Texas Bucket List – Gulf Coast ~ Blogging Through the Alphabet


Honestly, I am not a water person. I don’t enjoy swimming. I don’t desire to sit by the water and “just enjoy” it. I would rather be in the shade with a book. But, with a family that loves to ocean and swimming and all that comes with it, I am learning to appreciate the joy and the beauty of the coast. The Texas Gulf Coast has tons of lovely beaches and we have been able to experience several of them.

Each spring the question begins getting asked “when are we going to the beach this year?”

Gulf Coast 2

Some years we make it a spur of the moment trip. Other times, we plan well ahead for it. Either way, we always rent a small house so that the girls can run and play and we don’t have to worry about disturbing those above or below us in a hotel or condo. It has always worked well (except for the time we found out after we got there that the water was unsuitable for drinking or cooking and we had to go find a store to buy water).

Playing in the surf is always a joy for the girls. Now that they are getting older, I imagine I will enjoy it more since I won’t worry quite so much about them in the water.

My favorite part is always the lovely sounds and the animals we get to find and observe. There is so much life on the coast and we always see something new.

Gulf Coast

A trip to the coast is always worth it.

At Home.

Previous Letters in the series:
A – Abilene’s Storybook Sculpture Project 
B – Big Bend
C – Congress Avenue Bridge and the Bat Colony
D – Dr Pepper Museum
E – Enchanted Rock
F – Flowers


This is a weekly series and will be linked weekly with the Blogging Through The Alphabet co-hosts:
Amanda at Hopkins Homeschool
Kirsten at Doodle Mom
Jennifer at Worth a Bowed Head
Kimberley at Vintage Blue Suitcase
Desiree at Our Homeschool Notebook
Markie at My Life As Mrs. Cooks
Hilary at Walking Fruitfully


Silverdale Press White House Holidays Unit Studies ~ a Crew review

Silverdale Press White House Holidays

Over the past few weeks, we have spent some time working through some unit studies on holidays. Silverdale Press LLC has a unique set of unit studies available – White House Holidays Unit Studies. These are a set of studies on various holidays and their connections to the White House, particularly when the President set them aside as national holidays.

There are six holidays covered in this unit study set:

  • Labor Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Valentine’s Day

Each holiday unit delves into the history of the holiday, including important background events or occurrances that influenced the creation of the holiday. The history, the political settings and background, the presidential influences, and traditions all play an important role in how each of the national holidays came to be. Within each holiday, the White House and those in it played an important role.

One of the richest parts of these unit studies is the inclusion of primary sources. From the inclusion of speeches to photographs to letters, these primary sources are an important part of understanding history. Their inclusion here really strengthens the understanding of the background and history of these holidays that are celebrated and remembered nation-wide.

Each study has three to five lessons. Each lesson includes an overview, a materials list, learning outcomes, and a lesson plan. An answer key is also provided in a separate document. With each lesson there is a number of activities to accompany the lesson. Some unit studies have separate lessons for K-6 and 7-12 while other studies have the same lesson for all of them with different activities for the two levels.


Veterans Day

We started with Veterans Day and worked with a K-6 student and a 7-12 student. This is one of the studies that has different lessons for the two different age groups. That actually made it a bit difficult to do these lesson together because the readings for the older group were much more detailed and included much more information. So, I ended up working with Miss J on the K-6 lessons and Miss E worked on the 7-12 lessons by herself.

There are 3 lessons in this study and it begins back at Armistice Day (November 11, 1918) and World War I. The history of that day, how the world responded, and what the aftermath of WWI was like were all a part of this discussion. The poem in Flanders Field was discussed and the symbolism of the poppy. The lessons talked about the effects on the economy of entering the Great War. We learn more about President Wilson and future President Hoover. The taxes and loans system was also a part of the discussion. We also covered President Eisenhower’s childhood, service, and presidency while moving through WWII and into the Korean War history. President Eisenhower changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 so that all veterans of military wars and service would be honored, not just those from WWI.

We did several activities related to these lessons. We created poppies (K-6), talked about the poem In Flanders Field (included in the study for K-6)), and completed a crossword puzzle (7-12). We talked about our own military history and family and friends we know who have served in the US military. Miss J created food conservation posters while Miss E studied the 14 points from Wilson’s speech on lasting peace and then wrote her own 14 points (we ended up with 12, I think) in response to Wilson’s Fourteen Point Speech (a primary source included in the study). The discussion about the 14 points was really quite interesting and thought provoking. For our final activities, we listened to the girls’ dad play Taps on his trumpet and talked about the significance of that. We looked at how to display and store the American flag properly. We looked up online the various monuments to veterans in Washington, D.C., and talked about some of the ones we know of closer to us, as well.

This was a fun and interesting study to cover. It tied in really well with the study of WWII that Miss J did not too long ago and the timeline she has for that was very helpful in studying this holiday. The presidents that were influential in the history of this holiday were interesting to learn about and seeing history come together is fascinating.


Labor Day

The Labor Day unit study includes three lessons. There are separate lessons for the two age groups, allowing for independent study or group study within age groups.

The Labor Day study delves into child and immigrant labor and the poor conditions that were experienced by workers 100 years ago. From tenements to factor work, the life was hard. Studying photographs of the time helped us understand a bit more about children working and how families struggled to survive. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the people that tried to make things better. This study covers her life and work for the children and immigrants. Looking back on others who tried to bring light to the conditions of workers, we saw folks back in the 1880s organizing “labor day” parades to bring some hope and light to the workers. The lessons also talk about unions and strikes, including the Pullman strike and President Cleveland’s response to it. A discussion of economics and how a strike can affect much more than just the single company was part of the lesson for us.

labor day parade

We analyzed photographs as primary source documents and discussed what it showed about child labor and tenement conditions. We looked up the life of Eleanor Roosevelt and read an article she wrote. Miss J studied the picture of the first Labor Day parade and then created her own placards to carry in a parade. She and her sisters then had their own Labor Day parade. We visited the Library of Congress and looked up images related to Labor Day. We read parts of speeches from presidents related to labor.

This was an interesting study to do as it tied in with some of the stories and movies the girls have seen regarding child labor and working conditions in factories. It was a good discussion about why things needed to change and to see how the change came about.


Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The MLK, Jr. study has five lessons. The materials for these lessons are the same for both grade levels, with the differentiation coming in the activities. The written materials were a big long for the K-6 level in my opinion, so I ended up not have Miss J complete very much of this one. We read together some of the relevant bits of the text and we watched the videos that were relevant to the lesson. She worked with Miss E on the timeline and map some. Miss E did most of this study on her own. She read each lesson and completed the activities for them. I always pre-read the lesson and knew what discussions we would need to have, so we did take time to sit down together for those discussions.

The study covers the history of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s own personal history. From the bus boycotts to the Ruby Bridges case to the relevant court rulings, from President Eisenhower to President Kennedy to President Obama, there is a huge amount of information in this unit. Most of it is written text or video links, with inclusion of court verdicts and speeches as primary source documents.

video on MLK Jr

Many of the activities in this study are responses to information and call for answering questions, particularly for the older students. We did these as interactive discussions because that really opens up the discussion for understanding rather than just a response to a question with a text to look back on for an answer.working on MLK Jr study

This study, as written, is really too much for the K-3 or K-4 levels. There is just too much information. Had we spread it out over three or four weeks, it might have worked fine but there is just so much text and the information is very difficult to process for that age. They are so trusting and don’t understand much of prejudice and treating others badly. That makes this study, as written, something that just doesn’t fit well.

Other Studies

There are three other studies that we have not used yet.

The Thanksgiving study has five lessons. It begins at the search for freedom in the New World and includes primary source documents of two men who experienced life in the New World in the 1620 at Plymouth Plantation. The study looks at the history of harvest festivals and moves all the way through having students look up the current president’s Thanksgiving proclamation. Many presidents have had a prominent role in Thanksgiving over the years and those roles are covered in this study. There are a number of activities to go along with this unit and quite a bit of information. I can see this one easily taking at least a couple of weeks to work through with younger students. The text is the same for both age levels but there are different activities, including more in depth readings and analysis of primary source documents for the older group.

The Christmas study has four lessons. It covers Mrs. Kennedy and The Nutcracker tradition, Mrs. Ford and gingerbread houses, and Mrs. Bush with her story books, to name just a few things covered. From baking to reading presidential Christmas addresses, there are quite a few activities to choose from for each of the lessons. The text is the same for both age levels with differentiated activities. The activities will be a lot of fun and for many families will co-ordinate with their own holiday traditions. Once again, there is quite a bit of text and when you add the activities that include a written text, there is a lot here for younger students. It would be best to break the text up over a few days for each lesson, making the unit take a few weeks to work through. After adding in the activities, this unit could easily occupy a month.

Valentines Day is one that doesn’t really interest me much. I have only glanced at the history of it here. The overview in this study includes a page of possible credits for high schoolers, something I didn’t see in any of the other studies.  There are many love letters between presidents and their loved ones included in this unit study.

reading from computer

Final Thoughts

These are fine studies that really address the history of holidays, something we don’t see a lot. I am looking forward to seeing any additional holidays that are to be added in the future, as they are planning more.

At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read what other families thought of the White House Holidays Unit Studies. Some of the families worked with a writing program instead that is titled Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers, aimed at ages 14-18. Both programs are from Silverdale Press LLC. Click the banner below to read reviews.


Sinking the Sultana ~ Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Book Club is late this month. Life was busy and I had no idea that it has snuck up on me until it was past time to post. I had been reading an interesting book titled Sinking the Sultana. It is written by Sally M. Walker.

Sinking the Sultana

The Sultana was a steamboat that ran the Mississippi River during the Civil War. Its final trip up river was fatal and brings to light an awful lot about the Civil War that I had no idea about.

When I think of the Civil War, I think of blue and gray, brother against brother, industrialism against agriculture, individual freedom vs the greater good. I think of Abraham Lincoln, great men and heroes, fighting, death, and struggle. I think of the Underground Railroad and folks helping other folks because it was the right thing to do. I think of people helping and doing right because it helped someone else.

I did not think about atrocities equal to WWII concentration camps and greed overpowering humanity. I did not realize how awful some of the places prisoners of war ended up and how power and greed influenced even the basics of food and care.

Sinking the Sultana takes you through the Civil War through the eyes of some of the survivors. This chronicle begin with giving the reader some good background information on both the history of steamboats and the Mississippi. The growth of the boat industry on the river was interesting to read.

Next the reader is introduced to several of the men who will survive the disaster or whose stories are known in regards to the war and the disaster. Following this, we find out about Libby Prison and Belle Island, two of the Confederate prisoner camps. The atrocities that are documented here are horrifying and sad. So many men died in these horrifying conditions where the prisoners were not given any kind of protection from the elements or decent food.

Most did not make it out of these camps. Many of those who did met their death on the decks of the Sultana, thanks to greed. The government was paying steamboats to transport prisoners of war up river at the end of the Civil War. The more prisoners on board, the more money in the pockets of the owners and captains. The Sultana was overloaded with way too many passengers and had been poorly fixed when one of the boilers was leaking.

The exact reason the Sultana sank may never be known but there were many factors that played into it, all of which were likely preventable. Or so it seems to me by reading this book. All in all, when the Sultana boiler exploded and the boat sank, it killed more than 1500 people. Some estimates are over 1600. The problem is that the greed of the men in charge caused them to not follow procedure and the exact names and numbers of the people on board were unknown as they were not properly documented. And very few of those in charge were ever held responsible.

This is a larger disaster than the Titanic, yet fewer people know about it. I didn’t until I found this book on the shelf. It was a fascinating book to read and I am glad I stumbled across it. Makes me desire to read more about the Civil War, to find more stories about those less documented issues that arose, stories outside of Lincoln and Lee.

What have you read recently? We would all like to find new and interesting books to read so please share in the comments.

At Home.

book club button 200

Texas Bucket List – Flowers ~ Blogging Through The Alphabet


Texas is beautiful in the spring and summer. There are flowers everywhere. Well, until the heat hits. Then there are still plenty of flowers, just not quite the same covering of them as springtime.

Indian Paintbrushes
Indian Blankets
Mexican Hats
. . . and the list goes on.

Here is a list of many of the wildflowers found in Texas.

The Texas landscape is well know for the carpeting of bluebonnets that happens every spring. Some years, they are thicker and brighter than others but they appear each year. Their bright blue and white brings smiles to everyone and bring out the inner photographer of parents. I doubt there are many children growing up in Texas that don’t have their pictures taken each spring in a patch of bluebonnets. In fact, my children actually insist even before I do that we have to take an annual bluebonnet picture.

F flowers

Mixed within those bluebonnets, you almost always find Indian Paintbrushes. I grew up with Indian Paintbrushes in New Mexico so it was surprising to me to find that they are almost in a symbiotic relationship with bluebonnets. I don’t know what it is but they are always found together. Even in places I know have been seeded with bluebonnets, you find an Indian Paintbrush or two.

Primroses are so pretty. They come up behind our house in our little ditch. We also used to have a gorgeous thick area of Indian Blankets but they were mowed down by the HOA before the seeded one year and so they no longer grow there. I have tried to seed them but without luck so far.

Do you know who Lady Bird Johnson is? She was the First Lady and one of her passions was wildflowers and beautification. She worked hard to make the nation beautiful and it has become her legacy. Check out some of the resources regarding Lady Bird Johnson.

Biography Channel video and article about Lady Bird
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
First Lady Biography on Lady Bird Johnson
PBS article on the beautification campaign

A couple of years ago, we visited a wildflower farm down in the Texas Hill Country area. Even though it was mid-June and the heat was hitting, there were still plenty of lovely flowers to enjoy. It was interesting to see acres and acres of flowers and know that they were making it possible for the flowers to continue across the years. We picked up some seeds at their store, too.

Wildflowers make people smile and it always makes me sad when they get cut down before they have a chance to seed. Yes, the plant gets kind of ugly in the seeding process but the seeds will allow the beauty to continue in the coming years. So, please, don’t cut them down before they have seeded! And we will all enjoy the beautification that Lady Bird worked so hard towards for many years to come.

At Home.

Previous articles in the series:
A – Abilene’s Storybook Sculpture Project 
B – Big Bend
C – Congress Avenue Bridge and the Bat Colony
D – Dr Pepper Museum
E – Enchanted Rock



This is a weekly series and will be linked weekly with the Blogging Through The Alphabet co-hosts:
Amanda at Hopkins Homeschool
Kirsten at Doodle Mom
Jennifer at Worth a Bowed Head
Kimberley at Vintage Blue Suitcase
Desiree at Our Homeschool Notebook
Markie at My Life As Mrs. Cooks
Hilary at Walking Fruitfully

ARTistic Pursuits: Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary ~ a Crew review

K-3 art book cover

Creating is always a welcome activity and when I heard about the new video lessons from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. for their K-3 level books, I was very intrigued. The series is ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray; we received Volume 1 of the series – Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary. When all of the books are released, there will be a total of eight (8) books.

instructional discs for K-3 art

Art for Children works with the student to teach them variety of words related to art creation. The book is a hardback book that is printed in full color. There are 18 lessons total. Six (6) of the lessons are video only lessons and 12 of them are text only lessons. The book comes with two discs for the video lessons – one is a DVD only disc and one is a Blu-ray. Both discs contain the exact same information and the video quality is the same.

Through the book, students will explore several different areas of art and discover how artists see the world. They will experience composition, imagination, oberservation,  and communication. They will work with shape, form, and texture while studying landscapes, still life, animals, and portraits.

The book begins with a page letting you know what materials you will need for all of the projects. There is also a short explanation of the teaching philosophy for ARTistic Pursuits.

video and book

Each of the video lessons have a single page in the book so that you know where they belong. There is materials information and a couple of steps to follow but there is no instruction written for these lessons. I think this is a shortcoming of this book. You must watch the video in order to complete the video lessons so if you don’t have access to a video player or your disc gets broken, you no longer can complete this lesson.

The video starts with an introduction by hostess Ariel Holcomb. The introduction is followed by instruction and examples by art teacher Brenda Ellis. All you see of the instruction is a video of the artist’s hands with a voice over for the instruction. It is very good instruction on how to use the materials for the lesson and the steps to follow for the project in the lesson. It is concluded with a review of the information and steps to take. Then you are to go create the project on your own. This is where having written instructions would be really helpful. For the paper folding lesson, I had to stand there with the remote control in my hand, pausing every few seconds after each instruction on how to fold the animal’s head. It worked but it was not simple.

working on a special day painting

The text lessons are fantastic. Each text lesson includes an introduction to the idea covered and is then followed by a reproduction of a work of art by a master. For example, in the texture lesson the work is The Sunflower 1906-07 by Klimt. This master work is studied and some questions are asked to help the student really focus on the art. Then the student’s project is set out for them to complete with images to help guide the student.

Each text lesson includes some preparation notes for the teacher/parent. The materials tend to be found in the midst of the lesson, rather than clearly at the front, but they are there.

Each lesson, whether video or text, can be done in about 30 minutes, depending on how much effort the student desires to put into the project creation. The lessons are designed to do approximately one lesson per week. We were able to make it through most of this book, as it was a joy to do more than one lesson a week. We often did one lesson a day and I had to stop her to get other work done.

Miss J just finished up her 3rd grade year; she is 9 years old. I chose this book for her in order to get the instructional videos of the use of materials. It was good to have some instruction on how to use the specific materials. Sometimes Miss J felt they were fine and other times she felt as though she were too old for the instruction.


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We have used ARTistic Pursuits Inc. in the past and I like the instruction that is included. I like the fact that master works are included and that students have freedom in how they apply the concept to their own work. This is not a program where they study line and then everyone draws the same thing. They might study line but then the student is encouraged to find a new place where they see the ideas of line used and create their art from that new thing. This is great for solidifying the concepts for the students.

working on her artwork

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this ARTistic Pursuits Inc. program. I like the format but it could use some tweaking. I don’t know that I would purchase the program because to get the entire series would take a commitment, though I am interested in the idea behind the focus on culture in the other volumes of the series.

At Home.

Read more about ARTistic Pursuits and their K-3 art program by clicking the banner below. Other families used volumes 2-4.


I Know That My Redeemer Lives ~ hymn

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

Today’s hymn is one that I have sung from childhood. It often pops to mind when I am struggling with things. Listen to it at Great Songs Chapel. You can also find it at In Search of the Lord’s Way by going to the alphabetical listing and clicking on the arrow beside the title.

It focuses on what is true, what is KNOWN. That is the focus “I Know.” And what is known?

  • My Redeemer lives. – He is alive, currently living.
  • He prays for me. – I am in His keeping and He prays that I will stay there.
  • He gives eternal life, free from sin and sorrow. – He is the only one who has the offer of freedom from sin and sorrow.
  • My Redeemer wants me to be holy. – In what I say, in what I think, and in what I do I should be holy as He is holy. In doing so, I may be with him when I leave this earthly life.
  • He offers grace to sinful men. – God offers grace to all. Not those who are “good.” Not to those who are the “best.” All. All are offered grace because we are all sinful. He gives us grace in spite of who we are and He is coming again to take us to heaven
  • I know that He has prepared a place for me. – Heaven has been prepared for me. And for you. And for all who accept this grace that God gives to all. It is not something temporal; it is eternal.

What freedom is there in knowing, really KNOWING, these things about My Redeemer! I know these things without a doubt. And because of knowing this, I have a comfort here on this earth. I know that no matter what is brought my way and thrown in my path, I have My Redeemer who is alive and doing these things for me. Knowing that He is praying and preparing for just me, little ol’ me, makes me feel stronger and I can face the next hurdle because of KNOWING this.

At Home.

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

Words: Fred A. Filmore
Music:  Fred A. Filmore

I know that my Redeemer lives,
And ever prays for me;
I know eternal life He gives,
From sin and sorrow free.


He wills that I should holy be,
In word, in tho’t, in deed;
Then I His holy face may see,
When from this earth-life freed.


I know that unto sinful men
His saving grace is nigh;
I know that He will come again
To take me home on high.


I know that over yonder stands
A place prepared for me;
A home, a house not made with hands,
Most wonderful to see.


I know, I know that my Redeemer lives,
I know, I know eternal life He gives;
I know, I know that my Redeemer lives.

Texas Bucket List – Enchanted Rock ~ Blogging Through the Alphabet


One summer, At Home Dad, Miss J, and I headed to Fredericksburg while the other two attended church camp. We stumbled upon this gigantic pink rock that tons of folks know about but we didn’t. It is called Enchanted Rock and is a favorite hiking destination for many people.

Enchanted Rock is a huge granite dome that rises above the surrounding areas, providing a fantastic lookout point. The dome rises well over 400 feet above the base. The peak is at 1,825 feet above sea level. It covers about 640 acres. The hike is the equivalent of hiking about 30-40 stories of stairs, depending on how directly you attack the summit.

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The history surrounding this huge pink rock goes back quite a while. Ancient people have left their mark here. With over 400 archeological sites within the park, there is much evidence of the history of this place. Native groups have used this area. Explorers coming into the area spent time here. Settlers used it as a safe place.

There are also many legends surrounding the rock, including maidens who threw themselves off the rock and people holing up to fight off attackers. As with many historical sites, there is a lot of interesting background and story surrounding this site.

Because it was June and summer, the hike was HOT. I mean, it was hot to begin with but we were hiking up a bare rock face. Hot and hard for a young hiker but it was so very worth it when we got to the top. This is a definite bucket list activity that was worth the time and the hike.


At Home.

Previous Letters in the series:
A – Abilene’s Storybook Sculpture Project 
B – Big Bend
C – Congress Avenue Bridge and the Bat Colony
D – Dr Pepper Museum



This is a weekly series and will be linked weekly with the Blogging Through The Alphabet co-hosts:
Amanda at Hopkins Homeschool
Kirsten at Doodle Mom
Jennifer at Worth a Bowed Head
Kimberley at Vintage Blue Suitcase
Desiree at Our Homeschool Notebook
Markie at My Life As Mrs. Cooks
Hilary at Walking Fruitfully

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