Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Lewis and Clark Expedition.

This is an interactive chance to lead the Corps of Discovery by asking the student to make some difficult choices. Along with the interactive trail map and journals, E. was thoroughly engaged by the approach taken here. It may be a good idea first to view Ken Burns' excellent documentary about the expedition. The entire PBS website on the subject seems geared for home learners.
Good sites about specific skills:
We like this site by seventh grade cartographers.
Both of these Mapmaking destinations are tops.
Painting the Dakota (Seth Eastman, soldier and artist) A related area of study might be to research leaders of the Dakota nation, such as Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, Little Crow, Gall, and Crazy Horse.
For the journalistic approach
The home learner may:
Gather facts and biographical details about Lewis, Clark, and other Corps Members (ex: Meriwether Lewis Chosen by Jefferson to Lead Corps of Discovery; Sacagawea Joins Expedition West; etc.)
Recount challenges encountered by the Corps of Discovery
Specifiy exciting discoveries
Describe unusual encounters and events
Decide what else might be newsworthy
Remember: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Catchy headline, strong lead, no editorializing, and quoted comments or reactions from "newsmakers" pulled from journal entries.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Corps of Discovery.

When I worked as a guide at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, one of the most compelling facets of the man was his urgent focus on exploring the west. The Library of Congress site about Jefferson and western exploration is exceptional in this regard.

These are the texts we will study: Sacajawea by Joseph Bruchac, which came highly recommended by a librarian at the fantastic Southside Library in Santa Fe, is told in two viewpoints, the voices of Sacajawea and William Clark.

Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes, edited by Alvin M. Josephy Jr., is told by nine descendants of the Indians whose homelands were traversed as Lewis and Clark led their expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific. And Across America: The Lewis & Clark Expedition is a young adult textbook by Maurice Isserman. As background I'm also reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, a biography of Meriwether Lewis that also portrays his complex relationships with William Clark, Thomas Jefferson and other historical figures.

Monday, November 19, 2007

We did not expect this, as we rented the DVD simply to watch, but Amazing Grace would make a good starting point for discussing slavery, abolitionism, the British political system, or the historical figures William Wilberforce, John Newton, and William Pitt. This fine site provides study questions for students who have viewed the film.

Community service.

We participate in the local Meals on Wheels program, bringing nutritious food to senior citizens. The people E. has met while doing this have been an education in themselves. We're lucky to know them.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Homeschooling math.

In order to succeed at math, kids must attain mastery of each level topic before moving on. The solution we found is Math U See, which we like because...it works.

The core of this approach is that the main reason to learn math is to apply it in everyday situations. To acquire confidence and mastery, don't confuse memorization with understanding. Take a look and determine whether Math U See might be right for your home learner.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Call of the Wild by Jack London...

...is the next book we're reading. Photo of London in his twenties is from mishalov.com. Take a look at the Best Dog Story Ever for more about Jack London.
This is a perfect reader for seventh graders. The Call of the Wild is a "classic dog story" about Buck, a privileged, dignified dog who is taken from his southern Californian home and shipped to Alaska during the 1890's Gold Rush. Along the way, mistreated by a series of owners, he learns to survive as a member of a dog sled team. As a result, Buck soon realizes that in these more primitive settings, "the law of club and fang" overrides the rules of civilized society. With each new experience Buck regressess, or reverts to a more primitive state. Finally, an experience of loss challenges Buck's last ties to civilization.
Here is a helpful study guide and vocabulary list.
Good words to study from the book:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Re-emphasizing "point of view."

From the Scholastic website, here are three questions to ponder, chosen by E. after reading A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray, which is written from a dog's perspective. (Remember that Tale of Desperaux was written from the point of view of a mouse.) This book is probably targeted at younger readers, but this touching story is very useful in regard to POV.
Do you think Squirrel could tell the difference between gentle and harmful humans before they even touched her? What kind of behaviors would suggest to her whether a human might be kind or cruel?

During her lifetime, Squirrel spent time traveling with a companion (Bone, and then Moon) and later alone. If you were a stray dog, would you prefer to have company or to be on your own? Why?

Based on their interactions with Squirrel, Dr. Roth, Rachel, the Beckers, and Susan found that the stray dog had a quiet, gentle nature. If you were Squirrel, do you think you would be a gentle dog?

predator -- noun An animal that lives by hunting other animals for food. Lions, sharks, and hawks are predators.
abandon -- verb To leave forever. To give up.
wary -- adjective Cautious and careful.
haunch -- noun The hip, buttock, and upper thigh of an animal or person.
menace -- noun A threat or a danger.
rabid -- adjective Affected with rabies, an often fatal disease that can affect humans, dogs, bats, and other warm-blooded animals. Caused by a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord and is spread by the bite of an infected animal.
asphalt -- noun A black, tarlike substance mixed with sand and gravel and then rolled flat to make roads.
scrounge -- verb To get things from people without paying. To get or collect things with difficulty. (The common British parlance would be "cadge.")
stalk -- verb To hunt or track a person or an animal in a quiet, secret way. Fierce or dangerous, as in a vicious dog.
contraption -- noun A strange or odd device or machine.
instinct -- noun Behavior that is natural rather than learned.

These are engaging art history texts for middle school.

The Mona Lisa book is specifically geared toward passing the Advanced Placement art history exam.

These are good art history texts.

And the Mona Lisa book is specifically targeted toward passing the Advanced Placement art history exam.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Santa Fe trail study questions.

Name three of the Indian tribes living along the Santa Fe Trail.

The Santa Fe Trail ran between which two locations?

How long is the Santa Fe Trail?

When it first opened, how long would it take to travel?
Who was Josiah Gregg?

Who were Charles and William Bent?

Why were relatively few women ever on the SFT? Which trail were they more likely to take, and towards what ocean?

What animals did the Plains Indians hunt? What was one of the reasons the Indians attacked the wagon trains?

They would go from Missouri to Kansas following the Arkansas River into Colorado before turning south at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Then they followed the Purgatoire River (Picketwire) to Raton Pass. From Raton, the trail went south and swung around the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Santa Fe. In terms of terrain, what might have been the toughest part of the journey? Why might the travelers have preferred the Desert Route to the Mountain Route, even though it had a fifty mile stretch without any water?

Conestoga style wagons (six foot tall wheels; two tons of cargo; curved canvas tops; eight animals needed to pull one wagon) were also known as prairie schooners. Why?

What event led to the closure of the Santa Fe Trail in 1879?

The Santa Fe Trail had been used for 60 years, and it brought the Southwest into the United States.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Bent's Old Fort Junior Ranger program.

This weekend we visited Bent’s Old Fort, a national park in southern Colorado. Bent’s fort is an 1840’s trading post and it is made of adobe bricks. The fort is on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail where traders, trappers, travelers, and Plains Indian tribes came together peacefully for trade.
The main trading was done with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians for buffalo robes.
Bent's Old Fort national historic site is an outstanding destination for homeschooling families. The quality adobe reconstruction of an 1840s trading post on the Santa Fe trail is an example of what loving attention to detail can provide through living history. This isolated trading post, the Castle of the Plains, brought the Plains and Pueblo Indians, Mexicans, and Americans together for trade, and business, family, and political relationships developed that forever changed lives. Even the bookstore is of unusual quality, as it is stocked with many items accurate to the period, including powder horns, copper rum cups, shells, baskets, blankets, and hand-made leather pouches.
The Junior Ranger program at Bent's Old Fort is high-quality because instead of merely asking questions, the booklet elicits thought processes that put the kids in mind of the history that led to construction of the fort in the first place. For example, the first question is worded this way: "Imagine you are a trader out West in 1833 with Willam and Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain. You want to build a new trading post. Where can you place it so you can attract the most trade? How do you decide? Maybe you could look at a map and start drawing circles on it where you might want to build a trading post..." The booklet provides a map of the region and denotes rivers, the Trail, 1830s Mexico, Indian camps, buffalo herds, and beaver, and then leads the student to a logical conclusion about where to build the fort. This is one of the best parks we've visited, and that is really saying something, because the National Park Service Junior Ranger program is an underappreciated gem. For more photos, please visit our Santa Fe blog. For a look at our related stop at the Comanche National Grasslands, click here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Santa Fe trail study and assignment.

You have to reach Santa Fe, New Mexico, so you are taking the unusual step of traveling with the traders and people of commerce on a wagon train. (No stagecoach.) You keep a diary (words and drawings) of your experiences.

What is a typical day like on the journey? Be as descriptive as possible and don't leave out the dangers you'll face. Include images and facts from Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies. Why does riding the trail seem to have a “sanative” or healing effect on health problems?

Use/depict some of these words and phrases, and add your own:
wagon corral/hollow square (p. 43)
cache (p. 47)
buffalo wallows
traders escorted only as far as Arkansas River (p. 19)
dressing for the prairie (p.33)
driver’s phrases: “Go! Catch up! All set!” (p. 35)
kitchenware (skillet, frying pan, campkettle, coffee pot, tin cup, butcher’s knife) (p. 39)
Cimarron River
oxen, mules or horses?
bustle in Santa Fe when caravan arrives (p. 80)

Since we'll be visiting Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, include what you learn there in your diary.

Bent's Old Fort area map.

Pressure on the plains.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Map: PBS.org

Sunday, November 4, 2007

When you're studying the heyday of the Santa Fe trail, riding lessons are a good idea. E., it turns out, is a natural.