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Friday, October 30

Cave Song (Pretty Vicious)

Not far from Hershey, PA are the Indian Echo Caverns.  We've been to a few different caverns on our journeys, and these are pretty small in comparison, but if you're in the area they are definitely worth an afternoon stop!!   
In 1929, Mr. John Beiber (no relation to Justin, our guide told us) opened the caverns to the public, with the paths and gravel added for safety.  It is dark, chilly, and damp, and often eerie inside, with tales by our guide about dragons and zombies.
So we learned that the first visitors of the caverns were….wait for it….Indians.  After that it was the French fur-trappers.  They were hanging out in the caves, building fires, staying dry and waiting for animals to be caught in their traps.  That was back in the 17th and 18th centuries.  We also saw carved messages that were put there before the Civil War.  (The message in the photo is dated June 1858.)
Throughout the tour, we saw unique "natural architecture," learned about the animals that call this area home, and learned about a man named William Wilson.  For nineteen years (1802–1821) the caverns were the home of William Wilson, known as the Pennsylvania Hermit.  Following his sister's death, Wilson withdrew from society and wandered westward across southeastern Pennsylvania, settling in the caverns in 1802.  He died underground in 1821.  A little creepy...

Life Underground unit :





Make Stalactites and Stalagmites

Supplies :
  • Two glass jars
  • A saucer
  • Woolen thread
  • Either baking soda, washing soda or Epsom salts
Instructions :
  1. Fill both jars with hot water. Dissolve as much soda as you can into each one.
  2. Place the two jars in a warm place and put the saucer between them.
  3. Twist several strands of woolen thread together before dipping the ends into the jars and letting the middle of the thread hang down above the saucer. The ends can be weighed down with various small, heavy objects to keep them in the jars.
  4. The two solutions should creep along the thread until they reach the middle and then drip down onto the saucer.
  5. Watch what happens to the experiment over then next few days.
  6. Don’t forget to wash your hands when you’ve finished.
What's happening?
Over a few days the dripping water will leave behind the baking soda, forming a tiny stalactite (which forms from the roof) and stalagmite (which forms from the ground). With enough time these may eventually join to create a single column. Stalactites and stalagmites are columns of stone which form in underground caves. They are made from minerals dissolved in rainwater that slowly drips from the roofs and walls of caves.



Thursday, October 29

One of Us (Joan Osborne)

Don't catch a "mood cold" this holiday season!  
I know, I know...it's only the end of October.  Halloween is two days away.  But who can honestly say that they haven't already given thought to the Thanksgiving - Christmas - New Year marathon on the horizon?  It's a time of joy and a time of family...and it's a time of stress.  I don't know about you, but my goal this year is to have a little less frustration, and a little more vacation.

Emotions are contagious.  Just like the flu, you can catch a 'mood cold.'  But there's no vaccine for this one...just the knowledge alone will help you to prevent from catching one.  And maybe from spreading your own.  We all have that one family member that spreads misery around the holidays like a bad sneeze.  Heck, we've all been that person at least once.  Misery loves company after all.


But so does SUNSHINE!  I want to tell you about my son.  If you've ever met him, then you know that you cannot leave his presence in a bad mood.  He emits sunshine the way teenage boys emit body odor.  It's wonderful!  (See his complete backstory here.)

Yes, he has a whole host of issues, and we're forever off to one specialist or another.  But the child was bathed in the sunshine of the Spirit...our ""normal"" son could really take a lesson.  And he spreads it around...like a disease....but one that you desperately want to catch.  He'll give it to a stranger at the grocery store.  He'll give it to a family member through the phone.  He shares it with me thousands of times each day.  He'll pretty much share it with anyone except his brother!

If you've got something going on, it can be hard to be cheerful during the holidays.  Let those around you know that you need some extra help, or understanding.  Try reaching outside yourself and helping those around you, too.  It seems counter-intuitive, but something like the RACK Program will actually boost your own mood!  And you never know how your actions will affect the stranger you meet out on the street.

And if you have sunshine to spread - go for it!  Sing loudly - whether you're in the shower or in the mall.  Give out hugs the way people do Halloween candy.  Smile at the stranger next to you.  Sure, he may thing you're a nut, but at least you'll be a happy nut!



Emotions Unit (for kids)

Wednesday, October 28

Future's So Bright (Timbuk 3)


So……glass half-full, or half-empty?  Personally, I prefer to just pick it up and take a deep swig without giving it too much thought.

Did you know?
  • optimism seems to have consistent benefits for people regardless of demographic factors such as income level or overall health status.
  • Pessimistic men are more than twice as likely to develop heart disease than the most optimistic men, even after taking other risk factors into account.
  • Optimism appears to protect the heart and circulation — and it’s heartening to learn that it can have similar benefits for overall health.
  • It is possible that optimists enjoy better health and longer lives than pessimists because they lead healthier lifestyles, build stronger social support networks, and get better medical care.

Take it to the Next Level

Show someone else how to be more optimistic (....when you teach, you perfect the skill yourself!)
  • Think positive thoughts about yourself and others.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others in a competitive way. Each person has unique and special talents that are to be valued.
  • Try to find the good in every situation, even at difficult moments.
  • When facing a challenge, focus on achieving a positive outcome, rather than expecting defeat.
  • Explore your own beliefs about the meaning and purpose of life, whether they are philosophical or religious.
  • Strive to improve your physical health through exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleeping habits and hygiene. The better you feel, the brighter your outlook will be.
  • Challenge your mind every day by learning something new, including learning about yourself and your family history.

Thursday, October 22

Devil Inside (INXS)

The weather is getting colder...it's getting rainier...and the natives are getting restless.  What's a mom to do when a good pair of mud boots and rain jacket just won't do, and you have to entertain them inside?


Physical Activity



Arts & Sciences


Educational Fun
Good Luck!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 21

Stand (R.E.M.)

I'm sure you've heard by now that sitting is the new smoking....researchers advocate sitting as little as possible.  If you've considered a standing desk, you're in good company.  We got this one last year, and absolutely love it!!

Benefits of Standing Desks
  • Increased Physical Activity
    • Standing desks help you burn more calories throughout the day.  Another benefit is that you walk more when utilizing a standing desk.
  • Increased Focus
    • I’ve noticed that since I transitioned to a standing desk, it’s easier to focus on my work. I have more energy throughout the day, and I’ve found that my mind wanders less when I’m standing.
However, with the advent of these new standing desks, we are seeing more research that shows Why Your Standing Desk is Doing Harm.
Downsides to a standing desk
  • Fatigue
    • You may become really tired when you first make the transition to a standing desk.
  • Aches
    • You might also find that your back hurts or your feet ache after a few hours.  You should also wear comfortable shoes, and stand on a mat if your desk is on a hard floor.
  • Varicose Veins
    • Standing all day increases the risks of carotid atherosclerosis (a degenerative disease of the arteries) and varicose veins.  Like many things in life, taking a “middle road” is best.  While it’s not healthy to sit all day, it’s not healthy to stand all day either.

After much deliberation, our solution was the Stand-Up Desk, which allows you to change position from sitting to standing as often as needed with a simple hand crank.  Standing in the morning helps me to get my mind going and my body moving, as I dance along with music while working.  When it's time for the kids to do their typing programs, language lessons, or other 'school games,' we crank it down to their level so that they can sit or stand.  We crank it up and down a few times each day, and have had no issues with it.

If you're in the market for a standing desk, or just trying to get a little more movement into your workday, why not consider an adjustable one?  When you're tired or under-the-weather, or just don't feel like standing, you can sit!  Plus, I really LOVE being able to adjust it to the kids' height so that the desk fits them....and they love it, too!

Standing Desk Models
1. Humanscale Float Desk
The Humanscale Float Desk is handy because you can effortlessly raise and lower the height with the push of a button. This can be beneficial if you need a rest and want to sit. What’s better is that it doesn’t require electricity to function. However, the convenience comes at a cost: The Humanscale Float desk retails for around $1,600.
2. Stand-Up Desk
The Stand-Up Desk uses an electric motor to raise and lower the tabletop. While there are several models (and several price ranges), most desks have a wood tabletop and steel legs, differing only in size and finish.  
So why would you want a standing desk with an electric motor over a model like the Humanscale Float Desk that uses quieter technology?  The Stand-Up Desk retails for less than half of what you’d pay for a Float Desk.
3. Kangaroo Pro
The Kangaroo Pro is a desktop configuration. It’s designed to sit on top of your current desk, and elevate your computer so you can stand. Although the Kangaroo is a streamlined configuration, you still must pay $350 or more for the convenience of raising your computer to standing level.

Tuesday, October 20

Money Changes Everything (Cyndi Lauper)

Why should you budget?
  1. Once you understand how money flows in and out of your life--you can better see how to reach your financial goals.
  2. A budget can help you identify unnecessary expenditures and find ways to redirect funds towards your priorities. For example, if you don't realize you spend $80 per month on lattes, it will be much harder to break that habit and apply that money toward a priority, such as a family vacation.
  3. About one-third of Americans have no retirement savings, and many of those that do have a retirement fund don't contribute enough.  Budgeting even $100 per month can increase your retirement nest egg by as much as tens of thousands of dollars.  This is reason enough to aggressively pay off debt, as interest payments can easily exceed $100 per month and prohibit you from enjoying a comfortable retirement.
  4. It never hurts to have a little extra money in your emergency fund, and budgeting can help you save more so you can sock away extra cash for a rainy day.


Top tips to stay within your budget
  • Make a record of how much you owe so you can prioritize debt repayments.
  • Keep a close watch on bank balances to avoid bank overdraft charges.
  • Keep a record of all credit card purchases.
  • Always pay more than the minimum payment on credit card bills if you can.
  • Stick to one or two credit cards at a time.
  • Consider transferring balances to a lower rate card, making sure the low rate applies to balance transfers.  (Be careful of transfer fees.)
  • When borrowing, use the lender that offers the lowest interest rate.
  • Check the small print of loans and other credit to find out about all fees and potential increases in repayments.
  • Be wary of 'buy now, pay later', 'interest-free' financing and similar offers that postpone debt.

Take it to the Next Level

Once you have a clear view of your overall financial picture, you can shift your focus to aggressively eliminating debts and building wealth.   Simply put, pay off your debts.  Pay them off, and you’ll be saving those high interest payments.  Once you’ve paid off one, start putting the payment from it toward the next debt that you owe.  It will snowball…   Just ask Dave.

Friday, October 16

All the King's Horses (Joss Stone)










The boys have been wanting to do this for a very long time, so we jumped at the chance to time travel to the Carolina Renaissance Festival!  And, the Ren Fest folks are so nice, that they're offering FREE Child Admission (for children
age 5 - 12) with purchase of one full price adult ticket at Festival gate. Children under 5 are always free.
We found multiple stages that were packed with a variety of continuous live entertainment!  There's even live jousting!!  Costumed entertainers roam throughout the festival, and you can choose to join in or just watch the fun.  We did a little of both.
Glass blowing, blacksmithing, cobblers, potters, candle makers, sculpting, leather work, jewelry and much more!  Much like at Colonial Williamsburg, we used the Marketplace as a teaching opportunity.  The kids had a bucket of questions for each artisan, and most were happy to chat with them.
The Village is full of games of skill and one-of-a-kind people-powered rides for the entire family!  You can even throw a tomato at a surly peasant at Vegetable Justice, or try your hand at archery!  Games are pay-as-you-play, and range from $1 to $5.

Planning a Trip to the Renaissance Festival?  
Here are some quick unit study resources...so you can count the trip as a school day!

Thursday, October 15

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Band)

On our first trip to Gettysburg was short and sweet.  We didn't realize just how large this National Park was...but we came prepared this time!  Daddy wanted to come along, so we scheduled an extra travel day just for visiting Gettysburg.
Boys will be boys!  The first thing that caught their eye was the large display of weaponry from the battle.  We spent a lot of time looking at the various guns and swords, and the boys were able to find some of the answers for their Junior Ranger Scavenger Hunt here.
One of my boys especially loves costumes!!  (He's the one that wrote Recycled History.)  He pulled out his sketchbook to make drawings of the General's uniforms from both the Union and Confederate armies.  I'm sure we'll be seeing those re-created as the cold months creep in.
As we studied the impetus for the Civil War, and the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg itself, we also saw various instruments of war.  These included actual cannon and General's swords, plated in gold leaf.
Our musical & mathematical boy was more fascinated by the code-breaking circle, drummer boy's drum, and the canteen and bag (which are much like the ones he uses today for scouts).  We stopped off at the town square for a bite to eat.  This is a tourist town, so the food was pricey, but very good!  And healthy...which is always a plus.  
We visited the Wills House, on the town square, where Abraham Lincoln stayed before giving his Gettysburg Address.  As we perused the shops, we were amazed at the fact that no one was selling Confederate flag memorabilia.  I understand the recent media hoopla over the flag, but if there's one place that it belongs, it's at Gettysburg.  Let's not go overboard...the icon is still a part of our heritage, and this is one of the places it would be appropriate to find it.
After lunch, we took the driving tour of the battlefields.  We stopped to walk around at the Gettysburg National Memorial.  They have a wall here that's similar to the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC.  It lists the soldiers that died in battle here, both Union and Confederate.
This is a huge monument, dedicated to both armies.  It's so big that it has a spiral staircase leading up several stories!   And you can climb it!
At the top of the staircase, you'll find markers like this one that point to the locations of several famous battles.
Here's your panoramic view from the top of the monument...
As we drove around, we came upon several other smaller monuments.  This driving tour could potentially take an entire weekend, so come prepared!  There are bathrooms spotted along the way, but you'll want to bring your own picnic.

Battle of Gettysburg Unit Study