Weekly Wrap-up Week 2

Ever feel like things are working against getting back into a productive routine?  This week felt that way.  But then I looked back and we did get quite a bit accomplished.

Mentos Fountain



This afternoon the boys skipped grammar and the Yellowstone study to have a fun science afternoon.    We broke out the Mentos and Diet Coke because that is always FUN.  While we were looking for something amid my science stuff they found a wind bag to throw.  They also watched several FLL videos, including last years World Champion robot (ironically many of the techniques employed by last years champ would result in penalties this year).


Space Age CrystalsAlso today, we FINALLY started growing crystals. I love doing science projects but for some reasons this kit has just not happened.  We’ve had it since Christmas.  For 8 months they have been asking to do this kit!  At one point I lost the directions. Then the whole house was moving around for carpet and I couldn’t think of a place the crystals could sit undisturbed for 10 days.  I’m excited to let you know how it turns out.

Measurements at the Soccer field

This week we took a trip to the park for a math lesson to enhanced our Yellowstone Unit Study.  It was fun to get outside.   In our Yellowstone Study we did a worksheet on thermal features, read about bears, watched another video from netflix, and drew pictures of bears in their habitat.

English from the Roots Up

I recently ordered these English from the Roots Up Cards at the request of one of the boys.  We learned the meaning of 12 Greek and Latin words this week.  The boys are really enjoying these.  It feels like a puzzle.  It also explains terms that were previously mysteries, like photosynthesis.  They enjoy trying to think of words that use the root word and sometimes make up combinations of their own.


The FIRST LEGO League Natures Fury Challenge came out this week.  It looks like it will be another fun season.  Teams are of course solving a natural disaster related problem.  The new robot game looks challenging as well.

Zucchini Brownie

Summer has reached the point we have too much zucchini.  Wednesday afternoon I did a huge batch of cooking – vegetable soup, veggie lasagna, potato soup, and tortilla soup – and I still had lots of zucchini left.  So after searching allrecipes I settled on zucchini brownies.  They turned out really well and the boys are excited to have “healthy” brownies.  I keep explaining they are full of sugar but C is determined that if he is eating his veggies the brownies are healthy.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Labor Day!

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Math on the Soccer Field

Measurements at the Soccer fieldThis week we took math outside.  In our Yellowstone unit study we read to stay 100 yards away from bears and 25 yards away from moose, elk, and other animals.  Just how far is 100 yards?

We took a yard stick, meter stick and measuring tape to the soccer field and measured 100 yards using the stick and the measuring tape.  Then we measured 25 yards and 25 meters to visualize the difference between meters and yards.

Is this really math?  The power of estimation is an essential skill.   Having a real world feel for numbers and being able to estimate makes it easier to spot calculation errors. Calculating a working estimate, while others are reaching for their calculator, can also help you appear smart.

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A Day at Learning with Boys

The tentative schedule at Learning with Boys goes something like this:

All about Spelling Board


9:00 Start School

Morning: Read Alouds, Independent Reading, Reading to Mom, Phonics Reviews, Math

12:00 – 1:15 Lunch / Recess

Afternoon: Grammar and Science, and maybe art

3:00-3:30 Official School time ends





DSC_00253:30 – 5:00 Free time

5:00 Dinner for kids then off to soccer practice or FIRST Lego League or Boy Scouts.

8:00 Home from practice.



Each week add in a visit with the reading tutor and at least one Nature Walk.  About twice per month we go on a field trip (science center, zoo, history museum, art museum).


My boys list their favorite things about homeschool as: the field trips, science experiments, and reading what they like.



Weekly Wrap-up – 2013 Back to School

We were easing into our back to school routines this week.

Solar Bag 6

We celebrated the first day of back to school by taking our solar bag to a local park.  For us, this super fun activity celebrates the freedom of homeschooling.  It also creates yet another memory hook to remember hot air is less dense than cold air.  We had a great discussion about the chemical make up of the atmosphere.  If you’re interested in the solar bag check out our BIG Science post to see more pictures.



We also started our Yellowstone unit study.  We will be learning about the geology of the park and its wildlife over the next several weeks.  I was so happy when the boys picked Wildlife Biology and Geology as two of the science topics they are most interested in this year.  I was thinking about buying a science textbook this year but they are very happy doing unit studies and they learn a tremendous amount.   I think I feel a little guilty sometimes because our unit studies don’t involve fancy notebooks or print outs.  I don’t even know how long they will last at the outset.

E’s FLL (FIRST Lego League) team met with a new team this week to give the new team advice and information. It is so adorable to see his team learning to be mentors!

It is always helpful when we come back from a break to do lots of read alouds. It isn’t too demanding yet builds vocabulary and listening skills.    We read Mr. Popper’s Penguins.  It is such a cute book and so quaint since it was written in 1938!  Next time we have a movie night we’ll watch Mr. Popper’s Penguins and spot the differences.

Chocolate Chip Cookie

We spent some time in the kitchen lab making cookies.  E and C enjoy using the kitchen scale to make their measurements in grams.  We looked up which countries besides the US don’t use the metric system and after some searching and more searching found them on the map.  We discussed how scientists, engineers, and doctors all use the metric system regularly.

We dusted off the math and grammar books for a couple of lessons.  I’ll admit I was enjoying the relaxed pace of summer, but we had a lot of fun doing “back to school” this week.

Hope your year is off to a great start!

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Yellowstone Unit Study Week 1

My boys really enjoy studying science.  Maybe because it has always been largely an interest led topic.  We do a lot of unit studies and most of them end up covering science and some history.  I’m not formal about creating a lesson plan because we tend to answer our questions as they come up.


This year we are starting the year with a unit study on Yellowstone National Park.  We will study the geological features, the wildlife, history and some botany and weather.

E in particular is always drawn to learning more about wildlife. Part of our unit study will be reading books about the wildlife in the park.  I easily picked up books about bears, elk, moose, wolves, and coyotes.  Oddly enough, the library didn’t have any books about marmots.

We are also using a guide book of Yellowstone as a resource and supplementing the information with internet searches. One big discovery, for the kids, was that the trees in a petrified forest have no limbs.  They had been picturing entire trees with intact limbs. I was glad I didn’t lead them on a long hike to Specimen Ridge only to discover the trees looked nothing like they expected.

The boys like to watch movies so we are working our way through some DVDs from the library.

I also found The Mystery at Yellowstone National Park by Carole Marsh.  It’s part of the America’s National Mystery Book Series.  It is always a challenge to find fiction the kids like to read but I’m hoping the combination of a mysteries and new places could make this series interesting.  I think the reading level on it was listed as 5.8, but most in the series were a little lower.


The boys did drawings of the types of thermal features found in the park. C’s are shown here.  E was still working on his.  We discussed all four types but they were free to draw whichever ones they wanted.

The school year is off to a great start. You can find the wrap-up of our entire week here.

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Back to School with BIG Science

One of our back to school traditions is to start the year with a science experiment.  So while traditional school parents are buying backpacks,  we are ordering a solar bag.  The experiment works best on a sunny morning.

Solar Bag 1


We tried this at our house last year and  decided it would be a much better idea to go to the park.

The bag is really long.








Solar Bag 2

Solar Bag 3


Solar Bag 4


Finally its almost full!

We tied it off and added a string.  Then we waited a little bit for the sun to do its job.

Solar Bag 5


Solar Bag 8


Solar Bag 9






If only we had reeled it in and called it a day right here.









Solar Bag 9


The string wrapped up in a tree.

Solar Bag 10

I spent about 15 minutes walking across the ball field rolling up string!


It was a great way to celebrate the “first day” of back to school with a great hands on science activity.  You can order a solar bag from Steve Spangler.  In addition to the solar bag make sure to take some invisible tape and scissors.  Oh and be prepared to answer questions and make friends.

Wishing you many happy experiments!


The Students

Here at Learning with Boys,  C is starting 3rd grade and E grade 4/5.

In our typical school style,  the first week of school includes:South Chagrin - Crawfish

nature hikes and observations

Science Experiment Solar Air Bag

 and science experiments before breakfast.

We’ll celebrate the first week of school by taking a field trip (our favorite part of homeschool).

Wishing everyone a safe and happy year!


Learning Summer Vacation Style

This week I pondered the question, “What did you do this summer?”  Oh, the perennial topic of so many back to school essays.

We read lots of books.  One of my boys read non-fiction all summer with the exception of one historical fiction.

Waterfall @ South Chagrin May 30

We spent a week at Vacation Bible School learning about water borne illnesses, the importance of proper handwashing, and the need for clean water around the world.  The church sponsors the Living Water initiative to bring clean water to people around the globe.   I was so completely humbled as I researched the need for access to clean water.

Sports Collage

We rode our bikes.  We worked on soccer skills. The boys even tried out baseball.

Mindstorm NXT



July was spent learning outdoor skills with the Cub Scouts, going on a family vacation, attending a NXT Programming Camp, and taking a couple of classes through the National Park Service.


Wildlife CollageWe hiked amazing places and saw some incredible wildlife.  One morning we had an amazing salamander hike.  We spotted a heron catching a fish.  Another evening we spotted a beaver.   They caught frogs and tadpoles.  We even found a snake skin in a tree.  After many afternoons watching dragonflies we learned the difference between dragon and damsel flies.

Hummingbird in the evening - Scott


We watched the hummingbirds in our backyard and learned their calls.  The boys spent a fair amount of time reading about hummingbirds and watching documentaries and TV shows.

Bat Barn @ Stanford House CVNP


We learned more about White Nose Syndrome in bats and Colony Collapse Disorder in bees.




We watched TV shows like Mythbusters and StormChasers and Nature (PBS).

Cooking with Scales


We did science experiments and practiced our metric skills.



It was a great summer of learning!

On this eve of back to school I ponder, “Would the school system agree?”  I have this suspicion the system may or may not think we had a great summer of learning. Observing nature, programming, being physically fit, learning about grave scientific issues facing our nation and planet, doing science experiments, pursuing interests and accomplishing goals you set for yourself – Those aren’t measured on a standardized test.  No, the important things would be:  How fast can you do your math facts?, How many minutes did you read?, and How does your reading level test on Aug. 23rd compare to May 23rd?

So tonight I say, “It’s great to be a homeschooler!”




Our Classroom 2013


Homeschool Classroom 1


Welcome to the Learning with Boys “Classroom”!

The classroom sharing blog hops are one of my favorite things about back to school.  I can’t wait to get a peak at all the rooms.

Homeschool Classroom


Here at Learning with Boys we spend a lot of time at the kitchen table.  A small book shelf holds our current texts, workbooks and reference materials.  On top is a file folder for handwriting paper and math practice sheets.  Across from the table is our dry erase board with our All About Spelling Tiles.Reading Corner

E’s reading chair.  He keeps a pair of earmuffs on hand to make it easier to ignore his brother reading aloud.  C sits on the couch with me for reading time.  We keep a stack of books next to the fireplace.

Homeschool Game Room aka Dining Room


We frequently play games in the dining room.  We keep a laminated map of the United States on the wall that comes in handy when playing Scrambled States.  I’m hoping to expand / update the kid artwork gallery this year.

Science Discovery Center


The science display table.  This is actually one of my favorite spots in our house.   It started out as a nicely decorated entry table.  Then we added the globe.  Of course the microscope needed to be readily available.  A drawer keeps the binoculars, magnifying glasses, and extra slides handy.  Gradually the kids added some of their science toys and E’s clay creations.  They have a Newtons cradle, handboilers, a Galieo thermometer, a radiometer, a catcus, and some bamboo. Sometimes you might find an additional science experiment or two.  Homeschool Playroom

This is the beginning of a playroom remake.  Our big project this summer was getting new carpet upstairs and we are still in the process of moving back into the playroom.  During school they take frequent breaks up here.  Soon it will be full of LEGOs again hopefully in an organized way.

2011-06-03 Caleb

Our classroom expands way beyond the walls of our home.  Always topping the list of our favorite things about homeschool is the incredible amount of field trips.   We really get to take advantage of the fabulous resources that are available to us.


NATURE.  Nature is a huge part of our classroom.  Our kids did two years of traditional school and my heart ached for them being cooped up all day.  When I went on walks without them, I missed their keen powers of observation.  Their learning is so much more complete because they have the chance to find crawfish and salamanders.  They pick apples, strawberries, and blueberries and chase the chickens that give them eggs.  I want to make sure these boys are grounded and connected to the earth, so they will be protectors of our environment not destroyers.

I can’t wait to see all of your classrooms!

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Plan C : Taking Advantage of Summer

Above the Dam Gorge Metro ParkDid the end of summer break sneak up on anyone else?  Soccer practice has already started!  We still have items on our before the end of summer list!

I posted earlier this week about FIRST LEGO League.  Make sure to check it out if you have kids who might be interested in robotics.  They have programs for kids as young as 6!

Last Friday we woke up to a beautiful morning.  The temps were supposed to be pleasant all day and we thought: the Zoo!  So did everyone else, by the time we arrived the line to get in the parking lot stretched around the block and even the far away spaces along city streets were full.

Plan B: Let’s finally go to the Inventors Hall of Fame.  Apparently it  moved out of state last year.

Plan C: Let’s take our lunch to a Metro Park and have a hike.  By the time we are done, people will be leaving the zoo and we can get a parking spot.

We had a great time!  The trail was about 2 miles long but very difficult in places.  We were outside of our normal travel zone when it comes to hiking so we hadn’t been to this park before.

Hydroelectric dam at Gorge Metro Park

One of the first things we encountered was a hydro-electric dam.

Gorge Trail Summit MetroPark  Summer 2013

Here in Ohio there are several outcroppings of Sharon conglomerate.  It’s a mix of sandstone and small little rocks.  Over time pieces sheared away from each other creating beautiful ledges.  I love walking between them.  It’s like a geological time machine.

Gorge Trail Summit MetroPark Summer 2013

Isn’t all the layering just amazing?

Mary Campbell Cave - Gorge MetroPark Summer 2013


Since we hadn’t hiked this trail before we were excited to find a recess cave.   It was a really nice hike, but when we finished our feet were tired so we didn’t want to go to the zoo.

If you’re wondering, we really do things beside hiking, I just don’t remember the camera often enough.   Last week the boys had a NXT programming summer day camp, we went for a 15 mile bike ride,  we’ve been to a couple of science centers, and E went to a bat class.  AND they finally got dad to set up a Minecraft server for them.

Have a great week!  Don’t forget to check out the FIRST LEGO League post.

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