The 2016 Great Field Trip: Pioneer Style

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Just one of the many Laura Ingalls Wilder books she has enjoyed

Over this last year, Bookworm Beauty discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder. She devoured everything she could get her hands on that centered around Laura. Her mild obsession eventually morphed into a love and appreciation of studying the life and times of the westward expansion.

We tiptoed through our already planned History Studies while she relentlessly pursued studying this particular time period of American History. I relented. I went along with it. And it became contagious.

Then it happened.

I began sharing with Bookworm Beauty (and Sweetness who showed a bit of interest) my experiences of growing up in Nebraska. I shared the field trips to Stuhr Museum, Pioneer Village and The Pony Express. Her eyes widened, if she were a puppy I’d say that she began to drool. It was settled… we were taking a road trip.

The Westward Expansion

The details swirled in my head as I tried to figure out the logistics. Is this a family trip? What is our route? How long do we plan for? What time of the year?

I began talking it through with a couple of homeschooling girlfriends  (dropping subtle hints along the way) that just maybe this could be a girl’s trip? They took the bait… hook… line… and sinker… Neither of us had any idea of what was in store for us.

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Now… to convince the men…

Surprisingly, when I brought up my ideas with Handsome, there was no push back. None of anything I expected. You see, he is an awesome Dad and he does not enjoy missing a single thing that we do. I was more than surprised that he did not want to participate in this activity (maybe he was celebrating the closure of the Laura Ingalls Wilder obsession…?)

Handsome was incredibly supportive and offered suggestions of places to add to our itinerary. Conferring with the other ladies, I found that they were given the same support.

Then came the planning.

We settled on a 6 day trip. Our plan was to leave Colorado heading East through Kansas, then North up to Beatrice to our first stop at the Homestead National Monument. We would then head to Grand Island, set up camp and make arrangements to visit my ailing mother. The following day would be our biggest day of play; we would head to the State Fair and see Chris Tomlin in concert! On the third day, we planned to visit Stuhr Museum and have a leisurely evening at the campgrounds. Day four would be a really long day. We would need to break down camp early and then be on the road to Kearney to visit the Platte River Rd Archway Monument – which by the way has a fantastic annual rate of $25 for homeschooling families – SCORE! After the Archway we would continue West towards Jailhouse Rock, Courthouse Rock and Chimney Rock and then finally head to Guernsey, Wyoming where we would need to set up camp – very late. Our last day would be spent touring a cool fort area in Guernsey, where wagon ruts were still visible.

This was going to be a phenomenal trip! There are 12 children still at home between our 3 families. The decision was made to only take the older girls and an infant. We were making this trek with 3 women, 5 girls ages 7-11, and the baby. We would be prepared to load up a 12 passenger van and hit the road early one morning.

I have the ability of being very detailed and structured. It is not in my nature, normally. But if I have a budget and a task, I’ll work it to death and figure out a way. I am very resourceful and enjoy finding a way to make things fit. Combine those skills with my girlfriends and together we had mad menu making skills. We literally planned each and every meal, snack and drink.

We prepacked accordingly, cleverly deciding that we simply could not do this trip without coffee and did not want to rely on the gas station every morning to meet that need. With that in mind, I pre-made 2 gallons of coffee with creamer and refrigerated them. Keep in mind, it was the end of August – a time when iced coffee is still a refreshing treat. Of course, we could always heat up a cup on the camp stove for the diehard hot coffee drinkers (me).

We precooked the taco salad meat, sausage and bacon (yes, must take bacon) and we pre-cut our veggies that would be a part of our initial meals. We knew that veggies were not going to keep for several days so the first meals were heavy on fresh foods; while the later meals relied on sandwiches, canned chili and similar items.

We did not want to take anything unnecessary, not even ice. I know, that sounds funny… certainly we would need ice. We simply did not want to take anything that would not be used and the idea of dumping out loads of water from the coolers daily (and dealing with wet items) was not appealing. Ice blocks were also out of the question as they would take up useful space and we would not have a way to refreeze them. We decided to fill 8 1-gallon jugs with our 9.5pH alkaline ionized water and froze them ahead of time. These served as our ice blocks and as they would thaw, they would be some of our drinking water – refreshingly cold drinking water! We would also pack an additional 7 gallons of drinking water but it would not be pre-frozen or even cold.

The plans were written in stone. There would be no turning back.

Educational Details

It never comes as a surprise to me how valuable the overall details in life are. Our recent review of Sentence Diagramming: Beginning by The Critical Thinking Co.™ is no exception to this fact.

The Boy, our lively 6 and a half-year-old first-grader, struggles with math. He does not struggle with math the way most people envision from that statement but rather he struggles with being able to tell you how he simply just knows the answer to the mathematical equations surrounding him (and oftentimes his older sisters). He sees 242 + 312 and says “556” without blinking an eye. However, when we start working through the problem itself and talk about the place value and such, he is literally a deer in the headlights then shakes his head and says, “I don’t get that and it’s 556.” There is much work to be done with teaching fundamentals and details to kids that seem to just get it naturally.

The mathematical example I gave is simply an example. We deal with the same sort of detail issues with Bookworm Beauty and Language Arts. Again, it really is not much of a surprise… her name is Bookworm Beauty for a reason… and typically avid readers appear to be ahead in the language game. It has been apparent that language comes to her the way math comes to The Boy. As we have worked through her language arts lessons, she typically sails through the lessons, and oftentimes looks up as if to say, “Really??? This is a waste of my time…” Ahhhh, but when we dig a bit deeper we find things are just not quite as they seem. Yes, she understands language and appears to grasp excellent concepts… but she can not always explain the why. Language is rhythmic and oftentimes is nearly poetic. Someone with the gift of language can hear the nuances of such and things just make sense…. they read with inflection and they write with ease… just don’t ask them to identify a prepositional phrase!

When we sat down and completed the first lesson of Sentence Diagramming: Beginning (which is designed for 3-12th graders – and beyond), I wondered if the program was really going to be a necessity to us or would it simply be another supplement to soak up some time. The first lesson focused on the how and why of diagramming sentences and then took students through identifying simple subjects and main verbs. This was easy, to say the least. However, as we moved through the lessons, things got a bit tougher. We have not finished the program, which ends on compound predicate adjectives and nouns, but we will. We got stuck on adverbial prepositional phrases and seemed to spend more time than anticipated there. I have to admit, I had some nightmare flashbacks on the same topics from my school years.

I have found that having the diagramming structure that Sentence Diagramming: Beginning offers gives us a really good framework to work with. Although Bookworm Beauty has done well in sentence writing before, now she has a greater understanding of the structure of sentences and her writing continues to improve overall.

We will definitely be finishing this 68-page workbook and then I plan on purchasing an additional one to use with Sweetness for next year. I am thrilled that they are a mere $12 for a high-quality consumable workbook with easy tear-out pages. This may seem a side note, but I really like the tear out pages because it keeps my children focused on the lesson at hand instead of getting distracted by the upcoming lessons (am I the only one that experiences this?) I will also be looking forward to additional levels of Sentence Diagramming to further challenge Bookworm Beauty. I have not found anything to indicate additional levels or release dates but the nature of the title Sentence Diagramming: Beginning indicates that it is just the beginning. (smile).

Now for the really good stuff… when I visited the website of The Critical Thinking Co.™ I discovered that they are truly an incredible resource! They offer several products to support education from PreK to beyond 12th grade in multiple subjects including: Critical Thinking, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Test Prep, Tests and Technology. Products are available in various formats including book format, eBooks, downloadable software as well as apps. They even have full curriculum programs are available for grades PreK-6th.

I am a happy Momma. You see, I love language and I am happy to see my children learn the details of language, not just how to use it.


Native American Studies: A Review


We have been really enjoying our American History studies this year. I am not sure if it is just a celebration of finally finishing our state studies or that we have truly been getting into the overall history of America. Either way, we have been winding ourselves through20161028_141311 America the Beautiful Part 1, which is a fantastic study of America from 1000 through 1877. Either I do not remember my childhood history studies or we simply did not cover these time periods as thoroughly.

Regardless, the timing is impeccable – which it always seems to be – as we were literally turning the last page on our studies of early Native Americans and about to begin our studies on European settlers when we were selected to review Many Nations a 4-week micro study on Native American nations by Homeschool Legacy.

We have happily set our History book up on a shelf and have been delving deeper into our Native American studies with this micro study. My first thought was how easy it was to access… it came as a PDF attachment through in an email… can it get any easier? I printed it out (I know, digital studies are designed to reduce paper). It took me right around 30 minutes to peruse the study to find out what would be expected of me, and the kiddos, over the next couple of weeks. Although this is designed to be a 4 week micro study, I really wanted to finish it in its entirety before writing my review and because I had taken a break from our normal American History studies, of which we had a schedule for.20161028_164933

At first glance I felt that the study was too simplified. It seemed exceptionally short. It is listed as a Once-A-Week 4 week Micro-Study, so I should not have had such high expectations on its content. Although it was short, we still got a lot out of it. I honestly do not know if we would have found the study as rich had we not been previously studying the same era. It may stand on its own just fine and we 20161102_194943would still have found value, especially at a mere $12.

Homeschool Legacy has so many wonderful unit studies to choose from. These are great for anyone wanting a nice change of pace, a history unit study or just a supplement to what they are already using. After looking through their store, we found a few that we may enjoy as another supplement to our History studies. Early Settlers in America would fit right along with our upcoming units. What I’m really looking forward to though is the Constitution Quest Game. We love board games and what better way is there to reinforce learning about the United States Constitution?

My favorite moment during our review of Many Nations took place on the day that the kids found their tomahawks that they made during the first lesson. Unfortunately, the Make a Tomahawk link in the guide was a dead link, but it inspired us to find another kid friendly instructable on YouTube. The kids had made their tomahawks out of paper and they were surprisingly sturdy. We had been enjoying some of the most amazing Indian summer weather and when the kids finished their school lessons for the day they ran outside to play. I had decided to peak into their play after hearing the screen door close for a fourth time and I found them using the swing set frame for building their Indian longhouses, each carrying their tomahawk. They hunted. They battled. They even took an intruder captive (Daddy). Later they buried their hatchet – a sign of their peace treaty. 

This made me smile.

The kids have learned about Indian life and learning is what matters.