Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Medieval Age ~ Part 1

For the last week or so we have been studying the Middle Ages (500 AD to 1400 AD), also called the medieval period. I very much enjoy learning about this historical time period. This is what we have accomplished this week.

Books we read or are reading ~
  • The Door in the Wall
  • Crispin: The Cross of Lead
  • Knights and Castles 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience the Middle Ages
We made rose water and rose water bread ~ Rose water was a common flavoring in the Middle Ages. We purchased dried rose petals from a spice store and made rose water. Making rose water is very simple. We put the roses into a pot and covered them with filtered water. We brought the pot to a gentle simmer and watched the water change to a deep red. We then strained the petals out and let the rose water cool. We stored the extra in a clean jar in the refrigerator. We then followed the recipe for rose water bread in the Knights and Castles 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience the Middle Ages book. It was truly a delicious bread and we will be making it again soon.

We learned about Halloween's connection to the Middle Ages ~ We learned that the ancient Celtics carved turnip lanterns just as we carve pumpkins today. We also learned about "All Hallows' Evening". We had to carve our own pumpkin.

The kids wrote a code of honor just like knights did ~ They also wrote a paper pretending they were news reporters reporting on the local medieval fair. Lastly, they wrote a letter to their parents to explain what they had experienced during the plague, just like Robin did in The Door in the Wall.

The kids watched The Black Death - Worst Plague in History on YouTube ~ We learned a little bit about bloodletting and other different ways that doctors treated people during the Middle Ages. We also learned about the medicinal uses for parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. We learned the story behind Ring Around the Rosy and what it tells us about the Black Death.

We learned about illumination of books by monks ~ We learned what life was like in a monastery. The kids illuminated their initials.  

The kids bobbed for apples, which was a popular game even in the Middle Ages ~

The kids learned about stained glass and watched a short documentary about the Chartres Cathedral and its rose windows ~ They then made their own stained glass windows.

We wrapped up the week by making dioramas of the Four Alls. These depict some of the roles assigned by God to people during the Middle Ages.  ~ 

"The peasants who worked for all,
priests who prayed for all,
knights who fought for all,
and kings who ruled all."

The Kings
The Knights
The Priests
I must say, if I had to live in medieval times, I would want to be a monk. I think that, by far, they had it the best. They were surrounded by more books than anyone else; they spent their lives serviing others and showing kindness; and they didn't have to fight in wars. Yes, that would be the life for me!

I have a few more things to do with the kids next week. I can't wait!

In case you missed it on the blog. We are starting a 52 week urban nature study. You can read about our first week here.

Blessings, Dawn         

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nature Study for Urban Homeschoolers ~ Week 1

What if you live in the city? How do you do nature studies when your home has lots of concrete, racing cars, and man made structures all around it? Admittedly, we do live in a city, but one that is in the midst of the mountains with huge expanses of nature just a short car ride beyond the city/county limits. However, with our busy lives, we don't make that 20+ minute car ride weekly. I've been watching my friend Claire's nature study and have to admit that I've been a bit jealous. Where was a natural place that we could walk to weekly and watch it change throughout a year?

Then it struck me! I started thinking about that park in the shadow of Walmart. It has a water source, a variety of trees to pick from for a year long tree study, some small patches of grass, and borders a small woodland on one side. We still can't walk there. We do not live in area where it is safe to walk, since there are several large roads, very steep hills, and limited sidewalks between us and the park. But it is a very short car ride from home.

We decided to go on our first "official" nature walk there on an overcast day this weekend. Our park has a twisting path with a river on one side and a small amount of green space on the other. We will have to measure the path, but I would say it is less than a quarter of a mile long. Beyond the river is a two lane road and beyond the green space is the Walmart parking lot. This park is in the floodplain and is inhabited by several homeless people who spend their days wandering in the shopping center at the edge of the park. We saw evidence of their sleeping arrangements under the bridge and along the edge of the woods. Perhaps we will leave bagged lunches for them sometimes.

This park is also unique because it is the site of an old bleachery that operated here from the 1920's to the 1960's. Although it has been cleaned up, there is still evidence of its past.

We look forward to finding a way to get down to the river. We didn't see an obvious way to climb down from the park side. We may have to enter it from the street side.

We did find a broken down and overgrown stairway down to the river which may be from its bleachery days. I think it is neat to see how nature is overtaking the past area that had been cleared for the bleachery. 

There were a few special trees to pick from for our tree study. We decided on this Maple tree. It was really showing off its fall colors. It also stood alone so that we could move around it to see it from all angles.

There are also some big climbing rocks which could be part of a geology study.

Well, that is an introduction to our nature study. We look forward to 52 weeks of exploration in our urban park.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 23, 2015

Week 14 ~ Four weeks until Winter Break!

Well, another week is gone. It was a good week, but I am looking forward to our winter break. I'm also realizing that we are going to be going slower through our history studies than I originally had thought. For one thing, the kids are finally enjoying the 21 Activities for Kids book series. I love this series and am looking forward to sharing many of the different books and topics with my kids. I feel like many of the books complement the Genevieve Foster books that we are using as our history spine this year. We are starting Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration for Kids in the next week or two. We are also wrapping up Zoology for Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals, with 21 Activities in our science studies. These books are wonderful and perfect for middle school students. They have lots of interesting information and projects that pull everything together.

We started our week off learning about wood burning. In the literature book we are reading, The Door in the Wall, the young boy learns to whittle. I wanted to incorporate using wood in an artistic way but felt that whittling was too time consuming and required too much patience for my crew. Wood burning was a great alternative and I just happened to have a kit tucked away in the basement. The kids were not super thrilled with wood burning but created a bit with it.

The child looks like she is suffering so, doesn't she?
Our latest Tinker Crate was much more popular! It was all about hands. Dean constructed the hand. We did several experiments and learned lots of facts. I was surprised to learn that we have no muscles in our fingers. I love that even the teacher gets to keep learning in our little homeschool!

Anne is enjoying her tumbling class. I am happy to see all the skills she is learning in a safe environment. She moves around so fast that I haven't managed to catch many pictures.

Nutcracker season is getting closer and closer. We have more rehearsals this weekend. Then we get about two weeks off from weekend rehearsals before it really starts getting crazy! You know you are a stage mom when you pull out your winter clothes and worry whether or not you have enough black shirts for back to back  nights back stage. Yep, I am already worrying about such things!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Birthday and Renaissance Faire

This was a week filled to bursting with activities. We sure have P.E. covered in our homeschool. Before the day is out, Anne will log nine hours and Dean five hours of dance.  They also got to have an hour of swimming with Grandma at the YWCA, which is turning into a weekly tradition. Lastly, I signed Anne up for one hour of tumbling each week. She paid for the semester with her birthday money. I feel much better about her learning aerial cartwheels and other exciting acrobatics from a professional and with a spotter.

Anne celebrated her 12th birthday with her three best friends. She had a tie-dye birthday sleepover --complete with tie-dye t-shirts, 3 foot long sundae, tie-dye cake, movie watching and hours of goofy dancing and squealing. You can read more about it here.

She also had a special birthday breakfast on her official birthday. It is always fun to have cake and presents for your birthday! Anne got the retired American Girl Doll, Kirsten, from us. I won't go into the details of how many auctions I lost on Ebay before I finally won this doll. She also got money for classes, earrings, and some cute America Girl Doll accessories.

We participated in our church's turn with Room In the Inn this week. This is a wonderful program that involves churches opening their doors for one week at a time to 12 emotionally stable, drug free, homeless women while they are working to get their lives back on track. The group of women move from church to church each week. We volunteered to make bag lunches for the women one of the days during our church's week. Anne and Grandma decorated the bags.

We attended our state's Renaissance Faire this week. We went on education day. I have had this on my bucket list to do with the kids for years, so I was glad to get it off the list. However, it wasn't nearly as educational as I thought it would be. Mostly, it was too crowded, very expensive and filled with very rude men (several of them helped their children/students cut lines and then yelled about people who tried to correct them). I was much more shocked by the poor behavior of the adults than the children. The kids had fun and I am glad they are old enough to remember it, because I won't be taking them back next year.
Tim, Dean and Anne ~ my kids are growing up so fast.
The kids never miss a chance for fish and chips.
We went through a coin finding maze. Anne loves to find money, even when it is fake.
Dean liked the axe throwing station.
He even got one in the wall!
We also took Grandma!
I got my picture taken with the Queen and her court.
The kids with their souvenirs. 
The kids were fascinated with the dungeon that taught about Medieval punishment and torture. Tim also got to see the jousting, which he always loves. (He got to go to Renaissance Faires several times when he was younger before Anne and Dean were born.) Dean spent hours this week working on his sword. It came out great. He even wrote some medieval humor on it.

It says, "Stabby Time".
What a full week.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Anne's Tie-Dye Birthday Sleepover

Anne had three girls over for her birthday sleepover party. She chose a tie-dye theme after seeing some tie-dye paper plates. So we decided to tie-dye shirts as the main event. I was relieved to find easy tie-dye kits that could be applied with squeeze bottles. This was so much less messy than my childhood memories of tie-dying. (We did this project outside.)

The shirts came out great. I have a high-efficiency (HE) washer so I could not preset the water level. I rinsed them for about 20 minutes under cold water in my utility sink and then 5 more minutes or so under warm water (until the water ran mostly clear). Then I washed them without detergent on the permanent press cycle and then one more time on permanent press with detergent. They seem to be run free.

We had pizza for dinner followed by a three foot long ice cream sundae (with three types of ice cream and caramel sauce, hot fudge, whip cream and cherries), as well as a tie-dye cake. We bought a gutter and end caps as the "dish" for the ice cream sundae.

The girls spent some time painting their nails. They then moved on to general goofiness. 

Finally, at about 10 pm we started watching the first Harry Potter movie. Dean joined into the fun and watched the movie with the girls.

Boomer (dog) decided this was his spot and stayed there with them all night. 

After the movie, the girls giggled, jumped, talked and read until almost 2 am! I didn't think I was going to outlast them! YIKES!! In the morning, dear husband made pancakes and bacon. I finished processing the tie-dye shirts so the girls could take them home. The girls also made autographed pillow cases. Each wrote her name big on a white pillow case and then autographed each other's. They came out cute. 

Happy Birthday to my TWELVE year old! How did that happen?!?!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 9, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ The Sun Came Out!

We are so happy to see the sun again here in North Carolina. It was a rough patch of rain that lasted days, but nothing like what hit South Carolina. We hold them in our prayers as they struggle to recover from a thousand year flood.

We had a good week and accomplished most everything we set out to do. The kids did lots of math, wrote two one-page papers, and completed their grammar worksheet pages. Oh, but there is so much more to homeschooling than the 3 R's.  Here are the highlights from this week.

Gandhi's Birthday ~ We celebrated Gandhi's life by reading Who Was Gandhi? and watching the more than three hours movie, Gandhi. We enjoyed both and they complimented each other. We also enjoyed a lovely caramel apple cake, because one needs hardly any reason at all to whip up a cake.

Roman Road ~ Our Roman road is complete. I am not sure why the grass only grew in some areas. Oh well, it was a good hands-on project anyway. The kids seem to benefit from hands-on projects sprinkled into their education.

Solar Rover ~ Dean made a solar rover this week. It came out great and needed just a little bit of tweaking to get it to run smoothly. He has since taken it apart and made a solar powered signal light and a solar powered spinning wheel. I love it when he expands the lessons and makes them his own.

Dictionary Skills ~ We reviewed dictionary skills. Yes, we usually just ask Google to define words, but I still think good old-fashioned dictionary skills are useful.

Who Really Discovered America ~ We completed the book, Who Really Discovered America? We really enjoyed the book and it is a good precursor to The World of Columbus and Sons that we will be starting next week. We didn't end up doing hardly any of the activities that went with the book; because they seemed too easy, we had done them before, or they required materials that I didn't have on hand. We did end up using their method to determine the age of several trees on our property. There was a neat math formula included in the book. Most of the trees we studied were between 50 to 60 years old, which fits with the age of our house.

Our New Photographer ~ Anne has really taken to photography lately. She has done several photo shoots of her dolls and posted them on her YouTube channel. This week she took over the camera on our nature walk at the arboretum. Below is a sampling of her photography. I think she is starting to get the concept of composition. My favorite is the large picture of water with foaming bubbles.

Robot Zoo ~ We visited an exhibit called the Robot Zoo this week. It was very interesting and tied in perfectly with our STEM lessons. Dean loved the fly robot and Anne liked the platypus robot. We did a scavenger hunt which enhanced the learning experience.

What would it be like to walk on a wall like a fly with sticky feet?

What a week! Lots of exciting stuff coming up in the next few days, including Anne's birthday.

Blessings, Dawn