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A Visit to Washington Crossing State Park and Yorktown, VA

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

It’s  COOooooold here!  That was the perfect time to visit Washington Crossing State Park. That’s where George Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night (Dec. 25-26, 1776) and turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.  I told the kids they should take off their shoes and nice warm jackets for a real authentic experience. They weren’t buying it, but we did enjoy our visit and got a lot out of it!

Each Christmas, people re-enact Washington crossing the Delaware in the huge boats you see in the collage below. If you live in the area or can make a trip to eastern Pennsylvania, you can see that December 7th (full dress rehearsal) and December 25th (2014). See the Washington Crossing State Park website for more details.

There was a short film (about 20 minutes long) where they house a huge replica of the famous painting by the German painter, Emanuel Leutze. This was the first move in a surprise attack against Hessian soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.

There was a small museum and then you could go out and visit the various buildings with a guided tour. The edges of the Delaware had a sheen of ice, but certainly nothing like the painting above!

There are so many fabulous learning opportunities here on the East coast. We talked a lot about our visit to Yorktown, Virginia earlier this fall. Life got away from me and I didn’t write about it on the blog, but this is the perfect post to talk about our experience and share our photos!

Yorktown, Virginia was the base of British General Charles Cornwallis during the siege of 1781. This was the last battle of the American Revolution. George Washington moved his army down south to Yorktown; meanwhile, the French fleet defeated the British fleet and cut off Cornwallis’ retreat. Cornwallis surrendered his army of more than 7000 on Oct. 19, 1781.

We toured the museum at Yorktown, but the real winner for the kids was the outside encampment where they really got to explore. 

DD got to participate in the firing of a cannon too:

By far the best part of Yorktown was when we learned about the medical conditions during the Revolutionary War (1775-1781).  We learned how bullets were removed, how limbs were amputated (without anesthesia), and how they dealt with illness.  We were all very grateful to live in this day and age!

We absolutely love being able to travel and learn on the go. You might enjoy browsing through the “Trips We’ve Taken” category which highlights our adventures away from home (or use the Search This Blog feature if any of our posts are of interest)!

  • Travel School: Homeschooling on the Go!
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Algonquian Indians (Powhatan Village in Jamestown, VA)
  • What? A Safari in Ohio to see Rhino, Giraffe, and More? It’s True!
  • COSI, Hands-On Science Center 
  • Tecumseh! — An Extraordinary Outdoor Drama in Ohio
  • Our Visit to West Virginia – Harpers Ferry, Adventure Ropes Course, Blackwater Falls
  • National Aquarium in Baltimore
  • A Tour of Jamestown, Virginia – Fabulous for Kids!
  • Wild Horses and Light House Tour – Outer Banks, NC
  • Fun in the Blue Ridge Mountains (VA)
  • Garden of the Gods – Manitou Cliff Dwellings (Colorado Springs)
  • Olympic Training Center and Ghost Town Museum — Colorado Springs
  • Renaissance Festival – Fun Family Day (Maryland Season Opens Soon)
  • Arches National Park — A Must See for Families!
  • Back From Our Trip Out West! (Colorado at 10,000 Feet)
  • Pretty Pacific Northwest (Washington State)
  • Be a Weekend Paleontologist – Fossil Collecting Trips
  • Traveling this summer? Here are some other trips we’ve taken…
  • Antietam, Civil War Battle Site in Maryland
  • Global Village, Heifer International (Maryland)
  • The Tourist Town of Branson, Missouri
  • Road Trip to the Smokies (Gatlinburg, TN)
  • Aquarium of the Smokies
  • An Amazing Nature Center in Nashville, TN
  • Homeschool Week at Colonial Williamsburg — Hands On Experiences at Colonial Williamsburg
  • The Mansion with 32 Secret Doors (Washington D.C.)
  • Arkansas: The Plantation Agriculture Museum, Toltec Indian Mounds
  • Baltimore Aquarium
  • Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s Home
  • The Liberty Bell (Philadelphia); Statue of Liberty; Ellis Island
  • Tennessee: Grey’s Fossil Site, Davy Crockett’s Cabin, Parthenon (Nashville)
  • Jamestown, Virginia, Powhatan Indians
  • La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles
  • Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
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What We’ve Been Up to In Our Homeschool Lately (Grades 1, 4, 6)

Monday, November 24th, 2014

These days I tend to write about our activities in separate posts, but occasionally I like to talk about the flow of our homeschool in general.  We have had a busy fall — not just because the kids are involved in a lot of activities, but also fitting in the other things that take up time (trips, doctors appointments, and on and on!).

We made a conscious decision to (try to!!)  keep our days as free and clear as possible because our evenings are so full.  LD is a competitive gymnast. He trains 4 days a week for 4 hours in the evenings. His season goes from November to April and we have to travel out of town for his meets, so it’s a time consuming sport.  DD continues to enjoy aerials which she does 3 or 4 times a week. DD resumed art class this fall at an amazing art studio nearby.  This year she goes to an evening class rather than doing the homeschool (day-time) class she did a couple of years ago.  She also is a Junior in Girl Scouts and she absolutely loves that!  Both of my older kids also sing in a children’s choir.  ED was in gymnastics (pre-team) last year, but decided she really wanted to try rhythmic gymnastics instead. Because of my health issues, it took months before we were able to let her try it out.  Last May she started rhythmic as a beginner… quickly jumping into pre-team and in October she joined the team.  Because rhythmic gymnastics involves different elements (ribbon, ball, clubs, etc.) she is not competing this year and is just learning the routines and stuff.  She LOVES it (with hearts and smiley faces!).  We’re glad she’s so happy!  She also does Daisies and has a fabulous Girl Scout leader. Her troop is extremely active.  I am a co-leader organizing the activities for the Brownies in the (joint) troop.

The other thing that has been demanding on our time has been various doctor’s appointments.  Just recently I went back to Johns Hopkins and got my new BAHA processor. Last year as many of you know, I had horrendous ear issues and six ear surgeries. In August I had to have my balance system (semi-circular canal

s,etc), the bones, and ear drum removed on my left side leaving me deaf in that ear (see this post). At the same time I had a procedure to place an abutment that in my skull. Now that the bone has grown back around that area, I could get the BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid).  I love it!  It’s not the same quality of sound as with my hearing aid (or ear!!), but I’m so grateful we have this type of technology!  LD says I look “cool” with the processor stuck on my head. I feel a little like a cyborg!

Because I had so many operations last year and was  sea-sick so much of last year, I was not as active as is normal for me. (I’m a long distance runner).  I had some problems with my hip and the pain was so intense I finally went to a specialist.  I have a bulging disc. LD is also nursing a minor injury (with his knee and Achilles tendon), so we’re both in PT twice a week. We bring a mountain of books for the girls.  They are really patient and do really well waiting for us.  Anyway,

A lot of people ask me if we do classes or co-ops with other homeschoolers.  We have some *amazing* wonderful homeschool friends and do trips and outings with them, but we do not do any formal classes with a group such as CC (classical conversations) or any of the other co-op options in our area.  That is partly because I *love* finding engaging activities for science and history. As it is, I find it challenging to fit in what I have planned!

So what exactly are we up to?Science:It’s pretty apparent from our posts that we’re studying Earth Science. I shared the latest hands-on activities we’ve done. We also have watched an amazing program (on Netflix) called Amazing Planet. It talks about all the topics we’ve covered… Earth’s early geologic history;  the super-continent, Pangaea; plate tectonics and more.  We also borrowed one of the Great Courses videos from a friend to watch some of the lectures on Geology.  (The Great Courses are DVD courses with 30-40 lectures by renowned professors from around the country.)  I suspect these courses will be a great option for us as the kids get older, though the one we watched wasn’t as captivating as the one by Discovery.We still have volcanoes and earthquakes to discuss/cover in the next month.

History: We have been studying Native Americans this semester. As we move along, we’ve also been covering American geography.  After we finished with the Indians of the Southeast region, we branched off to do a mini-unit on the West.  I have a *lot* more to share about that, so I’ll just leave it at that!

Math: LD (age 11) is mostly working through Math Reasoning (Level G) and PreAlgebra by the Art of Problem Solving.  DD (age 9) is working on fractions and still practicing various math fact skills (long division, multiplication and so forth). Lately, she has mostly been using Math Reasoning (Level F) and Spectrum Math (Grade 5).  ED is also using Math Reasoning (Level B) and has been doing various mini-units with coins, skip-counting and time.

Writing: We still do writing workshop most every day and DD and ED continue to work through the Journal Writing Prompts I made back in September.

Grammar: LD and DD need to go over some basics of grammar. We did commas a while back and are now working on semi-colon rules.  (I’ll share that at some point soon!)  We need to get cracking with Writing with Ease.  ED is using Write Source skillsbook and a Kumon writing books. She’s making good headway with that.

Spelling: LD and DD continue to work through some spelling lists I’ve put together for them on Spelling City.  They wind up practicing about twice a week.  ED is working through All About Spelling (an *amazing* program!!).  She finished Level 1 and is now on Level 2.  DD recently asked when she would start doing spelling (from AAS) again.  Maybe in January?

German: The kids did the two online stories and we worked on comprehension and vocabulary with those.  In the past few weeks, we have only been using the German grammar book.  We seem to get to that just 3 times a week at the moment.

Reading: The kids all love to read.  Reading happens all the time. They each get up and read while eating breakfast. LD is  currently reading the Maze Runner series. DD devours books and has read the entire Percy Jackson series (and at least a half-dozen books about Greek mythology from the library) plus the Ranger’s Apprentice series and has started on  Dragonrider.  ED is making her way through the Magic Tree House books, but also reads various readers. She  read Gold Rush, Pompei, Wagon Train, The Hill of Fire and other short books.

Index Card Review: We still are using index cards to go over terms, vocabulary, Civics questions and other information. It’s been a really great addition to our homeschool and helps me keep track of the specifics since they all have different skills/needs.

I talked about the changes we made earlier this fall to our routine here: Creating Daily Homeschool Procedures and Routines 

Music: We’ve had a lot of fun with music this semester. The kids practice the piano most every day.  We’ve also been working on some songs in our homeschool. They have learned the Star Spangled Banner and My Country Tis of Thee.  They are also learning Blowing in the Wind by Bob Dylan. (I play the guitar and we all sing together.)

What does our day look like? It’s hard to describe what our day looks like. Sometimes we start separately; other times we all do a subject together.  Often we start on the subject that we didn’t get to (or skimped out on the day before!)  The kids all need Mom time where I quiz them to review information, practice skipping counting songs, and help them in certain subject areas (math, German, grammar).

Like most homeschoolers, we are quick to take advantage of other learning opportunities… I’ll share our neat adventures in Pennsylvania with you tomorrow!


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Pumpkin Muffins

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

It’s the perfect time of year to make pumpkin muffins for breakfast! We’ve been making these for years.

We love these muffins so much that by the time I got around to taking a picture, there were only two muffins left!  These are pretty easy to make and my kids love them.  It’s the season for pumpkins, so it’s the perfect time to share this recipe.

You need a very, very large mixing bowl. This recipe makes 24-30 muffins.
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2-3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup apple sauce (I use applesauce in lieu of some of the oil. The original recipe from my friend, Michelle, called for 1 cup oil, without any applesauce.)
1/2 cup oil
1 can pumpkin (15 oz can)
*stir the flour in last, just until the lumps are gone:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour (or 3 cups all purpose flour total, or yesterday I made them with 2 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 cup white wheat flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

Place in muffin tins (sometimes I use paper cupcake things, sometimes I don’t, but be sure to grease the muffin tins if you don’t use the paper cupcake holder things)

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350F (170C)
The muffins freeze well.

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Tags: | Categories: Homeschool Den

Homeschooling Through the Holidays

Friday, November 21st, 2014

One of the most stressful things for me is having day after day of unexpected (or unanticipated) “lost” homeschool days when nothing gets done. I think that what bothers me is not that I don’t expect them this time of year, but that I don’t think about it and acknowledge them in advance.  Then I have this nagging feeling like I didn’t live up to some in-the-sky (my own!) expectations. To avoid this, it’s really helpful to get a realistic idea of what’s going to happen if you plan to homeschool through the holiday season… say from mid-November through the first week of January or so.

Homeschool or Not? The first decision your family has to make is to what degree your family will continue homeschooling. Many homeschoolers I know homeschool through the summer, but take off for a month or so around this time of year. Others just take off two weeks or so when the public school students are out. Still others fit in homeschooling here and there as it works for their family.  No matter what route your family takes, it is useful to get a realistic idea of what your homeschool can accomplish while juggling the other demands on your family time.

Take Stock of Homeschooling Goals: Jot down some of the units, activities, and basic studies you hope to get through this holiday season. Our list looks something like this:

  • Finish the Earth Science Unit
  • Finish the West unit and work on (finish?) our Native American research projects
  • Holiday math sheets (esp. for ED and DD)
  • Christmas crafts (we’ll do a few during our homeschool time)
  • Basic reading, writing, math
  • Language Arts — Finish the grammar rules review (We’ve done commas, capitalization, apostrophes… and still have semi-colons, hyphens to work through).

Relax on Homeschooling When We Need To: Give yourself permission to miss a day, a couple of days, a week!  Homeschooling is a journey not a destination!  I suspect the memories of a fun, stress free holiday will be more be more powerful to the kids as adults than any “homeschooling goal” we might have ticked off the ole checklist.  It’s important to keep it all in perspective! So, with that in mind, it’s good to have an overview in advance of what days you can homeschool and what days you won’t. Here’s one way to plan for that at a glance (you can click on this to print it out or just do this on your own homeschool planning calendar):

Homeschooling Through the Holidays

If you want to just print out the free winter calendar pages you see above, you can visit this post and print those pages in full (8 1/2 by 11 size): Free Winter Calendar (Nov. 2014 to Feb. 2015)

The other elements to making the holiday season smooth and stress free are the holiday tips for any busy family.

That busy time of year is definitely upon us. Just this weekend we had to juggle LD and DD’s children’s choir concert, two birthday parties, an auction/party (of course, bringing a dish to share), and LD’s gymnastics meet.  All that entailed two separate trips to the grocery store  and a run to the store for birthday gifts for friends.  Whew! Weekends like that are enough to let your head spin… and it seems like from here on out things only get busier!

So what’s a busy family to do?

Plan, plan, plan — If I had only had the ingredients I needed and if I had thought ahead about the birthday gifts, life would have been much calmer and smoother this past weekend!  This time of year, I especially need to know what’s coming out. I already shared the calendar pages I printed out.  I need a packet of paper sheets to jot things down in addition to the permanent family calendar this is on the fridge.  I use those for meal planning, computer work, holiday and homeschool programs and things that I need to keep track of and interfere with homeschooling:


Take stock of holiday goals/plans — Even before planning out “what to do” and how to fit it all in (see the next section) it’s a good idea to jot down what’s important to you and your family. Some of the things that might be important to your family?

  • Sending out holiday cards
  • Decorating the inside of the house
  • Decorating the outside of the house
  • Doing Santa’s Elf Activities like this cute set of Christmas Elf 2014 ideas over at Enchanted Homeschooling Mom
  • Work Parties
  • Decorating Cookies
  • Church services
  • Holiday concerts
  • Tours of the local holiday lights
  • Historic sites, Amusement park holiday tours
  • Reading Christmas books
  • Christmas caroling
  • Family traditions

As you write our your list, you might get a sense of dread and “not again” … Then re-assess what’s truly important. Perhaps bump it off your list this year and don’t get caught up doing things that aren’t meaningful.

House and Holiday Plans — Once you’ve looked through your goals/plans, create your checklist of things that need to be done and start planning early. Write them in pencil on the calendar! When exactly will you make the holiday cards? What day will you do x,y,z Elf Activity?  There’s a website called Organized Christmas that has printables for getting every nook and cranny of your home ready for the holidays, keeping track of purchases and more. Jot down your goals each week and try to get things done early. For example, if you know your guest room will be used this holiday season, that’s something you can get done earlier than later as more gets crammed into the December weekends.

Holiday Budget and Gift Buying — It’s a good idea to keep track of the purchases you make this season. There’s not point buying early if you lose track of what you’ve purchased, packages get shoved to the back of the closet to keep them away from prying eyes and then you buy more stuff. There are holiday budget planning pages over at Organized Christmas or gift ideas planner page or you can just create your own.   Hubby created a google-doc spread sheet for us this year that’s working well because we can both update the list online.

Whew, I guess I had a lot to say on this topic! Now it’s time to get some things checked off my “to-do” list!  Hope you found this post helpful!

May you have some happy homeschooling AND happy holidays in the coming month or two!  ~Liesl

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-er Sound Spelling Printable

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

This fall my older two have been using Spelling City and going through lists of words (that I create). We stepped away from our beloved spelling program, All About Spelling, for a few months.  I noticed that DD needs a bit of review on some of the /er/ sound words so I typed up this spelling sort for her.  We cut out all the words on the page below. (Click on either of the two pictures below to download and print out the /er/ sound spelling sort pages.) She mixed them up and then sorted them into the proper categories:

After sorting them into categories for several days, I gave her the blank sheet and had her write in examples in each column. The next day she came back and added more words. Then she did the spelling sort again and on the final day she added in all the words she missed and filed the paper in her notebook.

If you are working on these words, you might also be interested in this practice page I made a couple of years ago:

Spelling: Free Review Sheet (er, ur or ir); Long O Word Sort

If you found these helpful, I’d love to hear from you over at our Homeschool Den Facebook page!

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