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Tuesday, September 30

Walk Like an Egyptian (Bangles)


Continuing on our tour of Ancient Egypt, we are getting into the period of pharaohs, mummies, and pyramids.  This week, we are reading Mummies in the Morning, from the Magic Tree House series.  We will also begin The Golden Goblet, and my oldest is reading the Kane Chronicles series (by the same guy that wrote the Percy Jackson series).
                  
For science, we built the Nile River out of clay, so that we could learn about how the flooding of the Nile River affected the agriculture of Egypt.  It's also time to begin the seeds for our winter garden, and I always say, "work smarter, not harder!"  We put potting soil around the Nile River, planted our seeds, and VOILA!  Killing two birds with one stone.
We'll probably flood the Nile River a little more often than occurs in Egypt, just to keep the seeds healthy.  The boys even used these little Egyptian toys from a Toob to decorate the soil!
In between creating the Nile River out of clay, and waiting for it to set up, we created these pharaoh crowns.  The red one is the crown of Upper Egypt, and the white is the crown of Lower Egypt...wearing both together signifies ruling a unified nation.  And if you have any other questions, ask the boys - they can tell you more than I can about the significance of each trinket on the crowns...

We topped off the week by taking Daddy on a trip to the Egyptian collection at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum, where we explored the world of mummies and canopic jars.  We even saw mummified cats and birds!  Upon returning home, the oldest set out to make himself a special mask that goes on the sarcophagus of the pharaoh.  It turned out to be a little harder than expected, but was still quite detailed.  All in all, it's been a pretty good week!

Ancient Egypt reading :

Monday, September 29

Feeling Good (Nina Simone)

Sigh.  I just love Miss Nina....

Four weeks into school, I'm realizing that just "taking a break" doesn't create real change.  There are some things that just aren't working, and it's time to fix them.  I think, as moms - and home school moms in particular, when we've sunk a lot of money into something, we plan to make it work.  Like that old saying :  Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!  Well, the best laid plans of mice and men and all.....   (Let's play a game.  How many catchphrases can I throw into one post...?)
So, we're four weeks in and back to the drawing board in some areas.  If your husband had the wrong tool for a job, he'd get a different one, right?  I don't think this is any different.  You'll find a bit more in the way of curriculum under our Sale Page now, but we needed different tools for the job.
Changes we have made....
1.  Back to School pictures.  Since leaving public school, the boys haven't had any pictures made.  That needs to change, starting with these crudely-made signs.  We'll do better next year.
(One thing that HASN'T changed is that it always rains on the first day of school.  ALWAYS.  This year, the boys said that God is crying....that he wants them to play some more.)
2.  Mixing it up.  We gave the whole boxed-curriculum thing a shot, and we're still using it as a backbone, but it wasn't comprehensive enough for my tastes.  So we're adding back some basic grammar and reading workbooks.  As usual, Fred will accompany our Saxon in math adventures.
3.  Typing and online computer games.  Our curriculum was written in the mid-1990s and addresses this at no point.  We're adding ten minutes of typing each day, and computer games two days a week, to reinforce what they're learning.  Here, the youngest is putting all of the states in their correct spot.
4.  Art.  The eldest is so artistically-natured...he can learn almost anything through art.  So we're going to let him!  Comic books for writing assignments, science posters, sculpture...however he wants to demonstrate.  That's not to say he's completely off the hook on writing...
5.  Headphones.  Specifically, noise-cancelling ones.  I don't know if the children have developed ADD since starting to homeschool, or if it's just that it's distracting to try and work at the table when mom is working aloud with another child across the table.  Either way, these little babies have helped to stop tears in their tracks!  We found them in a random box of stuff in the basement.  Right now, we only have one set, so they have to switch back and forth - and someone is out of luck if they're both supposed to be quietly concentrating.  If you have a distractible child, I recommend trying them.
Five little changes...they're not much, but they've already added up to visible progress.  Each child is different, and what works for one will almost always NOT work for the other.  But it keeps things lively.  Have you had to change things around already this year?  What's working (or not working) for your family?  We want to know!

Thursday, September 25

Ballad of Davy Crockett (Fess Parker)


As we begin a year-long curriculum on the fifty states, it seems fitting to start with the history of our current state, Oklahoma.  We headed to Bartlesville, home of the first oil boom, and the town that put modern-day Oklahoma on the map. 
This was a reverse field trip - primarily because of the hours that each place was open - so we learned about petroleum by-products before learning about the oil boom itself.  Our first stop was Keepsake Candles, where we took a factory tour to learn about candle-making.  The paraffin used is a petroleum by-product....along with about three-quarters of the everyday items that we use nowadays. 
We learned the process of creating a mold from silicone, creating the artwork to embellish each candle, and how the candles are colored and scented.  At the end of the tour, the boys each had a chance to create their own candle, as a souvenir. 
Our family has worked hard to get petroleum-based products OUT of our home, so we only bought a small token when leaving, and then used it for a gift.  We do, however, try to purchase something small from these free factory tours, to support the business.  
 
By the time we finished learning about candles, the Woolaroc Ranch, our main field trip focus, had opened for the day.  This was the playground of Oklahoma oilman, Frank Phillips, and his band of thieves and outlaws (his words, not mine).  Today, it is a wildlife preserve, and features living history exhibits, a Native American & Oklahoma history museum, and his "getaway lodge." 
Woolaroc!  The name is a conglomeration of woods, lakes, and rocks.  These are things that Frank Phillips wanted to preserve for his enjoyment, while modern-day oilmen take no issue with cutting down entire mile sections of forest to erect another well.  At the entrance, they give you a map showing general areas for the various wildlife, and a nice CD to narrate your drive along the five-mile trail.
We saw deer, longhorns, ostriches, emus, and bison wandering freely and undisturbed.  The ranch is designed to make you feel as though you've stepped back in time at least a hundred years, and it does a good job of conveying that spirit.  Along the route, we came to the Mountain Men camp, one of the living history exhibits.
The boys learned about fur trappers and traders, the Mountain Men of the early 1800's, and how they co-existed peacefully with the Native American tribes.  (Our guide had his (real-life) Cherokee wife nearby making crafts from bone and shell.)  They also learned to throw tomahawks, make a pouch from a turtle shell, and stretch beaver skin.
It was hard to top the Mountain Man exhibit, which was by far their favorite stop on the trail!  We stopped by the petting barn, playground, and bison exhibits.
Then, we headed to the Woolaroc Museum.  Frank Phillips, founder of Phillip 66, wanted to preserve the western spirit of Oklahoma for future generations.  Half of the museum focuses on Native American heritage.  The boys were particularly fond of this pow-wow exhibit, in which the dancers actually sing and move around a carousel. 
The other half of the museum is dedicated to Phillips and the beginning of the oil industry in Oklahoma.  If you feel the disdain dripping from this post, bear in mind that I wear oil-colored glasses, being surrounded on four sides of our homestead by pipelines and fracking operations.  Though we live in Oklahoma, I have little love for the petroleum industry or it's playboys.  HOWEVER.  It is a pertinent piece of state history, and thus, I promised to teach my children about it with as little bias as possible.....
One piece of the museum that we found fascinating was the 1927 Dole Air Race.  Of the eighteen planes entered to fly from northern California to Hawaii, only two landed safely.  Phillips entered the race as a publicity stunt, to get his new oil products into the spotlight; and he won the race in 26 hours, 17 minutes, earning him the $25,000 first prize. 
At his "getaway lodge," which could double for a good-sized hotel, you will see numerous trophies on the walls.  I found it ironic that a man who would create a wildlife preservation would be so into big-game hunting....in psychology, we call that reaction-formation.  It's difficult to see, but the elephant head on the wall came from the Ringling Brothers circus.  During a poker game one night, he won the entire circus, but later allowed the circus owner to win it back.  When the elephant died, Mr. Ringling had it stuffed and sent to Mr. Phillips as a token of the 'time he owned the circus.'
From the lodge, there are beautiful hiking trails that lead down to a large lake and picnic area.  We spent a lot of time hiking, and enjoyed the beauty around us.
Not surprising, the thing that the boys remembered the most was the Mountain Men exhibit.  When we got home, they immediately went to make their own costumes and set out on a trip.  They brought their pack, pup tent, (toy) guns, and other necessary accoutrements for being successful trappers!  Hubby and I taught them the Davy Crockett song to sing while they hiked...
 
I have to admit, I'm glad they decided to play Mountain Men rather than Oilmen...it was very difficult to keep my opinions to myself while we toured and learned about this aspect of Oklahoma history.  I don't want to color their education, but anyone who knows what we have put up with in the last three years (as well as all of our neighbors) will appreciate the self-restraint.  Here are some resources for a Mountain Men unit study...

Oklahoma Hills history unit :
Books for Mom or Dad