Thursday, 19 February 2015

Visit a Lock and Dam

The kids and I are learning about Locks and Dams in US history and joined in a local homeschool group for a Field trip to the Melvin Price Locks and Dams along the Mississippi river.
There is no fee to use the dam and they average 20 large barrages per day going thru the lock along with smaller boats and even Kayaks which tour down the Mississippi in the summer months.

This facility was began being built in 1973 and was not fully in use until 1993 after the great midwest flood of 1993.  We were told that the flood would have been even worse if this wasn't nearly completely built by them.  There are over 28 locks and dams on the Mississippi beginning in Minnesota going all the way to Louisiana.

The lock weighs over 500 tons and has enough steel in it to build ten St Louis Arches

Where the operator works

We were lucky to be able to watch a barge moving into the lock and watch the water raise and fall

It only takes about twenty minutes for the process to complete

There needs to be at least 9 feet of water for the barges for the barges to sail on the Mississippi.  

Barges can carrying anything from coal, to liquid, to machinery

watching the gates open to allow the barge to move down the river

There are a total of 3 locks here, two smaller ones which handle double wide barges.  The largest lock can handle triple wide barges but there is very little room for error.  The largest lock is 115ft across and a tripe wide barge is approx. 110ft across

Inside the there is a small museum explaining the lock and dam system and how the Mississippi benefits our economy

Kids got to try their hand operating a is much harder than it looks and not many were successful at going thru with crashing the barge...myself included!

An arial view of the lock and Dam

We learned a lot about the Lock and Dam and are now learning about the building of the Erie canal and how that changed the fabric of America!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Finland unit study

The kids just finished their first country study of the year!  I thought I would show you some of the activities we did to learn about Finland.  While living in England we tried to get to Lapland as we wanted to see the Northern lights but alas we ran out of time and money but we hope to get there one day.

We are also using a new Geography program with a review coming soon!

We checked this book out from the library and learned about the  country.  Using this book we heard about the Sisu which means courage and determination of the Finnish people.  We also read about the Talkoot which means Community work.  We learned about the history of Finland and how they have became a economic success!  We also looked at maps and wrote notebook pages on the country as we have done in previous country studies.

We read that every Thursday around the country it is split Pea soup day  and I tried my best to talk the family into  making that for our country meal but that was a no go for my husband.  So instead we made  Kanavtuli (chicken with rice) along with Rye bread
Finnish Cardamon cookies and learned this was the third  most expansive spice in the world...but those cookies were so good!!!
Finnish Blueberry pie...the pie crust reminded me of the crusts used in the UK, much sweeter than US pie crust and it was very good!

Next the kids and I read that paper and wood crafts are very poplar in Finland so we tried our hand at making Finnish stars.  We read that these often top Christmas trees in Finland 

First the kids measured out 3/4 inches along yardstick paper.  we all chose two different colors for our stars.
Next they cut out their paper strips

We made two of these to get started with our stars.  it is best to tack down each of  the overlaying papers  to each other to make building easier!

Next we twisted the corners for each set

So they looked like this we held the ends together with glue dots but eventually had to staple to keep them from pulling apart. Faster drying glue may have worked better if you have it on hand!

Next you take the two pieces and place them on top of each other lining the twisted ends up with the single paper and thread it through as above picture shows.  Pulling the single strand a little tighter will bring the two pieces of star a little closer 

Carefully cut the edges  for a sharp point 

like this 

Add string and you now have a Finnish star--MarioFan's star

Firedrake's star 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Studying the Louisiana Purchase

We have completed our history unit studying the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, and Sacagawea!  I thought I would show you some of the resources I used since I create my own history program for the children
The kids read books on Sacagawea.  Of  the two,  The Girl of the Shining Mountains is a far better book.  This is the second and probably last time I will used the books Childhood of famous America.  I find them lacking in historical accuracies and I find that very irritating.  

We watched 2 documentaries on the Lewis and Clark expeditions, one on netflix but by far this is the better one!

I really enjoyed this book and the children and I read it together.  I highly recommend it!

We also used these books to learn about Thomas Jefferson and his presidency!

Some additional resources that we used 
If you haven't discovered hip hughes history videos or crash course history on You tube you should check them out as they often have 10-15 minutes clips on topics that are fun for the kids to watch and introduce the basic concepts of the period!  We have enjoyed them and often start each new topic with those videos!

There are actually two museums on the Lewis and Clark expedition in our area.  One in St Charles which the kids and I visited this summer and I wrote about a it on this post. However to to wrap up our unit we took a Field trip to the Westward museum which is located under the arch in St Louis!

There is a fabulous timeline for this area and beyond and I took notes for future history lessons that I need to learn more about

Some of the many items the men took with them to trade with the Indians.
 The thing we read about and heard about in the videos were about the coins or medals that Lewis and Clark handed over to the Indians as a symbol of the great New Chief in Washington DC -- Thomas Jefferson.  I found this part of the museum the most fascinating as I did not know there were such coins dating back to King George III all the way up to President James Buchanan
Different size coins were made and which coin you were given depended on the status you had within your tribe or band of Indians the men met along the way

All the coins for this trip had on one side the clasp hands representing the USA and the Indians and the peace pipe with the axe.  The other side of the coin was a picture of Thomas Jefferson

I was shocked that as late as 1861 one of the designs had a picture of Scalping Indians on the back of the James Buchanan is not surprising that the Indians took great exception to this coin!

We are moving on to learn about the War of 1812 and the presidency of James Madison!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Cooking lessons

This year we have had Firedrake cooking a family dinner once a week and we have been very consistent with that.  Her reward for cooking dinner is that I do the dishes that night:)  For Christmas I bought a blank recipe book that I have had Firedrake write down some family recipes in.  These are the ones she really likes and either I or my husband make.

I won't pretend that she actually loved this idea!  I am hoping she will appreciate it when she moves out on her own and has to remember to cook her own meals:)

She writes down the recipe as she is cooking as I don't always used exact measurements so this helps us both to figure out the measurements for certain ingredients!

We have a few recipes written down already 

Cooking dinner for the family!

I intend to do the same for MarioFan when it is his turn to learn to cook!  Like I said hopefully in the years to come she will learn to appreciate this Christmas present and the effort she has put into it to create a personal cookbook of her favorite childhood recipes. A mother can dream, right, LOL:)!

Friday, 6 February 2015


I just have to show off the kids Dioramas that they made for their Spanish coop!  They worked for two weeks on their projects.  The project assignment was to create a room and then label in spanish the room

MarioFan created a grown up bedroom scene

We repurposed some items from the Spanish plays we have done in the past with our old Spanish tutor such as the red lamp shade used was a bowl at one time:)  MarioFan drew and colored in the bookshelves.  He even lined the box with fabric as he wanted wall paper in his room!

He added a TV and colored one of his favorite TV shows on it...Mythbusters:)  I think the scene is of something blowing up!

Firedrake chose to create two rooms -- a living room and a bedroom -- she even made a ladder but it is suppose to be stairs:)!

The living room includes a sofa, fireplace, TV, coffee table and a game table with chairs!
She even included a pet cat and firewood in the fireplace!
She also included a ceiling fan!

The bedroom included a desk and a art easel!  She wanted the bedroom to be for a smaller child!

 I help a little, mainly gluing things down with a hot glue gun.  If the kids had an idea but were stuck on how to build it, we brainstormed together until they liked it but they were responsible for filling in the details!