Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Last Teenager

On December 4th, 2010, AH became a teenager!

AH celebrated with friends by hosting a sleep-over

The next day we celebrated as a family with a dinner chosen by the birthday boy.

Big brother made the trip home to celebrate!

Big Sis and MB watch as AH tries to blow out his candles.
Happy 13th Birthday, AH!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Unplanned Learning

A few months ago I signed up at C-SPAN's website to receive a free presidential poster.  It came to our house and I promptly put it in my "I'll get to this later" pile.  I completely forgot about it until I was cleaning off my desk a month later.  I opened it up and it was HUGE.  What was I going to do with this very large poster?  I was tempted to give it away. I folded it up and brought it down to the kitchen where AH was hanging out.  I showed him the poster and started unfolding it.  He was fascinated!  We laid it out on the kitchen floor and sat looking at all the information at our fingertips.  Not only did it include a list of presidents, but when they were born, other public service posts they had held, military service, what party they belonged to, America's population along the timeline, technology, supreme court rulings, constitutional amendments, and more!  We must have spent a good 45 minutes just looking and talking.  I wouldn't have considered this part of our "school day", but AH loved it so I couldn't just give this goldmine away.  It needed to be up, on display, somewhere we spend a lot of time.  Hmmmm....

The poster on our kitchen wall.

You wouldn't believe what we have done with this poster.  During dinner AH has taken to quizzing us on our presidential trivia (I am the worst!) and asking to be quizzed.  One day during breakfast he wondered just how many years of military service had been served by our presidents altogether.  He not only added all the years up, but then decided to make a chart with this information.  He found this exercise so interesting that it led to a series of charts that now grace the wall above the poster: Presidential states, birthdays, political parties, and more.

Years of military service.  No, Eisenhower did not serve the most years.

Presidential parties

Presidential birthday months
None of this has been planned.  It is AH's continuing interest in this poster and subject matter that has made learning history, social studies, and government so easy and so much fun.  He blew me away last week when he listed the first 8 presidents in order.  I asked if he could list all of them. He needed only one hint (he forgot LBJ).  I was reminded that learning occurs when you can take advantage of an interest and encourage a spark of curiosity to become a flame!

My kitchen won't win any decorating awards, but we sure have fun!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


We don't often go on vacation or travel, so when my husband suggested visiting his sister and her family in San Antonio, Texas for Thanksgiving I was ecstatic!  It had been 5 years since we were there and that time was busy with wedding bells and all the activity which surround such events.  AH was pretty excited, too.  He and his cousin, CN, are very close.  Whether it's been a couple of months or a year, they seem to be able to pick up where they leave off.  Visiting San Antonio also gave me inspiration for a unit study we completed before we left: The Alamo, of course!  AH had been there before, but was 2 or 3 years old at the time.  Here was the perfect opportunity to study some history and to reinforce that learning with an exciting field trip that included a plane ride!

I found some wonderful resources to use in our unit study:
Inside the Alamo by Jim Murphy
A phenomenal resource! I checked out 7 or 8 books on the subject, but this became our main guide through the unit study. We simply read one or two chapters each day and discussed the subject matter.  There are anecdotes, sidebars, maps and beautiful photographs and sketches which enhance the story.  The history is so thorough, I didn't feel the need to use any other book beside the one listed below.  As I was looking up the link to the book, I found a short study guide to the book.  I didn't use it but wanted to link to it for your convenience.
The Alamo website
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas have done an amazing job on this website.  There are facts, activity pages and curriculum, so I encourage you to explore this rich website.  Unfortunately there are several broken links but there are many other resources on the site.   Here are the resources we enjoyed:
Lesson plan for 4th grade
Lesson plan for 7th grade
Each of these extensive lesson plans has worksheets, coloring pages, a time-line, a map, diagrams of the Alamo and puzzles.
If you find that you can visit the Alamo, they have a history hunt list, a patch program and a young courier program for kids to complete.  AH wasn't interested in completing these, so I have no idea whether they are worth it or not.
Susanna of the Alamo by John Jakes
My 12 year old boy didn't enjoy this as much since it is written for a younger audience, but it did have a woman's perspective that I wanted to bring to the study.  We often hear that no one survived the Alamo, but women, children and slaves did survive and this book explores why Santa Anna released these few.

This had to be one of the simplest unit studies we've done.  AH didn't want to put together a poster or a power point presentation as we usually do, so we simply read, discussed and did the activity sheets. I did put together some "trading cards" with pictures of key men and women of this time period.  On the back, AH then wrote 3 interesting facts about each person.  I will upload the templates in the future since am finding it difficult to do right now. Of course, the big event was visiting the site of the battle.  Since photography isn't allowed within the Alamo, we don't have too many pictures to show you.  But here is what we have:

Our whole family in front of the Alamo.

We stopped by the Alamo on a Segway tour of downtown San Antonio.

San Fernando Cathedral where Santa Anna would climb to the top (of the old section, not visible) and survey his troops and the Alamo.

CN (left), Doug (AH's dad) and AH (right) enjoy a game of Balderdash with the family

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterans Day

Having two grandfathers who served in the military, I thought it was a good day for AH to visit two memorials in our little town in honor of Veteran's Day. 

I gave AH the camera and this is what he saw...

Thursday, November 11, 2010


My son, AH,  and I entered our 4th year of homeschooling on November 1st.  I cannot believe my youngest is a 7th grader!  He is also our only child living in the house.  Lots of changes this year.  Our 19 year old, AD,  is off to college this fall and I know AH misses him.  Little brother had a hard time when his big sis, AN, moved to college and I'm seeing some of the same things this time around even though AH is 6 years older.  Dinner time is when he seemed to feel the loss of his sister the most and I'm finding this to be true this time around.  Dinner is a very different affair without AD.  I guess I never realized how AD would lead the conversation each night because we have much quieter dinners these days.  He was home a couple of weekends ago and it was wonderful to hear these words again: "So, Dad, how was your day today?" and "Mom, guess what?"
 There is a big hole in our lives.  We will figure it out, but change is tough.
 We make our way through this change by forming new traditions and looking forward to the times when big sister and big brother are here.   One such change is to watch a movie or documentary together each night.  We started out watching each of the Harry Potter movies in anticipation of the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, but it has been so much fun that we save the documentaries we watch for school until dad gets home.  Last week it was Luther (happy belated Reformation Day!)
Another way to cope is to keep busy and we have had one of the busiest falls of our lives! It seems we are averaging 2 to 3 field trips, clubs or park days per week! Here is a sampling of our adventures so far this fall:
Got the new Lego Minotaur Game and played it A LOT
Took a class at Como Zoo: Life Through Time
A Millipede, one of the many examples of life shown to us during the 8 week Life Through Time class
Art Club
Searched for fossils at a fossil class

Found one!
Found some of Dad's childhood toys while helping Grandpa clean out storage...

AH and Dad try out the boxing gloves found.

Harvest Fest.  And that is the worlds heaviest pumpkin and it did weigh 1,820.5 lbs!

Another monster pumpkin at Harvest Fest

A Harry Potter Halloween party

Carving a pumpkin

Draco Malfoy

Celebrated Big Brother's birthday

Friday, October 1, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ball Park...

Last week AH and I headed to Minneapolis to take a tour of the Minnesota Twins' brand new stadium: Target Field.  Since baseball is BIG here at our house, this field trip wasn't met by the usual teenage indifference that seems to permeate our discussions lately.  We are Twins fans and we had been to a game earlier in the season, but we wanted to see some of the areas that aren't open to the general public during games.  The cost was $15.00 for adults and $7.00 for kids, so it was one of the more costly field trips we've taken, but both AH and I felt it was worth the money.  I'll let the pictures tell the story from here on out:
The Golden Glove outside the stadium

Kirby Puckett's image at the Legends Club

The stadium is filled with wonderful images and quotes

Wonderful quotes by TV and Radio announcers

The view from the press box

On the Budweiser Roof Deck

The visitors locker room was cool, but

 the visitors dugout was even cooler!!
All in all..a very, very nice day!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cruisin' Down the River

AH in front of the Mississippi Queen
AH and I got a chance to take a narrated riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River last week.  We learned some great facts about Minneapolis and the Mississippi river.  But the best part was going through the St. Anthony lock.  Check out the photos we took that day!

Entering the lock
Exiting the lock, 50 feet lower!
AH thought the doors looked like the gates of Mordor (Lord of the Rings)
AH was fascinated with this whole field trip
Having fun together!