This Month's Featured Resources...


Father's DayTravel - CookingLatin WW2

Wednesday, June 20

Groove is in the Heart (Deee-Lite)

Yesterday, I brought you some of my more creative dress-making ideas.  Today, we're going to share some of the upcycling that we did this past summer from garage sale finds.  Everything we started with cost less than a dollar - or was even free!
We started with this Hawaiian-themed desk.  We picked it up - in really beat up condition, but with a good base - for a dollar at a garage sale, and completely overhauled it.  My eldest used some old curtain material for the seat and painted it.  I put in the tile and the chalkboard.   Voila!
This old captain's chair was out in our shed.  I have no idea where it came from or why it was there.  There were six of them...we gave all six of them different "classic" looks, and sold all except this one.  The desk was also out there, and we cleaned it up, painted it, and used an old pillowcase to make a matching seat cushion.  We resold them for a little 'piggy-bank profit.'
We snagged this dingy, nasty chair at an estate sale for a quarter.  It had good bones, and was quality vintage, but needed a facelift.  The boys cleaned it and painted it, and I made new a new seat and back for it.  Doesn't it look like so much more fun now?!  My sister (with her inexplicable love of the color yellow) was the inspiration for this one.....the little bumblebee...
These were during our "ocean phase," when we were visiting the aquarium. We had lots of temporary tattoos, and discovered that they attach quite nicely to old, leather suitcases!  They brightened this blue one up and turned it into a cute, kid-sized piece.  The old window sash was scraped, sanded, and stained before we stuck a poster-sized photo, which hubby had taken in Cozumel, behind it.
The end table was painted with a Dr. Seuss themed / outer space world during my eldest son's space craze.  The youngest was still into pirates, so I created a play table just for him out of some scrap wood we had laying about the garage.  Neither of the tables were painted by the boys, but they each dreamed up the designs for them.
A friend of mine had this old army footlocker that she wanted to use for her girls' toys...so I had her bring it over and got right to work.  This one only took an afternoon - all the kids were playing together nicely, so I was able to finish very quickly once the initial coat of purple dried.  Simple, yet effective, her girls still love it today!
Finally, I created this banner for my grandfather's airport wall, before he passed.  He and I spent countless weekends together at the airport, flying in the Alpha Charlie and bumming around with the other old men that spent their weekends there.  We spent each spring doing science experiments for the science fair at the airport (he was a retired engineer).  Can you tell that I still really miss him....?
 I hope that these projects have inspired you to go out and create something new with your kids - or just for yourself!  Don't be limited by what the mass-producers create....use your imagination, put your spin on it, and make it memorable

As Miss Frizzle would say.............get outside!  Get mess!  Make mistakes!  
.........and HAVE FUN!!!!!!!

Monday, June 18

Cool Blues (Miles Davis)

A beautiful shot of the Blue Whale!  I can just imagine how much fun this little water park brought to this community a few decades ago! 

This field trip was born out of our trip down Route 66 in Stroud, OK (see last week for that unit).  We decided since we had done a portion of Route 66, why not try to do the entire stretch?  We will continue doing this in smaller increments.  Even planning it out, we don’t see all the sights!  Each time I plan I choose a 30-45 mile stretch, and I choose which sites to see based on history and preservation.  Each time I try to explain to the kids just how important it is to take care of these things so future generations can enjoy them as well.  

The Rock Creek Bridge is a great example because of the condition it is now, it may not be here for my children’s children to enjoy.  Preserving history is such an important part of education because history makes up so much of our education.  When you read for Language Arts, you read many historical stories; when you practice spelling words, the lessons often come from history (ours do, anyway); everything has a history and we want to pass that down to future generations! It is MUCH more fun to see these things in person than to read about them and see photos!

Entrance to the Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK.  This used to be a water park and the whale along with a few other pieces have been salvaged and preserved and are now quirky 66 land marks (there is a dilapidated pirate ship, some very vintage restrooms, and the old ticket booth as well as a small light house and some cute picnic tables left)  Rock Creek Bridge in Sapulpa-it has closed in the last year due to weathering, and is a prime example of how we should take care of the things we have for future generations.  This is a beautiful location, the creek it crosses is a lovely work of God, but difficult to access because it hasn’t been kept up.
“Charlie Porter” tugboat at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa (off of the Arkansas River)  This was a surprise as we were looking for the historical museum which has since moved, but we got a great lesson on how tugboats work and what they are used for.  “The Nut House” in Catoosa (3 miles east of the Blue Whale) was my favorite surprise find!  The fudge is homemade along with many other items and the owners are the sweetest women you can find!  The shop has sweets and a few savories as well as a trinket/gift shop.  Of COURSE we bought some fudge…after the kids tasted it we couldn’t say no!  Plus, support small/local business!
The kids posed under the tugboat near the propellers.  I love how they have this set up where you can go under to see the workings!  The mouth of the Blue Whale in Catoosa.  This whale is the reason the kids wanted to take this trip!  We drove east to Catoosa and moseyed our way home from there stopping to see sights along the way.  Again, another thing we want to see preserved!  Preservation of history is key for education!
This is our crazy selfie in the car!  A Route 66 field trip means a LOT of car time!  We began in Shawnee, drove to Catoosa and back, stopping along the way which took a total of about 7 hours.  Even getting in and out frequently we had some stir crazy kiddos!  We found this ADORABLE welcome sign to the Catoosa Whale water park.  This sign has been well preserved and is so adorable!  I hope it stays that way!
A rail bridge still in use between Catoosa and Tulsa.  I took the photo on a whim so I don’t remember the exact location, but just minutes later a train went across it!  The Charlie Border Tugboat at the Port of Catoosa.

Whales Unit Study




Tuesday, June 12

Route 66 (Chuck Berry)

View of the “Mother Road” in front of the Boundary Restaurant in Luther, OK
(scroll to bottom for unit study)  

This field trip was born out of a “Wild West” study, actually.  We learned about a daylight double bank robbery by outlaw Henry Starr that took place in Stroud, which is said to be one of the last outlaw robberies to take place in the Wild West.  We wanted to read up and learn more on that, but through that, a Route 66 field trip was born.  We decided to focus not only on Oklahoma history, but on how important preservation of history is as well as the importance of taking care of the land and land marks for future generations.
When in Stroud, OK, you must stop at the Rock Cafe, even if it is just to snap a pic (though the food is delish, too).  It was one of the inspirations for the movie Cars, and since I have two boys, this was a great photo op.  A bit further down the road, near Arcadia, the Rt. 66 Museum Service Station Museum was an accidental gem of a find.  This museum is absolutely delightful; full of quirky artifacts full of fun history lessons!
The Skyliner Motel in Stroud is perfect for someone who loves vintage neon signs and well-preserved history!  Nearby, we found “Filmore,” from the movie Cars, at the Rt. 66 Service Station Museum near Luther…again because Cars and boys!
The Boundary Restaurant in Luther, OK (boasts best BBQ)—we actually stopped here on a whim trying to find something else but it had such a beautiful view of 66 with no interruptions I couldn’t resist snapping a quick pic.
Here are the historic marker from the Rock Cafe in Stroud and a map of OK Rt. 66 at the Route 66 Interpretive Center in Chandler, OK…this place was super neat with interactive video displays!  We decided to stop here because we got addicted to Route 66 in the planning process and wanted to learn as much as possible! The Historical Society Museum in Chandler is also a great place to visit!

Route 66 Resources...

Seven Fun Facts About Route 66 
  1. In 1937, there was a change in alignment of Route 66 in Albuquerque, NM. There is an intersection downtown at Central Avenue and 4th Street where Route 66 crosses itself. 
  2. Get Your Kicks on Route 66 was written by Bobby Troup. In 1946, Nat King Cole recorded it. It has since been recorded by bands such as the Rolling Stones and Depeche Mode. 
  3. Kansas has only 13 miles of Route 66, but is home to three historic towns. They are Baxter Springs, Galena, and Riverton. 
  4. 85% of Route 66 is still driveable. 
  5. It took five interstate highways to replace Route 66; I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15, and I-10. 
  6. The last original Route 66 road sign was taken down in Chicago on January 17, 1977. * The first McDonalds was located in San Bernardino, CA in 1945 on Route 66. 
  7. The first town that you come to on Route 66 in Oklahoma is Quapaw, OK. Quapaw is famous for “spooklights.” “Spooklights” are bright balls of white light that bounce around. They have been reported since the 1700ʼs.

Monday, June 11

Art of the Ancients {Review}

If you've followed this blog for more than a few days, then you know these kids are all about some ancient history!  We have ancient history Legos, and all of our literature and geography courses are centered on ancient history....heck, we even did a science course that focused on it!  So when ARTistic Pursuits, Inc. released their new Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray curriculum, including the Art of the Ancients art course, they were super excited!

Granted, this is a course designed for kindergarten through 3rd graders, and they are a little bit older than that, but they still enjoyed it.  The course comes in a slim hardcover book, with two DVDs (one regular and one blu-ray), that fits perfectly on any shelf and looks very nice.  It focuses on the art of the cultures that grew up along the Mediterranean.  There's even a note inside about this, with a nod toward other ancient cultures that were not included simply due to keeping it a short and simple book for younger students.
If you'd like to see more about this course, peek inside the book further, or see clips of the video lessons, check out the video review!

The course begins with the cave drawings of France and winds through ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire.  It includes art history, geographical history, and art instruction.  There are eighteen lessons in total - twelve in the text, and six on the video disc.  One thing that I really appreciate about this course, from a mom's organizational perspective, is that the discs are stored right inside the book.  I can't tell you how many times I've picked up a course book only to find that I'd misplaced the discs...
The materials used in the lessons are often simple, everyday materials that you'll have in your home.  There are also basic art supplies that most homeschools are stocked with, including crayons, pastels, clay, colored pencils, and colored paper.  A few lessons call for specific supplies, such as a clay wire cutter, but we simply used a knife and washed it well.
In the lesson about Egyptian murals, we learned about ancient Egyptian culture, the pyramids, and the murals inside of the pyramids.  Taking the lead from the example in the book, everyone created a 'modern day mural,' focusing on the everyday things that each does.  One of them is fishing, chicken-wrangling, doing schoolwork, and walking around.  Another is taking a boat ride (apparently, his dream day), while the last is completing schoolwork, biking, reading with her brother, and playing outside.
The video lessons are quite simple to follow.  Like the book, they open with a lesson about the world around us and how this particular art lesson relates to that.  Then they go through the art project step by step, with natural breaks in it for the video to be paused while your student completes that step.  Finally, they do a quick review of every step in the project.  In this video lesson, we created Roman mosaics -- one is an airplane and one is a parrot.

While I feel that this course was too young for my children - and it SHOULD be - they are in middle school and above, I also feel that it's just right for the intended audience, and could even be used with preschoolers.  It will get children excited about history, while incorporating hands-on fun!

See what others are saying about ARTistic Pursuits,Inc. at the Homeschool Review Crew!
Artistic Pursuits Full Video Lesson Grades K-3 {ARTistic Pursuits Reviews}

Thursday, June 7

"JUNE-o" about these New Books?

So...."June-o" would be the redneck side of me coming out..  For those of you from above the Mason-Dixon Line, you can read that as "Do you know..."   😊  This month, we're also featuring a new movie that touched our hearts!

I Can Only Imagine - DVD
Summary
Dennis Quaid and Trace Adkins star in this inspiring true story behind MercyMe’s beloved hit song. Running from a troubled home life and a broken relationship, Bart Millard (Finley) found escape in music. Hitting the road in a decrepit tour bus, Bart and his band MercyMe set out on an amazing journey none of them could have ever imagined, in this uplifting, music-filled movie that beautifully illustrates the power of forgiveness and God’s love.  The home entertainment release of I Can Only Imagine features over 3 hours of extras including 7 deleted scenes, 7 in-depth featurettes, an audio commentary, and more!


Our Thoughts
Created by the same folks who brought you Moms' Night Out (which you must see!), this is about the story behind the popular song of the same name. It's a song about heaven, and a movie about a prodigal son story. Even if you're not typically into Christian movies, this one still might appeal...it has a more mainstream feel, with a deeper message of morality, rather than strictly religion. Surprisingly, the song isn't rehashed over and over again, as you might think, but only alluded to at points in the story and then has it's moment in the sun toward the end. The emotions these actors bring to the movie are incredible...the actors should be applauded for their sincerity. It is a movie that will fill you with laughter, tears, heartbreak, and finally, joy!  Listen to the song.


Historical Fiction
A Rebel Heart (Beth White)
Five years after the final shot was fired in the War Between the States, Selah Daughtry can barely manage to keep herself, her two younger sisters, and their spinster cousin fed and clothed. With their family's Mississippi plantation swamped by debt and the Big House falling down around them, the only option seems to be giving up their ancestral land. Pinkerton agent and former Union cavalryman Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage linked to the impoverished Daughtry plantation. Posing as a hotel management agent for the railroad, he tells Selah he'll help her save her home, but only if it is converted into a hotel. With Selah otherwise engaged with renovations, Levi moves onto the property to "supervise" while he actually attends to his real assignment right under her nose. Selah isn't sure she entirely trusts the handsome Yankee, but she'd do almost anything to save her home. What she never expected to encounter was his assault on her heart.

The first in a new series about the Reconstructionist South, this book incorporates a living history lesson into a mystery and romance story. The lead characters are obviously going to end up together, but their journey through conflict and into courtship helps move the story forward. Personally, I liked the mystery aspect of this story best of all, and kept trying to figure out the answer right along with the detective...the answer was a surprise! We get a glimpse of characters that will mostly likely be featured in the upcoming books as a sequel to this one; however, the book itself works as a stand-alone, as all of the pertinent issues are resolved by the end.

A Daring Venture (Elizabeth Camden)As a biochemist in early 1900s New York, Doctor Rosalind Werner has dedicated her life to the crusade against waterborne diseases. She is at the forefront of a groundbreaking technology that will change the way water is delivered to every household in the city--but only if she can get people to believe in her work. Newly appointed Commissioner of Water for New York, Nicholas Drake is highly skeptical of Rosalind and her team's techniques. When a brewing court case throws him into direct confrontation with her, he is surprised by his reaction to the lovely scientist. While Rosalind and Nick wage a private war against their own attraction, they stand firmly on opposite sides of a battle that will impact far more than just their own lives. As the controversy grows more public and inflammatory and Rosalind becomes the target of an unknown enemy, the odds stacked against these two rivals swiftly grow more insurmountable with every passing day.

Having left her hometown after both a scandal and a personal tragedy linked to poor drinking water, the leading female sets her life goal to be the prevention of other deaths from the same. She comes up against the leading male, a character holdover from book one in this series, who also agrees that something must be done about the drinking water, but is coming at the problem from a very different angle.  The two are at odds for most of the book, trying to outdo each other in solving this problem their own way.  It should be noted that, in this time period, women were not respected as scientists, and so she must work three times as hard to be taken seriously.  As we all know, with hardship comes intimacy, and eventually the two develop a relationship.  It is one full of passion and excitement, and they must learn to harness their differences to work together as an irrepressible team.  This story is based on historical fact, and the author does a good job of working them in.

Road to Magnolia Glen (Pam Hillman)
1792, Natchez Trace, MS:  Bitter since his eldest brother abandoned their family in Ireland, Quinn O’Shea travels to Natchez, Mississippi, ready to shuck the weight of his duty and set off on an adventure of his own. It’s time Connor, as head of the family, took responsibility for their younger siblings. While aboard ship, a run-in with three Irish sisters lands Quinn in the role of reluctant savior. Though it may delay his plans, he cannot abandon the Young sisters, especially the tenacious yet kind Kiera. Upon arriving in the colonies, Kiera Young prepares to meet her intended and begin her new life. But she soon discovers the marriage her brother-in-law arranged was never meant to be, and a far more sinister deal was negotiated for her and her sisters. Quinn offers to escort his charges safely to Breeze Hill Plantation and his brother’s care, fully intending to seek his freedom elsewhere. But the longer he remains, the greater his feelings toward Kiera grow and the more he comes to realize true freedom might be found in sacrifice.

A follow-up to The Promise of Breeze Hill, this second installment of the Natchez Trace series briefly touches on the characters from the first, and then focuses on the next O'Shea brother. (Being as how there are three more brothers, I am expecting three more books in this series.) This romance has a lot of fiery (yet clean) passion in it! They exhibit the stereotypical Irish tempers and flair for the dramatic, but also the loyalty and devotion for which they are known. While it is a historical novel, I didn't feel that this one taught me a lot of history (as some are wont to do), but it still felt very period-like. It is a quick read that will leave you feeling like you know the characters and want to know how their lives play out.


Fiction
Bound for Gold (William Martin)
Bound for Gold continues New York Times bestselling author William Martin’s epic of American history with the further adventures of Boston rare-book dealer Peter Fallon and his girlfriend, Evangeline Carrington. They are headed to California, where their search for a lost journal takes them into the history of Gold Rush. The journal follows young James Spencer, of the Sagamore Mining Company, on a spectacular journey from staid Boston, up the Sacramento River to the Mother Lode. During his search for a “lost river of gold,” Spencer confronts vengeance, greed, and racism in himself and others, and builds one of California’s first mercantile empires.

In the present, Peter Fallon’s son asks his father for help appraising the rare books in the Spencer estate and reconstructing Spencer’s seven-part journal, which has been stolen from the California Historical Society. Peter and Evangeline head for modern San Francisco and quickly discover that there’s something much bigger and more dangerous going on, and Peter’s son is in the middle of it. Turns out, that lost river of gold may be more than a myth.I am in love with this new (well, new to me) author! My kids have always loved immersion stories, where we fully experience a time or place and learn so much from it while reading a story. This is like one of those books, but for adults. (And my oldest student is already reading it!) There are two stories intertwined...the present-day mystery / action-adventure and the Gold Rush-era historical action-adventure. I learned so much about the Gold Rush that I never knew (and history is our thing around here) while reading this book. We'll be going through Mr. Martin's older books to see what else we can learn through living history, too!

An Amish Family (Kathleen Fuller)
Building Trust : Grace Miller and Joel King are in love. They’ve dated secretly for the past year and when he proposes marriage, Grace eagerly agrees. But when she tells her parents about the wedding, she’s shocked when her father tells her she can’t marry Joel. Can Grace get to the bottom of her father’s animosity toward Joel so they can have the happily ever after she’s always dreamed of?
A Heart Full of Love (also in An Amish Cradle) : Ellie’s mother hasn’t stopped meddling in her personal life since Ellie lost her sight—and she’s taken it up a notch now that Ellie’s pregnant. When Ellie gives birth to twins, her mother insists on moving in to care for them. But when her mother’s behavior becomes unbearable, Ellie is forced to take a stand . . . and finally find out why Mamm can’t let go.
Surprised by Love : In a desperate move to evade her match-making mother, Emily Shwartz announces that she’s already seeing someone: Reuban Coblentz. The trouble is, Reuban is barely even a friend. Seeing how desperate she is, Reuban plays along. But when the past sneaks up on them, will this temporary arrangement turn into everlasting love?
A Gift for Anne Marie (also in An Amish Second Christmas) : Anne Marie and Nathaniel have been best friends since they were kids. Now things are evolving . . . in ways everyone else predicted long ago. But when her mother suddenly decides to remarry in another state, Anne Marie’s new chapter with Nathaniel looks doomed to end before it begins.

I've read several of these Amish collections, but it's rare that I've thoroughly enjoyed every single story included in them. I loved all of the stories in this collection....each brought a unique flavor to the table, and they all centered around the theme of family. Family doesn't always look like we picture - mom, dad, kids - even within the Amish community. (No, there is no LGBT or transgenderism...that's not what I was getting at.) Sometimes your family is your friends, or you have mixed families because of past grief, or you have family members who are carrying deep, hidden burdens that affect those around them. You will enjoy these stories of coming together as a whole and healing as a family!

Arms of Mercy (Ruth Reid)
On the eve of a new year, Catherine Glick is expecting her bu of five years to propose. Instead, the unexpected arrival of an old boyfriend, Elijah, sends her life spiraling out of control. When a rash decision damages her current relationship, Catherine leaves for Florida to work in her cousin’s bakery—anything to flee the source of her shame.  Elijah Graber knows he hurt Catherine when he left their Amish district six years ago. He’s determined to explain his actions, even if it means following her to Florida. Perhaps their two-day bus trip together will provide enough time for him to make his case and win her back.  Just when Elijah is starting to tear down the walls Catherine has built, their bus skids on an icy road—and amid the mayhem and tragedy that follow, Catherine disappears. Elijah’s friends urge him to prepare for the worst, but Elijah holds on to his hope in God and refuses to give up his search for Catherine. With supernatural nudging from the most unexpected places, Elijah sets out to find the love he once lost—no matter the cost.

I've never read an Amish book quite like this one, and was really fascinated at how it unfolded. You've got a girl, two boys, and a tragic accident that we wouldn't typically see in an Amish community. Everyone's running away from something, unless they've forgotten what they're running from, and eventually they come full circle to where they're supposed to be...albeit a bit changed. Themes of survivor guilt, forgiveness, and acceptance are featured in the book. The love triangle isn't as prominent as it appears to be at the very beginning; rather it's the tragedy that takes center stage and changes everyone involved. And the very very end? Beautiful; just beautiful.


Non-Fiction
The Good Girls Guide to Conquering Life (Erica Catherman)
There's a lot a girl needs to know as she grows up and makes her way in the world. Having a reference guide of practical how-to life skills and character traits can empower her to become a confident and capable woman. In fact, if it's in here, it's an important skill or character trait practiced by capable and confident women. With great illustrations and sidebars of advice from world-class experts, this all-in-one reference tool for young women in the making is the perfect gift for birthdays, graduations, or any occasion.  Coauthors Erica and Jonathan Catherman offer this collection of step-by-step instructions on 100 things girls need to succeed, including how to :
- introduce yourself
- change a flat tire
- respectfully break up with a guy
- leave a tip
- apply for a job
- ask for a promotion
- behave during a police stop
- create a personal budget
- calculate square footage
- wash your face
- clear a clogged drain
- iron a shirt
- wear a scarf
- shoot a basketball
- sharpen kitchen knives
- and much more

My first thought on reading this was that it's just too simplistic and I knew nearly every piece of advice given. However, upon looking at it through a different lens, I think that this would be the perfect gift for a young girl setting out from home for the first time...perhaps a graduation gift? She will probably know some of this stuff, just from being around her parents, but there are some things that parents simply neglect to teach because they don't think about it. Each of the skills is taught, step by step, and illustrated. The book spans a wide variety of topics: social skills and manners, work and ethics, wealth and money management, health and beauty, clothes and fashion, sports and recreation, cars and driving, food and cooking, tools and fix-it, and guys and dating. This could even be used as a family read-aloud...tackling a different skill each week together. Finally, although it says the Girls' guide...it would also be helpful for boys.
I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.