Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Makers of America Series Chronological: Living Books Teach History

One of our family's favorite read-aloud series is the Makers of America books. They have taken us from Kitty Hawk to watch the Wright Brothers fly their plane to the wilds of Penn's woods which would eventually be known as Pennsylvania. We have learned history, geography, and science, walking along side some of the brilliant men and women who have made an lasting impact on American history as well as world history. We have loved every sentence of our journey through time. 

I found the first of our collection at a used book sale, for 50 cents. Yes, 50 cents! I searched the internet as well as some of my book resources and could not find a listing of the books (if you find one let me know!). Eventually I was able to purchase another book in the same series and it had a partial listing of the books in the series. From that list, I began collecting these hard to find literary treasures. We have loved every one we have read so far. 

Made in America series 
(may not be a complete listing)

Leif Ericson: Explorer, Ruth Cromer Weir
Christopher Columbus: Discoverer, Alberta Powell Graham (1451-1506)
Champlain: Father of New France, Cecile Pepin Edwards (1574-1653)
Roger Williams: Defender of Freedom, Cecile Pepin Edwards (1603-1683)
La Salle: River Explorer, Alberta Powell Graham (1643-1687)
William Penn: Founder and Friend, Virginia Haviland (1644-1718)
Benjamin Franklin: Printer and Patriot, Ruth Cromer Weir (1706-1790)
George Washington: First President, Elise Ball (1732-1799)
John Paul Jones of the U.S. Navy, Ruth Cromer Weir (1747-1792)
Lafayette: Friend of America, Alberta Powell Graham (1757-1834)
Eli Whitney: Master Craftsman, Miriam Gilbert (1765-1825)
Andrew Jackson: Fighting Frontiersman, Frances Fitzpatrick Wright (1767-1845)
Sam Houston: Fighter and Leader, Frances Fitzpatrick Wright (1793-1863)
Lewis and Clark: Explorers to the West, Madge Haines and Leslie Morrill
Abraham Lincoln: Courageous Leader, Lillian J. Bragdon (1809-1865)
Clara Barton: Red Cross Pioneer, Alberta Powell Graham (1821-1912)
John Muir: Protector of the Wilds, Madge Haines and Leslie Morrill (1838-1914)
Thomas Alva Edison: Inventor, Ruth Cromer Weir (1847-1931)
Luther Burbank: Nature's Helper, Lillian J. Bragdon (1849-1926)
Jane Addams: World Neighbor, Miriam Gilbert (1860-1935)
The Wright Brothers: First to Fly, Madge Haines and Leslie Morrill

Monday, April 7, 2014

Broccoli Seed Discovery

I often wondered what part of the broccoli plant housed the seeds. 

Now I know!

Thanks to my children who are on a constant adventure for discovery.

Our broccoli plants had stopped producing beautiful heads. 

Then flowered.

Left in the garden, they grew "spikey" things. 

The "spikey" things dried. 

Children found them!

"Mom, look, it's seeds!"

"Can we harvest them?"

"Can we plant them?"

And, the cycle begins again!

We have four inch seedlings ready for planting. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Living Books: Marco Polo and Co-op

Isn't it fantastic when everything we teach, everything we're involved in as a family, weaves together in a learning tapestry? We try to weave together what we can, but it isn't always possible. Monday it was.

Knowing I would be teaching Marco Polo in our co-op (and I knew next to nothing about him, yikes!) I decided we needed to find a family read-aloud, a book we could all enjoy, a book to get our feet wet, a book to give me some threads on which to weave a lesson (which I would have to teach other people's children!).

Looking on our family home library shelves, I found the perfect read, from one of our favorite series, The Story of Marco Polo by Olive Price. Read the first paragraph, we were immediately swept away to the canals of Venice.

"'Today's the day!' cried Marco Polo, a dark-eyed boy nine years old. 

Marco pulled aside the yellow silk draperies which hung at a casement window, and looked down on a wide canal. there were few streets in Venice. Almost every passage through the city was a winding waterway. 

Marco's home was in a fine part of the town. It was large and filled with beautiful things. Marco lived there with his mother and his faithful servants. "

"The day soon came when the great voyage began. Marco Polo set sail from Cathay with two thousand men. He was given a fleet of Chinese ships, each with a crew of three hundred. The ships had splendid sails and were even more seaworthy than any he had seen as a boy in Venice.

The fleet sailed south on the China Sea. It put into ports where Marco saw many new things. He recorded the descriptions of foreign streets and strange people in his notebook. He made drawings of place he had never seen before and charted the roads to them accurately."

We loved the book! In some areas it set ground work. In other areas it filled in gaps with information we hadn't known. It certainly invited us along on Marco Polo's adventure, allowing us to understand the serious crisis Marco met along his journey. I never really appreciated the extent to which navigators risked to give us the geography and understanding we have today. 

Forward a few weeks, it came time for me to teach! 

I set up the room with the major landmarks: mountains, Gobi desert, Kashgar (the trading area), and Shangdu (where the Great Khan resided). Blue painter's tape on tile marked the Silk Road. I gave each child a map of Marco's travels and chose three children to be Marco, his father, and his uncle. Each dressed up with sheets of fabric and straddled a stick horse (pretend camel). As I told a synopsis of Marco's venture to the Great Khan, the children moved along "Asia". After I told the story, the three children sat down with the group and I explained "trading along the Silk Road". Each child had a travel pouch and items Marco found or encountered along the journey: silk, coal, jewels, pearls, spices, furs, and paper money. For thirty minutes, children traded along the Silk Road. At the end of the day, they understood a bit more about Marco Polo and his travel across Asia and then along the Spice Route to the south.

Other living books about Marco Polo
  • Adventures and Discoveries of Marco Polo by Richard Walsh (Landmark)
  • Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman
  • Marco Polo: A Journey through China by Fiona MacDonald, David Salariya and Mark Bergin
  • The Travels of Marco Polo- Volume 1 (other volumes available) by Rustichello of Pisa and Marco Polo and Henry Yule (Kindle version of Polo's manuscript, primary source for high schoolers)

NOTE: In almost every book I've read, there is content which could be considered controversial. This book, The Story of Marco Polo, is no different. I must note, having read the book and penning a post, there is mention of cannibals in Sumatra. As with any book, the parent must decide how and when to handle content with their family. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Living Books Forum: Not Just Literature: Weaving Living Books into High School Courses

I'm working on finalizing the speaking points for my workshop, Not Just Literature: Weaving Living Books into High School Courses. As I add notes I am stilling here thinking, “I wish I had had the opportunity to attend a workshop like this 8 years ago when I started the high schooling chapter of our home education story."

I'm not trying to sound proud, just wishing I had had the chance to hear from a mom who had walked a less traditional road. I could have learned from their experience. But then again, perhaps I wouldn’t have learned the valuable lessons I can now pass along to others. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to walk parents through the process of finding great literature and real books which can solidify understanding in the high school years when young adults are making decisions about how they can use interests and gifts which will impact their college and career choices.

In the session we will discuss where to find real book resources for high school, interweaving reading choices into courses, keeping paperwork and grades to reflect what young adults are reading in regards to home education statute and college admissions. The workshop will interactive with question and answer opportunity.

Consider attending Living BooksForum. There's something for everyone, at any stage of the home education journey.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Living Books Forum: A Book Ignited a Fire...A Learning Fire!

Do you have a childhood favorite read, one that impacted you so greatly you remember every page? 
Maybe a picture book, a chapter book?

After reading your favorite book, did you reach for others by the same author? The same topic or genre?

Not long ago one of the learners in my home read a book that started a literary fire, a fire that burned brightly for months, actually almost a year if you count all the extended studies ignited off to the side.

The book that started the fire? 

The Story of Florence Nightingale by Margaret Leighton

I remember the evening she finished the book. She closed the book, clutched it to her chest, and remarked, "That was a good book! I feel like I know Florence Nightingale. I know the trials she faced as she treated people. I know about her courage to do something other people thought she shouldn't do. That was a good book!"

"Do we have any other nurse books?"

Wow! The power of a story!

We walked to the bookshelf and pull a few others. One after another, they were read, each time adding another layer of learning. When she read the all books we owned, we looked for more. 

Eventually her study broadened to women who changed medical science. That leg of the learning journey became a biographical science project (really mini research projects grouped into one) which spark studies in human anatomy and physiology, later branched to health and nutrition. Each learning segment was sparked by the one before, but ignited by one book.

                                         The Story of Florence Nightingale by Margaret Leighton

Keeping great books--books that are alive and carry the reader into the story-- in my home is one of my greatest pursuits. Finding books which capture attention and ignite learning, all the while building reading confidence and fluency. Finding books is now part of my yearly planning as I consider curricula for the coming year. Sometimes I comment, "I used to spend hours thumbing through catalogs, now I reference book lists and search garage sales, used bookstores, and Ebay". When we find literary treasures, eyes light up. Learning fires are started!

                                              Are there books in your home that ignite learning? 
                                     Do you want to learn more about how you can spark interest? 

           Join us at Living Books Forum, April 5, just one week away. 

Workshop descriptions here.

Register here. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Living Books Forum: Excerpt from The Wright Brothers: First to Fly by Madge Haines and Leslie Morrill

What is a living book? Another mom inquires. A term best defined by an excerpt, a sample. 

Here are a few excerpts from one in a series we enjoy, Makers of America. The book is titled The Wright Brothers: First to Fly by Madge Haines and Leslie Morrill and invites the reader on adventures of experimentation with the Wright brothers from the time they were young boys to their famous flight.

"One evening Wilbur said to Orville, 'I wish I could find the scientific law that made the small helicopter rise. Then I think I could figure out why the big one we made did not fly.'

'I'll bring you some books from the town library,' Orville offered. 'I know you have ready everything your're interested in, in Father's library.'

During those months while Wilbur was slowly gaining his strength, he used his hands in making light, delicate things. He became very skillful in using chisels and tools. He read books and magazine articles on the subject of flying.

As Orville came into his room one evening. Wilbur looked up from a magazine and spoke with a new note of eagerness. 'A man in Germany has made a glider that can carry him through the air.'

'Otto Lilienthal. He has been experimenting with gliders. He waits for a strong breeze, then he runs down a hill into the wind, and the glider actually carries him.' Wilbur was demonstrating with his arms. 

Orville reached over to take the magazine from his brother. 'Why don't we make one?'

Wilbur nodded. 'But we'd better do some studying first.'"

"With the wind blowing harder then ever, the plane kept climbing. Now it was ten feet off the ground and still in the air. Now it was flying right away from Wilbur.

The boy who had been watching jerked off his cap and waved and shouted, 'He's flying! He's flying!'

Orville did not hear. He was too busy trying to steer the plane and to think of what was happening...with 'the machine moving forward, the air flying backward, the propeller turning sidewise, and nothing standing still.'

In a few seconds the plane began to come down, but it did not crash. It settled gently on the sand.

'How long was I up?'

'Twelve seconds!'

There are living books for almost every subject, at every reading level, from beginning readers through adult. 

How do we incorporate those into our days?

One simple way is to have the books available, in your home, where children and young adults have them accessible.

Tina Farewell and I will be sharing how to build a home library with title your children will enjoy. Later in the morning Tina will be sharing how to teach grammar, vocabulary, mechanics and conversation from the contents of living books. I will be offering a workshop on using living books (real books) through the high school years. 

Workshop descriptions for ALL the workshops offered at Living Books Forum can be found here.

Come to Living Books Forum and you will gain lists of titles as well as practical helps to make learning engaging and memorable in your home.