Friday, April 24

Let It Grow (Eric Clapton)

During our Medieval studies, we began a science unit on botany - specifically on growing herbs.  Since we already had a big herb garden planned for spring, we decided to purchase an AeroGarden light system to start the seeds.  
..........unfortunately, there was a communication breakdown, and we ended up with two of them!  They had different lights, though, and we decided to make it a science experiment.  Just like in our Egypt study, it's time to work smarter, not harder!
The boys got the seeds planted and the water and nutrients started.  It became one of their chores to keep the gardens tended, and to note how well each of them was growing, so that we could compare.
In the meantime, we started bringing home old pallets from our food co-op.  We plan to use these for various projects around the house (which we promise to show off later!), but two of them were designated as herb planters.

Herb Planter Tutorial

Start with your basic wooden pallet.  Using a crowbar, rip out all of the vertical slats except the two outsides and the center slat.  Paint your color of choice, if desired.
I'm sure there are cheaper ways to make the planters, but this was MUCH easier.  We found a bag of reusable shopping bags at a garage sale for a dollar.  There were fifteen bags in there, and they were perfect for our "pots."  Cut the handles off the bags.  I think the time saved on making all of those little planters was entirely worth a dollar!

If you're going to go this route, make sure that water runs through them (they're not coated with a water-resistant layer), or your plants will mold and rot.  
Fold the bags on themselves until you have a baggie that fits so that it just hangs below the wooden horizontal slat.  Using a staple gun, secure the bag to the pallet.  Just staple, staple, staple away!
If desired, paint the name of which herbs will be in those planters.  Since we are using this as a teaching tool, and we want the children to be confident about which herbs they are using in the kitchen, we opted to label our planters.
Fill the bag planters with a combination of soil and peat moss, since that makes a good base.  Plant your seeds or (in our case) transplant them from your seed starters. 
We used another one of those pallets and a leftover plastic bin to create another raised bed...this one with onions and radishes.  Remember when using raised beds that they need to be watered more frequently, since the roots won't reach into the ground water!

Thursday, April 23

China (Tori Amos)

Archaeologists believe the Xia Dynasty began around the year 2,000 BCE, about 4,000 years ago. Legend says this dynasty was founded by the best engineer from the Lungshan people, who settled along the Huang He River a thousand years earlier.
From what scientists can tell, these early people were very advanced for their time. They worked together and used a system of irrigation to water the fields. They baked bricks in ovens for strong building materials. The floors of their huts were plaster instead of earth. They used a potters wheel to make vases and pots. And they made beautiful, colorfully dyed and designed woven fabrics, made from silk!
The people were deeply religious. They believed in the gods of nature, like the river god, the rain god, and the earth god. They believed in a great many gods, but the most powerful god was the sky god, T'ien, the king of all the gods, a god more powerful than any earthbound king.

The Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors 

The Three Sovereigns were powerful demigods who lived to be very old and brought peace and prosperity to the land during their rule.
  • Fu Xi was said to have invented fishing, trapping, and writing. His sister was Nuwa. It was Fu Xi and Nuwa who crafted the first humans out of clay.
  • Nuwa was the sister of Fu Xi. She helped him to create humans and also repaired the wall of heaven.
  • Shennong means "Divine Farmer." He brought the knowledge of agriculture to the Chinese people. He invented the plow, axe, hoe, irrigation, and the Chinese calendar.
 The Five Emperors were perfect kings who ruled wisely and with honor. The most famous of the Five Emperors was the Yellow Emperor. He ruled for 100 years and brought about the start of the Chinese civilization. In addition to the Yellow Emperor were Zhuanzu, Emperor Ku, Emperor Yao, and Shun. 
The greatest creature in Chinese mythology is the legendary dragon. The dragon is a long, winged, snake-like creature with four legs each with long and dangerous claws. Dragons were thought to have power over water and the weather.  The dragon was the symbol of the emperor. His throne was even called the Dragon Throne. It is said that the Yellow Emperor turned into a dragon and flew to heaven when he died. 

Interesting Facts about Chinese Mythology

  • Only the emperor could wear clothes that had pictures of the dragon.
  • Nian was said to have the body of a bull and the head of a lion.
  • Sometimes the Yellow Emperor was considered one of the Three Sovereigns.
  • The Three Sovereigns are also known as the Three August Ones.
  • Some records show that the Three Sovereigns each ruled for over 10,000 years.
  • It was the Yellow Emperor's wife, Leizu, who taught the Chinese how to make silk from silkworms.
  • Emperor Yao was said to have been morally perfect and served as the example of how all future Chinese emperors should behave.

Craft & Resources

Thursday, April 16

Tapestry (Carole King)

As we wrapped up a unit on the Middle Ages, before heading into the Renaissance, we wanted to do something special with the kids.  Going to Medieval Times was our first choice, but the closest one is several hours away and the timing was just not right.  After searching, we found this cute little English pub in Tulsa, called The White Lion, and decided to take the kids there for some authentic British food and a little bit of culture...  At the bottom of this post, you'll find a Medieval Unit study that is purely for fun.
That's my little ham up there, pretending to be a lion!  What a fabulous meal we had!  If you're ever in the Tulsa area, this one is a must visit.  It's low-key and seems to be one of those places known only to the locals and by word of mouth.  We had hot tea, brie & apples, bangers & mash, cottage pie, and fish & chips.  Since this was an educational experience, we just ordered the different dishes and ate family style...with everyone sharing everything.  After dinner, the boys chatted up Queen Elizabeth...
The pub's decor is really fascinating.  While waiting for the food to arrive, we went around to each of the rooms (it's a re-purposed house) and investigated the decor.  There aren't many good pictures, because we didn't want to disturb the other diners.

Middle Ages Fun Unit Study

Tour Skipton Castle!

Medieval Times Knights' Performance

Tuesday, April 14

Ancient Greek Mythology

Zeus was the most powerful of the Greek gods and had a number of powers. His most famous power is the ability to throw lighting bolts. His winged horse Pegasus carried his lighting bolts and he trained an eagle to retrieve them. He could also control the weather, causing rain and huge storms.

Zeus also had other powers. He could mimic people's voices to sound like anyone. He could also shape shift so that he looked like an animal or a person. If people made him angry, sometimes he would turn them into animals as punishment.

The Titans
The Titans were the first, or elder, gods.  There were twelve of them, including the parents of Zeus, Cronus, and Rhea.  They ruled during what was called the Golden Age.  They were overthrown by their children...led by Zeus.

The Olympians
The twelve Olympian gods were the major gods of the Greeks, and lived on Mount Olympus.  They included :

  • Zeus - Leader of the Olympians, and god of the sky and lightning.  His symbol is the lightning bolt.  he is married to Hera, his sister.
  • Hera - Queen of the gods, and married to Zeus, she is the goddess of marriage and family. Her symbols are the lion, cow, and peacock.
  • Poseidon - God of the ocean, earthquakes, and horses.  His symbol is the trident.  He is Zeus' and Hades' brother.
  • Hades - God of the Underworld, he lives in the Underworld rather than on Mount Olympus.
  • Dionysus - Lord of wine and celebrations.  Patron god of theater and art, his main symbol is the grapevine.  He is the son of Zeus and the youngest Olympian.
  • Apollo - God of music and light, his symbols include the sun, bow and arrow, and lyre.  His twin sister is Artemis.
  • Artemis - Goddess of the hunt, archery, and animals.  Her symbols include the moon, bow and arrow, and deer.  Her twin brother is Apollo.
  • Ares - God of war, his symbols are the spear and shield.  He is the son of Zeus and Hera.
  • Athena - Goddess of wisdom, defense, and war, her symbols are the owl and olive branch.  She is the patron saint of Athens.
  • Hermes - God of commerce and thieves.  He is also the messenger of the gods, and his symbol is the winged sandals.  His son, Pan, is the god of nature.
  • Aphrodite - Goddess of love and beauty, her symbols include the dove and rose.  She is married to Hephaestus.
  • Hephaesus - God of fire, blacksmith and craftsman for the gods.  His symbols include fire, the anvil and hammer, and the donkey.  He is married to Aphrodite.
  • Demeter - Goddess of agriculture and the seasons, her symbols include wheat and the pig.

The Chimera 
The fire-breathing Chimera is a terrifying beast with a serpent for a tail, a goat's body and a lion's head! A king has commanded warrior, Bellerophon, to destroy her. Soaring above the monster on a winged horse, he shoots arrows at her. Bellerophon then attaches lead to his spear and thrusts it into the vicious beast. The hero’s actions kills the fiery Chimera. 
Scylla & Charybdis
On both sides of a narrow stretch of sea, monsters lie in wait.  On one side, Scylla thrashes around her six snakelike heads, ready to crunch on passing sailors.  On the other, Charybdis creates a deadly whirlpool.  No person has ever faced these beasts and escaped unharmed.  Now the king, Odysseus, and his crew must pass them to get home.  They edge around Charybdis' spiraling sea, saving the ship from being swallowed whole.  Scylla swoops down and gobbles up six men, and Odysseus shouts, leading the rest of the crew past Scylla and out of the deadly channel.  Having survived the dreaded beasts, Odysseus and his men continue their journey.
The Minotaur
Half-man, half-bull, the Minotaur lurks in an underground maze waiting for his next meal - children sent to him as a sacrifice.  Lost in the labyrinth, the kids will be devoured, but brave king Theseus has had enough of his land living in fear of the Minotaur.  He accompanies the group, and is prepared to fight.  Hearing the Minotaur breathing nearby, he springs toward it.  Dodging the monster's deadly horns, he thrusts his sword into the beast.  The Minotaur is dead, and Theseus unspools a piece of string that he wound as he walked through the maze...he leads the children out to safety.
In a swamp, creeps a deadly nine-headed serpent called the Hydra.  Heracles, son of Zeus, must kill it to become immortal.  After throwing flaming spears at the beast, the Hydra attacks, so Heracles hits its heads with a club, but more grow in their place!  Heracles' friend, Iolus, then leaps to his aid with a flaming torch.  After an epic battle, the men finally destroy the Hydra!
This hideous Medusa has snakes for hair, terrifying tusks, and a face that turns anyone that looks at it into stone!  To please his king, Perseus agrees to slay the beast.  Wearing a helmet of invisibility, he sneaks up on Medusa.  She's asleep, but one gaze at her face and Perseus would be a statue!  He looks at her harmless reflection in his shiny shield and beheads her.  Victorious, Perseus flies off on winged sandals.

Ancient Greek links :


Tuesday, April 7

Meerkats & Macaws...

We go to the zoo a lot, so this time I told each kid to pick an animal to focus on, and we would study that particular one for this field trip.  I was expecting elephants, giraffes, maybe the new baby hippo....but we got meerkats and macaws instead.  Yay for creativity!  

Scroll down to the bottom for your meerkats & macaws unit study resources.


Meerkats are burrowing animals that live in the desert habitats of southern Africa.  They make their homes out of abandoned burrows dug by other animals.  While they are day animals, they usually take a siesta during the hottest part of the day.

They live in large families, and the females are the leaders.  Older family members have more influence over the family's activities.  They forage for insects, small reptiles, eggs, and scorpions for their food.  They don't drink much, but get their water from roots and other food.

Every family member has a job, and they all work together for survival.  Some of the jobs include:
  • Babysitters - watch the younger members of the family
  • Sentinel - watch for danger, and use alarm calls to tell when there is danger.  They have a different call for every type of predator!!

Listen to a meerkat alerting his family in our video below.


My son took these photos before escaping into the cave at the Children's Zoo.  I thought the close-up photo came out pretty well!

Macaws are the largest parrots in the world - they can be up to 33 inches long!  They have featherless faces with bright colors covering most of the body, wings, and tail.  They live in warm, humid climates, like the rainforest, and prefer to stay in large family groups. 

They have strong beaks for breaking open hard nuts found in the rainforest.  They also eat leaves, berries, and seeds.  They have the ability to eat fruits that would normally be toxic to humans and animals.  Some people think that it is because they also eat clay, which may neutralize the poison.

Macaws are becoming endangered because: 1) people trap them for pets and 2) the destruction of the rainforests.

Meerkats & Macaws Resources

Monday, April 6

I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)

Survival & Adaptations Field Trip

Now - truth be told - the boys each made a fabulous video about the animal of their choice - citing all the different adaptations and survival techniques that species used.........BUT......the sound quality came out terribly.  All of the background noise at the aquarium - running water and the heating system - ruined the videos.  So, we're just going to include some great resources at the bottom of this post!  

We will be taking this same field trip to the zoo soon, to study African look for better videos then!

We started off close to home, in the Ozark Mountain Stream, and watched the otters and beavers enjoy their natural habitats.  Then, the boys wanted to set off on a more dangerous path, so we headed to the snakes and gators.....can you see him watching us?

At the turtle tank, the boys had a chance to feed the snapping turtles, and quickly discovered WHY you don't put your hand near their heads!  Taking a breather from that moment of surprise, we watched the starfish and seahorse.  We learned about how the daddy seahorse carries the babies around, and that a starfish can grow new legs if one is lost!

They decided it was ok to start touching animals again, so we headed to the touch tanks to check out starfish and anemones.  We also had the chance to touch the stingrays and tiger sharks!

The mommas snuck off to the shark tank, our favorite place, for a moment of quiet solitude!

As we emerged from the shark tank, we found the boys with their heads inside a shark.  Nice.  Walking over to the coral reef, we discussed all the different life forms found within this one ecosystem, and how the ocean is so dependent upon it.

We talked about scales and armor used by different animals to protect themselves.  Then we stumbled upon this fascinating iguana - when we talked to it, it turned it's head and nodded!  Repeatedly.  Every time we would talk to it, it would do that!  

Finally, the boys hit the shrimping boat, to play with the little shrimp.  They love chasing them around, and trying to figure out which ones were the fastest.  In our experience, the biggest ones were the quickest, and the babies were very very slow.  One of the babies actually swam up into their hands!

Animal Adaptations Unit Resources :

On the way to the aquarium for our field trip, we found this Lego car.  The kids were enthralled and wanted to find it's owner.........but we got them to settle for a photo.

As a footnote, I thought this poster was poignant.  The nasty sushi is a great visual reminder that we need to take better care of earth's oceanic ecosystem (and all the others, too), or we will soon be eating food that looks like this!