Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

DIY Medieval Fantasy and Zombie Apocalypse Summer Learning Camps

For this summer, I have been working on some plans for some lessons review (and some new concepts added in) and yet I wanted them to have fun in the summer and be involved in the process.

Medieval -Fantasy Summer Learning Camp

For this summer camp, the themes are broken down into seperate guilds, which can be done as stand-alone camps, seperate guilds done on seperate weeks (or months) or can be done as a rotating schedule. If you have a large enough group, such as with a homeschool co-op or neighborhood camp, you can run all the seperate guilds at once, with everyone breaking down into smaller groups. However you decide to run it, I will give you a general idea of how to do each guild, including posts for many of the specific concepts. Here are the guilds I'll be covering,  but I am sure that many more ideas can be added using a similar format. Be creative and have fun!

The first days of camp are dedicated to research and solving puzzles (such as researching Ancient Greek so they can read a  clue given them) that give them clues that they will need as the camp unfolds. They learn about the imaginary place they will be in the weeks to come - it's fictional history and geography, as well as what lives there.

Once they are armed to fight a common villain, they become heroes in a literature -based scenario that they act out, using their new-found tools and the character traits of the hero archetype, such as honor, courage and compassion. At last, they celebrate their victory together, building camaraderie.

Warrior's Guild

From history and historical heroes, young warriors learn tactical strategies and from the Master-at-arms they learn swordsmanship. Both of these skills help the young fighters defeat their foes.

Healer's Guild

Young healers learn about human biology and apply what they learn to first aid. Using what they learn, the healer apprentices can design healing "spells" and, as long as they can defend their creations with facts they have learned from biology, they can use them to "heal" those wounded the villains in the story line.

Alchemist's Guild

Using lessons in chemistry, young alchemists apply what they learn about pH and chemical reactions to formulate their own potion "recipes" which they can then use to help their comrades defeat the enemy. These recipes have to named and written in Latin, too!

Wizard's Guild

Using lessons in physics, your wizards-in-training will be able to explain how the forces of nature use matter and energy to make awesome results. These wizards graduate from this school by creating their own "spell" which has to be explained by the laws of physics and nature. These spells also have to be named and written in Latin.

Week 2: The Call to Adventure
Week 3: Meeting The Mentor, part 1: The Warrior's Guild
               Meeting The Mentor, part 2: The Healer's Guild
               Meeting The Mentor, part 3: The Wizard's Guild
               Meeting The Mentor, part 4: The Alchemist's Guild
Week 4: Crossing the Threshold
Week 5: Tests, Allies and Enemies
Week 6: Approach to the Inmost Cave
Week 7: Ordeal
Week 8: Reward (Seizing the Sword)
Week 9: The Road Back

Zombie- Apocalyptic Summer Learning Camp

This camp is divided into three phases, each of which last a few weeks. In the initial phase, students become aware of the zombie attack. Students learn how to use data of migrations to predict the path of the zombie attack, and using scenarios from literature, the story unfolds from there. Students use the information from lessons in human biology to discover what makes a mutant, as well as teamwork to infiltrate the zombie lair. Students also use lessons in geography and military tactics as they plan their defensive and offensive maneuvers.

In phase two, the zombie attack has abated enough that students can use their knowledge of the physical environment to decide where to build a resettlement. They learn survival skills as they have to re-learn how to care for their basic needs in this new situation. As the story's plot furthers, student use aspects of theater such as play-writing, building props, applying make-up and acting to make short films.

In phase three, students learn about how cultural values affect the use of resources, how the principals of sociology and psychology can be used in order to resolve conflicts within the settlement, and how to encourage the work involved with renewable resources.

I hope our summers will be full of entertaining learning and review!

Curriculum and Roleplay: The American Civil War: A History Curriculum for Middle and High School

I would like to introduce to you my latest Role-Play Curriculum for Middle and High School students, The American Civil War. It is a six week curriculum, one lesson for each year of the Civil War, plus one for the coming of the war. This series includes writing, research, hands-on projects and even a bit of math and a field trip suggestion or two. I will be linking each week's lessons to this post for your convenience. More specifically, there are suggestions on:

  • Readings
  • Timeline
  • Role-Playing
  • Researching and Writing Telegrams
  • Maps
  • Researching and Writing a Newspaper Article
  • Hands-On Projects
  • Writing Outlines

Here are a few examples of the writing activities and expectations for the unit.:

Journal Writing

  • Each entry should be between 3/4 to a full page.
  • Each entry should be dated parallel to the events of the week. For example, if you are studying the year 1860, then your entry should be dated sometime in 1860 and the events in the entry should be seasonally appropriate to the month you have picked.
  • You should write two entries a week, one from the field identity, and one from the home identity.
  • Fill your entries with the things learned about -the events, people and life from the Civil War era. Your writing should always be historically accurate. Each entry should include at least 4 historical facts learned during the week. Highlight the facts with a highlighter pen.
  • Try to write as you might write to a relative today but do not use modern slang or references to inventions and conveniences not yet in use or people not yet born. The tone should be conversational.
  • Stay in character when you write, referencing the reactions to the events taking place through the character's eyes.


Each week you will be researching information about the events of the war and condensing them into a brief and interesting telegram to include in your notebook.

This program is designed for students from Middle School level to High School grades. You will, therefore need to establish for yourself the level which meets the standard for your student(s) grade level(s). The highest level work is complete and has details. The writing should reflect analysis and decision making. Research assignments should be graded on both content and writing skills. They all need to have two resources. Everything should reflect the students' mastery of the material covered.

Students will need a blank notebook to record information. I ask my students to keep wide margins on the left side of their notebook pages and double space their writing so that they can go back and add questions,  comments and reflections in the margins.

Week 1: The Coming of the War
Week 4: 1863
Week 5: 1864
Week 6: 1865
  • Renaissance, Peter Cakebread and Ken Walton 
  • Civil War Interact Simulations, A Simulation of Civilian and Soldier Life During the American Civil War,  Terry Handy and Bill Lacey, grades 5-11
  • Abraham Lincoln's World, Genevieve Foster
  • Kingfisher History Encyclopedia

Summer Bucket List: Make Watermelon Treat Packets

To make these summer-themed watermelon treat packets for your summer party or for treat packets for road trips...
you will need:
uncoated paper plates (I used Chinet Serving Platters)
red and green paints (I used tempera)
hot glue gun
 black sharpie

Paint inner circle of paper plate watermelon red, leaving ½” white space between the red and where you will put the green rind. 
Paint outer edge of paper plate greenLet dry.
Using black sharpie, paint seeds on red part.
You can add some white seeds with a crayon or oil pastel.
Fold paper plate in half, wiggling a little to get it even.

Holding it bent in half, stuff with goodies.

Apply hot glue to inside of one edge, gently squeeze edges together to close.

And here is the one my sister-in-law, Brenda made.

source: Watermelon Favors DIY at Oh, Happy Day!

Summer Bucket List: Fruit and Cheese Tasting

A really fun activity to do with children to broaden their experiences is to have a fruit and cheese tasting. We had this as a lunch.
 In choosing what cheeses and fruits to match, you either try to match the acidic levels or contrast acidic levels. When you can taste both the cheese and juice, without one overpowering the other, you've made a great pair. I set out all of our pairings on separate platters along with juices. They could choose from french bread, croissants or a variety of crackers to use as a base. We went through each pairing together so that we could discuss how what we enjoyed or didn't enjoy about the pairing together. When you pour the juices, just pour a small amount each time as the glass needs to be empty for the next pairing.
Goat Cheese has a strong and distinct flavor.
Pairing Number One: White grape juice with Garlic and Herb Goat Cheese, Cucumber and Balsamic Vinegar
Spread cheese on cucumber and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
We had two Brie pairings.
Pairing Number Two: Brie, Bacon, Dried Cherries and Agave syrup with Cherry Juice.

Pairing Number Three: Brie, Ham and Arugula on Green Apple Slice with Apple Juice. (Camembert can also be used in this combination.)
You could also make Brie and Pear Roll Ups.
Brie log, sliced into rounds
Pear, sliced
Crescent roll dough 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Unroll the crescent rolls and fill with Brie and pear at the large end of the dough.
Roll up the dough beginning from the large end.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
It is interesting to see how the same cheese can change its flavor as it is matched with different accompaniments.
Mozzarella has a mild and delicate flavor with a milky taste.
Pairing Number Four: Mozzarella with Cranberries and Cranberry Juice 

Pairing Number Five: Mozzarella with Cherries and Basil and Cherry Juice.
Pairing Number Six: Nectarines, White Cheddar and Basil with White Grape Juice.

Cheddar has a complex taste ranging from mild to sharp.
Pairing Number Seven: Baked Almond Crusted Manchego Wedges with Grape juice.
Manchego ranges in flavor from rich and mellow to salty or piquant, depending on age. It has excellent melting properties and is a favorite in quesadillas.
Manchego cheese, sliced into wedges
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tablespoon garlic powder
1 egg
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons ground almonds
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Season flour with garlic powder and salt/pepper.
Scramble egg with a dash of water.
Mix breadcrumbs and ground almond.
Dredge cheese wedges first in flour mixture, then in egg wash and finally in breadcrumbs. Lay wedges on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until coating is golden brown and cheese is softened.

Pairing Number Eight: Pears, Blue Cheese and Mint with Mango Juice
Pairing Number Nine: Apricots, Blue Cheese and Mint with Mango Juice

The Results?
The clear winners were pairings number Two and Six. Pairings number Seven and One were a runners up, with the adults preferring One more than the children. Pairings number Eight and Nine were the least favorite, but that just might be that they didn't like the strong flavor of Blue Cheese. 

Do you have favorite fruit and cheese pairings?

Summer Bucket List: 'Smores Campfire Cupcakes

These cupcakes celebrate summer with their campfire decorations and their s'mores flavor.
 To make these, you will need:
Your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe or mix
Your favorite chocolate frosting recipe or store-bought brand
one small tub marshmallow fluff
20 butterscotch hard candies
20 cinnamon hard candies
1/2 sleeve graham crackers
small, thin pretzel sticks
mini marshmallows
1. Scoop out a little of the center of the cupcake using the smallest cookie scoop or a 1/2 Tablespoon measuring spoon.
2. Spoon in the hole as much marshmallow fluff as you can.
3. Place the cupcake top back over the marshmallow fluff and lightly press down.
To make the campfire flame, place 20 butterscotch and 20 cinnamon hard candies in a large plastic bag. Pound the candies until they are finely chopped. Mix the colors together slightly. Pour onto a baking pan in which you have covered with aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in a 350 F degree oven for about 5 minutes or until melted.
While the candies are melting, frost your cupcakes with chocolate frosting.
Crush about a 1/2 sleeve of graham crackers into crumbs.
Now it is time to assemble the cupcakes. 1.Take each cupcake and sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs all over the frosting to look like dirt.
2. Take 4 or 5 pretzel sticks and stick them into the center of the cupcakes to form the campfire logs
3. Break the melted candy into vaguely triangular shards and insert them in among the pretzels to represent the flames of the campfire.
Take a mini marshmallow and put it on the toothpick. Hold over a flame to toast.
Insert one on either side of the campfire as if they are toasting sticks propped up over the fire.
Repeat with each cupcake.

Summer Bucket List: Mini Shadowbox Summer Memories Fridge Magnets

We thought that making these Mini Shadowbox Fridge Magnets was a great way to spend Labor Day afternoon. The last of summer, and the last of our summer vacation is today, and so making these Mini Shadowboxes is a great way to preserve these summer memories.
You will need:
Magnets for the backs
E-6000 Adhesive or similar glue
photographs (wallet-sized)
Whatever trinkets, finds or other things you want to put in your shadowboxes

The first thing I did was print out an assortment of the best pictures from our summer vacation in wallet size.
Align your photos as you want them to look in the box. Cut out the photo and slide it into place in the tin. If you have a 2-inch circle punch, your pictures will turn out smoother against the edge, but we didn't want to invest in one, so we cut them freehand, and you can only tell when you look very closely.
Now, here comes the really creative part. Think of something that you could add to make the "shadowbox" three-dimensional effect. 
 This is Alex's shadowbox. He added a few pinches of sand from the beach, a couple small stones and shells and a few shark's teeth we found at the beach.
Sam's shadowbox is also a beach picture with sand.
For my shadowbox, I had to collage together this picture of the two most important women in my life...my daughter and my best friend (and sister-in-law). We went to a Japanese restaurant together and Katie gave the waiter a paper crane she had folded at the table while we waited for our meal. The waiter put it on the sushi bar counter for everyone to see. It was a great memory, so I included a tiny paper crane in my shadowbox.

Steven's shadowbox picture is of the Burnside Bridge at Antietam. He included some tiny stones that look like river rocks and some tiny paper soldiers to his shadowbox.
Quentin chose this picture of himself dressed in a civil war outfit with a flute. He hasn't decided what he is going to put in his yet, although he is thinking perhaps a plastic musical note.
Katie chose a picture of her relaxing at Cape Henlopen State Park Campground (center). She added some pine to her box because there were lots of pine trees at the beach campground.

When you are satisfied with what you have put in and that they come to the right level in the tin, apply a thin line of glue around the perimeter of the tin. Place the lid onto the tin, pressing down on all the edges. Allow the glue to dry and then the extra glue that squishes out of the sides of the tin will just peel off. Using a dab of glue, glue your magnet to the back of the tin. Once the glue is dry, you are done!