# Adventures

Orange County Fair Imaginology – Full S.T.E.A.M Ahead

OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Shhhh, a few weeks ago, I pulled Finn out of school a bit early on day to attend the Orange County Fair Imaginology. They made a fuss about it in the school office too. School administrators, sheesh.

Imaginology takes place at the Orange County fairgrounds, and involves activities and booths set up by schools, organizations and companies to teach kids about STEAM topics. The kids had so much fun, were asking some really intelligent questions, and were learning a lot.

I wanted to share some of the fun toys we got to play with, and some other fun things they had there.

LEGO robots at OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

We got to play with some robots built with LEGO robotics parts. The robot shown above was a golfing robot and we got to control it to hit the ball into a hole.

LEGO robots, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Another robot could pick up a cup and set it down in another location.

Snap Circuits, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids Build your own circuit with Snap Circuits at OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Finn spent some time building with Snap Circuits, which he has at home, but there more parts there. Snap Circuits are electrical components that snap onto a board and to each other to create fun little circuits. It comes with an instruction book with a whole bunch of projects. My favorite is one where you run a little motor in reverse. The motor powers a fan, so when it is in reverse the wind generated by the fan is blowing downward. If you give the fan a little touch upward it flies up into the air a few feet.

EyeClops handheld microscope, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Meanwhile, Jules, Malena and Leto could not be pried away from this awesome kid microscope. It was called an EyeClops. You put the hand-held piece up to your specimen, and it will magnify it 200 times and display the image on any TV, using A/V jacks (RCA cable). I was searching online to see if they had one with a USB or something for a computer screen, but sadly I couldn’t find one. They do have some other fun stuff, though. Night vision goggles, anyone?

Image displayed on your TV from EyeClops handheld microscope, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Leto was entranced by magnifying a cockroach. Jules and Malena liked seeing all the details of a piece of wood.

Little Bits, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

We got see some displays of LittleBits, which after reading this review, I really want to try. They seem one step more advanced than snap circuits.

Imagination Playground blocks, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Leto got some little boy wiggles out with some Imagination Playground blocks. (Okay, the bigger kids really like these too.) An apartment we once lived in had these in a common play room. They were fabulous to play with during the winter when we couldn’t go outside.

There were some local entrepreneurs and their fun products too.

Fine motor skills development for kids on the autism spectrum, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids
One guy built this toy (called Z Occupational Therapy ToolZ or ZOTTZ) for his autistic son to encourage him in his fine motor skills. When you use the scissors, mini clamp, button, or key a song would play (different one for each object). My kids played for a half an hour, and really I had to pry them away from it to go see more stuff.

Another guy sold kits that he put together himself from electronic components. On display was a robot car that would drive 20-or-so feet, make a U-turn and come back.

Keep them learning at mealtime with a Math Tablecloth, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

One local teacher created a tablecloth full of math problems. You could write on it with washable marker and it would wipe right off with water. My kids wanted to stay and solve all the math problems on the whole thing. I dragged them away, and later regretted not buying one.

Digging for fossils, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids
Finally, we found a few other fun things to play with.

We dug fossil shark teeth out of a rock similar to GeoCentral fossil or Dr. Cool ocean fossil. The group that bought them actually made the little fossil-containing rocks themselves. I think they must have bought a bag of shark teeth (did you know you can buy a bag of shark teeth?) and plaster of paris, and used plastic cups as molds…or maybe cupcake pans. It’d probably pop out of the silicone ones link, right?

clay teapot - TheEngineersKids
We played with clay and made some cute figurines.

clay seal - TheEngineersKids

It was me that really made Malena’s seal. She sometimes prefers to manage the projects rather than do them herself, so she gave me step-by-step instructions. I used to get annoyed when she refused to do the work herself, but then I realized that she has the vision and is using the resourses available (not always me, she gets the other kids to work for her) to accomplish that vision. Although, I do think she does it because she is also a little scared to mess up.

clay elephant - TheEngineersKids

Jules made this elephant all by herself, and frankly I think it is a lot better than my seal. It has more personality.

Carrot music, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Finally, there was this really fun circuit and display that you could play music on a computer by touching carrots. Each carrot completed a different circuit, so a different note would play. The electricity (of which there was obviously a very small amount) would travel through your body. You could even hold hands with a few kids and still complete the circuits. I don’t have any links for you on this one, so you’re on your own to google electronic carrot music and buy the parts yourself. Update: I tried this and learned all about people who make musical instruments out of carrots and other vegetables. People come up with the craziest ideas, I tell you.

Whew, that was a long post. Kudos to you if you made it through. It was a really fun day though, and so worth missing a few hours of school. We didn’t even get to see everything. Next year, anyone local to Orange County should check out the awesome OC Fair Imaginology. We will be there for sure!

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Letter C Basket for Tot School - TheEngineersKids
# Preschool

Tot School Letter Basket – Letter C

Leto and I really enjoying our mornings free without the other three older kids around, but lately he’s been asking to watch movies way too much. As soon as his siblings walk out the door, it’s, “can I watch a show?”

I think he’s ready for some more learning, so I’m trying out a new system to introduce Leto to letters and letter sounds. The idea of doing a tot school letter basket came from the blog 1+1+1=1.

I just wanted something to guide Leto and I in learning about letters and to make it fun. I chose a canvas bin that I had lying around, and one evening I went through the toys looking for things that started with C. The next few mornings we sat at the kitchen table and played with things in our bin and talked about the sound C makes. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

We had cupcakes from our princess cupcake game, that we used for a tea party.

We used our Melissa & Doug See & Spell pieces to identify the letter C in a pile of letters and learn about a few words that begin with C.

Another day we had another tea party with our fabric, velcro cupcakes (from ikea) we borrowed from Jules (shhh, don’t tell her, she doesn’t like people touching her stuff).

We did counting with My First Numbers: Let’s Get Counting! (mentioned in this post).

Now, when he asks for a movie, I just pull out the letter bin and we start playing! He is just becoming aware of letters around him, and has been finding M’s everywhere. Hopefully, the letter C bin will add C’s to his repertoire.

# School

To Homeschool or Not To Homeschool

To Homeschool or Not To Homeschool

I have this ongoing debate in my head about homeschooling. It started out as a fascination with people who homeschool, then a little bit of my love of interior design clicked in when I saw all the cute homeschool rooms they have on pinterest, then I thought about how much I like teaching the kids, then I started to think differently about public school (we can blame this TED talk and this book), and it all resulted in me flip-flopping between really wanting to homeschool and not.

See, we live in a great school district, and the kids have amazing teachers this year, so I have zero complaints there. I don’t really like homework, because I’d rather the kids learn all the stuff at school, so they can learn what they want at home by being creative and playing.

There are amazing resources like the internet in general and Kahn Academy and the myriad of awesome games (paid and free) like ABC mouse and even some of the ones on PBSkids.org. I think planning my kids’ curriculum would be so fun for me (as long as I can keep myself from over-planning), not to mention awesome to customize it for them.

There are other benefits and challenges to homeschooling that we regularly consider. We could more easily move to a larger house if we homeschooled, because we wouldn’t have to consider the school district. We would have to replace all the fun extras of school (music class, playing with friends at recess, having a teacher as a role model in life). It would require a lot of time and scheduling on my part.

It could be awesome, or maybe the kids would rebel and it would flop.

For now though, we are sticking with public school and trying to incorporate into our day some of the games, websites, and general exploration into various topics. I’ll probably continue to learn as much as I can about homeschooling though. It really is an intriguing option we might take advantage of at some point.

I’m curious to know about you readers. Do you homeschool? Have you considered it?