Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Zombie Prom In Progress

Each year Zhara hosts a Zombie Prom for her friends. This year she's going to have an Adopt-a-Monster basket for her friends to each take a monster home. I had a lot of fun making these felt monsters, which is probably why they're already done!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Making Silly Putty, or Why I Love Science Experiments with Unschoolers


I must admit it, I have become slightly obsessed with pinterest. If you haven't checked it out, yet, you should!  Craft ideas, homeschooling stuff, recipes, just so much fun.  Anyway, last week, I found this great recipe on there for making your own homemade silly putty.  Perfect, I thought -- we're super keen on anything that's part toy and part science experiment.  We purchased the required ingredients.  It wasn't tough.  It took a trip to Wal-Mart, and we got Elmer's Glue-All (not school glue), which was conveniently still on sale for back-to-school, and a $3 giant bottle of Sta-Flo liquid starch.  Oh, and food coloring if you want to color it, but we already had that. 

First, we poured glue into the bottom of a bowl (one for each kiddo), then we added the food coloring until it was their desired color -- red for Angus, pink for Wednesday, yellow for Zhara.  We stirred and stirred until the color was completely integrated.
Then we added the liquid starch, and stirred.  It immediately starts to goo up, as it soaks into the glue. 
It takes about 5 minutes to completely soak in.

There was lots of stirring.

 And some poking.

And, of course, plenty of squishing and dripping.  
It is science, afterall, we need to fully understand our results.

 After it's mixed for about 5 minutes, then the real fun begins.  You take it out, dry it on a paper towel a bit, and knead it until it turns into Silly Putty.

Look, we made Silly Putty!

After that, all bets were off, and we experimented wildly.  This is why I love unschooling.  One "experiment" always turns into about 40, as they ask more and more questions.  In fact, as I type this, they are still at it.

What would happen if we ran it through the pasta maker that grandma got us for Play Doh?

Answer: It thins out and then immediately rebounds into shape, unless you put it on the very thin setting, which shreds it into bits.

How does it feel on your feet?  Cold and squishy.


 Can you build things with it?  Answer: Yes, here Angus demonstrates making Patrick Star out of Silly Putty

 Will it really pick up news print? Answer: Why, yes, quite well.


What happens if we make white Silly Putty?  Will it pick up the news print even better?  
Answer: Why, yes, yes it does

 And the most popular and long lasting one thus far. How far will it stretch? 
Answer: a really really long way.

They are still experimenting... I'll let you know when they're done.  It may be awhile. :)

Building a Firetruck

We do a lot of things.  We go a lot of places.  Sadly, though, because Adam has to work, we don't often get to include dad.  This makes dad sad, and it makes the kids sad, because they absolutely adore him.  That said, when you live in Utah, home of families with 10 and 12 kids each, doing things on the weekend can turn into a crazy explosion of people that none of us like.

So the last time we were in Lowe's, we decided maybe trying to do their Build and Grow building projects every two weeks on Saturday morning might be good, as it's early (at 10 am), free, and something we could do independently.  Plus, dad loves to build.  We've done them in the past, but it's been awhile.  Plus, you don't have to sign up ahead of time, so if we decide to skip a week, we can!

So Saturday, we went and each of the kids got to build a firetruck.  It was fun, Wednesday and Angus needed more help, whereas Zhara did it almost all herself.  Each of the kids really did a great job, though, following the directions and building their toy.

 We got to hammer.. and there were stickers!

Happy builders with their new fire trucks, with real working sirens!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Almost Camping

 If you know me, then you know, I am not a good camper.  The outdoors -- I love it.  Hiking -- awesome.  Nature and wildlife -- I never feel happier than when I'm among them.  But sleeping outside -- nope, I don't do it.  Have I?  Sure.  Do I like to?  Not one bit.  I have a terrible combination -- a bad back (had a surgery several years ago bad) and being a terrible sleeper.  This tends to mean a long, cold, uncomfortable, sleepless night, and a very cranky mommy the next day. 

So, we prefer what I like to call, modified camping. We take the kids, and often the dogs, and we head out for the woods.  We go for a long hike.  Often we go way back, off trails, or on rarely used trails.  We explore, let the dogs off their leashes, enjoy the beauty of nature to it's fullest.  Then, when we're done, we find a campsite, start a fire with wood we've brought, cook out hotdogs, smores, play around the campfire -- you know, the best parts of camping.  Then we put the fire out.  Pack everyone into the car, dirty, tired, and smelling of yummy camp smoke, and head home, where we snuggle into our warm beds, use a real toilet, and wake the next day refreshed, happy, and able to shower.  Perfection! We had such an outing two weekends ago in American Fork Canyon.  It was lovely.

 Wednesday was booking it along the trail that day. We could hardly keep up.  She kept shouting back, "look out for that branch," and "there's a turn up ahead".

Angus carried this stick the whole way, then when we got to the turn around, he planted the stick, claiming the mountain for us. :)

 Every now and again, we would break through the trees and into a lovely clearing or meadow.  We brought a ball for Olly in our bag and he would run and play.  Bailey, the bassett hound, would sniff thoroughly.

Those are some happy kids!

 Dad brought up the rear, making sure the hound dog made it all four miles.  Wednesday tired at the turn around, and I was very thankful that she's super skinny, as I carried her the last two miles on my back in the ergo, which I had shoved into our hiking pack.

 When we were done on the hike, we headed to a campsite.  Dad started a fire for us.

While they waited for the fire to build enough to cook, the kids climbed...

...and pretended to roast marshmallows on the unused grill.

Once the fire was nice and roaring, we roasted hot dogs and made smores, and ate!

Gone Fishing

My mother has been a public school teacher for more than 40 years.  She is a speech therapist and special education teacher.  She has had some incarnation of this fishing game in use in her classroom for as long as I can remember. A few weeks ago, Angus met with a therapist from the Children's Center here in Salt Lake, where he is going to be taking Social Skills classes this fall.  Lo and behold, if they didn't play this fishing game!  He loved it, so I created one for us.

The poles are two pieces of PVC pipe.  The line, some cotton yarn.  I bought these awesome horse shoe magnets at Lowe's for $1.70, which I will definitely be using again for science experiment magnets.  They are crazy strong!


 The colorful fish are paint chips from the store, cut into basic fish shapes.  I then wrote the letters of the alphabet and some basic arithmetic problems on them for when the kids were interested in doing something other than fishing.  They've spelled things with them, fished for specific letters or problems, and used them in a variety of ways.  Then I duct taped a large paperclip to each fish. Wallah -- fishing at home!
Angus, demonstrating his mad fishing skills!

A Fallish Bridal Veil Falls

We love exploring the wilderness of Utah.  We do it a lot, in fact.  Today we ended up heading to a very chilly Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon.  It was no more than 50 degrees, and the kids proclaimed they were freezing throughout, though you will note from the photos that they still stripped to their swimsuits and explored the even colder water.  Brrrrr!  I did not join them.  :)

We took our friends the McKinneys with us.  It was their first visit to the Falls, and they enjoyed it thoroughly.  Zhara took Josh and Emma (their two oldest) exploring up the side of the falls to the top of the first tier, which is her absolute favorite thing to do there.  The younger kiddos and Stephanie and I stayed at the bottom, threw rocks in the river, and played in the water.

Thankfully, we brought lots of blankets, as they were put to good use!  
Eli's favorite part was definitely throwing rocks in the river.

Sometimes you have to bundle up with friends.

 Despite the cold, the kids still climbed on the rocks and logs in the water.   I'm not sure how they stood it, as even on very hot days, my feet freeze from the cold mountain run off.

Winnie and Angus occasionally consented to merely peering into the water from the bridge.

Then there were the ever present invented games -- Winnie and Eli pretended to be flying with the orange blanket.  And the entire kid crew got in on a game of doctor, whereby, one or two members of the party had "fallen down the mountain" and the rest used rocks, water, the laying on of hands, and shamanic chanting to revive them.

All and all, a pretty fun and beautiful day of "school".