Wrapping Up Week 21(2015-16)

Weekly Wrap Up 2015-16

This was a week for changing plans to “go with the flow.”  I had planned to ease our way back into school after the holiday break.  But then we were just having so much fun, we ended up doing more schoolwork than I think we’ve ever crammed into a week.

Bridge Unit

The core of my plans for the week was a bridge unit.  Both older boys are really into building right now, so I had given Elijah the K’NEX Education – Intro to Structures: Bridges set for Christmas.  Eli really prefers creative construction to following directions, but I wanted him to learn about specific building techniques that he could use, so we pulled out The Bridge Book to learn about different types of bridges, and each boy built one of the models in the K’NEX kit.

However, my plans to further explore bridge construction were cast aside by other subjects as we got into our lessons, so that’s as far as we got.  I’m sure we’ll come back to bridges another time.

Circle Time

Jesus Calling for KidsI’ve missed the way we used to start our school days together, so I decided to begin cultivating the habit of “circle time” each morning once again.  We do our main family Bible study together with Daddy in the evenings (now that we’re through the Advent season, we’re back to Old Story New by Marty Machowski), so I didn’t really want to do Bible stories.  Instead I wanted to focus connecting with God in a personal way as we start our days.  Someone had given me a copy of Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids a while back, so I pulled it off the shelf and we started in with it.  Everyone seemed to listen an absorb it well, so I think we’ll stick with it for while.  The page introducing January featured Jeremiah 29:13, and all three older kids did a great job memorizing that verse over the course of the week.

Jeremiah 29 13
I originally planned to use this time for Five in a Row as well.  On Monday we read The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift and Lynd Ward, which Ian and I rowed a few years ago.  I thought it would be great to go along with our bridge unit.  However, our history lessons got us yearning for Venice and the Silk Road, so we ended reading a different picture book each day:

Little Red Lighthouse Papa Piccolo I Vivaldi Orphan Singer Single Pebble


This week Ian jumped back into his Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course on the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation with a week on Marco Polo.  Both boys were absolutely fascinated by the lessons, and we spent a lot of time exploring related subjects.


Marco Polo’s home town has long been a favorite around here, ever since we first “rowed” Papa Piccolo a few years ago.  We revisited some of our favorite books, CDs, and videos about Venice and the famous Venetian composer Vivaldi.  (See those posts for other ideas to go along with a study of Venice.)  The kids will be learning about Vivaldi in their composer class this semester, so it seemed like a good time to review what Ian had learned and introduce the others.

  • I, Vivaldi (Lovely picture book that tells the story of Vivaldi’s life)
  • The Orphan Singer (story about a girl who sings with at the Pieta school in Venice where Vivaldi worked.  Not completely accurate, but still gives a glimpse into this piece of history.)
  • Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery (Audio CD) Ian has listened to this several times a year since we first found it.  I think it’s his favorite of all the titles in Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Classical Kids Collection (though we’ve enjoyed them all).  I didn’t realize there’s also a book to go along with the story, so I just ordered it to surprise him.  (We have a couple of the others that complement the CDs in the series already and love them.)
  • Italy: My Palace In Venice (8-minute streaming video featuring a Venetian boy sharing about his home)
  • VENICE, Italy (25-minute streaming video that provides a good introduction to the city)
  • Ancient Mysteries – Miraculous Canals of Venice (This is a fascinating program about how Venice was built and the dangers facing it in modern times.  I watched it on Netflix years ago, but now that’s it’s no longer streaming I bought the DVD because it’s so interesting.)
The Silk Road

Last year my mom had visited a museum exhibit on the Silk Road and brought us several books as gifts, so we were glad to get a chance to pull them out this week.  The text of Marco Polo for Kids: His Marvelous Journey to China, is still a little too advanced for my kids this time around (though we probably could have done some of the projects), so we stuck with The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History, which has a great map in the front of it which I copied and laminated so the boys could follow along as I read the book (as well while we read A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road during Circle Time one day).

Marco Polo for Kids Silk Route
Silk Road map
We also started re-reading Peril in the Palace (AIO Imagination Station Books), in which Patick and Beth travel to the court of Kublai Khan and meet Marco Polo.  The biggest hit of the week, however, was a series I stumbled across on Netflix called The Adventures of the Young Marco Polo (which I couldn’t find listed on Amazon).  All the kids really enjoyed watching this show (Nico would beg for “Marco”), and the older boys liked checking our map to see where the characters were on their journey along the Silk Road.


As if our history studies weren’t enough, we also had a fun time catching up on our lessons in Our Planet Earth from God’s Design for Heaven and Earth.  (I wanted to keep December light, so I decided to set it aside for a few weeks before the holidays.)  We actually got completely caught up by spending three days focusing on various topics:

Rocks and minerals (Lessons 15-18)

This was probably my favorite area of science as a child, so I have a small collection of geodes and other mineral samples that all the kids enjoyed getting to examine.

Ian also wanted to do the curriculum worksheet on the twelve stones described in the priest’s breastplate in Exodus 28:17-20.  We found some disagreement between the stones listed on the worksheet (or the colors they described) and our Bibles and other books we looked in, but it led to some deeper study, so it didn’t really bother Ian.

The two books he used for reference were the Stereogram Book of Rocks, Minerals, & Gems (old, but really helpful, and cool with the special viewing lenses) and Rocks & Minerals: A Gem of a Book, part of the Basher Science Books collection.

Earthquakes (Lessons 22-23)

Living in California has given us plenty of experience with earthquakes, so we didn’t do much besides read through these lessons in the book and discuss why building codes are different here than in other parts of the country that are more concerned with tornadoes or hurricanes.

Volcanoes (Lessons 24-26)

No, we didn’t build a volcano (though Ian certainly wanted to). We settled for reading the lessons and then watching several videos.

  • Introduction to Volcanoes (3-minute video to use to start a study of volcanoes)  All my kids loved it and we had to watch it twice.  In fact, it’s so fabulous I just have to share it here.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t even touch on some of the changes I made with math and language arts, but since there’s still some settling to do there, I think I’ll hold off on writing about those until I’ve got a little more figured out.

Upcoming Reviews

The Schoolhouse Review Crew is heading back to work, so we should have some new products to share about in the weeks to come!