Category Archives: Science

Exploring the Four Elements: Water

Elements Stackers 1Recently I’ve become intrigued with role that the four elements play in Waldorf education. Like many families, we  have the Grimms Spiel & Holz four elements stackers. We also have some framed postcards of “elements fairies”. I’ve also known of some Waldorf homeschoolers who put elemental pieces on their nature table, based on a four-week cycle. I don’t quite understand how they know which week is which, so I just try to include items that represent the four elements at all times.Element Postcards 2

What I didn’t know, and am still far from truly understanding is why Waldorf educators place so much emphasis on the four elements. After doing some research, I’ve concluded that the elements’ role in Waldorf education comes largely from anthroposophy, which I’ve promised not to spend too much time blogging about, and which I’m just in the infancy of my understanding of. Still, I feel compelled to post a quote from an interesting post:

In Steiner’s anthroposophical world-view, the whole world is a macrocosmic reflection of the human microcosm. From this perspective, each of man’s four bodies finds its echo in an “element” of nature. Thus, the physical body is of the nature of earth, the etheric body of the nature of water, the astral body of the nature of air and the ego is akin to fire. In terms of the “kingdoms of nature,” we share our physical body with the mineral kingdom, our etheric body with the plant world, and our astral body with the animals. The ego is shared with no other kingdom: only the human being carries this “divine spark” into earthly life. –

Schwartz Eugene. Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education: The Kindergarten Years [Internet]. Version 1. millennialchild. 2009 Mar 16. Available from:

From a less “mumbo jumbo” point of view, each of the four temperaments is associated with one of the elements, with the melancholic temperament being associated with the element of air, the phlegmatic with water, the sanguine with air, and the choleric with fire. Furthermore, the four temperaments are associated with the various stages of human development, with childhood being associated with sanguine, adolescence associated with choleric, adulthood associated with melancholic, and old age with phlegmatic.With all of this in mind, I decided to purchase the book, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. I was adequately forewarned by an Amazon reviewer that this book might be a bit out of my element (har, har, aren’t I so punny?), but I decided to give it a try anyway. When it arrived, sure enough, I could not begin to imagine doing most of the projects in the book, which required a lot of woodworking and craftsmanship skills. So I set the book aside for awhile. Then, I was recently browsing A Toy Garden’s website and I realized that they carry many of the toys covered in the book, either in kit or pre-built format, from a variety of boats and boat building kits, to a wind car building kit, to tops, to a climbing bear, to a hot air roundabout, to a whirly gig, and more. The cost of these products range from $5-$15-ish dollars, so are quite reasonably priced, if you don’t go overboard and order them all (no, I am not an affiliate for them). There are two major projects in the book that are not carried at A Toy Garden, the first being a marble maze, which we already own as I consider it an essential to own anyway, and the second is a waterwheel, which I’d love to make, but would probably cut off a finger if in the process of doing so. Other than that, most of the other projects in the book are doable for me, such as making pinwheels, kites, paper airplanes, etc.Playing With the Elements 2-3Ironically, Dora wanted to explore water first. I say “ironically”, because neither of us was even thinking about summer at the time and because Dora is terrified of water and currently I am trying really hard to find some sort of swim lesson arrangement that meets her needs (none of my other children were afraid of water, so this is all new to me). We had a nice water-exploration set up in our backyard, with a giant metal tub full of water (why I even own such a large metal tub is beyond me, but it did come in handy!). Then, over the weekend, Dora fell into the tub, soaking herself, and we had to put it back in storage, due to her subsequent refusal to go into the backyard again if it was out. So I am not sure how much more we will do with exploring water. So we may be moving onto another element very soon.Playing With the Elements 3-3So, if you’ve made it past all of my anthroposophical woo-woo-ness and are still reading this, what is your take on the role that the four elements play in Waldorf education? And how do you incorporate the four elements into your child’s life?

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.


Labels: Anthroposophy, Four Elements, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Update On Our Pumpkin Jack

Pumpkin Jack In Early DecemberWarning! The pictures in this post get disgusting! Back in November, I posted that we were going to try to grow our own Pumpkin Jack, like the boy in the book, of the same name, did.  In November, we tossed our Pumpkin Jack into one of our raised beds and left him alone. I really started worrying that this was not going to work, because Jack showed no signs of decomposition until December (in the top photo in this post, you can see some brown spots on his skin, three months after we harvested him!). Even then, Jack did not seem like he was really going to rot, until mid-January. Once he started rotting, however, he has been rotting fast! Unlike what happened to the boy in the book, we have not had any snow to cover up Jack through all of this, so we’ve got to see every step of Jack’s decomposition!Pumpkin Jack 12-18-12Mid-December and he’s still not looking very impressive.Pumpkin Jack 1-2-13Early January saw some frost and Jack started getting black spots.Pumpkin Jack 1-6-13 - 1A few days later, his skin began to pucker.Pumpkin Jack 1-9-13 - 3I worried that Jack might attract rodents, but only one animal took a small bite out of Jack and then spit out the bite a couple of feet away.Pumpkin Jack 1-13-13 3Since then, nothing has touched Jack. I guess word on the street now is to stay away from things growing in our garden! Pumpkin Jack 1-13-13 1Mid-January and Jack is beginning to collapse in on himself.Pumpkin Jack 1-24-13 - 1A week later, he’s collapsed some more and he’s developing a pretty large spot of rot on his behind.Pumpkin Jack 2-4-13Early February now and Jack is beginning to show some real rottenness, there is hope that he will rot enough to “sow” his seeds for another generation of pumpkins! Alas, poor Jack, I knew him well!

I had worried that Jack would stink or attract fruit flies, but thus far, Jack has not emitted a single odor and I’ve not seen a single fly. I am prepared to discontinue this experiment at a moment’s notice, however, if any of that changes.

Finally, I have found this to be a bit odd, but not a single visitor has asked us why we have a rotting pumpkin in our backyard….

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.


Labels: Gardening, Nature Study, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal–A Week of Bat Guano

In my life this week… I spent a good portion of the week with my hands in bat guano (AKA bat poop). True story! Why in the world would I do that, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked! This summer has been a very dry summer in the Pacific Northwest. Almost all of the perennials that I planted in the spring were fried, despite my best efforts. I decided that I am getting a bit tired of the vicious cycle of buying new plants every spring and then having them fried every summer. So I decided that I am going to experiment with planting more native-ish seeds in the fall and see if I can’t get my plants to survive heat waves by having more established root systems. Anywhoo… long story short, I really wanted to enrich my soil to improve the chances of my experiment working, so I found some awesome compost that has bat guano, chicken manure, and worm castings (that would be worm poop!) in it. You’d think I would have worn gloves to work with the stuff, wouldn’t ya? Well, a normal person would have and I had the best of intentions, but I just have this thing about working with my bare hands… I guess I feel like I make a better connection with the soil or some other esoteric something or other…. I can’t really explain it. I pretty much only wear gloves to protect myself from prickles and bugs.

Fish Diorama

In our homeschool this week… Dora and I finished up her study of vertebrates this week, by studying fish. We labeled the parts of the fish on a Montessori puzzle, read some fish books, and made this fish diorama by using two painted paper plates and  Saran Wrap for the “window”.

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery 2

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… On Monday, Gohan had drama and Dora had music class. Tuesday, they both had co-op. Wednesday found us at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (that blurry little thing in the photo above was a Coho fry, which was smaller than my pinky and jumping after a tiny little bug – it took 75 photos, shot non-stop, to get this image!). Thursday we attended our first Park Day with our local homeschool group and had a blast. Friday will find Dora and I had a Tiny Tots Symphony concert.

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery 1

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery 3

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery 4My favorite thing this week was… That the weather turned more fall-ish. I know a lot of people have been loving the extended summer that we have been having, but I’ve not been enjoying it at all. I LOVE autumn! It is my absolute favorite season! As is, we lost out on a lot of fall color, due to this wacky weather. A lot of leaves just went straight from green to brown.

What’s working/not working for us… So far, Gohan’s homeschooling is going really well. We’re using Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra and I honestly don’t care if some people consider it to be “light”, which I’m not sure if I even agree with, it works for him and that’s what is important.

Charlotte Mason

Questions/thoughts I have… Should I try to incorporate more of a Charlotte Mason approach into Dora’s homeschooling, she clearly learns really well from “living” books, yet there are many aspects of the Charlotte Mason approach that I do not like, such as dictation and memorization, not to mention that we are what would could be considered “secular humanists”.

Needle Felted Pumpkin

Things I’m working on… I’m needle felting some pumpkins, using the wool and directions from Bear Creek Design. So far, so good! Needle felting seems to be a fiber art that I am actually competent at! I find it incredibly relaxing to do in the evenings (especially while playing My Little Ponies!).

I’m grateful for… Mr. Mo, I couldn’t ask for a better husband!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… Dora grew her own pumpkin this year!

Garden Pumpkin 2

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Labels: Arts and Crafts, Science, Things To Do Around Seattle, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Reading About Amphibians and Reptiles

During the last two weeks, we’ve covered amphibians and reptiles. Firstly, we read About Reptiles and About Amphibians in the “A Guide for Children” series by Cathryn Sill. We also went on to read some fun fictional books about reptiles and amphibians. Our favorite book, hands down, was I Spy With My Little Eye. Dora loves playing “I Spy With My Little Eye”, so this book’s title immediately grabbed her attention. In each two page spread, you get a slight hint and a peek, through a hole in the page, of the animal that is on the next two page spread. Dora couldn’t figure out each animal by herself, so every time we came to an animal that she didn’t know, she’d make me start the book from the beginning so would “know” the answer to each of the “I Spy” riddles.

Another book that fascinated Dora was One Tiny Turtle, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Jane Chapman, which was much more advanced than I had realized and I cannot really recommend for pre-schoolers, as it is rated as being for ages 5+ or grades K-2. The illustrations are lovely and it is a very interesting read and taught us both lots about sea turtles, but it is pretty wordy for pre-schoolers. If your child is very much interested in animals, like Dora is, then she might be ready for this book at an earlier age, like Dora was. Dora was enthralled with all of the challenges that the sea turtle had to face and was very concerned about the turtle’s plight. When I then explained to her that some people go to beaches to help make sure that sea turtle hatchlings make it to the ocean, Dora immediately wanted to go do it. I have no idea where or how one goes about doing this, but you can bet that I’ll be looking into it. To tell you the truth, after reading this book, I want to go help some hatchlings myself!Finally, we read about The Greedy Python, who is done in by his excessive appetite and inability to learn from his past mistakes. This book written by Richard Buckley and illustrated by Eric Carle.

What have you been reading lately?

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Inspired Reptile Unit for Preschoolers

Montessori Inspired Reptile Unit 2

This week, Dora and I studied reptiles. I even learned some new things, such as what a “carapace” and a “plastron” are and that some snakes give birth to live babies! We first started this unit several weeks ago, when we went on a field trip to a reptile zoo. Dora remembered a lot from that field trip and was able to see how it all tied in with what we were studying at home. We started the week off by reading some introductory books, then assembled the Montessori turtle puzzle from our zoology set. Montessori Reptile Puzzle

We then went on to make snakes, using Model Magic. Dora hasn’t really been exposed to Model Magic, because I’ve found that kids in her age group go through it like they do air. The stuff is a bit expensive to go through a big tub in one day. This particular set of Model Magic that I purchased, is a Model Magic Class Pack and comes with 75 one-ounce packets. I prefer the smaller packets as less tends to get wasted and kids can get several colors without opening a bunch of 8 ounce packets that they won’t finish (I haven’t found that Model Magic stores well, once opened, like I have heard claimed that it can). What I hadn’t realized, until we started working with the set, was that it only includes red, blue, yellow, and white (in my opinion, the photo makes it look like it includes other colors). This is ended up being a good thing, as I mentioned previously that Dora is extremely interested in learning how to make secondary colors from primary colors. For some reason, she seemed to grasp the concept better when using Model Magic (maybe because it is more hands on and takes longer to blend the colors?). We even tackled learning to make brown!

Model Magic Snakes

Dora really, really, really liked working with Model Magic, much more so than play dough. I must admit that I am also partial to its soft, airy texture. I had the idea to use seed beads to make eyes on my snake. You can see that Dora took the concept and ran with it, making a green pumpkin and red abominable snowman (I have no idea how she even knows what an abominable snowman is). I didn’t get a picture of this, because I was too busy playing with her, but she later went on to make a whole snake family, complete with a nest of eggs (she really didn’t like the fact that reptiles do not take care of their young and wanted a traditional, nuclear family made up of snakes – the snakes even went out for pancakes, which we don’t even do as a family!). Dora spent quite a bit of time happily making and remaking snakes and playing with her creations. Now she is super excited to be able to paint her dried creations tomorrow, which she never could do with play dough. She has had some experience with working with pottery clay in her art class and likes being able to paint that, but hates the feel of clay, so for us, Model Magic is a better option.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Montessori, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Mammal Unit–“My Body” Collage

Mammals Unit at Homeschool Mo 2

This week, Dora and I looked at mammals. We read some great books, which I will post more about later. We then reviewed the basket of mammals that I had assembled from our letter boxes. One concept that I really wanted to impress upon her was that humans are mammals also. So for our craft project we made a collage outline of her body. I traced her body while she laid on the paper. Then we used buttons, fabric, yarn, and colored pasta to decorate her body. She also wanted to glue artificial flowers all over, because she likes flowers so much. While we did not get into labeling her internal organs or anything like that, we did discuss the easily identifiable traits that she has in common with other mammals. BTW, her hands are red, because that is her “nail polish”.

My Body Collage at Homeschool Mo

We also assembled and labeled a Montessori “parts of a horse” puzzle.

Montessori Parts of a Horse Puzzle Labeling at Homeschool Mo

She definitely has the concept of mammals down. Tonight, when Mr. Mo came home, the first thing she said to him was, “Daddy, did you know that you’re a mammal, just like a raccoon? And Mommy is a mammal, and Primo is a mammal, and Secunda is a mammal,  and….”

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Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Introduction to Zoology

Last week, I introduced Dora to zoology. First we read What’s Alive? and discussed the traits of living, non-living, and once-living things. Then we sorted a living vs. non-living basket that I had created for her, using items from our letter boxes.

Living vs Non-Living Basket from Homeschool Mo

We then played the Wheres Mama Game, which was a challenge and took two days to complete, but which Dora was very excited to do.

What's Inside Animals X-ray Set at Homeschool Mo 7

Finally, we looked at these What’s Inside Animals? cards. These cards are pretty freaky. If you look at them without any backlight source, one side will show the animal and the other side will show the animal’s skeleton. If you look at the cards with a backlight source, such as a light box, however, you will see the image of the animal with it’s skeleton showing through. They even include photos of humans, which are shown above and below and which I found to be a bit disconcerting, but cool at the same time. Dora just thought they were cool.

What's Inside Animals X-ray Set at Homeschool Mo 8

What's Inside Animals X-ray Set at Homeschool Mo 5

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Kidoozie Rocket Zoomer Set

Stomp Rockets

At the end of our field trip to the Museum of Flight, we stopped in the gift shop. I usually avoid gift shops like the plague, but since my father was a pilot, I always have had a soft spot in my heart for the Museum of Flight’s gift shop. Actually, I was kind of excited by my finds there. I actually found an airplane-themed gift bag (my parents were just in town and it was my Dad’s birthday, so the timing was perfect)! I also let Dora pick out one item for herself. She wanted to get a foam rocket launcher set. The museum carried several brands. We settled on the Kidoozie Rocket Zoomer set, partially, because they looked cooler and partially, because they didn’t fly as high as the other rockets – they are actually intended for younger children. We have such a small yard, I didn’t want any that flew too high, as I didn’t want them going over our fences.

Dora loved playing with them, but much to my surprise, actually had quite a bit of trouble stomping on them at first. I had not expected them to be an exercise in coordination, but they most definitely were! So I was even more glad that I bought a set for younger children as I think the older kids’ sets require even more coordination to launch them. We have had one fin come off, but I was able to hot glue it back on fairly easily.

Dora has experimented with putting various other items into the launcher, such as flowers and rocks, and has learned quite a bit about air pressure from playing with the set.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Fieldtrip to Monroe Reptile Zoo

Reptile Zoo 1

Dora has been very interested in animals lately. We’ve been going to the zoo almost once a week. The zoo has a petting zoo with goats and sheep, but what Dora has really wanted to “pet”, has been a snake. I have no idea why she wanted to pet a snake, but she has been quite insistent upon it. So I took her to a somewhat local reptile zoo, which we have never been to in all the years that we have lived here. Dora got to hold a snake for quite some time. Then, just when the curator had to go run answer the phone, Dora decided that she was tired of holding the snake, so I got to hold the snake! That had not been part of the plan and I was very glad when another mother offered to take it so her daughter could hold it.

Reptile Zoo - Holding a Snake 2

What I was excited to see, was this Green Anaconda.

Reptile Zoo - Green Anaconda 1

See the “Crawl Underneath” sign? Dora wouldn’t do it, but I was more than happy to do it. It looked really cool underneath. Unfortunately, the snake was so long, that from underneath, I was not able to fit it’s entire body in one photo.

Reptile Zoo - Green Anaconda 3

I would not want to run into one of those in the wild! It was several times longer than me and it’s circumference was at least as big as my head! Here is a sign giving more details about this snake.

Reptile Zoo - Green Anaconda 2

Note the part that says “At this point, the female may consume one of the courting males to sustain her over the duration of her gestation period.” I think human males should take note of that and remember it the next time they think their pregnant wife is being too demanding by asking for a foot rub, or for an exotic midnight snack, or acting a bit moody.

Reptile Zoo - Draco the Black Mamba

The museum also had this black mamba, named Draco. According to the information sign, the black mamba is the deadliest snake in the world. Even with antivenin (why isn’t it spelled “antivenom” I wonder?), the survival rate of people who are bit by these snakes is only 50%. Scary, indeed!

Reptile Zoo - Day Gecko

This is a day gecko. It is not as obvious in this photo, but it really blended in with it’s terrain. It took us quite a while to find this one and we never were able to locate the second one. This provided a wonderful opportunity for us to discuss camouflage.

Reptile Zoo - Jolly the Florida Soft Shell Turtle

The cutey in the photo above is Jolly, the Florida soft shelled turtle.

Reptile Zoo - African Bullfrog

This stern looking blob is an African bullfrog. We also saw many other animals, including skinks, alligators, geckos, iguanas, etc.

Reptile Zoo - Media Room 2

The museum also has a “media room” with every reptile book or magazine imaginable. Oh yeah, it also has a movie going at all times, such as the one above. That image is of a snake’s mouth, while it is eating a rat, whole.

Reptile Zoo - Tarantula 1

Finally, there were the humongous spiders.

Reptile Zoo - Tarantula 2

I got tons of more cool photos, but I’m thinking I shared enough for most people’s tolerance levels (that is assuming that you are even still reading this post by this point). All I can say, is that Dora loved the place and wants to know when we can go back.

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Labels: Science, Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

This Weekend Will Be the Best Time for Viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid Meteor Shower is my favorite meteor shower to watch each year. For one, it is during the summer, so it is not too cool to go outside and look for meteors while in our pajamas. Also, it usually puts on an awesome show. The best Perseid viewing days for those of us in the northern hemisphere will be Aug 11-13-ish. Astronomers advise that you watch it in early mornings, but that doesn’t happen in our household. Still, we’ve seen some great meteor displays over the years, just by watching the sky after sunset. Live Science has an excellent article with more information about the Perseid, it’s history, and how to look for meteors. Above, I’ve included a video with time-lapse footage of the Perseid Meteor Shower (credit – Jeff Sullivan Photo via You Tube).
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Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff