2017 Solar Eclipse Lesson Plan

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On August 21, 2017, the US will experience a solar eclipse. Some places are in the path of totality, but even if your location is not, you will still get to experience some darkness or partial darkness for a few seconds and up to a couple of minutes.

Solar Eclipse Glasses

Our children’s aunt bought us solar eclipse glasses. Hurray for aunties!

What are you doing to prepare for this rare event? This is the perfect excuse to get out the physics books and a space encyclopedia and teach your homeschooler about the Sun and the Moon and how they fit together with the Earth.

Here’s a lesson plan if you need one. Continue reading »

Or click to download a 2017 Solar Eclipse Lesson Plan PDF.

 

Solar Eclipse Lesson Plan

August 21, 2017

A. Devotional with Bible verses about celestial bodies. Here are just a few:

1. God created the Sun, Moon and Earth – Genesis 1; Psalm 8:3-4

2. God holds the Earth in space – Job 26:7; Isaiah 40:22

3. God knows the stars by name – Psalm 147:14

4. Space proclaims God is the Creator – Psalm 19:1-6

5. God will re-create Earth when Jesus returns – Revelation 21

B. Solar eclipse breakfast – pancakes with your favorite topping; get creative and make three different sizes to represent the Moon, Earth and Sun; melt chocolate/carob and cover up the Earth with “darkness” etc. The sky is the limit (get it?).

C. Read from your space encyclopedia/science textbook/library books about solar eclipses. Words to look up: orbit, totality, umbra, penumbra, corona, eclipse, atmosphere, lunar, solar. For older students, prepare a handout with these words and have them copy the definition from the encyclopedia (or use the second page below).

D. Watch NASA live streaming: some libraries will have a public event of the four-hour broadcast but, of course, you can watch it from home if you have access to NASA TV or the internet. You don’t have to watch it all, of course. One hour will probably be enough to give your children an idea of what is going on across the nation.

E. Solar eclipse lunch. Tostadas with black beans (the Sun covered by the “dark” Moon). Definitely have chocolate/carob cake for dessert. Use a round pan.

F. Solar eclipse art and/or craft. Here are three ideas, all simple and cute.

1. Have the children draw what they saw or how they would imagine a total eclipse would look.

2. Using play dough, have them make a model of the position of the Sun, Moon and Earth during a solar eclipse. You could connect the three celestial bodies with toothpicks and make each in a different color: white play dough for the Moon, yellow for the Sun, and blue or green for the Earth. Set it on a paper plate and take pictures of it for your science binder/portfolio/lapbook (so you can discard the actual project later and not feel so guilty about it).

3. Have the children paint one paper plate yellow, red and orange to represent the Sun. They can then paint another one black to represent the Moon. Have them use sponges or small circles from a pool noodle for a great texture, instead of brushes. Once dry, they can simulate the eclipse by slowly moving the Moon over the Sun.

 

Plan ahead

1. Buy solar eclipse glasses if you plan to look at the actual event. We got ours from the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many physical or online stores have them.

2. Get all your food made the day before.

3. Gather all books and supplies.

 

 

Talk Like A Scientist

Look up these words in a science encyclopedia. Copy the definitions in the space below.

  • orbit =
  • totality =
  • umbra =
  • penumbra =
  • corona =
  • eclipse =
  • atmosphere =
  • lunar =
  • solar =

Stay safe! Do not look at the Sun without special eclipse glasses. Sunglasses are not safe.


First Family Hike After Fire

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It has taken us more than eight months to get back on the Gatlinburg trail for a family hike after the November wildfires. It was therapeutic to be out in nature again.

Family hike and bike in the Smokies

Family hike and bike in the Smokies

So many things have kept us from hiking. In the winter right after the fire, the last place we wanted to visit was the park – even though not much actual burning actually happened on this particular trail. The sheer nature of a busy spring schedule precluded us from going there while school was in session. Then summer rolled around with its whirlwind of camps and tourist traffic. Continue reading »

We have also had some health challenges for the past six months. My husband had a mowing accident last month and he has had to be in bed with his leg propped up for weeks. I have had an upper respiratory infection for weeks. Our daughter has been struggling with a mild form of asthma. It seems that only our son has been healthy and fully operational lately, but even he struggles with the occasional growing pain in his legs or wrists.

Dad and son looking at the river gage on Gatlinburg Trail.

Dad and son looking at the river gage on Gatlinburg Trail.

The humidity here in the South can be forbidding to outdoor exercise, not to mention the mosquitoes and ticks. So yes, plenty of reasons to avoid hiking. Until today. All of the sudden, I found myself proposing to the family that we go on a hike. The children protested, but we ignored them. We know what they said after every hike: “That was fun!”

Gatlinburg Trail wooden bridge

Gatlinburg Trail wooden bridge

And off we went. I took some random pictures of a few burned trees – for those of you who want to see some of the damage. I know it’s in the back of everybody’s mind: “What actually burned?”

Burned trees on the Gatlinburg Trail

Burned trees on the Gatlinburg Trail

I have mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand, I want to show non-residents the devastation, on the other hand, well, this is our hometown. People died. People lost their homes. This was a national disaster. Can we please stop treating it like it is a tourist attraction?

It has been sad to hear people ask for directions to the burned down cabins. “We just want to show our kids. Can you direct us to the streets where the most devastation happened?” Seriously, folks. Is there any sensitivity left in the world?


SMHEA Homeschool Expo

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Every June, my local homeschool support organization, the Smoky Mountain Home Educators Association, puts on a free mini-convention. There are vendors and local organizations who cater to homeschoolers, like the Knoxville Zoo, the Titanic Museum, and Ripley’s Aquarium. There are seminars, too. I am one of the speakers.

Adriana Zoder, Claiborne and Lana Thornton

With THEA President, Claiborne Thornton, and his wife Lana

This year, I spoke about Preschool and Kindergarten in one seminar. The other one was about different homeschool approaches. Education can be done in a myriad of ways. By the way, you can find the slides of my PowerPoint presentations under the tab called Workshops on this blog. Continue reading »

Every homeschooling family should attend a homeschool convention at least once a year. It is a time to come together with like-minded parents and to connect. No man is an island. I know many of us are fiercely independent. If you are like me, you do not want to get involved with a co-op. I get it. But there is something to be said about renewing your strength as you gather together with other homeschooling parents.

Your vision may get a bit blurry and a convention will help you wipe your homeschooling lens so you can see clearly again. Or you may be so happy with your homeschooling effort, you just burst to share your enthusiasm and help those who are struggling. You don’t have to wait until you are in crisis mode or burned out to attend. Just put it on your calendar ahead of time and make it a priority.

SMHEA EXPO Sign

This year’s Expo happened in a Methodist church in Powell.

SMHEA makes an effort to have the event free. You may not be as blessed where you live. Whatever the price of your convention, I promise you it will be worth it. And you don’t have to buy anything in the vendor hall – though their special convention sales may be worth a second thought. Just gather information and look at the books and products they have. I got my questions answered about Saxon math, for instance.

SMHEA Expo Vendor Hall

My husband and children looking around in the vendor hall.

The internet can help a lot with research, but there is nothing like thumbing through a book and talking to a mom who has actually used a certain curriculum. You can fill in the informational gaps that way and make a more intelligent decision.

Rich Melton, Todd Sparrow

Former SMHEA President speaks and current president Todd Sparrow looks on

One neat feature this year was a scavenger hunt for the children. They loved it as they walked around the building, picking up different odds and ends from the list provided. It was also a chance to listen to the previous SMHEA director, Rich Melton, and to THEA president, Claiborne Thornton and his wife. THEA is the Tennessee Home Educators Association and the parent organization of SMHEA, which only covers 18 counties in East Tennessee.

Their stories of how homeschooling became legal in Tennessee in the 80s brought tears to my eyes. We have forgotten how precious this privilege is and how much others sacrificed to pave the way for our freedom to educate our own children. For that alone, the $28 SMHEA annual membership fee is totally worth it, especially as some of the money goes to THEA to help with lobbying.


End of the School Year

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It is almost the end of May and this means summer break is here. We do not homeschool year round, although learning never stops. Children are naturally curious and they will learn even if I don’t record it as a school day.

Boy and girl holding homeschool certificates of completion

First grade and third grade certificates

We have some summer camps coming up: art, orchestra, app making, manners, soccer, swimming, archery – all these activities involve learning. I have not yet decided if I should count these days toward their next school year. This past school year, I did. But it almost feels like cheating. Continue reading »

School should not be a dreadful thing, but life is not always pleasant and school is supposed to be a preparation for life. Life’s duties must be done however tiresome they might be. And, sometimes, school work (or learning) can be tiresome and frustrating. That’s part of “real life.”

You know how public school parents chide homeschool parents for not giving their children the “real world?” They are wrong. The real world contains lots of opportunities for being lazy when not under supervision – that happens at home as well as at school; for doing hard things – that happens at home as well as at school; for covering up your mistakes instead of admitting them and learning to make better choices – that happens at home as well as at school. I could go on and on.

Back to my topic: another school year is behind us. I printed out a certificate of completion for each child, filled out their grade and name, the date, my signature, and I snapped the picture above. Each child has a cumulative file at our umbrella school and also one at home. Every year, the certificates end up there, alongside their curriculum list and attendance record.

The kids have grown in every sense of the word. I have grown a few more gray hairs. I don’t want to say that I have grown and developed more patience, for instance, because as soon as I say that something happens and wham! I lose my temper – proof positive that it is time to eat humble pie.

I have relaxed a bit though, I am thankful for that. I am my own worst critic and can be very hard on myself. Going through a few natural disasters has loosened me, I suppose. Here’s to a great summer break! I will keep blogging through the summer about our various activities.


Green and Pink Smoothies

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Lately, I have had a lot of fun making smoothies for us. That blender gets washed every day, I tell you. That’s because it gets used every day. It is such an easy thing to do and yet it took me a bit to get on the bandwagon of this food trend. You don’t need a cookbook either.

Raspberry and cocoa parfait

Raspberry and cocoa parfait (or smoothie)

A couple of years ago, I read a cookbook about kale. All the recipes included kale in some form. It overwhelmed me. I tried a few kale smoothies and other kale recipes, but I did not get inspired.

Well, something happened this year. Not sure what exactly, but one morning I just felt the courage to get the blender out and here’s what I put in it: 1 cup of rice milk, a cup of spinach, and one banana. Continue reading »

I could drink the resulting smoothie, but my children asked for it to be sweeter. Enter the second banana.

Kale Smoothie

Two bananas, some spinach, fiber, and milk

So with 1 cup of rice milk, 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves and 2 bananas I make enough smoothies for the three of us for lunch. There are days when I don’t feel like eating a salad, but I know I need my greens. By the way, I may have poured more than one cup of milk. If it gets too thick for your blender, just put more milk. You cannot hurt it.

Green smoothies (kale, rice milk, bananas)

Green smoothies (kale, rice milk, bananas)

Of course, you can do other combinations. For instance, I put one teaspoon of fiber (husks) in there one day. You could put flax seed etc. This recipe is just an example of how easy it is to drink your spinach (or kale) and not gag. We need our greens, friends!

Now, for the pink smoothies. I found a great recipe on Forks over Knives, which I modified slightly for my own taste. The taste is great and it is almost like a parfait. If you let it sit overnight in your fridge, it will thicken and have the texture of a parfait. Otherwise it will be a smoothie and you can just drink it. One thing is sure though: both are delicious.

Show these recipes to your children and record this as “Culinary Arts” or “Science” in your school records. “Cooking Lab” is another label, of course. In Tennessee, homeschooling legal requirements are not that stringent but I keep records of things we do for my own benefit.


Prince Albert, Homeschooling Dad

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After watching Victoria on PBS for a few weeks, I was very interested in learning more about Prince Albert, her husband. My local library carries The Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert, the most comprehensive biography of Prince Albert, written by Stanley Weintraub. I read it after watching Weintraub’s lecture about the book on YouTube.

Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert

The most comprehensive biography of Prince Albert – I learned a lot from it

Through it all, I learned that Prince Albert was a wonderful homeschooling dad to his nine children. Albert and Victoria enjoyed 17 years of a happy marriage until his unfortunate death at the relatively young age of 42. Prince Albert wrote about his children’s studies extensively in his diary, which makes him a blogging dad by modern standards. So what kind of education did he give his royal children? Continue reading »

We know that he taught some of the subjects and for others he hired private tutors. The children had their own garden plots at Osborne House, the royal family private residence on the Isle of Wight. They tended to their farm animals. They also took piano lessons, French, German, Latin, history and math. How to write and read English was taught as well, of course.

As they grew older, they learned to fish, shoot guns, and hunt with their father. The girls learned to embroider. Special attention was given to art: painting with watercolors and sketching, as well as art appreciation. The royal couple had an impressive art collection for the children to enjoy.

Prince Albert was a Chancellor at Cambridge University and brought about educational reform in that institution, based on the standards of German universities that he had attended or visited. Until his tenure, Cambridge did not teach science or any history after medieval times. As you might imagine, he had an uphill battle with the academics of his time, but he managed to improve the curriculum.

After the first World Fair, The Great Exhibition of 1851, which Prince Albert organized through multiple committees, he was able to use some of the money earned through tickets to buy land in South Kensington, in order to establish a series of museums and institutions of learning. Known today as “museum row,” that area of London continues to be one of the most visited places in the world.

The other part of the money was placed in interest-bearing accounts in banks. The interest earned by that money is used to this day to foster learning and support scientists and artists. Another Prince Consort handles those funds today: Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband. Several Nobel laureates and famous artists have benefited from the funds which can be traced down to Prince Albert and his Great Exhibition.

In those days, corporal punishment was part of the normal way of educating a child, so yes, he administered it. Other than that, we cannot find much fault with his homeschooling.


Art Field Trips

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Now that the standardized test is behind us, we can have some fun with subjects like foreign languages and art, which I tend to de-emphasize in the months leading up to the test. We visited two art museums recently, to get our art juices flowing: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg and the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Girl looking at digital art

My daughter looking at digital art, in Knoxville, at the Museum of Art

At Arrowmont, we caught the tail end of the juried exhibition from Sevier County residents. We live in a community full of talented artists. It was inspiring to see all the different pieces and media.  Continue reading »

Arrowmont displays their permanent collection and then temporary exhibitions. The museum is free and they also have a library filled with art books and magazines. On Wednesdays, volunteers come to cull through their collection and discard what is not needed anymore in the school. They fill up a bookshelf with giveaways or heavily discounted art books.

Boy and girl at Arrowmont

My children at Arrowmont

I picked up several free beautiful art books and a $1 large coffee table book on London. How would you like to travel to London for $1 and not worry about terrorism, flight inconveniences and jet lag? With such a book, one can.

The children enjoyed the art and got a lesson in art marketing. They were shocked at the prices of some of the pieces. The most expensive one was $16,000 and most of them were in the $300 range.

In Knoxville, the Museum of Art is also free. They have a Children’s Corner filled with art books for children, a Brite Lite wall, two art easels for drawing, and many craft opportunities. While their gift shop offers pricey items, I have also found some of their offerings to be the same price as Amazon or Walmart. If you are watching your budget, the gift shop is not a bad option for some of the art products they carry.

Girl at KMA Lite Brite Wall

My daughter at the Lite Brite Wall

Play sticks are available in the Children’s Corner

The permanent collection upstairs houses, among other things, Catherine Wiley’s beautiful Impressionist paintings – my favorite part of going to KMA. I discovered Catherine Wiley’s paintings of motherhood and women six years ago, when my children were in diapers. Wiley’s depiction of motherhood helped me transcend Pampers and Huggies.

One of the temporary exhibits is an interactive, digital art display on loan from the Thoma Foundation and the other one is a beautiful collection of abstract art by Jered Sprecher, a UT art professor. His “Respiro” and “Calling” spoke to me in a personal way. The first one reminded me of Ramazzotti’s “Respiro nel blu” and the latter reminded me of homeschooling, because I feel called to do it.

"Respiro" by Jered Sprecher

“Respiro” by Jered Sprecher, at KMA

"Calling" by Jered Sprecher, at KMA

“Calling” by Jered Sprecher, at KMA

Art museums, for me, represent these spaces where I get in touch with parts of myself I do not usually see or feel. I talk about “art therapy” and that is because I feel more complete or aware or healed when I come away from these places. On a more specific note, I think that we are still healing from the shock we suffered in November with the wildfires, so yes, we need some art therapy.

The children love everything about the visits: the art books, the art corner with its manipulatives, and the exhibits. At KMA, the Thorne Rooms offer a collection of miniatures that delight them. I enjoy looking at them as well and they came in handy, after all the history lessons we had recently. These dioramas show actual living rooms from medieval Spain or Victorian England or the American Frontier.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 6

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The last time I blogged about Story of the World and our adventures in history was in October. That does not mean we have done done history. In fact, today we covered chapter 34. I suppose you can say I’m a bit behind in blogging about SOTW. My apologies. I will do my best to recount our efforts and catch up in the next couple of months.

Chapter 6 dealt with new colonies in the new world: Plymouth Plantation and New Amsterdam. For our craft, we made cornbread based on the recipe provided in the Activity Book – an original Wampanoag recipe with modern ingredients.

Wampanoag Cornbread

Wampanoag Cornbread

I modified the recipe a bit: soy milk instead of “milk,” vegetarian margarine (we like Smart Balance) instead of “margarine,” and honey instead of sugar. The one egg needed in the recipe can be replaced with Egg Replacer, of course. Even with all the substitutions, the cornbread came out well and everybody enjoyed it. I made some vegetarian chili and a cabbage salad and that was our lunch.

The kids loved to hear the story of The Mayflower all over again. We have covered it every year around Thanksgiving and they remembered some bits. The thing is, I don’t harp so much on dates and details. Maybe I should. The way I learned history was dry and fact-oriented and I want them to get into history through the avenue of a story.

Continue reading »

I had good history teachers, but the way they taught us was via a textbook. Here are the five reasons why the peasant revolts happened in 1907; memorize the years when King Stephen the Great reigned; now list the seven outcomes of World War II. I never understood why people got interested in history. What was the big deal?

Cornbread in pan

Cornbread in pan

Well, now that I am older, I look at history differently – as a story. I think that Susan Wise Bauer inspired me in that way, but I grew into this experience organically, through my fascination with royalty and by watching period dramas like ‘Downton Abbey’ and, more recently, ‘Victoria.’

You get the story and then you start asking questions about the people, the times, the inventions, and the government of the era. You get answers by Googling, by looking things up in a history encyclopedia, by listening to music from that time, by buying a history magazine etc. And then you know more about what happened and why. You discover you love history because it is so fascinating to hang on to the story.

That’s my strategy with the kids and I think it works because my son declares he loves history. My daughter – not so much, but she is still young. When my son was my daughter’s age, he was OK with history, but he would not declare his love for it.


Adventure Science Center in Nashville

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When we went to Nashville recently for TeenPact One Day, we also spent some time at the Adventure Science Center. That place is so big, your child could spend hours in there and not get bored. In the process, your child would be learning all sorts of science concepts hands-on.

Boy and girl play at Adventure Science Center

Sending parachutes up to be released

One can, for instance, lift a car with the help of a lever and fulcrum. The famous Aristotelian quote is written right on the lever: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Continue reading »

There is a piano you can play with your feet and an organ you play by covering holes with large cylinders. If your children are over 45 lbs, they can experience Moon’s gravity in a harness and try to moon walk. My son kept talking about the experience weeks after he did it, even though he did not master the squatting. Apparently, one must squat as soon as your feet touch the ground.

Upstairs, there is a large hall about the human body. You learn about the different parts of the brain by actually walking into a brain. They have a grossology game which is exactly what it sounds like. They ask you questions on a screen about the excretory function and you get to answer by pushing buttons, against three other contestants, or alone, if you prefer. Children love the topic, of course.

Adventure Science Center in Nashville

Body heat screen reacts to their movements

They also have a large water table to demonstrate the flow of blood in and out of the heart. Children can manipulate small gates to close and open different paths for the water. Of course, they make up their own games and forget all about the circulatory system. They are having fun and moving about and learning a little bit about the four chambers of the heart though.

In the planetarium, we were able to catch a documentary about solar eclipses, produced right there in Nashville. It was so fascinating, I was sorry I fell asleep ten minutes into it, but I suppose I am more tired than I think I am. At least I know the children enjoyed it very much.

If you are a teacher, you get into the Adventure Science Center for free. Just make sure you bring your homeschool educator ID if you have one from your local support group.


Cloudy With A Chance of Music

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The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) regularly schedules concerts for school children. Cloudy with a chance of music was geared toward children in PK-2nd grade. As such, it was very interactive. The conductor guided the children through the program and had a special guest who contributed to the whole program.

The beautiful Tennessee Theater in Knoxville

The beautiful Tennessee Theater in Knoxville

You cannot beat actually being in the audience at the Tennessee Theater, of course, but should you not be able to attend, you can make your own concert by following the Teacher’s Guide provided on the KSO website and by picking out the songs from YouTube – any orchestra will do. Continue reading »

Of course, you will not get the interactive part of the concert, the dialogue between the conductor and the special guest, or between him and the audience. When you stay home, you have limitations. But you can still come pretty close to educating your children as if you had been in a concert hall.

We had a lot of fun and it was worth our time. I must confess, I get too comfortable to drive to Knoxville sometimes, but I remember how much we enjoy these concerts and get into gear, no pun intended. Plus, it is always great to see my last name on the seating chart. I don’t think it is vanity. I think it is simply the excitement of a mom who loves homeschooling.

Maybe my next book should be called “I Am School” and should detail all the ways in which a loving parent can offer her children the stimulation and opportunities very few brick and mortar schools offer these days, for a fraction of the price and time investment. Hmmm….