Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grains of the World ~ Curing and Hanging

They did live! Thanks to a couple of really hot days. And when I saw clouds again on the forecast, I cut off the ones that were ready, tied them into bundles and hung them in the carport to 'cure'. Threshing comes next... we will see how that goes.

The Millet, Rye, and Corn are all still in the bed and doing well... hopefully we will have enough hot days for them to ripen as well. The Rice and Quinoa died long ago in this climate, and taught the kids a valuable lesson in how different climates effect the growth of grain crops. We are lucky, honestly, to live in a climate where 7 of the 9 grains we are researching can actually grow. That is a huge number for any area. In history, many people live on one or two grain products because that is what their areas can support. Here, we have been able to grow numerous grains with little need to intervene and in a hotter year, that would be even more true (the corn is still struggling because there have not been enough warm days this year). What an amazing place we live in!


Just when you think...

it may not be sinking in...

your daughter names her two new toy horses "Rome" and "Russia" and goes about explaining how strong each place was in history to her little brother in the back of the car.

I love homeschool!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Alton Brown, Chemistry, and High School

My oldest is starting high school this year. This brings scary words to the table like "credits" and "geometry", "Chemistry" and "Research". Shudder....

It is a little bit scary, but for the most part, all it really means is that I need to categorise what he is doing a bit better on paper. For my boy, his freshman year is going to be the year of Chemistry.

Enter, Alton Brown. My mom suggested Alton Brown for Alex early this summer, and sent him a book of his for his birthday. And as I was looking through it, I realised that there is a lot of information in his shows. Like A LOT! He's like the Bill Nye of cooking but for the older crowd. And I was thinking, why not build a curriculum around food and Chemistry? Alex already LOVES food (apple/tree) and building on things they love is the best way to get them invested in anything... so I have started writing up a curriculum that covers the basics of Chemistry using the books, videos, and activities of Alton Brown. It has been a project, but not a difficult one. Just having the activities and videos tie together has been the hardest. Mostly, it has been fun!


Istanbul was Constantinople....

Yes that's right... we're in Turkish lands now! Studying the Ottoman Turks and their invasion (and final overthrow) of Constantinople, the last city in the long standing Byzantine Empire.

They did it with huge cannons from all sides, and so that is exactly what we did!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Planning a poetry class

I have been thinking about this all summer long. My kids and I had SO much fun with Small World's Wordsmithery lessons last year, that I took that inspiration and turned it into a class for our home school group! I am crazy excited about the way the classes are writing up.

If you haven't done the Wordsmithery class over at Small World, check it out! The lessons are clear and easy to teach, and each of the sessions have 4 mini writing sessions that you do through out the week that take a total of 15 minutes each, but turn out SUCH great results!

Anyhow... more on my class. As much of it is inspired by Wordsmithery, the lessons are set up in pretty much the same order. However, since I will only get the kids once a week (and can't expect a ton of homework to be accomplished) I am compacting the lessons into two hour segments. The first part will be the 'lesson' part where the kids get to hear about the rules of the day and the types of words we will be dealing with. The second is the 'project' portion of the class, where the kids get to do some of their own writing and a neat project that goes along with each type of word (very much like this Wordsmithery lesson).

I am CRAZY excited about it, and can't wait to share with you guys what we do for each day and some of the writings of this talented group of kiddos I have the honor to teach.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Mongols and the overthrow of China

Today's lesson was about the overthrow of China. The Mongol's came down from the north and took over an area that was HUGE, even in contrast to the Roman empire some hundreds of years before. Their empire didn't last long, (less than a hundred years) but they did put a Mongolian king on the thrown of China.

Our craft today was a paper lantern. One of the kids in class was asking about how they put a candle inside the hanging paper lanterns that the Chinese made and I could not for the life of me figure it out! Does anyone know? I couldn't find any clues online either, for every craft that includes the lanterns is either sitting around a candle holder that is on a table or without the fire altogether. No hanging paper 'lanterns' with lanterns!

They sure did turn out cute! :)


Update on the Grains of the World project

Sigh... I have no idea if this project will work anymore or not. The last three days have been cold and WET. The whole first day was pouring rain, and all our grains are getting little black moldy spots on their leaves. None so far on the grains themselves, but my plan is to bring them in as SOON as we get another hot day or two and place them under the carport, hanging upsidedown to see if I can get them to cure without sitting in the sun. Which should be this weekend. Cross your fingers for us... we will need the luck!

PS I wonder how many people who are growing grains right now are dealing with this same issue on a huge scale?


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Robin Hood!!!

This week was Robin Hood, King Richard the Lionheart, and Prince John and the signing of the Magna Carta.

What a FUN Lesson this was!! The kids LOVED the story, (of course) and I learned a whole lot, too! I didn't realize what an antagonist that King Richard was! The 'real' reason he disappeared coming home from the Crusades was he had insulted the Duke of Austria SO badly that when traveling through Austria, the Duke captured him and locked him up! For years! lol... And the whole time, he was in a sort of pissing match with France (who was an ally in the Crusades until Richard showed up and made the King of France mad too) and ended up dying in a boarder dispute with an arrow through his throat. He was known in history for being a great King and warrior... but a BAD diplomat. All the movies portray him so generously that I have never even suspected that he could have irritated other world rulers so badly!

The story of the Magna Carta comes after King Richard gets killed. Prince (then King) John Lackland (Richard's brother, not cousin) gains the throne and starts being a tyrant. He is taking land and obscene amounts of taxes from the nobles, who of course, make life horrible for the surf's and peasants under them. Most of the taxes were taken for wars with France, not to over throw Richard (because he was already gone at this point). So the nobles got together and made a document of laws that they believe EVERYONE (including the King) should have to follow. This was the first time in documented history that a dictator was held accountable to their own laws, and it set up a system of government that is still VERY alive today. (Canada and the US still follow the basic ideas of the Magna Carta.)

At the end of the lesson, the kids got to make their own Magna Carta! The rules they listed were SO cute I wish I could write all of them here. They ranged from "Sir Caleb does not have to read before watching movies" and "Sir Elias gets 7 minutes of video game time every day" to "Princess Madeline gets to wrestle with daddy every day before bed" and "Madam Hannah gets to have dessert with every dinner". They were PRECIOUS! The kids all stood up and read them aloud to the class and when they were done we all banged on tables and shouted "Hear hear!!" and "Whoohooo!" as the kids beamed! It was pretty amazing.

Here is Cyan's Magna Carta:

Isn't that the sweetest thing? Yes, I signed it this morning. Although I added the stipulation that she was allowed to get ice cream on all those days, until her own money ran out. ;) She decided that one day a week was plenty, so now it is only on Sunday's.


Cyan's Knight

Cyan spent quite a long time drawing this knight after class last week. She was so into it that another little friend from class joined in, drawing a 'maiden' at the same time. These lessons... the good ones, they stick in your mind forever. It isn't a cookie cutter education that actually teaches kids. It is one that is real to the child, brought to life by the child's own mind.

I remember so many times in school where I forgot the information unless I was sitting in the classroom where I needed to remember it. I would walk out that door and into my own world, and bring nothing of that class with me... cuz it didn't matter to me at all. I am so glad to see that things are sticking with my children. It isn't always the things we want to stick with them (Cyan still remembers the China Silk Secret because a King wanted silk underwear) but if they have the space to remember this information in, they can go back and access that space, and fill it with as much information as they want anytime they want to!

I just loved seeing her get so into these lessons!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Grains of the world ~ part 8

The barley is ready for harvest!

I researched how to cut it and cure it (although there is VERY little info out there for small batch operations, but I figured the large batch things would still apply), and then cut the bundle by hand. I tied it, and laid it in a dry place that got maximum amount of sun. Right now it looks perfect laying on a spare picnic table in the center of the backyard. I am considering keeping it for fall decorations... but I really want to get that loaf of bread! So off to research threshing I go.

Another thing that has happened in the last little while with the project is the millet has fruited!

I have no idea what this little grain will hold, as it is a good few weeks behind everything but the corn (which is not happy in this climate at all right now!) but we will see if we can add it into the bread making process somehow.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Knights and Samurai

This last week in history class, we had a couple of special guests. An English Knight and a Japanese Samurai from the late middle ages!

A friend's brothers had spent some time studying the era and had made costumes for last Halloween that were as close to the real thing as cardboard and spray paint would allow. They answered questions and showed the kids the different kinds of armor and weapons from the different knights as the other moms and I asked questions from the lesson that included things like; "So what was the Samurai's armor made of?" and "What was the code of conduct that a Knight had to follow to be included in the tournaments?".

The class ended with a nice long demonstration of the different fighting techniques. It was all talk of lances, long bows, which material makes the best arrow, what the pieces of the Samurai's costume were for, and how long it takes to get into a suit of armor. There was quite a bit of talk of cardboard armor construction too... but that was all part of the fun.

Then of course, we had to have a battle.

Some knights were more of the participating kind...

...others just looked on for the entertainment, but it was deffinetly a lesson to remember!