Thursday, January 3, 2008

building a blender...

I posted these yesterday on my other blog, but I thought I would post them here with more details.
We're easing back into school this week (we'll start back officially on Monday when the local public schools start back). So, I've been letting the kids pick whatever "educational" activity they want to do each day. Is it any surprise that they've been picking to do projects from their K'nex Simple Machines: Gears kit? They LOVE the projects and with the teacher's guide I feel like we're really getting a lot out of them. Yesterday we learned all about crown gear systems and discussed what plane each part was on. We also reviewed previous terminology like driver and driven gears, axles, rotational motion, etc. along with knowing our input and output motions.

I would love to do more of these projects and so would Alex and Clara. Alex was completely over the moon when we got a Lego Education catalog in the mail on Saturday. It came with little post-it flags for you to mark pages... he quickly used them up. After he was through I sat down to look through the catalog. Absolutely amazing stuff in there! At first I wanted it all.... but then I looked closer. Lego Education doesn't seem very homeschool friendly at the lower levels. I think the K'nex Education sets are a much better deal with what we are doing. For example, here's a simple breakdown of the two simple machines, gears sets:

K'nex Introduction to Simple Machines: Gears
The kit itself is $26.oo. It builds 7 replicas of real world items. We've only built three of them so far (crank fan, car window mechanism and blender), but they have been amazing! They have been large, detailed models but not too detailed for the ages that I'm working with. The teacher's guide is an additional $12.50 and I feel it is a MUST. Lots of great explanations plus questions and activities to help you really understand what is going on. It is geared for a classroom but not so much that it is distracting/frustrating for a homeschooler.

Lego Gears Mini Set
The Lego kit is only $19.95, but it appears to only make two models... a merry-go-round and a fan. The teacher's guide is an additional $7.00.

Okay... maybe this isn't a fair assessment since I haven't actually seen or used the Lego set, but I don't see any reason to try it based on what I know about the K'nex set. With K'nex I'm spending more ($38.50 v. $26.95 for the Lego set) but I feel like I'm getting so much more with that set. If you have any experience with the Lego sets, please let me know... Alex is a Lego maniac and we would love to use their kits if they were worth it. Now, when we're ready to advance into the robotics stuff... it looks like it will be Legos all the way.

I love the K'nex sets so much that I'm considering the elementary math and geometry set for next year.

Okay... enough rambling... I'm going to run, we're building a stationary bike today! :-)

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