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Math Monday came early this week, and we had some fun exploring Reuleaux triangles. Next to a circle, they’re the simplest curve of constant width you can make — that basically means you can roll a plank on top of them as smoothly as on wheels. The kids didn’t expect that one! (They also would make great manhole covers!)

Although they roll very smoothly, they do tend to wobble around a bit, so I built a little gutter on the plank to make it easier for the kids to experiment with. It was a quick project, and lots of fun for the kids. You don’t have to use a band saw or even the sander; all you really need is a jigsaw or coping saw, some scrap wood, and some nails.

Music credits: “260809 Funky Nurykabe” by spinningmerkaba (CC-BY 3.0)

In celebration of Independence Day here in the United States of America, here’s a great 10-minute narrated animation that reviews how the nation got to where it is today. Read the instructions, click the X, then click Play.

Videos are available for sale at

We ran across a picture of a little pig online and my little girl fell in love with it, so we grabbed a sheet of paper and tried to make it. Here’s how it turned out.

Below the photo is the template we drew up to cut out the pieces; it should be pretty obvious what to cut and how many. Enjoy!

Wooden Pig Craft

Wooden Pig Craft

Wooden Pig Template

Wooden Pig Template

Use this worksheet to help teach your kids about some famous artists and their styles. There are eight artists featured on the first two pages, along with eight of their paintings, a photo, and some basic information about the artistic style, artist, and painting. After discussing the first two pages with the child (the included guide has lots of discussion questions), turn to the last page and see if the child can identify who painted each of the eight new paintings by the same artists. Use the first two pages as a guide.

The artists in this worksheet are Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Degas, Monet, Miro, van Gogh, and Renoir, and their general styles include impressionism, surrealism, cubism, and fauvism.

Download the PDF here (PDF: 542K): Artistic Style Worksheet

Artistic Style Worksheet for Children

Artistic Style Worksheet for Children


Come read the latest exciting release from JEF Press in this illustrated thriller by Jacob. “It’s a real page-turner!” exclaimed the author’s mother. “You’ll be on the edge of your seat until the surprise ending,” suggests his father. According to the author, it’s still a work in progress, but he wanted to release it nonetheless.

I believe the title was lifted, but other than that I think it’s pretty much original. Enjoy! (Click each page for a larger and more legible image.)



Page 1

Page 1

Page 2

Page 2

We took a chance on this $129 inner spring mattress from Walmart. It came vacuum-packed, flattened, rolled up, and stuffed into a bag. The packaging was so unique I decided I’d better set up the video camera so people would believe me when I tried to tell them about it. (The folks at Walmart had a hard time believing me when I was trying to describe it so they could locate it in the store!)

The mattress is surprisingly comfortable — on par with those twice the cost or more. It was a great purchase!

(And yes, I know I spelled Walmart wrong in the video.)

Okay, let’s get some parenting concerns out of the way first: I believe that a rubber band gun is probably one of the safest ways to teach a kid a bit about gun safety, partly because it actually shoots something that can sting. It’s a good excuse to explain that bringing a weapon (even a toy one) to school will likely get him kicked out, and it’s also a good way to learn how to be conscious of where it’s pointing — loaded or not. Plus it’s fun for target practice.

That said, here’s a single-shooter rubber band gun that we threw together today using scrap wood. The rubber band is loaded from the front onto the top of the trigger lever, which is also the rear sight. It’s alarmingly accurate; I can hit a quarter-sized bull’s eye from across the room.

(Click on the pictures to view larger versions.)

Rubber Band Gun

Rubber Band Gun

It started off as a bamboo flooring plank cut-off, but it wasn’t very accurate or attractive. It was also very difficult to hold and aim.

Rubber Band Gun Loaded

Rubber Band Gun Loaded

The blue rubber band provides enough tension to hold the trigger in place when loaded. The trigger lever pivots on a brad nail inside of the groove. It took some chisel work to get the slot just right.

Rubber Band Gun Trigger Mechanism

Rubber Band Gun Trigger Mechanism

My son got a set of plastic baseball players and a mat in the shape of a baseball diamond for Christmas. We had a 6-sided die on hand, and he wanted to make a game out of it. Here’s what we ended up with:

Batter rolls die:

  1. Ball
  2. Ball
  3. Strike
  4. Strike
  5. Foul
  6. Hit – Roll again

If batter rolled a 6, the second roll follows these rules. Rolling a 1-4 forces other runners along if necessary. If a runner is not forced, player much decide if that runner is attempting to advance before the team in the field gets to roll.

  1. Runs to 1
  2. Runs to 2
  3. Runs to 3
  4. Runs to home
  5. Roll again, with same rules.
  6. Home Run (out of park; cannot be caught; all runners score)

Runners are moved into position (either advancing between or on base), and die is handed to fielding team, who gets one roll.

  1. Out on first – if a runner is advancing to first, he is out. Otherwise, ignore.
  2. Out on second – if a runner is advancing to second, he is out. Otherwise, ignore.
  3. Out on third – if a runner is advancing to third, he is out. Otherwise, ignore.
  4. Out at home – if a runner is advancing to home, he is out. Otherwise, ignore.
  5. Fly out. Runners don’t advance.
  6. Wildcard out – any single advancing runner may be taken out.


If a runner is on third, and batter rolls a 6 (Hit – Roll again), then a 2 (Runs to 2), then the batter may either

  • place batter between 1 and 2, and leave runner on third. Fielder must roll a 2, 5, or 6 to get the runner out.
  • place batter between 1 and 2, and advance runner on third toward home. Fielder must roll a 2, 4, 5, or 6. A 2, 5, or 6 can take the batter out. (With a 5, the runner advancing to home would go back to third.) A 4 or 6 can take out the runner advancing to home.

If a runner is on second and third, and batter rolls a 6 + 6, he scores three points.

If a runner is on second and third, and batter rolls a 6 + 4, he scores two points (runners forced to advance), and fielder may roll a 4, 5, or 6 to get the batter out. If he rolls a 5, then the runners must return to second and third.

Here are 63 flashcards designed to help early readers learn groups of rhyming words. Each rhyme (often called rimes or phonograms) is shown on a different card, with a number of example words below. Work with the child to learn the rhyming sound, then have him or her practice on the words below.

Image of six random flashcards

Download the PDF file from the link below. Print out the flashcards onto seven 8.5″ x 11″ pages, then cut them out on the light gray dotted lines. You can laminate them either before or after you cut them out. There are nine cards per page. The final size is about 3 2/3″ (93mm) tall by 2 7/8″ (72mm) wide.

Download here: Rhyme Flashcards (PDF: 99k)

The cards are printed using all lower case (with the exception of some proper nouns) in a font that is easy for children to read.

Enjoy! Comments and suggestions welcome!

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