New School Year, New State, New Regulations.

I know it’s early, but we usually homeschool during the hot summer months to allow us to take more time off during the holidays and spring.  But here’s the catch.  We’ve moved -which is why the lesson plans stopped being posted in February.  We’ve moved from a state that had fairly lax rules and an area that was pretty friendly to homeschoolers, to a state that is pretty strict and an area that is anything but friendly to homeschoolers.

By: Chris

In Maryland, you have to submit to portfolio reviews, which are done by the school board.  In the county we live, the board is notorious for being hard on homeschoolers. As such, we’ve opted for the Umbrella School option.  Thankfully I found an umbrella school that will allow us to use whatever curriculum we want. Another thing about Maryland, is that we have to show proof of progress in not just Math & Language – which is all that was required to show progress in Virginia – but also in Science, History, Music, & Art.  I’ll be honest, we were doing Language, Math, & History with the younger two, threw in science as well for the oldest, & unschooling everything else.  Now that I need something more concrete to prove the work *is* being done, I’ve got to add something with a bit more structure in each subject.

Then there’s the oldest.  He’s doing high school level work this year, despite being an 8th grader.  In Virginia, I was letting him take the CAT (California Achievement Test) for his grade level according to the state, so that if we hit a rough patch, we’d have room to slow down & really dig in.  But in Maryland, you only get to claim high school credit for 3 courses, and he’s taking 4 high school courses – Math, Science, History, and Language.  So, it makes more sense to promote him to 9th grade and make him officially in high school.

So this year, everyone will be using Math-U-See, and I’m counting this summer’s swimming lessons & pool time as PE for everyone.  The younger two are using Easy Grammar, and BJU’s American Heritage Studies.  They’ve decided on Apologia’s Land Animals for their science, and we will be using SQUILT for Music Appreciation.  Besides Math-U-See’s Algebra 1, the oldest will be using Switched On Schoolhouse for Grammar, History, and Bible.  For science he will be using Apologia’s Physical Science, for typing, and for art, we’ll be using a combination of sources found online, primarily Khan Academy & TICE 1010.

So… Aprendemos Academy officially starts it’s 2014-2015 school year tomorrow morning.  I am so not ready for this.

A Nation of Immigrants

Anyone not a Native American is descended from an immigrant! This would be a great time to check out genealogical resources online. is an amazing resource which offers a trial membership, but will require payment eventually if you happen to get hooked – and you just might get hooked. Another good resource is – which is free, but the records are not always linked to the right people, or else there are duplicates of the same person. It can be confusing, but you get what you pay for.  Geni is another free resource, but it depends on crowd-sourcing, which is not always accurate. There are tons of other resources out there, just Google it.

In our family, Dad’s side comes from Mexico. Mom’s side is more divided.  On my father’s side of the family, both sides came from Germany well after WW1, but before the start of WW2.  My mother’s side of the family is half Irish, with ancestors coming over likely during the Great Potato Famine. The other half of Gramma’s family came from the Netherlands back in the 1600’s, settling in New Netherlands as merchants.

Try making your own family tree.  And just for fun, check out this vintage Claymation TV Special from 1986, My Friend Liberty:

Climate & Currents



Read pgs 9-12. Discuss Climate (aka weather) & Currents & their affect on the continents & each other. What factors can affect our climate? Why is it helpful to understand the oceans’ currents?

This is a tough topic to research online, because so much of what is out there buys into the myth of global warming.  (More on that later).  But NASA has a good video here:

Here is a pretty cool experiment to try.  We haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t say if it works as advertised, but it looks easy enough, so let’s give it a shot:

There is a pretty neat website, WeatherWizKids, with a lot of good information about weather and such, however, it does include the global warming myth, so keep that in mind.

As far as global warming –

Climate change itself is already in the process of definitively rebutting climate alarmists who think human use of fossil fuels is causing ultimately catastrophic global warming.  That is because natural climate cycles have already turned from warming to cooling, global temperatures have already been declining for more than 10 years, and global temperatures will continue to decline for another two decades or more.

That comes from an article from Forbes magazine written in 2012. There is another group that has documented how the locations of the stations NOAA uses to collect temperature data are compromised by things like parking lots & exhaust. They’ve documented their efforts at Surface Stations, and there is more at WattsUpWithThat blog. In fact, WattsUp does a great job debunking the Al Gore/Bill Nye CO2 experiment as well as a plethora of other information debunking global warming.  If you still doubt that Global Warming is a myth – go google “Global Warming Emails” and read up for yourself how the “scientists” in charge of this hoax conspired to push an agenda.

Latitude & Longitude

Read pages 6-8, or watch the videos below.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember which is longitude & which is latitude.  A good way to remember is that longitude is long – north to south as you look at the globe.  Latitude is flat, circling around the globe east to west.

Discussion Questions:

  • Where do Meridians meet?
  • Where do Parallels meet?
  • How can we use Parallels & Meridians to find a location?
  • What continents are on the 300N latitude?
  • What degree latitude is the Equator?
  • What degree is the International Date Line?

Here’s a really great video explaining this topic:

Here’s a cheesy rap about longitude & latitude:

More Resources:


The Continents

I started blogging my younger children’s history lessons as a way to get all those YouTube videos and other resources into one location.  My kids LOVED it! They watched the videos again and again because they had an easy way to find them.  We’ve been working through the Heritage Studies curriculum by Bob Jones University.  We finished book 3, and are now starting book 4.  I usually use the book as a starting point for our lesson.  Enjoy!

Read pages 2-5, then look on the globe, find & name the Continents.

  • Africa
  • Antarctica
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • Europe
  • North America
  • South America

Some people consider Europe & Asia to be one continent.  Look at the globe and tell me why you think they might say that?

Check out the fun video below, which explains some of the controversies surrounding what is or is not a continent.


Back to our globe, find the North Pole.  Now find the South Pole.

Explorers can walk to the North Pole even though there is no land there.  How?

Find the following:

  • Equator
  • North Hemisphere
  • South Hemisphere
  • Prime Meridian
  • International Date Line
  • Eastern Hemisphere
  • Western Hemisphere


* If you don’t have a globe, use Google Earth.  I recommend downloading the desktop version so you can turn on the “grid” aka Latitude & Longitude, especially for the next lesson.

Begining Secondary Education

Photo By: Chris

My oldest has started a few high school courses already. Not going to lie, the thought of homeschooling my kid through high school has me a bit nervous.  But it’s too late for nerves, my 7th grader (according to the state), has already started 9th grade English & a 10th grade history course!

I won’t lie, I’ve been in denial about this for too long.  Right up until about January of this year, I thought high school was a long way off.  Then my son finished his Mystery of History book, and I realized that he was too old to continue in the Mystery of History curriculum and be able to fulfill high school requirements.  Yikes!

Some fast research led me to the Switched on Schoolhouse program.  We had considered SOS back when we started this grand adventure.  Unfortunately for Capt740, SOS didn’t start until 3rd grade, and at that time he was in 1st.  While it is on the more expensive side, SOS  is all computer-based, which makes my son very happy.  I chose to start him with the 10th grade history course, World History, after about a week of pouring through research and required credit hours for a high school diploma.  Virginia only requires 3 credit hours of history.  We chose World History, US History, & Government. Switched on Schoolhouse’s high school history starts with Geography in 9th grade.  While Geography is a worthy subject, it can very easily be integrated into World History.  So Capt740 got to skip straight into 10th grade history.

As long as we were getting into SOS, I promoted him into 9th grade English I as well.  I had him using Easy Grammar’s 8th grade course, which seemed to me like it was supposed to be more of a grammar supplement to whatever else he was supposed to be doing in 8th grade.  I was utterly lost as to how to supplement or even what sort of activities I should be supplementing the course with.  I looked over the 9th grade SOS course, and it looks much more like an English course should, what with the literature & reports and such.

So far, Switched on Schoolhouse is a winner.  Capt740 loves it.  He also really likes his Apologia General Science course this year, and Math-U-See is still working for him.  After all my research, and much discussion with my husband & son, we came up with a course of study for the next few years for our high-schooler.

English:  Switched on Schoolhouse; English I, English II, English III, and English IV

Math:  Math-U-See; Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Stewardship (aka Personal Finance)

History: Switched on Schoolhouse; World History, American & Virginia History, and Government & Economics

Science: Apologia; Physical Science, Biology, and Physics

Foreign Language: Rosetta Stone; Spanish, 2 credit hours

We’re still looking at our options as far as electives, but we’ve got some great ideas.  I’m hoping to put together some kind of Lego Art class, as well as Life Skills (that’s a MUST for all our kids!), Bible, and maybe Photography, or something else.  We’ll see what happens.

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:

Ranchers 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.


Transcontinental Railroad

Instead of reading the book, Charlie Brown & company have a nice little video that covers this topic nicely, and will likely be remembered far longer then a few pages of dry, oversimplified text.

Discussion Questions:

  • Name the company that started building in Omaha, Nebraska?
  • Name the company that started building in Sacremento, California?
  • What did the Federal Government promise the railroad companies for building?
  • Where did the two tracks join?
  • What is the “Golden Spike”?
  • When did building start? When did it end? How many years did it take to complete?
  • Which President signed the order to start?  Who was President when it was completed?

Golden Spike

More Resources:

Central Pacific Railroad Museum

Today in History (a .gov website)

Golden Spike Photo & information (a .gov website)

History Channel


PBS Documentary:  American Experience Trans Continental Railroad
——- Video available on YouTube – Part 1 & Part 2