Teaching My Baby To Read

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Category Archives: Science and Nature

Explaining TB to Kids

My eight-year-old and I have just read a fascinating book called Invincible Microbe, Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure.  It’s by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank.

This book covers a lot of ground: science, history, racial tension, class strife, and horror. There is a lot of sadness, but not in a way that is too dark for elementary school.

 I had no idea somebody could make pathology so entertaining!

Building Atoms with Marshmallows

Do you want to have some fun with the Periodic Table of the Elements?

It’s Presidents’ Day and my second grader has the day off from school.  So we decided to kick back with some marshmallows, food coloring, and our trusty Basher BooksThen we started building.


Atomic Number = 10

Atomic Weight = 20.1797

Number of Protons (Large White Marshmallows = 10)

Number of Neutrons = (Large Green Marshmallows = 10)

Number of Electrons = (Little Marshmallows = 10)

By the way, if you are a mom like me, you might need to brush up your atomic knowledge. 

(This page really helped me a lot!)

Here’s some other useful information: 

  • The number of protons = the Atomic Number
  • The number of protons = the number of electrons
  • The electrons are the smallest.  They orbit the nucleus.
  • The neutrons are the heaviest part of the atom.  They hang out with the protons in the nucleus.
  • The number of neutrons = the Atomic Weight (rounded) – the the Atomic Nunber (also the same as the number of protons)

This is what Silicon looks like:

Here’s our version of Hydrogen:

If you need more inspiration, head over to the blog Morning Hugs and Goodnight Kisses.  Thanks for the idea Michele!

So you want a puppy?

One of the biggest deals where we live is keeping Puget Sound Clean.

It’s pretty darn important.  That’s why I love The Dog Poop Game.

Earlier this year our family went to Cama Beach State Park’s CamOcean World Oceans Day FestivalSound Salmon Solutions was there that day teaching kids about the importance of keeping animal waste out of yard waste and compost bins.

My son learned how to properly pick up dog-poop-shaped-bean-bags using plastic, and then dispose them in the trash can. What made this activity fun was that kids got to toss the “poop” about six feet in the air and win a prize if it landed in the garbage.


This game could easily be recreated for your next school carnival or scouting event. Sound Salmon Solutions also has a ton of free science curriculum available on their website, so be sure to check that out.

“Keeper of the Mountains” trailer

I’m so excited to share the first glimpse of “Keeper of the Mountains”, a documentary that my former roommate, Alison Otto, has been working on! Anyone who loves mountaineering or inspiring stories about women will be interested:

Keeper of the Mountains Trailer from Allison Otto on Vimeo.

In a post-World War II era during which few women lived and traveled independently American journalist Elizabeth Hawley settled alone in Kathmandu, Nepal.

There, despite having never climbed a mountain, Miss Hawley carved out a niche for herself as the foremost Himalayan mountaineering historian in the world.  Now 89, she has recorded more than 80,000 Himalayan expedition ascents, her reports are trusted by news organizations and publications around the globe, and she maintains the world’s largest and most treasured Himalayan mountaineering archive.

“Keeper of the Mountains” is a portrait of a woman who played an unlikely key role in the Golden Age of Himalayan mountaineering while living life on her own terms at the edge of the troposphere and defying the traditional gender roles of her day. It chronicles the challenges she currently faces as she tries to maintain the mountaineering archives and her independence while dealing with advancing age and a rapidly changing world.

Basher Books

Have you heard of Basher books?

I’m not actually a fan, but my 7 year old son Bruce is.

I bought Bruce the Rocks and Minerals book and Periodic Table edition a year ago, and they just sat on the shelf for about six months. Then, last summer he became obsessed. He read them over and over again and started asking me a bunch of physics questions that I had no idea how to answer.

So I bribed him.

I told Bruce that if he finished all of the Classic Start books we own, that I would buy him more Basher Books. (I love bribing kids with books!)

Now we own seven Basher Books, and the only one Bruce actively dislikes is the Grammar book. (That one might be sitting on the shelf for a while.)

For those of you who have never seen a Basher Book before, they use cartoonish drawings and funny descriptions to explain nonfiction vocabulary words and concepts. I don’t particularly find them very engaging. But maybe that’s because I’m not seven!

P.S. I’m adding Basher Books to my Grandma, Please Buy This page.  Here are some links to Amazon so you can explore Basher Books for yourself:

Osmosis Experiment

Here’s yet another fabulous project swiped from Chasing Cheerios. If you have never seen Melissa’s blog, then you should really check it out. The only issue I have is that sometimes the pages load a bit slowly for me, but that could just be my own personal problem.

On Chasing Cheerios, they did this experiment a bit differently and created an entire color wheel. In our version, the primary emphasis was on the scientific concept of osmosis, rather than primary and secondary colors.

The materials needed are really simple: glasses, water, food coloring and paper towels.

We set this project up before school, in about ten minutes.  Then it needed to sit for a long time.

Once the paper towels were in place, we looked up the word “osmosis” in the dictionary. I’m not sure that Jenna(3) understands what “semipermeable membrane” means, but the kids definitely understand that the water wants to go into the towel until everything is even. That’s not exactly very scientific, but it is laying the foundation for future understanding.

Maybe when Bruce(7) gets home from school and I unload the dishwasher, we will set this project up again with six glasses, so we can go for color wheel glory!

Lessons Learned from Pet Sitting

For the past week Bruce(7) and Jenna(3) have been pet sitting parakeets Captain and Sally, and goldfish Nemo and Nemo. This has been a fantastic learning experience for us all since *GASP* we are a family that does not have any pets. Yes, I’m an evil mother, but think about how much money we are saving on pet food.

The real reason we don’t have pets is because I am allergic to almost everything that breathes. As it turns out, Captain, Sally, Nemo and Nemo are all good pet choices for me because I’m not allergic to anything about them except for parakeet feathers.

The first few days of pet sitting Bruce was really excited about being responsible. These last few days however, have taken a bit more prodding on my part.

To further the learning experience have also been reading two books about parakeets and goldfish: Flutter and Float by Amanda Doering Tourville, and Pet Parakeets by Julia Barnes.

Flutter and Float is the most ridiculous book about pet care that I have ever read. I’m actually wondering if it was secretly funded by Pet Co. It suggests purchasing every piece of goldfish paraphernalia you could possibly find, including gravel vacuums and water thermometers. Then when your 17 cent goldfish gets sick, you are supposed to take it to the veterinarian! I don’t mean to sound heartless, but isn’t that what backyard burials are for?

Pet Parakeets was much more realistic. It is a comprehensive book for children explaining every aspect of parakeet care, and was really helpful for both of my children to read. It talks about identifying black spots around a bird’s throat to help estimate the age of the birds, and also educates on why it is important for birds to have social companions. Judging by how cute Captain and Sally are together, I can see why having bird friends is important.

Watson Lakes and Anderson Butte

My husband and Bruce(7) just got back from a two day backpacking trip to Watson Lakes today. Thankfully my husband remembered to back both of Bruce’s boots this time, so unlike last year, our son did not have to hike six miles in a boot and flip-flop.

For all of you urban dwellers who never get to see any mountains, there’s Mt. Baker in the distance.

There was plenty of opportunity for fishing, swimming…

… and hiking.  This is from the top of Anderson Butte.

The Pacific Northwest is a pretty awesome place to raise kids.

August in the Garden

What you are seeing are beans, beets, chard, asparagus, nasturtiums, tomatoes, and pumpkin.

We also are getting artichokes…

…and peas.

I don’t know if you can tell from the pictures, but we have really big cedar trees in our yard, so there is never very much sun.  That makes tomatoes very difficult to ripen.  So far we haven’t had any yet, but we do have some killer green ones.

The big question would be “Are we saving any money by growing a garden?” That answer would be NO!  But it is a lot of fun.  🙂

Make your own potpourri

Here’s another fun project the kiddos and I have been doing this summer. Jenna(3) likes to pick flowers anyway, and Bruce(7) likes to rip things up, so I thought “Why now combine those two activities into one?” Now they are both on an almost daily campaign to make potpourri for future Christmas presents.


  • rose petals
  • lavender flowers
  • lavender leaves
  • lemon balm leaves
  • a few dahlia petals for color
  • (or whatever you have in your garden that smells good)


  • Dry the ingredients on a cookie sheet for about a week.
  • Place in jam jar.

Make your own Lava Lamp

I’d like to say thanks to Chasing Cheerios, which is where I first heard about this project. For full instructions, check out Steve Spangler Science.com.

Today Bruce(7), Jenna(3) and I made homemade lava lamps. It was great follow up to our oil spill experiment from last week.


  • glass or plastic bottles with a lid (I used mason jars)
  • food coloring
  • cheap cooking oil
  • Alka-seltzer tablets


  • Fill your jar with about half oil and half water,
  • Add 10 drops of food coloring, or maybe a little less.
  • Then add a little bit of Alka-Seltzer tablet. Don’t add too much or your whole jar might explode!!!
  • Close the lid and watch what happens.

Talking Points for Children

  • Do the oil and water mix?
  • Does the food coloring mix with the water?
  • Does the food coloring mix with the oil?
  • What happens when you drop in the Alka-seltzer tablets?
  • What happens when you close the lid?
  • What do the bubbles do?

Art on Mondays, Day 5

Full confession. My A STEM Summer right now is looking more like AAAAAA! That’s because our family has been hitting the trails, spending time in the backyard, and trying to escape the heat because it is finally hot. None of us are use to 90 degree heat, but maybe it will be good for my tomatoes.

The Bardsley men climbed Mt. Si last week when it was still cooler. We are all pretty impressed for Bruce(7) hiking the whole 8 miles without one complaint! When they got to the top, my husband harnessed Bruce up and he even climbed the “haystack”.  I’m glad I wasn’t there to freak out!

It was fitting then, that our latest 123 I Can Paint art lesson had to do with painting mountains. It was also a big “a ha” moment for Jenna(3) because she happened upon making pink paint for the first time, and was very proud of herself.

Here’s Jenna’s work. She’s 3.

Here’s Bruce’s work. He’s 7. Can you see how much he is improving?

Here’s my result. Whoo hoo! I finally seem to be teaching these kids something about art even though I don’t know what the heck I am doing.

Finally, I wanted to share this fabulous front page article from the Sunday Herald yesterday about plans to expand North Cascades National Park. It’s too bad that my days of writing letters to the editor are over! My father-in-law was president of the North Cascades Conservation Council for 17 years, and so all of us Bardsleys are really excited for the public to know more about how beautiful North Cascades National park is, and why it is worth protecting.

Jenna’s North Cascades National Park Book

Here’s our latest homemade book. It took so much “whine” to get everyone to the top of Thunder Knob that I think my husband and I could start our own vineyard. But the view was worth it!  For more on the why and how of homemade books, please click here.  P.S.  Check out the original Cascade Farm Organic farm stand we stopped at on the way home.

Jenna’s North Cascades

National Park Book

Jenna went to

North Cascades

National Park

Jenna climbed

Thunder Knob.

Jenna rode in

Daddy’s backpack.

There were pretty trees.

There was moss.

There was a bridge.

Jenna hiked and hiked.

Bruce carried his own backpack.

Jenna ate lunch at the top.

Jenna got ice cream

on the way home.

Ice Cream in a Coffee Can

My A STEM Summer is plodding on, although I’m really behind in my blog posts about it. For Week #3, we did a chemistry and made ice cream in a coffee cam. Full directions here.

Calling this a “chemistry” experiment might be a bit of a stretch, but we did talk about why you need to add rock salt to the ice. Ice cream freezes at 27 degrees. If you just had ice, it would only be 32 degrees. Adding salt creates a brine solution that absorbs heat and makes the ice solution a lot colder. Duh! I should have tested this theory with a thermometer. That would have made this experiment even better.

Inspired by the Woodland Park Zoo

We are going to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle later this week, and that got me to thinking. When we first moved to Edmonds I had never had a vegetable garden before. The kiddie farm area at the Zoo really inspired me. (See Bruce’s movie here.)   Now, six years later, my family has really copied a lot from what the Zoo’s demo garden has taught us.

We have grapes….

a mini dwarf apple orchard and blueberries…

perennials like asparagus…

sunchokes, rhubarb and artichokes…

a gigantic raspberry patch…

including yellow raspberries…

multiple compost systems…

and the capacity to grow killer green tomatoes.

Now I just need to convince my husband that we should get chickens…