Category Archives: unit study

2018 Winter Olympics Study – activities and STEM challenges

Winter Olympics study

One of the things I have been noticing as my girls get older is that there just don’t seem to be as many resources shared for older students. It is not that they aren’t out there but it does seem that those in existence are being sold only. Sure there may be a single activity shared for free to encourage you to purchase the whole set but sharing an entire study for older students just doesn’t seem to be done often. In addition, I know that many older students are so involved in their courses of study, trying to meet hours or course credit requirements, that “other” things just get left out.

As a hope to fill a piece of this hole, I am sharing what I have put together with anyone who is interested. Use some of it. Use all of it. Use none of it. It is all up to you but here it is. No charge. Happy Winter Olympics!!

Click on the title below for the download.

2018 Winter Olympics

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Linking up with the Homeschool Review Crew weekly link-up.


Erie Canal and Locks

Erie Canal and Locks

Home School in the Woods, a fantastic hands-on history company, has begun offering a new type of product – a-la-carte projects from their history packs.Erie Canal project from HSITW

HSITW has an offer right now (don’t know how long the offer is good) for a project on the Erie Canal that looks simple and fun. So, I sat down and printed it out and put it together so I could show it to the girls. I had not idea just how much hands-on history would happen with that little project.

Miss J, age 8, was terribly interested. So we talked about the project, looking at the map, discussing the information inside of it, and how it would have been used. I also sang her the Erie Canal song that I knew. That settled it – more information was needed so she asked about whether we could find pictures or videos of the canals and locks.

We started out on A Net In Time, looking at the pictures of the field trip they took to Welland Canal.

Homeschool Coffee Break has a field trip discussion about visiting the C&O Canal, as well as a link to an earlier discussion about canals.

Then some videos and webpages:

The Erie Canal page has animated drawings of locks in use.

Here is a video of going through some locks:

This video is about the canal and about the mules used to pull the barges along:

A video of mules actually pulling a boat along:

And this one, not of the Erie Canal but a fascinating look at locks, even on smaller waterways:

So, with just a simple hands-on project from Home School In The Woods, we expanded our learning across continents and waterways, using maps, music, history, commerce, and more. Not bad for a Friday afternoon in the summer.

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Circus Mirandus – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Welcome to the Book Club for July, hosted by myself and Wendy over at Ladybug Daydreams. The book selection for this month was Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. The back cover of this book says it all

Circus Mirandus back cover

If you do not like to include magic in your book reading, stop here. This book is all about magic. But it is not magic like anything you can imagine. Fanciful, imaginative, full of power and might – all good.

Many people have the idea of “seeing is believing.” But with Circus Mirandus, you will not see if you do not believe. This is the story of Micah and the amazing stories his grandfather Ephraim has told him regarding the Circus Mirandus. Micah loves to hear the stories of the magical circus his grandfather would tell him. However, those stories are few and far between now because his grandfather is very ill; he is dying.

Micah believes what his grandfather has told him and wishes more than anything to be able to call in the miracle that is owed to his grandfather from many, many years before. But can Micah ever visit Circus Mirandus? If he does, can he convince the Lightbender that his grandfather’s miracle is still viable and that it is time, now, to call it in? Micah must succeed. His grandfather’s life may well depend on it.

Cassie Beasley has written a wonderfully magical book that stretches the imagination and helps us to see what life is really worth. And, surprisingly, it may be exactly what we are expecting. Friendships formed over school assignments, struggling to help others really see, knowing just what someone needs and fighting hard to get it for them, finding forgiveness and getting your heart’s desire – these themes are found in the storyline and really endure Micah to the reader, as these are things the reader can relate to.

Circus Mirandus front cover

Discussion Questions (found on the Texas Bluebonnet Award 2016-2017 site)

  • The Lightbender owes Grandpa Ephraim a miracle. If you were promised a miracle, would you take it right then or ask to save it for later? Explain.
    I think I would take it right then. It would be incredibly hard to have such power at my fingertips and not use it. So many good things could be accomplished. Then again, I might ask to save it for later precisely because so many good things could be accomplished that I would want to think about them first and be a good steward of the opportunity.
  • Chintzy thinks there is a serious failing of character because she is not offered a snack. Of Jenny, Micah and Chintzy, which do you believe has the failure of character? Defend your answer.
    I think Chintzy has the failing of character. It is very selfish to expect to be offered a treat, a refreshment, or anything. Expecting to be treated the way you want to be treated is not very considerate. Now, at the same time, Jenny and Micah should have thought to be hospitable and offer some refreshment but I think their negligence can be overlooked in the circumstances.
  • Ephraim had to choose between the miracle of having his father home from the war or doing the right thing and have him stay and save lives. What would you have chosen? What does this tell you about Ephraim?
    I believe that I would have chosen as Ephraim did and have him stay and help many others, though that decision would be extremely difficult. This choice in the young Ephraim tells us that he is capable of seeing the greater good and has the character to understand it and desire others to be helped. He is generous and considerate and benevolent.
  • Why does the ticket taker say the quipu is not a ticket but an invitation? Which is better.
    The invitation is definitely better, though I am not sure why the ticket taker was able to differentiate. An invitation is better because you are offered the opportunity to join something, someone wants you there, while a ticket is you saying you desire to be there.
  • Would you have brought Jenny to the circus if you were Micah? Explain.
    Yes. Micah wanted Jenny there. She was his support and his confidence provider. She believed in Micah, even if she didn’t believe in the circus. Micah needed that support that she provided. And Jenny needed to be there for Micah so that she could have her mind stretched.
  • Ephraim says some of us aren’t brave enough to find our specialness and some of us make mistakes along the way. Explain.
    It takes a great amount of courage to be different, to be special, and to try the necessary new things to find just where that lies. In the process of trying new things, we will make mistakes. But eventually, we all find our uniqueness if we continue to search for it.

Circus Mirandus is a wonderful book that I definitely recommend. If you are looking for activities and discussion questions, here are some resources for you. We will be using this book as a read-aloud in a couple of months and I will definitely be using some of these resources and ideas.

Texas Bluebonnet Awards 2016-2016 – discussion questions, resource link list for many topics included in the book (war, knot tying, breathing difficulties, etc.), and a list of other books that might be enjoyed

Penguin Books – educator’s guide with lesson plans, ideas, and discussion questions

Storypath – a faith-based site that looks to connect faith to the book; includes some interesting questions and discussions

Circus Mirandus Ideas – not exactly sure where this one is from but this came up in a Google search; has some good ideas and is in PDF format

WILD(er) About Reading – links to the discussion questions that were used for their book club

This was a fun book. I hope you choose to read it. It was definitely enjoyable.

Please visit Wendy to see what she thought about Circus Mirandus.

Dragon of Lonely Island

Next month we will be discussing The Dragon of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp. I think I will be using the discussion questions found on the blog Sweet On Books.

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book club button 200



YWAM: Gladys Aylward ~ a Crew review

Gladys Aylward

Historical fiction is a favorite genre for the girls to read, especially if it is from YWAM Publishing. I often find the girls browsing through the biography section of the library, scanning the spines of books for the brown color with the distinctive print of a Christian Heroes: Then & Now book. The opportunity to review a book and curriculum guide from YWAM is always exciting so our selection to receive Christian Heroes- Gladys Aylward was exciting.

YWAM PublishingChristian Heroes- Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime by Janet and Geoff Benge is the true story of the Christian missionary to China. Gladys had desired to be a missionary and tried her best to pass the required to classes to be sponsored to go to China but she just could not do it. They did not think she was cut out to be a missionary and that she was too old. (Can you imagine being too old to do the will of God?!?) Gladys would not accept their choice and decided that she would just have to get to China on her own. So she did.

Through many difficulties (frostbit, war, no money and more), Gladys finally makes it to China. She makes her way to where Mrs. Lawson is, though Mrs. Lawson never truly expected her to show up. She dug in, learned the language, how to work hard, how to do what needed to be done. And, she spread God’s word. Even after the death of Mrs. Lawson, Gladys stated with the people Yangcheng, teaching and helping them. She became very trusted, even to the point that the mandarin (ruler) of the area sought her out for assistance.

Gladys did many amazing things: stopped prison riots, became the foot inspector in charge of assuring that foot binding had stopped in the province, taught, nursed, and more. But she is best known for an amazing feat – assuring the safety of hundreds of children during the war.

illustration Ist Samuel 167b

Gladys’ story is one of remarkable courage in the face of unbelievable odds. Trust in God, knowledge that He is the one who cares and provides, is the overarching theme of the story of Gladys Aylward. It is one of strength and power of the God Almighty. What a marvelous story for our children to hear.

The story alone is magnificent. But, if you couple it with the unit study curriculum guide from YWAM, you have a unit study that takes you beyond the story into the heart of the missionary, the areas of England, Russian, and China, and a time of war. By adding just a few of the activities from the curriculum guide, you open up the story to additional understanding and an increased ability to remember some of the lessons from the story.

The curriculum guide comes in a downloadable format. Once you download and unzip the file, you can access an additional short biography of Gladys, a “Meet the Authors” page, and the unit study. The unit study is in two parts – the first is the written activities and ideas; the second is the printable maps and worksheet.Table of Contents

The first part, the written activities and ideas, is extensive. There are tons of ideas and activities. From comprehension questions (with answers provided) to vocabulary words, there are plenty of the expected activities. You will find maps to mark the places and geographical locations mentioned in the books, as well as lists of ideas of the places to mark (with page numbers from the book to help you know which part of the story that places corresponds to). There are ideas for community involvement, displays, hands-on activities, and projects.

Our family chose just a few of the ideas since we have already moved into summer mode but we love doing unit studies that allow for flexibility in intensity. We worked on the maps. Using a map to relate to the story is always beneficial. I read the book out loud with Miss J (age 8) and I used some of the comprehension questions with her. Miss E (13) and Miss L (age 11) both read the book on their own and then talked with me about what they read, with me thinking through some of these questions to guide the discussion. Each of the girls chose one of the Bible verses to illustrate or memorize. Miss E also decided to combine this Bible verse with the Related Themes sections of the guide.

Related Themes basically gives some examples of ideas that are related to the missionary story and where it took place. One of the themes from the book that was of interest to Miss E is the foot binding – when did it originate, why was it continued, what were the physical properties of it, when was it abandoned as a practice, etc. This related to her theme and a speech she wanted to write. She is still working on the speech and the research of foot binding.

map work from curriculum guide

The guide also lists a number of additional resources directly related to the story, as well as some that are less directly related but might be of interest. We used a few of these but found many were not available through our library system. Instead, we used the idea of supplemental materials and I located books, videos, and other materials to go along with the study. I kept these in our book basket for the girls to pull out on their own. We watched a couple of documentaries on China and some illustrated folk tales from China. We will continue to pick and choose activities for a bit longer, as we find them interesting.

The curriculum guide is not necessary to get a lot out of the story Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime but it definitely brought the story even further to life for us. If you would like to read an excerpt from the book, visit the Bonus Section for the Heroes Series. There is a sample with a couple of chapters from Gladys Aylward, as well as some more specific information about the curriculum guide. This page also includes lots of extras like word puzzles, crosswords, and coloring pages for various books.

labeling map of China

It is difficult to say enough good things about YWAM Publishing. Their series Christian Heroes: Then & Now and Heroes of History  are both excellent history resources, well researched and easy to read. Challenging the mind to think about the people, the decisions they made, and what they chose to pursue, these stories are well suited as a read aloud for a family but can easily be read by a 10 year old student who enjoys reading. They are definitely appropriate from that age on up. Though a high schooler might find a more challenging read more suited, there is much to be gained for all ages by reading the books of these two series.

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Other families reviewed different books from these two series. To read what other families from the Homeschool Review Crew thought and to find out about the book titles they reviewed, click on the banner below.

Christian & History Heroes {YWAM Publishing Reviews}Crew Disclaimer


Victoria and Her World (Homeschool Legacy) ~ a TOS review


When you have three giggly girls, all things royal are appealing. We were excited to review Victoria and Her World, a Once-a-Week Micro-Study from Homeschool Legacy. (However, I know Miss J would have been overly thrilled to get to study Pirates or Privateers: You Decide, another micro-study from Homeschool Legacy.)

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
We have reviewed the Once-a-Week studies from Homeschool Legacy in the past and enjoyed them just fine. The Once-a-Week Micro-Study has been fantastic! It is simple, written with plenty of information, and easy to do activities that can easily be extended if you want to create additional depth in the study for older students or lower the intensity of the study for younger students. Unit studies do a wonderful job of bringing the family together and create an atmosphere where hands-on learning thrives.

These micro-studies are set up to be done once a week for four weeks. As easy as that is, it might not fit everyone’s scheduled as well as it does ours. The study is written in such a way that you can easily adapt it to fit your schedule. For the most part, we did our study on Fridays. However, there were a few times where we had opportunity to do something so we worked on some of the hands-on activities about Queen Victoria.

Victoria and Her World is designed around learning more about Queen Victoria, the world she lived in and reigned, and what was shaping life at that time. From authors to work conditions, from the life of royalty to the way a home was run, this study has taught us much about the times of Queen Victoria. This study is acceptable for grades 1-8, according to the Homeschool Legacy site. I would personally think that it would need a bit more beefing up for grades 6-8 but that isn’t hard to do.

The unit begins with a short introduction and learning-about-great-britainthen moves directly into the unit. Week 1 begins with a list of the materials needed for the entire study and then moves right into the study. Each week includes a reading that focuses on that week’s topic(s). There are then a few hands-on activities to do that enhance the learning. It is also suggested that a book be chosen for a family read-aloud.

Victoria and Her World focused on Great Britain, Queen Victoria (her history and reign), The Royal Family, and Hard Times. To see a sample week, visit Homeschool Legacy’s page for this micro-study. At the bottom of the page, there is a link for a sample week.

We enjoyed activities from all of the weeks and had a lot of fun. There is plenty of options and exchanging options works well, too. In week one, we chose our family read aloud. The study discussed many authors from the time period and their influences. We checked out several options from the library. These options all came from the reading or by searching the stacks at the library for Victorian era authors and themes. After the options were explored, we chose Black Beauty to read aloud.

In week two, the study focused on Queen Victoria, who began her reign at the age of 18. We did some additional study on the internet because the girls had more questions about Queen Victoria after reading about her in the study. We also had grabbed a couple of books about her from the library so those came in handy. From her coronation to fashion, architecture, and more, the history of Queen Victoria’s time period was interesting. The activities we did included a lot of reading or looking online. This is the sample week to be found on the Homeschool Legacy site.


We baked Queen Cakes. We studied flags, maps, and music. We viewed architecture, fashion, and furniture. We viewed coronations and weddings and learned about the royal family. From sponge cake to afternoon tea, we had such fun with this study.

The simple approach is sometimes best and while we had fun with the study, I think the results are somewhat of a mixed bag. Miss E (grade 7) made the comment that she didn’t think we had really learned much of anything, though we had seen a lot and read quite a bit. I think she would have benefitted more from me stretching her learning and making this a more in depth experience for her. I believe that too much of it was already familiar to her or didn’t encourage a whole lot of deep thinking. Which is true of this study – it didn’t require much work, either from me or the students. But, it was a lot of fun.

Would I recommend this study or one like it? Absolutely. The hands-on aspect is one that I think makes this a very good study. Victoria and Her World is a great jumping off point. This is not a full history course that covers the period well but that is not what it is intended to be. It is, however, a great way to determine interest points for further study and to expose students to material they might not otherwise encounter.

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Click on the banner below to see what other Homeschool Review Crew families thought about their studies, which included:

Once-a-Week Unit Study: Christmas Comes to America
Once-a-Week Micro-Studies:
Pirates or Privateers: You Decide
Cooking up History with the Founding Presidents
Victoria and Her World
Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims
Many Nations

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy} 

Crew Disclaimer




As Veteran’s Day approaches, I thought I would share a few ideas that we incorporated last year.

In Flander’s Field poem flander's fields

I found this poem in a little printable and printed off a copy for each of the girls. They read it and then we talked about each stanza of the poem. After that, I had them answer these questions and mark their poems.

poem 2

We also pulled out a map and found the location of Flander’s Fields.

Do a search as well and see if you can find historical pictures of Flander’s Fields. Or even current pictures to compare. (We use KidRex, a search engine for kids powered by Google.)

Flanders Fields Music is a very nice website. It contains a whole set of lessons for the poem, a song, a video, lots of authentic pictures, and more.

Poppies at the Tower of London

Last year commemorated 100 years since the beginning of WWI. England spent a great portion of the year installing a memorial at the Tower of London titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”. We saw a link about it early on in the installation and watched it grow through checking back at that link. It is quite an amazing installation with 888,246 red ceramic poppies, one for each British or Colonial serviceman killed in the War. There are probably some other links for images of the memorial but here is a link to the Tower of London and to Wikipedia. The Tower of London has some interesting videos, as well.

Poppy Art

The girls were asked to create a piece of artwork to illustrate something we discussed or an emotion they felt. These are what they created.

P1120428 P1120429 P1120432

Acrostic & Coloring Page

Using the letters for the word POPPIES, the girls wrote about things they learned or that touched them in this study. Here are their acrostic puzzles.

Poppies completed acrostics

Here is a copy of the acrostic poem that you can print or save to use with your students.

Poppies Acrostic

Here, also, is a coloring page that I created for you to print or save for use with your students.

Poppy zentangle art

color page

Oral History

We also talked with the girls’ grandmother about her childhood. When she was a child, she sold poppies as a fundraiser to help an organization her family was a part of. It was fun for the girls to hear that Oral History and learn a bit more about their family. If you have someone your students can talk with, you might find out something interesting like this, as well. It is definitely worth discussing what they remember about the times of war they experienced. There is much to be learned, including an appreciation for what we have.

I hope you enjoy your poppy study and remembrance of those who have died protecting our freedoms.

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