Saturday, September 22, 2018

Local History & Geography Week Three

A few notes from our continued study of the History & Geography of Southern Illinois!

Local History & Geography Week One

Local History & Geography Week Two

Monday, September 17

  • examine my new Everglades Habitat Mat and Coral Reef Habitat Mat from Waseca Biomes, look at animal life and plant life, compare those biomes with ours in Illinois, how are they the same and different?
  • ask, if our biome is the spot where the temperate forest meets the grasslands, what might early peoples have used to build their homes?
  • recall Housebuilding main lesson block and recent summer camp, discuss sod homes in pioneer times
  • respond to student question ("Is there any prairie left?"), look at poster of Root Systems of Prairie Plants, discuss the value of the tallgrass prairie (which was the last biome to form in North America and the first to be almost completely destroyed) and the Dust Bowl
  • read Mounds of Earth and Shell by Bonnie Shemie

Tuesday, September 18

  • read Illinois: A History in Pictures chapter 2: Early People to 1700
  • look at illustrations
    2.1 Projectile Points
    2.2 The Paleoindian Environment
    2.6 A Bison Kill, 400 B.C.E.
    2.8 Cahokia
    2.9 Mississippian Petroglyphs
    2.10 The Piasa
  • explain that my daughters and I previewed two sites but determined they would not be good field trips for our class to go see petroglyphs

    Fountain Bluff in Gorham IL, with Natalie, is a remote site which is not labeled and we never did find the petroglyphs

    Piney Creek Ravine in Chester IL, with Becca, is easy to find and has well marked trails; the actual petroglyphs location is labeled with signage but the early rock art is extremely hard to distinguish from the modern carvings and graffiti

  • read Journey to Cahokia: A Boy's Visit to the Great Mound City by Albert Lorenz
  • give students time to add Early Peoples of Illinois to their MLBs
  • read Illinois: A History in Pictures chapter 3: The French Encounter and Settlements, 1673-1750
  • look at illustrations
    3.1 Marquette's Map
    3.2 Jolliet's Map
    3.3 - 3.6 The Encounter Visualized
    3.9 The Contraction of Illini Territory, 1650-1832
  • discuss colonial America, the Mississippi River as a major fur trading route, and the influence of trappers and later settlers on the region
  • discuss French influences and later English influences, the Louisiana Purchase (1803, President Thomas Jefferson), and the Trail of Tears (Indian Removal Act 1830, President Andrew Jackson)
  • open and look through IDNR Priaires bin, examine bison artifacts and pioneer clothing items

Thursday, September 20

Friday, September 21

  • explain options for adding Louisiana Purchase map to the MLBs, demonstrate how to use tracing paper and how to do the oil pastel map transfer technique
  • offer American Indian Tribes 500 piece jigsaw puzzle to students as an option during our rainy indoor recess time
  • read instructions from Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis at beginning of Take (Close) Observations packet from Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, look at Louisiana Purchase map, notice that Illinois existed but was identified as a territory (IL became a state in 1818), explain what a territory is and the U.S. territories of today
  • discuss mapmaking skills, look at examples of early maps from Illinois: A History in Pictures chapters 4 & 5:
      4.1 George Washington's Map
      4.4 A British View of North America, 1766
      4.8 Jefferson's Proposal for States in the West, 1784
      5.2 The Northwest Ordinance and the Creation of New States
      5.7 The First Map of the State of Illinois, 1818
  • read Looking Down by Steve Jenkins and explain Scale
  • recall plate tectonics map ("This Dynamic Planet: World Map of Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Impact Craters, and Plate Tectonics") from USGS and explain Title
  • look at Biome Map of the World from Waseca Biomes and explain Legend / Map Key and Compass Rose / Orientation
  • review four cardinal directions on the compass rose (Never Eat Soggy Waffles) as well as the primary intercardinal and secondary intercardinal directions; explain that the compass can also be divided into 360 degrees like a circle; show 90, 180, 270, and 360 degrees
  • explain that the final element of a map is the Grid, why would it be useful to have a grid on your map?, find the grid on our class globe
  • tape a piece of graph paper up on the board and explain Latitude, look at Biome Map of the World and find the Equator as 0 degrees, look at Parts of the Globe three part cards from Waseca Biomes and review the climate zones, learn the names of the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn and the Arctic Circle and Antarctic Circle
  • do kinesthetic learners activity from Take (Close) Observations packet and play "globe aerobics"
      North Pole = top of head
      Arctic Circle = ears
      Tropic of Cancer = shoulders
      Equator = waist
      Tropic of Capricorn = knees
      Antarctic Circle = shins
      South Pole = toes
  • return to the sheet of graph paper and explain Longitude, explain the Prime Meridian as 0 degrees, determine that where we live is North of the Equator and West of the Prime Meridian

I highly recommend and support families taking their own field trips to follow up on some of what we have learned. My class in recent years has visited Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville IL and Trail of Tears State Park, which is across the river in Missouri. Historic Ste. Genevieve would be a lovely family trip. The Great River Road website lists many Lewis & Clark Sites in the Middle Mississippi River Valley, including all three of the locations I just listed and more! Our class will continue to have field trips throughout the year to continue to explore Illinois History. I welcome suggestions.

A BIG thank you for all of the family support we have received so far this school year, from donations of supplies for the classroom to parents and grandparents lending a helping hand with recess and cooking. The students and I appreciate you all so much!

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

September - The Apple Elves

A few notes from our week of Apple Fun!

Songs, Verses & Movement

    cleaning up after indoor play
    "This Is the Way We Tidy Up"
    to the the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush"

    laying out the sunflower quilt for circle time
    "A Ram Sam Sam" song
    from the Seven Times the Sun CD, track 17

    Circle Time

    at the end of the story
    "Snip, Snap, Snout" verse

    washing hands
    "This Is the Way We Wash/Dry Our Hands"
    to the the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush"

    grace before snack time
    "Blessings on the Blossom"
    from The Singing Day, track 23

    getting ready to go outside
    "This Is the Way We Put On Shoes"
    to the the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush"

    lining up to go outside/inside
    "All in a Row"
    from The Singing Day, track 11

    goodbye verse
    from A Child's Seasonal Treasury, page 14


This week I incorporated some new apple verses, listed above, in our Circle Time roster of movement activities.

Our story was "The Apple Elves" from the original volume of Autumn Tales by the inimitable Suzanne Down, my puppetry teacher. This is a sweet story with several strong images which we followed up on throughout the week (making applesauce, the smell of the spices, the pair of apple trees growing side by side, the flickering of elfin lanterns).

Our initial activity was to wash apples and make Crockpot Applesauce. I first asked the children if they thought the apples would sink or float -- the class was evenly divided -- and later asked them what they thought the ingredients in applesauce might be. It's always fun to hear their predictions before we cook together! This is a very simple unsweetened applesauce recipe and it tastes so juicy and fresh. Just apples, water, and cinnamon.

Suzanne Down is offering a new online course called Writing Autumn Mood Poems for Young Children - A Work at Your Own Pace Online Workshop for Teachers and Parents and it is half price right now ($25.00). I'm doing it and would love to have other parents join me!


  • "The Apple Elves" from Suzanne Down's original Autumn Tales book
  • Applesauce Oobleck sensory play

I retold "The Apple Elves" and we tasted our homemade crockpot applesauce. Today we had some sensory play! I saved all of our homemade applesauce for eating and purchased store bought for the oobleck. If you've never made oobleck before, you're in for a treat. It's an awesome non-Newtonian substance (meaning it doesn't follow the rules of Physics... it goes back and forth between being solid and liquid depending on whether you are pressing hard on it or releasing the pressure) but you must get the ratio exactly right for it to work. Two parts cornstarch to one part water for regular oobleck; two parts cornstarch to one part applesauce for Applesauce Oobleck. Of course we added in plenty of ground cinnamon for further sensory fun, and had a bunch of long cinnamon sticks to stir it up with.

To make oobleck, measure the cornstarch and applesauce into a bowl, then mix until you no longer see white. If your oobleck isn't acting ooblecky enough decide if it needs a bit more cornstarch or a bit more applesauce. That's it! The entire group of homeschool kids came to check out the fun and I had people at this station all day long. Several of the girls didn't even go outside for recess today. They spent their entire time doing indoor recess at the Applesauce Oobleck bin! And Zac was still playing with it late into the afternoon along with his sisters.


Today was Stone Soup day! I also had an art project set up to accompany day three of "The Apple Elves." It was an option during morning indoor play time to help with the soup making, or the art project, or both. In the story the old woman plants two apple trees side by side, one with rosy red apples and one with golden apples. I drew the trunks and branches of two apple trees side by side on a large piece of paper with marker and filled the shapes in with oil pastel to have the texture of bark. We used a large 22 x 30 inch piece of Arches cold press watercolor paper from France. Then the children used wine corks to stamp the rosy red apples on one and the golden apples on the other. Thank you to the parent who donated a large collection of corks for crafts! This activity was so simple but so fun and our finished apple trees were just brimming with apple goodness.

Today, to add a new element to our story, we sang "Glimmer, Lantern, Glimmer" at the point where the elfin lanterns are flickering in the tops of the trees. This is a lovely song for an evening Autumn lantern walk as well, something Waldorf schools traditionally do in November.

Here was our list of veggies in the Stone Soup this week:

red bell pepper

There are lots of wonderful things happening in the free play time as well. This week I added one pound of red beans to the nineteen pounds of black beans in the bean bin, inspiring a lot of sorting work. Building with colorful blocks and making pens for the collection of wooden animals is always a popular activity, as is cooking with the wool felt play kitchen foods. I noticed the little suitcases for the doll clothes being repurposed into "lunch boxes" as children use the play kitchen foods to "pack a lunch" and "head off to work," then come home and have dinner together. Waldorf toys are deliberately as open ended as possible, so that they spark plenty of creative play!

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Science Club: Bird Beaks and Bird Songs

This year, for the first time, I have two daughters in high school. It is strange to have so much of my family gone all the time. Leah is in cross country so she seems to constantly be at practice or at meets, but yesterday was a travel day and she wasn't on the travel team so she was actually home on Friday afternoon! Of course, Natalie was gone, since Friday after school is when she has her machine sewing class...

Oh, well. Three out of four isn't bad.

When Science Club ended and all four of my children were in finally the same place at the same time, we spent some family time together... our first since the school year started. We went to Artspace 304 for Art Games Night. The activity was Exquisite Corpse, and the girls had a great time. I grabbed some extra papers for the students in my homeschool co-op, since all of the contributions will be part of a curated art exhibit presented in October/ November at the gallery. How fun! Then we all headed out to dinner at Don Sol and, as a special surprise, I took the kids to the Thai ice cream place for dessert. At first we had Freeze! all to ourselves so we happily drew on the chalkboards, added sticky notes to the wall, and pretended to walk the runway at a fashion show. At some point other customers had to arrive, of course, but it was still a fun and memorable family evening.

Friday is the day for Science Club this year, which is also a nice way to wrap up the week. Our first topic is Birds and we started by looking at Bird Beaks and Bird Songs.

Friday, September 7

  • pass out everyone's new Science Club notebooks and allow time for kids to write in Science questions and topic requests... if you were planning the perfect Science Club, what kinds of things would we do?

  • jump right into thinking like a Scientist by talking about classification (classification is now thought to be the highest of the higher level thinking skills; we are all supposed to be doing more of it with our students, in as many contexts as possible)
  • review Linnaean system of classification:
      Kings Play Chess On Fine Grains of Sand
      Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species

  • do "Classifying Shoes" activity from Classification Clues

  • open IDNR Birds of Illinois bin and look at replica skulls and tracks
      skulls: turkey, duck
      tracks: great horned owl, wild turkey, coot, quail, wood duck, great blue heron

  • use The Princeton Encyclopedia of Birds to answer a child's question about ducks; notice how many categories of birds are in the Table of Contents!

  • look at the Biome Map of the World from Waseca Biomes, then let children choose different biomes on different continents and use the biome nomenclature cards to learn more about birds found there:

      Grasslands of North America: greater prairie chicken

      Mountains of South America: Andean condor

      Deserts of Africa: sandgrouse

  • read Beaks! by Sneed B. Collard

  • do Bird Beak Experiment ($2.00 on TpT)
      foods: Swedish fish, mini marshmallows, bunches of grapes, colored water, gummy worms, sunflower seeds

      tools: toothpicks, slotted spoons, scissors, turkey basters, tweezers, clothespins

    has very clear teacher instructions for how to set up the experiment, explaining which tool represents which kind of beak and which bird uses that beak... and she also includes a record sheet, but I found it was easiest to simply place an index card by each food towards the end of the activity and let the students write down their preferred tool

Friday, September 14

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Local History & Geography Week Two

A few notes from our continued study of the History & Geography of Southern Illinois!

In the first week we began by looking at the planet Earth itself. We talked about the Earth from its very core up through all of its layers, all the way up to my backyard. We considered the formation of our planet and the forces which have shaped it, along with the story of our specific state.

This week we looked further at our Illinois rocks and minerals and fossils, as well as deepening our discussion of the Timeline of Life and the Tree of Life.

Next week we will move into more modern time periods with the first peoples of Illinois and the later settlers. We will explore our Grasslands biome with the IDNR Prairies bin. We will also begin to discuss mapmaking.

Monday, September 10

  • listen to special guest presentation (and thank you to the parent who shared her collection of Illinois Rocks & Minerals)
  • read "Descriptions of Minerals and Rocks" and "Mineral Groups" information from ISGS article
  • clarify the terms "Mississippian" and "Pennsylvanian" Periods; I prefer the term "Carboniferous" because it makes more clear the connection with coal as well as the name of our own town, Carbondale
  • explain how coal and oil were formed as fossil fuels from the ancient fern forests of the Carboniferous Period; explain why our fossil fuels will ultimately run out
  • look at my piece of local shale and read Illinois' State Fossil Tullimonstrum gregarium ISGS article
  • read They Turned to Stone by Julian May, which has the best explanation of how the fossilization process actually occurs
  • open and explore the IDNR Fossils bin; examine trilobite fossil

Tuesday, September 11
FOSSIL FUN DAY! We spent the afternoon exploring and enjoying items from the IDNR Fossils bin as well as a few extra fun activities...

  • review the correct way to use a magnifying glass; look at my piece of Baltic amber with a fossilized insect trapped in it
  • explore a variety of Timeline of Life & Fossil books from the IDNR bin as well as my own collection, including Why Frogs Are Wet and others pictured below
  • set out and explore my collection of booklets for each Geologic Period with accompanying labeled fossils
  • complete Fossil Hunt activity from IDNR bin
  • use casting material and molds from IDNR bin to make replica fossils
  • listen to special guest presentation (and thank you to the grandparent who shared her collection of Illinois Fossils)
  • read March 2016 article Tully Monster, Illinois' Great Fossil Mystery, Solved and discuss the Tree of Life and "problematica"

Thursday, September 13

  • set up the beautiful Tree of Life material from Waseca Biomes
  • read Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon by Jeannine Atkins
  • discuss how much there we still don't know on this planet; if you want to be a scientist there's plenty left to discover and contribute
  • unmold the "fossils" we made yesterday
  • review how coal forms and look at peat bog illustration on page 17 of The Story of a Nail
  • look at peat and coal samples from Rocks and Minerals of Illinois kit from IDNR bin
  • review how rocks are more complicated in makeup than elements or minerals (and my fabulous Connectagon model to demonstrate this); scientists decided to classify them based on how they are formed
  • read "Rock Types" information from ISGS article
  • look again at Rocks and Minerals of Illinois kit and find examples of the three types of rocks

We had a wonderful conversation when it came time for the three types of rocks. We have talked so much about geologic processes that the children were familiar with the ideas of Igneous and Sedimentary, even if they hadn't quite connected them with the terms. Then I paused before explaining the third term and simply told them it was called Metamorphic. We reviewed what metamorphosis means (caterpillar ---> butterfly) and I told them that this term means more than just morphing. Morphing is changing but "meta" means the Big Idea changes. How different a caterpillar is than a butterfly! Its own idea of itself has to change.

So... what kind of force could possibly be strong enough to cause a ROCK to go through metamorphosis?

We brainstormed and they came up with the forces of water, wind, and time. Someone else mentioned that maybe a new element being added in could cause a big change. Finally one child said pressure. Yes! Heat and pressure are extremely powerful forces. Chemical reactions can also cause metamorphic rocks.

At the end of the discussion I introduced the idea of a Rock Cycle. There's a water cycle because water can take different forms and keep moving from one thing to another. Because we have the option of metamorphosis in rocks, there can be a rock cycle. Think about it. What if we only had two groups, igneous and sedimentary? There would be no cycle in that case. It's because of the profound changes that come from heat and pressure that we can have a rock cycle.

Friday, September 14

During their independent work time students had a chance to examine the specimens in the Rocks and Minerals of Illinois kit from our IDNR bin, read a few rock cycle books (Life on Surtsey: Iceland's Upstart Island and/or The Pebble in My Pocket: A History of Our Earth), and explore the Rock Cycle Mat and its related lessons. The wood veneer rocks are especially attractive and appealing, inviting further exploration of the three types of rocks. This is a brand new material and I'm very excited to have it in the classroom!

I am also so proud of some of the connections my class made today while we were having our discussion. When we talked about the trouble scientists were having placing the Tully monster on the Tree of Life, with some arguing that it is most closely related to the lamprey, a student raised her hand and pointed out that Lamprey was one of the leaves on our classroom Tree of Life material. Sure enough, it was leaf #41 and so I went and got the Fact File Card and we read more about the lamprey, right there on the spot. Just a few minutes later, after I read to the class about Surtsey, a student raised his hand and told me that Iceland must have been one of the Norse places because Surt was the Norse god who ruled Muspelheim (and who plays quite the role during Ragnarok). I checked our book of Norse Myths from last year's main lesson block and, yes, he was correct. They are paying close attention to all that they are learning and I'm thrilled to see them weaving in those deeper multi-layered connections which help information stick.

Of course, many other things are also happening in the classroom as well! Besides our whole group Main Lesson time and our Special subjects, the children have self-directed mornings, where they are free to explore our Science and History/Geography classroom materials, have independent and small group lessons on Montessori Grammar, Word Study, and Mathematics materials, and assign themselves projects of their own choosing (such as needle felting 3D models of the layers of each planet from exterior to core).

Also, please remember that they are creating their main lesson books each day, by adding a carefully crafted summary of the previous day's lesson before we move on. Each of these entries in their main lesson books (summary and illustration) must be rough drafted and go through the editing process with me before it can be added to their personal books.

We also play for an hour each day! This week I taught the group "Sharks and Octopuses" and "Dragon Tag," games #112 and #113 from Games Children Play: How Games and Sport Help Children Develop by Kim John Payne.

Thank you again to all of the families who generously shared their time and hobbies with us this week. The presentations were wonderful.

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!