Thursday, August 23, 2012


Up until about two hours before the start of our first school day, I was unsure how my science plan would play out. You see, I waited until the last minute to order vital components for our hands-on magnetism and electricity science unit. I tracked our package from Home Science Tools anxiously. It looked like it would arrive Monday...but we never know for sure when our UPS man will get to our house. Luckily this time he showed up at 10am. With a scheduled start time of 1pm for our science activities, I just made it under the wire.

In the picture you can see our new Alnico V horseshoe magnet. Regardless of its diminutive size, it packs quite a punch. For this experiment, we were predicting magnet strength based on shape, size, and composition. First JT tested how many paper clips our bar magnet could hold. After he found it could hold 27, we read that our Alnico V was about five times stronger than a bar magnet. Its name comes from the fact that it is made from a steel alloy with the trade name Alnico #5. Based on this information he predicted it would hold about 100. We kept running out of paper clips and had to search the house for more several times. Finally, our horseshoe magnet failed at 116. Keep that thing away from my magnetic media!

Another hands-on activity this week involved making our own magnets. We turned a hacksaw blade into a magnet using the stroking method with our horseshoe magnet. We identified the poles on each of our magnets, hanging them from a little construction we made using a paper clip, thread, some heavy duty copper wire, and an old piece of Styrofoam packaging. We also magnetized and demagnetized a steel sewing needle by pounding it with a hammer. The boys enjoyed that project!

I feel like our first science unit is well under way. I was struggling with how much of our text, The Watts Laboratory Library Experiments in Magnetism and Electricity, we could get through in our ten week unit. I will have to skip some of the experiments to make it work, but we will read the explanations of most, even if we don't do all of them. I'm sure we can come back to this book in the future for more fun.

I was lucky in a different way with our last minute planning for American history. I made an inter-library loan request last Thursday for a book on Zebulon Pike. I had hoped to start reading it with the boys today, but it hasn't arrived. Then we had a great surprise on the doorstep! My friend, Annie, from Learn at Every Turn, had sent us her extra set of the first five books in the History of US series by Joy Hakim. We read the first chapter from the first book. I have heard many homeschoolers declare their love for this series and after one chapter, I can definitely see why they do. We decided that after we read the Zebulon Pike book, we will continue our timeline of America using this series. We will probably supplement with other readings, but I think they will make a great backbone for our study.

One final addition to our schooling this year will be EM's beginning study of computer programming. JT has already been working on that subject for a few years. Now that EM is a fourth grader, we decided it was time to get him started. We looked at Alice, Scratch and a few other possibilities. None of those were really a perfect fit. Then I noticed that Khan Academy had added a computer science series. I think it looks fantastic. You can watch the computer science launch video, if you are interested. EM tried out the intro to drawing tutorial today. Very intuitive and it held his interest. Looks like a good way to learn how to program.

It has been a week full of surprises. The best surprise of all, was the attitude the boys are showing toward their work this year. Both boys told me that they really like the direction we are heading. They especially like it that we are continuing our science using the four unit a year method we started last year.

Here's hoping things continue as they have begun!

1 comment:

Annie said...

Don't you love it when days just come together like that? It sounds great. Glad to be a part of it. :)