Best Educational Box Subscriptions for Homeschool

For an easy way to make learning fun, you can choose from so many educational box subscriptions that are perfect for adding into your homeschool activities. Many of the boxes provide everything you need for the activities inside, and some require a minimal purchase. Here are some of our favorite educational box subscriptions. **Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Best Educational Box Subscriptions for Homeschool

BookRoo – BookRoo is a box subscription that sends new books to your door every month. This is a perfect was to grow your home library and read new books with your kids. The nice thing about BookRoo is that the books are chosen by someone else so it introduces kids to books they may not have chosen themselves. Subscriptions are appropriate for ages 0-10, with three options: board books, picture books, or chapter books.

Raddish – Raddish Kids is a children’s cooking subscription box that delivers kid-friendly recipes to your door every month. Inside the box you get a new kitchen tool and three recipe cards with step by step instructions to guide kids through the steps of preparing the meal. The recipe cards include the featured culinary skill such as chopping, peeling eggs, or using a box grater, as well as suggested ways to modify the recipe and an educational element that touches on math, science, or language. You have to get the ingredients yourself but the box includes a pre-printed shopping list for each recipe, a set of table talk cards to get the family talking over dinner, and an activity to complete related to the box theme. Raddish subscribers can also log on to the website and download lesson plans, playlists, free bonus recipes, and substitutions for food allergies and sensitivities.

Kiwi Crate – What started out as Kiwi Crate has now expanded and become five different boxes that are appropriate for different age groups that provide hands-on learning and experience-based play with an emphasis on science, art, and exploration. The Cricket Crate is for age 0-2 and includes activities to engage in pretend play and strengthen fine motor skills. Koala Crate (ages 3-4) includes activities and engaging stories to support inquiry based learning. Kiwi Crate (ages 5-8) inspires kids to be innovative and creative and includes science-based activities to build and crafts to complete. Doodle Crate (ages 9-16+) includes hand-on creativity based projects that teach art and design techniques like candlemaking and inkwash painting. Tinker Crate (ages 9-16+) includes STEAM-based projects that teach scientific concepts like building a trebuchet, a hydraulic claw, and fiber optic stars.

Little Passports – Little Passports is a subscription box for kids that teaches about culture, geography, science, and the world around us. Each month kids will explore a new theme or destination on their global adventure with Little Passports. There are now four subscription options available. Early Explorers (ages 3-5) takes kids on an adventure to learn about a new world theme like dinosaurs or the ocean. World Edition (6-10) uses souvenirs and hands-on activities to introduce kids to a new country every month. USA Edition (ages 7-10) teaches kids about two new states every month with state journals filled with activities. Science Expeditions (ages 9+) teaches science concepts through hands-on activities and science experiments.

GroovyLab -Groovy Lab In A Box is a science themed subscription box ideal for ages 8 and up and includes hands-on activities to teach kids about science, technology, engineering, and math. Children will learn about scientific inquiry and the engineering design process, which will help them create amazing inventions and improve critical problem solving skills all while having fun. Past Groovy Lab boxes have included projects like building and launching a rocket, making an ice lantern, and making an electric dance pad.

Magic School Bus Science Club – The Young Scientists Club presents the Magic School Bus science club with a selection of box kits that teach science concepts explored in the Magic School Bus books and television shows through hands on science experiments. The boxes include everything you need to perform multiple experiments, plus you receive a log to write down you observations and results. Young scientists will learn about a variety of things like acids and bases, fossils, magnets, and the human body.

Do you have a favorite subscription box that you use for your learning adventures? Share it with us!

 

Adventures for Junior Paleontologists

I took my dino-loving kids to the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. They have monthly Discovery Days and this month’s theme was Making Monsters: Science in Art. It was our first time to the museum and we instantly fell in love.

For $3 per person we received admission to the museum and got to participate in several awesome activities that blended science and art. We listened to a paleoartist, Brian Engh, talk about how he works with fossils and paleontologists to create the artistic renderings of what they believe the dinosaur looked like and the environment it lived in. What a cool job!

The first activity was about how to draw dinosaurs. We chose from several step-by-step drawing worksheets to sketch the dino of our choice. Next we cut out tangrams and arranged them on the page to create our own dinosaur. Then we chose from a selection of cut-out fossil body segments that we pieced together to create a new dinosaur. Finally, we were given a scavenger hunt list with different Pokémon characters. We had to find the fossil in the museum of the dinosaur that inspired each Pokémon character. Super cool. My Poke-fans loved this part.

  

The Alf is a fantastic location with imaginative hands-on activities that my junior paleontologists enjoyed. We will go back and I highly recommend it. Such a treat on a Saturday afternoon.

And because we can’t get enough fossils, we went to the Homeschool day at the La Brea Tar Pits a few days later. There were very few activities this time around so I was not as impressed, but homeschool day gives us a chance to go down into the Observation Pit which is usually closed unless you’re on a guided tour. We love it down there!

Resources for Junior Paleontologists:

 

 

 

New Pterosaur Exhibit at the Natural History Museum

Digital visualization of flying dinosaurs

Like most kids, my children have interests that pass. I thought dinosaurs and woolly mammoths would pass. I nurtured the interest like any good parent and expected the next year to bring a new love. And it did. We have added many new loves to our list, but one thing that has not passed is dinosaurs. In fact, it has grown into a love of paleontology and archaeology. A fascination that stays with us in a way that we are often pinched with the bug to find new ways to feed our fossil fire. Where can we dig? What can we watch? What’s in that rock?

This year we purchased an annual pass to the Natural History Museum, which also includes admission to the Tar Pits and the Page Museum, and the William S. Hart Museum. We were planning a trip anyway to explore, and we wanted to see the Mummies exhibit before it left so it made sense to just purchase the annual pass knowing we would get several uses out of it.

We’ve wondered what might take the place of the mummies that occupied the space downstairs near the cafe, and we were excited to learn of the Pterosaur exhibit. We were surprised through, that the exhibit is near the main member entrance and the space downstairs is still behind covered windows.

We entered the new exhibit on a member-only preview day so the crowds were limited once inside. It was sort of magical for us because we have such a polished appreciation for the age of dinosaurs and other creatures from long ago. We walked into rooms filled with fossils, and replicas, and informative plaques, and short films, and life-sized models of the Pterosaurs that once took to our skies. Some hover overhead, similar in size to the school bus in the parking lot. Some were smaller than your cat.

IMAG5449

There are interactive screens, like a video game, where you can dive for fish or hunt for bugs. My son loved that part. My daughter liked using the joystick to learn how the Pterosaurs used their wings to harness the wind during flight. I liked the room near the end with the Pterosaur replica soaring over the water. Such a beautiful display.

IMAG5459

I expected to pass through quickly, as my kids often do, jumping from one display to the next. But this one lasted. They took their time. They explored. They watched. They enjoyed. This one is definitely not to be missed.

IMAG5443

 

 

Exploring Route 395

route 395 cover

We recently went to Mammoth for a long weekend to see the snow. But some of the best parts of the trip were the places we stopped along the way. And the best part was that each of our stops was a mini science lesson.

Fossil Falls

Located on the east side of the 395 off of Cinder Road, Fossil Falls is the byproduct of volcanic activity and a rushing river. Thousands of years ago, the nearby cinder cone erupted, splattering the surrounding desert with lava and rock. As the lava poured into the Owens River, the rushing water sculpted and polished the rock. Today, with the flow of Owens River diverted and Owens lake now dry, all that remains is the fossil of what was once a majestic waterfall. Stone cliffs and ballasts and holes bored out of the center of giant rocks show years of erosion and is truly amazing to see in person. Photos do not capture the depth or the detail that you find at Fossil Falls.

fossil falls from above

There is a small parking lot with restrooms at the trail head. It is a short hike from the parking lot, maybe half a mile. It is rocky though, so wear appropriate shoes. Also, this is not the place to let your kids run free. Little ones should be kept close and supervised at all times. There are steep drop-offs, and it’s a long way down. Lots of holes in the rocks so watch your step!

fossil falls.jpg

Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns

You can read the history of the Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns here. It’s located off 395 just north of Cartago. There is a small Historical Landmark sign on the road. When you turn onto the road you will see the commemorative plaque, but you can not see the kilns from this location. You must continue down the road about one mile to see the kilns. They are surrounded by a fence now, but it is interesting to look at and think about the history and the changes that were made to the landscape because of the gold rush, the mines, and the kilns. An area that once featured a flowing river and plentiful trees is now barren and dry. Just past the kilns is a passageway through the hillside but we did not drive that direction to further explore the area, so I’m not sure what lies beyond the kilns. Although it was interesting to see, it felt a little creepy out there.

cottonwood charcoal kilns

Hot Creek Geological Site

This was my second favorite stop and I wish that we could have spent an entire day exploring this area. You can read all the details about Hot Creek here. We saw and explored the main stretch shown in the photo, but there are trails along the gorge that go much further than we were able to discover given our time-frame. The warm water and the blue-green algae and knowing the background of the ancient volcano piqued my interest and the scenery was stunning. I will go back here and spend time exploring. There are restrooms in the main parking lot, although they weren’t pretty when we visited and only two of six were open. The walk down was a bit steep so wear appropriate shoes for this one.

hot creek 2

hot creek 3

hot creek 1.jpg

Mt. Whitney Hatchery

My husband loves fishing and so we are often subjected to trips to area fish hatcheries. Not so bad when they have the quarter machines to get food to feed the fish, but sometimes a trip to the fish hatchery can be less than amusing. Our third and final fish hatchery for this trip was the Mt. Whitney Hatchery (yes, I did say third). Fortunately, this was the most exciting hatchery we’ve been to. The Mt. Whitney hatchery is no longer operational, but some areas are still open to visitors. The hatchery is located on an alluvial fan and receives a lot of natural mud flow from the nearby mountains. The hatchery and several of the buildings were destroyed years ago and the Rainbow Trout were killed, so the hatchery function was shut down. However, this is one of the most stunning hatcheries you’ll find complete with fish pond, castle, and fish food machines. I’m not lying when I say there were some seriously large trout in that pond. Check it out if you are ever out that way. Pack a lunch, it’s a great spot for a picnic. The visitors center slash museum is open from April through September. Unfortunately we were there in March so we didn’t get to go inside but it’s still worth the stop. Learn more about the Hatchery here.

mt. whitney hatchery.jpg

 

What’s your favorite side trip on your way to Mammoth? Share your hot-spots!

 

 

 

Our Book List: Reference Books We Love

reference books

One of the things that we have an abundance of is reference books. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and subject specific reference guides are some of our most used books. And the benefits extend beyond homeschool. Every student should have access to reference books that are easy to read and understand. Our reference books help us fully understand concepts and subjects we aren’t familiar with. This year I expect we’ll be using our reference books even more as we get into more difficult subjects. I’ve even got a list of books that I’ll be ordering to add to our collection. Here is the short list of the essential reference guides that every elementary student should have.

Illustrated Dictionary – 288 pages with over 1000 illustrations. Inside the Illustrated Dictionary you’ll find a user’s guide, parts of speech and their roles in forming sentences, hints and guidelines for writing and spelling, and a brief history of the English language.

Children’s Encyclopedia  – 320 pages with over 1,500 images. Packed full of information and includes hands on activities and experiments plus downloadable images, quizzes and activity pages. Features all the world maps and flags with facts and records and over 600 hand-picked internet links for additional exploration.

Encyclopedia of World History – 416 pages of history from prehistoric times to the 21st century. Includes a 12,000 year illustrated timeline, over 100 maps, and amazing facts and illustrations. We use this as our history book and will be developing several lessons from it over the course of the year. This book also includes Usborne Quicklinks and additional links to hand-picked websites featuring information and activities related to in-text topics.

The Science Encyclopedia – 448 pages of science with over 140 experiments, activities and observations. Brilliant images throughout the book with information on everything from atoms to energy to plant life. Quizzes for each section are available in the back of the book plus additional Quicklinks and internet resources. We love this book and are using it as our science book this year.

First Illustrated Math Dictionary – This book clearly explains math concepts, breaking them down into the most basic elements and helping you understand math step-by-step. This is for the early grades from pre-k to 3rd or 4th grade and uses fun illustrations and easy to understand terminology. If you have a student who has a hard time in math, this book is for you. If your student is 2nd grade or above, consider the next level up: Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary. Just as fun and just as helpful but geared for 8 and up.

Composting With Kids

composting with kids

Years ago before I had kids, my husband and I had a trash can that we turned into a compost bin. I have to admit I was surprised at how much it reduced our waste. We moved around a little after that and it never made sense to start composting again, living in a condo with a patio and no plants. Now that we are back in a house and have started a garden (growing strong since Valentines Day), it seems more doable. We have a lot of space on the side yard of our house that would make a perfect spot to hide a compost bin.

I love that you can toss waste into a bucket and after time spent decaying and breaking down, it becomes an element that provides important nutrients that bring life to other plants. I also love that it reduces the waste that gets carried off to some hidden landfill. Americans generate over 250 million tons of trash every year. While paper and cans are popular recyclables, only about 3% of food waste is composted or recycled and it makes up the largest category of products taking up space in our landfills. Less than 8% of all plastics are recycled. The top 3 recycled products are:

  1. Paper
  2. Yard Waste
  3. Metals/Cans

Here are some great resources I found online that will teach you and your kids more about composting and how to get started:

Composting For Kids Slide Show – Great slide show teaching about the benefits of composting and how to do it.

Do the Rot Thing: Teachers Guide To Compost Activities – Teachers guide with lots of fun project ideas and information about composting.

US Composting Council – Includes a list of links and resources that include lesson plans and printable activities.

PBS Kids: The Greens – Outdoor Composting – Information and activities

Getting Dirty: Five Fun Composting Projects for Kids – Project ideas

 

Books about recycling and other ways to reduce our footprint – Click on the image for more information:

Why Should I Recycle?   Why Should I Bother About The Planet?

Do you compost? What kind of critters do you think you would find in a healthy compost bin?

We Love Trees

we love trees

May 16th was Love A Tree Day. While it’s probably an unofficial holiday, it’s one worth celebrating. I love trees. My favorites being the giant Redwoods and Sequoias. When I lived in Santa Cruz I used to take my son walking on the Redwood Grove Trail at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. This was where my little boy learned to run and explore, searching for the numbered posts along the self-guided nature trail. It was perfect because it was flat and wide with fences along the sides. And walking with my little one through the majestic giants was peaceful. Everything was ok there.

Now, living in southern California, we don’t get to see the big guys much. Occasionally we spot a grove of redwoods at nature centers and parks  like Shipley Nature Center, Fullerton Arboretum, or Carbon Canyon Regional Park. There are even a few at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach. But they are few, and many of them show the wear of the drought. Now we are mostly surrounded by palm trees and when we hit the trails we often find large oak trees and evergreens.

We studied trees at the beginning of the year when we covered plants in our science book, but we never really stop learning about trees. I can’t for the life of me identify most trees on the streets in our neighborhood, but I love what they do for us. We recently picked up a tree identification guide at a nature center and we plan to take a special tree hike to learn more about the trees in the area. I think I might even add on a “What Tree Is This?” activity where we take sample of trees near our home and take them to the nursery to find out what they are.

What are your favorite trees and what do you commonly see in your area?

Questions for Conversation

How do trees help people?

What types of trees do you see in your neighborhood?

What is your favorite tree?

What can you do to help trees?

 

General Information

http://www.ecokids.ca/pub/eco_info/topics/forests/types_of_trees.cfm

http://www.kidsdiscover.com/spotlight/trees-for-kids/

http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/olympia/kids/terrific_trees.htm

 

Activities and Printables

http://www.kidzone.ws/plants/trees.htm

http://www.education.com/workbook/tree-mendous-trees-workbook/

https://www.forestfoundation.org/family-activities-in-nature

http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/packs/trees.htm

 

Books – Click on the images for more information

the giving tree   secrets of the apple tree   this is the tree   rainforests   secrets of the rainforest

science with plants

New for May: 10-Minute Teacher Calendar and Space Day

space day

Happy May! I’ve got a lot going on this month, as I’m sure you do too. Our calendar fills up quickly and we are all full of activities and weekend events. One new thing I will be implementing is my 10-Minute Teacher Calendar. Everyday during the week there is a new calendar topic (and one for each weekend) that you can use to engage with your children. Maybe it will include a 10-minute discussion over dinner, or maybe it will turn into something you want to explore deeper to learn more. The hope is that we can use this calendar to add a few minutes of education to our day, as well as giving us the opportunity to connect and have a quality discussion with one another. Want to give it a try? Download the calendar here: May2015 10 minute teacher and hang it on your fridge. Everyday I will be posting here about that topic with links, resources and books you can use to further your discussion and exploration, and sometimes a few extra topic ideas. Let’s get started!

10 minute teacher

May 1st is Space Day, generally celebrated the first Friday in May. This day was created to remember the advances and discoveries we have made through space exploration. Here are some links you might be interested in:

Space Day Information and Events

http://www.discoveryeducation.com/Live/of-the-people-space-day-2015.cfm

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/education/educators/spaceday/index.asp

https://nasajsc.secure.force.com/SpaceDay2015

 

General Space Information

http://www.nasa.gov/

http://www.spacefoundation.org/education

http://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/centers/kennedy/home/index.html

http://ncesse.org/

 

Games and Education

http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/

http://www.discoveryeducation.com/search/page/k-5/science/-/-/index.cfm

http://www.spacefoundation.org/education/resources

http://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/centers/kennedy/erc/index.html#.VUOsM_lVhBc

 

Books, Sticker Books and Flash Cards

Click on the images for more information

Usborne Book of Astronomy & Space  Astronomy and Space Sticker Book   Sun, Moon and Stars   living in space   100 things to spot in the night sky   look inside space   space   build your own space ships sticker book   First sticker book space   big book of stars and planets   solar system   on the moon

 

Studying the Sky

studying the sky

Our science unit right now is Objects in the Sky. We use the Science Fusion program by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I included the link for visual reference. The book is an interactive work text that the student can write in and is functional on its own. However, if you want to get the most from this program, I recommend buying it from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt directly and getting set up with the online teacher component. With the online component you and your student will have access to online lessons, inquiries, and leveled readers. There are also printable vocabulary cards, additional inquiries, assessments, and so much more. We have really enjoyed using it this year.

Anyway, we’re studying the stars, moon, sun and general changes in the sky from day to night. The unit is short and doesn’t dive very deep into the astronomy aspect, which my son loves, so we are using some of the inquiry activities (there are lots of great inquiry activities for this unit, especially for first graders who are new to this topic) and adding a few of our own explorations.

My husband has been taking the kids out at night to look at the stars, and yesterday I printed up a constellation map. Today, my son is making his own constellation map by simply poking holes in a piece of black construction paper. He is trying to recreate Orion and adding a few of his own creations.

star map

I also found a great workbook on Education.com called Skywatchers. It has lots of cool information about constellations, astronomers, the planets, the moon and more. I’m a subscriber so I can print up as many workbooks as I want – just today I printed three new workbooks to use for our studies. I really like this site and I use it a lot to get study materials for both my preschooler and my first grader.

Here are a few books about astronomy that we are planning on adding to our collection (click on each book for detailed information about each title):

Astronomy and Space Sticker Book    Astronomy

Usborne Book of Astronomy & Space   Sun, Moon and Stars

What are some of your favorite astronomy-related activities?

Usborne Publishing Ltd. (UK) has no connection with these pages and does not sponsor or support their content.