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

Civil War Presentations Projects

  • Write a mini play on one significant event during the Civil War. You may act out all the roles yourself, using quick costume changes and different voices, or you may organize a cast.
  • Research both Confederate and Union flags used in the war and replicate an authentic flag.
  • Find and make a recipe from the South and one from the north, authentic to the Civil War time period.
  • Research uniforms and present the information you learn graphically and create a presentation to explain the information.
  • Research Civil War maps in terms of their use and accuracy and create a presentation comparing a Civil War era map to a modern map of the same area.
  • Make a diorama of a famous battle or event.
  • Research artillery pieces and how effective they were in the war, and create a presentation to convey what you have learned. 
  • Research hats of both soldiers and civilians. Discuss them in terms of both fashion and function.
  • Research the music of the era. Include the background to one of the pieces.
  • Research doctors, medical personnel, medical tools and supplies. Compare to modern methods.
  • Research Matthew Brady, Timothy O'Sullivan and photography of the era. Show examples of their work.
  • Research Civil War money. Both sides had trouble financing the war. What role did inflation play in the Union victory?
  • Compare two generals, one Union and one Confederate, other than Lee or Grant. What common threads run through the biographies of both men?
  • Research spies of the war. What made an effective spy? How difficult was it to detect spies in a civil war where both sides are nearly identical in dress and language?
  • Research drill manuals. Demonstrate how soldiers drilled in preparation for battle.
  • Research Lincoln's speeches during the war. Give an analysis of one of them and recite it in costume.
  • Create a re-enactment of a famous event in Civil War history and film it with you as the narrator explaining the action.
  • Research artists, sketch artists and painters who worked during the Civil War. Compare and contrast two of the works.
  • Research recruitment posters of the war. Make one of your own using the techniques you believe were most effective, and explain your choices.
  • Research the Red Cross during the Civil War and Clara Barton's contribution to the organization.
  • Research inventions of the war. Which aided one side or the other? Which dramatically altered history? Which have changed little over the years to the 21st century?
  • Research ironclads and how they were used by both navies in the war.
  • Research the role of the bugler and the drummer in the armies of both sides. Perform one of the era's tunes or either drum or bugle.
  • Research prisons of the Civil War, and make a presentation on them in general or one or two specifically.
  • Research fortification techniques used by both sides. Begin your research with abatis, palisades and chevaux-de-frise.
  • Take an event of the Civil War, explain what happened and then write an alternate history, a "what if" based on something dramatic changing the event.
  • Research the rioting in Baltimore, and then compare it with a similar protest, like Kent State in 1970.
  • Research bayonets and make a presentation on them.
  • Research the role of the African American soldier.
  • Write a history of blockage runners in the Civil War. 
  • John Wilkes Booth Escape Tour
  • Research Lincoln's assassination. If possible, take a field trip to Ford's Theater or the John Wilkes Booth Escape Tour. 
  • Research Sherman's March to the Sea. Using maps and illustrations or photographs explain why it took place and what happened.
  • Research the role of your state in the Civil War. Take photographs of as many of the sights as you can.
  • Research censorship in the war.
  • Research the role of religion and chaplains in the war. Research the US Christian Commission and its role.
  • Research pistols and rifles used in the war. Show how they were used.
  • Research conscientious objectors and how both governments dealt with them.
  • Research desertion and deserters. Why did they desert and how did both governments deal with them.
  • Research corps badges and make a visual presentation of the information.
  • Research Lincoln's actions during the war that could be labeled "unconstitutional." Did these actions make him a dictator?
  • Research the role of submarines in the Civil War. How were they important?
  • Research the role of the foreign-born soldier in the Civil War. Which side benefited the most from them? What kinds of incentives were offered?
  • Research the origins of the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.
  • Research the Copperheads and the Peace Societies and present your findings of these dissidents organizations.
  • Research the role of Allan Pinkerton and the Secret Service during the Civil War.
See more of The American Civil War curriculum, sources and resources here.

Pioneers, part 12: The End

part 12: The End

Monday: Timeline

Have your student add to his timeline: 1869: First transcontinental train completed, however it did not stop travel over the Oregon Trail.

Tuesday: Role-Play

You are now about to cross the mountains. The trail is rocky in places. In other places, the ruts are very deep. By the looks of it, it is clear that some wagon wheels prior to you have gotten stuck in the ruts. Part of the mountain trail is very steep. You have heard that people sometimes take the wagon wheels off and let the wagons down with ropes. What do you do?

As you descend, it begins to snow in the mountains and the Indian guide, who has been with your your Wagon Train since you left Paradise, tells you that this is the fourth snow of the season. The snow nearly blocks the path but he believes that it is still open, but with the snow now coming down it will soon be closed for the rest of the winter what should you do?

Roll a D6 and on a roll of 3, the wagon has this happen to them: The toll on your wagons is to the point that you must stop and repair the tongue before you continue 200 DPS

Roll a six-sided die. On the roll of a 6, the wagon has this happen to them, someone stole all of your flour and dried meat last night. What do you do? For a good solution you continue with no delay. For an acceptable solution 400 DPS,  for no solution, 800 DP's.

50 %: Last night a pack of hungry wolves attacked the wagon trains herd of cattle. Two cows were killed and you had to destroy to others because of the wounds they received. The GM picks which were killed, which wounded.

(If they decide to go over Snow Pass.)
The heavy snow continues to fall making your progress slow and difficult as you near the top one of the lead wagons slides halfway off, and the trailer overturns. You are trapped and the cruel winter has you. You see the snow continue to fall for nearly a week and your wagons are snowed in for the winter. If you have snow shoes you manage to walk over the pass and reach safety, otherwise you have a 65% chance of making it out alive.

(If they decide to send out scouts to check the trail.)
The scouts take several hours to make it up to the pass and then return. Valuable time is lost as they report that the pass was still open but the hard snow will close it within the next few hours. You now have to decide what you're going to do.

(If they decide to stay in High Valley for the winter.)
The winter came quickly you manage to build a few shelters and collect some additional supplies before the winter sets in. During the Long Winter the game is scarce and the weather extremely cold. When spring arrives and you can move again you find that you have lost three fourths of your supplies and a number of men, women and children have lost their lives. The Wagon Train weakly makes its way to the Valley, a mere skeleton of the enthusiastic group that left Fort Independence

(If they decide to return to Paradise.)
Going back is rough. The snow clogs the trail and the pass is full of deep snow. There is a 15% chance you're trapped at the pass and wiped out by the savage winter. If you have snow shoes, you have 50% chance to succeed and make it back to Paradise where you spend the winter. When spring arrives, you have only a few supplies left. Your money is gone and the best land in the Valley is gone. You have, however, your life and your family

Wednesday: Writing

For Those who Arrive in Oregon.
You have finally arrived in Oregon It is now the start of the rainy season. Food is scarce, and your supplies are low. What must you do to survive your first winter in Oregon?

For Those that went to California.
You have arrived in Sacramento and you're ready to find gold. Are you going to mine or use a stream? Describe the tools you use and how you use them.

Thursday: Writing Projects

Have your students finish their writing projects

Friday: Presentations

Have your student present to an audience (can be just your own family) everything he has done and talk about what he has learned.

Pioneers, part 11: Encounters on the Trail

part 11: Encounters on the Trail 

Monday: Timeline

Have your student add to his timeline: 1854: Kansas-Nebraska Act opened up these territories for settlement.

Tuesday: Writing

Write a "roadside telegraph" -a message that you will leave for wagons that are following you. It has to be written using sun-bleached bones or on paper attached to a stick. Sketch what this message would look like.

Wednesday: The Role-Play

(For those traveling the California Trail) You are at the Humboldt Sink. The only water supply is from springs and geysers that spout boiling hot, stinking water. Just beyond this is the Forty Mile Desert, where nothing grows and there is no water.

(For those on the Oregon Trail)
The wagon train has passes Fort Boise and is now approaching the Blue Mountains. The oxen are tired and are having a hard time pulling the wagon. The oxen will never be able to pull the wagon over the mountains. You are going to have to leave some things along the trail.

Roll a 6-sided die. A one means that a large mud slide has blocked the trail and it will take you several days to clear the mud away so the wagons can get through. 500 DP's.

Roll a 6-sided die. A one means that your wagon came down off a rise and fell into a ditch, breaking it's front axle. You must stop while your wagon is repaired. 300 DP's for waiting for the repair and an additional 100 DP's if you are not carrying axle grease.

Roll a six-sided die number 6 wagon repair water barrel has charged loose while going across very Rocky stretch of the trail and fell on the Rocks split open and you lost all the water you had in it if this was your only water barrel subtract 1 EF 400 DPS if you have only one additional $100 if you have two additional barrels

If you have a dog, while looking for firewood you and your dog encounter a coyote that is acting strangely a coyote attacks your dog you think the coyote is rabid writing research paragraph on rabies and how to treat a bite 200 DPI for a good paragraph 400 DPS for an acceptable paragraph 1000 EPS 4 no queria

(For those traveling the California Trail.)
You must travel across the Forty Mile desert. Do you travel during the day or night? During the day, the hot earth burns your feet. You are very thirst-crazed, and people are beginning to be really frightened.

There's very little food along the trail for the animals and those who are not carrying feed for their animals find them growing weak unable to work and in need of Special Care 100 D piece for each animal without feed

The animals are dying because of continuing lack of water lack of food and the extreme heat. Everyone roll percentiles 75% chance that each animal is affected. For each oxen, lose 2 EFs, each cow, 1 EF, each goat, 1 EF, each mule. 1 EF, each horse, 1 EF.

After finally making a cross the Forty Mile Desert, you have reached the small settlement of paradise there is plenty of fresh water from melting snow high in the mountains lush green grass for your animals and if you supplies to replenish those used in lost during crossing the desert after five days in Paradise you arrested the animals are strong and your spirits are high at 10 a.m. and go

You are just two days out of Paradise in the climb has begun to take its toll on your animals the altitude of nails 7000 feet and you still have to climb 2000 feet to get over the past the guide and Scouts have just returned from checking the trail ahead and they have informed everyone on the trip by the train but the trail is going to become very Steep and narrow auction mules and horses will have to be hitched 8 to 10 to each wagon to pull it over the top this will mean repeated trips for all of the livestock to make the final climb a little easier everyone must reduce their wagon loads to a maximum of 500 BW units

Thursday and Friday: Writing Projects

Have your student continue to work on his writing projects.

Hands-On Middle School and High School Biology

Here is the newest biology curriculum that I have put together. We will be doing some of the activities throughout the summer and on into the fall. 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). 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.

Part 1: Introduction to Biology

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

The Chemistry of Life

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

The Cell

Students further their knowledge of internal structures of various cells by viewing cork and onion epidermis cells. Slides of cells are viewed microscopically and students are challenged to determine whether they are viewing plant or animal cells. Students 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.

Cellular Reproduction

To observe the physical characteristics of DNA, students extract DNA from strawberries or onions. Students observe under the microscope how a cell divides during mitosis and observe the difference between plant and animal cell division. Students also construct a model of a virus and learn about its characteristics. 


Students learn about the history of genetic research and how to make Punnet Squares. Students learn about a Di-hybrid cross to understand how multiple traits are passed from one generation to another. Students will also understand how sex - linked traits are passed from parents to offspring. 


Students will learn about Charles Darwin and his theory. 

Part 2: Aquatic Habitats

Pond Life

Study ecosystem of a pond and collect and culture specimens from a pond. We will collect four jars of pond water and culture them with hay, rice, egg yolk and soil, separately. 

Microscopic Pond Life, part 1

Identify and sketch organisms from the collected and cultured specimens using a microscope. 

Microscopic Pond Life, part 2

Look at the same cultures a week later. Do the organisms differ from the week prior?

Constructing a Pond Model

Using gravel, sand, water plants such as Elodea and 1 1/2 gallon aquarium, students create a pond model. They record what they have done in science journals and predict changes the habitat may go through in the future. Students also look at the  Elodea under the microscope.

Kingdom Plantae

Students learn about basic plant anatomy, macroscopic and microscopic structures of a leaf, Students begin leaf identification and a leaf collection. Students learn how anthocyanin and pH help determine leaf color. Students learn about plant stems and roots and look at examples of them (both monocot and dicot) under a microscope. Students learn the basics of plant classification. 

Adding Tubifex Worms and Snails to the Pond Model

Students add Tubifex worms or Daphnia and Snails to the pond model, one at a time and record observations. Students also observe Tubifex worms under the microscope to learn about their body structure.

Adding Fish to the Pond Model

After observing and recording the structures of fish, the Gambusia, Guppies or Goldfish are added to the model pond and then their behavior is observed and recorded. Predictions are also recorded. Fish scales are viewed under the microscope. 


As the pond model habitats begin to resemble an actual pond, interactions are observed and recorded. Decomposition may be covered. Mosquito larvae are observed and then added to the habitat. 

Designing and Conducting Experiments

Students will be asked to come up with their own question to investigate by designing and conducting their own experiment using the scientific method, which will be accurately recorded.

Subkingdom Algae

Students will observe microscopically and microscopically at least two of the five phyla of the Subkingdom Algae. 

The Pond Models will be kept and observations recorded while we go on to further studies.

Part 3: Forest Habitats

Exploring Soil

Soil will be collected from different places and compared. The samples will be viewed under the microscope. Soil profiles will be done on each of them. 

Building the Forest Model

Using a plastic container, sand, birdseed or grass seed, dry leaves, twigs and a strawberry,  alyssum, Violet or other small garden plant, students will create their own Forest models. They will record what they have done in their science journals.

Inside a Flower

Plant Physiology and Reproduction

Students learn how plants use water, including viewing xylem under the microscope. Students learn about plant growth and reproduction, including dissecting and labeling plant parts. Students observe various types of fruits and classify them based on their differences. 

The Environmental Factor and  it's Effect on Radish Leaf Color

Students will observe the effect that the environment has on a genotype to make its phenotype change.


Carbon Dioxide and the Greenhouse Effect 

Using a thermometer and a plastic 2-liter bottle, students will observe the ability of carbon dioxide to absorb energy from sunlight. These findings will be recorded in their science journals. The water cycle, the oxygen cycle and the carbon cycle are covered.

Adding Earthworms to the Forest Model

Earthworms are observed and recorded about before being added to the habitat. Their role as decomposes are discussed. 

More About Earthworms

Invertebrates as a class are studied. Earthworm anatomy, including internal structures, are recorded. Experiments are designed and conducted using g earthworms as the basis of the study.

Adding Isopods to the Habitat

Students will be encouraged to identify and understand Isopod structures and behavior while adding them to the Forest Model. 

Adding More to the Forest Model

Students can add one additional thing they collect to their Forest Model, such as Garden snails or slug, beetles, crickets and the like. They could instead add an inanimate object such as rocks, shells, and the like. Observations of any interactions are recorded. Just as the Pond Models were kept and ongoing observations were recorded, the Forest Models are also kept, observed and recorded. This will overlap with the activities in part 3, so that the activities in part three are conducted with both a cricket and the mammal.
from Kingdom Fungi

Kingdom Fungi

Students observe fungi and learn how members of the class Basidiomycetes grow and reproduce. Can they grown in the Forest Model? Students also learn about the fungi of the Class Ascomycetes, in comparison and contrast to Class Basidiomycetes. Students observe how yeast reproduce through budding. This is compared to how Class Zygimycetes grow and bud. Various molds and mildew, as well as Impertfect Fungi, will be observed microscopically and microscopically.  

Part 4: Mammal and Insect Observations

The Animal Corral

Students learn the basics of scientifically observing animal behavior as they read about scientists such as Jane Goodall and begin observing animals is a animal corral. They learn about how assumptions and anthropomorphism affect our ability to accurately observe animal behavior.

Stimulus and Response

Students introduce stimulus objects, such as foods, into the animal's environment and observe how the animal reacts. Students generate hypotheses about how certain behaviors help animals in the wild survive. Students discuss the shortcomings of observing animal behaviors. 

The Sampling System

As a continuance of the last section's discussion, students discuss the value of mapping animal movements. They then learn to use a time sampling system of mapping animal movements. 

Holding and Observing Animals

Humane treatment of animals is covered and students practice how to humanely handle both a cricket and a rat. They also observe and record the physiology of the  cricket. Using drawings, the internal structures of the cricket are also explored and compared to the internal structures of the mammal. Insect identification is also learned. 

Designing Experiments

Students design their own animal behavior experiment by choosing a single stimuli and a topic to investigate. The topic is then narrowed to one hypothesis that can be tested within a half-hour period. The choices available to the animal are identified as well as the actions that will be observed and recorded. The concept of a fair test will be covered.

Mapping Animal Movements

Students use a sampling system to map the movements of a rat and a cricket. First they are observed and mapped as they explore an empty container and then after food and a shelter are added.

Identifying Movement Patterns

Students construct bar graphs as a first step in analyzing the mapping data they have collected. They then compare the trials conducted with and without stimulus, and the differences in behavior revealed by the data for the rat and the cricket. How does the behavior of the cricket and the rat differ from each other? The concept of key location is also covered. Students can also take this technique into the field by conducting a similar experiment in the backyard or a park.


Students get the materials they need and set up their experiments. After the experiment has concluded, students record their results and write their conclusions.  

Scientific Convention

With an audience, students describe their experiments and summarize their results. At the end of each report, there is a period of comments and questions from the audience. Students may wish to revise and improve their experiments.

Part 5: Other Areas of the Animal Kingdom

from Phylum Cnidaria

Other Invertebrates

Students observe a specimen from the phylum Porifera and note the simplicity, yet complexity of this animal's support structure. Students also observe the hydra and a planarian.

Class Aves (Birds)

Students observe bird embryology, look at feathers under a microscope,  learn types of feathers and skeletal structures. Student begin bird identification in the backyard and through field trips to nature centers, parks and bird sanctuaries.

Katie sketches the albino Corn Snake at the Reptile House.

Class Reptilia

Students learn the characteristics of this class, and the differences in the various orders that make up this class. Students visit a reptile house and learn about how they live.


  • Exploring Creation with Biology,  Jay Wile, grades 8-10
  • Aquatic Habitats,  LHS GEMS, grades 2-8
  • Terrarium Habitats, LHS GEMS, grades 2-8
  • Mapping Animal Movements, Katharine Barrett, LHS GEMS, grades 5-9
  • Mapping Fish Habitats, LHS GEMS,grades 6-10
  • Animals in Action LHS GEMS, grades 5-9
  • Exploring Creation with Zoology,  Swimming Creatures, Land Animals, grades 1-8 
Hands-On Middle School and High School Biology

Pioneers, part 10: Rain, Rain, Go Away...

part 10: Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Monday: Timeline

Have your student add to his timeline: 1850: Peak year of traveler's west, with approximately 55,000 travelers.

Tuesday: The Role-Play

(For those on the Oregon Trail)
The Snake River is just ahead. You will travel about 250 miles along the south side of the river. The Snake River is very difficult to cross. The common crossing is shallow,  but 600 feet wide and moves very swiftly. There is one small ferry that takes wagons across. Sometimes it takes days to get across. Indians swim the River from morning to night and can assist for a price. You can chain the wagons together to cross or take the wagons apart and float them across the river.

Heavy rains being to fall and continue for several days.  Your youngest party member was soaked when your wagon leaked. He/she caught pneumonia. 20% chance she dies. If so, lose 1 EF and 400 DP's for the delay of the funeral.

Rain has fallen now for seven days and the trail has become an impassible muddy mess. % chance your wagon has bogged down and mused be pulled out before you and the wagons behind you can proceed. 300 DP's for the delay.

You come to the Snake River crossing, but because of the high rushing river, your guide has decided to delay the crossing for several days in hopes that the water level will recede. Three days have passed and the rains continue. What do you do? 100 DP's for the time lost waiting do far.
If you decide that no more time can be wasted, and you attempt to cross the river today, the guide tells you that you must lighten your load to 650 BW units.  What do you leave behind?
As you prepare for the crossing, you suddenly realize the importance of rope. Without enough rope, you cannot safely guide the wagon sd and pull them across the river. If your wagon train is not carrying 7 or more lengths of rope, you lose 1 EF and the chances of getting washed away grow %.
Roll a 6-sided die,  a 1 or 2 means that a member of your wagon party falls off the wagon and drowns. Lose 1 EF.
Roll a 6-sided die.  A roll of a 1 means that one of your draft animals drowns in the crpssing. Your wsgon, too, is almost lost, but friends rush to your aid and help you to save it.
Roll a 6-sided die. A roll of 1 means that a large tree, rushing down the river, smashes into your wagon and crushes it in the raging water. You manage to hold on to the lifeline but your wagon, your supplies  and your draft animals are all lost. You must find another wagon on which your party can ride for the remainder of the trip. Lose 3 EFs for all your loss. If you roll a 2, your wagon swamps midstream.  You manage to get across but you lose 60 BW units of supplies, including your flour and salt. What did you lose? Start with your flour and salt.

Wednesday-Friday: Writing

Have your student continue to work on his writing projects.

Style and Form: The Difference Between APA and MLA Papers and Essays

Most papers that high school students write are based off the Modern Languages Association  (MLA) style of writing. This is the type of paper in which the writer has a thesis and expresses this in the first paragraph of the paper. The body paragraphs go on to prove and illustrate the thesis. This type of paper lends itself to literary analysis, so is most often used in English classes. It is also used for all papers in the liberal arts and humanities. Clear transitions from one point to another are very important. Citations follow the current style outlined by the MLA (Perdue University's Perdue Owl is a good source for the current MLA formatting, as well as, of course the MLA Handbook, but make sure you use the latest edition, if you want the latest formatting rules.) Changes in this style of citation happen so frequently that I  would not get hung up in keeping your student abreast of them. I would just pick one way of doing them and stick with that throughout his high school years. Any changes to that a professor in college requires should not be too much of a change for your student. In my experience, every professor will require something a bit different anyway.

Writing a paper in the American Psychology Association  (APA) style paper, on the other hand is written and formatted in a very different style. It is easier for students to transition from the typical reports students write in their Elementary years to this style than it is for them to transition to the MLA style papers, so I  usually require the APA style beginning in Middle School.

APA style papers strive for objectivity, so their is no thesis statement or opinion expressed, until a simple paragraph at the end of the paper. The paper is just a presentation of the facts. Instead of the transitions that are so important in the MLA style paper, the APA style papers uses section titles and sub-section titles, much like a magazine article. In keeping with the factual nature of the paper, it is very formal in tone. For example, the use of "I" or "we" is forbidden, as well as are contractions. At the end of the paper, in the conclusion, the writer can now briefly state his opinion. Lastly, the citations are handled differently. The instructions on how to write the citations for an APA style paper can also be found at the Perdue Owl website. This type of paper is most often used for psychology and science papers, so I assign this style to be the style of notebooking I require for their science beginning in seventh grade. They write an APA style paper for each chapter of the spine text, but they must include outside research they have done on the subject.

However you choose to introduce these paper writing styles, I think it will benefit your student to have some experience in both styles by the time they graduate.

Style and Form:
The Difference Between APA
and MLA Papers and Essays

Pioneers, part 9: On the Trail

part 9: On the Trail

Monday: Timeline

Add "1849-1850: Gold Rush to California." on timeline. Have your student research the Gold Rush and write a paragraph about it in his history notebook.

Tuesday: The Role-Play

(Those on the California Trail)
The wagon train is traveling  along the Humboldt River, which is about 290 miles long. The grass supply is so short that your guide is afraid the livestock will not have enough to eat. Alkaline dust is irritating everyone's throats and eyes.

(Those on the  Oregon Trail)
You are continuing northwest. You guide says that the wagon train needs to stop for a long rest (few days), but the wagon train can choose which one. Do you want to stop at Soda Springs, Fort Hall or Fort Boise? (When you get to the agreed upon spot, stop for at least 3 days.)

(If they go on the Burial Grounds Trail) Many wagons are running low on water and the only water near tonight's camp is dirty and stagnant. The guide has called for a wagon train meeting to decide what to do about this problem. No delay for a successful solution. 200 DPs if they solution does not please everyone,  but is successful for most people. 400 DPs if there is no resolution.

(If on the Burial Grounds Trail) As you are traveling near the sacred burial grounds,  a large band of Indians begin to follow you. Your guide is worried that they may attack and has ordered all wagons lightened in case you must make a run for it. The guide hopes that you can get close enough to the nearest Fort that the Indians will be afraid to attack. You must lighten your load to a maximum of 800 BW units. Due to loss of supplies, subtract 1 EF. If you do not lighten your load, subtract 300 DPs each day you do not lighten your load.

(On the Burial Grounds Trail) Your wagon train has been attempting to outrun the Indians who have taken up the chase. It is almost dusk and you all realize that you will not be close enough to the next Fort for help, so the decision has been made to stop, circle the wagons and hope you can successfully defend yourselves against any attack that may occur.A fight suddenly begins at dawn with 30+ warriors attacking your wagon train. Anyone who is hit will first be hit by an arrow in the right arm. If some members die, let it be the spouses of the wagons. 250 DPs for the fight.
There is a 20% chance each wagon will be shot with a flaming arrow. Have the player roll two 10 - sided dice, one for the ones column, and b one for the tens. A 20 or less means this has happened to their wagon. Subtract 1 EF  for the loss of supplies. For the remainder of the trip,  they must find another wagon that will allow your family to ride with them.

(If on the Burial Grounds Trail) During the fight, some of the livestock (roll a 4-sided die to see up to how many) were run off an lost. Roll a 6-sided die,  1= oxen, 2=cows, 3= goats, 4=mules, 5=horses, 6=you find your lost animals.

(If on the Cheyenne River Trail) Three young men from your wagon train who are known as hothead because they are fast with guns, fists and mouth, rode into camp late this afternoon with the scalps of two Indians. The three had spotted a small hunting party from a nearby village. They tracked the Indians down, killed them and scalped two of the hunters. The guide has called for a wagon train meeting to decide what to do about these men before hostilities break out. 400 DP's for a good solution,  600 DP's for an acceptable decision  and 800 DP's for no decision and subtract 6 EFs due to two men lost in the fight that breaks out with the Indians.

(On the Cheyenne River Trail) You have been out for several months and you have been using a lot of your food and some of your supplies. Food is beginning to run short. You  are becoming weak. If the wagon does not carry the following items, you will lose EFs: sugar, 1 EF, Pinto beans, 2 EFs,  salt,2 EFs, dried meat, 1 EF, flour, 1 EF.

Wednesday-Friday: Writing

Have your student work on his research paper and on his Trail Guide.

Finding Sources for a High School Level Paper or Essay

Many how-to ' s on writing high school level papers advise students to use only "scholarly" sources, but often don't give guidelines for what that means. What is the difference between a scholarly source and one that is unacceptable for a high school level paper?

Scholarly sources are articles that have been peer reviewed. Peer review is a process by which all new material, as in the case of scientific discoveries, any ideas or implications are scrutinized and critiqued by experts in their field before they become widely accepted. As in the case of literary peer-review it means that the work is examined and evaluated  with the view of publication in mind.

Articles from reputable encyclopedias,  law books or dictionaries are also acceptable. These have usually been written by the experts in their respective fields.

Source material can also be found from International, US, state or county government documents.

Other acceptable sources for material that may not be officially "scholarly" but  are suitable include newspaper,  magazine, television or website articles.

Primary sources such as autobiographies, letters, emails, memoirs or blogs might also be sources for material. Interviews or survey results you have conducted yourself may also be used. You must be careful, however, to tell whether the source you are quoting could be biased, out-of-date or otherwise flawed. To help the student determine which sources are scholarly and which are not, I find it helpful to get them to write an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of the sources used with a short description of why this source is reliable by giving a short bibliography of the writer's qualifications. It also states briefly what the article is about and why it is being used as a source in the student's paper. The length of these entries shouldn't be any longer than about 100-200 words, so each of these components must be no more than a sentence or two. Through writing this, you student must research the author of the source and find out how credible the writing is, and therefore he will be able to evaluate sources of information.

So, what sources are not appropriate?  Wikipedia is the go-to source for a lot of students. It is good to get your students out of the habit of using it as a source for quotes. It is alright to use as an overview of the subject as a starting point for research and it is alright to use the sources it uses for a place to find some sources. But that is as far as your student should go with using Wikipedia. The same applies to other internet sites such as About.com and Ask.com.

This probably goes without saying, but other websites for students to avoid include any "cheater" sites offering to "write your essay for you" or any source that asks the student to pay to download it or asks for personal information from the student before he can access it.

Grading High School Essays and Papers

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by email is about how to grade high school essays and papers, so I thought I would share with you what I have learned over the years of homeschooling about this subject.
from a analysis of a play by Katie Bergenholtz

Different essays or papers will have different styles and purposes, so you will need to make it clear to the student why he is writing the paper and who his audience is. Is the paper to persuade, for example, and who are you persuading? Your peers? Adults? Do the people who are reading it already need to have a basic knowledge of the subject or can they come to the paper knowing nothing about the subject?
Style and Form: The Difference Between APA and MLA Papers and Essays

No matter what type of paper or its intended audience, the paper needs to have a clear thesis. It also needs well-reasoned support for the thesis. It should also contain appropriate quotes or paraphrased information from a few different sources (for a high school paper, I usually ask for five, but you can set any number you feel is appropriate). These sources should be cited accurately, which means that you need to decide what style is accurate for any given paper. You may want them to cite sources in a MLA style, APA style or a simplified version. I start out with a simplified version in 9th grade because they are still learning so much about writing, but by the time a student has graduated, he should be familiar with both MLA and APA styles. (A post about these styles, and their similarities and differences can be found here: Style and Form: The Difference Between APA and MLA Papers and Essays.) You will need to set a length for the paper, such as 2,000 words.
from a paper on President Johnson by Sam Bergenholtz

The paper should contain a fully developed  introduction, body and conclusion. If appropriate, it should contain a counter argument and a refutation of that counter argument. The paper should be free of grammar, usage and mechanics errors.

The rest of what I  look for is harder to explain to students. The paper should be written with an appropriate stance, style and tone. For example, the student should avoid using first-person or second -person.

Even if he has written papers before in middle school, you should not expect your student to write an high school level paper to its completion without any assistance from you. To accomplish this without either seeming like you are hanging over their shoulder or the student feeling like he has to get your approval too often before moving on, set dates for three rough drafts before the final paper is turned in.

The first draft is intended to be an exploration of the topic, and so the focus should be on the content, not on grammar or citation.  It should include an introductory paragraph that sets the context of the paper. It should contain a clear working thesis and as many individual points of support as he can think of. He should also attempt to embed at least two different quotes to provide evidence of support. I usually expect this to be half the length of the final draft. If your student is struggling to meet this length criteria, don't let him get hung up by it. He can add notes to himself such as, " I need to find a good source for a definition of this" and have him count this toward his word count. When he turns this in, you should make suggestions that will help him to write his second draft. Focus on the most obvious points and save the fine tuning for future renditions.
Finding Sources for a High School Level Paper or Essay
The second draft, which is due a week or two later, should reflect the changes based on the suggestions you have made. At this point, he may find out that he needs to do additional research. The second draft should contain a clear thesis statement and reflect any narrowing or refocusing of the thesis. It should also contain three solid points to support the thesis. It should contain quotes and citations from at least five sources, including two scholarly sources. (More about the difference between scholarly and other sources can be found here in the post, Finding Sources for a High School Level Paper or Essay.) These quotes and citations could illustrate or bolster a point from a credible source. They could illustrate the counterargument of the issue. They could define a term or concept that is not common knowledge. They could also illustrate a misconception or popular myth about the issue. 
from a paper on price controls by Sam Bergenholtz

The second draft should have clearly stated counterargument and refutations on the issue. It should have a draft introduction paragraph and a draft conclusion paragraph. It should also have a draft of the Works Cited page.

The third draft, also to be turned in a week or two after the second draft, should have an introductory paragraph that sets the context of the paper. It should have a clear thesis statement and clear, separate points of support for the thesis, each matched to an illustrative quote or paraphrase from one or more of the sources. It should include a clear counterargument,  preferably with quoted and cited evidence, and refutation. It also should have a conclusion paragraph. Lastly, it should have a Works Cited page that lists all the sources that are quoted or paraphrased and cited in the essay.
from an Economics paper by Sam Bergenholtz

Have your student think of the third draft as the final essay in terms of the content, because next he should look closely at the paper, addressing issues of grammar, citation, format and the Works Cited page. Help your student to resist the temptation to revise the content at this point, as students that are new to writing sometimes fall prey to over revising, often to the detriment of the paper. This draft should meet the length requirement (I usually set it at at least 2,000 words, not counting the Works Cited page, but you should set the requirement to coincide with your student's ability,  keeping in mind that you want to challenge your student somewhat.)  
from a paper on Ginsberg's poem, America, by Katie Bergenholtz

At this point, your student can turn in his final draft! In grading the paper, your job is to look to see if your student has followed your directions, each step of the way. I grade all of the drafts in order to give the student practice in looking at the different aspects that come together to make an excellent paper. Anytime he does not include what you have asked,  you need to take points off the final grade for that draft, anywhere from 5-15 points depending on what and how much he has left out. For example, if he does not have a clear thesis statement in his second draft, I would take off 15 points because that is a severe problem, and that alone would reduce the grade from a possible 100 points to 85, or a "B" in my grading scale. On the other hand, if the paper contains grammatical, usage or mechanics errors in the final draft, I may take off only 5 points as it is hard for students at this point to catch all of these errors while also trying to focus on the other requirements asked of them. (I even have trouble with this from time to time!) This would give their paper a 95 or an "A" on my grading scale. Of course your student will most likely have multiple things which lower his grade, especially in the beginning,  but any discouragement he may have should be overcome by his applying himself to rectifying the mistakes as he writes the various drafts. His grade will improve! You can decide,  as his teacher, whether you will average all the grades for all the drafts, or whether you will just use his final draft grade as the grade that will be reflected, along with other grades, as his class grade. I tend to use only the final draft grades as the grades for the class, but it can be useful for some students to use all the grades he has received averaged. For some students, if the grade is not reflected in his final class grade, then it doesn't count to them and they will not work hard to improve the drafts, as they should. You will have to determine what works best for both of you. Ninth grade is often a trial and error period as these things are worked out.
paper by Sam Bergenholtz

I hope this explanation of my process of teaching writing and how I grade papers helpful. Remember that learning to write and practicing writing takes time. Many mistakes will be made in the process by both student and teacher, but time and effort applied to it will reap results and prepare your student for whatever they choose to do in their future. 

If clarification of any point is needed, feel free to leave a comment and I  will try to answer any questions you might have.