About Me

My photo
I am an herbalist, wife, mom and self professed foodie, who spends her days juggling frogs and her nights wrestling alligators

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New year! Let's have fun :)

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation.” – Plato
                         *                         *                         *
Become popular with a child in your life. Learn how to make faces, and playdough.
 Homemade Playdough

2 cups flour                     1 tbs cream of tartar
1 cup salt                         food coloring (optional)

Get a medium-large sized pot and turn stovetop on high. Add the salt and when the air starts to smell salty you know know the salt is hot, quickly add the flour and tartar, one cup of water and stir vigorously.  Add another 1/2-1 cup of water (if needed) and continue stirring. Remove from heat when the dough is pulling away from the sides of the pot and sticking to spoon (this should really only take 30 seconds). Turn onto a floured surface and knead until the consistency is right. Separate into two peices and add food coloring of choice.

I'm looking forward to sharing a wonderful New Year with you all!

Warmly, Lara 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Papier Mache Pyramid

Happy Fall Everyone!

I want to apologize for going so long in between posts. I had every intention of posting at the end of September, but it was an extremely busy month for me (as it is for many of you I am sure). Getting back into the groove of things has been quite the challenge after our third child and we are slowly but surely finding our new rhythm.

My oldest daughter has recently began studying History, through lectures, photos and Art from Scott Powell's History at our House course. So far she is really enjoying the lectures and is captivated by the stories, it certainly helps that Mr Powell is great at explaining concepts (like B.C and A.D) in ways that children can understand. He starts out explaining why we study history and proceeds from there. It's challenging her thinking and certainly making her more creative.

              As you can see she is sneaking her new knowledge into other areas of study as well!

                                            Clever my dear, but wrong answer!

I would LOVE to do a comprehensive review of History at our House at a later date, however today I wanted to share a Papier Mache Pyramid project that our family made. Victoria has began studying Ancient Egypt and is enthralled. She came up to me one day and asked if she could make a pyramid of her own. I was a bit reluctant at first but we went out and bought some Elmer's Adhesive spray and a bag of sand and got started.

We got out an old fan box and decided on a 5 inch square for our base. I did the cutting, and my daughter measured and made the marks for the sides.

                           After they were cut and folded on the lines, we taped them in place.

                                              And our pyramid began to take shape!

After this we made our Papier Mache mix. Nothing fancy here! Just flour and water, enough to make a pancake batter consistency.  We used computer paper, and did two layers, allowing it time to dry in between. We then put it in the oven with the door open at 200 degrees, checking frequently until dry.  DON'T skip this step, otherwise there is a good chance that you might end up with mold growing between the layers later down the road.


                   Next up-the sand, which took quite a bit of patience on everyone's part.

I'm really not sure how many layers it took, but we sprayed the pyramid, added sand and then allowed it to dry before we came back and repeated the process..over..and over..and over..again. Eventually we ended up with this:

The girls are very pleased with it, but if you have a better way we are certainly open to other options (especially me).  What is your family working on this Fall?

Warmly, Lara

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Patterns in Nature

In nature, symmetry is all around us. We find branching in lightning, trees, and even in in the network of our own veins. Spiral symmetry exists both in a shell, or as a macrocosm, the galaxy itself. We see polygons within a honeycomb or The Giants Causeway in Ireland. We have radio waves, waves in the ocean, and the waves of sand which make up sand dunes. Symmetry is such an intrinsic part of our reality and we can find it in art, architecture, science, and math.

The beautiful shot below (provided by Stress Free Kids ) captures the beauty of the spiral snail shell in contrast with the radial succulents. One doesn't need to have an understanding of right brain geometry in order to appreciate the wonder of patterns in nature. The concept can easily be introduced to even the youngest children. What child doesn't like inspecting the branching veins of a leaf, the polygons of an orb web or the radial symmetry of a daisy?

Earlier this summer, when studying the life cycle of a butterfly I found the perfect opportunity to introduce Bilateral symmetry to my preschooler. We printed butterfly templates from Learner.org onto cardstock and made a craft with corn syrup paint.

The first time I heard about corn syrup paintings from from a blog post on Eighteen25 and I had wanted to try it ever since. I was really pleased with how well it turned out. Be aware that they take a LONG time to dry and melt in the heat.

        We started out painting one side of the template with our corn syrup paint, and then folding.

               This part is really tricky because if you don't open it quickly it will tear the paper.
                                         Firmly and quickly press and then pull open.


                   We taped ours to bamboo skewers and proudly displayed them in the kitchen!

                Please check in again at the end of the month to see what we are doing this Fall.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Animal cell fun!

I recently did this project to teach myself the main organelles and structures within a cell, and it was so much fun I wanted to share. I think that this would be a fun homeschool science project for a middle schooler, and it's a great way for a Kinesthetic learner to delve into a complex subject.

                                                            Animal Cell Cake

I found this great website called,  Cells Alive , they have a wonderful interactive animated program and this would be the best place to get a fun introduction to cells. Below is a list of the organelles and cellular structures that I have labeled on the cake above.

1. Nucleus

2. Nucleolus

3. Rough endoplasmic reticulum

4. Ribosomes (which stick to the rough endoplasmic reticulum)

5. Smooth endoplasmic reticulum

6. Golgi apparatus

7. Lysosome

8. Mitochondria

9. Centrosome

10. Microtubules

All of the organelles/structures where made with fondant, which I picked up at Walmart for around $6 a box. One box was plenty for the project, even considering for mistakes and a little play. I already had some Wilton icing color on hand, but those are also available at Walmart (in the same aisle). Otherwise, regular food coloring really works just fine!

                          Fondant is wicked fun for kids (and adults). You've been forewarned! 


Below are links to websites, and worksheets that would further be an asset for a Cell Mini Unit.


Khan Academy video Parts of a cell

National Institute of Medical Sciences Inside the Cell

Mrs Science Nut  The Great Cell Webquest


Biology Junction  Plant and Animal Cells Worksheet

Davis Joint Unified School District Cell Organelles Worksheet


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fun with Imaginary Islands

One of my favorite projects over the last five years has been making an Imaginary Island. The concept was introduced to the Montessori community in the 1980's by  Harvey Hallenberg, and other than inspiring creative play, the Imaginary Island was multipurpose. Younger children could learn major geographical features such as; island, ocean, river, lake and valley.  While older children could go beyond the basics learning; peninsula, bay, estuary, atoll and so on.

I have to admit that this project was really daunting, which is probably why it's been a work in progress for the last 5 years, lol! I have slowly been working on features (such as texture for the hills) and plan on laminating each piece when finished. I began the project by making a list of  what geographical features I wanted displayed on our map, and then after trying to badger my husband into drawing it for me, I broke down and sketched it out. To make the puzzle, I bought blue and green poster board and copied my Island onto it freehand, cut out the pieces and then glued the green land over it to match. One side of the puzzle piece contains the island while the other has a number and geographical feature written on it.

1. cliff                                                                   8. cape                                                           

2. hills                                                                   9. lake    

3. beach                                                                10. valley                                                     

4. cove                                                                  11. bay

5.  river                                                                
12. peninsula                                                           

6. prairie                                                               13. atoll              

7. ocean                                                                14. estuary                                                        

Here's how I work with the Imaginary Map with my preschooler. First we pull out our air, land, and sea cards. These are laminated, color-coded cards with animals, people and places on them. She sorts them into piles based on where she would find that item, and if she gets confused she can turn them over and look on the back for the answer and we can talk about it. Air is coded with yellow, land brown, and sea blue.

    At times all she wants to do is sort the colored sticker dots on the opposite side!

 Afterwards we get out our map and various toys and,"play." I let her put it together however she likes and we talk about and point out any major geographic landmarks we can spot, (e.g., island, ocean, river, lake). Then we discuss the animals on our map; which are mammals, amphibians, reptiles? Which give live birth or lay eggs?

Okay...so you don't find giraffes on islands in the ocean, but we had fun anyway!

For basic nomenclature practice, I made definitions to go with the labels and printed them on cardstock and laminated. With my first grader we put the map together and we sort through our landform labels and definitions and find all of the geographic features on the map.

She isn't quite up for matching landforms to their definitions yet, usually I read the definitions aloud to her and let her find the place on the map where the label goes.

For those of you interested in making your own map, here's the geographic landform label and definition document. Feel free to print them out for your own use!

Geographic landform Document

From Peaceful Mann Geography Montessori and More:

My imaginary Island Worksheet