Finishing Strong: Integrating Geography & History Activities

Welcome to Finishing Strong ~ a weekly link-up dedicated to families homeschooling middle & high school kids. Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home.Finishing-Strong-500x500

Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan and Susan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight. Each week, we collectively highlight the post that received the most clicks. We also choose a few posts that most appealed to us as individuals.

Be sure to join us next week as we reach a huge milestone. We’ll be celebrating our 100th edition of Finishing Strong with a fabulous $100 cash giveaway!


In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ben Stein famously plays a high school teacher who drones on about the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act while his students slump at their desks in a collective stupor. For many kids, that’s history: an endless catalog of disconnected dates and names, passed down like scripture from the state textbook, seldom questioned and quickly forgotten.

Taught well, geography and history are fascinating topics and two that I love to teach. My favorite way to teach social studies is through travel. Nothing quite compares to seeing historic sites and walking in the footsteps of those who made history. These past couple of weeks, my family has been inundated with the history of our country as we’ve walked the Freedom Trail in Boston and talked with interpreters in Gettysburg and Philadelphia. I can’t wait to share it all with you.

Meet Historical Figures at a Living History Event @EvaVarga.net

I know it is not always feasible to travel, especially for large families. There are a variety of creative ways to enrich geography and history studies. One of my favorite approaches is through primary source documents – letters, interviews, etc. Providing students opportunities to research historical figures and develop an engaging presentation they deliver in first person, brings history to life.


The most clicked-on post was An Inside Look at Our 2016-17 Homeschool Plans by Sara at Classically Homeschooling. It’s always fun to take a peak into the decisions and choices other families have made. Often we find inspiration in new curriculum materials and approaches to educating our children at home.

finishingstrong-geohistory

My favorite posts this past week focus on activities to inspire you to integrate geography and history into your curriculum.

A Cemetery Scavenger Hunt Makes a Great History Lesson shared by Cindy at Our Journey Westward. What better way to dig in to the history of your community than to learn more about the actual lives of the people who have made your town their home?

Amber Oliver’s How to Teach High School Geography at Bright Ideas Press. I love her statement, “While it is indeed impossible to learn all there is to know about this planet, its territories, and its people in just one course, it is quite manageable to give your child a good look at this world we live in from the comfort of your own home.”

One of the things I love best about traveling is sampling the wonderful regional dishes and local favorites. It is a fabulous way to learn about history and geography. I’ve selected Teaching Kids to Cook: Epcot Food & Wine by Megan at Education Possible because it provides a great example of how families can integrate these cultural experiences at home.

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As always, thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

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American Art History: An overview of art movements and trends in America

I have always been fascinated by art and traditional handcrafts. Over the years, I have woven a variety of art history and skills lessons into our curriculum. We have also had the opportunity to visit many renowned art museums around the world through our travels.

art-first-nations

When a Native creates a work of art, a story is told. When stories are told, we are healing. When someone sees your story you are freeing yourself and giving other people permission to acknowledge their own stories. ~ PasstheFeather.org

colonial-artMy oldest is now entering high school and her experiences in art have blossomed. It is her passion. She and I have recently begun volunteering at a local art museum and through this experience we have been able to learn of many mediums and artists that were previously unknown to us.

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It has been a fabulous experience. Not only is she learning about art and meeting contemporary artists, she is also learning important job skills that will benefit her in the future. As she is yet underage, I accompany her and have also been learning a great deal – specifically about art history.

civil-war-art

The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art’s audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public. ~ Paul Gauguin

gilded-ageBeginning this month, I will get to share our experiences and love for art history as a guest blogger for Bright Ideas PressUsing the All American History series as our spine, I will be leading readers through a 10-post series to provide an overview of the history of American art from Pre-Colonial times to today, including multiple art forms.Cubism

Look at everything as though you are seeing it for the first time, with eyes of a child, fresh with wonder. ~ Joseph Cornell

Precisionism

Moving chronologically through the All American History curriculum, each post will summarize the art trends and movements popular during the period and feature one or two artists from that time period. Plus, I will provide a related art lesson or project that you can enjoy with your students.great-depression

Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing. ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Abstract-ExpressionismFor a historical context, I strongly recommend the corresponding texts:

cold-war-years

I am very excited about this series of posts. If there is an art movement or artist you would like me to consider, please leave comment below. I’m learning just as much as my daughter!

Carl & Gerty Cori Change the Face of Medicine

In brilliant collaboration, Carl and Gerty Cori studied how the body metabolizes glucose and advanced the understanding of how the body produces and stores energy. Their findings were particularly useful in the development of treatments for diabetes. They were awarded the Noble Prize for their discovery of how glycogen (animal starch) – a derivative of glucose – is broken down and resynthesized in the body, for use as a store and source of energy.

cori cycleThe pair were interested in how the body utilizes energy. The couple spent more than three decades exploring how the human body metabolizes glucose. It was known in the 1920s that faulty sugar metabolism could lead to diabetes, and it was also known that insulin kept the disease in check.

The effect of insulin on blood sugar levels had been observed, but scientists did not understand the biochemical mechanism behind insulin’s effect or how carbohydrates were metabolized. In 1929, the couple described what is now known as the Cori cycle; an important part of metabolism. To put it simply, lactic acid forms when we use our muscles, which is then converted into glycogen in the liver. Glycogen, in turn, is converted into glucose, which is absorbed by muscle cells.

The Cori Cycle

cori cycleThe Cori Cycle refers to the metabolic pathway in which lactate produced by anaerobic glycolysis in the muscles moves via the blood stream to the liver where it it is converted to blood glucose and glycogen. High intensity exercise will mostly get it’s energy or ATP from the pathway of the glycolitic system.  Less intense activity will receive its energy or ATP from the aerobic pathway utilizing the Krebs cycle.

When utilizing the glycolitic system, cycle after cycle, lactate will start to build up.  Lactate from the glycolitic system will diffuse from the muscles into the bloodstream.  It will then be transported into the liver.  In the liver it is converted from lactate back to pyruvate back to glucose, which is then available to the muscles again for energy, this is called gluconeogenesis.  The whole process is called the Cori Cycle.

The more you train with high intensity exercise, the more capable the enzymes and transporters become that are needed for the Cori Cycle.  Your liver gets better at using the lactate, not more efficient (it still needs the same amount of ATP to run the Cori Cycle) but it will do the cycle faster.

Gerty Cori Biography

carl & gerty cori Gerty Radnitz was born in Prague in what was then Austria-Hungary. She received her PhD in medicine from the German University of Prague’s Medical School in 1920. It was here that she met fellow classmate, Carl Ferdinand Cori, whom she married later that same year.

The couple moved to Buffalo, New York in 1922 and began researching metabolic mechanisms. As a woman, Gerty Cori was employed on much less favorable terms than her husband and encountered other forms of gender discrimination throughout her career.

The couple moved to Washington University in St. Louis in 1931 after both were offered positions there. When the Coris were hired at Washington University, she received one-tenth Carl’s salary, even though they were equal partners in the laboratory.

Gerty and her husband continued to investigate how glycogen is broken down into glucose and in 1939 were able to both identify the enzyme that initiates the decomposition and also to use the process to create glycogen in a test tube.

She became full professor in 1947, the same year that she and Carl were awarded the Nobel Prize “for their discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen.” She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Science.

Around this time Gerty was diagnosed with myelosclerosis, a disease of the bone marrow. She died in 1957 at the age of 61.

Bring it Home

Try this hands-on lab from Amy Brown Science to discover The Use of Glucose in Cellular Respiration

Enjoy the Carl and Gerty Cori and Carbohydrate Metabolism commemorative booklet produced by the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program of the American Chemical Society in 2004.

Read about the dip-and-read test strips developed by Helen Free and her husband, Al. Originally designed to test for glucose in urine, the test strips were such an advance that researchers have since combined 10 urine tests to check for ailments like liver failure, urinary tract infections, and others—onto one plastic stick.

Learn more about our digestive system with these hands-on enzyme labs.

Investigate What Types of Food Contain Starch and Protein?

Building Macromolecule is a paper-scissors-tape activity used to help students envision the process of synthesis, building macromolecules out of smaller subunits.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of August? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in August to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

 

Jumping into National History Day

I love history! My favorite books are all historical fiction. Had I not pursued a degree in science – I likely would have considered a career in history.

History, as a school subject, is often overlooked in the elementary years (with the exception of a few isolated unit studies). As a homeschool mom, I am blessed to be able to immerse my children in a comprehensive and chronological study of history.

When we first started homeschooling, we had the opportunity to volunteer at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon as living history interpreters. It was an amazing experience living and homeschooling in 1880.

In addition to reading about history, initially in the four volume series by Susan Wise Bauer, Story of the World and now in her series for older readers, The History of the Ancient World, we enjoy a variety of research projects, timelines, hands-on activities, and field trips around the world. One of our favorite annual experiences is a living wax museum.

Create a Living History Day @EvaVarga.net

I have written previously about our experiences in Bringing History to Life and the Collision of Art & Literary History. We have had a lot of fun over the years and have learned a great deal not just about the historical characters we have researched, but also about public speaking, goal setting, and historical re-enactments.

In all the years we have been engaged in these long-term history projects, I have had a little whisper in my ear to take it to the next level through participation in National History Day. National History Day began in April 1974 – an idea of history professor David Van Tassel, who was worried about the decline of the humanities in general and history in particular in America’s schools.

Van Tassel was particularly distressed by the boring rote memorization he saw in most history classrooms.  He wanted to reinvigorate the teaching and learning of history.

Today, National History Day contests are taking place in every state. Providing a learning adventure that teaches critical thinking, writing and research skills and boosts performance across all subjects – not just history.

Meet Historical Figures at a Living History Event @EvaVarga.net

Can you identify the important historical figures portrayed here? (Answers revealed at the end of the post)

Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national, or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.

The theme provides an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates. It encourages students to use critical thinking skills to dive into historical content and thereby develop perspective and understanding.

We will be participating for in the National History Day contest for the first time this academic year. I’ll be coordinating the contest for the Southern Oregon coast and sharing our progress along the way.

I want to encourage you to join us. The NHD website provides an incredible array of lesson materials and curriculum to help you get started.

 

1. Gudrid Thorbjarnardotter (mother to first Viking child born in the Americas), 2. Ansel Adams, 3. Chief Joseph 4. Irena Sendler 5. Amelia Earhart 5. Mærsk McKinney Møller

Curriculum Plans for 2015-16 (8th and 6th grade)

This upcoming school year promises many new challenges and experiences for us. We are very excited to be moving back to Oregon, more specifically to the southern coast where Patrick and I both grew up.

While we will be surrounded by family, the transition will not be without obstacles. The homeschool community is much, much smaller compared to the previous two communities in which we have lived (Bend, Oregon and Redding, California). Therefore establishing connections may require a little more effort on my part.Our Curriculum Choices @EvaVarga.net

Geneva will be entering 8th grade this fall while Jeffrey will begin 6th grade. I will continue to teach the same material to them both. Their skills are relatively equal in most areas so as a homeschool mom of two – it works. Best of all, it requires less planning on my part.

Science & Nature Study

These past couple of years, I have been coordinating STEM Club for our local homeschool community. With our move, I have decided to step back from this for awhile and see what opportunities are available. My daughter has also expressed interest in volunteering at the local interpretive center as well as initiating a long-term study of the impact of invasive turtles on the local ecosystem.

As we will be living on the Oregon coast, the ecology is significantly different than that of the High Desert or the Central Valley and Cascade Foothills of Northern California. I am very excited to explore the area more in-depth with the kids. We will thereby be resuming our regular nature studies in conjunction with Barb’s monthly Outdoor Hour Challenges at Handbook of Nature Study.

Both kiddos have asked to learn more about astronomy so I will be putting together lesson plans and projects to follow their interests. Thus while I will continue to develop my own curriculum for science, we will be engaging in lessons independently rather than with a small group of other homeschoolers. I will also be require more reading of each of the kids. I will be using CK-12 Life Science and CK-12 Earth Science in addition to other free science curriculum I’ve found. 

Math

Life of Fred has been working very well for us since we transitioned from Singapore 6B a couple of years ago. Jeffrey is presently in the middle of  Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology. Geneva is using Advanced Algebra. When they struggle with a concept, we have used Khan Academy.

One of the biggest benefits of our move is being close to family. Patrick’s uncle is a retired high school math teacher. We will be reaching out to him in hopes of meeting once every couple of weeks to go over their assignments. This will be a huge relief for me as I always struggled with algebra myself. Additionally, we will be looking into the possibility of concurrent enrollment for math at the local community college.

Language Arts

Writing

As the summer was just getting started, we started using Cover Story which I had purchased at a discount from Homeschool Buyers Co-op. Cover Story takes middle school students – 6th through 8th grade – on a guided tour through the process of creating the content for their own magazine. In a single school year, students are led, step by step, on a fun, thought-provoking journey of exploration and creation. They write poems, short stories, non-fiction articles, letters, and many other short pieces. We’ve only just begun (having completed the first three weeks) but we look forward to jumping back in when the dust settles from our move. { Homeschool Buyers Co-op will again offer a GroupBuy savings for Cover Story on 07-27-2015. Save up to 20%. }

Literature

We utilized a few Brave Writer Boomerang single issues a bit last year. We liked it but I just didn’t follow through and plan ahead as I should have. I know I need to do better. My goal therefore is to create a plan or a list of books for each of the kids for the upcoming school year. I will be sharing more details on this when I’ve mapped it out better.

We will also begin an in depth study of the history of English utilizing King Alfred’s English.  This unique combination study of both English and history will provide a look at words, grammar, Shakespeare, the Bible, and language. The supplemental activities and materials (including primary sources!) provided on the website will help guide us – we are very excited to explore our language from this perspective.

Our Curriculum Choices: Mandarin @EvaVarga.net

Foreign Language

Fluency in a foreign language is very important to me. My daughter expressed her interest in learning Chinese when we were just beginning our homeschool journey so that is the path we have followed ever since. I have shared a little about How I Teach Mandarin previously. Though Shawn has moved across the country, we have had success with continuing our Mandarin language instruction via Skype or FaceTime.

We will continue to use Discovering Chinese Pro, the middle school curriculum developed by Better ChineseOur Road to Mandarin Fluency has been very rewarding as we’ve been able to travel to China as well as make life long friends. We have taken some time off these past couple months as Shawn was traveling back home to China, conflicts with summer camp, and soon our travels abroad. We plan to resume our regular twice a week sessions come late September.

At summer camp, the kids are learning Norwegian. I would really like to continue incorporating our ancestral language into our weekly lessons but I always slip up. Perhaps our move will ensure I stick with it. We shall see.

History & Geography

We love to travel and like most, we learn best by immersion and first-hand experiences. Thus, to really understand the history of ancient Greece and Rome (our focus this past year has been ancient times), we will be traveling abroad with Trafalgar. We will first spend ten days in Italy (Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Assisi, and the Italian Lakes) followed by Athens and the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. I will be sharing snippets of our trip along the way via Instagram and I’ll post more in-depth travel posts soon.

To prepare for our trip, we have been moving very slowly through Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World. We are only half-way through the book so we’ll continue to work through it upon our return. Hopefully, by January we will move on to the medieval times. So much for my original plan of following a four year cycle; it takes us 6 years!   How We Use North Star Geography @EvaVarga.netAdditionally, we will continue to incorporate activities from North Star Geography. Designed specifically for middle and high school ages, it is an engaging Geography curriculum. We are excited to continue with this program and will be creating our own world atlases (one of the many projects described in the companion guide).

Performing Arts

The kids are both adamant they want to continue to study music. I am confidant we will be able to find a piano instructor for Jeffrey. I am a little apprehensive for Geneva, however. The preliminary leg work I have done thus far has only generated one name and she is only available intermittently for one year as she is a graduate student and will be relocating at the end of the school year.

The community has a great lab band but there is youth symphony is not an option. I’ll have to reach out to the local schools to inquire whether they accept string instruments.

big book homeschool ideasThe Big Book of Homeschooling

To get tons of great advice, and move beyond the basics of academics, pick up a copy of The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Topics include active learning, inquiry science in middle school, learning with video games, using LEGO bricks for learning, teaching on the road, learning with movies, high school literature, and stamp collecting.

This book can carry you through all your years of homeschooling, covering the stages your children will mature through: preschoolers, elementary grades, middle school, and high school. As your life situation changes, you will find new chapters that apply to you. You can view the full table of contents to see all 103 topics!

 

Our Homeschool Planner

Working from home as well as homeschooling my kids requires me to be organized. As I have every year for the past six years, I will be using the Well Planned Day homeschool planner. I have tried a few others when we first began homeschool and I have perused others, yet I keep coming back to this one. It just works for me.

I love that it provides templates for meal planning as well as keeping track of the books the kids have read and an ongoing record of their grades. They have student planners available as well but my kiddos prefer that I send them an email each week. They thereby create a note on their iPad and delete each assignment as they go.

This post has been linked to the 2015 Not Back to School Hop.  Join the fun!

Getting Started with the Sport of Orienteering

One of our favorite outdoor activities involves just a few materials and is both challenging and fun. With a just a compass and a map, a variety of activities and obstacles courses can be designed to accommodate everyone. It is the perfect summer activity and can be easily integrated into your science or history curriculum.

Orienteering is what is called a lifetime sport; there’s something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age or experience. Most events provide courses for all levels, from beginner to advanced.

This post contains affiliate links.

Getting Started with the Sport of Orienteering @EvaVarga.net

The history of Orienteering begins in the late 19th century in Sweden where it grew from military training in land navigation into a competitive sport for military officers. Eventually civilians caught on to the sport and the first public orienteering competition was held in Norway in 1897.

Orienteering courses can be set in any environment where an appropriate map has been made and a number of variations have been developed over the years. Some of the more intriguing variations include Night Courses, Trivia, and Relay Orienteering.

Orienteering with Kids can be a lot of fun. It is also a great confidence booster as they develop their navigational skills and can find their way through unknown territory.

To introduce kids to this wonderful sport, I have developed a simple introductory compass course activity to introduce the basics of using a compass for upper elementary and middle school students. It has been very popular with our local homeschool community and I am delighted to share it with you.

Introduction to Orienteering @EvaVarga.netIn my eBook, Introduction to Orienteering, I have included detailed instructions on the use of a compass and outlined a simple Compass Course activity to introduce kids to the sport of Orienteering. In addition, I have compiled numerous enrichment activities that incorporate the use of a compass and topographical maps.

With the Introduction to Orienteering unit study, students will develop the navigational skills and experience to feel confidant in participating in larger, community-wide Orienteering events. You can find more information about these opportunities by visiting the Orienteering USA website.

The Compass Course activity is also a part of my Earth Logic: Our Dynamic Earth curriculum, a 10 week hands-on earth science curriculum unit study on the geology of our Earth.

While the compass has not changed dramatically since it was first invented by the Chinese during the Han dynasty, many other navigational tools have been invented. We loved reading about the tools early explorers used to navigate in North Star Geography and have enjoyed using some of these tools ourselves. I have shared a few of our activities in my post, Sailing Ships & Navigation.