Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fabric Stenciling Project for Kids

We used shaving cream and ink to create stenciled and tie dye style shirts.

Our TSC Designs inks and stencils were purchased as a kit at a local quilt show, but all the same products are available on their website.

 TSC Fabric Inks

 Collection of stencils

First fill a plate or tray with shaving cream.

 Next, use a dropper to place drops of ink on the shaving cream.

 With a Q-tip or a toothpick, swirl the ink through the shaving cream.

 Take a t-shirt or some fabric and smoosh it into the shaving cream.

 Lift the fabric out and scrape off the shaving cream.

 Another method is to use a sponge to stamp the design onto the fabric with a stencil.

 When finished, the fabric needs to be left to dry and then ironed to set the dye.

This project was fun and a little messy. It was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon outdoors. The book from TSC Designs has complete instructions and a few more ideas on ways to use the ink. Have Fun!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Austrailan Dot Painting for Kids

We created an Australian dot painting.

Dot painting is interesting because it is both an ancient and modern art form. Dating back thousands of years, some native aboriginal people used dot painting in conjunction with story telling to explain belief systems. Many traditions incorporated symbols to represent common story subjects such as trails, campfires and people. However, native people did not paint exclusively with dots. Different regions of Australian natives had different art traditions.

In more recent times, dot painting has become recognizable as a native art form. Although the last natives to paint in the traditional way died out in the 1960's, descendants have carried on and changed the art. Dot painting is a very popular souvenir and many artists have taken notice.

This video is a good introduction to dot painting.

In creating our dot paintings, the kids had to incorporate a minimum of three traditional symbols and tell a story of a recent experience.

Curved U-shapes indicate men.

Concentric circles are symbols of camp sites, and wavy lines indicate a journey.

Short and tall lines indicate children and adults.

Welcome back to school. Art class rocks!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Game for Learning United States Geography

Last spring at a homeschooling convention I did a little bartering and I'm sure glad I did. The game Snapshots Across America is an engaging way for kids to learn about the United States and a few attractions in each one.

To win the game players must visit seven tourist attractions by driving their car, traveling by train, ocean liner, river boat, lake ship or airplane to destinations.

Other players can ruin a vacation by playing a weather card such as tornadoes in the midwest.

Each destination card has a representative photo and short description of the attraction. From Niagara Falls to Revolutionary War sites to volcanoes in Hawaii a player can travel all around the US.

This game was created by a homeschooling family to teach geography, and they did a great job. The cards are bright. The game sparks a travel interest. It's fun to see where else you can travel and there is even a little strategy involved in being the first player to visit seven destinations.

If you are planning a vacation, this game may even give you some new ideas. We have been playing about once per week in conjunction with reading about US history. This game is a wonderful supplement to any geography curriculum and would make a nice gift.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Speed! - New Font

Skip-counting is a key ingredient in teaching upper level elementary math concepts. Once kids have a good handle on the numbers 1-100 and can count backwards from 20 to 0 they are ready to learn skip-counting. This usually happens between the ages of 4 and 8 years old and around the same time as kids are learning addition. Numerous math skills are based on skip-counting such as multiplication, division, adding and reducing fractions. With a good understanding of skip-counting, children are able to progress much more rapidly through these upper elementary math concepts.

Songs, the card game Speed! and hands-on practice work well together to cement the fundamentals of skip-counting. When playing Speed! kids learn to skip-count beginning on any number. For example, if they are skip-counting by 3's, they may begin at 18 and progress to 21. They also learn to skip-count backwards. The rhythm and rhyme of song helps engage memory and the colored decks of cards in the game Speed! help kids create a visual association with numbers.

 The card game Speed! has just been given a facelift. The exterior of the container was lightened from a dark blue to a light blue and the numbers on the cards are now a more common font which is easier to rapidly read. The original version is shown above on the left, and the updated version is on the right.

If you haven't purchased this game yet, now's the time. After all, it's fun and a great way to keep kids learning over the summer! Kids play because they want to win, not to learn to skip-count. The beauty of the game is that in order to win, they have to have the skip-counting numbers memorized and they do so enthusiastically. The big secret, is that the numbers are all the answers to the times tables. After playing Speed!, kids can quickly apply what they've learned to multiplication, division, factoring, and fractions. How can you beat an educational game kids actually want to play.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bridge Unit Study - Lesson 8: Maintenance

Our bridge unit study ended with a discussion on maintenance.

Too often the cost of maintenance is not considered as part of the cost of a project. Whether you are building your home, a building or a bridge, maintenance should be a huge consideration. After all, if the structure breaks down, we will have to do without or start over from scratch.

Therefore, I was pleased that the book we chose to follow for our bridge unit study Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design Build and Test addressed the issue of maintenance. Painting, erosion, weather, corrosion, and traffic load are a few issues that determine how long the structure will last. The book does a good job of summarizing maintenance considerations.

To gain a better understanding of weather effects, my son explored corrosion with a science experiment. Putting steel wool into different types of water, he watched it over a 24 hour period to see how much it rusted. It was a very simple experiment and a great way to wrap up our bridge unit study.

Now where ever we go we take a good look at the different bridges around us.

 Honfleur Cable Stay Bridge (Normandie, France)

 London Bridge

Tower Bridge

Charles Bridge, Prague

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bridge Unit Study - Lesson 7: Bridge Design

My son designed several bridges.

What type of bridge would you build across a busy shipping waterway? How about over a deep ravine?

The book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design Build and Test discussed advantages and disadvantages of many types of bridges including beam, arch, suspension, cantilever, draw, and hanging. It also addressed how the loads are carried, options for materials and brief changes throughout history.

What I really liked was the challenges the author posed to readers. Several times, kids were given a set of requirements and asked to design a bridge to meet those requirements. Each time my son was eager to design a bridge. Well he is far from an expert bridge designer, these questions enabled him to think about what he would do.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bridge Unit Study - Lesson 6: Hanging Bridge Model

My son built a hanging bridge.

Although hanging bridges are rarely used today for transportation, they can make wonderful play structures. The one shown below is at a high ropes course. The hanging bridge is mounted on a pulley to a cable. The bridge is controlled with the rope to pull it near, and by gravity when traveling to the other end.

A similar bridge can be constructed over a calm waterway by attaching a floating raft to a cable spanning the waterway.

The book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design Build and Test was the inspiration for this activity as it has been for most of our other bridge modeling projects.

This time, two straws were attached to a piece of cardboard to run on the main cables of the bridge.

Again, my son used two chairs as the main supports for his bridge.

A basket was hung from the cardboard pulley system to transport traffic across the bridge.

Please visit each of the pages on Highhill Education for more hands-on activity ideas. Math, Science, History

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Programming for Kids

My son is learning to program using Javascript.

After many years learning the basics of computer programming with Scratch, my son is learning his first programming language. Javascript. His last project on Scratch was a Mrs. PacMan game. After working many weeks on his design, which included downloading and reading the code of a similar game, he was ready to move on. Well, actually he wasn't. He wanted to make his game perfect which is a common trait of a computer programmer and engineer, but we told he he was ready to level up, or graduate if you will, to bigger and better things.

We found the key in the book Javascript for Kids. After reading the first chapter I was hooked. The author explained that in reality, computers were actually very dumb. They can after all, do only what humans have told them to do. It made perfect sense and made me laugh.

Then we moved on. This book is perfect because it starts with the very basics and builds from there.  In discussing variables, the first main topic, the difference between numbers, strings and booleans is explained. Short program examples are given and the kids can type them right into the browser to see how it works. Chapters also contain challenge questions designed to get kids creating their own programs using the tools they learned.

We covered about a chapter per week and by the end my son was on a roll.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to Teach Math Without a Curriculum

Math is everywhere; games, art, and life and it's possible to teach kids lots of math with little to no curriculum. What's more, it's easy to do. However, as skills increase beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and geometry curriculum makes teaching math much easier.

All three of my children learned fundamental math skills through play. Kids learning math this way don't fall behind, or miss steps. On the contrary, they build a solid foundation of skills that enables them to understand higher level math much easier. Many concepts can be taught and absorbed rapidly enabling them to fly through more advanced math curriculum. Because my children were playing, they were motivated to learn. At age 15, my oldest daughter passed the calculus CLEP exam and at age 10 my youngest daughter tested at a 9th grade math level.

Learning math still takes time. The difference here is the way math is being learned. Note that each of these skills should be mastered before moving onto higher level math and it is necessary to master some skills before beginning others. For example, kids should be able to recognize their numbers and count before moving onto any of the other games or activities. However, there are many skills which can be learned at the same time. For example, when kids are busy playing Black Jack 21 to learn to add, they can play Cribbage which reinforces adding skills and introduces strategy and skip-counting. Speed! teaches skip-counting of numbers one through nine. Kids can begin playing the game learning to count by 2's and 5's while mastering their addition facts.

If you want to teach math this way, here is a list of progressively more difficult activities to try and master. This list covers the core skills of elementary math. We covered this list, added in other activities to introduce time, money, shapes and patterns, and also added a workbook or two each year so the kids could see math as written symbolically. Only the core activities are listed, supporting activities such as weaving potholders, drawing symmetric monsters, and additional games which involve a variety of math skills can be found on my Math Page. It is typical to move through the list of games and activities with some overlap concentrating on one game, but mixing in other games and activities for fun.

Number Recognition

UNO is one of the best games to begin with when introducing kids to math.


Chutes and Ladders is a classic game that kids enjoy playing. I like it because it helps with number recognition and they count from 1-100.

Writing Numbers

Make a homemade calendar. Doing this activity with each of my children, they were able to practice writing their numbers, learned about months, and again counted numbers from 1-31.

Number Value

War is the single best way to teach greater than less than. After flipping a card from a standard deck, the person who flipped the card with the greatest value gets to keep both cards. The game ends when one person holds all the cards.


Black Jack 21 is a gambling game played with a standard deck of cards. We didn't play Black Jack to gamble. We played it to learn to add. The dealer gives each player one card face down and one card face up. After peeking at their secret card, kids decide whether or not they would like an additional card to bring the sum of their numbers as close to 21 as possible. They can ask for as many additional cards as they would like receiving and deciding one-at-a-time. If they go over 21, they loose. If they stay under 21, the dealer gets a chance to get a higher total than the child. This game teaches prediction, statistics, strategy and most important - ADDING.

Similar to War, players win a game of Adding War by getting all the cards. The only difference is that two cards are flipped over instead of one and the player with the greater sum of cards gets all four cards.


Speed! teaches skip-counting by 2's through 9's. Mastering this fundamental skill makes learning multiplication, division, factoring and fractions much easier.

Cribbage is a much more complicated game than Black Jack or War, where players try to get points by getting numbers in a row, pairs and cards that total 15. It reinforces skip-counting by 2's and is wonderful for practice with addition. Since the game is more complicated, I would recommend playing after kids have a good handle of the above games, so around age 8 and up.


Every homeschool mom knows that cooking is fraction application. We incorporated food into history and geography as well. Here are some fun dishes to make with kids.


Geometry can be introduced by creating art with a compass and a straight edge. The geometric designs, shapes in circles found on my Math Page can be completed with kids around age 8 after they can draw a circle with a compass. The activities increase in difficulty when exploring math art with mandalas. The mandala activities are great for kids around age 10 or when they have completed the shapes in circles activities.

Please see my Math Page for additional activities to learn and practice math skills without a curriculum.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Speed! on the iPad and iPhone

iPad/iPhone Version

Are you looking for educational apps? Speed! is a fast-paced card game that teaches skip-counting. Two players compete against each other to be the first to get rid of their cards, but they must watch-out...... if the number in the middle is the same they must be the first to shout Speed!, otherwise they will get all the played cards added to their stack. Skip-counting is a fundamental math skill that leads right into multiplication. Kids love to play this game because it's fun, but parents like it because it's educational.

Speed! is available as physical cards, an iPad app or an iPhone app.

On the iPad players begin as a Trainee and can advance through the levels to become a Legend. With five levels to pick from and eight numbers to skip-count this game will keep kids entertained for hours. They don't realize how much they are learning because they are busy trying to win. The Lite version is free and contains the Two Speed deck of cards at all levels while the Full version costs only 99 cents and contains card decks Two Speed through Nine Speed.

To find Speed! in the App Store switch the category to education and then search on
  • Speed, math
  • Speed, highhill
  • Speed, multiplication

Then download it and have fun playing! (Be sure to let the kids have a turn.)

Speed! Instructions

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