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Worm Farm Fun, Lego Challenge, Help for a Seven Year Old

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, May 28, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 40                         May 28, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

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  It takes me a lot of time during our off months to do the planning,
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  Guest Article
  -- Summer Worm Farm Fun!
  Helpful Tips
  -- Lego Educator Challenge
  Reader Question
  -- Expectations for a 7 Year Old
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Subscription Information
  -- Reprint Information

       Guest Article

  [Editor's Note:  Although Rachel wrote this article with younger
  children in mind, I'm sure all my boys would love it -- even up
  to the 16 year old.  When you are done with your "farm" you can
  dump the whole wonderful mess into your garden for some great
  compost! -- Heather]


  Preschool Science: A Worm Farm!
    by Rachel Paxton


  Preschool-aged children love to play with worms (at least my
  boys do!).  You can turn their curiosity with worms into a
  science project with just a few items from your house and
  garden.  Here is what you'll need:

    Empty two-liter pop bottle
    Exacto knife
    Small shovel
    Grass clippings
    Kitchen compost (apple peelings, etc.)

  Before you let your child loose in the garden, you will need
  to use the exacto knife to cut off the entire top of the pop

  Help your child create a label for the container that has the
  child's name and "worm farm" printed on it.  You can make it
  by hand or on the computer.  Tape the label to the front of
  the container.

  Go out to the garden with your child and let him/her shovel
  a couple of inches of dirt into the plastic container.  Pat
  the dirt down so the next layer of sand won't filter through.
  Explain to your child that they need to be careful not to shake
  or jar the bottle or the sand and dirt will become mixed up.

  Add a thin layer of sand, and then continue with a couple of
  inches of dirt and another thin layer of sand.  The top layer
  should be dirt.  Leave an inch or two of space at the top of the

  Next add a few grass clippings on top of the last layer of dirt.
  The worms will need food, so add a few pieces of fruits or
  vegetables in with the grass, such as apple or orange peelings.

  If you are lucky enough to have worms in your yard, help your
  child dig for a few worms for his/her worm farm.  If you can't
  find any, go to your nearest bait shop and buy a small package
  of night crawlers.

  Let your children play with the worms before putting them in the
  worm farm.  Help them make observations about their worms.  Check
  out a book about worms at your local library or search for
  information online about worms.  Talk to your child about how a
  worm's job is to eat waste and mix it into our soil to fertilize

  After your child places a couple of worms into the worm farm,
  they will be able to see for themselves how worms mix up soil.
  When the worms dig through the container, they will leave a trail
  of sand behind them that your child will be able to see mixing
  into the dirt.

  For the most worm activity, place the worm farm in a dark place
  or tape a piece of paper around the worm farm to keep the light
  out.  Worms do most of their work at night.

  Your preschooler will have a lot of fun creating a worm farm.
  From digging in the dirt, to playing with worms... what's not
  to like!


  Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of five.  For
  resources for the Christian family, including parenting, toddler
  and preschool activities, homeschooling, family traditions, and
  more, visit http://www.Christian-Parent.com


  Do you have comments to share about the newsletter?  Please do!
  Send your emails to:  mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net

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      Helpful Tip

  A Challenge for Home School Educators from LEGO!

  From now through August 2009, LEGO Education is sponsoring a
  hands-on activity challenge for educators, (including home
  educators!), to design and submit an activity using only the
  parts in a free kit supplied by LEGO.  The activity could range
  from a simple construction to an advanced math application.
  Your imagination is the limit! The Grand Prize Winner will get
  LEGO Education products and gift certificates valued up to $250;
  eight monthly winners will receive prizes worth up to $100.
  Entries will appear on the LEGO Smart Blog as they are posted
  to the website.

  See the website for all the rules and to request your kit.


  Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share?  Please write!
  Send to:  mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "I am so discouraged sometimes.  My seven year old boy is very bright
  and wants to learn; he enjoys learning lots of times.  But sometimes,
  like for the last week, he decides he hates something so much that he
  acts as though he's unable to do it.  When I am there with him, though
  I'm not helping him, he does it easily.  But, as soon as I leave,
  suddenly he can't do it anymore.  In the last week, he has spent soooo
  much time doing his math.  Granted, he is a year ahead in math - doing
  second-grade math now, instead of 1st-grade math.  But, yesterday he
  spent 75 minutes doing a worksheet that should have taken him 20 minutes;
  and he never came out of it.  I finally walked him through it, yet still
  not giving him the answers.  Today he has spent 150 minutes on a similar
  20 minute worksheet -- and he's still not done.  He keeps saying he
  can't do it, but he did the same type of problems 2 weeks ago without
  any trouble.  In fact, what I think triggered this is that, though I
  don't post 'grades', I expect him to get most of his work right.  Lately
  he has gotten 3-4 problems wrong on a worksheet of 12-16 problems.  I
  told him that he has to check his work before turning it in (a good
  habit, right?).  And, if he gets more than 2 wrong - when I grade his
  paper - he has to do another worksheet.  At the time I implemented this
  - a week ago - he was doing two math worksheets a day, with no problems
  other than some sloppy mistakes.  To be extra easy on him, I told him
  he only had to do one worksheet a day from now on and check it himself.
  He will only have to do a second worksheet if he gets more than two
  problems wrong.  An easier thing, right?  But he's fallen apart at math
  every time since I implemented this new rule.  (By the way, math is
  the only subject we do worksheets on a bunch.  We do an eclectic mixture
  of Charlotte Mason/Classical Education with lots of living books).
  What do I do?  Do I make him tough it out, 'til he sees that he CAN do
  it?  Am I being too hard on him because he's only seven, and I can teach
  him to be disciplined when he's older?  I've tried to explain that it's
  easier this way for him.  Is this a character issue?  I don't handle it
  right - I know - when my children do this.  My younger son has also
  pulled this three times with his writing, even though he's a beautiful
  writer (but he's not doing it now).  What do you do when your children
  fight with you over schoolwork?  During all the time he's wasted, we have
  had some words about it.  It is soooo hard for me to quietly allow him
  to self-destruct his day over 8 problems of math (the number of problems
  on the last 2 days worksheets)!  And I guess I'm not patient enough to
  let my children sit at their desks for a long time, constantly letting
  themselves believe they can't do something that I know they can.  I end
  up fussing at them for believing things that aren't true.  Should I be
  patient for this?  What should I do?  Thanks in advance for your help."
  -- Diana

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "Hi Diana -- I have a seven year old daughter that I have had to
  adjust my expectations for, too.  She reads well, does math well,
  writes well -- but it all becomes much more difficult for her if
  I am expecting her to do it.  When I can bring myself to leave her
  alone, all the while providing a very rich learning environment
  with good library books, opportunities to read, and a patient
  listening ear, she is very likely to compose creative stories
  and be very interested in working out math problems in her head. 
  That's not to say that we don't have any structured school time.
  We do.  And usually I am with her asking her questions (Socratic
  method, I guess) and supporting her as we move through the material.
  The one area of her academic abilities that is not 'at grade level'
  is her speed.  But I'm philosophical about that.  I think she will
  have plenty of time as she approaches high school to understand
  the value of efficiency.  Now is the time for play, creativity,
  and lots of parent-time.
  I do expect her to obey my directions, but I have had to change
  my academic expectations of her to fit her abilities, maturity,
  and personality.  I know that I am an academic.  I love all sorts
  of school-ish things.  And so her resistance to school (as in,
  'Mommy, how much longer until school is over?' or 'Mommy, I NEVER
  have time to play!') has been difficult for me to receive. 
  But I was told by a veteran homeschool mom (whose kids have been
  very successful in public universities and have obtained advanced
  degrees), that my daughter's stress at this point in her life
  should not come from academics.  Her stress (if any) should be
  about getting along with her siblings and being respectful to her
  parents.  Family life stuff.  The academic stress will come later.
  Now we should be working on character issues.  And just being with
  each other will provide many opportunities for that!
  I keep reminding myself of these things every time I plan for our
  next school week: that she is only seven, that she might not enjoy
  academics as much as I do, and that she *is* learning so many
  things -- sometimes in spite of me and the things I do for school
  -- that actually just seem to get in her way of learning.
  You might consider your own needs for academics.  Perhaps it's time
  to consider taking a college course for yourself, and file the math
  worksheets away for awhile.  Instead, you could show your son the
  value of learning by your life-long pursuit of education.  Just a
  thought!" -- Jennifer C.


  "Diana -- I agree with you that your son's behavior was probably
  brought on by the new policy you instituted!  So you know my
  perspective.  I am just finishing my 10th year of homeschooling,
  and I have 5 children, 4 of whom are boys.  I know that it is very
  frustrating when our children make mistakes in their work, especially
  mistakes that are just careless, not from lack of knowledge.  But I
  really encourage you to take a step back and think about what you're
  really doing here.  From my point of view, you are punishing your
  children for making mistakes.

  Obviously, you are a mom who cares very much about her children and
  their well-being!  I can see that you wouldn't, for example, punish
  your son for accidentally spilling his glass of milk at the dinner
  table!  You wouldn't prepare him a new plate of food and have him
  start the meal over again, just so he could show that he can sit
  there and eat without spilling his milk!  You would probably have
  him clean up the mess he made, maybe point out that it would be much
  better for him to keep his glass farther away from his elbow, and
  then move on with your meal, right?
  I think you need to take the same point of view with his school work.
  You need to work with him on the mistakes, but not punish him by
  discounting what he did RIGHT.  I think the first thing you should do
  is try to determine WHY he is making the mistakes.  Is he really just
  making careless mistakes?  Is he making the same KIND of mistakes
  each day, i.e. involving multiplication facts?  Have you changed what
  time of day he does his math?  Is he just getting down to the end of
  the year and growing tired of the work?

  Whatever the reason, I would encourage you to just have him re-do
  the problems that he misses, not the entire worksheet, and if you do
  find a pattern or reason for the mistakes, do some extra work on that
  concept.  And I would also keep in  mind that, as you've described
  both of your sons, they are both way ahead of where they 'need' to
  be, for lack of a better term.  If you have a boy younger than 7 who
  is writing beautifully, then he is just as advanced as your older
  son doing a grade-level ahead in math!

  But you need to remember that they are still so young, and they get
  tired and burnt out, and need some time to just be boys even if the
  rest of your school is more relaxed.  I would encourage you to back
  off for a while with both of them, change your policy of having to
  re-do the entire worksheet, work only with their mistakes, and see
  what happens.  The last thing you want to do is inadvertently cause
  their love of learning to be crushed by unnecessary work!  I hope
  things improve for you quickly!" -- Mindy

     Answer our NEW Question

  "I have a 16 year old autistic son.  After years of reading and
  dreaming about homeschooling, my husband and I are planning to
  start home schooling him this fall. 

  I would appreciate any advice anyone would care to share with me
  about homeschooling with our situation.  Information is overwhelming,
  there is so much.

  I do have a specific question though.  My son's abilities are all
  over the board.  With reading and spelling he is at a junior high
  level, but his comprehension level is more like 2nd grade.  He is
  so good at reading, but dreads doing it.  Is this because it is
  hard work for him and he doesn't comprehend much of it anyway?

  Do you have any curriculum suggestions or ideas for us?  Thank
  you so much." -- Beth


  If you have some advice or encouragement for Beth, please send
  your answer to:  mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

     Ask YOUR Question

  Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

  Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
  if we can help you out in a future issue!

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Next - More Wisdom for Diana, Nature Study Blog, Homemaking Resource
Previous - HIGH SCHOOL EDITION #4 - Math Choices!

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