Monday, December 15, 2014

Easy Christmas gift to sew: Portable dollhouse

I was looking for a special something to make for our niece (attention to my wonderful in-laws: If you read this post, please don't give me away to the niece in question!) and when I came across this wonderful portable doll's house tutorial, I knew it was meant to be.

Here's the house (I won't share the steps from the tutorial; please follow the link to the original poster for details):
portable dollhousel
That's supposed to be a pond and some felt flowers in the garden....harder to do than I expected.

And of course, every house needs a family:

peg doll royal family
Yep. The queen has many, many teeny tiny beads on her crown and cape.  I had so much fun with it!

What holiday craftiness have you been making?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Natural spice Christmas ornaments

Our tree and all of our ornaments are still in storage back in Quebec, since this summer was a bust. Luckily, we have an abundance of evergreens all over our property, so a tree itself won't be a problem. We've also been having a lot of fun coming up with ornaments to decorate it.

These delicious smelling ornaments took us about a morning to create including the baking time, and that long only because there may have been a dough-through-straw-blowing war part of the way through. Ahem.

making natural spice ornaments

You can do this with either traditional salt dough or the white cornstarch and baking soda version (the latter I believe I saw linked most recently on Happy Hooligans last week). Roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick, between sheets of waxed paper, and cut out whatever shapes strike your fancy.  Take a straw and make a hole in each one for the hanger. (Do not get distracted shooting lumps of dough at each other.)

Decorate with whatever whole spices you have on hand. In our case we used allspice and cloves, because I'm saving the star anise for a different project and I'm too lazy to drive into the nearest town for more. Bake for about an hour at a very low oven setting. Your house will smell amazing after this, as an added bonus.

making natural spice ornaments

Saturday, December 13, 2014

5 Great STEM Resources For Educators

Welcome to Saturday Science! We've changed it to STEM Saturday (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in order to encompass other great kinds of learning as well.

Since STEM science is something I didn't have a lot of information about (It's been implemented in US schools and we are in Canada), I read a bunch of materials and articles to figure out how best to go about applying it in our homeschool. Along the way, I found some amazing resources, so I thought that my first STEM-based post should share some of the best of the bunch.

5 great s.t.e.m. resources

In no particular order, here are 5 great sites for STEM learning:

1. Possible Worlds
This fantastic site is full of educational interactive games. My 7 year old loved playing Galactic Gloop Zoo (which teaches convection, radiation and conduction through gaming), and I checked out the others, including RoboRiot (heredity and dominant genes), The Ruby Realm (photosynthesis), and Monster Music (electricity and molecular alignment). He begged to play again and again!

2. How To Smile
This site has more than 3500 science and math activities! Their site is easy to navigate and their search function is really well organized. They also have lists that users have compiled, and a very interesting blog that you'll want to follow. 

The "Recently Added" and "Most Popular Today" lists are a great way to get an overview or the range.......on the day I spent a couple of hours looking it over, I saw activities from "mapping mockingbirds" to" designing a microexression" to "controlling a bird's flight". A site for all ages, and one that you'll definitely want to bookmark for future use.


3. STEM Mom
My bloggy friend Darci (remember our collaborative Worms and Hibernation units?) doesn't update often, but she is both a homeschool parent and a science educator and has put together some really terrific hands-on STEM-based labs to take the workload off the educator. We especially enjoyed her "Marshmallow Puff Tubes" lab exploring acceleration! Don't let the entertainment value fool you; there is some serious science incorporated.

4. LEGO Engineering
This site uses the LEGO Mindstorms robotics products. In their own words:"The aim of this site is to inspire and support teachers to go beyond the basics in bringing LEGO-based engineering to all students." Looking around at the site, I'd say that they have nailed it. You can search for inspiration, submit your own tutorials, search through for support if something isn't working, and they have a newletter and a very active Facebook page as well. My oldest nephew, a big Mindstorms fan, will love this site if he hasn't already discovered it.

5. TOPS Science
We have used TOPS Science before and found them to teach big ideas in a fun, hands-on way that really makes kids think. They incorporate all aspects of STEM as well as literacy, and are almost always open, print, and go (you can also buy pre-printed and ready-made sets; I just prefer the PDF version because of shipping costs). They have divided their science labs by age ranges, but take a look at the sample lab first, especially if you have an older child who's new to their labs. I found some of them to be closer to high school than middle school level, so you might want to build up from a simpler one and let the students gain some confidence before tackling the highest level labs.

Do you have other sites you can recommend? Please share them in the comments! And please link your own posts too.

Along with Lemon Lime Adventures, Stir The Wonder, Little Bins For Little Hands, Suzy Homeschooler, The Joys of Boys, and Science Kiddo , we have a link-up every Saturday where you can share your Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math-based posts. Click on the link below to share yours!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Make a natural wreath in an hour!

I recently spent a lovely afternoon drinking pumpkin chai tea and making wreaths with a friend of mine.....no kids, just us, a glue gun and a bunch of pinecones and other natural goodies we'd gathered ourselves outside.
make a beautiful natural wreath

These were fast and fun to do! What about using these as the springboard for a crafty holiday party? You could easily set up a table of goodies and have each guest bring one type of item for the wreaths........or you could hoard your knowledge and make a bunch as gifts because nobody will know how simple they are to make!

I started with a grapevine wreath (Google how to make it, or you can always buy pre-made wreath forms if you're pressed for time) and made the "flowers" from pinecones and acorns, inspired by this pinecone flower tutorial on Twig and Toadstool.....I started with their beautiful examples and had some fun adding flourishes with a gold paint pen.
make a beautiful natural wreath

Other additions were dried lavender and some other cones, all just hot-glued to the frame until it looked "done" to me. Then I took some purple raffia and wrapped it around, tying at the top to make the hanger.

I made mine to hang up on my door from fall to spring, but depending on whether you go for natural ribbon or more festive ribbon, it could be wonderful for the holidays too. My friend went another direction and used hers as a centerpiece for her table with a big beeswax pillar candle. Brilliant!
make a beautiful natural wreath

It's not too late for some Christmas craftiness!

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