Wednesday, May 26

Treasure Island & Pirates of the Caribbean Sea

Piracy in the Caribbean existed largely because of major trade and exploration routes, but it flourished due to seaports that the European countries colonized throughout the islands in the 16th through 18th centuries...

Pirates were often former sailors that had naval and warfare experience.  Pirate captains recruited seamen to loot merchant ships, and piracy was sometimes given legal status by colonial powers -- making them privateers.  This particularly happened by the French, Dutch, and English in the hopes of weakening Spanish and Portuguese trade.

When Columbus came to the New World, so did many European diseases, which reduced the native populations.  This loss of population led to an opportunity for countries to set up their colonies on the islands.  Cuba, Hispaniola, Tortuga, and Trinidad were settled quickly.  The loss of natives also led to the Spanish relying heavily on African slave labor to run the plantations and mines.  Gold and silver, while still sought after, were replaced by sugar and tobacco as a path to financial gain.

Because the Spanish empire had begun to decline, many of the pirates and privateers were left unchecked by the royal powers.  When England captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655, Port Royal became a haven for buccaneers (pirates who specifically worked in the Caribbean).  The Golden Age of Piracy - from about 1700 to 1730 - was a time of rapid growth in these island ports.  It is estimated that there were nearly 2500 active pirates at this time in the Caribbean region.  

Interestingly, buccaneers operated as a democracy.  The captain was elected by the crew, and they could vote to replace him.  In combat, he was expected to fight alongside his men.  Loot was divided evenly into shares.  Officers who took greater risks might receive a greater number of shares, as would the captain.  Crews were very tight-knit, and the successful ones worked well together.  They even had a bit of an insurance system, where if a man was injured, he received extra shares.  If he was killed, his family sometimes received those shares.

Our spine read for this unit is Treasure Island   

Access the complete unit in Twenty-Three Reads Bundle, the literature-based program for someone who wants a little bit of everything! 

It includes twenty-three unit studies covering a wide range of topics. Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand. These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together.
  • 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.
  • Language Arts
    • Finding Langston & the Poetry of Langston Hughes
  • Geography
    • Anne of Green Gables & Canadian Provinces
    • Stowaway & Antarctica
    • Julie of the Wolves & Alaska
    • Blades of Freedom & the Louisiana Purchase
    • The Avion My Uncle Flew & France
  • History
    • Zlata’s Diary & the Slavic Wars
    • Freedom Summer & the Summer of 1964
    • Treasure Island & Pirates of the Caribbean Sea
    • Farenheit 451 & Types of Government
    • Red Stars & Russia in World War 2
    • The Great Gatsby & the Roaring Twenties
    • The Long List of Impossible Things & Post-War Germany
    • A Tale of Two Cities & French Revolution
    • Witch of Blackbird Pond & Salem Witch Trials
    • The World Made New & Early Explorers
    • Stitching a Life & Jewish Immigration
  • Life Skills
    • Teetoncey & Lifesaving Skills
    • Freak of the Week & Disabilities Awareness
    • Island of the Blue Dolphins & Sailing
  • Science
    • The Science of Breakable Things & the Scientific Method
    • Frankenstein & Human Anatomy
    • Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation & Albert Einstein

Product samples:

Monday, May 24

The Secret Garden & Starting an Herb Garden

Nature studies tend to taper off in high school, but this is a fantastic time for more in-depth learning about specialized topics!  Herb studies combine both science and life skills....

Herbs have a variety of culinary and medicinal uses. General usage of the term "herb" differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs; in medicinal use, any parts of the plant might be considered as "herbs," including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, root bark, and inner bark.

Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs from spices. Herbs generally refers to the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), while spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, including seeds, bark, roots and fruits.

Some Common Herbs & their Uses

An adaptogenic super root, ashwagandha is used to increase vitality, relieve stress, enhance sleep, boost brain and cognitive function, and generally help the body to 'adapt' to stressors.

Astragalus comes in pill or tincture form, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Its main use has been to boost the body's immune system.  Brew and drink a tea from the roots at onset of a cold for quicker relief.

One of the trendiest herbs for immune boosting, echinacea can be taken regularly over long periods of time.  It has been reported to reduce the odds of catching a cold by 58%, as well as to reduce the duration of the common cold.

Used for its antioxidant activity, elderberry also lowers cholesterol and boosts the immune system.  It is also used for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis.

Learn how to make Elderberry Syrup in this easy tutorial!

Best taken raw, garlic contains many sulfur compounds which detoxify the body, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, and improve circulation.

Learn how to make Fire Cider using raw garlic.

Goldenseal helps to boost the 'power' of other herbs, and is often paired with echinacea.  It has antifungal and anti-infective properties, which explain the healing actions of this herb.  It should not be taken for long periods of time, but should be used more intermittently.

A natural antioxidant source, Oregano Oil contains phytochemicals which support the body’s natural resistance. Gaia Herbs supercritical CO2 extract of Oregano volatile oils contains phenols, including Carvacrol and Thymol. These oils help support a healthy microbial environment in the intestines and a healthy immune response.
A rich source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, rosehips support the heart and cardiovascular system, enhance the integrity of the vascular system, and can be used as a daily tonic.  They are also useful in speeding the healing of bruises and wounds.

*This information is not intended to diagnose or treat ailments.  I am not a medical professional.*


  • The Secret Garden
    • When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors. The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary's only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. With the help of two unexpected companions, Mary discovers a way in—and becomes determined to bring the garden back to life.
  • Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs -- Thirty-three herbs to know, grow, and use!


Make / Do

  • Using a flower or seed catalog, create a chart showing at least ten different types of flowers.  Tell whether they are annual or perennial and in which conditions they thrive.
  • Make your own Windowsill Herb Garden.
  • Use this magnetic herb and spice guide as a quick-reference in the kitchen.
  • Teaching Kids About Herbs - In this year-long course, you'll learn about many herbs! Each month, your child will learn about a new herb and how to use it. Herbs are placed in seasonal positions throughout the book, but it does not have to be completed in order. Includes basic information about seasonally-appropriate herbs, project ideas, and recipes.
    • Choose one project from this book to complete as you read The Secret Garden.


  • Obsequious
  • Sallow
  • Preen
  • Languid
  • Perennial
  • Vain
  • Distended
  • Vexes
  • Reproachfully
  • Bromide
  • Austerely
  • Unscrupulous
  • Bounteous
  • Gentry
  • Hypochondriac
  • Restive


  • The children go to great lengths to keep the garden and Colin’s recovery a secret.  Tell about a time when you kept something secret from your parents because you wanted to give them a happy surprise.
  • “Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”  Do you think this is true?  Why or why not?

Looking to teach the whole system of Permaculture?  Visit Permaculture Homesteading Science...

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For more on teaching herbal skills, check out the Herbal Education Bundle!
  • Teaching Kids About Herbs – Each month, your child will learn about a new herb and how to use it. Herbs are placed in seasonal positions throughout the book, but it does not have to be completed in order.  Includes basic information about seasonally-appropriate herbs, project ideas, and recipes. (28 pages of lesson plans)
  • Simple Kitchen Fixes – Learning to use herbs effectively, for both cooking and remedy, is a lost art. This resource was designed to introduce the beginner to basic herbs and their uses. (31 pages)

For more great homesteading fun, check out the Homesteading Course at SchoolhouseTeachers!
  • This homeschool homesteading course is designed for anyone who has a desire to live more independently and prepare much of what is needed each day using their own hands. In this elective course, the student can learn how to work for what they want by making it themselves, instead of participating in an “on demand” society. Homeschool students of all ages learn patience, along with the skills needed to make their own cleaners for the home, sunscreen, homemade ketchup and dry mixes, as well as how to choose animals and prepare for emergencies, and much more.

Enjoying this unit? You might like Beautiful Book Studies!

Each unit addresses a new topic, including science, history, and geography.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • 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 topic to life.

Table of Contents

  • The King’s Fifth
  • Red Falcons of Tremoine
  • Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan
  • Red Hugh of Ireland
  • Calico Captive
  • The Story of Eli Whitney
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • The Lost Kingdom
  • The Secret Garden
  • Heidi
  • Girl of the Limberlost
  • The Winged Watchman
  • When the Dikes Broke
  • Using the Good & the Beautiful in High School

The books selected for these unit studies can be found in the upper grades areas of The Good and the Beautiful Book List.  However, Homeschool On the Range and Sparks Academy are not employed by or affiliated with, nor do they receive any compensation from, The Good and the Beautiful.  It has simply been their curriculum of choice for many years.  These unit studies are not endorsed by The Good and the Beautiful or Jenny Phillips.

Creating Sparkling Bits of Writing {Review}

 Disclaimer: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew

One of my favorite parts of summer is that the kids have the opportunity to explore rabbit trails....this includes creative writing!  We recently had the chance to explore Creative Word Studio's Sparkling Bits of Writing (Book 2), and it opened up a world of words....

Creative World Studio is a home-based, Christian company that started out designing products for their local schools and homes.  With the Sparkling Bits of Writing line, which includes two books, students are encouraged to think outside the box and develop their writing naturally.  Book One is for 5th and 6th grades; Book Two is for 7th and 8th grades.  However, as with most homeschool products, you can tailor up or down to your child's needs.
Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 2 is recommended for middle school or struggling high school students.  The book is spiral-bound and comes with 75 lessons of varying length and a lot of diversity!  Activities include free writing, mini writing exercises, reading response, and revision practice.  As a parent, I also appreciate the laminated back page that includes a grading rubric and writing tips.

The book is designed to be a supplement, rather than a full writing curriculum.  As such, if used during the school year, you might assign your student a couple of lessons each week.  It would be a boost to students struggling with getting started or finding ideas.  Our student struggles with remembering the things he has learned during the school year, so we do reading, writing, and math - just a little bit each day - all through the summer.  When used over the summer, parents might want to have a writing practice lesson each day.

Writing Assignment Types

Free Writing
Free writing exercises are like brain warm-ups.  Students write for about ten minutes on whatever comes to mind.  There are responses, but they are fairly open, such as this one from Lesson 37.  "If you could, would you push a pause button, rewind button, or fast forward button for your life.  Describe in detail the reasons why you would push a certain button."

Mini Writing
The mini-writing exercises focus on things like making lists, similes, metaphors, writing a menu....all kinds of ways that we use writing everyday without realizing it.  Think about advertising -- it's a form of creative writing!

Reading Response
Using classic and clean literature, such as Treasures in the Snow or Swiss Family Robinson, students are asked to write reader responses to questions posited after a passage.  The passages are printed in the workbook, so there is no need to dig up actual books.

Revision Practice
Included with the mini-writing exercises, but deserving of a spot on its own, revision practice exercises are sprinkled throughout the workbook.  In one instance, students are provided an essay and six steps on how to make it better.  The steps are broken into manageable bits and in such a way that they are easy to apply to further writing experiences.

Gold Pieces & Friends
There are two symbols that occasionally pop up in the workbook, indicating Gold Piece or Friend activities.  The friend symbol shows that students are to grab a friend and work on it together.  Being homeschooled, our student didn't have a friend to grab, so he completed it alone, and there were no issues with that (other than missing the fun).  That symbol probably works better in a co-op setting.

The Gold Piece symbol indicates that students should polish and perfect this particular piece of writing so that it can be saved and graded.  In the back of the book, the authors have provided a rubric for grading.

See what others are saying about Creative Word Studio at the Homeschool Review Crew.

Creative Word Studio Reviews

Friday, May 21

Using The Good & the Beautiful HISTORY for High School ~ FREE Lesson Plans

One question that we're often asked in the Facebook support group for moms using The Good & the Beautiful to teach high school is how to make the history work for a high school credit. If you're not familiar with TGTB, their history program is designed to be used family-style. This means that the entire family, regardless of age / grade can sit around the table and learn together. There are a lot of advantages to this type of learning, as we discussed in How to Do Family-Style Homeschooling, but it might leave you wondering if your teenager is getting enough...

You may also be interested in: The Good & the Beautiful for High School

Lesson Plans

To that end, one of our contributor moms recently created a daily lesson plan that incorporates The Good & the Beautiful, Story of the World audios, Crash Course videos, and a few extra YouTube videos. I love this because it not only challenges the kids further, but also teaches to all of the modalities - aural, visual, and tactile!

This daily plan covers a complete school year and features Ancient through Early Modern World History. Lessons are designed to take about an hour, and each day delineates the pieces used from the three spines, plus there is a supplemental section that includes extra work assigned to high schoolers in the Student Explorers from The Good & the Beautiful. As this set of lesson plans is strictly for high schoolers, elements such as coloring and basic mapwork were removed. If you are primarily teaching middle and high schoolers, you could use these lessons to still complete history family-style.

Sparks Academy

If you're still not sure about teaching high school history, there is also the option to use teacher-led courses at Sparks Academy. They use TGTB for language arts and Notgrass for American History and World History. They also offer a year-long Civics course that covers introductory government and economics. There has been chatter that they may offer history courses using The Good & the Beautiful in the future, but for the '22-'23 school year, they only offer Notgrass. Some benefits to using a co-op, however, include outside accountability, official grading, writing feedback, flexibility, and peer interaction.


This post was provided by Channa Schumacher, a TGTB Mom.  You can find a wealth of information provided by other TGTB Moms at the Extensions Page!

You may also be interested in....


Thursday, May 20

Life Skills for Teens: Registries & Gift-Giving

High school graduation is the start of a decade of experiences!  Whether you're headed to college or entering a career, the next ten years will involve many major life events for both you and your friends...

For these rites of passage, it's typical to celebrate with a gift of some sort.  Up to this point, your parents have probably taken care of birthday gifts, holiday presents, and anything else that was required, but part of growing up means navigating on your own.  Fortunately, for weddings and births, most people use registries.

A registry is a list, either online or in a physical store, of things that are needed for the new home or the new baby.  Oftentimes, the wedding invitation or the baby shower invite will indicate where you can access the registry.  Online registries can be perfect -- after all, you can do everything on your phone without leaving your chair.  You can do it last-minute or a 2AM when you wake up remembering that tidbit on your to-do list.

When shopping through the registry, you'll want to:
  • Read over either the printed-out registry or the online version to see what the couple has requested.
  • Determine your budget.  For example, you may want to spend no more than $50 on a gift.  Look for items on the list that match your budget. 
  • Check the registry to make sure that no one else has already purchase the item.  Most should clearly indicate this.
  • If you're shopping online, make sure you are on the registry page, then click on the item you'd like to buy, and place it in the cart.  Shopping directly from the page will update the registry to show that the item has been you!
    • Be sure to have the item shipped directly to the recipient, unless you have been instructed otherwise.
  • If you're shopping in-store, print out the registry number and take it to the cashier when you check out.  This way it will update.  You may need assistance from a store employee, as some can be confusing.
    • Make sure that you have a gift receipt.
    • Wrap it nicely, and take it with you to the party!
But what happens if the couple or mom-to-be isn't registered?  
Help!  What should you get?  Here are some fail-safe ideas for each scenario.

Bridal Shower

  • InstaPot
    • One of the trendiest gifts today is the InstaPot.  This is the kitchen gadget that everyone wants, and the bride will probably be ecstatic to get one!
  • Cutting Board Set
    • Let them cozy up to togetherness in the kitchen with this cutting board set.  They'll be able to spend time together each evening making dinner...
  • Egg Timer Set
    • For the gift-giver who is on a tight budget, these adorable egg timers will bring a smile to your recipient and brighten up their mornings!
  • Food Storage Set
    • Household organization is important, but it's not something every couple thinks about.  This stylish food storage set will bring both class and order to their new kitchen.
  • Emergency Radio
    • Not the most glamorous of gifts, but one that every household should have.  The groom will be excited to receive this one....and when the power goes out, they'll both be thankful!

Baby Shower

  • Thermometer
    • A must-have for every new parent's medical kit, the digital thermometer is so much faster and easier to use than their predecessors!
  • Baby Walker & Bouncer
    • This is one of those gifts that won't be used for a little while, but the new parents will be happy to have it on-hand when the day arrives that their little one starts becoming mobile...and you never know just quite when that will be.
  • High Chair
    • Everyone has their own idea of what the high chair should look like -- some prefer to focus on use, while others want a style that will match their kitchen.  Just make sure you choose one that is safe and washable.
  • Diapers
    • For the budget-conscious gift-giver, you can spend as little or as much as you want purchasing pack, or ten!  While it may not seem like the most exciting gift, when she runs out of diapers early one morning, she will reach for your gift and think of you fondly...

When all else fails, a gift card is a pinch-hit gift.  Traditionally, this has been a gift for the last resort, as it is a very impersonal gift.  However, younger people seem to appreciate gift cards more.  Call me old-fashioned...I prefer to put some effort into choosing just the right gift for the recipient!

The Case for the College Shower

Think about what you got for high school graduation?  Money, probably.  That's good and nice, but did you save it?  Or did you blow through it the summer after senior year?  You'd be surprised to know just how many people are in that second category!

Perhaps it's time to celebrate this rite of passage with a registry of its own -- the college prep registry.  Here you would include things like dorm decor, a mini-fridge, microwave, new sheets and towels, and all of the things you'll be taking with you as you venture out into the world!

What's the first thing you would put on a College Registry?

Wednesday, May 19

Summer Fun Studies: Teen Boy Edition!

Summer is about having the time to get the experience and venture down bunny trails!

While we take a break from core studies during the summer, each kid usually picks out a couple of 'fun studies' for summer learning.  These are elective courses that might be shorter than a full semester, or just things we didn't have time for during the regular year.  If you have the flexibility - and the world opens up again - summer is the perfect time to take a roadschool vacation!

Last year, the boys worked together to study World War 2 (see that here), but they're a bit older and wanted to work independently now.  Thanks to 'rona, and a second year without summer camps or extracurriculars going on, there's even more time....

This summer the boys chose: 

  • Homesteading
    • The youngest is our farmer-in-training.  He loves being outdoors and making things, and is on a homesteading kick!  Follow his farming adventures on his animal blog.
  • Animal Science 
    • This goes hand in hand with the farming, only extends it to the entire animal kingdom.  It's likely he'll breeze through some of the units and spend an inordinate amount of time on others...
  • Advanced Chemistry: Metals 
    • If you think this is really specific, you'd be right!  Our older son is very into welding and metallurgy right now, and wants to learn more about the chemistry of metals and how they work.
  • Middle Ages History
    • Because what teen boy shouldn't be interested in sword fighting and chivalry?!  He'll also be working on chain maille and crafting a suit of armor.

In addition to these, we'll also have Physical Education (mowing the yard, weeding the garden, and other farm chores), Finances & Life Skills (garage sales & running errands), and Home Economics (teen boys eat too much...they have to do some of the cooking!).

SchoolhouseTeachers has so many fantastic elective options for summer FUN studies that the biggest problem was narrowing down their choices to a reasonable list!  (and that's a good problem to have)


Farming & Ranching Summer Study
As our son ventures into this field with a more adult-eye, we will be creating a full-year course on farming and ranching for middle / high school students who are agriculturally-minded.  Be on the lookout for this resource in the 21-22 school year.  In the meantime, here are some amazing resources....