Llama, Llama, Duck! & Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Science for the younger two today was a lesson about Camels, Llamas, Deer, and Caribou. So of course, we had to play the Llama song.  Enjoy.


Then during our discussion of Caribou, we learned that it’s the females that have the antlers! That means Rudolph is a girl! We also learned that Rudolph wouldn’t have needed his shiny nose, because caribou have innate radar that leads them home.  My 9 year old then chimed in with, “But if Rudolph didn’t have his shiny nose, NORAD wouldn’t be able to keep track of him! Even though he’s fake anyway.”

Lawmen & Outlaws

james_pinkerton02In the late 1800’s, the West wasn’t as “wild” as the stereotype suggests, but there were plenty of reasons to require some kind of law enforcement.  In most Western towns, that meant a Sheriff, but there was also the U.S. Marshall Service, and the Pinkertons aka the Pinkteron Detective Agency. The Pinkertons had such a good reputation, that the federal government hired them in 1871.  However, primarily due to their conflicts with labor unions, Congress passed the Anti-Pinkerton Act in 1893 to prevent anyone from the agency or any other similar agency from working for the federal Government.

You can read more about Allan Pinkerton & his start in the detective business here.


Jesse James

Lawmen were needed in part because of gangs like the Dalton Brothers or the James-Younger gang.

The James-Younger Gang consisted of brothers Jesse & Frank James and Cole & Jim Younger, as the core of the gang. They lasted much longer than most other gangs, but eventually they all got caught or killed. Biography has a great documentary about Jesse here. (Warning: The “coming up next” at the end during the credits is for a Larry Flynn thing, so maybe turn it off before the credits roll.)

The Dalton Brothers murdered more than stole, as opposed to the James-Younger Gang, who tried not to hurt people whenever possible.  Ironically enough, the two of the most famous gangs of the “wild west” were related!  The Dalton Brothers’ mother was the aunt of Cole & Jim Younger of the James-Younger gang.  The Daltons didn’t start off bad though, they were U.S. Marshals. They turned to a life of crime when they weren’t paid for their work as lawmen.  Their first robbery was in February of 1891.  Their last robbery was Oct5, 1892, in Coffeyville, Kansas.  When they attempted to rob both Coffeyville banks at the same time, the town responded with deadly force.

Enjoy a 1954 episode of Stories of the Century, featuring the Dalton Gang:


More Resources about the Dalton Brothers:


egp.ag.019Ranchers didn’t like the homesteaders so much because the homesteaders fenced in the ranges the cowboys used for cattle drives.

Ranchers raised cattle and other livestock, but cows were the popular choice of the late 1800’s in the West.

Cowboys were employed to help herd the cattle and keep them healthy.  They were also responsible for cattle drives – herding the cattle hundreds or even thousands of miles to the best market.

Margaret Heffernan Borland was the only woman to ever lead a cattle drive.  After the death of her 3rd husband & several of her kids, she took her remaining children (2 sons under age 15, and a 7 yr old daughter), as well as her 6 yr old granddaughter, and led the cattle drive from her ranch in Texas on the Chisholm Trail.  Unfortunately, she died in her boarding room before she could sell the cattle.

Because the cows would roam freely for most of their life, ranchers used a brand to mark their herds so they could tell which cows were whose.  For a fun activity, think up a name for a ranch, then make up a brand.

American Heartland had a video about ranchers:


More Resources:

Homesteaders & Locust Plauges

Homestead Act AdvertismentThe Homestead Act of 1862, signed by Abraham Lincoln, gave anyone, 21 years old or older, who had never taken up arms against the government, 160 acres of land in the West.  The only catch – you had to live on the land for 5 years, and make improvements.  Because the law said “anyone” it meant that women and African-Americans could be homesteaders.  As a result, after the civil war, freed slaves made their way west in drove.  In Kansas, towns populated entirely of freed slaves sprung up.  The freedom, and the feeling of a fresh start drew many.

Unfortunately, only about 40% of those who tried, were successful.  There are were many hardships that faced the homesteaders, everything from Indian attacks, to claim jumpers, to harsh winters, to droughts.  Most of the people who took claims, were too poor to afford to do much with their claims.  Some were killed by claim jumpers, others by Indians, and others by disease.  But many more just simply gave up and left to try to make their way elsewhere.

**** A side note to any who many be reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books:  Pa Ingalls got his homestead under the Timber Culture Act of 1873, which was one of the acts that modified the 1862 act.  Under this act, the homesteader got 160 acres, but they had to plant 40 acres of trees within a set time frame.  Someone who had already gotten 160 acres under the 1862 could make another claim under this act, giving them a total of 320 acres.  The Ingalls did not get a homestead claim until 1880, thus they only got the 160 acres under the Timber Culture Act.

A guy named Corey Branigan did this awesomely funny video explaining the Homestead Act.

Then a kid who goes by Jack made a Lego Version:

More Resources:


E.V. “Hardy” Hardenburg

*** As an interesting side note, the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 which gave states land to sell to fund agricultural colleges, led to the formation of Cornell University, the alma mater of my 2nd cousin 3x removed, Professor Earle Volcart “Hardy” Hardenburg.  “Hardy” was a well respected expert on potatoes, earning his doctorate in 1919, and serving on many agricultural boards as well as speaking across the United States and Canada.


A Kansas farm family fights a losing battle with the relentless "hoppers" in a cartoon by 19th-century illustrator Henry Worrall. (Kansas State Historical Society)

A Kansas farm family fights a losing battle with the relentless “hoppers” in a cartoon by 19th-century illustrator Henry Worrall. (Kansas State Historical Society)

The Locust Plague of 1874-1875

** FYI – This is what Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about in her book On the Banks of Plum Creek.  When she writes about the swarm of grasshoppers, it was really an insect called the Rocky Mountain Locust.  These things were a pest to the settlers for several years, but the worst was the years of 1874-1875.  Eventually, the Rocky Mountain Locust went extinct, with the last documented sighting in 1902.

Here’s a video about it:


More Resources:

Death of the Super Hopper by Professor Jeffery Lockwood. – FYI, the good professor believes in Evolution and Global Warming, but he has several good points.


The Loom of Doom, & so much more.

So week 2 came and went.  Way too fast I’m thinking, especially since here it is, Monday morning of week 3, and I’m just now remember to post about last week!  So much went down… Lets see…

Click to embiggen

Last weekend (Aug 21-22) I spent making a DIY loom for us to use with BigBoy & PinkDiva’s history lesson.  It turned out awesome!

The loom itself is made from a Cross Stitch Frame, the kind you can use to turn your fabric into a scroll.   The frame was too short to make an effective loom though, so we cut the bars in half and attached them to small pieces of scrap wood.  The rigid-ish, and I say “ish” because there is a lot of flex & bend, heddle is made of two pieces of plastic canvas, cut and stitched together.  The shuttle in the picture is made of cardboard, but DH has since made a nicer one out of thin wood for us to use.

Click to Embiggen

BigBoy was thrilled to give weaving a try.  ThePinkDiva had tried weaving in a class at the Cultural Arts Center last year, and fell in love with the art form.  BigBoy is still a bit young, and doesn’t quite get the hang of it…  but PinkDiva loves to weave.  This time we’re making a small green blanket.  But now that we have a loom, I see plenty of doll blankets in our future.  Pinkdiva is even talking about stitching a few pieces together to make a bigger blanket.  Should be fun.

Thursday, thePinkDiva began vision therapy.  I don’t think I’ve ever explained that one anywhere online, so it really needs it’s own blog post.  Soon.  I hope.

Click to Embiggen

Friday was spent at the Podiatrist’s office.  Because I messed up my foot. Everyone got their Math tests done, and that was it.  I was too worn out/in pain to do much else.

Then, on Saturday, Soccer Season officially kicked off.  One night a week for practice, and then games on Saturday.  Should be fun.  BigBoy is thrilled because this is the first year he’s actually part of a team, instead of the “Tots”.  Geekboy discovered at least 3 friends from last year’s team on his new team.  So even though he is the shortest guy on the team, and playing in the 10-12 division (he’s only 9, but they didn’t have enough 8-9 boys to make a team in that division), he’s looking forward to a great season.

Trip to the Air & Space Museum

It’s been raining here since last Thursday (March 5th)  Today was the first day it hadn’t rained!!!  But, yesterday we escaped the house and visited the Air & Space Museum nearby.  It fits really well with our chosen Science curriculum, Apologia’s Astronomy.  Plus, It was Military FREEdom Days, so we got in free!  Awesome!!

Lunar something or other
Anyway, we got there around 1130am, after eating our PB&J’s in the car in the parking garage – hey, it was a nice change of pace from the four walls of our home!    Well, apparently it was Field Trip Tuesday or something.  There must have been like 4 schools there!  The place was packed with rowdy kids running every which way & teachers yelling out to stop them, with the occasional line of highly disciplined kids who weren’t able to see anything other than what the Docent showed them, poor kids.  So it was hairy there for a few minutes, but the schools all left to go get lunch around noon  & we had the place to ourselves.  Well, about as much as you can have a big museum to yourself.  There were people, just not the huge crowds of annoying kids anymore.

We checked out almost everything!  I’ve got a set of photos, but it was fun.  The kids really loved the play area, & the big walk-through plane with all the flight simulators in it.  We also checked out this huge model of an aircraft carrier and talked about some of the things Daddy sees and does everyday at work.  We even checked out this “Mars transport” thing, which was more along the lines of a bad movie with light effects, where you are “along for the ride” as all kinds of craziness goes down on your trip to Mars.  Then the side door opens into the Mars exhibit with the rovers and stuff.  It was kinda cool, but WAY too loud for my bunch.  They lasted like 2 minutes in the video and we hit the button to open the door.   But we had fun, wandered around,  then we hit the gift shop, where we picked up some “Astronaut food” – freeze dried ice cream bars.

After dinner, while they were eating their Astronaut Ice Cream Bars, GeekBoy said he wanted to throw his in the trash.

“I thought I would like it, until I tasted it and remembered how bad it is.”

A funny end to a great day.

First Game of the Season

Kickin the ball

BigBoy had a great time kicking the ball around until the other parents took the field with their kids. There was like two parents for almost every kid!  We had two dads drag their screaming 3 yr olds on and insist they were going to play, and another mom rolled her stroller on the field… and keep in mind the whole “field” for the 2-3yr old is maybe 5 ft wide & maybe 10 ft long. Not very big, so with all the grown ups, the kids didn’t have much room!  Then there was the dad who decided that while the 3 yr olds were kicking balls into the goal, he would play goalie, and he kept blocking them! They are 3!!  AHHH!  Next week, I swear I’m taking more control of BigBoy’s side of field, and kicking off the parents and organizing the kids.  But whatever, the chaos was enough to make BigBoy decide he was done.  So we left & went to watch GeekBoy’s game.

My Ball!

GeekBoy played goalie.  They got one past him, but that was it.  I have photos of 7 different saves, and I know there was at least one that I didn’t get a picture of.  So, he had 8 saves.  He was all over that goal line.  Even his coach was impressed.  Coach said he has a natural talent for the position.  We have a few shots where you can see he was on the other side of the goal, and the ball looks like it’s going in, and in the next half a second, he’s behind the ball, and has caught it!  The boy moves fast!  At half time, one of the other boys on his team asked to be goalie.  GeekBoy didn’t mind, so the switch was made.  While GeekBoy was playing somewhere out in midfield he stopped the ball, with his chin.  Poor guy.  It stunned him more then anything, but after a tooth check, and a slug of water, he was back out on the field.  The other boy lasted in goal for all of about 5 minutes before he started yelling for GeekBoy to come take the “penny” shirt and be goalie instead.  GeekBoy didn’t mind one bit, he loves being goalie.

HA HA! Denied!

Final Score – Our team – 3, their team – 1.

View the whole set here.

First week of school ’08

First official week of school is over.  GeekBoy needs to work on his comprehension.  He’s got the mechanics of math down, he can read really really big words, but has no clue what it all means.  We’re working on it, and I think the light is dawning.  He is doing book reports this year, and since he wants a grade, doing quizzes and such too.  He did well this first week.  thePinkDiva did great too.  She aced her math quiz, and proved that she can read more then she lets on.  I’m trying some new strategies to get her to cooperate.  Big Boy is just having a blast.  They all love the history program – Story of the World is great.  We talked about nomads, did cave paintings, and sewed “game bags.”  Game as in hunting game, not game as in scrabble, although you could probably carry a game in one of these bags.

Mom & Diva Sewing

Cave paintings
The biggest change around here is the rule – no Wii/computer/video until school work is done.  It’s been the only motivating factor to get them to work.  My biggest challenge is to stay firm on that and not bend the rule, esp when DH is gone and I have to do something like mow the lawn.  But you know, they actually played outside while I mowed the lawn?  Wow!  My kids are like me, a Melman (Ahh! Nature!  Get it off me!), and usually prefer the indoors.  This has been great for us.

GeekBoy decided he wants to play soccer.  So, after much discussion, and making it clear that he would follow this through to the end no matter what, there will be no changing of the mind in 3 weeks, we went ahead and contacted the local homeschool sports co-op.  He’s still jazzed about it.  We got him registered and got him a ball, and shin guards.  He’s so excited.  Practice doesn’t start until Aug 30.  He’s on the Junior team – 5-7 yr olds.  Practice is once a week.  Games will be every Saturday.  I’m excited because this it the first time any of my spawn have shown an interest in organized sports!  I loved Volleyball and Basketball (the only sports available to me in my small school), so I’m thrilled to see my son finally take an interest in sports.

Gettin' his kicks

BigBoy got a bike on Friday, and yes, he’s already figured out how to ride.  He obviously needs practice, but more importantly, he’s already figured out the brake!  We spent about an hour out front on the street riding up and down.  He caught on really quickly.  Personally, I think riding a bike must seem like a mental cake walk compared to some of the video games he plays.  His biggest challenge seems to be that his body can’t seem to keep up with his brain.  Oh yea, he’s going to play soccer too.  The Sports Co-op has a “tots” team for the little ones ages 2-4.  No practices, nothing serious, just pretty much the kids get to kick a ball around while big brother (or sister) is playing.  He’s excited.

I wanna play too!

Gramma, Nani, and AnnoyingPenguin came over this weekend.  The kids camped out in GeekBoy’s room.  The tent and everything. With the Geek’s ceiling full of glow stars, it was like sleeping under the stars, only better because they had air conditioning and no bugs.  Since our history lesson this week was all about nomads, we talked about how the nomads slept in tents everyday.  Diva mentioned that she was very glad for her cotton/polyester sleeping bag, because if she had to sleep on an animal skin, she wouldn’t want to sleep there.  All week she has tripped out over nomads using animal skins for everything.

the best kind of camping

Monkey Butt!!!


We went to the Zoo. It was fun. The kids had a blast, and couldn’t help but compare the real zoo to their Zoo Tycoon 2 game that they all love so much. There were several times the Diva would comment, “Mom! They need to put in a girl camel so the Camel will be happy!” The Mandril (pictured above) was the favorite. And to prove the kids actually learned something, once we got home and checked out the photos, GeekBoy declared, “His butt is so colorful so his family can follow him through the jungle.” See… they do learn! And the best part… I didn’t tell him that! He read it off the sign in front of the monkey cage. Learning from everyday life. It can happen folks.


The Emu was pretty pissed about having his sleep disturbed.


Check those birds with the weird red things! “Uh, it says they are ‘Hornbills’ Dad!”

The GeekBoy even took some photos of his own.  Lookie!  Art class!  Photography practice.


“Look mom!  Elephant butt!”


No trip to the zoo is complete without a chance to feed the goats.  Immediately after this photo, thePinkDiva completely lost her marbles because a goat’s tongue had dared to touch her hand.  She insisted on washing her hands, right that second.  The best we could do was a purell dispenser on a post at the end of the fence.  *Note to self – next time we visit the zoo, bring wipes!

And of course, I just couldn’t post this without this most excellent shot of the day…


Monkey Butt!!!   Ha ha ha!