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!
According to the Let's Homeschool High School web-site, Help for High School is a study guide for teens, written to teens, that prepares them for the challenges of academic writing in high school and beyond. The first half of the course features unique exercises that develop writing voice and rhetorical imagination. The second half of the course focuses on expository writing: exploratory and persuasive essays.
An interesting infographic put together by KnowledgeWorks forecasts, in part, that "Learning will no longer be defined by time and place..." and that "...radical personalization will become the norm." The time frame? The next few years...
In the fall of 2012, I piloted a math circle curriculum for young children developed by the founders of the Art of Inquiry. You can read my review HERE. (Here is more information on what a math circle is and why they provide a better basis for understanding mathematics over a traditional computational textbook approach).
Starting December 2, you can engage with the organizers in a two week open on-line course for parents and teachers via the Open Minds Course.
The second week of the course will give you the opportunity to lead your own math circle with your kids and friends. The curriculum is best suited to children ages 8-9, but it can work for other ages, as well.
About the course (taken directly from the course web-site):
Why: Preserve children’s divergent thinking. Develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills. Contribute to making a Creative Commons book about young problem solving.
How: Provide a variety of insight problems to young children. Introduce complex, open-ended, and ill-defined problems as a way to teach problem solving skills. Recognize the feeling of being stuck as a necessary step in problem solving. Let children face deep, multi-dimensional problems. Meet other adventurous parents and educators. Contribute to research in math and problem-solving education.
Who: The course organizers are Julia Brodsky, former NASA astronaut instructor and math and science teacher, and Dr. Maria Droujkova, math education consultant. The course participants are families, adventurous teachers, math clubs, playgroups, and other leaders of groups doing problem solving with young kids.
What: In the first week of the course, we will discuss settings and practices for introducing problem solving to young children. You will look at topics from Julia’s math circle, and discuss how to teach them. In the second week, you will gather your kids and their friends in a casual math circle, try out the topics, and then answer a few questions about your experience.
When: Sign up by December 2nd. The main course activities will happen December 2nd through 16th. Expect to spend several hours a week doing course tasks.
Where: Main course activities will happen at our on-line ask and tell hub. Organizers will send you summary emails. We will have two live meetings on-line, at the beginning and at the end of the course, and post their recordings to this page.
The course is technically "free" but even small contributions ($1++) are most welcome. Contributions help to crowd-fund Julia Brodsky's book on problem solving. Pay $1 or more to receive the electronic book, and your name will be on the list of supporters in the book. Pay $25 or more to receive the paper book.
I found our experience last year with the Art of Inquiry to be incredibly valuable. I received no compensation to pilot or review the materials, or to write this post.
If you have any questions, please contact the organizers directly via the course web-site.
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.
Learning how to rope a "calf"!
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.
Civil War soldiers' wives at tea
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.
One of the encampment reenactors chops wood for a fire that is cooking a whole pig!
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.
The other side of the argument -- Mexican soldiers "represent"
An expert on Longhorn cattle gave us a long and fantastic lesson on the history of the "Texas ox" -- they used to be so plentiful that they sold for $2 - $3 a head!
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.