Thursday, April 4, 2024

Jamie York's Video - The Geometry of the Total Solar Eclipse

We are once again in the path of totality, and very excited about Monday at 1:59 pm!

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE check the manufacturer listed on the back of your solar eclipse glasses to confirm that they are on this American Astronomical Society list of Suppliers of Safe Solar Viewers & Filters.

I know that a lot of educational videos are floating around right now...
and I just want to take a second to recommend Jamie York's new one, The Geometry of a Solar Eclipse, if you're going to share a video with your child.

I love that he includes the annular eclipse as well as the total solar eclipse, so that you can see how and why they are different. All of Jamie's work is spectacular and I highly recommend his curriculum guides, math workbooks (for middle school and higher), and online teacher training workshops. I've also visited his home in Boulder CO when I was out there for a puppetry training with Suzanne Down. He's a very nice person!

Art History - Andy Goldsworthy

In my Art History 2023-2024 blog post, I decided April would be Andy Goldsworthy. Here are some resources and my planning notes:

Andy Goldworthy
1956 -


See Think Wonder (PDF)

24 Andy Goldsworthy Art Examples - FREE at TpT

Andy Goldsworthy Fact Cards (PDF)

Andy Goldsworthy and Land Art

trailer for Rivers and Tides - Piffl Medien

trailer for Leaning into the Wind - Piffl Medien

trailer for Leaning into the Wind - Magnolia Pictures

Morning Altars: A 7-Step Practice to Nourish Your Spirit through Nature, Art, and Ritual by Day Schildkret

week of Apr 1



    add our sculptures to the yard; photograph them

week of Apr 15

week of Apr 22

week of Apr 29

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Adventures of Mama & Papa Mouse

Two years ago, I wrote the following in my Grade 1 Ruzuku Course:

    I've been thinking recently about how to get Z and K to become interested in writing stories for one another. We have several weeks off school coming up (Professional Development Break in Feb, Spring Break in Mar) and those would be great times to send home journals and have them write and illustrate the adventures of some character we come up with. When we get back to school, they can trade journals and read all about the character's adventures.

    At first I was thinking about Petunia (we love the books by Roger Duvoisin) but writing "Petunia" over and over seems tiring. Also, I was about to spend $85 getting the rest of the books in the series -- so that I could explain to them about what a series is and how sometimes children love a character so much that the author writes lots of stories about his/her adventures -- when I thought, Renee, surely there are other characters that have a series about them that you already own!

    And then I thought, I could be the storyteller and make up stories (that would be modeling... and free).

    And I remembered that we have two little white stuffed mice. One was from a toy the girls had when they were little and the other we found last summer at a neighborhood toy giveaway. They are identical! I began to think about the adventures of Mama and Papa Mouse. Mice are easy to draw and MAMA and PAPA are both easy to write and easy to learn to read!

    All of that led me to the idea of having a container story for the Four Seasons block. I set up Mama and Papa Mouse on the dining room buffet along with our little wooden house. Each day they can have an adventure which also introduces the activity that I want us to do for the season we are studying. At the midway point (our Feb break) and ending point (our Mar break), I can send home the Primary Journals and encourage them to continue the Summer and Winter adventures of Mama and Papa Mouse!

    I'm excited about this idea and happy to share our stories and activities for each day!

Well, we have loved Mama & Papa Mouse so much. The Four Seasons block, a classic Waldorf grade 1 block, is delightful. It's fun to travel through all four seaons back to back. Sipping hot chocolate at the "wrong" time of year! Having a snowball fight with cotton balls. Making up a sensory bin and experimenting to figure out a household item to fill it with that would make the perfect sound of jumping in an autumn leaf pile (hint: it's onion skins).

I also realized that it levels up the writing requirement in grade 1 in a perfect way. During the Capital Letters block, they begin by writing just one letter and then advance to writing a word. Now that we are doing a MLB about the adventures of Mama & Papa Mouse, children can choose to write a phrase, or even a sentence if they want that additional challenge. No stress about spelling at this age. They dictate, I scribe, they copy the spelling. It allows them to just see the letters that go with the sounds in the words they've picked to write.

Here are all the adventures Mama & Papa Mouse have had so far. For each I tell a short story (less than one minute) and we have a follow up activity. Then the next day they do the MLB drawing and add the words they want.

If children have a lot they'd like to say, I will share the writing with them:

2022 Stories


Mama and Papa Mouse and the Rosy Pink
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Feather
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Ice


Mama and Papa Mouse and the Ocean
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Shadows
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Butter

Mama Mouse churning butter


Mama and Papa Mouse and the Acorns
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Mushrooms
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Leaves

Papa Mouse with his acorn cap hat


Mama and Papa Mouse and the Winter Day
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Hot Cocoa
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Snowball Fight

2024 Stories


Mama and Papa Mouse and the Easter Egg
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Persimmon Tree
Mama and Papa Mouse and the Baby Birds

our indoor baby persimmon tree, just waking up from its winter sleep

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Mini-Unit on Statistics and Probability

My oldest student this week is doing little mini-unit on Statistics and Probability, with a few EGG-related activities tossed in there for Easter. We began by reviewing Mean, Median, Mode, and Range and then moved on to Probability. Here are the activities from TpT I'm using. They are all FREE!

- Easter Egg Averages (TpT)

Mean, median, mode, and range for 5 eggs drawn from a basket. Students can make it easier or harder by creating the numbers to go inside the eggs.

- Describing Probability Outcomes Task Cards (TpT)

- Probability Activities 1, 2, and 3 from this past blog post

Instead of socks, we used a basket of glass gems (2 blue, 4 red, 6 white).

- Probability Review Game (TpT)

We will just do this as a regular PPT. I plan to play slides 6 through 21.

- Egg Russian Roulette on our bare feet!

8 hard cooked eggs. 4 raw eggs.

This was a huge hit.

It's also a good use for an old shower curtain that you plan on throwing away anyway! We stopped and calculated the probability of choosing a raw egg each time. Thank you to my friend Megan for the donation of the eggs!

Zac's bedtime read aloud story for April is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. We are just up to the part where Charlie is hoping to find a golden ticket. Veruca Salt's father made sure she'd get a ticket by buying and opening up hundreds of thousands of chocolate bars. Charlie gets only one for his birthday each year. Talk about a perfect tie-in with probability!

Some good board game choices if you're interested in more with probability are Yahtzee, Backgammon (see Fun with Board Games), and Monopoly! Illinois Avenue is the most common spot to land on (and here's why).

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Lines of Symmetry

After sorting all the Board Games, the next task has been to declutter my Art Room and the Math & Science Room, where things tend to pile up.

I was extremely fortunate a few months ago to receive a very large donation of math curriculum materials from the estate of Dr. Ann Karmos. She held a PhD in Educational Psychology and she spent 33 years at SIU teaching Math Teacher Preparation in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

During my Spring Break I finally had time to sort through all of the bins. They are a treasure trove. Two things for Symmetry were totally new to me. One was Mirror Cards (I have both the inital 1965 trial edition that they sent to a few teachers to get feedback and the 1967 edition that was published and distributed more broadly). The child holds up a mirror at different angles and sees which designs can be replicated (have a line of symmetry) and which cannot. Very cool.

She also had a massive stash of wax paper sheets and at first I couldn't figure out why. We use them in Art, underneath our gelatin printing plates, but I didn't know why a math teacher would have them. Then I found an example.

Draw the design and then fold it to find the line of symmetry. Because it's wax paper you can see through it to the design on the other side. So clever!

Thank you to Ms. Marion for recommending our school for this donation. It's amazing. I will bring duplicate materials (including duplicate Mirror Cards, Cuisenaire rods, and more) to the April meeting of Homeschool Without Borders for anyone who would like them for their homeschool math stash.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Fun with Board Games

Today is the first day of my Spring Break and I'm using it to sort through all the board games we haven't played yet this year. I'm making three piles: give away for sure, keep for sure, and test.

Overall, I'm looking to see which ones go in the Board Game closet, which are antique or sentimental or I want to just be for me and Zac, which ones I want to give away, and which games I should take apart but keep the pieces. I have a big stash of extra board games pieces for when we do "Invent Your Own Board Game," which we usually do once a year.

I will also often keep the pieces but change the rules of a board game to make it work better for a classroom setting. Some games are just duds and they don't make them anymore. That's the case with FitzIt by Gamewright (it's also the case sometimes that GREAT games go out of print, and we have some good ones here which can no longer be found).

I really like the pieces to FitzIt. I just didn't like the game play. So here's how we changed it to be The Noun Game. I would use this when we are learning about concrete vs. abstract nouns.

Decide in advance how many rounds you would like to play. Children will take turns being the person who chooses the noun. One noun per round.

To start the round every player is dealt three facedown mystery cards from the deck. It's important that you don't know what they say.

Then the person states a concrete noun. In this example, I said "T. rex."

Each child in the circle (including the person who chooses the noun for that round) turns over and reads aloud the three mystery cards in front of them. If the card describes a T. rex, it is a keeper. If not, set that card aside. The reading aloud is often very funny, as the descriptive cards may be a perfect fit or may have nothing at all to do with the noun in question.

T. rex

In this example, my cards said

    Usually unwanted - yes

    Existed over 100 years ago - yes

    Made with wood - no

So I have two "keepers" that match the noun. Zac then turned over and read his cards. One of his cards said "has wings" which gave us a good laugh. Another said "would explode in a microwave." That was hilarious!

All the cards that match the noun for that round go in the center of the circle. Whoever had the most "keepers" that round wins them all!

(As with other games of this type, if there's a tie those cards would remain in the center of the circle and the person who wins the next round would get the whole kitty.)

The cards you win at the end of the round stay by you, because you'll get a point for each, and the cards that weren't a fit can go back in the box. Pass out three facedown cards to each person and the next noun is announced. At the end of all the rounds, the person with the most cards wins!

This is a just-for-fun game, with the emphasis being on learning what a concrete noun is and practicing reading aloud. There's no strategy involved whatsoever. It's silly and we loved it!

I played this game with the Bongos when we came back from the break. And it was a hit. Here are some of the things I noticed:

- It works better for the person who chose the noun to not draw cards that round and instead act as the Judge if there are any disputes. For example, is a tree "fluid?" Do you count the sap?

- We did five facedown cards per person so that we didn't have tied rounds as often.

- Have each person flip their stack only when it's their turn to read them aloud. Otherwise children will be reading their own cards and not listening to others and they'll miss the jokes.

- Put your cards that are keepers face up, and the cards that aren't a fit face down, as you sort through them. This makes it easy to keep track.

- This game actually teaches a lot about adverbs too! "Often," "usually," "mostly," "not," etc. These words change the meaning of the phrase and require children to think carefully.

- Lots of giggles! They were in fits for "is considered romantic" for Broccoli! This would be a good icebreaker game for a group that doesn't know each other well yet.

Sometimes we have board games without the original rules. Here are some rules I've been looking up lately:

Nim (PDF)

Towers of Hanoi (PDF)

"Lucky Catch" by Gamewright

"Fairy Queen" by eeBoo

Twixt by 3M

Quartett: Tree, Flower, Fruit, Seed by Senta Stein

Monopoly (PDF)
note that you can buy a Speed Die separately at Amazon or eBay

how to play Backgammon (video)

how to play Backgammon (PDF)
includes a very interesting probability table

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Art History - Dame Zaha Hadid

In my Art History 2023-2024 blog post, I decided March would be Dame Zaha Hadid. Here are some resources and my planning notes:

Zaha Hadid
1950 - 2016


The Legend of the Persian Carpet by Tomie dePaola

Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid by Victoria Tentler-Krylov

Architecture for Kids: Skill-Building Activities for Future Architects by Mark Moreno & Seina Moreno

K-12 activities from Center for Architecture

lesson plans from Art History Kids, June 2023

lesson plans from National Portrait Gallery UK

    Under 5s / Dens
    6-8 years / Imaginary Buildings
    9-11 years / Paper Towns
    12 years+ / Through the Window

"Architecture is an art form that should provoke emotions and create a sense of wonder."

“The paintings have only ever been ways of exploring architecture. I don’t see them as art.”

"Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works."

"Architecture is not just about creating buildings, it's about creating experiences."

"If I wanted to do clothes or if I wanted to make a building or design a choreography, you are able to do that - they are all under a similar kind of design umbrella."

week of Feb 26


week of Mar 4



    read The Town of Turtle by Michelle Cuevas

    do Paper Towns activity from National Portrait Gallery
    (work in pairs; give each team a roll of calculator paper, a tape dispenser, two pairs of scissors, and a little plastic turtle; if desired, our collection of wooden animals can also come to visit turtle)

week of Mar 18



    SWI investigation - is < architect > related to < detective >?
    no, but it's related to < tectonic >, < textile >, and < tissue >

    do "Shaky Foundation" activity from Architecture for Kids, p.5
    (I would NOT do this activity again. I spent the entire time walking around repeating the instructions! There were too many steps that they had to follow and they just wanted to explore the materials.)


    our focus today is translating one thing into something else!

    Candle Flame ---> Shoes
    Dance ---> Drawing ---> Dance
    Rooftop ---> Hat

    light a candle, look at picture of shoes inspired by the shape and movement of flames

    Flames Shoe (United Nude x Zaha Hadid - 2015) from French Vogue

    do Drawing Movement activity from MoMA
    (work with a partner to translate their dance into pencil drawings, then on Monday we will have different students translate the pencil drawings back into dance)

    quote: "I have always appreciated those who dare to experiment with materials and proportions."

    read The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

    do Rooftop Hats activity from Center for Architecture

week of Mar 25


    dance drawings made by Saturday's class!


    look at the relationship between Zaha Hadid's concept paintings and the buildings that resulted from them

    How Architecture Is Born: 8 Abstract Paintings by Zaha Hadid and the Buildings They Inspired -

      Cardiff Bay Opera House
      concept paintings, scale model

      Vitra Fire Station
      concept paintings, finished building

      Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
      concept paintings, finished building

      MAXXI: Museum of XXI Century Arts
      concept paintings, finished building

    do "Abstract Architecture Part 1" activity from Art History Kids, p.29

    because we had done so many drawings of buildings, it was hard for them to make an abstract painting instead of going right into drawing the specific building they wanted to make tomorrow; I think it would work better if they just did an abstract painting without instructions from me and then later translated that painting into a 3-D design

    supply list:
    Stockmar Opaque Colour Box Set
    Faber-Castell Gelatos Original and Dolce II
    Derwent Inktense Watercolor Pencils
    watercolor paper, painting boards, brushes, rinsewater jars


This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!