Sunday, December 13, 2009

SKS Science: Science Supplies for Homeschoolers

Many of us shudder at the prospect of teaching laboratory sciences to our kids. I know I am guilty of this. In my mind, I remember the chemistry lab at my high school. Rows and rows of cabinets full of glassware and plastic bottles, Bunsen burners, sinks, and a back room full of bottles of powders and liquids. Thinking of trying to reproduce that at home is frankly overwhelming, and I think it is for a lot of homeschoolers. But here are a couple of things to remember:

1. The stuff that requires beakers and flame, gloves and goggles, and dangerous chemicals? That is the COOLEST stuff. That is the stuff that makes balancing equations bearable! Kids all love to measure and pour, combine, make things fizz and pop. This is why chemistry sets have been a toy drooled after by generations of children. So saying "I can't manage it" means that you're foregoing a major part of what makes science awesome for kids.

2. You don't have to stock your lab all at once. Think of your kitchen. When did you acquire your pots and pans? You probably accummulated things over a long time, as you needed it. A set here, a piece there, a collection over here, until you filled your cabinets. Now you have everything you need, but you didn't have to go to the "buy a whole kitchen" store and in one step anticipate every single thing you'd need for a lifetime of cooking. Supplying your home science lab can be the same slow process.

SKS Science is a supply company that sells home science supplies to homeschoolers, teachers, schools, labs, and whoever needs a quick beaker or a sudden petri dish. Their prices are very reasonable, their site is logically organized by brand, by type of science, by product. They have everying you need and even stuff you didn't need. But the best part of their site, in my opinion, is the section of the site where they suggest science experiments and list exactly what you need to do each one. There's a pH indicator experiment (with photos, video instruction). There's an experiment to test the porosity of membranes. Along with each experiment you get a supply list, so you will accumulate your equipment bit by bit.

Yes, you can muck along through homeschool science using mixing bowls and coffee mugs. You can measure stuff in your plastic measuring cups and stir with a salad fork. But if you're serious about science (and you better be), with a small investment in proper tools you can inspire your kids! Can you make a shelf in your cabinet for some graduated cylinders and transfer pipettes? If you grow your collection little by little, I think you'll find your home science lab will be far less painful to construct than you (or I) originally thought.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ten Things I Have Learned Climbing Stairs

Having just finished my first stair climbing workout, where I marched up and down my own stairs in my own house for 30 minutes, I have these things to say:

1. My dog is so dumb, he followed me up and down the stairs for 20 of the 30 minutes. Seriously.
2. It is very boring to climb up and down stairs for 30 minutes. Very boring. Way more boring than a stair stepper. Way more boring than I imagine it would be to climb up a super tall staircase for 30 minutes.
3. I do need to wear shoes.
4. Dire Straits is not good music to help you climb stairs.
5. It is really hard! I was sweating and panting and everything.
6. That thing up in Benny's room that's smelling strange? and we can't figure out what it is? It has GOT to go. I could have climbed all the way to the third floor if not for whatever that awful thing is. Smells like a rotten warthog made of urine. WHAT is it?
7. Wearing just whatever I am wearing on the day of the workout is not a good idea. Needed workout clothes on.
8. There is a railing on the bottom part of the stairs but not the top part.
9. I tend to start out stairs on my right foot. How about you?
10. The fact that I am already dreading my next stair climbing practice bodes ill for my future as a stair climber. It was REALLY boring. So boring.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Green Olive Tree: Reliable Web Hosting

In most homeschooling families I know (including mine) the dad works and the mom schools. In fact, I know a lot of moms very well but would probably pass their husbands on the street without recognizing them because I hardly see them. Not that there is anything wrong with this -- I and my other mom comrades are very glad we're able to homeschool because our husbands work. However, I always find it very cool when I see a dad that's involved with his kids' activities and present for the school aspects of his kids' lives. One way that homeschool families sometimes work this out is by engaging in entrepreneurial ventures like owning their own business.

Green Olive Tree is an internet company owned and operated by a homeschool family here in Portsmouth, VA. I know both the mom and the dad in this family/company equally well! Running their business takes a lot of their time, but when they come to the park, or to co-op, or to another event, they are often together, or they're taking turns doing the leg work. Dad is there with the kids -- yes, often on his laptop or phone, but still there -- and that's very cool. This is a family who has found a way to prioritize their children *and* run a very successful business -- an amazing balancing act. So I was happy when Green Olive Tree sponsored the science fair, so that we could spend some time promoting the company.

This web hosting company also provides all kinds of server management, virtual server solutions, and dedicated servers. If you need complicated internet stuff, they are your answer. Don't go with a big company that treats you like a number -- Green Olive Tree's customer service is unparalleled and their record is spotless. Even if you're just looking for reliable web hosting, and you don't want to pay a lot of money, how about this: $25 a year for web hosting for a personal site. That's wicked cheap. Find out more about their web hosting plans and prices here.

If you're reading this and you appreciate their support of our science fair, their support of their kids, and their involvement in the community, please follow their Twitter feed and fan them on Facebook. These are good people, doing a great job raising their children (yes, their daughter Sarah is in my co-op classes and I adore her!) and making an exceptional business out of hard work and excellent service.