Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Great Books for Halloween

One of the funnest parts about Fall is all the great picture books available out there full of illustrations with fall colors and fall themes.  I thought those of you spending most of your time with Elementary kids and younger might really appreciate a book list of some of the best books for Halloween - and related "spooky" themes.  Numbers at the end of a paragraph will signal you to my top five picks.

The classic poem "Over in the Meadow" has inspired two sweet books with the same rhythmic sense and pattern as "Over in the Meadow".  "Little Goblins Ten" by Pamela Jane is really fun, but my favorite is "Over in the Hallow" by Rebecca Dickenson.  It might be my favorite because of the two it was the one I encountered first, or it might be the cartoony, almost doll-like creatures in the illustrations, or maybe it is because in keeping with superstitious tradition, instead of ending at twelve, this one goes all the way to thirteen.  Both book are Great, but unfortunately for "Little Goblins Ten", "Over in the Hallow" is my all-time favorite Halloween picture book.  #1

Another spooky parody was written by Rick Walton, though the name listed on the cover is Ludworst Bemonster and aims at giving the classic Madeline tales a scary run for their money.  In this clever take, instead of winding up in the hospital for a broken bone, Frankenstein winds up in the hospital because he literally loses his head hence the name, "Frankenstein".  Alice thought the twist was pretty funny.

If you have a budding ballerina on your hands, she might enjoy, "Vampirina Ballerina" by Anne Marie Pace.  Its message that practice makes perfect is a great one and the illustrations of the little Ballerina not quite staying on her two feet at the beginning of the story give the illustrations a sweetness.

"The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches" is a wonderful early reader's chapter book in which the young witch gains empowerment through the knowledge of her own special talents and the lack of the requirement that magic be performed with perfection.  This book by Alice Low could also result in a great conversation about decision, consequence, love, friendship and respect. 

"The Haunted Ghoul Bus" by Lisa Trumbauer is super cute, uses strong verbs and was published in that format with pages not quite as thick as board book pages but thicker than the pages used in most books and with embossing so kids in that in-between can enjoy feeling the pages while Mommy reads the story to them.  For kids who might actually hop on "The Haunted Ghoul Bus", the story is a magical journey through fear to comfort and fun.  I'll be watching to see if I can hop aboard somehow on the 31st myself.  #3

"Creepy Carrots" by Aaron Reynolds is a great one to use for Halloween, but its also a good one for helping kids deal with night time fears of shadows and monsters under the bead.  This book has to be one of my top five picks for a great and laughable twist at the end.  It had Alice on the edge of her seat, totally still, and totally silent right up until the last page when she let out the breath she'd been holding with a snort and a chuckle followed by her big toothless smile.  #5

"Boo to You" by Louis Ehlert has illustrations in her typically whimsical collage style.  This book is a great one to introduce your little one to traditions from All Hallow's Eve because the mice throw a party with lots of treats and play a prank.  "Halloween Mice" will offer up similar fair for a similar age group with super cute mousy illustrations.  In "Halloween Mice" by Bethany Robers how trick or treating works is more evident and clear and she uses wonderful onomatopoeia which always intrigue young children.  "Halloween Is" by Gail Gibbons is another fabulous book for introducing your youngest child to all the symbols and excitements of the holiday and although it is less whimsical than either of the two about mice, it is more complete if an introduction to traditions is your goal. 

"By the Light of the Halloween Moon" by Caroline Stutson falls at number two for "favorites".  This is a cumulative rhyming poem with just the right amount of suspense to be "spooky", without being so spooky it results in nightmares.  The repetitive action of these kinds of cumulative poems is always popular with kids, but in this case, it adds to the suspense somehow as well.  The illustrations also tow the line between spooky and scary hitting just the right note for you preschool kids on Halloween.  Make sure your kids get to experience this one over and over and over and over again. #2

Choosing to use books about bats and other nocturnal animals is also a popular way to go this time of year.  First of all, it gets dark enough, early enough that kids might actually get the opportunity to see some of these critters when they definitely would not be seen during the summer months when kids are usually headed to bed before or only shortly after the sun has gone down. 

"Sellaluna" by Janell Cannon, and "Nightsong" by Ari Berk are both wonderful bat books that are neither spooky nor about Halloween, but make for fabulous reading anyway.  Stellaluna definitely fills the remaining slot of number four in my "top five" selections for October picture book reading with "Bats at the Beach" a close sixth.  "Bats at the Beach" is actually part of a series that also includes, "Bats at the Library" and "Bats at the Ballgame" by Brian Lies.  All of the books are wonderful but there is just something about "Bats at the Beach that strikes me as particularly fun for some reason.  # 4

Of course there are a gazillion other wonderful books and resources.  Halloween is addressed in the Corduroy, Biscuit and Arthur series as well as others I'm sure.  Plus, I just haven't read everything there is out there anyway.  If you have a favorite not listed here, PLEASE share it in a comment!  There is nothing better than experiencing a great classic or brand new story for the first time together.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rocks, Minerals and the Rock Cycle

Educational Innovations Rock Collection Educational Kit

Rocks and Minerals are such wonderful things for kids to collect.  They practice observation skills, learn some science and geologic vocabulary (which helps them with their reading), and it helps get them outside finding the rocks they wish to collect.  Here are some great resources for getting kids excited about Geology.

First, an introductory kit is particularly nice to have.  One can make their own sorting chart similar to the one shown above, but then you also have to find the rocks to go with it.  Instead, I purchased the kit pictured above (and cut out the egg carton bottom) from Educational Innovations at  Such a kit allows kids to look at the features geologists commonly use to distinguish one rock or mineral type from another and introduces them to such properties as cleavage (where a rock shears and breaks away from another), hardness and color.  Once they've established the skills using the introductory kit, it isn't hard to expand outward to rocks they find elsewhere.

DK Publishers: Eyewitness Rock and Mineral as well as Eyewitness Crystal and Gem  are wonderful visual resource for kids to learn the basics with.  I love this series of books and have yet to find a DK eyewitness book I didn't like.  Apparently DK also offers project books and between the fact that I trust these publishers at this point and that on first glance the project book for rocks and minerals also looks great, I'll recommend it here despite not having actually used it myself (I hope to in the future though). 

Reader's Digest Series: How the Earth Works  This is another one of those book series I love.  The particular book listed here, is not specifically about rock collecting.  However, it is full of geologic information and includes important things to know about rocks such as the rock cycle.  Each page layout has at least one experiment or demonstration you can try with your kids - most pages have two or three.  All of the activities use relatively easy to find materials and the visuals help understanding how to complete the project while the text describes the scientific phenomenon the activity is illustrating.  Plus, the layout of the book welcomes all types of readers to it with it's clear graphics and minimal and concise texts.

Peterson's Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals  Of course if you plan on getting serious about rock collecting, a field guide will be needed.  Although Peterson's guides are not designed for kids, they are pretty simple to use and contain a vast array of photos with simple descriptions which will help kids grow their vocabularies and identify the rocks and minerals they find.

 A Rock is Lively  I discovered Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long through their book, A Seed is sleepy and had loved reading Hutts poems while pouring over Long's gorgeous illustrations in all of their books since.  A Rock is lively did not disappoint.  The text is sweet, concise and accurate while the illustrations are so accurately made you almost feel you have the rocks in hand, yet you are also looking at a piece of artwork - something not quite so accurate as to feel like a photograph.

Rocks in His Head This picture book is a sweet biography of the author's father, who is a geologist.  What was nice about the story for us was that bits of history with which Alice is somewhat familiar are alluded to as the father lives through early and mid-century events of the twentieth century.  The truth of the story about how life takes us from one thing to the next, but we all have our separate passions as well is great for kids to see.  It can take a long time for our avocations to meet with our vocations. 

Video Resources

Bill Nye Rocks and Minerals The ever goofy and fun Bill Nye makes Rocks and minerals memorable through his silly antics, advertisement spoofs and crazy music videos.

The Rock Cycle  Two and a half minutes long, this video summarizes the basics of the Rock Cycle quickly - a good introduction.

Make me  This one takes a minute to get down to it, but as it is designed to present the information to elementary aged kids, it is clear and simple.  The order in which the information is presented is also the clearest way for kids to really understand all the parts of the rock cycle.

Activities and Other Resources

Mining Matters: The Rock Cycle This is a fabulous activity that clearly shows how the three major rock categories are distinguished from one another.  The activity is designed for young elementary school students, but I'd do it with middle school students as well.

Science Kids: Rocks, Minerals and Soil  As your kids play around with the rock tester, they learn the characteristics of important rocks and minerals such as granite and talc (which they refer to as chalk).  Proper terminology is not used through-out so to test for cleavage, kids are asked, "does it split?"  This feature can be a good thing for very young kids, but does not stretch vocabulary for the more advanced kids.  Conceptually and informationaly a good activity.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Colonial America

When  I began the daunting task of preparing a deep and complete unit on Colonial America to use centering around Felicity, I didn't know how lacking my own education had been.  I know a lot of my education of Colonial America focused on the Pilgrims and what would become the thirteen revolutionary British Colonies, and I'd bet I'm not alone.   However, because the focus had been on Plymouth, Jamestown and then the Revolutionary War Period in my own education, I found I had some gigantic holes in my understanding of what Colonial America really was.   With Alice, I endeavored to cover this (quite long) portion of US history more fully which has meant forgoing Felicity for the time being and covering the earlier colonization as its own unit first, then covering the Seven Years War, and finishing with the Revolutionary War Years.  Here was my justification for making that decision and what we did as "Pre-Felicity America" or The Early Colonies.

Colonial America - A long period in history and a variety of colonies:

Colonial America existed as long as the US has at this point.  Jamestown was founded in 1607, but attempts had already been made even prior to Jamestown.  The Roanoke Settlement (established in 1585) may not have survived but it remains a part of the history that had influence on, and resonated with other settlers that followed as well as the population that already lived there at the time. 

Additionally, there was more cultural variety than we usually care to acknowledge.  Northern sites along the St. Lawrence river (that eventually would lead to the formation of Quebec) were already being explored by the French as early as 1535 and New Orleans along with many other French Settlements were established along the Mississippi River throughout the early and mid 1600's (about the same time New England was being formed - Plymouth was founded in 1620).  St Augustine Florida was originally founded as a Spanish colony in 1565 and Santa Fe (the first of many Spanish Missions in what is now the Southwest) was founded in 1610.   Even the Russians got involved with their colonization in Alaska (though admittedly many years later).

With the revolutionary war not even declared until 1776, covering life in Colonial America with your kids spans at least 150 years but it could be argued it spans closer to (over) 200 years depending on how you decide where that history starts.  Colonial America may also usually refer to the original 13 colonies (that were British). However, to give your kids an accurate idea of the influences in the building of this country, at least mentioning that France and Spain had colonies here too becomes a critical clarification for later events in US History.  Lastly, we cannot forget the colony of New Amsterdam (1609), now one of the biggest cities in the world (New York) and the fact that its foundation was mostly Dutch.

Key Objectives for the Units:

By the time we finish with Felicity, The Student Will:
  • Compare and Contrast Life in an Early British Colony, to life in the British Colonies just before the Revolution.
  • Compare and Contrast the attitudes of different Sovereigns toward their colonial citizens
  • Compare attitudes toward slavery, and the native population between French, Spanish and British colonies.

Specifically during the first Colonial Unit, The Student Will:

  • Be able to relate details about the founding of Jamestown and Plymouth colonies.
  • Understand that the settlers had an inaccurate impression of the number of villages and people that had lived on North America prior to their arrival because illness brought by explorers had decimated the native population and reduced it astonishingly before the arrival of permanent settlers.
  • Review how various tribes reacted to, and interacted with the three colonizing major powers and their settlers.
  • Name key leaders in the foundations of colonies such as Captain Smith, and Chief Powhatan, Tisquantum (also known as Squanto), Walter Raleigh, (and more) and identify a little about what they are each known for.
  • Describe the life of an early colonialist in New England, Jamestown, New Orleans and Santa Fe.
  • List the various reasons colonists left their homelands to come to the Americas.
  • Identify Key Locations on a Map of the Area.
  • Create a Timeline depicting important events.

 During the Mini Unit on The Seven Years War the Student Will:

  • Describe causes and outcomes of the French/Indian War and how it affected life in the British Colonies, as well as why the American Indians joined in the battle.
  • Describe a little bit about the daily life of a Frontiersman during this time period.
  • Identify Key locations on a Map of the area.
  • Add events of the Seven Years War to the already established Timeline from the prior Unit.  Events should at least include  and The First Treaty of Paris.

 During the Revolutionary Colonial Unit, The Student Will:

  • Describe what King George did for the colonies and why he felt it fair for them to pay taxes.
  • Describe why the colonists felt taxation was unfair.
  • Describe a day in the life of a colonialist in the north as well as one in the south.
  • Compare and Contrast differing attitudes toward slavery and toward the American Indian population that existed within the colonies.
  • Identify Key Locations on a Map of the Area.
  • Add events of the Seven Years War to the already established Timeline from the prior Unit.
  • Identify important leaders and courageous people in the political and real fight for independence such as King George William Frederik, Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, Joseph Brant, Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Banneker, George Washington, the Marquis De Lafayette, General Howe, and so on. . .
  • Describe key events, their causes and outcomes such as the The Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, The Siege of Boston, Meetings of the Continental Congress, Various Battles, Signing of the Declaration of Independence, The Second Treaty of Paris . . .

 Pinch of Everything Activities and Lessons

Watch for these lesson plans and activity instructions in the coming months as I post descriptions and instructions about what we do and where to find further resources.

Online Resources

History World - The French Colonies in North America  A brief description of French Exploration and Settlement in North America.

The Virtual Museum of New France offers a view of what life in a Northern French Colony would have been like and has pages relating to exploration into the interior of the United States (they made it all the way to the Rockies before Lewis and Clark did, also in search of a water passage across the continent.

21 California Missions While there were also missions outside of California, this site provides information about life in a Spanish Mission, as well as Life for the population that already lived nearby at the time of the missions. 

The National Park Service offers Quite a bit of text information about the Dutch Colony at New York as well as Revolutionary War sites in the area.

Virtual Jamestown Interactive Maps, Panoramic Views, and a host of things to check out.  This would be a good site for an online scavenger hunt with your kids.

PBS Colonial House was something Alice, her dad and I all really enjoyed watching together.  The project set up a location where modern people had to live as thought they were settlers to the New England colonies back in the 1600's  religious concerns, sexism, racism, illness, food and exhaustion are all a part of the discussion in the months they spend trying to live as the pilgrims did.  The heading link takes you to the PBS home page about the series, but if you click on the teachers link you will also find lesson plans and activities related to learning more about the time period.  Although it is possible to watch on You Tube, navigating all the parts and episodes correctly and completely can be difficult.  We were able to order the whole series to be sent to us through Netflix, or you can purchase the series through PBS.

Office of the Historian  The French/Indian War/Seven Years War, its causes and how it would lead to the discontent and Revolutionary War is summed up in this article.  Good back-ground knowledge for the educator.

PBS The War that Made America The PBS series about the French and Indian War really does a good job of presenting the French, British and American Indian involvement, reasons for being involved, atrocities, mistakes and victories.  It is intended for an older audience and includes graphic visuals.  Watch on You Tube

Interactives is a History Map of the United States.  You can see which countries had colonies where, or set a map showing where different American Indian Tribes were originally located.  Among other things.  If you click through the colonists maps, you get a pretty good idea of how much land each country originally claimed to hold and how relatively small the British Colonies were in comparison to the space settled by the French and Spanish.  Then, finish it off by taking the interactive quiz including the lightning round!

The American Revolutionary War - This site offers a timeline of events and battles, pages addressing causes and the role of slavery in the British Colonies and the war and offers all of this alongside images of paintings depicting events and people of the time.  This is a good one for the instructor to go over before hand and choose a few screen shots to highlight, or set up a research scavenger hunt, if you are working with elementary kids so it doesn't become overwhelming.

The American Revolution - comprehensive in regard to the revolution, it has links to resources, lists of battles, important people and documents.  It even has a list of helpful videos to watch.  Intended for high school and adults, it was a good resource for me to go through in preparation for Alice's lessons.

Liberty's Kids  Not only is this cartoon series exciting and educational on its own, but there is a host of related materials for parents and teachers too.  You could introduce your kids to the Revolutionary Period in United States History with this website and cartoon series alone.  For Cartoon Viewing Click Here

The Little Prince

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery is one of those classics that if you did not read, you've at least heard about.  During our road trip last year, Alice was introduced to it by listening to the 70th anniversary audio book edition narrated by Viggo Mortensen.  Mortensen's calm portrayal of The Little Prince is almost too soothing for listening while driving and yet he exudes the deep emotions folded into the story in a way I think very few people could.  I highly recommend it if you can get your hands on it.

We listened to the story as a pleasant part of our journey to occupy our minds while driving through vast expanses of generally the same view, so for this novel, I required little more than listening and a little discussion.  However, I found the guides linked below to include great questions for discussion, or novel ideas for approaching the book with children.  I may even have Alice revisit the story once again this year so we can try some of these activities. 

The Novel Guide 

The Best Notes Summary Sheets

Great Performances from PBS Lesson Guide

Teaching Children Philosophy

The Little Prince Game Room

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Today's Native Americans (Kaya Lessons Series)

Native Americans still live and work among us today, but your kids may not realize it because they expect the stereotypical dress of the plains Indians from the early 1800's.  This series of lessons is an integral part of the Native American Story - Today's Native Americans.  I tried to incorporate the idea that every culture grows and changes over time throughout all our lessons.  For example, in the dolls activities, I made sure we also read about the people who make the dolls today. 
but here are some specific additional ideas.

A Simple Conversation - What is in a Name?

For starters, have your kids discuss the concept with you.  Just what the group of people who are descended from those that lived here before settlement by explorers from other continents is controversial, American Indian, Native American. . . Each tribe had its own name, its own word a word like "American" that in the language of that group of people meant, "us - those that live here and believe approximately what we believe, celebrate similar holidays and practice similar traditions."  The idea that the population of people descended from those that lived here before European "discovery" has different and contrasting views on what to be called was eye-opening to Alice.  We read the article "American Indian" or "Native American" together and broke it down and talked about its meaning paragraph by paragraph.

I then had Alice try to figure out what our family should be called if we were to be given a name that described our ethnic AND cultural background.  Any answer she came up with, I had a retort about why it didn't really work.  White would usually fit in terms of filling out a paper, but it doesn't really describe where we come from or our cultural background at all.  Biologically, she is both British and Scottish, but it isn't as though my family or my husbands really held on to any of the cultural aspects of the people of these places.  The person I know as my grandmother (though she is not so biologically) is Norwegian and is first generation immigrant, so culturally I relate more with this European heritage than I would the Scottish or British-Norman side of the family.  Alice is a sixth generation American on all other sides of the family and culturally, we can hardly even call ourselves European anymore.  Additionally, her father was raised in a large city, while I was raised in a fairly rural community.  I grew up around boats and on the coast, her Dad visited beaches, but it was certainly not a daily (or even monthly) part of his up-bringing.  You can see how I made sure it was pretty tough for Alice to "name" us by anything that would typically be used.

We then took a look at her dolls map and her American Indian "passport" in which she recorded information about six different tribes, traditional dress, housing, foods etc.  I posed this question, "Now, if you were asked to name all of these people with only one name that described who they are as a group, could you do it accurately?"  Of course the answer was no because they are made up of different cultures - some as different as Greeks and Norwegians, Turks and Japanese, or Kenyans and Ghanaians  their only commonality is that they reside on the same continent.  No similar language, different histories.  Additionally, they live in vastly different environments so traditionally have different ways of dressing, eating and interacting with the world around them . . . Then we took a look at how different the world is today for a Norwegian from what it was in the 1700's.  I asked, so would how a modern American Indian also see the world differently today from the way his great, great, great grandparents would see it?  Would Sacagawea's great, great grandchildren still dress the way she did?  I followed the conversation up by having Alice take a brief look at Fritz Scholder, Jim Thorpe, Maria Tallchief and Will Rogers.

Native Americans in the United States Population Study:

For a little geography, have students find each of the following states on an outline map and color in the ten states with the Largest Number of Native Americans.  Then, have students identify which tribes traditionally live/lived in that state.  They should also identify any reservations in the region and see if they can find patterns in the data.

Original Resource

For a great table and graphing lesson try Education World.

Read Some Books and Watch Some Movies:

This booklist of literature depicting American Indians in modern day situations and a question guide to use after reading are both part of this lesson plan from Read, Write, Think.  Since I do not have a whole classroom full of kids any longer, I did not follow the lesson plan exactly but will enjoy offering the gist of it up for Alice as part of the literature list we will be studying this year.

The PBS series: We Shall Remain includes the Incident at Wounded Knee (which took place in 1973).  Additionally, the videos include bonus features that have film footage created by modern American Indians as part of the "Reel Native" project.  The videos often feel a bit like a "day in the life of" styled documentary, but range dramatically in style, tone, and subject matter.  Preview them before showing, but many are completely usable even with elementary kids and interesting, informative, and exactly what needs to be shared.


  Include the American Indian Perspective and Experience in All History Units:

Part of the problem with presenting a unit that is a "American Indian" unit is that it continues the separation of "us" and "them."   For Alice, the continued question of the role of this group of people in our shared history will continue to come up again and again through-out our history studies.  For example, when learning about life in the colonies, we watched Colonial House which included the issue as it was faced at the time as well as modern day perspectives on it from the members of the colonial settlement reenactment group as well as modern American Natives that helped in the reenactments of encounters settlers had with natives (the whole thing took place on reservation land kindly placed on loan for the purpose of the project).   (code talkers during WWI and WWII, Indian Country Diaries, List of Congress People, and Billy Frank Jr. are just a few examples of resources out there about disparate aspects of history and even today's politics that can be touched on in this way).  It is in this way I hope to truly and completely dispel the idea of the American Indian as a thing of the past and replace it with the idea of neighbors with different backgrounds sharing in different parts of our history and our modern day experience together.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ships and Sailing

Ships and Sailing the Seas

Having a decent introductory knowledge of sailing vessels is useful for any history studies of the age of discovery and exploration as well as for many of the wars fought between empires even as far back as the wars between Greece and Persia.  Since I am expecting to cover this period in World History with Alice this year it seemed appropriate to have a page with resources about Ships and Sailing.  Additionally, there are plenty of tie-ins with both science and literature.  Besides, with a father that loves ships, sailing and related literature, it is a topic I have bumped up against but really know very little about myself and I wanted to learn more (one of my favorite advantages of homeschooling is how much I get to learn in the process of preparing to teach and teaching Alice).  I hope you will find this resource list useful in whatever it is you are studying with your kids.

Useful Movies:

NOVA; a History of Navigation

PBS Series: Warships has four episodes each about a different era of warships.  The series is really more of a focus on battle technology as it relates to sea battles.  The first, Sea Power is the one that includes sailing vessels but is by no means chronological or complete in terms of coverage of earliest sailing vessels.   

Sailing Across the Atlantic is one I am super glad I found before beginning the school year because it will be a great complement when we study the Vikings.  The crew approximately traces the path of Eric the Red from Greenland to Newfoundland during the first leg of their journey.  The ship is much more modern - being only 80 years - as is a great deal of the technology the crew uses, but the voyage still shows clearly what it is like navigating these waters by sail.  Evidence of global warming also comes up - so if you are doing any studies related to this topic, it may be a good cross-over as well.

Book Resources:

Information and Relevant Picture Books:

The visual Dictionaries and Encyclopedias done by DK publishers are reliably good resources to have around for your kids.  The visual elements are stunning, layouts non-threatening, and text concise and easily understandable, so it is no surprise the Visual Diction of Ships and Sailing would top my list for non-fiction resources I wanted to be sure to have on hand for Alice.  The book certainly isn't a complete resource for understanding every sailing term your child might encounter while reading, but it is a great place to start and will cover most of your needs alone.  I found it to be the perfect amount of information needed at our finger tips.  When an answer wasn't available in this book, a perusal of a dictionary  or Wikipedia usually did the trick.

The Amazing Book of of Paper Boats:  This book has basic information about the science behind boats and has 18 boats to create from different points in nautical history.  It goes over water displacement, density and buoyancy, and stability as well as the historical development of boats and boating.  The paper constructions are beautiful and a fun activity for patient hands - I would not use it with the very young as a general rule.  Even with an elementary student, I suggest an adult do the scoring and cutting portions as prep.  Time required for each project is listed in the instructions and is usually listed at around two to three hours.  The two I have completed took less time actually working on the boat but using glue meant the over-all time was longer because we had to stop and wait for the glue to dry.   Once complete, the paper boats are amazing.  The paddles on the paddlewheel even turn!!  This book doesn't seem to be available new anymore.  However, it does seem to be readily available in new condition in the used sections when looking for books online.  It seems many people have purchased it, thinking it looked cool and then never completed the constructions.

Language Arts Options: 

The Boy who Sailed Around the World Alone
An autobiographical description of a modern sailing journey made by a teenage boy passionate about sailing.  While this voyage takes place well after a time when sail power was the only boating option for voyages that crossed the sea,  kids get a view of how an activity from so long ago is still practiced in today's world.   The fact that it is a true story of a young man sailing around the world might make it especially interesting to a middle-school or high-school student that is not generally keen on reading otherwise, but likes sailing and boats.  I haven't seen this, but there was even a movie made! The Dove.

Treasure Island
Who hasn't at least heard of this classic?  Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of a boy who is swept up into an adventure seeking treasure has been re-written and parodied in all forms of media since the late 1800's when it was first published.  Alice is reading this one with her grandfather as I type this line.  She has already seen Treasure Planet, but we'll make sure to order at least one of the movies to watch as well.  1950 Movie, 1934 Movie, Muppet Treasure Island (1996), I'll have to preview Sky1's TV Miniseries of Treasure Island but I'm amazed at the cast involved and look forward to doing so (The Making Of Video).

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
I have not yet read this one myself, or with Alice, but I know it has been met with enthusiasm by educators and readers from many walks of life.  I know Charlotte Doyle is independent, rebellious, and the novel addresses civil rights (for all) within its themes.

Unfortunately, I just haven't read a lot in this area of literature so, as I expand my sailing novel experience, I'll offer this Goodreads list as it has a much more exhaustive list with a range of reading levels and various age-appropriate choices than I can offer at the moment. 

Games, Printables and other Online Resources:

Old Bristol Historical Pages are ones I intend to look into more deeply and use more as I prep for the Caroline History Unit.  At first glance, it looks like a wonderful resource.  I link it here mainly for the diagram of a British Man of War.

School of Sailing - Sailing Terminology

Which Boats are What? - Wikipedia list of vessel types and distinctions

Sea Chanteys Lesson Plan on Age of Sail

How to Tie Boating Knots - animated knot tying instructions

Try Engineering: Sail Away Lesson Plans design and engineer a watercraft

eGFI - Math and Design in Sailing Vessels - another lesson plan focusing on designing a sailing vessel.

Sail Power - Make a sailing vessel with move-able sail so your kids can see how the boat moves relative to the direction of the wind

Field Trip Ideas:

I believe hands-on experience is the most memorable form of learning, so whenever possible I go on "adventures" with Alice that relate (however loosely) to things she is, or will learn.  We recently enjoyed an evening cruise on the Spike Africa thanks to a dear friend (yelp reviews).  The Spike Africa welcomes persons that require the use of a wheelchair - something I know not all vessel programs can, or will do.  Alice had a fun evening and an introductory experience with sailing to which we will be able to refer back. I don't think she'll ever forget hearing the command, "Block your sweats" called out to the crew when the mainsail had just been hoisted (I know I'll never forget her reaction) and she was even allowed to captain the ship for a period during the voyage.

In looking for other opportunities, I found a few companies that seemed to offer a true sailing experience.  As much as some of these experiences look like a true adventure (and one that would be life-changing) they are not in the cards for my little family at this time.  However, some of these resources may be helpful to you (and I hope, something we might come back to down the road).  If you go on one of these voyages or charter through one of these companies, please stop back and add a comment sharing your experience:

Black Dog Tall Ships looks like a GREAT program for elementary/middle school kids. If you, or your kids have been involved in this experience please add a comment and inform future readers about your take on the program.  It appears they also charter similar to Schooners Northwest's Spike Africa and offer summer camps.

Age of Sail offers day camp experiences as well as overnight encampments based out of San Francisco for groups such as classes, scouting troops and similar programs, and has a summer camp offering as well.

For older "kids"
List on Squidoo
Sail Training International

Monday, July 28, 2014

Get out and Go

If July and August aren't a good time to get out and get in touch with nature - I don't know when is a good time.  The weather is generally fabulous kids aren't locked to their desks, and traffic is lighter than usual.   It is also a time when kids who attend mortar and brick classes (whether part-time or full-time) might be getting a little bored with the same old games and toys at home.

Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle

Goats in a road-side enclosure in Eastern Washington

If you frequent this blog, you may know that Alice and I take a road-trip every summer and try to make sure to visit at least one National or State park along the way.  National and State Parks are wonderful places to go that I will always recommend.  During the summer months the National Parks often provide "living history" experiences when there is a historic aspect to the site.  If you live near one, please go and support their programs!  They are a great benefit to us all and will be memorable experiences for your kids and you.

San Juan National Historic Monument: English Camp Living History Day

Fort Vancouver Blacksmith's shop

However, National and State Parks aren't the only way to go.  Often there are treasures right in your backyard you can take advantage of on any given afternoon.  Just this last weekend, Alice attended a fly-in at a small airport near her Grandparent's House, rode on a helicopter and made a wooden airplane model.  We have visited farms, the beach, zoos, aquaria, botanical parks, county parks and small museums as well.  Even something as simple as a trip to the creek down the road can be an adventure when you really want it to be, the point is to get out and look for the adventure - you'll find it.

Local Renaissance Fair (Fencing Class - only$8!)

Medieval Times Tournament
It probably looks at the moment like I don't understand not having the option to travel to some distant place at the drop of a hat.  However, there really are things to do right in your own backyard.  These photos highlight some of the most memorable things we've done, but whether it is a puddle jump after a rainfall in your own neighborhood, a trip to the city zoo (which for us, means over an hour's drive, but it is worth it) or a weekend at the nearest national park, an adventure awaits you that will allow for some bonding, relaxation, some fun and probably a little learning too.

An Archaeological Dig Site we were able to visit on the spur of the moment when we visited Fort Vancouver.

Visit to a Working Textiles Farm only a little ways away from home
Nearby Beach
Forest Walk Find: Smashed Mushroom (this location was close enough to home to walk there)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Hundred Dresses - Reading and Activity Guide

This is a beautiful story by Eleanore Estes is about a little girl who claims to have 100 dresses, even though everybody knows she has only the one she wears.  Very few children's books address socioeconomic diversity and the prejudice that can accompany it for those with less.  This book handles the topic in a way that shares a lesson the author herself learned the hard way. Additionally, the subjects of courage, right and wrong, loyalty and friendship all come up through the thoughts the main character struggles with in the book.

Just for The Fun of It

Hopscotch may be old-fashioned, but it is still a heck of a lot of fun - and can be played for the price of a piece of chalk.  If you haven't already, give it a try! Hubpages Hopscotch will not only teach you the actual rules of the game, but its history as well.

Eleanor Estes weaves the message of equality into the story in one more way by showing the kids reciting the Gettysburg Address in the classroom.  Learn a little about this great president AND learn his very short Gettysburg Address.  Have your kids learn the address, set a rhythm or a song to it and then make a music video where they preform the Address as "The Lincolns - a band for equality"

Design a dress or two of your own.  There are lots of "fashion" kits out there with different ways of teaching girls to draw dresses and fashion, OR you can just sketch your own ideas the way Wanda did.  You can also use coloring page images and add color and trimmings as you see fit.

Find your kids a pen-pal to help them learn about someone who is different, but the same.  There are a TON of different pen-pal programs out there.  If your student/students are learning how to write letters, there is a Traditional Letter Writing Pen-Pal Program for that.  However, if you have particularly artistic kids there is a Pen-Pal Program for artistic exchanges too.  The artistic exchange is also a good one for cultural exchange.  There are also programs that use email and are international as well.  If none of the linked programs work for you, simply do a search - there are many more programs out there.

Vocabulary and Comprehension

I had Alice do the first set of vocabulary before reading and then do the second vocabulary set before reading section two and so on.  This worked pretty well in order to keep things simple.  There were a few circumstances where the word came after reading, and many where it came before reading. 

Section One

This section ends on page 18.   For this vocabulary, I gave Alice a list of the definitions and had her match the words to the definition.


outer fringe

Questions to Consider

  1. Does Wanda have many friends? How do you know?
  2. What is the dresses game?
  3. Why don't they believe Wanda?
  4. What makes Wanda so different?
  5. Maddie struggles between her loyalty to her friend Peggy and her dislike for the dresses game.  Would saying something to Peggy about Maddie's feelings truly be disloyal?
  6. How do you think Wanda feels about the dresses game?

Section Two

For the Vocabulary for section two (which ends on page 39), I gave Alice the vocabulary words, AND definitions and asked her to draw pictures that represented the word meanings.  Multiple words COULD be incorporated into one picture if she wished.



Questions to Consider

  1. What is "having fun with Wanda?"
  2. Is Peggy cruel to Wanda or is she just having some fun? Answer this question from Peggy's perspective AND from Maddie's.
  3. Why doesn't Maddie say anything to Peggy regarding her feelings about the dresses game?  Is Maddie cruel for staying silent?
  4. Why do you think Wanda said she had 100 dresses?
  5. What do you think about the idea that Peggy could not do anything that was really wrong just because she is best liked?  Is that true? Explain your answer.

Section Three

For this vocabulary set, I created a crossword puzzle using Ed Helper.  I used the definitions as the hints, but also gave her the list of words from which to choose.  Section three ends on page 49.



Questions to Consider

  1. Do you think Wanda's designs are her 100 dresses?
  2. Why does Maddie think herself a coward?  Do you agree or disagree with her?  Why?
  3. Write out what you think Maddie and Peggy should say to Wanda if they see her.
  4. What do you think will happen in Boggins Heights?

 Section Four

For this vocabulary list, I had Alice look up the words in her dictionary and copy definitions down.
This section ends on page 64.



Questions to Consider

  1. List some of the things that Maddie is thinking about that make her feel she should have been nicer to Wanda.
  2. What do you think about Peggy's idea that it is okay because if not for the teasing maybe Wanda wouldn't have won?  Is she right or not?  Explain your answer.
  3. How would you feel about Peggy and Maddie if you had been Wanda?

Section 5

For this vocabulary list, I had Alice help make a crossword puzzle with me.  If I was working with many children, I probably would have handed out a pre-made crossword puzzle for them to do.  This section coincides with the last chapter.


bear (as in the verb, to bear)

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you think you'd've forgiven them and given Peggy and Maddie some of your drawings?
  2. How do you think Peggy really feels about Wanda?  Cite quotations from the book to support your answer.
  3. Did you enjoy reading this book?  Why or why not?
  4. The Author, Eleanor Estes, told her daughter she wrote this book because of a true story from her own life.  Eleanor Estes had a classmate who was taunted in the same way Wanda was taunted.  She was Polish and wore the same dress to school everyday but left the school suddenly at one point and no one ever heard from her again.  This book is her way of saying she is sorry to that little girl.  What does that make you think about the Author?  Does that make you consider the story differently? 
  5. Is there anyone to whom you would recommend this book - why?

Other Resources for The Hundred Dresses

Teaching Books Network - Has links to more Lesson Guide options and an audio clip.