Caramel Experimentation

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I had an itch for caramel apples. I’ve never tried my hands at them before, but I wanted to make them with my girls this year. I bought all the goodies, the sticks, and the apples. Now, the only thing left was for me to find an excuse to use up home school time for this delicious venture. My clever husband was the one to find one. He suggested that we convert our cooking into a science experiment and test to see just how many caramels it takes to cover one apple. BRILLIANT!

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It wasn’t that long ago that I had introduced my kindergartener and my second grader to the 6 steps of an experiment. These are the problem, the materials, the hypothesis, the procedure, the conclusion, and the follow up. A simple posing question like, “How many caramels does it take to cover one apple?” was great for reiterating these steps. I seized the opportunity for both learning and messy sugary fun.

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I started by reviewing the six steps in an experiment with my girls and giving them the “Caramel Apple Experiment Worksheet” that I had personally composed. The plus side to a worksheet is the extra hand writing practice it requires. Once the problem and the materials were presented, it was next up to my girls to form a hypothesis. My five year old hypothesized that it would take 4 caramels to cover one apple and my seven year old hypothesized 3. We found out very quickly that neither of these amounts were sufficient. In fact throughout our “procedure” of melting caramel over the stove, we came to the conclusion that it takes roughly 10 caramels to cover one apple. This realization hit me hard, because I knew we had 8 more apples to cover and that meant 80 little square stubborn candies needed to be unwrapped. Whew! It’s a good thing sugar can be so motivating. For our follow up both my seven year old and I agreed that spending more money on caramels next time around would be worth it, since our off brand caramels hardened too quickly for us to stick goodies to. Next year I think I may even try to make my own caramel, but there’s little chance of me finding a way to convert that into a lesson plan!

A is for Apples!

Apple Pickin' Tree Collage

Thanks to the Werkema’s generosity, we were treated to our first apple picking experience in their mini backyard orchard. It was a blast! The apples were literally falling off the trees. Of course one of my girls was more interested in their dog than helping us to fill our buckets.

Applesauce Collage

For about two days my mother and I made a mess in the kitchen striving for applesauce. From the very first peeled apple my senses were delighted and my mind drifted off to happy places of coffee house ciders and caramel apple treats. It was a tease for both nose and stomach for this poor pregnant woman!

Though it was not my first canning experience, it was my first apple experience. My mother wisely invested in a tool that peels, cores, and slices apples. This handy little thing saved us HOURS! I would recommend it to anyone. My mother chose to make a few chunky batches of sauce, but for the bulk of our apples we used a food mill for a traditionally smooth sauce. Of course almost every batch was honored with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg! Can fall get any better?

Cans!

The finished product can be so incredibly rewarding after a hard days canning. I only wish my entire family could enjoy my enthusiasm. Unfortunately only two out of my three girls will eat apple sauce and not too readily. Oh well at least my husband and I know and follow the apple a day rule 🙂

Cuneiform Tablets

Cuneiform Collage

I am introducing my girls to World History this year and am learning so much personally! I had to give a lesson on the first civilization Sumer and the information was heavy and detailed for their level. I never fear offering too much however, because I know some is getting absorbed and the subject is sure to be repeated years later. I did want to engage them in a project to help them relate to the subject and hopefully commit some of what we learned to memory. One of the ways Sumer developed as a civilization was through their written language cuneiform. When I surveyed some examples of this writing and noted it’s simple lines and triangle shapes, I knew it was perfect thing to engage my girls with. I decided we would simply mimmic ancient scribes by molding tablets out of clay and pressing these shapes into them. I found the alphabet on the internet and what you see here is my girls attempts to write their names. The left is my second grader’s and the right is my kindergartener’s. Not bad huh?

Manna Makin’

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My second grader Keeley is studying Moses and the Israelites this fall for Bible. One of the projects in her curriculum was to make your own manna. How fun! This was a great opportunity to steal my dear daughter away from all those monotonous worksheets and enjoy some hands on learning.

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These are the ingredients we used. We basically threw them all into a giant bowl, stirred them up with a spatula until it came together, and then kneaded it slightly on a floured surface. I let Keeley get as messy as she darn well wanted. After all this wasn’t our family dinner. Once the dough was kneaded we separated it into uniform balls which we flattened out into disks. A few minutes in a 350 degree oven on a pizza stone and they were ready! This recipe gave quick return for your work, which is good when including eager impatient children.

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The Bible tells us that God’s “Rain from Heaven” tasted sweet like wafers with honey. Well I have to say that ours tasted sweet as well. The manna was very subtle and pleasing on the pallet. Our whole family gobbled them up in 5 minutes flat, including Daddy!

Latitude and Longitude with a Giant Sized Grid

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For geography it’s most important to teach a child their way around maps and globes. My goal for the week was to introduce the concept of latitude and longitude. I brainstormed for a time trying to invent a way to make this otherwise tedious subject more fun. Soon I came up with an idea that combined mason jars, clothes pins, string, and candy to accomplish just that.

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I envisioned a giant sized outdoor grid for my girls to interact with. I decided that mason jars filled with water would be my anchoring points and yarn would act as my latitude and longitude lines. Good thing I was abundant in both! Before long I realized that it would be wise to sketch everything out before I wasted time and back strength laying everything out over and again. This was most helpful and made the actual arranging of the mason jars a breeze. Once I had all the jars lined up in their proper places and had filled them 3/4’s of the way full with water, I weaved my string carefully and strategically around to create my latitude and longitude lines.

Labels

Of course each line had to be labeled. I chose to hot glue the coordinates to simple wooden clothes pins and clipped them onto the jars. I also had to make clothes pins for my girls to use for the activity. I labeled these with their initials and numbers 1-4 to mark each of the points I would direct them to.

Candy

With the grid set up and everything labeled the only step left was to pull out some incentive  .  .  .  CANDY! My idea was to give my girls four sets of latitude and longitude coordinates that would mark out a square on the giant grid. They would clip each point with their handy labeled clothespins, and whatever candy lay inside the square was theirs to gobble up in victory. What little girl isn’t motivated by candy?

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I will admit that the preparation for this activity was very time consuming. But isn’t the sacrifice worth it to make learning fun and hopefully memorable? To make my efforts go farther we did this activity for two nights in a row, which was just as well because clipping four points for one piece of candy turned out to take time as well. My second grader did beautifully and by the end was able to call out her own latitude and longitude coordinates for the candy she had her eye on. My kindergartener struggled a bit with the high numbers, but understood grasped the concept immediately. With a little numerical help she able to obtain just as much sugar as her sister. I’m happy to say that this activity was a success and I would recommend it to any mom or teacher!

Pyramid Building

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How does one make a seven and a five year old sit still for a world history lesson? By promising a craft to follow! That’s what I had to do when I gave a lesson on the correlation between religion and history this week. I tried my best to repeatedly explain that if it were not for the ancient Egyptian’s beliefs the great pyramids still standing today would not even exist, but the eyes moving around the room and the involuntary wiggles were telling me that the craft was much more important than my words. My girls may not remember that people’s choices are driven by their personal beliefs and religion, thus effecting our world history, but they will remember what a pyramid is and how to build one!

Cut out Pyramid

Good thing I had something prepared in advance. Yes the day before I had printed out a template for a paper pyramid I had found online and used it to cut out a sturdy piece of recycled cardboard. I then took painful care to cut that out and proceeded to use a ruler to guide my bends in all the needed places.

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All that was left then was to secure my pyramid in place with duct tape and clean up my giant mess. This preassembled beauty would have to wait overnight for eager hands to decorate it.

Critically Think Pyramid

The following day after my semi – successful verbal history lesson I gave each of my girls their own paper templates. I also placed my own pre assembled paper pyramid out on the table for them to study. At this point I hadn’t even pulled out the preassembled cardboard pyramid because I first I wanted to give them an opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills. My husband and I are firm believers in molding these skills. Rather than tell them how to do it, I simply said, “There is a way to cut, fold, and tape this together into a pyramid like Mommy’s. Try and put yours together by yourself.” My seven year old figured it out single handedly in minutes. My five year old got very far by herself as well, but needed a little guidance in understanding the flaps along the sides of each triangular wall.

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They finished and we put all three paper pyramids side by side and relished in our success!

Glue and go Crazy Pyramid

Now came the fun part. I whipped out the preassembled cardboard pyramid and explained to the girls that if it were a real pyramid it would be out in the desert and covered in sand. They knew what to do and were already getting their hands dirty before I had finished speaking. By the way this is and OUTDOOR project for those of you who may want to try it. I gave each of the girls, even my two year old who quite enjoyed herself, a sponge brush and a cup of glue and instructed them to cover the pyramid all over. They did so in a blink. The next step needed no instruction, they got good and dirty dousing the now sticky pyramid all over with sand. Far more sand than needed at that. I was so glad that we just happened to go to the beach over the weekend so that I could collect some. Of course I could have just as easily taken it out of their sandbox as well.

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That was that. The pyramid was very realistic looking just small. I made a point to ask the girls how big we would be standing next to our sandy pyramid and they agreed that we would be as tiny as ants. Great! They get it. In fact my five year old insists that we go to Egypt and see the real ones. What could I say? Maybe someday . . .

Shoe Lacing Project

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My girls wear Crocs, flip flops, boots, and random slip on shoes year round. Truth be told they do not own a pair of traditional sneakers. This dawned on me the other day and I then realized that I had skipped over one childhood right of passage in the conquering of shoe lace tying! My eldest daughter Keeley is 7yrs old and she still doesn’t know how to tie a shoe. Shame on me. I’ll bet my shame is not solely mine though which is exactly why I want to share this fun craft with everyone. The following are rough directions for paper shoe’s with ribbon laces.

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To start this project I studied a diagram of a shoe online and hand drew my own version. I made a fold down the center of my paper and cut half of my drawing around to ensure that the shoe would be even on both sides. I then traced my detailed sections like the toe cover and the side stripe to cut out separately and use as templates.

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Once the templates were all cut and ready, I rounded out small pieces of scotch tape and attached them to the back of each template. Then came the most fun part, I chose combinations of scrapbook paper to cut out for each section of the shoes. This probably took way more time than it needed to, but for those of you out there who scrapbook, you will understand when I say this activity can be very cathartic! Once I had made my choices, I got to cutting and grouping my shoe pieces together. I also chose to cut out an extra shoe base with heavy card stock to strengthen each of my shoes. Cardboard would be an even sturdier choice for this if you prefer.

My next step was to assemble my shoes. This step was incredibly fun too, because it’s the first time I saw my creations come together. Since I intended to decoupage the entire shoe, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time tacking down each piece with a glue runner. There were inconsistencies and imperfections once the shoes were assembled. Some of my pieces were hanging over the shoe. To fix this problem I simply cut around the perimeter to even everything out again.

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Once I was satisfied with my shoes, it was time to decoupage. I did have some modpage on hand, but it’s a fairly expensive product and I didn’t want to waste it. Modpage is better than homemade recipes for those projects that include photos because elmers glue will yellow over time. For this particular project however I wasn’t overly concerned with that.  So I choice to follow a recipe that combines one part elmers glue with one part water. I combined each of these in a mason jar and shook vigorously. That’s all there was to it. I placed each of my shoes on a piece of wax paper and applied the glue all over with a sponge brush. I noticed right away that some of the thinner scrap pages I chose for my shoes started to bubble up. For that reason I would suggest using heavier card stock-weighted pages for your shoes. Live and learn I suppose. After each shoe was glued I allowed it to dry on a baker’s rack overnight.

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After the shoes were dried completely, my final step was to lace them! But of course this requires holes. I measured out where I wanted the holes on my template first and used a hole punch on my marks. Then I placed my template out over each finished shoe and traced these holes with a pencil. Afterward I carefully punched those out and followed up with a careful eye and an eraser to make sure none of my pencil marks were left behind. Last but not least I made my ribbon choices and measured out how much I would need for each shoe (I would suggest being very generous with your cuts because you can always trim a longer piece down, but you cannot add more to a short piece). I laced the ribbon through each shoe and stood back to sigh happily at my work. I could hardly wait to show my girls!

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My first born Keeley is 7 and quite the little artist. I thought she would take to her tying right away, but instead she became frustrated when she could not get her bow perfect the first time and a crying fest took over. I should have known she would be hard on herself.

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My second born Bree is 5 and I expected her to struggle and even be disinterested because of her young age, but surprisingly she had a great attitude and wanted to tie her bow over and again. Of course I had to help her each time and she never was able to tie one solo, but that’s the beauty of these shoes, I will always have them for her to practice and improve with!

All in all this was a load of fun and I think time well spent. Now my girls can proudly complete the shoe lacing right of passage 🙂