Taking the Pledge to Pack – Decorating Canvas Bags

Yesterday afternoon, our Roots & Shoots club gathered to enjoy one another’s company while decorating canvas bags. It was part of a global effort to reduce our use of plastic.  Most of the girls enjoyed the activity and were focused for nearly 45 minutes on their bags… the boys on the other hand, were more interested in burning off excess energy. Amazing how boys and girls differ so much in this regard.

I had stencils & fabric paints readily available and as the children worked on their bags (everyone brought their own), I talked about the purpose of the activity (to reduce our use of disposable paper and plastic bags). Through a little research, we have learned that the production of both paper and plastic bags uses a tremendous amount of natural resources. There are pros and cons to both materials and thereby the “greenish” choice is to use re-usable bags or baskets (canvas, hemp or other natural fibers).

When the children had completed their bags and while we waited for the paint to dry, I had activity stations set up in the kitchen to allow the children an opportunity to explore how a bird’s beak/bill is specially adapted to eating specific foods. I found the activity in Ranger Rick’s Nature Scope Birds, Birds, Birds! activity book. I also found an adaptation available here a a PDF download, Fill the Bill.

It was a great hands-on activity extension to our nature study focus area on birds. Earlier that morning, I also did a read-aloud from our Wildlife Fact File on “How Birds Build Nests”. I’m loving our new home school schedule! :)

Sugaring Time: Making Our Own Maple Syrup

A month or so ago, while Sweetie was enjoying her pancake breakfast, she inquired about how they make maple syrup. I explained the process to her as best I could from memory and as I concluded she asked if we could try to make some ourselves.  I assured her that we could. That in fact, her Papa J was an expert on making your own syrup.

It’s Sugaring Time!

I pulled out an article he wrote for his company newsletter years ago in which he described his experiment tapping Big Leaf Maple, Alder, and Wild Cherry trees in the Willamette Valley. We gave him a call and he shared a little more about his experience tapping Maple trees. We talked about getting together with him but travel and work obligations just didn’t cooperate. We would just have to play it by ear and see what developed.

A few days later, we met up with him for a birthday dinner and he presented us with the taps. “You’re in luck, Sweetie. The weather the past few days has been just right for tapping trees,” Papa said. “You’ll just need to find some over there in Central Oregon.”

Making Our Own Maple Syrup

By sure luck, as I was explaining this endeavor to my girlfriend, she mentioned that her grandmother had a Sugar Maple in her yard. “I’m always having to rake her leaves in the fall!” she exclaimed, and she gave us permission to tap it.

We tapped it on Monday around 12:30 p.m. and within a few hours we had collected nearly 1 liter! I was actually surprised with how quickly it started to flow. Unfortunately, the weather has since changed and the flow has slowed significantly.

The bottle was in place for just a couple of days as we had a bit of a cold spell and the sap flow had slowed significantly. We were fortunate though to collect nearly a 1/2 gallon of sap from that one tree. As we wanted to do the experiment with Papa, we stored the sap in the refrigerator and waited until he came to visit.

Papa came over a week later and we got to boiling down the sap we had collected previously. You can see in the photo, that the sap has just come to boil… from that point, it took about an hour and a half to finish the process. Unfortunately, we yielded only about 1 tablespoon of syrup but it was so yummy! While they waited, Papa read a book about Maple Sugaring to Sweetie and thereafter, they spent the rest of the evening drawing.

Fortunately, in the weeks that followed, we were also able to locate several other trees and obtained permission to tap those as well.  As the weather was more conducive to tapping in the following weeks, we employed 8 taps and collected enough sap to yield a greater quantity – enough to enjoy on our pancakes!

Thank you, Dad, for sharing your experience with me. Your love of nature has certainly shaped who I am as a woman and is a major part of why I chose to home school the kids.

Maple Syrup Unit Study

We covered a variety of topics associated with maple syrup such as:  trees to tap, parts of a Maple tree, where maple syrup is produced, tapping tools, maple syrup products, the maple syrup process and even more.  It was a great week of fun learning.  Here are a few of the resources we used throughout our study:

Literature

For a unit study on maple sugar, Little House in the Big Woods, is the perfect book. Told from four-year-old Laura’s point of view, the story begins in 1871 in a little log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and includes chapters devoted specifically to sugaring time.

Little House in the Big Woods is the first book in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s treasured Little House series, which was based on her life growing up as an American pioneer. You might also be interested in the complete Laura Ingalls Wilder set that includes: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years.

Hidden away since the 1930s, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s never-before-published autobiography, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, reveals the true stories of her pioneering life. Some of her experiences will be familiar; some will be a surprise. Pioneer Girl re-introduces readers to the woman who defined the pioneer experience for millions of people around the world.

With this heavily annotated edition, with maps and appendices that enrich the text, readers can revel in her memories of her family and their pioneer life from 1869 to 1888 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakota Territory.

The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker is far from just a cookbook, it’s about a way of life that was a hard existence, but one that many of us dream of. Whether you are already a “Little House” fan, or are new to the series, this book can be enjoyed by all “wanna-be 1800’s pioneer women.”

It includes more than 100 recipes introducing the foods and cooking of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s pioneer childhood, chronicled in her classic Little House books. This is not just a cookbook, it’s an interactive history book, and an in-depth analysis of Laura Wilder’s Little House books.

We also enjoyed:

The Maple Syrup Book by Marilyn Linton

Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky

Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall

Memory Work

From where I lingered in a lull in March
outside the sugar-house one night for choice,
I called the fireman with a careful voice
And bade him leave the pan and stoke the arch:
‘O fireman, give the fire another stoke,
And send more sparks up chimney with the smoke.’
I thought a few might tangle, as they did,
Among bare maple boughs, and in the rare
Hill atmosphere not cease to glow,
And so be added to the moon up there.
The moon, though slight, was moon enough to show
On every tree a bucket with a lid,
And on black ground a bear-skin rug of snow.
The sparks made no attempt to be the moon.
They were content to figure in the trees
As Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades.
And that was what the boughs were full of soon.

~ Robert Frost

Lapbook

We created one of our first lapbooks, Maple Syrup, as a part of our unit study. This free download covers the how-to of sugaring very well.  There are mini-books for the tools and equipment, the process of tapping trees, what trees can be tapped, and science experiments.

Websites

  • Tree Ring Diagram (from Arbor Day) provides a description of tree layers. As the kids are young, our focus was on understanding there are layers to the tree and that the sap runs in the one called sapwood.

 

Our Iditarod Unit Study – A Summary of Our Activities

We have recently completed our unit study on the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. We enjoyed learning about the Arctic and the history of the race. We also enjoyed charting the progress of our mushers each day and learning more about sled dog racing. This post serves as a summary of the many activities we incorporated. I owe many thanks to the homeschooling families that preceded me and posted their activities on their own blogs. They are an invaluable resource and I turned to them most frequently as I planned our own activities. Sweetie also enjoyed looking at their blogs and would occasionally ask if she could also do one or more of the activities they shared.

ACTIVITIES

Math – We printed musher stat sheets to record the progress of each musher. We also created probability graphs for this years participants. I walked Sweetie through the calculations and we used tiles to create a visual to represent each group. I didn’t expect her to understand much of the process but I wanted to at least expose her to circle graphs and probability. I was very surprised when DH came home that evening and she excitedly narrated what each graph represented and who she predicted would have the best chance of winning. She remembered what each graph represented and what the numbers were communicating. I was very pleased. iditarod unit studyArt & Handcrafts – We studied the artwork of Pacific Northwest Indians and Inuits. We still working on a carving a family totem pole in rock (more on that later). We carved Arctic animals in ivory soap. Sweetie created watercolor paintings of Balto, Arctic Wolves, and an Aurora Borealis.

Science – We watched a few movies about the Arctic. Sweetie made a coloring book about the animals from Alaska. Buddy sorted pictures of Arctic Animals with Sweetie’s help. We joined our COOL friends for a guided snow shoe walk. The walk was led by naturalist volunteers with the Forest Service and they pointed out many things in relation to winter adaptations, the water cycle and climate.

History / Social Studies – We added the Serum Run and inaugural Iditarod to our Book of Centuries. We learned how the musher prepares for the race, including the supplies needed, clothing, food and equipment. Sweetie made a model of a dog sled with Popsicle sticks and labeled the parts of the team. We scanned the newspaper for articles about the Iditarod. As a family, we enjoyed a REAL sled dog ride near Mt.Bachelor.

Geography – Created a wall map with all the checkpoints marked. We checked on the progress of each of our mushers daily and marked their location on the map. We discussed the climate and other characteristics of several of the checkpoints.

Language Arts – We read several books about the Iditarod, the Arctic and Alaska (see resource list below). Sweetie did several pages from Draw Write Now! (Arctic Loon, Arctic Fox, Polar Bear, Walrus, and The Polar Regions). She did a few worksheets with related spelling/vocabulary words. She used many of the little books & worksheets to put together her Iditarod Lapbook.

RESOURCES

Books:
The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford
Whale in the Sky by
Iditarod Spirit by Kim Heacox
No End in Sight by Rick Steber
Arctic Lights Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller
Woodsong by Gary Paulsen
Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast by Hilary Stewart
Kiana’s Iditarod by Shelley Gill
Polar Animals by Wade Cooper
Akiak by Robert J. Blake
The Great Serum Race by Debbie S. Miller
“Iditarod” Bend Living magazine Feb 2008
Animal Survivors of the Arctic by Barbara A. Somervill
Arctic Babies by Kathy Darling

Blogs & Websites:
Official Site of the Iditarod
Martin Zoo (homeschooling family)
Toad Haven (homeschooling family)
Scholastic (lesson plans)

Movies:
Free Iditarod Insider Video
Arctic & Antarctic (Eyewitness Video)
Arctic Bears (PBS Nature)
Eight Below
Snow Buddies

To see how we began our unit study, see my earlier post Our Iditarod Unit Study.

Come Gee! Come Haw! – A Sled Dog Ride to Remember

We enjoyed a spectacular morning as a family today. A sled dog ride to commemorate our unit study of the Arctic and the Iditarod. It was truly a wonderful experience and one we will never forget.

The kids had been a little nervous on the drive up to the mountain. They weren’t sure what to expect and didn’t want to be scared. I assured them it wouldn’t be scary…. that it would be similar to me pushing them in the jogging stroller only they would be pulled by dogs instead. This seemed to alleviate their concerns.

We arrived a little early so that we would have an opportunity to get to know the dogs and help with the feeding. When we arrived at the site, the dogs were tied to stakes awaiting their turn to pull the sled. They run anywhere from 1-6 tour runs a day – alternating dog teams for each. There were two teams out pulling sleds and we waited from them to return before they harnessed the dogs for the next two sleds (one for us and one for another family). The dogs were very amicable and enjoyed our caresses. One dog even put his front right paw around another woman’s leg in what resembled a hug as she was petting him.

When the dogs were brought to the tow line, they were lifted up onto their back legs and walked on two legs to the line. I asked the mushers why they did this and they explained that the dogs are strong and anxious… it is one of the first things they are taught when they start working with the dogs. It essentially takes them out of ‘4 wheel drive’ and helps assure the musher isn’t overpowered and so the dog doesn’t take off.

Twelve dogs pulled our sled… I didn’t catch the names of the Team Dogs but the others were as follows:

Lead Dogs: Pepper & Ripples
Swing Dogs: Pele & Echo
Wheel Dogs: Yoda & Joe

It was amazing to see how their personalities and experience had a huge impact on the sled. Both Pele and Echo were essentially puppies (18 and 12 months). Occasionally, Echo would get distracted and would look over his shoulder or get a little tangled in the line.

These are the same dogs that Rachael Scdoris trains with and it was great to essentially meet ‘her family’. Mushing is certainly a lifestyle – but it was nice to take a peak into that way of life, even if just for a couple of hours.Along the trail, Sweetie even asked, “Can we do this again?”

Like all organized tours, they even had a photographer to take our picture. I can’t wait to see them! :)

Check out my Squidoo lens The Iditarod: A Homeschool Unit Study for resources and activities to bring this historic race to life for your family.

Book of Centuries ~ CM Carnival

One of the most intriguing components of Charlotte Mason’s approach to learning is the Book of Centuries. Essentially it is a timeline kept in a notebook, a growing resource that a child adds to continually. The original description was literally one page of writing selected events and one sketching page per century. It may include essays, booklists and sketches, as well as dates, names, and events.

When we started homeschooling in August, this was one of the first things I set up and started using. Though I don’t know how long I’ll continue to homeschool (my hope is at least through 8th grade), the Book of Centuries is one component that I know we will continue to use through adulthood. It is just such a great idea! I wish I had had one when I was growing up.
The first thing we did (once the notebook/binder was put together) was to add photos of ourselves, as DH and I were both born in the 1970s and the kiddos were born in 2002 and 2005. We also put a photo of DH and I at our wedding (1995) and one of the kids and I dressed in our period costumes (1880).

Whenever we read or watch something that applies ~ Art Study (Renoir, Degas, etc.); Emperor Qin (the first emperor of China); Marco Polo & Genghis Khan; Helen Keller (we attended the play, “The Miracle Worker”); Serum Run and the 1st Iditarod ~ we add the date, a brief description and a photo (sometimes from the internet, sometimes copied from a book, other times hand-drawn).

It is such a great learning tool because it provides a visual of what was happening in the past and connects subjects that are typically taught independent of one another. For example, on the page 1800 – 1899, we’ve already included Renoir (fine arts/France), Helen Keller (Eastern USA) and ourselves as living history volunteers (Western USA). It makes the past come to life – puts it all into perspective in regards to what was happening throughout the world at any given time.

We are, of course, just beginning, so there are many, many blank pages, but as we progress, I know it will become more and more useful. It will be fun to compare the writing she has done this year in comparison to what she will be doing 10 years from now.

Though there are many different styles and pre-made timeline books one can purchase, I chose to create a simple one in a 3-ring binder with tabs for easier navigation. We can expand it if the need arises later. If you would like a simple one of your own, follow this link to download a free Book of Centuries document that labels each two-page spread with a date (in hundred-year increments) from 4000 B.C. to A.D. 2099, and follow the easy steps below to create your own.

Our Family Totem Pole ~ Part One

Shortly after reading, Whale in the Sky, and making a large paper totem pole to represent the one in the book, we coincidentally came across an activity idea in local newspaper… choosing animals to represent each member of the family to make a Family Totem Pole. As we’ve been exploring the art of Northwest Coastal Indians alongside our Iditarod unit, I felt this was the perfect extension to our studies. One of the books we’ve most enjoyed is Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast by Hilary Stewart. We browsed through the book together and guessed what was depicted in the photos/sketches before we read the captions. We talked about the mediums the Native Americans would use in their artwork and what the animals symbolized to them. We talked about the animals we liked and which most represented each of us.

Beaver – The builder, a symbol of security and activity. Creative, Artistic and Determined. Me
Wolf – Symbolizes family, loyalty and endurance. Intelligence and Leadership. DH
Hummingbird – Symbolizes love, beauty, luck and is a joyful messenger. Sweetie
Otter – Trusting, inquisitive and bright; loyal friendship. Buddy

Sweetie and I then brainstormed the media we wanted to use. We wanted to create a totem pole that would become a family keepsake… not a paper craft that we’d likely toss in the near future. I suggested getting a small piece of wood to carve… she suggested carving on stone. As I’ve done some stone carving with my Dremel in the past for gifts, we decided to go this route. I had made several wall plaques for friends and family but had yet to create one for ourselves… this was the perfect opportunity.

I’ve stopped by a couple of local stone and landscape places but haven’t yet found the right piece. Ideally, we would like it to be rather narrow and long; maybe 2′ x 8″. This project is turning out to be more time consuming than I had anticipated. I will thereby post pictures of the final product when we’ve completed it. Stay Tuned! 😀