All posts by bonash

Maisy and Daisy Investigate Inclined Planes

Hi! This is Maisy, one of Nancy’s curious science cats reporting again. I just had to tell you a funny science story about my curious counterpart, sister Daisy.

Nancy was working like crazy with some friends on a new science lesson. She kept talking about something called inclined planes. Now we thought they meant planes that fly, so we kept waiting for the paper airplanes to chase. Then we figured out “inclined plane” is just a fancy word for a ramp.

Nancy and her cool friends were having all kinds of fun rolling stuff down those inclined planes. They had toy cars rolling down ramps made out of game boards. You would have thought it was NASCAR races hearing those ladies cheer as their cars went down the ramp. Daisy and I peeked out while we hid under the table. We were really purr-plexed when Nancy got out the saltshaker and salted the inclined plane. They kept talking about something called friction. Not sure what that is but I sure didn’t think that ramp would be very tasty even with salt on it.

Anyway, Nancy and her friends must have got tired playing with their cars because they went upstairs. Daisy and I decided to take a closer look at the inclined planes and cars.

I had trouble keeping my car on the ramp.

Daisy tried salting the cars, but she didn’t think they tasted good salted or plain.

It was time for us to put Nancy’s lesson to use. Daisy said, “Maisy, let’s find and count all the inclined planes in Nancy’s house.” I said, “Let’s go. I bet I can find more than you!” And off we went.

Daisy ran to the bathtub and meowed, “One!” She then slid down the slanted end into the tub.

I ran to the bookshelf because I remembered seeing some books sitting at an angle. “One! Two! Three! Yes!” Daisy was miffed that I had thought of the bookshelf before she did.

Next, Daisy headed to the living room and meowed loudly, “Look, Maisy, the recliner—it has a sloped flat side. That makes two!”

I spotted the desk with the slanted top. I jumped up on the desk and slid down the inclined plane. But don’t tell Nancy. She doesn’t like us up on the furniture. “Yes, yes, that’s four for me. Maisy is winning.” I rubbed up against Daisy, arched my back and puffed up my tail. She really didn’t like that at all.

We were getting tired and all the lights were out so we decided to take a little break. I was ahead of Daisy on the count of inclined planes but I knew she had figured out something and wasn’t telling me.

The next morning I woke up and headed for breakfast. Daisy wasn’t anywhere to be found. Nancy started to get worried and asked everyone to start looking for Daisy. We looked and looked but no Daisy. Then Nancy looked in one of the upstairs bedrooms and saw the window open. “Oh no, she didn’t crawl out the window did she?”

Next thing I know, Nancy and her friends ran outside, looked up and there was Daisy, on the very top of the house.

She was counting “Three, four, five, six, seven, and eight. Wow! Maisy, you wouldn’t believe all the inclined planes I can see from up here on the roof.”

Here’s the photo Nancy took of Daisy. How many inclined planes do you see?  Remember, an inclined plane is a ramp or slanted surface.

Daisy is ahead now, but I’m not quitting. Can you help me find more inclined planes?

Mountains in Alaska
Bridge over Indian Creek near Noel, Missouri
Sedgwick County Museum, Wichita, KS
Antenna near Joplin, Missouri
Road in northwest Arkansas

If you see an inclined plane, take a photo and send it to us. Be sure to tell us where it’s located.

We’ll post it here for other blooming scientists to see.

Until next time, have a purr-fectly wonderful time wandering about and wondering about science.


The Gardens at Monticello – Part 2

The flower gardens at Monticello are absolutely amazing and literally buzz with life. Bees of all kinds, butterflies, and moths were busy as (you know…bees).

Mosaic of Garden Photos

And when the work is done, it’s time to leave.

My knowledge and information is admittedly limited and largely based on the stories told by our tour guide. Please visit to learn more and see the amazing gardens. Look at the page “In Bloom at Monticello” where you’ll find a calendar that you can set for any time of the year and then see all of the flowers that are blooming during that time. It’s a wonderful site to learn more about Jefferson and his home.


The Gardens at Monticello

When we finished the HEAV conference in Richmond, Virginia, I spent Sunday with my daughter Megan touring Monticello. I learned so many things about Thomas Jefferson. I didn’t realize that when he sent Lewis and Clark to explore and map the Louisiana Purchase territory, he also instructed them to send back examples of plants and animals that aren’t found in the eastern United States. Lewis and Clark carefully bundled plants and saplings and sent them back to Virginia. Jefferson had these planted at Monticello. He also instructed the sailors of the US Navy to send him unusual plants they found in other countries. Many of these plants and trees are still thriving at Monticello.

Jefferson was also a naturalist and studied the natural healing qualities of plants. Many of the trees at Monticello are imports from other countries and were chosen specifically for their therapeutic qualities. Our tour guide told of a delegation from China that was in awe when they saw trees that they consider essential for health and well being. They quickly gathered up the fallen leaves and flowers, which were very expensive in China and had been left on the ground at Monticello. The Chinese delegation quickly told their guides of the plants’ importance and the gardeners helped them gather extra fallen leaves and flowers. I must admit, I don’t remember the names of all these plants. I hope to learn more this winter. If you have the chance to visit Monticello, please take the garden tour. It’s fascinating.

Thomas Jefferson built Monticello on a mountaintop, his little mountain. Before his home could be built, the mountaintop had to be leveled. So while you drive up to Monticello, it’s level once you are there.

Jefferson considered himself foremost a farmer and was very interested in weather changes. He had the weather vane on the roof of the portico connected to a device that allowed him to check the wind direction without leaving the front porch. Here you can see the white weather vane on the roof and the bronze disk under the portico where he could read the directions.

Monticello was a self-sufficient farm, with a garden the length of three football fields. Jefferson ate little meat. His meals were primarily the vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown in his garden. He wanted to preserve plants gathered from other countries and brought by Lewis and Clark. To protect the plants, he placed the garden on the south side and cut down into the mountain. This kept the cold winter winds above the plants.
Monticello was a self-sufficient farm, with a garden the length of three football fields. Jefferson ate little meat. His meals were primarily the vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown in his garden. He wanted to preserve plants gathered from other countries and brought by Lewis and Clark. To protect the plants, he placed the garden on the south side and cut down into the mountain. This kept the cold winter winds above the plants.

You can see how much lower the garden is than the road above.
One of Jefferson’s dreams was to have Virginia wines that compared with those he’d tasted in Europe. He didn’t see this happen during his lifetime. But he created the vineyard and had it cut even lower in the mountainside, along with the fruit orchard.When Jefferson traveled in Europe, he developed a taste for French figs and returned to Monticello determined to grow them. Normally, the figs would freeze during a Virginia winter, especially if planted on a mountaintop. He also had a rock wall built next to the delicate plants. At its highest the wall was twelve feet. The winter sun warmed the rocks and the stored heat warmed the plants at night. Builders refer to this as geo-thermal mass, using rock and solid building materials to store heat from the day and warm the areas at night. Part of the stone wall is visible at the lower left of the photo above.

The Blue Ridge Mountains sure earn their name. The fig trees are visible just beyond the upright pole trellis.

My knowledge and information is admittedly limited and largely based on the stories told by our tour guide. More photos of the gardens are coming. Until then, check out more information on Jefferson’s Monticello at It’s a wonderful site to learn more about Jefferson and his home.


GPS or Map?

I love maps. Maybe it’s the visual and tactile learner in me. Maybe it’s the unexplored possibilities of a map, the roads not taken. Perhaps it’s the interconnections a map shows between every place and every one. I just don’t get that sense of the Whole with GPS.

This weekend I was driving through Indiana, enjoying the mellowness of rainy days with unhurried schedules. I realized I’d taken the wrong exit for Highway 31. I discovered Peru, Indiana, is the birthplace of Cole Porter; but, I wasn’t headed toward Indianapolis. I stopped, pulled out my trusty AAA map and found a connecting road. The road was barely more than a paved path and curved through fields of sprouting wheat and Spring puddles. It was a leisurely trip and made more connections than just getting me to Highway 31, fresh air filled with mist and new growth. I wondered if a GPS would have the same sense of adventure.

Our lives now are so compartmentalized and digitized that we rely heavily on other voices to direct our ways. Sometimes it’s the most expedient and concise thing to do. But if you are not an audio learner, you can be lost. Yes, Lost with GPS!

Most people only remember seven per cent of what they hear. So if you rely on the GPS voice to direct your travel, will you arrive at your destination seven per cent of the time? Will you be lost or confused ninety-three per cent of your life’s travel.

What does this have to do with anything, especially learning? Homeschool curricula come in many formats, and it’s important to know what matches your child’s learning. If you are an audio learner, or think it’s wonderful to have books on tape; it may not be the best match for your child. I talked with a young lady who told me her homeschool curricula was on CD’s, and she listened to them for several hours every day. That was her homeschooling. Indeed, I watched her throughout the homeschool conference sitting on the floor, headphones in place for hours. It kept her quiet and tethered to one spot. But I wondered where is the wonder?

The best part of homeschooling children is the time you spend with them, asking questions and listening to what they say. Really listening as a child learns is amazing. You can see them thinking as they formulate ideas and put these together to make connections. I couldn’t do this if I relied on a digital voice to provide the lessons.

Whether your child is an audio, visual, or tactual learner, life requires we absorb information from all methods. The more senses we involve in learning, the stronger the learning and the greater the retention. One of my favorite movies is Akeelah and the Bee, where Akeelah jumps rope as she’s spelling. The cadence, rhythm and body movement anchored the learning and helped her win the State Spelling Bee.

Curricula should provide learning though all senses. It’s one reason I admire Nancy Larson so much. Her science lessons incorporate all the learning styles, so that every child learns, remembers, and achieves. Homeschool parents talk about how the Science Program improves the confidence of their children, because it’s written so that everyone succeeds. Let’s see: there’s multiple learning styles, activities, study skills, reading, and confidence building, all interconnected to help children learn serious science content. Sounds like a good map to stay on the path.

Daisy and Maisy invite you to celebrate Earth Day!

It was a sunny spring day in Connecticut. Daisy was intently looking out the door at the outside world. There were birds enjoying seeds in the bird feeders, breezes moving the grass, and bees buzzing in the flower garden.
Surely, this would keep Daisy busy, but not our Curious Science Cat. Daisy calls Maisy to come and join her and plan their next mission.
While they look out the window, Maisy says to Daisy 'Hey! You know that Earth Day is coming soon.' Daisy replies, 'Yes! That’s it!'
Daisy crawls up into Nancy’s arms. She has her right where she wants her.
Daisy purrs into Nancy’s ear, 'Earth Day is coming on April 22. It will be the 40th Earth Day. Let’s make it special. We want to help children learn about protecting and preserving the Earth. What can we do, Nancy?'

Nancy had just the answer. “We’ll give all the homeschool children our Earth Day lessons from Science 1, 2, and 3. Their families can learn about Earth Day together.”

“Purrrfect!” thought Daisy and Maisy.

Earth Day is April 22. Enjoy these Earth Day lessons from Nancy Larson® Science.

Midwest Homeschool Expo at Cincinnati, Ohio

We had a terrific time meeting homeschool families in Cincinnati at the Midwest Expo, April 8–10. Arielle Corcoran, who was the chairperson of the Expo, said approximately 10,000 homeschoolers attended that weekend. Others said the Expo was fifty per cent bigger than last year. I’m not sure about the exact figures. I do know we had a steady stream of visitors all weekend. It was a great time!

Madon Dailey and Kathy Tabor
Kathy Tabor joined me at the Nancy Larson Publishers’ booth. Kathy lives near Columbus, Ohio.
Kathy taught for many years and has personal success stories using the strategies Nancy has written into the science programs.
We had a very special guest, Patty Betounes, a homeschool mom from Hebron, Ohio. Patty is using Science 3 with her eleven-year-old son. She called our office and shared how much she enjoys teaching Nancy Larson® Science.
Patty then volunteered to visit with other parents and tell them her story. It was so exciting to hear her tell about the success her son is having using our program. We were thrilled that she joined us in Cincinnati.
Our Nancy Larson® Science program is age appropriate for children 5–11. Nancy chose the topics for each program around a child’s natural curiosity. Homeschooling parents can group their children in the program. It’s easier, takes less time to teach, and frees parents to handle other needs.

Our next homeschool conference is in Kansas City, Missouri at the KCI Expo. I hope we get to “Meet & Greet” you there!

–-Madon Dailey
Madon Dailey

Critical Thinking – Anthony & McDonalds

Critical thinking gets a lot of attention in the homeschooling world. You can find all kinds of workbooks, dealing exclusively with teaching critical thinking. Maybe one of the problems I have with these is the way critical thinking is isolated from all other thinking and learning. It’s really a part of everyday living.

Last Friday, little Anthony decided to join me running an errand. Anthony will turn four this month, and he’s just beginning to really start conversations and tell us what he’s thinking. I told him we could go out for lunch when we finished, and asked him where he’d like to go.

“McDonalds” jumped out of his mouth.

“Why McDonalds?” I asked.

“It’s my eating place.” It was hard to suppress my laughter, “My eating place,” where do they come up with these?

“What do you like about McDonalds?”

There was this wide-eyed, awe struck, “deer in the headlights” look coming from the backseat.

“Why is McDonalds your eating place?”

More wide-eyed awe, with an open mouth added. Nothing came back as a response.

Then I had one of those “Aha!” moments. I was asking Anthony to make an evaluation, to engage in critical thinking, without any basic knowledge and analysis. These are absolutely necessary steps.

“Anthony, what’s one food you like at McDonalds?”

“Chick Nuggets”

What’s another food you like to get at McDonalds?”


“I know you like juice or milk to drink. Which do you like best?”

“Chocolate Milk”

Now we’ve laid the groundwork. I’ve allowed him to identify three foods he likes, and make a choice on drinks.

“Anthony, you like chicken nuggets, apples, and chocolate milk at McDonalds. Which one makes McDonalds your eating place?”


“Okay. That’s a good reason.”

And just like that, Anthony was making critical decisions and evaluations. At almost four, he’s critically thinking. Is he unique? Not at all—critical thinking is part of life at all ages. It seems to me that often in our conversations with children we don’t provide them the structure, the questions to guide them to these higher levels of thinking; and, we haven’t labeled it. Anthony had already decided he liked McDonalds, but he didn’t know why. When I asked him open-ended questions (Why McDonalds?) he didn’t know. It’s like asking your spouse, “What do you want for dinner?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care. You choose.” There are too many options. If you narrow the choices, chicken or pizza, peas or corn, potatoes or rice; then, people make choices. They do critical thinking. Inside of each choice, there’s a flurry of mental activity before they say “Chicken.”

“What did I have for lunch? I’m having pizza tomorrow. Pizza is expensive. Chicken rice casserole is budget friendly. I like the color of peas with rice.”

What ever these thoughts were, they happened in a flash. It’s more like a micro-flash, so fast we aren’t consciously aware of what’s going on up there in the gray matter. A fascinating book of the subject of flash decisions is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I find his writing and research intriguing, and Blink is an amazing study of human behavior on decision making (critical thinking at its upmost).

Back to Anthony and all the other young learners: it’s easy to teach critical thinking. Just think and ask them simple questions that build up to more complex conclusions. Gather basic information or facts from them. Then review and let them analyze the information. Finally, they can make a decision, think critically and evaluate.

Here’s something to try with your young thinkers. Let’s say you’re at the local grocery and you need laundry detergent. Let one (or more) of the children decide which one to buy. Perhaps you set guidelines, like price “Nothing over $6.00” or size, “Nothing over 64 ounces.” If the child understands the unit price of detergent, ask them to make that one of the decision-making factors. Ask them to consider at least four detergents. Also tell them beforehand that you want to know what they were thinking and the decisions they made during the process. Then when they return with 64 ounces of lavender vanilla Sun detergent, have the conversation. And, guide the conversation. Their choice may give you clues. Is the bottle a favorite color, or perhaps the fragrance is special? You know your children.

Be aware of the small decisions we make everyday. Talk with your children about these. They will become experts at critical thinking and being able to explain their process. You’ll smile and feel that warm proud-parent glow. They will be blooming!

–-Madon Dailey
Madon Dailey