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Texas Adventure Week Six: Colonization-Stephen F. Austin & Don Martin de Leon

Our Texas Adventure has been pretty low-key this week. We briefly discussed Mexico’s war for independence from Spain and spent the rest of the week learning about the empresarios who began settling Texas. We focused on two in particular: Stephen F. Austin and Martin de Leon. 

Stephen F. Austin is probably the most well-known empresario, both because of the size of his colony and his later role in the Texas Revolution. His colony, known as the Old Three Hundred, was the largest and most successful colony in the region. He worked tirelessly for the rights of the Texas colonists, even spending time in a Mexican prison for his efforts. I’m hoping to visit the historical site at San Felipe in the near future.

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We also chose to focus on Martin de Leon because his colony included the area where we live. He founded and lived in our city and is buried here. His colony was the only predominantly Mexican colony in Texas and his cattle brand was the first registered brand in the state. We really enjoyed reading about him in Martin De Leon: Tejano Empresario, a brief biography I found. It’s been fun to read about the history behind familiar landmarks and locations that we see on a daily basis.



Some of the resources we’ve used this week:
Globe
US map
Texas map


Next week we’ll take a break to prepare for Easter, but we’re also planning to visit a few more missions. Hopefully I’ll have some good pictures to share with you two weeks from now! We’ll spend a little more time on the colonization of Texas and then move into the Texas Revolution.

Don’t miss the first five updates in this series:


Texas Adventure Week Four: The Missions Era & Spanish Colonization (In Our Classroom)

We’re now four weeks into our Texas Adventure. After wrapping up our week on the LaSalle expedition, we took a few days off last week. This week we focused on the Spanish colonization of Texas, beginning with the establishment of missions throughout the region.

Although La Salle’s expedition was a failure, it rekindled Spain’s interest in the area and spurred them to stake their claim on Texas in order to keep the French out. They began to establish missions and settlements, working to convert the Indians and often also using them as labor to cultivate the land.

Mission San Jose, San Antonio 

We read about the struggles, hardships, and adventures encountered by the padres, soldiers, and earliest settlers as they dealt with hostile Indians and isolation from civilization. We also enjoyed reading about some of the interesting legends that have sprung up around the missions, such as the Lady in Blue. The various legends are a fun addition and really fascinating. They made for some great conversation about where the stories originated and how much of each was truth or fiction.

Presidio La Bahia, Goliad 

As we read about the various Spanish missions, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between their missionary efforts to the Native Americans and the work of another missionary we recently studied, Saint Patrick. Patrick was able to evangelize a large number of the Irish tribes whereas the Spanish missions were ultimately a failure. We had some great discussions contrasting the two and looking at what the Spanish did both right and wrong.

Some of the resources we’ve used this week:
globe
Texas map
US map


We’re planning to visit several of the missions that are still in existence in the very near future! Next week we’ll continue learning about the colonization of Texas, including the war for Mexican independence and the first Anglo-American settlers. 


Don’t miss the first three updates in this series:
What’s going on in your classroom this week?

Linked with Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Texas Adventure Week Three: Earliest Explorers-La Salle (In Our Classroom)

We’ve had a great third week on our Texas Adventure, a literature-based Texas history unit I’ve put together using books I’ve been collecting for the last year or so.

This week we focused on the first appearance of the French in Texas with an expedition by Robert La Salle. La Salle was an accomplished explorer. He was the first to explore all the way down the Mississippi, from the Great Lakes into Louisiana. He’d gone back to France and obtained permission from the king to establish a settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi in the hopes of getting a foothold in the Gulf of Mexico, which was controlled by Spain at the time. In 1684 the expedition set out.

map courtesy www.texasbeyondhistory.net

Unfortunately, coming through the Gulf he overshot and completely missed the Mississippi, ending up in Matagorda Bay, Texas, which is only about 25 miles from where we live, in January 1685. His supply ship, the L’Aimable, sank attempting to come through Pass Cavallo into the bay. The warship that had escorted him returned to France, leaving him with only his small ship, La Belle, which had been a personal gift from the king. Convinced that the Mississippi wasn’t far, La Salle established a crude settlement on Garcitas Creek, named Fort St. Louis after the king, and began making expeditions up the coast, looking for something familiar. Months later, La Belle, anchored in the bay, ran aground on a sandbar during a sudden storm and sank.

Unrest grew among the settlers as time went on. They’d lost the majority of their supplies in the two shipwrecks, were plagued by the unfriendly Karankawa Indians, over half of them had died, and the expeditions had found no signs of the Mississippi. Eventually, in the spring of 1687, La Salle was murdered by a group of conspirators on one of his expeditions in search of the Mississippi. A small band of his men finally made it to the Mississippi and made their way back up to Canada and then to France, intending to send a rescue party back for the settlers at Fort St. Louis. But, in December 1688 or January 1689, the Karankawas ambushed and killed all the settlers at Fort St. Louis, taking the few children with them back to their camps. Months later, Spanish soldiers discovered what remained of the settlement.

Although the entire expedition was a failure, it’s important because it renewed Spain’s interest in Texas and was a catalyst for their establishment of missions throughout the state. They’d ignored the area for the last 150 years, after expeditions in search of gold and treasure had failed to yield anything, but they didn’t want anyone else to move in.

In recent years, the excavations at Fort St. Louis and of the La Belle have been a big deal locally. The La Belle, excavated in the mid/late 90’s, has proved to be one of the most important shipwrecks ever excavated. The kids are particularly fascinated not only because it’s local, but because their dad grew up sailing and fishing on that bay, passing right over the shipwreck who knows how many times! It was initially discovered when a shrimper who was an acquaintance of his family, pulled a cannon up in his net. The cannon tumbled back into the bay, but a couple of men who were certified divers (and friends of the family), contacted the authorites, went back out, and tried to locate it. Thus the excavation began!

Some of the resources we’ve used this week:
globe
Texas map
US map
Raising La Belle
Journey to La Salle’s Settlement (Mr. Barrington’s Mysterious Trunk)
Learn about . . . Texas Indians (Learn about Texas)
Story of Texas (Four Volumes in One)
Story of Texas: A History Picture Book
An Educational Read & Color Book of Texas

Texas Beyond History’s Fort St. Louis page
Texas Beyond History’s La Belle shipwreck page
The Admiral’s Blog (some cool photos of the ship undergoing the preservation process here)
NOVA: Voyage of Doom website (this site accompanies the documentary by the same name. I’ve searched for a copy or place to watch it online in vain…if you know where I can get it, please let me know!)


Raising La BelleWe’ve had a blast reading about the ship’s excavation and the events surrounding Fort St. Louis! We’ve particularly enjoyed Raising La Belle by Mark Mitchell. The book alternates between chapters detailing the excavation and narrating the story of the ill-fated expedition, with many maps, drawings, and black and white photographs included.

Journey to La Salle's Settlement (Mr. Barrington's Mysterious Trunk)Journey to La Salle’s Settlement by Melodie Cuate has been another hit. This is part of a fiction series in which three modern day kids are swept back in time by their history teacher’s magic trunk to various places and events in Texas history. To make it back to the present, they must collect a list of various objects to put into the trunk. My kids have loved this one and are looking forward to the rest of the series!

I also can’t stress enough what a fantastic resource the Texas Beyond History website is! It’s a wealth of information, photos, and any and everything else related to Texas history.

We’ll probably be taking a break next week, then we’ll pick back up with the era of the Spanish missions, as they moved back into Texas in reaction to the French attempt at colonization. I also have several possible field trips in the works, so watch for reports and photos from those before too long!

Don’t miss the first two updates:

In other subjects…


Our other subjects are continuing to click along nicely! Karate Kid learned about prepositions. Peanut’s new All About Reading program came in and I’m hoping to get it set up and ready to start in the next few days. In the meantime, we’ve worked a little bit on the two free downloadable activity booklets that go with it. I scheduled a fairly light week for the Dancer as she prepared to leave for an annual dance competition with her ballet company. She leaves today and will be gone for five days.

I’m planning a minimal schedule for the rest of us next week since the Dancer will be gone for the first half and because it’s spring break for all the area schools. I’m looking forward to a week of no extracurricular activities and a light schedule! I may or may not update next week, but watch for the next installment of Texas Adventures the week after!

How is schoolwork going in your house?

Linked with Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

A Versatile Tool: Timeline Builder for iPad (Review Crew)

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I’ve always loved the idea of keeping a timeline for our history studies, and we have beautiful bound timeline books and timeline figures, but in practice we’ve always been a bit hit or miss with keeping them current, and sometimes I get frustrated by the limitations. So I was intrigued by the opportunity to try out Timeline Builder from Knowledge Quest.

Timeline Builder, aimed at ages 10+, is designed to create interactive timelines using your iPad. You can choose a date range, then add, edit, and delete events. Choose images from your personal photo library or the handy Wikipedia button will search out an image for you. There’s also space to write a brief description of each event. Customize by choosing different background options and manipulating the size and placement of images. The app automatically saves the timelines, but you can also save them to your photo library or share them via email or iTunes sharing.

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The screen for adding a new event

I decided to start out with a simple timeline of our family just to get a feel for the app. We put in my wedding date and all our birthdates. The kids loved it! Seeing a visual of how the dates relate to each other was really neat, especially for my little ones, and the pictures make it easy for non-readers.

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Our family timeline.

Next,  the Dancer (14), Karate Kid (12), and I decided to try one of famous composers to go along with a unit study we’re doing right now. For this one, we used the Wikipedia feature to find our images.

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A few of our favorite composers

So what do we think about the app? We love it! The Dancer, Karate Kid, and I all found it very intuitive to use. The background music was fun at first, but we ended up turning it off before long, finding it distracting. We were able to quickly and easily locate the images and information we needed using the handy Wikipedia button…it’s definitely one of our favorite features! The ability to drag the images to arrange them is great too.

I just love the versatility of this app! You can make multiple timelines without any paper clutter or storage space needed, and easily correct mistakes and make adjustments. With a paper or bound timeline, if you make a mistake or realize you put two events too close together, it’s difficult to correct. The ability to use your own photos or search online for images opens up a whole variety of options without the time and trouble that would be required to search out and print images for a physical timeline. Family histories, local events, home projects, and multiple other subjects besides the traditional historical timelines are possibilities.

We’ll still keep our bound timelines, but Timeline Builder is a tool that we’ll definitely be adding to our studies too. We’re working on creating a Texas History timeline to go along with our Texas Adventure studies. I’m also assigning the older kids timelines as projects to go along with their respective studies, such as a certain book they’re reading or the life of a favorite author or public figure, as well as the typical timelines of historic events. With my younger kids, I plan to create simple timelines of significant events in their lives using family photos, and even use the app to outline story lines and help them with sequencing. The possibilities are endless!

Timeline Builder is available on the App Store for $6.99…a small investment for such a versatile tool! I highly recommend it! (As of today, April 13, 2013, the app is being offered at an introductory price of only $4.99, so now would be a great time to get it!)

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Back to Homeschool: Our "Classroom" 2011/2012

It’s time once again to share our “classroom” for this school year. Really, not much has changed since last year. We don’t have a dedicated school room, so our school takes place in various areas around the house. One end of our living room is where we keep most of our books and supplies. (Forgive the picture quality…these are all quick shots snapped with my phone and the lighting isn’t ideal)
Our “school area”
In the living room, we have our “active” school shelves that hold all our currently used books. Each child has a shelf of their own and a basket to keep workbooks, pens, pencils, etc. in. Timelines, maps, and markerboards slide behind this shelf or the computer armoire and are pulled out as needed and set up on my easel. The top holds our globe, various art and science supplies, and several games, activity kits, and puzzles.
Our school shelf
First the left side: on the top left are some educational movies and CDs along with the Dancer’s history books. Under that is my shelf, holding all my instructor guides and workbooks, etc. that we’ll be getting to during the year. Directly under my shelf is Karate Kid’s shelf. It holds science supplies, his readers, and his basket, which contains his workbooks, pens, pencils, folders, etc. The shelf under that holds Peanut’s basket and a few science and reference books. On the bottom are Peanut’s preschool books, as well as the preschool books I’ll use with Monkey Boy.

On the right side: the top right holds Karate Kid’s history books, including the Texas history books we’ll use for the rest of our Texas Adventure. Directly under it is the Dancer’s shelf, with her readers, textbooks for things like science and math, and her basket. Under that is our “Friday” shelf, holding all the subjects we try to do on Friday: art, music, Spanish, as well as some other reference-type books. Directly under it is a shelf of “fun” reading: Beverly Cleary, Boxcar Children, and some readers from past years. The bottom right shelf holds an assortment of coloring and activity books. I try to regularly cull the ones that are getting ratty, but I swear those things multiply during the night!

Peanut and Monkey Boy sit at our “school table” to do most things. Peanut does her phonics, math, etc. and Monkey Boy colors or does whatever else he can get away with!
The school table
Sometimes we school on the floor!
Monkey Boy having fun with Keyboard Capers!
Karate Kid and I do most of his seatwork at the dining room table.
The dining room a.k.a. 2nd school table
He does math on the iMac in the living room, and I’m planning to set up our Rosetta Stone here too so everyone can access it and it won’t take up space on the Dancer’s laptop. The kids do various other assignments here too, except for the Dancer, who has her own laptop.  I do most of my work on my own laptop.
The family computer
This ancient PC is used for nothing but games, and it really rarely gets used anymore now that we have a Wii and the kids have the games on their iPods. My nice new printer/copier is here too. The desk drawers hold supplies like printer paper, notebook and construction paper, glue, crayons, and so forth.
The printer, school supply desk, and game computer
Reading usually takes place snuggled on the couch.
Our reading spot
The Dancer does most all of her work in her room and on her laptop. Science experiments are usually done in the kitchen. On nice days, we sometimes take all our reading in the backyard and lay outside to read.
Early in our homeschooling journey, I realized that I preferred things this way to confining it all to one room. At first I thought I wanted a separate room, but I found that I like having it integrated with our daily life. This way, I can wash dishes, fold clothes, or do whatever else I need to do while still interacting with the kids as they work, rather than having it all hidden away in a back room somewhere. Instead, we just integrate it right into our daily life and routine.
If you homeschool, where does most of your schooling take place?

Back to Homeschool: This Year’s Curriculum 2011/2012

 It seems like summer just began, but it’s time to get ready for a new school year already! We semi school year-round, but we do take the month of July off due to multiple birthdays, anniversaries, and family events. Now that August is here, we’re going to begin easing back into a school routine, although we’ll add a few subjects at a time rather than diving right back into a full-blown school schedule. 

This year I’ll have an 8th grader, 5th grader, kindergartner, and toddler. I have most of our new stuff and spent last week getting it all organized and put on our school shelves. A few more items will be trickling in over the next week or so, but most of it is ready to go! Here’s a rundown of what I have planned for the year.

8th grader:

The Dancer will do most of her work independently while I work with her younger siblings, checking in with me as needed. This year she’s doing the second half of world history, and finishing the pre-algebra and general science courses that she began last year. Her writing is integrated with her history. I’ll also have her do a weekly current events report, which she really enjoyed last year, and I’m planning to add Latin back in at some point. She’ll also be helping out with my youngest two and some of their activities. For extracurriculars, she’ll be doing drama with our local homeschool drama group again, and of course she’ll continue her dance training and membership in the local ballet company.  

     5th grader:

    Karate Kid has generally always tagged along with big sis on history while doing reading, writing, and math at his own level. This year, he finally gets his own stuff! I’ve had my eye on this particular program for him for a couple of years and was finally able to swing it this year! I know he’s going to love it. I also bought him a set to teach himself to play chess…something he’s really been wanting to learn! We’ve really loved All About Spelling, so we’ll continue it this year. I’m going to switch him back to Handwriting Without Tears this year to brush up on his cursive. He used Getty-Dubay last year, but as a lefty who also tends to get in a hurry and get sloppy, I think he did better with HWT. We’ll also continue our Texas Adventure twice a week.

    Kindergartner:

    Peanut is chomping at the bit to start kindergarten and learn to read! She’s been begging to do school nearly every day lately. She’s super excited.

    Toddler:

    Monkey Boy is not about to be left out when his older siblings are doing school! I have plans to have the older two take turns entertaining him while Peanut and I do some kindergarten work, but I’ll also let him participate in some of it. I’m also going to try to give him 20 minutes or so of “mommy time” before we begin anything else using several things I have on hand.

    Teach Me Mommy

    Together:

    As always, we’ll be doing read-alouds and family devotions and Bible time together, but we’ll also be doing some art, additional Bible, foreign language, and life skills together once or twice a week.

      Life Skills for Kids: Equipping Your Child for the Real World


      It’s going to be a great year! I’m ready to get back into the routine and dive into some of these great books with the kids!

      If you homeschool, what are you using this year?

      Linked with the Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop at Heart of the Matter Online.