Raspberry Pi with CAP


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Last year I became an educator member through Civil Air Patrol (CAP).  Last June, I lead a civil air patrol lesson on the weather, the atmosphere, the climate, and weather forecasting.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here.   In October my Civil Air Patrol educational materials were the Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit. I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  In January me educational materials were on Astronomy and telescopes.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here This time my educational materials are centered around the Raspberry Pi.  This is a brand new module for CAP and does not have the extensive support that other modules have.  In fact, the guide is still in development. It doesn’t have all of the units complete yet. However, I found other resources and what is in the guide is enough to get started.

The following are a list of terms that came from the Civil Air Patrol’s “Computing with the Raspberry Pi: An Introduction to Programming, Embedded Systems, and Digital Sensors” downloadable guide:

ADC – Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) is a microchip used to convert analog signal to digital signal.

Arithmetic – Arithmetic is the math operators that within  Python’s basic math such as addition +, subtraction -, multiplication *, division /, floor division //, or exponent **.

Basic program loops – A basic program loop is used when a programmer needs a computer to continue to perform the same tasks for a long period of time or for as long as it has power.

Binary – Binary is a computer or machine language that uses the binary digits 0 and 1 to represent a letter, digit, or another character in a computer or other electronic device.

Breakout Board – A breakout board is a device that converts small terminals into larger terminals that make it easier to wire electrical components.  You can connect alligator clips or solder to them.

Capacitor Burn Out – A capacitor can burn out when connected backward and will typically make a popping sound.  

Circuit – A circuit is the “path” we create guiding power flow between the hardware (sensors, LEDs, etc.) that we are using with our raspberry pi GPIO pins.

Cobbler – A cobbler can be used to connect a breadboard to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins.  This component is used to make the GPIO ports easier to use.

Components – Components are the various parts or pieces that we connect to our Raspberry Pi (i.e., sensors, LED, camera, etc.)

Conditional operators – Conditional operators are used in programming just like in English.  Sometimes we need to tell Python to do something only if something else is the case.  We can do that using an “if” statement.

Coordinate System – A coordinate system is a set of 2 numbers that indicate positions on Earth relative to the Equator.  Latitude indicates vertical position and longitude indicates horizontal position. An x-y axis is another type of coordinate system.  And for 3D an x-y-z-axis system is another type of coordinate system.

Current – Current is the electricity flowing from a power source to the Raspberry Pi. Current is measured in Amps.

Electrolytic Capacitor – A capacitor is an electronic device used to store energy.  If a consistent voltage is applied to a capacitor, it has a very high resistance, but if the voltage is suddenly removed, it will provide power to the circuit for a short time.  If the voltage is increased, the capacitor will resist the flow while it is charging up.

For Loops – A for loop is a finite loop and will loop a fixed number of times.

Function – Function is a type of programming feature that will allow us to have only one set of code.  A function has three components: input, output, and body. The input is what you give the function to work with.  The output is what the function generates from its inputs. The body is what gets us from the input to the output.

GPIO – General Purpose Input/Output. GPIO pins are used for connecting LEDs, sensors, and different devices. There are 40 GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi 3.  

GPS – Global Positioning System (GPS) uses an antenna to connect to satellites in orbit around the earth.  From these satellites, the module can find out its positional data on the Earth and the current time.

Ground – This is where a circuit ends.  It can either be a pin waiting for input or a return path for power.

Heading – This is the direction you are facing or the direction towards a particular location.

IDE – Interactive Development Environment (IDE) is when the shell opens so you can enter your python code.

IDLE – IDLE is the development environment for Python.  You can create and test programs using it.
Input – Input devices let you send data to the raspberry pi like a keyboard, mouse, or camera.  On the raspberry pi, inputs can be the USB connectors or the GPIO pins.

LCD – A Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) are like those used in many modern monitors and HD televisions.  There are tiny LCD screens available to use with the raspberry pi.

LED – A Light Emitting Diode (LED) can light up in one color (available in many different colors).  The longer lead is positive, while the shorter lead is negative.

List – A list is a data structure variable that can hold multiple values.  These values can be referenced by numbers like numbered items in a grocery list.

Operating System – This is required for your computer to start up. The raspberry pi runs on Linux.

Output – Output devices receive data that the Raspberry Pi sends to them like a speaker or display.

PiTFT touchscreen – The PiTFT (Thin Film Transistor) touchscreen is a device designed to both display something and read when touched as input.  This specific one with our kit is a single-touch, resistive touchscreen. This means that it only supports a single point being touched at a time.

Power Source – A power source is the typical starting point of a circuit such as the power supply.

Python – Python is a simple programming language that requires only a few lines of code to do amazing things.  Any code you write will be fed to an interpreter that converts your python code into the computer’s binary language.  Python is the command prompt that Raspberry Pi uses.

Resistance – Resistance is measured in Ohms and is how hard the components on the board push back against the voltage. Resistance is like the size of a stream.  A stream that is running through a deep section with wide banks has low resistance and moves slowly; a stream that is running through a shallow water with narrow banks has high resistance and moves quickly.

Shell – The window that opens is known as the shell and is where you can enter the python code.

Short Circuits – A short occurs when a component with a positive polarity is directly connected to a component with a negative polarity and both have very low resistance.  This can occur by setting the Raspberry Pi on a piece of metal or allowing two pins to touch. A short can destroy your Raspberry Pi.  Do not set your Raspberry Pi on metal and be careful to not touch the wrong pins together.

Source code – Source code is any collection of computer instructions, possibly with comments.  The raspberry pi uses python as its source code before being converted to binary.

Static Electricity – Static electricity is generating a shock when you touch a conductive surface such as metal or another person.  This kind of shock can easily damage the Raspberry Pi. You can use a grounding bracelet to protect against static shocks.

Storage – Storage is where the programs you create are saved to. Memory/RAM is temporary and gets cleared any time the machine is powered off or reset.  The storage for the raspberry pi is the microSD card or a hard drive if you need to backup your programs.

Troubleshooting – Troubleshooting is a form of problem-solving and in the case of the Raspberry Pi it is done to find errors or debug the code when errors occur.

Try-Except Block – A Try-Except Block is similar to an if-else statement, the code in the try section is run unless there is an error or interruption.  You can use the except block run code when the specific event happens during the try block.

Variables – Variables are one of the most useful tools in programming.  Variables allow you to tell the computer to remember something.  Variables can be integers, strings, or names.

Voltage – Voltage is the electrical potential between positive and negative. The Raspberry Pi has a 5-volt input but outputs 3.3 volts.

While Loops – While Loops are potentially infinite.  A while loop will repeat the indented lines of code until the condition is no longer true.

The following are links to online resources that I located or were suggested in the activity booklet (videos, lesson plans, ebooks, etc.) that can be used to better understand the raspberry pi:

  • Raspberry Pi is the official website of Raspberry Pi and where you can get your own and accessories.  In addition, it has tons of resources for online training, tutorials, project ideas, coding club locators, and educational resources.
  • Getting Started With Raspberry Pi is an online guide.
  • KA-Pi is Khan Academy for the Raspberry Pi and the ability to watch their videos without internet.
  • The Pi Hut is loaded with tutorials as well as links to the official Raspberry Pi and maker stores.
  • Sparkfun Pi is Sparkfun’s raspberry pi tutorials and online guides.
  • Adafruit Raspberry Pi is Adafruit’s raspberry tutorials and demos.
  • RPi is filled with raspberry pi tutorials and project ideas.
  • Instructables has Raspberry Pi project ideas.
  • Hackster.io has Raspberry Pi tutorials and demos.
  • PiMyLifeUp has lots of Raspberry Pi projects.
  • Python is the main programming language used on the Raspberry Pi.
  • Learn Python has a tutorial for learning python.
  • Python Guru has tutorials for learning python.

The following are books (all at our local library) about the raspberry pi:

  • Raspberry Pi Projects for Dummies by Mike Cook
  • Adventures in Raspberry Pi by Carrie Anne Philbin
  • Learning Python with Raspberry Pi by Alex Bradbury
  • Raspberry Pi in Easy Steps by Mike McGrath
  • Getting started with Raspberry Pi by Matt Richardson
  • Understanding coding with Raspberry Pi by Patricia Harris
  • Raspberry Pi Zero Cookbook by Edward Snajder
  • Python Programming with Raspberry Pi by Srihari Yamanoor
  • Raspberry Pi by Charles R. Severance
  • Make Bluetooth: Bluetooth LE Projects with Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Smartphones by  Alasdair Allan
  • Motors for Makers: a Guide to Steppers, Servos, and Other Electrical Machines by Matthew Scarpino
  • The New Shop Class: Getting Started with 3D Printing, Arduino, and Wearable Tech by Joan C. Horvath

Here are some places to obtain Raspberry Pi kits or bundles for those who don’t want to acquire everything individually (the actual raspberry pi is about $35):

  • Adafruit has a starter kit; all you need is a screen or monitor or hook it up to your TV.
  • Adafruit PiTop is a complete raspberry pi laptop kit.
  • Piper Computer Kit is a complete build your own computer kit.
  • Neego Raspberry Kit is a build your own tablet kit.
  • Kano Computer Kit is a complete build your own computer kit.
  • Raspberry Pi is the official store with bundles but you will need to supply your own screen and keyboard.
  • Cana Kit has a build your own computer starter kit and you need to provide the screen.

Here are some magazines that can offer inspiration for making and creating with the raspberry pi and other technologies:


Beyond Academics: What Else Our Children Need to Learn



Sometimes our children are singularly focussed on only their interest.  This leaves them less well-rounded.  Some schools stress only academics, again leaving their students less well-round.  Sadly, many schools have eliminated or reduced educational opportunities for music, art, home economics, and shop or trade classes.  These leaves students without learning some basic life skills that we learned while we were in school.  For some gifted children, their academic skills are so advanced that they look inept in other skills.  In addition, asynchronicity can affect them and also have them looking inept in some life skills.  All of this is further reason why we as parents need to teach our own children other skills beyond just academics. This means as parents, we need to step up to teach our children some critical life skills that they need beyond just academics such as money management, media literacy, gun safety, cooking skills, cleaning skills, finding a hobby, tinkering, and trade skills.

Money management. Money math is not taught in most schools.  The students who choose to take an economics course in high school may be the only ones getting real exposure to lessons on money management.  However, given the lack of savings by Americans and the exponential rise in student debt it is extremely important that all children get lessons on money management starting when they are little.  There are all kinds of programs and banks for teaching children about saving, spending and giving or donating.  But, money management is more than just giving children an allowance and having them allocate between save, spend, and give.  It is the active teaching them about debit cards, credit cards, checking accounts, savings account, and retirement savings.  Our son has been coming to our annual financial advisor meetings and hearing all the discussions on investments, life insurance, debt management, and retirement planning.  We have worked hard with him on understanding a need versus want.  If it is something he wants, he has to pay for it.  If it is something he needs and he can prove that it is a need instead of a want, then we pay.  There are also times we split the cost.  He also created a gift wish list of his wants for the extended family to consider for his birthday or Christmas.  The point is, he recognizes the differences between needs and wants and he knows everything has a cost.  We have been bringing him grocery shopping and putting him in charge of the calculator so he can calculate unit cost if the price tag doesn’t list it.  We have certain food items that we need specific brands but for others, we have taught him how to do a price comparison and to understand when buying in bulk is a better deal.  He has heard the conversations when vacation planning regarding best airfare, lodging deals, car rental deals, and the looking for free activities as well as places where our memberships have reciprocity.  We also talk to him about taxes (sales, property, and income) and every year we review our tax return with him.  We want him to understand all aspects of money.

Media literacy.  Media literacy is extremely important for our children.  They are growing up completely surrounded by social media and instant notifications.  However, there is so much information and misinformation that children (and adults) do not always know what is factual.  I previously wrote on the issues of media and news literacy and provided links to resources for teaching media and news literacy.  We need our children to understand the media that they are exposed to as well as learning how to make proper arguments and understanding logical fallacies.  With the amount of time our children are exposed to the screen with some form of media, it is important that they learn how to think critically and analyze information.

Gun safety. Gun safety is important for all people, but especially those living in America.  Given the current events, it is critical that we as parents have a conversation about gun safety with our children.  Not all gun owners are as responsible as they should be in storing their guns safely. We as parents do not know what is going on in another person’s house in terms of if guns are in the house, are they loaded or unloaded, are they locked, etc.  For those parents who do not own guns but are in areas where lots of people do own guns, it is important that your children know what to do if they see a gun when at a friend’s or different family member’s house.  Guns are not toys and this needs to be stressed to all children.  If they see a gun, they need to report it to an adult.  They should not touch it or pick it up.  There have been too many cases of young children and toddlers accidentally shooting a gun at another child.  Thus, it is important as parents that we have these difficult conversations on gun safety.  If you do not feel comfortable talking to your child about guns, there are numerous gun ranges that have gun safety classes for children and hunting safety classes.  Field and Stream, Safe Kids, and Kids Health have suggestions for teaching children gun safety.  The important part is teaching kids that guns are not toys, they should not touch the gun, and they need to get an adult.  And, if they see a child at school with a gun, they need to report it.

Cooking skills.  Some kids love cooking and eating, but some do not.  And, we all know the same is true for adults.  However, every child needs to know how to do basic cooking.  With many schools no longer having home economics class, some kids never even try to cook until they leave the house.  Instead, we as parents need to involve our children in meal preparation.  They don’t have to be expert chefs.  Every child before they leave the house should know how to make at least 3 simple meals, do grocery shopping, and meal plan. Knowing how to cook can save on food expenses versus eating out for every meal (I know adults who ate out for 2 meals a day).  Knowing how to cook can also help with being healthier.

Cleaning skills. Cleaning skills might be considered chores by some.  I also know that there are some families who have maids and nannies which means their children never have to do cleaning chores.  However, once children leave the home, many do not have the money to afford a maid and some will still depend on their moms to do laundry.  This is why I have cleaning skills on the list of what every child needs to learn.  In addition, we don’t have a maid or lawn service company (a rarity where we leave).  These chores have to be done by us.  It is not that hard to teach a child how to use the vacuum, washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher.  In fact, my son loves to vacuum!  He knows how to start all of the appliances.  Because I use too big of a soap container, he can’t get the soap into the washing machine but he knows what settings are for bedding versus clothes.  He can transfer laundry for me and he can unload.  I admit he is not a good folder.  But the point is, he understands cleaning chores have to be done and he knows how to do the basic ones.  The goal is to get him to do these completely independently.  And the next step is to work on him doing the lawn maintenance chores.  Houses, clothes, and dishes do not magically clean themselves.  Children contribute to the messes and thus children need to learn how to help clean and maintain a house.

Finding a hobby or leisure activity. Many children are over scheduled.  They don’t have downtime and some don’t have any interests besides their academics.  Teaching children how to have a hobby and what a hobby looks like is a critical life skill.  Many adults work to support their hobbies and some have turned their hobbies into work.  Hobbies are important because it is usually something you enjoy and can be a source of stress relief.  Some hobbies involve a group and others don’t.  Hobbies could be craft related, sport related, flying, strategy gaming, reading, traveling, etc.  The point is, teaching children about hobbies and exposing them to various leisure activities can help them be more well-rounded and have an outlet for stress relief.

Tinkering.  Tinkering is a new part of education and is part of a bigger global community.  Some schools and libraries now have makerspaces that children and adults can use for making just about anything.  However, some children do not have access to these places.  This is where parents can come in to create opportunities for tinkering.  Although playing with 3D printers and CNC cutters is amazing, there are simpler ways for kids to learn tinkering.  Letting children of all ages take things apart and reassemble or better yet use those parts to make something different is a great way to allow creativity to blossom.  The point of the tinkering movement is allowing people to make things that solve a problem they have or just for the sake of making something out of stuff they have.  Tinkering can also be fixing or repairing what is broken to extend its usefulness longer than the typical buy-break-buy cycle than many people do.  Tinkering can also lead to art formation.  Tinkering on the cheap just entails having a simple tool set and cell phone repair kit so you can take about just about anything.  Then, let your child’s imagination and creativity go in terms of what they want to do or make with those parts.  There are also some beginner robot and Arduino kits and lots of online programs that are free or low cost for taking the tinkering to the next level of robotics and programming (Arduino, raspberry pi, launchpad, Adafruit, etc.).  There are also books that are available at many libraries: Tinkerlab, Invent to Learn, Exploralab, 50 Dangerous Things You Should Never Let Your Children Do, Maker Dad, The Big Book of Hacks, and Make: Tinkering (Make has a magazine and lots of books).

Trade skills.  Trade skills is a broad area but an important one, especially since many schools have completely eliminated these programs and every person depends on a tradesperson to keep their cars, workplace, or homes running.  Our children don’t need to know every single trade out there.  However, understanding what electricians, plumbers, woodworkers, and auto mechanics do is extremely important.  Knowing about the tools the trades use is helpful.  Regardless of where one lives there will be a time when something breaks.  When we call a repair person, it is the perfect learning opportunity for our children to see what they do.  In addition, learning some of these trades means they may potentially save themselves on future repair bills.  Having an understanding of how a car engine works and what is routine maintenance can help reduce auto repair costs.  Having just some basic or introductory knowledge could help when explaining what is wrong to the mechanic or repair person at your house and lower your bill because you won’t be billed for a service you didn’t need.  In addition, having some understanding of the trades can help build appreciation for those who do these needed jobs.  And, learning some of these trades can lead to some interesting hobbies, side jobs, or even future careers.

I am sure that there are additional areas that students can and should learn.  However, I picked these as the most critical due to seeing so many high school students and college students lacking these skills.  I have also heard from friends about the recent college graduates looking good on paper but lacking functional life skills.  I have heard and seen the college kid saving several weeks worth of laundry for their moms.  I have even heard some college students asking their parents to hire them a maid and increase their food budget for eating out.  We have friends who didn’t figure out balancing debt until they were in their 30s and we all know people who never get out of debt.  In addition, many current events highlight the need for our children to learn more than just academics and test-taking skills.  At some point, our children will have to live on their own and we all want them to be successful and independent.

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Beyond Academics.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:


Sweet Dreams Are Not Made of These


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People don’t always tell you that some babies, toddlers, or children are not good sleepers.  Oh, you will get that passing comment about sleep-deprived newbie parents.  However, even the prenatal classes make no mention of possible sleep issues or prepare you for the reality of sleep deprivation.  Yet, there are tons of books, alleged sleep gurus, and general advice on sleep problems and sleep training.  But, when you are in the midst of it, you feel all alone and completely sleep deprived. Honestly, very few babies sleep through the night!  Parents should not expect that so they can be realistic on sleep expectations.  That being said, we know our child was an outlier on horrible sleep.  Hopefully, your child is better or that your future child will not be this difficult.

Here is our story of our son’s not so sweet dreams:

Our son was born with congenital scoliosis and kidney reflux which meant he had lots of specialists his first couple years.  He did latch but was not the best eater. We suspected something was not right but our first pediatrician just said it was colic and that some babies are difficult.  The longest he would sleep for was 1.5 hours.  We actually made logs of his spit-ups, projectile vomiting, gas, and crying fits (not normal baby cries).  His spine specialist showed us his x-rays at 6 months and said we need to to take a copy of the x-ray to his pediatrician and consider seeing a gastroenterologist as his stomach was filled with air despite not crying during the x-ray.  This lead to our pediatrician backing off all of her previous comments and getting us to a gastroenterologist rapidly.  Instead of the usual 3 month wait time, we were seen in 2 weeks.  We did switch pediatricians too.  This led to several diagnostic procedures and the diagnosis was severe GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) aka Reflux.  We tried various medications, sleep positioners, elevating bed, and played around with prescription formulas and breast milk and combining with rice cereal to thicken.  We got him to sleep at least one 3 to 4-hour chunk at night with smaller chunks but he never napped more than 45 minutes.  By age 1, he was only napping once a day but he was so alert during the day he truly did not need the naps. It was me who needed the naps!

By age 2 he was also diagnosed with abdominal migraines and delayed gastric emptying.  He was still only sleeping one 3 to 4-hour chunk at night with smaller chunks and no longer napping at all.  Again, he was completely fine and did not need the naps.  It was me who needed them.  And it was during this time that we may have missed how gifted he was.  By age 4 the abdominal migraines were gone and he was only on reflux medications.  He was finally sleeping for 4-hour chunks.  We did go through a phase of nightmares and night terrors (worse than nightmares) and sleepwalking.  And it was during this year he was diagnosed as profoundly gifted.  By age 6 we stopped prescription reflux medicine as there was no difference on it or off of it and there were risks of long-term use of such medication.  

At age 11 he still does not sleep completely through the night and requires significantly less sleep than his peers.  Like his physical size, his sleep is on the bottom of the chart and completely opposite of his cognitive and academic abilities.  His doctors and we realize he doesn’t know how to turn off his brain to relax and just sleep.  He is constantly thinking and planning.  He can pick up in the middle of the night or in the morning right where his conversation ended before going to sleep.  And, he is part of the small percentage of babies that never outgrows GERD and continue to have reflux their whole life.  The reflux is better but not gone.  He still takes forever to fall asleep.

Here is a list of things we tried (I am sure I am missing some):

  • Swaddling (he loved being swaddled but didn’t necessarily translate to sleeping)
  • Shushing
  • Rocking
  • Pacifier (due to reflux, he was never into one)
  • Singing lullabies & nursery rhymes
  • Sleeping in bouncer
  • Sleeping in car seat
  • Walking outside to put to sleep
  • Driving in car to put to sleep
  • Babywearing to put sleep (baby Bjorn was my best baby item)
  • Elevated bassinet & crib with binders (4 inch hard sided binders, and for a period of time multiple ones stacked on top of each other)
  • Wedge pillow
  • Baby sleep positioners
  • Elevated twin mattress with binders & books (we considered purchasing a wedge mattress but binders worked enough)
  • Double sets of sheets & mattress protectors so that if bad vomit or bathroom incident could quickly get back to bed (this was best baby tip we were ever given)
  • Cry-it-out aka Ferber Method (tried it and resulted in worse vomiting, and learned this method is not recommended for severe reflux babies)
  • Pick-up Put-down Method aka Hogg Method (tried it and didn’t work, he would get too worked up and vomit)
  • The chair method (the crying resulted in vomiting)
  • Co-sleeping aka the Sears Method (didn’t stop the waking up but everyone got more sleep)
  • Bedroom sharing aka McKenna Method (didn’t stop the waking up but everyone got more sleep)
  • No cry sleep method aka Pantley Method (reducing crying, reduced reflux compared to other crying methods)
  • Shush-pat method (less crying, but took over 30 minutes to fall asleep every time he woke up)
  • Sleep Fairy method (based on the book by Janie Peterson and Macy Peterson)
  • Medications
  • Probiotics
  • Sleep books for kids
  • Lavender baths
  • Calming Music
  • White noises (small fans)
  • Monster spray
  • Dreamcatchers
  • Detective Thinking
  • Deep breathing and counted breathing
  • Bedtime stories
  • Sleep reward charts
  • Strict bedtime routine
  • Quiet time before bedtime

Sleep-themed books for kids that we tried:

  • Sleep Fairy by Janie Peterson and Macy Peterson
  • Time for Bed by Mem Fox
  • Jake Stays Awake by Michael Wright
  • I Don’t Want to Go to Bed! by Julie Sykes
  • Go Sleep in Your Own Bed by Candace Fleming
  • Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton
  • Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
  • Mommy, I Want to Sleep In Your Bed! By Harriet Ziefert
  • I Sleep In My Own Bed by Glenn Wright
  • Good night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown’s
  • The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  • The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • Kiss Goodnight by Amy Hest
  • Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan
  • A Book of Sleep by II Sung Na
  • Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss

I share our story, not to scare you but instead to assure you that you are not alone if you have a difficult sleeper.  Also, the books and sage advice may not work for your family.  Trust me, I read over a dozen sleep training books, watched several videos, and subscribed to several sleep training emails; you need to find what works for you and your child. You need to find a strategy that you can live with. There is no one-size strategy for sleep.  Some children are great sleepers.  Some are not great sleepers like ours.

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Sweet Dreams.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:


Algebra for High School Credit, Homeschool Style


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Algebra has been completed.  In order to document how DS received high school credit, I created the following class description.  Unlike traditional high school transcripts, homeschoolers often have class descriptions to document the content covered.

Algebra 1 (1 year High School Credit) Course Description

Online Programs Completed:

  • Knowre (12 chapters with 96% mastery)
  • Mathletics (completed all 240+ lessons with a 91% mastery)
  • Khan Academy (All 711 lessons completed with a 92% mastery)
  • Alcumus (Must sign up to access the problems, but this part is free and it complements the Art of Problem Solving books.  These are not traditional algebra or math problems.  This is not graded)

Textbooks Used and Completed:

  • Groundworks Algebra Puzzles and Problems (More like real life mathematical story puzzles and a fun way of doing algebra.)
  • Dr. Math Explains Algebra (A completely different style of book for explaining algebra.  It is a great complement to any online program or traditional algebra text.)
  • Mathematics Enhancement Programme Demonstration Project Practice Books (This is the UK math system and presents problems very differently than the US.  The project practice books all have answers online.  He enjoys them as they are very different from traditional US math problems.  They are used for students to prep for their A-Level exams)
  • Art of Problem Solving Algebra (This is a highly recommended algebra curriculum for gifted math students.  This curriculum is not used in traditional public schools but in some gifted enrichment programs, home schools, and some private schools.)
  • Beginning & Intermediate Algebra (Found this traditional textbook at half-price books really cheap and the textbook still had the DVD too.  This textbook is by Elayn Martin-Gay.)

Math Videos Used:

Joy of Math The Story of Maths
Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land The Story of One
Solving for X with Bill Nye Power of 10
Schlessinger Media Math for Children Series Vi Hart videos on YouTube
Standard Deviants Algebra Art of Problem Solving

The next step will be for DS to take the CLEP exam to earn college credit in addition to his high school credit.  He is now going to be working on geometry and algebra 2 simultaneously.

Astronomy Lessons via CAP


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This spring I became an educator member through Civil Air Patrol.  In June, I lead a civil air patrol lesson on the weather, the atmosphere, the climate, and weather forecasting.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  In October my Civil Air Patrol educational materials were the Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit. I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  This time it is Astronomy.  This time the kit came with a telescope and activity guide.  Thanks to having access to a dark spot in Houston, we will be taking the kids to the Greater Houston Soaring Association’s Gliderport in Wallis where 2 of their members will be demonstrating their powerful scopes compared to the kit’s scope.  In addition, we will be attending the planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science to learn about the “Starry Night.”

The following list of terms came from the Civil Air Patrol’s “Astronomy Activity Booklet as a compendium to AEX Astronomy Module” and astronomy books:

Aperture Door – guards the telescope’s internal mechanisms.

Asteroids – are rocky, airless worlds that orbit our sun, but are too small to be called planets. They are often called “minor planets” or “planetoids.” Tens of thousands of these minor planets are gathered in the main asteroid belt, a vast doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomical System of Degrees – is the system of measuring objects on the horizon.  Astronomers measure distances in the sky in units of degrees.

Cardinal Directions – are the four cardinal points from a compass: North (N), East (E), South (S), and West (W).

Cassegrain Reflector Telescope (what the Hubble Telescope is) – is a combination of a primary concave mirror and a secondary convex mirror, often used in optical telescopes and radio antennas. This design puts the focal point at a convenient location behind the primary mirror and the convex secondary adds a telephoto effect creating a much longer focal length.

Concave Lens – are thinner in the middle. Rays of light that pass through the lens are spread out (they diverge). A concave lens is called a diverging lens. When parallel rays of light pass through a concave lens the refracted rays diverge so that they appear to come from one point called the principal focus.

Constellations – are totally imaginary things that poets, farmers, and astronomers have made up over the past 6,000 years (and probably even more!). The real purpose of the constellations is to help us tell which stars are which and have been used for navigation. The International Astronomical Union recognizes 88 constellations covering the entire northern and southern sky. Over half of the 88 constellations, the IAU recognizes today are attributed to the ancient Greek, which consolidated the earlier works by the ancient Babylonian, Egyptian and Assyrian. Forty-eight of the constellations we know were recorded in the seventh and eighth books of Claudius Ptolemy’s Almagest.

Convex Lens – are thicker in the middle. Rays of light that pass through the lens are brought closer together (they converge). A convex lens is called a converging lens. When parallel rays of light pass through a convex lens the refracted rays converge at one point called the principal focus.

Electromagnetic Radiation – refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space-time, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy.  It is a form of energy that is all around us and takes many forms, such as radio waves, microwaves, X-rays and gamma rays. Sunlight is also a form of EM energy, but visible light is only a small portion of the EM spectrum, which contains a broad range of electromagnetic wavelengths.

Eyepiece –  is a type of lens that is attached to a variety of optical devices such as telescopes and microscopes. It is also called the ocular lens. It is so named because it is usually the lens that is closest to the eye when someone looks through the device.

Filters – are an invaluable aid in viewing plants, the moon, and the sun.  Filters reduce glare and light scattering, increase contrast through selective filtration, increase definition and resolution, reduce irradiation, and lessen eye fatigue.  To look at the sun you must use a specific solar filter and not just any color filter.

First Quarter Moon – is a primary Moon phase when we can see exactly half of the Moon’s surface illuminated. If it is the left or right half, depends on where you are on Earth. This First Quarter Moon is in the Northern Hemisphere mirrors approximately the calendar symbol.  It is also called the Half Moon.

Focal Length – is the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus, usually stated in millimeters (e.g., 28 mm, 50 mm, or 100 mm). The focal length is the distance between the center of the lens and the virtual image. In the case of zoom lenses, both the minimum and maximum focal lengths are stated, for example, 18–55 mm.  

Focusis also called the principal focus.  It is the focus of the point on the axis of a lens or mirror to which parallel rays of light converge or from which they appear to diverge after refraction or reflection. It is a central point of attention or interest.

Full Moon – is the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is completely illuminated as seen from Earth. This occurs when Earth is located directly between the Sun and the Moon.

Galaxy – is a gravitationally bound system of stars, stellar remnants, interstellar gas, dust, and dark matter.  Our solar system is part of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Last Quarter – occurs a week after Full Moon. In this phase, the Moon is in quadrature, and one half of the Moon’s disk is illuminated as seen from Earth. The Last Quarter Moon rises at midnight, transits the meridian at sunrise and sets at noon.

Light – is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is visible to the human eye

Magnification – the action or process of magnifying something or being magnified, especially visually.  It is the process of enlarging the appearance, not physical size, of something. This enlargement is quantified by a calculated number also called “magnification.”

Moon Phases – are also called lunar phases.   It is the shape of the illuminated portion of the Moon as seen by an observer on Earth.  The phases are Full Moon, Waning Gibbous Moon, Last Quarter Moon, Waning Crescent Moon, New Moon, Waxing Crescent Moon, First Quarter Moon, and Waxing Gibbous Moon. The moon’s phases are caused by the changing angle from which the sun illuminates it as the moon makes its way around the Earth.

New Moon – the phase of the moon when it is in conjunction with the sun and invisible from earth, or shortly thereafter when it appears as a slender crescent.

Objective Lens – the lens or system of lenses in a telescope that is nearest the object being viewed.

Observatory – is a location used for observing terrestrial or celestial events. Astronomy, climatology/meteorology, geophysical, oceanography, and volcanology are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been constructed.

Optical Tube – contain the objective and the eyepiece for a telescope. The objective of an optic tube is a collecting system (usually consisting of two cemented lenses, less frequently a multi-lens or catadioptric system). It gives a real reduced and inverted image of a distant object near its own focal plane.  Astronomers and opticians call eyepieces “oculars.” Oculars are a self-contained system of magnifying lenses (usually between two and seven elements) that are mounted in a tube and attached in the focal plane of a telescope to magnify the image formed by the telescope.

Orbit – is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object, such as the trajectory of a planet around a star or a natural satellite around a planet.

Planetarium – is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation.

Planets – an astronomical body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion and has cleared its neighboring region of planetesimals. The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, astrology, science, mythology, and religion.  The planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.  Pluto has been classified as a dwarf planet.

Reflector telescope – is a telescope that uses a single or combination of curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image.

Refractor telescope – is a type of optical telescope that uses a lens as its objective to form an image. The refracting telescope design was originally used in spy glasses and astronomical telescopes but is also used for long focus camera lenses.

Satellites – is an artificial object which has been intentionally placed into orbit. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as Earth’s Moon.

Secondary Lens – is a lens designed to be used in conjunction with another lens, called the primary lens. A secondary lens may be designed to be used either in front of the primary lens, between it and the subject, or behind the primary lens, between it and the film.

Solar System – is the gravitationally bound system comprising the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of those objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest eight are the planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, such as dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies.

Stars -is a luminous sphere of plasma held together by its own gravity. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun.

Telescope – works by collecting more light than the human eye can capture on its own via mirrors or lenses.  The larger its mirror, the more light it can collect, and the better its vision.  It is an optical instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation (such as visible light).

Universe – is all of space and time and its contents, which includes planets, moons, minor planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space and all matter and energy.

Waning – means shrinking

Waning Crescent – follows last quarter.

Waning Gibbous – comes after full moon

Waxing – means getting larger

Waxing Crescent – comes after new moon

Waxing Gibbous – follows the first quarter


The following are links to online resources that I located or were suggested in the activity booklet (videos, lesson plans, e-books) that can be used to better understand astronomy:


The following are books (all at our local library) about astronomy:

  • “Astronomy: A Visual Guide” by Garlick, Mark A.
  • “Astronomy” by Lippincott, Kristen
  • “The Young Astronomer” by Ford, Harry.
  • “Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide” by Moché, Dinah L
  • “Astronomy: The Story of Stars and Galaxies” by Gore, Bryson
  • “Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope– And How to Find Them” by Consolmagno, Guy
  • “Space And Astronomy Experiments” by Walker, Pam
  • “Practical Astronomy” by Dunlop, Storm
  • “The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Amateur Astronomy” by Bakich, Michael E.
  • “Stargazing Basics: Getting Started in Recreational Astronomy” by Kinzer, Paul E.
  • “Hubble’s Universe: A Portrait of Our Cosmos” by Goodwin, Simon
  • “The New Astronomy Guide: Stargazing in the Digital Age” by Moore, Patrick
  • “Illustrated Dictionary of Practical Astronomy” by Kitchin, C. R.
  • “Kepler and the Universe: How One Man Revolutionized Astronomy” by Love, David
  • “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy” by De Pree, Christopher Gordon
  • “Be an Astronomer” by Shea, Nicole
  • “Galileo’s New Universe: The Revolution in Our Understanding of the Cosmos” by Maran, Stephen P.
  • “National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky” by Chartrand, Mark
  • “Making & Enjoying Telescopes: 6 Complete Projects & a Stargazer’s Guide” by Miller, Robert
  • “Starwatch: A Month-by-Month Guide to the Night Sky” by Kerrod, Robin
  • “Astronomers” by Haydon, Julie
  • “Night Sky Atlas: The Moon, Planets, Stars and Deep Sky Objects” by Scagell, Robin
  • “Astronomy 101: From The Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts About the Universe” by Petersen, Carolyn Collins
  • “The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes” by Jackson, Ellen
  • “Astronomy for Beginners” by Becan, Jeff
  • “Cambridge Illustrated Dictionary of Astronomy” by Mitton, Jacqueline
  • “Janice VanCleave’s Astronomy for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments That Really Work” by VanCleave, Janice Pratt
  • “The Universal Book of Astronomy From the Andromeda Galaxy to the Zone of Avoidance” by Darling, David J


The following are DVDs (all at our local library) about astronomy:

  • Greatest Discoveries with Bill Nye. Astronomy
  • Discovery history of astronomy; Night sky: navigating the constellations
  • Seeing in the dark
  • Earth home planet; Orbit: Earth from space
  • Core astronomy
  • Understanding the universe, what’s new in astronomy 2003
  • Space exploration: Adi in space. The outer planets
  • Journey to the edge of the universe
  • 400 years of the telescope a journey of science, technology, and thought
    Space exploration: Adi in space. The Earth
  • The universe. The complete season three explore the edges of the unknown
  • Journey of the universe
  • Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey
  • Bill Nye the science guy. Outer space
  • At the edge of space
  • Science for kids. Universe, galaxy, black holes, solar system
  • My fantastic field trip to the planets
  • Dark matter, dark energy: the dark side of the universe
  • Black holes explained
  • Invisible universe revealed
  • The universe an amazing journey from the sun to the most distant galaxies

World Schooling Round 6

The past couple years we have taken homeschooling and roadschooling to a new level, world schooling.  In previous blogs, I have explained exactly what world schooling is and what adventures we had: New Zealand, Germany,  England, Hawaii, and Canada.  This time our world schooling adventures lead us to Ireland.

Ireland was a different kind of trip because we traveled with my mother to the home country of her great-grandparents and visited sites we had listed in the McGlinn family book (birth city, departure city, baptismal city, and marriage city).  Ireland was both a cultural and a genealogy trip.  And it was a multi-generational family trip.  Our son had done readings and watched videos to better understand Ireland’s history and the reasons our family left Ireland to Canada and then to Wisconsin.  He learned about the Irish-English land wars, the potato famine, and the mistreatments of Irish Catholics that led to them leaving.

Here is what we experienced during our 7-day adventure in Ireland:

  • Bog of Allen
  • Saint Brigid’s Cathedral & Round Tower
  • Killdare
  • Cathedral of Saint Peter & Paul
  • Ennis
  • Cliffs of Moher & O’Brien’s Tower
  • Doolin Cave
  • Bunratty Castle
  • Knappogue Castle
  • Quin Abbey
  • Clare Abbey
  • Ennis Friary
  • Blarney Castle & Gardens
  • Cork City Gaol & Radio Museum
  • Cork
  • Grange Stone Circle Lough Gur
  • Lough Gur Heritage Centre
  • Saint Munchin’s Church
  • King John’s Castle
  • Saint Mary’s Cathedral
  • Limerick
  • Dysert O’Dea Castle, Church, High Cross, & Monastery
  • Imeall Boirne Parish
  • Burren National Park
  • Coad Church
  • Parknabinnia Wedge Tomb
  • Bodyke
  • Wild Irish Chocolate Factory
  • McKernan Woollen Mills
  • Lough Derg Beach
  • Lua’s Oratory
  • Flannan’s Church
  • Saint Flannan’s Cathedral & Oratory
  • Killaloe River Cruise
  • Killaloe
  • Garrykennedy Castle Ruins
  • Castletown ruins
  • Castlenaugh Castle Ruins
  • Scarriff
  • Tuamgraney

Here are some phrases we learned:

  • Gaol (prison)
  • Dia Duit (hello)
  • Slan Leat (goodbye)
  • Gardai (police)
  • Failte (welcome)
  • Stad (stop)
  • Lough (lake)
  • Aimsir (weather)
  • Slan (keep safe, farewell and often by exit signs)
  • Eire (Ireland)
  • Amach (Exit)
  • Bally or Baile (Place of)
  • Kill or cill (Church of)
  • Boot (trunk)
  • Toilet (bathrooms or restrooms)
  • Diesel or Petrol (gas)
  • Minerals (soft drinks or sodas)
  • Chips (fries)
  • Jumper (sweater or sweatshirt)
  • Who’s all there (how many people in your group)
  • Washing (laundry)
  • Noodle (your head)
  • Sap (sad)
  • Banshee (fairies, elves)

Travel to Ireland was similar to traveling in England and New Zealand because the driver sits on the right side of the car and drives on the left side of the road.  However, the roads in the region of Ireland we were in were much narrower and often lacking markers, making it a bit more challenging and stressful.  Thus, our son having his grandma with him meant he had someone to talk to, show things to, help get food and water, and lean on when tired because his parents were hyperfocused on driving and navigating.  Just like all of the other countries, Ireland does have some different signs used too as well as uses the metric system.  It is always a chuckle when you see speed limit signs of 100 or 120 but it’s not that fast because it’s kmh and not mph.  Gas is also in liters and not gallons.  

The one thing we found completely interesting is that Gaelic was on every sign.  On maps, sometimes we would see the English name and others would have the Gaelic name.  This would make it confusing if we didn’t have both names.  In the cities at crosswalks, they would have “look right” in both English and Gaelic to remind you where cars were coming from.  We also were impressed with how many ruins sites we could find.  Many places were clearly marked and often you would see ruins while driving.  And, in many of the ruins of abbeys and monasteries, they are now being used as cemeteries.  If it wasn’t for lack of parking on dangerously narrow roads, we may have stopped at more sites.  As is, I think we were able to visit way more ruins and historical sites in Ireland than we thought possible.  

Travel to Ireland was a great way to physically experience and learn about: bog ecology, Irish farmlands and practices, Irish culture, Irish fairy tales, foreign language (Gaelic), Ireland’s National Parks, historic sites, ruins, religious history, world history, genealogy, different signs, use of the metric system, accents, and currency exchange.  There is no doubt, travel is a great educational tool.   Remember, travel could be local, regional, your own country, or foreign countries.  Travel can be via “armchair” with the use of books, videos, and computers if you are unable to travel.  Exposure to the world is so important for children.  Be inspired, go explore!

College Tours at Any Age


Our son has always loved college campuses!  He started going to UH when he was 2 to participate in language development studies.  The students would take him to other cognitive study labs after he finished the experiments because he was so fascinated by the students and what they did.  Then we started attending special events and open houses at UH, UT and A&M starting when he was 5.  He loves A&M’s Physics Department to the point that he will not let us skip Physics Festival weekend.  And, thanks to being part of TPPG our son gets 3 days of special activities, lectures, and tours for Physics Festival.

His love for universities has completely expanded to the point that he asks for university tours.  For his 10th birthday, he got a private tour of Marquette University’s engineering building and computer science department due to his Aunt working for the university and having friends in the department.  He was only supposed to be there for one hour but he was there for 2.5 hours!  For his 11th birthday, he wanted to go see MIT & Harvard.  Since we had friends nearby, we made a trip to see them along with the universities.  And they suggested adding Yale to the list.  We also planned to be MIT for the solar eclipse.  So in lieu of a birthday party this year, he got to go to his favorite university!  He absolutely loved MIT and did enjoy both Harvard and Yale.  But, MIT won him over.

Here is the list of colleges we have visited thus far:

  • Harvard (self-guided tour & their museums)
  • MIT (self-guided tour, their museums, & solar eclipse activities)
  • Yale (self-guided tour & their museum)
  • Rice (individually guided tour of Engineering, self-guided of campus, & their museum)
  • University of Houston (participated in several language studies, group guided tours, self-guided, and open houses)
  • University of Houston – Sugar Land (self-guided tour, local library on campus)
  • University of Texas – Austin (UT Explore day, group and individual guided tour of labs, & self-guided of campus)
  • Texas A&M (Physics Festival, Chemistry Open House, group guided tour of labs, private lectures, lunch with math & physics department, & self-guided tours)
  • Marquette University (individually guided tour of Engineering & self-guided of campus)
  • Houston Community College (open houses & individually guided tour of labs)
  • Baylor University (self-guided tour & their museum)
  • University of Otago (self-guided tour)

We will obviously continue to visit UT, A&M, Rice, and UH quite frequently due to where we live and the activities we pursue at these campuses.  Soon he will be taking classes at HCC.  However, we plan on continuing to visit more universities, even when in foreign countries.  Our son absolutely loves being able to go into buildings and get lab tours.  But he also appreciates the building designs, safety analysis, and their architecture.  He is always hoping for private lab tours or a chance to talk with either students or professors.

College tours are something more people should consider doing with their children of any age and for children who are gifted or not.  It is true that not all students will go to a 4-year college.  However, that doesn’t mean they should not go visit colleges.  Any student should go and tour colleges.  Young children seeing a college campus may inspire or motivate them.  They may learn about additional career options that they were unaware of.  They may learn what fields require more than 4 years of college and which only require a trade school certification.  In addition, many colleges (both 4 year and 2 year) offer open houses that are filled with hands-on activities for childrens of all ages and tours of the buildings.  Some universities even offer a variety of camps that college students run.  And, many universities have museums on site, some of which are free.

There is another perk of college tours, even at young ages, a tour allows your child to see the environment first hand.  Even young children can get a feel for a college.  It is important to determine if it is the right place for them and if they feel comfortable.  I know our son was turned off by some of the colleges he toured because he did not like their labs, thought the campus was “cold” or “unfriendly,” or did not like some other aspect of the campus.  Some campuses were a hit immediately because of the friendliness of the students and professors regardless of his age. As with high school students, even younger children will either love a campus or not upon arrival.  Thus, experiencing the trip involved to get to the campus is important.  In addition, meeting the people who are there and seeing the actual learning environment are great experiences that can help with future planning.  College tours give you the opportunity to start the conversations about colleges, future education choices, and planning for the future.  Consider adding college visits as a fun activity to do with your child!

Hydraulic Engineering Lessons via CAP



In June, I lead a civil air patrol lesson on the weather, the atmosphere, the climate, and weather forecasting based on my recent Civil Air Patrol Education material arriving.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  This time my Civil Air Patrol educational materials are the Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit.  My kit came with 4 different projects to build and an activity guide.

The following list of terms came directly from the Civil Air Patrol’s “Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit – Tips for AEOs and AEMs:”

Fluid Power – fluid power is a complex discipline of engineering that spans pneumatics and hydraulics; it is the use of fluids under pressure to generate, control, and transmit power.

Fluids –  a liquid or a gas when defining fluids as it relates to fluid power within hydraulics & pneumatics.

Power – as it pertains to hydraulics & pneumatics, to supply with mechanical or electrical energy.

Pneumatics – (root Pneuma is from Latin/Greek and means air, wind, breath) the branch of physics, technology, and engineering concerned with mechanical properties of gases, pressurized gases or air; using compressed air for special applications.

Hydraulics – (root Hydra is from Greek and means water) at the basic level it is the liquid counterpart of pneumatics; focuses on the applied engineering using the properties of fluids.

Viscosity – a thickness or internal friction attribute; the less viscosity the fluid has the easier movement.

Hydrostatics – pressurizing a liquid to produce a force, unmoving; liquid at rest; the weight of a liquid.

Hydrodynamics – manipulating liquid to flow to push something; liquid in motion (i.e. Hoover Dam is hydroelectric, historical grist mills are hydromechanical).

Pascal’s Principle – pressure applied anywhere in a closed container of fluid is transmitted equally to the container walls in all directions (P = F/A; pressure equals a force divided by an area).

Mechanical Advantage – the advantage gained by the use of a mechanism for transmitting force; the ratio of the force produced by a machine to the force applied to it.

Bernoulli’s Principle – pressure applied to a fluid is decreased when flowing through a narrowed section of pipe/hose; a slow-moving fluid exerts more pressure than a fast-moving fluid.

Venturi effect – the reduction in fluid pressure that results when a fluid flows through a constricted section of a pipe.

The following are links to online resources that I located (videos, lesson plans, e-books) that can be used to better understand hydraulic engineering:

The following are books (all at our local library) about hydraulic engineering:

  • “Rubberband engineer: build slingshot-powered rockets, rubber band rifles, unconventional catapults, and more guerrilla gadgets from household hardware” by Lance Akiyama
  • “Fluid mechanics and hydraulics” by Ranald V. Giles
  • “Basic physics for all” by B. N. Kumar
  • “National Geographic science of everything: how things work in our world from cell phones, soap bubbles & vaccines to GPS, x-rays & submarines.” by National Geographic

The following are DVDs (all at our local library) about hydraulic engineering:

  • “The way things work. Pressure” from Schlessinger Media
  • “The way things work. Pumps” from Schlessinger Media
  • “Bill Nye the science guy. Pressure” from Disney Educational Productions
  • “Science of Disney Imagineering. Fluids” by Disney Educational Productions

World Schooling Round 5



As you can tell from the title, this is not our first round world schooling.  In previous blogs, I have explained exactly what world schooling is and what adventures we had.  In Round 1 I discussed New Zealand.  In Round 2 I discussed Germany.  In Round 3 I discussed England.  In Round 4 I discussed Hawaii.  Well, Round 5 is Canada and specifically the Banff, Alberta area.

Canada was not a new experience for my husband and I.  I had the privilege of taking many trips to Canada as a child growing up in Wisconsin.  In addition, I have a familial connection to Canada due to my mom’s grandparents immigrating from Ireland to Canada before arriving in WI.  And, we have several longtime family friends who were born in Canada.  In addition, Canada is America’s neighbor to the north.  Thus, Canada does not seem foreign to us.

Here is what we experienced during our 8-day adventure in and around Banff:

  • Calgary
  • Banff
  • Banff Visitor Centre
  • Bow River
  • Lake Louise
  • Lake Louise Visitor Centre
  • Lake Louise Gondola
  • Buckhorn Wildlife Interpretative Centre
  • Bow River Valley Dr.
  • Johnston Canyon
  • Junior Explorer Program (4 different badges)
  • Jasper National Park Icefields Visitor Centre
  • Athabasca Glacier Adventure
  • Skywalk Adventure
  • Saskatchewan River Crossing
  • Moraine Lake
  • Consolation Lake
  • Vermillion Lakes
  • Bow River Falls
  • Sundance Canyon
  • Cave & Basin National Historic Site and Visitor Centre
  • Enemy Aliens, Prisoners of War Museum
  • Banff Hot Springs
  • Luxton Museum of the Plains Indians
  • Banff Park Museum National Historic Site of Canada
  • Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
  • Mount Norquay Ski Area
  • Two Jack Lake
  • Lake Minnewanka
  • Transformer Building (first site of electricity in Banff)
  • Park Administration Building & Cottage Gardens
  • Banff Centre
  • Tunnel Mountain
  • Canmore
  • Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail Road (numerous stops)
  • Spray Valley Provincial Park – Kananaskis Country
  • Spray Lake
  • Buller Pond
  • Peter Lougheed Park Discovery Centre
  • Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
  • Upper Kananaskis Lake
  • Bow Valley Provincial Park – Kananaskis Country
  • Beaver Ponds
  • Mount Lorette Ponds
  • Canadians Brew House
  • Telus Spark Science Centre

Here are some phrases my son learned:

  • Sortie (Exit)
  • Centre (center)
  • Washroom (bathroom or restroom)
  • Texas Gate (cattle guard)
  • Pop (soda)
  • Merci (Thank you)
  • Bienvenue (Welcome)
  • No Worries (your welcome or no problem)
  • Eh? (common phrase heard, but also common in parts of the Midwest of the US)
  • Brown bread (whole wheat bread)
  • The bill (the check)
  • Poutine (french fries covered with cheese and gravy)
  • Mountie (police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police)
  • Loonie (1 dollar coin)
  • Toonie (2 dollar coin)
  • Ya know? (common phrase heard, but also common in parts of the Midwest of the US)
  • Chinook (warm wind that comes in over the mountain, raises temperature)

Travel to Canada was actually easier than any of our other international trips because it was a 3.5 hour non-stop flight.  In fact, travel to Canada was easier than many of the domestic trips we have taken.  And, Canada is very similar to the US in terms of speaking English, similar stores, and having free WiFi in many places.  Like remote areas in the US, you don’t always have cell reception in the remote areas of Canada.  The difference in Canada is that signs and packages are in both French and English.  And, the people greeting you often spoke both French and English to you until you speak.  If you spoke in English, they would not continue in French.  My son had put French into google translate so that he could play with it on informational signs and on food packages as we prepared him for this fact. Travel to Canada in late September also meant a true experience of other seasons as he got to see fall colors and experience accumulating snowfall.  He even had his first snowball fight as we don’t get that kind of snow in Houston, TX (it gets ice and grapple every few years).  Travel to Canada was a great way to physically experience and learn about: mountain ecology, mountain geography, mountain weather, Canadian culture, First Nations culture, foreign language (French), Canadian National Parks, provincial parks,  historic sites, different signs, use of the metric system, accents, and currency exchange.

I strongly believe that travel is a great educational tool.   Remember that travel could be local, regional, your own country, or foreign countries.  And, if you can not physically leave, travel can be via “armchair” with the use of books, videos, and computers.  Exposure to the world is so important for children.  Please, be inspired and go explore!

Our Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey was our 2nd major hurricane we went through as a family.  The first was Hurricane Ike.  We thought we learned from Ike.  We thought we learned from previous flood events (tax day flood 2016 and memorial day flood 2015).  Hurricane Harvey was worse!  It was an emotional rollercoaster that taught us even more lessons.


  • People are more important than things.  With Hurricane Ike, we knew there could be damage (and there was) but we never felt the dire need to evacuate and we were never under evacuation orders.  We also knew we weren’t going to lose everything.  We had done the standard hurricane preparations.  However, Harvey was scarier because from the get go we were being told this is going to be record rain event.  And preparing for being flooded is completely different than preparing for a major wind event.  Once we knew Houston was going to get hit, we started moving what we could upstairs.  This is where it became clear, you cannot save everything.  Prior to our son, we evacuated for Hurricane Rita and it was easy to take lots of things when traveling as 2 adults.  Well, for Ike we rode it out as a family of 3.  And for Harvey, we thought we’d be riding it out until we got put under mandatory evacuation orders.  Well, evacuating as a family of 3 means you definitely can’t take everything.  We were lucky enough to be able to get out in our car (albeit we had to wait several hours after the evacuation order for the street to be low enough to get out).  Otherwise, we would have walked out each with just one bag.  The point is, we were told directly we were facing the potential of 3 to 5 feet of water due to the Brazos River going 3 feet about the flood stage for Oyster Creek which connects to the Brazos and runs through our neighborhood and connects to Ditch B and American Canal which are directly next to us.  Ditch B had topped its banks twice with Harvey and was awfully close to our house.  Thus, the city knew if the river rose to the height and at the speed, it was forecasted, we would be flooded.  You have to act fast.  You can’t save everything.  Saving our family was important!  Thus when we came home, we were overjoyed to only have seepage from Ditch B touching our foundation (way better than standing water) and water issues from the chimney (very common problem around us).  Now, we are in the process of analyzing what we have.  We don’t need it all.  We have already passed on items of clothing and jackets, donated many bags of stuff to charities, donated old curriculum to flood damaged schools, donating homeschooling materials to friends with younger kids, etc.
  • Harvey taught us way more about weather forecasting and weather chart reading.  I had just done a weather lesson with my son and 3 of our friends.  I even wrote a blog about it here But the information we learned never had as many colors as we would see on the charts for Harvey.  We learned there are extra colors for when you exceed 20 inches of rain and when the rainfall rate exceeds 6 inches per hour.  Our neighborhood ended with 37 inches but just a couple miles east and south of us they had over 40 inches.  And some parts of Houston had 52 inches.  This wasn’t discussed in any of our weather materials!  In addition, we experienced way more weather warnings at once.  We discussed various weather warnings as well as the difference between watches and warnings, but, it is completely different to go through so many all at once.  At the worst of it we had simultaneously received hurricane watch, tropical storm warning, flash flood warning, flood warning, civil engineering warning (this was a new one and was related to issues with reservoirs north west of us), and tornado warnings.  On Friday and Saturday night, we slept downstairs due to the number of tornado warnings and the fact that we had been under a tornado watch for more than 24 hours.  We never had this number of warnings and alerts with Ike.  Harvey was definitely a monster on the weather charts.
  • Being able to read hydrological data is important.  Sadly, in my previous weather lessons with my son and our friends we had missed this.  However, Harvey made it clear, you need to understand hydrological data.  Hydrological data is a different set of graphs documenting the levels of the major rivers and reservoirs along with the various flood stages.  This data combined with topological data can help you determine what flood stage is bad for you.  You also need to understand flood plains, flood maps, inundation maps, levees (lots of levee districts around Houston), and where the various ditches, creeks, bayous, and rivers meet.  This is why for us, the original forecast of 59 feet for the Brazos was so dangerous.  56 feet is already severe flood for much of our area but that is the danger number for us as that is when the Brazos then floods Oyster Creek completely over its banks.  This 3 feet of water above 56 would translate into a lot of water by us and standing water in our house.  Thankfully, we were reading the hydrological data daily.  What saved us from severe damage was the fact that the river did not crest as fast as forecasted and it didn’t reach the original forecast height.  Instead, it crest just shy of 56 feet and 5 days later than original projections.  This made all the difference for us in terms of minor damage versus severe.  However, it didn’t stop other parts of our area from getting severely flooded.
  • Understand your insurances and know the difference between standard homeowner’s insurance and flood insurance.  We have always had flood insurance ever since Tropical Storm Allison.  We know how easy flash floods occur in TX and we know the streets are designed to flood in an attempt to keep water from homes.  Sadly, when rain falls too fast that drains can’t keep up homes flood. However, many people around here still don’t have flood insurance.  Some people were wrongfully told they don’t need it.  Some people never read the fine print in their homeowner’s insurance.  We read ours and was shocked which is why we will always have flood insurance.  Down here, water rising into your house is not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance regardless of how the water rises (street flooding, storm surge, sewer backup, flooding rain, etc.).  Water rising is only covered under a flood insurance policy which is bought separately.  We are not in a coastal county.  In the coastal counties, they often have a separate windstorm policy in addition to a separate flood policy.  For us, the windstorm policy is part of our standard homeowner’s insurance.  But there is another small detail that many were unaware.  The windstorm has a higher deductible than the standard policy.  For us, our standard policy has a 1% deductible but our windstorm has a 2% deductible.  The percent is off the insured replacement value of your house.  Thus, it is common to see people with $3K standard deductible and a $6K windstorm deductibles.  However, some people have policies with 3%-6% windstorm deductibles.  So during storms like Harvey there are two different deductibles.  And if you don’t have flood insurance, your homeowner’s insurance is not going to cover any of the flood related damage.  What is worse is those who are renters often didn’t have a separate flood insurance for their contents because they were unaware that their renter’s insurance didn’t cover floods either.  People need to read their insurance policies!
  • Have your most important documents in a sealed plastic bag.  We decided that the most important documents were going to be the ones that proved who we were and our insurance documents.  We had inside a plastic bag our social security cards, our driver’s licenses, our birth certificates, foreign currency (upcoming trip), and copies of our insurances (car, health, house, and flood).  These are things that are not easy to replace and critical for our identification in case our house was damaged beyond being able to return right away.  We had these items double bagged just in case. Because we evacuated by car, we also had our son’s homeschooling portfolios in a big bag.  We felt we needed those perchance we couldn’t return to our house or had to evacuate further from Houston.  All other papers could be replaced.
  • Understand evacuation zones versus evacuation orders.  For people outside of coastal regions they may not understand how evacuation works.  Houston is huge, over 10 million residents in the greater metro Houston area.  But remember, Harvey was hitting way more than just than the Houston area.  The state and city came up with better evacuation zones and procedures after Hurricane Rita when they mistakenly told almost the whole area to evacuate at once and included areas that shouldn’t have been.  There are now very clear evacuation zones (coastal, A, B, C, and D).  These areas were created based on flooding at various storm surge estimates.  These areas are the areas that are going to get flooded first and are the most critical to get out before the Hurricane comes.  They don’t order them all at once but in stages and there are designated evacuation routes so everyone is not on the same highways out.  Evacuation orders are voluntary and mandatory and they can be given to areas outside of evacuation zones.  Mandatory means you need to leave and if you stay there will be no emergency services for you.  Voluntary means you should leave and if you stay there may or may not be services for you depending on road conditions.  Due to the nature of Harvey being a heavy rain event, the counties were issuing evacuation orders to areas outside of the Evacuation Zones based on previous flood events.  But as harvey rains continued and rain totals were exceeding initial projections, counties were issuing additional evacuation orders which is why we were bumped into a mandatory evacuation order so quickly after the storm started.  In normal hurricanes, we are far enough inland to not be affected by storm surge and our area can handle about 10-12 inches of rain.  Harvey changed all of this because of how fast and how much rain came down.
  • Collective trauma.  We may have walked away with very minimal damage compared to others near us.  However, Harvey was still emotionally traumatic for everyone here.  There is a fight or flight reaction going on your body when you receive so many constant severe weather warnings and are placed on mandatory evacuation orders.  There is the stress of the unknown and there is stress from watching the area you call home being destroyed.  Yes, there are people with no damage, a little damage, a lot of damage, and those who lost everything.  Everyone experienced the trauma and fear that came with Harvey differently.  The children in the area are definitely carrying some emotional scars from the evacuations and fear of losing everything.  Everyone knows at least one person who had severe flood damage.  My husband has helped demo and gut several co-workers homes that had several feet of damage.  We know there are a couple dozen people in our area who had the same type of chimney water problem as us.  We also know a handful of people who were just as lucky as us to only have seepage damage instead of standing water.  But everyone around here experienced some form of trauma.  It will take time to rebuild Houston.  And it will take time to heal from the trauma.  Sadly, we watch those affected by Irma and know the collective trauma those from Florida and the Island nations are going through.  Compassion is needed!