Wednesday, September 29, 2010

History rocks.

History. I hated it when I was in school. I never learned a thing. Dry boring facts to memorize until two seconds post-test when they vanished into thin air.

I know that wasn't everyone's experience, but that was history to me. We definitely wanted something different for our kids. I refuse to waste their time with dry, boring facts.

Garrett started American history last semester. Although we will be spending more time on it than a lot of people would, we are incorporating literature and composition as well, so it's more than just history. I am very excited about it! We are using this book.

It has each stage in history and an extensive book list to go with the time periods, or people, or events. The book lists are divided into age groups as well, so if you are studying with different ages, you can get books on the same topic for everyone's level. The books are trusted, previewed, living books.

We started with Columbus and we've worked our way up to the Civil War. This year we will work through to the present. With each stage in history, we discuss what is going on during the specific time using summaries from this book. He then reads a biography or novel about the time period. As he reads the books, he either outlines the chapters on his computer (preparing for note-taking in college level courses), or he writes a summary or an extensive paper (allowing us to work on composition and grammar).

Reading biographies takes the dry facts that textbooks present and brings them to life! It's hard to get excited about memorizing dates and event names, but when you start to read about what really happened, all the gritty, messy details, you can't help getting roped in!

This style of learning history gives us the opportunity to learn about why things happened. To learn about the character behind certain leaders and how they became who they were.

I have a choice as I teach history. I can have my kids memorize the dates of the events that transpired during, let's say, the leadership of George Washington. Or I can use the opportunity to dive into a book like "The Bulletproof George Washington". Here is a summary:

Colonial George Washington's perilous experiences in the French and Indian War are chronicled in this riveting account of God's providence and protection. The only officer on horseback to avoid being shot down, young Washington openly attributed his miraculous escape from harm to the intervention of a sovereign God.

Now that's history that won't be forgotten.

We are also incorporating English literature into our history as we read classics that go along with the time period we are studying. This year we will read The Red Badge of Courage, The Jungle, To Kill a Mockingbird, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, and The Grapes of Wrath, to name a few. Right now we are reading Uncle Tom's Cabin since we are coming upon our Civil War study. Wow, classic literature takes on a whole new meaning when you are studying the time period alongside it.

As we read our books, we bring in quality videos whenever possible. We have been enjoying America, The Story of Us. And we will be watching Ken Burns' Civil War as we move into that event. I can't wait!

One of our educational goals is to enrich character through exposure to great literature and inspirational people.

We think history is the perfect place to put this goal into action.

Monday, September 27, 2010


This morning when we started school we were all talking about how happy we were that it was so cool it was outside. We kept looking out the window and making comments. And then we figured out that, duh, we should be outside. So we packed it all up, made some lunches, and headed to the park with what felt like enough bags for a week-long trip.
We found the perfect spot, put down our blankets and bags and picked up where we left off at home! There's just something more inspiring about working outside under the sun with the cool breeze.I put my coffee mug on the grass so I wouldn't spill it on the blanket, because I am brilliant.Of course.

We all need a change of scenery every once in a while. It always seems like being outside refreshes things. We always get a lot done.

Doing school outside is not without it's risks...

But who's scared of a little beetle poop?

Not us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Bee Tree and Septemberfest

Last week Riley and Cole did Five in A Row's The Bee Tree. We learned about everything from the life cycle of bees, to the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, to onomatopoeia, to analogies, and lots in between!

To finish off our book, I wanted to make some honey treats and go to a bee farm. I called a bee farm and found out they would be at Septemberfest. Septemberfest opened up a whole new experience for us! If you haven't been, it's free and amazing. They have all kinds of exhibits, living history actors, inflatables, and lots of other activities on the Governor's lawn. It was a great time!

Making Peanut butter honey balls

The bee exhibit at Septemberfest. They told us all about harvesting honey.

A chuck wagon!

Waiting in line to tour the Governor's mansion...
Their dining room

Their Oklahoma shaped swimming poolThe panhandle is a hot tub.

Tyler and George Washington Carver

Sawing logs
Everyone got to milk a cow!

Petting Kim Henry's dog
It was a great day!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crime scene in my bathroom

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is being able to tailor education. If a child is particularly interested in a certain topic, I can take that topic and cover a multitude of subjects and lessons with it. They stay engaged, because they are interested.

Tyler has been interested in forensics and crime scene stuff for a while. This year we are doing a huge CSI unit. It's going to be so much fun! Through it he will learn all about forensics, obviously. But he will also practice math and reasoning, do a lot of research and writing, not to mention problem solving and creative thinking. I could cover these subjects in lots of ways, but why not use an avenue he is already interested in and intrigued by?

We are going through this book of forensic labs. It teaches how to lift fingerprints, how to interpret blood splatters, how to take an impression, along with lots of other crime scene activities.

We are reading through this DK Eyewitness book. I love these books. They are so full of information and great photos.

Today we talked about securing the crime scene. Tyler read all about the importance of details and how carefully all evidence is collected. He learned about how each piece of evidence is marked, measured, sketched and recorded.
Then he opened the door to a crime scene in our bathroom *cue creepy music*. He had everything he needed to secure and record the scene.

Gasp! A movie ticket??
Ewww...a "blood" splatter...and a hair.
Zoinks! A footprint!

After collecting, measuring, sketching, and recording everything, he went to work problem-solving. He wrote about each piece of evidence and the different ways it could possibly be used to help solve the crime.It's going to be a fun study! More to come!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Annnnnnd, we're back!

Here are few shots from our first day. Of course we had to explode some diet Coke. And Grammy and Grandpa sent a cookie. Some things never change!

I have plans to post some of what we have going on, some reviews on books I love to use, and some ideas we find helpful.

I also want to share some of our techniques for teaching our big kids. High School is fun! We have a great year ahead so check back!

Garrett saw a diet Coke/Mentos rocket online, so we tried it out.

It shot across the road!

See ya soon!