Home School Life Journal

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

Teaching Your High School Student about Reasoning by Proof and Reasoning by Debate

In the past two weeks we have looked at three ways writers make arguments in articles:
Reasoning by Cause and Effect 
Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast 
Reasoning by Generalization 

This week we will look at two more ways writers make arguments in articles:
Reasoning by Proof 
Reasoning by Debate 

Reasoning by Proof

Reasoning by Proof seems like it is self-explanatory, but there are several fallacies that students should learn to look for when looking at Reasoning by Proof:

Irrelevant proof: evidence that doesn't actually apply to the main point, but to a separate point

Negative proof: a conclusion based on the absence of evidence to the contrary 

Prevalent proof: this is "proof" that is assumed because "everyone knows" it to be true.

Numbers: Evidence that emphasizes the numbers, in order to de-emphasize the methods used to get the proof.

Appeal to Authority: the argument that is basically "I'm right because I'm an expert" without the evidence to support the argument. 

The Extreme: Using the conclusion that a particular evidence can't be true because it is an extreme viewpoint. Sometimes the "extreme" viewpoint is true.

Reasoning by Debate

This is a really good way of proving a point of view. Therefore, many good articles begin with a survey of interpretations of the topic under examination and arguments that refute these opposing interpretations, leaving one interpretation that is to be believed over the other interpretations. Students should look for the cue words other people believe,  the traditional view is,  other views are wrong because, older interpretations, and other viewpoints are.
There are some fallacies,  however, that are possible in this way of presenting an argument. 

Either/Or: This occurs when the author debates that there are only two options possible and if one is proven wrong, then we are left to only conclude that the alternative option is the only one left. Students should ask themselves if all alternatives have been eliminated. 

Attacking the Arguer: This occurs when the argument is directed at the person making the argument rather than at the arguments presented.

Straw Man: This is a technique of attacking an argument by adding to or changing the original argument and then attacking the changes or additions. 

Looking for an identifying these fallacies will help your student when he reads or makes arguments. 

What is the difference between middle school level and high school level level learning?

In high school students should be able to identify which level of reasoning is used in an article and be able to look for the possible fallacies with each of the types of reasoning. In this way, he can evaluate the article on a higher level than the middle school student who may or may not be convinced by an article's reasoning, but not know why or why not. The high school student can then write his own paper, using a particular article to back up his claims or to refute the claims of the article. This is practice for a college-level paper.

Next week we will look at how students can learn how to analyze arguments of all types.

Pioneers, part 7: Meeting the Elephant

part 7: Meeting the Elephant 

Monday: Timeline

1846: War with Mexico begins. 4th Parallel becomes border between US and  Canada. The slogan, "fifty-four, forty  or fight" is popular. (Have your student research what this meant, if he is unfamiliar with the slogan.)

"Meeting the Elephant was a term emigrants used to describe encountering the worst conditions possible as they made their way west." - Westward Migrations, Doris Roettger

Meeting the Elephant

It was estimated that there was one grave dug every 80 yards. Have your student determine the distance between Independence, Missouri and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and then approximately how many Graves there would have been in that distance.

Tuesday: Research: Hazards and Illnesses

Have your student research one or more of the following illnesses that were prevalent at the time. Do they still exist today? Are they still fatal?
Scarlet Fever
Optionally, he could learn about dentistry of the time, and the fact people died from toothaches sometimes. He could also learn about the dangers of snake bites.

Optional Field Trip

Take a field trip to a pharmacy and talk to the pharmacist about the effectiveness of medicines used in the 10's as compared to the medicines used today.

Wednesday: Research


Have your student brainstorm how accidents could have occurred along the trail.

As he reads, have him jot down in his notebook the type of accidents that occurred in the book he is reading.

How did pioneers repair wagons when they broke down?


Water supply was a constant problem as the pioneers made their way westward. Have your student research about the pioneers' use of water and answer the following questions in his notebook. Where did they get the water they needed? What were the many uses of water they required? How did they carry the water? How much water could they carry at one time on their wagons? How much water does your family use? How does this compare to the amount the pioneers used?

Have your student research about where along the trails did the pioneers face the problems of lack of water,  polluted water or alkaline water. What causes the water to be alkaline or polluted? Can alkaline or polluted water be treated and if so, how? Were these methods available to the pioneers?

Thursday: Research

Dangers of Sea Travel

Have your student research about the types of accidents that occurred at sea on steamers. How were they repaired?

Were there problems with the weather?

What illnesses did pioneers get while aboard ships? What other problems could occur?

The Donner Party

The Donner Party is probably the most famous example of what terrible things could happen as pioneers moved west. Have your student research the Donner Party. How many people were in this wagon train when it started?  Who were they? What happened to the group?  What hardships did they encounter?  How many made it to California? Have your student find Donner Pass on a current map of California  (you might have to use a road map).

Friday: The Role-Play

(If they take the Massacre Bluff Trail) You find that the trail wanders through a vast, water-less desert. The guide tells you that you must back track and choose another trail. You lose the time it takes you do do this. On the way back, animals start falling dead due to the extreme heat and lack of water. Each wagon rolls a 6-sided die. 1=your animals are not affected,  2=1 oxen, 3=1 goat, 4=1 cow, 5=1 mule, 6=1 horse.  If the wagon does not have the animal called for, substitute another animal.

As they reach the halfway point through the canyon, a large band of Indians begin firing on them from the surrounding hills. The guide instructs everyone to put the wagons in a circle. The battle begins. If anyone is in danger of dying, take them out of the battle and kill off an animal instead.

(If they choose the Prairie Trail)
Roll a 6-sided die.  For the wagon that is rolled, you tell them that earlier this evening a wagon member went looking for water for the members of your train and the animals and never returned. If anyone goes to investigate, they find signs of a struggle. What do they do? If they decide to go on without the missing person, the wagon train loses 3 EFs. If they decide to go after the missing person, roll a die and50%, they meet up with the Indians. 800 DP's for the delay, 50 % the search was in vain and subtract 800 DP's for the search.

50 % chance of this happening: You are passing through a very narrow gorge, a huge bolder comes crashing down. Roll a 6-sided die and that person has the bolder crash into his right front wagon wheel, overturning the wagon. The guide will not let other wagons proceed until your wagon is turned upright and the wheel repaired. 300 DPs for the wait.

(If they take the Long Trail.) Roll a 6-sided die.  A 1 means that the driver on your wagon has come down with dysentery. Write a research paragraph about what dysentery is, it's cause and treatment.  100 DP's for a good paragraph,  200 DPs for an acceptable paragraph and 400 DP's and you are too sick and weak to drive your wagon for several days (roll a 4-sided die) if no paragraph is turned in.

You have now reached the South Pass and the Continental Divide.

Teaching Your High School Student About Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast and Reasoning by Generalization

Last week we discussed Reasoning by Cause and Effect. This week we will look at two more ways of making an argument, Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast and Reasoning by Generalization. 

Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast

Comparison takes two ideas and reasons that since they are alike in this way, they will be alike in another way as well. Similarly, contrast takes two ideas and reasons that if they are different in this aspect, they will be different in at one other way.

Students can look for key words in an article that indicates that there is this type of reasoning being used: like, similar to, same as, greater or less than,  better or worse than, increased or decreased. But not all comparisons are stated, but instead implied. For these instances, the student has to look closely to determine what is being compared and how they are compared. Often the student has to ask himself the question, "compared to what?"

Reasoning by Generalization

Writers often make generalizations, which are sometimes backed by statistics and sometimes have nothing to back it up. Statistical generalizations arguments what is true for some of a group will be true in roughly the same way for the whole group. Your student can find statistical generalizations by looking for the cue words all, none, some, most, a majority, few, plural nouns. A hard generalization can be disproved by a counter-example. A soft generalization is applied to some of a group and are thus harder to disprove. It can be countered only as the counter-examples add up. Your student should ask the questions:
How large is the sample? (The larger the better.)
How representative is the sample?

The warning should be to look out for over-generalization. Over-generalization can occur if the conclusion is based on too small a sampling or by stereotyping, which is applying preconceived notions to a group. These can be countered by making sure the writer has plenty of proof to back up his claims, gives examples and backs up his claims with materials from someone who has authority in the subject mentioned. Students can look for this by searching for the cue words for example, for instance, according to, authority and expert.

What is the difference between middle school level and high school level level learning?

In high school students should be able to identify which level of reasoning is used in an article and be able to look for the possible fallacies with each of the types of reasoning. In this way, he can evaluate the article on a higher level than the middle school student who may or may not be convinced by an article's reasoning, but not know why or why not. The high school student can then write his own paper, using a particular article to back up his claims or to refute the claims of the article. This is practice for a college-level paper.

To sum things up, in the past two weeks we have looked at three ways writers make arguments in articles:
Reasoning by Cause and Effect 
Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast 
Reasoning by Generalization 

Next week we will look at two more ways writers make arguments in articles:
Reasoning by Proof 
Reasoning by Debate 

Pioneers, part 6: Everyday Life on the Trail

part 6: Everyday Life on the Trail

Monday: Timeline

Have your student add to his timeline: 1840-1870: Between 250,000 and 500,000 people went west on the Oregon Trail.

Tuesday: Cooking and Foods

Have your student research how the pioneers were able to cook food on the trail. What did they use for fuel?

Optional Hands-on Project: Cook Pioneer Foods

Have your student cook some of the foods the pioneers cooked on the trail, such as Fried Dough Cakes, Soda Bread, Johnnycakes, Dried Apple Pie or a Breakfast of Pancakes, Bacon and Coffee or Baked Beans with Slab Bacon.

Wednesday: Music

Find recordings of songs played and sung on the Trail or have your student learn to play and sing them himself, such as:
Buffalo Gals
Oh, Susanna
Sweet Betsy from Pike

Thursday: Letters Home

Pioneers were able to mail and receive letters to and from b family and friends at the forts along the way. Have your student write a letter home as his character in the role-play, describing some of the things that happened (what did they see, any difficulties such as illnesses, their feelings and thoughts).


Have your student tell about something that could have happened to them in their past. Have him be as dramatic as you can with the telling. He may want to rehearse before telling it to your family or group.

Friday: The Role-Play

(Note: There are many illnesses listed in chapter 6 of the role-playing game, Renaissance that can be applied to your role-play. It lists a description of the illness, how long it takes from contracting the illness to showing symptoms,  it's "potency" (the gamemaster / teacher makes an opposed Resilience roll against the Potency to find out whether the disease is contracted), Effect and Cure. For example:
The victim suffers from a raging fever. The victim feels that they are burning up or very cold, sweating or shivering,  in turn. The victim is also overcome with bouts of nausea.
Delay: 1D20 hours
Potency: 50
Effect : All skills are halved. Every time the character attempts a physical action, they must make a successful Resilience roll or their character be completely overcome by nausea for 1D4 -1minutes.
Cure: Use of healing herbs gives a +20% bonus.
You can use this method, or you can use the method outlined below, which was created to give the student more assignments, or some combination can be used. It is up to you, as the Games-Master / Teacher. )

You finally arrive at Fort Laramie in the evening. After dinner, everyone is in the mood for some music. If you have brought an instrument and play, people slip you coins to show their appreciation. Roll for how many coins you receive.

Fort Laramie is one of the few stops along the trail where you can buy supplies, mail and receive letters, receive expert advice on repairing wagons and get information about what is ahead on the trail. What do you want to do at this fort? Does anything need to be repaired? Are you buying supplies? If you buy supplies, you notice that they cost twice as much as they did at your starting point.  Do you mail any letters? If so, to whom? Do you receive any mail? From whom?

Price List Items for sale at Fort Laramie;
Boots, $1.80
Pants, $1.00
Cap, Beaver, $10.00
Cap, Woolen, .21
Coat, lined $16.00
Coat, regular  $3.20
Dress, $2.00
Gloves, .40
Hat, .60
Shirt, $5.20
Shoes, $3.20
Bible  $5.20
Candle .40/each
Crowbar, $2.00
Cooking kit, $4.00
Deck of Cards, $1.20
Flint and Tinder, .20
Hammer, $2.00
Lantern, $3.20
Mining Pick, $3.20
Oil (enough to fuel a lantern for two hours), $3.20
Pamphlet on Trails and Tips, .20
Pitchfork, $2.80
Rope, 30 feet, $10.00
Sack, large, $2.00
Sack, small, .80
Scythe $3.60
Shovel, $3.20
Tobacco, .80
Torch, .60
Writing kit, $3.60
Ale, .80
Bread, .20
Cheese, .80
Chicken,  .80
Eggs, 1 dozen, .80
Goose, $1.00
Meal, .80-$1.20
Pig, $1.00-$2.00
Sugar, .20/pound
Compass, $8.00
Fishing kit, $1.60
Gunner ' s kit, $2.40
Healing kit, $6.00
Musical Instruments, $1.00/each
Horse, $1.20
Mule, $1.00
Ox, .80
Horse feed, .20/day
Hatchet, .50
Hunting Knife, .20
Flintlock Rifle, $6.00
Revolver, $3.00

Your guide has been resting, purchasing a few supplies and asking questions about the trail ahead. The map indicates that the trail divides into three separate trails just west of the Fort. What do you do?
Your guide has found out that the shortest and fastest route is called Massacre Bluff Trail, but it is rumored to be the most dangerous. It is wild, rugged and lonely. There are no settlements before Chimney Rock. Most of the people you talk to tell of wagon trains that found only dry water holes, hostile Indians and huge rocks blocking the trail. One man reports that last year the commanding officer of the fort sent horse soldiers to punish the tribes along the trail and in this fight, many Indians were killed, including women and children. This cruel attack had angered the Indians and they were now fighting back
Last month a wagon train was attacked and they came limping back to the fort with half the people dead or severely wounded.
The Long Trail is much longer and passes through some rough country. Water, however, generally is no problem and the chance of attack is much less. Wagon trains almost always get through but one man tells you that last year a wagon train was attacked by Indians and suffered several casualties.
The reports about the third trail. The Prairie Trail,  are very confusing. One report is that hostile Indians are all along the trail and is as dangerous as the Massacre Bluff Trail. Another man, who claims to have just taken the trail a few months ago says that the trail is a safe shortcut around Massacre Bluff. He says that there were no signs of Indians.
What do you decide to do?

(If they  take the Prairie Trail) Roll a 6-sided die. If he rolls a 1, you tell him, "You fell into a large cactus when your wagon hit a large rock.  It takes you the rest of the day to extract the spines and you are sore for several weeks. 300 DPs (-1 to hit on attack rolls and anything else that takes strength and Constitution.)
Roll a 6-sided die. A one means: A member of your party has contracted cholera. People in other wagons are concerned that they will get the disease. Write a research paragraph on what cholera is, survival rated and contraction rates. 100 DP's for a good paragraph. 400 DPs for an acceptable paragraph and 800 DP's and 3 EFs for no paragraph turned in.

(If they take the Massacre Bluff Trail) As your wagon train rounds the bend, you find that a landslide has blocked the trail ahead. You must stop and clear the trail before you can continue. 100 DP's for each wagon in the wagon train without a shovel. 150 DPs for each wagon without a pickaxe.

(If they take the Long Trail.) The guide says that he is getting very low on food, particularly meat. South have spotted a herd of Buffalo about 5 miles southwest of the trail. They also report that a small band of Indians have been following your wagon train for the last three days. He is calling for a wagon train meeting to discuss whether to forget the buffalo, take the whole wagon train after the Buffalo or send out a hunting party. If they decide to forget the Buffalo, subtract 2 EFs for low rations. 500 DP's If they decide to take the wagon train after the Buffalo but add 2 EFs for the meat obtained and 2 additional EFs if you manage to cooperatively hunt with the Indians. If they send out a hunting party, 1 EF for the meat obtained. Roll a 6-sided die and if it is a 1 or 2, the hunting party cooperatively hunted with the Indians and they get 2 additional EFs.
Have each player roll a six-sided die. If it is a one nothing happens, otherwise, you tell them that one of their party suddenly got a fever during the night. If they roll a 6, this person dies and they need to stop the train for a day for burial.  Otherwise, you need to stop for a day to attend to the needs of the sick person, or they die.

High School American Government, Part 12: Bureaucracy

  1. Assess the nature, sources and extent of bureaucratic power. Bureaucratic power has grown with increases in the size of  government,  advances in technology and the greater complexity of modern society.  Congress and the president can no longer decide the details of policy across the wide range of needs throughout the nation. For this reason, bureaucracies must draw up the detailed rules and regulations that govern the nation.
  2. Describe the types of agencies in the federal bureaucracy and the extent and purposes of the bureaucracy.  The federal bureaucracy has 2.8 million civilian employees in 15 cabinet departments and more than 60 independent agencies  as well as the Executive Office of the President.  Federal employment is not growing but federal spending is rapidly growing. 
  3. Trace changes over time in the size and composition of the bureaucracy and assess the repercussions for democracy.  Most bureaucrats believe strongly in the value of their own programs and seek added power,  pay and prestige. Over time the merit system replaced the spoils system in federal employment, but the civil service system raised problems of responsiveness and productivity in the bureaucracy. Civil service reforms have not resolved these problems. 
  4. Outline the budgetary process and the advantages and the disadvantages of the current system.  Departments and agencies send their budget requests forward to the president's Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OMB usually reduces agency requests in line with the president's priorities. The president submits spending recommendations to Congress  (The Budget of the United States Government). Congress passes it's appropriation acts prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. Most budgeting is incremental and the question is usually about proposed increases, not justifying every dollar spent. Non-programmatic budgeting, although is supposed to help reduce conflict over the value of particular programs, tends to result in established programs continuing long after the need for them.
  5. Outline the federal regulations that are in place.  Congress can create, abolish or reorganize departments and agencies, alter department and agencies authority and functions by requiring bureaucrats to testify before congressional committees, by undertaking investigations and studies through the Government Accountability Office, by intervening directly on behalf of constituents,  by instructing presidential nominees in Senate confirmation hearings, by withholding agency appropriations, by writing very specific provisions into appropriations acts and by delaying or defeating nominations. Interest groups also influence decision making by their testifying at public hearings,  by contacting the media,  lobbying Congress,  initiating lawsuits and providing information and commentary. 
  6. Summarize the constraints that Congress can place on the bureaucracy.  Judicial control is limited to determining whether agencies have exceeded the authority granted them by law or whether they have abided by the rules of procedural fairness.
  1. Bureaucratic power stems from which of the following powers: (circle all that apply) 
    1. develop formal rules 
    2. adjudicate individual cases 
    3. use administrative discretion 
  2. Which of the following can be said to be true of the Federal government bureaucracy?  
    1. Federal bureaucracy consists of about 2.8 million civilian employees  
    2. the federal government spends about 50 % of the nation's GDP 
    3. the senior and most important cabinet office is the Department of the Interior 
    4. legislation is crafted by agencies and take effect unless Congress otherwise passes a law to the contrary 
    5. agencies are exempt from executive orders
  3. Historically government employment was based on party loyalty, political support and friendship.  This was known as:
    1.  the compare system 
    2. the spoils system 
    3. the patronage system 
    4. the merit system 
    5. the Borda method 
  4. Government contracting with private firms to perform public services is known as: 
    1. privatization 
    2. private - public partnerships 
    3. socialism 
    4. outsourcing 
    5. cooperation 
  5. A method of budgeting that tries to review the entire budget of an agency (not just the requested changes ) is: 
    1. management by objective budgeting  
    2. incremental budgeting 
    3. zero - based budgeting 
    4. Non-programmatic budgeting 
    5. rescission 
  6. The agency that is responsible for conducting studies of the federal bureaucratic performance is the:  
    1. Office of Management and Budget  
    2. Congressional Budget Office 
    3. General Accountability Office  
    4. Office of the Comptroller 
    5. The Federal Reserve 
  7. In an effort to influence the bureaucracy,  interest groups may perform which of the following activities  (circle all that apply): 
    1. hold press conferences and create media events 
    2. lobby the bureaucracy directly 
    3. testify at public hearings 
    4. institute potential rules through private action 
  8. The courts became involved in agency actions when they: (circle all that apply): 
    1. violate congressional legislation 
    2. have exceeded the authority granted to them  
    3. have engaged in activities that have been determined to be arbitrary 
    4. the issue is only constitutional 
  1. All
  2. A
  3. B
  4. D
  5. C
  6. C
  7. Only 1 and 4
  8. Only 1 and 4
High School American Government

Teaching Your Highschool Student About the 5 Types of Reasoning

The 5 Types of Reasoning

Last week we talked about judging sources for reliability.  This week we will look at judging  resources for logical reasoning. There are five types of reasoning, which each have questions that need to be explored and answered:

Reasoning by Cause and Effect: Is the connection shown? Are there other possible causes?  

Reasoning by Comparison: How are the arguments different and how are they similar? 

Reasoning by Generalization: How large and representative is the sample?

Reasoning by Proof: Does the evidence support the point being made? How many examples are given?  Is the authority an expert on this topic? 

Reasoning by Debate: Does the writer attack other views in a fair way? Have all the possible alternatives been eliminated? 

We will begin discussing this with a look at reasoning by cause and effect.

Reasoning by Cause and Effect

This is used when someone argues that something caused or will cause something else. This is often used in history studies but it is also a tricky thing to read and write about since causation is rarely simple and usually there are multiple causes for any historical event, so much so that you can pretty much conclude that if any historical event has only one cause, it is committing the single cause fallacy.

Another fallacy is the Post hoc, ergo proper hoc (after this, therefore because of this) which assumes that because B happened after A, then A caused B. A fallacy can also occur if a conclusion is reached that because A and B occurred at the same time, then one caused the other. These can both be addressed if the writer of the argument explains how A caused B. Lastly, a fallacy can occur if we predict an event might have or not have happened if another event had or had not happened. To avoid this, writers should stick to what actually happened rather than what might have happened.

Have your student look at an article that uses cause and effect and highlight the words caused, led to, forced, because, brought about, resulted in and reason for. Discuss with him about whether there was a reasonable connection between the cause and the effect. Ask him whether there could be other possible causes.

Have your student identify these fallacies in articles, and then have your student write his own cause and effect paper. 

What is the difference between middle school level and high school level level learning?

In high school students should be able to identify which level of reasoning is used in an article and be able to look for the possible fallacies with each of the types of reasoning. In this way, he can evaluate the article on a higher level than the middle school student who may or may not be convinced by an article's reasoning, but not know why or why not. The high school student can then write his own paper, using a particular article to back up his claims or to refute the claims of the article. This is practice for a college-level paper.

Next week we will look at Reasoning by Comparison and Contrast and Reasoning by Generalization. 

Pioneers, part 5: Plants, Animals and Routes

part 5: Plants, Animals and Routes

Monday: Timeline

Have your student add to his timeline: 1843: More than 1,000 settlers left Independence, Missouri for Oregon.

Tuesday: Research: Plants and Animals Along the Trail

Have your student research and find the names of plants the pioneers may have seen in each region. Have him find pictures and sketch at least one of these plants.

Have your student research and find the names of animals the pioneers may have encountered in each region. Have him find pictures and sketch at least one of these animals.

Wednesday: Mapping the Route

Land Routes

On a map, have your student mark in four colors the following routes the pioneers took:
Independence,  Missouri to the Willamette Valley. Label this Oregon Trail.
Nauvoo,  Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah. Show where this followed the Oregon Trail and where the route differed. Label this the Mormon Trail.
Show the route(s) the Overland Forty-Niners took. Be sure that he shows where the trails to California moved away from the Oregon Trail.
Show the route from New York City to the states in the Midwest. Label this the Orphan Train Trails.

Sea Routes

A large number of pioneers traveled to California by sea rather than on land. Have your student locate and mark the following routes, each in a different color, on a world map;
Panama Route: New York,  Boston or Charleston to the port of Chagres in Panama,  along the Chagres River to the town of Gorgona, then overland to San Francisco.

Nicaragua Route: Eastern cities to San Juan del Norte, Nicaragua, up the San Juan River,  across Lago de Nicaragua, then a ship to San Francisco.

Mexican Route: New Orleans, Galveston, Corpus Christi,  New York and Philadelphia to Tampico or Veracruz on Mexico's east coast, trek over mountains and deserts to the Pacific Coast, and then a ship to Acapulco, San Blas or Mazatlan, Mexico, then a ship to San Diego And Then San Francisco.

Cape Horn Route: New York or Boston to Rio de Janeiro,  Brazil, to Cape Horn, then to Valparaiso,  Chile, V then to Callao,  Peru and then a ship to San Francisco.

Have your student find information on advertisements for sea travel to the west. How believable and how reliable were the ads? Why did many pioneers choose to go west by sea? What did they expect the trip to be like? What were they actually like?

Thursday: Writing A Westward  Travel  Guide 

Pioneers relied on Travel Guides written by others who had made it out west successfully to make their way across North America. Your student will begin to make a similar guide using the information he has learned over the past few weeks. He will continue to add to it each week (I suggest doing this on Mondays) as he learns more. Before he begins, discuss with him about how accurate he thinks this sort of guide was and who wrote them.
He might include some of the following things:
Wagons: what type you need and what supplies you need.
Tools and ammunition you need.
Amount of food you need for each person.
Description of landmarks along the trail.
Distances between landmarks.
Description of the rivers and where and how to cross them.
Tips on how to stay healthy on the trail.
Suggested remedies for illnesses.
How to treat snake bites.
What kind of medicines to take with you and what they do.
Plants that can be found on the trail, what they do and where to find them.
Suggestions for cooking along the trail.
What kinds of weather to expect, on the Prairie, in the dessert, and in the mountains.
How to take wagons up and down steep mountainous areas.
Include a map, but have him sketch it without looking at his notebook.

Friday: Role-Play

There is some dissension among the wagons in your train. Some of the trains that did not bring extra livestock are getting tired of standing night guard and collecting strays. Immediately the guide calls for  a wagon train meeting to decide how to solve this problem.  If you are able to resolve it satisfactorily, nothing happens. 400 DPs if it is left unresolved.

When you stopped for your mid-day meal, your spouse and youngest child (or two members of your party) wandered off while picking herbs. It is noon time and suddenly realize that they are missing.  You and a number of other members of your train must take the afternoon looking for them.

Some of the livestock disappeared overnight.  There is no sign of their remains, so they were probably stolen. Roll to see if it one of your animals. If it is, you get to choose which one it was. If it was an oxen, subtract 2 EFs,  if it was a cow, goat, mule or horse, subtract 1 EF.

A scorpion gets into your shoe in the middle of the night.  When you put your boot on, the scorpion bites you. If you write a good research paragraph on scorpions and what you should do about the bite, you get 200 DPs,  400 for an acceptable paragraph and 1000 if you do not turn in a paragraph.

The wagon train is ready to cross a river. There are four wagon trains, with a total of 60 wagons, waiting to cross before your wagon train can cross and there is no ferry. While you are waiting the guide asks you your opinion of how you want to get the wagons across? How will you get all the things in the wagons across?  Who will take the cattle across?

Teaching High School Students About Primary and Secondary Sources

In this third part of this series, we will be looking at primary and secondary sources, including identifying and evaluating them.

from Hands-On History: Old Photographs

Evaluating Sources

The first thing your student should note when evaluating resources is to whether they are primary or secondary sources. I usually like my students to do some activities that give them some experience with primary sources documenting by having them collect oral interviews, analyze photographs and do some research at a cemetery. They will easily begin to realize the importance of primary documents. This will also help them to see that all documents are subject to human viewpoint. This leads naturally into the concept that other evidence which reports the same information strengthens an argument.
Taking of Mary Jemison
Painting / Robert Griffing

Comparing Primary and Secondary Source Documents

We then look at primary source documents written by other people. I like to use Captured By Indians: Mary Jemison Becomes an Indian by Mary Jemison. We also read Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski so that we can compare the primary and secondary sources. Students can also evaluate the painting, Taking of Mary Jemison by Robert Griffing.
from Hands-On History: Cemeteries

Reliability of the Information

This leads to a discussion about how the reason why the person gave the statement of evidence plays a part in how we can evaluate it. Was it meant to be a public or private statement? A private statement said in confidence is more likely to reflect the speaker's true observations or feelings. How soon after the event the statement was made also colors the statement.
from Hands-On History:Oral History Interviews

What is the difference between middle school level and high school level learning?

Middle school students can begin to learn about primary and secondary sources, but by high school, students should be skilled in knowing the difference between the two and be able to begin evaluating sources.

In the next post, we will begin looking at the different types of reasoning and their fallacies.

Snapshot Summary, March 2017

March 2017
For a large part of March we were sick with Influenza A, but we did have some fun moments.
We enjoyed some time out with Quentin between my monthly Lupron shot and his fencing lesson.
We enjoyed a lovely Saint Patrick's Day dinner of Shepard's Pie, Colcannon, Irish Cheddar and Irish Soda Bread.
My sweetheart had a birthday!
Hope took me to an Empty Bowls dinner to benefit the local food pantry.

Our 21st Year of Homeschooling, March 2017

This late winter and early spring have been difficult on our schooling this year as in February we had severe colds and March we had Influenza A. For this reason, we didn't accomplish a whole lot this month, which will make our homeschooling go into the summer, but that is pretty okay with us. Here is what we did accomplish.


Aquatic Habitats

Pond Life 

We began our study of the ecosystem of a pond and collected and cultured specimens from a pond. We collected four jars of pond water and cultured them with hay, rice, egg yolk and soil, separately. 

Microscopic Pond Life, part 1

We identified and sketched organisms from the collected and cultured specimens using a microscope. 

Forest Habitats

Microscopic Pond Life, part 2

We looked at the same cultures a week later, noticing that the organisms differed from the week prior.

Kingdom Fungi

We observed fungi and learned how members of the class Basidiomycetes grow and reproduce. We also learn about the fungi of the Class Ascomycetes, in comparison and contrast to Class Basidiomycetes. We observed how yeast reproduce through budding, and compared this to how Class Zygimycetes grow and bud. Various molds and mildew, as well as Imperfect Fungi, was observed microscopically and microscopically.  

Integrated Physics and Chemistry

James completed lessons in learning chemical formulas and chemical shorthand.

Renaissance and Early American History

Quentin learned about 17th century art and architecture and about the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Reason. We worked on evaluating resources.
James has learned about the early colony of Maryland, life in Colonial America and how the colony grew.


Quentin worked on a simple report on the legend of Dracula and the historical Vlad III.
James is reading and learning about Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.


Quentin worked on money word problems and division. James is struggling with algebra, and I cannot figure out the cause. I had thought he was strong in pre-algebra skills so I thought he was ready for algebra. Perhaps it is the way the concepts are presented? 

Plans for April


from Osmosis and Diffusion...what is the difference?

The Chemistry of Life

We plan to review molecular biology concepts. They will also observe and learn about the processes of diffusion and osmosis. We will also learn the basics of organic chemistry and see how easily enzyme function can be destroyed.

The Cell

They will further their knowledge of internal structures of various cells by viewing cork and onion epidermis cells. Slides of cells are viewed microscopically and they will be challenged to determine whether they are viewing plant or animal cells. They will observe cytoplasmic streaming and the response of plant cells by the presence of salt. Banana cells are also viewed to see what the largest part of the cells contain.

Integrated Chemistry and Physics

James will learn about atomic weights, heat and measuring temperature.

Renaissance and Early American History

Quentin will complete reading and map work on the early American settlers, the landing of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact.
James will learn about Maryland in the War of Independence and the War of 1812.


Quentin will complete his simple report on the legend of Dracula and the historical Vlad III, and James will continue to read and learn about Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.


I have decided that we need to go back to pre-algebra concepts for James and make sure that these are strong before going on. Meanwhile, I will look into other ways of presenting algebraic concepts. Perhaps we will do a month of games and fun ways of presenting math for both of the boys?

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
  1. The president is expected to be responsible for all of the following except:
    1. presiding over the Senate in case of a tie-vote
    2. administering the federal bureaucracy
    3. expressing the nation's sentiments during a time of crisis
    4. presenting the State of the Union Address each year
    5. actually the president is expected to be responsible for all these above things
  2. The right of the executive branch to withhold confidential communications from other branches of government is known as:
    1. administrative censure
    2. executive privledge
    3. the national security exception
    4. executive classification prerogative
    5. cloture
  3. The Institutional Power of the president increased because of all of these reasons except:
    1. Foreign policy crises created an Imperial presidency
    2. The Supreme Court recognized many unilateral executive orders as having force of law
    3. The president's role in the budget increased with the professionalization of the executive branch
    4. Congress became weak
    5. The loss of the right of pardon
  4. Formal regulations governing the executive branch operations are known as:
    1. presidential directives
    2. executive directives
    3. presidential orders
    4. executive orders
    5. executions
  5. The main source of national policy initiatives is the: 
    1. cabinet
    2. president
    3. Congress
    4. Federal Bureauracy
    5. the courts
  6. The office that is responsible for the overall coordination of the intelligence activities of the US government is the:
    1. Defense Intelligence Agencey
    2. Central Intelligence Agency
    3. National Security Agency
    4. Director of National Intelligence
    5. The office of the Vice President
  7. The legislation passed after the Vietnam War, which attempted to limit the war making powers of the president, was the:
    1. The Neutrality Act
    2. Executive Defense Restriction Amendment
    3. Armed Forces Deployment Resolution
    4. Defense Appropriations Act
    5. War Powers Resolution
  8. The Constitution stipulates that the Vice President is to:
    1. prepare himself for the presidency
    2. represent the government at funerals of dignitaries
    3. preside over the Senate
    4. preside over the cabinet in the absence of the president
    5. stay in the country at all times
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 5
  4. 4
  5. 2
  6. 4
  7. 5
  8. 3

High School American Government