Wednesday, January 29

Teaching with Primary Documents + Freebie

Ask four people what happened at a particular event last month, and you'll probably get four different accounts.  The passage of time and the perspective of the narrator can alter the way an event is remembered or retold.  Primary sources are the least-filtered source of accurate data for historic events...

For many students, history is just a bunch of facts and dates in a textbook.  When we can make it come alive, that's when we get their attention and get them excited about learning!  Primary sources are often letters and diaries, which personalize these 'facts' from history.

Another thing that students can learn from primary sources is 'bias.'  In spite of how unbiased an account tries to be, there is always an element of reporter-bias.  It's easy to show how this works in modern-day events, but through the use of primary sources, we can point out instances of it in the past as well.

Aside from being a first-hand and most-accurate account of historic events, primary sources can be fun!  They bring to life the people, places, and events that are often glossed over in history textbooks.  They add a deeper understanding, and often encourage students to do more research on their own!

**Each of the We Were There novel studies has a primary source document, to be used for critical thinking questions.  (These documents are located within the study; no digging required.)**

One of the many courses provided with your SchoolhouseTeachers family membership is 'Teaching with Primary Documents.'  The course includes a set of 112 short lesson/lesson plans based on primary source documents.  Each features historical background text, enlargeable images, discussion questions, worksheets, and book lists.  If you're new to SchoolhouseTeachers, they provide all subjects for all grades, including advanced work and special needs help, for your entire family!  You can find out more here. 

Here are forty primary source documents to print and use in your school.  Chronologically, they range from 1493 to 1946 and cover many aspects of American history.  You can access them on our subscribers-only page 

Not yet a subscriber?  Sign up here!

Tuesday, January 28

Learning to Read the News + Journalism Field Trip

Our co-op had the good fortune to get a behind-the-scenes tour at our local news station.  Lucky for us, it was on a severe weather day, so we also got to see all the excitement that occurs when a tornado is on the way!  (See severe weather unit study here.)
We learned about the various departments at the news station, and how each works together to put out the daily broadcast.  There are so many different elements, and just about every type of talent is needed at the station!

The chopper pilot explained to us about helicopters and how they are used for breaking news and weather coverage.  My little one thinks that this guy hung the moon, so it was the highlight of his day.  After leaving the hangar, we headed in for the lunchtime news.
We saw the anchor filming various commercials, and then had a chance to ask questions.  The kids had an opportunity to role play at various stations, but one of the favorites was getting to be the weatherman.  Here, we are watching them explain that the storms have passed the city and are currently pummeling our house!  All in all, it was a fantastic day, and it really got the kids involved in learning about journalism.

Journalism Unit
SchoolhouseTeachers has a fantastic unit on studying the news with discernment!  Reading the News is a reading instruction program that uses Associated Press news articles for reading material. The program is appropriate for middle school through adult students, and employs specific learning strategies that improve students’ reading and spelling abilities. The learning strategies focus on repeated reading, timed reading, vocabulary, and comprehension. The strategies are built into audio learning and workbooks. The program challenges students to read at higher levels. They make progress in reading and develop the real-life skill of newspaper reading.

Know what's even better?  It's included with your family membership!  Every Subject. Every Grade. Every Student. is now a FULL CURRICULUM website for homeschoolers. Join by January 31, 2020 to save over 50% on an Ultimate Membership. Lock in the rate of $99/year (ONLY99) or $12/month (ONLY12) before prices go up in February!

Student Newspaper Challenge

  1. Learn how the news is portrayed from various sources.  Read a local newspaper, a national newspaper, a news magazine, and an online news source. From each of these, clip stories about the same event. Analyze the clips, comparing the different stories, explaining how the stories are objective or subjective and how each publication handled the story differently, depending on its purpose or audience. 
  2. Pinpoint your stories.  Pick three to six stories that are related to your family / homeschool, and think about what angle you would like to use.  (Gunning for a new Lego set?  Why not write an editorial explaining how you will earn the money?)
  3. Prepare a front-page newspaper layout. Edit, copy, proofread a story after it has been typeset , and be able to explain the printing process. 
  4. Help visualize the stories.  Using a camera, take pictures to illustrate your stories.  Take a series of photographs that would help to tell a story in pictures, including some news photos and some feature photos. Write cutlines for your photos and a brief story of the event. Edit them with Canva or PicMonkey, and insert them into your paper.

Monday, January 27

Ancient Asia Unit Resources

One of the things I love about The Good & the Beautiful History is that we cover all four eras of classical history each year. As part of the second year, we spent a unit in Ancient China & area the kids have been interested in since discovering Lego Ninjago!

Archaeologists believe the Xia Dynasty began around the year 2,000 BCE, about 4,000 years ago. Legend says this dynasty was founded by the best engineer from the Lungshan people, who settled along the Huang He River a thousand years earlier.
From what scientists can tell, these early people were very advanced for their time. They worked together and used a system of irrigation to water the fields. They baked bricks in ovens for strong building materials. The floors of their huts were plaster instead of earth. They used a potters wheel to make vases and pots. And they made beautiful, colorfully dyed and designed woven fabrics, made from silk!
The people were deeply religious. They believed in the gods of nature, like the river god, the rain god, and the earth god. They believed in a great many gods, but the most powerful god was the sky god, T'ien, the king of all the gods, a god more powerful than any earthbound king.

All of these courses are included with your family membership.....which includes a print magazine, goodies for parents, and every course, for every subject, for every student!  

The Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors 

The Three Sovereigns were powerful demigods who lived to be very old and brought peace and prosperity to the land during their rule.
  • Fu Xi was said to have invented fishing, trapping, and writing. His sister was Nuwa. It was Fu Xi and Nuwa who crafted the first humans out of clay.
  • Nuwa was the sister of Fu Xi. She helped him to create humans and also repaired the wall of heaven.
  • Shennong means "Divine Farmer." He brought the knowledge of agriculture to the Chinese people. He invented the plow, axe, hoe, irrigation, and the Chinese calendar.
 The Five Emperors were perfect kings who ruled wisely and with honor. The most famous of the Five Emperors was the Yellow Emperor. He ruled for 100 years and brought about the start of the Chinese civilization. In addition to the Yellow Emperor were Zhuanzu, Emperor Ku, Emperor Yao, and Shun. 
The greatest creature in Chinese mythology is the legendary dragon. The dragon is a long, winged, snake-like creature with four legs each with long and dangerous claws. Dragons were thought to have power over water and the weather.  The dragon was the symbol of the emperor. His throne was even called the Dragon Throne. It is said that the Yellow Emperor turned into a dragon and flew to heaven when he died. 

Interesting Facts about Chinese Mythology

  • Only the emperor could wear clothes that had pictures of the dragon.
  • Nian was said to have the body of a bull and the head of a lion.
  • Sometimes the Yellow Emperor was considered one of the Three Sovereigns.
  • The Three Sovereigns are also known as the Three August Ones.
  • Some records show that the Three Sovereigns each ruled for over 10,000 years.
  • It was the Yellow Emperor's wife, Leizu, who taught the Chinese how to make silk from silkworms.
  • Emperor Yao was said to have been morally perfect and served as the example of how all future Chinese emperors should behave.
    Our Ancient Asia study included daily morning meditations and Japanese calligraphy at art time.  Physical education was spent learning basic Karate For Kids, and we used some of that leftover gingerbread mix to make Ninja-bread cookies.

    When the boys got rowdy, I dressed them in bathrobes, strapped pillows to their stomachs, made a tape circle on the floor, and had them fight it out like sumo wrestlers.  The bickering quickly gave way to giggles.  Don't you just wish that you could bottle up that innocent laughter?
    We hosted the Lego club meeting this month, and they wanted to do a Japanese tea, so we made rice balls and peach tea.  We finally used up all of those leftover chopstick packets that make their way home from the chinese restaurant, and all of the kids seemed to enjoy the party.

    Our last art lesson was to create terra cotta sculptures, like the Chinese terra cotta soldiers found in the Yellow Emperor's tomb.  They made snakes and soldiers...I made a flower vase.

    China resources:
    Japan resources:


    Thursday, January 23

    Bricks Through the Year

    Our oldest got his first Lego set for his third birthday.  Actually, it was Duplos.  Jeff Foxworthy says that most people invest, and rednecks play the lottery.  I'd like to amend that statement by saying that my kids' retirement funds are apparently going to be via Legos...

    As a new homeschooler, with elementary aged boys who wanted nothing more than to play Legos, I begun looking for ways to incorporate the toys into learning.  Thus 'Bricks Through the Year' was born.  Each month tackles a new holiday, incorporating the three Rs and pop culture (the holidays) into their playtime.  

    There are 149 pages in the entire year's bundle, and each of the twelve units covers writing prompts, real-world math, building activities, and art.  This is a great bundle for new homeschoolers or anyone teaching elementary school who wants to incorporate a fun day each month!

    Each unit includes:
    • Copywork quotes - Using print script for elementary school, students practice handwriting with quotes related to the holiday.
    • Real-world math - Primarily practicing multiplication and addition (may use a calculator, if needed), students do some comparative shopping to throw a holiday party!
    • Writing activities - These five shorter writing activities include topics from three of the main forms of writing...informative, descriptive, and expository.
    • Art - Students get to design a minifigure that's decked out for the holiday!
    • Longer essay - Creative writing gets its own spot with a longer, out-of-the-box-thinking essay prompt.
    • Building activities - There are three to four holiday-themed projects created from bricks.  (Does not include step by step directions)

    Check out the free Bricks Through the Year sample!

    Pick up the Full Bundle to brighten up your Fun Fridays!

    Wednesday, January 22

    Ancient Greece Unit Study + The Good & the Beautiful History

    The boys love their mythology, as evidenced by the Modern Mythology novel studies!  When we got to Greek Mythology in The Good & the Beautiful History 2, we fleshed out that lesson a little further for a fun week...including hosting our own Olympics!!

    Pick up the free novel study for Percy Jackson & Greek Mythology

    One of our favorite resources for Ancient Greece is Drive Thru History!  Aimed at middle and high school, the teacher is goofy enough to keep kids interested while showing some amazing footage and teaching well-researched historic lessons.  They have an Ancient History and American History series, and you can watch them all right now for only $5!

    Zeus was the most powerful of the Greek gods and had a number of powers. His most famous power is the ability to throw lighting bolts. His winged horse Pegasus carried his lighting bolts and he trained an eagle to retrieve them. He could also control the weather, causing rain and huge storms.

    Zeus also had other powers. He could mimic people's voices to sound like anyone. He could also shape shift so that he looked like an animal or a person. If people made him angry, sometimes he would turn them into animals as punishment.

    The Titans
    The Titans were the first, or elder, gods.  There were twelve of them, including the parents of Zeus, Cronus, and Rhea.  They ruled during what was called the Golden Age.  They were overthrown by their children...led by Zeus.
    The Olympians
    The twelve Olympian gods were the major gods of the Greeks, and lived on Mount Olympus.  They included:
    • Zeus - Leader of the Olympians, and god of the sky and lightning. His symbol is the lightning bolt. he is married to Hera, his sister.
    • Hera - Queen of the gods, and married to Zeus, she is the goddess of marriage and family. Her symbols are the lion, cow, and peacock.
    • Poseidon - God of the ocean, earthquakes, and horses. His symbol is the trident. He is Zeus' and Hades' brother.
    • Hades - God of the Underworld, he lives in the Underworld rather than on Mount Olympus.
    • Dionysus - Lord of wine and celebrations. Patron god of theater and art, his main symbol is the grapevine. He is the son of Zeus and the youngest Olympian.
    • Apollo - God of music and light, his symbols include the sun, bow and arrow, and lyre. His twin sister is Artemis.
    • Artemis - Goddess of the hunt, archery, and animals. Her symbols include the moon, bow and arrow, and deer. Her twin brother is Apollo.
    • Ares - God of war, his symbols are the spear and shield. He is the son of Zeus and Hera.
    • Athena - Goddess of wisdom, defense, and war, her symbols are the owl and olive branch. She is the patron saint of Athens.
    • Hermes - God of commerce and thieves. He is also the messenger of the gods, and his symbol is the winged sandals. His son, Pan, is the god of nature.
    • Aphrodite - Goddess of love and beauty, her symbols include the dove and rose. She is married to Hephaestus.
    • Hephaesus - God of fire, blacksmith and craftsman for the gods. His symbols include fire, the anvil and hammer, and the donkey. He is married to Aphrodite.
    • Demeter - Goddess of agriculture and the seasons, her symbols include wheat and the pig.

    Monsters of Myth
    The Chimera 
    The fire-breathing Chimera is a terrifying beast with a serpent for a tail, a goat's body and a lion's head! A king has commanded warrior, Bellerophon, to destroy her. Soaring above the monster on a winged horse, he shoots arrows at her. Bellerophon then attaches lead to his spear and thrusts it into the vicious beast. The hero’s actions kills the fiery Chimera. 

    Scylla & Charybdis
    On both sides of a narrow stretch of sea, monsters lie in wait.  On one side, Scylla thrashes around her six snakelike heads, ready to crunch on passing sailors.  On the other, Charybdis creates a deadly whirlpool.  No person has ever faced these beasts and escaped unharmed.  Now the king, Odysseus, and his crew must pass them to get home.  They edge around Charybdis' spiraling sea, saving the ship from being swallowed whole.  Scylla swoops down and gobbles up six men, and Odysseus shouts, leading the rest of the crew past Scylla and out of the deadly channel.  Having survived the dreaded beasts, Odysseus and his men continue their journey.

    The Minotaur
    Half-man, half-bull, the Minotaur lurks in an underground maze waiting for his next meal - children sent to him as a sacrifice.  Lost in the labyrinth, the kids will be devoured, but brave king Theseus has had enough of his land living in fear of the Minotaur.  He accompanies the group, and is prepared to fight.  Hearing the Minotaur breathing nearby, he springs toward it.  Dodging the monster's deadly horns, he thrusts his sword into the beast.  The Minotaur is dead, and Theseus unspools a piece of string that he wound as he walked through the maze...he leads the children out to safety.
    In a swamp, creeps a deadly nine-headed serpent called the Hydra.  Heracles, son of Zeus, must kill it to become immortal.  After throwing flaming spears at the beast, the Hydra attacks, so Heracles hits its heads with a club, but more grow in their place!  Heracles' friend, Iolus, then leaps to his aid with a flaming torch.  After an epic battle, the men finally destroy the Hydra!

    This hideous Medusa has snakes for hair, terrifying tusks, and a face that turns anyone that looks at it into stone!  To please his king, Perseus agrees to slay the beast.  Wearing a helmet of invisibility, he sneaks up on Medusa.  She's asleep, but one gaze at her face and Perseus would be a statue!  He looks at her harmless reflection in his shiny shield and beheads her.  Victorious, Perseus flies off on winged sandals.
    The original Greek Olympics had five events :  javelin, discus, wrestling, foot race, and pentathalon.  We added Jello snarfling and Nerf gun sharp-shooting to round out our competition...  

    If you want an easy way to make medals, we used old canning lids to make our medals.  Poke a hole through it, use some string, and you have a shiny, metal medal!  We made our own Greek scoreboard to keep track of the day's events.  While there was no clear cut winner, we all came out on top and had a fabulous afternoon!

    Greek & Olympic Resources

    Javelin Throw
    An old flagpole made a perfect javelin!

    Discus Toss
    A frisbee...a's all the same shape!

    Obstacle Course & Foot Races
    Over the playground and through the woods...

    Who had more fun here....Daddy, or the kids?

    Jello Snarfling
    I'm fairly certain this was the favorite event!

    Nerf Gun Sharp-shooting
    The cat kept running in front of the target....