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How Clean Are Your Hands? Using Petri Dishes to See Bacteria and Mold

I recently blogged about a microscope study we did. The kids were super interested in learning about bacteria after that! They wanted to find bacteria in the pond water, and we did, but that didn’t hold their attention long at all. Once I mentioned we could SEE the bacteria growing on our hands (or anywhere, really) with a petri dish, that’s all they could think about! So, we jumped right in.

The first thing we did was read up on using petri dishes. We learned that growing bacteria can be dangerous. In the small doses on your hands, it’s less likely to cause illnesses and such, but in the petri dish, it becomes a hazard. Some websites suggested putting a piece of tape to hold the dish shut, but with such small children and the possibility of mold and other harmful bacteria growing, I put them straight into Ziplock baggies and instructed them not to ever open them. We printed a mold and bacteria identification sheet from here, and then we obtained our samples. (AKA rubbed wet q-tips on their grubby little hands.)

swab and dish

Once we rubbed for fifteen seconds on their hand, we rubbed the invisible bacteria onto the agar in the dish. We rubbed each one for ten seconds spinning the q-tip to make sure we got all of the “yuckies” transferred. I bought pre-made dishes from Amazon and here’s the link to the ones I bought. Making your own dishes seems to be more economical so I may get stuff to do it, and it’s similar to making jello. The kids really like to see bacteria and mold grow, so I have a feeling we’ll be needing more soon.

The kids made an incubator to put the dishes in to keep them warm. They used an old wooden craft box that no longer has supplies in it, a lamp (my pretty laundry room one), and a piece of dark colored fabric. They laid the dishes into the box, turned the lamp on, and covered it with the fabric. It’s a fifteen-watt bulb, so I wasn’t concerned about it overheating.

After 24 hours there wasn’t much change at all to the dishes. There was some condensation on the lids but other than that they were still “clean.”

The magic started happening about 36 hours into incubation. The kids were so excited to see the nearly overnight transformation.

36 hours in

After 48 hours there wasn’t much of a difference in the growth. It was growing in thickness, but there weren’t any new growths. Except in Ellas, she had some type of fungus starting to grow. At this point, they were all starting to stink, and I read in multiple places that after about two days it was time to throw them out, so they don’t become harmful. So we took one last picture and threw them out.

When we swabbed our hands, we also set out a few different foods to see how mold grows on them and then left them out of the incubator. We talked about how giving the bacteria a good place to live would make it grow faster, but leaving things out at room temperature can cause it to grow more slowly. We left the items exposed to the air for about 30 minutes before placing them in the bags.

bread, kiwi, cheese, cucumber
One week at room temp.

They’re still out on the counter right now, rotting away. Yum. The white bread is the only thing that doesn’t seem to be changing. Which, isn’t surprising.  I’ll keep everyone posted on Instagram, so follow along!

Does your family have a favorite gross science experiment?

How Clean Are Your Hands- Using Petri Dishes to See Bacteria and Mold (1)

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Unschooling When There’s No Inspiration

We’ve homeschooled for a few years now, but we’re new to the unschooling world. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we are “almost unschoolers” because the kids still do mama-required book work. We’re about seven months into unschooling, and we’ve hit our second roadblock. We’re not burnt out, nor do I feel like we’ll end up falling behind, but I do want the fire to stay kindled in the children. I want them to continue to actively pursue new subjects that I don’t set in front of them or try to interest them in. I’ve noticed children are most interested in something they find on their own. I want them to learn to love learning. Here are a few things we try when we seem to be uninspired:

Find a new book to read aloud. Fictional or not, books are teeming with beautiful inspiration. Reading a new book together opens up discussion. It encourages conversations about new subjects. It also sparks interest in new areas they may not have been interested in before.

Go on a nature walk. This always works for our family. It usually leads to a new study on a certain plant or animal. Since we’re aiming to be more in-tune with nature, this is a perfect way to get the kids interested in exploring something new. For instance, recently, our dogs killed a snake. I thought for sure it was a water mocassin, but it wasn’t as a someone pointed out, which led to us studying snakes. (It’s coming soon to the blog, too!)

Watch a documentary. Documentaries are like a book on the screen. You get (almost) all the benefits of a new book in one short hour or so. And, if we’re being honest, sometimes it’s easier to put something on Netflix and have some quiet time. So, this one is a win-win.

Let them be bored. When the kids complain of boredom, it’s so much easier to give them something to do. Craft, a puzzle, or whatever else. But, I’ve noticed they learn so much more when they say they’re bored and I tell them they have to figure it out themselves. Yes, there’s usually huffs and a small amount of sulking, but once they find something to do on their own, the magic happens. Just the other day the kids complained of being bored. After several failed attempts to keep their attention with various activities, I said, “Go find something to do by yourself. Alone, together. I don’t care.” The girls went outside a tried to start a campfire. They didn’t succeed, but they did have a lot of questions about how people started fires before lighters and matches, and when the wind dies down, we’re gong to try to start a fire without either of those. We learned a lot together. Hayden (successfully) made his own fidget spinner! Kids will figure it out! AND probably learn something along the way.

What do you do when your family is feeling uninspired?

Unschooling when there's no inspiration (2).png

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Q&A with Leah, from As We Walk Along the Road


What style of homeschooling does your family follow?

We are definitely eclectic homeschoolers. We primarily use a Charlotte Mason, literature-based homeschool. But I also like to choose materials that fit for each child. So we aren’t all doing the same thing. The way our homeschooling has usually worked is that in eighth grade and under, we tend to do the majority of subjects together. I do a good bit of reading aloud in different subject areas. As the kids get older, they take on more independent work in subjects such as math and language arts. By the time they hit high school, I turn over the responsibility for all school to the students. I’m there as a helper, tutor, coordinator and record keeper. My high school students have both taken a few classes online or through our local high school co-op. We’ve also been a part of a more fun and social homeschool co-op for the whole family.

What state do you homeschool in, and what are the laws like there for homeschoolers? How does this affect the way you homeschool (if at all)?

We homeschool in South Carolina which is a very homeschool friendly state. In South Carolina we have three options for homeschooling- through the school district, through our state legal homeschool group, or through a small third-option homeschool group. We homeschool through a third-option group because that is the option with least control from outside. We are required to submit our general curriculum for math, language arts, history, and science each year. We’re required to keep a record of progress. We’re required to have a high school diploma on file. And we’re required to have 180 days of school. That’s it. We have no standardized tests requirements. We don’t have to give grades (just a record of progress). It’s pretty flexible. I definitely think that being in a homeschool friendly state has encouraged us to homeschool long term.

Why did your family begin homeschooling?

My husband and I knew that we wanted to homeschool from the beginning. I had friends from high school that ended up homeschooling. And my husband’s younger brother had been homeschooled through middle and high school. At first homeschooling was going to be short term- until all the kids were school aged. But we saw the benefits and blessings of homeschooling, and we kept in it.

What do you wish you knew when you first began homeschooling?

I was a teacher before I had kids and began to homeschool. People often think this is a good thing. “Ahh, you could homeschool because you were a teacher.” But…no. That was actually more of a roadblock to good homeschooling. I went into this homeschooling thing thinking that I needed to do school at home. I tried to have a structured curriculum, make the kids sit at desks, and even start the day with pledges and songs (like we’d done in school). This DID NOT work. Once I loosened up and started using more flexible and child-friendly curricula, things were much much better. And I wish I had done that earlier.

What are the hardest and easiest, parts of homeschooling?

Sometimes it’s difficult being everybody- mom, teacher, cook, housekeeper. I just want to turn off and have everybody go away. I’m an introvert too, which makes it even more difficult to be with my kids 24 hours a day, every day. On the other hand, I love, love, love that I have so much time with my kids. I love that I’ve been here to see all that they’re learning and to have awesome conversations with them.

leahI started blogging because reading blogs and finding resources online was invaluable to me as a new homeschooling mom.  I know what it’s like to be knee deep in lessons with your six-year old while the toddler runs wild and the baby is screaming because she’s hungry.” {Read more here}

To visit As We Walk along the Road, follow this link!

And to see interviews with other homeschooling mamas, click here!

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Q&A with Nadine at Making Her Mama

What style of homeschooling does your family follow?

When we first started our homeschooling journey about 9 years ago we were very classical in how we tried to teach, but it didn’t work well for my oldest or for my teaching style either. Over the years we have tried many many things and I would currently say we are Charlotte Mason unschoolers who use a lot of Montessori resources. I like to put together our own learning resources and have veered away from most curriculum these days. We do stick to curriculum for math and language arts as Joel and I feel these are essential skills for our kids and some structure in our teaching has been good for us all. For the younger years we have always started with Math-U-See and we are currently using a new math program called Math Lessons for a Living Education. We do dictation and copywork for language arts pulling from our reading or poems we are using with nature study. Our days and busy, fast paced and full of activity; especially having 3 young boys. We spend at least 2 hours outside playing and exploring in the morning after breakfast, chores and bible study. When we come back in Izzy does some independent work while I make lunch and the littlest boys rest or play with toys.  After lunch it’s clean up, chores, reading and any other fun learning that fits our day. I love Pinterest and we are always on the look for fun learning projects and activities. If there is laundry to fold we take an afternoon break and watch a tv show while we fold (I currently have all the boys watching Call the Midwife! But we also love Little House on the Prairie).  Once a week we have another homeschooling family that we get together with for some adventure and playtime and tea for the moms!  Each day and every week is a little different depending on the weather, our interests, and the ages and stages of the kids (specifically Lou’s nap times).

What state do you homeschool in, and what are the laws like there for homeschoolers? How does this affect the way you homeschool (if at all)?

I live on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. We have the best homeschool support of all the Canadian provinces. We are required by law to make our intention to homeschool known with our school district. We then have 2 choices; to register (traditional homeschooling) or enroll (distance learning where we get to choose our teaching resources and curriculum but are followed by a certified teacher). When you register with a distance learning school you can have access to some of their resources like online subscriptions and receive a small amount of funding ($100 per child) depending on your school. If you enroll you can receive $600-$1000 in funding to purchase curriculum, resources and activities for your children under the guidance of your teacher. With this system you must report to the school your learning on a weekly basis.  We are currently enrolled but dislike the system for reporting our learning, and this many years into our journey don’t feel the need for teacher support so we will be registering next year.

Why did your family begin homeschooling?

My oldest son has high functioning autism and school wasn’t going well. We needed an out and homeschooling was it!

What do you wish you knew when you first began homeschooling?

I wish that I had known more experienced homeschool mom to walk me through those tough days!!!

I wish that I had made school more fun and less army like.

I wish I had spent time learning about teaching methods and learning styles so I could look for resources that fit our styles and learning needs!

What are the hardest and easiest, parts of homeschooling? 

Hardest parts -you are always mom. So even when you wear your teachers cap you still have to be mom. It’s almost impossible to get done everything I want to accomplish in a day when balancing kids, school, home and life in general.

Easiest part – waking up when we are ready. Starting our days off well and not doing the morning school rush! And for me now support is always within arms reach. I live in an amazing town where there are so many homeschooling families.

I’m Nadine, a wife, stay at home mama, homeschooler to 4 amazing boys and the creator of Making Her Mama. My desire is to share our journey of homemaking, homeschooling and homesteading with you. ” {Read more here}

To visit Making Her Mama, Click here.

To see the other interviews with homeschooling mamas, follow this link!

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Q&A with Lydnsey at

What style of homeschooling does your family follow?

I honestly don’t really know what style we use. It is a mix between unschooling and structured. We are semi structured which means that we have some of our curriculum planned. We have about 2 ½ hours planned for her online courses then the rest is really whatever we feel like working on. Fridays in our homeschool are called Fun Fridays this is where we have a more relaxed day. We read poems, a chapter in the read aloud, and then try to do a fun activity. This helps us wind down after a long week and keep the fun throughout our homeschool.

We have a homeschool classroom where we hang educational posters, artwork, cute character pictures, and more. It is a very friendly environment.

What state do you homeschool in, and what are the laws like there for homeschoolers?

We homeschool in the state of Oklahoma. The laws here are very relaxed and one of the best states to homeschool in. It doesn’t really affect the way I homeschool.

Why did your family begin homeschooling?

There were a few reasons why we decided to homeschool. We didn’t always have a plan to homeschool. We were signing my daughter up for kindergarten and the school that was in our district was decent but the staff was slightly rude to use. There was an incident where some kindergarteners were talking about some inappropriate things and it just made us seal the deal on homeschooling. I mean we don’t shelter our children but didn’t want my 5 year old exposed to things you shouldn’t talk about until you are a pre-teen or teen.  I also really enjoy that I get to watch my children grow and see how their mind works. I get to teach them not only educational subjects but also survival skills

What do you wish you knew when you first began homeschooling? This does not have to be just one thing.

I wish I did a little more research and knew where to start. The first 2 years I honestly winged everything she was learning. This year we decided to try using a curriculum.  I wish I knew about co-ops when I first started out and reached out more. Now where we live there are plenty of co-ops to join. I would have to say patience as well when we first started I was under them the impression that she should just know this stuff. Like catch on really fast but quickly realized that I need to take time and slowly go over things for her to understand them.

What are the hardest and easiest, parts of homeschooling?

The hardest thing is patience. I have come a long way since we first started. I have realized that I don’t need to rush her to learn and she will learn on her own. This is all a learning process not only for my children but myself as well. The easiest part is being able to make our own schedule and if it doesn’t go the way we thought that’s okay we can just move stuff around.

I am an Army veteran I served as an MP (military police) for almost 6 years. I was recently injured which led me to my blogging journey. I am currently enrolled in college going for my BA in biological science.”{Read more here}

To see more about Lyndsey and her family visit

Follow this link to see more interviews with homeschooling mamas!

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Q&A with Kay at Cultivate My Heart

What style of homeschooling does your family follow?

I call our homeschool style “Heart-to-Heart Homeschooling”. I came up with the term when I was creating my blog. It is a natural, common sense approach to homeschooling based on the ideas and methods of Charlotte Mason, Dr. Ruth Beechick, and Debbie Strayer.  I call it “Heart-to-Heart” because it is grounded in relationships—with God and each other—and emphasizes educating the whole child: heart, mind, and soul.

I only have one I’m schooling now, and he is graduating! This hasn’t been a typical year. He takes two dual-enrollment classes at a local junior college, and several of our core classes are done through our co-op that a friend and I started 12 years ago. We have been doing history, writing, and literature discussions with our co-op the last couple of years. Most of his work is pretty independent. I’m here to offer feedback on his writing, help get everything ready for college, and be ready anytime he wants to talk about life—at this point in life, that is really important.

When my boys were younger we typically started the day with a read-aloud and then did math. Math wasn’t a favorite of either of them and I found that it was best to get it over with early in the day. Each year the routine varied after that and included homework from our co-op classes. In elementary that was usually a science class (we used Jeannie Fulbright’s elementary science books) and in high school several of our core classes. My favorite full curriculum that we used was the Trail Guide to Learning series that my youngest used from 5th through 8th grades. I now write for them and wrote the Middle School Extensions for the curriculum.

What state do you homeschool in, and what are the laws like there for homeschoolers? How does this affect the way you homeschool (if at all)?

We live in Texas which has very homeschooling friendly laws. We are considered a private school and there are just three state law requirements.

  • The instruction must be bona fide (i.e., not a sham).
  • The curriculum must be in visual form (e.g., books, workbooks, video monitor).
  • The curriculum must include the five basic subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.

Because of that, we have a lot of freedom in how we homeschool, the curriculum we have chosen, and the subjects we have studied. I love it! For high school, I looked at the Texas Education Agency’s recommended curriculum, as well as universities my sons were interested in attending, to help decide what courses they would cover in high school. I’m happy to say, neither has had trouble getting into their chosen university.

Why did your family begin homeschooling?

Short answer: We really feel God led us to homeschool.

When I first heard of homeschooling, I hate to admit I thought “Why would you do that to a child? And of course the standard “What about their socialization?” But we had the privilege of getting to know some wonderful homeschooling families and they changed my mind. I had a more positive view but resisted the idea of doing it ourselves. We even began the process of enrolling my oldest in a private school, but God seemed to keep bringing this idea of homeschooling back into our paths.

We chose to homeschool because we believed it was the best fit for my oldest son and eventually for our entire family. That’s what I tell others: do what is right for your kids. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to education.

What do you wish you knew when you first began homeschooling?

Enjoy your kids as much as possible while they are young. Don’t worry about textbooks—get your hands dirty, do fun science experiments, take walks, learn math concepts in a natural and fun way, read, play games, and ENJOY EVERY MINUTE YOU CAN! And then when they become teens, still have some fun and enjoy them. Yes, their workload will change, and yes they may have to approach some subjects more “academically”, but don’t try to replicate public school just because they have become teens. Nurture a love of learning no matter what age they are!

Another thing I wish I had known: you don’t need to let others tell you how you should homeschool your children. Pray for discernment, learn from others, but don’t try to replicate anyone else’s homeschool exactly. Use Scripture as your guide as you evaluate all the choices out there.

What are the hardest and easiest parts of homeschooling?

We had difficult days, times when the kids whined about doing anything and everything, and days when none of us were motivated. That was obviously hard, but I think those days happen whether you homeschool or not.

For me personally, it was the self-doubt and fear I wasn’t doing enough, that somehow I was going to fail my kids. It is hard to take on the responsibility to educate your children knowing that you are responsible—there isn’t a school or teacher you can blame. (Although I truly believe that children’s education is always the parents responsibility. Some just choose to delegate more of that responsibility than others.)

My favorite part of homeschooling, which was also the easiest, was reading aloud together on a regular basis. We loved it! Sharing stories, and talking about the books brought us closer together. I had the joy of seeing both of my boys develop a love of reading. Through our read-alouds we were able to talk about life and character issues in a non-threatening way. We often picked up phrases from books that became a part of our personal family vocabulary. (Now we do that with TV shows and movies. Teens!). Those times reading together will always be special to me. It was such an easy and relaxing way to start the day.

First you should know I am completely imperfect, but perfectly loved by Jesus. Married to my best friend for 23 years, I’ve been a homeschooling mom for 15 years (20 if you count the years before kindergarten). My nest is about to be empty. For me this is sad and fun and scary and exciting, all at the same time.” {Read more here}

To learn more about Kay and her family, or to explore her resources visit:

To see more interviews like Kay’s follow this link:

Homeschool Diversity: Five Common Questions Answered by Real Homeschooling Moms

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Q&A with Ashley at Nourishing Goodness

What style of homeschooling does your family follow?

We loosely follow a Charlotte Mason/Classical style.  We focus very much on giving our kids a “feast of ideas” rather than focusing on a specific schedule or curriculum.  I love to mix and match the resources we use.  I’m always on the hunt for great books.  Reading together is absolutely our highest priority and our greatest bonding time.  It creates a shared family culture.  Every day we’ve laughed, or cried, or suffered through the same things.  When daddy comes home at night there’s always so much tell!  We’ve been places, experienced things, taken risks and adventures… all in the stories we read, whether it’s history, science, Bible, fiction, or even poetry.  Of course we also fit in the daily math, language/grammar/spelling practice, piano, and latin.  But these things are done relatively quickly and aren’t the true focus of our day.  Then it’s OUT the door!  The kids spend nearly all the rest of their time out in the woods, swinging on the rope swings, hunting for frogs, or brushing the goats.  I’ve even got one who loves to read her own poetry up in the barn loft to her cats.  🙂  Of course, we also have opportunities every day to practice forgiveness and patience!  Because being together 24/7 is a joy AND a challenge, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

What state do you homeschool in, and what are the laws like there for homeschoolers? How does this affect the way you homeschool (if at all)?

We homeschool in the state of Indiana, which might actually be the very best state to homeschool in!  There is strong support for homeschooling here and we have very few regulations.  In fact, the only legal requirement as of right now, is to keep a 180 day log/attendance record.  This is fantastic because it gives the parent freedom to commit their time to educating and learning alongside their children… rather than jumping through hoops or filling out paperwork and portfolios.  I

Why did your family begin homeschooling?

I was a first grade teacher at a lovely Christian school for a few years before having children.  I was always frustrated by the fact that I really could not give adequate attention to each of my students, let alone meet the expectations of their parents (who were paying good money for their child’s education!)  I don’t mean that I wasn’t a good and diligent teacher, but it simply wasn’t possible to give as much to each child as I would have liked.  Not to mention the amount of time that was wasted finding pencils, waiting for Johnny to sit down and pay attention, or walking in a straight line to PE, Music, Recess, etc…

I also thought often about the fact that these little ones were spending 6-7 hours a day with me, long days for such young children.  I knew they could have learned what I was teaching them in an hour or two at most.  I loved them dearly, but at the end of the day, I felt that they should have spent those hours with their own families and OUTSIDE!

Later, after we’d had our own children, I had a cousin encourage me to consider homeschooling.  She took me under her wing and showed me how I could make it work.  I am eternally grateful to her.  I can’t even imagine sending my kids away to school now.

What do you wish you knew when you first began homeschooling?

I wish I’d read Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson.  I was too worried about which curriculum, schedule, planner, etc.. was the very best.  Now I’m thankful to see that time spent together reading, learning, loving, forgiving, even doing chores… it’s all contributing to who my children will become one day and who we are as a family.  I’m not teaching them a curriculum.  I molding them (by the grace of God) into people who love to learn, who love goodness, truth, and beauty, who know how to think for themselves and solve problems… and I’m molding them into people who will one day be my very best friends.

What are the hardest and easiest, parts of homeschooling?

Easiest – finding great books and reading them together, pretty much my favorite thing to do!  I’m a book junky for sure.

Hardest – self discipline.  Homeschooling depends totally on my own self-discipline, self-growth, self-care.  If I get depleted, distracted, or lazy, the whole ship goes down.  We all have our days and it’s wonderful to be able to call off school when needed, but for the most part, I’ve got to get my act together every. single. day.  If I show up to “work” grouchy and tired, the whole day is likely to be miserable for everyone.  Homeschool also requires prayer b/c I can’t pull this whole thing off without the grace of God and prayer is a discipline too!  I need always to be growing, learning, becoming the person God made me to be.

 I’m Ashley, or as the farmer affectionately calls me, “One who holds hot cup.” It’s short for – “One who holds hot cup – and good book – in cozy chair – with soft blanket – by warm fire” … preferably with that handsome farmer nearby. Because you see, I’m not really what you might call a “go-getter.” No.  I’m a sitter, a reader, a dreamer, a wonderer, an idea girl, and a comfort addict.” {Read more here}

To follow Ashley, and her family visit

To see more interviews like Ashley’s follow this link:

Homeschool Diversity: Five Common Questions Answered by Real Homeschool Moms