Saturday, January 31, 2015

Maginot Line - Limekiln

We visited the Maginot Line.

The Maginot Line was a collection of underground defensive forts built along the boarder of France and designed to keep the Germans out.

The solid lines on along France's eastern boarder on the map above mark locations of the fort groups.
The Maginot Line completely spanned the boarder between France and Germany, and spanned much of the boarder between France and Italy. Forts were not placed on the France/Belgium boarder, nor were they placed on the France/Switzerland boarder. In addition to being neutral countries, it was believed that the geographic features of mountains in Switzerland and swamps in Belgium would prove impossible to cross.

Well the Maginot was not successful in keeping the Germans out of France. Instead of passing through the lines, Germany went through Belgium to take France.

 The only portions of the Maginot Line visible above ground are the entrances.

 Each of the entrances are guarded with double sets of steel doors as well as with machine guns.

 Inside the fort, a network of tunnels connects adjacent command areas. The tunnels contained train tracks which were used by both trains and hand carts.

Life inside the Maginot Line was somewhat similar to life in a submarine. The air was continuously filtered and the men never saw the light of day. Instead they used a device similar to a periscope to monitor activity outside. The green dome in the outside entrance photo (third picture) is a retractable periscope device.

 A kitchen was in operation 24/7 to feed three shifts of men.

 Bread was stored in metal cages hung from the ceiling to prevent mice and rats from getting into it.

Each bed was occupied by three men who were allowed eight hours of sleep per shift. Toilets were shared by forty men and one hundred men shared a shower in the Limekiln fort and were allowed one three-minute shower per week.

 Full state-of-the-art medical facilities were installed in the forts.

 They were complete with operating rooms and dentistry services.

 Mess halls were non-existent, and men ate at retractable tables in the tunnels.

The above pictures were taken at the Limekiln - Fort-a-Chaux in Lembach, France - 2, Route de Bitche - which is a 1 hr 15 min drive from the Ramstein Air Force Base area of Germany.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Riddle Writing

We read, solved and wrote a few riddles as suggested in my daily writing tip email from Brave Writer.

The website Your Dictionary explains different types of riddles and contains several examples. Daily Brain Teaser is a blog which contains many different types of thinking puzzles including riddles.

Here's an example; Three eyes have I, all in a row; when the red one opens, all freeze.” The answer is traffic light.

After reading through several riddles we attempted to create our own. First we thought of an object and then wrote 2-5 sentences describing the object.

Here's what we came up with.

7 Year Old Daughter
I do not see you in the day. I see you in the night. 
Answer - Bat

I am prickly in the sun. 
Answer - Cactus

13 Year Old Daughter
I am way up north or south. I can be pink or purple but am primarily green. I normally come at night. I'm created by the Earth's magnetic field.
Answer - Northern Lights

I am leg extensions. I was invented in medieval times.
Answer - Stilts

My Riddle

Even though I'm dead and gone I'm still worth a lot. In fact, I travel all around the world each and every day. 
Answer - Benjamin Franklin $100 dollar bill

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rainbow Shaded Silhouettes

Following the example on Artea Scuola, we created rainbow shaded silhouette paintings.

This was a two-day art project. One day to paint, and the second day to cut and assemble the pictures.

Day 1
Beginning with acrylic paints, one full sheet of paper was painted from yellow to blue, blending the colors as we painted.

Then a second sheet of paper was painted yellow to red, again working to blend the colors.

 Day 2

A dot was placed at the center of both sheets of paper and they were cut in half.

One-half of each sheet was glued to a sheet of yellow construction paper.

Stencils were used to cut a shape from the other half of the paper.

 Then the cut-outs were glued to the top of the rainbow shaded sheets.

More of our art projects can be found on our Arts and Crafts Page.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mandala - Evenly Spaced Concentric Circles

We created a mandala by creating evenly spaced concentric circles.

The mandala shown below contains a series of concentric arcs. Constructing it by first creating concentric circles and then erasing the unused lines works well.

The trick was figuring out how to create concentric circles which increased by the same amount without measuring or guessing.

 The secret to evenly spaced circles is actually quite simple. After creating perpendicular lines which cross near the center of the paper, the compass should be set to a relatively small radius when compared to the paper. Beginning where the lines cross a series of tick marks are created along one access of the line. They are visible along the outer portion of the left axis in the above photo.

Next the compass radius is set to match each of the tick marks and circles are drawn.

Once the circles are all constructed, the 90 degree angles can be bisected and unneeded lines can be erased.

Other Mandala construction tutorials are available on our Math Page.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pig Eye Dissection - Dissecting with Children

We dissected pig eyes.

Biology with laboratory is a subject that can be intimidating to many home educators. Some parents don't feel confident in their own knowledge of the subject, and others aren't excited over figuring out where/how to secure the materials. Fortunately, the most important part for kids is the opportunity to explore. A textbook, library book on the subject or videos such as these can be the teacher. That just leaves supplying the dissecting materials for the parents.


Human eyes are similar to the eyes of other mammals, but there are some differences. They all have optic nerves in the back which connect to the brain and muscles surrounding the eye which work to alter the shape of the lens for focusing and moving the eye within the socket. The white part of the eye, known as the sclera, is not visible on most mammals, but is clearly visible on humans.

Rods and cones are the photoreceptor part of the central nervous system located in the back of the eye. Humans have around 120 million rods which are very sensitive to light, but only about 6.5 million cones which are sensitive to color. Most fish and underwater reptiles have no cones, thereby making them colorblind.

Eyes don't grow or change size with age. Instead, the muscles surrounding the eyes change creating the illusion that the eyes grow. Most mammals have only four ocular muscles surrounding the eye, but primates have six which allows them to roll their eyes.

Filling a plastic bag with water acts like a magnifying glass and the lens of the eye. The lens actually looks just like a sack filled with water, only it's much smaller.

An important prerequisite to dissecting is preparing a dinner which contains meat. This is very important for cutting skills.

The pig eyes were obtained from a local butcher and since they were fresh, they did not have a strong smell.

Dissection of the pig eye was accomplished in only about four steps.
1. The excess fat and skin was cut off.

2. The cornea was punctured to drain the aqueous humor.

3. The sclera was punctured and then cut around the perimeter to create two halves of the eye.

4. Once the eye was separated into the two halves, the iris, cornea and lens were pulled out and inspected.

The kids found the vitrious and aqueous humor within the eye had the consistency of egg white.

Really - it wasn't gross. Several kids couldn't wait to get at the eyeballs. Handling them wasn't much different than handling uncooked meat to be prepared for supper.

 He has three eyes!

To see more of our biology unit study please visit our science page. Also on the science page are several human body science projects geared for younger children which provide a good foundation for this activity.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dance during the Renaissance

Week 17: We created dance cards and learned how western style dance evolved through the ages.

Dance has changed quite dramatically during the past 50 years. Up until the mid twentieth century, it was done primarily by couples, but today, many people dance alone or in small circles of friends.

During the Renaissance men were careful only to dance with each lady once at a ball. Dancing twice meant the man wanted to marry the woman. Women sometimes wore cards on their wrists which contained the dances they could do.

Charleston, the twist and the Lindy hop are just a few of the dances which became popular during the 20th century. This video shows a quick sample of several dances.

Those who were teenagers during the 1990's have probably done many of these dances. Parents may want to preview this video. Most of it is quite entertaining, but a few of the moves some may find distasteful.

After learning about popular dances through the ages the kids had a chance to try them out. Then the girls made their own dance cards. They were sure to write the names of dances they knew and were willing to do if asked.

This was the last week in our Renaissance History Unit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wooden Shoes

Did you know the Dutch could tell if a person was Catholic or Protestant by looking at their shoes?

Catholic wooden shoes had pointy toes, while Protestant toes were rounded.

We recently returned from a second trip to the Netherlands where we visited the Clara Maria Cheese Farm and Wooden Shoe Factory for the second time. The small operation contains a few machines which are used to produce wooden shoes and they also make their own gouda cheese. The super friendly English speaking employees happily give tours of the facility.

Traditional Dutch Ice Skates

When a wooden shoe maker was going to be married, he would make his bride a pair of hand carved wooden shoes. The project would take several months which gave him plenty of time to contemplate his future plans. His bride would wear her shoes on the wedding day and also on anniversaries.

The tours and gift shop are unique and educational, but the kids really like the farm. Clara Maria is a frequent venue for local children to have their birthday parties. Both times we visited, our children were offered a chance to meet the baby cows and play in the hayloft.

Yes! That is my husband climbing on the bales of hay.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

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