Thursday, October 28, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg Trip 2010

It's way past time to post this field trip and since it was such a nice one, I don't want to skip it just because life is busy as usual around here.

Although I was planning to take this trip in late October, I only discovered last minute that Colonial Williamsburg was offering a Homschool Educators Week starting 9/11/10 (another in Feb so check out the site!).  So, with no planning under my belt and only a desire that Jefferson should at least experience this piece of history (before we get too far away from his revolutionary war summer learning), I booked a hotel and ran down with he and Reagan for 4 days. It was crazy last minute for me but I feel like that stretches & grows my ability to flex (a talent that I was NOT born with - lol!).
(Her mood prior to getting a side cramp from all the walking!)
We arrived on a Saturday noon, checked in and head directly for the Colonial Williamsburg to get any needed tickets and try to catch as much in the last half of the day as possible. Having not researched our options ahead of time, it was a bit overwhelming at first.  There are evening programs, costume rentals, carriage rides, & numerous museums available in addition to the classes offered to the home schooling groups and various tours available (and even online lesson plans & maps for those of you who are better at advanced prep than I)! 

But we managed to check out an introductory video and the miniature model of the town with it's summary of the city's important part in America's colonial and revolutionary days.  Jefferson was reluctant to start taking notes, but I assured him that wondering around the town with NO background as to it's history or people would be more useless and boring than he would like! He was surprised to learn how large the Virginia Colony actual was and how important it was to the churning revolutionaries. We headed out to explore & I quickly realized that we should have pre-trained for all the walking just as if we were training for a marathon - lol!

We stopped and explored the Great Hopes Plantation first.  Wow - was there a lot to see there! It is only about a quarter of the size of the Plymouth Plantation replica in MA, but full of things to do and learn.  It consists of a smokehouse, well, slave house, kitchen house, tobacco house, master's house (not built yet), fenced in livestock areas and fields.  Jefferson and Reagan started by learning to hand dip candles from a hot cauldron full of beeswax.  It took them quite some time to make just one candle!  We next checked out the cotton field (having never seen a cotton plant before even online!).  The plants were in bloom with yellow flowers which then grow pods full of cotton.  When the pods dry, they crack open and the cotton must be picked.  After observing these plants, we talked to one of the actor 'slaves' only to find that cotton did not actually become a cash crop in Virginia until about the 1820's!  Before this, flax was used for clothing and cotton was not in as high demand as was tobacco.  We also learned that slaves could not purchase their own freedom in Virginia between the years 1720 and 1783.

On to the Colonial town - what a beautiful place!!  Many of the original buildings have been rebuilt and actors wonder around with their instruments or animals. We found many horses in pasture (belonging to the 'richer' colonialists for their carriages) and sheep & chickens.  The streets are lined with trees that would not have been there in colonial times, having been used for buildings or firewood.  Jefferson was thrilled to find a soda machine (hidden away) that accepted credit card for the water bottles ($3 EACH!) that we so much needed and I so foolishly forgot.  We found our way to the brick capital building to wait for a cannon salute.  We enjoyed an amazing fife & drum march along with a moving speech from Patrick Henry and the Governor as they took down the English flag and replaced it with an American colonial flag.  The kids REALLY enjoyed this!

And all this was only in half of a day!  We settled into our hotel that evening and I required Jefferson to journal about the day, using notes he had taken along the way. Though willing to do this for Mrs. Third Grade Teacher last year, he dragged his feet on it for me (in his typical home school style - at least it doesn't rub so hard on me this year as it did in 2nd grade: progress for this teacher momma!).  Sigh.... but I knew he'd regret it later if he didn't have a record of his thoughts so we pushed through and hashed over the events until he could formulate them into his own words.

We visited local family & friends on Sunday but hit the pavement again on Monday, heading straight for the Jamestown Settlement (also having some great home school classes).  We missed the home school classes since I didn't find out about them until 2 days before, but got take a 2-hour tour which was geared toward kids. Wow - it turned out to be nice also!  We started at the three ships (replicas of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery) used to bring the first colonists over to the new world from England. The kids were amazed at how small they were and didn't think that they would have liked to make that journey even once!  We walked through a small replica of the Powhaten village that would have been close to the settlement and learned how they built their structures with reed woven mats and planted corn in a similar manner to the natives of Plymouth, MA (with a fish under each stalk to fertilize) as well as using fire to burnout logs for canoes (also similar to Plymouth).  Both Rae & Jefferson got to try their hand at using nearby shells to scrape the outside of a burned log and found it harder than they expected! Strangely, we did not learn anything about Pocohantas since we were just lightly touching this bit of history. But I think that the James Fort was the most interesting for the kids.  We learned a ton about how tobacco became a cash crop that saved the colony from starvation (after failed attempts at finding gold, planting corn, cutting lumber, and making green glass) and how the colony protected itself from indians & Spaniards.  We enjoyed a neat demonstration of a colonial gun and wanted to post a video clip but I don't have the patience with blogg*er. Nothing like weapons & armor to attract the kids' attention though!

So here's a tidbit summary on Jamestown Settlement.  If you visit this page, then you'll know just about as much as we do - lol!  I think Jefferson only got the idea of where it fits into history mainly due to the amount that he studied Plymouth Plantation last year.  But I thought the tour was great at summarizing and making some key points clear to the kids!

We took an "Artifacts" tour early the next morning, which turned out to be rather boring, even for me! But we did manage to learn something even though it wasn't quite geared for children. The area is rich, rich, rich with artifacts and give  historians a great view of the cross section of people who lived in colonial Williamsburg. Not only is there a ton of glassware, but planty of pipes, toys, and dinnerware. The other item that the archeologists use to learn about the period is bones! We were surprised to find that the bones of animals in different areas could tell us how well-off the owner of that area was. For instance, a poor person would not ow livestock nor eat good cuts of large animals, like cows so one wouldn't find those bones near their houses. Here are a few pics of some sample artifacts.

On our next tour we learned about daily life & clothing that the colonials wore as well as the fact that Jefferson & Reagan fit quite nicely into the stockades! :-) I think I need to get a set for my house!

The kids told me that our final tour was their favorite - horse & buggies of the period! Colonial Williamsburg keeps many horses (of the original breeds from the period) and a number of carriage replicas which are used to tour people around the city. We learned what it takes to shoe a horse and how many different breeds are kept as well as how very, very expensive the nice carriages were (thus making them much more rare than we think they were).

By the time we were finished running around and were rushing back to our shuttle, we were dead beat! I was amazed at how large the old city was and just how much there was to see and do and learn. Even after so much time and journaling, it seemed like we only just brushed the surface of all there was to see. We didn't even have time to use the hotel pool (a big disappointment to the kids but at least they got to eat at restuarants and have ice cream)!

For anyone who can, this is a trip that is definitely worth it! I think that we'll have to plan this one every few years for the rest of the kids to enjoy as well!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

One thing I'll miss about summer...


Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Tiniest Things...

Two reasons that I love the 'macro' setting on my camera:

1) It reminds me to focus on the amazing and perfect detail that our God has put into even the tiniest things!  If I can capture them, I could just stare and ponder those details over and over...and over....

2) It's the ONLY thing I can get right with my camera (all other photographic shots, as well as any creativity, usually fail)!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - J Turns 9!

How has it come to be that time of year again, when the pools close and the weather turns a downward trend and I am reminded of my age by the passing of another birthday for my firstborn??  This year Jefferson has been very interested in rollerskating and although we won't have his rollerrink party for another couple weeks, we gathered as much family as we could for a day to celebrate his 9th birthday.  He requested chocolate cake and since I didn't have time to make it, I picked up the largest, chocolatiest, heaviest monstrosity that I could find (thx Cost*co, for the tummy ache & heartburn!). It was just so much fun to see how excited he was all day long as he waited for his aunts & uncles & grandparents (and PRESENTS!)!


Monday, August 23, 2010

2010-2011 School Year

We have made it through 3 weeks of our new school year and are getting used to all the newness of it. Still need to update my sidebars but here's what's going on around HA....

First big change: Jefferson is at home again! I really can't explain how nice that is - we just love having him home and watching him learn so much! He loved his time away school last year and did very well among the students as well as academically. But by the middle of the year we became aware that God was using the year more as a lesson for us than for him. We were reminded of His calling to homeschool our children and that He is always faithful to meet our needs.

Second big change: we are a little past four months pregnant with our fifth (yup - I counted correctly) baby! We are excited but feeling a bit of pressure due to my lack of energy and first year of accountability with the school district plus the special GAPS diet we are trying to keep implemented around here.  This baby may well just get shoved in box in a white onsie when he/she arrives since I can't yet fathom the prep for it - lol! We only have one child rootin' for a girl while the rest would like another brother but I'm sure that January 23rd will arrive sooner than we all expect! Definitely considering a good baby sling this time if we want to finish the school year...

Third big change: the two littlest boys, Adam (4.5) and Lincoln (2.5) will both be headed to a local preschool, giving me some much, much needed focus on my 4th and 2nd grade students.  So far, I've been shoving them outside or down into our basement play area for a few lessons. That was...until Adam decided it would be fun to peepee on everything in the basement!  Sheesh...what they will think of when noone is looking. September is when they start so, on every day of the week, at least one of them will be in school so that Jefferson & Reagan will have less screaming and fighting to endure from them while trying to concentrate. The boys are both excited and I know they will love it (but not more than I will!!!! as I weep when dropping them off)!

Our plan for Jefferson (4th grade) and Reagan (2nd grade) is working nicely so far though!

4th Grade:
Bible - Kay Arthur inductive study kids series (Jonah)
Sonlight Core 4 History (1850's to the World Wars)
Sonlight Core 4 LA (plus MCP vocabulary and cursive but with no grammar)
Spelling Power
Saxon 5/4 Math (plus DVD teacher)
Chemistry with Answers In Genesis
Rosetta Stone (beginning at year 1 again by his choice)

All reading, read-aloud, geography, grammar, dictation, writing, timeline work, memory work, vocabulary is included in the Sonlight program. He is old enough to study his bible independently now (with my checking his conclusions) and we already enjoy the Kay Arthur inductive studies. We have yet to find any other children's program that isn't just fluff or summarized Bible reading and are seeing progress with him in this study on Jonah already. 

Spelling Power is a program that works for 3rd through 12th grade and only takes us 15 minutes each day. We'll see how it improves his spelling or not by the end of the year.

Having used Saxon math at away school last year, Jefferson requested it for homeschool this year. Aaaaaand then he whined and fussed about it for the last three weeks we've used it!  Oy - a momma sometimes can't win - lol! I think it works well for the way that he thinks but he was just having trouble adjusting to all his different lessons (SL breaks things into little pieces which then makes math feel like it takes too long). Today he decided that he'd have a better attitude about it, thankfully!

 He is already enjoying chemistry and I am relieved to see that the AIG is not too far above his head.  Although we don't always get 3 lessons in, he really likes the experiments so far.  We are using a marble notebook to teach him to record the scientific method to the extent that he can (including any photos, data charts, and drawing). Below he was testing to see whether yeast grow better with sugar or honey as their food source.

2nd Grade
Writing with Excellence Phonetic Zoo (Level A) (phonics based auditory spelling)
MCP Plaid Phonics Level C
AL Right Start Math Level C
Reading to me
Simply Grammar (Karen Andreola)
The Story of the World (finish v1 & start vol2)
Sonlight Core 2 Science

With Reagan, I am always looking for something....anything....that will work with the way she processes.  She's just not a left-to-right, fit-in-a-box, do-what-everyone-else-does kind of learner.  The Christ Centered Curriculum phonics program that we used for the last 2 years, just doesn't seem to velcro the info into her head nor does it interest her - at all.  So this year, I purchased Phonetic Zoo in the hope that it would help her to develop her auditory processing as well as improving her spelling.  We are taking it slowly, but I hope to have her grab the headphones and complete lessons on her own by Jan. In the meantime, she is really enjoying MCP phonics workbook because she can read the instructions herself, complete 2 pages in a short amount of time, and it's full of color and varying excercises which hold her attention.

For math, we continue with the Right Start program that I love so much and that gave Jefferson such a strong math foundation.  I have found that the only difference in her learning is that she requires more practice (which in this program comes in the form of card games mostly but also much abacus work) than he did in order to deepen her understanding of an algorithm.  I have been pleasantly surprised so far this year at her memory of what she previously learned (she had about 8 weeks summer break due to the pregnancy!) as well as her willingness to talk through her solution process with me.  I think she is finally understanding that I expect her to show me what's going on in her brain so that I can help her to become better! 

Reading outloud is something that Reagan finds to be laborious, except on the rare occasion where she is reading to the little boys.  And yet she needs it more than she realizes since she still doesn't sound out difficult words very well (she just isn't willing to slow down and try - just wants to know or else skip it).  So I have to be careful what we choose for her to read, so that she finds more success than frustration.  We only spend about 15 minutes each day and I hope that this is enough?  Currently, we are enjoying the "Millers" series of readers by Christian Light Publications but I will use anything that I see holds her attention.

Read aloud is just as tough for me to figure out for her.  I am not able to read something like "Jason & the Argonauts" or "Moccasin Trail" and expect any comprehension out of her. So instead of reading from the same things I did for Jefferson (mostly based on where we were in history), I'm just grabbing at straws.  She liked the adaptation of the Odyssey that I found and has enjoyed the last two Magic Tree House books (Ancient Greece & Ancient Rome) but I really want to move into harder works or have her listen to the stuff I'm reading to J. But maybe later - we'll see.

I am hoping to be more diligent in The Story of the World this year, as we barely worked through half of it last year.  This would have stressed me a few years ago, but I have figured out that she needs more in depth study or sources in order to really connect with history (coloring pages, maps, Usborne, DK Eyewitness, Magic Tree House, etc).  And with her slowness to read and write, I could not concetrate much on history last year. I do enjoy SOTW however, and will not be trying to incorporate Mystery of History this year as it does not suite her learning style. My goal is to stay on top of adding living books to her history, so that she starts to get a real feel for the ancient peoples and places.

Science definitely interests her if I can keep it short and to the point. We are using SL Core 2, which is a combination of different studies.  She finally has enough penmanship and reading skills to handle these short lessons.  Plus, I am trying to keep her in the loop on the experiments that Jefferson is doing (below is our lactic acid fermented veggies/pickles).  I find it interesting that she will often be sitting in her own time, reading a Magic School Bus book or some other books from our science shelf!  We will continue to incorporate nature sketches when we can, as she is finding that she loves to draw and she loves to look at Creation. It's so exciting for me to see her interested in something!

Right now we are still in the exciting, new part of the year and are just finding our groove.  Summer keeps interrupting us, but pool time, rollerskating, and bike riding all count as P.E. around here and the weather and camp must be enjoyed as we have it.  The house seems particularly messy (as the 'littles' get more unsupervised time) but the structure is definitely doing us all good and is feeling comfortable again.  I am surprised at what God has done with my teaching style in the 5 years since I started J in Kindergarden! I hope that Jefferson and Reagan will  both learn this year, that above all, I just want them to put in their best effort and be diligent in working through any frustrations they may have.  Reagan needs to learn to accept my correction, no matter how small, with no rebellion (depending on her mood, she can have a major breakdown if I even ask her to erase a word and put it somewhere else on the page!).  And Jefferson needs to get himself out of "I'm being graded" mode and more into "I need to learn/remember something about this for my own benefit" mode (I can already see him starting to motivate himself  better each day and I'm hoping it continues!).

So this may be it for awhile around this blog, as this pregnant momma just can't do everything (this garden shot was 3 months ago - before it turned into an inaccessible jungle)!  I'll try to get some photos or updates in along the way this fall!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

3rd Grade at Plymouth MA

Although I haven't had time to finish this post until now (5 months later!), it is important for Jefferson to have a record of it so I post it late anyway....

Every year at D. C. Academy, Mrs. Third Grade Teacher takes her 3rd grade class on a four-day trip to Plymouth, MA to culminate their studies on the history of the pilgrims. This year I got to go with Jefferson and it was so well worth it! This trip was truly, truly wonderful and so much more vauable than any field trip I've ever taken. [Jefferson still raves about it!]

Having been taught the history of the pilgrims in public school, I got a much watered down and biased version of their purpose and their ordeal.  This trip was a delightful learning experience for me and a majorly memorable trip for Jefferson.  He was so excited that he could hardly stand it! And since God is the Author of all history (whether you believe it or not), it was a huge blessing to walk and learn from Mrs. Third Grade Teacher, who's studied these most important founding people from the best sources - themselves and their writings! Her passion is to work to see that the truth of our nation's beginnings is not lost in the mire of political correctness or modern rewriting based on popular opinion.  Sorry folks, but God cannot be taken out of this story, for His hand is clearly shown in His providence towards these Spirit-led people in a time of heavy religious oppression and difficult economic times (for such a group)!

We took a million photos and got very little sleep (I cannot help but be up at the crack of dawn and by 10pm was sooooo very exhausted) and walked a lot to get as much covered as we could.  Jefferson loved staying in a hotel, swimming (if that's what you can call a Polar Bear Plunge - lol!) in the ocean for his 1st time, staying up late, being with his friends, and trying to get himself gored by a steer.  He will likely never forget the meaning of the word 'economy' since his student group got stuck with was assigned that topic for their trip presentation.  He even found out that he loves the freedom of journaling.  He will NEVER forget this trip!

Looking forward to getting to MA & loving the busride
Journaling in his notebook
The Mayflower II - amazing working ship with period actors onboard

No slackers here - we learned at every stop!
Our country's oldest mill - beautiful & quite interesting!

He survived the 'Polar Bear Plunge' in the bay at the hotel!
The Forefather's Monument - I cried (really!) when the class recited the Mayflower Compact!
Portraying Samuel Fuller at Plimoth Plantation - he was great!
Main Street up to the fort at Plimoth Plantation (replica of original)

Journaling in "William Bradford's" backyard - beautiful!

The inside of a pilgrim's house - very small!

My little pilgrim boy!

And let's not forget the best part of the trip - the pillow fight at the Plantation sleepover (I think the girls won)!

Another excellent actor at the Plantation and another teary moment for me as the children sang the 100th Psalm for him!
The steer that tried to gore J's arm! (And me who must be subconscious of the 4-week pregnant belly -lol!)

With Mrs. Third Grade Teacher - the awesome organizer of the trip!

Overall, we were exhausted by the end of this trip. It was non-stop and late night for us but so much to see and!  I was proud of  my oldest boy and his motivation to journal and learn and get to know his history better. I am so glad that Jefferson will never forget his 3rd grade teacher or this special trip to Plymouth!