Saturday, June 29, 2019

S is for Shackleton (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

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Ever since the British television series Shackleton (2001) aired, I became fascinated with learning more about Ernest Shackleton and his expeditions to Antarctica. The film followed the 1914 expedition on the ship Endurance with Kenneth Branagh cast as Shackleton. It was based upon the first-hand accounts of the men on the expedition and (you may remember) I love the use of primary sources.

The Greatest Leader

Shackleton has been described as the greatest leader by Jameson Boyd Adams, who was part of the first expedition to reach the South Pole.  Shackleton was a man who exhibited a number of great qualities of a great leader: patience, practicality, a man of vision, he listened to his men, he involved them in the decision making, he kept his men busy during times of waiting,  he was a hands-on leader of his men. He was a man who spoke of the expeditions in terms of "we" and not "I."

Brief Background

The man who would go on four Antarctic Expeditions was born February 15, 1874 (the same year as Winston Churchill) in County Kildare, Ireland. He was the second-oldest of ten children with one brother and eight sisters. Even though his father wished him to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor, Shackleton joined the merchant navy when he was 16. By the time he was 20, he had sailed around the Cape Horn five times. He would sail to China, Japan, Cape Town, and on the Mediterranean Sea which allowed him to return home to his sisters with amazing stories.

First Expedition

At the age of 27, Shackleton accompanied Robert Falcon Scott to Antarctica. He was one of three men – Scott, Shackleton, and Dr. Edward Wilson – who would attempt to reach the South Pole. The men did not make it, even though they got farther than any other men before them, and had to turn back. Shackleton would return home as an invalid which was an embarrassment to him.

Nimrod Expedition

In 1907, Shackleton ventured forth on the British Antarctic Expedition (which would become known as the Nimrod Expedition after the ship). They set forth from New Zealand and traveled through the Ross Sea, the Ross Ice Shelf, and as far as 88° 23' S, 162° E on January 9, 1909. His men would reach the summit of Mount Erebus and the South Magnetic Pole.

Endurance Expedition

The dowager Queen Alexandra visited the Endurance in mid-July and presented Shackleton with a Union Jack and two Bibles. In each Bible, she inscribed verses from the Book of Job and: "For the Crew of the Endurance from Alexandra, May 31, 1914. May the Lord help you to do your duty & guide you through all dangers by land and sea. May you see the Works of the Lord & all His wonders in the Deep."

Before Shackleton and the Endurance set sail, Germany declared war on France. What should Shackleton do? Should he continue his voyage? King George V told him to 'go south.' The Endurance set sail without Shackleton as he stayed behind to finalize financial arrangements. He would rejoin the Endurance in Buenos Aires. On December 5, 1914, they set sail from the southernmost part of the British Empire, South Georgia. They had been waiting to hear news of the war and for the packed ice to clear but they couldn't wait any longer. (Two hours after the Endurance sailed, the mail arrived with news of World War I and millions of soldiers fighting and dying in trenches through Europe.)

Just three days after leaving South Georgia, the Endurance hit packed ice. Under open sea, they managed to average 200 miles per day but in the heavy ice, they only moved about 30 miles per day. They were facing a very "dense pack of a very obstinate character," Shackleton reflected. After the New Year, the Endurance was running in circles looking for a way forward. On January 12, they were able to make landfall on Antarctica proper but this would the last time the Endurance landed on the continent.

After traveling over 15,000 miles, the Endurance was icebound. The men stayed with the ship until it began being attacked by the ice itself. Ice quakes were rumbling in late July and the ship was being beat apart. Winds and ice quakes would lift and rock the ship and move her about 37 miles from her first frozen location. Shackleton had emergency rations stowed on three lifeboats and the men removed prized possessions and waited. It wasn't until October 27, 1915, that they finally said goodbye to the ship. They set up camp on the ice.

The men readied themselves to move across the ice. Each man would only be allowed to take two pounds with him of personal gear. To push home this point, Shackleton took the Bible presented to them by Queen Alexandra and removed the inscription, Psalm 23, and a page from the Book of Job and left the Bible behind. From late November 1915 to April 1916, the men moved across the ice and finally reached land – Elephant Island. After 137 days, Shackleton returned to Elephant Island with a rescue ship on August 30, 1916.

image by Angie Agostino from Pixabay on June 28 2019

Lecture Circuit and One Final Expedition 

After his amazing journey on the Endurance, Shackleton toured, giving speeches and talks about the journey – sometimes to as many as 10,000 people. On September 24, 1921, he set forth on his final expedition. It is believed that he suffered a heart attack in Rio de Janeiro but he pressed forward, set sail, and arrived on South Georgia Island on January 4, 1922. While aboard the Quest, Shackleton suffered a fatal heart attack on January 5. He was buried on South Georgia Island. Eventually the ashes of Frank Wild, who had been his right-hand man on several expeditions including that of the Endurance expedition, were interred next to Shackleton.

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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Virtual Refrigerator Art Link Up

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Our son recently had a Batman-themed birthday party. I was thinking about what would be a fun and unique activity for him, his sister, and their cousins to do at the party. I thought back to an episode of the Batman TV series where the Joker became a famous artist. In the "Pop Goes the Joker" (1967), the Joker vandalizes famous works of art but instead of getting in trouble with the art museum, he is praised for his alterations.  This leads to an international competition where he joins the likes of "famous artists" – Leonardo Da Vinski, Jackson Potluck, and Pablo Pincus. After he wins the competition, the Joker opens his own art school in which he invites the rich and famous (including Bruce Wayne) to join him. Of course, this leaves Robin to have to rescue Bruce Wayne and the other individuals from the clutches of the Joker. 

In addition to "Pop Goes the Joker," I also thought about the scene in the 1989 Batman movie in which the Joker alters famous artworks and invites Vicki Vale to dinner.

So even though my kids only watched the TV episode and the other children (I think) had no frame of reference, I decided to have the kids paint at our son's birthday party. I asked our teen to draw simple sketches of real famous works of art for the kids to paint over. We bought aprons and paint palettes for the kids and I set up everything outside. 

The painting was quite a hit with all four kids. In fact, they didn't even want to stop to sing Happy Birthday and have cake! 

The Son of Man

kids painting

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

Kids painting

kids painting

Our kids recognized The Starry Night drawing from a review of Master Kitz The Starry Night kit. Our daughter was quite excited to paint it again. 

The Starry Night
The Starry Night

kids painting

kids painting

kids painting

kids painting

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Learning Through Play: A Review of Matific Galaxy

screenshot of Matific Galaxy

Our son has been having a blast practicing and reviewing his math skills using Matific Galaxy—an online math resource for grades K-6. He has been working his way through unlocking ten different planets in the Matific Galaxy. This allows him to practice a number of different math skills through a variety of games.

For each level, our son needed to complete online math games in order to collect all the pixels necessary to unlock characters. Once the characters were unlocked, our son was able to dress the characters using the different outfits he won as prizes as he continued working through the different math games.

screenshot of Matific Galaxy

What is Matific Galaxy? 

Matific Galaxy is available for both the desktop and as an app for electronics such as tablets and phones with hundreds of fun math games. There are over 1,500 activities available across grades K-6. You can even try out Matific Galaxy before you purchase to see if it is the right fit for your homeschooling family.

In general, Matific Galaxy can be used almost entirely independently by your child. Our son was able to navigate most of the learning games without help from me. There were only a few activities which he had to ask me about and a few games where he needed assistance multiple times (example: Lucky Stars and Draw A Line). There are also audio and written instructions to help your child work through the planets, activities, and information by themselves. So, when our son let his sister take a turn, she could figure out the instructions even though she is not able to read everything yet.

Lucky Stars online math game

Lucky Stars online math game
I quite liked helping our son play this game. It is a lot fun to figure out which cards to use to collect the stars.

Be sure to check out the FAQ page if you have any questions and visit the site to try some of the learning games for yourself. When we were first told about the possibility to review Matific Galaxy, I asked our son to check out the site and try the games for himself to see if he liked it. After only a few minutes, he said he would like it if we got to review Matific Galaxy.

Playing an online math game

What Topics Has Our Son Been Practicing? 

The first grade topics practiced and reviewed include 60 different skills:

  • Dusty: counting, addition 
  • Kai: geometry
  • Jung Jung: counting
  • Blaze: counting, addition, basic fractions, subtraction 
  • Rocky: counting, addition, numbers measurements 
  • Icy: addition, counting, data analysis 
  • Sweetie: measurements, counting, subtraction, patterns, numbers, addition, basic fractions
  • Nickel: addition, problem solving, measurements, counting, subtraction 
  • Sir Goldy: numbers, subtraction, addition, mixed operation, geometry 
  • Queen D: addition, numbers, geometry 

The motivational messages are fantastic!

What Did Our Son Think? 

Since first playing, our 6-year-old son asks almost everyday if he will have a chance to play on Matific Galaxy. In addition to working on my laptop, I also let him play via the app on my phone. He will happily sit solving math problems and practicing his addition and subtraction.

"Turn Screen Time Into Learning Time"

Our son had so much fun the first day after we set up the accounts, he played for quite a long while. And when we downloaded the app to my phone, he was ecstatic!

One of his favorite learning games was with the first planet—Dusty: Get the Picture. He needs to correctly assign the bows, necklaces, and glasses to characters in a line by following ordinal directions. When everyone is wearing the correct article, a photo is taken of the Class of 2019.

Another favorite was Robot Lift-Off, where students need to add the number of robots (there are two different kinds). When the amounts are chosen correctly, the robots go onto the space ship and take off. Before this, they do a little dance, which our son likes seeing.

When our son completes all the first grade activities, he will receive a certificate. He is motivated by the prizes and achievements, so this is a perfect online learning opportunity for him.

My Thoughts 

I love that our son can work at his own pace. He can repeat games multiple times as he works on mastering skills and returns to play things again for more practice. The background music is also nice. So, if I am working at the table with his sister on something else while he is completing his math assignment, his playing the game is not distracting.

Another great aspect of Matific Galaxy is the Parent Zone. When I look at the Parent Zone, I can quickly see where our son's strongest subjects are and what areas he needs more practice in (geometry). I can also easily send him one of three motivational messages (which he enjoys).

Summary reports are available to be emailed to you once a week (or not at all, if you choose) or you can view them through the Parent Zone. I can view data based upon all-time, 3 months, one month, two weeks, or just the last week. The results are also displayed by topic with our son's score and the Matific average score.

And, finally, results are broken down by assignment. So, I can see how our son did on Dusty's planet, Kai's planet, or Jung Jung Planet's. After viewing these scores, I was able to ask him to focus on certain planets and games to practice certain skills as recommended.

The last thing in the summary report is the All-time Achievements which shows how many trophies our son has achieved during this time working with Matific Galaxy. I really like how easy it is to understand everything in the Parent Zone.

The only detraction I can find is that the progress from the desktop does not seem to transfer to the phone (they are not synchronized across different platforms). So, while our son is happy to repeat the same steps on the phone or tablet app as he had upon the desktop, I think maybe other children would be annoyed with having to repeat things.

Even though our son has everything unlocked on the desktop, they are still locked on the app.

We will continue to use the one-year subscription we received to review from Matific Galaxy through the rest of the year. Our son really enjoys it and I see it as a fun break to review and even introduce new math skills.

Do You Want to Learn More about Matific Galaxy? 

If you wish to read more about the other levels—since our son worked with just the first grade level—be sure to read the other reviews!

Friday, June 21, 2019

R is for Romanov (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

map of Russia

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One of the most influential families to rule a large empire (in my opinion) was the Romanov family. Of course there have been other influential ruling families throughout history, including the Tudors, Queen Victoria and her descendants, the Hapsburgs, and the Medici family, to name a few. There are also influential families from America—some of which may be debated.

In 1613, Mikhail Romanov, at the age of 16, was chosen to be the new czar of Russia. He was the first member of Romanov family to rule. The Romanov dynasty ruled from 1613 until the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917. During the time that the Romanov dynasty ruled Russia, the nation went from an isolated and weak country to one that was industrialized, connected, and became a major European power. Although (truth be told) Russia was still the home of many problems, the Romanov dynasty also witnessed revolts, reforms, revolutions, and repressions.

Foreign Affairs 

During the Romanov Dynasty, Russia clashed with many different nations and territories:

  • China
  • Poland
  • Ukraine 
  • Sweden 
  • Ottoman Empire (Turkey) 
  • Persia
  • France
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • Austria-Hungary 
Some of the major conflicts included: 
Nicholas I
Nicholas I

Just Who Were the Well-Remembered Czars? 

There were many famous czars and czarinas who ruled Russia during the Romanov dynasty: 
Peter the Great expanded the physical size of Russia and modernized her both technologically and culturally. During his rule, he strengthened the power of the czar by taking away power from the zemskii sobor (Assembly of the Land), which had advised the czar in previous decades. Off and on during the Romanov dynasty, the government councils (at national and local levels) would gain and lose power. For example, during the rule of Alexander II, there were a series of Great Reforms that led to new authorities being created locally, known as zemstvos, to help provide limited self-government. However, these Great Reforms also led to diverse opposition from different groups. This led to extreme reaction from Alexander III who overturned many of the reforms of his predecessors.

Both Peter the Great and Catherine the Great changed the face of Russia culturally and intellectually. In a previous Blogging Through the Alphabet post, I wrote about Peter the Great and the changes he brought. Catherine the Great brought even more changes to the nobility and those closest to the czar. Her wishes to change Russia more like the West didn't really have a lot to do with practical matters like Peter the Great. She wished to change Russia to be more like France and combined the enlightenment with Russian absolutism.  Catherine saw herself as a great teacher for her subjects.

Catherine sponsored the arts—theater, poetry, and painting. Books and periodical publication increased during her rule. The nobility learned French and German and read the latest European books but most of the changes were superficial. And no one could criticize Catherine. She did not want to be schooled by her subjects.

One of the wars that led to great changes occurring in the way wounded soldiers were treated was the Crimean War. This war took place during the reign of Nicholas I. It would help crush Russia in terms of its military and diplomatic abilities. Reform would need to take place after the death of Nicholas I in order for Russia to maintain its role in European politics.

During the reign of Alexander II, 52 million Russian serfs gained their freedom in 1861. The changes were not as great as the peasants would have wanted. They were still tied to land – their mobility was restricted by the village authorities – and they had to pay the state back for the reparations paid to the nobility when the serfs were freed.

The last czar of the Romanov Dynasty – Nicholas II – was a weak and unprepared man when he came to power in 1894. During this reign he faced two revolutions and eventually abdicated his throne. He and his family would later be executed during the Russian Civil War.

Cultural and Societal Changes 

Along with many political changes, the Romanov Dynasty also saw great additions to literature, music, and painting. Ivan Turgenev (the first Russian novelist to be read by many in the West) wrote books that some consider easier to read than those of Fyodor Dostoevsky or Leo Tolstoy. Dostoevesky wrote works that blended religious, political, and social themes while Tolstoy gave a great historical novel – War and Peace.

After the Napoleonic Wars, Peter Tchaikovsky wrote a stirring patriotic song to celebrate Napoleon's defeat – the 1812 Overture. He also wrote the Nutcracker Suite, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and Sleeping Beauty. These masterpieces have become part of many ballet companies' regular yearly performances.


Final Thoughts 

Russia is one of many nations that could provide a multitude of history-themed posts. From examining individual czars to an overview of an entire dynasty, there are many interesting aspects to study and share with others. Studying Russia's history could bolster one's appreciation for all of history by comparing Russia's highs and lows with those of America and other nations of the world.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Virtual Refrigerator Weekly Art Link Up

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I think as our children get older it becomes easier for them to turn any project into art or arts and crafts. Our two youngest have been busy this week coloring for their various homeschooling lessons as well as creating fun super hero puppets for an upcoming birthday party. 

I also tried something different. I found a box of old computer labels and instead throwing them away (like I had originally intended), I wrote out some of our daughters words on the labels, cut up the sheets and had her spell the words. They were all three letter words. She is only four after all. 

You may be wondering what does this have to do with art? Well, while she was doing this, I started drawing on the left over two columns of labels. 


First just a scribble of colors - red and purple. 

Then I wrote Art on the labels. 

Then I decided to decorate the back of one of our folders. I really like the effect this created. I think the key is making sure the letter and design continue onto multiple labels. 

Super Heroes and Villains Puppets 

Here is the Joker in progress. 

We used green and purple construction paper, one lunch bag, one flower brad from my scrapbooking days, a skinny pipe cleaner, and googly eyes (and lots of glue sticks). If I had more time (and talent), I would include a yellow shirt under the green vest. 

Joker paper bag puppet

Homeschooling Lessons 

Our entire family had fun using the coloring book from The Kingdom Code. There are great pictures in there that reinforce the idea of starting a business in a Godly manner. 

Do your kids have any favorite coloring books? 

Our six-year-old is working his way through finishing up our Rhythm & Writing with the Get Write Crew workbook. He decided to copy his sister's octopus that she painted last week in his workbook. 

Do your children have a favorite way to express their creative side on paper? Do they prefer crayons, markers, pencils, or paint? 

Join us this week! 

We would love to see your kids' artwork this week. 

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