Tag Archives: California history

Wrapping Up Week 9 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
This week we squeezed as much of our regular schoolwork in to the first three days, and then headed out of town with my husband’s side of the family for a classic car event they participate in each year.  It was a great chance for the kids to see a new part of California, learn a little more about cars (which are a REALLY big deal to that side of the family), and spend some time with Papa (my father-in-law), their aunt and uncle, and the cousins.  In addition to enjoying the beach and the bike trail that runs alongside it, they got to visit the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, which tied into our reading of Island of the Blue Dolphins earlier this year, and we visited the old San Buenaventura Mission to add to our ongoing study of California history.  I was surprised by how much Elijah remembered about Junipero Serra, whom we read about back in Week 2 of this school year.

To make sure the days could truly count as school days, I also prepared packets of worksheets for the older boys, using some pages from CC Connected to review our Classical Conversations memory work, plus some grammar and math worksheets that went along with what we’ve been studying lately.  They didn’t get through even half of what I prepared because we ended up taking so many little excursions, but I’m still glad I pulled the packets together.  I’ll keep them handy to pull out while the boys are sitting through Arianna’s ballet lessons or I’m at Bible study.

Here’s what we worked on this week:


Image result for the god puzzle ackermanIan has been going through The God Puzzle by Valerie Ackermann, and now that we’re a couple months into it, I’m starting to appreciate it for more than face value.  This was a last minute curriculum decision (as in we were like a day out from starting school and I realized I only had Bible plans for Elijah so I went to my shelves to see what I could find for Ian), and at first I really wasn’t sure if he was getting anything out of it.  He’s a reluctant writer, so he doesn’t give me much on the open-ended questions.  Still, the “Talk About Sections” have given me some good insight into his theological understanding, and lately he’s been eager to get out his book to go through it.  I think it’s a good fit for him, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the year goes.

As far as Elijah, he has been racing through the Veritas Press Self-Paced Course on Genesis – Joshua so quickly, I actually told him to take this week off.  My plan was to have him finish this course by Christmas break so he could do the next course in the second half of the year, but I think he’s probably going to finish earlier than that.


Both boys are doing their math almost completely independently, with daily fact practice on  XtraMath.org, and 4-5 lessons a week in Teaching Textbooks 4.  (I have the whole book scheduled over the course of the year, and I try not to have them do anything on days we have CC unless we’re behind.)


We finished up Lesson 2 in All Things Fun and Fascinating from IEW, as well as Week 7 in Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (Book 1).  Ian is gaining a lot of confidence as he proceeds through Sequential Spelling, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief at having finally found something that is really helping him start to improve.


This week we didn’t have a chapter in The Light and the Glory for Children scheduled because I wanted to watch the Liberty’s Kids episodes that correspond with what we’vealready read (episodes #2-4: “Intolerable Acts,” “United We Stand,” and “Liberty or Death”).  learn-our-history-jpgInstead, I planned other short readings from various older books I’d gotten with the e-book bundle from Yesterday’s Classics.  We read about Patrick Henry, as well as two short stories about children in the days just before the Revolutionary War.  We also watched the another DVD, Learn Our History: The Birth of a Revolution.

t for now I’m going to try to stick with our schedule to let these history stories really sink in.  Thankfully, I found one more cute video to show them that drove the story a little more into their heads: Pups of Liberty: The Boston Tea-Bone Party on Izzit.org.  (I don’t know if you have to be a member to watch the streaming video, but membership is free, and you can get one free DVD a year, plus free streaming of other videos, so we signed up last year and they just happened to email me about this video on Thursday so it was perfect timing!)


We didn’t read a biography this week, but we did watch the Torchlighters DVD on John Bunyan (both the animated feature and the documentary).  It was a little late to go along with our history timeline, but I’m still glad we squeezed it in this week.  Our read aloud book was also a little behind where we are in history, but the boys really enjoyed Newbery Medal winner The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds, which is based on the true story of a boy who bravely helps his mother protect their family against an Indian attack back in 1756.

john-bunyan  matchlock-gun

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

Wrapping Up Week 6 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
Since we start our school year early, the first few weeks are just us settling into the “home” part of our homeschooling.  Now that summer is starting to wind down, we’re going to start adding in some of the extras that will add some flavor to our  year.  This past week we got our first taste of Classical Conversations, going to our orientation, meeting the kids’ tutors, meeting the kid’s I’ll be tutoring, and putting together my plan for our first week of Foundations, which starts tomorrow.  I’m a little nervous about how CC is going to affect our year.  I think the kids are going to love it, and I’m excited about all we’ll be learning.  I think it’s just the thought of losing a day (well, a morning) at home that feels a little overwhelming.  I’m trying to just breathe deeply and take one day at a time.

Pterosaur exhibit NHMThis week was another odd one, but again I’m thankful for the flexibility homeschooling provides for our family.  We attended a memorial service for a family friend, spent a few hours at the Natural History Museum to see the new exhibit on Pterosaurs, celebrated Nathaniel turning 1, and had an overnight at Grandma’s, so I planned a pretty basic week without any extras.

The boys went through their math, Bible, spelling, and grammar almost completely on their own.  Elijah finished up Read, Write, & Type and is ready to join Ian on Wordy Qwerty.  We read one more biography for the month, Louis Zamperini: Survivor and Champion from the “Heroes for Young Readers” series.  And we listened to the audiobook of Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition as we drove all over town.

Ian has been finishing his work earlier than Elijah, so I decided to give him a little something extra to do.  I’ve been wanting him to learn about coding for a while, so I started him off at Khan Academy.  He’s going through the course “Intro to JS: Drawing and Animation” to begin learning how to use JavaScript.

Elijah codingOf course, once Elijah saw what he was doing, he wanted to do it as well, and he loved it so much he begs to do coding every day.  He logged 188 minutes this week, and would have done more if I’d let him.  I’m amazed at how much he’s learned and the drawings he’s created with code.  For now, I’m learning alongside him so I can help, but I know it won’t be long before he’s zooming ahead of me and will have to figure things out on his own.

Upcoming Reviews

Here are the products we’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

Wrapping Up Week 3 (California Field Trip)

We’ve barely started back to school, but we had a family wedding to attend this weekend in Northern California, so we decided to make the whole week a “field trip” to supplement our study of state history.  We read a few books beforehand to introduce topics I thought we’d have a chance to learn more about, but the whole trip ended up being more educational than I ever imagined.

Lake Tahoe

For the first part of our trip, we spent five days camping at Lake Tahoe.  Unfortunately I had some computer/printer problems right before we left, so I wasn’t able to print out the Camping Preschool Pack from Homeschool Creations I planned to take to use with my little ones.  (Thankfully that’s all resolved, so they’ll probably get it next week since camping is fresh on the brain!)  I was also really disappointed that I couldn’t print out a scavenger hunt for the kids.  (There are lots of scavenger hunt lists online, but I liked this one because it was only nature items and I thought we’d be able to find most of them.)

Okay, so that’s what we DIDN’T do.  What we did do in Tahoe was having an amazing time hiking, swimming, kayaking, chopping wood, building campfires, observing insects, climbing rocks, and getting fantastically dirty.

One day we headed over to Virginia City, Nevada, where we had an awesome day of history lessons.  We started off taking a ride on the Virginia-Truckee Railroad, learning about the mining history of the Comstock Lode as we rode in train cars that were over 100 years old!

Then we walked through the town and learned about the mining process and life in an old mining town.  We even got to go on a tour in an old mine.

old wagonVirginia City mine


In preparation for the second part of our trip, I chose to focus on three topics I knew we’d get a chance to learn more about in Sacramento: the California Gold Rush, the Pony Express, and the Transcontinental Railroad.  These three parts of history (and much more) were made more tangible for the kids as we walked the streets of Old Sacramento.

old schoolhousetelegraph

Gold Rush

So much of California’s history can be tied back to the pivotal period of the gold rush.  Sacramento grew into a town because of the masses of treasure seekers flooding into the area.  The kids learned how to pan for gold at the Sacramento History Museum, saw how gold was measured and transported at the Wells Fargo Museum, and walked along the river front where the miners stepped off the boats to seek out their fortunes.

panning for gold weighing gold
Here are other resources we used to learn about the Gold Rush:

  • By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman (The whole family listened to the recording of the book from Full Cast Audio as we drove, and it was a story even my husband and I enjoyed.)
  • Real Kids, Real Places The “Gosh Awful” Gold Rush Mystery by Carole Marsh
  • Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea by Tony Johnston (I really didn’t care for the repeated use of the word “Dang!” throughout the story, and it definitely is a “fairly fabricated story,” but it was still interesting to hear about how Levi Strauss started creating jeans.)
  • DVD Dig into History with California Jones: Gold Rush (from our local library), which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be available for purchase anywhere even though it was only made in 2009.  My kids really enjoyed this DVD and were hoping it was a whole series they could watch.  (Evidently there are two others, but our library doesn’t have them.)
  • John Sutter: California Pioneer by Chris Hayhurst
Pony Express

The Pony Express only ran for 19 months, but its importance for tying the remote state of California with the rest of the United States has given it a lasting legacy.  We saw part of the trail taken by Pony Express riders when we were on our way to Virginia City, and then we got to see where they ended their journey in Sacramento.

Pony Express exhibit Pony Express monument

Transcontinental Railroad

We saw where the western end of the Transcontinental Railroad began and learned much more about it at the California State Railroad Museum.  The museum was such a hit, we stayed for about five hours and only left because they were closing.  (I think the kids would have played at the toy train tables for at least another hour!)

Sacramento railroad California State Railroad MuseumTranscontinental Railroad
We watched two videos to learn about the Transcontinental Railroad before we went.

Finally, we visited two places that ended up adding even more to our study of California history.

Sutter’s Fort

Started back when California was a part of Mexico, Sutter’s Fort played an integral role in the development of the state.  Once the gold rush started, the city of Sacramento sprung up around the fort and it was no longer used until it was restored as a historical site.

Sutter's Fort 1 Sutter's Fort 2
We haven’t talked about the Donner Party yet, but after seeing Patty Reed’s doll (willed to Sutter’s Fort when she died out of gratitude for the part the people from the fort played in the rescue of the survivors), I’ve added the book Patty Reed’s Doll to my lesson plans for our continued study of California.

Patty Reed's doll

State Capitol

Okay, so the kids were sadly unimpressed with our visit to the beautiful State Capitol building, but I hope they learned a little bit nevertheless.  We got to peek into the chamber where the lawmakers meet together, see historically recreated rooms, talk about the different governors whose portraits line the gallery, learn a little about Ronald Reagan (who was the 33rd governor of California before becoming the 40th President), and see displays from each of the 58 counties in the state.

California State Capitol inside Capitol
Overall, we had a fantastic time on our week-long “field trip.”  The kids learned so much more than they would have by sitting in a classroom reading from a textbook!


Wrapping Up Week 2 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
During this second week of school things seemed to take a lot less time.  Now that they know what to expect, the boys are zipping through their work fairly quickly.  Elijah has even been diving into his independent work first thing in the morning, so sometimes he’s already gotten a good chunk done before breakfast!  His Veritas Press Self-Paced Course on Genesis – Joshua only has 4 lessons each week, but I’d like him to finish the course by Christmas break so he can do Judge – Kings in the second half of the school year.  Luckily, he’s highly motivated (he even did lessons on Saturday and Sunday), so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.  He’s usually done with Bible before I even get up.


Talking ShapesAs I shared in a separate post, Arianna and Nico’s preschool activities this week were all tied to the story of “The Three Bears.” On the computer Arianna got a little deeper into Talking Shapes, with which we’d gotten off to a rocky start last week.  It’s been really good for reinforcing some of what she’s already learned on  Reading Eggs, only at a slower pace and focusing on consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words.  I have had a hard time getting her to try any sort of reading apart from Reading Eggs, so this had been a great confidence booster for her.


I like the balance we have this year of subjects I cover with the boys and some that they can do independently.  I’m there to help them as they go through their Bible, math and grammar, but aside from introducing new grammar concepts on Mondays, I really just check in with them occasionally on those subjects.  Then I get to spend the bulk of my teaching time covering the things I love, like history, biographies, and literature.


Light and the GloryIn The Light and the Glory for Children we read chapter 3, which talked about the Spanish missionaries who came to the New World to bring the light of the gospel to the Native Americans.

We also studied some California history this week, both because it fit here chronologically and because we’ll be spending some time around the state next week.  Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was an explorer who doesn’t often get mentioned outside of California, but he is an important figure here, being the first European to explore the California coast.  I read a little about him from various sources and then summarized for my kids as they colored a page about him.

Cabrillo coloring page


Junipero SerraOur biography tied in directly with our history lesson.  We read about Junipero Serra, using both an older book I inherited from a teacher years ago, Father Junipero Serra the Traveling Missionary, to cover his early years, and then Junipero Serra: Founder of the California Missions.  I actually really liked the first book, but it didn’t have as many illustrations, and those it did have weren’t in color, so I opted for the second as our main reading.  It had vibrant color illustrations and still focused on Serra’s missionary mindset, which was why I wanted the boys to learn about him.  We followed up by watching the first part of Inside the California Missions, a DVD Grandma had bought for us one time when she was touring a mission.

Father Serra has become a controversial figure in recent years.  The Pope canonized him as a saint in 2015, which upset many people who view him through a modern lens and object to the Spanish treatment of the Native Californians.  However, I think we need to be cautious about judging historical figures against current standards, so while we discussed those aspects of his life, our focus was on his primary motivation, which was to serve the Lord and spread the gospel to the local people.

Father Serra copywork


Island of the Blue DolphinsLast week with the older boys I started reading Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, to go along with our focus on early California history.  They both loved the time each afternoon when I would read to them as they played or finished up work from the morning, often begging me to keep going.  This week I read several chapters a day so that we could finish it by Friday.  I just found out there’s an old movie of the story, so we’re still hoping to watch that.

Throughout the week I had the boys work on labeling a blank map of California, marking major cities, places we’ve been or will be visiting, and San Nicolas (the “Island of the Blue Dolphins”).

 labeled map of California


So far we really like Foreign Language For Kids By Kids, but since it repeats the same video for several lessons, I wanted supplement it a little while I made sure my kids were absorbing the vocabulary.  We supplemented this week with the first Salsa episode, which also covers the words “grande,” “Pequena,” and “me gusta.”  Like FL4K, it is an immersion program, so the only thing the were hearing was Spanish.  They loved how much they could understand.  (Ian and I have used the Salsa program and the lessons that go along with it before, and the other kids have seen some of the videos, but it’s been a long time, so it was the perfect thing to pull out this week.)

The boys had fun this week using the FL4K stickers, especially “me gusta” and “no me gusta.”  I kept opening the fridge and finding labels on things Ian doesn’t like.


Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):