Posts Tagged ‘science’

STOP! In the Name of the Law!

January 22, 2017

Tonight I was reminded of a story from my high school days which I gladly share at this time. It is a homeschool science lesson in the making, mixed with art and civics. Thank you for bringing this story to the forefront of today’s news, Connie, my partner in crime more than once in our late teen years.

It has escaped me where I obtained this gem of a fashion statement, but somehow I got my little 17-year-old hands on a pair of these stop sign sunglasses.


This is EXACTLY the pair that I chose to wear in high school. See how they have shatter-proof lenses? Safety first! See how it says for children 5 years or older. It should have said for children ages 5-15… let me explain.

The lenses on these beauties were green and they were quite dark, which aided my shielding of the bright California sunshine while donning them. One bright shiny day, I was cruising down El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, California (But not cruising at night on El Camino Real in Santa Clara….. that was naughty) minding my own business… wearing the above glasses… because I was fashion conscious. I’m sure I had on a red or white or royal blue Izod polo shirt with the collar turned up with a matching cherry red patent leather belt in the belt loops of my 501 Levi jeans. (Button fly! Rock on!)

Unusual, to be sure, the stoplights were out on El Camino that day! I was quite surprised that so many in a row were out… block after block. I approached each intersection with caution, stopped, looked both ways and proceeded with care.

Next thing I know there was an officer of the law flashing his blue lights at me in the rear view mirror. Odd. I had never seen them only flash blue. (Not that I had much experience being pulled over… ahem.) After pulling my car to the side of the road the nice police man came to chat with me. He asked why I was running all the red stop lights on El Camino. WHAT? “They were all out, officer! That is why I treated them like stop signs.”

Then I pulled off my awesome stop sign sunglasses and realized his patrol car WAS flashing red and blue… but I couldn’t see the red lights with the green lenses in my fashion eye wear. Figuring he would believe me as I made the discovery and explained it to him….. he simply stood there looking at me like I had used too much VO5 hairspray for too long in too small of a bathroom.

Finally, I handed him the glasses and offered, “See for yourself!” He did. He put them on, glanced around at his police car lights and the red street light in the next intersection, removed them and handed them back to me shaking his head.

The kind public servant did not give me multiple tickets for running multiple lights that day, but did instruct me to NEVER wear the stop sign sun glasses while driving! OKAY!

Here is the science lesson part of this story from

A pigment that absorbs a single frequency is known as a pure pigment.

Pigments absorb light. Pure pigments absorb a single frequency or color of light. The color of light absorbed by a pigment is merely the complementary color of that pigment. 


And so, dear students, green lenses on fancy sunglasses shaped like stop signs absorb red traffic lights because green and red are complementary colors on the opposite sides of the color wheel. You cannot see red lights with these glasses on! Don’t try this at home!

Be safe! Don’t drive with green or red lenses! And there you have it, from the archives.

Go to the River!

March 6, 2016

the river

(Photo courtesy of Simona, the mom with the phone.)

If you have been to any of my seminars for homeschooling, you are well aware that the river is my escape from schooling when it isn’t exactly working out as planned… and my fill-in for science. Look, plants! Look, frogs!

Homeschooling is hard, friends. But God made rivers and saw that they were good.

When kids can’t read when they “should”… go to the river.

When kids can’t remember the math operations you taught them yesterday… go to the river.

When children born in America who only have one language can’t seem to speak or spell their native tongue… go to the river.

See? It works wonders in multiple situations. We have been going to the Verde River in north east Scottsdale for 15 or 16 years. When we discovered it, it was an undeveloped reedy wonderland of huge stones, polliwogs and secret tunnels in the cattails. My kids LOVED it. I loved it, who are we kidding here?

Our minivan braved the rocky banks many times before the Tonto National Forest folks paved most of the road, cleared the rocks for a parking lot, put up barriers so you can’t accidentally drive into the river, and placed porta-potties for our general convenience. It is still just as grand and adventurous as the days of old… minus the standing water filled with frogs eggs. I miss that.

Phoenix has met or broken more heat records this year in the last month than I remember in all 19 years that we have lived here. It was 91 on Friday, MARCH 4th so I summoned some homeschool peeps and we went to the river. In the shade of the buzzing trees (Bees were very busy collecting pollen!  Science… check!) it was ideal for us moms to sit and relax in our camping chairs.

The water, however, was straight from high country snow melt and had the 17-year-old almost-men screaming like little girls because of the chill. My brave little Colombian princess was the first one all the way under… which is a BIG deal because she only went in up to her ankles for the first hour. I think her feet went numb and her brain froze and then she went all the way in.

As usual science naturally occurred. The kids gathered flowers for me when they saw my nature journal. The boys picked cattails and had sword fights. Several kids discovered a dead possum and examined its claws and teeth. Most importantly, they enjoyed being out in God’s creation and so did every one of the moms.

Please, go to the river. You need it. Your kids need it. Consider it Spring Break.


This is the Dawning of the Age of Real Homeschooling

October 19, 2012

History will be made this weekend, commencing Sunday morning at 4:30 a.m., when the talented and prepared teacher of our homeschool (me) will embark on a journey of real homeschooling.  The kind of homeschooling I have always dreamed of in my thoughtful homeschooling mom head. Living, breathing homeschooling that doesn’t involve a home at all.

Thinks outdoors.  Think BIG trees.  Think granola bars and foil packet dinners over the campfire.  Think long johns and wool mitts. Think thin nylon tent and freezing temperatures. Think long johns and wool mitts again.

YES!  It’s true.  I found another crazy homeschool mama who has also envisioned outdoor homeschooling for her 11 years of teaching her kids at home.  Thankfully we both have just enough brains now missing to undertake this task …. just the two of us…. with eight kids.  Don’t gasp.  At least 3 of those kids could probably survive in the wilderness unassisted.

And we’ve done bear training!  We’re good.  We all have safety kits in our backpacks including whistles, compasses, knives, waterproof matches, rain ponchos and little reflecting mirrors to signal the search helicopter if need be.   As is my spend-thrift nature, I was not going to spend hard earned dollars on those items which could be salvaged from the current supply of junk in the house.  Yes, my 16-year-old son’s mirror has fuzzy leopard fur on the back… and he’s okay with that.  My 14-year-old son’s mirror is the lid of a make-up compact… and I think he may still be adjusting to that idea as I type.

As mentioned previously, we are studying national parks…. seven parks to be exact… the flora and fauna of each… including botany and geology.  I am the art teacher… the other mama is the science nerd, thankfully!

So as the sun rises Sunday morning, please say a little prayer for us as we drive to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California.  It’s all good.

I’m a Poser

August 17, 2011

I figured it out.  I’m a poser.  I’m not a real homeschool mom.  It all came crashing down today as I sat at my fellow-homeschool-mom’s kitchen table.  Books, planners, test guides, lists and schedules were strewn from one end of the kitchen to the other.  She was busily slipping pink sticky-notes into each literature book before they were stored in the red plastic box that nobody is allowed to touch except her.  The queen mother of homeschooling.  I mean, good grief, the lady’s got six kids.  And no twins.  Each hot pink note said something different:   “Read Aloud”  “Jimmy”  “Easy Reader”   “Lisa”   I’ve never seen anything like it.  Mounds of books.

To my credit, I’ve done more planning this August than all of my past ten Augusts added up.  I’m branching out this year.  I’m not using the tried and true curriculum that has served me well for ten years.  I’ve always taught all of my kids together on the same topic.  It’s so much easier to teach that way!  But this year?  No.  Well, yes and no.  We are studying American History with a vengeance, but not like any unit ever tackled in this house of school.  My two high schoolers are in my US History class, so they are on the same page, albeit at drastically different levels. My junior higher is in for the shock of his life.  I just finished writing his assignment for the YEAR…. literature, history, vocabulary and math. (He’s taking a science class from the homeschool mom mentioned previously… with the booky kitchen table.)  I have NEVER written down a year’s worth of assignments for anyone, including myself.  I’ve always flown by the seat of my pants…. planning a week or two… or miraculously a month in advance.  Not this year.  This is a ton of work.

My level of comfort was surpassed when it dawned on me…. early June… that I am teaching English as a Second Language to a youngster… for the very first time in my life.  Our girl can sound out words in Spanish… she can write a handful of words in Spanish… but we are swiping the slate clean and starting at square one in English.  It’s been a while since I looked at phonics… a, ay, ah.  The more I learn the 27 phonograms, the less sense the English language makes.  Spanish is so much easier with every letter making ONLY one sound.  Brilliant.

The plan is set in stone… .like never before.  Even if I get carried off by gypsies the kids will know what to work on until late May.  They may not even notice I’m gone!  Even their dad could hold down the homeschooling fort!  All this planning does make sense to me…. but what it we have a hiccup?  What if we fall behind?  What if I need fieldtrips… LOTS of fieldtrips???  What if? 

So, fellow homeschool moms.  I’m with you this year.  My planning is done.  I’m not posing this year as a mom-educator with children at home who has it all together.  I do actually have it all together.  First time in TEN years!

Homeschool Science

March 30, 2010

Science has been a love of mine since I figured out how to work our National Geographic microscope…. it opened up a whole new world for me and my children.  I remember having them look at salt granules nine years ago… they were 2, 4 and 7.  Not much has changed since then… other than all those cute baby teeth falling by the wayside.  They still look through the eye piece with awe.

  Here is Anton after a fresh perm.

We are currently studying the immune system, microscopes and the men that used them.  I’ll admit it…. Anton van Leeuwenhoek is my all time favorite.  The guy was a seller of cloth in Delft, Holland and used a homemade microscope to examine the quality of the weaving.  He also sold ribbon, lace and buttons.  See why he’s my fav?  That’s not all….  I read a story once about his study of lice and he actually kept several living in his sock for days.  Finally they bugged him too much, pun intended, and he removed his little friends.  That story has stuck in my mind for a decade.  Gross me out.

 This was his microscope.

Back to 2010, I sent the boys outside to find some stagnant ground water and fill their little viles.  I knew this would not be an easy task in Phoenix in 86 degree weather.  They set out on their bikes and returned 30 minutes later…. viles full.  Keeve’s contains crystal clear water… well, at least to the naked almost 44-year-old eye.  I’m sure there are little guys swimming in there that we have yet to view under the scope.  Austin, on the other hand, brought back a vile teaming with lime green swimming dots.  Maybe even 40 of them in the tiny vile.  And I can even see them without my reading glasses.  Tomorrow will be their turn under the lamp.  Stay tuned.

We also watched a movie called the Scourge of the Black Death… very uplifting for the first day back from Spring Break.    Keeve found it humorous that the plague reached GERMany.  I never realized that before.  hahahaha.

Just a Neighborhood BUG!

July 5, 2009

tarantula hawk 002

Keeve brought this up to me while I was sewing in the loft….. a comfy, little plastic home for his new bug.  A gigantic bug with red wings.  Of course he asked me what it was.  “I have no idea!”  I suggested looking up “red winged beetle” on google.  He couldn’t find it.  So Austin and Keeve sat at the kitchen table inspecting the big bug (and shaking the container, of course).  They did this for a long time and were very observant while noting the ‘bum movements’ and the pincers on the head.

Later last night we mentioned the big bug with red wings and my brilliant niece, Whitney, said, “OH!  I think that is a tarantula hawk wasp!”  She’s so smart.  So we looked THAT us on google and BINGO!  It is.

Aren’t the antennae in perfect curly-ques?  This is a nice photo by Paul Nylander (almost Nikander, my maiden name).  This bug is obviously dead because one of the traits of this tarantula hawk wasp is that they have a sting rated among the most painful in the insect world.  I found this enlightening explanation from a man who was stung, “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.”  Cool, huh?  The article also said the bug hardly ever stings without provocation….. hmmmmm, would that be like shaking the container???

THAT is why it is securely masking taped to the kitchen table… so as not to sting anyone.  I don’t like screaming.

Another Science Experiment Gone Awry

May 13, 2009

How did Archimedes invent all those cool contraptions that my kids and I cannot reproduce for the life of us…. only 2,000 years later with advanced tools and apparatus???  That’s what I want to know.  The Screw looks simple enough, but to make one that works?  Good Grief!  (My kids asked me yesterday how grief can be good. Whatever.)  We’ve got tubing wrapped all around the broom handle out back and a huge container of water still waiting to be moved to the other empty container.  How many times do you have to turn the deal before the water moves???

And the catapult…. you’d think some rulers, rubberbands, duct tape, a tennis ball and three numbskulls could shoot the blasted thing.  Nope.

We did figure out and re-inact successfully the water-displacement theory.  When you push Barbie in the 8 cup glass measuring cup holding 6 cups of water, the water line went up exactly one cup.  (Thank heavens for an easy measurement!)  The one cup of water weighed EXACTLY the same as Barbie.  Voila! 

We are scientists.   Brave and smart. (Only 7 more days of school!)