Monday, November 23, 2009

DNA and Science

Sometimes, life takes you (and the kids) off at a tangent. Most homeschoolers refer to them as 'rabbit trails' and delight in the love of learning it shows the kids enjoying!
Well we experienced a 'rabbit trail' recently.
It started with a Science Magazine- on the cover was a picture of a DNA model, built from Lego blocks. Considering Rebel's love of Lego, I showed him the article.
Next thing you know, he wants to build a Lego DNA helix- and we're off into DNA land :)

If you have lots of Lego Tecnic blocks, you'll be able to manage this mini DNA helix.
Perhaps you don't have the right parts? How about a paper model instead?
This article tells you how to do it- with paper chain like DNA models...
This is a whole activity sheet with a paper DNA model.
The Japanese are really into the whole making things out of paper- so paper DNA models are no different :)

There are many others out there too :) You might be thrilled to learn that K'nex has a DNA model you can build, and a few other sites have their own variants on that theme too...
and then there are the books. The wonderful 4 Real Community helped with suggestions- these are the ones I managed to find and read for myself :)

Have a Nice DNA by Fran Balkwill and Mic Rolph (2002) This book is not 'Young Earth' friendly, other books by the author may cover topics like stem cells and cloning, and the 4 Realers have warned against them.
Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas by Cheryl Bardoe Not strictly DNA, but all about genetics.
The Stuff of Life: A Graphic guide to genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz, illustrated by Zander and Kevin Cannon. This is a graphic novel style guide to DNA- it is incredibly detailed and well written BUT does discuss such things as cloning, stem cells and evolution, although I think the way it is handled is less controversial than many other books- I would not go so far as to say that it was using a Pro-Life viewpoint either- just a neutral one. :) It IS a young adult read, and so is best given to kids who have been taught 'the facts of life' since that features prominently in the book. The suggested reading at the end does include controversial books too. This is definitely a parental advisory book- read it for yourself first ;)

Do be careful what you find to read on DNA with the kids- there are so many different levels of reading, and so many different philosophical viewpoints.

Hope you find these links helpful!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Next Step: SELF Education

Susan Wise Bauer has a wonderful article in the latest Memoria Press Catalogue- all about how we, as homeschooling parents, have a duty to keep educating ourselves, that we might always have the ability to answer the questions of our children.
And then there was this blog post. Between the two, I was even more convicted to start educating myself some more.
Then there was the talk with parents and siblings who are doing yet more degree courses (the distance learning options are better in the UK than they are here in the USA), and the sudden realisation today that because I read the ancient classics to the kids, I KNOW what some of the old classical music pieces out there were written about - and I knew that, for a homeschooling mother, education truly does become a passion :).

So in my sidebar, you will see some of my reading. I am not planning on putting in my relaxing novels. There are too many of those and too many of them would be objectionable to someone or other (different tastes for different people of course LOL) SO instead I am putting in the fun reads I *would* recommend to others, or books I think *might* be interesting to others, or books that I know others are reading and might want to discuss :) And then I have also added the self education stuff too - not sure I will do it quite like AO does (the thought of stretching How to Read a Book over several years does not thrill me LOL).

All my self-education I will tag as 'Motherculture', and I hope that many of you will consider joining me in the Odyssey of my mind ;)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tweaking Ambleside

I have long admired Ambleside Online's curriculum- considering it is free, and considering a vast majority of the books recommended are available online, it is a huge and very useful resource.
Mater Amabilis (a Catholic CM curriculum online) is likewise a lovely resource, free of charge, but so many of the books on it are hard to come by and usually NOT free, that I usually end up using Ambleside instead :/
So I have been working on making some tweaks to Ambleside to make it just a little more Catholic friendly.(

1. Ambleside uses the KJV of the bible, which really does show a lyrical command of the English language. You might choose to read the KJV with apocrypha, but you'll have to remember not all of the viewpoints of the KJV are conversant with Catholic Doctrine. Instead, use the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible, which is a 16th/17th century edition of the Bible, revised (for easier reading) by Bishop Challoner in the 18th century (although that does depend on the version you are reading ;)).

2. Ambleside recommends Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula for the Church History aspect of Bible study. It is a well written book, that is true, but it is so blatantly anti-Catholic I can't stomach reading any of it to the kids- not even the early chapters! A judicious review of Trial and Triumph will show you that it is a series of small biographical stories of Saints and Martyrs throughout the eras of the church- right up until around the 16th century, when it becomes a listing of reformation characters and founders. For the Catholic, a series of Saintly biographies might be used in its place.

Since Trial and Triump (T&T) is used throughout the first 6 years of Ambleside, I think we have a great deal of leeway in our choices.

Option 1: We use a book of Saint Biographies, not unlike that of T&T, and a book like John Mason Neil's A History of the Church from the Day of Pentecost to the Council of Chalcedon.

Neil's book goes up to A.D. 451, so even though he was Anglican, it is still quite usable by Catholics (and Orthodox) alike :) There is a follow-up book, called Stories of Church History, which might be a good choice to follow on from the original- I have just never seen it OR the Table of Contents, so I cannot say. He does have two other children's books online at google books too :)

Two Beautiful Saint Biographies you might like to use: Saints Lives and Illuminations by Ruth Sanderson and More Saints Lives and Illuminations by Ruth Sanderson

Once Upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki, More Once Upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki and Around the Year Once upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki

The Loyola Treasury of Saints: From the Time of Jesus to the Present Day by David Self (this is not strictly ALL saints, but might be worth getting anyway- it is probably the most like T&T a Catholic book will get).

Patron Saints by Eliza Allen Starr is available free online, and has 20 Saint biographies in it :)

Option 2: You might like to use individual saint biographies, including picture books and chapter books (according to age and preference).

Books by Tomie de Paola you might like to use – some correspond to the Saints below, some are interesting religious books others are religious fables:

Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland – Saint Patrick, Francis, The Poor Man of Assisi – Saint Francis, The Lady of Guadalupe – Saint Juan Diego, The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica – Saint Benedict (author Katherine Norris), Christopher, the holy giant picture book – Saint Christopher, Pascual and the Kitchen Angels – St. Pascual, Mary the Mother of Jesus, The Miracles of Jesus, The Parables of Jesus, The Legend of the Poinsettia, The Night of Las Posadas.

Books by other authors you might like to use:

Mother Teresa by Demi, The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi

St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges, St. Jerome and the Lion by Margaret Hodges, The Legend of Saint Christopher by Margaret Hodges

Brigid's Cloak by Bryce Milligan

The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan

Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard

The Vision Book Series is a series of biographies of Catholic personages of interest. These chapter books would be a good choice to read in the place of T&T.

You may also find books from the Living History Library Series and the Landmark Books Series which are biographies of saints.

Option 3: You can read through the list of saints below. I have put them in chronological order, and attached a biography (or two or three) - some of which are actually books. All the links are free to read online. There are slightly more than T&T has, but you can leave out a few or add in more to create a more pleasing arrangement of readings. You can also use this list in conjunction with the books in option 2 above :)

Chronological saints

  1. St. Peter (1-64 A.D.)

  2. St. Paul (?- 65 A.D.)

  3. St. Andrew (? – c.80 A.D.)

  4. St. James the Greater (? - 44 A.D.)

  5. St. Luke (? - 84 A.D.)

  6. St. John the Apostle 6 – 100 A.D.

  7. St. Christopher (? - c. 251 A.D.)

    St Christopher 2

    St. Christopher 3.

  8. St. Lucy 283 – 304 A.D.

  9. St. Nicholas 270 - 346 A.D.

    St. Nicholas 2

  10. St. Alban 209/251/304 A.D. (dates disputed)

  11. St. George c.275 – 303 A.D.

    St. George 2

    St. George 3

  12. St. Catherine of Alexandria 282 - 305 A.D.

  13. St. Hilary of Poitiers C300 – 368 A.D.

  14. St. Martin of Tours 316 – 397 A.D.

  15. St. Ambrose 337 – 397 A.D.

  16. St. Jerome 347 - 420 A.D.

  17. St. Augustine of Hippo 354 - 430 A.D.

    St. Augustine of Hippo 2

  18. St. Patrick 387 – 430 A.D.

    St. Patrick 2

    St. Patrick 3

  19. St. Brigid of Kildare c. 451 – 525 A.D.

    St. Brigid 2

    St. Brigid 3

  20. St. Benedict 480 – 547 A.D.

    St. Benedict 2

  21. St. David c.500 – 589 A.D.

    St. David 2

  22. St. Columba 521 – 597 A.D.

    St. Columba

  23. St. Augustine of Canterbury c.530 – 604 A.D.

    St. Augustine of Canterbury 2

  24. St. Gregory the Great 540 – 604 A.D.

  25. St. Boniface of Mainz 675 – 754 A.D.

  26. St. Bernard of Clairvaux 1090 – 1153 A.D.

  27. St. Thomas a Becket 1118 – 1170 A.D.

  28. St. Dominic 1170 – 1221 A.D.

  29. St. Francis of Assisi 1181 – 1226 A.D.

    St. Francis 2

    St. Francis 3

    St. Francis 4

    St. Francis Book

  30. St. Clare of Assisi 1193 – 1253 A.D.

  31. St. Anthony of Padua 1195 - 1231 A.D.

  32. St. Albert the Great 1206 – 1280 A.D.

  33. St. Bonaventure 1221 – 1274 A.D.

  34. St. Thomas Aquinas 1225 – 1274 A.D.

  35. St. Catherine of Siena 1347 – 1380 A.D.

  36. St. Joan of Arc 1412 – 1431 A.D.

  37. St. Juan Diego 1474 - 1548 A.D.

  38. St. Thomas More 1478 – 1535 A.D.

  39. St. Ignatius of Loyola 1491 – 1556 A.D.

  40. St. Teresa of Avila 1515 – 1582 A.D.

  41. St. John of the Cross 1542 – 1591 A.D.

  42. St. Margaret Clitherow 1556 – 1586 A.D.

  43. St. Martin de Porres 1579 – 1639 A.D.

  44. St. Rose of Lima 1586 – 1617 A.D.

  45. Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha 1656 – 1680 A.D.

  46. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton 1774 – 1821 A.D.

  47. St. Bernadette 1844 – 1879 A.D.

    Part 2

  48. St. Therese of Lisieux 1873 – 1897 A.D.

  49. St. Padre Pio 1887 – 1879 A.D.

  50. St. Maximilian Kolbe 1894 – 1941 A.D.

  51. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta 1910 – 1997 A.D.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Great Musical Giveaway

Well my friend Jill shared this link, and I think it is a great giveaway :)

Win a free Joshua Bell CD at Freely Educate!

Joshua Bell is a truly gifted Violin player, and I am sure this would be a bonus in any homeschooling household!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Next Steps

So now we are tweaking Latin.  Apparently Latin has become an onerous chore!

Looking back, we figured that Latin became a chore when I changed from Latina Christiana to a higher level Latin.  None of the others (Latin book 1 and Henle) seem to have gelled with him.

Today I set Rebel the task of trying out the two Latin programs I have as alternatives for him to try.  Galore Park's Latin Prep and Memoria Press' First Form Latin, both look promising.  I admit I have a weakness for Galore Park's one, but Rebel really likes the idea that FFL is a continuation Latina Christiana.

Truth be told, I happen to think most of the rebellion against the Latin is the fact that for Henle he has to WRITE and for Latin Book 1 it just wasn't as much fun as LC had been!

We'll see!

In other news, I am hoping that M'Lady will be able to have a reading lesson today- fingers crossed ;)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The New Regime

Part 1 of the shake-ups occurred the other day- when I arbitrarily decided DS could skip some of the composition book he was doing- mainly because I thought his style was advanced enough already.  Instead we will focus this week on the grammar that the book holds and try and get through that.

DS is actually very good at the grammar- most of the concepts are new to both of us (courtesy of a fairly modern education for me) and he tends to 'get it' a lost faster than I do :)  He was motivated enough to work through quite a bit today!!

Having studied the Ambleside Online curriculum again, I am adapting some of it.  Which started out with a little poetry for the kids.  They have always liked to begin the day with poetry- I need to do it some more.  I might add in some memorisation then too- another of their favourite things.  The kids love to recite poetry at odd moments, and I am frequently surprised at their remembering some of them!

Although I shouldn't be.  Just yesterday the kids were quoting Inspector Lewis for me.

"Shakespeare!  Shakespeare?  I am sick of bloody Shakespeare!"

Actually the original one came out as "Spakespeare" but cute none the less.  And amazing.  They were not actually watching Lewis- just walking through the room LOL!

I intend to add in a few of the literary suggestions soon and mingle them with our Latin and grammar studies we already do ;)

Next up, changes for M'Lady!

Monday, October 12, 2009

School Report

For whatever reason, the three of us have found ourselves at an uninspired low.

DD doesn't want to do any work.

DS doesn't want to do Latin or composition.

I don't feel like doing anything!!

That means it is shake up time.  I need to trawl the blogs for inspiration, and reorganise and rearrange.

First things first- the Rebel himself.

We have allowed ourselves to get bogged down in certain subjects.  For example- composition.  Classical Writing is a wonderful program, but someone is living up to his name and just not co-operating.  It occurred to me today to look forward at what we need to do- and I took the bull by the horns and declared that we'd skip the rest of the lessons except the last one.  It's a composition program- and he was writing with all the extensions required in the final writing project.

We'll start poetry next week, and I'll order the Homer Student Workbook A and Instructor's Guide.

Next, literature.  OK I have really let the issue slide here- Elizabeth's lesson inspired me the other day, and I realised- narrations do not need to be written.  So for Religious studies, Literature and history, I need to realign.

In fact, I need to actually assign history!  I keep forgetting it :-o

With DD, the inspiration needs to be different.  I need to trawl the blogs and look for ideas- a few more hands on ideas at that :)  Maybe some fun reading ideas and some seasonal busywork to do while I am helping Rebel.

For me- I realised I needed a little more mental stimulation- I have been letting my brain atrophy ;)  Time to challenge myself to learn some more!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's been a while

Since I last blogged here.
Not that I have not been homeschooling- because I have :) I guess that is why it has been a while! I do try to keep the main blog updated- with artwork LOL.
Now we are onto new things- 5th grade for DS and K for DD- which is quite hard work, because a certain 10 yo is easily distracted by a very vocal 5 yo!

We finished the Alphabet Path with DD, and I think she is beginning to get to the point of being ready to use some of the Math Gnomes. We are loosely doing Serendipity Geography for now, and I try to make them work :)

Successes this year: Literature. They both love it.
Not so successful: Grammar and Composition. DS is rebelling against it. If only he would hurry up with it, we could take a break and do poetry- but he needs to finish the contents of Classical Writing Aesop first!
Oh- and they both love memory work- go figure!

And now for something a little different- I ran across this in one of my art searches:
The Little Botanist


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I just updated the geography posts with mapwork :) I included a link to a website with some blackline maps- pick the appropriate ones :)

Books for Boys

I am starting this running list of books for boys because it is just a subject that keeps coming up! Please, feel free to make suggestions to go on this list :)
They are arranged by reading ABILITY not appropriateness. I will star any that might be questionable and add comments as to why.
I'm only listing the LISTS of books, because links change too much, and I am only going to subdivide into categories if the list gets long :)


Grades 1-3

Grades 4-6
The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
Robin Hood.
King Arthur * watch which version you get... Lancelot has an adulterous affair with Queen Guinevere in most of the adult versions, most children's versions tone it down some :)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Rascal by Sterling North
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and all her other works... see the list here.
YWAM Hero Books listed here
Heroes of History Listed Here.

Grades 7-9
Deptford Mice.
The Redwall Series* by Brian Jacques his website here is a good one. Be warned, some characters die in the books- always appropriately (sometimes in battle) but can be upsetting for the fainter hearted readers :)
The G.A. Henty Books*, list here. Some of these are found online- they are Christian, and very Anti-Catholic, but for those who aren't Catholic, I am told they are very good :)

Grades 10-12

Cross-Level Reads
Fairy tales. Get one of the huge books of them, this is a cross level reading book- read aloud to the younger ones and allow to be read to self as they get older :)

Non-Fiction and Project Books
American Boys Handy Book
Boy Scout Handbook
The Boy Mechanic
Dangerous Book for Boys

Monday, March 16, 2009

Awesome Idea

Well you can tell I like my kids to get outside... and THIS idea is so great!

You have to read this ;)

Friday, March 6, 2009

3-Part Cards for Biomes

In my text, I mentioned using 3 part cards for remembering and learning the biomes. I figured I should also let you see my cards :)
Unfortunately, google docs wont let me publish it HERE but you can easily email me to get the cards....
Contact information in the right hand sidebar under the 'about me and my blogs' link.

Geography Book Ch. 2

N.B. there are actually pictures to go with all the map/equator stuff, but I do not own the copyright to them. Eventually I hope I will get around to producing my own pictures for your enjoyment, for now, a quick search with google images will help you to find visual stimulation for the kids. You can also use my links to find the same information.

As always, use at your own risk, all writings are copyrighted to me and if you want to ask questions my contact information can be found at my main blog or somewhere in the links to the sides :D

Chapter 2: Continents, Oceans and Biomes

Chances are, that once the Alien You has filed a report on the structure of the Earth, that you will be told to look at the surface of the Earth- after all this is where all the life is present.

Out of your view-screen, you would be able to see that the earth is ¾ covered with water, the other ¼ is land. You would be able to see 3 large bodies of water and 6 large bodies of land, but listening to Earth communications you would hear that the humans consider there to be 5 oceans and 7 continents.

The continents are called, Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and South America.

You would not be sure which one was which, so you would have to refer to a human map.

Alien You would probably be a little confused as to why there are lines dividing some of these places in half, but you'd get the idea of where the continents started and stopped from it.

Next you'd try to find out the oceans. You would find out that they are called the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans. Again, you'd consult a human map to find out which one is which.

Alien You would probably be a little confused as to why even some of the waters seem divided up, but you would probably put it down to humans being a little weird :)

Alien You would now realise that the humans like to divide and classify things (that is to sort them into groups of things that share something in common), and you would be a little curious as to what else humans have classified.

You look back at the maps, and notice lines drawn horizontally across it.

“Equator” you would read. Above and below it, equally spaced are more lines- “Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn”.

Alien You would need to look those up, and when you did you will find that the equator is an imaginary belt around the centre of the earth. It is the fattest part of the globe, with a constant warm temperature, and equal lengths of day and night. The areas between the two tropics, and surrounding the equator, are what the humans call 'the tropics'. This is a band around the earth, where the weather does not fluctuate much, and is warm almost all the time.

You would notice on your map, that the equator is 0 degrees latitude, and that each of the Tropics is 23.5 degrees- the Tropic of Cancer is 23.5 degrees NORTH, the tropic of Capricorn 23.5 degrees SOUTH.

Since Alien You is from another planet, you wouldn't know what North and South mean. So you do a little research. North and South, you would discover, come from something called the CARDINAL directions or Compass Points. These are found on a COMPASS. North points to the 'top' of the Earth, where the North Pole is.

When Alien you decided to find out more, you would discover that the earth works a lot like a giant magnet. As the needle on a compass spins, it turns to point NORTH, not to the North pole itself, but to something called Magnetic North. It's close to the North pole :)

The Cardinal directions are like the 4 points of a cross. At the top is North, to the right is East, at the bottom is South and on the left is West. Between each of these points the directions are given mixed names...

North-east, south-east, South-west and north-west. You find they can be divided even further into North-North-East, South-North-East and so on.

You might learn that every map has the directions on it, in the form of a compass rose... which always tells you which way is north- and if the map doesn't have one, then north is at the top of the page.

You find a rhyme to help you remember which way the directions are, for when you go travelling on earth.

The east is where the sun does rise

Each morning in the glorious skies;

Full west he sets, or hides his head,

And points us to the time for bed;

He's in the south at our lunch time;

The north is facing to a line.

Now you understand the directions, you go looking for the way the humans have classified the earth. As Alien You looks around, you would probably begin to notice patterns. One of the first you'd see, is that the places on earth, fit into six main groups. You might discover that the humans call these biomes, and have organised them according to the vegetation (plant and tree growth) and organisms that live there.

Alien You might find the human definition:

The world's major communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment.” (Campbell 1996)

But being an Alien, you'd know it meant the first thing I said ;)

Then you would find out that there are six major types of Biomes:

Freshwater, Marine, Desert, Forest (tropical, temperate and taiga), Grassland (including savanna and chaparral) and Tundra

The more Alien You would research though, the more biomes you would find. Being a smart Alien, you would know that you did not want to make it too complicated, and you'd stick to the ones you found first.

Each of the six biomes, have some further divisions in them, to describe different types of that biome. You realise that not all deserts are hot, and not all grassland are without trees, so Alien You decides to make memory cards which you can then use to help you remember.

Parent's Note: Here, hand out the biome cards provided, using each of them to introduce the properties of each biome. They are designed as Montessori style three-part cards- the picture and title plus the description and title. Cut out the picture and it's title separately from each other, but leave the description and it's title together. You will use these in 'matching' games for the children to use.

I have divided the biome cards into freshwater, marine water, tundra and grasslands, forest, and desert. There are subdivisions under each biome to describe various TYPES of biome. While these are not super important to know now, most children like the extra information because it makes more sense that way :)

Vocabulary to learn







Cardinal Directions


Flash cards to introduce

Seven Continents

Four Oceans


Cardinal directions

Cards to review

Solar System

Earth Structure

Volcano Cards


Make a compass:

Make an ocean in a bottle:

Cool video of the experiment with a more advanced report on oil and water:

Cartesian diver:

Biome in a baggie:

Map work:

Draw the continental divides on the map and label each continent.

Mark the equator with a red line.

Mark the two tropics with yellow lines.

Writing Activity Prompts

Using your Alien identity, create some more reports for the aliens back home.

a- Make a notebook page about Continents and oceans OR biomes and the Cardinal directions. Include a map with the directions on it.

b- In your travel journal, record information about the continents and oceans OR Cardinal directions and biomes, include a map with the directions on it.

c- Using a video camera, make a report for the aliens back home. Imagine you are on a scientific exploration mission, and think of it as being a news report, with visuals to help the others understand. You can send this to your grandparents if you like :)

Further Resources



Actually, only oceans. The continents will of course be looked at on an individual basis later :)

Oceans wiki page:

Enchanted Learning Oceans page:

WWF Oceans:

Planet Ocean:

Oceans Alive:

BBC Oceans Page:


The wiki page:

watch a video about the cardinal directions:

On World Atlas:

An easy game using the directions (aimed at the younger crowd)

A cyberchase game:

A little about navigation:

Origins of the compass rose:


Many of these sites are university level sites, the tend to go into a LOT of detail, so keep them for those children who want to do MORE on the subject :)

The best biomes site on the web- all my information is from here :)

Travel with Bill Botanist to all the biomes of the world:

Enchanted Learning site:

Some cool homeschooling activities related to Biomes (scroll down for the biomes):

Good descriptive site about biomes (more in-depth divisions):

A nice site with nice pictures of the animals and plants in the biomes:


Oceans and Continents

We will cover the continents in individual detail later, so these are just overviews.

Mara, Wil: The Seven Continents Children's Press (2005)

Mara, Wil: The Four Oceans (Children's Press 2005)

Simon, Seymour: Oceans Collins (2006)

Ryan, Pam Munoz: Hello Ocean Charlesbridge Publishing (2001)

Cole, Joanna: Magic Schoolbus on the Ocean Floor Scholastic (1994)

MacQuitty, Miranda: Ocean DK Children (2004)

Nelson, Robin: Where is My Continent? Lerner Publishing Group (2001)

Cheyney, Jeanne and Arnold: Continents Good Year Books 1997

Moore, Jo Ellen and Shipman, Gary: Beginning Geography: Continents and Oceans Evan-Moore (1993)

Cardinal Directions

De Capua, Sarah: We Need Directions (Rookie Read-About Geography) Children's Press(CT) (2002)

Fowler, Allan: North, South, East, and West (Rookie Read-About Science) Childrens Press Chicago (1993)

Aberg, Rebecca: Map Keys (Rookie Read-About Geography) Children's Press (CT) (2003)

Gonzales, Doreen: Up North and Down South: Using Map Directions (Map Mania) Capstone Press (2008)

Schroeder, Susan: Cardinal Points: NORTH AuthorHouse (2008) Fiction book for older kids, not really about the cardinal points but about astronomy and all sorts :)

Aberg, Rebecca: Latitude and Longitude Children's Press (2003)


Explore the Biomes Series, Various Authors, Capstone Press (2007)

Van Cleave, Janice: Janice VanCleave's Science Around the World: Activities on Biomes from Pole to Pole Wiley (2004)

Davis, Barbara J: Biomes and Ecosystems Gareth Stevens Publishing (2007)

Kalman, Bobbie: What is a Biome? Crabtree Publishing Company (1998)

Woodward, Susan L: Biomes of Earth: Terrestrial, Aquatic, and Human-Dominated Greenwood Press (2003)

Collard, Sneed B. III: Many Biomes, One Earth Charlesbridge Punblishing (2009)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Geography Text

I started writing a geography text to use with DS. I tried to make it fun, and the idea is that the story is a spine to be used with the recommended texts and other resources. Each chapter will have two to three topics, and is designed to be studied over the course of a couple of weeks :) Each section will be used in conjunction with flashcards, written activities and experiments.
As we get into the journeys through various countries, they will keep a 'travel journal'. Or at least that is the plan! So far so good...
If you'd like to see it, read on!

Part 1: Meet the Earth

Chapter 1: Physical Geography- the Structure of the Earth.
I supposed many of you think you know all about the world. And chances are you may indeed know a little about it, but probably not all there is to know about the world. This chapter will introduce the earth to you, so you can begin to learn a little about the place where you were born!
If you were an alien, arriving in a spaceship to visit this planet- and you can imagine that you are peaceful or going to take over the world as (whichever pleases you)- you would begin the approach to our planet, by arriving in our solar system.
The solar system, is the series of planets, dwarf planets and asteroids (plus a few comets and other odd pieces of debris) that orbit our sun. The sun, (which as an alien you would call Sol) is holding them in a not-quite-circular pattern around it, using the force of gravity. You will learn a lot more about this in science class :)
As you enter the solar system the furthest point (that we know of) from the sun, would bring you into contact with some dwarf planets called Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. - barely bigger than asteroids, which inhabit the edges of the solar system. That far from the sun, it is very cold, and the sun looks like little more than a large star. You would drive through the solar system, seeing a few planets here and there- and if you were fortunate, you might even arrive at a time when you would actually see ALL of the planets as you passed by. This doesn't happen often, and it is far more likely that the alien you, would see just a few of them. The next planet you would see, is one which we call Neptune. It is the first of four gas giants that you would see. Net would come Uranus, which has rings around it in a vertical orbit. Saturn would follow, with it's famous rings. Then you would see the biggest planet in the solar system- Jupiter.
After Jupiter, you would make your way through the asteroid belt- a ring of asteroids around the sun. Within this belt is another dwarf planet called Ceres.
After the asteroids, you'd pass Mars, the red planet, before finally arriving at our planet- Earth. There are only two more planets closer to the sun- Venus and Mercury, both of which are very hot and uninhabitable as a result.
The Alien You, will see immediately that earth is different. For a start, it is teeming with life. There is a large amount of water covering about ¾ of the earth, and it's temperature range is quite moderate.
Using your specialised alien equipment, you would notice that the earth is made up of several layers. The outer layer, is relatively thin- only about 25 miles deep or so (and only about 3-5 miles thick under the oceans). It is a hard layer, rather brittle, and it is made up of the lightest elements. It covers a liquid layer beneath it, which we call the mantle.
This liquid layer, is made up of what we know as lava- essentially molten rocks. The rocks are being compressed by the sheer weight of the earth's crust, creating heat, which prevents these rocks being in the solid state you would see on the crust. Technically they are solid in the mantle, but they are able to move around like a very thick, syrupy liquid. The mantle is the thickest layer of the earth at 1800 miles thick.
Now, beyond THAT layer, is another one- the outer core. The outer core is a ball of very hot metals (4000 degrees F to 9000 degrees F) all in their liquid state. It is about 1400 miles thick, and made mostly from melted nickle and iron.
The last layer is called the inner core- and the pressure and temperatures there are so great that the metals are squeezed together in a dense ball. They cannot move like a liquid, but rather vibrate in place instead.
But that doesn't matter to you, because it is the first layer and the second one which you find interesting.
The mantle, being semi-liquid, has a lot of movement going on. The liquid rock, or magma, acts very much like the water in a tea kettle. Water in a tea kettle circulates while being heated. Eventually it gets hot, and lets off gases- in this case water vapour in the form of steam. The steam will be forceful enough to make the kettle whistle (if it has a whistle) or if not, you might hear the lid rattle.
When magma gets hot, it too lets off gases. The gases, really have nowhere to go, so they cause an increase in pressure. As the pressure increases, it forces the magma to rise through cracks in the surface- eventually causing a volcanic eruption. The eruption is a much more powerful version of the steaming kettle :)

Alien You, might decide to look rather closely at the areas where you see the magma coming out. You notice that they always occur in the same areas, and as you look at your equipment closely, you realise that the crust layer of the earth, is in fact more like a series of puzzle pieces, than a coat over the top of the globe.
These puzzle pieces fit together remarkably well, but along the cracks where they meet- the fault line, you begin to realise that these areas have more earthquakes and volcanoes than elsewhere.
Imagine ice in a glass of water- as the water beneath it moves so does the ice. The larger the ice, the less it moves, but it does still move. Well, that is how the crust works. Like the ice on water, the crust on top of the liquid magma layer, moves a little when the magma does. As more pressure- and therefore more force in the movement builds, so does the earth along these faults move more.
Earthquake prone areas of the globe always occur along these fault lines.
Volcanoes are a little different- there are two main types of volcano- those that spew rock and ash, and those that spew the lava. These different types of volcanoes occur in different areas- and it is different types of pressure build-up that cause this. You'll learn more about these later too :)
So now, alien you has traveled through the solar system. Alien You has arrived at the earth, and began the first part of their study on the planet.
Just as Alien You is making a report, so will you be making a report, and yes, perhaps you will be allowed to make it just as if you were reporting back to your alien planet :)

Vocabulary to learn
Solar System
Dwarf Planet
Gas Giant
Fault Lines

Flash cards to introduce
Solar System
Earth Structure
Volcano Cards
Map Work
Colour in the main fault lines on a black line map.

Writing Activity Prompts
Alien You has to report back to your home planet- so create your own alien identity, and do two of the following:

a- Make a notebook page about the structure of the earth (lower grades)
b- You will be creating a book in which you will write your travel experiences to be published to the folks back home. This week, create the title page and write about visiting the earth and it's structure.
c- Using a camera, make your first report home, focusing on the structure of the earth. Plan it out on paper first, using graphics to illustrate your points.

Further Resources


Disclaimer, parents should always check websites themselves, as notions of appropriate and inappropriate content vary :)
The National Earthquake Information Center- NEIC (part of USGS) has a load of information on their website, aimed at a variety of ages.

FEMA Earthquake Legends:
The Educational Technology Center has put together a page full of links:

Bedfordshire UK Library System has some nice kids pages:
Volcano World- definitely check out the Rocky Stories :)
FEMA Volcanoes for Kids:
Great Page with quick facts for kids from another UK site:
Homeschool Volcano Unit:
A site with some great volcanic information- aimed a little more at the advanced elementary school student- the language is simplistic, the topics less so- good explanations!
Excellent Volcano Theme Page with many links :)
Read about how to make an exploding Volcano
Companion Pages to the Nova programs about volcanoes
Volcano Questions Answered:
An Intereactive Page about Volcanoes
A cool page in Dutch and English about Volcanoes and plate techtonics
*the link above is dead, you can catch it at the wayback machine here: or you might like this site suggested by Kelly Campbell - who kindly informed me about the dead link too!: )
Virtual Fieldtrip Into a Volcano
Volcanoes on other planets (appropriate for our intergalactic traveller!)
Another interactive Volcano website:
Volcano Game on Discovery Kids
College Level Lecture Notes on Volcanoes


Disclaimer- parents should always check the books themselves as objectionable content or twaddle are obviously subject to opinion.
(recommended by the Earthquake Museum)
(Recommended by the Seismology department at Berkley)
  • Clifford, N., Incredible Earth, Inside Guides, DK Publishing, New York, New York, hardcover, 1996.
  • Fisher, R., The Earth Pack, National Geographic Society, 1995.
    A pop-up book on the Earth. Fun for adults as well as children.
  • Levy, M., and M. Salvadori, Earthquake Games, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1997.
    Subtitled "Earthquakes and volcanoes explained by 32 games and experiments." A great hands-on activity book. Use materials like Slinkies, buckets of soil, sponges, rocks, and strings to demonstrate the principles underlying earthquakes. Contains background information, explanations of scientific concepts, and great illustrations.
  • Van Rose, S. , Volcano and Earthquake, Eyewitness Books, Knopf, New York, New York, 64 pp., hardcover, 1992.
    One of the Eyewitness Books series, this book contains wonderful photographs and illustrations of plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Includes some great pictures of historical seismic instruments.
Other books that come well recommended by parents

Friday, January 23, 2009


I have brought over this post and some of the teatime resources from the Charlotte Mason Home website, because there are just too many ads over there!


Those who follow the Charlotte Mason method, are like to be followers of traditions as old as Charlotte herself... at least!

One such favoured method, is the timely one of TEA-TIME. Tea-time, according to tradition, occurs at about three or four O'Clock in the afternoon. It is a time of refreshment and rest, and a time of culture to those who use the time wisely.

There are numerous articles on the web about tea-time and homeschooling.

Teatime offers a unique opening for the teaching of manners, for the reading of a family book and for a quiet time of reflection. Well, not necessarily quiet!

Favourite teatime activities include studying paintings, listening to poetry, reading a chapter book, discussing the day with Mum, listening to a selection of good music and eating baked goodies.

Teatime is an opening to the past that we can use in our everyday lives to broaden the cultural horizons of our children, letting them peak into the traditions of the past while learning lessons to take into their future.

In addition to all that, teatime offers a unique possibility in the realm of teaching our children the rudimentary basics of cooking. One might choose to bake a cake or pie to eat during that week at teatime. Involving the children in the everyday household duties such as cooking, can only benefit them as far as their future goes. I see no reason why both girls and boys should not learn to cook, and the most enjoyable beginnings are those which are rewarded with the sweetness of a dessert. Of course, there is also the opportunity to study other cultures and serve up foods that you would not normally eat. This is particularly good to do at teatime, since not all experiments will be met with enthusiasm, and spouses are notoriously hard to please in this respect.

Mum’s Caramel slice

Another English recipe, this is a kid favourite!

5 oz butter ( 9 ½ T)
10 oz fl (20 T)
4 oz caster sugar (7 ½ T)

4 oz butter (7 ½ T)
2 T Golden Syrup
4oz sugar (7 ½ T)
1 large can Condensed Milk

4 oz chocolate (7 ½ T)

Shortbread Method:
1. Cream butter and sugar together and add flour.
2. Press into tin
3. Bake 350 for 15-20 minutes.
4. Cool

Filling Method:
1. Put all ingredients into pan and heat slowly till sugar dissolves stirring occasionally.
2. Bring to the boil, simmer and stir continuously for 5 minutes.
3. Cool for 1 minute.
4. Pour onto shortbread base.
5. Chill until firm.

Topping Method:
1. Melt choc and pour over the filling. Cool, then mark into squares before firm. Chill until firm.

Cut and Come Again Cake

Another English recipe, it is so named because people keep coming back for more. It is much lighter than normal fruit cakes, and quite delicious! Ingredients:

8 oz S.R. Flour (15.3 tbsp)
Pinch of salt
2 tsp. Mixed Spice
4oz Margarine (7.6 tbsp)
4oz Sugar
9oz Dried Mixed Fruit
1 egg and enough milk to make up to 1/4 pint (17.3 tbsp)


1. Sift flour, salt and spice.
2. Rub in fat, and then stir in sugar and fruit.
3. Make a well in center then stir in milk/egg mixture. Mix well.
4. Place into greased and lined 8" tin.
5. Cook in oven gas mark 4 for approx. one and ¼ hours.

Best Brownies

Something more traditionally American, these brownies can also be made using carob powder if you are allergic to, or don't like chocolate.

Prep Time: approx. 25 Minutes. Cook Time: approx. 35 Minutes.


½ cup butter (8tbsp)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.
2. In a large saucepan, melt ½ cup butter. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, ½ cup flour, salt and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

To Make Frosting:

1. Combine 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 cup confectioners' sugar.
2. Frost brownies while they are still warm.

Lemon Meringue Pie

A delicious Lemon meringue recipe, a hit every time.


4oz short crust pastry (i.e. made with 4oz flour, 2oz fat and pinch salt and water to mix)
Half pint water
1 large juicy lemon
2-3oz granulated sugar (~1/4 C)
2 level tbsp. cornflour
2 egg yolks
Half oz butter


3-4 oz caster sugar 2 egg whites


1. Line 8-inch pie plate with pastry - bake blind for 25 min at gas mark 7 or 425 degrees F
2. Meanwhile put the water lemon rind and granulated sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
3. Mix the juice with the cornflour then strain the rind mix onto it. Bring back to the boil and cook for two minutes.
4. Beat in the yolks and the butter. Once butter has melted pout into the pastry case.
5. Make meringue by beating the egg whites until stiff - then beat in half the sugar.
6. Stir in almost all the rest of the sugar then pour over the lemon mixture making sure that you seal the edges.
7. Sprinkle with the remaining caster sugar and cook in a low oven (gas 2 or 300 degrees F) for 30 minutes or until browned.

A True English Scone Recipe

I'm adding some teatime resources in here to share with others :)

This recipe comes straight from England! Serve plain scones with clotted cream and jam (if you can't get clotted cream, see recipe below!). Fruit and cheese scones are delicious with butter.

2 oz butter or margarine
8 oz Self Raising flour
¼ pt of milk (just under)
2 oz fruit
1 oz sugar
3 oz cheese
1 oz sugar

Mix the butter and flour together.
Add the milk stirring constantly.
Add any extra ingredients.
Mix to a doughy consistency.
Roll out to 1/4 inch thick, and cut out with cookie cutters.
Cook in preheated oven, Gas mark 4, 350 degrees, for about 15 minutes or until the scone is golden brown.

Clotted Cream

If you can't purchase clotted cream in your grocery store, you can make this acceptable substitute:


1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ pt whipping cream


1. Beat butter until creamy (easy with your electric mixer).
2. In another bowl, with clean beaters, whip cream until dry, firm peaks form.
3. Gradually add the whipped cream to the butter, mixing gently with a whisk until it is combined.
4. Refrigerate until ready to use, or freeze (for up to 3 weeks).