Social Science Rocks For Kids!

Social Science learning and projects for homeschooling, and all!, kids!

Make A Ming-Inspired Bowl!


These sweet bowls would make lovely Christmas gifts for family & friends!

We’ve been studying the beginnings of Ancient China and highly recommend this straight-up fun project for all ages. If needed, parents can help younger kids in between making a Ming bowl for themselves!

You’ll Need: A large ball of air-dry clay (I have some of the Crayola brand, and it works great, and is affordable at about $5 for a tub), plastic wrap, a small round bowl, a rolling pin, a sculpting tool or blunt knife, acrylic paints, a clear acrylic sealing spray, or a mixture of glue and water, to glaze the finished piece.

1. Wrap the outside of your bowl in plastic wrap.  I recommend using a smaller “condiment” sized bowl for the first one.

2. Roll out your ball of clay to no less than 1/4″ thickness, making sure it is big enough to cover the outside of the bowl. Press it tightly around the bowl, then use your tools to trim away any excess. Be sure not to make the air-dry clay too thin or the bowl will crack when it dries (we did this and then used the pieces as “archaeology pottery” 🙂 )

3. Place the bowl on a piece of newspaper and allow to dry in an airy place. Don’t put it in the direct sun or it can dry out too fast and crack. It should be dry by the next morning.

4. Remove the dried bowl from the form and paint! Ancient Chinese pottery was usually decorated with pictures of birds, flowers, and outdoor scenes, painted in whites and blues. Captain painted hers with cobalt blue, let it dry, then painted flowers and bird shapes in moon yellow. She was a little bummed that her birds didn’t come out the way she wanted, but they are fabulous! She even added a little tiny “M” for “mom” in the center of one of her flowers… ahhh!


5. After the piece is completely dry, a fine sharpie can be used to write a name, or initials, and date on the bottom. What a sweet keepsake!

6. Spray with clear acrylic sealer (adults only), or you can glaze it with a mixture of 2 parts white glue to 1 part water. These both will give it a shiny glaze coating, which we love. Or, you can leave it as is.


Before and after I sprayed the acrylic seal on

Fun, simple and a little “M” to boot. I love it!  I hope you and/or your kids will give this a try. Check out Google images to share some traditional Ming bowls and pottery with your kids. Captain has been inspired to try making another one that looks like this:


A gorgeous flower bowl from the 1300’s

We got the idea for this project out of The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Ancient Times. We thank you kindly!

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

DIY: Make a Rockin’ Backyard Tipi For Kids!


Captain, or “Princess Akeezia” as she calls herself, may never stop playing in her $3 backyard tipi! 


What you need:  5 or 6 heavy bamboo stakes (6 to 8 foot length), a heavy-duty rubber band, and something to cover the tipi (piece of fabric, burlap, or a sheet)

I cannot recommend tipi-making enough!  What a fun and inexpensive way to provide your child with endless hours of entertainment and play (not to mention being a hero for it!). We bought our 6′ heavy bamboo stakes at an orchard supply store for less than 50 cents apiece. We will be going back for some 8 foot pieces as well!  Simply gather them and secure at one end with a heavy-duty rubber band and, voila!, you’ve got the frame.  Wrap it in fabric (we used a brown sheet, but wouldn’t a piece of fabric that could be painted be fun?!) and that’s pretty much it. We set the tipi up inside and then promptly took it outside for obvious reasons. The bamboo stakes are weather-proof, and a tipi can easily be constructed and left outside all summer. They don’t take up much room, and can transform even a small space into a wonderful imaginative world.

** Note:  I tried to find the bamboo stakes at the local home stores but couldn’t find them long enough.  You may have to call around to orchard, or farm supply stores to find big enough stakes.


Secure with rubber band


Dad wrapping the outside of the shelter.  The tipi is STURDY!


Princess Akeezia


Trying to knock the tipi down but realizing it is quite sturdy 🙂

We would love to hear about family tipi-building here at Kartwheels!  We hope your summer is a beautiful one, and three cheers for all of the kids out there; their imaginations, their beautiful hearts and minds, and their need for FUN..

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ammonites Rock! 10 Fast Facts For Kids…. Plus Ammonite Craft and Homeschooling Note

Ancient, and beautiful, ammonites!

Have an interest in prehistoric carnivores? We certainly do! Learning about ammonites is wonderful, and interesting, for kids of all ages, and there is a lot of available information to be found. Captain and I have been talking about ammonites a lot lately, and we have been doing an ammonite art project as well.  We will share our ammonite art project on a post very soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for it!  Here we go….

Ammonite Fast Facts:

1. Ammonites were predatory, squid-like creatures that lived inside coil-shaped shells.

2. Ammonites had (very sharp!) beak-like jaws inside a ring of tentacles that extended from their shells to snatch prey.

3. They ate small fish and crustaceans.  (Crustaceans are animals that usually have a hard covering, or exoskeleton, and two pairs of antennas, or feelers, like crabs, lobsters, and shrimps.)

4. Ammonites constantly built new shell as they grew, but only lived in the outer chamber.

5. Some ammonites could grow as large as 3 feet (1 meter) across! Scientists suspect that creatures such as the giant mosasaur Tylosaurus preyed on them.

6. A group of ammonites was called a “school”, just like fish.

7. Ammonites scooted through the shallow seas by squirting jets of water from their bodies. A thin tube-like structure called a siphuncle (sounds cool!) reached into the ammonites inner chambers to pump and siphon air that helped them move through the water.

8. Female ammonites grew up to 400% larger than males.  Could this have been to make room to lay eggs?

9. Ammonites first appeared about 240 million years ago!

10. They went extinct with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.  Scientists use ammonite shells to help date other fossils.

Ammonites are among the most abundant fossils found today and they are amazing! Try drawing a simple coil and turn it into a colorful ammonite. How big would it have been? What did it hunt to eat that day?

Ammonite Fossil Ornaments:  You can make a craft dough with your kids (recipe here), roll it out and make ammonites!  Cut out a simple shape, like the one above, and have the child etch a deep coil into the dough. Alternately, you can have kids roll out dough “snakes” and coil them tightly and scratch the lines on it with the tines of a fork. Follow the recipe instructions for baking and painting. Perhaps the pre-cooked dough could be pressed into some sand for texture?  Or a bit of food coloring could be added to the dough. Or, something we have been meaning to try: adding brown food coloring to the dough, then coiling into an ammonite and pressing the raw dough into dirt or red clay before baking.

Before I say goodbye, I would like to add a homeschooling note. Captain first became interested in ammonites because of her Auntie Sheryl. It was when she was two years old that they first began to talk about them together at family gatherings. Auntie would print information for her, and bring ammonites to show her. She would hold Captain in her lap and let her play with her ammonite jewelry. Because of her Aunt, Captain gained an interest in learning about ancient things that is much deeper than zipping through “subjects’ because she was interested, curious, and wanting more. As homeschooling parents, my husband and I cannot possibly know all of the things we should be teaching our daughter.  I was afraid of this very idea about a year ago, when we really had to decide about what we were going to do about school/unschool/ANY school!  How could we know what to do? We aren’t scientists, artists, or mathematicians! Family, friends, tutors, and cool people in general, are vital to teaching kids. Exposure to other people’s ideas, art, interests, and skills really do change the lives of kids. Within the circles of our family and friends, we know so many people who have so much to offer.  Our job is to be sure that our daughter gets to spend as much time as she can with the people that can light her up with what they know, and sometimes, something very special will happen too.  Children benefit from being connected to their place in their family history as well. I don’t think my daughter will ever look at an ammonite and not remember her Aunt Sheryl.  Prehistoric carnivores and family love. What more could I ask for?

Good thoughts, Karen
Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Our Homeschooling Plan, Science Rocks For Kids!, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 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

Body Earthing Rocks! Science proves it and we at The Cabin can back it up


Need to feel good in body and spirit?  Go outside and LAY DOWN ON THE EARTH!  Here’s Captain, Grandpa & Mom just laying around outside as a family

This sounds so simple.  Just go outside and lay down on the ground, ‘eh? Yep.  That’s all there is to it, but the effects are astounding.  We live in a forest where it is quite inviting to lay down on the soft grasses and pine needles and stare up into the sky while resting, but even if I lived in a city, I would find a place to do this and my kid most certainly would be right behind me.  KIDS NEED TO BE CONNECTED TO THE EARTH!  We all do.

There are scientific reasons why laying down on the ground, or running around outside without shoes, makes us feel better.  K and I always used to say that we liked it because it seemed to “absorb negative energy” from our bodies.  It’s true and here are the facts:

Body earthing implies grounding-  giving a human body electrical connection to the earth.  It is known that the earth maintains a negative electrical potential on it’s surface.  When you are in direct contact with the ground (walking, sitting, or laying down on the earth’s surface) the earth’s electrons are conducted to your body, bringing it to the same electrical potential as the earth.  Living in direct contact with the earth grounds your body!  This is a good thing! The earth provides electrons that the body needs and also stabilizes the electrical potential of the body.  A grounded body is far less influenced by  disruptive environmental electric fields (called “electromagnetic pollution” or “dirty electricity”… lets go ask the birds and other animals, I think they could tell us a bit about this problem!).  The body earthing benefits include:

Reductions in overall stress levels and tension and a shift in nervous system balance, reductions in immune cell and pain responses, delayed-onset muscle soreness, reduces viscosity of the blood, reduction of indicators of osteoporosis, improvement of glucose regulation and immune response, inflammation, sleep, balance, and, again, reduction of stress.

Ancient civilizations recognized the power of the Earth and heavens. Monks would meditate seated on the ground to achieve high spiritual states. The Chinese referred to this universal energy as Qi (Chi). Earth Qi enters the body at an accupoint located on the ball of the foot known as “Bubbling Spring” where it ascends through the water channel throughout the body. Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercises designed to balance and heal the body/mind are often practiced outdoors without footwear to facilitate this process. But, as I have learned (and you can ask parents everywhere!), the simple fact is that kids, and people in general, just feel better when they have been outside with their shoes off…

A bit about the history of the term “body earthing”:

Research at the Max Planck institute in the 60’s and 70’s showed that it was important for human performance and health to receive electrical signals from the earth.  The modern practice of earthing began in the late 1900’s when Clinton Ober, a retired cable TV executive, started thinking that it was notable that humans in the last century had been using synthetic shoe soles which isolate the body electrically from the earth, and he knew that ungrounded electronic instruments perform badly.  When he approached scientists and physicians with his thoughts, they generally refused to have anything to do with this, so he had to do the experimental testing on himself.  Dr. Maurice Chaly, a retired anesthesiologist, did a pilot study involving measuring the cortisol levels (a stress indicator) in his subjects and found that grounding normalized the levels.  Others continued to test with the same results.

The use of isolating shoe soles (rubber and plastic) started around the middle of the 20th century.  Leather soles, used for 1000’s of years, give partial earthing when moistened by sweat.  Could shoes be a part of the dramatic rise in chronic inflammation and so many other physical problems of modern life?  Modern activities like swimming and walking barefoot through the grass will give thorough earthing and make us feel good.  Some people, especially who don’t have access to convenient, well, earth, use such conducting and grounding products as:  cotton earthing sheets that connect to an outlet, or pads that are made of cotton with conductive silver fibers that are placed at the foot of the bed.  These products can be found on or you can google “earthing products”.  Personally, I wouldn’t buy something that provides what walking and laying on the ground can do, but whatever path we each choose is our own.

A personal note on the sky…  The other cool thing that happens from laying on the earth outside is simply looking up at the sky.  Birds, the wind in the trees, clouds that look like dragons, perhaps a even an airplane going by are all wonderful things to just watch. Imaginations are sparked by life.  When our family “earths” together, we find that interesting conversations usually arise, intermixed with long periods of silence.  For my 5 year old Captain, she seems to want to paint or draw outside a lot of times after we have been laying down under the sky.  I see how calm and happy she becomes.  Her artwork just flows right out…

If I had to pick one thing that I think is vital to kid’s (and big people’s too) health and happiness, it would be keeping in contact with the earth.  It’s something almost anyone can do, it’s free, it’s fun and the results make life better.  It really is as easy as that!!

I invite you to share your earthing experience here.  If you live in a big city and have a spot to lay down outside, would you PLEASE send me a picture?  For some reason I like to think of someone laying in the grass in a place like Central Park in NYC….

Info and more to be found at wikipedia, Earthing:  The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?  by Clinton Ober, Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. and Martin Zucker

Happy earthing and good thoughts!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Mom's Junk Trunk, Relationships, Science Rocks For Kids!, Sequoia National Forest & Park, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Family Ballot Box


How very democratic!

In learning about citizenship, voting, rights and responsibilities, government and leaders, Captain saw a picture of a ballot box in a book and decided to make one of her own so that we, as a family, could vote on things.  We used a small shoe box and I helped her measure the construction paper for each side of it.  She cut out the paper, decorated it and wrote “Ballot Box” on one side and our names on the other side. Against her wishes, I insisted that I be the one to use the knife to cut out the slot on top.   Our very first vote was whether to brave the cold and go sledding or stay inside by the fire.  Dad confused things by checking both boxes and we ended up making hot chocolate instead.  Other family votes include: what to have for dinner, what game to play and which day trip to take….

We love the ballot box!  It is sturdy, fun, and a great family tool.  Learning a little something along the way was just an added bonus.  If you or any of your kids makes one, please post a photo here so we can all see it!

Good Thoughts, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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