Sunday, March 27

The King's Fifth & Coronado's Search for Cibola

The earliest exploration of the Southwest occurred as a result of the accident that left Cabeza de Vaca and his companions shipwrecked along the Gulf Coast.  Cabeza de Vaca was one of the first non-Native Americans to travel through Texas, and he published a narrative of his adventures that would inspire the expeditions of de Soto and Coronado...

During his journey, Cabeza de Vaca had heard repeatedly of the Seven Cities of Cíbola, which were supposedly so wealthy that their streets were paved with gold. In 1539, his travel partner, Estevanico, and Fray Marcos de Niza returned to the Southwest with soldiers to find the Seven Cities.  They explored Arizona and western New Mexico but found nothing.  Estevanico was killed, and Fray Marcos de Niza returned to Mexico, more certain than ever that the cities existed.  

Native Americans always agreed with the Spanish that the cities existed—just a little farther north, “over there” somewhere—probably in an effort to get the soldiers to leave.  A number of other Spanish explorers went looking for the Seven Cities of Cíbola.  The last major expedition was that of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado.  He set out in 1540 to explore north of Mexico with about 300 Spaniards, hundreds of Native Americans and slaves, and many horses, sheep, pigs, and cattle.  For two years Coronado’s expedition traveled through what are today New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. 

Coronado and his men endured great hardship, traveling over deserts and mountains. He lost men to Native American attacks, and many horses, along with cattle that he took along for food, perished from lack of food and water.  His party split up; one group became the first Europeans to gaze upon the Grand Canyon, and another group traveled as far as the upper Rio Grande.  Coronado himself came upon the villages of the Zuni, which he called pueblos, but he found no gold.  

The Spanish soon discovered rich copper and turquoise mines in the Pueblo country which made the region famous for its mineral wealth even in recent times. The Pueblo Indians including the Zuñi are still well known for their Turquoise and silver work.  The lack of treasure, along with the opening of Mexican silver mines, ended Spanish interest in the borderlands for almost 60 years.

Although Francisco Coronado’s journey was seen as a failure in his lifetime, he is recognized today for many achievements.  He and his men were the first Europeans to live among the Pueblo Indians, explore the Great Plains, and see the Grand Canyon.  His description of the areas he explored helped create updated maps of the lands.  

Our spine novel for this unit is:

  • The King's Fifth (Scott O'Dell)
    • While awaiting trial for murder and withholding from the king the obligatory fifth of the gold found in Cibola, Esteban, a seventeen-year-old cartographer, recalls his adventures with a band of conquistadors.

Get the ENTIRE UNIT in 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.

Friday, March 25

Ancient History - the Relaxed Way - with The Homeschool Garden

Y'all know that we love our history! One of my favorite things about homeschooling when the boys were younger was the ability to school together as a family. As they got older and branched off into individual studies, this together time started to fall off. We still read aloud each morning during breakfast, but when I want to bring us back to this family-style learning, I generally turn to the Homeschool Garden...

These easy to implement sessions are planned out and ready for you to place in your schedule wherever it fits best.  I could spend several hours trying to dig up resources, but they have already done the work for me (and really, who has that kind of time anymore?).  They have a variety of subject sessions, plus five different Advent studies, and you're sure to find a few that intrigue your family.  One of the best parts about these units is that everything is included - there are no other purchases required.

When the boys were younger, each morning, we would work together for about thirty minutes on a group study.  Fine arts, music, history, nature study, cooking, read-aloud, hand-crafts, Shakespeare, and art history are all included.  Now that they are older, we usually set aside a day or two away from 'regular school' to work on the activities together.  It's a fun break!

The lesson plans are broken down into bite-sized chunks, so that you can incorporate a little bit into each day.  For our family, we took the entire Ancient History curriculum and broke it into a five-day FUN week!  This 30-day session (or one week session, if you want to be a rule-breaker, too) covers: 

  • history
  • nature study
  • read alouds (with a recommended reading list)
  • hand-crafts
  • baking
  • poetry tea time
  • life skills
  • music & hymns
  • art study
  • artist study
  • composer study
  • copywork


Use code FRIENDSANDFAMILY to take 50% off any one session (not bundles) at The Homeschool Garden.  Where it asks, be sure to tell them Yvie sent ya!  😊

Ancient History I

The first session of Ancient History covers Creation, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.  A second ancient history session is coming which will feature Greece, Rome, and the life of Christ.
  • A 6 week schedule
  • Daily scripture readings
  • Four versions of copy work from Be Thou My Vision
  • 3 poetry selections, a hymn, and a folksong
  • 3 Teatimes – an authentic Egyptian bread recipe, a 7 Wonders of the Ancient World tea time, and a Torah candy teatime.
    • There is also a sugar cookie activity with Cat of Bubastes
  • Art study of Bible images in art plus 6 art selections (art is included)
  • History of Jewish religious music plus six music selections (music is included)
  • Insect origami craft (six choices of insect)
  • Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors pastel lesson
  • Plus an abstract floral acrylic painting for mom
  • Flashcards for nature found in the Old Testament
  • The Cat of Bubastes & geography of this book
    • There are several maps and a geography guide
  • Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • Children’s Plutarch (complete book!)
  • Prayer, scripture memory, and poetry memory work
  • Recommended reading list for further learning
  • Bonus game board activity

You have the option of downloading the materials and using things offline, or logging into your account and accessing all of the lessons and materials digitally.  One advantage to going online is that a few of the activities have videos to accompany them.  Using The Homeschool Garden will provide you with a Charlotte Mason, family-style approach that allows you to enjoy learning alongside your teens!

I typically download the whole enchilada of printable materials and then use it alongside the My Courses section of our account.  This makes it easy to utilize both the streaming and print activities concurrently.

Tuesday, March 22

Encounter & Taino Culture

When Columbus met some native men in the Carribbean, they said "Taíno, Taíno," which meant, "We are good, noble." Columbus thought they were saying the name of their people....and the name stuck...

The Taíno Indians, a subgroup of the Arawakan Indians, inhabited Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea at the time when Christopher Columbus' arrived to the New World.  Within their culture, there was a hierarchy of deities who inhabited the sky, where Yocahu was the supreme Creator.  Another god, Jurakán, was perpetually angry and ruled the power of the hurricane.  Like many Native Americans, the Taínos believed that being in the good graces of their gods protected them from disease, hurricanes, or disaster in war.

The people lived in theocratic kingdoms (kingdoms ruled by a religious king), and they had a chief, or cacique.  They tended to be skilled at agriculture and hunting, but were also good sailors, fishermen, canoe makers, and navigators.  Their main crops were cassava, garlic, potatoes, yautías, mamey, guava, and anón.  It's believed that Taíno settlements ranged from single families to groups of 3,000 people.

The Taíno were the first Native Americans to encounter the Spanish.  Columbus recorded in his diary that the natives “would easily be made Christians because it seemed to me that they had no religion.”  When they arrived, the Spaniards expected the Taíno Indians to acknowledge the sovereignty of the king of Spain by payment of gold tribute, to work and supply provisions of food, and to observe Christian ways. 

By 1495, the Spanish who had originally been welcomed by the Taíno, had managed to alienate their hosts.  The Taínos rebelled most notably in 1511, when several caciques (Indian leaders) conspired to oust the Spaniards. They were joined in this uprising by their traditional enemies, the Caribs.  The battle was unlike anything that the Taíno had ever experienced.  It began with twenty Spanish warriors, fully armored and riding warhorses through their ranks, inflicting great damage with their swords and lances.  Then foot soldiers fired their guns, a terrifying weapon to those who had never encountered it.  Finally, the Spanish set loose their large dogs, trained to kill humans, upon the Taíno warriors.  The Spanish goal seemed to be to kill as many Taíno as possible, a goal that was unheard of in the traditional warfare on the islands.

The natives were no match against Spanish horses and firearms. and the revolt was soon ended brutally by the Spanish forces of Governor Juan Ponce de León.  The Taíno was forced to accept status as Spanish subjects, paying tribute in the form of food, cotton, and gold.  The Spanish demanded that every man over the age of 14 provide them with a little copper bell filled with gold every three months.  Providing gold, however, was not the greatest hardship; the Spanish were also eating everything, including food that wasn't ready for harvest, leading to food shortages and starvation for the Taíno.  By 1497, the combination of starvation, European diseases, and Spanish brutality had reduced the Taíno numbers. 


  • Encounter (Jane Yolen)
    • When Christopher Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492, what he discovered were the Taino Indians. Told from a young Taino boy’s point of view, this is a story of how the boy tried to warn his people against welcoming the strangers, who seemed more interested in golden ornaments than friendship. Years later the boy, now an old man, looks back at the destruction of his people and their culture by the colonizers.
  • Juan Bobo: Four Folktales from Puerto Rico
  • The Golden Flower


Make / Do

  • Map out the region of the Taino people.  Label important landmarks / seas / modern day cities.
  • Make a timeline of the Taino civilization (include the encounter)
  • Create a Venn Diagram showing how Columbus' men and the Taino were similar and different.
    • Older students should use this diagram to write an essay comparing and contrasting the cultures.
  • Several English words are derived from the Caribe language.  See how many of them you use everyday!
  • Check out 10 Fun Facts about the Taino
  • What do you think?  Should we celebrate Columbus Day?  Explore that question with this packet.
  • Learn more about the geography and history of Tainos in the Everyday Explorers: Puerto Rico 20-lesson unit bundle!  (Free for subscribers to download here.)


  • barbacoa
  • Boricua
  • Borikén
  • cacique
  • piraguas/cayucas
  • Caribe
  • coquí
  • cucubano
  • guanín
  • iguana
  • jurakan
  • mime
  • natiao
  • yucayeque


  • How this story is different from most stories about the early encounters with Native Americans?
  • Looking back on the 15th century from a modern day perspective, who do you think benefitted the most from the encounter?  Why?
  • What would happen if advanced beings from another planet came to Earth? What might happen to the human population? How does that scenario differ from human colonization?

Pick up the Everyday Explorers: Puerto Rico unit for FREE on our Subscriber Freebies page!  Not yet a subscriber?  Sign up here!

Get the entire World History Bundle!

Includes ten unit studies (plus a bonus!) covering World History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning from Ancient Hawaii to modern-day. There is also a study of archaeological concepts. 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.
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!

Product samples:   Motel of the Mysteries & Encounter

  • Motel of the Mysteries
  • Island Boy
  • Encounter
  • The Odyssey
  • A Loyal Foe
  • Indigo Girl
  • Gold Rush Girl
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Number the Stars
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • House of the Seven Gables (bonus)

Wednesday, March 16

The Chosen + Zionist Movement

In the book, "The Chosen," at one meal, Reuven mentions that some feel it is time to establish a Jewish state, which sends Rabbi Saunders into a fierce tirade against Zionism: for the ultra-orthodox, a secular Jewish state established by man without the coming of the Messiah is against God's will.  So what exactly is Zionism....?

Zionism is both a nationalist movement and an ideological one that supports the establishment of a Jewish state in the area where Canaan and the Holy Land were thought to be, which is in the region of Palestine and Israel, based on a long Jewish connection to that area.

The modern Zionist movement emerged in the late 1800s in Europe as a reaction to anti-Semitism (disliking Jews simply because they were Jewish).  Soon after this, most leaders of the movement associated the main goal with creating the desired state in Palestine, an area that was controlled by the Ottoman Empire at the time.

Zionism proposed the establishment of a state where Jews would be free from the persecutions, humiliations, discrimination, and antisemitism they had been subject to, most recently during World War 2.  A variety of Zionism, called cultural Zionism, founded and represented most prominently by Ahad Ha'am, fostered a secular vision of a Jewish "spiritual center" in Israel.  Unlike Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, Ahad Ha'am wanted Israel to be "a Jewish state and not merely a state of Jews."

It should be noted that the movement was not without issues.  There was Jewish opposition to the Zionist movement long before the state of Israel was declared in 1948.  Even today, some ultra-Orthodox groups oppose the state of Israel because they believe the true Jewish state will only be established with the coming of the Messiah.  There are also critics of the Israeli building of settlements.  The Israelis see these things as necessary for protection, while Palestinian supporters see it as a colonizing land grab.


  • The Chosen
    • It’s the spring of 1944 and fifteen-year-olds Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders have lived five blocks apart all their lives. But they’ve never met, not until the day an accident during a softball game sparks an unlikely friendship. Soon these two boys—one expected to become a Hasidic rebbe, the other at ease with secular America—are drawn into one another’s worlds despite one father’s strong opposition.  Set against the backdrop of WWII and the creation of the state of Israel, The Chosen is a poignant novel about transformation and tradition, growing up and growing wise, and finding yourself—even if that might mean leaving your community.
  • The Promise (sequel to The Chosen) (optional)


Make / Do

  • Part 2 ends with the boys going to Hirsch.  Part 3 begins one week into school.  Write an essay about what happens in between these times.
  • Make a glossary of Yiddish terms from the novel.
  • Using a world map, mark where you can find big groups of Hasidic Jews today (will require research).
  • Write a letter from Mr. Malter to his sister about the birth of Israel.
  • Choose a Jewish delicacy (challah, tsimmes, gefilte fish, etc) and make it at home.
  • Find more activities in the Jewish Literature series


  • assimilationist
  • samovar
  • brownstone
  • gentile
  • phylacteries
  • monocles
  • ailanthus
  • tractate
  • numerology
  • cathexis
  • convalesce
  • rostrum
  • bower


  • How would Danny and Reuven's lives be different if they were growing up today?
  • Do you think Danny will regret his decision to give up earlocks and become a psychologist rather than follow his father?

Explore more with the Advanced High School Literature bundle!

Includes six unit studies covering a variety of topics presented in more mature literature selections.
  • 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.
Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!
Units include:
· Oliver Twist & the Industrial Revolution
· Things Fall Apart & the Colonization of Africa
· The Chosen & the Zionist Movement
· Five People You Meet in Heaven & Human Impact
· The Things they Carried & the Vietnam War
· Crime and Punishment & Free Will vs Determinism

Monday, March 14

The Lorax Unit Study - Earth Day

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is "The Lorax," and it's been a family favorite for movie night, too!  Yes, the story teaches life lessons, but the kids also enjoy it because the music is catchy and there's just the right amount of goofiness -- Betty White's character, anyone?  While Earth Day is a great time to revisit this story, it's really fantastic any time of year...

How do trees become products?

  1. To make wood products, people first harvest trees and process them into lumber. 
  2. After the trees have been cut down, the branches are removed and they are cut into logs. 
  3. Then, the logs are loaded onto trucks and transported to a sawmill. 
  4. The first machine at the sawmill strips off the bark. 
  5. The logs are then measured and then cut into lumber. 
  6. Depending on how the wood will be used (whether for buildings, furniture, baseball bats, etc.), the trees will be cut in different ways. 
    • What products a tree is used for depends on the type of tree it is. For example, hardwood trees such as oak and maple are often used for flooring and high quality furniture, while softwood (coniferous) trees are usually used for papermaking, lower quality furniture, houses, and crates.

What else can we make?

Paper was made by hand for nearly 17 centuries following its invention in China about 100 A.D. In Asia, plant fibers were beaten into a pulp, suspended in water, and formed into sheets by draining the fibers through a screen. As knowledge of paper making moved westward, paper makers began to use rags rather than plant fibers to furnish pulp. Papermaking spread to Europe through the Middle East, reaching Spain from North Africa by about 1200. From Spain, the craft eventually was brought to the North and South America. The Spanish established a European-style paper mill in Mexico around 1580.

All land plants contain a compound called cellulose, which provides them with rigidity and support. It’s the primary component in wood. People use cellulose from wood to make a variety of products besides paper. For example, cellulose can be mixed with certain chemicals and squeezed into fibers that are used to make carpets, wigs, and fabrics such as rayon for clothes and furniture. Cellulose is also used as a key ingredient in cellophane, sausage casings, explosives, shatterproof glass, sponges, shampoo thickeners, imitation leather, and many other products. Processed with certain chemicals, cellulose may also be used to produce molded plastics for eyeglass frames, hairbrush handles, steering wheels, and so on.

It would be hard, if not impossible, to find a part of a tree that people do not use in some way. The bark of many trees, for example, is used for many different products. Most bottle corks are made from the bark of cork oak trees, which grow in Europe and Africa near the Mediterranean Sea. The spongy bark of these trees is made into bulletin boards, the inner cores of baseballs, and many other products. Quinine, the drug used to cure and prevent malaria, comes from Peruvian bark and had been used by Native Americans long before the Europeans arrived. Some tree bark has an abundance of a chemical called tannin. People use tannin to process leather.

Some trees produce saps called gums and resins that are used to make paint thinner, chewing gum, medicines, and many other products. For hundreds of years, South American Indians have extracted the sap or latex from the rubber tree to make products such as rubber-soled shoes and containers. They processed it by heating the rubber and mixing it with sulfur to improve its strength. Maple trees produce a sap that people turn into maple syrup. Trees provide people with fruits and nuts such as apples, coconut, pecans, lemons, and olives, and spices such as allspice and nutmeg. Tree leaves, trunks, and other parts also provide ingredients for paints, road building materials, medicines, artificial vanilla, adhe sives, inks, and hundreds of other products.

Many private forests, most of them family owned, choose to grow trees for wood products such as paper and lumber. Like other forests, family owned forests not only produce timber and other forest commodities, but also provide homes for wildlife, produce oxygen, reduce soil erosion, help protect water quality, and offer recreation areas. Although family forest owners often have different goals for managing their lands, most have one thing in common: they want to manage their forests in an aesthetically pleasing and ecologically sound way, while growing trees for forest products. 

Through various techniques that include harvesting (cutting and thinning), planting, and vegetation control (herbicide use and prescribed burning), a forest owner can manipulate the variety and age of tree species within a forest, the density of trees, the arrangement of different layers or stories of vegetation, and lighting and shading. Even before a forest matures, owners must consider how the next forest will be regenerated and managed. The management techniques a forest owner applies to his or her land not only affect the present forest but also influence its future characteristics.

For this unit, you'll need:

Optional resources (most are free downloads):


  • How did the thneed factory change over time?
  • How did the thneed industry affect the physical environment (water, air, soil etc.)?
  • Byproducts are materials or chemicals remaining after the production of a product.
    • Name two byproducts that resulted from making thneeds.
    • Were any animals affected by the byproducts of thneed production? If so, how were they affected?
    • Were the byproducts that resulted from the making of thneeds harmful or helpful to the environment?
  • How could the Once-ler have managed his company to protect natural resources and not run out of trees to manufacture Thneeds?
  • Compare the Once-ler’s attitude toward the environment at the beginning of the story with his attitude at the end.
  • The Lorax says he speaks for the trees. What does this mean to you? What is the Lorax’s attitude at the end of the story?
  • How would you help the Lorax take care of the earth? Give two or three examples of things you can do in your neighborhood.


Cutting down all the trees in Thneed-ville damaged the environment and caused the animals to look for a new home.  Can you think of other man-made problems that damage the environment and hurt the animals? Why do you think it’s important for us to protect the environment and animals around us?

Make / Do

  • 101 Ways to Help the Earth with the Lorax
    • Get creative with these simple suggestions for helping the planet that kids can do themselves—ideal for nurturing a love of nature and for celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax!
  • Write and illustrate a sequel to The Lorax. The sequel might explain how the Truffula Tree made a comeback through replanting and proper care or how the company finds a balance between creating products and protecting the environment.

  • Try out a sample project from Recycled History.

  • Elementary & lower middle school students - use the movie guide to check your comprehension.

  • Middle & high school students - use 'The Lorax' to work on your art of argument and persuasion. This is a fun way to practice recognizing ethos, pathos, and logos. 

  • Plant a tree!  Use the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Wizard to find the perfect tree for your yard.

Reading Connections

  • Acorn Alone A story of dramatic effects of deforestation and how the Earth reclaims and renews itself.
  • Just a Dream When he has a dream about a future Earth devastated by pollution, Walter begins to understand the importance of taking care of the environment.
  • A Tree is Growing Tells about the structure of trees and how they grow, as well as their uses.
  • The Tree Farmer A proud grandfather takes his grandson on a magical journey through his tree farm where they discover the majesty of the forest and the many benefits of trees.
  • In the Trees, Honey Bees! This book describes amazing insects that are also critically important to humans. Simple verse engages the young child, while sidebars with fascinating information satisfy the older audience.
  • The Giving Tree A moving parable about the gift of giving and the capacity to love, told throughout the life of a boy who grows to manhood and a tree that selflessly gives him her bounty through the years.
  • Mighty Tree Three seeds grow into three beautiful trees, each of which serves a different function in nature and for people. 
  • Trees: Fantastic Facts Reveals for young readers the secret life of trees – what really goes on inside the trunk, how leaves make food, when trees first grew on the earth, and more. Includes 19 information sections on the different parts of a tree and their functions, 23 practical projects that help you discover the life-cycle of a tree, and more than 250 illustrations, photos, and explanatory artwork.
  • A Sense of Wonder Filled with words and pictures to help keep alive the sense of wonder and delight in mysteries of earth, sea, and sky.
  • The Man Who Planted Trees Written in the 1950’s, its message was ahead of its time, inspiring readers to rediscover the harmonies of the countryside and prevent its willful destruction.