Wednesday, July 29, 2009

All About Soil

Right now we are watching All About Soil from the Earth Science for Children series. I added the link because the website has a teacher's guide that can be useful in developing lessons for this topic.

Here is what the back of the DVD case says.

"Soil is the loose top layer of the Earth's surface, but what is it made of, and how does it form?
And why is it so important? In All About Soil, children will learn what components are
needed to make the best soils for growing plants while discovering the important role that the
forces of erosion play in the creation of this valuable resource. A visit to a grade school
showcases a unique program that uses lunch leftovers and hungry earthworms to improve
the soil in the school's garden, while an informative demonstration illustrates how sand is
created from the continual erosion of rocks. "

My favorite feature of this series, and others like it, is that after the information is given, the "computer" reviews what has been learned. The program is geared to help children retain the information. It's also really cool to watch.

I enjoy finding programs that will appeal to the children without being overly tedious for me to watch, too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Planets Movie Review

Title: My Fantastic Field Trip to the Planets

Time: 70 Mins

Rating: Kids Say - Might Be Good (Mom says - Rent, Borrow, or Buy it Used)

Major Players:

Jake - Cayman Mitchell

Jake's Mom - Jennifer Wydra

Singing Ranger - Car'ynn Sims

Sun - Ed Cosico

Moon - Fred Gallo

Mercury - David Trim

Venus - Rena Wolf

Earth - Jennifer Wydra

Mars - Grant Rosen

Jupiter - Thomas Patrick

Saturn - Irene Ritter

Uranus - R. G. Clayton

Neptune - Michael Chanslor

Pluto - Jack Rein

Well, this movie is definitely different.

Jake missed the bus for a special field trip to the planetarium. He was very upset by this, of course. After his mom puts him to bed for the night, he travels by spaceship to all the planets as he searches for the moon.

Jake gets to meet each planet, starting with Mercury and working all the way down to Pluto. (Yes - in this movie, Pluto is still a planet. )

Each planet gets to tell Jake a little bit of information and then sing a song about itself.

The songs are rather entertaining for the kids. They are also well designed for the use of music to enhance content retention. The songs are short and easy to learn, so kids can sing them even when the movie isn't playing.

The final song is a walk through all the planets. It's a rather catchy tune - if you're five. (Adults will find this to be somewhat annoying.)


We watched this movie twice this morning. About halfway through the second viewing, Kira determined that she was done watching this. I'm hesitant to recommend this movie. It's a bit annoying from a parent's perspective. There's also the issue of Pluto no longer being considered a planet. I suppose this would be easy to explain, though.

Basically, Kira likes the movie. I didn't really care for the movie, but there is educational value. The movie gives specific detailed information about each planet. For example, Jupiter sings about his red storm. Saturn sings about her rings. Mercury sings about being first. The last three planets sing about being cold. It's pretty clever for helping kids remember small bits of information.

I do have to add one final note on this. The conversation between Jupiter and Saturn has a couple of sexual innuendos embedded. It is VERY discrete, so young children would never catch on. Saturn wants to be told she's pretty and Jupiter comments that she should tell him he's the biggest. It's a lame attempt at parental directed humor. I can understand the use of this type of writing in major movies where parents will be taking their children to the theater to watch lengthy films. It has no business in a child's educational video. That one little exchange just irritated my parental sensibilities.

Southeast Homeschool Expo

I am so excited. I get to go to the Southeast Homeschool Expo this weekend. This will be my very first home schooling convention.


My husband is taking the day off to stay home with the girls on Friday. Let's face it, taking a 3 yr old and 4 yr old along for an all day convention is not a good idea.

I am, however, taking my mother-in-law along with me. Actually, she's driving, but I invited her to join me. Randall isn't at all interested in this sort of thing, and I didn't really want to go alone. She's good company and very interested in our plans for schooling the girls.

Now all I have to do is wait for Friday to get here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Library Take

I went to the library yesterday to return the previously borrowed movies. I left with a new stack of movies. This time all I got was movies, but I did get quite a few.

Here's what I came home with.

Eyewitness Human Machine

Meet the Letters (I have to admit that this was not terribly impressive, especially in comparison to the Leap Frog Letter Factory movie.)

The Magic School Bus Super Sports Fun

I Love Big Machines

The Way Things Work --- Sensors

Winnie the Pooh Shapes and Sizes

Reading for Children: How A Book Is Made

Popular Mechanics for Kids: X-Treme Sports

Eyewitness Volcano

Rescue Adventures

My Fantastic Field Trip to the Planets

Building Big Tunnels

Building Big Bridges

The Magic School Bus Holiday Special

Popular Mechanics for Kids: Firefighters

Earth Science for Children: All About Soil

Popular Mechanics for Kids: Radical Rockets

Eyewitness: Plant

American History for Children: United States Constitution

American History for Children: United States Expansion


After reading this list, and other posts, you may realize that I have a fondness for Popular Mechanics for Kids. I really do enjoy the series. The kids learn a lot from watching the program, but honestly, so do I. It's fun to watch, even from an adult perspective. It isn't corny or goofy.

You may also realize that I'm rather fond of the Eyewitness videos, too. Yeah - I am. They're really good videos. They're informative. The girls enjoy them.

As for The Magic School Bus, I actually own most of theses. The few that I don't own, I borrow from the library from time to time. There just isn't enough good stuff to say about Ms. Frizzle and her Magic Bus.

The American History for Children is new to me. I stumbled across it at the library and thought I would see what it was like. The box says it's for ages 4 to 10, so it should be pretty useful. History is my least favorite subject, due to the boring nature of the textbooks that were forced upon me during my own schooling. I hope to make that subject much more entertaining for my girls.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Facebook ...

Who Needs School is now on Facebook.

If you love my site and have a Facebook profile, please consider becoming a fan of my Facebook page and suggesting that all your friends become a fan, too.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Instrument Land

Kira has recently become obsessed with musical instruments. You can read more about this in "Kira's Current Obsession." Today happened to present me with the perfect opportunity to take Kira to the music store. After a bit of research, I decided to take her to Sam Ash Music Stores based on how close they were to my house.

Marisa went off to Grandma Shari's house for a while today, so I took Kira to do a bit of learning. She was very excited to be going to "Instrument Land." (That was her description - not mine.)

When we walked into Sam Ash Music Store, we met Steven - the sales manager. I explained to him that Kira is home schooled and suddenly very interested in learning about music instruments. I explained to him that we came to the store to explore the instruments - not to buy them. He was so wonderful and told us that each area was staffed with a specialist who would be more than willing to help us with any questions we may have. He also said that we were welcome to pull any instrument down and play with it. Even knowing that I had no plans to purchase anything, he was very helpful and very welcoming.

Steven walked us over to the violins and introduced me to Samantha. Then he pulled down a Kira-sized violin and bow for us to explore. Kira sat on a little stool and Steven showed her how to hold the violin and bow, then how to pull the bow across the strings to make the sound. Kira had a great deal of fun "playing" the violin for a few minutes. Steven wandered off to help other customers while Samantha continued to help us with our adventures. Kira also played a Cello and a Bass while we were in the string instruments. Samantha discussed the differences between each instrument and their sounds with Kira until Kira became restless and wanted to move on to something else --- THE DRUMS!

We made a short visit to the drums, then Kira changed her mind and wanted to see the trumpets and saxophones. The gentlemen in that area was so sweet and helpful. I didn't get his name, though. He told me, but I seriously failed to listen. Anyways, he pulled down a couple of different trumpets for us to hold and explore. Then he talked to us about the other horns hanging on the wall. He pulled a flute out for us to play with. I sat down on the floor with Kira to show her how to blow on a flute to make sound. We both failed pretty miserably with that endeavor. I know HOW to do it, but it's been so many years since I've used that skill that my ability to make the sound was almost completely gone. Finally, he pulled out a harmonica and used an air 'thing' to make sounds through the harmonica.

We did return to the drums after our venture into the horns. The guy over there handed me a set of sticks and set us up with the electric drums and headset. How cool is that!!! Now, kids can play drums to their little heart's content and Moms don't actually have to HEAR the noise. I am so THERE with this concept.

Kira sat and played the drums for a good five minutes before she was ready to move on. Of course, I had to have a go at this new concept of electric drums, too. We returned the sticks to the counter and thanked the guy for letting us play, then we moved on to the guitar room. Jim, the guitar expert, was absolutely amazing. He helped us play with the guitar. Then he pulled down a ukulele to play with. The ukulele is actually a pretty good size for little hands to play with. He also pulled out a banjo for us. Banjos are HEAVY. By heavy, I mean that I could barely hold the thing. Oh. My. Gosh. I had NO idea.

Before we left the guitar room, Jim gifted Kira with her very own guitar pick. He even told her if she happens to lose her pick that she can come see him any time she wants and he'll give her a new pick.

After all of that, we wandered back over to the horns where I bought Kira a very inexpensive harmonica. Since we left Instrument Land she has been practicing with her new harmonica. She has learned how to blow softly to make soft sounds and to blow harder to make louder sounds. Needless to say - she LOVES making those really LOUD sounds.

She also figured out pretty quickly that she could make sound while blowing air out as well as while sucking air in. (Hey Mom. I don't even have to stop to breath. --- SIGH!!!)

My plans for a field trip to the instrument store proved to be a great idea. The staff was so helpful. Kira had fun. Hey - I even bought something.

Of course, the real lesson here is that when I do need to make any big purchases for instruments - now I know where to go. If they're this great when you tell them you aren't going to buy anything the moment you walk in the door - think how wonderful they will be when you walk in to make a major purchase...

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Butterflies Everywhere

We took a day trip yesterday to Pine Mountain, GA. The purpose for our trip was to visit Callaway Gardens Butterfly Conservatory. I've only been to Callaway once before, and this was my first time to visit their butterflies. I was very excited, maybe even more than Kira and Marisa. I have to say that the Butterfly Conservatory definitely lived up to my expectations. We spent a good bit of time wandering through the flowers and watching butterflies do the things that butterflies do. I could easily spend several hours in the conservatory if it were a bit cooler and a bit less humid. No doubt I lost several pounds just from being in the extreme humidity.

The butterfly experience would have been sufficient for our day of education. There is a field guide that can be used to identify which butterflies you are seeing. There's plates of fruit for the butterflies to nibble on, so we got to spend some time observing them while they were eating. I never knew butterflies had such long tongues! It was quite wonderful.

(This is a group of Owl Butterflies and Marisa's hand. As you can see, those butterflies are bigger than her hand. That is NOT an optical illusion.)

But I got lucky!!!

After we left the Butterfly Conservatory, we had a picnic for lunch. When we finished eating, Kira decided she needed to use the bathroom, so I took her back inside the building. I decided on the way in that we would just poke our noses into the butterfly room one last time. THIS was the best decision I made yesterday.

As we were walking back towards the butterfly room I noticed that there were people inside this little observation room area. They were sorting pupa. I tapped gently on the glass, and the guy inside brought a tray of sorted pupa over to the window for Kira to see. He even picked a few of them up so they would wiggle around. This was just so cool. We looked for a bit and then waved and thanked him. I thought that was the extent of our special treat.

HE had somethin else in mind.

He waved to me and motioned for us to come inside.


We rushed around to where the entrance was. Kira and I were admitted to the interior room where this group was sorting out the pupa and preparing to pin them up for continued development.

Let me just stop here and tell you how very COOL this was. I can not express just how grateful I am that this guy was so nice to us.

Anyways.... Kira and I got to hold several different pupa and discuss what types of butterflies would emerge. One of the guys in the room had a newly emerged butterfly sitting on his finger. The butterfly was waiting for its wings to dry - which apparently takes about 2 to 4 hours.

We talked about where the pupas come from. Apparently there are butterfly farms all over the world. The farmers harvest the pupas and sell them off to places like Callaway Gardens to replenish their butterfly population.

We talked about how they package the pupa in layers of cotten to protect them during shipping.

We talked about how tough the pupa skin is in comparison to the caterpillar and the butterfly stages.

Mostly, though, we held the different pupa and experienced just how incredibly different each species is. Some were rough and prickly. Some were smooth and shiny. Some of them looked like polished stones and were very slippery to hold. There were green pupa, and brown pupa, and shiny gold pupa. There was evena gorgeous yellow pupa - the color of a canary. That one was very shiny and smooth. That one was my favorite...

As if the pupa experience wasn't enough, when we left the room there was a Blue Morpho butterfly sitting on the ground. We both sat beside the butterfly, and when it didn't fly away I reached down and very gently scooped the creature up into my hand. It still didn't fly away....

I put that beautiful blue butterfly on Kira's arm - and there it stayed - for over ten minutes!!! She absolutely loved that butterfly and determined that the creature wanted to come home with us. (No, Kira. Really - the butterfly must stay at the Butterfly Conservatory.)

Grandma Janet called to find out why we were taking so long in the bathroom. I told her what we were up to, and she headed back inside with the rest of the gang. That lovely little butterfly let me move her from one kid to the next (including the Grandma) without even trying to fly away. She was so content to just be with us. We were blessed with her presence for another ten minutes or so, then we were ready to carry on with our day. We tried to place her on some flowers, but she didn't want to leave us. I ultimately had to pass her off to one of the guys who had been in the sorting room. He gushed about how amazing this experience was because the Blue Morpho, as he put it, NEVER DOES THIS. That species is not generally people friendly. Apparently it is nearly unheard of for the Blue Morpho to land on anybody for more than a second. When I told him how long she had been hanging out with us, he was astounded.

(Thank you, God, for giving us our own special miracle!!!)

I can't really determine who got more out of this - me or Kira. It was such a beautiful day. When Kira was being blessed with the Blue Morpho, she gazed down at that butterfly and said - with tears in her eyes - "This has been just the bestest day ever." (I almost cried myself over that one.)

I did purchase one of the interior field guides so we can learn more about the butterflies we encountered. I also purchased a local butterfly field guide so we can study about the butterflies we might find in our own back yard. Of course, there were a few frivolous purchases made, too. Marisa chose a butterfly that hangs from the ceiling. (It's almost as big as she is.) Kira chose a butterfly that grows in water and shrinks when it dries. They put those gift shops at the end for a reason...

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Thursday, July 16, 2009


We're at the sandbox again today. We spend a lot of time here. The girls get to make new friends every time we come, plus they've learned a great deal here. They have both learned some very important problem solving skills because they like to take buckets of sand up to the top of the play area, but there are no steps to get to the top - only ladders. Both girls have learned how to carry their sand buckets to the top by moving the bucket one rung at a time.

It's fun here, too. They get to expend their excess energy while I get to do some much needed work on my websites.

I'm sure we'll also begin studying measurements soon. This is a wonderful place for that particular discovery.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kira's Current Obsession

I thought the topic of musical instruments was going to be a passing fancy. It seems that I was wrong. All Kira can talk about these days is musical instruments, how to make them, how to play them and how they work. I'm really not sure where this came from or where it will go.

I was brainstorming with my husband today to try to come up with something useful for teaching Kira all about instruments. One thing that we came up with was a field trip to one of our local music stores. We have a couple of stores within easy driving distance that I can take Kira to for a bit of an impromptu lesson. One of those stores is Ken Stanton Music. They are very well known here in the Atlanta area. I haven't contacted them, yet, but I have no doubt that I can show up at there store and find somebody willing to help me explain some of those instruments to a curious little girl, especially if she flashes one of her pouty faces at them. She's an expert pouter. (I know this sounds a lot like a paid advertising post, but it isn't.)

What I like most about home schooling is that I can use field trips like this one that we are planning to give my girls a very detailed and personal education. The experience of walking into the music store and seeing thousands of different instruments that can be viewed, and maybe even held, is far more valuable than anything that could ever be accomplished with a few books, or even a few dozen books. You just can't get the proper perception of size and weight from a picture in a book.

I'm not sure when I'll schedule my visit. Kira is pretty into the instruments right now, so I'll probably be going within the next week or two. I can't do it this week because we already have too much going on. Although ... Saturday might be an option if I can get one of the Grandma's to watch Marisa for a while. Hmm...

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Library Take

My visit to the library today brought a bit of interesting fare.

Kira chose three books to bring home with her. I gave her a limit this time because the last time she brought home nearly twenty books and never even opened most of them. Lesson learned!!!

Here's what she chose:

Goats by Sara Swan Miller

Baby Animals by Seymour Simon

The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole

I also brought home six movies. The movies at the library are by far my favorite resource for home schooling. We can gain a huge volume of information from watching these movies.

Here's what we chose:

Eyewitness Cat --- (Did you know that the purring from a cat is caused by vibrating bones that are located at the base of the cat's tongue? I didn't know this until about 5 minutes ago...)

Eyewitness Natural Disasters

Danger Rangers Fires and Liars

Popular Mechanics for Kids: Slither & Slime and other yucky things
( I absolutely adore the Popular Mechanics for Kids movies. )

Between the Lions: Season 1

Wild & Wacky World: But What Can I Do? All about helping others ( This is new to me. Kira saw it on the shelf and assured me that she was definitely old enough to watch this. It appears to be a religious based series that focuses on morals. )

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Hearing is Optional...

We gathered the pots. We gathered the bowls. We chose some wooden spoons.

The music began. (Okay - it was more like banging...)

The spoons weren't enough. We needed pencils. We needed metal spoons. We need dinosaurs.

The music began again. (More banging...)

The kids explored the various sounds that each "drumstick" would make on each "drum."

Lucky for me, the experiment only lasted a short while before they were bored and moved on to some other - less noisy - experiment.

I'm sorry, did you say something? Speak up. I can't hear you.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Coloring Books

I stopped at the Dollar Tree this afternoon and picked up a couple of new coloring books. I needed something new to help entertain the girls for at least a little while so I could continue working on painting the bedroom walls. This painting project has turned into a never ending test of my endurance.

I set Kira and Marisa on my bed with their new coloring books and new crayons. Kira happily searched through her book and found all the mazes and anything that remotely resembled dot-to-dots. She thoroughly enjoyed tracing tonight. Usually she gets so frustrated with tracing because she has such poor control with a pencil. Tonight she spent a long time tracing whatever she could find. She was genuinely disappointed when all the tracing stuff was finished. Perhaps this is the key to helping her improve her writing skills. Find more coloring books with tracing.

I can't really tell you what Marisa was doing. She wasn't nearly as vocal about the whole process as Kira. There's something about Mommy trying to get anything done that brings out Kira's chatter bugs.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Liberty's Kids

This has been an absolutely beautiful day. I was blessed with a visit from my brother today. He stayed with the girls for a couple of hours while I was able to visit the thrift store. I love the thrift store. That is my number one source for school supplies. I hit pay dirt today. I stumbled across this series that I had never heard of before - Liberty's Kids. I bought three VHS tapes. I would have bought more, but they only had three different tapes.

Here are the titles I bought:

The First 4th of July

The Boston Tea Party

Give Me Liberty

This series is an animated adventure that depicts the historical events of the founding of The United States of America. Well, since tomorrow is the 4th of July, I chose to play The First 4th of July first.

I have to say that Kira isn't all that impressed at the moment. The content is a bit older - aimed for ages 8 to 14 - but the entertainment value is still there. She'll absorb some of the information just from watching the adventurous cartoon. It's a start...