The Fall 2014 schedule for homeschool writing classes is up at Gathering Ink.
- Teen Short Story Writing Circle - $60 for six weeks
- Teen Poet's Corner - $60 for six weeks
- Interpreting Literature (Grades 8-10) - $72 per six week session
The Fall 2014 schedule for homeschool writing classes is up at Gathering Ink.
Time is running out to see an original copy of the 1217 Magna Carta at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. See some of our personal photos and thoughts at the Facebook link below. Homeschool Houston will return to Raising Autodidacts next month.
For the rest of our series of educational things to see and do in the Houston area, subscribe to Homeschool Houston.
Welcome to the Homeschool Houston series! This is our fifth post on fun and educational things to do in and around the Greater Houston Area.
This winter, I found out from a fellow homeschooler about Saturday Morning Physics at Texas A&M University in College Station. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation and available free of charge to Texas high school students, however, anyone can attend. There were seven sessions offered each Saturday morning from 9:30am - 12:00pm from January 18 until March 1.
Topics for the Spring 2014 Program were:
The morning began with the lecture (approximately one hour) followed by a half hour donut and soda break (that's one way to get them there!). After the break, there would typically be another hour of hands-on demonstrations given by other professors in the Physics Department. The quality of the lectures and demonstrations were excellent. We attended as a family, with our fourteen year-old and eleven year-old, and found all of the lectures to be challenging, but engaging. It isn't necessary to have a full grasp of all the concepts, or to have completed a certain level of math or science to derive value from the experience.
There were three science challenges posted on the SMP Facebook Page throughout the course of the program. Participants were welcome to submit answers. My oldest received a prize, along with another young student, for answering the most questions correctly.
What a great opportunity!
Unfortunately, the grant is not assured for 2015. If you're interested in Saturday Morning Physics, I recommend checking the web-site and Facebook Page sometime in early January for any announcements and details. The organizers, Dr. Ralf Rapp and Dr. Rainer Fries, did an incredible job of executing this program and they are to be commended for their dedication to the advancement of the study of physics.
Three weeks after the last class on March 1, we would attend the Physics and Engineering Festival, also at Texas A&M.
The festival ran from March 21 - March 22, and featured what seemed like hundreds of interactive displays in addition to world-class lectures delivered by astronauts and nobel laureates. We had the honor of hearing Nobel Prize winner Dudley Herschbach speak on an electrospray method developed by John Fenn.
We also attended the fabulous Science Circus, truly not to be missed, and appropriate for any age or level of understanding! Rhys Thomas "teaches Newtonian physics using a rare blend of science, comedy and circus arts." It was a great way to wrap up the festival.
We found the Physics and Astronomy Department at Texas A&M to be a great source of science education. In all of these cases, the programs were free. If you've been to any of these programs or know of more, please feel free to drop us a line in the comment section.
We'll see you there!
This post is one in a series of educational things to see and do in the greater Houston area. Visit Homeschool Houston for more ideas!
This past fall, we signed up for a couple of homeschool classes at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. For our review on the museum itself, check out Homeschool Houston - The Houston Museum Of Natural Science.
We took two classes that fit within the theme of the Middle Ages -- we are studying all things medieval history this year, and I was delighted at the synergy these classes would offer our journey through this time period.
First up was the Castle Time Lab. Students were introduced to the basic structure of a castle through a half-hour lecture and slideshow. I thought the instructor was knowledgeable and engaging.
During the lecture, students labeled the parts of a castle on their own diagrams:
Lastly, we created aerial views of a castle, trying to place all of the elements as strategically as possible:
This particular class was geared for grades 1-8, and there were indeed children of all ages present. It was probably too basic for my almost 14 year-old, but I thought the class was informative and enjoyable, particularly since it fit so nicely with our at-home discussions. Class fees also include entrance to the museum, so it is well worth the time and minimal expense involved. Most classes are in the $8-$15 per person range, depending on which group you book your class selections through.
The second class was entitled Siege Machines, and focused on catapults from medieval times. After a short lecture, students made a simple working catapult from Popsicle sticks, masking tape, clips, and liquid medicine cups:
We had a different instructor for this class, and again, I thought she was interesting and engaging, handling the rather large class well -- going around to the different tables to make sure everyone was putting their catapults together correctly, and offering assistance when needed.
Of course, the best part is getting to use the catapult! At the end of class, students could go out into the hall and practice launching a payload (marbles) into a bucket.
The catapults were also used at home later that day -- so, the fun continued.
There are different ways to sign up for homeschool classes at the HMNS. We have found the web-site Homeschool and Beyond to be very convenient. Classes are generally $15 for a one hour class, or $30 for a two hour lab, per person.
We always explore the museum after class, as well. Three hour parking is easily available on the street. If you want to stay longer, you may end up having to move your vehicle, or paying the fairly steep parking garage rate at the museum.
Bring your lunch if you plan to stay over the lunch hour. There is a pricey McDonald's located inside the museum, but is handy for a quick drink or snack.
If you attend a homeschool class at HMNS, let us know how it goes by dropping us a line in the comment section!
On October 19, we attended our first Texian Heritage Festival in Montgomery. What an event!
At the bargain rate of a $1 per person donation, it was one of the best living history presentations I have ever witnessed (and I've witnessed a few!). Highlights of the festival included: Texas Independence battle reenactments (complete with Mexican and Texian army encampments), a tableau of women of the Civil War in period costume, booming cannons, firearm demonstrations, Native American dancers, blacksmiths, musical performances, harvest-time activities for children, and so much more.
A display of 19th century school books and materials included a McGuffey's Reader. Dating as far back as 1836, these Readers underscore a harsh reality. We are losing things like literacy and civility at a breakneck pace. I actually attended a school in the 80's (not 1880's, either) that used some of these Readers as part of its language arts curricula. For some great historical fiction, also of this time period, check out the works of G.A. Henty. Many are available for free via the Gutenberg Project. We read The Boy Knight: A Tale of the Crusades a couple of years ago and found it enjoyable. The books make great read-alouds to younger kids as the writing style and vocabulary can be quite foreign to our modern ears.
A reenactor and fellow homeschool mom shares a wonderful story about the scarcity of coffee during the Civil War (this canister would have been worth $50 -- Starbucks ain't got nothin'!) and, more importantly, the real cause of the war (i.e., not slavery). "Think for yourselves," she admonished. "Don't trust history books to tell you the truth." Amen, sista.
The Arnold-Simonton House -- one of the oldest houses in Montgomery County was built in 1845 in the Greek-revival style.
A bonus of the festival is "free" admission to all of the structures at Fernland Historical Park. These structures are always locked up and normally require a fee and scheduled tour in order to appreciate them. There are two log cabins (Crane and Jardine) that are just fascinating -- the craftsmanship is impressive.
I'm sorry that you'll have to wait an entire year until the Texian Heritage Festival returns to Fernland Historical Park in Montgomery. Perhaps I will see you there!
Montgomery is located approximately an hour north of Houston.
For more Homeschool Houston field trip reviews, click HERE.
Not far outside the classic Texas town of Navasota, across the Brazos River, sits Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park -- the birthplace of the Texas Republic. In 1836, 59 elected delegates met to declare Texas's independence. They met in an unfinished building in the town of Washington on the morning of March 2, and without debate, unanimously declared that the people of Texas were free from Mexico.
For 10 years (1836 - 1846), Texas existed as a separate and unique nation. The Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site includes Independence Hall, Star of the Republic Museum, and Barrington Living History Farm.
This summer, we made the pleasant one-hour drive to the park with the hope that the Star of the Republic Museum would yield some interesting finds. While the museum is not large by some standards, it is well-maintained and contains many interesting artifacts from the time period. I recommend taking advantage of the entire park when you go, including the Barrington Farm -- we only toured the museum, which can easily be done in an hour or so.
If you're lucky, you may catch a special exhibit, such as Toy Time. The exhibit included life-size folk toys and focused on history, culture and science. My two spent the bulk of our time in the museum testing out and playing with all of the toys and games. It's a great hands-on way to explore and appreciate a time when no electricity or batteries were needed. One station offered several wooden "puzzles" that were nearly impossible to solve! The exhibit closed on September 30.
Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.
After we had our fill of toys, we checked out the rest of the museum. There is an upstairs area that contains several fun items, such as clothing and furniture from the time period. Also, for fans of Chuck Norris (or Chuck Norris jokes), the museum holds one of his jackets from the old television show: Walker, Texas Ranger.
Most importantly, every Thursday in October, The Star of the Republic Museum and Barrington Living History Farm will present a program specifically for home school families. Childhood in Early Texas, is an interactive, hands-on program for the entire family. You can discover what life was like for a child in the mid-19th century, learning about childhood chores, clothes, and schools, even making some old-fashioned toys to take home. At Barrington Farm, you can experience life on an early Texas farm, complete with a stroll through the cotton field, picking a boll or two along the way.
Curriculum materials including lesson plans and activity sheets will be available on-line to help continue the learning experience at home.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Cost: $6/adult, $8/child
No minimum group size
Limited space available
Reservations & pre-payment required (registration for individual families only)
Call 936-878-2461, ext. 236 for reservation
For other nifty (and nearly free) things to do in the Houston area, check out our Homeschool Houston field trip review series.
In early August, we took advantage of a free community outreach program sponsored by the Houston Port Authority. The Port Authority offers FREE TOURS of the Houston Ship Channel. The day of our tour was a bit warm, so if you go, I recommend fall or spring -- it was pleasant enough on the water, but I think the heat contributed to us tiring out a little sooner than we had planned.
The channel itself is not terribly wide and is only a few hours sailing time from the Gulf of Mexico. The port is currently the busiest in the United States when it comes to foreign tonnage. In fact, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the trip is seeing these mammoth ships at such close range -- ships that hail from around the globe.
We saw ships from Hong Kong, Panama, and Denmark, and even huge military cargo ships from Norfolk, Virginia. The most impressive aspect of the tour is riding in a fairly small boat (which seats about 90 people) down the narrow channel and coming face to face with these towering vessels. The whole experience makes you feel quite small. It's great for kids interested in engineering, science, or for those smaller children fascinated with moving parts. We saw cranes, an oil refinery, lots of cargo and of course, a tugboat!
Other than the heat (which is honestly not a huge factor since the inside cabin is air conditioned), the only other downside may be smelling the exhaust from the ships. Remember, this is close range, and there is definitely the presence of some fuel here.
The tour is 90-minutes in length, which is very generous, in fact, it might be ever so slightly too long. After about an hour the scenery becomes fairly repetitive. At the 45-minute mark, the ship turns around and heads back the way it came. Switch sides of the boat from time to time so you can see the opposite view. It also keeps little ones moving and more engaged in the trip.
Even though my kids might say the best part of the tour was the free mini-soda at the turn-around point, I think the trip out to the Ship Channel is worth the effort, and you can't beat free, can you? Reservations must be made 24-hours in advance and tours run Wednesday through Saturday at 10am and 2:30pm, and at 2:30pm on Sundays. There are no tours on Monday and Tuesday. The vessel is dry docked throughout the month of November for routine maintenance, otherwise the tours run 11 months of the year. If you're in the Houston area or plan to be visiting, get out there this fall while the weather is great!
Our next post will be a review of the Star of the Republic Museum in Washington-on-the Brazos State Park. Get out there and explore your backyard -- you never know what you'll find!
This post is first in a series on educational field trips and activities in the Houston, Texas area (and beyond). Feel free to add ideas for additional trips in the comment section and we'll try to cover and report back on those, too.
First up is the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Not quite the American Museum of Natural History in New York (it takes several hours to tour the Houston museum, a life-time to explore the Manhattan version) it is still an impressive and modern structure settled in Houston's lovely Museum District across from the equally pleasant Hermann Park Conservancy.
The permanent exhibits we toured were Ancient Egypt (just opened Spring of 2013 and absolutely worth a look), Paleontology (again, cannot compare to New York or Washington, D.C. museums but nicely designed and contained some oddities that gave us a laugh or two), Gems and Minerals, Energy Hall (a glaring commercial for the Texas oil industry, but take a ride in the Geovator -- that will kill several minutes), The Americas, African Wildlife, Chemistry, Malacology (the study of molluscs), and Texas Wildlife. We did not see the Planetarium or any Giant Screen shows this trip.
Perhaps the most impressive exhibit at the museum is the Cockrell Butterfly Center which contains much more than stunning butterflies from around the world; it is home to the delightful Brown Hall of Entomology (think everything creepy-crawly displayed in an engaging and educational way) and the breathtaking Rain Forest Conservatory -- a 3-story glass structure built around a 50-foot waterfall. This structure contains the butterflies along with colorful, exotic plants.
The most exciting news for homeschoolers is the educational programming offered at the museum. Labs covering dissection, engineering, and anthropology can be organized for grades 7 and up, and for the younger set -- dissection, wildlife, biology and time labs, to name a few. Simpy contact the museum to organize your class or piggy-back on an existing class (a Google search of homeschool classes at HMNS will typically display some results to choose from).
We haven't had a chance to take any of the classes, but will happily share our experiences when we do. Overall, we enjoyed the Houston Museum of Natural Science and are looking forward to the next visit!