Tag Archives: grade 3

Week in My Life – Friday

Welcome to my final post in Week in My Life 2013. Click here for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Today’s dog walk

Most Fridays at 12 PM J(8) has therapy for his Sensory Processing Disorder. This week, though, his appointment was at 9:30 AM. Combined with the hour long round trip, that took up most of our morning. I had a lovely walk while J(8) had his session.

After lunch C(9) practised her last few multiplication facts using the free booklet Nothin’ But the Facts.

times tables

One strategy the book suggests for the twelve times table is tens plus twos. So 12 x 11 is 10 x 11, plus double eleven.  C(9) also enjoys the number patterns the book leads you to discover.

I like how all the multiplication tips make you think about numbers instead of just requiring rote memorisation.

J(8), meanwhile, is enjoying working through Life of Fred: Ice Cream. He’s very pleased with himself this week for discovering that a ream of paper is 500 sheets. It’s the random things, sometimes!

After our kazoo project on Wednesday, this afternoon we watched a few videos about the science of sound. We especially liked the amazing water & sound experiment.


J(8) wants to reproduce the experiment.  Now I just have to figure out how to produce a 24hz sound wave.

In the meantime we made our own “Moaning Myrtle” – a vibrating hex nut inside a balloon. I couldn’t find any nuts in the tool box so I had to attack C(9)’s project chair with a spanner.

Screaming balloon

I was very proud of myself for remembering to screw the nut back on later.

nut screw

While C(9) packed for this weekend’s Cub Camp, J(8) helped me make blueberry muffins. We used a packet mix, so for once the results were gluten-free and edible.

blueberry muffins and poetry

We enjoyed our muffins with cocoa and poetry.

Poetry teatime

At 4:15PM I dropped C(9) at her Stagecoach class and took J(8) to trampolining.

learning lines
C(9) learning her Bugsy Malone lines

Week in My Life has been lots of fun. And next week my family are going to enjoy not feeling like they’re starring in a reality TV show. 😉

Adventuroo WIML fri 13




Week in My Life 2013 – Monday

computer time 2

I’m joining Melissa at Adventuroo for the Week In My Life Challenge 2013.  See Melissa’s Week in My Life intro post if you want to join in the fun.

This won’t be a typical week, of course – on account of there being no such thing.

ankle cast

We began the day driving my husband to the fracture clinic where his broken ankle was X-rayed and he was fitted with a walking cast. He can go back to work tomorrow – hurray! {Love you, darling ;-)}

At 10 AM my homeschooling mum friend Gaynor came round to give C(9) her creative writing tutorial while I did maths (Life of Fred) with J(8). Afterwards C(9) and J(8) played with Gaynor’s kids while she and I chatted over a coffee.

National youth film festival

It’s the National Youth Film Festival this week so this afternoon I took all the kids  to see Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters for free at our local cinema. A school group that was meant to be going cancelled at the last minute, so apart from one other home-educating family, we had the cinema to ourselves!

After the cinema, C(9) and I took the dogs to the park. I walked while C(9) sat in trees and sang Bugsy Malone songs (she’s playing Fat Sam in her Stagecoach show this term).

Tree climbing
Can you spot spidergirl?
dogs relaxing
Cuddling up after their walk

Karate collecting

And now, at 8:30 PM, I’m cuddling up on the sofa with the dogs {read: trying to stop them licking my laptop} after collecting C(9) from karate.

For more Week in My Life, see TuesdayWednesdayThursday and Friday.

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5 Ways to Homeschool Foreign Languages

homeschool foreign languages - Spanish

Some homeschooling parents are a little overwhelmed at the idea of teaching foreign languages. But in many ways in this internet age it’s easier to homeschool foreign languages than it is to learn them at school.

Foreign language – Goals

My goal is to expose my children to as much foreign language as possible, in a natural and enjoyable way, while they are young.

I want to ignite their curiosity and show them that languages are fun. I would love for them to choose to study a language or two more deeply when they are older, but that choice will be theirs.

How we homeschool foreign languages

Here are some of the ways we bring foreign languages into our homeschool.  Some we learn more formally, others we playfully dabble in.

1. Sessions with a native speaker

The language C(9) and J(8) learn most formally is French.  We chose French because C(9) had been learning it at school and because France is the country we visit most often.

The children have weekly classes at the home of a local French teacher. Madame Celine follows a syllabus and uses workbooks, but she also plays games and cooks French food with the children. I was delighted one day when J(8) – who at the time claimed cheerfully to know “not a single word of French” spontaneously broke into fluent French song as we prepared to bake at home!

C(9) is much more interested in languages than her brother, but I don’t think J(8) could manage a class on his own, so the joint session works well. Our solution was for C(9) to start going to class fifteen minutes early for one-to-one French conversation practice, while J(8) at the very least gets to spend an hour listening to spoken French!

If teaching costs are an issue and you live near a town with overseas students,  you could find someone willing to do a conversation-exchange for free or a reduced fee. When I lived in Spain, I did this sort of “intercambio” with several families.

2. Apps and Software

I’ve always wanted to learn German, and I found the perfect way to do so when Julie of Highhill Education posted about Duolingo. This is a fantastic free app for learning French, German, Spanish or Portuguese.

When I told C(9) about Duolingo – thinking she might use it to practise her French – she got very excited and decided to learn German too, because her best friend is half German and speaks German at home (great!).

One of the reasons we love Duolingo is because, being an app, it’s so easy to grab the iPad and do a daily lesson without having to gather together a bunch of books or log onto the computer.

Memrise is a useful app for learning vocabulary in a huge number of different languages. Do be sure to preview courses for younger children though – my Norwegian course contained a few rather colourful phrases I couldn’t imagine needing!

For more free resources, check out the free BBC languages website or search for a YouTube course.

For fast exposure to a wide variety of languages, check out the Earworms apps. An “earworm” is one of those catchy tunes that gets stuck in your head. The app utilises the science behind that phenomenon to help languages stick. I’ve used it to brush up my French before a trip to France and we all learned a little basic Italian before visiting Florence.

homeschool foreign languages - Italian

3. Classical languages

I was lucky enough to learn Latin at school. Latin was a huge help with French, Spanish and Italian, and has also enriched my appreciation of English.

homeschool foreign languages - Latin

Some homeschoolers worry about teaching Latin pronunciation, but unless your child is going to be singing or reciting in public, it really doesn’t matter how you pronounce it – that’s one of the many benefits of learning classical languages!

C(9) is learning Latin with Minimus: Starting Out in Latin. When she’s ready for something a bit more sophisticated, I’ll suggest the Cambridge Latin Course.  Ecce Romani is another possibility – I enjoyed using this series all through school.

homeschool foreign languages - Ecce Romani

Last winter I decided to try my hand at a bit of Ancient Greek. I used Learn Ancient Greek, a deceptively slim paperback which is densely packed with Greek grammar and wonderfully dry humour in equal measure. I’d recommend it for teens up.

4. History and geography unit studies

Ever since I saw how much the children enjoyed reading and writing hieroglyphics when we studied Ancient Egypt, we’ve brought language into our history and geography studies whenever possible.

I find this a particularly useful way of introducing C(9) and J(8) to unfamiliar alphabets. They love deciphering codes, writing their names and making up secret messages for eachother.

Homeschool Foreign Languages
Secret messages using the Cyrillic script

So far we’ve taken this approach with Ancient Greek, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Russian. (I’m not sure how we missed out Arabic. Must come back to that one.)

Homeschool foreign languages

5. Travel opportunities

Living in Europe, we are lucky enough to be a short plane ride away from many different non-English-speaking countries. Wherever we go, we learn at least a smidgeon of the language.

I’m writing this on the plane home from Turkey.  Before we left England, we used a course I found on YouTube –  Turkish 101 – to learn how to say “hello”, “goodbye”, and three ways of saying “thank you”.

It’s amazing how far just those basics can go! Even though we were staying in a tourist city where most people we met spoke at least some English, everyone appreciated our Turkish greetings and thanks.

Before we visited Norway last July, we used Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day and flashcard website Memrise to learn a few Norwegian basics. The book came with a fun CD Rom we all enjoyed, and as well as some useful ones, the Memrise course contained some hilariously random phrases. Our favourite was, “Harald died. He was skinny, and broke in two.” (Funnily enough we didn’t use that one on our cruise.)

homeschool foreign languages - Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day
Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day CD Rom

The children listened to the Italian Earworms app with me before we visited Italy last year and the year before.

And C(9) enjoyed practising her French with a French girl in her ski class one year, though this year was slightly more of a challenge when she found herself the only English girl in the class!

Looking ahead

I’d love for my kids to become as passionate about languages as I am. Whatever path they choose, though, I hope what we’re doing now will give them the confidence to learn any language they might need in the future.

And I like to think our approach helps them understand and appreciate a little of other cultures, as well as enriching their experience of travelling abroad.

The best way to learn a language well is to be immersed in it – I found that out when I had two Spanish flatmates during my year working in Spain.

When C(9) and J(8) are older I’d love for us to spend a few months having language lessons in another country. And I’d certainly encourage them to spend a year working in a foreign country at some point.

Finally – in case I’ve mistakenly given the impression that I’m some kind of super-polyglot, I should make it clear that I’ve only ever come close to being fluent in one other language (now very rusty!). But I do enjoy – and highly recommend – my hobby of dabbling in languages alongside the kids!

homeschool foreign languages

To see how the other Homeschool Help ladies teach foreign languages, visit:

Highhill Education – Our Foreign Language Philosophy

Every Bed of Roses – Seeking to Learn a New Language

One Magnificent Obsession – Fun With Foreign Language

Hammock Tracks – In Regard to Teaching a Foreign Language

Barefoot Hippie Girl – Parlez-Vous Francais



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Hands-On Hydraulics – Science Fun for Kids

hands-on hydraulic

This hands-on hydraulics experiment is a fun way to investigate the power of liquids.

We used hydraulic power to create a simple machine which our Lego mini figs – and all the family – had fun playing with.

Our hydraulic theme-park even inspired a movie!

A liquid under pressure can apply a lot of force and this can be used by machinery to do work. Using liquids like this is a branch of engineering called hydraulics.

Science Experiments for Kids

Hydraulic Lifter Experiment

What You Need

  • short length of tubing
  • balloon
  • empty can
  • tape
  • empty plastic bottle
  • funnel
  • heavy book
  • water
  • scissors

hands-on hydraulic

What you do

{I’ve added a steps 1 and 2 to the instructions given in Science Experiments for Kids, to give you the benefit of our mistakes.}

1. Stretch the balloon by blowing it up and letting the air out again.

2. Attach the tubing to the empty balloon and seal the join with tape. Check the join is water-tight by attaching the funnel to the other end of the tube and filling with water. Remove the funnel and drain out the water.

3. Cut the empty bottle so that it is just a little taller than the can. (We should have cut a bit more off ours.) Use a pencil to make a small hole near the bottom of the bottle.

4. Feed the free end of the pipe through the hole in the bottle, leaving the balloon inside.

5. Put the heavy book on top of the bottle.

6. Attach the funnel to the pipe and fill with water. (Hold the funnel up high to quickly release any air bubbles.)

hands-on hydraulic

What happens

The water-filled balloon lifts the can, which in turn lifts the book.

hands-on hydraulic

The balloon feels very firm.

hands-on hydraulic

The scientific explanation

The weight of the water in the funnel creates enough pressure to force water into the balloon. This force is in turn transmitted through the balloon to lift the book.

Fluids transmit forces more effectively than gases because they can’t be compressed, even under pressure.

Hands-on hydraulics fun

We wanted to apply what we’d learned to create something like this very cool hydraulic elevator.


Unfortunately we couldn’t get our syringes and pipes sealed tightly enough to make it work.

Instead, C(9) had the idea of using hydraulic pressure to create a fun ride for Lego mini figures.

hands-on hydraulics
First of all C(9) made a hydraulic see-saw …
hands-on Hydraulics
… which turned into a “Blue Sky Bouncer” theme park ride which had the mini figs queuing up for turns
hands-on Hydraulics
C(9) even made a movie trailer promoting her ride using iMovie on her iPad

Real life hydraulics

Liquids are used in many kinds of machines to carry force through pipes.

Most of us rely on hydraulic machines every day, for example when we apply the brakes in our cars or fill them with petrol, and even when we run the dishwasher.

Hydraulics is used to design piping systems, pumps, propellers, water turbines, hydraulic presses, and flow-measuring devices.

Britannica Online for Kids

We enjoyed dipping our toes into hydraulic principles.

There are lots more hydraulics experiments I hope we’ll do in the future. They’re a great hands-on way to learn about the laws of physics, such as Pascal’s Principle.

For more pressure science, see our air pressure experiments.


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Audiobooks for All Our Family

homeschooling audiobooks

In my last post I listed some of the audiobooks C(9), J(8) and I listen to together. Today I’ll share some of the books we’ve been listening to individually, plus some non-fiction audiobooks we’ve enjoyed together.

I also go off on a little tangent about reading and empathy. And I consider the impact of audiobooks on reading.

I’ve titled this post “Audiobooks for All Our Family.”  This is not because I think all the books I mention are suitable for all ages (some are most definitely not). It’s just a selection of the audiobooks my children and I have enjoyed.

Books C(9) has recently listened to on her own

Little Women

Black Beauty

{Notice I lead with the uncontroversial classics 😉 }

My Family and Other Animals (repeat of a family-listen)

The Hunger Games  – We first listened to this sci-fi trilogy together.

Since then, C(9) has listened almost every night. She’s repeated the cycle what must be about thirty times by now. I am reminded of a card from my Unschooling Toolbox:

Your child is getting something important from the 57th viewing of that video. It isn’t important to understand what that is. It is important to understand that it’s important to your child.

Joyce Fetterol

Of course that doesn’t stop me speculating what C(9) could be getting from her thirtieth listen to The Hunger Games. One of the skills C(9) knows she has to work on consciously is empathy. So I was intrigued by this post about how reading builds the capacity for empathy:

Reading fiction – especially when the setting is another culture, another time – has to be the best means of building empathic sensibilities. How do you understand prejudice if you are not of a group subject to discrimination? … How does it feel to be hungry, orphaned, or terrified when you’ve always lived a middle-class life? Harnessing the detail, drama, emotion, and immediacy of “the story,” fiction informs the heart as well as the mind.

Doug Johnson

Whatever she’s getting out of Katniss’s struggles through The Hunger Games’ dystopia, it’s evidently important to C(9)!

homeschooling audiobooks

Books J(8) listens to on his own

J(8) is working his way through The 39 Clues series.

I love how as he listens he shares interesting snippets about historical figures. These have included Ben Franklin, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (“the greatest warrior of all time”) and Marie-Antoinette of France.

Check out The 39 Clues Educator Network for an idea of what kids can learn from these books.

J(8) also listens to The Hobbit and he’s dipped into The Lord of the Rings.

His repeat bedtime listen is The Inheritance Cycle. (We listened to Eragon together.)

homeschooling audiobooks

Books C(9) and I listen to together

When it’s just C(9) and I in the car we listen to the Anne of Green Gables series. It’s so special sharing these delightful books with my daughter. We’re up to Anne’s House of Dreams.

homeschooling audiobooks

I’ve bought the kindle versions of most of the books; I like to linger over the rich language. I sometimes write out  quotes from the Anne books when I join my children for copywork.

homeschooling audiobooks
I remind myself of this quote when anyone questions my choice to homeschool. Will regular school seem the strange idea in a hundred years’ time?

Non-fiction books I listen to and my children overhear

I usually have a non-fiction audiobook on the go which the kids sometimes overhear. I make sure they don’t hear anything inappropriate by discreet use of the pause button.

They enjoyed large parts of Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography. I listened to parts detailing Jobs’ personal life on my own.

C(9) learned heaps about astrophysics from Parallel Worlds: The Science of Alternative Universes and Our Future in the Cosmos.

And at the moment we’re all enjoying From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet. This audiobook a fascinating listen. It’s  filling in gaps in my knowledge while baffling my children with the inconceivable notion of life without the internet. Empathy can evidently only stretch so far.

Homeschooling Audiobooks

My recent favourite fiction books I listen to on my own

homeschooling audiobooks

I read so much non-fiction, I used not to have time for fiction. Then two things happened: I joined a book group, and we got a dog.

This got me into a habit I now enjoy immensely of listening to fiction audiobooks on my own, at times when I couldn’t read a book. I listen while preparing food, cleaning my teeth, doing housework…I’m sure all you book lovers can relate.

A couple of books I have loved recently are:

The Rosie Project – If you like Doc Martin or The Big Bang Theory you will love this book. The extremely likeable narrator has (undiagnosed) Asperger’s Syndrome. The story is about his quest to find a wife. On his journey he learns – and teaches us – a thing or two about the value of seeing the world differently from the average person.

As a quirky mother of two quirky kids, this was a life-affirming, uplifting read. I laughed out loud all the way through. My husband James – who never usually listens to audiobooks – got hooked in and loved it too.

Where D’You Go, Bernadette? – Another hilarious, laugh-out-loud book about being different.

Do audiobooks hinder reading?

From time to time James and I ponder the effect of audiobooks on our children. We discuss  in particular whether more listening means less reading.

C(9) learned to read early and reads quickly. She read the entire Harry Potter series in a couple of weeks when she was seven. C(9) may read slightly less fiction than she would if we didn’t have audiobooks, but the quality of the books she is exposed to is probably higher overall.

homeschooling audiobooks

Sometimes, only the first few books in a series are available as audiobooks. In this case C(9) won’t think twice about reading the rest of the series.

C(9) also reads a ton of non-fiction I strew or she finds on our shelves. She tends to choose modern tween fiction (like The Cupcake Diaries series) when we visit the library.

J(8), meanwhile, has mild dyslexia. His reading comprehension was assessed last year as five years ahead (thanks to computer games). But he doesn’t enjoy reading long texts. Audiobooks have made a huge difference to him. As he listens he is exposed to  language and literature he almost certainly couldn’t yet read for himself.

I make sure J(8) has plenty of real books available. He loves reading joke books, graphic novels like Stinky, and comics like the Beano.  He also whipped through – and rereads – the Wimpy Kid, Big Nate and Captain Underpants series.

homeschooling audiobooks

J(8) enjoys books,  appreciates quality literature, and knows how to read. That’ll do for my dyslexic eight-year-old for now!

So do audiobooks have a detrimental effect on “real” reading? Not at all. In our house, the two formats happily compliment each other, in much the same way as reading aloud supports children becoming avid readers.

Do you use audiobooks in your homeschool?


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Living Maths Curriculum 2013-14

Living math homeschool curriculum

We started last year using a combination of workbooks and Life of Fred, and we ended it with a full-time living maths experiment inspired by Denise Gaskins’ Let’s Play Math. I’m pleased to say that the experiment has been a huge success and we plan to continue with it next year.

Why I judged our living maths experiment a success

* both C(9) and J(8) eagerly agree to do maths

* I’ve noticed big improvements in their problem-solving abilities

* they’re more confident tackling challenging maths problems

* because our maths sessions include a lot of conversation, they’re more articulate in using mathematical language and talking through problems logically

* this has extended to their spontaneous use of mathematical charts and diagrams to help solve problems

Our living maths routine

I prefer routines to structured schedules so our plans are loose. Some days J(8) likes more structure – on these days he asks to use Life of Fred which we read together.

I try to balance the kind of activities we do over a week, and tailor the day’s activity to our mood. If we get caught up in a long project like discovering pi I don’t worry about fitting in anything else.

I usually do maths with each child separately, though often the other will join in when they see us playing a game or swapping story-problems.

Problems and Puzzles

We grab a few puzzles or problems, settle ourselves comfortably on the sofa with a whiteboard and dry-wipe marker each (and usually the dog. He likes living maths) and get to work (play).

Sometimes we make up the problems, other times we get them from books or websites. Recently we’ve been enjoying puzzles from Mindbenders and Brainteasers and Primary Grade Challenge Math.

Next year I’m planning to add in the Murderous Maths series and a few other Rob Eastaway books, and I’m sure many more will make their way onto our shelves.


This term we’ve learned about circles and measuring angles with the Sir Cumference series. I have several more of these on our shelves, which we’ll use as a springboard for more geometry play next year.

We’ll no doubt review and extend our investigation of Fibonacci, perhaps using Wild Fibonacci.

And I’m very excited about doing a project using The Librarian Who Measured the Earth, which tells the story of how Ancient Greek mathematician Erastosthenes measured the circumference of the Earth. (Modern scientific estimates differ by less than 2%!)


At least once a week we’ll play maths or logic games.  Some of our favourites this year have been

KenKen (iPad version)

Speed (iPad version)




We’ll also continue to try out games we find online, like Contig Jr and make up our own games using a hundred chart.


Maths is very hands-on round here. Some days we get out our tangrams, pattern blocks, Lego, metre ruler, compasses, measuring cups or weighing scales and just play.


The elephant in the classroom

This summer I’m preparing by reading books like Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics and taking Jo Boaler’s free Stanford University How To Learn Math course. (I highly recommend Boaler’s highly readable and eye-opening The Elephant In The Classroom – titled What’s Math Got To Do With It? in the US.)

I’m looking forward to sharing more of our living maths adventures over the next year.  What maths fun do you have planned?

Highhilleducation lesson planning linkup

homeschool living maths curriculum

A Living Maths Approach to Angles

Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland - living maths

For our living maths story this week I’d planned to build on what we learned recently about right angles by reading  Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland. As usual, I think I learned as much as the children – and not just about maths.

Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland

The book tells the story of Radius, son of Sir Cumference and Lady Di of Ameter, who sets off on a quest to earn his knighthood. He takes with him a family heirloom – a circular medallion with mysterious numbers around its edge (the book comes with a cardboard copy of the medallion).

“What are these numbers around the edge of the medallion?” Radius asks. “No one knows,” Lady Di answered, “but may it bring you courage on your journey.”

During Radius’s quest we discover with him how to use the numbers on the medallion to measure right, acute and obtuse angles. With the medallion’s help, Radius succeeds in navigating a path through the perilous maze to complete his quest.

Maths Playtime

C(9) actually jumped ahead and read the book while I was working on something else with J(8)*. I came over to find her playing with the “medallion” (protractor). She’d drawn around it and marked 0, 90 and 180 degrees.

living maths - measuring angles

We talked about acute and obtuse angles, and I asked her what we might also call the 0 point (“360”.)

Then I pointed to the six o’clock position on the circle and asked how many degrees round that would be, counting clockwise from zero. I left the room to transfer some washing to the dryer – our “maths lesson” wasn’t meant to have started at this point. 😉

A few minutes later she came and found me with the answer – “270 degrees”. I asked how she’d worked it out. Finding out how a student’s minds works is such a valuable part of the mentoring process.

She told me she’d measured a degree with a ruler and found that “this amount” on the protractor [ten degrees] was the same as “that amount” on the ruler [a centimetre]. By working around the circle she’d found the answer. “Then,” she continued, “I realised there was a pattern – you add 90 each time you go round a quarter of the circle.”

I congratulated her on thinking like a mathematician!

living maths - measuring angles

If we used a formal curriculum, I’m sure my third grader would have “learned” about acute and obtuse angles by now and maybe even used a protractor to measure them. But what I love about this approach is seeing her sheer joy at figuring it all out for herself.

Hearing her animated explanation of how she’d solved the puzzle showed me without doubt that she really understood the concept. It also gave me valuable insight into her learning process, which is quite different from her brother’s.

If I’d asked J(8) the same question, I’m pretty sure he would have come straight out with the answer “270” – but he wouldn’t have been able to explain how he found it. Not having to “show your workings” when your brain doesn’t consciously do workings is one of the joys of homeschooling for the right-brained visual-spatial learner. Teaching J(8) to “backwards-engineer” and thus extend his thinking process (as well as pass exams, later on) is one of my long-term goals.

A final indication that C(9) took ownership of what she learned was that she decided to make a notebook page about what she’d learned for her maths journal.

living maths - measuring angles
C(9)’s notebook page (she went a bit heavy on the glue, oops)

*Incidentally, while C(9) was teaching herself about angles, I was helping J(8) understand the steps of long division using Life of Fred (Honey) – at his request.  I love how a living maths mentoring approach means I can help each of my children learn in the way that’s right for them. (Which might be a different way next week – there’s never a dull moment!)


For more hands-on maths ideas, visit the Math Teachers at Play Carnival #63.

Air Pressure Experiments

air pressure experiments wtih water and candle

Air is always pressing around everything, but we can’t see it. This week we did some experiments that helped us see air pressure in action.

Experiment 1 – Rising water

What You Need

  • shallow dish
  • tall glass
  • candle
  • clay
  • food colouring
  • matches/lighter
  • water
air pressure experiment wtih candle and water

What you do

1. Place the candle on top of the clay in the shallow dish.

air pressure experiment wtih candle and water

2. Pour in some water and add a few drops of food colouring.

air pressure experiment wtih candle and water

3. Light the candle and quickly place the inverted glass over it.

air pressure experiment with water and candle

What happens

When the candle burns out, the water level inside the glass rises.

air pressure experiment wtih candle and water

The scientific explanation

When the candle has used up the oxygen in the glass, the flame goes out. The air inside the glass cools and contracts, and water rises up into the glass to fill the gap.

Experiment 2 – Ice Water Can Crusher

What you need

  • empty drink can
  • shallow tray or dish
  • tongs
  • ice
  • water
  • stove or hot plate (and an old saucepan if, like me, you have an induction hob)
air pressure experiment - crushing can

What you do

1. Prepare a tray filled with enough ice to cover its base, and water to cover the ice.

2. Put a small amount of water into the empty can and set it on the stove until the water inside boils. (If you have an induction hob, place the can on the base of an old saucepan.)

3. Quickly pick up the can with the tongs and put it upside down into the tray of icy water so that the opening is under water.

What happens

Very soon after it enters the icy water, the can is suddenly and noisily crushed!

air pressure experiment - crushing can

The scientific explanation

When the can is placed in the cold water, the air inside it cools and contracts. The greater air pressure from outside presses on the can and crushes it.

My top tip

We had to do this twice as it didn’t work the first time.  I had put too much water in the can and didn’t heat it enough before putting it in the icy water. The second time I used less water and made sure steam was coming out before I put it in the water.

Experiment 3 – Only do this if you have a wide-necked glass bottle

We tried this one but our bottle didn’t have a wide enough opening for it to work properly.

Try to insert a (peeled) hard-boiled egg into the neck of a glass bottle. Observe that the egg is too big to go into the bottle.

air pressure experiments for kids
Don’t try and get an egg into a bottle this size!

Then drop a couple of burning matches into the bottle and try again. If your bottle neck is wide enough, after a few seconds the egg should be sucked into the bottle. This happens because when the air cools the pressure drops and the egg is sucked in to fill the gap.

Our bottle wasnt wide enough to suck in the egg, but the kids noticed that the egg changed shape because of the suction from inside the bottle. We gave it a bit of a push and the egg broke!

air pressure experiments for kids
It’s trying to get sucked in …

To get the egg back out of the bottle, turn the bottle upside down and blow hard into the bottle. This increases the air pressure and the egg pops out. (Or do what I did when I forgot these instructions, and instead light a match under the inverted bottle, which also works.)

air pressure experiments for kids
After a bit of help 😉


All these experiments came from Science Experiments: Loads Of Explosively Fun Activities You Can Do.

Science Experiments Robert Winston

Join me at Adventures in Mommydom’s Science Sunday for more homeschool science fun.

Lessons Learned – What’s Going Well This Term

homeschool planning

We’re not using any curriculum in our homeschool at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I don’t set goals for what I want us to achieve. In fact without a textbook telling us what we need to cover each week, it’s even more important for me to be clear about where we’re going.

The joy of routine

Detailed plans don’t work well for me, but I thrive on routines. A good routine offers a perfect balance of flexibility and structure. Routines allow us to spontaneously take a sunny springtime day off to play outside with friends, and then to jump back in the next day without worrying about “catching-up”. Routines can be adjusted to accommodate extra practice time for upcoming music exams, and we can make the most of the perks of homeschooling by taking term-time vacations without having to work double-time on our return to cover “missed” material.

The whiteboard in the picture above shows my big-picture planning for this term. Some subjects, like history, science and art, aren’t listed because we were already in a comfortable groove with them.  On the whiteboard I wrote new ideas and things we’d been letting slide, but which I knew I wanted to reintroduce into our regular routine.

Read aloud time

We listen to a lot of audiobooks together and individually, but there’s something special about family read-aloud time. This term I’ve prioritised getting together every day to read from a novel or non-fiction living book.  We’re finishing The Return of the Twelves at the moment (it’s good as everyone says). Sharing a novel in this way helps get us into the swing of reading aloud, so we’ve read more of all kinds of living books together this term.

Fun maths

I’ve written a lot recently about the fun we’ve been having with our new living maths routine. Definitely a success!


I’m a big fan of copywork for teaching kids the elements of good writing. J(8) turned eight at Easter so I thought he might be ready to join C(9) doing copywork. Despite his slight dysgraphia and dyslexia, he seems to be quite enjoying it. He chooses his own book, props it up on a cookbook stand, and writes a sentence using his handiwriter pencil grip. Most of what he’s written comes from a Benny and Penny graphic novel, but that doesn’t worry me. As long as he’s practising writing, punctuation and spelling I know he’ll get there in the end (wherever “there” is).

J(8)'s copywork
J(8)’s copywork

C(9) has also been selecting her own copywork passages. She picks a book off the shelves depending on her mood. This term she’s written quotes from Magic School Bus books, Usborne science books, Homer, poems and even the back of an acrylic paint pot. Variety is a bonus!

C(9)'s copywork
C(9)’s copywork

This term I’ve been doing copywork alongside the children – an inspiring quote, a favourite poem or a great line from a novel. I enjoy it, and it reinforces the value of what the children are doing.

Project time

I love the idea of the children spending large amounts of time driving their own projects, with me as their learning mentor. After we rearranged our space to make materials more accessible, C(9) spontaneously creates much more often. I’ve been managing to have project time with each child individually a few times a week, but ideally I’d like us to spend more time doing project work.  I’m still working on where to find that time!


Like copywork, freewriting is something we all do together.  We set a timer for five minutes and, sometimes using Bravewriter Friday Freewrite prompts, keep writing until the beeper sounds. J(8) doesn’t follow the “rules” exactly – he prefers to tell stories using a mixture of pictures and writing (complete with his own “phonetic” spelling) – but he’s been really enthusiastic about freewriting so I’m not going to interfere in his creative process! Sometimes, in an unusual reversal of roles, C(9) gets cross because J(8) carries on writing well past the beep.


Schedule for J(8)

My final goal for this term was to provide J(8) with a daily schedule.  Whereas C(9) and I are fairly free-wheeling types, J(8) seems to work best when he knows what’s coming up, and when he’s done for the day. So for his benefit I’ve been making a daily whiteboard list of subjects which we cross off as we go along. This seems to have been working well.

Lesson-planning inspiration

Julie at Highhill Homeschool has launched a new link-up series to help homeschoolers inspire each other in lesson-planning. For the next month, the link-up theme is successes in your classroom, then beginning 4 July there’s a schedule for sharing planning different subjects across the curriculum. I hope you’ll join me there for more inspiration.

Fun With Tessellations

fun with tessellation

After we read about tessellations in The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places we decided to make our own artistic versions. I got the directions from Big Ideas for Small Mathematicians.

Tessellation is about regular patterns that split the plane up into lots of little tiles which fit together perfectly, without overlapping or leaving any gaps. Tessellation is fundamental to maths, because it’s all about symmetry.

We started with a cardboard square each (ours were about 5x5cm).  We talked about how we could cover a page with squares without leaving any gaps.

First we cut a piece from the bottom of our square. We were careful not to cut the corners off, and we found it easiest to cut from corner to corner (to avoid having to measure where to reattach the cut piece on the other side). We slid the cut-off piece upwards, and attached it with tape to the top edge of the square.

Tellellation square

Then we did the same on the left side of our square. We cut a piece out, slid it along to the right side, then reattached it.

Tessellating square

I asked the children if we had added any cardboard to our shapes, or taken any away (no). We agreed, then, that our shapes should take up the same total amount of space as our original squares.

maths fun with tessellations

We traced around our shape on a blank piece of paper, then carefully moved it along and traced around it again.  And again, and again until we’d covered the page.

Tessellating art
I traced over my shapes with a black Sharpie. (Do you think they look a bit like Fred from the Life of Fred books?!)

Our tessellations looked so pretty, we decided to paint them.

fun with tessellations

J(8)’s didn’t cover his paper without gaps – he was adamant he wanted to create his art his way – but he understood the idea! 

fun with tessllations2
Tessellation-inspired art 😉

The artist M.C.Escher used tessellation to create amazing art.  This BBC video clip is excellent!


Mathematicians know that their subject is beautiful.  Escher shows us that it’s beautiful.

Prof. Ian Stewart, University of Warwick

For more maths ideas, visit the inspiring monthly carnival Math Teachers At Play over at my favourite maths blog, Let’s Play Math.

maths art fun with tessellations

Join me at:

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Look What We Did at Hammock Tracks

Hobbies and Handicrafts at Highhill Homeschool

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