wonderful sap, you are very lucky to have this gift so close to home.  We are fortunate to be visiting upstate New york and just saw friends who shared with us the process of tapping trees and cooking down the sap into syrup. After the how-to portion of this post, I will share some terrific news on the health benefits of real maple syrup, a maple syrup & walnut popcorn recipe, and a link to free, fun printables about maple syrup for kids.

The trees! Due to their sugar content, the following trees are most commonly tapped for sap collection:  Sugar Maple, Black Maple, Red Maple, and Silver Maple.  Sugar Maples have the highest sugar content and therefore are ideal for tapping.

Basically, a hole is drilled in the tree and a tap or spout, called a spile, is used to transfer the sap from the tree into a bucket. ¬†A bucket, or plastic jug, is hung from the tree to collect the sap. ¬†The sap runs out clear, like water, and is collected and cooked down outside for hours to get the water out and thicken and darken it. ¬†The sap is then taken indoors to finish up and is then canned in a hot water bath into sterile jars. ¬†That’s it!

Maple sap generally begins to flow between mid-February and mid-March.  Sap flows when the daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing.  Generally the sap flows for 4-6 weeks, with the best sap coming early in the season.

Trees must be at least 12 inches in diameter, and larger trees can have up to 3 taps per tree. ¬†The height of the tap hole doesn’t matter, it is a matter of convenience. ¬†A hole is drilled about 2 inches deep, at a slight upward angle. ¬†The spile is inserted and tapped into the tree with a hammer. ¬†The bucket, or jug, is hung by hook or spile. The tree is tapped!

Depending on the season, you can expect 5-15 gallons of sap per tap. The sap can be stored for up to a week or so before cooking, so syrup doesn’t have to be processed daily. ¬†The collected sap is strained to remove debris and is ready for cooking.

10 gallons of sap can be boiled into 1 quart of syrup (ratio of 40:1).  The sap is boiled outdoors because it produces too much steam to do inside. In small batches, the sap boils until it takes on a golden color, and then is transferred to a smaller pot and taken indoors to finish.  Continue to boil the sap until it takes on a consistency of syrup and then a candy thermometer is used to bring it to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water.

The syrup is then filtered and canned in a boiling water bath for storage, or placed in the refrigerator to be used within 3 months.

I just can’t get enough of this! ¬†I love maple trees, the sap and the syrup! ¬†I am ever hopeful to return next winter and help tap and cook maple syrup. It is truly good family fun, and a delightful addition to the pantry.

Maple syrup, the healthy sweetener:

Maple syrup contains polyphenols, antioxidants that help with inflammation, according to research from The University of Rhode Island. ¬†During the study, one polyphenol, quebecol (named for Quebec, one of the top syrup-making regions) was discovered, and it is unique to maple syrup. University of Rhode Island researcher, Navindra Seeram, discovered¬†54 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup (2011), and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered in preliminary research play a key role in human health. ¬†Several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.¬†¬†The darker grades of maple syrup have the highest level of antioxidants. Maple syrup is sugar, and therefore shouldn’t be consumed in huge amounts to try to get the antioxidant benefits! It is simply a much healthier choice for sweetening foods instead of other sugars or anything with corn syrup. ¬†I am happy to say that Captain loves real maple syrup! ¬†We put it on her porridge, pancakes and yogurt, and cook and bake with it as well.


This is Stan, who resides in Columbia County in New York.  He graciously took us on a tour of his land and shared his knowledge of maple sap-to-syrup.  Afterward, he and his lovely wife, Linda, served us sweet little old-fashioned dishes of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with their very own maple syrup.  It was scrumptious, and honestly, the best maple syrup I have ever tasted!  Thanks for reading.  Cheers to Stan and Linda, and maple syrup dreams to all!


Recipe ~Maple Syrup & Walnut Popcorn:  Oil a large bowl and a wooden spoon.  Pop 8 cups, or so, of popcorn.  Heat 1 cup maple syrup to 236 degrees, using a candy thermometer.  Stir together popcorn, 3/4 cup walnut pieces, and syrup.  Break into pieces when cool.  Enjoy!

Click here for a link to fun, free maple syrup coloring pages for kids

Click here for the link¬†to read more about The University of Rhode Island’s study of maple syrup.

You can find the comprehensive booklet Tap My Trees  Maple Sugaring at Home by Joe McHale on Amazon by clicking here.

Categories: Foodarella, Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

15 Fabulous Ladybug Facts For Budding Entomologists!


I can’t help myself but to forever photograph the ladybugs of Sequoia National Forest!



The scientific name for ladybug is Coccinellidae. Sounds romantic, eh? 

Ladybugs are truly beautiful, beneficial, and deserving of some major praise as we polish up the house, shake out our rugs, and open our hearts to spring. ¬†Okay, I can’t promise that I am going to get the windows washed anytime soon, but I can say that I might just be forgiven if I am caught bumbling around in the forest with a camera looking for more of these beauties!

My 5 year old loves ladybugs, as so many kids do, and we adults could spare a few moments to give a nod, and learn a bit about these lovelies as well.  Here are some fabulous ladybug facts for all of us insect-lovers! At the bottom of the page are links to my sources as well as links to some fun ladybug crafts and coloring pages for the kids.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do and thanks for reading on!

1. There are about 5,000 different species of ladybugs in the world.

2. Ladybugs can have spots, stripes, or no markings at all, and come  in many different colors. The most familiar ladybug in North America is the seven-spotted ladybug.  They have 6 short legs.

3. Ladybugs breathe through openings on the sides of their bodies.

4. The seven-spotted lady bug is native to Europe. ¬†They were brought to North America in the mid-1900’s to control aphid populations.

5. Ladybugs are also called “lady beetles” or “ladybird beetles”. ¬†They get their name from European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests ate their crops. ¬†The ladybugs came to the rescue, and the farmers called them “beetle of our Lady” which became shortened to lady beetle or ladybug.

6. Ladybugs (and aphids) were studied by NASA up in space (1999)!

7. A ladybug can retract its head into it’s body.

8. One ladybug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime.  They eat aphids and other plant-eating pests. Farmers and gardeners love them!

9. In many cultures ladybugs are considered good luck.

10. A ladybug’s bright coloring tells predators that they will taste terrible. When threatened, ladybugs secrete an oily, yucky-tasking fluid from their leg joints.

11. Birds are the main predators of ladybugs, but frogs, wasps, spiders and dragonflies like to eat them too.

12. There are both male and female ladybugs and it’s almost impossible to tell them apart without a microscope, except that females are usually larger.

13. According to Alive and The Sierra Club, pesticides and GMO’s are threatening ladybugs.

14. Ladybugs are most active from spring to fall.  When it gets cold, they hibernate.

15. The ladybug is the official state insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Tennessee!

Thanks for reading and happy spring to all!


Visit  The Ladybug Lady and Nat Geo Kids for more information and pics! Click here for more about entomology.

Click here for a cute ladybug terra cotta wind chime craft!

Click here for free printable insect coloring pages!

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids!, Sequoia National Forest & Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

10 Fast Facts About Hematite For Little Scientists!


Endless entertainment… These magnetic “sticky stones” were a gift from Captain’s grandparents after they traveled across the United States

These magnetic pieces are lots of fun, and can be found in many gift shops in touristy places around the world. ¬†Captain and her dad had gotten a few in Sequoia National Park, and then her grandparents added to her collection. ¬†We keep the pouch on our counter, where we hang out and eat, talk and play, and they seem to get handled, stacked and just generally played with a lot. ¬†We decided to learn about hematite because we are a family quite interested in all things magnetic.¬†Although the “hematite” sold as sticky rocks, like the ones shown above, are, in fact, usually a synthetic form of magnetic hematite, sometimes called “hematine”, they are still the perfect introduction to talking about minerals.

Here are 10 fun facts about hematite that are fun to talk about while playing with these sticky stones. ¬†As always, memorizing the facts isn’t necessary! ¬†Just using the language and talking about things in a fun and interesting way stimulates our thirst for knowledge and gives us all some of the language of natural minerals, and isn’t that alone enough to build up the fundamentals of the burgeoning scientist? ¬†So here we go to some hematite facts that we chatted about with Captain, letting whatever parts interest her jump into her brain and, excuse the pun!, stick where they may and get her thinking…

1. The name “hematite” comes from the Greek work for blood, haima (or the root “hema”), because hematite can be red.

2. Hematite is the mineral form of iron oxide and is harder than pure iron, but much more brittle.

3. Hematite is usually found in places where there is water and in areas where hot springs are found, like England, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, Brazil and in the Lake Superior region in Michigan.  However, there are forms of hematite that result from volcanic activity without water.

4. Hematite has been discovered on Mars!

5. Hematite is weakly magnetic (although it does display magnetic capabilities at high temperatures) and that is why other minerals are used to create synthetic hematite for sticky stones.

6. Hematite can be used as a pigment in paints, and the colors range from almost black to silvery gray to blood red.  One of the most famous forms is the lusterous silver gray used for jewelry and other ornamental things. (We want to get some hematite beads and make bracelets!) No matter the color, there is a rust-colored streak in every hematite stone.

7. Hematite forms in a series of crystalline plates, which build on each other.

8. Hematite is believed to be a healing and grounding mineral that can strengthen the body and lessen life’s stresses. ¬†It is also considered by some to be helpful for some conditions, like seasickness.

9. Hematite powder was used in Egyptian tombs to stop intruders from entering. Hematite powder can be irritating to eyes and skin and can be lethal if inhaled. If tomb robbers disturbed the sarcophagus, the hematite would fly up into the air and get in the robbers’ eyes and lungs.

10. Hematite in powdered form has been used as a red chalk for thousands of years.

I am unable to quote all of my sources exactly because I have gathered facts along the way.  Everything here is completely accurate to my knowledge.

Minerals Rock! Thanks for reading.


Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

For Balance, Tricks and FUN: Slacklining Rocks!


If you have two suitable trees, springtime is awesome for setting up a slackline for the kids (and big people too!) ¬†It is simple to do, and we couldn’t believe the difference in muscle tone our kiddo had after about a week of playing on this one. ¬†Balance, coordination, and self-esteem are all stimulated in a beautiful way with a slackline. ¬†We had a roll of sturdy, nylon rope that we had gotten at a discount tool place (Harbor Freight Tools in CA) for about 8 bucks. ¬†We strung one line between 2 trees (it is recommended that they be at least 8″ in diameter) and held Captain’s hand as she would wobble across. ¬†It dawned on us that she needed a second line up above her, to hang onto so she could play independently, and voila!, she was ripping across it, bouncing and jumping all by herself. The first few nights after playing on it with the 2nd line she did complain that her sides and legs were hurting, and we realized it was because she was using so many muscles in her legs and torso, neck, arms, well everything. ¬†It is truly great exercise and fun, fun fun!

I recommend reading this bit from Wikipedia, if you don’t have another source to look at. ¬†They share a lot of of info and ideas and also recommend using a wider strap instead of the rope, as it is easier to walk on and you can build up to doing more tricks etc. ¬†For now, we had the rope on hand and are going to stick with it, but we will probably graduate up to a strap when she is ready to play around without holding the upper rope. ¬†This is great for body and soul!!

Slacklining¬†is a practice in¬†balance¬†that typically uses¬†nylon¬†or¬†polyester¬†webbing¬†tensioned between two¬†anchor¬†points. Many people suggest slacklining is distinct from¬†tightrope walking¬†in that the line is not held rigidly taut (although it is still under some tension); it is instead dynamic, stretching and bouncing like a long and narrow¬†trampoline. The line’s tension can be adjusted to suit the user and different types of webbing can be used to achieve a variety of feats. The line itself is usually flat, due to the nature of webbing, thus keeping the slacker’s footing from rolling as would be the case with an ordinary rope. The dynamic nature of the line allows for tricks and stunts.”

Without a lot of research, it looks like slackline kits start at about 45 bucks. Like I said, we may go for the better strap at some point, but for now, it’s a DIY-with-what’s-around thing, and it is working great! ¬†If you don’t have the trees available, it would be worth finding a friend or neighbor who does. ¬†It is fantastic!

Spring is in the air and getting outside is what it’s all about!

Cheers!  Karen


Categories: Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Make Your Own Geoboards For Kids!


We love our geoboard, made with a pegboard and 1″ machine bolts and nuts. ¬†Grab some rubber bands for some fun with designs and shapes!

A geoboard is, basically, a board with pegs (nails or screws) poking out on which kids can make designs, shapes and angles by stretching rubber bands between 2 or more of the pegs. ¬†It is a WONDERFUL tool for having fun creating pictures, and also a great tactile experience for teaching hexagons, pentagons etc. ¬†This is another project that does not require kids to learn every angle and the exact names of each shape, although they can learn more that we’d think! ¬†The act of stretching out designs stimulates the mathematical parts of a brain.

From Wikipedia: “A geoboard is a mathematical manipulative used to explore basic concepts in plane geometry such as perimeter, area and the characteristics of triangles and other polygons. ¬†It consists of a physical board with a certain number of nails half driven in, around which are wrapped rubber bands. ¬†Geoboards were invented and popularized in the 1950’s by Egyptian mathematician Caleb Gattegno (1911-1988).”¬†

If I read this description to Captain she would probably just walk away. ¬†It isn’t about pushing geometry. ¬†It just brings up one of my favorite things about our idea of homeschooling/unschooling: ¬†brushing up against stimulating ideas with a tactile experience, and letting the crumbs fall where they may.

There are lots of ideas floating around online, and also educators could direct us more, as to various teaching methods using the geoboard. ¬†Our personal favorites are to just have fun making shapes and designs, and also to make a particular shape and name it (square, pentagon etc.) ¬†It is also a fun exercise to make a small shape like a square, and then make the exact shape bigger…

Geoboards can be purchased online, and in educational stores, starting at about 4 bucks for a small, plastic square with plastic pegs, and the price goes up from there. ¬†Many people recycle a scrap of wood and pound in nails until they are poking out about an inch. ¬†We used a pegboard with 1″ machine bolts and nuts. ¬†The machine bolts differ from regular bolts in that they have a flat tip, not pointy. ¬†When we no longer need the geoboard, we will use the pegboard in the barn for tools and the machine screws for another project. We have found that a bigger size (12×12 or larger) is best because it is sturdier and allows for more creative freedom to make cool designs and shapes. ¬†We thought the little plastic geoboards seem too small. ¬†We planned to mount ours onto the wall (they are quite appealing on a wall as a little “station”) but Captain has had so much fun with it on a table, or in her lap, that we are leaving it loose about the cabin for now. ¬†We have a big jar of rubber bands on hand for activities. ¬†It is important to note that rubber bands should only be used by kids who will not swallow them and that can learn to not snap themselves in the eye!

If you have a geoboard, or plan to make one, and have any cool activities to share, we would love to hear about them here on kartwheels.

Good thoughts and happy hexagons,


Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Math Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Great Human Anatomy Manipulative: The Squishy Human Body is Fun!


Captain enjoyed extracting the organs, muscles and, finally, the bones from this interactive human figure

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My daughter is 5 years old and loves human anatomy almost¬†as much as dog anatomy. ¬†Today I gave her a present that I had stashed away, and I wanted to share it with y’all because we found it to be very cool for kids who are learning about human anatomy. ¬†It is a Squishy Human Body, made by SmartLab. ¬†It sells for 21 bucks on Amazon (free shipping) and is well worth the price. ¬†The manufacturer lists this 12″ plastic human body for ages 8+ but, as always, it depends on the kid. ¬†The bones, muscles and organs are encased in a clear plastic form and the set comes with plastic tweezers and forceps. ¬†There is also a body-parts “organ-izer” included, which is basically a poster that names each of the parts. ¬†After removing a bone or organ etc. the child then places them on the poster and learns the name of it. ¬†An adult, or older person, should work with them on this project, to help them identify the parts, and also to assist in putting them back together. ¬†It isn’t easy for little ones to replace the parts in the correct places, and snap the bones together without help. ¬†I think it won’t be long before she can do this on her own. ¬†The set also includes: 12 plastic bones and muscles, 9 squishy vital organs and a stand for displaying your cool body. ¬†Here’s the extra fun part: ¬†the squishy organs are really squishy and ooh-ey! ¬†We couldn’t stop exclaiming “ooh gross!” and “squish-squish-squish!” ¬†It was fun! ¬†Before reassembling it, Captain had fun stuffing other organs into the skull and generally just playing around with it.

While she extracted and placed organs on the poster, I told her a few high points of each organ. ¬†For example, she learned that the liver is a kind of filter for the body, that the intestines are reaalllly long if you uncoiled them for real, and reminded her that the human heart has 4 chambers. ¬†The particles of knowledge really sink in easily when a kid is having a tactile experience that is enjoyable, like an ooh-ey, squishy heart! ¬†Next on the wish list is the squishy human heart, brain and we need to get our hands on an eye…. ¬†I can’t wait!

Happy learning and many good thoughts, Karen

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Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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