Tabletop Dinosaur Dig

Grandma brought the five-year-old some plaster blocks with little toys inside. Surprisingly, my kid loved digging out the toys. (This would drive me crazy.)

Of course you could get some plaster and molds and make your own kits. Once our initial supply ran out, we just ended up buying a 12-pack of blocks from Amazon (paid link). I like this particular product because the “bones” are also decent-quality plastic toys.

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Individual Podcasts on Education

See also my Resources page for links to various podcasts. Here I link to individual podcast episodes about homeschooling and education.

My own Self in Society Podcast offers several episodes about education and homeschooling:
* Michael Donnelly on Homeschooling and the Law
* Kevin Currie-Knight on Crisis Schooling Versus Homeschooling
* Kevin Currie-Knight on Self-Directed Education

Kevin Currie-Knight discusses homeschooling at On the same podcast (Free Thoughts) Currie-Knight also discusses “Education in the Marketplace.”

Bryan Caplan discusses his approach to homeschooling with EconTalk (video).

One-Off Science Videos

Elsewhere I’ve discussed some science video programs that my child and I really like. Here I want to list some fun one-off science videos we’ve found. (I’ll update this page over time.)

Bats and White Nose Syndrome
This article and Ted Ed video discusses a fungus that attacks bats in North America. The video is more general.

How a Piston Works
The piston in a gasoline engine is a wonderful example of the conversion of chemical energy to motion. Good videos on this include those from Toyota of Orlando, Automotive Basics, and Yasha Verma.

The History of Steel
Jason Crawford gives an hour talk on the subject.

A Five-Minute History of Concrete
Jason Crawford gives a great five-minute history of concrete (embedded in a longer video; I’m included the appropriate time stamp for the start point).

How to Make Charcoal
This is a really fun video by Primitive Technology, via Jason Crawford.

Parasitism in Nature
I collected a variety of videos on this.

Great Science Video Series

Like many parents, I have struggled with how much screen time to allow my child. What I’ve settled on is tightly limiting “junk” TV and videos but allowing moderate amounts of quality videos. At this point I do not merely tolerate screen time; I actively welcome it as an important contribution to my child’s education. Here I want to briefly review several high-quality science series that my five-year-old absolutely loves.

Mystery Doug

Mystery Doug is a series of over a hundred science videos produced by Doug Peltz and the team at Mystery Science. The videos are available at no charge through YouTube and Mystery Science’s web site. When viewed through the web site, which (I think) requires free registration, the core videos accompany supplementary materials.

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My Articles and Podcasts on Homeschooling

Over the past few months I’ve produced several articles and podcasts on homeschooling. Here’s the roundup.

1. Podcast: Kevin Currie-Knight on Self-Directed Education

2. Podcast: Kevin Currie-Knight on Crisis Schooling Versus Homeschooling

3. Article: Crisis schooling not the same as normal homeschooling

“. . . A big difference is that regular homeschoolers are not subject to the demands and daily routines imposed by a school district. . . .”

4. Article: My family’s homeschooling journey

“. . . My wife and I want our child to develop his natural love of learning, pursue his individual interests, and learn to think for himself. Yes, he needs to learn how to read, write, and do math. Yes, he needs to learn about literature, science, and history. Yet I am convinced that adults can help inspire a child to learn these things while giving the child considerable autonomy. . . .”

5. Article: Navigating Colorado’s homeschooling laws

“. . . Homeschooling is not that hard, legally speaking. It doesn’t even have to be very time-consuming for parents, depending on how they approach it. Homeschooling families can find an astounding array of programs and materials. . . .”

6. Article: Empower families with education tax credits

” . . . My family decided to homeschool rather than put our five-year-old in a local public school. We have no regrets. It’s working well for my wife and me, and our son loves it. . . . There is one thing that bothers me about the arrangement. My family is forced to pay a considerable amount of money to the local public schools, which we don’t use, on top of what we spend to educate our child ourselves. . . . My proposed solution is universal tax credits for education. . . .”

Battleship Teaches Strategy, Sportsmanship, and Basic Coordinates

Battleship is the best game I know of to introduce basic coordinate geometry. And it’s a lot of fun. If for some reason you’ve never played it: Each of two players places ships in a “sea” of labeled rows and columns. Then players take turns guessing where the other player’s ships are. Players are required to say whether a guess is a “hit” or a “miss” and whether a “hit” results in a sunk ship.

There’s some strategy involved; you have to be careful not to inadvertently let slip a detail that could help your opponent. (My five-year-old is terrible at this.)

And of course the game can be good for learning sportsmanship. A significant amount of luck is involved, so hopefully kids learn to be gracious if their opponent gets lucky and wins.

My five-year-old is not quite ready to play on his own, but he enjoys playing teams with an adult.

Of course you can pick it up through Amazon (paid link) if you don’t have an old set laying around.

Visualize Digits and Multiplication with Wood Cubes

Raising a child helps you remember just how hard it was to learn certain things. Most kids pick up counting to ten without much problem (after they learn to talk). But grasping double-digit numbers (and beyond) is a greater conceptual challenge. Now you have to be able to count groups of ten (and then groups of a hundred, and so on) and represent them with digit placement. Later on, multiplication (and then exponents) build on a child’s earlier conceptual knowledge.

I’ve found that a pack of wooden cubes can help illustrate the relevant concepts nicely. When a child can see, for example, two sets of ten blocks, plus three extra blocks, the child can more-readily grasp the number 23. One issue I’ve seen is confusion about the number 23 versus the addition of 2 and 3; the difference is very easy to show with blocks. Of course the blocks are also really good for practicing simple addition and subtraction.

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DragonBox Apps Make Math Fun

I absolutely love DragonBox math game apps. They make math concepts intuitive and fun. My brother used them for his kids and sang their praises, so I got them too. Here I review the four apps aimed at children ages 4 to 9: Numbers, Big Numbers, Algebra 5+, and Magnus’ Kingdom of Chess. The company also has apps for advanced algebra and for geometry; I’ll buy those down the road when my child is ready for them. The app is available for various devices; here I provide links to Amazon for those with suitable Amazon devices.

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Fraction Wheels Foster Intuitive Learning

My five-year-old is not ready to add mixed fractions. But, by using a fraction wheel, he is already beginning to grasp, intuitively, how fractions work.

Just today, I got out the fraction wheel pieces, and he said he wanted to “build them” himself. He put a half-piece together with a third-piece, then tried to complete the circle. He tried a fourth-piece—too big. Then an eighth-piece—too small. He could see right away, once he tried it, that a sixth-piece added to a third-piece equals a half. He didn’t need to know how to formally convert one-third to two-sixths for this, but he could see visually that one-third equals two-sixths. He also immediately saw that three sixth-pieces are a half and six of them are a whole.

Obviously I’m not going to try to teach him formal fraction conversions until he has a better handle on the four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). But I think this early work with the fraction wheel set will put him in good shape to grasp adding and subtracting complex fractions later on.

I know there are some really well-crafted fraction wheels with little handles on the pieces; the disadvantage of these is that you can’t stack pieces on top of each other.

My wife and I created a simple fraction wheel set that you’re free to download. For best results, print these out using different colors of paper and then glue them to card stock or cardboard, or just print them out on cardstock if your printer can handle that. Or, as I discuss in my post about triangles, you can use foam sheets, although you probably won’t be able to print the patterns directly onto the foam sheets.

Or you can just buy a set from Amazon (paid link), which is what I did.

Core Knowledge Free Materials for Grades 1 to 8

As discussed in my posts on preschool and kindergarten materials, Core Knowledge offers an enormous amount of educational materials for preschool through eighth grade.

I’m going to provide fewer links for the material for grades 1–8 than I did for preschool and kindergarten. I’ll still walk you through the material and link to the student readers that I find valuable.

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