Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Texas Trivia-Texas State History Notebook Part II

Here is a photo of my son's state notebook project from when he was in 4th grade. He is extremely proud of this notebook and will not throw it away! Now I'm glad, since I'm taking pictures to post!

As previously posted in this series, I sent away for all the freebies I could get from resources like TravelTex and Texas State Department of Wildlife. Many of those freebies were put in the side pockets.

Below is a gorgeous poster of wildflowers found in Texas that we got from Travel Tex with our vacation guide. With this you can do a pressed flower project in the spring. We didn't because we weren't in the right places to collect wild flowers. But I did this in my high school Biology I Honors class. Although I had to identify botanical parts of the flowers for biology class, it can be more low key for Texas history. In the spring collect wildflowers and press them. There are kits available, or you can make your own with lots of cardboard in between paper wrapped specimens. After they are fully pressed (completely dried) they can be mounted on cardstock and labeled.

For those who like to color, a coloring book can be made instead. Pages can be printed out from the National Park Service. To know how to appropriately color them, refer to the Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas. From them you can order a free catalog or do a flower search on their website.

On the back the flowers are color coded according the the region of the state (corresponding to the regions in Part I) in which the flowers can be found.

Here is an animal track guide from the Texas Parks Service.

Then I made Texas flashcards for a trivia game of state information. Matching games can be played with these. I used two different colored inks from the Texas flag, red and blue. The blue cards say things like: Capital, Song, Motto, Large Animal, Flower..." and the red cards give the answer: Austin, "Texas, our Texas," Friendship, Longhorn, Bluebonnet..."




We also learned the Texas pledge and the Texas state song. Every morning before school started, we did the pledge to the American flag, the pledge to the Texas flag, one of the American anthems (Monday-My Country Tis of Thee, Tues-America the Beautiful, Wednesday-Grand Old Flag, Thursday-Stars and Strips, Friday-Star Spangled Banner) and then we sang the Texas anthem, "Texas, Our Texas."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Experiment in the Kitchen Sink

When I was organizing things for school, I stumbled upon some science lab photos that I have never posted. I have a friend who wants to see this and I couldn't remember what these experiments were, so I asked my son to come over and refresh my memory. I had to laugh when he said these 3 photos are a hurricane experiment. Have we had enough hurricane time yet here on the East Coast? If not, here is a great experiment for your kids to do! My son gave me the directions, the result and the reasoning behind it! He's a genius!

First off, this is not an Apologia experiment. When my son was in 5th and 6th grades, I gave him science kits and books from the used bookstore for science class. He has a naturally inquisitive mind and tended to explore deeper than any science textbook could satisfy. We tended to match up experiments with seasons and history topics. (ie Archimedes screw for Greek studies) He found this experiment one day during hurricane season, when we lived in Texas.

My son has dictated the directions to the experiment for this post. Years later he still remembers!

Place two inverted cups in the bottom of the sink, then fill the sink with water. Then take an aquarium tube and leave one end open to the air, dangling off the side of the sink. Invert a medium plastic bowl. Stick the other end of the aquarium hose so that it touches near the bottom of the inside of the inverted bowl. Place the inverted bowl into the water to rest on top of the inverted cups, keeping an air pocket at the top of the tube and bowl, so that no water enters the tube.

Hurricane Surge-Weather Book

Take the end of the tube that is hanging off the edge of the sink and place in your mouth like a straw, to siphon out as much air as you can, until it is hard to suck. Keeping the tube in your mouth so that no air re-enters the bowl, lift the bowl up out of the water.

The result is a surge wave. My apologies for missing that Kodak moment.

I asked my son, "Why?" and he gave me this answer: "There is low pressure in a hurricane because it is sucking up a lot of water. This is proportional to the wave it creates. As the hurricane goes over land, the water has nowhere to go and the now much higher water level surges forward as a surge wave."

There are many historical references to hurricanes. The most notable one in Texas was in Galveston in 1900. When we took a trip to Galveston in 2005 we visited this museum which teaches all about this horrific event. Clara Barton, from the Red Cross, came to help provide relief. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sign of the Rhinoceros-RevQuest at Colonial Williamsburg

Spies...intrigue...undercover you want to be part of the action? Do you want to save the Revolution? A couple of weeks ago we got to be spies at Colonial Williamsburg, keeping secrets, decoding messages, identifying friends from foe, using our eyes and ears.

The game works with text messaging, which was not working for us. No problem. We had been given top secret information on how to identify friend from foe. We covertly relayed coded messages with the friends in return for confidential directions (as the texting would have done for us).

Actually we thought that identifying friend from foe was a lot more realistic and a great deal more fun than inputing codes into a cell phone. My son had the best time acting in a clandestine manner, doing everything from hiding our orders, surreptitiously searching for clues and stealthily approaching presumed friends to trade code words without any foes (or surrounding guests or employees) thinking anything unusual was happening.

My absolute favorite scene, in a very dark place, reminded me of "National Treasure" when the plot thickens!

At the beginning their was a secret meeting with a secret agent at a secret location! Too cool! Through the game we had to wear special bandanas so that those employees playing the game knew to work with us. Since the bandanas are non-period accurate, we though of period accurate ways to incorporate them into my costume. My son made sure that even I got a bandana and I was in costume that day. My daughter and I used them for basket covers and my son had it stick out of his pocket, like a handerchief. He talked to the tailor about that and the tailor laughed and said he had noticed that. He said it was clever, not that every man in colonial Virginia would walk around with a hankie sticking out of his pocket! My son didn't think so, but it was a fix for that game. At the end there was a special wrap-up session with one of the actor interpreters with gifts and more information to research at home!

Although the game is officially over on August 31, it will be made available to homeschoolers during Homeschool Week in September. Also a new game will be put into action next summer! In the meantime, you can study up with these great resources, like my son did:

Learn the history of spy rings and cypher codes during the American Revolution.

Read George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War.

The Colonial Williamsburg museum sometimes has spy activities.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fencing-Newest Revolutionary City Scene

Last week when we were in Colonial Williamsburg, we saw the newest Revolutionary City scene! We loved it! How my son would love to participate in...fencing! Fencing master and student brandish their swords only to be met by the Challenger. Is he a challenger in ideology...what is his intent? The fencing master has...divided loyalties???? That is the incriminating query posed by the Challenger, who claims to desire further instruction. Where are the loyalities of the fencing master? How contentious will the Challenger prove to be?






















Friday, August 26, 2011

John Marshall House and Regency Shawls


A couple of weeks ago we visited the John Marshall House in Richmond, Virginia. Known for defining the Supreme Court, Marshall had a background that proved quite interesting! We knew John Marshall was born in Faquier County, which is near our home. We drive by the historical marker quite often. In fact, we passed it on the way to Richmond! He was homeschooled and later read law under a teacher in Warrenton, a town near us, in Faquier County. He served in the American Revolution under Lafayette! He completed his law studies at the College of William and Mary and with George Wythe, who tutored Thomas Jefferson and signed the Declaration of Independence.

The first chief justices to the Supreme Court did little. It was not a desirable job. Multiple positions were often held by Supreme Court justices. When Marshall was offered the position, he readily accepted the job that many had turned down. 

You can learn more about the John Marshall House and take a virtual tour here.

The gift shop yielded a great find! Here are some Regency era shawls for my daughter and me! They are made of pashmina wool, which is apparently the finest cashmere in the world. They are extremely soft with a lovely drape. When I got home I looked at the shawls in my book, Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion. The ones I purchased seem to match the ones in the book. Next summer I'll need to sew Regency gowns for our early 19th century history presentation in the autumn, so these shawls should work well! My daughter immediately claimed the lavender one. Here it is spread out a bit to see the coloring.

She said the golden brown shawl with interwoven golden threads would be mine.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Literary Club Cafe

Taching the Classics from IEW comes with a notebook and DVD on different aspects of basic literary analysis. After watching the DVDs, I was pleasantly surprised that I knew more than I thought I did. Armed with the basics and a few good tips, I set out to enhance our dialectic literature studies. Instead of using worksheets, I used our white board.

After reading one of our books, I put a plot diagram on a whiteboard...isn't that more fun than a worksheet? I like to use color markers for different points, perhaps green for setting, blue for rising action, red for climax and yellow for denouement. I talked the kids through the book, and jotted down answers on the correct parts of the diagram. Soon they got the idea that a good book has the same plot structure. Here's an example of how we analyzed plot structure inThe Odyssey.

After a few weeks, when this was internalized, we began discussing the literature book orally over lunch, which I like to call a Literature Club Cafe. We liked the informal nature of the discussion. Sometimes we'd even read our favorite parts of the book, emphasizing a point we were trying to make. I got a lot of ideas from having done Teaching the Classics. One day, I got so caught up in a favorite scene, that I made a scene, acting it out in the kitchen! The kids thought I had lost it, but I made a dramatic point! Isn't that the fun of teaching? ;)

Another way to informalize the literature discussion for a Literary Club Cafe would be to do it over tea, snacks, or a cup of hot chocolate in the winter time! Part of my goal was to make it fun and informal! I new by the time my kids were in high school, they would be doing more formal literary analysis. At the time they had other meaty subjects to work on. This was an opportunity to relax a bit and still learn, in a unique way. I truely wanted books to be fun and the beginning concepts of literary analysis to be fun instead of laborious. I think my goals were met!

In preparation for the discussions, I'd read the book myself and tag the pages with a sticky note if there was something special I wanted to be certain to share. From watching Teaching the Classics, I learned how to find different literary devices in books. Some authors do an incredible job of weaving a tale of intricacy, either through characterization, foreshadowing, building suspense or with some other literary device. It is a pure delight to sink into these stories, to savor the experience. Such books lend themselves to teaching new literature concepts.

One book from our ancient history studies, Hittite Warrior, was full of foreshadowing. On printer paper, I wrote in large colorful letters...foreshadowing. During lunch, aka Literary Club Cafe, I defined foreshadowing. Then I flipped in the book to each sticky note that referenced examples of foreshadowing and dramatically read a sample of foreshadowing while holding up my sign. I did that for each quote. By the time I was done reading quotes, the kids had gotten the point! The fun part was that it did not require a worksheet!

8.5 Magnitude Earthquake Felt in Northern Virginia

Update 8-25-11 Aftershock last night!!! 4.5 magnitude!!

Last night I went to bed and as I t-r-i-e-d to fall asleep and was finally getting -d-o-z-e-y I could have sworn the house started shaking. I was scared to death. Oh no, here we go again! Then it stopped. I finally went to sleep, figuring it was my imagination.

This morning I'm checking my e-mail and I subscribe to news alerts from the Washington Post. We had a 4.5 aftershock last night at 1:07am! Although I'm glad I'm not going crazy, that is still scary! We've had other aftershocks too, in the 2 range, which we haven't felt at all. The kids slept through it!

Update 8-24-11

An interesting link to descriptions of earthquakes in Virginia from 1774 to 2008

More interesting excerpts from letters, due to the earthquake in Virginia in 1897

More explanation with diagrams

Update 1126pm

The funny thing is that my son's quick reaction seemed to stop the earthquake. At first he thought the pipes were pinging and about to explode the house, because those walls were shaking! He turned off the dishwasher and the shaking stopped! I looked at him in disbelief. I couldn't believe an earthquake of that size could hit here in Virginia...but surely pinging pipes wouldn't cause all that shaking.

Tons of stuff to do for kids from the US Geological Survey:

News coverage and photos

Update 4:02

Curt's home and couldn't call me via cell phone or land line.

Update 3:48pm

This is a cool page from the United States Geological Survey. You can see the first eathquake and the aftershocks.

You can access the US page here and click on one of the earthquakes, like the one in Virginia to bring in more details like the one above.

My son reports various things that fell off his shelves in his bedroom. I knew I heard crashing coming from somewhere!

Update 3:13

To reparaphrase what I wrote previously, from my college studies, I woudn't be surprised that an area that is geologically rich (in mining) would have geologic activity. Although we are no California, we have broken all the norms, as evidenced by this Virginia web site I found. If you go to that map, the earthquake epicenter is from the yellow zone of that map.

Why was this earthquake felt so far away? From the link above,

Most earthquakes occur along plate boundaries where tectonic stress is greatest. Unlike the West Coast, the East Coast is situated near the center of a tectonic plate and resides on what geologists call a passive margin. This is not to say that earthquakes don’t occur in Virginia, but they are much different than in California. West Coast quakes can be very shallow and often break the ground surface, while in Virginia they usually occur at depths of anywhere from three to fifteen miles and it is not always possible to associate a specific quake with a specific fault. In general, East Coast earthquakes are less energetic than those on the West Coast, but due to the coherency of the basement rock (think concrete slab vs. brick patio) they are felt much farther away. The affected area can be up to ten times larger for a similar magnitude event.
The first documented earthquake in Virginia took place in 1774 near Petersburg, and many others have occurred since then, including an estimated magnitude 5.9 (VII) event in 1897 centered near Pearisburg in Giles County. This was the second largest earthquake in the East over the last two-hundred years, being felt across twelve states, an area of at least 280,000 miles.

James R. Martin II, director of the Earthquake Engineering Center for the Southeastern United States, has said, “Recent seismological studies suggest that the southern Appalachian highlands have the potential for even larger earthquakes than have occurred in the past. But now those events would take place in much more highly populated areas.” He believes that “we are under a significant threat of large, damaging earthquakes.” Martin goes on to say that earthquakes don’t occur as often in the East as along the West Coast because the tectonic strain rates are different and our region “tends to experience large earthquakes isolated by long periods of quiet.”

There’s another difference. “The earth’s crust is stronger here,” explains Martin Chapman, director of the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory. “So shock waves moving from the epicenter of an earthquake don't lose as much energy as during quakes in California. When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurs in the Southeast, the waves affect a larger area and can cause more damage at a greater distance than when a similar shock hits California.”
The geologic crew has been interviewed on tv. They say the epicenter is from the central VA seismic zone. Many states on the east coast feel the effects because the rocks are different from the West Coast. On the east coast they are colder and harder. There could be aftershockes of 2's or 3's, but that doesn't mean we'll definitely have them. They expect most of the damage, if any at all, will be closest to the epicenter.

Oh, this just in from the geology service...a 2.6 aftershock has been recorded a few minutes ago...we did not feel that at all!

Soooo, here's hoping that's the worst. I've had another phone call from a mysterious caller. Phone trouble is our biggest problem at the moment. Not sure if my husband is still in DC or in the traffic coming home. My guess he's on the road.

For a list of previous Virginia earthquakes, some of which have been mentioned by the geology staff, check here. Keep in mind that some of these magnitudes are estimates because seismograph equipment was not invented until later.

Update 2:59

I am really curious as to the connection between an earthquake a mile below ground and the epicenter having been a mining area. When I was in college in central Texas, we experienced a tiny bit of earth shaking. I was in science class at the time and our professor shrugged his shoulders and did say, "We are on a fault line." The college was on the fault line, where the Hill Country rises up from the Blackland Prairie. My classes were literally in the very first hills of the hill country and below all was flat. It was a cool place to study geology. So I'm curious and at this point I am more interested in geologist information than chatty news guys who aren't saying anything new.

Update 2:57

Mom I'm charging my cell phone (it's dead) and my house phone is dead. Otherwise we are fine!

Epicenter less than a mile below ground, hence far reaching.

Update 248pm

Okay, I think that's the end of Idea of American and literary analysis lessons I had planned. it's now all about current events and geology! We could have a visit from Hurricane Irene on Sunday. My son will want to study hurricanes for that.

My daughter just asked if Colonial Williamsburg felt it and I'm sure they did. Reports are this has been felt as far north as Canada, south to Georgia and west to Ohio. That's quite a spread for this size earthquake, but it's due to the type of rock out here. I finally found a Virginia geology web site so geology lessons are forthcoming!

Oh, my daughter said good thing Revolutionary City is over for the day!

Update 240pm

wjla news is saying (on tv) that the cell phone system is overloaded. I believe it.

Apparently that 3.6 quake that we didn't feel in 2010 was the largest ever in Washington DC. Until today. It's been upgraded to 5.9 and apparently we could expect aftershocks for the next few days.

My son just said this is the largest quake in Virginia since the 1870's. That must be when they started keeping records.

Mom, I don't think you'll get through on my cell phone because they are saying they are maxxed our right now.

Update 238pm

The town of Mineral, Virginia was founded around a gold mining camp. There were 15 gold mines surrounding the town!

Update 230

Quakes travel further on the East Coast because of the type of crust of the earth we have. I missed that detail. This takes me back to geology class in college. I am a teacher by trade so I'll post not news so much but geology. This is rather strong for Virginia, but I missed those details too. The way the news goes on and on and on and reinterviews people, hopefully I'll catch the geology next time. So glad I'm not driving on a tall bridge or in a tunnel right now!

Update 2:28

I just read at the Wall Street Journal blog that the New York Stock Exchange felt it and they are concerned about aftershocks. Is there really? I need to find the local news station on tv Oh I found the weather channel and they have a Penn State geologist on.

Update: 2:10 pm

The epicenter is in Mineral, Virginia, 67 miles south of us. I took geology in college. There must be a reason why that town is named "Mineral." Yes, I see an unplanned geology lesson coming. Those of you who know my son, can most definitely believe he is full of questions!


What is the first thing that comes to your mind, when you are studying Colonial Williamsburg's Idea of America, take a break for ice cream sodas...and the house starts to shake, rattle and practically roll???? My goodness I've been in a teeny experience in San Marcos, Texas while in college science class. But this time the walls were shaking and I thought I heard things crashing. I'm too scared to check. I just went to a local Washington DC newsroom and yes, it was a 5.8 earthquake! We are about 30 miles west of DC. I did a google and apparently there was a 3.6 earthquake in the area in July 2010 at 5am. We must have slept through that one!

Hope that's it! My son can't wait to get all the details. He turned off the dishwasher thinking at first it was the knocking of pipes. I said, 'Pipes don't knock that hard!" He agreed! He can't wait to find out where the epicenter was.

By the way, earthquakes in Virginia were recorded as far back as the 18th century!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Texas Geography-Part I State Notebook Project

Part I of a Series in the State Notebook Project
When writing a state history curriculum, I start with geography. To understand the history of a locale, one needs to understand the lay of the land. Desserts, plains, beaches, and piney woods. Believe it or not, Texas has it all! A difference in terrain can make all the difference. After all, Santa Anna was captured by Sam Houston because he was locked in to a deep water port in a marshy area. (Hmm, reminds me of Cornwallis in the American Revolution.) There was no means of escape! On that day, Texas became independent!

I had my kids compile pages and projects into a notebook. I am pulling from my son's fifth grade Texas State notebook for examples. The same idea can be applied to any state study.

A great resource for geography study can be the state's official travel guide, which often has places to explore, categorized by region. For Texas, order a free copy through TravelTex. Nowdays you can even view it on-line.

I google for a map that I like, or purchase a map kit. Or one can be traced out of a book on tracing paper and then glued onto construction paper. I got this map from Enchanted Learning. Labels at this point include boundary lines and major geographical features. For Texas, 3 major rivers and the gulf form boundary lines: the Rio Grande River forms the western boundary, the Red River forms the northern boundary, the Sabine River forms the eastern boundary and the Gulf of Mexico is to the south. Boundary lines indicate historical boundary fights, as in Texas vs Mexico. They constantly had boundary line issues. In the 19th century, Texas claimed the boundary line of the Rio Grande, whereas Mexico said the boundary was the Nueces River.

Locate other key rivers like the Nueces, San Antonio, Guadalupe, Colorado, Brazos, Trinity and Neches located from west to east. When learning about the first Texians who settled in the area, the Texas government that fleed Santa Anna, and tracing Santa Anna's cruel march through Texas, understanding where the rivers are aids in understanding.

Then we study the geographic locations. At the TravelTex webiste, there is a neat feature where you can scroll over the map to highlight major areas. I printed out another state map and had the kids color in and label these features. We usually did one feature at a time, so they could internalize the basics before moving on. Our lesson sequence was to color one section, do a collage of that section, write a paper on the geography of that section, and do a trivia game on that section. Photos are below.

We represented each type of terrain through art. In Texas, there are seven regions: Gulf Coast, South Texas Plains, Hill Country, Big Bend Country, Panhandle Plains, Prairies and Lakes, and Piney Woods.

Art projects for each region can include one of the following:
  • collage of pictures cut out from the free travel guide
  • diorama
  • original art through pencil sketch, water color, etc.
We did collages. Here are my son's:

Big Bend

Panhandle Plains:


Hill Country:


Piney Woods:


Prairies and Lakes:


South Texas Plains:


Gulf Coast:

For each category they also wrote a paper:

Then I made a treasure hunt, by finding interesting trivia of each region. The kids worked together looking for answers in the travel guide. Here are some samples:
  • Which town was named by a sea captain who said the area reminded him of a place in Greece? Marathon in the Big Bend Region
  • How did bison come to be called buffalo? From the French word "boeufs"- Panhandle Plains
  • Which town was headquarters for the Army Camel Experiment? Verde-Hill Country
  • This town is located in two states. Texarkana-Piney Woods
  • This town was named because it was the site for the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Texas Constitution. Washington-Prairies and Lakes
  • This is the southernmost city in Texas. Brownsville-Gulf Coast
  • This bird can only be found in the lower Rio Grande Valley. It has a blue head, a black breast, and yellow tail feathers. Green Jay.
A culminating project can be a salt dough map, where elevation levels are attempted.

Salt Dough Recipe

2 cups flour

1/2 cup salt

Add just enough water to form a ball that is easily kneaded, like pizza dough. You don't want it too dry or too wet. Knead it to a smooth dough.

Print out a map, glue to a posterboard. Apply the dough on top, accounting for elevation. There are mountains in West Texas, which are part of the Rocky Mountain chain. Did you know there is a mountain there that is taller than any on the East Coast of America?

The salt dough dries in hours. Before the dough dries, poke holes with a toothpick where you want the flag labels to go. For labels we cut out tags from construction paper, labeled them, then glued them onto toothpicks.

We usually painted the map with craft paints from the store. Put a dab of glue onto the bottom end of the toothpick and insert into the preformed holes in the map.

Here are pictures of other salt dough maps we have made.

Disclaimer: My apologies for the ads which HSB put on my blog. I don't mind the ones for Williamsburg though.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Milliner Hats, Muffs and Gowns

The root of the word "milliner" means millions, because they offer a million things! Here's a selection of hats! My newest hat was partly inspired by this one.



A muff...


Changeable silk saque back gown...



An English back gown in the process of being sewn...


Monday, August 22, 2011

18th Century Englishback Gown in Reproduction Fabric

Here are close-ups of my very first Englishback gown.I used a reproduction fabric based on a gown that is in the Colonial Williamsburg collection. The fabric was purchased in the historic area at the Mary Dickenson store last spring.

Many ladies have this fabric, from interpreters to guests. It was my goal to make this gown as unique as I could possible think of. It was a fun challenge and I did a lot of research to that goal!



I did a type of ruched sleeves, an idea I got from looking at a gown the Colonial Williamsburg mantua makers made....


For the bodice I used self fabric pinked, double ruched trim, which I learned at the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center last year.

The small plum bow at the bodice is not tied, but sewn, as taught to me at the Costume Design Center. It is a silk tafetta ribbon, that I also incorporated into the hat that I trimmed.


I was inspired for my hat from hats I've seen at the CDC and the milliner shop.