May 27, 2011

Science and History Collide

A couple of weeks ago, Casia was learning about the skeletal system in science. She had fun memorizing all the major bones in the body and learning about the structure of bones and how they move at various joints. During this time, she also started a unit on Native American civilizations and European explorers. It was a happy surprise when the two unit happened to overlap while watching the video called "Great Inca Rebellion"

It's a National Geographic film and it takes a look at Pizarro's conquest of the Inca Empire and the physical evidence that supports the idea that he had a tremendous amount of help from other indigenous people who were enemies of the Incas. The medical anthropologists reveal new evidence unearthed in a hastily made burial ground. While we were watching the video, they made mentioned of many of the bones Casia had just learned and she was very excited when she realized that she knew exactly which bone they were referring to! I love it when a lesson immediately demonstrates itself to be useful.

We also watched a couple more movies that I highly recommend. "Cracking the Maya Code" was a Nova video about the anthropologists who  spent decades trying to understand the meaning of the Mayan hieroglyphs. This was one of Casia's favorites. She really enjoyed the artistic nature of the hieroglyphs and the puzzle to solve their meaning. Her other favorite was Nova's "Ghosts of Machu Picchu". In it, they showed the elaborate design and incredible engineering that went into building Machu Picchua. Casia really enjoys architecture and this video gave  her a fascinating look into the difficulties of building an enormous estate high atop the mountains and how the ancient architects were able to overcome the abundant rainfall that allowed it to remain intact five centuries later.

May 11, 2011


In science, Casia has been learning some basic biology this year. We started with evolution, and learning about the scientific process and how to use tools, like the microscope. Then I taught her a bit of chemistry, so she had some basic understanding going in for the unit on cells followed by cellular respiration. Recently, she's been studying the diversity of living organism and learning about the different kingdoms and their general characteristics. We started with the single-celled organisms and worked our way through fungi, plants and then animals.  

I thought it would be good background for Casia to understand the various animal phyla (plus it makes 20-Questions more fun!), and I found this great resource from PBS. They have a video series called The Shape of Life. It was an awesome eight episode guide to most of the animal phyla. They had some online sheets, Introduction to Phyla and Phylum Comparison Challenge, that I used as background and a study guide for Casia as well. It took us awhile to get through all the episodes, but each was just under an hour long, which was the perfect length. They were extremely well done; informative and entertaining. We both enjoyed them and I highly recommend the series.

Now we've moved on to humans. This week, Casia has learned about the skeletal system and we're moving on the muscles next. If I'm able to stay on target (always a big IF), we should get through the rest of basic human anatomy, with some genetics, reproduction and nutrition thrown in, by the end of the school year. Our units are quick (just a few days each), but I think it's giving her enough biology basics that I'll feel comfortable moving onto something new next year.

May 9, 2011

Changing Gears in History

A month or so ago, Jacob and I had discussed changing gears in history and focusing on more modern history. Jacob felt I was spending too long covering the ancient civilizations and didn't feel it was as important as modern history for Casia to learn. He thinks it's important to have a general understanding of history, but not necessary to go so far in depth. Casia is a depth person. She likes to sink her teeth into topics she enjoys and really spend time exploring them. And history is one of her favorite subjects. 

Admittedly, I've fallen behind in my schedule of where I wanted to be in the history curriculum. I wanted to cover all the major ancient civilizations through the world this school year. So far, I've gotten as far as the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. I was planning on tackling Mesopotamia next, but abbreviating the material covered. I was still hoping I could get to ancient China and India as well as the ancient civilizations of the Americas, at least in part, by the time the new school year rolled around and we started modern American History, from the Civil War to present.

But two weekends ago, we made a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. I hadn't been there since I was a kid, and Jacob and our children had never been, so it was really exciting. Casia loved the time period clothing, the old buildings, the tour of the Governor's Palace and the old-time feel of the place. When she found out some of the residences are privately owned, she declared that she too, someday, would live in Colonial Williamsburg. She also wanted to work there, and if possible, she'd like to have her next birthday party there as well. Needless to say, she has has started a new obsession.

Casia, hoop trundling in front of the Governor's Palace.

Casia and Garrett in the stockades.

For this reason, I've decided to rework the history curriculum (best part of homeschooling: the ability to change things up as the need or desire arises!) We are skipping the rest of the ancient civilizations for now and focusing on the Americas. Casia spent one week on catching up what happened between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Age of Exploration. I felt she needed to understand the changes in Europe and the Middle East to understand the drive for exploration and the technologies that made it possible. Currently, we are spending a couple of weeks learning about the indigenous people of the Americas and then we will move on to Colonization. 

Casia had some colonial history in 4th grade, but  it was a superficial covering and considering her new interest, I thought she'd enjoy some more depth. I'm still hoping to do modern history next year, but we'll have to do some history over the summer to get there. Living in Virginia, we are centrally located for early American history, so I'm hoping to be able to take a lot of exciting field trips!

May 5, 2011

Moving, Again!

Admittedly, I haven't been very good at keeping up my blog. This trend will likely continue the next month and a half. We're moving again, only this time, it's just down the road. Our new house is almost built (after living in a 170 year old farm house for a dozen years, and six months a a pint-sized rental, I'm very excited to have a brand-spanking-new house!) 

Our move is set for the beginning of next month. In some ways this move will be so much easier. We already know the area, the ride will only take ten minutes (instead of 17 hours), and I don't have to get a new drivers licenses or library card. But I still have to change over all the utilities. We're in a new school zone, so there's extra paperwork for that, and there is still the hassle of having to coordinate everything (moving truck, movers, PODS delivery, closing, cable installation; the list goes on and on). 

So once again, I will be homeschooling while I'm packing. Combining trips to the library with trips to pick up boxes. Packing dishes while Casia and I discuss her reading assignment. Making endless phone calls for a change of address while supervising Casia's online math curriculum. And the one aspect that actually makes this move more complicated than the last is that we are trying to continue the kids activities while we are moving. In December, Casia took a lot of time off from school. For a week, all activities ceased and the whole family focused on this one ginormous family task. This time, Jacob is coaching both Garrett's t-ball and Casia's softball. We actually had to schedule the truck rental pick-up around a game and a practice. Garrett is attending school, so I will be juggling the closing, installation appointments and being at the bus stop on time. Jacob is taking only one day off and I am continuing to homeschool Casia even through the week of moving, though I will be forced to abandon it that last day because everything has to be packed. I anticipate another whirlwind month!