How to Make Fire with a Magnifying Glass

how to make fire with a leaf and a magnifying glass

Look closely. You can see the giant burn hole in the leaf.

Last weekend we were enjoying a leisurely weekend of letting the kids play in the backyard while we visited with family. Caleb, who loves all things science-related, asked Alan if he could show him how to use the sun’s light and a magnifying glass to make fire.

Deep down, I guess we are all like cave-men because every one of us was full of joy to watch this happen.

how-to-make-fire with a leaf and a magnifying glass

I had never actually seen this done before. The sun was shining, so conditions were perfect. Alan hunted down a magnifying glass and grabbed a dry leaf from the yard.

Now this is where it gets complicated:

Oh wait,no, it doesn’t. Literally, all we did was let the sun shine through the magnifying glass onto the leaf, and smoke appeared rather quickly.

how to make fire with a leaf and a magnifying glass

In this photo, the one side of the leaf is mostly burned away, and they’d started on the second half.

how to make fire with a leaf and a magnifying glass


how to make fire with a leaf and a magnifying glass

Everyone had to take a turn burning the leaf.

Well, folks, that’s all there is to it. This may be my shortest blog post of all time, eh?

You don’t have to be a home school family to do fun science projects at home. These are the kinds of activities your kids won’t soon forget.

Want to know the science behind all this? I googled it for ya. I must confess that I did not find the science behind it interesting at all, but this site did the best job of holding my attention: Just click on that link there.

Okay, I guess I should go back to being an involved parent or tidying up or something. Hope you are all having a great week!


Classical Conversations, Basketball, Busy Bags, and Other Mom Stuff

Caleb carved this shark in the coral reef onto foam board. Then he painted it and stamped it onto paper. This photo is of the foam board after using it to stamp the paper with the picture.

Caleb carved this shark in the coral reef on foam board. Then he painted it and stamped it onto paper. 

These are the kinds of fun things we get to do in Classical Conversations, our home school tutoring service and curriculum. Look closely at his picture to see if you can find the eel coming out of the coral. (Hint: middle-left, It’s a profile with an eye.)

Classical Conversations is a rigorous way to approach home schooling, but it is also fun. It has definitely raised the educational bar for us.


If you felt like you were reading the blog of a pitiful, dying woman in January and February, then I have good news for you!

I’m feeling better!

Going gluten free was my first step towards wellness. Now I’m also doing this Purification 21 day cleanse, which I’ll tell you more about soon, and I’m feeling even better. I haven’t lost a single pound, though. Ah, well. Go figure.

Plenty of happy things have been happening lately in school and sports and life in general, and of course you know I’m here to share all that.

First, let’s talk about home school.

I’m well aware that I have not been much of a home school blogger this year, so let me show ya a tad bit of what we’ve been up to lately without upsetting my big boys with over-share, of course…

home schooling with classical conversations

because sitting down is overrated, apparently

home school with classical conversations

Voluntarily reading the Bible! This kid knows how to make his momma smile!!

home school with CC

With our CC curriculum, the boys learn 5 new geographical locations to map out every week, which we practice everyday.

Last year we mostly traced a dry erase map, but actually drawing out the map locations every day has helped them learn it better. This particular map went along with our history lesson on the advanced (native) civilizations of Mesoamerica.

preschool homeschool

Dan and JD aren’t in CC yet. They are sorting colors and letters in their egg crates. (Thank you, Amy!)

The boys have an aunt who is crafty and extremely teacher oriented. She makes these off-the-chain busy bags, and THEN she ever so kindly shares them with us!! So exciting! She puts these kits together, complete with instructions and personalized details, and sends them to us in the mail!

Thank you, Amy!!!

homeschool with CC

We’re memorizing all of the helping verbs as well as all of the prepositions this year in grammar for CC.

home school with classical conversations

See! They do sit and work sometimes!

home school with classical conversations

Super proud mom moment. I took the boys to the park, and Caleb brought along a book to read. It was one of those unusually perfect days, in which the boys played and shared and helped each other out so perfectly (In public!!!) that I got to look like Mom of the year. Thank you, boys.


home school with classical conversations

We’re in earth science for this part of Cycle 1. (I liked life science better, but it all must be covered.)

home school with classical conversations

I got especially excited about this one because he beat the timer.

home school with classical conversations

This is another one of Amy’s incredible busy bags. Um, hello? They even have our pictures on them, and of course, they are laminated.

No, she doesn’t sell them, but if she ever decides to open shop, you can bet I will sell them for her right here.

But you know we are not just academic here. Allow me to share this winter’s big passion:

home school with classical conversations

Yes. This is my basketball necklace.


Did you know that Alan coached a team this year, a team that both Joshua and Caleb got to play on? And did you also know that we won almost all of our games?

home school with classical conversations

That’s Joshua with the ball.

Most importantly, both boys had a blast, made new friends, learned a great deal about basketball and how to play it, got tons of exercise, and grew in confidence!! (I was most excited about that last part!)

Joshua, passing to Caleb

Joshua scored so many times, and Caleb made a few baskets as well. They were both energized and highly involved, and it was such a pleasure to watch them play.


Caleb, keeping it high


Coach Dads

Alan is that unusually experienced and exciting coach that every parent or kid would want to have, unless having snack is important to you. Alan’s stance on snack: “If someone wants to organize snacks, that’s fine. I’m not going to, but feel free.” And you know what? No one did, and I don’t think anyone missed snacks.  Fun season!



Of course, now it’s time to move on to baseball, but don’t worry. I already have two baseball charms ready for my necklace and my bracelet.


Hope everyone has a fabulous week, whether we like the election results or not!

When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” C. S. Lewis

Our Favorite Books from Homeschool Year 2

favorite books from homeschool

There is a time of day that is my absolute favorite. It’s the hour at the end of the day when I read to the big boys. The children love it too because it means spending time with Mom. Do you think Joshua and Caleb would ever, in a million billion years, have chosen to read the entire Little House on the Prairie series?


They LIVE outdoors, so actually they have plenty in common with little Laura Ingalls.

This is a series of books that takes the time to describe the common things that little girls did every day in the late 1800s. There are chapters in which Laura describes their dresses, the color of their hair, and how to make maple sugar.

No, never, ever would my boys have chosen these books.

 But you know what? We LOVED them. They groaned a little through the first one, but once the Ingalls started having run-ins with bears or wolves, I had them hooked. We are now almost finished with The Little Town on the Prairie, which means there’s only one book left, and we are Sadness.

I cannot tell you how much the boys have learned from listening to this series. We have learned how they built the railroad, how they plowed fields, and how children were (and still should be) expected to behave. We’ve learned about blizzards that lasted for days, grasshoppers that destroyed people’s livelihoods, prairie chickens, and literary societies! We’ve learned from Almanzo a better work ethic and from Laura that sometimes it is so very hard to be good, but it’s worth it to help others.

Their vocabularies have expanded. They understand the western expansion period of American history in a way that you can only get from a first-person account.

Oh! And the morals! You know I adore the high moral value of these books.

The boys’ favorite part, though, is always the wolves or bears. Anytime wolves or bears show up, we are tickled pink. They also despise Nellie Olsen and delight in seeing Laura get the upper hand.

The Little House books have been my favorite part of home schooling, by far.

You can see why I so badly want to try a cross-country road trip, and squeeze in a visit to a Little House museum.

Here are a few other books that are also fantastic, most of which the boys actually did pick out.

To say that Caleb likes this book would be a gross understatement. Caleb LOVES this book, mostly because there are two pages about Megalodon, an enormous extinct shark that he’s sort of obsessed with. Like seriously. Lately most of his artwork is shark art.

The boys would much rather focus on science reading than history, especially Joshua. He is supposed to be “Writing through Ancient History” with his writing class, but writing lessons have improved 100% for us, since I started letting him write on science or sports topics rather than history.

This is Joshua’s current favorite. It’s highly educational, but even the photos on the cover are so gross that Caleb makes him place the book facedown on the table. Of course, grossing us out is what makes it fun, so Joshua keeps taking this book to Classical Conversations and using different sections from it for his presentations.

This one both Joshua and Caleb like. I have also learned a lot from it. Who am I kidding? I’m always learning just as much as they are!

This next book has been my greatest purchase of the year, for Caleb:

I have no idea what brought it on, but Caleb suddenly decided that he wants to keep a diary, and he wanted it to be like Greg Heffley’s. Oh my goodness, I’ve never ordered something so quickly. See, what you don’t realize is that I’m actually just as “thrifty” as Alan. Alan saves money by working sales. I save money by trying to never buy things. (I can just see my mom reading this with scrunched eyebrows. Okay. Yes, this does not apply to clothes. No one can ever purchase too much clothing.)

Caleb has been diligently writing and illustrating in his new journal. He even has it divided up into chapters. It is serious business, and all of this with no begging, like I usually have to do to get him to write! So I’m beyond excited. (Did he already have a perfectly good spiral notebook to write in? Yes, he has several, but whatever inspires him, I guess!)

We also still read Elephant and Piggy. For kids ages preschool-2nd grade, I’m telling you, you can’t go wrong with Mo Willems.

 These are also helpful for young readers. They are called Pathway Readers:


Whether you are a homeschool family or not, give these history stories a try!! They are in chronological order, and I promise you will learn just as much as your children. The stories are all short and interesting and packed with little-known historical facts. I read them out loud, but the big kids could read them too. We also have them on audio book. Joshua hates the audio book version, but Caleb actually asks to listen to them in the car!

There are even worksheets you can buy to go along with it, but I confess that we never get around to the worksheets or the color sheets. I figure they’re getting enough with the stories and the copious amount of map drawing and labeling that we do in CC.

I could talk books all day long, but the Dan Man is here asking me for milk.

What are your kids’ favorite books??

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