Homer Price Family Book Club Activities

We actually listened to this book on CD while driving in the car, which is how we roll these days (literally) during my last trimester with our 5th child.

As in past book clubs, we had planned to host this meeting with 2 other great families, but due to illness and difficulty rescheduling, combined with an impending due date, our family decided to go it alone tonight and do the activities with just our six little selves.  We still had a lot of fun and even learned a few things, I hope.

Since I didn't have the actual book in my hands, it was hard to recall the order of the chapters, the names of the characters, and even some of the side plots.    But with the kids' help I think we pulled off some relevant activities.

DISCLAIMER:  Our camera went Kaput!!  So my 10yo used a cell phone to take the pictures in this post.  And they were all taken AFTER the evening had ended so...they aren't the best. Sorry.

One of our favorite parts came at the beginning of the book when Homer devised a pulley system to bring his pet skunk up to his room.  What a great introduction to pulleys!  And it just so happens that our science class this year is all about simple machines, how they are used, as well as famous inventors and their impact on science.

I've been using this book to help me teach the class to the kids:

And we love our science classes!!  Anyway, there is a lesson on fixed pulleys so I used parts of it to help explain this activity.   Those great little pulleys you see there are available on Amazon.  Click the photo for a link:

I didn't have a stuffed skunk, so our stuffed raccoon (that I've had since I was a kid) had to substitute.

Here's how we ran the experiment:
1. Review the definition of a tool.  A tool is anything that makes work easier.  Review some of the simple tools we have discussed to date.
2. Using  a force meter (in this case I used ), determine how many pounds of force are needed to lift the bucket by hand.  We found that it took 1.45 pounds of effort to lift the load.
2.  Ask for hypotheses about how the use of pulleys will affect the amount of force needed to lift the load.
3.  Using the single fixed pulley, lift the bucket again to determine the effort required to lift the load.  You should find that it takes about the same, or even more force to lift the load.  In our case it took about 1.53 pounds of force using the single fixed pulley.  Why more force instead of less?  Because there is still only one "rope" lifting the bucket.  The tool, however, does make work easier by changing the direction of the input force.  Rather than lifting up, we are now pulling down. This feels easier, even though it apparently was less efficient.
4.  Unstring the single pulley, and string up the double pulley system.  Point out that there are now TWO ropes pulling on the bucket and two pulling down.  Ask again how this might affect the input force required.
5.  Get a reading using the double pulley system.  It should be at least half the initial input force.  I can't remember our exact number because I didn't write it down (like a good scientist should) but it was amazing to read the result on the scale.  It was at least half as much effort.

The kids really enjoyed that, although it was the most difficult part of the night to "pull" off (ha ha) because these little plastic pulleys don't always cooperate and it was hard to get accurate readings. If you can get your hands on some real pulleys, I would recommend it.

Next, we had fun talking about the Sheriff and the Uncle who both wanted to woo Mrs. Terwileger (an avid knitter) by having the largest ball of twine.   We used an idea from this cute blog: http://delightfullearning.blogspot.com/2010/11/homer-price.html  to have a family yarn winding session.

Ok, my original idea was to have each of the 3 families with their own skein of yarn wrapping a ball of "twine" and then compare the size of each to see who could make the biggest ball in a given time period.  But since it was just us, I came up with a new plan.
We each took 30 seconds wrapping the ball as fast as we could, keeping the ball as symmetrical as possible. We then passed the yarn to the next person and they took a 30-second turn.  We had three rounds of this process and then measured the AREA of the  ball using the following steps:

1. Measure the circumference and divide it by pi (3.1416).  This gives you the diameter.
2.  Divide the diameter in half to get the radius.
3. Square the radius.
4. Multiply the squared radius by pi to get the area of the sphere.

This was fun math!  My older kids know how to find the area of a flat shape, but not a sphere.  So just  casually introducing them to the word "pi" and helping them through those steps above was a fun painless way to prepare them for future math lessons. In fact, my 10-yo said,"COOL!  PI! When do I get to learn more about pi??"  Soon, my dear.  All too soon.

There's a fun article about the world's biggest ball of twin HERE.

Here's my 6yo guy speedily wrapping the yarn.

From there our discussion took a slightly more spiritual turn.  We discussed Miss Ender's desire to express her gratitdue to the town of Centerburg by offering affordable housing to deserving families.   We discussed to scriptures on thanksgiving:

From the New Testament:
Psalms 95:2

Let us come before his presence with athanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

And from the book of Mormon:
  • Alma 34:38

    38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
We discussed the importance of recognizing our blessings, and their source, each and every single day.

We used this discussion as a springboard to talk about how Miss Enders manifested her gratitude through good works.  Her idea was a good one!  But then Homer's uncle had an even more ambitious idea!  We talked about how the 1940s was an era of automation.  People were fascinated by the prospect of making things faster, better, and cheaper.  We talked about the doughnut machine episode here as well!

On the note of efficiency and affordability, we introduced the concept of assembly lines.  And we had our own assembly line.

I showed the kids the "product" that we'd be making in our assembly line: 
I know it's difficult to see that little bug (above), but it gives you a general idea of what we were making.

Here are the 5 stations we set up in our assembly line;

1.  Making 3 small playdoh balls.
2.  Connecting the balls through the center with a toothpick and adding six legs with 3 additional toothpicks.
3.   Adding eyes (pinto beans)
4.  Adding antennae (1/4 of a black pipe cleaner, pre-cut,  bent like a V and curled at the tips)
5. Adding a tail (plastic beading string, pre-cut)  We gave this job to our 3 yo and it was perfect for her.

I set the timer for five minutes and we were off!  The goal was to make as many products as possible during those five minutes.  HOWEVER....there was also quality control.  In addition to quantity, we needed quality and uniformity.  So all the bugs had to have all the parts to count toward the final product.  And if we could make a bug that weighed the same as the original example (27 grams), the assembly crew would earn a bonus of 5 points.  I actually gave them a little 4 point range, so anything between 25 and 29 grams would earn bonus points.   I used a kitchen food scale to weigh each bug at the end of the five minutes.

I helped the first station person get started making the 3 balls, since this was the most time consuming part and all the other stations depended on speedy production at this one station.

Our first round was a learning experience.  We produced 9 bugs and 4 of them got bonus points for a total of 29 points.

Our second round was much better! We produced 15 bugs and 5 of them earned bonus points for  a total of 40 points!!  The kids loved it. Very fun.  When it was all over we had just as much fun disassembling all those bugs!  And it helped a lot to have a very large tub of playdoh.  Here's the kind I used:

I had prepared 3 little trophies to award to the families based on the total points they earned in this activity. But since it turned out to be just us, the 3 younger kids each claimed a trophy of their own.  Here's what they look like:

Remember the chapter about the Super Duper comic book hero?  We made our own comic book hero.  Her name was SUPER KNITTER (must have been the influence of the yarn).  We made a six-frame comic strip about her.  Each family member got to draw their own frame and tie it into the story being told.  The last person had the challenge of ending the comic strip and making sense of the whole thing.  Our story was pretty wild!!

When we listened to this story on CD, we all got a huge kick out of the "edible fungus" song at the end of the book. The narrator did a great job singing it and we still sing it to each other.  Here are the lyrics of the chorus:
42 pounds of edible fungus,
In the wilderness a-growin,
Saved the settlers from starvation,
Helped the foundin' of a nation.
Again, my original idea was to play game with the 3 families called "mushroom match up".  I was going to pick up various edible mushrooms at the local grocery store, and have family teams match them to their proper name.  But after our club was called off this morning I skipped the trip to the store for mushrooms, and we didn't play this game.  Not yet anyway.  I told the kids about it and they really want to do it so we'll see.

Sidenote:  Being 35.5 weeks pregnant I had fun making up new lyrics to this song.  They are as follows:

42 pounds of baby fat growin'
On my body, they're a-flooooowin'

Yep, that's how it feels.

For snack there were DOUGHNUTS of course!!!

I used this recipe: http://onsugarmountain.com/2013/09/11/baked-apple-cider-doughnuts/

The kids each got some pez and a pez dispenser in their stocking this year, so the plan was to bake a single piece of pez candy into one of the doughnuts and let someone find the lucky "diamond" from Miss Ender's missing bracelet.  But we just made regular doughnuts and enjoyed them as they were, pez free.  My kids loved them.  They are quick and easy to make, too.  Here's the little pan I bought for this fun recipe:

So hopefully this will inspire some of you to read this book as a family and you'll have as much fun with it as we did.  As four our dear, sick friends who missed out on this night with us: We wish you a speedy recovery!

PS: The author of this book, Robert McCloskey, has written some other great books that you're probably familiar with including Lentil, Blueberries for Sal, and  Make Way for Ducklings.  There is also a sequel to this book called   , which we plan to read.