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April 2015

by Mary Ann Kelley
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Poetry, da Vinci, Shakespeare, Paul Revere, Activity Bag Swaps, and More

From the Editor

April is the month for pear blossoms and poetry. And rain. I am relieved that the freezing temperatures and ice are gone for another year, and I am looking forward to warmer weather, green leaves, and wearing sandals. In the meantime, I’ll remind myself that rain will make the flowers grow.

This month has been a fun newsletter to put together because all of the resources relate to the April teaching calendar, including poetry month and the anniversary of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. If you have any budding artists or inventors in your house, you’ll want to check out the Leonardo da Vinci resource I’ve included as well. Enjoy the newsletter!

Warm regards,

Mary Ann Kelley

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Teaching Calendar

April 13, 2015 — Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday – 1743

April 14, 2015 — Abraham Lincoln Assassinated – 1865

April 15, 2015 — Leonardo da Vinci’s Birthday – 1452

April 18, 2015 — Paul Revere Day

April 20, 2015 — Patriots’ Day

April 22, 2015 — Earth Day

April 23, 2015 — William Shakespeare’s Birthday – 1564

April 24, 2015 — Arbor Day

April 28, 2015 — Maryland Admission Day – 1788

April 30, 2015 — Louisiana Admission Day – 1812

May 1, 2015 — May Day

May 5, 2015 — Cinco de Mayo

View the entire calendar »

Educational Resources

Abraham Lincoln Research Site

Created by Andrew Patel, a former American history teacher, the site is intended for use by students, teachers, schools, and anyone with an interest in introductory information on Abraham Lincoln. The site is well-organized with sections on a variety of aspects of Lincoln’s life, including his legal and political careers, his family, his health, his pet dog, and Nanny and Nanko, the goats kept inside the White House by his sons. The variety of interesting background, facts, and trivia will keep students interested in the day to day life of one of our most famous American presidents.

Shakespeare Study Guide

Although a bit dated in its design, the "ShakeSphere" website is a comprehensive collection of his works with information about the man, his world, and his craft as well as information about each play. Links include complete annotated texts of some of his works and research guides as well as essays and short articles. A guide to the videos of his works is also helpful.

Leonardo da Vinci For Kids

This portrait of da Vinci is perfect for younger grades or even middle school. It starts exploring the life of the man and includes a study broken into sections including scientist, inventor, and artist. Each section includes an activity related to the topic just covered (for example, the section on da Vinci’s art concludes with an activity to make your own fresco).

Paul Revere’s Ride

As I wrote when I highlighted "O Captain! My Captain!", April is both poetry month and the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. It also happens to be the month of the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse and the 240th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride. What you may not know is that when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the stirring poem celebrating the midnight ride, it was the impending civil unrest that motivated him. You can learn more about Longfellow and Revere in this 54 page downloadable lesson for middle schoolers from Glencoe. It’s a perfect unit for April since the month celebrates poetry, the end of the Civil War, and the anniversary of Revere’s famous ride.

Recent Blog Posts

Swapping Homeschooling Activity Bags

Put homeschooling in the bag with a homeschooling activity bag swapPut Homeschooling in the Bag – Your homeschool group or co-op might enjoy working together to create homeschooling activity bags for a swap. This was a fun idea our family did with a homeschool group, and it sort of works like a cookie swap at holiday time. You gather inexpensive supplies for a single hands-on pre-school activity, homeschool craft, or simple science experiment or demonstration (up through elementary age), and you put them in a zipper plastic bag with instructions. The beauty part is — you make up ten or twenty identical activity bags (according to the number of families participating), and you take them to the swap. Read More…

Homeschooled "Runaway Radical"

Read Chapter 2 of "Radical Runaway" by Amy Hollingsworth & Jonathan HollingsworthJonathan Hollingsworth’s mother remembers him coming to her and his father shortly after starting his first semester of college to tell them he would commit to two years of filling up his mind if he could then spend a year emptying his heart. Amy Hollingsworth had homeschooled her son and daughter their whole lives, and Jonathan’s sensitivity was evident from the start. Now, as a freshman at the local community college, Jonathan was idealistic and burdened with a heart for the lost. He had already spent a week in Honduras, but instead of abating his ingrained drive to help the poverty-stricken, the trip only highlighted for him how very difficult it is to meet the need found in isolated cultures — cultures where the whims of nature can threaten the very existence of the inhabitants. Read More…

Roadschooling: What To Keep In The Car

Roadschooling: My list of "extras" to keep in the carMany of us homeschoolers are automobile-dependent. Living in rural or suburban areas and in some small and medium size towns and cities, we find that our communities aren’t “walkable,” and there is no public transportation to speak of. There is certainly no school bus serving our family. Since our kids aren’t in the “big box of school” we have to drive to many of the activities and classes our kids participate in. With three kids in a wide age range and with a diversity of interests, over the years I have found myself constantly traveling from one “homeschool thing” to another, also mixing in our regular errands. Read More…

“O Captain! My Captain!”

Poetry, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, & the Civil WarAs a student, I hated poetry. In high school, the words “poetry unit” filled me with dread and an almost uncontrollable desire to feign an extended illness preventing school attendance. As an adult, the aversion stayed with me until I heard Walt Whitman’s haunting verses about the Civil War read aloud — grieved, lamenting the death that seemed to be everywhere. Listening to poetry and experiencing the emotions that the poet meant to evoke brought the words to life. Meter and rhyme, refrain and couplet, sonnet and stanza — they may be important to learn, but only after poetry is experienced. Experiencing poetry is crucial to appreciating it. Once it has been experienced, the process of creation can be studied with a focus on mechanics and editing Read More…

Featured Article

How Challenges & Mistakes Promote Learning


Challenges & Mistakes Promote LearningInteresting problems and exciting risks are life’s calisthenics. They stretch us in directions we need to grow. Children are particularly oriented this way. They think up huge questions and search for the answers. They face fears. They puzzle over inconsistencies in what is said and done around them. They relentlessly challenge themselves to achieve social, physical, or intellectual feats that (from a child’s perspective) seem daunting. They struggle for mastery even when dozens of attempts don’t provide them any success. It’s a testament to courage that they continue to try.

Sometimes children are accused of “looking for trouble” when they simply yearn to vanquish dragons of their own making. A child’s desire to challenge him- or herself is at times as unrelenting as physical growth.

As adults we do this in our own way. If we don’t have enticing challenges, we may develop a state of mental friction to compensate. It seems to be a very human trait to clutter up our days with trouble if we have no more engaging prospects. We worry, rehash old issues, overreact, or find complications where there may be none. As the roots of a plant become more tightly entangled once they are pot bound, an individual without the freedom to take on greater challenges often gets caught up in the same confining struggles.

One thing we can learn from children is the way they are attracted to dilemmas that help them learn and grow. Children who are nurtured in a healthy, free range learning environment are invigorated by the challenges they seek out. They expand their own frontiers on a comfortable, self-regulating timetable. Perhaps people of all ages define themselves, in part, through the challenges they take on and the way they resolve those challenges.

Oftentimes we deprive children of normal day-to-day challenges because of our own time constraints. As adults we are often distracted and focused on moving forward. It takes considerable tolerance to keep from stepping in and doing for children what will take them much longer to do for themselves, such as solving problems, making choices, completing tasks, and accepting the consequences. But when we recognize that even these small challenges are catalysts for growth, it is easier for us to step back and let children face them as they occur. These are normal stressors. Dealing with them gives children the critical experiences that lead to self-reliance.

So much about today’s “managed childhood” has developed in order to prevent young people from making mistakes. We think we know the prescription for success, but as we’ve seen, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t allow individuals to thrive. It also denies them the very human right to learn in the way best for them and to listen to the callings that prompt them. The “right way” to proceed in our culture usually means health, popularity, good grades, attractiveness, college degree, career, marriage, mortgage, and so on. We’ve created these societal expectations largely to cushion our youth from mistakes. But error is inevitable even if we avoid all risks. That narrow, preordained path is anathema to genuine experience. Setting rigid standards for children sends a message. It says to them that failure is the worst outcome and that our acceptance is conditional.

What we might do instead is recognize that courage is required to go one’s own way, that mistakes are inevitable, and that the outcome is authenticity. The real challenge lies in accepting each person’s possibilities. That’s how each of us proceeds when we do what we can with what we have in order to live our lives fully. The path not taken may be the journey regretted forever. That’s why we need to honor mistakes as important passages in our lives too. They help us face the next challenge with a wry smile and new determination, knowing another lesson has been learned.

Excerpt from Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything.

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything, a resource guide for raising life-long learners and also a collection of poetry titled Tending. She writes about learning, sustainability, and hopeful living for GeekMom.com, Mothering.com, and her blog. She lives with her family on Bit of Earth Farm where they raise cows, chickens, honeybees, and the occasional wild scheme. She’s slow at work on her next book, Subversive Cooking.

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