Layers of the Earth lesson

This year we’re covering two sciences: astronomy and earth science.  Our first several lessons of earth science have been wonderful because it’s coincided well with our geography.  This week we started on the layers of the earth, and I was happy as a clam when Eva Varga shared her layers of the earth lesson, so I could freely steal from it.

play dough layers of the earth model

Our Layers of the Earth lesson

{This post contains affiliate links.  For more information read my disclosure page}


First off was the book work, I read them the passage from CKE Earth and Space (affiliate link) and they were all interested in the different layers, and could recite them back, but I’m not sure they got it completely.  Thankfully day 2 of the week’s lesson in Illuminations (affiliate link) was the hands on activity, and the kids really got into it.

making play dough for layers of the earth lesson

First, I made the play dough.  Well to be more accurate, I started to make the play dough only to discover we were out of cream of tartar sauce.  This led to a panicked post to the Kid Blogger Network group on Facebook asking if I could make play dough without it, because I was already halfway through measuring and mixing up stuff.  Between their answers and my google searches I decided to just leave out the cream of tartar.  I did however let one of the boys take way too many pictures of us making it.

Then I sat the kids down and started reviewing and putting together our models.  I was very surprised at how much they’d remembered because I thought they hadn’t remembered a thing, but they could tell it all to me as they put together their models.

layers of the earth, inner core

The inner core we decided should be red because it’s “red hot.”  I mistakenly told them it was liquid because it was so hot, and then I flash-backed to Star Wars Episodes I (affiliate link) and started snickering about a liquid core and swimming through it, and how it doesn’t work like that (you may have some clue why my kids don’t focus well, my mind is a truly scary place).

layers of the earth model outer core The outer core is the actual liquid part.  We chose for it to be yellow to show how hot it still is, but not as hot as the inner core.

layers of the earth mantle

We chose white for the mantle, and that’s mainly because I couldn’t convince anyone to mix colors in for another color of play dough.  They were kind of done with kneading and mixing play dough for colors.  They wanted to play.

layers of the earth crust

The crust is green or blue depending on my kid.  Batman chose green because he likes yellow and blue, and green is yellow and blue mixed together.  Superman chose blue because he likes blue best.  Princess was sad because she couldn’t put pink on the outside.  But the green represents the land, and the blue represents water.  I figure out earth is 70% water on the surface, so that’s close enough.

layers of the earth lesson printable

At the end of it all they put together the layers of the earth printable from Eva Varga’s post I linked to at the top.

I was quite pleasantly surprised a few days later when I asked about the different layers and the kids were able to tell  them to me along with what the layers were like, so lesson well learned.


If you’d like some more earth science ideas, I’d highly recommend checking out my Earth Sciences pinterest board.

Mac bath experience

And for those of you wondering what ended up happening with our dog, we washed him again in baking soda, dish soap, and vinegar, and he was not happy.  In the end he had some very soft fur, still smelled slightly of skunk, and was very unhappy with us.



I also have some rather sad news.  This will be the last Science Sunday with a linkie.  I’ve been praying and thinking over this for a while, and I think it’s time to close this down.  I’ll still be writing our science adventures fairly regularly, but I’ve noticed not as many of you linking up, and not many of you click through to check on the links that are linked up.  Next week I’ll feature the best from this month, and that will be the end of it.



Crock pot chicken parmesan and the week I feel discombobulated

Isn’t that a great word? Discombobulated?  But, back to the topic

I came up with a great idea.  I created my online cookbook on pinterest.  I realized the other week I do most of my recipe planning as I sit at the kitchen table and scroll through pinterest for recipe ideas.  But my recipes for  busy Moms board is filled with ideas I want to try and some ideas I’ve tried, but I don’t want to scroll through 300 recipes (and oh so many desserts) every week.


I’ve started pinning my favorite recipes to it, but many of them I don’t have a pin for because they’re handwritten notecards, so I’m rectifying that.  First up: Crock pot chicken parmesan.


Crock pot Chicken Parmesan

Crockpot chicken parmesan ingredients

Ingredients: 1 envelope French onion soup, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1.5 cups of milk, 1 cup dry white wine (or apple cider), 1 cup rice, 6 chicken breasts, 2 tablespoons butter, 2/3 cup grated parmesan

Slow cooker chicken parmesan

My substitutions this time because I was out: apple cider for the wine (I almost always do this, I rarely remember to buy the wine), ranch mix (homemade ranch mix from here), oh and I doubled the entire sauce mixture for extra “rice stuffing”

For those who don’t use canned ingredients (which I’m slowly moving away from, and oh my is it delicious):  I substituted homemade cream of mushroom soup (we make this about every 2 months).

Crock pot chicken parmesan

  1. Mix together French onion soup, cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, milk, whine, and rice.
  2. Put the chicken breasts into the slow cooker and pour the soup/rice mixture over it.
  3. Cut up the butter into small pieces and put on top of this mess.  Then sprinkle a very generous handful of cheese on top.
  4. Cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours.
  5. Eat this delicious Chicken Parmesan and say “yum, yum, yum.”


Expect a few more recipes from me from time to time as I slowly go, “Hey, I need a recipe for this to pin.”


Our school week

school for our week

All About Reading level 4 came in (AAR4, both affiliate links), and I’ve spent most of their reading lessons and random bits here and there prepping for the lessons.  The boys are excited to have reading lessons again, because it means more games for them.  We did some cooking to create a Roman Road from Phyllis’ post here, and the kids loved that dessert/school activity.

We continued our Roman themed activities with a mosaic they made out of candy.  I guess this is also the hype my kids up on sugar week.  Which seems to of ironically coincided with the “week of massive rain and headaches.”

In our Bible lessons we learned about Jeremiah, and the boys quite “nicely” took pictures of me teaching the lesson, but they also got  a few silly pictures of themselves playing dead.  Oh so helpful as always.


Games played this week:

  • Destination USA
  • LEGO Robo Champ (affiliate link, though Amazon’s price seems high right now)
  • and then we discovered several of our Lego Games were missing pieces, so the boys were set to cleaning the game area


Books read this week (affiliate links):

  • Ella Enchanted
  • several Batman junior novelizations that I didn’t keep track of because it changed each day
  • Princess is really into Critter Club books
  • Duck in the Fridge (which someone sent to me for review without telling me, and the kids think it’s hilarious)

General life catching up

life is fun

This past week has been hard for me because I’ve been extra tired with all of the pressure changes giving me headaches and I think the stress Jeff is feeling from work is rubbing off on me, so I’ve been somewhat snappish, and the kids have all been tired because several weeks of running hard has caught up to them and they are tired tired tired.

The boys headed off last Friday for a birthday party sleepover, and so Princess got to see her cousins alone and entertain them as we all watched “Moms Night Out” (affiliate link, and it’s hilarious you NEED to watch it).  Later that week Princess and I had a Mommmy/daughter date and saw “Dolphin Tale 2” (in theaters now, and great for any ocean lovers).

The boys were quite the hams when they had access to my camera, and so I’ve got about 20 more pictures like the two I included in the collage, and it’s quite silly.

Meanwhile we tried the baking soda/dawn dish soap/vinegar bath for poor Mac and he liked it even less than the other baths.  He still smelled like a skunk, but with this being his FOURTH bath in as many days it seems to of decreased.  I don’t know if that’s because that bath worked, or enough washings and soap have helped decrease the smell.  Either way his fur is the softest and fluffiest it’s been in weeks.**

Oh, and Mac also found a possum in our backyard and tried to make friends with him, that one didn’t go well either.  He’s been oblivious to the many many toads we see on all of our nightly walks, unless they leap right in front of his face.  Then he startles and goes back to ignoring them.

And the final picture is Princess starting American Girl doll club.  Each month they talk about a different doll.  They started off with Kaya and Princess feels for Kaya because she too has twin brothers.  Next month we’ll be teaching the Caroline lesson.

And I think that’s that for our week.  It never seems particularly full until I start writing about the week, and then it’s so full I can’t really talk about all of it.  Next week for sure I’ll be writing about Jeremiah, but most of the rest of this will be expounded upon some point later on.


linked up to: Collage Friday

** I did finish the dress I made to destress at about 11:15 Saturday night.  I still have to do some hand finishing on the lining, because I decided to fully line it.  The lining went together in less than half of the time of the dress because I didn’t have to match color gradations.  And I have found my new project: armor knight hoodie.

Hands on Pompeii Lesson

There are sometimes your lessons go fabulously, and this was one of those times, which was nice to have happen in a rather busy month.

Hands on Pompeii lesson

{This post contains affiliate links.  For more information read my disclosure page}

“Boring” part of the Pompeii lesson (translation, not messy)

Our Pompeii lesson started when I saw the independent reading on Illuminations (affiliate link) was “Pompeii…Buried Alive!” (affiliate link).  I generally speaking really enjoy the later Step Into Reading Books and this was no different.  It has a great overview of what happened and had all of my kids enthralled.  So much so I think they finished it more or less two days of reading lessons (approximately 30 minutes of reading out loud, minus some other activities).

After all that time reading about Pompeii, I decided to skip reading the actual text from MOH2 (affiliate link) for now and come back to that later if need be.

Instead I told them to build some Legos.  I gave them a small Lego plate and sent them to build their idea of a Roman town.  And they happily did so.

Then I set them to cleaning the massive mess they’d made (which still isn’t cleaned up almost 2 weeks later, due to other circumstances), while I prepped the next part of the activity.

 The Hands on Part of the Pompeii lesson

Pompeii lesson

I went outside and started burying their city.  I threw a few rocks in there, large amounts of dirt, some ash from our fire pit, but generally was not too careful.  My goal was to knock a few things about in the burying, just as the settling of the ash and the occasional large debris that came about caused damage to the actual city.

Then I called the kids outs to see their buried town, which led to cries of dismay as they realized their gorgeous cities were buried and I’d covered their treasured Legos in dirt.  There might have been real tears.

Digging up Pompeii lesson

Slowly they dug up the city of Pompeii.  I emphasized not disturbing the layers and working to ensure they preserved how it was found.  They did some drawings, but they were much to engrossed in digging up their archeological dig to really care about perfect preservation skills.

As a side note, this is the fourth time we’ve done an activity like this, previously we’ve had an archeological dig, a dinosaur dig, and a marine recovery.  I think this was our most successful dig.  The Lego city made it much more interesting to dig for, and easier for them to visualize what it’s like to dig up a site.

Pompeii lesson for kids

After all of that, and the kids happily dug through for over an hour.  Seriously, eventually I just left them to it as I went inside to watch a Bright Ideas Press’ last G+ hangout. (I put this picture up on my facebook page).

Pompeii lesson notebooking pages

The next day we finally listened to our MOH2 lesson on the topic as they filled out their notebook pages (and did you see, they’re on sale this month?).  We finished it up watching a Pompeii movie on Netflix.  I opted not to show them the romantic soap opera masquerading as a historical movie called “Pompeii” (the reviews I read said, “IF you want to watch Titanic with a volcano and random explosions, watch this,” No thank you).

What we learned from our Pompeii lessons

I almost forgot to include this, but there were so many great things to come out of this lesson:

  1. Archaeology can be very hard at times.  You don’t know exactly where things are, or what you’re looking for.  It’s easy to break items as you unbury them.
  2. It is disappointing when your hard work is buried/destroyed.  They felt sad and hurt I’d buried and messed up their Lego creations, they got a small taste of how the people who survived Pompeii felt.
  3. There are multiple ways to learn.  We tried most of the major modalities.  We got in visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and all of them helped my kids to absorb this lesson.  Not all lessons is it possible to do this on, but when it is, it’s a great way to learn more.


How I teach active learners

As you’ve no doubt figured out by now I have some very active learners.  Or as I sometimes refer to them, wiggle worms.

How to teach active learners without losing your mind

Signs you have an active learner

You might have an active learner if:

  1. They cannot sit still in a chair.  My kids are incapable of just SITTING.  They stick their foot up on the table, they change positions, they stand.  They fall out of the chair.  But they do not sit.
  2. They prefer to stand while they work.  Batman spends most of his school time standing.  I’ve even moved the chair out of his way so he didn’t knock it over In his moving back and forth.
  3. They talk with their hands.  We all know THAT person, the one who’s accidentally hit the person next to them as they talked.  I’m that person, so I’m familiar with it.
  4. They can’t concentrate unless they are moving.  This is the person who paces when they talk on the phone.

Well, you get the picture, this is the kid (or adult) who just doesn’t sit still.

Start your active learner’s day with exercise

sitting on an exercise ball

The days we start with some exercise work better.  I think it’s because they’ve burned some of their endless energy and can sit still for a few minutes.  Though still is a relative term.  I mean I taught one lesson with my son upside down, seriously he was balancing his legs in the air in some yoga pose.

Exercises we’ve tried:

  • crab walk across the room 10 times
  • bear walk across the room 10 times
  • skip around the room
  • hopping, jumping, or running around the room
  • Sit-ups, pull-ups, general stretches

Get your active learner an exercise ball

Our reading lessons go so much better now that my kids have Exercise Balls (affiliate link).  Princess bounces up and down as she reads vocabulary words.  The boys balance all sorts of ways as they read (I may do the same as I listen, seriously I’m a horrible example for sitting still).

Exercise balls also have the benefit of helping build up core muscles, which are important for posture, stability, and almost every exercise you do later in life.


Set a time limit for your active learner

Buy a red line timer (affiliate link, and I LOVE this), and use it for everything.  Set short times of work, and when it’s done stop.

I don’t care how well the work is going, just stop.  Because I know the temptation to keep going because it’s going well, but you will pay for it.  Oh, how you will pay.  Trust me stop when the timer goes off.

Then take a break, just a short one, say 5 or 10 minutes, but take a break and move.  Do some jumping jacks, move around.


Let your active learner sit how they want


Your active learner will not sit at a desk, or at least not well.  Let them sit how they want when possible.  You can teach them to sit appropriately for meals and such, but give them leeway when you can.  My kids have certainly embraced sitting how they want for reading (the picture right above is one of several from the post).


Bring movement into your lessons

Your active learner is going to love you when you add movement to your lessons.  Have your kids find words around the room, or say math facts while doing jumping jacks,  make flash cards and have the kids run to them.  Just get them moving.


Dangle the carrot for your active learner

Let them know once the “sitting down” stuff is done, that you’ll go to the park, or swimming.  Give them incentive to get it done so they can play.


Do you have any other suggestions for active learners?  I’d love to hear them.


This is part of iHomeschool Network’s Learning Styles and Personalities.

Why does tomato juice get rid of skunk smell?

This past week my dog decided to play with a skunk.  I brought him in Wednesday night and he smelled bad, but I convinced myself he was fine, and I was just crazy.

Why do we use tomato juice to wash skunk smell off

The next morning it was clear I was not crazy.  He smelled horrible.

I knew you’re supposed to use tomato juice to wash him off, but I didn’t have any.  So I used some shampoo.  That didn’t work.


I put a quick facebook post up, asking for advice, and got some great suggestions.  I also asked the ladies at my women’s Bible study about how to deal with this.


Both facebook and my women’s Bible study agreed: get thee to a grocery store and buy some tomato juice.


Why does tomato juice get rid of the skunk smell?


We had a long discussion about it at the Bible study and our leader swore because of the acidity of tomato juice, and then we started wondering if orange juice would work as well and on and and on and on.


But you know, what?

Tomato juice didn’t work.  Our dog still smells, he’s slightly better, but the tomato juice didn’t work.


Mainly because it’s been raining, and getting wet causes the smell to come back, for a very long explanation of that, I’ll refer you to the article I’ve been poring over for the last several minutes.


My new plan (to enact tomorrow): Baking Soda (affiliate link and yes I have bought that big of a bag before, it’s handy stuff, I also have a rather funny story about college and baking soda and carrying boxes of it around downtown Dallas) and Dawn Dish soap (also affiliate link, and another funny college story I had 2 roommates flood my apartment putting this in the dishwasher, you can sweep up suds).


So lesson learned tomato juice does not get rid of skunk smell.


In theory the baking soda well because it will cause the chemicals causing the smell to oxygenate, and a bunch more complicated information.  I’ll update the post with our results later.


UPDATE: Baking Soda, Dish soap, and vinegar attempt to get rid of skunk smell.

I finally found baking soda and vinegar, and used half of our remaining dish soap, because the claim was “Dawn soap will work.”

Well, first my dog scratched my legs up because he was thinking, “No way am I getting another bath in 3 days.  That makes THREE.”  After I’d finally convinced him to get in the bathtub I covered him in baking soda.

Then I realized I really should have gotten him wet first, so the dish soap would spread further.  Almost a cup of dish soap later, I started pouring the vinegar on him.  He made for an impressive fizzing mess, and almost jumped out of the bath tub when it happened.

I caught him in time, and proceeded to pour large amounts of vinegar on him, and then finish rinsing him with water once I ran out of vinegar.


Then he ran away, rubbed all over every piece of furniture in the house to object to the bath, and hid from me all night long.

The next morning he still smelled.  Horrid.  We tried calling the groomers, but they don’t have a special skunk shampoo.  Poor guy’s gonna smell for a while.


instead of writing about why we use tomato juice for skunks

And I have not yet commented on everyone’s posts yet because I’ve been dealing with this whole dog thing, and to de-stress I decided to make a dress.  I’ve popped in and checked out a few posts, but haven’t commented all around yet.


I’d like to remind everyone this is a science linkie, please link science related posts.

King Josiah lesson

We’ve almost finished all of the kings of Judah, all 2 of them that we study in depth. Our final king is King Josiah, the boy king (last week we covered King Hezekiah). There’s so many fun things to do with his lesson, that I’m always digging deeper and finding more to do for King Josiah, but we concentrated on 3 big activities:


King Josiah finding the Book of the Law (the Torah)

King Josiah craft

We did a couple of activities with this, one of which will lead into our second activity.  But our big time consuming activity for the week was making our own Scroll of the Law for King Josiah to find.

King Josiah scroll activity

It was the usual tea-dying and crumpling activity we’ve done before, if you haven’t done this, than instructions are included in the printable.  The kids always find this to be fun and made several extras so they could make secret maps and hidden clues and generally goof off.

Once our scrolls were prepared I got out my quill pens I bought at Colonial Williamsburg way back when I was pregnant with Princess.  It’s always a special treat for the kids to use these, especially because I get jumpy watching them play with my fancy quill as they dip the quills in too deep.

Torah scrolls and mantle covers craft

Then we added in an extra fun element.  A year or so ago we went to Passages, a Biblical history museum.  It’s a traveling museum, and if it’s ever in your area I’d highly recommend going.  I happily spent most of a day there last time I went.  One thing we discovered is the Jews used to (and in some areas still do) create a protective cover over the scrolls of the Law called a mantle.  For some the mantle is fairly plain, and just a protective covering, but in many Synagogues it’s very ornate.

We set about making our mantles using felt and some embroidery thread, and the kids happily embroidered their designs on it and then sewed on a button to close the mantle.  If these were true mantles, they’d actually completely enclose the Torah so no dirt could get into the scrolls, but my kids do not have the skill nor the patience to attempt that.


Help King Josiah find the Book of the Law

reading the scroll like King Josiah

Well after we made our Books of the Law, we had to put them to use.  Aside from reading them out loud to Aunt Tara during one of her brief stints hanging out with us rather than at the hospital.  I sent the kids to clean our loft while I hid their scrolls for them to find.

finding the lost scrolls of the Law

Than they set to finding the scrolls.  They were all over the game room and the kids had fun pouncing on the scrolls and happily exclaiming over what they’d found.  It made me smile too.


Help King Josiah destroy the idols

King Josiah activity

This seems to be a never-ending problem the Israelites had.  They’d always forget God’s teaching and create God’s of their own hands.  Not that we can claim to do much better in this time, our idols are just more socially acceptable.

king Josiah

The kids and I built their idols to destroy and talked about what we might put in place of God, what do we treat as more important?  I have to admit I often put my free time and my “down time” as more important than God or actual real duties.  The kids slowly admitted some of their own.


Then we got to destroying idols.  Of course this was the kids’ absolute favorite part of the activity.  Throwing bean bags and knocking down stacks of cans.  Who wouldn’t love that?


What I love about King Josiah


King Josiah is a rare example of a king who follows God.  Judah had exactly 8 good kings after the split.  Most of them were bad.  A few did okay, with some serious mess ups.  But Josiah from the moment he becomes king after a very bad king follows God.  I want my kids to follow Josiah’s example.  I want to follow Josiah’s example.  I pray that comes true.

King Josiah lesson

As always get your King Josiah lesson by clicking on this link or on the picture up above.


Extra King Josiah resources


Schedules can help young learners focus

I figured something out this past summer. Just as I need some kind of framework and schedule for me to accomplish things, so do my kids. Over the summer I looked for clipboards, and not just any clipboards, but my dream clipboard that I had when I was teaching. It was amazing. It had a clip on top to hold papers, and then it also had a hard case that could hold papers.

When I was teaching it held the handouts for the day. I loved that thing. Absolutely adored it. When my kids got old enough I thought about getting them a similar one, but couldn’t find it. Until now.

schedules with Illuminations

If you are ever looking for one, here’s one like what I bought: Plastic Storage Clipboard (affiliate link).  I love it.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.


That’s been one of the big things helping us stay focused so far this year.  The other thing.


Illuminations (affiliate link), last year I used it and I was continually reprinting my schedule because I lost it.  Not so organized.  This year I’ve gotten smart.


Each of my kids has their own individualized schedule.  They are getting old enough they have different schedules now.  Also, it encourages all of us to check off those completed boxes each day.  Seriously, I love to check off the boxes in Illuminations.


It’s also helped me because now I can easily roll over activities that didn’t get done in the week, like oh say……  These past two weeks three weeks as things have been rather up in the air.



How was our last 2 weeks you ask?  Well let me show you

Siege of Masada

Our one actual learning activity the second week of Tara’s visit was to learn about Masada. The kids happily built and made their own versions of Masada out of Legos.  I’m trying to decide if I’ll write more about this, or just leave it be.  As you can imagine they each had very different versions.  Princess’ was more of a giant kitchen/zoo and not so much a fort.


Chess club

The boys started chess club, a once a month club for 2 hours.  The name is a slight misnomer because it’s chess but it’s also strategy games.  We obviously have a few games, so we brought some linked below and the kids all had fun playing with that.  Princess meanwhile played with the younger sister of one of the boys there.


dance class for Princess

Speaking of Princess she has now started a weekly dance class, which I’ve managed to look like an incompetent Mom two weeks in a row (no leotard of proper shoes), but Princess loves it.

why she is similar

And as a bit of fun for everyone, in case you’re wondering who Princess is most like, that would be me.  Which is also probably why she can drive me the most crazy of any of my kids.

happy memories

My happy memories for this week are the kiddos being silly.  We had our first night of our small group Bible study with a Mexican theme, so I came home with a sombrero and fake mustache which the kids happily played with until they were broken beyond repair.  The third picture is my view almost every morning.  The kids attempt to barricade the door and keep Jeff from leaving for work.  This ends in a group hug/tackle.  It always makes me smile.

Aunt Tara cant leave

On that note when Tara was getting ready to leave the kids gave her a much extended version of this.  Batman attempted to tie her feet together so she couldn’t walk.  Princess gave her “the lip.”  Superman snuck into her car so she couldn’t sit down.  None of which worked and she drove back to Iowa last week.  She’ll be back down for Thanksgiving and potentially Christmas depending on how her Mom’s cancer goes.

Batman's sewing project

In the meantime Batman for his “thing with Mommy” (once a week each kid gets some alone time with me) chose to make a scabbard for his wooden sword.  Now he has a nice fancy scabbard that took us about an hour or so to make.

night walks

We’ve been taking a fair number of night walks recently and finding a lot of toads on the walks.  The last walk we found 10 toads, some of which we chased out of the street to try and keep them safe.

school work for two weeks

And because this post is becoming abonimably long, here’s a quick review of our activities from this past week:

  1. We learned about Jeremiah (which will hopefully get up after I complete a few more activities and add in better discussion questions)
  2. We washed Mac who decided it would be fun to play with a skunk (that’s going to be the topic of my Science Sunday post).
  3. Notebooking for history (in case you’re wondering all notebooking pages are on sale this month over at Bright Ideas Press, click the button on my sidebar)
  4. Made play dough for our model of the earth
  5. Unburied the city of Pompeii

Books we read

(I’ve started a new rule and they have to read or study their Bible for an hour each morning)




Games we played

Linked up to Homegrown Learners

Castle Panic Game

I read about Castle Panic over at Stone Soup for Five and immediately knew this was a board game we needed to add to our collection.  So I made the excuse of buying it for Jeff for Father’s Day.

Castle panic a great way to work together and have fun

{This post contains affiliate links.  For more information read my disclosure page}

I was right, Castle Panic has been a perfect game for our family.


How to Play Castle Panic

Castle panic conceptCastle Panic is a cooperative game, we are all working together to stop the monsters from destroying the castle walls and the towers.  At your turn you, trade, discard, and draw to get the most cards you can play.

Castle Panic turn

Everyone plays with their cards face-up, and on your turn you can trade 1 card, discard and draw another card, and then play any cards you have to do damage to the monsters.  Different types of soldiers are able to hurt monsters at different levels.

There are actually 3 different ways to play Castle Panic:

  1. Everyone together, no points.  In this version you all work together to kill the monsters, and you don’t worry about who got the most points for actually delivering the killing blow.
  2. Everyone together with points.  For this version of Castle Panic, you want to be the person who delivers the killing blow, so you might be less willing to trade and help out other players.  This version would be more difficult because you are trying to both make sure the castle isn’t destroyed, AND you get the most credit for kills.
  3. Everyone against one player.  We haven’t looked at this version at all, but one player controls the monsters and is trying to destroy the castle.  Since neither Jeff, nor I, are fans of all against one games, we haven’t tried this version at all.

Castle Panic for large groups

So far we’ve only played version 1, and even everyone working our best together to win, we’ve almost lost a couple of times because of timing of the monsters.

Castle Panic Strategy

In games like this, there are two different strategies:

  1. Play through cards as rapidly as possible, and plan to discard and use as frequently as you can.  This is usually referred to as “card cycling games.”
  2. Hold special cards and try to play them at “the right time.”

Castle Panic

I’ve never had much luck with the try to time the cards, but card cycling where you play cards as frequently as you can, no matter what works for us.

Specific tips for Castle Panic in light of card cycling:

  1. Use the barbarian often.  There is one in the deck, and he can fight anywhere.  The most effective use of the “dumpster dive” card is digging up the barbarian card.
  2. Unless you specifically see a mortar AND brick out, ditch your mortar or brick card in favor of drawing a different possibly usable NOW card.
  3. Reinforce takes one card, verses rebuilding a wall taking two, always reinforce when that card shows up.
  4. Go for the kill, not wounding.  Spreading your damage around to all of the monsters is a fool’s game.  There are cards that heal, and I’ve noticed you always draw that token right after you’ve damaged, but not killed the monster.
  5. Think strategically.  Trade for where the monsters might be in a few turns.

protect your towers to win Castle Panic

You win Castle Panic if you have AT LEAST 1 tower still standing after you’ve killed all of the monsters.  So far, fingers crossed, in 10 times of playing we’ve never completely lost a game.  We’ve won with 1 tower standing, but it’s been crazy crazy close.

Castle Panic with kids

Buying Castle Panic

I bought our copy of Castle Panic at our local comic store.  I’ve also seen it at Barnes and Noble, and obviously it’s available at Amazon for about $25.  There’s an expansion for it called Castle Panic: The Wizard’s Tower which all 3 of my kids have pointed out to me on a fairly regular basis.  The boys are arguing for us to get Dead Panic, but I’m not a big zombie fan, so they may lose that argument.

Solar System model review

Since we’re studying astronomy this year I knew I wanted a good solar system model for the kids to be able to look at. So, I drove down to our local Mardel’s and sat there studying the 10 different models they had.

And to make sure I had a really good comparison I then walked down the street to the Hobby Lobby and compared the ones on their “educational models” aisle. And I found our “perfect” solar system model: Geosafari Motorized Solar System (affiliate link).

Solar system model to learn about the planets


What I wanted in a solar system model

  • Sturdy, very sturdy.  I’ve bought a couple of models recently that did not hold up to my kids rough handling, and since we’ll be referring back to it all year long, it needs to be sturdy.
  • Somewhat to scale.  Nothing in the price range I’m willing to pay will be anything close to scale, but I want them to understand there is a huge size differential between Pluto and Jupiter.
  • Not Styrofoam.
  • Nice to have: motorized so they can see the planets move
  • Nice to have: light up
  • Nice to have: easily removable so they can look at the planets in more detail

(In case you’re wondering my best friends and I came up with a 10 page long list of what we’re looking for in a guy, everything from MUST have, to it’d be nice but it’s not a deal breaker, so I have a long habit of making lists like this, and much longer)

solar system model

I sat in Mardel’s for a good 30 minutes staring at all of the models, I got the salesperson to let me take them out of the boxes to examine them more closely, and finally decided on the Geosafari Motorized Solar System (affiliate link).


Putting together our solar system model

solar system model materials

That random pile of stuff is all you need for the model.  The kids looked bored out of their minds because I wouldn’t let them touch the model until I’d laid all the pieces out.  Poor Superman was not happy, he wanted to just start pulling pieces out willy nilly.


solar system model construction

And yes we have taken this apart and put it together several times since this first time.

But once we started putting planets in they were happy as clams and went took turns putting all 9 planets in.  That’s right, I’m still going to call Pluto a planet even if the national association of astronomers says otherwise.

There was some deal-making between the kids because they decided they liked different planets more than others, but in the end we had the planets all put together.

Now comes the fun part of the solar system model: playing (learning) from it

solar system model measuring the planets distance

As we put it together and looked at all of the cool pieces we learned a few things.

  1. The planets are widely different in size.  Little bitty Pluto is smaller than a marble.
  2. Jupiter is rather cool with its’ giant red spot.
  3. The rings of Saturn led to much discussion of what they could be made of.
  4. We were all fascinated to see how the planets moved around, and how they were placed on different dates.
  5. It takes planets wildly different amounts of time to go around the sun (and this is with the sizing being off significantly).

solar system model chart

Then we looked at the planetary features chart.  That was fascinating (I may have watched too much TOS Star Trek growing up).  I was intrigued by the symbols, and my kids were amazed at how long the different years are, and the length of days on different planets.

Eventually I just let them have fun looking at and playing with our new solar system model, and they had at it.

solar system model observation

Batman in particular spent a great deal of time looking at it.  He’s the reason we’re studying astronomy this year because he wanted to learn all about space.  He spent a lot of time looking at how the planets are not in a row and how they rotate at different angles.  I can’t wait for his mind to be blown to realize they don’t even all rotate in a single plane, Neptune is actually on a completely different axis.

Once I’ve put it back together again I’ll let you know about our other astronomy model, that one has not been as big of a hit, and is part of why I was so picky on our solar system model.

 Want more solar system information?

Follow Ticia Adventures in Mommydom’s board astronomy for kids on Pinterest.

  Or my astronomy tag.      Photobucket

Science Sunday


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Now link up your SCIENCE posts, new and old, and then visit some of the other posts linked up and say hi. I’m going to be pinning, commenting, FBing or tweeting all of the posts linked up as the week goes by. At the end of the month I’m going to feature the best posts linked up.

Make sure to include a link back to my blog so people can come back from your post to see what others have done.  By linking you are agreeing I can feature your posts in a round up post later (I may use a picture to feature, but will link back).

Alexander the Great lesson

Alexander the Great is one of those great stopping points in history.  His ascent to glory occupies many great “What if” questions, as does his death, and his reign.  That’s one of the fun things about this lesson, we got to talk through some of these things.

Alexander the Great lesson


Alexander the Great mapwork

We started off our lesson about Alexander the Great first listening to the audio books for Mystery of History 1 (affiliate link).  But, it’s one thing to listen to how much of the world he conquered and hear Alexander conquered more of the known world than anyone else.

It’s a completely different thing to actually see what that looked like.

coloring Alexander the Great's empire

So we started coloring Alexander’s empire.  Our maps came from Wondermaps (affiliate link), but I’m sure you can find some online, I just like the lazy convenience of not having to find them.

Alexander the Great's empire

To do this activity you need 4 different colored pencils and a pen or pencil (for those who are wondering, I bought this pack a few years ago and it’s still going strong: Crayola 50ct Long Colored Pencils, affiliate link).

It’s fairly straight forward.

  1. Color what Philip defeated, which is most of the Peloponnesian peninsula and a bit more.
  2. Alexander the Great first defeated Egypt (there’s some great stories to tell there about Alexander)
  3. Then he defeated Persia, which is a whole other activity
  4. And finally he went as far as the mountains by India.

Alexander the Great and Egypt

Alexander the great map by 9 year old

According to several ancient historians when Alexander entered Egypt he was welcomed as a savior to their country.  He was a deeply religious man and respected the Egyptian culture and was enthralled with the Egyptian gods.  During his visit he was crowned Pharaoh and given the double crown of Egypt, and then went on to visit the Oracles who pronounced him the son of Amun-Ra.  Alexander was now literally a deity.

Wherever he went, Alexander built cities or renamed cities after himself, but his most elaborate city was in Egypt, the city of Alexandria, which housed the great libraries that were rumored to hold all of human knowledge (which was later burned by a careless Roman solder when they took over a few centuries later).

Alexander left Egypt with the plans to come back and rule from there.


Alexander the Great and the Israelites

Alexander the Great map work by a 7 year old

According to the Hebrew historian Josephus, Alexander the Great came to Israel and swept through there.  But, he came to Jerusalem and was greeted by the high priest in his purple robes and all his regalia.  Then the priest welcomed Alexander and showed him the passage in Daniel predicting his coming and that he would destroy the Persians.

This was good news to Alexander who was on his way to fight the Persians at Gargamella and was not sure if he would prevail because of their superior chariots.


Alexander the Great and the Persians

This was of course my boys favorite part, and they’ve decided this TV series is EPIC and we must watch ALL OF THEM.  So we will, as we cover the different battles in our history studies.

It’s interesting to see what decisions were made in these epic battles and see it recreated using technologies only available recently.


What if’s for Alexander the Great

 The most interesting thing One interesting thing about Alexander the Great is how young he died, and the large number of questions that come from him.  Here’s some of the things we talked through that historians often argue about:

  1. What is Alexander had gone West instead of East?  Who would have won in that great battle the Greeks or the Romans?
  2. What if Alexander had not died at 33?  Supposedly he died regretting having nothing more to conquer.  What would have happened if he’d lived to a ripe old age?
  3. What if Alexander the Great had a succession plan?  Would his empire have rivaled Rome’s?  His empire lasted as long as he was alive, and fell apart at his death.

There are so many great questions about Alexander the Great.  What would you ask?


* Alexander the Great image made by Carole Raddato

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