Discovery Center Museum Homeschool Classes

One of my family’s favorite children’s museums in the Chicago area is actually in Rockford. We have enjoyed a membership on and off at the Discovery Center Museum and appreciate that they appeal to a broader range of “kids” than many other children’s museums.

Coming up in the month ahead they have classes designed especially for the homeschooler:

Bring your child to Discovery Center Museum for memorable and exciting learning experiences. We can accommodate small groups as well as individual children, and we offer a wide range of schedules and themes.

Advanced registration and payments are required for participation in all Home School classes.

***Please note that admission to and exploration of Discovery Center Museum itself are separate from the Home School classes.***

Home School Winter/Spring 2010

Preregistration required. To register, call 815-963-6769 or drop by the Discovery Center office during normal business hours. Payment must accompany registration.
Class registration opens December 18 for members,
December 22 for Public.

Class fees: $11 Members / $13 Public; ages 6 and up

High Voltage Science

If you like lightning, then this class is for you! Discover how to build up, store, transfer, and discharge electrical jolts both big and small. Have a hair-raising time with the Van de Graaff generator, discover which materials make the best charges, and get zapped by miniature bolts of lightning!

Wednesday, February 3
Session 1 ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2 ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3 ages 10+; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4 ages 6 & up: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Under Pressure

Explore the amazing science of air and water pressure. Use atmospheric pressure to hold back a flood, discover a barometer in your bathroom, and put on the squeeze to make a diver sink and float. Experiment with Bernoulli’s principal and Pascal’s law and test your own strength against the power of pressure.

Wednesday, March 10
Session 1 ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2 ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3 ages 10+; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4 ages 6 & up: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Simple Machines I

What are simple machines? Where would we be without wedges? How do screws help our lives? Get a feel for mechanical advantage as you lift an incredible mass with a GIANT lever. Build simple machines and measure their effectiveness as we explore forces and more in this class about levers, inclined planes, wedges, screws.

Wednesday, April 14
Session 1 ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2 ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3 ages 10+; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4 ages 6 & up: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Simple Machines II

Build a free-wheeling car, design a pulley-driven message-carrier, calculate the turns on a series of LEGO gears, and much more! We’ll turn the force around in this follow-up class about wheels and axles, pulleys, and gears. Note: While the Simple Machines I is not a prerequisite, this class will build directly on themes from that class.

Wednesday, May 5
Session 1 ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2 ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3 ages 10+; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4 ages 6 & up: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Lots of great classes in the works. Check out their website for more details and to register.

Interested in Local History?

If you would like more information on local history including events, museums, background information and resources, you may like to subscribe to a FREE quarterly magazine put out by the Illinois State Museum.

This colorful publication, entitled The Living Museum, packs information on the many historical monuments, museums, and sites available to you around our state. It also includes information on current exhibits at various museums so you can plan them into your schedule.

Living Museum Cover

For more information about this publication, or to subscribe, check out the Illinois State Museum website, or email them at:

Taking full advantage of your library

Formerly, I thought I had a pretty good handle on all my library had to offer:

Reading programs — great incentives in summer for individual reading and in the winter for family reading and we earn free stuff in the process of doing something we would spend our time doing anyway. And, the kids got even more excited about time spent reading.

Books — Obviously, books hold the main draw of the library. Thousands of books on any topic you could want to read on. I’m still not quite sure how I would homeschool if I did not have weekly access to the library and daily access to the Internet. I would spend a lot more money, I am sure.

Non-book items — we also enjoy magazines, CD’s, movies, puzzles, and other items the library makes available for home use through borrowing.

Online account access — We can easily keep tabs on all these items that constantly flow in and out of our house online with our account information readily available and renewable with the click of the mouse.

All those things are great. However, I recently found out I had just scratched the surface of information available to me through the library.

This summer I discovered the World Catalog (claims to have 1.4 billion items on record right now!) which I had access to from home with my library card. I can reserve a book from just about anywhere in the world and they will send it to my library for me to pick up. Now, living near a large city like Chicago, I rarely have a book sent from outside of my state, but I did recently get a book from Arkansas. If you have not learned to navigate the “World Cat” get in touch with your librarian and find out about the billions of items that you have access to through this data base.

We love audiobooks and devour a few of them each month during our errand running. Well, they come in a new format we can check out from the library as well. Playaways are preloaded auidobooks in an MP3 type device that you check out and take with you.

But, there’s more. My librarian also showed me the depths of internet options and subscriptions available through my library website. This will vary widely from library to library, but here is just some of what I can access with my library card, from the comfort of my own home (Clicking to these sites through my library site automatically enters me as a subscriber. On some I need to set up a free account to use them):

  • Online language course through Byki.
  • Book review sites
  • Online picture books, through Tumblebooks.
  • Local newspaper websites
  • Premium research databases
  • NetLibrary‘s 16,000 electronic version of printed books.
  • Naxos music library’s recordings of 85,000 pieces. (We love this one for our composer studies, no more scouring the internet for a suitable recording or trying to remember to get a recording while at the library. Immediate access from home!)

And the list goes on and on, figured I would just share a few favorites we have already used. When she started showing us this I could not believe the information that I had in front of me. All these memberships and subscriptions that I have a part of through my library card. Now, of course, as I said this will vary widely by library, but if you want your library to offer something that they do not already offer, just ask. If they can find a way to fit it in the budget, they might just do it.

Photograph of Homeschool Resource Center

Tiny, but powerful! The Homeschool Resource Center. Four walls packed with resources.

I could not talk about libraries and homeschooling without mentioning the Johnsburg Public Library. Tucked away in this small, unassuming town library is a Homeschool Resource Center that has helped homeschoolers across the country. If you live in Illinois you can drive to the library and check out items with your valid Illinois library card. They have microscopes, models, a vacuum pump, and lots of other larger items to help teach some of those tougher topics. Those items you must physically pick up and drop off at their library.

However, they have also used this $55,000 grant to stock its shelves with books, curriculum samples, and other resources that homeschoolers will benefit from. And, they are open to suggestions for new purchases as well. It would most likely be worth your time to peruse the 2000 plus items they have specifically for the homeschooler.

One last library advantage . . . If you live in the Chicago, Detroit or Minneapolis area (click city names for various local program sites), you have the opportunity to “check out” museum passes each week. These can provide for some great, inexpensive field trips for your family or homeschool group. They are first come, first served, but make sure to look into this great program if you live in any of those areas.

Enjoy more Works for Me Wednesday and Thirsty Thursday


We had the opportunity to spend the day as guests of LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg. I wanted to give you all the inside scoop on what to expect when you take advantage of the Homeschool Days on Wednesdays. I did not attend the homeschool workshop, so I cannot give you information on that item, but I will share about the facility in general.

We arrived around 10:30 and after a quick stop at the register we entered an amazing recreation of the city of Chicago. Over a million bricks went into building this mini-city. If only one person worked on it, it would have taken 15 years to complete! It is impressive, to put it mildly. We probably spent at least 15 minutes just soaking it in. It gradually fades from night to day and back again. You could stand there all day and still not take it all in. On the wall behind you as you view the skyline are various facts about the city of Chicago, some of its landmarks, and all that went into recreating it in miniature (including the 1,000 Lego people that wander the streets!)

That is only just the beginning. You will also find these exhibits and rides in LEGOLAND (this is a long section, but I put many pictures in the album and wrote in detail to give you as much as possible a good picture of what to expect when you arrive):

Jungle Adventure — If you follow the natural layout you will find yourself in the jungle just past mini-Chicago. After a brief introduction from the guide, you head into the jungle to find tigers, hippos, monkeys, and snakes, and one really big spider, all Lego of course. Take your time and enjoy the sites. They even have some wildlife trivia that the kids can answer on their own scratch off sheet and learn something along the way. We found the lighting a little too dim at times in this area, but enjoyed marveling and learning along the way.

Factory Tour — (upstairs) A fun trip “through” the factory. This quick one room tour gives you an idea of what goes into creating a Lego brick. From granules to the finished product, volunteers get to “help” by pushing buttons along the route. The staff host is generally entertaining and plays their part well. Our kids especially liked the special Lego piece they each walk away with — LEGOLAND’S very own, stamped and all. You can even get these individually engraved for $2 each.

4D Cinema — (upstairs) Two films available in 4D (3D plus water, wind, lighting, and other miscellaneous effects). Some of these at other places have scared my kids, but these are pretty mild, although you will get splashed a bit. If your child is young and might get upset by that, you can warn them, and you can usually tell when it is about to happen (like when Bob shakes his Thermos to try to get the water out, you just know it’s coming). We enjoyed both of the films — Bob the builder makes a roller coaster and Spellbreaker (a Lego exclusive with good and evil battling it out). Very young or sensitive children might be scared by the evil wizard type character and the skeleton army, all Lego pieces, but still loud and surprising at times. My four year old sat in my lap and jumped a couple times, but he loved it.

Dragon Ride — (first floor) My older daughter was a little disappointed as from the picture on the website she kind of expected a little roller coaster. This is more of a relaxing story journey. The dragon shaped car takes you through the wizard’s tale of knights and kings and end’s in the dragon’s lair where you might get a puff of “steam.” Despite the disappointment, it was a cute ride and my kids generally enjoyed it. The older ones thought once was enough though. My younger daughter was scared at the start of the ride, but the attendant gave her a shield to ward off anything scary, and she went on again without the shield. 🙂

Build and Test — (upstairs) We spent the bulk of our day here. Free to come and go from this area, you will find bowls full of Legos, stools all around work tables, and a challenge. Each hour or so the employees post a new Creative Challenge for the builders. The winner received a cardstock LEGOLAND crown, that my kids were quite proud of. Sometimes an animal, sometimes “Cartoon vs. Video Games” (take your pick), anything that rhymes with “sat,” and various other themed builds. It was fun to see what the kids would come up with when pushed to build something outside of their typical “really cool car.” One important note: there are not wheels out for use in this area. However, you can get wheels. You just need to turn in some form of ID and they will give you a set of wheels from their stash. We didn’t know this at first and were surprised that there were no wheels in this build room. So, now you know. There are wheels, you just need to ask for them and leave something in exchange. After building a car you can test them on the large ramps and race track.

Technicycle — (upstairs) a carnival type ride that rises when you peddle. My kids all enjoyed this and rode it repeated times. If your kids are really into the simple carnival rides this alone could make your admission worthwhile, although the line can move slowly when crowded. On a weekday we did not have any lines at all to worry about.

Model Builders Workshop — (upstairs) Throughout the day they offer mini workshops to show you how to build a special Lego creation. We were a little disappointed that the day we went it was just how to make a large Lego block out of eight smaller Legos. Then these were all combined into one large candle for LEGOLAND’s first birthday. But, August is over now, so you should have something different. Previously they had the Sears’ tower, monkeys, and other items. You don’t take the items with you, just the skills you learned.

Hall of Fame — (first floor) a small assortment of various Lego creations of famous personalities (R2D2, Batman, etc.) Great for picure taking. For other amateur photographers, photographing Lego statues is a challenge, because the flash really glares off of them if not done just right.

Physical Play — (upstairs) small indoor playground, perfect for the little ones to run and slide

Girls Play — a small corner of the build area has girly type Lego pieces including castle pieces and lots of pink. Cute, and my girls enjoyed it, but kind of small. However, probably fitting since the large portion of their guests seem to be boys.

There is also an area designed with the younger set in mind — Duplos (LOTS of them!), and big soft Legos. Great for the younger siblings that are tagging along.

And, to make your visit more comfortable, you will find lockers, coat hooks, plenty of tables and chairs for resting or snacking at, bathrooms (boy, girl, and family) and a drinking fountain upstairs, and a little cafe (meals range from just over $4 to just over $7 a piece — hot dogs, pizza, or sandwiches).

Walking around the museum you can’t help but stand amazed at the huge Lego statues and structures throughout the building. Bob the Builder, giraffes, Star Wars and Harry Potter characters, recreations of famous paintings, and even some of the floor mats. Legos find themselves all over this building starting with the large giraffe that straddles the front door.

All in all we enjoyed our time at LEGOLAND. The kids had a great time interacting with each other and with us. The many opportunities to build stretched and rewarded their creative abilities. Our oldest, a twelve year old, is on the top end of the ages I would recommend this trip for. From Bob the Builder movies to the jungle display, they seem to target a younger set. I would say kids that enjoy Legos and fall in the 3-10 age range would have an entertaining time. My 12 year old did enjoy taking the littler ones on the rides, and helping them build, and in that way it was a great day for all of us.

The staff were cheery, polite and interactive. The facility is clean and easy to navigate, and the gift shop isn’t too overpriced! We took a break for lunch which we brought with us, but otherwise easily spent 5 1/2  hours enjoying the “sites.” Rush hour traffic on the way home was another story . . .

Field Trip!

Pull out your lesson plan books and the white out, because you might need to make some room for this.

Brand new this year to the Chicago area is a program sponsored by Macy’s, various library systems, the Sun-Times, and Lite FM. This program allows library card holders to “check out” a free museum pass each week starting September 1.

Because this hasn’t started yet, I can’t tell exactly how this will work, and even the librarians don’t have all the answers. But, you will definitely want to make visiting your local library a weekly event, and leave lots of room for FREE field trips.

Through the Museum Adventure Pass Program, library card holders can go to their library, choose from the available passes they would like to use that week and receive a print out that expires one week later. After the expiration date (whether they used it or not), they may return for a new pass. The program involves twelve various sites this year including Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

What to do:

– Check the list of libraries to make sure yours participates in the program

– Check the list of cooperating museums for the various passes available (you won’t know until you go to the library for sure what the availability is at that time, but this website will show you what the possibilities might include).

– Visit your participating library to check out a pass (one per library card, and these are not transferable)

– Take a field trip!

– Thank the museum and other program sponsors for making this available to us!

The passes do vary (and all this is spelled out on the website). Some include four admissions, some only two, some offer other specials and discounts (buy one, get one; gift store discounts, etc.) Read them carefully, and make sure you understand what you are getting.

This is brand new to our area, so you might get some funny looks the first time you use the passes. A great chance to practice patience. 🙂 And, you might want to call ahead to confirm their acceptance of the pass.

If you want to see how this has the potential to grow, check out the Detroit area website and the Minnesota websites which have already enjoyed this program and continue to expand the number of museums offering free tickets.

What an incredible opportunity, don’t forget to take advantage of this!

(If you want to make sure that you don’t miss out on all the great resources and tips to enhance your homeschool, please subscribe to the Chicagoland Homeschool Network using the buttons on the right sidebar. And, if you are on Facebook, you can become a fan and receive reminders and notifications there as well).

Homeschool classes at the Discovery Center Museum

Discovery Center Museum
711 North Main Street
Rockford, Illinois 61103
(815) 963-6769

The Discovery Center Museum is offering special homeschool classes on Wednesdays this fall. These are geared toward a variety of ages and have an extra fee in addition to the regular admission rate.

See How We See I

Grab a scalpel — we’re dissecting animal eyes to see how we see. Examine lenses, make a camera obscura, find your blind spot, and more! Not for the squeamish.

Wednesday, October 7
Session 1: ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2: ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3: ages 10 & up; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4: ages 6 & up 3:30-5:00;

See How We See II

Take your vision to task and find out what makes colorful colors. Explore persistence of vision, negative after images, and the inner workings of the human eye.

Wednesday, November 4
Session 1: ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2: ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3: ages 10 & up; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4: ages 6 & up 3:30-5:00;

See How We See III

“Scope” out reflection as you make a working periscope, design a kaleidoscope, and use mirrors to play laser tag.

Wednesday, December 9
Session 1: ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2: ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3: ages 10 & up; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4: ages 6 & up 3:30-5:00
Contact the museum for more information or for mail in registration forms. Registration is either by phone or mail.

Christopher Columbus’ boats spotted!

The Niña

This taken from an article in a local paper:

Replicas of two of Christopher Columbus’ ships are scheduled to spend nearly a week at Waukegan Harbor beginning July 29.

The “Pinta” and the “Nina” will be docked next to the Waukegan Yacht Club until their departure early Aug. 3. They will be open for viewing for a charge.

Both ships will be touring together as a new and enhanced “sailing museum” for the purpose of educating the public and school children on the ships used by Columbus and many early explorers to discover the world.

While in port, the public is invited to visit the ships for walk-aboard self-guided tours. The prices are $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children. Children 4 and under are free. The ships will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. No reservations necessary.

Teachers or groups wishing to schedule a 30-minute guided tour with a crew member should call the ship directly at (787) 672-2152. Minimum of 15 and the cost is $3 per person. Visit the Web site at for additional information.

Sounds like a great educational activity! To prepare for your trip here are some links on Christopher Columbus:

Happy Exploring!

Free days

Just when we thought summer had arrived, we head into days with lots of rain predicted. So, what to do?

Of course, the free or $1 movies are beginning at many theaters this week.

Or, general admission to the Shedd Aquarium is free this week (June 14-19), with reduced admission to the various exhibits.

The Museum of Science and Industry is also free this Friday. This is your last chance to get in free here until October, so take advantage of this great museum!

Any other free (or inexpensive) options for these rainy days? Please share your favorites!

Free days at Museums

Many museums offer free days at various times throughout each week, month, or year. Target stores have stepped up to offer a number of these opportunities making it possible for families to enjoy these local treasures without spending a small fortune of their own. I know with five kids of my own to pay admission for, we love to take advantage of these special offers which enable us to do so much more than we would otherwise!

Even though these are posted it is always a good idea to double check websites or even make a phone call before heading out to enjoy one of these great field trip opportunities.

Chicago Children’s Museum – Target Free First Mondays

Free admission for kids 15 and under. First Monday of every month, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
700 East Grand Avenue, Navy Pier
Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier
Chicago IL, 60611

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago – Target Free Tuesdays

Free every Tuesday
220 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago IL, 60611

Congo Square Theatre, Chicago – Target Saturday Matinees

2-for-1 Tickets, Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Various locations
Chicago, IL 60657

Lookingglass Theatre Company, Chicago – Target Saturday Matinees

Buy One, Get One Free, Saturday performances at 3 p.m.
821 North Michigan Avenue
Water Tower Water Works
Chicago IL, 60611

Art Institute of Chicago – Target Free Evenings

Free General Admission every Thursday, 5-9 p.m.
Free General Admission every Friday from Memorial Day until Labor Day, 5-9 p.m.
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago IL, 60603-6110

The Field Museum – Target Free Second Mondays

Free admission every second Monday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605-2496

National Museum of Mexican Art – Target Free Admission at the NMMA

Free admission every day during museum hours, 10 a.m-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
1852 W. 19th Street
Chicago, IL 60608

Millennium Park Family Fun Festival Presented by Target

June 3-September 1, 2008 Daily, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Summer-long free festival of music, performances and family activities for all ages, seven days a week in the Millennium Park Family Fun Activity Tent and on the Jay Pritzker Pavillion Performance Stage.

Chicago Children’s Choir – Target Free Family Concert in Millennium Park

Thursday, June 12, 6:30 p.m.

Information from Insider’s Passport.

Free Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago

The new Modern Wing of the Art Institute has opened its doors today, May 16th. For this coming week admission to the museum is completely free of charge to all visitors.  See the Art Institute’s website for more information.

The even better news for homeschoolers . . . Children under 14 are ALWAYS admitted free. And, Illinois teachers (which you qualify for as a homeschool teacher) are also welcome without charge at the museum on any day they are open. Be sure to bring some type of homeschool identification, and call for details ahead of your visit — (312) 443-3600.

Here’s what their site says about teachers, “Teacher Admission – All Illinois teachers receive free general admission to the Art Institute with proof of teacher certification. When educators visit the Teacher Resource Center, they will receive a free educator’s pass. This pass gives the bearer unlimited general admission to the Art Institute and admission to the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries until September 1, 2009.”

The Institute is also free on Thursday nights from 5-8 as well, whether a homeschooler, teacher, student, or not. Don’t miss out on this great resource to your homeschooling studies.

Check out their links:

– to other art sources online

– resources especially for teachers

lesson plans

– Scheduling student tours