One thing I can definitely say about being on the TOS Homeschool Crew is that I have been absolutely amazed at the variety of things out there to teach with.
Whatever the interest, there is something out there to motivate and encourage it!
For some families, getting Dad involved in schooltime can be a challenge. While I do know a few families where Dad does share in some of the responsibility and day to day learning adventures of the homeschooling family, a majority leave the bulk of the teaching up to Mom, for a multitude of reasons which will not be discussed here and now. Recently I discovered the ultimate get-Dad-involved website. Pitsco Education is a company which offers a huge amount of science, technology, engineering, and math hands-on product kits, curriculum guides, and tools to engage and inspire learners. While geared towards STEM classroom use, these products are brilliantly adaptable to a home educator’s student-directed, hands-on learning environment.
So how does all this involve Dad, you ask? Well, look at some of the stuff they have to offer over there:
~Air powered racers, CO2 car kits, wind tunnels, solar vehicles, nanotechnology, earthquake engineering, gliders, hot-air balloons, solid-fuel rockets, hydraulic robots, remote controlled robots, electronic kits, bridges, domes, catapults and trebuchets… ~
That’s just the short list of all the cool things you can find over at Pitsco. Check out the store!
With that intro to all Pitsco has to offer, let me share with you what my kids and hubby got all excited over.
This kit is designed for Intermediate-Middle School level study.
This kit includes a Trebuchet Kit, Catapult Kit, Mass Plates, and the Siege Machines book.
(Note: Most guide activities require additional items such as measurement and hand tools – see the Specs tab for more information.)
As they discover the history of medieval siege machines and the concepts required to build and use them. they will also be covering:
- Science: Tension versus torsion, elasticity, gravity and levers, and force and motion
- Math: Metric conversion, calculating averages, and prediction
- Experiments: Mass versus distance, testing rubber bands, targeting, and more
Siege Machines at Gunn Ranch Academy
Well, I guess you could say with a name like Gunn, catapults and trebuchets are *in the genes*, LOL. When the large, long box arrived, I brought it in and set it on the table. I told my kids that we could open it after dinner, and had already told them what was in it, so they were anticipating the contents. After dinner, I was trying to finish a project, and the kids asked if they could go ahead and open the box and see if Dad would help them with it. When Dad saw what was in that box I think his eyes popped out farther than the kids’ did, LOL. I instructed him that this was a TOS review, so he would need to give me play-by-play commentary as they went through assembly and reading the manual. Play-by-play commentary was exactly what I got each step of the way! The first note he insisted I make was that it was made in the USA. This is a HUGE PLUS in his eyes, as he ALWAYS looks to see where almost everything is made. Next, he did mention that the kit was not complete, as a few minor tools, glue, etc are required for assembly, but I replied to him those specs are noted on the website in the product info, and most households-particularly homeschooling households, should have these things.
They worked together to assemble the catapult, as Dad read through the instructions. Included in the basic instructions is a brief description of how it works, describing how the ancient and medieval engineers used tension as the force for their catapults compared to our model which uses a rubber band’s elasticity for tension. I then witnessed Dad giving a full out physic’s lesson on Newton’s third law of motion, followed by an explanation of torsion, which was described well in the very next paragraph of the basic instructions.
While waiting on the catapult to dry, they ventured through the Siege Machines guide. Since the girls had a wonderful experience studying Greece, they enjoyed being able to show off their knowledge of some of the weaponry they had studied as well as some of the more famous Greeks such as Dionysius and Alexander the Great and his father Philip of Macedonia. Moving on through the ages with Rome and the tenth century Crusades, the Middle East, and even the catapult in WWII was right up Dad’s alley as a true history buff. I believe they taught him some or refreshed the memory? 😉 about the ancients, and he was able to mix his love for history and science together to make for a great learning adventure.
Once the catapult dried, we had a chance to launch into the lessons, experiments and math adventures a few days later. We decided to go ahead and start gluing the trebuchet together, and while it was drying we would do our calculations and experiments with launching the clay ammunition. We carefully weighed out our four different sized balls of clay, and made predictions on how far each would go. We rolled out a sheet of white butcher paper as the manual suggested, but the Klean Klay balls did not make marks on the paper when they landed as the manual suggested they would, leaving us to try and guess exactly where they landed. We weren’t able to be real accurate on our measurements because we were left to guess about where each of the balls landed. The basic idea of the lighter mass flying farther and predicting where the heaviest would land was easy to visualize, though. And we were able to easily understand how to average, and a couple of other math concepts were discussed. Elasticity and stored energy were also easily demonstrated and learned.
We had a bit of a time getting the small edges of the trebuchet to stay glued together until dried, but finally managed to get it together. The trebuchet lessons, of course, were about using gravity for the force vs. tension or torsion as with the catapult. Our gravity discussion led us to revisit some previous discussions of the Earth’s magnetism, as well as how these brilliant designs and concepts most certainly point to one brilliant creator. We ventured into a discussion on simple machines, and my 14 year gave us all a wonderful lesson on physical science which she studied last year, describing to us how levers, fulcrums, and see-saws work. She also elaborated on Daddy’s lecture of Newton’s third law, teaching us about force and motion.
This is the very reason we homeschool. True learning is more than a letter on a paper. It’s the ability to teach back what you’ve learned, and show *how* something works. Pitsco brought more than a box of cool projects into our home. It brought a valuable, irresistible opportunity to get Dad involved in teaching Kindergarten, Junior High, and High School. (I forgot to mention he had my Kindergartener excited about helping him “read” some of the words in the instructions!) It gave him the opportunity to *see* just what we’ve been up to, just where we’ve been, and actually join us on the journey.
I was thrilled to see that spark of delight take off in so many directions, from history to math calculations to science concepts, to figuring out how to make homemade pom-pom birds that would knock over paper cup forts protecting homemade pig victims. (If this little game sounds familiar to you, it probably IS what you are thinking, LOL).
I can’t wait to figure out what we will be ordering next!
Check out my crew mates adventures with Siege Machines over at the Crew Blog!
*We received these products as members of the TOS Homeschool Crew for review purposes. No other compensation was received, and opinions are our own.