Inquiry Science & Postage Stamps: The Big Book & Studio Bundle


Welcome to the The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas Blog Tour where we’re going to be stopping in on the authors of The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. I hope you have been enjoying the tour. 55 homeschool moms have contributed 103 chapters of homeschool goodness. My contributions were a chapter on How to Use Postage Stamps for Learning and Inquiry Science with Middle School Students. Read on to find out why I wrote these chapters and a glimpse at their content.

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas Blog Tour

Everyday in the month of October, we’ll meet a new author of The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. You’ll find out why they contributed their chapter or chapters to the book and why they feel passionate about that particular topic.

How it works:

  • Visit each author on the blog tour and participate in the giveaway they may be hosting.
  • Enter the giveaway for The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas & iHomeschool Studio Bundle below.
  • Purchase the bundle! Don’t worry. If you win the giveaway, you’ll get your money back. Buy now while you can!
  • Click the calendar to see the other authors on the tour and to see their giveaways.
  • Yesterday, Amy Stults from Milk and Cookies, author of the chapters Learning with Maps and Genealogy for Kids, gave away a copy of WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press.
  • Tomorrow’s giveaway is from Colleen Kessler at Raising Lifelong Learners . Author of the chapter Hands-on ScienceColleen will be giving away Science for Smart Kids: Electricity.

The Bundle Blog Hop

There are so many wonderful contributors to this bundle – come along and get to know each of us a little better. Each day of October we will be highlighting one of the talented women who have helped make the  iHomeschool Studio and Big Book of Homeschool Ideas such a success.


Inquiry Science for Middle School

I am so excited to be a contributing author to the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas.  I love teaching science; my goal is to provide inspiration so you may engage your students in hands-on science and service learning experiences.

Sharing my passion for science reinvigorates me and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to contribute to The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas.

In the article, Inquiry Science with Middle School Students, I define inquiry science for you and break the process of scientific discovery down into smaller components – partial inquiry versus full inquiry.

Teaching science through inquiry is the cornerstone of good teaching.  But what, exactly, is inquiry science?

inquiryscienceScientific inquiry refers to the activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world.  In many classrooms and homeschool families, students enjoy fun science demonstrations. These hands-on activities help bring the exciting world of science to life.

getting started coverI have written a series of posts, What is Scientific Inquiry, whereby I address the scientific method, science process skills, and science as inquiry. In the series, I address several key misconceptions about science and share with you examples of how to easily modify existing cook-book activities for a more inquiry based instructional approach.

As a special thank you, I have put together a Getting Started with Inquiry Science guidebook that will be available as a free download through the month of October. This bonus eBook is 18 pages providing detailed descriptions of the scientific inquiry process. The different levels are described to give you an idea of where to begin and how to do inquiry science with your students. It also includes many planning pages for student led or open inquiry as well as two guided inquiry labs.

Postage Stamps for Learning

Shortly after we began our homeschool journey, we discovered the joy of collecting postage stamps. In the beginning, we collected with no clear objective in mind. As our collections grew, I began to seek out activities that would provide opportunities to learn about the people featured on the stamps and the places from which they were issued. It wasn’t long thereafter that we were exhibiting at philatelic shows around the country.

I am excited to share with you how we use postage stamps in our homeschool. In the chapter,  How to Use Postage Stamps for Learning, I explain some details and advice regarding using postage stamps for learning such as:

  • What to collect?
  • Where do I find stamps?
  • How do I soak and protect my stamps?
  • How do I display my stamps?
  • What are the educational opportunities available to me?

Postage stamps will be featured more regularly on my blog in the coming months as my kids and I work on developing our new exhibits. Follow along and find out how to use them with confidence in your homeschool.

 The Big Book & Studio Bundle

For a limited time (Oct 1 – Nov 10), get the iHomeschool Studio and Big Book of Homeschool Ideas bundle for just  $15!  The bundle includes 23 MP3s from our spring 2014 webinar and a massive 560+ page eBook for only $15 (regular price $36). This offer won’t last long!

Whether you are new to homeschooling or a seasoned home educator, The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas and the recorded webinar sessions provide a library of resources you could turn to when you have a question in your homeschool.  With this ginormous bundle, you can go beyond the basics of academics and delve into delightful methods like active learning, learning with postage stamps, using LEGOs for learning, teaching on the road, delving into inquiry science, loving living math, discovering your child’s personality type, and more.Studio and Big Book Bundle

A Giveaway, Too!

What is even more exciting is that we are giving away 10 copies of the bundle!!  Don’t wait to see if you are a winner and risk losing out on this incredible sale! If you purchase the bundle and end up winning, we will immediately refund your money.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


New Life Science Curriculum Available!

I am so very excited! I have finished the life science curriculum series I envisioned so many years ago, Life Logic: Dialectic Stage Life Sciences.

A complete full year life science curriculum … Botany, Zoology, and the previously completed Ecology!! botanyLife Logic is an inquiry based, hands-on life science curriculum for middle school students. It is created to provide teachers with the tools and inspiration to engage their students in meaningful, hands-on, inquiry based science and service learning experiences through tangible curriculum, shared resources, and real-world contexts.
The curriculum was originally field tested in the public school classroom and more recently in the homeschool or co-op setting. Life Logic is comprised of three disciplines (Botany, Zoology, and Ecology).
The units can stand alone or can be combined for a complete academic year curriculum.

They are available for purchase today!

The Ins & Outs of Science Fairs

More often than not, when you talk to families about science (whether they homeschool or not), you will find one thing in common. The dreaded science fair.

“It’s such a chore! I don’t see the value in it!”

Entering a science fair project into a competition involves more than just completing a fun science experiment. The student needs to have a great idea and then create an informative and eye-catching display as well as demonstrate presentation and interview skills.

Competing at local, regional, and state science fairs is a great way for students to learn more about science. Participation encourages an open mind, tenacity enough to find an answer to your question, critical thinking skills, and honesty.

Over the next five days, I will walk you through all the ins and outs of science fairs.

science fairs

Tuesday – Types of Science Fair Projects

Most science fairs allow a variety of projects to be exhibited and there are a few different types of projects that students can choose from. On Tuesday, I’ll share several types of science fair projects and for what grade level they are best suited.

Wednesday – Inquiry Based Science Fair Projects 

Inquiry based activities closely resemble the skills and processes of science undertaken by scientists and incorporate the nature of science in more meaningful ways than traditional, cookbook type labs. Be sure to stop by Wednesday to learn more about inquiry based science fair projects.

Thursday – Preparing Your Display Board & Presentation

You’ve selected a topic, gathered your materials, and worked through your project.  You’re now ready to present.  Join me on Thursday when I walk you through the steps for preparing a display board and provide tips for a great oral presentation.

Friday – Getting the Most Out of a Science Fair

Not only are science fairs a great confidence builder, students often find inspiration and ideas they would like to pursue themselves.  On Friday, I’ll share tips for getting the most out of science fairs – as a participant and as an observer. 

Bonus – 100 Science Fair Ideas

100 ideas for incorporating inquiry science into your curriculum and to kick-start the planning for your science fair project.

Skyscrapers and Wind Velocity: An Inquiry Based Science Project

Engineering has always been of interest to my daughter. She has enjoyed building toothpick bridges, marveling at skyscrapers when we have traveled to major urban areas, and writing letters to civil engineers to learn more about their work.

Earlier this year, I shared with you an STEM Club activity I put together that focused on the Newspaper Towers & Skyscrapers. My daughter enjoyed this activity so much that she expanded upon it for a homeschool science fair.

One of the tallest buildings in the world is the Shanghai World Financial Center, located in the Pudong district of Shanghai. At the time of its completion in 2008, its 492.0 meters (1,614.2 ft) made it the second-tallest building in the world and the tallest structure in mainland China. The observation deck offers views from 474 m (1,555 ft) above ground level and we had the opportunity to experience this earlier this year.

skyscrapersIn April, she took part in the CurrClick Earth Day Science Fair and it was of no surprise when she expressed interest in doing something with skyscrapers. I tried to dissuade her, knowing it would be difficult to design a fair test that resulted in measurable results. Despite the mis-givings of her tutor and I, she was not deterred.

Research & Project Planning

She researched numerous skyscrapers around the world and ultimately settled upon three for her design inspiration: the Empire State Building in New York City, the Cayan Tower in the United Arab Emirates, and the Trans America Building in San Francisco.  Each design was significantly different and through her research, she came up with her experimental question: How Does the Design of a Building Affect the Sway Under Different Wind Velocities?

Testing: Design, Wind Velocity, and Sway

She calculated a scale with which to build each model (1/4″ = 1 m). Using three identical boxes as a stable ground upon which to build, she constructed her skyscrapers with rolls of newspaper and wooden skewers as the frame. She then wrapped newspaper around the frame and secured it with tape.

The Cayan tower proved to be the most difficult to build for its design required it to rotate 90 degrees. Despite considerable effort, we could only get our paper model to rotate about 35-40 degrees.

To test the sway, she used a large fan to generate wind at different velocities, being careful to keep the distance and the aim consistent. To measure the wind speed, she used a Kestrel wind meter.


She discovered right away that the sway of each building was so small that it was not possible to measure consistently.  She thereby changed focus and began to take wind speed measurements at different places next to each building, comparing how the wind velocity was altered due to the design of the building.

I was very impressed with her tenacity to see this project through, despite numerous setbacks and disappointments. She persevered and despite not getting an outcome for which she had hoped, she learned how to set a goal, plan a significant project on her own, how to gather scientific data, and the process by which to present it to others.

Many parents will contend that science fair projects are more of a headache than they are worth.  Join me next week when I share tips for coaching your student through the process without losing your hair.

If you are interested in coordinating a science fair for your homeschool community, I encourage you to read my earlier post, Planning a Fun Science Fair in 10 Easy Steps.

Engineering: World's Tallest Buildings Unit Study

To learn more about skyscrapers and to explore the field of engineering with you students, check out my Engineering Unit Study: World’s Tallest Buildings.

STEM Club: Forms of Energy – Potential and Kinetic Energy

While teaching STEM Club these past few weeks, I came to realize the kids were not as familiar with the forms of energy as I had predicted.  I thereby decided to take a detour – exploring the differences between potential and kinetic energy in a little more depth.

We thereby did two activities this week – one to explore how the height of a swinging mass is related to its energy (or ability to do work) and another to explore how wind generates mechanical energy.  I am excited to share these activities with you today.

swing it

Swing It!

Experimental Question:

How will the height from which an object falls affect the distance another object moves when struck?

Materials Needed:

  • Clamp or Duck Tape
  • 50 gram mass
  • String
  • Block of Wood
  • Meterstick


  1. Tie one end of the string to a 50 gram mass (perhaps a D-cell battery).
  2. Attach the clamp to the edge of your table.  Tie the loose end of the string to the clamp. Alternatively, you can use Duck Tape to secure the string to the edge of a table.
  3. Adjust the string so that the mass almost touches the floor.  Make a small pencil mark on the floor under the mass.
  4. Set a block of wood on the mark.  Practice swinging the mass so that it knocks the wood straight across the floor.
  5. While keeping the string tight, pull back the mass until it is exactly 10 cm above the floor.
  6. Let the mass swing down and hit the wood.
  7. Measure how far it moves from the mark on the floor and record the distance in the table below.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 three times and calculate the average distance the block traveled.
  9. Raise height to 15cm and finally 20cm – repeating steps 5-7 again.


  • In what way was work done in this activity?
  • Where did the energy to do this work come from?
  • At which height was there the most energy to do the work?


Wind Powered Cars

We converted toy cars into wind-powered cars by building and attaching turbines. Students made modifications to help their cars travel as fast as possible. In the end, we evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy.  

Materials Needed:

  • Turbine pattern printed onto card stock
  • Jumbo paperclip
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy car
  • Straw


  1. Place a toy car on a flat surface. Ask students to suggest ways to make it move without touching it. Ideas may include attaching a motor or knocking something into it. If this were a real car, what would give it power? Gasoline (fossil fuels) Are there some other alternative resources we could use that are renewable? Students may be most familiar with solar energy.
  2. Explain that students will be using wind to power a toy car.
  3. Cut out the turbine pattern as indicated and attach to the back of the toy car as described.

Science Logic: Electricity & Magnetism

These lessons – including lab sheets with data tables, detailed instructions for how to convert the toy cars, and activities to explore watt usage at home – will be included in the Science Logic: Electricity & Magnetism unit that I hope to release by Summer 2016.

Until then, they are available as a freebie For Subscribers Only.