More Little House on the Prairie!

More Little House Title Pic

Can you believe it’s been five years since I wrote my first Little House on the Prairie post? I read it and am taken back to the simpler days of only having my first two kids to homeschool where we practiced a more relaxed homeschool approach. Now my oldest will be entering high school next year and the next is fully immersed in the world of junior high. How time flies. I’ve added four more kids to the mix of homeschooling with one more still to fit in the next couple of years. Gone are the relaxed, take-your-time days of yore. Now we are fully immersed in a heavy classical school load for the older two and, while the younger ones still have fun and are covering a lot of the same material as the first two, my schedule is much more structured with this next group of younger kids as I have to make sure there is enough mommy teacher time to go around to meet all the needs. Hence the sound of crickets on this here blog!

We are on round two of our history cycle wrapping up modern history this year. We began the year just post Civil War and started right in on Pioneers and the Homestead Act with my younger children. This, of course, is a perfect time to introduce another generation to my love of all things Little House of the Prairie! Oh how I wish I had more time to spend and camp out here. Even though I only had a week to fill, I made the best of it with my very kinetic learners with two great hands-on projects I wanted to share with you all.

Sometimes with homeschooling I get caught up in the wants that cost money. I would’ve loved to have had a big set of Lincoln Logs for my preschooler through fourth grader to play with. This would’ve been great to keep little hands busy while mommy was reading our literature Little House on the Prairie or our living history book selections. This was not in our budget this year. Instead, I decided to concentrate on using what I already had that also keeps little hands busy. Play dough. I decided the best way to help my hands-on learners remember what the Homestead Act meant was to immerse them in the world of sod house making. They absolutely loved this and all decided, at least the first week of school, that history was definitely their favorite subject. Score for mom! We used this play dough recipe that I had used before for a Valentine’s Day party because it smells like heavenly chocolate.

And don’t let the blog pictures deceive you. My first batch turned out horrible. I thought I could get buy without the cream of tartar and it was a disaster. So while my kids were busily, and happily, playing in the sticky muddy mess on the table, it wasn’t the right consistency to make our sod bricks out of and mommy had to do a quick run to the store in order to redo the recipe the right way. But it turned out all right in the end and they were very happy with their sod houses. Note to moms: try to gently encourage your students to stack the bricks in the staggered pattern that real builders use. Otherwise, when this project dries it will fall apart! My kids had to learn this the hard way. As their houses dried they looked great but immediately collapsed in a heap of dried sod bricks when they did not heed my warning.

sod house 1

sod house 2

We also played this fun game online that shows if you have what it takes to make it on the prairie and build a sod house properly. Both my third and fourth grader failed their first two attempts but finally got it right on attempt number three!

Our next project this week was to build this cute little pioneer peg family to live in their built sod houses. My children love to play what they learn. When we studied cowboys they played cowboys. When we studied Indians they played Indians. When we studied women’s suffrage they played making signs and voting. I love watching them play what they learn. It makes my house always chaotic and a bit on the messier side – an uphill battle I struggle with already just having seven kids living here with me all day long – but the extra effort at cleaning is worth it when I hear them ask if we can study something again because they want to play it again.

Now the crafty, OCD mommy part of me had to forcibly take a back seat on the peg project people. I modeled the project for them. I made wonderful suggestions to them. I used scrap material and yarn I already had on hand and only had to buy the peg clothespins – $2 for a bag at Michaels. But my children are nothing if not consistent and hard-headed. They had there own way of doing their dolls and mommy had to let that be okay. They had a lot of fun with this project. And, if they had listened to me with their sod houses, the houses would’ve been built high enough to use and play with the peg people. We will probably revisit making these dolls again this winter while reading “The Long Winter” for literature. Maybe I’ll teach them how to make some snow candy like Laura and Mary did if we get a dumping of good sticky snow. While this experiment didn’t quite turn out how I wanted it to with my oldest kids, it was still very yummy!

peg 1

peg 2

For more fun activities to pair with your Little House on the Prairie study or any history study pertaining to the early pioneers, check out my previous Little House on the Prairie Unit Study.  Also, if you wanted to expand on the activities that I listed here today, you could also try your hand at these. I wanted to get to all of them but a week is such a short time and flies by too fast.

maple

We also read a great new book that I’m adding to our list of Pioneer book must-haves. Dandelions by Eve Bunting is a picture story about two girls who move with their parents out to the prairie. I choose this particular book for several reasons. First, it was set in Nebraska – where we live. I love making history personal. It seems to stick more. Second, they build a sod house and talk about the Homestead Act, which went well with our project and notebooking for the week. Third, dandelions are my favorite under-appreciated flower! So many uses and benefits – I have a whole Pinterest Board dedicated to them – and such a bright yellow sign of hope in the spring when the winter blues have seem to permanently set in. In fact, this is kind of the point of the story. Many pioneer wives of that time, while hard and persevering women, experienced depression. While they did set out to try their hand at a new life, they also left everything behind. Being in this harsh new world without shade and trees and the beauty of flowers, without the comfort of their extended family or even neighbors and community, without their furniture (not much could fit on the wagon ride out) and heirlooms, even without wood to build a comfortable house, living in this world of dirt and nothingness must have been so hard for so many women. This story touches on that very hardship and the young girl ends up saving and planting some dandelions on her sod roof for her mother. It is a beautiful story that touches on that hope that so many prairie wives needed. I just loved it.

     

Books I would add to my first list for this time period:

Another thing I’m excited to do this winter with the kids is work through watching the first season of Little House on the Prairie. They really don’t make shows like this anymore and I mourn the loss of wholesome family values that this show teaches. This will make a perfect wintertime activity to binge on in evenings of our cozy house with the outside world shut out to us. But we will kick it off with this documentary The Legacy of Laura Ingalls WilderI may be a bit of a nerd but I’m so excited about watching this. You must visit the blog Little House of the Prairie and watch the trailer. It looks just divine! While your at their site stay and look around a while. It is chock full of wonderful activities to pair with a Little House study!

They are also offering a one time savings to you homeschool moms in order to add it to your living history library as well. Just click on their Amazon link to buy the documentary and put in the coupon code (LHSCHOOL) to receive an additional 20% off!

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Rocks and Minerals Lapbook and Unit Study – Part I

*This series will be a 2 post series. Check back next week for part two!

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was to start this unit. I remember my rock collection as a girl. Our neighbor had a bed of river rock in their garden and I would spend hours digging through it always looking for just the right specimens. I imagined finding a glorious Indian arrowhead or a real dinosaur fossil. I would pour over the limestone that made up part of our wall in the front yard and carefully pick out chunks of rock that did have fossils in them. My imagination of what part of the dinosaur it might be from was far superior then the actual fossil sea shells they actually were. I remember combing the shores of a nearby river on family fishing trips searching for pieces of fool’s gold. I remember visiting a real cave and being mesmerized by the stalagmites and stalactites. I couldn’t wait to share this love with my children. As I was pouring over books and settling on activities, my husband would sigh and say, “Are you ever going to be done working?” But all I could think was this is not work!

Our school mission: head to the park and collect rocks. Use recycled egg cartons to hold specimens. Collect only 12 of the most interesting ones you can find. Head back home to identify and classify.

~ Experiments and Activities ~

The first thing we did was sit down and try to identify all the cool rocks we found. We have two wonderful field guides for this that the kids used: Smithsonian’s Rock and Gem and Eyewitness Rock and Minerals. I believe the kids classifie about 75% of their rocks and are still trying to figure out what the others are. This part was by far their favorite part of the week! Part of our identification came in the form of vinegar tests. Apparently any rock that has a bit of carbonate in it (think calcium, baking soda, chalk) will fizz when drops of vinegar are applied. Lily had great fun with this experiment.

Next we discovered how sedimentary rock is formed. We watched the Magic School Bus video on erosion (see below) and then did our own experiment in a mason jar. Fill jar with dirt (sand, soil, rocks) and water. Shake and let sit for an hour or two. Discuss the layering that happens.

We also talked about the layers of the earth. We listened to the kids favorite song (haven’t forgot the layers yet!) and watched this video:

Then we did a hands-on experiment to show how this works. We filled a tub with water (our liquid, moving magma mantle layer) then set pieces of wood to float on top (our continents, or earth crust). I showed how even not touching them they were always moving just slightly on the magma because of a solid floating on a liquid. This transitioned beautifully into a discussion on plate tectonics and how they work. We practiced butting the wood pieces up against each other in different directions to see how direction of force changed the outcome.

This led beautifully into a discussion on how mountains were formed. We used clay to showcase this phenomenon. We layered colors (our rock) into two long strips and then pushed them against each other until they buckled and folded causing both a mountain and the layers we so often see in rocks.

We also discussed climate change and how that affects the earth’s crust. The ice weighs down the crust sinking it deeper into the magma and then, during time of warming, suddenly (or violently) lifts back up to the surface again. Pretty cool stuff that I’ve never thought about before.

All this talk of plate tectonics led to a natural discussion of Pangaea. I had the kids trace the continents with tracing paper and then cut out their own Pangaea puzzle. They first had to fit it together how they thought it might go then I showed them what scientists theory was.

We went to this really cool site: Continental Drift Puzzle and they were able to interactively try their hand at the Pangaea puzzle. The really cool thing about this site is the ability to rotate the continents. And you can do it how you think, you can try with a Pangaea outline, or just see how you measure up.

The main book I used as inspiration for these experiments was an older book I found at our library called Rocks and Soil by Robert Snedden.

~ Geology Living books  ~

Let’s Go Rock Collecting

Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth

Magic School Bus: Rocky Road Trip – this one is a chapter book that we used as a read-aloud at lunch time. It corresponds to the free lapbook below.

 Cool Rocks – Tracy Kompelien

 Geology Rocks!
50 Hands-on Activities to Explore the Earth

***************

~ Free Rock and Mineral Lapbooks, Printables, and Unit Studies ~

Magic School Bus: Rock Road Trip Lapbook  Yee Shall Know

Rocks and Mineral Lapbook – Homeschool Treasure Trove

Geology ideas and printables –  Eclectic Education

Geology printables – Enchanted Learning

Geology Squidoo Lens

***************

~ Rock Videos ~

Eyewitness Rock and Mineral Video

Magic School Bus Rocks and Rolls ~ Parts 1

Magic School Bus Rocks and Rolls ~ Parts 2

Magic School Bus Rocks and Rolls ~ Parts 3

*Note for you creationist science moms ~ I know many people, Christian and secular, debate the young/old earth theories. You will have to deal with a lot of editing of pretty much all the books if you do believe in the young earth theory. That said, here is a wonderful source via Answers in Creation to draw from if you need.

DON’T FORGET TO PIN THIS!!!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal


Roommates

Meet our new roommates….

Squirmy and Fred, our monarch caterpillars

and Dooky (don’t ask!), our salt marsh caterpillar.

I was so excited to finally find some Monarch caterpillars. So looking forward to the exquisite jade green and gold chrysalis they make. By far my favorite caterpillar to keep and feed! Thank you, God, for the abundant amount of milkweed in our backyard fields! Monarch’s food of choice.

Gabe informed me that he thinks the cute furry gray guy is a salt marsh caterpillar (cousin to the woolly bear but non-banded). Good to know.  Can’t wait to find out!

This is our third year keeping caterpillars and it has turned into a tradition that I quite look forward to in August ~ September!

Think we shall be reading this during the school week ~

Monarch Butterfly of Aster Way

 

 

Camp Wrap Up

With counselors Dan and Anna.

Yep, I know…you are all very sad that these are the last of the 100’s of camp pictures posted!

My turn at camp with Lilah Jane came.  Our time together was sweet, short and long all at the same time. Two days without my baby and I was sore and needing to nurse ever so badly and missing the rest of my babies at home. But, oh how I never get to have one-on-one time with just one child! It was a blessing to just dote on her.

I did learn something though. I thought our little miss was always getting into mischief because of a desire to have more time with mommy. I always thought that if I could give her undivided one-on-one time then she would be content to be still and there would be less chaos in my house. But I was wrong. There is nothing like spending a large amount of quality time individually with a child to really see their true personality shine through. And this little girl does not have it in her to sit still. Oh, she would try. We would worship and sing and she would try so hard to sit on my lap or the grass but she literally didn’t have it in her. She had to move. I mean had to. I watched her with fascination. She literally could not help herself. And she would lose focus easily and instantly. This went way beyond mere age development of a three year old. My two year old has no problem focusing on something or sitting with mommy when it is pleasurable to her. This girl…well, she would want to sit with mommy…she would want to listen and dance to the music…she would want to participate in the activity but still she was losing focus and constantly needing to move. It was a blessing from above because it made me very aware that some things I was disciplining her for weren’t about discipline at all. And that when I do discipline, it will need to be done with that in mind. I will have to bend down to her level, gently guide her face to me and repeat many times the command of what needs to be done. Even when she was dog-tired at 9:30 at night and wanting a story and asking to go to sleep and go home, she was still moving. It did not stop until she finally just gave into sleep. I think knowing this will also come in handy when teaching her formally at home. A kinesthetic learner maybe?

Our time together ~

~ At the Barnyard ~

~ In the Chapel ~

~ Hayrack Ride ~

Lake View

Tipi Village

~ Trying to sit still for evening worship. ~

~ Canoeing and Paddle Boating ~

~ Petting a Tree Frog ~

~ Swimming ~

~ Smores ~

~ Making Friend Bracelets ~


~ Worship and Bible Study ~


~ Camp Shirt, Cuppie, and a New Friend! ~

“Cuppie” came everywhere with us. It was our life line to water (which also went everywhere with us) during 100 degree weather with a heat index of 115!!! And if you think that’s hot, try bearing it while cooking out hotdogs and marshies over a fire!!!!!!!
The Homeschool Mother's Journal

A Week of Camp

My babies went to camp this week. It has been my first real week without them. Sure, they’ve spent the night at gram and pop’s house or their cousins. But one night is not a week! I was a nervous wreck. I tried properly preparing them last week with a training boot camp of learning how to take showers by themselves (we are bath takers here) and making sure they knew address and phone number for pen pal exchanging and that they could still tie their shoes properly (you’d be surprised by how many times they slip their shoes on without actually ever tying them!).

By the pictures below you will see that they did absolutely fantastic! The camp very graciously kept us updated daily through their website and emails. They put up daily pictures of the campers for us parents to download and share. They sent us a daily email letting us know that days events and general camp happenings. And they allowed us to email the kids daily. Each camper received their letter at roll call in the morning. It was a nice tangible way to stay in touch with them even if they couldn’t email back! Amazing how email turned into something actually important and how all other emails suddenly became very unimportant!

Gabe's Camp Group

Lily's Camp Group

Lily singing morning camp songs.

Gabe gardening for a service project.

Lily dancing.

Gabe and Lily at worship.

Gabe ziplining.

Half way through the week the camp correspondents took time to sit with each camper and talk with them about how their week was going. Then they wrote a personalized email to me about each of my kids. Gabe enjoyed ziplining the most and Lily said she loved swimming the most. But, I will admit, I cried when they sent this picture of Lily with a smile of utter joy on her face. This is after her brave attempt at doing high ropes. I was so proud it just bubbled out of me in a big gushy mess!

Lily doing high ropes.

Gabe at the talent show.

Half way through the week Luc also got to attend camp with his Pop at Grand Camp. He was counting down the days the moment the older kids left. I can’t wait to hear how his week went! He sure looks like he had a good time!

Luc visiting the barn animals.

Luc with Pop in the background.

Luc and Pop on a hayrack ride.

Pop singing Rise and Shine!

Grandpa is a great teacher!

Service Project

I get to meet the kids at a family camp worship time this afternoon and then visit their cabins and help them pack up. It will be bittersweet for them, I know. But I will be SO happy to see them again! I will be going with Delilah on Sunday and Monday to a Taste of Camp and she is getting very impatient for her turn. So I will be back next week with more pics and camp stories!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

How to File Paperwork if You Are Not a Planner {a.k.a. Unschooling}

That time is upon us once again….

Yep, filing paper work with the state education board. Fun. Fun.

This is my yearly quandary…

One of the huge advantages of homeschooling is following a MUCH more relaxed schedule. For us that contains a fair amount of unschooling…or child-led interests and rabbit trails. These really can’t be planned per say. But our state requires curriculum to be approved ahead of time. How do you balance spontaneity with a detailed plan to your state?

I do plan…in a general large-scale sorta way. We do history generally chronological. This year it will be modern history with an emphasis on the Great Depression, WWI and II, and the Industrial Revolution. But most of my planning comes in the form of strewing. I look for great living books to have on hand during chunks of learning time. I keep a running book list that I can use when purchasing on Amazon or at a library sale. We follow math and phonics in a somewhat sequential order but even these I hate to delegate to a “grade” because each of my children learn at different rates and sometimes we are still in the middle of a book when the school year “ends” and sometimes we are already in the middle of another book.

When I was trying to write out detailed plans to my state I was getting bogged down. What would we cover this year…when would we cover it…when would we be done? These questions my state would want to know and I would start sweating and becoming grumpy mommy as I desperately tried to put something on paper.

Don’t get me wrong…the planning part felt good. When I was done I felt this sense of accomplishment. Oh, of course that’s what we’ll study this year (i.e. science lessons all mapped out in great detai)! Happily I would start our year and miserably I would end it feeling like a failure because we were SO off track. Never mind that my kids were learning at a rapid pace. Never mind that they had filled their time with way more additional learning then I had written down. All I saw was those original lessons plans with a big red F across them!

Then I came up with a brilliant idea. Why not just write down a Scope and Sequence based on everything I had? I just started typing by category. Math? These were the books I owned (text and living). These were the manipulatives I owned. These were the games I owned. I put general grades after them. For instance, after listing Math U See I put K-5th Grade in parenthesis behind it. Suddenly I began to see a skeleton take shape. Eventually this is what I would teach to all my kids through all of their elementary school years and some beyond. Before I knew it I had an 8 page Elementary Scope & Sequence that MORE than covered any paltry state requirements.

I am free! This year all I had to do was pull up that file, delete and add a few things and in less than an hour I was finished. Print. Mail. Ahhhh….THAT felt good! The best part? Doesn’t matter that I’m homeschooling (officially) three children all at different grade levels. This one paper covers them all. Doesn’t matter where we are at the beginning of the year or the end. We have the freedom and leisure to learn any of this stuff at our own pace and our state has the peace of mind that we will be covering all the bases…eventually!

Here is a peek at my copy (your own will, obviously, vary) as well as a copy of my statement about using living books as that inventory list is WAY too long to send my state!

Elementary Scope & Sequence

Learning History Through Living Books

Feel free to download and steal these and modify for your own use!

Happy planning!!!

(P.S. please let me now if these links do not download right and I will try to fix! I tested them and so far so good.)

The Homeschool Mother's Journal