Tuesday, November 15

Spread Cheer with these Frugal Homemade Christmas Gifts

I don't know about you, but with the way the economy is headed south right now, we've been tightening our belts every place possible.  This year, that will include gift-giving as well.  But at the same time, we have so many people that we love, and we want to spread cheer!  We want to continue with our RACK program (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness)...and so we set off looking for some ways to create handmade gifts for the majority of our presents this year...

If you are truly trying to cut down, pick only one or two things from this list, and get the supplies in bulk.  If you just like making crafts and / or have lots of different supplies on hand, the more ideas, the merrier!

Not sure what to make?  One idea is to make a couple of several items and offer a "choice box," where people can look through and pick one item.  This way they will get something they will actually use, and you'll get a better idea of what your circle of family and friends would really like in the future (then you can go back to bulk supply purchases). Try to keep items useful, or you'll spend time on things that get trashed or donated.

Kitchen Crafts

  • Fabric items are a hit, whether seasonal or not.  
    • You can make tie-dye dish towels in the color scheme of your recipient's kitchen, or go with traditional red and green.
    • Paint some hand towels with fabric paint - use seasonal or classic kitchen designs.
    • Bowl cozies are nice for warming soups in a bowl in the microwave and not burning yourself. 
      • A few notes: 
  • Using cotton and beeswax, it only takes a little bit to put together homemade beeswax food wraps for a fraction of the cost.
  • Know how to embroider?  Why not create some personalized grilling aprons?
  • Heading to a party?  Bring a bottle in these cute, seasonal homemade wine bags using old blue jeans.
  • If you're handy with a woodburner, create some personalized wooden spoons and spatulas, then add in a potholder and / or cookie mix.  
  • You could also design a recipe box and put in your favorite recipes!

Foodie Gifts

When it comes to homemade treats, the list is endless!  Pick up baskets from your local thrift store if you want to gift multiple items to someone, or just dress up small jars with a bit of ribbon or twine!.  The book series Gifts in a Jar has fantastic ideas for getting you started!

Some ideas include:

Self-Care Gifts

House & Home Crafts

Holiday Schooling & Home Economics

  • The holidays are a great time to get a lesson in on Budgeting and Shopping with a Budget!
  • When the holidays arrive, it's so tempting to completely put school aside...but one does not preclude the other!  Here are some fun ways to include science in your Christmas school.
  • Part of Celebrating Holidays through Literature, here is the entire Christmas Book List for all ages, from board books to adult reads.
  • Do you sew? Do you have a child who would like to learn? Check out the free patterns from 5 out of 4, perfect for beginners or intermediate sewers, plus tons of free tutorials.
  • Homeschool through the holidays with this holiday bundle that includes three full-length history-based holiday unit studies plus several extra crafts and activities!

Monday, November 14

Studying Old English with J.R.R. Tolkien

“Remember what punishments befell us in this world when we ourselves did not cherish learning nor transmit it to other men.”
                             ~ King Alfred the Great

“No language is justly studied merely as an aid to other purposes. It will in fact better serve other purposes, philological or historical, when it is studied for love, for itself.”
                              ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language.  It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the mid-5th century, and spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages.  The Norman conquest of 1066 is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, since during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

Why Learn Old English?

  • Historic reference -- When you're reading an old manuscript or looking at historic documents, it helps to be able to understand what is written.  Being able to understand these historic texts can also provide better historic context of this age.
  • Language acquisition -- Whether you're wanting to better understand modern English, or learn a completely different language, the study of Old English helps you to see and comprehend the linguistic roots.  You can then apply this methodology to learning other languages for better mastery.
  • Love of Tolkien -- This is why our son chose this elective in the first place, and there's some truth to it.  He loves all things Tolkien, and was inspired to study the author and his methods BECAUSE he also wants to be a writer, create new worlds, and inspire others in the future.  We study the ones we admire.
  • Individuality -- The language is kind of quirky.  The Old English alphabet includes three characters no longer used in Modern English: ð (eth/edh), þ (thorn), and æ (ash/aesc).  The poetry is full of kennings (conventional figurative phrases), like whale road = sea, world’s candle = sun, and ring-giver = king.

Evolution of Old English

Is Old English a dead language?  Not as much as you'd think.  Many of its words still exist, albeit in a different form:
  • Old English: Blōd             Modern English: Blood
  • Old English: Consul         Modern English: Consul
  • Old English: Flyht            Modern English: Flight
  • Old English: Hunta           Modern English: Hunter
  • Old English: Panne           Modern English: Pan
  • Old English: Wæter          Modern English: Water
Similar to classical Latin - which evolved into the romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian) - Old English went through many evolutions before becoming what we think of as English today.  Much of our core vocabulary derives from Old English, though many have altered spellings from their original form.  But did you know that most of our 'silent letters' (like the k in knight or the b in numb) also come from this earlier form of the language?

During the Anglo-Saxon period of England, Viking invasions helped to usher in the Old Norse language.  This new system relied heavily on word order to determine a sentence's meaning, whereas the Anglo-Saxon language used case structure to determine meaning (so the words could go in a variety of order, similar to classical Latin).  This was an early change to Old English.  

With the Norman conquest, in 1066, the language changed even further.  Many French words were incorporated into the language, and other words dropped out of use.  With further conquests by Germanic tribes, the language shifted even further over the next millennium, eventually evolving into the modern English we use today.  What do you think it will sound like five hundred years from now??

It is important to recognize that the loss of the case system, right around the turn of the second millennia, makes it necessary to approach Old English today as a foreign language.  However, similar to studying classical Latin, there are no native speakers to consult for pronunciation and grammatical difficulties. Our knowledge of Old English will always be incomplete, but this is one of the things that make it such a fascinating field of study!

The unit study below focuses specifically on Beowulf.  Download the ENTIRE, year-long curriculum plan for the Old English course here!

  • Beowulf
    • J.R.R. Tolkien completed his translation of Beowulf in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition includes an illuminating written commentary on the poem by the translator himself, drawn from a series of lectures he gave at Oxford in the 1930s.
  • Download the ENTIRE CURRICULUM PLAN for the Old English course here.  (The full-year plan covers Old English grammar, vocabulary, Tolkien's etymology, archetypes, movie connections, comprehension, and more!)


Make / Do
  • Having trouble understanding the text?  Check out this site for layman's descriptions of each scene.
  • Complete the comprehension questions as you read.
  • What makes someone a monster? Write a poem titled "The Beowulf in Me" or "The Grendel in Me." (Or perhaps write about your duality.) Be specific.
  • Write a resumé for Beowulf. Include name, origin, height, weight, experience, skills, position applied for, etc. Avoid anachronisms.
  • Write an original episode for Beowulf. Create some new foe for him to fight. Try to follow the Anglo-Saxon style.

  • resolute
  • vehemently
  • infallible
  • furled
  • lavish
  • assail
  • extolled
  • apid
  • mead
  • reparation
  • solace
  • prow
  • shroud
  • vex
  • reprisal
  • scabbard
  • scop
  • kenning
  • alliteration
  • caesura
  • Celts
  • Anglo-Saxon
  • Pagan
  • How do works like the Bible and Beowulf determine our definitions of the nature of good and evil?
  • What kind of a society did the characters of Beowulf live in? What did they value, and what was the role of women, represented here by Hildeburh, during the Anglo-Saxon period?

Tuesday, November 8

Killers of the Flower Moon + History of Oil & Gas

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Osage Indians were driven onto a presumed worthless expanse of land in northeastern Oklahoma, but their territory turned out to be on top of one of the largest oil deposits in the United States.  To obtain that oil, prospectors were required to pay the tribe for leases and royalties.  By the 1920s, the members of Osage Nation had become the wealthiest people per capita in the world!  And then the Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances...

Did you know that the first oil was discovered by the Chinese in 600 B.C. and transported in pipelines made from bamboo?  It wasn't until 1859, however, and the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania that oil set the stage for a new world economy.  With the advent of the automobile in the early 20th century, the demand for oil increased exponentially!  By the end of the 1910s, gasoline had proven itself (through World War I) as both a critical energy source and an important military asset.

Most people think of Texas and Oklahoma when they think of oil in the US, but the first oil companies and derricks were in and around Titusville, PA back in the mid to late 1800s.  Here's a little bit about how the history of oil unfolded...
  • August 27, 1859 – First oil well drilled in Titusville, PA by Edwin Drake of the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company
  • 1866 – Oil production begins in Oil Springs, Texas
  • 1867 – Rockefeller forms the Standard Oil Company, and becomes the industry’s first “baron." By 1879, Standard Oil controlled not only 90% of America’s refining capacity, but also its pipelines and gathering systems.  (While Rockefeller was building his U.S. empire, the Nobel and Rothschild families were competing for control of production and refining of Russia’s oil riches.)
  • 1870 – Kerosene has replaced whale oil as the dominant fuel for illumination, bringing an end to the era of whale oil.
  • 1894 – First significant Texas oil field developed near Corsicana and would eventually build the first modern refinery in Texas.
  • January 10, 1901 – Spindletop Geyser - This discovery near Beaumont, Texas would set off the oil industry boom in Texas.  More than 1500 oil companies would be formed within a year of the Spindletop geyser.
  • 1911 – US Supreme Court ordered the Standard Oil Trust to break apart. That monopoly becomes thirty-four separate companies.  Today, three companies—ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP—are considered the original “supermajors.”
  • 1930s – Gulf Oil, BP, Texaco, and Chevron were involved in concessions that made major discoveries in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Libya.
  • 1960 – OPEC formed in Baghdad, Iraq for the purpose of negotiating with IOCs on matters of oil production, oil prices, and future concession rights. (Today, members of OPEC are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.  Saudi Arabia has the majority of OPEC reserves, followed closely by Iran and Venezuela.)
  • 1973-74 - Arab oil embargo; US gas crisis
  • 1980s – Oil glut sends the price of oil from $35 a barrel to below $10
  • 1989 – Exxon Valdez oil spill
  • 1990 – Gulf War
  • 1997 – Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) proliferates.
  • The 2000s – Oil prices spike. The price of oil continues to climb above $65 in 2005 and eventually hits a high of $147.30 in 2008.
  • 2010 – BP Horizon oil spill
  • 2022 - Oil prices spike amid global pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Osage Indian Murders

So what does the history of oil and gas have to do with the Osage Indians?  This Native American tribe happened to be in the wrong place at the right time...so to speak.  During the 1910s-1930s, there was a "reign of terror" in Osage County, Oklahoma.  More than sixty natives were killed, but investigators suspect there there were many more suspicious deaths that were misreported or covered up during this time, too.  We may never know how many wealthy Osage, and their heirs, were killed.

The reason so many murders were occurring was because the natives owned land that was producing oil.  Since they owned the land, they owned the rights, and received the royalties, for that oil.  Greed is the root cause of many evils, and this series of murders was the result of greed, largely from William Hale, who even ordered the murders of his nephew's wife and other members of his wife's family, to gain control of their oil rights!

When the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) came to Oklahoma to see what was going on, they discovered that many local law officials were corrupt, and some had even been involved with the murders.  The government changed laws and took over managing the money that came from oil produced in this land, but nearly eighty years later, the Osage tribe filed a lawsuit saying that money had not been paid to their people the right way.  (The lawsuit was settled for nearly $380 million.)  The Osage murders were a tragic chapter in the history of this nation, and contributed to the birth and growth of the FBI.


  • Killers of the Flower Moon: Adapted for Young Readers
    • In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, thanks to the oil that was discovered beneath their land. Then, one by one, the Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances, and anyone who tried to investigate met the same end.  As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created Bureau of Investigation, which became the FBI, took up the case, one of the organization's first major homicide investigations. An undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau, infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Working with the Osage, they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.  In this adaptation of the adult bestseller, David Grann revisits his gripping investigation into the shocking crimes against the Osage people.


Make / Do
  • Units include: Geography, History, Economics, Ecology, Safety, Production, Fluids, Physical Science, Geology, Sound Waves, Graphing, Lab Equipment, Usage, and Engineering. Each unit has several lessons within it. Lessons include vocabulary and background information, reading extensions, research, videos, lab experiments, and hands-on projects. Each lesson is designed for family-style use, with extra activities to flesh out the course for upper grades students. Most lessons will take about a week to complete. You are not expected to complete the entire lesson in one ‘class.’ (Unless you are dedicating an entire day to science!) 

  • derrick
  • gulch
  • prevailing
  • allotment
  • corroborate
  • treatise
  • tract
  • prostration
  • consortium
  • unscrupulous
  • insinuate
  • muckraker
  • insidious
  • reprehensible
  • staunch
  • egregious
  • pilfer
  • complicity
  • abscond
  • diaspora
  • megalomania
  • hypocritical
  • Can you think of modern racial prejudices and injustices that parallel those described in Killers of the Flower Moon? What has changed about the approach taken by law enforcement? In what ways have things remained the same?
  • What role did new methods of criminal investigation play in uncovering the guilty parties? In addition to introducing up-to-date forensic science, how did J. Edgar Hoover use the case to transform the FBI and enhance his own image?

Thursday, November 3

Studying Indigenous Peoples for Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, and it is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native people.  Along with studies about Thanksgiving, this month is a good time to learn about different tribes and the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present...

Did you know that there are 573 federally recognized Indian Nations in the United States?  In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating the month of November “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Proclamations have been issued each year since 1994. 

Thousands of years before Columbus landed in the Americas, a group of people hiked over the land bridge from Asia into modern-day Alaska.  These people spread into new regions and flourished.  It is estimated that by the time the European explorers arrived, there were around 50 million people living in the Americas.

Anthropologists group these native peoples into ten different regions today, reflecting the variety of cultures that developed.  These include: the Arctic, the Subarctic, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Plains, the Southwest, the Great Basin, California, the Northwest Coast and the Plateau.
  • The Arctic is a frozen desert near the Arctic Circle in present-day Alaska, Canada and Greenland, and is home to the Inuit and the Aleut.  Both groups speak dialects descended from what scholars call the Eskimo-Aleut language family.  Due to the inhospitable landscape, the population of this region was and still is small, with northerners living a nomadic lifestyle, following game, while southerners tended to settle into fishing villages.  The houses of both groups were similar, featuring dome-shaped houses of sod, timber, or even ice blocks, and the use of seal or otter skin for clothing.
  • Just south is the Subarctic region, a taiga area of swampy, piney forests and waterlogged tundra that stretches across inland Alaska and Canada.  The two main groups of this region are the Athabaskan (western) and Algonquian (eastern).  Population was sparse here as well, largely in nomadic family groups.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, the fur trade changed their way of life as they went from being a nomadic people to supplying pelts to the European traders.
  • The Northeast region  stretches from Canada to North Carolina and as far inland as Mississippi.  The two main groups here were the Iroquois and Algonquian.  Both grew 'three sisters' crops of corn, beans, and vegetables.  This group was one of the first to make contact with Europeans.  Even before the arrival of the European colonizers, this region was prone to war, with the aggressive Iroquois tribes that often raided.
  • The Southeast was home to the Five Civilized Tribes, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.  Many of these natives were farmers due to the humid, fertile land.  In 1830, the federal Indian Removal Act compelled the relocation of what remained of the Five Civilized Tribes so that white settlers could have their land, forcing nearly 100,000 Indigenous people out of the southern states and into “Indian Territory” (later Oklahoma) west of the Mississippi.  The Cherokee called this frequently deadly trek the Trail of Tears.
  • The Plains area is a vast region of prairie stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  The people living here included Sioux, Algonquian, Caddo, Uto-Aztecan and Athabaskan, and they were often hunters and farmers.  The most common dwelling for these hunters was the cone-shaped teepee, which could be easily transported during nomadic periods.  Plains Indians were also known for their elaborately feathered war bonnets.
  • In the Southwest region, two very distinct cultures developed.  The Hopi, Zuni, Yaqui, and Yuma were farmers in permanent settlements, whereas the Navajo and Apache were nomadic.  Many of these native people were enslaved on encomiendas, killed during the Mexican War, or resettled onto reservations.
  • The Great Basin is formed from the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevadas, Colorado Plateau, and Columbia Plateau, which all created a large bowl-like region of desert, salt-flat, and brackish lake.  The people here spoke Shoshonean or Uto-Aztecan, and were nomads were lived in easy-to-build shelters.  Once prospectors discovered gold and silver in the region in the mid-19th century, most of this region's people lost their land and, frequently, their lives.
  • At one time, California had more people than any other North American landscape; it's estimated there were 100 different tribes with approximately 300,000 people in the mid-1500s.  Despite this great diversity, many native Californians lived very similar lives, living in small family-groups of hunter-gatherers until the region was settled by Spanish explorers toward the end of the 16th century.
  • On the Northwest Coast, the ocean and rivers provided almost everything the people needed, including salmon, whales, sea otters, seals and fish and shellfish of all kinds.  Because of this, the Indians of the Pacific Northwest were able to build permanent villages.  Peoples here included the Tlingit, Chinook, and Salish.
  • The Plateau encompasses the intersection of the Subarctic, Plains, Great Basin, Northwest Coast, and California regions.  Most of the people here lived in small, peaceful villages along stream and riverbanks and survived by fishing for salmon and trout, hunting and gathering wild berries, roots and nuts.  In 1805, Lewis and Clark passed through the area, followed by increasing numbers of white settlers.  By the end of the 19th century, most of the remaining members of Plateau tribes had been cleared from their lands and resettled in government reservations.

Virtual Field Trip

If you've followed us for any length of time, you know that we were a roadschooling family for several years...winding our way across these United States, learning history, geography, culture, and more through years of travel.  While we tend to stay home these days, we still get out once in a while!  

Recently, on our way through North Carolina, we visited the Oconaluftee Indian Village, tucked into the Smokies of Cherokee. The Oconaluftee Indian Village is a replica of an 18th-century eastern Cherokee community.  Visitors learn the history and culture of the Cherokee and get to see the artistry and making of such items as arrowheads, baskets, and blowguns.  There's quite a bit of history to be gleaned here, and the guides help put the Native American history into the European timeline, covering more than just the 19th century era.

{Free} Printable Resources

    Activities to Do

    Upper Grades Reads + Unit Studies

    Elementary Reads