NEW! A Linked Unit Study for Elise Broach’s “The Wolf Keepers”

Every once in a while, I read a book that I grabs all of my attention and screams to be used for fun with kids.  I love taking those books and turning them into fun unit studies for educational purposes, and Elise Broach’s new book The Wolf Keepers is just such a book.

Elise Broach

A high-stakes middle grade historical adventure through Yosemite National Park by the New York Times-bestselling author of Masterpiece.

Twelve-year-old Lizzie Durango and her dad have always had a zoo to call their home. Lizzie spends her days watching the animals and taking note of their various behaviors. Though the zoo makes for a unique home, it’s a hard place for Lizzie to make lasting friends. But all this changes one afternoon when she finds Tyler Briggs, a runaway who has secretly made the zoo his makeshift home. The two become friends and, just as quickly, stumble into a covert investigation involving the zoo wolves who are suddenly dying. Little do they know, this mystery will draw them into a high-stakes historical adventure involving the legend of John Muir as they try to navigate safely while lost in Yosemite National Park.

Elise Broach has written a fantastic novel around the real life story of John Muir!  I love the approach she takes with his mystery, and she deepens the story by adding layers upon layers of moral dilemmas.  While the story is suspenseful, it stays upbeat, even when there are large things afoot, making it the perfect book to carry deep, yet kid-friendly discussions.

Elise Broach

So what will you find in a unit study for The Wolf Keepers?

  • a vocabulary puzzle with answer key
  • discussion/comprehension questions by chapter
  • creative and expository writing prompts
  • research projects for history, science, math, and biographies
  • poetry and literature activities
  • art projects
  • a recipe

This work can be done individually or cooperatively.  You could assign all of it or just certain projects.  Students can work at their own pace, and safe links are provided to ensure a safe Internet experience.

The Wolf Keepers would make a fantastic book club book, as well!  

If you want to grab a copy of this unit study, you’ll find it here.

Happy reading!

 

Field Work Friday: Visiting the Nina & the Pinta

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Did you know that there are reproductions of historic ships sailing around the world?

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I didn’t, until recently, but when we found out, my DH arranged to take us to a nearby port city to see the Nina and the Pinta, two of the three ships sailing with Christopher Columbus on his famous voyage in 1492.

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The ships were at the Wilmington, NC, waterfront, and after purchasing tickets, we were permitted through the gates to board the ships.

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Once on board, we could explore the main gate.  There were signs everywhere, telling us facts about the ship and other equipment on board.  There were volunteers hanging around, ready to answer questions or talk with anyone willing.  This woman had been on board since February and was making jewelry while she waited for a question.  When my Big Helper saw what she was working on, they struck up a conversation, and the volunteer ended up asking my Big Helper for help with an earring.  My Big Helper loved that!

Tall Ships

The ships are fascinating, even though you can’t go belowdecks.  Since the ships are manned by volunteers, and each ship features a modern kitchen, the bottom of the ships are off limits. Being able to see the size of the ships, the gigantic proportions of the anchor, and the thickness of the ropes really makes one admire the bravery of the men sailing with Columbus.

There are tall ships sailing all over the world.  if you have the opportunity to see one, be sure to check it out! 

Learn more about the Nina and the Pinta with these great resources!

 

Living History: The Roaring ’20s

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It was the era of gangsters, Prohibition, and all that glitters.  It’s known as the Roaring ‘20s, and our living history club brought the era back to life.  We love holding this special events each semester, and this one was definitely the glitziest.

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The day kicked off with a photography session, as the dressed-up students were dressed to the nines as flappers and mobsters.  After that, they introduced themselves, as each student had studied a particular person from history and had come dressed as that person.

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Next, My Big Helper shared some popular slang of the time and asked the students to incorporate as many of these terms as possible into their conversations throughout the day.

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My Little Man explained the history of a Hamilton Beach fruit juicer that was patented during the 1920s.  The particular machine in question used to reside in a local pharmacy, and following his speech, he  demonstrated how to make the perfect fresh lemonade.  While lemonades were made for each student, another mom taught the students how to play table games.18056996_10212172736616620_7481163634049384896_n

Another mom taught the students about the characteristics of the art deco style.  Each student then chose a quote from a celebrity of the era and created their own unique art piece with art deco-inspired fonts and colors.

Living History

Living History

A dad shared the silent movie A Trip to the Moon.  Following the show, the students lined up to feast from a variety of foods popular in this decade.  With the advent of refrigerated transportation and the popularity of parties, many new foods came onto the scene, including peanut butter cups, chow mein, Coca-Cola, Crush, cheeseballs, Jell-O parfaits, and tuna wraps.

 Living History

After lunch, the students returned to the year 2017, concluding that the Roaring ‘20s might be fun to visit, but that they wouldn’t want to live there.

If you’re studying this era, you might also want to check out my post about our book club event for Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter.

Some resources that we loved for studying the ’20s are:

 

 

Living History

Entering a National History Day Competition

When I hit middle school, I was encouraged to compete in our local National History Day competition.  I was hooked from that very first event:  I loved the research, the preparation, the work to analyze historical events and to share their importance, and, yes, the competition.

That’s why I was so very excited when I found out that the National History Day organization has events in North Carolina, and that our district competition isn’t too far away.  I was determined that my kids would compete when they came of age, as well.

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Are you familiar with National History Day?  It’s sort of like a science fair, in that you create projects/entries that are judged for competition, only about history, instead.  Each year there’s an annual theme, and students choose a topic that fits that theme and create projects/entries in the exhibit, documentary, historical paper, performance, or website categories.  Students must explain the significance of their topic in history and in relation to the theme, as well as showcase their work through process papers and annotated bibliographies.  It’s a big deal.  It’s fabulous.

For My Big Helper, that was this year.  She’s now in middle school (where has the time gone??) and so last October she and another brave young man chose topics and began to research.

As this was their first year, and as this level of competition and historical research was new to them both, we did our best to keep it fun.  We traveled to the Davis Library at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for a lesson from a librarian about how to use their Library of Congress cataloguing system.  She also taught them how to use their many online databases, and the kids searched for materials relevant to their topics.

We had pizza parties and got together to check progress and discuss competition rules.

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Finally, though, the big day arrived, and it was time to head off to Greensboro for the district competition.  Held at the Education Building on the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, the competitors took over that part of campus and were college kids for the day.

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Competition days are a big deal.  You must check in, have your paperwork in order, and get set up.  After that, when it’s your scheduled turn, a team of judges will interview you about your work and conclusions.  For anyone, that time of ‘interview’ is stressful, but for kids new to that type of experience, it can be rough, despite the judges’ kindness.

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One of the highlights for us was always having lunch in the cafeteria.  The UNCG café where we ate was nothing like any college cafeteria I’ve ever seen before, but with Chick-Fil-A and other fun restaurants on site, the kids seemed to enjoy their faux-college kid status.

Late in the afternoon, the award ceremony arrives.  Filling up an auditorium, a professor greets everyone, and the winners in each category are finally announced.  We were all really nervous by this time.  We thought our kids had created solid entries and had a good chance of placing, but, really, who can tell?

It’s not just about winning, either – because winning entries advance to the state competition, and winners there, to the national one.  Competition increases at each level, and everyone wants to advance, but, of course, not everyone can, so … one hopes hard and works harder.

Our friend’s category was announced first, and … he placed second!  We were so very excited, and My Big Helper was hoping even harder for own name to be called at that point.

Yet, her category wasn’t.  They seemed to be calling them in no particular order – junior individual website, senior group performance, junior group project, etc. – and we were starting to think hers would never be announced, when they finally called ‘junior individual exhibit.’

I’m not sure why it works this way, but three entrants in each category advance to the NC State History Day competition – except for in exhibits; then five advance.  My Big Helper didn’t place fifth.

She didn’t place fourth.  Or third.

You know how it goes – each time they prepare to call a new name, you think that now, they’ll call her name now, and she’s going to win, and then it’s someone else.  Your heart falls into your shoes, and you despair that she’s not going to be called, that she didn’t win.  And while it’s not the winning or losing that you care about, she’s oh-so-excited, and you so want her to continue being that excited at that point …..

Not second.

And then, at the very last moment, they called her name!  She placed FIRST in her category!

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It was wonderful to see her so excited.  To know that she’s worked hard and is getting a tangible reward from someone else.  That she’s learning to finish what she starts, and a whole host of other lessons.NHD

Our two competitors are super excited, and well they should be:  they’ve done fantastic work.  It’s not over, though, for now they have the opportunity to take the criticism from the district-level judges and make improvements to their entries before the state competition in a few weeks.

For now, though … yay!  They won! 

Do your kids enter competitions?  Share in the comments below – and come back soon to see why I encourage my kids to compete in these types of events.

Field Work Friday – Berry Hill Resort

It’s probably the last place you’d expect to find a bunch of kids – but the Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center is exactly where we went.Berry Hill

Berry Hill was part of a land grant from the British Crown decades before the American Revolution.  The estate was protected from destruction during wartime by the owner’s wealth and political clout and has a long and colorful history.

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Berry Hill has it’s own historian and tour guide, and this retired teacher gives a great tour.  He took us through the mansion, room by room, telling funny stories and sharing how the building has changed over time.

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The main hall is just as impressive as the outside of the mansion.  With twin staircases, this room highlights the original mistress’s favorite aspect of the building:  symmetry.  The downstairs also features marble baseboards from the same quarry as Michelangelo’s David.

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Our guide pointed out more of the unique symmetrical elements around the building – including extra doors that lead only to the wall.  Everyone was amused by that!

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Twenty years ago, the estate was purchased by a French corporation who renovated it extensively.  This beautiful pool was one of their additions!

After visiting the mansion, the pool, and the new on-site hotel, we ate lunch in Darby’s Tavern.  Situated in the old kitchen, we feasted on gourmet sandwiches and salads and played in the beautiful, spring sunshine.

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After lunch, we headed off to explore more of the grounds.  Now encompassing 650 acres, there are many trails leading to historic sites, and we made great use of them.

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We found these old stone remnants near a creek, and we had fun poking around, trying to see if we can figure out how it looked originally.

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The kids also had fun playing near the creek and catching frogs.  My Little Man couldn’t resist this one!

Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center is a beautiful place.  We enjoyed learning about its varied past, but this National Historic Landmark has a bright future.  Now often used for weddings, parties, and conferences, it would make a wonderful venue for any occasion. Should you visit southern Virginia, be sure to check it out.

A Roarin’ ’20s Book Club: “Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter”

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Some books just scream out for a special event, and that’s exactly what happened when I read Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter.  I knew it would make a fantastic book club pick – not only because it offers myriads of possibilities for a special event, but because Fantaskey did an amazing job writing a book that highlights the danger and turmoil of the 1920s while keeping it kid-friendly and fun.

Yes.  It’s about murder and mayhem, but it’s kid friendly and fun.

Yes, those things are complete opposites.  No, the danger and depth of the topic is not downplayed, and no, I don’t know how she did it, either.  She’s that good of a writer.

So what’s Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter all about?  Check it out:

It’s 1920s Chicago—the guns-and-gangster era of Al Capone—and it’s unusual for a girl to be selling the Tribune on the street corner. But ten-year-old Isabel Feeney is unusual . . . unusually obsessed with being a news reporter. She can’t believe her luck when she stumbles into a real-life murder scene and her hero, the famous journalist Maude Collier. The story of how Isabel fights to defend the honor of her accused friend and latches on to the murder case makes for a winning middle grade mystery.
 
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With the 1920s as our theme for the evening and murder and mayhem the idea, I set out to create an unforgettable book club experience, and, as soon as My Big Helper started to read the book, she joined in the fun.
 Isabel Feeney
 
Isabel Feeney
 
The girls arrived mid-afternoon with lots of gear in tow, prepared for an all-night book club event (because it just seemed wrong to talk about Isabel’s adventures in broad daylight when so many of them occurred at night).  They immediately changed into dresses and strands of pearls, then were made over by local high school students did their hair and make-up in perfect ’20s style.  With old showtunes playing in the background, they giggled and styled their way through updo’s and mascara until they rivaled Maude Collier for fashion flair.
 
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Then, with glass goblets of Kool-Aid clutched tightly in their hands (because Kool-Aid was invented in the 1920s, didn’t you know?), we talked about the book, focusing on the plot, the fate of Isabel, the role of friendship throughout the story, and how the girls felt about the events of the era.  All the while, they munched on the snacks researched as time-period friendly by My Big Helper:  salted nuts, carrots and celery, and cheese.
 
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Next, the girls broke into teams for a rousing game of Pictionary.  I prepared the materials ahead, with all of the items to be drawn chosen from the book and written on slips of paper.  I tucked these into a Mason jar, and, armed, with white boards and markers. the girls tried to draw each one. 
 
They really got into this game.  They played for a long time, until they had drawn out every slip of paper, sometimes asking me for more information about the buildings or terms from the story.  Some laughed until they fell over, and the competition of the game fell by the wayside as they giggled their way through drawing things like ‘crutches’ and ‘the Chicago-Tribune Tower.’
 
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After a short break, they moved to the kitchen for dinner.  Again, my Big Helper had planned the menu after researching popular foods of the era, and while this meal wasn’t something eaten by Isabel in the story, we think she would have enjoyed it.  The fancy dinner she planned required similar decoration, and so, with the incredible help of good friends, the girls ate under black and gold streamers, with gold lame curtains in the doorways, foil confetti on the tables, candles everywhere, and jazz playing softly in the background.  We served baked ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, Jell-O salad, and bread with peach butter.  The giggles continued as the girls pretended to be Maude’s counterparts but couldn’t look at each other without bursting out into laughter.  Dinner wasn’t over quickly, but it was a most enjoyable meal.
 
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Afterwards the girls got down to business.  With full tummies and the fall of night, it was time to be like Isabel and solve a murder mystery.  After so much time researching, planning, and prepping, my brain was exhausted by this point – and so I purchased a for-kids mystery online.  The girls broke into two teams and scoured fact sheets to find clues.  They answered questions, made charts, and came up empty – so they shared their information, and, as they talked it out, they solved the mystery.
 
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That success deserved a treat, so we served dessert next – ice cream sundaes with warm chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles – because, you guessed it, they were popular in the 1920s!  Having a kid who loves research is a beautiful thing.  The giggling continued as they downed the ice cream and moved to the living room, where they settled in to watch the original Cheaper by the Dozen.
 
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After a much-too-short night, we served bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast.  We cleaned up quickly, because Isabel author Beth Fantaskey was available to Skype!  This was a real treat.  I love when authors not only choose to write quality books for kids, but they’re also willing to invest some time in connecting in a real-world way with them.  The girls were nervous heading into this experience, but they had prepped questions in advance and were eager to ask them.  The time delay caused by the technology threw them for a loop at times, but they persevered and asked every question.  They wanted to know about writing history, story experience, personal experiences, and more.  The best part – to me – was when Fantaskey shared that there might be another Isabel story in the future.  As Isabel is smart, brave, and has big dreams for the future, I’d like to see another story featuring her.
 
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Our last activity was to attempt the Charleston.  While Isabel only got a glimpse into a speakeasy and didn’t live the glitzy life of the ’20s, she knew it existed and wanted parts of it for herself.  Armed with a YouTube tutorial and more giggles, the girls attempted to nail the steps while understanding the gist of the whole thing.  Nobody got very far, but it was fun!
 
Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter is the perfect book for someone teaching about American life in the 1920s.  It made a great book club pick and introduction to our history unit of that time.  Because Fantaskey sets the scene so well, I wrote a unit study to accompany this book.  My Big Helper worked her way through that as she read Isabel, and she was well prepared for both book club and our historical studies.  If you’d like more information about this unit study, can find it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.  There’s much to be learned from this book, but it’s great fun, too, and includes many deep questions about culture, gender roles, and friendship.  It’s suitable for tweens, but I can see people much older reading and falling in love with Isabel.  Give it a try!
 
What are your kids reading right now?       
 
Check out these resources to get your Isabel Feeney party started!
 


 

Studying the Wild West: Building a Pioneer Wagon

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We’ve been studying Western expansion for a few months now, and the kids were fascinated by the Oregon Trail.  I mean, whole families traveling thousands of miles in a covered wagon – how could you not want to know exactly how that worked?  Because of that fascination, we decided to build our own pioneer wagon.

We started with wooden pallets donated by a local auto parts store.  My Big Helper used hammers and crow bars to pry the boards off the pallet and to pull out the nails.  We kept a bucket nearby to put the nails and scraps in and sorted the boards into nail-free piles as we removed them.

My Big Helper has used a hammer for a few projects before, but she found it difficult to remove the nails.  We spent lots of time experimenting with angles and weight to determine how to maximize the force available.  After playing around a bit, she was able to remove all of them on her own.

When we had a stack of nail-free boards, My Big Helper and My Little Man started to lay them out.  They choose which boards would be used for which part of the wagon and arranged them in the driveway.

We used the thicker, pallet-edge pieces to support the sides and middle of the wagon bottom.  The kids each took a side and nailed the boards into the supports.  While that sounds easy, it was much harder than expected.  We had some short nails that we could pound in fairly easily, but they were a little too short – we needed to use some longer nails to be sure that the wagon was sturdy.  The longer ones were too long for some of the boards, though, which is why we used both sizes.

My Little Man found those nails especially challenging.  The hammers were heavy for him to use with one hand, but who can hit a nail square on the head with two?  If he didn’t hit the head squarely, then the whole nail bent.  It became quite frustrating, but after experimenting with several hammers and practicing his swing, My Little Man was able to pound in several nails well.

Sawing the boards to the correct length with a hand saw wasn’t easy, either.  My Big Helper got very frustrated during this process – it was the first time she lost her smile.  After talking it over, she realized just how important it is to keep going even when you’re tired.  She was able to compare this to how the pioneers might have felt way back on the Oregon Trail – and then I cut the rest of the boards with my jigsaw after she measured them for me.

The kids repeated the process they used for the bottom with the sides.

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And soon it was time to assemble the undercarriage.  The kids took lots of measurements, and then we went off to Lowe’s to buy some expensive nuts and washers.

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We used a metal bar for the axle and used clamps to hold it in place.  The kids figured out how to use the nuts and spacers to hold the wheels in place.

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Since one of the bicycle tires we were using seemed a bit flat, the kids worked together to add air to the tire.

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When our metal axle wasn’t strong enough, they took the wheels apart and added PVC pipe in an attempt to make it stronger.

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Finally, it was time to sand the boards’ rough edges.  There were many, since these were older pallet boards that had spent time outside – but our power sander took care of it quickly.

The kids used another old board and a hinge to make a wagon tongue, …

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and then they tried it out.

The wagon looked great – but the axles weren’t strong enough to support the weight of the wagon.  Despite our modifications, we decided that it just wasn’t ready to pull other kids in.  The kids are determined to figure it out, though, and so work on the wagon continues.

Our efforts weren’t in vain, though.  The kids learned myriads of lessons about measurement and weight and force and angles.  They learned about levers and axles and hinges and tools. 

I taught lessons with labs about simple machines years ago when I taught in public school, and my kids learned those lessons well; but nothing can take the place of authentic, purposeful learning.  This project took days, but by the time we finished, the kids were more confident and were generating their own ideas and potential solutions to the problems we encountered.

I love homeschooling.

What projects do you do with your kids?

For more information about prairie wagons, check out these resources:

 

Book Clubbing in the Wild West: Climbing Mountains

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I love being able to make hands-on plans for book club.  I love that we’re not only about books and discussion but about really getting into the books with all of our senses.  That’s why I was so excited for the kids to read Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach this month, and just like Henry and his friends, we climbed a mountain.

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On a warm Saturday morning, we met at Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury, North Carolina for a mountain adventure.  After quickly discussing the role of the dangerous Superstition Mountain to Henry, we set off.

Although our group set a brisk pace at the beginning, it wasn’t long before we slowed down considerably.  While the park service ranks the main Hanging Rock trail as a moderate one, the first half is very steep, and the second half requires climbing up rough, rustic rock steps. 

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We paused for a picture before heading up those steps.  Where were we going, exactly?

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We were going to the top of this! 

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We stopped along the way to play in some neat rock formations.  The kids loved climbing into fissures, small craggy areas, and mini caves, then posing for pictures everywhere they went.  It was fun to see them enjoying it so much.

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After lots more climbing, we made it to the top!  We stopped for a picture before scattering to the far corners of the large rock on top of the mountain.

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So where were we, really?  My husband and My Big Helper ventured out onto Hanging Rock itself, but it was so crowded that they didn’t stay long.  They said that it felt too much as if a random elbow-bump could knock one off.  Given that, they didn’t hang around.  There were other places that were just as pretty ….

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Like these huge boulders just around the corner from Hanging Rock itself.  Even though we were far away from the edge, this made My Little Man nervous, and he went back to the mountain as soon as we were done.  We all enjoyed snacking on the rock and enjoying the views, though.

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Though the cliff side of the rocks were not his favorite thing, My Little Man loved the underside of the upper rocks.  How strong would one have to be to hold this one up?

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Climbing the mountain was a major adventure.  It was difficult and exhausting, with a few banged knees and racing pulses.  We were tempted to quit and worried about the danger from the uneven ground, 2500-foot drop, and the crowds at the top.  We realized, though, like Henry, that blazing a new trail was fun.  It made us feel strong.  That conquering the mountain made us more observant of the nature around us and the strength within our muscles. 

If you’ve never pitted yourself against a mountain, give it a try.  You might be surprised at what you’ll learn.

For more mountain-climbing resources, check out these:

 

 

Studying the Wild West: Going on a Trail Ride

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We’re studying the Wild West this semester, and it’s impossible to do so without noting the importance of the horse to this expansion.  From pioneers moving west to the Pony Express, stagecoaches, and cowboys, horses played a huge role in it all.  With that in mind, I scheduled a horse lesson and trail ride so that we could learn about horses firsthand.

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Our lesson took place at a nearby church camp that includes stables.  Chris Burtner, their equestrian director, met us on a beautiful fall morning and talked to the kids about some horse basics: anatomy, behaviors, and horse etiquette.  There’s a lot to learn!

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She also taught the kids about the frog, a soft, triangular part of the horse’s foot and how to care for it.  While she cleaned the frogs before the students came, an important aspect of horse care, she showed them how it’s done.

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Next, everyone learned about the tack necessary for basic riding: saddles, saddle pads, curry combs, bits, reins, and bridles.

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When they knew the basics, the students each retrieved a basket with the necessary tools for currying their horses.  Each was responsible for preparing his own horse to ride, and this gave them all time to bond with their animals.

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My Big Helper especially liked this part.  I think they all fell a little bit in love with their mounts during this part of the lesson.

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When there was no remaining dirt that might chafe the horse after being saddled, the kids were instructed individually about that process.  My Little Man was excited to learn each step of this process, and Burtner kindly walked him through it, checking behind him as he went.

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He was quite proud of his accomplishment!

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After everyone had curried, saddled, and mounted their horses, they headed out for a trail ride.  The forest was beautiful, and while several of the kids looked scared as they held the reins for the first time, they all returned with huge smiles on their faces.  Several asked immediately if they could head back out to the woods!

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Unfortunately, time didn’t allow another ride, and so the kids learned how to unsaddle their horses, as well.  They put away their tack and rubbed down the horses following their ride.

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Since this ride, I’ve heard the kids who attended ask for more lessons.  They loved it!

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I’ve heard more than that, though:  the kids have talked about the feel of the horse, the way it felt to ride so high from the ground, and about how it smelled and sounded.  They’re using proper vocabulary when talking about the horses and equipment, and I can’t wait to read the way that their experiences factor into their stories and ideas about the role of horses in the Wild West.

Have your children ever ridden a horse?

Check out these resources for more information about horses and the Wild West:

Horse Studies

Book Clubbing on the Orphan Train: “A Family Apart”

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This month’s girls’ book club selection was one I’ve had for years:  about twenty years, in fact.  We read A Family Apart by Joan Lowry Nixon, the first in the Orphan Train Adventure series.

The story opens in New York City with an Irish family whose father has died.  Ma is trying hard to keep everyone fed and clothed, but when one of the boys makes a poor choice, she gives them all to Reverend Brace-Loring, who sends them west on the Orphan Train for new homes and better lives.  A Family Apart is about the adventures of Frances, the oldest sister in the family, as she struggles to adjust to life on a Midwestern farm.

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Frances encounters an abundance of food not found in her New York tenement, and so we baked one of those dishes:  an apple pie.  We used Grandma’s recipe and made it just as she taught me – which is how her grandma taught her.  Counting back all those years, that puts this recipe originating at about the same time as when Frances enjoyed it!

None of the girls had ever peeled an apple before, so that was our first adventure.  It took some practice to get it right, but they soon conquered the piles of apples we needed.

After mixing up the crust, they took turns rolling it out and assembling the pies.

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Doesn’t it look yummy?

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Next we went outside to write letters to Frances’ Ma.  Throughout the book, Frances is angry with her mother for ending her west, and the theme of sacrifice is discussed from many angles.  The girls pretended to be Frances at the end of the story, when she has gained some understanding of this difficult concept, and wrote to Ma to explain.

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Frances had a lot going on in the story, though, and missing her mother didn’t top the list.  She had to learn how to live on the frontier, and for a city girl, that was difficult.  One of her new chores was to milk the family cow. 

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The girls practiced on these gloves.  They raced to see who could milk their ‘gloves’ fastest.

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Then, since one of the early chores was to then carry the milk, the girls grabbed the handles of their ‘pails’ and ran it around the yard, trying not to spill any of their milk.

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We also talked about the Pony Express and how it worked.  To simulate that, the girls donned messenger bags, straddled bamboo poles, and formed teams to compete in a relay race, Pony Express style.

Book Club

By the time they had done all of that, the pies were out of the oven and ready to eat. 

Book Club

It didn’t last long, though – the girls devoured that pie!

Book Club

We had lots of fun celebrating A Family Apart.  There are many more threads to tug if you choose to read this book.  I’d love to hear what you choose to do!