Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Song of Roland

We learned about Charlemagne in our history studies yesterday.  We read about how this successful mayor became King of the Franks.  His attributes to the education of his countrymen, a new handwriting system, and judicial system concepts made him  known as a successful administrator and nicknamed 'the civilizer'.   During our studies, we learned about Roland, his favorite nephew.  Roland died in battle and a famous poem about Roland came to be.  This poem, The Song of Roland, is one of the most famous poems of the Middle Ages.

The Song of Roland tells the story of a jealous step-father and his revenge; along with the battle of a Christian King (Charlemagne) and Muslim Prince (Abd al-Rahman).  It was based on true events and embellished like many tales to stir emotion in the audience.  The story was written four hundred or so years after the actual event and during the Crusades.  So, the author was not an eye-witness to the battle.

We read the poem, translated into story form.  We discussed what we had learned from our history book and the content of the poem itself.  We talked about how stories can take on a life of their own outside of just the facts.  The retelling of the story over the generations and current events of the time caused the tale to grow in heroics.  The poem gave us much insight, but we also saw much stretch in the actual facts.  I love to incorporate literature of the time into our studies!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cylindrical Structures and Engineering

Mr. Jack had an engineering task for the kiddos this time.  How strong is a cylindrical structure?  He has spent many lessons on the strength of a triangular structure, but now comes the cylinder.

He explained where cylindrical structures are used and how we have cylindrical shaped bones.  He talked about applied force and friction it will cause.  Then he presented the task.

Boys vs Girls was the mission.  He gave each group a large stack of 4"x 4" precut copy paper and rolls of masking tape.  Each group had to design a structure to hold as much weight as possible without collapsing.

Both groups began to roll up single pieces of paper and tape it to maintain the cylinder shape.  The boys divided tasks into rollers, tapers, and designers.  The girls discussed designs as a group, as they created their cylinders.

The boys came up with a very elaborate design that looked maze like.  They were very confident in their structure.  They added extra layers of paper to their preformed columns.  Some columns were twenty or thirty paper pieces thick.

The girls decided to  make single paper rolls but bundled them into groups of four.  The design was very basic.  They had six bundles evenly spaced.

Finally, time was called and the test began.  The boys went first.  They were able to hold 21 books on their structure.  However, the structure was beginning to lean.  When one of the boys sat on top of the books to see if his weight could be held, the structure collapsed.

Next up, the girls.  The boys laughed at the simple design and just knew that it would not work.  Then the girls began to pile on the books.  Their structure held 23 books.  (They had found two more books to use.)  The boys were in awe.  Now, could it hold one of the girls?  The boys doubted it.  However, it did!  The boys had been defeated!  The girls were giddy.

Mr. Jack explained how both designs worked and what had gone wrong with the boys design.  He pointed out that over engineering and looks doesn't always mean its the best.  The boys ended up having 50 columns and some columns contained 20 to 30 sheets of paper.  The girls had 24 columns and used only 24 sheets of paper.  Simple is often the best.

It was a great experiment to see how boys and girls think and approach tasks differently.  Both groups learned more and hopefully remember these lessons next time they are asked to engineer a structure.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

At Last Snow!

We finally are experiencing winter weather in the South!  We were wandering if winter would ever arrive.  We had cold snaps in early October and into November, but December arrived and it felt like spring.  January temperatures felt more like mid March weather and then things changed last week. Highs topped out in the mid 30s and lows in the teens.  Hopes for snow increased during the week. Then finally we were teased on Wednesday afternoon and evening with large wet snow flakes.  The weather man promised more would come on Thursday evening and all the kiddos in the area crossed their fingers and waited.

We woke on Friday to four inches of wet snow.  Not everyone in our county or nearby counties woke to the white stuff.  Posts flooded Facebook showing snow or the lack of it.  Little Man threw on clothes and headed out to play.  The weather had changed from snow to freezing rain and sleet throughout the day.  The neighborhood boys were bundled and didn't care what the weather was doing.  They were sledding and having a blast.

The freezing rain and sleet continued all day and finally changed over to a powdery snow Friday evening.  We accumulated three to four more inches of snow during the night hours.  This of course delighted the boys for a second day of winter fun.

Today, the snow is slowly melting, but not as fast as I had thought it would.  We have been home bound for three days now.  I don't like driving in the mess.  I like to stay inside and look out upon the winter wonderland and use the time as a reason to take a nice winter nap and just be still.

That is the beauty of a southern snowfall.  It sticks around for a couple of days and fades away.  The snow doesn't become gray and yucky looking.  It doesn't wear out its welcome.   It allows us to see a pretty side to an otherwise drab winter landscape.  Sometimes we only get one chance to see snow in the winter.  Other times we get two or three glimpses of this beauty.  We slow down and take a good look.

Our northern friends do get sick of the snow.  At least, that is what I am told by many.  The snow becomes grungy and stays too long.  These friends laugh at us Southerners when it snows.   However when they experience a southern snowfall, they realize how beautiful our snow is and how it doesn't wear out its welcome.  They come to appreciate it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

History, History, and Geography!

We are moving right along in our history studies.  If you haven't tried Mystery of History, you should pick up a copy and look into it.  We love it and have adapted it to fit our needs.  Since we do not test and quiz, we read the lessons aloud and discuss them.  It has given us many opportunities to relate ancient history to current events.  We have entered into the time period that Islam began and is being spread into the world.  Such a current topic now! 

History for us isn't about memorizing dates.  We like to see what things were like centuries ago and discuss how things have changed, how we seem to repeat history, why people do the things they do regardless of the time period, etc.  It leads to many relevant discussions and understandings. 

I have coupled World Geography with our history lessons this year and the pairing works terrific.  I especially like it when we are studying from two different books and the content merges.  We did not plan the merge, it just happens. 

Here are some things we read, discussed, and watched today: 

Learning the past and present is fun!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Owl Pellets!

Today, we headed out, bright and early, to The Schiele Museum.  Of course, it was one of the colder mornings we have had this winter.  Thank goodness for seat warmers in the car!  We picked up friends and off to our first dissection we went!

Egee wasn't too thrilled to learn about our trip to dissect owl pellets.  Especially, when she found out what an owl pellet was!  How is she my daughter?  I loved and still love dissecting things.  Not her, but she knew there was no way around it and didn't grumble much. 

Little Man was indifferent. He likes adventure, but owl pellets didn't seem overly exciting to him.  Oh well, he enjoyed it once we began.

They both did a great job picking out the small rodent bones from the fur of the pellet.  It was like an archaeology dig!  Their friends had a great time, as well. 

Afterwards, we explored the museum and had lunch out.  We just love being able to enjoy adventures with our home school friends.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Just a few random pics and topics we have hit upon the last two weeks. 

Cleaning Daddy's office.  They are entry level employees (janitorial staff).

Cleaning is such a tiring job!

Speech and Leadership class for Egee! 

Hard at work with Fred!  We just love Life of Fred math.

Oh, the Epic of Beowulf!  They rolled their eyes when I first began, but quickly changed their minds and really loved it!

Basketball, basketball, basketball!  This weekend's game was a nail biter that went into over time.  They won!

Loving the homeschool life!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

It's Basketball Season!

Little Man began his third year of basketball.  He wanted to switch to Upward Basketball and we agreed to let him.  He is loving it!  Today was the first game of the season and he took it all in stride.  Of course, he is ten and ten year olds have to be calm and cool!  As mom, I was not to hover, make a fuss, and instruct.  I played my part around him.  Of course, I cheered for him.  He gave me the knowing look.  He is growing up, yet still likes mom to be there and watch him.  I always will be his number one fan!  He likes that. 

For a team that has had only three practices and never played a game together, the boys did a great job.  They listened to their coach and remembered what he had told them when on the court.  The boys did an excellent job at defense and offense.  I was really surprised at how well they played.  I think the coach was surprised, too! 

Our boys won the game and showed superb sportsmanship.  The gentleness of their coaches and character they display around the boys paid off.  They instruct and encourage and they don't punish with extra laps.  The boys want to prove their coach proud and they did!  Way to go Jayhawks!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Oh, the task of taking all the Christmas decorations down.  We pulled all the totes for Christmas decorations out of the attic on Sunday afternoon.  My nephew came up to help with the task of placing plywood down in the attic to create a floor.  We have had the plywood since last year, but haven't had the chance to pull all the totes out and complete the task.  A task, that I have been looking forward too!

My nephew was a tremendous help and we had the plywood put in place in thirty minutes.  It is wonderful to have a strapping young man to help out.  Little Man will be to that point in a few years. (My how fast they grow!)

Now, I have the task of organizing all the Christmas stuff into the totes.  I have removed broken nick-knacks, tangled ornament wires, things we no longer use, etc.  I am almost done with all of this.  I have categorized decorations into different totes.   Entry table decorations in one tote; mantle decorations in another; dining table items; books and music; tree ornaments; tree lights; outdoor lights; etc.  I truly hope this helps with decorating next year!

I had to purchase small totes for our Christmas village pieces.  I haven't put up the village in several years.  Partly due to the fact that the two boxes I had them packed were bulky and heavy.  I just didn't want to cart those down from the attic!  Now, I have four smaller totes with the village houses, train and track, and accessories that are manageable.  The village will definitely be displayed next year!

Once I get Christmas done, I will move on to other projects that need organization. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Time To Begin Again

Holiday break is over and it is time to resume our road of learning, exploring, creating and seeking.  I have been combing the internet looking for interesting field trip ideas, places to visit, new explorations, etc.  I believe the best way to learn is to get out and experience it.  That is why I fill so much of our days with learning experiences and not merely curriculum from a book.  Oh, we have started back with our very minimalist amount of 'book work'.  I just need the extra experiences to spice up the learning lifestyle.

So, what do I have on the agenda thus far?  Plenty!  We will going to museums, nature hikes, learning about fish in our area, wolves, raptors, medicinal plants and herbs, gardening, honey bees, STEMs, cake decorating, art, plays, public speaking, historical reenactments, camping trips, and more! 

I may have more fun than the kiddos, I don't know.  We love our life of learning.  This year they will help more with gardening and landscaping.  I have dozens of projects to complete!

So, stay tuned and follow us on our new year of adventure!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Compassion Experience

We took friends with us this year to experience the Compassion Experience.  Last year, when we went we gained a new understanding of what children in third world countries face.  It was very eye opening for my children and we wanted our friends to have a better understanding.

We learned about the childhoods of Julian and Ruben on this trip.  We walked through the recreation of their homes and struggles.  We listened to their stories of overcoming dire situations and how the Compassion program helped them.  Our friends were touched, just like we were last year.

During my walk through the experience and listening to the different stories, I kept reflecting on the child we sponsor.  What would her rooms look like?  What would her story sound like?  She came to the Compassion program and waited quite sometime for a sponsor.  We have been her sponsor now for almost a year.  I write to her a couple of times a month.  We receive letters from her.  She sounds happy in her letters.  She is lucky and has both parents and siblings living with her.  So many of these children only have one parent.  I pray for her and her family.

Our friends decided to sponsor a child after the experience.  They are excited to get to know their child.  This is such a worthwhile cause and I know they will be moved like we were.  If you are able to visit a Compassion Experience near you, please do so.  It is worth the time.  You may just take home another child!