Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal ................................................................................................................painting by Katie Bergenholtz

Pioneers, part 4: Landmarks on the Overland Route

part 4: Landmarks on the Overland Route 

Monday: Timeline

Have your student add to his timeline: 1841: The first overland wagon train, led by John Bidwell, to make the entire trip.  The small wagon train left together at Independence, Missouri. At Soda Springs,  Idaho,  half went on the Hedspeth Cutoff to California and half went on to  Oregon.

Tuesday: Research: Landmarks and Signposts

Have your student research landmarks and signposts pioneers saw, writing a short description of each in their notebooks.
Courthouse Rock
Jail Rock
Chimney Rock
Scott's Bluff
Independence Rock
Devil's Gate
Split Rock
South Pass
Natural Bridge
Soda Springs,  Idaho
The Dalles

  • Have your student determine the distance between each landmark.
  • Invite your student to make a model of a landmark.

Wednesday: Writing

You are now about 480 miles west of the Missouri River and you have been on the trail about one month.  You are following the Platte River.  What kind of terrain do you see? Are there any flowers or trees? What kind of grass is available for the cattle?

Thursday: The Role-Play

Water still is a problem. You think your luck is about to change as you see a well in the distance,  but as you come closer you see that the people around it are not people getting water, but are people guarding the well. What do you do?
If he decides to fight the men for the water, roll as for any attack. If he decides to sneak up on well and loses the sneak roll, the guards see him and a fight breaks out.

One of your party fell over a stone and landed in the fire last night while cooking dinner and burned both hands. To recover, you must write a research paragraph (50-100 words), with sources indicated, on burns and how they were treated. 100 DP's for a good paragraph, 200 DPs if an acceptable paragraph is turned in. If no paragraph is turned in, the burns become infected and you lose 2 EFs.

The wagon train's dogs have been running wild over the Prarie at night, howling and chasing coyotes and other animals.  A number of people are complaining that the dogs are keeping them awake. Several people have said that they will shoot the next dog that howls tonight. Your guide is calls for a brief wagon train meeting to decide what to do. Tell the Games Master/Teacher what the group's decision is. If your student chooses to restrain the dogs to keep them closer to the wagon train at night or some other solution to continue using the dogs as an important warning system, the wagon train continues without delay. 100 DP's if he chooses a solution which basically ignores the concerns of those who are upset by the dogs, allowing them to shoot the next howling dog. 400 DP's if no solution is offered.

Your daughter  (if he hasn't a daughter,  the daughter of a friend or of nearby wagon acquaintance) fell off the wagon seat, the wheel rolled over her leg and broke it. It will be a number of weeks before she will heal. You must write a research paragraph, as before, on how a broken leg was treated. 100 DP's for a good paragraph,  400 DP'S for an unacceptable paragraph and 400 DP's and 1 EF for no paragraph turned in.

The yolk on your oxen breaks and you need to spend time repairing it. It takes longer if you do not have a repair kit.

Friday: Writing Research Paper

Your student should now begin deciding on a topic for his research paper. It can come from the notes he has been taking, or he can think of a new topic to explore.

High School American Government, Part 11: The President

What are the powers and responsibilities of the president?

  • Set policy priorities
  • Manage economy
  • Manage federal bureaucracy
  • Recruit for policy makers in executive and Judicial branches

What powers are granted to the president by the Constitution? Any limitations?

  • Chief administrator
  • Chief diplomat
  • Commander in Chief
  • Chief of state
  • Limited by term

How are the responsibilities and power of the president as the nation's chief executive carried out?

  • Executive order
  • Appointments and Removals
  • Budgetary recommendations to Congress

What are the roles and responsibilities of the vice president?

  • Prepare to assume the role of president
  • Presides over the US Senate
  • Whatever roles assigned to him by the President

Teaching High Schoolers About Assertions and Assumptions

This is the second installment in my series on how to make a low or no cost high school level studies without the use of a curriculum. This week I am discussing assertions and assumptions.

Begin by teaching the concept of an assertion. An assertion is just a statement, claim or main point concerning a particular issue. It can usually be found as the thesis of an article, or sometimes it can be found in the conclusion,  particularly if it is a very short argument.

Assumptions or reasons offered to support a conclusion is called a premise. Assumptions are ideas or opinions that the writer takes for granted the reader will agree with. (I will go more into the types and problems of assumptions later.)

Your student can locate an assertion by asking the question, "What is the writer trying to convince me of or prove?" There are some words that your student can look for that give clues that an assertion or conclusion is being stated: therefore, then, so and thus. Look through an article or two that has a stated assumption with your student and have him pick out the assertion or conclusion of the article.

Unstated assumptions can be a little more tricky to recognize. To find these, I use the classic form of  Premise, Premise, Conclusion. The classic example of this form is:
Premise: Socrates is a man.
Premise: All men are mortal.
Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
I usually teach more about this type of logic with the Classical Logic workbook, Traditional Logic, but it is not necessary as long as your student is able to pick out the unstated parts of the arguments in articles. Any time a premise is left out of the argument,  the author is making an assumption. I like to look at newspaper articles because they often have assumptions. I have the student answer the question, "What has to be true for the conclusion of the article to be true?" Assumptions are often related to beliefs and values. Words such as good, bad, right, wrong, justified, should or should not are clues that the writer is giving his value judgement. It might be good at this point for your student to learn more about the author of the piece. Whatever he can learn about the author might give him clues as to why he wrote this interpretation,  what his values and beliefs are and how this influenced the article. What assumptions does the author make? Does the author have any reason to distort the evidence?

By this point, your student can probably see how important it is to be knowledgeable about the topics related to the articles he will be reading. All those years of gathering facts are beginning to pay off. What he doesn't already know, he should be, at this point, able to research on his own. The best articles have  a lot of data within the article itself to support his argument. This evidence can come from many sources including documents, photographs and statements. Lack of this evidence weakens the whole argument, so your student should look out for sources cited (and later when they write their own papers, they will see the importance of citing their own sources). Help them look for citations and quotations.

In the next post in this series, I will discuss evaluating sources.

Pioneers, part 3: Weather and the Landforms

part 3: Weather and the Landforms 



Have your student add to his timeline: Late 1830's: Missionaries began developing the Oregon Trail.


Begin reading a novel or a nonfiction book of length about the pioneers. Invite your student to reflect on the readings in their notebooks.

Tuesday: Research: Weather on the Overland Route

The weather played a key role in the pioneers' westward migration. Specific weather data can be obtained from Government Depository Libraries. Have your student research what the weather was like for each of the following locations and weeks in 1844, 1852 and 1864.
Independence,  Missouri; 1st week of May
Fort Kearney; 1st week of June
Fort Laramie; 2nd week of July
Fort Boise; 3rd week of August
Fort Walla Walla; 4th week of September
Oregon City;  2nd week of October
San Francisco;  2nd week of October

Have your student find descriptions of the thunderstorms, sand storms, cold nights, hot days and snowstorms the pioneers encountered.

Wednesday: Writing

Have your student synthesize all he has learned about how the landforms and weather for each geographical region made travel easier or more difficult for the wagon trains and write his conclusions in his notebook. He will be using this information later when he begins making a Travel Guide later.

Thursday: The Progress So Far...


The wagon train has been on the trail for three weeks. Have your student figure out about how many miles does his wagon travel each day? How far has the wagon gone? The wagon train went through Alcove Springs to Fort Kearney and along the south bank of the Platte River. How far is Fort Kearney from Independence, Missouri?

Journal Writing

Write about the most significant things that have happened to you, or what you have seen. Be as descriptive as possible. As well as the significant events, also describe what people do in the wagon train before they go to bed. Describe the morning activities from the time everyone wakes up until the wagon train is on the trail.

Friday: The Role-Play

You are beginning to see the need for the all-purpose weapon to a settler, the rifle. It is used for hunting,  fighting and protection. If you do not have a rifle, subtract 1 EF.

Your wagon train is having some trouble because some members did not bring along water and are suffering from the lack of it. If you have the water, do you sell some to those who do not have it? If you do not have enough water, do you decide to continue without it? Or, do you decide to pool your money with others and buy some from another wagon that brought extra water? Remember that not having the money you spent on the water may become important later when supplies are running low, when you have to pay Indians for crossing their land, or when you need other supplies.

Games-Master / Teacher: If he decides to buy the water but not share it, roll a six-sided die 1-no change, 2-add 1 EF. 3- subtract 1 EF, 4 -no change, 5- subtract 2 EFs, 6- add 2 EFS. If he buys the water and shares it, have him roll a four-sided die and he loses that number of EFs and one head of livestock. If he decides to continue without water, have him roll a six-sided die and he loses that number of EFS and 1 head of livestock.

The heat has shrunk the green wood in your wagon wheels and the iron rims on the wheels keep slipping off. You must stop and repair them. 50% 100 DP'S, 50% 200 DPs.

Sagebrush is three feet high and growing as thick as hair on a hog's back and has clogged up the trail and the wagon cannot pass. You must stop and clear the trail. 50% chance that he will get 200 DPs.

You caught your sleeve on a tree branch and tore it. If you have a sewing kit, it can be repaired,  otherwise you cannot use the shirt. Hopefully,  you have a s pare shirt.

You need to  gather some fresh greens and herbs to supplement your diet. If you have brought along a basket to collect them in, this goes quickly, otherwise it takes you some time and you are delayed.

What is the Difference Between Middle School Level and High School Level Learning?

This is a question that often comes up, particularly when putting together a plan of study without using any particular curriculum. In the elementary years you are giving your students the overall picture or flavor of the subject. By the middle school years you will begin nailing down the specifics, giving more details to the big picture. By the time the student is in high school, he is ready to begin using reason and discernment to think critically.

This is most easily applied to history,  but if you think about it, critical thinking can be applied to all high school level subjects. To give the framework of critical thinking,  I will begin with its application to history, but I will also touch on how this higher order thinking can be applied across the board.

I have found that students who can analyze historical texts can write better history papers themselves, for they both have the same elements. So, to begin teaching analytic skills, I give my ninth grade student written works that have opposing viewpoints. Students can, by closely looking at the works, learn the methods that were used to express the viewpoints. This will enable the student to determine for himself which is the stronger or weaker argument.

In this series, I will discuss teaching your students about assertions, detecting assumptions,  evaluating sources, reliability of information, the five types of reasoning, analyzing arguments and the parts of an argument. In this way, you and your student can see how high school level studies can be done without a particular curriculum and with little or no cost.

Teaching High Schoolers About Assumptions and Assertions

Pioneers, part 2: The Geography

 part 2: The Geography 

Monday: Timeline

Have your student add to his timeline: 1812: Robert Stuart,  a trapper, and six companions discovered the South Pass and the trails along the Sweetwater and Platte Rivers, which later became known as the Oregon Trail.

Tuesday: Videos

Watch a movie, television show or documentary with pioneers as the theme. Have your student jot down notes in his notebook on observations and questions that came to him as he watched the program. These notes can lead later to a research paper.
Some ideas to get you started:
How the West Was Won
Ken Burns, The West 
Little House on the Prairie 

Wednesday and Thursday: Research: Geography

Have your student locate information about the terrain, landforms and geography of the regions between Missouri and Iowa in the Midwest and Utah, Oregon and California on the west coast. This includes prairies, rivers, deserts, and mountains.
Have your student map all of these features, including the Continental Divide. Have him include the Platte, Snake, Sweetwater and Colombia Rivers. What were some of the hazards of rivers? How did the Pioneers cross the rivers -their wagons and their animals? What gave them problems? Did crossing the rivers differ according to the river they were crossing?
Have your student research and include the following mountains on their map:
Rockies, Blue Mountains,  Cascades and the Sierra Nevadas.
Have him research how the difficulties going down a mountain differed from climbing up a mountain.
Have your student research desert areas and include them on the map.
What made travel in the desert so difficult.

Friday: Role-Play

As the scenario unfolds, you, the Games-Master/Teacher, will be keeping track of the points your student has earned, the wagon current energy factor, and any delay points accrued. The totals of these numbers will determine how far along the wagon has gone each day of game time. At the beginning, the people in the wagon train are healthy, their spirits are high, their animals are well-fed and healthy,  their wagons are in good repair and their supplies are not yet depleted,  so at the beginning each wagon has an energy factor of 50. The total points you student makes on the assignments he has been given x 50. It takes 340 points to move the wagon 100 miles.
As the  trip progresses, supplies diminish, people and animals get sick, wagons begin to fall apart as well as the characters' spirits. These Fates will reduce the Energy Factor number.

Your beginning point is Independence, Missouri. Have your student mark Independence our on his map and note when he left Independence. He meets with the other men.  Who are they? Where did they cone from? There are plenty of women meeting and talking and lots of children playing. The atmosphere is very festive.

Just west of Fort Independence, you already learn that water is vital for survival for your wagon, for both the people and animals. The spring has been extremely dry and so the water you brought with you has become crucially important.  Searching for and collecting water along the trail is risky and time consuming.  If you did not bring water barrels with you, you lose 1 EF. If you only brought 1 barrel, you get 200 DPs. If you were wise and brought more than 1 barrel, you watch as you pass by others in the other wagons in the wagon train collecting water and ending up at the back of the train as they are delayed.

The day is otherwise uneventful  but you are thinking ahead to the eveing meal. As you had a cold lunch, you'll want a hot meal, but first you'll have to start a fire. If you did not bring along firewood, you must spend time throughout the day searching for wood, bushes and buffalo chips since the prairie has very few trees. This takes time and delays your wagon. 200 DP'S if you did not have firewood.

The wagon train has stopped for the night. The women and bachelor men without women in their wagon make the evening meal while the boys and young men feed and water the livestock and milk the cow, if you have one. If you do not have a flint and steel, it takes some time to light a fire.

At night, you settle in the back of the wagon, or, if it is warm enough, the ground around the fire. You learn the importance of a blanket. Anyone in your wagon who foes not have a blanket risks catching a cold, which won't stop you from your duties, but will make you feel miserable. Subsequent nights you have a 25% chance of catching pneumonia,  which will keep you bed ridden for 1d6 days while you recover.

This routine follows for days until one night one of the members of the wagon train failed to make his family fire in a trench and embers blew out and started a prairie fire. You and the other members of the wagon train spent all night and most of the next day fighting the fire. This costs you 600 DP's.

A few days later, your oxen, if you have oxen, ate Loco weed and are too sick to travel. You lose 500 DP's. If you do not have oxen, you possibly see this fate affect another wagon in the wagon train and they fall behind.

Another night, you hear rustling as if someone is walking near. Or, perhaps it is an animal? If you have candles or a lantern, you see that it is a deer. Otherwise, you stay up for some time, worried about what it must be and are very tired the next day. Add/subtract 1 from your rolls.


Pioneers, part 1: Modes of Transportation

part 1: Modes of Transportation 

Monday: Timeline

Have your student begin a timeline that spans from 1803-1869. Have him complete the first entry on it by writing 1803: The Louisiana Purchase: The United States bought the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains from France. This can be kept in the back of the notebook or on as a separate item.

Tuesday: Research: Photographs and Pictures

Have your student locate photographs and pictures of westward movement. Encourage your student to write in their notebooks their observations and any questions that might arise as they study the photographs and pictures. These questions can later serve as a basis for a research paper. (More step-by-step directions can be found here: Hands On History: Old Photographs.)

Wednesday: Research: The Prairie Schooner

Have your student research the Prairie Schooner. Have them sketch it in their notebooks and include it's dimensions. Have your student brainstorm what the pioneer families would take with them in order to live for six months, keeping in mind the size of the schooner.

Thursday: Research: The Steamer

Some pioneers took steamships  (or "Steamers") and traveled west by sea. Have your student research steamships of the mid-1800's. Have him sketch a cabin on a Steamer with the typical dimensions of 7 feet by 10 feet. How many passengers would travel in this space?
Have your student research the sea routes to California from the east coast.  What were the advantages and disadvantages of each route? What were some of the dangers?

Friday: The Role-Play Scenario: Creating a Wagon Party

The first decisions about the role-play need to be made by the Games-Master/Teacher. Do you want to run an overland scenario or a sea voyage. I will be giving you the events within a overland scenario,  but many of the same things happened on sea voyages. I will give some suggestions for different events for a sea voyage at the end of this unit for those who would rather do this type of scenario with their students. The sea voyage is particularly good for older students who have already learned about the more traditional Oregon Trail.

Once the Games-Master/Teacher has made his decision, then the student(s) can begin character creation (specifics on how to do this can be found here; scroll down to the purple section). Appropriate skills for the character could be:
Brute Force (pushing, lifting or dragging) STRENGTH + SIZE
Drive horse drawn vehicle over treacherous terrain, etc. DEXTERITY + INTELLIGENCE
Evaluate the market value of an item INTELLIGENCE + CHARISMA
First Aide to heal minor wounds, 1d6 hit points DEXTERITY + INTELLIGENCE
Influence the ability to persuade another to change his mind CHARISMA × 2
Insight the ability to figure out another character 's motivations by listening to their voice, watching their body movements, body language,  etc. INTELLIGENCE + POWER
Perception  ability character has to detect objects or other characters.  It covers such situations as listening for something creeping about, listening for sounds in a distance,  etc. INTELLIGENCE + POWER
Persistence covers situations when trying to concentrate in the face of distractions such as reloading a gun when bullets are flying all around. POWER × 2
Resilience is the ability to handle adverse physical conditions such as weathering a storm, surviving a drought or overcoming the effects of disease. CONSTITUTION × 2
Sing audience being pleased by the character's performance POWER + CHARISMA
Commerce when characters trade, barter or otherwise negotiate over the sale of goods INTELLIGENCE + CHARISMA
Craft such as basket-weaver, butcher, candle-maker, carpenter, mason, etc. DEXTERITY + INTELLIGENCE
Oratory a dressing large groups of people POWER +CHARISMA
Survival test required every day that a character lacks food, water or a safe place to sleep Failure means he will go without, which, over several days, could result in serious consequences POWER +CONSTITUTION
Track locate the tracks of a specific creature and follow them INTELLIGENCE +CONSTITUTION

Have your student imagine a background for his character. Is he moving to Oregon because of failed crops in Illinois and there is land available in Oregon for anyone who wants to work it? How has he heard about Oregon? Perhaps a brother is already there and has written to his character about the wonderful growing conditions for crops there?
Or, perhaps the character wants to go to California because he read an advertisement in the newspaper about an inexhaustible supply of gold that has been discovered in California?
Or, perhaps the character is a Mormon who had settled along the Mississippi River in the southern part of Illinois in 1839? Now it is the 1840's and the Mormons are being persecuted, including the character's leader, Joseph Smith,  who was already killed by a mob of people. The character's new Mormon leader is Brigham Young and he has decided that the Mormons have to move to Utah.

Have your student create his own character that has a historically accurate reason for migrating west, a destination in mind and a background to go with it. Next, he needs to create the party of 4-6 people that will be in his prairie schooner. Is the character the head of the family?  If so, what are the ages and sex of the family members? Or, perhaps he is a single man traveling with his brother and/or friends? Or, perhaps he is bringing his brother's family.


Survival in the wilderness depends on careful planning. Stocking and packing a wagon is serious work. In the mid-1800's covered wagon pioneers took with them some or all of the following 90 items. Your student cannot hold every item on the list, so he will need to select them carefully. He will need to consider the usefulness and importance of each item both on the trail and once he gets to his destination.  Your student's character's fate, even survival, may depend on how wisely your student selects his supplies.
Each item on the list has a number behind it. This is the item's bulk weight (or BW), which is a combination of the item's size and weight. The capacity of the covered wagon is 1000 bulk weight units, so your student will have to keep track of this as he picks his items. The final list must be kept in his notebook with the BW units listed and totaled, as it will be referred to from time to time as the role-play unfolds.

Household Items

Baby cradle  (15)
Bed frame (30)
Bedding (5)
Bible, family heirloom  (2)
Blanket  (3)
Butter churn (10)
Butter mold (2)
Candle sticks, 1 pair (2)
Candles, 5 (1)
Chest, for clothing  (35)
Clock  (5)
Coal oil, 1 gallon (12)
Coffee grinder (3)
Coffee pot (3)
Cooking and serving utensils  (6)
Cooking stove (75)
Dishes, family set (20)
Dutch oven (6)
Fabric, 15 yards  (12)
Family heirlooms (20)
Flint and steel  (2)
Frying pan  (6)
Lantern  (3)
Loom (35)
Mirror  (10)
Sewing kit (2)
Piano or small organ (100)
Pitcher and bowl, for bathing (10)
Plants (10)
Rocking chair  (15)
Rug  (25)
Spinning wheel  (25)
Stool (8)
Table and 4 chairs  (50)
Trunk, for storage (20)
Wooden bucket (5)
Woven basket  (4)

Personal Items

Boots, extra pair (4)
Clothing,  1 person (20)
Children's toys (8)
Eating utensils, 1 person  (1)
Fiddle (5)
First aid kit, enough for a family (10)
Guitar  (6)
Hunting knife  (3)
Pistol (4)
Powder horn (4)
Rifle (10)
Snow shoes (4)


Anvil (40)
Axe (7)
Axle grease  (13)
Bellows for fire (10)
Corn seller (25)
Crosscut saw, two-man (7)
Grain cradle  (10)
Grind stone, large (20)
Hammer (2)
Hatchet  (4)
Hoe (4)
Metal plow (40)
Oxen yolk repair kit (15)
Pick axe (5)
Pitch fork, 3 prong (6)
Rope, 100 feet (6)
Scythe (7)
Shovel  (7)
Steel animal traps, 4 (20)
Tool Assortment  (10)
Twine, 100 feet (1)
Vise (5)


Bacon, 25 pounds (25)
Coffee, 10 pounds  (10)
Dried beef, 25 pounds  (25)
Dried fruit, 10 pounds  (10)
Dried beans, 25 pounds  (25)
Flour, 50 pounds  (50)
Salt, 25 pounds  (25)
Spices, assorted  (1)
Sugar, 20 pounds  (20)
Vegetables, 25 pounds (25)
Vinegar, 3 gallons (24)

Miscellaneous Supplies

Animal feed, for 2 animals (30)
Chicken coop (12)
Gun powder, keg (20)
Olive press (25)
Saddle (25)
Seeds, 50 pound bag (50)
Water barrel,  20 gallon  (160)
Wood box, full of wood (25)

In addition to this list, students may also bring with them up to 6 animals from this list:

In addition, your student can roll for the amount of dollars he has with him to buy items along the way and to start his new life once the trip is complete.
First, roll one six-sided die.
Next, roll that number of six-sided dice.
That is the amount of dollars your student's wagon has with him.
For example, if he rolled a 4 on his first roll, then he rolls 4-six-sided dice. Suppose he then rolled a 3, a 4, a 2 and another 3. Add those up and you get 12, and so he has $12 with him to buy things with.

Next week we research about the geography on the trail and watch videos about pioneers. 

Curriculum and Role-Play: Pioneers

I would like to introduce to you my latest Role-Play Curriculum for Middle and High School students, Pioneers. It is a twelve week curriculum that includes writing, research, hands-on projects and even a bit of math and a field trip suggestion or two. I will be linking each week's lessons to this post for your convenience.

This program is designed for students from Middle School level to High School grades. You will, therefore need to establish for yourself the level which meets the standard for your student(s) grade level(s). The highest level work is complete and has details. The writing should reflect analysis and decision making. Research assignments should be graded on both content and writing skills. They all need to have two resources. Everything should reflect the students' mastery of the material covered.

Students will need a blank notebook to record information. I ask my students to keep wide margins on the left side of their notebook pages and double space their writing  so that they can go back and add questions,  comments and reflections in the margins.

Week 1: Modes of Transportation
Week 2: The Geography
Week 3: Weather and Landforms
Week 4: Landmarks on the Overland Route
Week 5: Plants, Animals and Routes
Week 6: Everyday Life on the Trail
Week 7: Meeting the Elephant
Week 8: Indians
Week 9: On the Trail
Week 10: Rain, Rain, Go Away...
Week 11: Encounters on the Trail
Week 12: The End


Snapshot Summary, February 2017

February was full of scenes like this as we caught a terrible cold that circulated throughout the family. It took a full two weeks before each person was through with the symptoms and another week before each of us were feeling back to our strength.
We did celebrate Saint Valentine's day in small ways.
We also celebrated Brenda's birthday...
and Mardi Gras.
Because of the unseasonably warm weather, we made many more trips to the beach than we usually do in February.
 So there were lots of times like this...
 and this.
Quentin didn't go to three of his fencing lessons this month due to illness, but he is now back to it and loving it.
Voice lessons are becoming more regular and are really enjoyable for Quentin.
Likewise, James has gone to some of his MTG meetings.

Our 21st Year of Homeschooling, February 2017

Quentin, 7th grade

Science: Biology (Exploring Creation with Biology)

Quentin became too frustrated with the simplicity of Exploring Creation with General Science, and since he was getting all A's on the tests, we decided to begin Biology instead. We began with a lesson on using the microscope. He then learned how to use Biological Keys.
 We then moved on to Kingdom Monera and Kingdom Protista (those are links to posts from 3 years ago).

Math (Teaching Textbooks)

He completed lessons in Regrouping with Decimals, Money Word Problems, Thousandths and Decimals and the Meaning of Division.


Quentin finished up his unit on grammar and will begin a writing unit next month.

History: Renaissance and Early American History

He finished lessons on 
Spanish Succession
17th Century Art and Architecture
Scientific Revolution or the Age of Reason
Evaluating Resources
Early American Settlers

Intermediate Fencing

Quentin is happily continuing fencing lessons, although he missed a few lessons this month due to illness.

James, 9th grade


Physical Science and Chemistry (Integrated Physics and Chemistry)

James completed lessons on:
Metals and Nonmetals
Classification of Chemicals
Conservation of Matter
Continuous and Discrete
Chemical Formulas of Compounds


my hair
 Although James' book work centered on physical science and chemistry, he joined us with our microscope work...
bread mold
 and he spent some time learning how to take photographs of the things he viewed using a cell phone camera.
bread mold

Math: Algebra I (Teaching Textbooks)

James worked on Commutative Property.


James completed his study of The Tempest and we will take a break from Shakespeare next month and focus on a classic novel instead.

History: Early American History, focus on Maryland History

James completed lessons on:
Starting a New Colony
The Indians of Early Maryland
The Early Colony
Life in Colonial America
The Colony Grows

Role Playing History : Patriots and Independence, part VII Presentations Celebration


Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, pgs 314 -317

Shoebox Museum Displays

Now it is time for students to make small replica items and share them along with all the other things the students have made throughout this unit. Everything should fit in a shoebox and everything should replicate something that one would find in a colonial-period museum display.
Museum card includes a list of everything in the box with a description of the item and it's significance.

Students also prepare a brief oral report to accompany your Shoebox Museum Display and card. The report should include an introductory paragraph, a short paragraph on each item, explaining detailed information about each item and a conclusion that also gives three reliable research resources. For the oral report, as well as clearly explaining the significance of every item the student presents, he needs to speak loudly and clearly enough to be heard, make eye contact with the audience and use body language to effectively capture your audience 's attention.

Celebrity Autograph Gala

In addition, or as an alternative to, the Shoebox Museum Displays, you could hold a Celebrity Autograph Gala in which students take on the personalities of a person they have researched. In advance, they will create a message for each of the other participants, keeping in mind what experiences the two famous characters could have had together had fate put them together. On the night of the party, the participants will dress up in costume and mingle with each other, "signing" each other's autograph books by giving them their prepared entries. Once they are all collected, they are bound together into an autograph book. Once the books are complete, guests can mingle and enjoy period treats, keeping in character the whole time.
When students write in their autograph book entries, they are to write a paragraph that captures the essence of their person, reflecting the Era and his role in the era. They are to include references to events and phrases or slogans used during the period. They can include advice, acknowledge help, express appreciation or refer to events that you might have shared with the other characters they interact with. They can practice writing an authentic looking signature.


  • Renaissance, Peter Cakebread and Ken Walton 
  • Patriots, A Simulation and Resource Notebook on the American Revolution, Bill Lacey and Terry Handy, Interaction Publishers 
  • Independence, A Simulation of the American Revolution, 1763-1776, Charles Kennedy and Paul DeKock, Interaction Publishers, Inc.

Role Playing History : Patriots and Independence, part VI The Aftermath

Reading Assignment for the Week:

  • Read George Washington's World,  Genevieve Foster,  part VII When George Washington was President.
  • Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, pgs 310-313

Day 1: Valley Forge Writing Assignment

The winters of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and 1779-1780 at Morristown, New Jersey,  we're horrendous ordeals for George Washington 's soldiers. "These are the times that try men's souls..." Thomas Paine said in 1777. Imagine that you are in winter quarters with the soldiers. Decide how to best describe life in the winter camps using your choice of writing activities.  You could write a series of journal entries writing about the hardships you are facing while enduring the bitter cold, inadequate rations and clothing,  disease  and the heartache of being away from friends and family.  Or, you could write a letter to send to a friend or loved one from a winter encampment.  In whatever writing activity you choose, use lots of emotion to show your understanding of the ordeal of Valley Forge or Morristown for the Patriot soldier.
Valley Forge Trip, 2016
Optional: Field Trip to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Drill Procedure with and without weapons

Beginning drill procedures without weapons, 2009.
In February of 1778, in the depths of that bleak winter at Valley Forge,  Pennsylvania, Baron Frederick von Stuben arrived at the Continental Army's encampment. Baron von Steuben had fought with the Prussian Army for Frederick the Great during the Seven Year's War (1756-1763), and so was hired to be Inspector General for the American Army.
When Baron von Steuben arrived,  the American Army was starving,  ill clad, and low in morale. They were also poorly disciplined and inadequacy trained.  He immediately selected and trained 100 men in the drill techniques proven so effective in earlier wars. These soldiers returned to teach their comrades the new drill techniques.  By June, when they went again into battle, the  British faced a vastly improved Patriot Army. Pretend that you are among the 100 Baron von Steuben initially trained. Your teacher will act as Baron von Steuben and teach you drill techniques with and without weapons. You, in turn will teach the techniques to others just as the original 100 soldiers did.

Day 2

Hands-on Gunnery Drill

You serve on an American Privateer ship. As part of your continuing practice for battle, your watch must drill on effective gunnery techniques but first you must construct a cannon model. Gunnery drills begin by clearing the ship for action. Crew members extinguished all lanterns and cooking fires. The Tars drilled for hours until loading and firing became second nature. Learning to fire a large cannon quickly and safely took hours and hours of practice. Speed of loading and accuracy when aiming in a pitching sea spelled the difference between success and fortune,  or defeat and death.
All gunners stand around the cannon. Usually there were 6 people on each gunnery team. The gunnery captain stands at the back of the cannon. The powder monkey stood behind and to the right of the captain. The firer is on the left and loader is on the right, both at the rear area of the cannon. Toward the front of the cannon are two more gunners, one on the right and one on the left. When ready, the Captain gives the order to "Commerce Firing!" The Gun Captain gives the following commands. (When a gunner completes a task, he always returns to attention, facing the enemy awaiting the next command.):
"Run out your guns." The gunners at the front of the cannon pull back the gonna from the firing holes in the ship.
"Sponge your guns." Front left gunner sponged by ramming home the plunger twice and then calls, "Ready."
"Load" The gunner in the back eight position  gets the powder cartridge from the Powder Monkey, runs up to the front of the gun and places the powder cartridge inside the barrel. The front right gunner then rams home the cartridge to the back of the barrel. While this is happening,  the gunner in the back left position must close the vent with his thumb to prevent venting of the barrel, in case there are sparks left from the last firing.
"Shoot your guns." The front left gunner loads the cannonball into the barrel of the cannon. The front right gunner rams home the cannonball to the back of the barrel.  The rear left gunner continues to close the vent with his thumb.
"Run out your guns." The gunners pull the gun back up to the firing holes in the side of the ship.
"Prime" The gunner in the rear right position pushes a pick through the vent hole to break the powder bag inside the barrel.  The gun captain places a fuse inside the vent, then aims the gun, getting help from the gunners.
"Fire" The rear left gunner blows on the end of the linstock to get the match hotter, brings the end of the linstock to the vent hole and touched the fuse with the slow match, igniting the powder and firing the cannon.
Everyone covers their ears as the cannon fires and then the process begins again.

Jack Tars and Landlubbers Role Play

It is late October and the privateer ship Pilgrim lies anchored in the harbor at Salem, Massachusetts, twenty miles northeast of Boston. The much larger British Royal Navy has dominated the sea war with most of America's small official navy captured or destroyed. The Americans have had some success with privateers, private ships fitted out with cannon, that prey on British merchant ships. In one fierce battle, the now famous A John Paul Jones, with his ship the Bon Homme Richard defeated the British ship Serapis off the English coast.  His victory gave the Americans a needed boost. With both France and Spain entering the war on America's side, the British navy must now protect their possessions in the West Indies, as well as try to provision their armies on the continent. For the privateer captains, the fat convoys of British merchantmen offers a double opportunity - to capture and sell valuable British cargo, thereby making their fortunes and help the war effort against the British.
The scenario opens on board the privateering ship Pilgrim. We used the guidelines for ships from the Colonial Gothic Gamemaster Guide, which takes into account anything you might encounter on board a ship, including wind, weather, types of ships and their good and bad traits. It also covers how to handle combat aboard ships in a game setting, including visual aids that you can cut out and use for role playing. As far as the scenario goes, I let it play out naturally and my student -players gain some British cargo as well as get captured. They then figured out a means for escape back to America. All exciting and historically possible plot lines.


Day 3: Continental Army Roleplay

It is early June, 1778. The Continental Army is camped near the Schuylkill River at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. They have spent a terrible winter with little food and clothing, poor shelter and much sickness and disease. Many soldiers have perished, but somehow the army has survived. The spring gives them hope as the organization of the veteran Continental Army has vast improved. The quartermaster and commissary departments have been reorganized  so that more food and clothing is beginning to reach the soldiers. Enlistmens are up due to the bounties offered by the Continental Congress. The most remarkable change, however, is the new drill technique taught to the soldiers by the new Inspector General Baron Friedrich von Steuben. This drill makes the various complicated maneuvers of the army much easier and more streamlined. General Washington is confident that his reorganized army is ready to begin it's new campaign against the British, camped in and around Philadelphia. In this scenario, the student-players are able to participate in the secret attack of the Hessian soldiers after crossing the Delaware River. This is a great opportunity to create lots of  mood and tension for your student-players.

Day 4

Surrender at Yorktown Role Play

It is October 20, 1781. One day earlier Lieutenant General Lord George Cornwallis surrendered his army of over 7,000 British and Hessian soldiers to General George Washington's allied army of 16,000 Continental and French soldiers.
For seven long years,  the war of American Independence has largely been an exhausting and drawn-out series of small battles. During the past several weeks the combined American and French army maneuvered the British Army onto the York peninsula in southeastern Virginia. When the British fleet under  Admiral Graves was turned back by the French fleet led by Admiral de Grasse, the British Army was trapped on the peninsula.
After enduring a three week siege with the British army sick, short of food and almost out of ammunition,  Lord Cornwallis was forced to surrender his entire force to the victorious Allied army led by George Washington.  This disaster may well mean the defeat of British hopes of victory in America.
After yesterday's surrender of the British army,  the troops on both sides are resting. Though still wary of each other, soldiers from each army begin to talk and some even discuss the war. You are in a mixed group of soldiers near a small creek, about a mile behind the American lines at Yorktown,  Virginia. In this scenario, your student-players get to relax some and perhaps meet new non-player characters. 


Day 5: Negotiating a Peace Treaty

As a band played The World Turned Upside Down, General Benjamin Lincoln, second in command, accepted the British surrender at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. When news of the surrender reached London it was enough to convince Parliament to end activities in North America. Over 30,000 British troops remained in America and fighting continued for nearly a year, especially in the south where Loyalist -Patriot warfare turned savage.
On February 27, 1782 the British House of Commons voted against any further war in North America and authorized the crown to make a peace treaty with the Americans. The British sent representatives to Paris to start the negotiation process. Congress authorized four commissioners to negotiate with the British on the issue of recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation. The senior American Representative was Benjamin Franklin, who had been in Europe since 1776 arranging a French alliance.
You will now act as a member of the delegation sent to negotiate the Peace Treaty. You must first decide on proposals which are either the most important or ones the other side might agree to include in the final peace treaty. You might also want to consider the French and Spanish viewpoints on the situation. Spain,  for example,  was not an ally of the United States but was an ally of France and wants some sort of prize for its participation. Spain, who was already in Florida,  wanted that. The entire Mississippi Valley is also on their wishlist. The Spanish also want Britain to return strategically located Gibraltar to them as promised by France in the Franco - Spanish alliance. The British does not want the Franco - Spanish alliance to continue, so they may be inclined to align with the Americans with generous terms.
Your goal in the negotiations is to get your opponent to agree on your highest priority proposals without your opponent knowing exactly what that highest priority is. The final treaty must include at least 10 negotiated articles. You may, however   have to give up something to get something in return. Try to give reasons for your acceptance or refusal of the British's proposals.

"Let's put aside our differences for the cause of peace and consider my first proposal. .."

For the Teacher

Your goal is to steer, but not require your students to negotiate the proposals that we actually adopted, and drop the proposals that did not actually make it to the peace treaty.  In this way, you will be helping to facilitate their understanding of how we came to the peace treaty that was adopted. Here is the actual articles of the Peace Treaty of 1783.
His Britannic Majesty acknowledges that the United States are now free, sovereign and independent states.
Great Britain recognizes the boundaries of the United States as excluding Canada, to extend westward to the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, southward to the 31st parallel, and eastward all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Americans have the right to continue to fish off the banks of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland,  a region considered to be one of the world's best fisheries.
All legal debts incurred during the war will be honored by both countries.
Americans will make strong efforts to cease persecution of Loyalists,  hopefully redress their grievances and restore lost property and assets.
Navigation of the Mississippi River (source to ocean) will be open to both American and British subjects.
All remaining British troops will evacuate from the United States.

Oath of Patriotic Loyalty  

(an excerpt based on a Rhode Island Oath)
"I (name), in the presence of Almighty God,  do swear that I will neither directly or indirectly assist the wicked instruments of tyranny and villainy, commonly called the King's Troops and navy, by furnishings them with provisions and refreshments of any kind.
Nor will I convey any intelligence,  nor any advice to the enemies described; and further I pledge to inform authorities immediately if I should get knowledge of such treason.
I do further swear that when asked I will take up arms and subject myself to military disciple in defense of the rights and liberties of America.
So help me God!

Don't want to sign this? Then prepare to lose your assets and your life
source: Wikipedia
Tory refugees going to Canada.

Tory Role Play

A Loyalist, also called a Tory after the Conservative political party in England, was often identified by reusing to take a patriotic oath, singing God Save the King, celebrating the King's birthday  (June 4th) and continuing to buy British goods and drink British tea. You are going to now explore what it was like for the Tories after the war. In your role-play scenario,  your students will meet with a Tory who is willing to pay you for protection. Josiah Thornton was the owner and editor of the Hartford Chronicle. At first, Josiah,  a Yale graduate, and his wife, Rebecca, tried to remain neutral observers, but  after the Boston Massacre,  it was impossible for him to be unmoved or unbiased   He began writing editorials in support of  Parliament ' s laws and acts and this rubbed the Patriots the wrong way. Josiah was upset by the propaganda used by the Patriots after the massacre, especially Paul Revere's engraving of the incident. In a series of editorials,  Josiah described the Boston mob to be inciting, unruly and clearly the cause of the outbreak of violence. After these editorial ran, Josiah's life became unbearable. At first the Patriot neighbors just harassed him, refused to include him socially. The young boys taunted their 10 year old son and the women refused to include Rebecca in their social activities. But as Josiah continued to support the King, things turned more violent.
On the night of June 3, 1770, Josiah was taken from his home, bound and gagged, and dragged to his newspaper office.  There he watched the whole destruction of his office   printing press, records and furniture. He was released but as he went home, he discovered that his wife's garden was destroyed, his six horses missing and anti-King slogans painted on the side of his barn. With his newspaper effectively shut down, he had to a job in a stable in a nearby town. He is appealing to you for your help as he has received several threats.

It is now October and he is now being asked to take the Loyalty Oath, with an angry mob following. What do you do to help him?
If you are unable to appease and disperse the angry mob then frustrated,  Josiah shouts, "It is better to be ruled by a so-called tyrant 3,000 miles away than by 3,000 tyrants one mile away!" This set off the mob and unless you are able to do something the mob holds you back, strips Josiah of his clothes, dislocating his arm in the process and then they pour hot tar and dumped feathers over his body. They then turn to you, accusing you of being a Tory and unless you can convince then that you are not, you find yourself being knocked out and wake up with Josiah five hours later alongside the road a mile from town.


  • Renaissance, Peter Cakebread and Ken Walton 
  • Patriots, A Simulation and Resource Notebook on the American Revolution, Bill Lacey and Terry Handy, Interaction Publishers 
  • Independence, A Simulation of the American Revolution, 1763-1776, Charles Kennedy and Paul DeKock, Interaction Publishers, Inc.
  • Colonial Gothic, Gamemaster Guide, Rogue Games