Friday, January 31, 2014

Rescued Book #5 LaSalle and the Grand Enterprise

So did you guess the French Explorer also with ties to the Mississippi River from last week’s post (if not just look at the title of this post).  Of course, LaSalle wasn’t his name – that was Robert Cavalier.  Funny how he’s remembered for part of his title “sieur de La Salle”  which basically means “lord of the La Salle [estate].”  The name was the only part of his inheritance he was able to keep when he renounced his worldly goods to enter the priesthood.

LaSalle and the Grand Enterprise

Nolan, Jeannette Covert. New York: Julian Messner, 1951. Print 178 pp.
He left the Jesuit school before taking his vows to join his brother in Canada, free to explore and build settlements by his own free will and resources rather than constantly under orders from the church.  Of course, he’d renounced most of the resources that would have been available to him and had to live on a small allowance from his family.  That was unfortunately the theme of LaSalle’s life: great vision but reliance on others to pursue it. 
He ran into problems with the constantly changing authorities in New France.  The ship he had built with borrowed funds sank on its way back home laden with furs for repayment.  There is even rumor that the Jesuit priesthood tried to sabotage his expeditions by rallying native tribes against him.  In the end, LaSalle was murdered by a member of his own expedition.
LaSalle’s two main journeys took him down the Ohio River and then down the Illinois River to the Mississippi River.  In between he would have to venture back to Quebec and Paris to secure authorization and funding.  It was on his third voyage –seeking the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico, that he overshot his target and landed on the coast of Texas.  Trying to travel over land back to the mighty river, he was killed and denied the decency of a burial.  Most of his loyal friends, family and crew were also killed. 
This book paints a much darker picture of life in the New World than The Explorations of Pere Marquette.  There are political power plays going on between the Church and the Government and the various sects of priests (Marquette had been a Jesuit, but LaSalle’s brother was a Sulpician).  This may be a more accurate picture of the times than last week’s book, but it also demands an older audience.  The end of the book with the betrayal and murder is intense if not explicitly gory.
According to Who Should We Then Read? Vol. 2 (a great resource for bibliophiles) the author, Jeannette Nolan (1897-1979) wrote an award-winning poem when she was only nine.  She was editor of her school paper and yearbook and as an adult she wrote for several magazines.  Her focus seems to be on biographies for teen readers with subjects as diverse as Stephen A. Douglas to Aaron Burr to James Whitcomb Riley.
I was thrilled to find this book.  Years ago when we moved to the state, I discovered a treasure—A Guide to Studying Missouri History Through Literature.  The homeschooling mother who self-published the guide mentioned LaSalle in her lesson on discovery but had found no resources for the explorer.  While reading, I also discovered the inspiration for a lot of towns and sites in the St. Louis area where I grew up, like Plaza Frontenac and Creve Coeur.    LaSalle and the Grand Enterprise certainly qualifies as a “living book” on the subject and I rescued my copy from a local elementary school library.

You can find links to all my other rescued books on the tab by the same name above.
I’m linking up with:

Every bed of Roses

For the Display of His Splendor

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Giveaway: Handcrafted Rustic Coat Rack

I’m helping a fellow Crew Member get the word out about her husband’s blacksmithing craftwork.  Honestly I wish I were able to enter and win this coat rack for myself.
The Blacksmith

Meet Noah. 
"I live in Virginia on a small farmish piece of land with my wife and children. We are trying to live completely off this piece of God's creation. So we live here, grow our food here, teach our children here and now work here. The Items we create here are aesthetically pleasing and intentionally useful. A picture is nice but it is even better when it covers a hole in your wall. I enjoy reworking things considered worthless, making them beautiful and useful again!"
~ Noah V.
  NV Able Items
Noah creates all of his beautiful creations by hand, in his shop, located in Southwestern Virginia. Blacksmithing has always been a passion of his. Developing work from discarded materials continue to provide him with new challenges and a sense of adventure.

Whether it's a knife made from an old railroad spike, or a rustic spoon from old rebar, Noah delights in making something beautiful, creative and useful, from old materials!
Custom orders are welcome at NV Able items! If you have a need in mind, Noah is willing to help you design or create whatever you may need. The possibilities are endless!

Coat Rack
Jewlery Holder
Kitchen Utensial Organizer
Pot and Pan Holder
Towel Holder
Custom Made Valentine's Day Gifts
Father's Day Gifts

Click HERE to View Etsy Shop
To Order A Custom Design
Noah is continuing to develop new items, creations and designs. If you would like to be notified when NEW ITEMS ARE ADDED to his shop, please enter your email below! Emails are only sent out occasionally and your email address will not be sold, traded or used for any other purpose.

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 In honor of the opening of his new Etsy shop, NV Able Items, Noah is giving away a beautiful coat rack with 3 hand forged hooks and brackets on reclaimed wood from a rustic Virginian barn.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Universal Casserole Recipe

What’s for supper?  The question comes up—daily.   If it’s Tuesday I know it’s pizza night.  If I’ve just gone shopping for ingredients for the new recipe I want to try, then that’s a no brainer too.  But there’s many days at about 4:00 when I find myself looking at the contents of my fridge and cupboards and wondering myself what’s for supper.  At this time of day it’s too late to start browsing through cookbooks for something where I happen to have all the ingredients and can manage to use up the leftovers in the fridge.

Now I’ve been cooking for a long time so I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what goes together, but if you don’t know  here’s a generic recipe I got in an old Tightwad Gazette newsletter.  It pretty much sums up what I try to do.

The goodies are optional (these tend to be pricier ingredients).  Learning which seasonings to add is a matter of experience but you should find a list of spices to compliment main proteins in any good cookbook. When you mix everything together you can add up to a 1/2 cup of milk or stock if things seem dry.  Put everything into a greased casserole dish and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rescued Book #4 Explorations of Pere Marquette

Quick! What was the first settlement in what is now the United States of America?  Did you say Plymouth?   We’ll always remember the Pilgrims as long as we still call it Thanksgiving and not Black Friday’s Eve, but wrong.  Did you think of Jamestown?  You’re headed the right direction both historically and geographically.  What about Roanoke?  Well congratulations on catching the fact that I didn’t say permanent settlement, you are truly a student of history…but you’re still wrong.  You see the Spanish settled St. Augustine in what is now Florida back in 1565.

Don’t be too hard on yourself though.  Like me, you were probably taught American history from a very Anglicized point of view—starting with 13 British colonies  that revolted from their king and not really worrying about any place west until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  But Spain and France were also heavily involved in exploring and settling this land: Spain in Florida and the Southwest and France along the waterways in the middle of the country.  This brings us to this week’s rescued book….

The Explorations of Père Marquette.  Kjelgaard, Jim, and Stephen J. Voorhies (Illus).  New York: Random House, 1951.

This is another of the famous Landmark Books with Random House publishers commissioning well known authors to write engaging history for kids.  Mr. Kjelgaard is probably best known for his animal stories. His book Big Red was made into a movie by Walt Disney. 

Père is the French word for “father” and Marquette was a priest who brought the gospel to areas of The Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley as he explored.  In all likelihood he was the first European to see the convergence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers (he didn’t discover the Mississippi as De Soto reached it in 1541).

Having arrived in the New World (Quebec) in the 1660’s, Marquette spent several years living among the Indians around the Great Lakes and learning their languages and hearing tales of a great river to the west.  Finally in 1673, with explorer Louis Joliet, left St. Ignace (now in Michigan), followed the coast of Green Bay, paddled the Fox and Wisconsin rivers and entered the currents of the mighty Mississippi. 

If you travel to Alton, IL you can see a replica of the Piasa bird that Marquette saw painted on the cliffs.

“Père Marquette followed the voyageur’s gaze, and he stifled his astonishment.  High on the face of a smooth rock were two terrible painted creatures.

They were as large as calves, but the bore deer horns on their heads. There was something horribly evil in their painted expressions. The faces were those of men, but the beards were those of tigers. The bodies were covered with scales. Winding around the bodies , passing over the heads, and going back between the legs, long tails ended in fish’s fins.”

This passage from the book was taken nearly word for word from the translation of the priest’s journals.

Marquette and Joiliet turned around when they reached the Arkansas River.  They had received inaccurate information that the Spanish were only  two days further downstream and they didn’t want to rick becoming captured.  Their journey was a success in that they determined the Mississippi River must continue down to the Gulf of Mexico.  Marquette was never able to return to see if the turbulent river (the Missouri)  they saw emptying into the Mississippi would be the one that led to the Pacific – that adventure would have to wait more than a century for Lewis & Clark.

Even if I hadn’t included the date above, it would be evident that this book was published in a time when the Christian worldview was respected.  The book never shirks away from reminding us that Marquette was a priest first.  “The Jesuit ideal, to serve God and man, could never even bend. To anyone who appreciated that, hardships of the flesh meant nothing. The crudest and most distant Jesuit mission, Père Marquette thought, was the finest one, as long as it offered an opportunity to serve…”  

The forward of the book shares that two events, the wounded Indian and finding game on the South Lakes, were not taken from Marquette’s journals but are based on writings of other Jesuits of the era.   There are several wounded Indians so I don’t know to which this is referencing, but it’s a shame the hunting game story didn’t happen to Marquette as it’s similar to the story of Elisha and the Prophets of Baal.  We can still enjoy the story and know that something similar did occur to someone.

My library still owns a copy of The Explorations of Père Marquette – I assume because of our proximity to the events of the story.  I’ve also seen it several times at used book sales – but you aren’t getting my copy.  You can find all my Rescued Books on this page.

For a little treat, I’ll give you a clue about next week’s rescued book.  It also deals with a French explorer of the Mississippi.  Any guesses?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

5 Essential Homeschooling Tools Day 5: A Laminator

Downstairs in my homeschooling cabinet you’ll find two of my favorite tools.  The first one I posted about Monday—my binding machine.  I consider today’s tool as a companion piece but then it does so much more, and that’s my laminator.  I consider it a companion because whenever I bind a notebook I always laminate the front and back covers (usually made with cardstock) to give the book a more durable cover (it also prevents the covers from being ripped off).  The laminating pouches are actually 9 X 11.5 so the covers extend a quarter inch beyond the pages inside and protects them too. Here’s a picture where I’m making the cover for his Chess Merit notebook.

Beyond notebook covers, I tend to laminate anything that’s going to get heavy use.  For All American History we use flash cards for games to memorize key facts, like explorers and their countries of origin.  We add new cards all the time, but the first cards will get used over and over all quarter.

Explorer cards and key fact cards for a matching game.

The founders, colony names, flags and reasons for colonizing are all laminated

Sometimes the information I’m trying to protect won’t be used long but used hard.  When I taught the structures of a cell to our science co-op, I made games that involved a lot of fast grabbing.  Those kids would have torn my labels and pictures to shreds in the first round if they hadn’t been laminated.

Here’s a little trick I figured out last year—I made bookmarks using images I found online and Photoshop Elements for every textbook we’d be using for the year.  There’s a generic “Read Me” for library books I may assign throughout the year.  Down the side of the bookmark I added the text “Today’s Assignment.”  We marked our places in every book (you can’t believe how much the little time saved by not flipping around in a book can add up over a day).  As a bonus, I could use a wet erase marker to write out instructions for my son.   It freed me up from having to tell my son what to work on next if he wrapped up a lesson when I’m occupied with something else.  In this case you’ll want to cut out the bookmarks first, then laminate and cut out the bookmarks again.  When I tried laminating to whole page first and separating the bookmarks second, the lamination wasn’t sealed along the edges and started pulling apart over time.

Once I got started laminating, I couldn’t limit it to school projects.  With fresh milk from a neighbor, I separate the cream for butter and make dairy kefir so I have several mason jars in the fridge filled with white liquid.  I’ve got laminated labels for the lids to tell me what’s inside AND how long it’s been there.  Then there was my project to refurbish my old spice jars.  The original labels were stained  and peeling from grease spatters.  I made new labels and laminated them to prevent reoccurrence of the problem.

There are actually two types of laminators: cold and hot.  I’ve used a Xyron for cold lamination, but found the plastic won’t allow you to write on it (the marker ink just bubbles up), nor can cold lamination hold masking tape or Sticky-tac if you’re planning to mount something on the wall.  If you’ve used a Xryon you can scuff up the surface with sandpaper and then it works a little better with tape.  I just use my Xyron to apply adhesive now and laminate with my Scotch machine which handles regular sheets of paper with either 3 or 5 mils of plastic thickness. 

I’ll confess to you that I bought a gift for myself last week—I couldn’t pass up the deal.  A new Papermonster laminator for under $10 and this is a big one that can handle papers up to 11 X 17 inches!  If you’re interested, you may want to sign up for emails from as they tend to run these crazy deals from time to time.

You can click the button below to see what all the others on the Review Crew found to be Homeschooling Essentials but here are a few posts to get you started.

1. Marcy @ Ben and Me

2. Lisa @ Golden Grasses

3. Tess @ Circling Through This Life

4. Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

5. Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

6. Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

7. Deanna @ His Treasure Seekers

8. Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

9. Rebecca @ Raventhreads

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

5 Essential Homeschooling Tools Day 4: A Library Card

I realize for some homeschoolers it may seem like I’m preaching to the choir for this next essential tool, but I still want to cover it.  Just last year I was talking to a veteran HS mom with over a decade under her belt and she’d never heard of interlibrary loans.  So this may be review for some but eye-opening for others.Let’s go over some of the resources you have access to with your library card.


This one was probably obvious to everyone. As much as I love books, I can’t possibly own them all –and frankly don’t want to.  Some books I need just for one unit study.  Some things, like cookbooks, I like to try before I buy—checking it out and seeing if there are enough recipes to make it worth my while.  Anyhow, the real point I want to make here is that you’re not limited to just the books in your library system. Say you discover a great history book from a fellow blogger, but your library doesn’t own it.  Walk up to your librarian and say you’d like to request an inter-library loan.  The usual procedure is for you to fill out a request form with as much information about the book as you can—author, title, publication date.  Some forms will ask the maximum you’re willing to pay.  I’ve never had to pay for an inter-library loan, but some libraries may ask you to chip in to cover the mailing/administration costs.  When the book comes, they will let you know when it needs to be returned so they can get it back to the original library by the borrowing deadline (often I can keep the book for a month, where I only get two weeks with regular books). 

I’ve also had more than one instance where the library decided to just buy the book I requested instead of borrow it.  Which brings up another form at your librarian’s desk – the purchase request.   Now I don’t go crazy here, but there are times when I’ve found books and videos that I think others would enjoy.  For example, my son and I originally requested all the Science of Disney Imagineering DVD’s through inter-library loan.  He enjoyed them, but I couldn’t justify their cost for our homeschool  so I spoke to the children’s librarian.  She was thrilled that I’d done the research for her (they had a grant to use for science and math material).  The library bought the whole series and I was able to check them out again to use in my co-op class.


Now this isn’t going to be like dropping by Blockbuster (do they even have brick & mortar stores any more?).  You’re probably not going to find summer blockbusters or latest releases.  Chances are really good though that you can find rare documentaries, and videos from PBS and the BBC.    Are you’re a visual learner and want to take up crochet?  Even my little library has two or three DVD’s to choose from done with varying camera angles so you can study the moving hands from all sides.  In the kids section, my son has found titles to teach him how to juggle and perform yo-yo stunts.  His favorite DVD, E-Z Math Trix, has taught him a whole magic routine with tricks based on math principles.  I already mentioned the Science of Disney Imagineering titles above.  I’ve also been able to expose my child to theater with PBS Great Performances of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables in Concert.  (Funny note: when my husband was able to see Phantom with closed captioning on he realized the people in costumes were singing about “masquerade” not “marmalade.”)


I’ve gotten pretty good at getting my son to realize that the candy found at check out has been placed there to separate him from his money with an impulse purchase, but what about me and those magazines touting I can organize, lose weight, or try fabulous new recipes.  I can pass them up now because I know most magazines can be found at the library.  The latest copies are displayed and you may read them on site (or sit and copy recipes).  Older editions can be checked out and taken home to read at your leisure, but PLEASE remember to turn them back in for others to enjoy.  How far back your library keeps old copies depends on how much storage space they have, but I’ve found they do try to keep specialty titles like Mother Earth News and local interests like Missouri Life longer.  That last periodical has a great listing in the back of fairs and events.  It’s how I learn about historical re-enactments for our home school field trips so see if your library carries a similar title for your state.  Magazines can also be great resources for research papers.  Ask your librarian how to use the Periodical Index to look up articles by subject and sub-subject. 

Incentives to Read

Let’s face it, bribery has its place. Twice a year, our library holds reading contests for the kids (adults too in the summer).  For reading a certain number of books, Schnickelfritz can earn books of his own, art supplies, or be entered to win  tickets to see the St. Louis cardinals.  Usually the contests are set up so that kids have to read from certain genres – poetry, cookbook, science, etc.  It helps steer Fritz away from the Hank the Cowdog shelf for a change.  

Story Hour

Our library has weekly story hour for preschooler year round and a special summer version for grade school kids.  One year they focused on American Tall Tales like Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan.  Another year they read through The Invention of Hugo Cabret in installments (the librarian had a DVD that could show all the illustrations on a television monitor).  After the reading, the kids would do activities like paint in the style of Monet, build rockets with film canisters and baking soda, or make their own abacus.  Hmmm… literature, art, science, math.  Sounds like log-able homeschool hours to me and all I’ve had to do is browse the bookshelves while I wait.

Library sales

When funds allow, libraries are always getting new titles which means they need to purge old books to clear shelf space.  They also receive donations from patrons of books, magazines, and DVDs to sell.  My greatest haul was a whole box of Landmark Books from a private collection – all still with their dust jackets.  I got them for 50 cents each.  Some libraries allow you to shop early if you volunteer or join the Friends of the Library (read that as make a donation, but I never begrudge them $5-$10 for everything else I receive for free the rest of the year). 

Every time I move, one of my first priorities is to find the local library and get a card.  It’s another essential tool in our homeschool.  You can click the button below to see what all the others on the Review Crew found to be Homeschooling Essentials but here are a few posts to get you started.

1. Marcy @ Ben and Me

2. Lisa @ Golden Grasses

3. Tess @ Circling Through This Life

4. Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

5. Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

6. Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

7. Deanna @ His Treasure Seekers

8. Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

9. Rebecca @ Raventhreads

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

5 Essential Homeschooling Tools Day 3: An e Reader

I am a self-confessed bibliophile. I’m hated by moving men, who have to tote boxes and boxes labeled “Books".  I believe I may have found a way to insulate my home by lining the walls with shelves (what do you suppose the R factor is for paperbacks?).  I love to curl up and spend hours turning pages, finally inserting a bookmark so I can find my spot the next time.

I thought I would hate  e Readers, but two years after getting a Kindle keyboard for Christmas I’ve found a place for both formats in my life.  This past Christmas the family gift was a Kindle Fire HD!  Now I can look at illustrated books too.

What makes an e Reader a Homeschooling Essential?  A little thing called the public domain.  There’s a great collection of books that have fallen out of copyright  --  Henty and Ballantine novels, the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, the Anne of Green Gables stories.  And you can find them all on the internet for FREE.  Of course sitting in front of a computer screen reminds me of my days as an accountant, not conducive to a cozy afternoon of reading.  But I can download those books to my Kindle and then grab my tea and blanket (it is winter after all) and head to the easy chair.

In my reading, I’ve discovered a few advantages to the Kindle over a physical book. It can automatically keep track of the last page I read in every book—even between my original Kindle and new Kindle Fire. Since I often reading more than one book at a time, it's very easy to switch from one to another without having to tear off scraps of paper to mark my place in each. Another great feature is the built in dictionary.  I consider myself to have a fairly large vocabulary, but I often run across archaic terms in my choice of books. Now I can just move the cursor next to the word and up pops a definition. I can keep my reading flow rather than put the book down, get the Webster's, look up the word, and return to my text (or more likely just guess at the meaning and end up missing some of the subtleties of the author's word choice).

Great Places to find eBooks:

  • Project Gutenberg  Over 42,000 books.  You can browse by author, title, language or looks at Book Categories for some arraigned by subject.
  • Free Popular Classics  over 500 titles, try the search box at the top to find specific titles or authors.  These are the classic books in the public domain not just the list of free Kindle titles—I find that to be dominated by trashy romance novels.  You don’t need to own a Kindle—you can download the Kindle App on a variety of tablets.
  •  Planet eBook  download PDF versions of over 80 classics by authors like Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Brontë sisters.
  • Open Library  This is like a cooperative effort of over 1000 brick & mortar libraries where you may borrow up to 5 titles for two weeks each once you have an account.
  • Internet Archive  Millions of texts.  Be sure to try the links in the introductions for Children’s Classics or even Cookbooks.  The Archive also has a great audio section with audiobooks and old radio programs like the You Are There series.
  • Barnes & Noble Free Nook Books  Over a million titles.  A free Nook App is available for other tablets.  Like free Amazon books, you may want to use parental guidance as a lot of books fall into erotic romance category.
  • Your local library.  Library systems are started to carry eBooks.  You still check them out for a limited time and they disappear from your reader at the end of the borrowing period. 

I’ll never get rid of my collection of physical books (in fact I’ve started a 52 week series of books I’ve rescued from the landfill), but I’ve come to appreciate what e Readers have to offer too. 

You can click the button below to see what all the others on the Review Crew found to be Homeschooling Essentials but here are a few posts to get you started.

1. Marcy @ Ben and Me

2. Lisa @ Golden Grasses

3. Tess @ Circling Through This Life

4. Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

5. Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

6. Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

7. Deanna @ His Treasure Seekers

8. Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

9. Rebecca @ Raventhreads


5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

5 Essential Homeschooling Tools Day #2: A Chalkboard


Forty something years later, I still have memories of my grandparent’s house—the planes flying over from the nearby airport, bouncing balls with my cousins down the narrow stairway, and a small chalkboard in the sunroom where my cousins and I would draw pictures and play tic-tac-toe.  Come to think of it, both my grandmothers kept chalkboards.  My Gram in Massachusetts used to keep hers in the kitchen with a space reserved for phone numbers at the top and a place to write shopping lists below. I wasn’t allowed to play on that one, but Gram would occasionally wipe off the grocery list so she could keep track of scores when we played cribbage or dominoes.

The first summer after we moved to Missouri I saw a garage sale ad that mentioned lots of homeschooling supplies.  When we drove up I noticed four large chalkboards leaning up against trees and the garage.  These were much larger than the ones my grandmas had kept.

It seemed the seller’s church had upgraded to whiteboards and thought as a homeschooler she might have use for and be able to find good homes for this “old technology.”  When the lady heard that I was also a homeschooler, she gave me one for free!  I had to send my husband back with the pick-up truck to collect it and had him mount it in the basement. You can see it in the background of our homeschool room.

What makes a chalk board so great?  Well I’ve known from the start that my son was a kinesthetic learner—that is, he needs to have something moving in order to take information in.  He’s not one to sit at a table for math or spelling.  See that rocking chair under the chalkboard?  He literally used to stand on it and write his math problems on the board. 

It also appears in this picture that we were using our Melissa and Doug magnetic alphabet letters.  Schnickelfritz could shuffle letters and spell things for hours, but if I tried to make him write those same words he’d complain of hand cramps after two minutes.  Now the letters proudly proclaim the name of our homeschool at the top of the board.  In the picture below you can also see our simplified schedule for the day.  There’s a picture for each subject.  Bible always comes first but I let my son arrange the other lessons to suit his fancy in the upper left corner.

Here we are working on algebra of all things (we were using Critical Thinking Company’s Balance Math).  I cut out shapes to represent X,Y, and Z (you can also see 1/2 X and 1/2Y if you look closely) and added magnets to the back.  Now Fritz could move symbols around and erase and rewrite numbers as he applied math functions to both sides.  Yes, it could have been done on paper, but didn’t you hear me say he needs to be moving to learn?

Sometimes I’m the one who needs the big board.  Last year I was trying to explain some computer programing terms to Fritz and I found it easier to do on the chalkboard.  We’ve also used if for timelines and to diagram sentences.

When school is out the chalkboard still gets used – for hangman and tic-tac-toe games,  to write giant “Happy Birthday” messages, or just as an artist’s canvas (we buy sidewalk chalk on clearance at the end of the summer).  To conclude, the chalkboard is not just for the schoolhouse—sometimes it’s an essential for the house (home)school.

You can click the button below to see what all the others on the Review Crew found to be Homeschooling Essentials but here are a few posts to get you started.

1. Marcy @ Ben and Me

2. Lisa @ Golden Grasses

3. Tess @ Circling Through This Life

4. Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

5. Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

6. Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

7. Deanna @ His Treasure Seekers

8. Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

9. Rebecca @ Raventhreads


5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Monday, January 20, 2014

5 Essential Homeschooling Tools Day 1: Binding Machine


We’re starting off 2014 and a new season of the TOS Review Crew with a blog hop--- 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials.

There’s so many ways to interpret this subject.  I could go with character qualities: patience, curiosity,  organization, creativity, and a sense of humor (trust me, you’ll need one).  Or there are essential subjects: In my state of Missouri we’re required to have at least 600 hours in the core subjects of math, science, social studies, language arts, and reading.  Or maybe I could go more specific with curricula within those subjects.  I’d be devastated to homeschool with Apologia’s Elementary Science series. 

Instead I think I’ll focus on tools…those handy little helpers that stay in the background of our homeschool.  They’ll never play the starring role –like a math book, but I wouldn’t want to try and homeschool without them.  That makes them essential in my book. 

My first tool (and really I used it this morning) is my binding machine. Two years ago I had been watching a crafting gadget demonstration on one of those shop at home channels and drooling over a wire-binding machine. Drooling but not buying. I headed over to eBay to see what bargains I could find. In the end I found a model that can use both plastic combs and o-wire--that way we can fill and re-arrange books throughout our school year and change them to a permanent binding when they're complete. Every time I visit Office Max I check the clearance section of Office Max  for plastic combs ( I usually score 25 1/2 inch combs for $2) .

And what do I use it for?  Everything!  Just look below…..

My son works on Royal Rangers Merit badges at home as well as in meetings (and I get to count it as homeschool hours—don’t you love it?)  We’ve done Presidents, Sign Language,  Weather, Insect Study, Pioneer Lore, etc.  I bind up all the material so he can show it to his Commander and then keep it as samples of his work for homeschool.  The Missouri title is from a state history course I developed and made printables for Schnickelfritz to fill out. You can also see a copy of my planner (We call our school Tanglewood Academy)  for 2011-2012. I keep a calendar, print outs from my EduTrack record keeper, lists of books read, field trips taken etc.    The GT booklet is the manual for a Graphics Design program –have you noticed how many homeschool vendors are switching to eBooks for manuals?  I need to be able to read directions and look at the screen at the same time so I print and bind just about everything.

In the picture above, one book is the teacher’s manual with lesson text and project instructions and the other is the book my son assembled with timelines, etc.  You can see samples of his work in my Project Passport post.

Outside of school, I’ve bound handouts from the food preservation class I took through the extension office.  For Christmas I made my mother a bound collection of pressure cooker recipes to go with the lessons I’m giving her on using the cooker. 

To protect the book and make it last longer I laminate the front and back (oops, just gave away another Homeschooling Essential) before I punch the holes and bind the booklet.

If you’re a list maker/paper keeper like me having a way to organize and bind those papers is essential!

You can click the button below to see what all the other Crew Members think are Homeschooling Essentials, but here are a few links to get you started

1. Marcy @ Ben and Me

2. Lisa @ Golden Grasses

3. Tess @ Circling Through This Life

4. Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

5. Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

6. Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

7. Deanna @ His Treasure Seekers

8. Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

9. Rebecca @ Raventhreads


5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Sunday, January 19, 2014

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials --Starting Tomorrow

This week 89 members of the Review Crew will be sharing their ideas on Homeschooling Essentials.  What would make your list?  A special math book,  organizational skills, a sense of humor?  I'm going to be focusing on five tools that I use weekly, if not daily.  Come back tomorrow to see...

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Rescued Book #3 Look-Alikes

This week’s book is unusual in a number of ways.  First, it’s not that old.  Most of the books I seek out were published before the 1960’s (that’s when a real effort to stamp out the Christian worldview began in my opinion).  The copyright for this book is 2003.  Second, this is a picture book and my son has been out of the picture book stage for some time.  It’s not a picture book like The Story of Ping or Mike Mulligan and His Steam Engine (both great books I rescued when my son was younger).  There’s no story, just pictures, but it will keep you engaged for hours.  Curious yet?  Without further ado, this week’s book is…

Look-Alikes Christmas

Steiner, Joan and Ogden Gigli (photographer) .New York: Little, Brown, 2003.
Thank goodness somebody had laid this book down at the book sale so I could see the cover—otherwise I might this little gem by.  It seems like an ordinary winter scene, but in the brief moment I saw it something told me things weren’t quite as they seem.  I picked up the large hardback and looked again.  Then it occurred to me that the snow on the bushes looked like yogurt-covered pretzels!   The chimney was made with two pink erasers and the signpost was really a white crayon.
Then I noticed the catch phrase above the title: The more you look, the more you see!  Joan Steiner made a whole book of quaint Christmas scenes by taking everyday objects (and some rather unusual ones too) and using them to represent entirely different things.  A spiral seashell may be a woman’s upswept hairdo, a badminton birdie becomes a girl’s skirt.
The book contains nine 2-page spreads of winter themes: a scene from the Nutcracker ballet, Santa’s workshop, a crowd admiring department store windows, etc.  Below is the Cathedral just waiting for Christmas Eve services. ( I do apologize for the glare on the glossy pages)

Notice anything yet?  Let’s zoom in a little closer.

And maybe even closer than that.

I just pointed out a few items, but you can probably spot some of your own now.  I picked this particular example because the back of the book shows a behind-the-scenes photo of the author creating the diorama and you can get a feel for just how big they are.

My son and I would lie on the floor poring over the pages and taking turns pointing out the look-alikes.  Alternatively, one person can look in the back of the book where all the look-alikes are listed by scene and let the other see if they can find it on the page (really hard to find items have asterisks).
We had so much fun with this book that we paid full price for the other ones in the series, which are all still in print.  Unfortunately, Ms. Steiner succumbed to cancer in 2010 so there won’t be any new titles…Unless some young boy or girl is inspired to carry on the craft.  After receiving the books for a birthday present in early November my son asked me to save the wishbone of the Thanksgiving turkey for him –they make great legs for a rocking horse look-alike!
You can find all the Rescued Books I’m recommending here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

2nd Quarter American History

As I explained in my 1st Quarter History post, we are combining All American History with the Time Travelers series this year.  That quarter was all about exploration and after an overview week covering ship life and navigation that was solely taken from Homeschool in the Woods’ New World Explorers it was fairly easy to match up the explorers from each resource.  This quarter I combined Unit 2: The Period of Colonization from AAH with Colonial Life from HitW.

I’ll confessed I was stumped for a long time.  AAH lessons deal with specific facts on each colony with the last two lessons covering life in the colonies.  Colonial Life gives the “you are there” aspects by focusing on family life, education, arts, recreation, etc. and covers all 13 colonies in the first lesson.  When I tried to fit the pieces together in a weekly schedule I could never get all the pieces to fit—some weeks looked so bare and others were packed beyond our capacity to get through it all.  So we took everything on a day to day basis, when we finished one lesson we’d move onto the next.  On the rare days that we were using both resources I often had Schnickelfritz read one or just summarized any additional information from the other. A few lessons took more than one day to complete (like the Virginia & Massachusetts Colonies).    In other cases, I divided up the chapters that covered multiple colonies to give each colony its own day (this meant reading the chapter out of order to get the background, event, and impact of each colony).   With breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas we still managed to get this quarter done in about 9 weeks.  We don’t do the craft projects in the Colonial Life unit study – my son’s just not that into them, so we didn’t need the weekly scheduled Project Days.  Nor did we worry about the Wrap Up celebration.  We do make the lapbook/mini book pieces for review along with the Student Workbook for AAH. 

I began with some overview from Colonial Life including the lessons of Faith in the Colonies.  Since All American History makes a point of knowing the reason for colonization (money or religion) I wanted my Schnickelfritz to have a good foundation in what the differences in Christian sects were. So here is the order of our lessons with their source.


CL Les. 1 American Colonies Begin
CL Les. 2 The Colonial Home Pt. 1
CL Les 3 The Colonial Home Pt. 2
CL Les. 4 The Colonial Home Pt. 3
CL Les. 14 Villages & Cities
CL Les. 11 Faith in the Colonies Pt. 1
CL Les. 12 Faith in the Colonies Pt. 2 (I saved the section on the Great Awakening until later)
AAH The Virginia Colony  (this took several days)
AAH The Massachusetts Colony (this took several days)
AAH The New Hampshire Colony
AAH The Rhode Island Colony
AAH The Connecticut Colony
AAH The New York Colony
AAH The New Jersey Colony
AAH The Delaware Colony
AAH The Pennsylvania Colony
AAH The Maryland Colony
AAH The North Carolina Colony
AAH The South Carolina Colony
AAH The Georgia Colony
CL Les. 22 Plantations & Slavery
CL Les. 8 Family Life (along with the appropriate section from AAH Les 15) this took several days
CL Les. 9 Colonial School (along with the appropriate section from AAH Les 15)
CL Les 6 Colonial Clothing (along with the appropriate section from AAH Les 15)
CL Les. 7 Colonial (along with the appropriate section from AAH Les 15)
CL Les 16. Health & Medicine (along with the appropriate section from AAH Les 15)
CL Les. 13 Colonial Pleasures 7 Pastimes (along with the appropriate section from AAH Les 16)
CL Les. 17 Colonial Artisans Pt. 1 (along with the appropriate section from AAH Les 16)
CL Les. 18 Colonial Artisans Pt. 2
CL Les. 21 Crime & Punishment
AAH Lesson 16 sections on Government,Economics & Transportation
AAH Lesson 16 section on Religion (as well as the CL Les. 12 section on the Great Awakening we skipped before) 


We read Colonial Life Lesson 19 on holidays, specifically Christmas Traditions on Christmas Eve, but it was our only school for the week.

Now on to Quarter 3 and The Period of Revolution….

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pocahontas and Captain John Smith

You can’t be a collector of old books for very long without running across a title from the Landmark Books series.  I’ve been fortunate enough to run across quite a few—in fact I could rename this series 52 weeks of Landmark Books. You can read more about the series itself on my new tabbed  Rescued Books  page (where you can also eventually find links to all 52 books in this series).

I almost feel like I’m preaching to the choir sharing about this because homeschoolers have really embraced these books (and frankly kept them out of the landfills).    Case in point is today’s book.  Inside I found stamps from two different elementary schools in my area – and it still ended up in a book sale.  I hate to think what they were clearing shelf space for…but they lost a great “living” book on the history of the Virginia Colony.   So here is book #2 …….

Pocahontas and Captain John Smith: The Story of the Virginia Colony by Marie Lawson ; Illustrated by William Sharp. New York: Random House, 1950.

Actually, the subtitle of the book is perhaps more fitting than the actual title.  It begins with John Cabot claiming England’s share of the New World in 1497, continues on to Elizabeth’s grant to Raleigh in 1585 and touches on the lost colony of Roanoke before we’re ever introduced to the robust Captain.

In chapter Six we finally reach the familiar story of the Indian princess sparing the life of the English Captain by placing her own head on his.  (Do they even cover that in schoolbooks anymore or just assume it’s covered in the Disney movie?) By chapter 13 Smith was returned to England in hopes of recovering from an explosion (which he did).  In Ch. 16, Pocahontas returns to the forefront with her marriage to John Rolfe and travel to England.  Then the pace really quickens—up to Bacon’s Rebellion(1676) and the renaming of the capital to Williamsburg (1698).

There’s very little dialogue throughout the book.  What there is is purely conjecture, but rings true:  Captain Smith would probably have asked his captors “Where are we going?” and someone likely shouted “Water on the Fort!” when a fire spreads through Jamestown.  The book is honest enough to say no exact records exist of Smith’s negotiations with the Nansemond tribe and that sources disagree on whether Pocahontas met Smith when she was in England.  I studied quite a bit of Virginia’s history from original source documents leading up to the 400th anniversary of the colony and didn’t discover anything in the book that was inaccurate.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Caution: Work Zone Ahead

I've been hit by the organizing bug. Let's chalk it up to the New Year, although I have not made resolutions.  Still I'm going to spend some time going through old posts, eliminating reviews for products that are no longer available, setting up a gallery for reviews, etc.  You may notice the changes (like new tabs).  I hope to make this as quick and painless for everyone--including myself.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

52 Rescued Books-- Week 1

Several of my homeschoolin’ and bloggin’ mama friends have been kicking around an idea of a year long series of posts.  What a challenge, for me anyway.  I tried to blog through the alphabet once and made it up to U I believe, but this series would be twice as long.  Still, I’m going to give it a shot for the discipline of posting regularly (remember my word for the year is Consistency).  The only things I have 52 of in this house (and more, trust me, MUCH MORE) are books.

I love reading and books stores and libraries…and combining all of them at the library book sale.   From time to time libraries have to make space for new titles and I guess they cull out the ones that haven’t been checked out recently.  It’s a shame too because there are some real treasures – they just don’t appeal to today’s readers who prefer a diet of  vampires and post apocalyptic battles to the death (and please don’t say “well at least they’re reading something").   So I “save” the books by buying them at the sale, improve my home library,  and help out the library (or other charity) at the same time.  So here’s my challenge – to post about 52 of the great books I’ve found, the treasures from other folks’ trash.  Most will be children’s books, but there are a few others in the mix.

Book #1…Where Rivers Meet  Banks, Marjorie Ann, and Edith S. McCall, Chicago: Benefic Press, 1962.

I picked this book up at a fundraiser book sale for the junior high band and was so impressed/enchanted with it that I used it as my spine to teach Missouri history for my son (who could easily read it in the 3rd grade).  The rivers in the title are the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi and the great majority of the text takes place in the land that becomes the state of Missouri. 

The chapters are only 3-4 pages and fall chronologically from the Indians that lived here through most of the 20th century.  We meet French explorers, mountain men, Daniel Boone, Lewis & Clark, steamboat captains, pioneers headed to the start of the Oregon Trail, Pony Express Riders, and Charles Lindbergh.  The history is told in story format and the back of the book lists brief biographies of the real historical figures but also explains that some characters are typical of people who might have lived in those eras.  You’ll also find a map and timeline of the recorded events.

As far as I can tell this book was part of a series called Our Growing America.  Other Titles include Where the Ohio Flows and Gateways to America. When co-author Edith S. McCall was inducted into the Writers Hall of Fame in 1996 she spoke about her love of sharing history with others (especially children).

“When I was in college, I took courses under an American history professor who saw influential people of the past as
distinct personalities and not just names. He permanently changed my attitude toward American history. I thought it a shame that my childhood instruction had left me unaware of the fascinating details and failed to bring the story of my nation to life. That professor opened my eyes and gave birth to my love of the subject. I became especially fascinated by our westward growth and the courage of the people responsible for it. Most of my published writing reflects this interest. I'd like to have children and adults, too, see American history as the greatest drama of all time. I find it most fascinating to learn the stories of almost unknown people who make important contributions. I try to retell their histories in a manner that won't
'turn people off,' whether I'm writing for the young child or the adult."

If you live in Missouri and want to use living books to teach your children history I can’t recommend Where Rivers Meet highly enough.

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