Tang Hulurs

imageWhen my son was small and we were just beginning our homeschool journey, my good friend, Tanya, loaned me her Sonlight curriculum for grade 1. Although I chose not to use it, I did read most of the books to my little boy. I have wonderful memories of sitting under the big maple tree in our backyard reading one of our favorites, “Little Pear,” by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. In this enchanting book, the main character’s favorite treat to buy is a tang hulur. My child liked this book so much that we borrowed the others in the series from the library. Our favorite part that has stuck with us all these years (he is 12 now, but still likes to be read to!) is the fascinating idea of a tang hulur. We have our own idea of what they look like, and when we see a resemblance of our conception, whether it be in a store or picture, we always exclaim, “Look! It’s a tang hulur!”

In this blog post, I share with you the day we made tang hulurs, better known as rock candy. This is a fun activity to go along with a science lesson or unit on rocks. We actually made the rock candy with our small Pathfinder group as part of the Rocks and Minerals honor. We had attended a gem and fossil show the week before, a first for all of us. A day or two later, I received an email to sign up for a free online science class to learn about rocks, including experiments to do at home. Thinking this was perfect timing, I bought the necessary supplies for the experiments and showed the video to the Pathfinders. To be honest, the video wasn’t a big hit, but everybody loves an edible experiment so that saved the day!

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Here is what we did to create our version of tang hulurs. This makes a big batch, so you might want to reduce it. We added eight cups of sugar, which was a small four-pound bag, to three cups of water gradually, and then heated it on the stove. Do not let it boil. We did not use a candy thermometer, but you can. The mixture should change into a cloudy yellowish color with all the sugar dissolved, and should be hot to the touch. Let it cool enough to pour into a glass container. We used mason jars. You can add flavorings and/or colors at this point.

imageThen position a skewer in the middle, holding it in place with a clothespin laid across the top.

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The skewer should be moistened and rolled in sugar to give the crystals something to adhere to.

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Now you just wait for the crystals to form. That can take hours or even days; we just kept checking ours.

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Break up the edges and pour out the excess liquid after it has crystallized, and set the jar in hot water to remove your creation. It’s not the healthiest treat, but fun to make to demonstrate crystals when studying rocks. Enjoy your tang hulur while reading a good book, like “Little Pear,” or even a book about rocks.

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Oh, and by the way, here’s what tang hulurs really look like! Much more tasty to me!

 

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Teaching Kids Entomology While Hiking

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Hickory tussock caterpillar

Homeschooling offers families the chance to go outdoors in nature and learn together. Although we are called “homeschoolers,” we are not required to stay in our homes and teach our children from books all day. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to make the world our classroom. As parents and educators we have the responsibility to teach our kids about the world we live in, how to protect it, admire it, and grow with it. One fun way to give kids a hands-on science lesson is to go hiking with them. One of the lessons that kids can learn about while hiking is entomology.

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Dog fennel plant

Entomology

The study of insects is called entomology. In our vast world there are millions of insects worldwide. Bugs can have a bad reputation, but are the most plentiful animals on earth. Thus, hiking can be a great way to teach children about bugs and their global contribution. While hiking, have your children answer these questions: Who, What, Where, and When? (This is a also wonderful chance for parent/teachers to ask students to jot down their answers in a science journal.)

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Two white moths

 

  • Who – While hiking look for bugs. Students should snap a photo or draw a picture of the bugs they find. Kids should observe the bugs with their eyes and not their hands. Allow students a few minutes (about three to five) to watch the bug and follow it briefly, if possible, to see what it does.
  • What – Try to identify the bug on your own. If you cannot, visit insectidentification.org; there is a bug finder at the bottom. You can also try to identify adult bugs with information from BugGuide.net, a site managed by Iowa State University Department of Entomology. Also check out Bug Info from the Smithsonian Institution to learn more cool facts about entomology.
  • Where – Encourage your child to record where the bug was found. A description of the bug that includes color and size is helpful. What state or country or region of the country the bug was found? Answer whether the insect can fly, or identify how it moves from place to place.
  • When – Also, jot down the time of day the bug was found, the weather, and if it was found alone or with other similar bugs. Does the bug live in a colony? Older students can look up the bug and find out if it is used for special purposes by scientists and researchers. Also, find out if the insect is native to the region it was found in.
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Cunningham Falls State Park

Compare and Contrast

Discuss whether you have seen the same bug in the past and if so, what similarities are present. Also, write down the differences.

Giving our children hands-on learning experiences is one of my favorite reasons to homeschool. Many children may not like bugs, but by learning more about them, their habitat, and how they live and survive, will help us learn to appreciate the role they play in our huge world.

*images by David Cavins*

5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Love Science

Five Tips to Get Your Kids to Love Science

Schools around the country are trying to get students more interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related fields. The goal for educators is to encourage a love of science in students and hopefully motivate students to pursue a STEM career, which can in turn lessen unemployment and improve the nation’s economy. According to SciencePioneers.org, “If the United States is to maintain its global leadership and competitive position, then we just have to motivate our most promising students into the STEM fields. Science has been identified as a national priority, but science teachers can’t do it all on their own. Parents have to become more interested and knowledgeable.”(1)

Science is also a way that God reveals himself to us.

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind,” Job 12:7-10.

Thus, we need to encourage our children to have a well-rounded educational foundation by promoting science in our homes. We can start by instilling a love for science while our children are very young.

Five ways homeschool families can build a love for science in their children:

Walking through science – Walking in nature you can teach your kids about different types of plants, animals, erosion, cloud formations, weather patterns, insects, rocks, etc. You can also help your child start a garden, nature collection (rock, leaf, insect), or ant farm. The key is to let your child’s personal interest guide him or her into learning more about God’s creations (science).

Parents of preschool-aged children can encourage their students to play “eye spy” and point out things they may see in nature. Older students can play a scavenger hunt game or use nature walks as a time to take pictures of what they see in nature. Every day will be different; you just have to look for opportunities to point out the science in the world around them.

Learning science by journaling – A form of science can be found in almost everything we do. To help students began to recognize the presence of science, allow them to create a nature journal. Journals can be used to create hypothesis, document research, analyze observations, and brainstorm educated guesses about what will happen in the future as seasons change.

Younger children and visual learners can document what they see by drawing or sketching. Rubbing leaves, identifying patterns, comparing color variations, recording sounds, etc. Kids can also create their own experiments and document the results.

Science experiments – Don’t be intimidated by science experiments. There are many experiments that can be done using regular household items. Just remember, if you are trying something new, consider testing it in advance before you introduce it to your child. There are many books, websites, and YouTube videos with great ideas for experiments.

Science curriculum – The SDA Homeschool Blog’s science curriculum recommendations can be found here.

Science in the kitchen – Cooking with your homeschool student is a fun bonus. Although we may not realize it, baking and cooking are both science, and we experience chemical reactions in our food everyday. Cooking with your children will help guide the dialog around what is taking place within the food and why the outcome occurs.

Here are a few fun cooking science books that we enjoy:

Science with technology – technology has given us extra resources that we can use in our homeschool classrooms, such as DVDs, apps, board games, YouTube videos, and computer games.

Consider looking for videos that will help reinforce a concept you are teaching. Many libraries have DVDs that are free to check out. For example, Schlessinger Science Library is a series of DVDs we enjoy, and it even has questions to go along with the DVDs.

Whenever you want to get your child to practice a new concept, make it fun. Using technology is great practice. Here are a few science-friendly apps that you can incorporate into your teaching:

  • The Human Body by Tinybop (Just like we teach our kids the names of their body parts when they are little, we can continue to teach them their entire anatomy and physiology. This app makes it easy to identify and name different parts of a person’s body.)
  • Kid Weather (Perfect for the early pre-k years: A kindergarten student and his meteorologist dad to help kids learn how to dress for the daily weather created this app.)
  • Like That Garden (This app helps users identify local plants. Take a picture of the plant, and the app with tell you its name.)

Science can be found in all subjects. Taking time to document our changing world helps students realize that nature and science are all around us. Science is a changing environment that can be observed, studied, and manipulated. God has given us a vast world, and we can learn so much about Him and His magnificence when we take time to study it. I love how Romans 1:20 states, “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” So, homeschool parents, what are some of your favorite ways to teach science in your home?

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(1) Why STEM Education Is Important For Everyone. (n.d.). SciencePioneers.orgRetrieved September 4, 2016 from http://www.sciencepioneers.org/parents/why-stem-is-important-to-everyone.

Fun in the Sun and the Kitchen

My blog posts this year center around the theme of homeschooling in the kitchen. I want to share some of the things that happen in our kitchen that are connected to learning. In science, my son was learning about solar power, so we decided to make solar ovens. To increase the fun quotient, we decided to do this project with friends that also homeschool.

In order to make these solar ovens, I went to Bertucci’s Pizza to get some pizza boxes. I asked if I could buy some, but when the manager heard what we wanted them for, he offered them for free. He also asked if I would share pictures of our project with the restaurant.

We made two different kinds of solar ovens, both very simple. The first one was made with a regular large, square pizza box. We cut a square flap into the center of the lid of the box, and covered the open area with plastic wrap and the underside of the flap with aluminum foil. We lined the bottom of the box with black construction paper to absorb the heat. We filled the boxes with a variety of food to see what affect the solar oven would have on each of these items. These included grilled cheese sandwiches, open-face cheese sandwiches, a veggie hot dog, a tomato, and quesadillas. Then we propped the boxes open with rulers and set them on the back of our truck in full sun.

The other solar oven we made consisted of a smaller box; I believe it is a box meant to carry your leftovers home in. We pushed the lid of this box into the box itself and covered it with aluminum foil. Then we pushed wooden skewers containing marshmallows and a bit of hotdog through the box. This was also placed in full sun.

Now the wait and…voila! Lunch is served!

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This was a fun learning project with a great end result — something to eat! My son loved it and cooked many other meals in it, experimenting with different foods. He also tried it various times of the day and in different types of weather.

So on the next hot day, get out of the kitchen and make your meal in a homemade solar oven. Bon Appetit!

Raising Butterflies — Easy and Fun!

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Butterflies — beautiful creatures dancing on the wind! Fragile yet strong, mind-boggling in the thought of the migratory paths of some varieties. What homeschooling parent hasn’t drooled just a bit over those raising butterfly kits — wanting their child to have that “hands-on” experience, yet cringing at the high price of the kits! Or, you decide to splurge and purchase a butterfly raising kit, and once it is all finished your children want to do it again, but your budget doesn’t allow. The good news is that raising butterflies, either from a purchased kit or without, is a fun and easy home school activity to do.

Our family has enjoyed both ways of raising butterflies, starting the first time with a purchased kit, but soon realizing our desire for raising exceeded our dollars available for purchasing kits. So, in this blog post I am going to concentrate on how you can raise butterflies without purchasing a kit — but please remember that the butterfly raising kits are available and can make an awesome birthday or Christmas present!

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The first thing you need to do is educate yourself on butterfly raising. The above book is one that our family has found useful. It talks a little bit about what type of containers to use, and even shows how you can make your own container.

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There are also books that have butterfly activities in them — sort of like a unit study. We have used the above book on Monarchs, but it does not talk about raising Monarchs; it’s more of activities about Monarchs.

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We have used this Stokes guide quite a bit. A butterfly guide will help you learn what types of butterflies live in your area. This is important to learn first, as it will then help you discover what type of butterflies you can expect to find, as well as learning what foods those types of butterfly caterpillars eat.

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This little pocket size guide is perfect to take with you and your children outside. Go to wherever there are flowers planted, whether it is your own yard or a park. Sit quietly for a while, and observe what butterflies come to visit the flowers. Take pictures of them, and use your identification guide to discover the type of butterfly that you saw.

Once you have learned who lives in your area, do a little research either, in your field guides or online, to learn what that variety of butterfly caterpillar eats. Scan the list you find, and look for plants that you could easily add to your yard. You have a two-fold goal: 1) attract the adult butterfly with the variety of flowers they like to feed on, and 2) have host plants available near by. Host plants are the types of plants that your butterfly variety lays their eggs on. For example, we learned that Swallowtail butterflies are common in our area. We can attract the adult Swallowtails easily to our yard by planting flowers such as zinnias, cone flowers, etc. But, if we want to be able to raise Swallowtail caterpillars, we also need to plant something such as parsley or rue — two varieties of host plants that the Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on. Obviously, you want to make sure to not spray your host plants with any type of poison, or it could kill any caterpillars that have hatched out on that plant. Make your little garden corner attractive to butterflies. Think of it as a bed and breakfast for butterflies! Give them food, shelter, and host plants, and they will come!

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Once you have your flowers and host plants planted, start watching for butterflies around that area. You do not need a large garden to do this; a couple of potted plants will work nicely. Keep in mind, though, that the larger area of color with your nectar producing flowers, the easier the butterflies flying past will be able to see the banquet you have prepared for them! Examine your host plants frequently. Make sure you are familiar with what the different stages of the caterpillars you are looking for look like! In the above picture, this is a Swallowtail caterpillar that is almost ready to go into its chrysalis. It looks very different at this stage than it did when it was tiny. When you find caterpillars, carefully collect them and place them into your raising container. Remember to not touch the caterpillar itself, but rather gently break off the part of the plant it is eating on and place it in your container. Once you have a visitor, keeping its container clean daily is important. We simply line the bottom of the container with a piece of paper towel, and change it out daily for a clean one. It is also important to provide fresh food for your caterpillar daily. Have enough of your host plant growing in your yard that you can break off a few fresh pieces each morning to bring in to it. No need to provide water — it will gather all the water it needs from eating the fresh host plant leaves.

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Depending upon the variety of caterpillar, it will spend a couple of weeks munching and eating. At this point it will enter its chrysalis, and will no longer need to be fed. You will need some sticks inside its container for it to climb up on and hang from. Since you never really know when a caterpillar will be ready to change to its next stage, I keep sticks in my containers at all times. Even with this, they will sometimes still attach themselves to the sides or ceiling of your container and ignore your fine sticks. If this happens, do not worry about it. Just leave it alone and do not disturb it. Make sure the containers you are keeping your caterpillars in are large enough that when they hatch they will have enough room to stretch out their wings fully. If they are in a too-small container, it will damage their wings permanently.

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When your butterflies have hatched out, it is time to release them back into your garden. Gently carry your raising container outside. You can see in this photo one of our containers — a plastic terrarium that was inexpensively purchased at Walmart. It is hard to see from the angle of the photo, but this container is actually quite deep.

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Here is a second type of container that we also use. It is a net and has a spring going around the sides. When we are not using it, it folds completely flat. We purchased this from the Insect Lore company.

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With the large spring-type of containers, the butterflies often need help finding their way out of the container. You can gently place your finger in front of them and see if they will climb up on it. If they do, you can give them a ride out of the container. Never force the butterfly onto your finger, and never touch their wings — no matter how gentle you try to be, you will end up damaging their fragile bodies.

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Once you have a butterfly taking a ride on your finger, place him or her next to a flower and wait just a bit. They will happily step off of your finger and onto the flower.

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If your butterfly has just recently hatched out, they will stay on the flower for a while, sunning their wings and getting ready to fly. This gives you a great opportunity to get close up pictures that normally you would not be able to get!

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I hope you have enjoyed learning more about God’s beautiful butterflies! The fall time is a great time to begin researching and planning out your spring planting list — and don’t forget to plant something for the butterflies!