Essential Science Equipment: Digital Microscope

Without a doubt, one of the best pieces of equipment we’ve purchased for our homeschool has been our digital microscope. It has been a very good investment and we use it frequently. We love hands-on science and the microscope fits right in.

How to choose a microscope for home use.

Here’s what we love about our home microscope:

–It has a screen, which is so much easier that looking through the little scope/lens, especially for younger kids.

–It is a serious microscope! This will take us through our entire homeschooling journey, beyond high school even.

–You can easily hook it up to a t.v. screen for even better viewing.

–It has a digital camera! You can use the touchscreen with built-in stylus to take a photo of what you’re viewing. It saves to the included memory card and can easily be transferred to your computer. 

–It’s sturdy.


how to choose a homeschool microscope

–It has a hard-shell carrying case with super duper padding inside to protect it during transport. We’ve taken it onsite to a pond study and I was confident that transporting it would not result in breakage.

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This is the Celestron LCD Digital Microscope.

I also recommend getting a box of blank microscope slides and square glass covers. The covers prevent small objects from sliding off or lighter objects from being blown away while moving the slides to the microscope. 

The depression slides are great for liquids. They have a slight indentation in the center of each slide to nicely hold a few drops of liquid. We’ve used this for looking at pond water, as well as blood (you know you have a true homeschool friend when she offers to check her blood sugar levels to manage her diabetes, conveniently during science time).

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Free scientific method printables.


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Seven Continents for Kids: Activities for Learning

Some great geography learning goals for young children include, at the top of the list, a good grasp of the continents. Here’s a fun and easy way to learn about the seven continents for kids. It includes map work, book resources and a fun project. 

Learning about the seven continents for kids. Books, projects and map resources for hands-on learning.

Make a Continent Puzzle

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Take an existing wall map (laminated is best) and trace each continent. Then cut out each piece. If you have a laminator, laminate them.  Place one or two velcro dots  on the back of each piece and corresponding dots onto the wall map.

continent activities for kids: make a continent map puzzle

Kids activities for each continent:

  1. Kids match the continent piece to the wall map and stick it onto the velcro dots.
  2. Look at the continent in the Children’s Picture Atlas. We love this atlas because it does a great job illustrating all the animals that live on each continent. We then used our collection of plastic toy animals and tried to match up as many as we could for each continent.  
  3. Read the Children Just Like Me book.  This book is a bit dated, you can really see it in the 1990’s clothes, but my kids loved learning about what children do in each part of the world. There are photographs of each child’s house, family, friends, toys, favorite foods, school, and more. 

books for learning about the continents

You could do one continent per day or two or three per week, whatever fits into your routine. It took us about two weeks to get through all the continents and then we celebrated with a special project…

How to make Continent Cookies:  Hands-on geography

How to Make Continent Cookies

  1. Take the map pieces from the wall map project above. Give them a good wipe down, as these will serve as your cookie “cutters”.  If you weren’t able to laminate the pieces, but your map is already laminated, you can use that, like we did in our Australia learning unit.
  2. Mix up a basic sugar cookie recipe and give each child a ball of dough to work with, a floured surface, a rolling pin and a dull knife.
  3. Have them roll out the dough and trace around the shape of the continent with the knife.
  4. Transfer to baking tray and bake. You can ice and decorate them, too, when they come out of the oven.

Learning activities for the seven continents: Trace continents in dough and bake continent cookies

We enjoyed some of our cookies along with some tea while we read more library books about some of the kids favorite continents.  

Here’s a great little song to help kids remember the names of the continents.  

How to Help Your Sensory Child at the Doctor

Whether you have a Sensory Seeker or a Sensory Avoider, visits to the doctor can be very challenging for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. I know. I have both. My older son spent his younger years literally bouncing around the exam room seeking sensory input, then scurried under the table to avoid having his ears examined because he has auditory sensitivity. 

How to help your sensory child cope with doctor visits.

My daughter, on the other hand, just cannot tolerate being examined. Being touched and poked and prodded is her very least favorite way to spend her time. The idea of it sends her into a high state of anxiety. Tactile aversion is a huge feature of her sensory disorder. Unfortunately, she also has asthma that is often not under control, so she has to endure more than just regular medical and dental check-ups.

Here’s what we’ve learned from our own experiences to make doctor and dental visits go more smoothly for our kids.

How To Help Your Sensory Child at the Doctor

  1. Educate Yourself. Learn as much as you can about SPD and as much as you can about how it affects your child. 
  2. Advocate for your child. It’s my job to advocate for my children until they can do it for themselves. When they see me advocate for them, they are learning. As they grow into older kids and teenagers, my hope is that we can move towards them being the advocate and me being there in a support role.
  3. You are the case manager for your child. That means that you are the one who looks at the big picture and sees what’s possible. You’re the one that knows that two doctors appointments in one week are too much for your child. You are the one that knows if your child can tolerate a particular treatment.
    Here’s an example. My daughter has asthma and was taking medication via a nebulizer every night. She hated it.  She communicated this by screaming and refusing the treatment every night at bedtime. Her asthma specialist worked with us to progressively move her off of the nebulizer to an inhaler, which delivered the same medications.  A year later, when her pulmonologist insisted she take medications via a nebulizer, I told him how and why we had worked to get her off the nebulizer and we were staying off unless her condition gravely worsened.
  4. Find sensory-friendly providers. Use friends, family, neighbors and social media contacts to find the most sensory-friendly providers you can possible locate. Mostly this is preferable to taking your chances on an unknown provider.
  5. Educate the providers, as needed, about YOUR child. Each SPD kid is different. Our sensory-friendly dentist’s office thinks all SPD kids need to be seen in a dimly lit room. You have to love them for trying but my daughter could care less about that. She becomes highly agitated because the hygienists are always too chatty in their efforts to soothe her. She doesn’t want to talk about school or meet Mr. Thirsty, the spit-sucking instrument, she just wants to get out of there as quickly as possible. They get reminded when we arrive about HER particular needs  (see #7).
  6. If you don’t get a kind, professional and helpful response, go elsewhere. Teach your child that this is okay. A doctor who doesn’t know anything about SPD but is open to your suggestions about how to help YOUR child is preferred over someone who does know about SPD but isn’t listening to you and respecting what is helpful to your child. If a medical professional does not respond positively to making this challenging situation easier for my child, we find someone else to work with. Period. 
  7. Practice your elevator speech. I used to print out a one-page info sheet about SPD and what would help my child during the exam, but I found that not everyone read it. Even when I highlighted the important info that could be scanned, they didn’t read it. So now, as each nurse, doctor, technician, etc. approaches my child, I say my elevator speech. “[Child's Name] has Sensory Processing Disorder. Going to the doctor/dentist is very challenging for her. What helps her is  ________ and ___________.”  For my daughter, it sounds like this:  “Chloe has Sensory Processing Disorder. Going the the doctor is her BIGGEST challenge.  What helps her is as little touching as possible and focusing on her iPad while you examine her. ”  Or, at the dentist, “What helps her is examining her teeth as quickly as possible with as little conversation as possible, other than explaining what you are doing next.”

    For my son:  “Alex has SPD. He has extreme auditory sensitivity and having his ears examined is one of his biggest challenges. What helps him is letting him hold the otoscope while you look. It takes more time to see in his ears, but less time than if he becomes overwhelmed and dives under the exam table.”

  8. Let providers know you need a conservative approach to medical interventions, unless of course there is a life threatening or serious condition that requires it. For kids who have a challenging time with medical interventions, I’m a big fan of doing only what’s necessary–no extras. 
  9. “My child is not giving you a hard time, he is HAVING a hard time.” works well in response to “Now be a good boy”, “You must behave” or “You’re not going to get a lollipop”.  Also, that’s a deal breaker and we won’t go back to any professional who is unprofessional enough to say things like that to an ill and frightened child, whether they have SPD or not.  

More Resources

Surviving Doctor Visits and Vaccines When Your Child Has SPD  from Dayna at Lemon Lime Adventures

Tactile Defensiveness as a Child and an Adult from Kara at ALLterNATIVElearning

SPD Pinterest Board

{Disclaimer: This post reflects my experiences with my children and is not intended as medical advice for others.} 

Nature Explorers: Painting in the Woods

The pairing of children with nature.  

Because when given the opportunity to experience nature in an unstructured, organic way, children are more likely to carry that experience with them throughout their lives, where they can, in turn, create those experiences for future generations.

Learning with kids in a natural environment. How to gather a group to explore and learn together.

Our group of 5- and 6-year-old explorers and their siblings meet about twice a month to make friends, have fun and explore nature in a very unstructured way.  

The Premise:  Provide a set of tools to the kids, little to no instructions, and let them choose the direction of their play. Watch creativity and learning unfold, and friendships, too. 

This weeks’ tools:  Paint brushes, washable non-toxic paint and large pieces of paper. 

The Place: A wooded area with large boulders.

After a brief safety discussion about climbing on the boulders, we spread the sheets of paper out and showed the children where the washable, non-toxic paint (not harmful to plants or wildlife) and brushes were located.  Some ran to climb the rocks first. Some asked for paint right away. Nearly all the kids painted at some point. Some painted on the paper, some painted on sticks, rocks, boulders, logs, leaves and nuts that had fallen from the trees.  Some painted collaboratively, some painted alone.

The children decided when they had enough of painting and ran off to explore the woods, with a few of the grownups.  They played with sticks and built a tipi, climbed on the rocks, and explored the paths.  Games of pretend play abounded.

We used a large jug of water to wash away the paint on the rocks and ground. The next rain will take care of any traces that are left.  Some children chose to take their paintings home, others seemed content to have enjoyed the process of making something.

Pictured below: Two of our Nature Explorers running through the woods after painting. 

 Rachel Carson Quote

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  • Recommended reading:  Rachel Carson’s, The Sense of Wonder
  • Our favorite paint.  Simply Washable Tempera paint from Discount School Supply. We’ve been using this paint for all projects requiring washable paint for the past six years. Click on the photo below to see (awesome) prices.

How to Make a Solar System Model {super easy}

This is an easy and fun way to learn about the solar system. We spend some time on the planets, then the moon and stars, and other notable galactic features, like meteors, comets, satellites, and space travel, to give an introduction to all-things-space for younger kids.

How to make a solar system model. Easy Peasy.

How to Make a Solar System Model

All you need:

  • A package of multi-colored balloons
  • Sharpies
  • String or ribbon
  • Large paper plates (2) for the rings on Saturn and Uranus.

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May I also suggest…

 How to Make a Solar System Model {easy peasy}

We did a few planets each day. My 5-year-old looked at pictures of each planet on the placemat and colored the balloons with Sharpies. Don’t fear the Sharpies with kids. Protect your surfaces, and supervise the kids. PROTECT and SUPERVISE.  That’s my motto for Sharpies with little ones. Besides, regular markers smudge and make a terrible mess. While he was coloring, I read to him from the Usborne Book about each planet (see link above). 

I am not the first to do this project. There are lots of  other ways, like hanging balloons from the ceiling or using embroidery floss and glue.

Follow Julie Kirkwood, Creekside Learning’s board Science:  Astronomy on Pinterest.

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