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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

Tagged with "tree"
Plants, Flowers and Trees
Category: Science
Tags: parts of plants parts of flowers identifying trees

Free resources to supplement your study of plants, flowers, and trees, including interactives, free readers, and virtual forests and trips. 

Start with Dig Deeper soil science site which offers free booklets, experiments and games. 

To study plant processes, check out this interactive doc on photosynthesis and cellular respiration: 

The Great Plant EscapePresents information in six "case files" so that kids can solve the mysteries of plant life. Covers: parts of plants, life cycle of plants, soil, seeds, and plant reproduction. Each case file has several hands-on activities or experiments that can be done.


 Photosynthesis: An interactive that     explains the process.

 Photonsynthesis Videos: From NeoK12; also has links to quiz games and puzzles   

Life of a Tree: Interactive 

Flower Parts: An interactive describing the parts of a flower and how flowers reproduce. Here's another one that mentions pollination.                       










Plant Reproduction: from Glencoe Life Science; 32 pages

MicroorganismsText and interactives that teach about fungi and algae

Free BrainPop MoviesThese cover: how flowering plants produce seeds; photosynthesis and respiration; gymnosperms and angiosperms



Dr. Arbor Talks Trees: Animated lessons about tree anatomy and identification. Includes teachers guide.

Take a walk in the forest and ID trees using this dichotomous key.


The Christmas Tree Ship
Category: Social Studies
Tags: christmas tree ship

Blend the spirit of giving during the Yuletide season, an ill-fated schooner, premonitions of disaster, and an apparition or two and you’ve got the makings of quite a compelling tale – except this one happens to be true.

Check out the history of the legendary Rouse Simmons, a ship that disappeared beneath the waves of Lake Michigan during a treacherous storm in November of 1912.

The ship had been laden with Christmas trees bound for Chicago’s waterfront markets. There, along the Chicago River's Clark Street docks, customers were invited aboard various “Christmas Tree Ships” to select trees, as well as wreaths, garlands, and other holiday decorations made by the boat owners.

Among those who regularly participated in the holiday trade were Herman Schuenemann, Captain of the Rouse Simmons, and his wife Barbara and three daughters, who helped make and sell the Christmas items. Capt. Schuenemann had been hauling Christmas trees to families in Chicago for many years, until that fateful November trip, which would be his last.

The Rouse Simmons was not the only Christmas tree ship, but it is the most well-known. The ship, its captain and crew have been memorialized in songs, plays, documentaries and books. This may be due to some of the more poignant and mysterious elements of the story: 

“Captain Santa”:  The Captain made quite an impression on the people of Chicago, presenting  trees to many of the city’s needy residents. His generosity earned him the nickname “Captain Santa.”

Portents of Doom: Prior to the ship’s departure, the rats living aboard decided to head for dry land. This frightenend off members of the original crew.

Message in a Bottle: In the midst of the maelstrom, the Captain writes a note, sticks it in a bottle, and casts it into the storm-tossed sea. Six months later, the bottle is found, containing the Capt’s last known words. 

The Family Soldiers On: Following the tragedy, Barbara and her daughters continued to bring in evergreens using ships, then trains, and finally selling them from the family’s lot.

Spooky Stuff: Some say you can still see the Rouse Simmons on Lake Michigan. Others have gone to Chicago’s Acacia Park Cemetery, and visited the gravesite of Barbara Schunemann, where they say there’s a scent of evergreens.

Commemorations: Each year, the Coast Guard commemorates the final voyage of the Rouse Simmons  by sailing a ship from Lake Michigan to Rogers Street to deliver Christmas trees to the city’s disadvantaged. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, and included additional special ceremonies.

Here are some free resources for learning more about this interesting piece of American maritime history:

The Christmas Tree Ship: At the children’s library site, download an electronic version of this book.

Lives and LegendsThis site has information on the Rouse Simmons, other ships, and the sailors.

Wisconsin Historical Society: At this site, you can learn about shipwrecks, lighthouses and underwater archaeology. 

Other Book Versions: 


Google Homeschool Tags: google calendar hangouts app google maps app street view google maps

I've been thinking about how Google has become increasingly omnipresent in our homeschool. Besides Chrome being my main browser, and Google, my default search engine -- (BTW: here’s a useful infographic with tips for doing better searches) -- there’s Gmail, of course, and social sharing through G+, plus all the tools relating to them, such as:  


Google Calendar

I’ve always done “paperless planning,” --  creating, in Word, my own at-a-glance templates showing two grades at once – which, I figured, was mildly clever. Then I read about how some much more clever homeschoolers were using Google Calendar, and I made the switch. Although late to the party, I'm glad I finally arrived. Now, I have a calendar for each kid, and it’s very easy for them to just click into each subject and see what they’re doing that day. I attach any documents or websites we’re using, so all the information is in one convenient place. The calendar can also be set to send reminders via Gmail.

Google Docs

Google Docs are awesome tools for creating your own paperless lessons/worksheets on any topic. You can include links to videos and other resources, embed images, charts, and drawings, and include questions your learner can fill in right in the same doc. Here's an example. Click on the image to go to the document.

The sharing aspects of Google Docs are particularly useful. For example, If you make a copy of the above document, you can edit it: use it as is, or tweak it to suit your needs. Or make a copy and delete the resource areas so you have a blank to use as a template. It's a neat way for homeschoolers to share resources.

Group Learning With Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a text and video chat tool that can be used with a closed group, like a literature discussion circle. While I haven’t used this yet, I think it would have worked well for some co-op classes I was involved in. Our co-op met two or three Fridays a month, and one of the challenges we experienced, especially with ongoing projects, was keeping the kids engaged during the weeks we did not meet. We could have used Hangouts during those off weeks to brainstorm, collaborate, plan, and keep everyone on track, particularly in our video production class, and our journalism class where we were creating our own newsletters.

Even More Google Sites

As if that’s not enough, there is a diverse and ever-growing list of Google-related sites we’ve used, or will be using, at some point, such as:

  • Google Maps and Street View, which we’ve used to follow the travels of Dan and Amy Cahill as they hunt for the 39 Clues.

  • Google Earth Walks which has several math, science and social studies tours students can take. They can fly to locations and answer pop-up questions along the way. Many of the walks have answer keys.

  • US History Tours, also powered by Google Earth, enables you to visit and answer questions about historical events such as the American Revolution, the Lewis and Clark expedition, Civil War battles, and others.

  • RealWorld Math  enables students to take the math concepts they’re learning and apply them to a variety of tasks using information, images and tools in Google Earth. One lesson gives students practice solving volume problems using some famous geometric places (the Great Pyramid of Giza; the Leaning Tower of Pisa; the World Trade Center site). Other activities include: calculating time zone differences; estimating and measuring distances between landmarks, and others.

  • GeoGuesser  shows you a street view image of someplace in the world and you have to guess where you are by searching for clues in the picture (street signs, stores, people, etc.) You can narrow things down by continent, country, city and famous places, but it’s still pretty challenging. You can play by yourself, or email a challenge to a friend. When you’re both done with the contest, the results are emailed to you.

  • Google Maps Treks has lots of sites to explore, with great images and panoramic views.

  • My Maps can be used to make your own maps, (like, potential sites for my Eagle project). You can use different colors and markers to label locations. And, since it’s Google, your map can be shared with others if you’re doing group learning or collaboration.

  • STEMBite, a YouTube Channel started by a teacher who uses Google Glass to provide a first-person perspective on such topics as the physics of toys, chemistry in the kitchen, and biology in the backyard.

The internet has certainly introduced a plethora of new learning opportunities for all kinds of students. How do you use Google in your homeschool?

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