Friday, June 25, 2010

Educational Games/Toys Closeout SALE--TOMORROW

As many of you know, the Educational Resource Center is closing at the
end of this month. If you haven't heard, you can read about the
complete details in the right hand column here:

The good news is that we will be sharing a majority of the lending
library to a new homeschool co-op that is forming on the eastside of
Santa Cruz. It's not going to open until the fall and we are still
working out the details of how it will look, but I am excited to keep
the lending library accessible.

However, their space is smaller, so we are having a toy sale tomorrow--
Saturday, June 26th. Here's the information, please come and buy a few
things to help us pay our rent!

Toys for kids 18 months to 12 years old including: board games, puzzles,
building toys, toddler toys, dress up clothes, teacher resource books,
beginning readers, and more

We also have larger items including a train table with trains,
bookshelves, loveseat, Varde base cabinet from IKEA, and industrial wire
shelving from Costco

Educational Resource Center of Santa Cruz
224 Walnut Ave, Santa Cruz
Saturday, June 26, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (no early birds)

Heddi Craft

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Anyone Up for Camping this Weekend?

A bunch of families from Vintage are camping--they have the sites reserved and there is still PLENTY of room for people to join in the fun. Tomorrow and Sat. nights (sure someone could come for just Sat. night if they wanted), Lake Nacimiento. Email me (or post a comment here--it will come to my inbox) if your family wants to join us!

Old School Monday--NEXT week!

Hello Moms!

Our next OSM is scheduled to happen this next Monday. June 28 at 2:00 p.m. there at Vintage.

We are going to have a patriotic theme, and teach the kids some old-time songs (like "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "God Bless America") and have some kind of craft--I was thinking making flags to wave at a parade, but have not thought through to the supply aspect and it turns out we are going on the Vintage family camping trip and so I will not have time to spend this weekend figuring out a craft. Anyone want to host this part of our gathering?

Then we will also have a game where kids run and point to states on our map of the U.S. (for the younger) and countries of the world (for the older).

And we will read together some proud-to-be-an-American story.

Please use OSM as a show and tell for any special projects you have completed or are working on! I might do a little plastic lesson for the kids--we shall see. : )

Hope you are all having a great week so far, and hope to see you Monday!

Monday, June 21, 2010

some neat sites for homeschool

hey friends! I am SO enjoying the internet once again! Here are a bunch of neat sites that would be wonderful if you were to be studying weather, geography, and more!

Weather! awesome lesson plans, print outs, links to more info, songs, even lots about clouds, forecasting or meteorology!

This lady (from The Education Cafe) has a long list of links for free lesson plans, print outs and unit studies, if you are into that kind of stuff. I haven't personally checked these out, but they came with great recommendation!

I especially like the National Geographic Xpeditions site!! Everything is geography based, with some science, health and history mixed in there. I also LOVE the link for maps!!

Especially this one :)
If any of you like these links - we can add them to the sidebar, for easier access. If you have other links too = please share! Hope you are enjoying the summer weather!
Love Ali Mc

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

*Free online documentaries

Received this suggestion from another homeschool group and thought I'd share..
I know most of the world already has Netflix, but this site has tons of free online documentaries on all kinds of subjects:
It looks like there are a wide range of topics and many interesting and educational films. Not all are appropriate, but they do seem to be fairly clearly labeled with warnings if they have "adult content." As with most of the internet, browsing discretion for kids is advised though.

**We especially enjoyed watching "Sustainable Dave" as he talks about variety of environmental issues, including plastics! My kids were inspired to start assembling their own backpacks for use when on trips whether across country or even when we're just out and about. Our family goal is to completely avoid using plastic water bottles, utensils, etc. I'll post pic's when available :)

FYI-- just checked YouTube and there are *several* short clips of "Sustainable Dave" there as well!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Plastic in Our World: Day 8

Welcome to our second and final week of our Plastics Unit. This week we will learn about what happens to our plastic when we are done with it. And we will spend a few minutes talking about hands on, practical and positive things we can do to improve our cultural relationship with plastic.

With your kids
1. Watch the short video, The Story of Bottled Water.

2. Talk about the idea of marketing: how companies try to persuade us to buy their products. Then watch these bottled water commercials (here and here) and discuss them as marketing strategies. (If your kids are like mine, they will think the commercials are fantastic. Which makes the discussion all the more interesting!)

If you like, compare those with this commercial, that shows a very different kind of bottled water. Excellent fodder for discussion about luxury versus necessity; wise, just, and compassionate ways to use money; and human rights.

3. Find a couple of magazines and have your kids look through them to see if they can find any bottled water ads. If you can, talk about the imagery, words, implied fears, desires, etc. in the ad. If you don't find any bottled water ads, speculate about why you didn't--what does that tell you about how the bottled water industry sees the audience of that particular magazine?

(My kids looked through Parenting magazine, and did not see any bottled water ads, which suggests moms are wise to those scare tactics by now. ; ) But we did find an ad for a new product--tablets of sugar, artificial color, and artificial flavor that your kid can drop into his/her glass of tap water so that he/she will then want to drink it. We talked about the subtle implications in the ads--that plain old tap water tastes bad, that your kids won't drink water without incentive, that artificial flavored and colored sugar water is just as good for you as plain water--that tried to create a need for their product.

Studying advertizing is always fascinating, and I don't think we can start educating our kids soon enough on the lies culture often tells us--esp. when someone wants something from us.)

Your kids might get really into this whole reading the messages in advertizing game--a fun thing to do when out and about!

Quoting The Bard All the Live Long Day

Have you used any of these words recently?

  • bump
  • control (as a noun)
  • critical
  • eventful
  • frugal
  • hurry
  • lonely
  • road
    If you did--and I am sure you did at some point!--you were quoting William Shakespeare!

    Check out this amazing article for other words Shakespeare "invented" that are still commonly used today--and this article for common phrases.

    The whole site looks like an amazing resource for all things Shakespeare.

      crafty idea for Father's Day

      hey friends - we just made an easy-peasy gift for Baba (Dad 爸爸) and it took very little time or money - so I wanted to share. All you need is a frame and some rocks, etc.!! You have to visit our blog though, since all the pictures are there. Hope someone might be inspired to get crafty too. Love you! Ali McNabb

      Sunday, June 13, 2010

      Week 1 "Growing Greener Challenge": Eliminating Microbeads

      For those of you who might like to hear one practical, easy, but important idea for re-thinking plastic use in your home:

      Take a look at this article and consider eliminating any products you use that might contain plastic microbeads. These microbeads are so tiny they are even worse for our world than those durn nurdles--the microbeads are ingested by creatures so small that they work their way up the whole food chain. And to make matters more directly harmful to humans, the microbeads even manage to get through municipal water treatment systems--ending up in tap water.

      Scary, no?

      The good news is that there are plenty of more natural products that can be used instead--this article lists some, and gives resources for further investigation. And if you choose to up the Greenness and try an alternative that comes without a plastic container, you still have options! For example, baking soda is awesome for scouring when cleaning. And you can buy all kinds of beautiful, natural exfoliating facial soap bars online if you can't find them locally.

      Anyone up for the challenge? Please post a comment to let us know what products you are using or plan to use instead of microbeads, to encourage others. : )

      Plastic in Our World: Week 1 Reflection and Action

      Here at the end of our first week, let's take a few minutes to reflect upon what we have learned about plastic.

      The key ideas for our family were that there are positive and negative things about plastic--plastic itself is not necessarily bad, but it is good for some applications, and not good for others. Also, some characteristics of plastic, like its long life, can be both good and bad. Similarily, all the ways we use plastic are not necessarily bad--but can be wise or unwise.

      With your kids
      1. Summarize some of the negative qualities and/or applications you have learned about plastic. Older kids can do this in their Plastic Research Journal (see Day 4).

      Then summarize some of the positive.

      To help brainstorm, use the list at the bottom of this article as a starting point. Or go back to Day 1's observations about how you use plastic in your own home. A couple of the things my family talked about were the ways doctors use plastics to help repair people's bodies--like hearts and joints. And in places in the world where the local water is not safe to drink, plastic bottles or bags of purified water can be a necessity of life (albeit not a permanent solution!).

      2. When your one week of plastic collection is up, take the box/bag to the driveway or someplace where you can dump it all out and take a good look at what you have accumulated (don't dump in on grass, as you might lose small pieces). Observe the kinds of plastic your family seems to be using up and throwing out. Consider if these reflect wise or unwise use of plastic. If you determine together that some of your plastic waste is unnecessary, brainstorm alternative solutions.

      3. Discuss as a family how you can together make one positive change in how you use plastic, and then start doing it. (See our family's list below, or check out Fake Plastic Fish for LOTS of ideas.)

      Be sure to re-bag your Week 1 plastic trash collection--you will want to save it for one more week. But this is the time to start a second collection for Week 2, in a separate bag/box.

      The guy who made the documentary "Addicted to Plastic" said it well; let's not demonize plastic, but instead treat it as the amazingly versatile, valuable product that it is. It comes down to being wise in our understanding and use of it. Wise is not making it just to throw away (as in all single-use applications, like disposable dinnerware). And some plastics are not as safe as we would like to think, and should not be used in some of the ways we routinely use them. And if everybody just made one small change in how we use plastic unwisely, it would add up big time.

      Thanks for being a part of our first week's study! Please keep coming back for the second week, and lots more info and ideas. : )

      Website of the day
      Watch this free PBS documentary to see how scientists can use all that trash floating in the ocean (bad) to learn more about the ocean's currents (good)!*

      Five ways our family is changing our plastic lifestyle, for the better:

      --Choosing not to use plastic for storing food, whenever possible.
      --Now that it is summer, using fresh tomatoes in all recipes, instead of plastic-lined cans of tomatoes.
      --Buying produce at places where we can take our own bags for it, like the farmer's market or places that have bulk food.
      --Being very careful when shopping at places that overpackage produce, like Trader Joe's.
      --Choosing to go without personal items that come in plastic packaging (like shampoo and facial scrub) whenever possible.

      *Thanks for the timely link, Suki! : )

      Friday, June 11, 2010

      Plastic in Our World: Day 5

      Parents, this one is geared for you. With what is going on in the news recently, it seemed like a good opportunity to point out the connection between plastics in our lives and oil in the Gulf. Read the information and links, and share the ideas with your kids as you see fit.

      There is one more way in which plastic affects our world and the creatures that live in it:

      Okay, so that is not plastic. But it is natural oil, from which much of the world's plastic is made. It can be found deep under the ground, in enormous deposits. Oil has been an amazing resource for humankind for a long time, and is used for everything from fueling our cars and airplanes to making plastic. But when people dig to get the oil out, sometimes they make mistakes, and oil gets out into the natural world.

      This article is one journalist's perspective of what it is like to be in the water with the oil, and helps the reader imagine what it would be like for the animals who live in the water.

      This article gives an excellent overview of the details of an oil spill--and is clearly enough written that older (high school) kids will be able to follow it.

      This article talks about all the kinds of things we use oil to make--a fascinating list!--and a few of the ways we can be wise about our dependence upon petroleum products.

      Thursday, June 10, 2010

      Plastics in Our World: Day 4

      So, we have learned what happens to plastic trash that finds its way to the ocean. But what happens to the plastic trash that stays on land?

      With your kids
      1. Start a journal or research folder to record some of the things you are learning about plastics. On one page start a vocabulary list of words you are learning. (For example, the words our family has come up with so far: marine debris, nurdles, gyre, food chain)

      2. Add a couple of new words to the list, look them up, and discuss:
      phalates (I suggest you visit this wikipedia link, and jump to the section called "Health Effects--Exposure")

      3. Start a science experiment to observe how plastics biodegrade in comparison with organic materials:
      --Make a space outside where you can set up some containers. Use whatever you have on hand--yogurt tubs, flower pots, etc. A great way to repurpose some of your unwanted plastic! ; )

      --With your kids, select a variety of things natural and plastic to bury in dirt, one item in each pot. You can also bury the items directly into the ground, if you prefer, but be sure to mark what is buried where. Our family buried one plastic candy wrapper, eggshell, a pine cone, a stick, a watermelon rind, a piece of old towel, a piece of paperboard, a fresh tree leaf. (It would be ideal to include a supposedly biodegradable plastic, which I am going to add to our collection when I can.)

      --Water your "garden" and then sit back and see what happens! Ideally this project you would keep going all summer--or as long as your kids are still interested. You can dig up the items whenever you and the kids think a reasonable time has passed to see what is going on. Consider with your kids how conditions like dry or wet soil, heat or cold might contribute to the biodegrading.

      (If you are composting, an alternate project could be throwing one or two plastic items into the mix for easy comparison.)

      For further investigation
      Watch Pt. 5 of "Addicted to Plastic" on youtube--let it buffer and then jump ahead to 1:56--and Pt 6.

      And then read this article, and be sure to check out the related photo gallery.

      Website of the day
      Gumdrop Bin (Be sure to have your sound turned on! : )

      Tuesday, June 8, 2010

      Plastic in Our World: Day 3

      With your kids
      1. Review what you learned in Day 2 about the ocean gyres and marine debris.

      2. Speculate together what all that plastic in the ocean might be doing to the different kinds of animals that live in the ocean. Then watch this solemn youtube video. It is appropriate for all ages, but I recommend you watch it with your kids, because it is sad. (Can you recognize any of the plastic bits?)

      3. Look at the other images below, and talk about them.

      Cape fur seal lying on rock, dead of suffocation from a plastic wire wound around its neck, South Africa. Image from Pollution Issues ©Martin Harvey; Gallo Images/Corbis.

      The sea turtles often get the plastic bags stuck in their throats and they choke to death.

      A turtle named "Mae West" who you can see more of here.

      According to its source, "This whale swam into clear plastic sheeting that it could not see in the water - the whale died soon after this picture was taken."

      This Cuvier’s beaked whale was recently found dead washed up on a British beach. Its stomach was clogged with plastic bags.

      4. Read together this article about the three (mainly plastic) bits of your trash that are most dangerous to wildlife

      5. Read together this article about how one woman took what she had learned about plastic and sea life and helped her community find ways to be part of a solution.

      It is sad to know this is happening to our world's amazing, wonderful creatures. But it is good that we are learning about the problem now, and can make choices--and encourage others to make choices--that will help make things better for marine animals in the future. What is one specific thing your family can do differently that will help?

      If you are interested in learning more
      --a great website for research into marine debris.

      --more photos and information about this issue of plastics in the ocean

      Website of the day: Hawaii: Message in the Waves, the website of a new BBC documentary.

      Note from Lisa--Today's lesson was a downer, that's for sure. The truth is often ugly. But we can't hide from it, as we are learning! If this post was too graphic for your taste, don't worry--we are moving on to other aspects of plastics tomorrow, and in upcoming days will discuss the good things about plastic as well as the bad. : )

      Plastic in Our World: Day Two

      For DAY TWO:

      (So sorry this post is coming so late. I was planning out the lessons this morning, and then the day had its way with me! Also, I was going to post this assignment tomorrow, but found out today is World Oceans Day AND No Plastics Day, so switched things around accordingly.)

      On your own
      1. Visit Fake Plastic Fish, peruse today's entry, and share with your kids what you want. *The art exhibit at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences to which she refers is one of the planned field trips at the end of this plastics unit! Stay tuned for more details.

      2. Read about the Ocean Garbage Patches on wikipedia, and this article.

      With your kids
      3. Introduce the ideas you think are important from what you read.

      4. Watch this clip on youtube.

      If you want to learn more
      --Check out the documentary Addicted to Plastic, parts One and Two on youtube.

      Website of the day:
      Loads of helpful and interesting articles in this section on plastics.

      (Please remember, I am making these little lessons super easy and accessible so that everyone feels like they can join in and get the basics. Once you get exploring, esp. online, there are loads more things to learn. Please build the fun and educational opportunity by sharing the things you and your family find in the comments section!)

      Monday, June 7, 2010

      Free DVD from NASA

      NASA Science News for June 7, 2010
      It's immersive, it's explosive, and best of all it's free. On June 7th, NASA will begin sending complimentary DVDs of the smash-hit planetarium show "Journey to the Stars" to teachers and students around the country. Today's story from Science@NASA reviews the show and tells educators how to request their copies.

      FULL STORY at

      Plastic in Our World: Day One

      Thanks for stopping by and checking out this first day of our science unit studying plastic!

      I will be keeping each day's assignment short and sweet, and it is up to you parents to decide how much or how little you want to invest in each day's exploration--but might I encourage you to consider comitting to 15 minutes a day for the next two weeks? You can learn a LOT in 15 minutes, and some of what you learn might positively impact your family and your world forever!

      For DAY ONE:

      With your kids
      1. Briefly explain what plastic is. Of course a quick Google search will give you lots of fodder, but those speaking in generalities, the key ideas are that:
      --the term plastic means it can be molded
      --all plastics are man-made (compare to natural materials)

      2. Go on a plastics hunt. If you have several children, have them each pick a different room of the house to explore. They can list or just point for you out all the different objects made of plastic. Talk briefly about how/why plastic is used in some of the examples, esp. compared to natural materials. (For example, is your milk jug plastic? Why or why not? Why might plastic be serving your family well in this example? Is there anything else that could be used to hold your milk? How does it compare to the plastic jug in its service?)

      3. Start saving your plastic. Dedicate a big (plastic! ; ) trash bag or box to collecting all the plastic you will throw out this week. Every time you would throw out or recycle a piece of plastic, instead add it to your collection. (I recommend rinsing out sticky food items, so your collection does not get gross!) Collect in the same bag for one week. Then start a new bag/box for week 2. Our family saved our plastic for one month, and it was really eye-opening, so consider doing that. But 2 weeks is still plenty to get you and your family aware of how you use/consume plastic.

      Website of the day: Fake Plastic Fish

      This is the site from which I got the inspiration and much of my information for this unit--peruse at will!

      Please join us in studying Plastic in our World!

      Hello moms!

      Our family has been learning about plastics for over a month now, and it is truly eye-opening and fascinating. So much of what we study and learn in our homeschooling is interesting and useful--but how often does what we learn have impact on our home, our health, and our world? This unit of study has been one of the most important we have done all year.

      So, I have decided to create an EASY online unit for anyone interested, to help anyone jump in on the learning! I will make it a two week course, but you can of course delve deeper, or just touch on the basic elements. Each day here on TWIOC I will post one new lesson--expect it to be easy and short and not require special materials.

      Our unit will culminate in one--potentially two--field trips, and a student art show!

      So please pass the word around, and share the website link with anyone who might be intersted in joining us. This is not just for homeschoolers, of course! With school out for the summer, some public-school parents might be interested in channeling their kids towards something productive for a few minutes each day. : )

      Questions? Post them here in the comments.

      I hope you all consider joining us!

      Lisa C.

      P.S. I am not by any means an expert on this subject--so informational comments, resource suggestions, etc. will be more than welcome from any participants!

      image from

      Thursday, June 3, 2010

      Sharing a book we love

      Hi there, just wanted to pass along a recommendation for a book we are really enjoying: TumTum and Nutmeg, Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall. Anyone else read this? It was only written last year but seems to have come from a long time ago. Two sweet little anthropomorphized mice who live a grand life in the broom closet of a shabby cottage and secretly care for the cottage's shabby but sweet human children. We haven't finished it yet, so I can't speak for the ending, but so far the girls are begging me to read around the clock and there are some great words and storylines here.

      Tuesday, June 1, 2010

      vintage paper dolls

      Here is a neat link that a friend sent me - some 1950's (up to 1990) vintage Betsy McCall paper dolls. You need to follow the links and print them out yourself. If you have a good printer, and some quality paper this would be a fun activity! We are going to attempt it here! Hope your kiddos enjoy!
      love Ali

      Monterey Bay Aquarium Home School Days for 2010--Sign up in July!

      Lisa C. here:

      Just got this email with the dates for this progream for this next Fall. It is free (at least it has been in the past), it is fun and it is totally awesome! So if you are interested, be sure to sign up in July so you reserve spaces for your family.


      Thank you for your continued support for our Home School Day program. We are writing to inform you of some important information regarding the reservation process for Home School Days 2010.

      Reservations for Home School Days this fall will open on Tuesday, July 6th, and must be made online at this School Programs page. In order to make a reservation for your family, please be sure to choose one of the five Home School Day dates listed below and an entry time for your arrival. You will receive an email confirmation after completing the reservation process; that email confirmation is the entry ticket for everyone in your party. Please print the confirmation and bring it with you on your scheduled Home School Day visit.

      PLEASE NOTE: We are no longer accepting group reservations. Families are welcome to make individual reservations for up to 20 participants (combined total of youth and adults). Youth are children between the ages of 3-17 years and adults are 18 years and older. Children 2 years and under are admitted free of charge and should not be included in your reservations.
      This year's Home School Days theme is "To Eat or Be Eaten: Diving into Ocean Foot Webs" and the schedule of dates is as follows:
      Monday, October 18th
      Monday, October 25th
      Monday, November 1st
      Monday, November 8th
      Monday, November 15th
      If you have any questions about our new online reservation process, please do not hesitate to contact us by email at or by phone at (831) 644-7538.

      Best regards,
      Rachael VanderWalde Cohen & Cyndi Fox

      Education Programs
      Monterey Bay Aquarium
      Phone: 831-644-7538