Wednesday, September 30

Roadschool Trip to Canada

Until recently, the kids had never been out of the country.  While in upper Michigan, we decided to remedy the situation...discovering some historic sites along the way!  Join us to explore bushplanes, the War of 1812, and Canadian history!

ETA - Yes, we now realize that this isn't actually WEST Ontario.  Southern US public schools don't exactly emphasize Canadian geography....and I resemble that comment!  Who knew Ontario was so huge?!
With a day to kill and passports in hand, we headed up over the Mackinaw Bridge, an hour north of our hotel, and into Ontario, Canada.  It was the boys' first trip north of the border, but given how much we enjoyed our short time probably won't be the long as we visit in summer.
You know him; you love him; you've learned more than you ever wanted to know about airplanes because of him!  Oh wait...maybe that's me.  😏  Our airplane kiddo was desperate to visit the Bush Pilot this is his new career goal - bush pilot in Alaska...and so that was our first stop.  We spent several hours chatting with the folks who worked there, many of whom were past bush pilots themselves.  Where the museum is used to be an emergency outpost...

The inside is much larger than it looks!  There are hands-on exhibits, airplanes you can crawl up inside of to play, airplanes you can get inside of to 'fly' over the area, and a lot about fire safety.  (We learned that one of the things these bush pilots do is airplane firefighting.)  There are also exhibits about life in the bush camps, where they live when it's too far to get back to base in the same day.  
These airplanes are much larger inside than  you'd imagine!  We toured emergency planes, hospital planes, research planes, and good old passenger planes.  There are models of airports past and many hands-on STEM exhibits where you can fiddle with the mechanical drawings of several different planes.  One of his favorite planes was the old DC-3 passenger jet.  He loves the golden age of flight!
He also liked the large cargo jet, where he was able to get into the cockpit and actually 'fly.'  If you have children, or just airplane folks, this is an affordable and fun museum to visit in the northwest Ontario region!   
If you have a kid that's interested in flight, you might check out AV-STEM.  It's an online class that we've been doing for about a year, and is taught by an Alaskan bush pilot.  It comes with all of the equipment needed and will prepare you to get your pilot's license...and the customer service is fantastic.
As much as one loves airplanes, the other loves historic costumes.  Every museum we visit (that has uniforms) involves us stopping to take dozens of pictures of the minute details for future re-creation....  These War of 1812 uniforms were discovered inside the Ermatinger-Clergue Museum just across the street from the airplane museum.

Not only were there uniforms on display, but there were costumes to play dress up!!  I am totally the mom who will dress up and re-enact with her kids.  😊  We played here for a bit, watched a historic video (where the characters actually say 'Eh!'), and then headed to the second part of the museum.
One of the things we discovered in the house was this old map.  Not being from Canada, we'd never seen one like it before, and the boys love historic maps!  We'll be studying it further as we study Canadian history next year in our curriculum.  We also found snowshoes, furs, and other cold-weather gear that aren't often seen in the historic homes in our neck of the woods...  (pic above)

This house was built by Charles Ermatinger, of the NorthWest Company, and is the oldest surviving house in northwest Ontario.  It was constructed when the area was a fur trading post on the Upper Lakes, and became the center of the region's social and business life.  It also served as military headquarters briefly.  We enjoyed looking around at the inside, which is set up to represent family life in the 19th century, and wondered at the architecture of the home beside it, which was not open to the public.
With daylight rapidly fading, it was time to cross back into the US, meet up with dad in Sault Ste. Marie, pick up some fudge, and prepare to hit the road again!

War of 1812 & Canada Resources 

Tuesday, September 29

Sukkot + The Mysterious Guests

The Pilgrims were familiar with the tradition of Sukkot, and modeled their celebratory feast after it in 1621 during the first harvest season in the New World. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in October and lasted for three days. This celebration eventually morphed into our modern day Thanksgiving...

Sukkot is the Jewish harvest festival.  It begins five days after Yom Kippur and lasts for nine days, and is called the Feast of Booths because of the special custom of building a small hut, the sukkah, outdoors.  The Hebrew calendar date is the 15th day of the month of Tishrei.  This date always coincides with the evening of the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, otherwise known as the Harvest Moon.  In 2020, Sukkot begins on the evening of Friday, October 2nd and ends at sundown October 9th.

Many Jewish families build a sukkah, a hut reminiscent of the temporary booths in which the Hebrews lived as they wandered forty years through the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.  Jewish people who have gardens build their sukkah at home.  People who live in the city may share one built at a synagogue.  The booths are decorated with autumn leaves, pumpkins, and wheat stalks.  Depending on the weather, people eat, live, and may even sleep in them, just as the Israelites did.

For this unit, we are using The Mysterious Guests as our spine read.

Access the complete unit study in the Jewish Holidays in Literature Bundle!

Each of the ten unit studies in this year-long bundle centers around a book for middle school level and includes videos, cooking projects, hands-on activities, writing assignments, and more.  There are also resources for younger children in eight of the ten units (not in *).

  • Introduction to Judaism
  • Solomon and the Trees + Tu B’Shevat unit
  • The Queen of Persia + Purim unit study (sample)
  • Devil’s Arithmetic + Passover unit study
  • The Secret Shofar of Barcelona + Rosh Hashana unit study
  • The Yom Kippur Shortstop + Yom Kippur unit study
  • The Mysterious Guests + Sukkot unit study
  • All-of-a-Kind Family Hannukah + Chanukah unit study
  • Broken Strings + Fiddler on the Roof + Persecution unit study*
  • The Golem & the Jinni + Kabbalah unit*

Monday, September 28

My Teaching Library {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
So many people are scrambling this year to find homeschooling resources!  This is an excellent place to get started...

My Teaching Library offers materials for every subject, plus electives.  When accessing resources at My Teaching Club, you have the option of downloading them individually or joining their membership club.  My Teaching Library offers a Download Club of resources for parents homeschoolers in pre-k through 12th grade.  

The site began as CHSH-Teach, and has since expanded into this site.  It's mission is to provide quality, low-cost educational materials for homeschooling families.  I would argue that many of these materials are equally helpful to classroom teachers, especially those teaching younger grades and / or who are first-year teachers.

Probably the best bang for your buck is the download club, which is a membership that provides unlimited downloads and resources.  There are two club membership options, lifetime and annual.  Once you have purchased a product in the club, you can download it as many times as needed while your membership is active.

The Download Club lets you download any and all resources your family needs!  If you needed to, you could download every single resource available, and there are new resources being added continuously.  Let's walk through how it works....
There are multiple ways to find the resources you need.  When doing a subject search, each subject is broken down into smaller sub-topics.  In Language Arts, there are Classroom Helps, Curriculum, and Literature.  Each of those groups is broken down even further.  Wherever you see a purple plus sign, there are even more sub-topics.

If you don't want to search by subject, you can search by your need.  This might be holiday-themed work, something for special needs, management and record-keeping, or skills review.  And if you don't like perusing, there is a search function that you can type straight into.
As we have older kids, I spent a great deal of time poking around the high school center and under the teacher category.  The teacher category is chock full of things like organizational tools, record-keeping tools, and what I would term 'classroom' supplies....such as desk name plates.  
The high school section contains several semester-long curricula, including World History, American Government, and Economics.  We downloaded the World History to check out further....but then we were distracted by the literature resources.  The kids found a unit on The Hobbit, and it was all she wrote.  That's what they wanted to download and start working on right away!
I found that it was easiest to just go through all of the files and choose the ones our family needed.  Click 'download' on each of them.  You're going to get an email for every.single.file that you download, but don't worry about keeping those.  You can easily access all of your downloads within your membership account.  Go to your account information, and choose 'Downloads.'  It will pull up your list and allow you to download them from there.  You can come back here to redownload as often as needed while your membership is active.
To streamline the process - because we're all busy moms, right? - after going through all the resources and choosing which ones we would use this year, I went into my downloads folder and downloaded everything at once to a new folder on the desktop.  After this, I was able to put them into subfolders -- ones we would use fairly soon, ones for holidays, and ones for next semester -- and then begin printing out the resources we needed soon.  It's nothing more than setting up an assembly line, but as you're getting started is probably the quickest way to go.  We will be revisiting the site in the future, as time crops up and we settle into the year, to check out new resources and anything that may have been missed.

A few things to note about this site.  First, there is a calendar of daily events and observances, which is really helpful when looking for a fun way to spice up the school week!  It tells about events in history that happened on that day.  Secondly, we found that many of the resources (particularly in the elective field) turned out to be old books that are in the public domain.  That was somewhat disappointing, but it's neat to have them gathered in one place for easy access.

See what others are saying about My Teaching Library at the Homeschool Review Crew!

Animal Farm + the Russian Revolution

In 1917, two revolutions changed the face of Russia, creating the first communist country.  February saw the removal of the Russian monarchy, the family of Tsar Nicholas II, and a provisional government installed.  In October of the same year, the Bolsheviks came to rule the country.  Animal Farm is an allegory of the Russian Revolution.  In the book, Old Major represents Karl Marx while Napoleon is a representation of Stalin...

Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing. ~Vladimir Lenin 

Mother Russia (Iron Maiden)
In 1917, nearly 100,000 tired and hungry women, whose men were soldiers fighting in WWI, marched through the streets of Petrograd demanding change. They wanted to shut down the monarchy, which was not meeting their needs. Tsar Nicholas II became an ineffectual leader overnight, creating a power vacuum that was filled with an equally-ineffectual provisional government.

Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, (who had been exiled fora while) came home and was greeted a few months later to cheers and a sea of red flags. He congratulated the people for their successful revolution. He then denounced the provisional government and began making promises to the people, including ‘Peace, Land, and Bread!’

Revol (Manic Street Preachers)
By the end of 1917, Lenin believed the Russian people were ready for another revolution. The other Bolshevik leaders, however, were not convinced, so Lenin worked to convince the others that it was time for a rebellion. In the early morning hours of October 25, 1917, the Bolsheviks staged a calculated revolt, taking control of all the municipal facilities (post office, bank, train station).

The city was relinquished to Bolshevik control without any shots fired. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad, and the city belonged to the Reds. The following day, they took over the Winter Palace, where Kerensky and the leaders of the Provisional Government had been staying. One of Lenin’s first acts as the new leader of Russia was to announce the end of the war. He also abolished all private land ownership and created the system of Communism.

Civil War (Guns & Roses)
When the Russian soldiers returned home after World War I, they were hungry and tired, and they wanted their jobs back. However, without land ownership, farmers were only growing enough food for their families...there was no incentive to grow more. Factories had no jobs without war orders to fill. Without food or jobs, the soldiers’ lives became worse.

Summer 1918, Russia broke out into a Civil War – the Reds (Bolsheviks) versus the Whites (those against the Soviets). The Reds were worried that the Whites would restore the Russian monarchy, and they couldn’t let that happen. On the evening of July 16, 1918, the Reds killed all members of Tsar Nicholas II’ family, including servants and pets. This set off the Civil War, which continued for two years, and millions of people were killed. The Reds ultimately won, leading to a vicious regime of Communist government that shaped Russia until the fall of the USSR in 1991.

Our spine novel for this unit is Animal Farm

Access the complete unit study in the World History Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes seven unit studies (plus a bonus!) covering World History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning from Pompeii to World War 2.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

Product samples:   The Night Witches & Women in Aviation   &   The Lookout Tree & the Great Acadian Upheaval

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Sunday, September 20

Love + Friendship

Today, I just want to take a moment to remember a good friend.  It's funny how life changes in the blink of an eye.  One moment, you have everything figured out.  The next, you're getting an earth-shattering, life-changing phone call...

In the midst of a difficult time, which led me to build walls and shut out the rest of the world, one person broke through. I should say, rather, that he charged through like a bull in a china shop, because honestly, he did nothing without fervor...

For years, we were inseparable. Even as we went to colleges on opposite coasts, the birth of this new thing called the internet (well, the coming-of-age of its widespread use, especially at college campuses) kept us in constant contact. For the first semester, we also stayed glued through telephone lines...but that was quickly shut down when the bills came in!

Both of us being very passionate, outspoken people, there was never a dull moment, that's for sure! I remember the first time he rang my doorbell, during a break from boarding school. Dressed in VERY torn up jeans, bike shorts, a t-shirt held up only by the neck, and sandals that were duck-taped to his feet...I was fairly certain that my mother was about to have a heart attack. Bless her heart...

His family traveled extensively, and I received airmail every summer from all over the world. Some of the most beautiful imagery I've ever seen written came in a letter from Japan, just after he had hiked a mountain near Kamikochi.

On September 20, 1998, I lost my best friend.  It was shattering.  My scholarship program made me attend mandatory grief counseling, at which point I was informed that I had experienced 22 losses in 5 years - including both the flooding & burning down of my dorm (separate incidences---hence our class song "Fire and Rain"), several deaths of friends, car accidents, and my parents' divorce....not necessarily in that order.  This last one was really the lynchpin.
But you know, I wouldn't trade the pain of losing best friend for the three years we had together.  If I tried to share only the best memories, I'd bore you to tears with an extremely long post.  So, I want to leave you with this :  cherish today.  Play with your kids.  Tell your loved ones that you love them...repeatedly.  And if you've lost someone, take a moment to relive a happy memory.  People are only gone if they're forgotten.