Globes, maps and scissors: why all maps are inaccurate. 

That map you have on your wall? It’s wrong.

The map we use daily in our homeschool? It’s wrong.

This Google World map? Still wrong.

The new fancy accurate map? It’s wrong too.

ALL maps are wrong. Why?

It’s square peg through round hole kind of situation: we are trying to take a sphere and represent it on the flat surface.

In this experiment we will try to do the impossible: take a 3D bubble and flatten it into a 2D map.

1. Cut a line from North to South pole along the longitude line.

2. Try to lay the “map” flat. Stretch, cut, struggle, sob, quit.

3. I made several cuts along the longitude lines, leaving the segments attached at the equator line.

Now it’s time to play connect-the-dots game: complete latitude lanes and fill in the gaps. Ta-daaaa! You have successfully transferred surface of three dimensional object to a two dimensional sheet of paper, but at what cost?

Landmasses near equator kept their shape and size. The further away from the equator, the more distorted the image is. Greenland appears to be as big as Africa; India looks tiny, Indonesia is barely visible.

Check out The True Size Of web site for some eye-opening maps.

The most recognizable version of the world map, the Mercator projection, was presented in 1569 (!!!) by the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator. His projection is a great tool for nautical purposes, but is widely criticized because it distorts sizes.

Should we stop utilizing all the maps? Using a globe, three dimensional representation of our planet, seems like a logical conclusion, buuuut…

…all globes are wrong too!

Earth is not round.

No, I am not suggesting that Earth is flat, it’s just not a perfect sphere. We travel through time and space on an oblate spheroid—a sphere that is squashed at it’s poles and swollen at the equator.
I’m beginning to think that the best way to study geography is from International Space Station. Field trip, anyone?

Professor Astro Cat: our current obsession. 

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As a mom of extreme outlier, I struggle to find fun, colorful and INFORMATIVE children’s books for my kids.

A few weeks ago the Scientist casually asked me about black holes, gravitational waves and Einstein’s work. Easy enough task, right? While researching the topics and trying to simplify the language, I put “quantum physics for 5 year olds” and stumbled upon Dr. Dominic Walliman’s TEDxEastVan video Quantum Physics for 7 Year Olds. 5, 7…close enough. 

That lead me to his YouTube channel and I stayed up all night perusing the videos. 

That, in term, lead me to Amazon where I bough all the children’s books he wrote. Oops, that wasn’t the plan, I only wanted to purchase one, but kept slipping and falling onto the “buy” button. Repeatedly. 

Today we read Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventures. My wiggly kid who is NEVER still and is ALWAYS moving…sat still, barely breathing, with his eyes wide open for 2 hours. It a miracle!!!!

I share our read-aloud wiggly struggles and strategies to improve the experience here
Now please excuse me while I go out and patiently wait for our fabulous UPS driver by the road!  He is delivering these today: 

Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventures

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

What are your favorite children’s books? Bonus points if your gifted or 2e learner is mesmerized by them. 

Water defying gravity

What happens when you take a mason jar full of water and turn it upside down?

When I asked my kids this question, my two year old replied with “Cup. Empty. Oh no!”  Five year old stated the obvious  “If the lid is not on, water will spill out. Gravity.” I think “duh” was implied. 

“What if I told you I could turn the jar upside down without spilling a drop?” I said and braced for displays of shock and amazement. “You just have to take it to space or on the airplane that goes like this” (makes parabolas in the air in the air.) Not the response I expected.  

“We are not leaving our kitchen for this experiment!”

“Oh…then there is no way you can keep the water inside the jar. It will spill and go EVERYWHERE!!!!” he shouted.

Challenge accepted.  

Materials needed for the experiment:

Jar with a round opening

Pitcher of water

Piece of fabric large enough to cover the mouth of the jar (I used cheese cloth)

Sink

1. Cover the jar with fabric.

2. Pour water in the jar.

3.  Keeping the mouth of the jar covered with your hand, use your other hand to turn the glass upside down. 

4. Remove your hand. Ta da! Water appers to be defying gravity! 

Science behind the experiment

Water leaked through cheesecloth holes when we poured it in, it’s only logical that the same will happen when we turn the jar upside down, right?

Cheesecloth stretched tightly over the mouth of the jar helped water molecules form surface tension. Water molecules bonded together to form a thin layer that kept the water in. 

There are many ways to observe water tension in action. These are my favorites. 

  1. Drops of water form a dome when they’re carefully placed on top of the coin.
  2. Belly flops! The burning sensation comes from water molecules forming a thin membrane that is harder to break with larger contact surface. 
  3. Water striders utilize water tension to glide on the surface. 
  4. Bubbles! Tension will always make the surface area of the bubble as smallest as it can. 

GAMES as an educational tool

November is here!!!! Yay! Two little Batmen hyped up on sugar, with Halloween hangover are going to LOVE strict schedule, worksheets and memorization drills!

Brb, dying laughing at my own joke. They most definitely would NOT love that. 

I expect today to be a complete chaos full of sensory overload, sugar and dyes aftermath: two silly boys and the dog bouncing of the walls, exhibiting all of their Dabrovsky’s overexcitabilities simultaneously. Day like this is perfect to start My Little Poppies’ Gameschool Mini-challenge. 31 days, 31 prompts, pictures, 31 ways to add more sneaky learning to our days.

We are eclectic and heavily influenced by unschooling. I often describe our homeschooling style as falling down the rabbit holes (read more about it here.) Games have always been a part of our day.  These are some of the reasons we enjoy gameschooling.

  1. Learning becomes more engaging experience. We get to travel through time and space, meet great inventors and create silly worlds, become engineers, scientists, artists or magicians. 
  2. I’m quick to point out that my 5 year old does not handle losing well, but let’s face it: losing sucks, regardless of the player’s age. Friendly (-ish) game night is perfect to practice teamwork and good sportsmanship for kids of all ages. 
  3. Kids enjoy challenge and find internal motivation to reach the goal. I recently noticed that when I try to encourage the boys by saying “Come on, this is easy!” they bristle up and refuse the work. However, when they sit down to play a videogame, I hear excited and proud shouts “That was hard, but I DID IT!!!” To my surprise, this tactic worked even for least preferred tasks (handwriting practice.)
  4. We put emphasis on problem solving in our house.  I don’t want to be a referee, judge and jury 24/7, so we encourage kids to work out problems and solve conflicts on their own.  Games are one of the resources that teaches them problem solving strategies.   
  5. While playing games, kids can improve their fluency, especially math and reading games. 

While games are great, we encountered a few difficulties along the way:

  • It can be hard to accurately assess the progress. 
  • Sometimes goals of games do not align with learning goals. ABC Mouse was a giant flop in this house! All kids cared about was collecting the tickets. They just randomly clicked on the screen, guessing answers.  
  • Family game night with kids  can be…challenging. Different personalities, ages and abilities don’t always mix well.  

    These tips and strategies emerged when Peculiar Kid #2 was born. They continue to change and evolve as family dynamic change. 

    1. House rules rule! 
    2. Whenever a new game appears at our house, kids ask me if the can “free play” it for a while:  familiarize themselves with the pieces, make guesses on what the rules may be, create elaborate backstories (I jot them down in the journal, Brave Writer style. Win/win!) This approach reduces anxiety and uncertainty that often affects perfectionistic, emotionally intense 2e kids. 
    3. “These rules are so clear and make so much sense. After reading them, I’m 100% confident I can play this game on the first try,” said no one ever. Watch play throughs!  Dice Tower and Table Top were game changers (pun intended) for our family.  
    4. I like to pair games with books, tea parties or subjects we currently study. Ancient Egypt with Pyramix, Nikola Tesla’s life and work with Circuit Maze, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang read aloud with Snakes and Ladders. 
    5. Create your own games! 
    6. Playing board games (or attempting any schoolwork) with toddlers around is hard! Families with older children can play after the littles go to bed. Letting our 2 year old in on the fun works best for our family.  While we play, he makes dice towers,  “keeps the score,” sorts cards or eats all the snacks. 
    7. Let some games be just for fun, with no learning agenda! As a homeschooling mom, I tend to turn everything into a learning opportunity. Real life example that may or may not have happened last week. “Oh, the tire pressure sensor is on! You know why? Let’s have a mini unit right here on the spot! Temperature dropped 30°F overnight, leading to decrease in tire pressure by about 3 psi (1 psi for every 10° drop. Insert long winded math discussion here,) that change triggered the sensor. Honey, are you awake?” What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, don’t turn everything you do into school project. Have some fun!!! 

    What are your tips to add more sneaky fun learning into your days? How do you keep family game night FUN for all participants? What challenges do you have and how donyou overcome them? What are your favorite games? Why am I asking so many questions? 

    Water beads: fun experiments, unexpected results

    Days like today is the reason I don’t plan more than 1 week ahead in our homeschool. 

    I prepared a really fun inertia unit. Water beads (“They’re called hydrophilic polymers, Mom,” my 4 year old scientist corrected me) were meant to keep the kids busy while  I set up the experiments and gathered my thoughts.  Guess what we did all day? Hint: not inertia experiments. 

    1. We hydrated/dehydrated the polymers

    2. “What will happen if we freeze the beads?” We wondered.

    Hypothesis 1: as beads freeze, water will expand and shred the polymers.

    Hypothesis 2: nothing. Nothing will happen, polymer beads will keep their shape.

    The results surprised us! While both hypotheses were right, some beads reacted in unexpected way. They…jumped out of their ice suits and returned to their original size, leaving a bead of ice behind! 

    3. A handful of beads + 1 balloon = great stress ball! It helped us with the school work for the rest of the day. 

    4. Shaving cream and hydrophilic polymer mix created a fun sensory bin. The entire family enjoyed it!

    5. I tried to show my kids a magic trick. Apparently there is no such things as magic, only illusion and science, so I was forced to reveal my secrets: 


    No, I did not make the beads disappear, clear polymer beads have the same index of refraction (1.333) as water, so the light treats water and the clear polymer as the same substance. Not magic. Bummer.

    7. Well, when we froze water beads, they did something weird…any guesses what we did next? 

    I vividly remember my mom asking me if I knew how to tell whether the frying pan is hot enough too cook. “You touch it?” I guessed. Dude, no. Don’t.  You add a drop of water to a hot frying pan. The droplet will seemingly dance over the surface (the side that comes to a contract with hot pan vaporizes so quickly that they float around on a cushion of vapor.) Without knowing it, she introduced me to Leidenfrost effect.

    How does it relate to the superabsorbent polymers and the video below?

    This week we pan fried hydrophilic polymer beads. Turn up the sound!!!!

    Mommy, WHY ARE THEY SCREAMING?  

    Because the released vapor interacts with the squishy sphere to create the bouncing and the high pitch sound.

    The spheres act like engines, harvesting surface energy. All of the engine’s part are included in 1 squishy sphere! 

    Whoa!

     Soft engine concept can be used in robotics. 

    More information: Scott R. Waitukaitus, Antal Zuiderwijk, Anton Souslov, Corentin Coulais, Martin van Hecke, Coupling the Leidenfrost Effect and Elastic Deformations to Power Sustained Bouncing, Nature Physics <——I need dis book. Now!

    Inertia can wait  another day. Or two. Today we will play with superabsorbent polymers and make messes!

    Leaf Chromatography. Why do leaves change color?

    Many deciduous trees have green leaves during the spring and summer, but something magical happens in the fall: the leaves take on shades of red, orange, yellow, brown and purple before falling down on the ground. 

    What triggers the change? Where do the colors come from?

    Turns out leaves contain different pigments which give them their color: chlorophyll (green,) carotenoids (yellow and orange) and anthocyanins (red.) Chlorophyll helps carry out photosynthesis during warm sunny months. It  masks other pigments and makes leaves appear green. As fall arrives, days get shorter and temperatures drop and green pigment breaks down letting beautiful vibrant colors become more visible.  

    With the help of chromatography we can see leaves’ hidden mysteries. 

    Chromatography is the process of separating a mixture by passing it through another medium. 

    For this experiment you will need 

    Leaves 

    Glass jars

    Coffee filters cut into 1″×5″ strips

    Rubbing alcohol

    Patience.

    Step 1. Sort leaves, too them up in small pieces and place them in the jars. 

    Step 2. Pour enough rubbing cool to cover the leaves. Let the mixture sit for couple of hours. 

    Step 3. Optional.  Forget about the experiment for 2 days. Now the color of rubbing alcohol is very pronounced.  The same effect is acheived by baking the jars with the mixture at 250°F for 1 hour. MAKE SURE JARS COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE HANDLING THEM. Don’t ask me why I included this tip🔥. 

     Step 4.  Secure one end of coffee filter on the pencil, craft stick or the side of the jar; place the other end of coffee filter in leaf+alcohol mixture, make sure it is narely touchong the liquid. 

    Step 5.  This is where we got sidetracked and forgot about the experiment for 3 days, but leaving it overnight would have given us the same great result. 

    Step 6. Let the color climb to the top.lf the coffee filter, then dry it. 

    Step 7. Observe and analyze the results

    31 days of Halloween crafts and books

    This post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here.

    OCTOBER IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!!  Cool weather, sweaters, pumpkin patches, nature walks, apple cider, pumpkins, treats, hay rides, corn maze, trick-or-treating, beautiful colors…my favorite season!
    Pairing books with simple activities is our favorite way to start a day and explore new subjects. I am excited to share what we have planned for the next few weeks!

    1. “>Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. Fall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Where is he heading? No one’s quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows. With illustrations made from actual fall leaves and die-cut pages on every spread that reveal gorgeous landscape vistas, here is a playful, whimsical, and evocative book that celebrates the natural world and the rich imaginative life of children. 

    Activity ideas: gather leaves outside and use them to recreate leaf man from the story, or improvise and create your own leaf art, or try coloring on the leaves instead of the paper. 

    2. There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!“>There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!by Morteza E. Sohi.  Look What I Did with a Leaf! will show young art and craft lovers how to use nature’s bounty to create fanciful animals and natural scenes. Readers will develop their artistic eye and soon learn to see the artistic possibilities that surround them. Morteza E. Sohi gives careful directions on how to choose leaves for shape and color, how to arrange them in an animal form, and how to preserve the finished work of art. A field guide helps young leaf artists learn more about the tools of their craft.

    Activity: gather beautiful leaves while hiking,  playing in the park or exploring the backyard and follow Mortexa E. Sohi’s directions on how to create leaf art. Our family enjoyed making suncatchers and window collage from the leaves. 

    3. We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt“> by Steve Metzger. Join three friends on a fun leaf-finding adventure! This bouncy new version of the popular song begs to be read out loud.  There are lots of beautiful fall leaves to find! Three friends have a big adventure hiking over a mountain and through a forest to collect leaves of all kinds and colors.

    Activity: What will they do with all their leaves at the end of the story? Let your imagination and creativity flow freely! We pretended that our leaves were snowflakes and had snowball fight in the park!

    Leaf Chromatography

    4. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!“> by Lucile Colandro. This spooky twist on the wildly popular “There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly” is perfect for fun Halloween reading! What won’t this old lady swallow? This time around, a bat, an owl, a cat, a ghost, a goblin, some bones, and a wizard are all on the menu! 

    Activity: bat mobile made with a stick, fishing line and bat cutouts. We made this craft 2 years ago and we look forward to displaying it every year! 

    5. Bats at the Library (A Bat Book)“> by Brian Lies. Join the free-for-all fun at the public library with these book-loving bats! Shape shadows on walls, frolic in the water fountain, and roam the book-filled halls until it’s time for everyone, young and old, to settle down into the enchantment of story time. Brian Lies’ joyful critters and their nocturnal celebration cast library visits in a new light. 

    Activity: turn boring constriction paper into cute bat bookmarks! Twist: make a few extra bookmarks as  presents for friends, family, neighbors or hide some in the library books to brighten somebody’s day. 

    6. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich“> by Adam Rex. Being a monster isn’t all frightening villagers and sucking blood. Monsters have their trials, too. Poor Frankenstein’s cupboard is bare, Wolfman is in need of some household help, and it’s best not to get started on Dracula’s hygiene issues. What could be scarier? 

    Activity: Pair the nineteen hilarious poems with some hot cocoa, pumpkin cookies or sandwiches for a scary good poetry tea party.

    7. The Monsters’ Monster“> by Patrick McDonnellOnce upon a time, there were three little rascals who thought they were the BIGGEST, BADDEST monsters around. Then along came an even BIGGER monster who changed their minds. And all it took was two little words.

    Activity: make spooky fun Frankenstein from green balloon

    • draw Frankie’s face on it with permanent marker;
    • use a funnel to add 2 tablespoons of baking soda  inside the balloon;
    • pour half a cup of vinegar inside empty plastic bottle;
    • carefully place the balloon on top of plastic bottle;
    • lift up the balloon. Baking soda will drop into the bottle with vinegar triggering a chemical reaction that will inflate the balloon.

      8. Five Little Ghosts“> by Julia Woolf. Five little ghosts at the end of the day are on the lookout for somewhere to play. Follow the adventures of five little ghosts in this comical rhyming caper! 

      Activity: make five little teabag ghosts! Adult help required for this activity. 

      Step 1

      Step 2.

      Step 3. 

      Step 4. 

      9.  Ghosts in the House!“>  by Kazuno Kohana. At the edge of town lives a clever girl with a spooky problem: Her house is haunted! Luckily, she happens to be a witch and knows a little something about taking care of ghosts. She catches them, puts them in the washing machine, airs them out to dry, and gives them new lives as sofa covers, table cloths, and, of course, bed sheets to cozy up under. Fresh and charming illustrations in dynamic orange, black and white bring this resourceful heroine and these spooky ghosts to life. 

      Activity: ghost rockets with clear cup, corn starch and alka seltzer. 

      10.  There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!“> by Emmanuelle Eeckhout.  When we moved to our new neighborhood, I had to promise my mother that I would not go near the strange old house on the corner. 

      People say it s haunted, she whispered. 

      Haunted? There is no such thing as ghosts! 

      But if there is…I am going to catch one! 

      Activity: cornstarch, water and goodly eyes! Oobleck for messy sensory fun!

      11. Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell The first pumpkin Tim ever carved was fierce and funny, and he named it Jack. When Halloween was over and the pumpkin was beginning to rot, Tim set it out in the garden and throughout the weeks he watched it change.

      Activity: following books storyline, we carved a pumpkin and will observe the decomposition process. I can’t wait to see what happens! Keep the seeds!

      12. Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino With bouncy, rhyming text in verse from the classic nursery rhyme and bold, dynamic illustrations from acclaimed author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, Five Little Pumpkins is a must-have Halloween board book!

      Roll along with the pumpkins and their spooky friends as they get into some spirited Halloween fun.

      Activity: using cloth pins and Popsicle sticks, build a gate for five little pumpkins to sit!

      13. How Many Seeds In A Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara “How many seeds are in a pumpkin?” Mr. Tiffin asks his class as they gather around the big, medium, and small pumpkins on his desk. Robert, the biggest kid, guesses that the largest one has a million seeds; Elinor, sounding like she knows what she’s talking about, guesses the medium one has 500 seeds; and Anna, who likes even numbers better than odd ones, guesses that the little one has 22. Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, doesn’t have a guess.

      Activity: This adorable picture book for curious kids explores skip counting and estimation in a fun pumpkin-themed experiment. Remember the pumpkin from Pumpkin Jack ? Can you guess how many seeds were inside that pumpkin? Count, skip count, make patterns and designs with the seeds!


      14. Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman The witch has grown the biggest pumpkin ever, and now she wants to make herself a pumpkin pie for Halloween. But the pumpkin is so big she can’t get it off the vine.
      It’s so big the ghost can’t move it, either. Neither can the vampire, nor the mummy. It looks as if there’ll be no pumpkin pie for Halloween, until along comes the bat with an idea to save the day.
      How can the tiny bat succeed where bigger and strong spooky creatures have failed? You’ll be surprised!

      Activity: use tape, rulers, strings, pieces of fabric and hands to measure the pumpkin you used for Pumpkin Jack activity. Compare the measurements to a soccer ball or a watermelon.

      Or make this fun geo board pumpkin:

      15. Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum Pumpkins! Who can resist the sight of big, round, orange pumpkins ripening in a field? Children piling off school buses to pick one out. Carving out funny faces, smiles, or scary frowns to illuminate Halloween doorsteps. Making room for that last piece of pumpkin pie after a delicious Thanksgiving feast. In this book, pumpkins aren’t just a fruit, they’re a symbol, a scent, a flavor of the entire season. Celebrate the flavor of fall on every page of this beautifully photographed picture book.

      Activity: let’s make pumpkin pie, roll, muffins or waffles!

      16. Aaaarrgghh! Spider by Lydia Monks Don’t let this lonely spider frighten you! She just wants to be a family pet—and she thinks she would make a better pet than the typical dog or cat. But every time this clever spider tries to impress her chosen family, she scares them instead, until the day she unwittingly enchants them. Aaaarrgghh! Spider! spins a lively tale about one creature’s efforts to find her place.

      Activity: make spider handprint art! If you prefer not to get messy, trace little hands on the black paper and use the cutouts to make a silly spider.

      17. Be Nice To Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham When Billy left his pet spider, Helen, at the Zoo, the animals suddenly became happy and contented. The lions snoozed all day long, the elephants enjoyed their baths, and the zebras ate their hay in peace — all because Helen was spinning webs and catching flies.

      But one day Helen’s webs were swept away. The Keeper had the cages cleaned for the Mayor’s inspection tour. Soon the flies were back again and the animals were miserable once more. But not for long…

      Activity: make your own spider web! We used painter’s tape to make a web design on the floor. Kids pretended to be flies and hopped around the web.

      18. Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler Skeletons are a little less scary when they have the hiccups. This particular skeleton can’t seem to shake them–not in the shower (nice fuzzy bat slippers!), not while brushing his teeth (woops! there goes the bottom jaw!), not while polishing his bones, carving a pumpkin, raking leaves, or even when playing baseball with his friend Ghost. Ghost, instead of Boo-ing! away his buddy’s hiccups right away as we might expect, advises Skeleton to hold his breath and eat some sugar and drink water upside down. When he finally does Boo! it still doesn’t work. But when Ghost finds a mirror and holds it up to Skeleton’s face, he sees his reflection and screams in fright! The hiccups jump away, hic, hic, hic. While it’s novel to see a skeleton eating sugar, drinking water, showering, etc., it may be tricky to find the right audience for this unusual picture book that’s more about hiccups than Halloween.

      Activity: We used our October friend, Mister Skeleton (kids named him) for anatomy unit. After discussion of a skeletal system, we built playdough towers with and without “bone” (noodle) and compared which tower was taller and sturdier.

      19. Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner With a lively rhyming text and vibrant paper collage illustrations, author-artist Bob Barner shakes the dust off the dinosaur bones found in museums and reminds us that they once belonged to living, breathing creatures. Filled with fun dinosaur facts and an informational “Dinometer,”

      Activities: make dinosaur “fossils!” Playdough and plastic dinosaurs will keep the kids roaring with delight.

      20. Shake Dem Halloween Bones by Mike Reed It’s Halloween night. The city is quiet. The city is still. But as the lights go down, the music comes up – and the guests start to arrive at the hip-hop Halloween ball! And oh, what a party it is. Told in hip-hop rhyming text, L’il Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Tom Thumb, and all of their fairy-tale friends come together for a rapping, stomping, shaking Halloween romp.

      Activity: dance party? Why not!!!

      21. Goodnight Goon: a Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex It’s time for bed, but one little goon still isn’t ready for sleep! With lively rhymes and cheeky art that’ll get readers howling, this hilarious take on the beloved classic will have a whole new audience saying, “Goodnight monsters everywhere!”

      22. Little Blue Truck’s Halloween by Alice Schertle Beep! Beep! It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Lift the flaps in this large, sturdy board book to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too? With the delightful rhymes and signature illustration style that made Little Blue Truck a household name, Blue’s new adventure is full of festive costumes, fall colors, and plenty of Halloween fun!

      Activity: lets build a Little Blue Truck out of LEGO, playdough, magna tiles, Popsicle sticks or cardboard boxes. Beep beep!

      23. Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Anna Dewdney With short and simple rhyming text, the Llama Llama board books introduce Llama Llama to babies and toddlers before they’re ready for longer full-length stories. And their small size and durable pages are perfect for little hands.

      In Llama Llama Trick or Treat, little llama finds the perfect costume, picks out a pumpkin for a jack-o’-lantern, and then goes trick-or-treating with Mama and his friends!

      Activity: tin can bowling!! Doesn’t it sound fun? if you prefer a quieter activity, toulet paper can be used too.

      24. The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine Welcome to the Little Shop of Monsters! Do you want a SNEEZER? A TICKLER? Or one of the CREEPIEST monsters of all? Come on in and choose your favorite, if you dare (before one of them chooses YOU!).

      Activity: create  your own silly monster! We used pine cones, leaves, acorns and pebbles. These sweet monsters love performing in puppet show or a concert.

      25. Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.
      He eats them on the way to school.
      He eats them going to Little League.
      He eats them walking home.
      Until the day the carrots start following him…or are they?

      Activity: Slime time for a creepy squishy fun messy play.

      26. Bone Soup by Cambria Evans Known across the land for his infamous appetite, Finnigin is never seen without his eating stool, his eating spoon, and his gigantic eating mouth.
      When Finnigin finds himself in a new town on Halloween, he hopes to join a great feast with the creatures who live there. But not a body or soul will share any of their food with the ever-famished Finnigin. So what’s a hungry skeleton to do? Armed only with his wits and a special ingredient, will Finnigin be able to stir up a cauldron’s worth of Halloween magic?

      Activity: time to go outside and make a soup! Twigs and sticks, leaves and pine needles, sand and dirt, water and mud: whatever you can find outside!

      27. Scholastic Reader Level 2: Inside a House That is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli With illustrations that make the scariest creature look extremely funny and romping repetitive text, readers will never expect what happens when this haunted house has a trick-or-treater knock on its door. Ghosts, spiders, owls, skeletons and monsters take turns accidentally scaring each other in this silly, slapstick story.

      Activity: make a pumpkin catapult!

      28. Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat (A Click, Clack Book) by Doreen Cronin Farmer Brown does not like Halloween. So he draws the shades, puts on his footy pajamas, and climbs into bed.

      But do you think the barnyard animals have any respect for a man in footy pajamas? No, they do not. For them, the Halloween party has just begun. And we all know these critters far prefer tricks over treats.

      There are big surprises in store for Farmer Brown!

      Activity: ghost rockets? Tea bag ghosts? What fun surprise will you pick?

      29. The Berenstain Bears’ Harvest Festival by Mike Berenstain Autumn is a beautiful time of year, and the folks of Bear Country are looking forward to everything the season brings. So when the Chapel in the Woods holds its first ever Harvest Festival, people gather at Farmer Ben’s for a wonderful time of family, friends, fun, and praising God for his gifts.

      Activity: learn about Harvest Festival in different cultures.

      30. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Kara McMahon Spooky tricks and hilarious treats abound in this retelling of the beloved Halloween special that comes with holographic foil and embossing on the cover!

      Activity: make spooky dry ice bubbles in the pumpkin.

      31. The Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition by Tim Burton n this beloved picture book that could only come from the visionary mind of author and illustrator TIM BURTON, we meet Jack Skellington– a well-intentioned inhabitant of Halloweenland. Jack is bored of “the scaring, the terror, the fright….tired of being something that goes bump in the night”. And so, in an effort to bring to joy to his town, Jack kidnaps Santa and takes his place as the jolly old elf. But instead of bringing joy to the world Jack, who is a little more than a grinning skeleton, brings fear by delivering creepy toys and riding a sleigh carried by skeletal reindeer. Only through a number of things going horribly wrong does Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas.

      Activity: Make an articulated mechanical hand for Jack…you know, just in case!

      ​STEAM from trash! DIY Hovercraft.

      Most of the experiments performed at the School For Peculiar Children are either free or very low cost. We try to use recyclable materials, odds and ends from my husband’s wood shop, clever tricks and substitutions. We are incorporating things most of us already have in our homes.   This air cushion vehicle (ACV) demonstration is no exception. Let’s  explore the science behind ACV, also known as a hovercraft. 

      Hovercraft glides over the flat surface on a cushion of air.  Because of the thin layer of air between the surface and the hovercraft, it doesn’t matter whether it is over (flat) solid ground or water: it is amphibious. 

       ^This will never be not funny (double negative, I know. It’s here for comedic effect.) Pat Venditte is ambidextrous, not amphibious.  Hovercraft is amphibious: suited for both land and water. 

      For this experiment you will need:

      – CD or a paper plate 

      – pop-up bottle top

      – baloon

      – glue

      We used a mystery CD (paper or plastic plate can be used instead), sports drink pop-up top,  hot glue (epoxy or super glue work just as good) and a baloon bought for a birthday 3 years ago. 

      Step 1. Glue the pop-up bottle top to the CD (if you’re using a paper plate, cut a 1″ diameter hole in the middle of the plate.)

      Step 2. Make sure that the pop-up top is in closed position. Blow up a balloon and place it over the closed pop-up top. 

      Step 3. Open the pop-up valve. The air from the balloon will rush down throught the hole in the CD and create a cushion of air. 

      Play around with the size of the balloon (will it go faster or slower if we increase the size of the baloon?), surfaces (wood floor? Carpet? Countertop? Does it make difference?)

      Our entire family enjoyed this demonstration and I’m contemplating building a bigger hovercraft. Should we do it?

      Babushka’s pickles and science behind it. 

      In the previous post I mentioned that trying to avoid artificial food dyes is tricky: even pickles have them! 

      I want to share my family’s pickle recipe. Going back to my roots!

      Ingredients:

      Pickling cucumbers 2 lbs

      Water 2 cups 

      Vinegar 2 cups

      Salt 2 tablespoons 

      Peppercorns 8-10

      Garlic 4 cloves

      Mustard seeds

      Dill

      Black tea leaves

      1. Thoroughly wash the cucumbers, cut off stem about 0.5″ from both ends.
      2. Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and tea leaves on the bottom of a jar. 
      3. Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic. 
      4. Combine water, vinegar and  salt and bring the mixture to a boil. 
      5. Pour the brine over the pickles,  filling the jars to within 0.5″ to the top. 
      6. Once it cools down to room temperature,  put the jar in the refrigerator. 
      7. Fourty eight hours later, enjoy crunchy dill pickles!

        Every summer my parents’ kitchen would turn into a jam and pickle factory. They never used written down recipes, but the jams, jellies, apple sauce, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut always turned out great. 

        This is my attempt to recreate the dill pickle recipe. 

        Step 1. 

        Wash cucumbers, cut off 0.5″ from both stem and flower side. 

        But why?

        Thoroughly wash the cucumbers, cut off stem about 0.5″ from both ends.

        The flower end of a cucumber contains enzymes that will lead to limp pickles. 

        Step 2. 

        Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and black tea leaves in the jar. 

        But whyyyyyyy?

        Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and tea leaves on the bottom of a jar.

         This was the biggest mystery of my childhood: why do we have to put these weird leaves in pickles? 

        White oak, horseradish, black tea, grape, currant and raspberry leaves contain tannins, naturally occurring phenol compounds that keep pickles crisp. 

        Step 3. 

        Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic.  Pack the cucumber as tight as possible without damaging them.

        But why is the jar laying on it’s side?

        Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic. 

        It’s just easier to pack cucumbers into a tall jar when it’s on the side.

        Step 4. 

        Combine water and vinegar, add salt and bring the mixture to a boil.

        Step 5. 

        Pour the brine over the pickles,  filling the jars to within 0.5″ to the top. 

        Steps 6.

        Once it cools down to room temperature,  put the jar in the refrigerator.
        Step 7. 

        After 48 hours in the refrigerator,  pickles are ready! 

        Side note. 

        Don’t be alarmed if pickled garlic turns green. It’s normal! Acid in vinegar ruptures the cell membranes of the garlic cloves. Amino acids and sulfur compounds mix, and as a result enzyme isoallin is released. Isoallin reaction with aminoacids results blue pigmentation.  

        Side note 2. 

        To make sure that added tannins help make crispy pickles, I made 2 jars: one with tea leaves and one without. 

        School day

        Our days rarely go as planned, but we try to follow a blueprint. Sort of. 

        Every day routine includes read alouds, board games, more books, 1 topic we’re obsessed with at the moment (that usually spirals into deep rabbit holes,) at least 1 writing activity and taking care of the house.

        Once a week we try to do one community service or hospitality project, one or two field trips and one outdoor excursion. 

        Popular morning baskets aren’t a good fit in our family: we only have a few hours before overexcitabilities kick in and attention span is gone. Instead, we read a few books or magazines during breakfast.

        1. Today  Breakfast and Books (modeled after My Little Poppies’ Coffee and Books) turned into Books in Bed. We snuggled up together in little guy’s room and read whatever kids wanted. 

        2. September is the most popular birth month in America, and it’s definitely true for our family. Big kid made birthday cards for everyone, he practiced handwriting, spelling, vocabulary ,  tracing and drawing. 

        3. When your kid is as literal as Drax (Guardians of the Galaxy,) math is fun. 

        Caffeine didn’t kick in yet, and this is the best my scrambled brain could come up with on the spot. “Yuri has 2 red books. His friend has 4 blue books. How many books do the boys have?”

        The answer:

        We are juggling Math-U-See, Life of Fred and Khan academy math and anxiously checking the mailbox for brand new Beast Academy 2A. Squeeee!

        4. After years of refusing to learn Russian, my kids are finally warming up to it. First lesson  went better than expected!

        We counted letters in Russian and English alphabets, found letters that look and sound the same, read Репка (The Turnip) and learned a new song, Мишка Косолапый (Clumsy Bear.)

        5. “I’m so tired, I need to relax a little with Rush Hour!”  And Jenga, and Shape by Shape, and…a screwdriver? 

        Schoolwork is done! And now it js our favorite time, laundry time! Cleaning time! Cooking time!
        I would love to hear what your typical homeschooling day looks like!