Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How Veggie Tales Inspired a Biblical Novella

I'm happy to introduce to you a former homeschool student, Amber Schamel, who now writes Christian Historical Fiction. What an encouragement to us homeschool moms to see what homeschooling has produced in the life of one of its pupils!

Check out her three books: The Healer's TouchThe Foolish Princess, and The Swaddling Clothes on Amazon and visit her website .

How Veggie Tales Inspired a Biblical Novella
by Amber Schamel

It was a summer evening, I was in the kitchen making dinner while my little siblings Read More

Monday, November 25, 2013

Visiting Washington, D.C. # 4 – Sculpture Garden

Here are some pictures and some educational activities for the Sculpture Garden outside the National Gallery of Art. You could discuss them as you and your children look at these pictures or actually visit the Sculpture Garden. The activities are for at home.

This pyramid of blocks gave a flavor of Egypt.

Discussion questions: In what country would you find a pyramid like this? What kind of materials were used to make this?

----Stack wooden blocks similarly.
----Draw a pyramid.
----Look up information on Egyptian pyramids and find out how big they were.
----Figure out math problem with the size of block given and how big the base would be if a certain number of blocks were used to build it.
----Have them make up a story about the workers who built this pyramid and the artist who designed it.

These chairs seemingly stacked on top of one another formed an interesting zigzag pattern.

Discussion questions: How many chairs? What else could be stacked like this? They remind me of trim that used to be used on clothing called rickrack, what do they remind you of? What if someone sat on the top chair? What if someone sat on the bottom chair?

----Reproduce this with a ruler on a piece of paper.
----Make your own drawing of a sculpture with stacked up items.

I wanted to find a ladder and go inside this one. I don’t suppose the guards would have like that.

 Discussion questions: What animal does this remind you of? What shapes can you see? What kind of triangles are they? Obtuse, right, acute, equilateral, scalene, or isosceles?

----Design your own sculptures using geometric shapes.

Again I thought of an animal when I looked at this one.

Discussion questions: What animal does this make you think of? Why do you think the artist used pink?

----Reproduce this sculpture with paper.

My favorite sculpture in the park is this silver tree.

Discussion questions: What kind of material is this made of? What story would this fit into? How high do you think this is?

----Make up a story about this silver tree.

This house is actually an optical illusion of being four sided when it actually was only two. The paint makes a concave structure look like it is bulging out.

 Discussion: What is an optical illusion? What makes this house an optical illusion?

----Look up optical illusions online and find out more about them.

Another I had to wait to find out about until I got home. When my husband saw the picture he said they used to have wheel-like erasers with a brush on the end to use when typing on typewriters. I remember now seeing one my mother had. The big difference between that three-inch one and the one at this sculpture garden was about twenty-five feet.

Discussion: What do you think this is? Why did they use these colors? Explain what it is and then ask about if they know what an antique is. What other objects could be used as a subject for a sculpture to show something that is no longer used.

----Design a sculpture inspired by one of the antique objects you talked about.

Final Activity: 

----Write another story about one of these sculptures or about a different world using the sculptures as components of that world. Give them super hero abilities. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Visiting Washington, D.C. # 3 – Veterans Day

Monday, I spent another day in Washington to finish up my coursework for Learner’s Edge.

View of Washington D.C. from Lee Mansion
Not wishing to do all the waiting in the cold for the wreath-laying ceremony, my friend and I chose to walk the paths through the cemetery. After visiting the Kennedy graves, the Lee Mansion, and various other graves, we settled down in the Women in Military Service for America Memorial to watch a video called “Vietnam Nurses.”  Tears began to stream down my friend’s face as we listened to nurses tell stories of their experiences during the Vietnam War. Afterwards, she shared that she was   crying for what her husband went through as a soldier in that war.

At the appointed time, we walked back to the bus and had to wait for the driver. The youngest child on our trip played nearby me. I asked him how old he was. He looked away, shy. “Should I ask your mother?” I replied.

She said, “Six, that’s how I can always remember how long ago it was. Mike died in August and he was born in September.” From that point, others engaged her in the conversation. I stood relieved that I didn’t need to respond and wondered what happened.

The driver finally showed up. He and the tour guide had been in a dilemma of not wanting to walk out during the President’s speech to get to the bus on time. We finally took off, and he delivered us to the American History Museum. We ooed and awed at the Presidents’ wives’ gowns, watched the video of past Inaugural balls, and wandered around the rest of the museum.

This time, the driver picked us up promptly. We then visited various memorials. At one memorial, I chose to stay on the bus, having just been to that one recently. I overheard the bus driver and another lady talking about the little boy. I asked about the family. The bus driver told me that Mike, the little boy’s father, had been on the Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq that crashed in 2007, killing 14. The mother had brought the little boy to Arlington for the first time to visit the memorial which included his father’s name.

Next, one of the ex-Army guys on the tour entered the bus. He carried a homemade card in his hands. “Look what a little boy gave to me!” he said so pleased and touched. The card had a piece of candy fastened to a three-by-five piece of paper. Red, white, and blue crayon lines shot forth from the candy. The veteran on the bus wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes.


I have lots of other educational ideas to share with you, but they will have to wait for another time. Check back in a week or so and I will have one for you. Or better yet sign up for notification by email.

Friday, November 8, 2013

District of Columbia War Memorial

Visiting Washington, D.C. # 2 – Memorials

A tour of Washington involves remembering those who have died.
I walked through the children’s exhibit in the Holocaust Museum and read the child’s version of Nazi Germany. At the end, while I viewed a representation of a prison camp, a child in front of me sobbed intensely. I will never forget the sound. Children need to know about war and understand why our country has fought, but how can we convey it without exposing them to too much evil?

One way is to pray and seek God’s help before visiting the memorials. Another way is to emphasize the good things. In Washington, many veterans or active duty soldiers visit in their uniforms. Some are in wheelchairs because of injuries or their age. Make homemade cards before your trip to Washington to give to these veterans and say thank you.

Children need to be able to connect the dots between the memorials and what those men did for our country. The terrible suffering represented by the memorials gave our country and other countries, FREEDOM.


This is an activity to help children understand the time sequence of the wars and why we have memorials.

Discussion questions: What is the name of some of the wars our country fought? Who fought? Who won? Have you ever been to a cemetery? What does it look like? Why are there stones with names on them? What is a memorial? Have you ever seen a memorial? Where and who was it honoring? Why would someone want to erect a memorial?

----Make a torn paper book. Start at one corner of legal-sized paper and tear diagonally to three inches above the opposite corner. Fold back and forth, ending up with five two-inch spaces, like making a fan. Start at the bottom and write the names of the wars in order on each section. Under that write the dates they took place. Older children can fill in extra details. Legal-size paper gives younger children more space to write in. Of course, there are other wars. I tried to keep this simple. Winning sides are underlined

Civil War 1861-65 Union (North United States) vs. Confederacy (South United States )          
W. W. I 1914-18 Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary vs. Britain, France, Russia United States
W. W. II 1939-45 Germany, Italy, Japan vs. Great Britain, France, Russia, United States  
Korean War 1950-53 North Korea, Communist China vs. United Nations, South Korea, United States
(no winner)
Vietnam War 1960-75 North Vietnam vs. South Vietnam, United States

----Search for Washington D.C. Memorial images online and show your children pictures.

U.S. Grant Memorial (Civil War)

District of Columbia War Memorial (World War I)

World War II Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Torn Paper Book

Friday, November 1, 2013

Visiting Washington, D.C. # 1 - Plants

I’m still slowly writing my next book. Two houses to clean out after the death of my 100-year-old mother-in-law and a graduate credit I’m working on has infringed on my time.

The college course through Learner’s Edge has been a blast. I had to spend eleven hours visiting sites in Washington, D.C. and write a journal including some educational ideas on how to use them. I met two wonderful ladies on the bus and am going back to Washington soon with one of them.

There are many planted walkways and special gardens near the Smithsonian Mall. If you love plants or are teaching about them, I suggest a trip to Washington. Check out the United States Botanical Garden website before you plan your trip and print out a map of the gardens.

Here is a shortened version of part of my trip and my corresponding activities.
Walking down Seventh Street from the National Archives Building near the Smithsonian Mall, I found heart-leafed aster. Love nest sundew, I spotted in the garden beside the conservatory among the other carnivorous plants. Downy pagoda-plant nestled beyond the bridge in the same garden. What beautiful names for plants!

----Learn some genera before you go and see if you can find one or two species of each genus.

---- Alphabetize your list to make them easier to find.

----Take a notebook and write down your favorites.

---- Take pictures of your favorites. Here are a few of the pictures I took. 

Pinus palustris, longleaf pine

 ----Think about planning a garden of your own as you walk. You can tell if the species will grow in your region by the information on the placard beside each plant.

----After your visit, match the pictures to the names in your notebook. Look up the names online if you can’t remember which is which.

----Draw a picture of your planned garden.

----Look up prices online and find out how much it would cost.

----Order your plants, fertilizer, and a pair of garden gloves next spring.

----Get to work!

P.S. This family let me take their picture. They were already posed on the tree when I walked past.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

There comes a time in every child’s life when they must step from being a child into adulthood. Watching this process is not always easy. I know. I have a 19-year-old son struggling with this right now. In a book for young adults, One Traveler, Alison Treat has captured the essence of the mistakes, indecision, and immaturity of that time.

Main character, seventeen-year-old Sidney Judson has reached that crossroads in his life. Actually, he got a shove into it. His parents have died. He could have gone on as usual, dating a neighborhood girl, planning on marriage, and living on his Georgia Southern plantation. Instead he made a wise choice of coping with his loss by spending time with family in Pennsylvania.

After arriving in Pennsylvania, Sidney discovers that his uncle helps with the Underground Railroad! Sidney is confronted with the conflict of Northern beliefs versus Southern beliefs on the issue of slavery. Next, the Civil War is upon him and he must make more choices. All of this adds up to an exciting story with mystery, suspense, and surprises.

Characterization in One Traveler is very good. The main character, Sidney, makes some good choices and some bad. He also has to make a decision about the girl he left at home. His feelings about a certain Northern girl confuse him. The chatty preacher’s daughter is endearing, and the story even has a villain. Loving aunt and uncle aren’t perfect people either, but I found myself rooting for them.

Mrs. Treat did an excellent job of keeping the romantic part decent. A few swear words caused me pause. I don’t like to read any, but the book contains less than a handful.

I find history so much fun to learn through the vehicle of historical fiction. The historical subject and setting, the Underground Railroad in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, drew me. When Sidney and his family chose different sides and a battle took place, I cringed. Wrapped up in the story, I felt like I had loved ones fighting there. After reading the book, I found I knew more about the Underground Railroad and the events leading to the start of the Civil War. Who needs a time machine when good historical fiction is available!

This book is as good as any written by Ann Rinaldi, in fact, a little better. I find Ann Rinaldi descends a little too far into darkness, at times. Although it is classified YA (Young Adult Fiction), this senior citizen enjoyed it immensely. One Traveler by Alison Treat would make a great present for the teen in your life who loves to read or who has to read to build a book list to show an evaluator. Check out One Traveler on

P.S. I just found out that Mrs. Treat is a product of homeschooling. That makes her book even more special to this homeschool mama!