See the Light Art Sale Ending Tonight!

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See the Light is my FAVORITE packaged curriculum, and that’s why I look for it every time I’m planning future lessons.  Right now it’s on SALE!

See the Light is a DVD art curriculum taught by real artists.  There are different styles of art available, such as drawing, chalk pastels, or creative lettering, and you can purchase these materials in different ways.  Some DVDs have collections of one type of instruction, like all drawing lessons, while others include lessons with a variety of art styles around a common theme – like Christmas or Easter.

See the LIght On Sale Now!

A few years ago we worked our way through the ‘Art Class’ DVDs, which contain drawing lessons from Master Artist Pat Knepley.  I loved watching my kids gain confidence in their artwork.  Their entire approach to art changed, as well, as they went from whining, “I can’t draw that!” when I suggested an art project to picking up their pencils confidently and eagerly.  The difference in their artwork is amazing, even though they were both in mid-elementary school at the time.  This bird – the one above?  My daughter sat and sketched that one day for fun – and she’s still sketching years later.  She even created a coloring book entry for the North Carolina State Fair this year and won first place!

The art projects are great for learning about specific types of art, artists, and art history.  Each one features a particular work by a famous artist and then, in a series of lessons, teaches you how to create your own version.  I love that one series of lessons incorporates multiple subjects and leaves you with a beautiful piece of art.

See the Light has been bringing out a new line of unit studies, too, and one is now available about Van Gogh.  We haven’t used this one yet, but we’ll be trying it out after Christmas. 

See the Light doesn’t hold sales often, so if you’ve been wanting to try out their products, this is the perfect time!  Hop over and check out their selection now – and remember to use BLACKCYBER for 20% off and free shipping!

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.

Hanging Rock

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. 

Hanging Rock

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

Hanging Rock

We were going to the top of this! 

Hanging Rock

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.

Hanging Rock

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.

Hanging Rock

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 ….

Hanging Rock

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.

Hanging Rock

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?

Hanging Rock

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.

Horse studies

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!

Horse studies

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.

Horse studies

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

Horse studies

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.

Horse studies

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.

Horse studies

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.

Horse studies

He was quite proud of his accomplishment!

Horse studies

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!

Horse studies

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.

Horse studies 

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

Horse Studies

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.

Book Club

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.

Book Club

Doesn’t it look yummy?

Book Club

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.

Book Club

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. 

Book Club

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

Book Club

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.

Book Club

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!

Learning Leatherwork with Tandy Leather

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Education can be found everywhere, and I love finding new avenues to learn – that’s why I was so excited to take the kids to Tandy Leather in Raleigh for a leatherworking lesson.

leather

Little did I know just how kind and generous the store manager, Aubrin Rhem, would turn out to be.

Leather

Rhem gave the kids large pieces of scrap leather to practice with, and the first step was to dampen the leather.  We took it outside and used spray bottles with water to prep it.

Leather

Rhem taught everyone how to put their leather on stone slabs so that the metal stamps could leave clear, distinct impressions when pounded with mallets. 

Leather

Then the students practiced for a long time, learning how much pressure to use and at what angle to get good marks.

Leather

After stamping and staining their leather bracelets, Rhem gave the kids a tour of his shop.

Leather

They were amazed at the variety of leather available.

Leather

The same was true for this python skin!  Everyone loved touching it and seeing just how long it was.

After the stain dried, Rhem sealed the leather with sealant and the bracelets dried in the sun again.   

All told, we spent several hours at Tandy Leather, and I had no idea how much we would learn in that time.  My kids came home, chattering about all of the new things they wanted to make with leather next.  They were using new terms that they had learned that day and bouncing with excitement.

Aubrin Rhem was extremely kind and patient with our students, and Tandy Leather places a high emphasis on leatherwork education.  If there’s a Tandy Leather near you, check out their class schedule.  Working with leather is a relaxing, fun, and practical hobby.

Want to know more?  Check out these leather resources:

 

NEW! Literacy & STEM Challenges for “Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics”

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You might have noticed that we’re big fans of Chris Grabenstein’s Lemoncello books around here.  That’s because they’re chalk-ful of learning opportunities.  There are so many ways that you can learn with these books – and that’s why I’ve written another series of lesson plans for Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.

Chris Grabenstein 

These lessons are different from any of the others I’ve written: instead of being a series of multidisciplinary research projects, these are all literacy- and STEM-related.  Each project can be carried out multiple ways to best fit the learning style of your students the and space available. 

These projects will test your students creativity and ability to work together.  They will be challenged to solve puzzles, name books, and build contraptions to solve problems.  Each project is directly related to one of Lemoncello’s Olympic tests for his heroes, and the packet includes printable medals that you can copy to distribute to your students.

These projects are perfect for public-schoolers and homeschoolers alike.  They would work beautifully for a book club or for literature circles.  They provide a way to celebrate the book and check for learning while having fun.

Isn’t that the most engaging and memorable kind of lesson?

You can find this and other learning activities here.

If you haven’t read Chris Grabenstein’s books yet, start with these:

 

New! A Linked Novel Study for ‘Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter’

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Beth Fantaskey

I’ve been hard at work writing a new novel study, and it’s ready! 

Beth Fantaskey‘s newest book Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter is a great way for tweens to learn about the Roarin’ ’20s.  Isabel is a ten-year-old who skips school to sell papers for the Tribune to help her mother when she hears a murder in a nearby alley.  She’s determined to defend the friend who gets blamed for the crime, and becomes friends with the female reporter and the detectives investigating the case. 

This linked unit study will guide your students to safe websites to research the culture of the 20s.  While using a variety of learning styles, your students will learn about the evolution of jazz, the rule of the mobsters, the gender roles of the time, flapper fashion, and popular foods of the time. 

If your students will be studying the 1920s, Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter and this accompanying linked novel study will guide them to the information they need.

Check out these other fun and educational projects:

 

Writing History at Epic Patriot Camp

Living History

Last week my kids experienced the most amazing camp ever.  It was Epic Patriot Camp, sponsored by the National Park Service, held at the Abingdon Muster Grounds, and taught, in part, by the wonderful author Jenny L. Cote.

Living History

For six hours each day, the lived the Revolutionary Battle of King’s Mountain.  Over the course of the week, they were given a real person who participated in some way at the Battle.  They researched this person and wrote his/her story – while wearing period clothing and receiving technical writing lessons from Cote herself.

It wasn’t just costumes and quills, though – the National Park Service went all out.  The week was full of hands-on lessons about colonial life.  The kids did weapons drills with wooden muskets and watched a reenactor shoot a real one, and then they made musket balls and powder cartridges.  They hiked around the Grounds and examined the native plants, learning about herbal remedies and properties of many of them.  They learned how to write with a quill pen and ink and used wax and seals to mark their journals.  Each day, they continued to research their historical people, add to their stories, and conference with Cote herself.

Living History

The final day was huge, though.  The campers stayed the night at the grounds and slept in colonial-style canvas tents!  They helped to cook their dinner over the campfire, washed dishes, played graces, and spent time around the fire.  The Little Man in the picture above?  The picture doesn’t do him justice.  He was incredibly mud-spattered and stinky when I picked him up – but he couldn’t stop smiling.

The next morning we were treated to a special tea and ceremony.  The kids had the chance to show off what they had learned by sharing parts of their stories.

Living History

They also performed a reenactment of the Battle of King’s Mountain for us.  They really got into it!

Living History

I was impressed each day with the tight, well-planned lessons planned by Cote and the leaders from the NPS.  I loved the hands-on activities and the enthusiasm which I saw pouring out of my kids – but there was one aspect I didn’t expect:  homework.

As homeschoolers, we don’t encounter homework very often.  We’re typically done with our schoolwork long before dinnertime – and so we had planned some fun outings for our evenings away.

Those didn’t go quite as expected, partly because there was homework.  Extra credit assignments, really, that weren’t required, but the kids were adamant that they do them.  They wanted to know more than what they were learning at camp.  They wanted to do their very best for Jenny L. Cote – and they wanted to win her prize.

The kids excitedly shared after their first day at camp that Cote would be watching for the most epic story to be written that week and that the writer of that very story would make an appearance as an animal character in her next book.

As big fans of Cote’s work, that’s all it took: we adjusted our evening outings to accommodate (several hours of) extra credit work each night.  As crazy as it sounds – because who gets excited about homework in the summertime? – the kids couldn’t wait to settle in at the kitchen table and get started each night.

At the final tea, however, we all found ourselves nervous.  There were 18 campers in attendance and many were older than my kids.  Knowing how badly they wanted to win, I was crossing my fingers for them both, but realistically speaking, I knew that the camp was full of smart, talented writers. 

The campers turned out to be so smart and talented that Cote created many more awards than just her original one.  I loved hearing the descriptions of what the campers had done throughout the week to earn these honors.

In the end, however, Cote announced that My Big Helper had won the chance to be an animal in her next book – and we were so shocked that neither of us were certain whose name she called!  (Turns out we each asked other people when the ceremony was over.)

My Big Helper is looking forward to that future day when she’s found in the pages of a Cote book, but she didn’t learn only about writing.  Writing was a big part of it – she came home with pages of notes and techniques, her mind full of stories and examples Cote told during the lessons.

Both kids came home with so much more, though.  They’re more confident writers.  They’re more enthusiastic about writing than ever before, but they’ve also fallen deeper in love with history.  They’re able to put themselves into the story and see the events from multiple perspectives.  They’re able to see each scene with all their senses, describing in detail how it might smell and feel and taste to be there.  They’re full of stories of Patriots and Loyalists of whom I had never heard and know how they’re interconnected.  They know how they changed history and know how to do the research to find out more.  Better yet, they know how to analyze it to see what it all means.  They even met other kids from Tennessee, New Jersey, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Missouri – because that’s how far other people traveled to attend.

When I discovered this camp on Cote’s website, I never imagined anything this amazing – and that’s saying something; I know I’m a pretty tough critic of lesson plans and teaching.  I expected some writing excitement and fun history projects, but Epic Patriot Camp truly lived up to its name.  With tight lessons, generous supplies, kind and enthusiastic teachers, and the encouragement to take their projects as far and as hard as they wanted, Epic Patriot Camp is the best experience we’ve had in years.

The NPS’s Camp Leader, Katherine Lynne, is sure that Epic Patriot Camp will return next year, possibly to some new locations.  I’d encourage you to watch for the announcement that registration is open and to sign your kids up if it’s at all possible for you to get there.  It’s well worth the effort.

*I shared only pictures that I personally took, but there are many more fabulous pictures available on Jenny L. Cote’s Facebook page.  Scroll down to find her Epic Patriot Camp 2016 posts and check them out.

Touring the National Civil War Museum

Did you know that there’s a National Civil War Museum?  I didn’t – or that it was located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, oddly enough – at least, I didn’t until my grandmother told me.

Civil War

She’s always pointing us toward fantastic field trip sites, and so we knew this would be a great one.

Civil War

I was impressed right off by the building.  After getting off the highway, MapQuest directed me through several older neighborhoods, so I was surprised to reach the summit of a hill and find this beautiful brick building awaiting us.  The museum looked official, yet inviting, and we couldn’t wait to get inside.

Civil War

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the National Civil War Museum was a surprise from the very beginning.  You begin at the very top, where videos explain how the war’s start affected people in all parts of American society.  There are artifacts and slave posters and vignettes set up to show how slaves were treated.

My Little Man was enthralled when he first saw this battlefield diorama.  He circled it over and over, examining the troop positions from all sides.

Civil War

One aspect of this museum that really stood out was its non-bias.  There were both Southern and Northern points-of-view, and both were equally represented.  That was clear throughout the museum, and my kids were excited to see it true at this musical display, as well.  They stood and listened for a long time, until they had heard every single song at least once.  There were songs popular with politicians, battle songs, slave songs, dancing songs, etc. – three in each category.  Many I’d never heard of before, and both kids were thrilled to hear the wide range of music.

Civil War

Another unexpected plus to the museum is the authenticity of the historical displays.  I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t expecting to see so many real artifacts on display throughout the museum.  There were clothing worn in battle by famous generals, like the glove above, as well as bullets, slave collars, uniforms, medical instruments, and much more.

There were two aspects of the war that we had hoped to see in exhibits that were missing:  the role of women in the war and something about the Monitor and the Merrimac.  We had studied both, but while there was a simple, small display about women, no specific names were even mentioned.  Given that there were several famous spies, in addition to the role that women played in keeping the home fires burning while their men were at war, as well as new places in nursing and volunteer positions, we had hoped to learn new information here.  Also, the iron-clad ships were mentioned in another display but not these two famous ones, and we thought they warranted a larger mention somewhere.

Civil War

When we left the museum, we headed outside to the porch.  The museum overlooks the original site of Camp Curtain, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers were trained during the Civil War, and now the museum looks out over the city of Harrisburg (although you see little of the actual downtown area here).  The views are pretty, but the National Civil War Museum itself is a treasure trove of interactive historical information just waiting to be discovered.

It’s well worth the trip.

How will you bring life to war studies?

Baking with Mary Todd Lincoln

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We’ve been studying the Civil War, and no study would be complete without learning about the Lincolns.  We found that Mrs. Lincoln held parties with elaborate food, and that she served a certain cake to Abraham when they were courting.

Of course, my dessert-loving Big Helper decided to make that cake. She chose to use this recipe to recreate a vanilla-almond pound cake with a simple glaze.

Baking with Mary Todd Lincoln

This history lesson was fun but not easy.  It took my Big Helper two full hours to mix it up, and she’s not new to baking.  There were several techniques that were new to her, and she took her time, determined to get it all right.

By the time the cake was complete, she had learned how to separate eggs, how to whip egg whites and fold them into a batter, how to make a glaze, how to butter and glaze a baking dish, and about the proper proportions for a cake.

Mary Todd Lincoln

The finished cake is delicious, but it’s not just cake to the one who made it.  To her, it’s the realization that baking is harder than she thought.  It’s knowing that Abraham Lincoln ate a cake that tasted just like the one that she herself has eaten.  It’s putting her hand into history and blending it with the present.

We’ll definitely be combining more home ec with history.

How do you bring history alive for your kids?

Check out these resources for more information:

 

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A Little R & R