Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

California Gold Rush (1848–1855), The Pony Express (1860-1861) and the Presidents, 1849-1861

Alex's notebook page was made by making a blue watercolor wash for the water and then tracing a small plate and painting in the area with black acrylics for the pan. When dry, gold glitter glue was added for the gold dust.

The California Gold Rush
Panning for "gold" at Tweetsie Railroad,, Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
To do your own panning for gold, make faux gold nuggets by painting aquarium gravel with gold metallic spray paint. If you’re doing this activity at home you can fill a kiddie pool with sand, water and gold nuggets and let the kids sift through with old pie tins that have holes drilled holes in them. (Caution: the backs might be jagged, so to insure that no one gets cut, pound the holes flat with a hammer.) If you’re near a lake, just sprinkle some faux gold nuggets on the shore.
After everyone has had a chance to strike it rich, let them trade their gold for goods at the trading post, which can be full of inexpensive toys such as arrowheads, bandanas and tiny bags of gold nuggets gum. Happy prospecting.
This map is from Interactive 3-D Maps: American History by Donald Silver.
The Pony Express
The postcard we received from Missouri.
Divide your students into two teams. Set up the first team, spacing them apart from each other. Give the first person the mochila (a backpack or purse) and have them race to the next person, passing off the mochila, as a relay race. After the mochila has arrived in "California" (the end of the team), hand the last rider a different mochila, and have them race back to the next person, then that person passes it to the next person, and so on. The second team are the Native Americans, wolves, and  buffalo that chase after the pony express riders and distract them or stand in their way. (They cannot, however, touch or trip the riders.) Time each run to see how fast the mail can be delivered. Can they beat their own past times?
President Zachary Taylor

The Presidents
Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was the 12th President of the United States (1849–1850) and Known as "Old Rough and Ready," because of his American military leadership,  achieving fame leading American troops to victory during the Mexican–American War.  Taylor was the last President to hold slaves while in office, and the last Whig to win a presidential election. He was the second president to die in office.

Millard Fillmore (January 7, 1800 – March 8, 1874) was the 13th President of the United States (1850–1853) and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president. As Zachary Taylor's Vice President, he assumed the presidency after Taylor's death. He supported the Compromise of 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War.

Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804 – October 8, 1869) was the 14th President of the United States (1853–1857) and  took part in the Mexican-American War. Pierce's popularity in the Northern states declined sharply after he came out in favor of the Kansas–Nebraska Act,   which created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing settlers in those territories to determine through "Popular Sovereignty" whether they would allow slavery within each territory, renewing the debate over expanding slavery in the American West.

James Buchanan, Jr., the 15th President of the United States (1857–1861), was the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor. His niece Harriet Lane played the role as lady of the house. Buchanan's efforts to maintain peace between the North and the South alienated both sides, and the Southern states declared their secession in the prologue to the American Civil War.


  • By the Great Horn Spoon, Sid Fleischman, (3rd grade/8 and up),  Adventure set during the California Gold Rush.
  • Mr. Blue Jeans: A Story about Levi Strauss, Maryann N. Weidt (4th-6th grade) Narrative of the life of the German Jewish businessman who settled in New York and then San Francisco after the Gold Rush, making millions selling denim work pants, that we know and love as blue jeans.

inspiration and sources:


  1. I was excited to visit your post to gain some inspiration for our studies next year. I am honored to be one of your "inspirations" mentioned! Thanks!

    I love that pony express game!

  2. I love both of these ideas. I'm going to have to figure out how we're going to use them.


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