Early Childhood Homeschooling Made Easy

Taking teaching and your child's future into your own hands.

The Slumber Party Without the Slumber!

Jenny W-K:

This is such a cute idea, I had to share. Has anyone else tried a slumber party that is not really a slumber party?

Originally posted on The Romantic Homeschooler:

The Slumber Party

With all the hubbub about sleepovers, and families who choose not to have their children spend the night at a friends. You can still have sleepover fun. We do. We respect what our family friends have decided either way and they respect our family’s decision to not do sleepovers. Whether you do or don’t isn’t what this post is about. It’s about having a fun themed party that everyone can enjoy.

So here is what we did!

We invited some some of the kids frienda to come over early in the morning wearing their pajamas, they brought their pillows and sleeping bags. This was an occasion when Peanut invited her friends. Each one of our kids gets a turn to invite some of their friends for some sleepover fun. They start the morning off watching a movie picked by Peanut, while my hubby and I cook up some chocolate chip…

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When life gets too busy…

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Life has been over the top hectic lately, and it’s been hard to find time to just relax and unwind.  My daughter has scheduled activities 3 days a week, with back to back activities on two of those days.  We end up being out of the house for several hours those days.  On days when she doesn’t have activities, we have to go grocery shopping, do housework, run errands that don’t get done the other days, and fit in appointments with doctors and dentists.  I’ve recently had to go to the dentist quite a bit for work, so it seems as though a lot of my so called “free time” is being spent at the dentist’s office.  We also need to find time throughout our day to do school work.  We go on outings with our homeschool groups, and we attend a homeschool gathering every other week too.  We don’t seem to have much down time.

My husband’s side of the family is currently having a lot of life events, so our weekends our pretty booked up with baby showers, birthday parties for kids and adults, and bridal showers.  That, of course, means in my “free time” I have to shop for presents for all of the above listed life events.

But the thing that is suddenly taking up a good portion of my down time is the fact that I’ve decided to start working from home again.  Between training, getting my new business set up, and marketing…I am starting to feel drained.

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I’ve been a stay at home mom since I had my daughter four and a half years ago.  I planned to go back to work full time after she was born, but when the time came…I just couldn’t do it.  I wanted to be a full time mom.  I did, however, immediately get a job working from home.  I worked from home for 4-5 months before realizing that it was taking up more time than I had anticipated, and I still wasn’t spending as much time with my daughter as I wanted.  My job was requiring me to be in a closed office all day and on the phone taking calls.  I made the hard decision to stop working completely, and focus on being a full time mom.  It’s been a wonderful experience.  My husband makes enough money to support our family, and my mom lives with us and contributes to the household too.

For awhile now, I’ve been debating about finding a part-time work from home job so I can have more spending money for school supplies, educational trips, and family vacations.  Then a change occurred in our lives that helped me decide it was time to take on working again.  My mom found out she was going to be laid off from work soon.  My mom receives social security and has inheritance money set aside for emergencies, so I know that she will be fine.  The problem is my mom is a giver.  She will give and give, until she has nothing left to give.  I didn’t worry about it before since she was working and had the extra money to spend.  I figured it was in her right to spoil her grandkids and take her daughters out to lunch, etc.  But now, I am worried that she will still want to do things for everyone in her life, even though her budget will be significantly smaller.

With this weighing heavily on my mind, I decided it was time for me to start giving back again.  It was time for me to start bringing in some money and being able to give to my mom.  I want to have the money to take my mom out to lunch, and to make sure she doesn’t have to worry about too many household expenses.  I don’t want my mom dipping into her inheritance money to pay for monthly expenses.  My mom is a wonderful mom, and she can be very selfless.  It’s been awhile since I’ve had extra money to really give back to her.

The problem is managing my time.  Luckily for me, I am still able to work from home and will be able to set my own hours, but it will take up most of my free time, which I didn’t have much of to begin with.

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I know there are many moms out there that have multiple kids, have part-time jobs, or even full-time jobs, so I know it’s possible to still be a homeschooling stay at home mom.  At the same time, I realize it will be hard.  Some days I may want to throw in the towel, or I may want to hide in the bathroom and scream.  I am trying to remain positive though, and find ways to make this transition smoother.  It’s been rough lately trying to manage our time and get everything done, but eventually we should find our groove.  I’m hopeful.

For all of you homeschooling moms that still work or have large families, how do you manage to get everything done?  How do you find time for yourself?  I am horrible about taking time for myself.  I will need to make more of an effort to take some ME time.

Please feel free to share your stories with me.  I’d love to hear them.  Just remember this is a place for sharing and support.  Please refrain from negative comments.  I think all of us moms need a little support and understanding from time to time.  :)

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Adventures by Disney – A Hassle-Free Adventure

Jenny W-K:

Ideas for educational trips. It doesn’t come cheap, but these trips would be an amazing experience.

Originally posted on My Magical Mouse Vacations by Jenny:

A question I’ve been getting a lot lately is, “what is Adventures by Disney?”  It seems many people have never heard of it before, or if they’ve heard of it, they aren’t sure what it is exactly.  I’m going to try to clear up some of the confusion, and explain about this wonderful experience offered by Disney.

Adventures by Disney provides group guided family or Adults Only vacations to various domestic and international destinations.  Two Disney trained Adventure Guides take a group of guests on an adventure.  The guides provide concierge service, guide you around on your adventure, and are incredible storytellers.  Family vacations offer activities for everyone in your party.  Adults Only trips offer activities that are appropriate for adults to enjoy without little ones present, such as wine tastings.

Adventures by Disney travels to more than 25 destinations around the world.  Their recent trip addition is the River…

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Kindergarten Daily Binder

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I was on pinterest yesterday and saw an idea for a binder.  The one on pinterest was called a Rise and Shine binder.  I liked the idea so much, that I decided to create my own Daily Binder for my daughter.

Right now, our binder has 10 pages, but I will probably add more later on.  The binder has pages about the day of the week, the month, the year, the number of days in a week, the number of months, the season, etc.  It covers counting by 5’s and 10’s.  It has the names of the days of the week, the names of the months, numbers, and seasons.  I wanted to make a simple binder that we can work in every day, or at least on school days.  I think this binder will be a nice starting point to begin our day.  It will set a nice routine for us.

Here is the pdf file for our daily binder.

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I printed ours out on bright colored paper and laminated it.  Instead of laminating, you can put the pages inside sheet protectors, which is less time consuming and cheaper.  Either way, she can write on the pages with dry erase markers, then wipe it off when she’s done.  (Laminated pages can be a little harder to clean off than ones inside sheet protectors, especially for young kids.)  Laminating the pages or putting them inside sheet protectors is easier than having to print out new pages everyday, and it saves paper and ink.  I also made some laminated number cards to use with some of the pages in the binder.  I put it in a pink binder, since pink is my daughter’s favorite color.  I showed it to my daughter, and she’s ready to start using it on Monday.  Happy weekend!

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Do you have a daily binder or daily activities that you use to start your day?

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Reasons to have Homeschool IDs

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Homeschool teacher and student ids weren’t something I thought about until recently.  I would order stuff online from educational websites, and I’d think it was unfair that I couldn’t get a teacher’s discount.  I would think about how it’s unfair that my daughter won’t be able to receive student discounts at various places, like at movie theaters.  But it didn’t occur to me that we SHOULD have ids.

Then I started seeing IDs for sale on certain sites, like the Home School Legal Defense Site, and I saw free IDs that you can print out and laminate yourself on other sites.  I started thinking how beneficial it would be to have IDs.  Something kind of official stating that we homeschool.

I started to do some research and found out that at certain places you CAN get a teacher or student discount if you have a homeschool ID.  What?!  I wish I knew this sooner!  Discounts aren’t the only reason why homeschoolers should consider having IDs made, but it’s a darn good one.

Here are a few of my top reasons for having homeschool IDs:

1.  If you are ever questioned by a police officer, or other official, you can prove that you are a homeschooling family.

2.  You may be able to get special discounts for entrance at local museums, zoos, plays, and other field trip locations.

3.  You can enjoy discounts at educational stores, arts and craft stores, book stores, and office supply stores.

4.  It may be your child’s only form of ID until he/she gets a driver’s license.

5.  It makes your child happy to have an ID card they can show to people.  Somehow it validates homeschooling for some kids.

There are many options online for obtaining IDs.  I printed some off a free site and laminated them, and they came out great.  Those were really just temporary cards for us, until the ones from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) arrived.  We love our new ID cards.  The ones from HSLDA are really nice.  They are hard cards, not laminated cards.  They look very official.  They are a little pricey considering you can print your own at home, but I think it was worth it.  You can order the HSLDA cards at the site below, but they are only for HSLDA members.

https://store.hslda.org/teacher-and-student-photo-ids–hslda-members-only-c281.aspx

I’ve recently heard several stories about homeschooling parents being stopped by law officials and questioned about why their kids weren’t in school.  It sounds like having an ID card can come in quite handy in those types of situations.  The HSLDA card states that Homeschooling falls under private school laws, and it has the HSLDA information on it.  I am now carrying our cards with me in my purse, just in case.  HSLDA advises if you are ever questioned about homeschooling, to contact them immediately to make them aware of the situation.

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Do you have teacher and student IDs?  If yes, have they come in handy?  I’d love to hear how others use their cards.

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Disney World Homeschool Days

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Some homeschoolers may not know about this, but Disney World has Homeschool Days (Disney Student Seminars) twice a year.  I ran into some information about this last year, but my daughter wasn’t old enough to attend.  Since my daughter will be turning 5 this fall, I decided to look up Disney Homeschool Days for 2015.  They will be doing it again this Fall.  It appears they do one at the beginning of the year, and one at the end of the year.

When you attend Disney Homeschool Days (Disney Student Seminars), you can buy discount Disney Theme Park tickets at a HUGE savings.  If you’re a homeschooler, this seems like the perfect time to take a trip to Disney.  For instance, a regular 3 day park ticket is normally $275 for an adult (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days discount, you’ll only pay $173.74.  For a 3 day park hopper ticket. you’d normally pay $339 for an adult (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days discount, the 3 day park hopper ticket is only $200.50.  That’s a pretty good savings.  If you are taking a longer trip and need a 7 day park ticket, you’d normally pay $335 (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days Discount, you’ll only pay $232.63.  Wow, right?

The Homeschool Days only gives you discounts on park tickets.  It does not provide discounts for Disney Resorts or Dining Plans.  That’s my understanding of it, anyway.  When you attend the Homeschool Days, you are required to attend at least one seminar, which will be included in your park ticket price.  To attend more seminars, you have to pay extra.  I’ve seen prices ranging from $29-$35 for extra seminar classes.  Disney’s site lists the price for extra seminar classes as $35.

Beyond attending one seminar class, you are free to do whatever you want on your vacation.  You do not have to hang out with other homeschoolers.  You don’t have to attend any other events.  You can go about the rest of your trip as you wish.  Sounds pretty awesome to me.

If you want further information, here are some sites you can check out.

This is Disney’s site for registering for the Homeschool Days (Student Seminars):

https://www.studentguest.com/studentseminars/

Here are a few other sites listing information for 2015:

http://gatewaytomagic.blogspot.com/2014/10/disney-homeschool-days.html

http://www.amothersrandomthoughts.com/2014/11/disney-homeschool-days-now-known-as.html

http://magicalfamilyadventures.blogspot.com/2015/02/dollars-and-sense-walt-disney-world.html

http://www.carolinahomeschooler.com/disney-world/

The last link is for a homeschooling site that offers group homeschooling trips.  The site registers for the Homeschool Days for you as part of their group.  I’ve read good reviews about them, and it’s a reliable site.  I actually may book my trip through them.  The regular Homeschool Days (Student Seminars) are in September and October, but Carolina Homeschooling offers their group trip in November.  They still only require you to attend one seminar, then you are free to spend your vacation however you’d like.  They also coordinate homeschool trips to Universal Studios, but this blog post is all about Disney.  Check out their site for more information on their other trips.

Hopefully, this information will be helpful to those of you that may be interested in attending Disney Homeschool Days. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to register and start planning my trip.  :)

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Chicagoland Area Homeschool Meet Up Groups

One of my goals for this year is to get my daughter involved with homeschool groups where she can meet other homeschool kids her age.  Up until recently, she hadn’t really met other homeschoolers her age, and she was getting very curious.  Most of the kids in her dance and gymnastics classes attend traditional schools.  She’s been eager to meet homeschoolers.  So in 2015, I am making sure to make an effort to go on outings and field trips with other homeschoolers, go to homeschool gatherings, and plan activities with other homeschoolers.  Below, I will list my top 4 choices for Homeschool Meet Ups in the Chicagoland area of Illinois.

South Suburbs Homeschool Meet Up

This Meet Up is for homeschooling families looking to get together in the South Suburbs of Chicago for outings and activities.  Kids of all ages are welcome.  This Meet Up group is just getting started and is looking for new members.  It’s hard to find Meet Ups in the South Suburbs of Chicago, so this Meet Up is near and dear to me.

South Suburbs Homeschool Meetup

Richton Park, IL
2 Homeschoolers

This group is for anyone interested in getting together for affordable activities for our homeschool kids. I’m looking to plan outings to farms, zoos, parks, splash pads, natu…

Next Meetup

Children’s Museum Outing

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015, 1:00 PM
1 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Fox Valley Homeschool Meet Up

Another Meet Up group in the Chicagoland Area is in the Western Suburbs.  This meet up has been active for awhile and does a lot of activities each month.  I believe this group started in 2010, but I am not positive.  They have MANY outings and activities planned each month from play dates, park days, educational trips to restaurants, roller skating days, tours of Viking Ships, etc.  I have not fond another Homeschool Meet Up that is as active as this group.  This would probably be my top pick in the Chicagoland area for Homeschool Meet Ups simply because of the amount of activities planned each month.  There is always something going on.  On the downside, most of the outings and activities are planned in the West and Northwest Suburbs.  If you live South of Chicago, some of these outings may be a far drive for you.  I would still recommend attending at least a couple of their Meet Ups.  See the link below.

Fox Valley Homeschoolers

Naperville, IL
228 Homeschoolers

If you’re a homeschooling parent living in the Fox Valley area who is looking for fellow homeschoolers to connect with then this is the group for you!Our members have childre…

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Downers Grove Homeschool Play Group

A third option is a Meet Up group located in the Downer’s Grove Area, outside of Chicago.  This Meet Up has been active for about 6 months.  They try to plan a couple activities/outings each month, but it’s been a little slow lately.  It should pick up again soon with summer being just around the corner.

Downers Grove Homeschool Playgroup

Downers Grove, IL
53 Parents

This is a play group for homeschool children and parents in Downers Grove, Woodridge, and the surrounding areas. We currently have children in the group between the ages of 5 …

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The World is Our Classroom

And last but not least is my 4th choice for Homeschool Meet Up groups.  They are located in the Western Suburbs of Chicago and tend to do most of their Meet Ups in the West and Southwest Suburbs.  What I like most about this group is they attend a lot of plays for kids.  Since my daughter is old enough now to go and enjoy plays, I am drawn to this group.  Going to see plays can be such an amazing experience for kids, and it’s something the adults can enjoy too.

The world is our classroom!

Joliet, IL
192 Members

Are you a home-school parent looking for other families to share educational trips with? Let’s get together and visit museums, cultural tours, along with parent led educationa…

Next Meetup

FLAT STANLEY

Tuesday, Apr 7, 2015, 10:00 AM
23 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Well, there you have it.  My top 4 choices for Homeschool Meet Ups in the Chicagoland Area of Illinois.  If you’re not from the Chicagoland Area, but are looking for Homeschool Meet Ups in your are, check out the website below to search for your local Meet Ups.

http://www.meetup.com

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The Planning has Begun

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I decided when my daughter was very young that I wanted to homeschool her.  There were many factors that led me to that decision.  My dislike of how the traditional school system works.  My desire to keep my daughter away from peer pressure, violence and bullying in schools, etc.  And my longing to be able to take my daughter’s learning into my own hands and be her educator.  I wanted to be able to give her a unique and individualized education.  I wanted to provide a hands on learning experience.  I wanted to be able to help guide my daughter on the right path in life, and help her accomplish goals.  I wanted to be the main influence in her life while she’s growing up, before she goes off to college and has to start making her own decisions.  I didn’t want my daughter spending 8 hours a day sitting in classroom being taught by other people while she’s young.  I have a passion for teaching my daughter, and I want her to have a love of learning.

I started homeschooling my daughter early on, and now she is 4-years-old.  She is starting to read on her own.  She can sound out three letter words and can read simple sentences.  She can spell 1 – 3 letter words on her own.  She can easily count to 25, and recognizes numbers 1-10 with no issues.  She knows the alphabet.  She can spell and write her name.  She can write all of her upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers.  She does school work several times a week with little complaining.  She does workbook pages, arts and craft projects, science experiments, and plays educational games.  She watches educational shows.  She uses educational learning sites and apps.  She helps me cook and garden.  I get a lot of free printables online for her to do, and she usually enjoys them.  And…we read LOTS of books.  We read books together every single day.  We have bookcases full of books.  We go to various libraries and participate in summer reading programs.  She tells me all the time that she loves the smell of books.  That makes my heart sing.  So far, I am raising a kid that enjoys learning.

Since Kayla won’t turn 5 until November, she technically wouldn’t be starting kindergarten in Illinois until the fall of 2016.  With that said, I have already started doing a mixture of pre-school and kindergarten school work with her.  She can go through most of the preschool work pretty fast, without many issues.  The kindergarten work seems to be more on target for her now.  With her already doing some kindergarten work, I came to the decision that this fall I should start her on a kindergarten curriculum.  Our first official curriculum.  This was a scary and daunting decision.  There is so much to choose from, so it requires a lot of research on the homeschooling parent’s part.

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This fall, I will still be using some of her preschool material to review basic skills, but the bulk of what we will be focusing on is kindergarten material.  I read a ton of reviews and articles on curriculum.  Christian vs. secular curriculum was a big part of my research.  I have decided to stick with secular curriculum, for the most part.  If I want to incorporate any religious studies into our day, I will create my own curriculum for that.

This is what I’ve chosen to start with:

All About Reading, Level 1

All About Spelling, Level 1

Singapore Math, Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics and Kindergarten Essential Math

DK Workbooks Geography Pre-K and Kindergarten (We haven’t done much geography yet.)

DK Workbooks Science Kindergarten

Level 1 Reader books for learning about historical figures (presidents, civil rights leaders, inventors, etc.)

I have the summer to start making lesson plans.  By mid-summer, I should know what days a week and times she will be going to her activities, so I can plan our schedule.  Kayla attends gymnastics and dance classes.  My husband does not get involved in lesson plans or signing Kayla up for activities.  He leaves that all to me, and trusts my judgement.  We’ve been pretty lucky so far.  We haven’t run into many problems.  I’ve learned that Kayla learns best when you change things up.  She likes a mixture of book work, visual displays, crafts, and games to help her learn.  She definitely needs reinforcement to help new material to fully sink in.  I’ve also learned to step back and take a break from something if she is struggling.  Trying to force learning doesn’t work.  If she starts getting too frustrated, we may take a break until later that day…or we may take a break for a few days or a week.  I try to adapt to her learning style, and do what works for her.

I am hoping that the new curriculum works out for us.  Most of the reviews for All About Reading and Singapore Math are positive.  Even most of the reviews on All About Spelling appear to be positive.  At this point, I am hopeful.

Kayla is a perfectionist, which can make learning challenging at times.  She doesn’t like to mess up, or have to think too much.  She prefers for stuff to come easily, and to be good at everything.  I am constantly telling her that she doesn’t have to be perfect.  She just has to do her personal best.  She has to try.  She also has to practice so she can get better.  Everything tends to get easier the more you practice.  She is starting to understand that more and more now.  She is starting to relax and just do the best she can without getting upset.  I know we have a long road ahead with lots of ups and downs.  Although, I know it will be difficult at times, I am looking forward to this homeschooling journey we’re taking together.

Did you homeschool your kids when they were young?  If so, what curriculum or learning materials did you use?

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Science Experiment – Tabletop Hovercraft

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My daughter and I attended a homeschool gathering this past week, and they made these cool little hovercrafts out of balloons and cds.  My daughter loved watching this move across the tabletop as the air leaked out.  This is a great experiment for young kids, as well as older kids.  It’s super easy to put together, and only takes a few minutes to make.

What you need:

  • An old CD or DVD
  • A 9” balloon
  • A pop-top cap from a liquid dish soap bottle
  • A hot glue gun

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Experiment:

  1. Use the hot glue gun to glue the cap to the center of the CD or DVD disc. Create a good seal to keep air from escaping.
  2. Make sure the valve on the pop-top bottle cap is open.  Attach the balloon to the pop-top bottle cap.
  3. Turn the CD/DVD over to the flat side and put the center of the CD/DVD to your mouth and blow up the balloon all the way.  Close the valve of the pop-top bottle cap so the air will not escape.
  4. When your ready to test it out, simply put the craft on a smooth surface and open the valve on the bottle cap.  Air will start to leak out, causing the hovercraft to move.

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Observations:

Have the kids discuss what happened once they set the hovercraft on the tabletop with the air leaking out.  Did the size of the balloon make a difference?  Have the kids play around with blowing up their balloons at various sizes to see how this may alter the outcome.

The air flow created by the balloon causes a cushion of moving air between the CD/DVD disc and the surface. This lifts the CD/DVD and reduces the friction which allows the disc to hover freely.  Kids tend to think this is pretty cool to see.

You can show them examples of large scale hovercrafts on the internet or in a book.  Large scale hovercrafts are capable of traveling over land, snow and water.  Let them compare their small scale hovercraft to a large scale hovercraft.

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Science Experiment – Elephant Toothpaste (Creating Foam)

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My daughter just did this science experiment at a homeschool gathering, and I thought it was pretty neat and easy for young kids.

What you need:

  • Empty plastic water or pop/soda bottle
  • 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide (20 volume or 6% solution)
  • Squirt of Dawn (or other brand) dish soap
  • 3-4 drops of food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 2 tablespoons very warm water in a small bowl or cup
  • Funnel
  • Big bowl or foil pan
  • Safety glasses (if you feel it is necessary)
  • Play clothes, apron, or art smock (to protect your clothes from the food coloring)

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Experiment:

  1. Have kids put on their play clothes, apron, or art smock.  Put on safety glasses, if you feel it’s necessary.  We didn’t use them.  Each child should have in front of them a big bowl or cake pan, plastic bottle, dish soap in small cup, food coloring, 1/2 cup peroxide, 1 teaspoon of yeast, and 2 tablespoons of warm water.
  2. Mix yeast and warm water together in a small bowl or cup.
  3. Stand the bottle up in the center of the bowl or cake pan. Put the funnel in the opening of the water bottle. Add 3-4 drops of food coloring to the peroxide and pour the peroxide through the funnel into the bottle.
  4. Add the dish soap to the peroxide in the bottle.
  5. Pour the yeast mixture into the bottle and quickly remove the funnel.
  6. The kids can touch the bottle to feel any changes that take place.
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Kayla smelling the foam.

Observations:

After the experiment, have kids discuss what happened when they poured everything into the bottle.  How did the foam look?  When they touched the outside of the bottle, how did it feel?  Was it warm or cool?

The reaction creates foam that shoots up out of the bottle and pools in the bowl/pan. After a minute, it begins to come out in a moving stream that looks similar to toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube. The kids can play with the foam as it is just soap and water with oxygen bubbles. The bottle will feel warm to the touch as this is an exothermic reaction.

*Please note that in my family, we have a bit of an allergic reaction to hydrogen peroxide, so it is important for us to wash our hands immediately after doing this project.  If you think or know your child is sensitive to hydrogen peroxide, just be sure to have them wash their hands thoroughly after doing this experiment.

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