April 20th, 2015
My 11-year-old son Nathaniel built a castle out of regular LEGOs. You really don’t need to get an expensive castle kit; if you have regular LEGO bricks, you can build a LEGO castle of any shape and size as you study the Middle Ages.
Start with a green base. Find all the white LEGO pieces and dump them in a pile so that you don’t have to keep looking for more pieces while you build. Decide what shape you want the castle to be, and outline it on the LEGO base. Make sure you leave space for the entrance. For our castle, we have four castle keeps, one at each corner.
Start building up the walls, interlocking the LEGOs and staggering them so that the structure is sound. If you put a LEGO brick connecting two LEGO bricks, the structure is less likely to break apart. You can insert a design on the front with a different color, either in a shield shape or any other shape. The entrance can be made either as a rectangle or an arch. My son decided to make an arch with pillars on either side.
Keep building up the structure until you run out of white LEGOs. Then enjoy your LEGO castle!
For more hands-on activities for the Middle Ages, take a look at my Medieval Unit Study Pinterest board.
April 13th, 2015
I’ve seen arithmetic done with LEGOs for lower-level elementary math, taking individual LEGO pieces and adding them up, making graphs, and learning about fractions. But LEGO algebra is something I’ve never seen–not until my son Stephen decided that it was possible to write out algebraic equations with white LEGOs on a green base. It’s particularly helpful to write out these algebraic equations to memorize formulas because the tactile component of feeling the LEGOs with your fingers can cause your kinesthetic learners to internalize the formulas more quickly.
The act of building the equations you want to memorize will help you internalize them. My son Stephen has written an explanation for the algebraic equations that he built out of LEGOs:
- In the picture on the left, you have a couple of algebraic systems–each of which is two equations which are related to each other in some way. The system on the top can be solved with the subtraction method by first multiplying both sides of the top equation by 3 and both sides of the bottom one by 2, then subtracting the two equations to remove x and solve for y. (The answer happens to be 2.) We can put the answer for y in one of the equations; let’s do 3x+5y=16, making 3x+5(2)=16. After solving, the answer to system 1 is x=2, y=2.
- The system on the bottom can be solved by substitution with the knowledge that y is equal to the expression x-9. With that information, we can substitute the y in the second equation with x-9, and so solve for x. (The answer is 9.) Then we do the same as we did with system 1 and solve for y (y=x-9 y=9-9 y=0). So the answer is x=9 y=0.
- The picture on the right is three equations which represent various graph shapes. The top one is the equation for a parabola, the middle one is the equation for a circle, and the bottom one is the equation for an ellipse. The yellow dots represent that number or variable raised to the second power (or squared).
Hopefully these explanations can help your high school student understand algebra in a tactile way so that your student is less likely to forget the algebraic formulas. Who knew that LEGO algebra would be possible? My son found a way!
April 6th, 2015
If you’ve ever wanted to excite your children about geography, why not make a world cake? It’s super easy!
Just bake a round cake in any flavor (I prefer chocolate). Get some white frosting. You will want to get two containers so that you don’t have to scrimp.
You will be frosting the entire cake with blue frosting, so one whole frosting container should be tinted blue with cake icing tint, which you can get at party stores and even some craft stores. Frost the cake.
Now open the second icing container and tint it green. Looking at a globe or a world map, grab a table knife and outline the shape of the continents on the blue icing, making a ridge. Now fill in the ridge with green icing.
It’s easier if you put the green icing into a ziplock bag (not a cheap bag that will pop and leave your hands green for a week). Snip a small hole in one corner of the bag, and outline the continents before filling them in. Depending on the look you want, you can use a table knofe to smooth the green continents.
Now your world cake is complete. This is a perfect cake for a themed party about geography, world travel, missions, or airplanes.
April 3rd, 2015
How long, O Lord?
Don’t hide Yourself in times of trouble
Answer the cry of my soul
For I seek You with all my heart
In silent darkness
Night drags on
Pain lurks in the shadows
Will there be light?
Trials come in waves
Over my pounded soul
Crushing unseen dross
Until I’m stripped of all
Waiting in silence
Reaching to heaven
Hear me when I call
Will it always be night?
When will dawn break?
Then You will transform sorrow
As if by crushing metamorphosis
To soaring new joy
March 30th, 2015
My daughter constructed a LEGO Ancient Egypt, with the Nile River flowing over the hot sand overlooking a pyramid and the Sphinx. We used regular LEGO bricks, so anyone can do this.
You start with a LEGO base. Create the Nile River by collecting blue LEGOs and making the river flow from one end of the base to the other. Don’t forget to form the Nile River Delta on the north side of the base. A delta is a place where a river splits up into rivulets. You can place some palm trees along the river if you have them.
Next you will want to make a pyramid. We chose white LEGOs, building them up into a step-like pyramid. If you want to make three smaller pyramids, you could do that instead of making the larger one.
The Sphinx was made out of yellow LEGOs, with two thin yellow LEGOs as the legs. Two regular LEGOs form the body, with a half LEGO for the head. Simple.
Now pour sand over the whole thing, making sure to leave a little bit of green on either side of the Nile River, because the land next to the river is green compared to the desert further from the river.
If you look at the LEGO Ancient Egypt from the top, you will notice that it looks like a map. You can have your children draw a map of the scene for practice in map-making skills.