- The #1 Homeschooling Community

April 4, 2014

Rosetta Stone® Reading for Homeschool

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: — dailynews @ 4:00 am




When I was notified that Rosetta Stone® wanted me to review a product, I admit, I panicked a bit—as I don’t speak a foreign language, and I thought having that knowledge would be helpful in any Rosetta Stone review.  Imagine my surprise when I found out the product is in ENGLISH—and is a reading program for kids Pre-K-5th Grade.

That sounds GREAT!

The Rosetta Stone® Reading for Homeschool product is a web-based reading program that provides instruction, targeted practice,  immediate corrective feedback,  multiple levels of scaffolding, and personalized learning paths (homeschoolers love personalized learning paths!) required for students to learn to read/develop reading skills.  Rosetta Stone® Reading for Homeschool is a version of Lexia Reading Core5 (in case you didn’t know, Lexia Learning Systems LLC, is a Rosetta Stone Company) and is adapted for home use.

With this program, students work independently to develop reading skills in a structured, sequential manner with a focus on foundational skills that develop automaticity and fluency, listening and reading comprehension, and vocabulary.

If a student struggles with a particular skill, the program automatically reduces the complexity of the task, and provides scaffolded support on the specific skill or task the student is having difficulty with.  Depending on the skill, and the student’s success with the skill, learning might encompass three steps: Standard, Guided Practice and Instruction:

  1. The standard step is composed of on-grade level material.  All activities require the student to be at least 90% accurate at this step in order to advance to subsequent units.
  2. The practice step is a scaffolded version of the standard step.  It removes a level of complexity by simplifying the task or providing support to help the student.
  3. Explicit instruction on the particular skill or content is the last step.  Students are asked to apply the rule/skill by completing a simpler version of the task.

This scaffolding process individualizes the learning and instruction for the student.

The program includes Instructional Materials (Lexia Lessons® are scripted lesson plans for teachers/parents to print and use with students who are struggling with activities); Practice Materials (Lexia Skill Builders® are offline activities for students to use to reinforce and extend the skills they have mastered); as well as Training Materials (including how-to tutorials).

Because explicit instruction is only provided when needed, the program allows kids who have mastered skills to move quickly through units and move onto more advanced skills.

Parents receive data-driven action plans and reports (progress, usage, and skills reports)—again, unique to each student—that are easy to interpret and that can be used to drive individual instruction.

You can see a demo of the product here – just scroll down the page a bit.

Lexia Reading Core5 is available on:

The system requirements can be found here.

The program is aligned to the Common Core, but that makes sure you meet the minimum requirements….and allows you to surpass them as well.  And the program lets you focus on instruction—without having to stop and test your kids—because it uses norm-referenced, embedded assessment.

I went through and tried a number of lessons in a number of grades.  For example, in Grade 1 – Hard and Soft  Sound of the Letters C and G—I kept making mistakes (on purpose).  I liked how the program corrected me, how it went into more and more detail the more mistakes I made.  I was really making a lot of mistakes, yet, there was no frustration….no exasperation, no “Why aren’t you getting this?!”—just more and more detail until the program knew I had the concept down pat.

As I was worked through 5th Grade Complex Analogies, every time I answered correctly, a bee flew just a ways, and flowers bloomed—letting me know I made the correct answer.  The first time it happened I laughed.  Then I wanted to make the bee fly.  The humor of this didn’t escape me—I’m way beyond the 5th Grade—but I was motivated by the graphics.  I certainly imagine kids would be as well.

So, if you’re looking for an online reading program, this is certainly worth a look-see!  I certainly liked it!

April 3, 2014

Birdhouses: Pick in Accordance to Bird’s Habitat

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , — dailynews @ 4:00 am


Birdhouses: Pick in Accordance to Bird’s Habitat

Ask any birdwatcher and he or she will tell you that the first and foremost thing that matters while building or buying a birdhouse is to pick one that fits not just the birds’ needs, but also their behaviors. The best thing to do before purchasing one is to study about their behavior and to particularly do research on the types of habitats that different bird species stay in. An owl, for example, looks for the oldest of oak trees to build his nest in. Similarly, a sparrow stays in platform My Spy birdhouses that are made out of wood.

Those people who live by the countryside are particularly blessed because they are able to enjoy the chirping of the birds every day. If you love listening to birds and watching them leave as well as return to their nests, you should consider getting a birdhouse. This way, you will be able to observe them even more closely. Watching birds can be more fun than listening to them sing. That said, even if you live in a developed city, you can try your luck at attracting a few species of birds.

Your chances of doing so are higher if you have a garden or backyard at home. Birds pick their habitats very wisely. If they need water to swim and bathe in, they will build a nest on a tree that is located near a lake or pond. Therefore, when  placing a birdhouse, think about the needs of the birds. Replicate the conditions of their natural habitat and make a nesting haven for them, instead of merely building them a home.


Are you planning to make the birdhouse by yourself? Well, there are innumerable things that you can collect from your own home to make a fantastic home for the birds. Some of the ideas for creating a birdhouse are mentioned as follows:

  1. Have a board game at home that you don’t bother to play now because you have more interesting versions of the same online? Why don’t you glue these board games together into a thickness enough to build the walls of a bird’s house?
  2. If you think that the birdhouse that you have made looks a bit shabby and untidy from the outside, take some soothing colors and paint the birdhouse. But remember that you must use only organic paints to paint the birdhouse. Also, do not paint the inside walls of the birdhouse.
  3. You can use a simple plank of wood, something that you used to paint on, as a material to make a birdhouse. Make a flat, open birdhouse out of this flat board of wood. Decorate it the way you like. The most important thing, however, is to provide something for the birds to perch on.

See to it that wherever you place the birdhouse that there is a  complete arrangement for food and water. The area where you place the wooden birdhouse must not be completely deserted, yet should be remote and safe.


About My Spy BirdHouse

As the name suggests, My Spy Birdhouse is an intelligently manufactured bird house that allows you to spy or keep a watch on the tiny birds through a two way mirror. One of the special features of this product is a ‘Do Not Disturb’ curtain that can be placed over the window. To read more about this product, you can visit  There is a 30-day money back guarantee.

April 2, 2014

CHALK Preschool Online is a Free Resource

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: — dailynews @ 4:00 am



The free CHALK Preschool Online curriculum includes thousands of video lessons–in fact, there is a lesson plan for each and every day. Lessons are divided into age-appropriate classes and the videos are led by a teacher.  Activities reinforce the lessons and point to “teachable moments” that take advantage of activities and craft projects done both indoors and outside. The CHALK curriculum online can be used at home by parents, so it’s great for homeschoolers.  It is also a valuable a resource for supplementary activities and educational games that parents, grandparents and children can do at home.

You can register free at


April 1, 2014

Homeschool Science – High School Science


How to Teach High School Science and Labs

(Even Without a PHD in Physics)

 This is just one of the GREAT articles in’s most recent e-Magazine entitled Science Anyone?


Before I became The HomeScholar, and before I even began homeschooling, I was a nurse. I loved biology and chemistry, and loved being a nurse.  This is one homeschooling mom who loves science!  Even so, when I had to teach high school physics I panicked.  I ended up begging my husband, the engineer, to help me. Believe me when I say that I understand not all homeschoolers feel comfortable teaching science, especially high school level.

Which Sciences to Teach?

Are you panicking at the thought of teaching physics to your high schooler? What if they just can’t tackle the math required? Which sciences do you teach? Do you have to teach ALL the sciences? Let me put your mind at ease. The College Board states:

“Science teaches students to think analytically and apply theories to reality. Laboratory classes let students test what they have learned through hands-on work. Six semesters are recommended. Two semesters in biology. Two semesters in chemistry and/or physics. Two semesters in earth/space sciences, advanced biology, advanced chemistry, or physics.”

All together, than means just three years of high school science; biology, chemistry and something else of your choice. Colleges are rarely specific about WHICH sciences! It’s OK for homeschooling parents to provide some delight-directed science courses along with typical biology-chemistry-physics choices. If your child is fascinated by the stars, s/he can study astronomy. Not all children need to study physics! I didn’t take physics in high school.  I’m a nurse and was required to take physics in college, but didn’t have to take high school courses to get into college. So relax, your child doesn’t HAVE to take physics!

If your kids want to get into the sciences or engineering fields, you DO need to cover biology, chemistry, and hopefully physics as well. Colleges expect three years of science, but there are a wide variety of sciences to choose from if science isn’t your child’s “thing”. If your child enjoyed chemistry the first time around, then advanced chemistry is a good follow-up. If your child hated chemistry, then astronomy, geology, or botany might be sciences to consider.

Make sure to ask your child what interests him/her.  Your student may want to take a science that is slightly “off the beaten track”.  Perhaps your child would prefer ecology, robotics or equine science instead.  Make sure your child can be successful in the science you choose. Skipping physics might be a good idea if your child doesn’t have enough math to be successful. Physics is highly math-based and most textbooks require pre-calculus to be successful.

Check the policies of colleges you and your child favor. Some colleges have truly bizarre preferences!  But generally, physics is an unusual class to take in high school. It’s usually recommended only for children who want to major in the sciences at college.  Majors such as Political Science, History, or English don’t require physics.

What About Science Labs?

In particular, the questions I get about teaching science are about how to cover science labs. But what is a science lab?  Does anyone know?  Not really! There exists no national definition of what a lab science class really is! None.  That means freedom for you and your homeschool!

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology formed a Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, and issued a report about lab science that is remarkably clear in its conclusion. The National Research Council’s America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science states: “The NRC report committee concluded that there exists no commonly agreed upon definition of laboratories in high schools amongst researchers and educators.”

Even though there is no firm definition of what makes a science lab, the term does imply hands-on learning and writing a description of the results.  You can even do some experiments in the earth sciences. You can make almost ANY science into a hands-on experience, so don’t let the term “science lab” limit you.

In general, when you look over college preparation sites, they don’t mention taking a lab science class every year.  As you can see above, the College Board mentions three years of science, but isn’t specific about the lab requirement. Public universities may have a greater or lesser emphasis in terms of science labs, depending on their preference.

Most colleges do not require documented lab science classes, but some do. Make sure you do your research. Colleges that have specific science requirements will sometimes accept the science portion of the ACT test to meet the requirement, or a SAT Subject Test or AP exam in a science. However, some colleges don’t require extensive math or science.  Their emphasis might be music, or art, or a specific trade, and general science courses will meet their admission requirements.

What About a Science Curriculum?

I’m a huge fan of Apologia Biology, Chemistry and Physics.  I used it myself, and I even recommend that curriculum for my non-Christian clients because it can be simple to avoid the chapter on creation and evolution that they may not agree with. It can be self-taught and it is easy for non-scientists to understand. Apologia Biology, Chemistry, and Physics can provide the highest quality college prep education. However, not everyone loves Apologia and I always encourage parents to use what works for their own child.  It’s more important that a curriculum works than if it is popular, inexpensive, or highly rated.

Another source to consider for high school science courses is Home Training Tools. They have a variety of textbooks and lab supplies and kits. They can assist you in finding a curriculum that is a good fit for your child. Consider teaming up with another homeschool family, completing science together to make it more fun. Your children don’t have to be exactly the same age, and that can be especially helpful for children who are social butterflies.

How to Teach Science Lab

I’m a nurse and I loved every dissection and every microscopy lab we did in our homeschool.  Sometimes I had trouble giving up the microscope for my children to take a turn! I didn’t really teach them anything; they learned on their own. I was always present when they did their experiments – after all, biology labs include expensive microscopes and wielding sharp dissection tools.  They read the lab instructions on their own, followed the directions, and I watched (usually while folding the laundry).  In high school, your job is to make sure they do the lab work without getting hurt, or blowing anything up. You don’t have to teach, or do it yourself. You are the project manager, not the student or teacher.  You are simply supervising.

Once the experiment was done, I left my students to do their lab write-ups independently.  They wrote a paragraph on the methods taken step-by-step and what they learned, along with a drawing, graph, or chart.  Naturally my children wanted to know the definition of “paragraph” and so I was very clear about writing more than 3 sentences!  The science lab notebook is simply for recording what they did during the science lab. We used a cheap, spiral bound notebook (bought during a back-to-school sale) for our science lab notebook. But you don’t have to use a notebook at all, you can use lined paper or have your child type something up on the computer.

How to Assess Learning

When test time came around, I simply handed them the test and confiscated the solution manual.  When they were finished, I graded the tests as they worked on the next subject. I wrote their grades on a piece of notebook paper I kept in their binder and then had them make corrections to the test.

If their lab report was complete and I understood the purpose of the experiment and what their results were from reading them, then I awarded them 100% for that assignment. My children were well prepared for college science labs after completing these lab write-ups in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics at home.

Science at home may seem challenging – even scary at times. If I did it with my children, you can do it with yours! And don’t forget that if science is the thing you dread in your homeschool, make sure to do it first thing in the morning! It’s easy to put things off, but if you are determined to do it first thing each day, you will be sure to get those science classes done each year.

Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, is a dynamic homeschool speaker and author. She is an expert on how to craft a winning homeschool transcript.  Lee’s mission is to encourage and equip parents to homeschool through high school. You can find Lee online at and on Facebook at




March 31, 2014

Pre-K Science: Beginning to Explore


Pre-K Science: Beginning to Explore

(This is just one of the GREAT articles in’s March 2014 virtual e-Magazine)


So, there you are with your little four-year-old and you’ve decided to homeschool.  There are multiple schools of thought out there on how much “school” should actually be happening in preschool.  Kids learn primarily through play but for most kids, especially eager learners, this can be a precious time to give direction to some of those play ideas.

When it comes to homeschooling a preschooler, one of the best resources out there is the “Letter of the Week” curriculum.

Titled “Brightly Beaming Resources,” creator Katrina Lybbert graciously provides free curriculum for reading, countries, and science.

Her science curriculum is focused around the “Let’s Read and Find Out” book series.

The series comes in two levels, the second being more advanced.

The books are colorful and fun to read.  They each focus on a specific topic – for example, air – and include a description on the topic and an experiment or hands on experience.

The books provide great information, but the key to science is getting your hands dirty; don’t let science fun end on the last page of the book.

Preschoolers are at a perfect age for discovery and exploring and what better subject to help them do so?

When working with children this young, it’s important to be realistic.  Keep lessons simple and natural.  Mix in plenty of child-led learning with your agenda.  Your own backyard or local park are great places to awaken a love for science.  Creation is all around us.

Every Spring, a robin makes a nest in our neighbor’s window which my boys’ bedroom window happens to look out to.  It has been a priceless experience to watch daily in anticipation for the eggs to hatch.  And then watching the mama bird faithfully leave the nest and return with food for her sweet babies (even when that food is sometimes from my strawberry garden…).  Then, watching the babies grow bigger and stronger and finally, fly away.  I could read many books to them on the life cycle of a bird but nothing would compare to this experience.  If you are not near a natural nest, consider buying a Window Nest View Bird House.  The house suctions to your window and gives you an up close look into the nest.

Another idea is to have your own live butterfly or ladybug garden.  These are available in many stores and online.

Lastly, remember to incorporate a field trip to your local hands on museum.  Kids learn best through experience so involve all of the senses as much as possible – especially touch!


Letter of the Week Curriculum

“Let’s Read and Find Out” Harper Collins

Window Nest View Bird House

Live Butterfly or Ladybug Garden


Written by Cindy Rinna.  Cindy is a Christian, Wife, SAHM to three boys & a baby girl, and writer.  Cindy is passionate about homeschooling, sharing with people about autism, ADHD & Celiac, and striving for healthy living. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest or on her blog, Life as a Rinnagade

March 30, 2014

Tuscana Resort Orlando is a “suite” deal for families

Filed under: Travel — Lesli Peterson @ 6:22 am

Dreaming of Disney? Longing for LEGOLAND?  Orlando is the place to be this year, with plenty to do inside and outside the major theme parks.  Did you know the average daytime winter temperature in Orlando is around 70 degrees? My family and I made our way south this winter and had a wonderful time! It was our respite from the snow! While there, we stayed at Tuscana Resort Orlando by Aston, and we loved it! Here are five reasons you should consider a stay there, as well.

2007-02-17 13.37.09

  • Location, Location, Location. Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World and LEGOLAND are all just minutes away from Tuscana Resort Orlando. Thrilling rides, the wonders of the ocean’s depths, interactive experiences, and miniature cities made of LEGOs are perfect for families and kids at heart.
  • More room than a hotel. Tuscana Resort Orlando offers two- and three-bedroom suites, ideal for families.  It felt more like a home than a hotel.  We stayed in a two-bedroom, with queen beds and a full bath in each room.  Separate living and dining spaces, and a fully equipped kitchen were perfect for our family.  My favorite part of the stay was eating dinner on the screened-in patio. Multiple TVs, DVD players, a washer and dryer, and internet access were the icing on the cake.
  • Save on meals. The kitchen was fitting for making healthy and affordable meals for our family.  It was filled with dishes, glasses, silver, and plenty of utensils for making anything from lasagna to tacos to soup. Publix Supermarket was less than a five-minute drive from the Resort, so it was easy to stock-up.
  • Plenty to do onsite. While the nearby theme parks are world class, there is also a myriad of activities at Tuscana Resort Orlando.  We enjoyed the zero-entry pool, with a kid’s area, jet spa, and fitness center. Need to get out of the sun? The 30-seat movie theater is available for watching a flick – free! Also available: a bar, restaurant, and picnic area.
  • Discounts. Throughout 2014, Tuscana Resort Orlando by Aston is offering a LEGOLAND® package that includes two adult LEGOLAND Florida park tickets with second day free admission.

2014-03-16 15.29.27 2014-03-29 23.05.06 2009-07-06 10.36.19 2008-12-17 13.50.34

Disclosure: Thank you to Tuscana Resort Orlando by Aston for their complementary contributions to our Orlando adventure.   While we appreciate their kindness, it never deters us from reporting our honest opinion. Find Lesli on Google+.

March 28, 2014

Possibilities and Perspectives with Online Learning



Possibilities and Perspectives with Online Learning


Online resources can provide great teaching resources so that students can learn the core subjects as well as specialty courses. Online classes, projects, and events can enrich the core subject lessons. Students should have a variety of options to learn skills and encourage creativity. Online collaboration can offer opportunities for students to work with peers, perhaps with people in other countries and cultures, or to participate in nationwide projects. Based on the available talents and interests of the parents, co-op teachers, students, and community, part of each day should be available for free exploration and study based on individual strengths and pursuits.

A variety of living skills should be required. More than merely focusing on preparing students for college or careers, we should also address the daily living skills for a healthy and happy life. Students should spend time learning practical skills such as: project management, health habits, relationship skills, character education, and career training. The resources online are vast and extensive. For instance, colleges have specialty courses available free to the public. Students and their families can benefit by practical learning long after the formal school years are completed.

Assessments can be reached through a variety of ways.  Although there is concern about standardized testing and colleges view the ACT/SAT tests as a gauge of intelligence, a personalized approach should be a priority.  Parents should acquire sensitivity toward each student’s learning patterns and unique intelligences.  Assessments can be done by the student themselves, by testing, by results of a project, by a teacher or parents’ review, by computer, by peers, or a variety of other ways. Grades should reflect a variety of assessments.

Students should see mistakes as a chance to learn more. They are often given a “test” to assess their knowledge and the results of that test remains with them. Instead, students should be given the opportunity to use their lack of knowledge to challenge more. In real life, when a mistake is made, the successful businessman, parent, or participant learns from it and then progresses toward doing it better. Therefore, a mistake is not the end — it spurs on new insight and knowledge.  There is a place for student test scores especially in online learning. However, when students do not do well on tests, it should be an indication to look further into the limitations of their understanding in order to find other ways to gain the necessary knowledge. Doing this can prepare students for a lifetime of development and cultivate creative ideas, actions, and skills.

Discipline is more than book learning, studying every day at the same time, or doing what you are told to do. Discipline can be taught while students pursue their passions. A variety of disciplined experiences — based on age appropriateness — should be encouraged where students learn to find internal strength to go beyond difficulties. These include such activities as the development of a talent, a year-long service project, preparation for a talent contest, or challenging deeper knowledge on a particular subject. Parents, mentors, and elders can demonstrate and discuss examples of going beyond a personal comfort level to achieve success. Students should experience “being in the zone” at times even though they need to strive through certain habits or material necessary to facilitate that “zone.”

Families should have a healthy giving and receiving relationship with the community. Families can do a variety of service projects to help the community.  This improves the community and it gives people a chance to think about others and have the fulfillment of offering their charitable acts. The community can offer situations that students can work in the field either as a volunteer or as a paid employee.  Resources of the community may be available to students for such activities as physical fitness, outside projects, presentations, contests, etc. There doesn’t need to be a wide separation between school and “real life”. Our combination of engaging digital curriculum and resources can inspire students to apply, deepen, and extend their learning while encouraging their personal motivation. Our hope is that all students can develop their natural talents and become valuable contributors to society.


March 27, 2014

Homeschool Science – Spaceship Fuel in Your Microwave


Create Spaceship Fuel in Your Microwave

(just one of the GREAT articles in our Science Anyone? edition)


How many kinds of matter are there?  Most of us were taught that there are three:  Solid, Liquid and Gas.

Actually, there are two more.  The fourth kind or “state” of matter is called “plasma” (Note – this is NOT the kind of plasma doctors talk about that’s associated with blood.  Same word,  totally different meaning).  Plasma is the stuff that engines for spaceships in sci-fi movies like Star Trek supposedly use.

Today, you’re going to learn how to safely make plasma in your microwave!  It’s WAY cool.

Here’s all you need:

  • A microwave oven
  • A grape
  • A knife, with adult help
  • A plate

(Pretty easy so far, right?)

To make the experiment easier, I’ve actually made a short video that shows you step-by-step how to do it.  Go to this link to watch the video:

If you’re not near a computer, here are the general steps.  It’s just a lot easier to see exactly how to cut the grape, and what the plasma looks like when you can watch it on video, so do check it out when you can.

Here are the steps…

Be careful with this!! This experiment uses a knife AND a microwave, so you’re playing with things that slice and gets things hot.  If you’re not careful you could cut yourself or burn yourself.  Please use care!

  1. Carefully cut the grape almost in half. You want to leave a bit of skin connecting the two halves, but not too much or it won’t work well.
  2. Open the grape like a book.  In other words, so that the two halves are next to one another still attached by the skin.
  3. Put the grape into the microwave with the outside part of the grape facing down and the inside part facing up.
  4. Close the door and set the microwave for ten seconds. You may want to dim the lights in the room.

You should see a bluish or yellowish light coming from the middle section of the grape.  If you get it right, you can get the rising plasma ball effect like the video shows.

This is plasma!

Be careful not to overcook the grape.  It will smoke and stink if you let it overcook.  Also, make sure the grape has time to cool before taking it out of the microwave.

Other places you can find plasma include neon signs, fluorescent lights, plasma globes, and small traces of it are found in a flame.

What’s Going On?

Plasma is what happens when you add enough energy (often in the form of rising temperature) to a gas so that the electrons break free and start zinging around on their own.

Since electrons have a negative charge, having a bunch of free-riding electrons causes the gas to become electrically charged.

This gives some cool properties to the gas, like the ability to conduct electricity and also to glow (give off light).

Anytime you have charged particles (like naked electrons) off on their own, they are referred to by scientists as ions.

The microwave cooks your dinner by shooting “light” beams at the food.  These light beams are specially tuned to a frequency that increases the energy of the water molecules inside your food.

Grapes are made mostly with juice that conducts electricity (think of how salt water conducts electricity).  The grape halves are like little cups full of this conductive juice connected by a tiny bridge (the part that you didn’t cut all the way through).

When you hit the START button on the microwave, the energy being shot at your grape moves the electrolytes across the bridge very quickly, which heats up the bridge until it bursts into flame.

The electrons that are traveling through the flame zip across and mix with the air, and a burst of bright plasma shoots up.  If you watch carefully, you will see two flames, not one.

If you want to learn more about plasma and the states of matter, as well as ideas for more plasma experiments, you can access these for free at:

Happy Experimenting!


About Aurora Lipper

Aurora is a real rocket scientist. She worked for NASA, has designed rockets, has 3 patents for her inventions, holds a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, did PhD work at Stanford University, has taught on the faculty of Cal Poly University (she was the youngest faculty member ever hired by the Mechanical Engineering dept.), has taught K-12 science to well over 10,000 kids, is a licensed pilot, and currently serves as president of the California Central Coast Astronomical Society.  AND, she is a stay-at-home mom to 4 kids.


March 26, 2014

Homeschool Science – Pirate Science!



Ahoy there, matey, it’s pirate science!

By Deborah Lee Rose


Does your crew love to talk like pirates, dress like pirates, and read or watch swashbuckling pirate adventures? Then weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen—it’s time for pirate science! These STEM activities investigate how pirates and sailors found their way across vast oceans without GPS, sailed through hurricanes without radar, packed food for long voyages without refrigerators, got clean water to drink without cases of bottled water, and unearthed buried treasure without high-tech equipment to “see” underground. Add an eye-patch to your activity materials, give a hearty “Aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh,” and you’re ready!

Right Eye/Left Eye: Land ahoy! Pirates and sailors spied land through a handheld telescope for one eye. Which of your eyes do you use, and why, when you look through a tube to sight an object?

Boat Building: How did huge pirate ships stay afloat? Discover buoyancy, Archimedes’ Principle, and how to build a boat that will float.

Maritime Munchies: “Hardtack” and “swanky” were foods that could last for a long voyage. Cook some up and compare them to what you eat today.

Testing Vitamin C: If pirates and sailors didn’t get enough Vitamin C, they developed a disease called scurvy. Use chemistry to determine which of two orange juice drinks (natural and artificial) has more Vitamin C.

Out to Sea with Zheng He: How did pirates and sailors find their way, far from land? Examine a map based on a real 15th-century explorer’s voyages, and make a simple compass.

Stargazing: Pirates and sailors navigated at night by watching the sky. Keep a night sky record by drawing constellations and the Moon, and noting weather conditions.

How Much Water Is in that Cloud?: Pirates and sailors got fresh drinking water when it rained. How much water is in a cloud?

Why Do Hurricanes Go Counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere?: Play a game with a ball to demonstrate the Coriolis force, to understand what pirates and sailors knew about hurricanes and typhoons.

Captain Cartography: How did pirates find their buried treasure? Make a map of an important part of your world.

Mint Your Own Coin: Pirates stashed away coins etched with the faces of kings and queens. Create your own coin that shows something special about you.

Fair Shares: How did pirates divide their “pieces of eight” into equal shares? named one of the Top 100 Education Websites of 2014! Our free-access collection includes STEM activities from leading science centers, universities, scientific organizations and science agencies across the United States and in other countries. For STEM learning on the go, download the free iPhone app from iTunes or the App store. Share with your family and friends via email and Twitter. This is one “pirate” treasure that shouldn’t be hidden!


Based at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, is funded by the National Science Foundation with additional support from Oracle and the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

March 25, 2014

Homeschool Science – Anyone can Teach Science at Home



Anyone can Teach Science at Home is an article in our just released e-magazine, entitled Science Anyone? 

It’s a GREAT edition.  Please check it out.

When it comes to homeschooling, perhaps no subject is more feared or misunderstood than science. But to successfully teach science at home, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist!  Indeed, one of the draws of homeschooling—and one of the potential drawbacks as well—is that there is no one “right way.”  Whatever your science background and whichever method you choose, the following resources will help you provide a rigorous homeschool science education.


Families opting for a traditional approach to homeschool usually gravitate toward textbook or curriculum-based science study.  Although this method most closely mirrors a public school setting, homeschool science curriculum is worlds away from the abstract concepts and rote memorization many adults recall from their own school days.  While there are many suitable options, the following bestselling and award-winning curricula offer courses spanning kindergarten through high school graduation.

Real Science 4 Kids is a worldview-neutral (neither creationist nor evolutionary) curriculum focusing on fundamentals, giving students confidence with essential concepts and terms fortified with hands-on activities based on the scientific method and colorful illustrations. Kids enjoy the practical application of science concepts while parents appreciate the user-friendly teachers’ manuals.

Apologia, positioned from a Christian creationist perspective, is written in a conversational tone and features experiments that use mainly household items. The Exploring Creation and Young Explorer sequences prepare homeschool students for university science while simultaneously equipping them with knowledge to help them live and defend their faith.

Find complete companion lab kits for these and other popular science curricula, like Bob Jones and Switched-On Schoolhouse, at

Online/distance learning

For self-directed and accelerated learners, online or distance science education offers flexible and diverse options. This method fits well for single or working parents who may lack the time to adequately address science instruction. With a variety of free and paid virtual instruction modules, you can customize a science track that’s perfect for your student.

OpenCourseWare, or OCW,  was created by university professors and is published for free use online with a goal of advancing learning across the globe through free access to web-based knowledge.  While it may sound too good to be true, it’s not a flawless system: OCW sites often don’t provide grading or other placement or access to faculty. However, Khan Academy, developed by a MIT/Harvard graduate, provides virtual courses, interactive content, and assessments free of charge and free of ads.  Parents create their own accounts so they can monitor kids’ work.

In addition to textbooks, Real Science 4 Kids and Apologia both offer virtual classrooms at various rates, complete with transcripts, credits, and grading.  A Google search of online science classes reveals many more companies offering virtual instruction.


A co-op is simply a cooperative learning environment involving two or more families.  Often the parents take turns teaching, preparing lessons, and purchasing supplies.  Some co-ops invite a non-relative to teach—either occasionally or for the duration of the course.  Examples could be a neighbor or fellow church member with a background in science or teaching (or both!) helping out.

Some parents might prefer teaching the co-op themselves for the younger grades, but seek out more qualified instructors for the older grades.  At any level, however, the parents’ commitment to a robust science course is vital to the co-op’s success.

Of the many logistical considerations to address when starting a co-op, a few are what to study, whom to include, where to meet, and more. provides a helpful guide to get you on your way to starting a co-op.

Inquiry based

Inquiry-based science education is thought by some to be the most scientific approach to teaching science, since it’s based on exploring questions, problems, or circumstances.  This approach closely mirrors how scientists use  the scientific method and encourages trial and error.  Often student-driven and teacher-guided, the inquiry-based style develops critical thinking skills as students analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and communicate information, ultimately mastering deeper comprehension. offers a list of online resources to aid inquiry science education.

Science Lab Supplies

A common misconception among some homeschooling families is that science supplies are expensive or difficult to procure.   While many experiments and lessons use common household items, certain items, like a microscope or chemistry supplies, take science exploration to a new level.  To begin building your home science lab, request a free catalog from Home Science Tools or peruse its online store for more than 2,000 affordable homeschool science products.


About Home Science Tools

Home Science Tools provides products and free resources for parents, teachers, and kids interested in hands-on science. Started by homeschooling parents in 1994, HST’s heart is homeschool families. 


« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

� Copyright, 2013, Inc. All rights reserved.
Web Hosting by Midtown Micro, Inc.