2017-18 School Year–Week Thirteen

This was only a four-day week for us, but boy, did we cram a lot into those four days!

We’ve been so busy, I don’t even have much time to summarize. So I’ll be brief. Turkey and Bunny have been studying circles in math this week, while Ladybug has continued to work on long division. Ladybug’s history focused on Assyria and Babylon, while Turkey and Bunny have bounced all over the place, visiting ancient China, India, Egypt, and Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. They also finished up their study of the chemistry of life in science, while Ladybug finished her study of primates.

We added in our traditional Thanksgiving studies, focusing on Native Americans, the Mayflower voyage, the first Thanksgiving, and the Pilgrims. This has been especially fun for Chickadee, who has been too small in previous years to really remember much of it. We also took our traditional field trip to Cahokia Mounds, to learn about the natives who lived in this area many, many years before the Mayflower arrived on the shore of Cape Cod. We even got to see some native animals…last year we saw a flock of wild turkeys, but we topped that this year, because there were deer everywhere!

Next week will also be a short week, because…Thanksgiving! So I’ll be back in two weeks with a wrap-up of the few days of school we’ll have then, plus the week following!

2017-18 School Year–Week Twelve+

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that we had a busy week ahead, and I wasn’t sure how much school we were going to get done. We did have school, but only for a few days, so I’m going to combine that with this week’s wrap-up.

In addition to a couple of days of regular school work last week, we did a few fun things, as well. We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and three of the children even got to participate in a mass children’s choir at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. It was very exciting to be part of that historic event!

We started on one of my favorite November traditions last week…we’re assembling our yearly “Thankful Tree!” As far as I can remember, the first year we did this was 2009, and that tree had handprints for leaves. We’ve also done some other variations on it over the years, including a Thankful Wreath, and maybe a Thankful Turkey, as well. Since at least 2011, though, we’ve used the current format. Laminating all those leaves was a pain at the time, but they sure have served us well!

We also went to the St. Louis Public Library Central Library to see the “We Are Shakespeare” exhibit. I almost ran out of time on that one, because it closed last weekend. It was a really cool exhibit, and I’m glad we made it!

We also took advantage of the nice weather on one of Moose’s days off last week to take a nature walk around Creve Coeur Lake. We saw snakes and birds, lots of cool leaves and fruits/nuts, and tons of other people out on bikes and boats enjoying the beautiful day.

This week was a little more standard. We got back to our regular religion lessons, after taking a break for the Reformation. Turkey and Bunny wrapped up another unit in their books, but not before they learned about the Tabernacle, and the positions of all the different tribes when the set up camp around it. Ladybug read a story that was not too familiar to her…the tale of Gideon. Chickadee learned about Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

Ladybug is working on long division in math. She does not enjoy it. She is good at it, though, which is important. Turkey and Bunny worked with regular polygons. They found out how to find the measures of the interior and exterior angles of various shapes. Chickadee is still working on counting larger numbers, and she’s getting pretty good at it!

We had a lot of fun in science this week. Turkey and Bunny have been learning about diffusion and osmosis, and they got to do a few cool experiments to see how they work. Their favorite experiment involved an egg. First, they soaked it in vinegar to remove the shell (which they’ve done in the past). Then they soaked it in syrup, to see which way the liquid moved (out of the egg into the syrup). After that, they soaked it in water, again to see which way the liquid moved (from the water into the egg). They took measurements along the way, and were very impressed with the differences they recorded! Ladybug watched every step of their experiment and was fascinated by it, even as she was learning about Old World apes in her science class.

History has also been interesting. Even though they’re using different texts, Turkey and Bunny’s and Ladybug’s lessons have overlapped again. They’ve all been learning about Babylon and Assyria. We’ve talked about rulers such as Tiglath-Pileser III and Shalmaneser V. We’ve also made some connections to Bible history, even though our religion lessons haven’t gotten there yet.

The girls had a fun little activity this week. We’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of the Lego Ideas “Women of NASA” set, and we finally received our copy. I decided since there are exactly three vignettes in the set that the girls should be the ones to build it. Turkey still enjoyed reading about the women depicted in the set (I love that Lego included that information in the instruction book) even though he didn’t get to help build it. It’s a great little set, and looks right at home next to our Saturn V rocket!

Next week, we’ll be starting on our annual Thanksgiving study…I can’t believe how quickly that holiday is approaching!

2017-18 School Year–Week Eleven

We had another very productive week of school…I can’t believe we still haven’t had a fall break!

We put aside our regular religion lessons so we could focus on the Reformation this week. We’ve been learning about not just Martin Luther, but also Katharina von Bora. We’ve also looked at some prolific Lutheran hymn writers, and have been listening to a selection of Reformation music.

Ladybug has been working on averages in math. In addition to finding the average of four or five numbers, she also learned how to express a remainder as both a fraction and decimal, and round up from there where appropriate. Turkey and Bunny have been focusing on triangles, particularly equilateral and isosceles. They had big exam this week, and both did an excellent job! Chickadee has been working on reading the hour on both analog and digital clocks.

After covering the first three kingdoms in science, Turkey and Bunny are studying the chemistry of life. Before we get into the specifics of the cell, we’re first learning about the make-up of atoms. Ladybug has moved on to primates in her study of land animals. She has learned about the two sub-orders of Strepsirrhini and Haplorrhini so far, and will be learning about animals specific to each next.

Chickadee read her first little book this week! It’s the first in the Sonlight “Fun Tales” series: Pam. Yes, there were only four words in the story (and one of those was the plural form of another). But this is a big deal, and she’s so excited!

Ladybug finally made it to King Tut in history. Both she and Chickadee have been looking forward to this chapter, especially after touring the King Tut exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center. Before King Tut, we also read about Thutmose I and Hatshepsut. Turkey and Bunny learned about the end of the New Kingdom of Egypt. They also learned about the Rigveda in India.

Yesterday, we finally had our long-awaited P.E. field trip day that I’ve been promising. I found out that a park in Hazelwood, MO, opened a new Ninja Warrior training course last month, and the children have begging to go ever since. We were definitely not disappointed…there were over 10 obstacles, and they were pretty much just like you see on TV! We have a new appreciation for how hard the ninja warriors train, and for what a beating their hands take! While we were there, we also enjoyed the regular playground, the swings (just enough for all four children, and since no one else was at the park, they didn’t even have to take turns!), and a lovely walking path. We had a fantastic day outdoors, even if the children were definitely sore this morning!

I’m not sure how next week is going to look…Moose has a short week, and we have a big Reformation 500 event to attend. We’ll try to get at least a few days of school in, but we’ll see!

2017-18 School Year–Week Ten

I’m really hoping that next week, we’ll finally get out and go on one of the outdoor field trips I’ve been saving for the actual fall weather!

Even without field trips, we’ve been busy this week! Turkey and Bunny have been finding the area of rectangles, triangles, and trapezoids in math. Nothing too challenging, although some of the bonus questions were a little tricky because they involved breaking an irregular shape down into its parts. Long division has returned in Ladybug’s math, and she’s not terribly thrilled about it! Chickadee has been working on patterns and sequences.

I am still grudgingly reading Heidi with Ladybug. Bunny has been enjoying listening in, because it’s one of the few books in the house she hasn’t read already. She and Turkey are also looking forward to finishing up Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but they’re not quite done with the fourth fit yet. I started reading Ramona and Her Mother to Chickadee, and she’s doing a great job listening to and recalling parts of the story.

Turkey and Bunny have been all over the place in history this week. They’ve been learning about the Amenhoteps and Ramses in Egypt, the Hittites, and even the Trojan war. Ladybug got to read a few fables from ancient Africa, and also learned about the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.

One of my favorite things about Turkey and Bunny’s biology course this year is the fact that we get to use our microscope so often! This week, as we wrapped up the chapter on fungi, we looked at yeast under different magnifications. We started with yeast straight out of the packet, which frankly was rather boring. But once we added warm water and sugar, and let it “burp” a bit, it got very interesting. And even though they don’t really get what they’re looking at, Ladybug and Chickadee also love microscope days!

I’m really hoping that we get out next week, at least once, but we’ll see. We have very strict standards for what constitutes an actual fall day with weather we truly enjoy!

2017-18 School Year–Week Nine

In an unusual twist for us, our school week started on Sunday. Since we were already in the city, we decided to stop at the St. Louis Science Center to see the Omnimax Theater Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs film. It was an excellent movie, and went perfectly with the King Tut exhibit we saw earlier in the school year, as well as what we’ve been studying in history. Of course, while we were there, we also checked out some of the other exhibits, too!

The fun continued on Monday, when we went to our first “Homeschool Day” of the year at the Missouri History Museum, and since Moose had the day off school, he got to come with us! We learned all about cameras, photography, and the importance of photography in modern history, and we got to tour the new Panoramas exhibit while we were there. When we were done at the History Museum, we went back to the Science Center to see the new star show we saw on the schedule when we were there on Sunday: Mission Mars. It was excellent, and we got to try out the new and very comfortable chairs in the planetarium!

After all that, the rest of the week seemed rather boring, I suppose, but we got a lot done. Turkey and Bunny have been reviewing perimeter in math, in preparation for discussing area next week. They also worked on figuring out the measure of multiple angles in a shape with different bisectors given a few beginning figures. Ladybug has entered into the exciting world of exponents. Chickadee is still working on counting by tens.

Ladybug learned about kangaroos and koalas in her study of marsupials…next week, she’ll be learning about animals like sugar gliders and possums. Turkey and Bunny had to create another biological key in science…this time, one focused on Kingdom Fungi. So far they’ve learned about the most recognizable members of that kingdom…mushrooms, puffballs, and shelf fungi.

Even though they’re reading different books, Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug all learned about the Shang dynasty in history. Ladybug also learned about rice farming and Chinese pictograms. In addition to the Shang dynasty, Turkey and Bunny also read about Hatshepsut, and Thutmosis I-III, which was great since we learned all about the Valley of the Kings at the Science Center on Sunday!

Turkey and Bunny finally finished the third fit of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Curiosity got the better of me, so I looked ahead to see how it ends. Don’t worry, I won’t let them know! We have reached the part in Ladybug’s study of Heidi where I really start hating the book (when Heidi is taken away from Grandfather), so I’m dreading next week’s lessons, but I guess we’ll survive. We’re also already almost done with Ramona and Her Father, and Chickadee is already looking forward to the next book.

I can’t believe we’ve finished nine weeks of the school year, and I haven’t schedule a fall break yet. This year is going really well, though, so we’ll keep at it for a while yet!

2017-18 School Year–Week Eight

It’s been a rough week for all of us, right? There’s a certain point where you just can’t ignore current events, no matter how hard you try, or how much you’d like to. Talking to your children about awful tragic events is always hard. Teaching it, trying to make sense of it, is next to impossible. But as parents and teachers, that’s what we do. And I had good opportunities to do so, talking about the events in Las Vegas as they related to world and Bible history. We especially talked about the power of words, how they can start wars, cause chaos, or be calming and helpful.

In spite of what seems like almost constant chaos in the world, we had a fairly normal week of school. Turkey and Bunny learned about transversals in math, while Ladybug practiced factoring numbers. Chickadee is still working on counting by tens.

Ladybug started her literature study of Heidi this week. I’m not going to lie…when I was a child, I hated that book. I don’t think I ever actually read the whole thing. But I know it’s a classic, so we’re giving it a go. So far, it’s been less painful than I remembered! Turkey and Bunny are working on the third fit of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and I think we’re all enjoying the story. I also started reading Ramona and Her Father out loud to Chickadee. I wasn’t planning on reading through the whole series this year, but she likes them so much, I don’t think I really have a choice!

Turkey and Bunny finished up their study of Kingdom Protista in science, and we’re looking forward to beginning the chapter on Kingdom Fungi. We’re hoping to find some good samples to look at under our microscope! Ladybug is done with the  cats chapter of her science book, and is moving on to marsupials. I’ve also been reading The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature out loud to Chickadee…her siblings are very excited for her, because they all have fond memories of the times I read it them!

We enjoyed the cooler weather by working on some of our lessons outside. Division facts and letter sounds are so much more fun when you’re writing with chalk on the driveway! And Turkey turned the transversal I drew into a “math dragon,” which I thought was pretty creative.

We’re looking forward to attending a “Homeschool Day” at the Missouri History Museum next week, and since Moose has the day off, he gets to come with us!

American History with American Girl

Our family has a long history with American Girl’s historical dolls (now called BeForever), beginning with me. I have both the oldest and (almost) newest dolls in our house. I received the now-retired Kirsten over 25 years ago, and Melody was a birthday gift from my children this summer.

Bunny is the proud owner of the most dolls in our home…six of them, including two pairs of friends, (which is currently half of our total collection!), at least half of which she’s purchased with her own money over the last seven years:

And Ladybug has a nice collection of four dolls, including one pair of friends and the two dolls in our cumulative collection that represent the earliest parts of American history:

The dolls we own embody American history from the Revolutionary War era (Felicity) through the Civil Rights era (Melody). The total American Girl/BeForever line covers America’s past from the time before the Revolutionary War (Kaya) through the 1970s (Julie).

Our dolls personify the times of three different wars (Revolutionary, Civil, and WWII), the yellow fever epidemic of 1853, pioneer days, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Era, plus everything in between.

The girls (and I) love playing with the dolls, but American Girl is so much more than that. If you’re familiar with the company, you know that each historical character has always come with a series of books that allow the reader a glimpse into daily life in that time period. That books have changed format since the years I had the first editions (which I read so many times they felt apart long before I had children!), but the stories have remained the same. So while we don’t have all the dolls, we do have all the book series, for our dolls, and dolls we had hoped to buy but weren’t able to before they retired, and dolls we still hope to add to the collection someday.

We have used those books in our homeschool studies since the very beginning. When the children were smaller, I read the books out loud for fun, and they loved the interesting stories they were hearing without even realizing they were getting a glimpse into American history. I have used them to supplement special summer school units (especially in 2010, when we learned about colonial America, and this year, when we studied the pioneers and Westward Expansion), and as the basis for a “Christmas through American history” study, which included craft and food ideas that came to us while reading. I’ve also read them alongside  our regular history lessons, and of course, the older two girls have read through them all on their own. And now I’m starting again, from the very beginning with Kaya, and will read through the full scope of American Girl American history through Julie’s time to Chickadee, who isn’t quite old enough to read them herself.

We have been able to cover so many topics with the help of these books. We’ve learned fun things, like what holiday and birthday celebrations were like in the past, and we’ve learned hard things about wars, racism, injustice, and parents and friends dying. We’ve learned what it was like to be a child through all these different events, and while the books are clearly marketed towards girls, the boys have listened to the stories and learned some things, too.

The historical information isn’t limited to only the books, either. The dolls and their accessories have allowed us to get a good look at the fashions of different eras.  Bunny has even been inspired to make clothes for her dolls herself! We have had hands-on experience with what school supplies and lunches looked like throughout history. We’ve seen how children might have spent their free time. We’ve even had glimpses of what furniture looked like at different points in history!

And, for those more STEM inclined, American Girl has even had a place in our math lessons, and the more dolls we collect, the more fun we have! Chickadee can practice her counting by identifying how many dolls have blond, brown, black, or red hair, or she can sort them by eye color or other identifying features. We can use the information she gives us to make graphs and do statistics…what percentage of our dolls have freckles? Pierced ears? Curly hair? It’s very basic math, but it’s a start, and very fun and hands-on when you’re five!

We’re not done collecting…Chickadee hasn’t even received her first BeForever doll yet, but she has an idea of which one she wants to be her first (one that none of us have yet). We wait with anticipation every time we hear a new doll is coming, because we can’t wait to learn her story.  And we’re always keeping an eye out for new fashions for the dolls we have, and we all will save our money when there’s something new for one of our dolls. I love the way American Girl has helped history come alive for my children, through play and imagination and books that show us what the past was like!