Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Squire's Tales

Those of you studying the medieval period may enjoy reading The Squire's Tales Series by Gerald Morris, eight books based on the Arthurian legends. I stumbled on to this series by accident last year when my daughter was struggling with Tolkien's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (recommended by Wise Bauer in The Well-Trained Mind). Tolkien's version is in verse, includes some old English, and is very difficult reading. Morris's retelling, The Squire's Tale, stays true to the original tale, but is so much more fun! Morris creates Terrence, Gawain's squire (and Nimue's nephew), from whose perspective the story is told. Terrence has his own adventures and, like all Arthurian heroes, must go a on a quest, but Gawain's story remains the center of focus. My daughter loved it!

I read the entire series to my children who begged for storytime every night (which made it very easy to get their night-time chores done). I can't tell you how many quests my children went on as we read this book, and my son created endless games involving the characters(King Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, Sir Dinadan, Sir Galahad) and mythical beings (the Lady of the Lake, Puck). All of the books are based on an ancient tale: Queste del Saint Graal (Quest for the Holy Grail), Tristam and Iseult, Le Morte de Arthur, etc. At the end of each book, Morris includes a note about the story's provenance and some information about the medieval writers, the time period, or the genre. The American Library Association has included several of the books in their Best Books for Young Adults.

The series includes:

The Squire's Tale
The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady
The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf
(my favorite)
Parsifal's Page
The Ballad of Sir Dinadan
The Princess, The Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight
(my daughter's favorite: Lancelot is the star of the show)
The Lioness and her Knight
The Quest for the Fair Unknown
(starring Sir Galahad)
The Squire's Quest (due out in September)

More information about Morris and his books can be found at the Children's Literature Network

All images were retrieved August 27, 2009, from the Children' Literature Network at

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Okay, here is some information about Voicethread, one of the American Association of School Librarians' Best Websites for Teaching and Learning.

Voicethread is an online network which allows teachers and students to create multimedia slideshows using images, documents, video, and comments (voice, text, audio file, and video via webcam). You can even "doodle" on a slide to make a point or clarify a comment. Take a look at this voicethread I created as a demonstration for a unit on the solar system. It's a little hokey, but you'll get an idea about the potential of this online technology for creating lectures or lessons, collaborative projects, and student demonstrations of learning. Other examples of educational voicethreads can be found at their library.

Home schoolers will really enjoy the opportunities for collaboration. Because Voicethread is an online network, students around the world can work on a project together, each adding and editing content and comments. Here is a voicethread created by students in Utah (2nd grade), Colorado (9th grade) and Texas (5th and sixth grade) using art, creative writing, and music.

Most of the images in my voicethread were obtained from other websites, which was a little laborious, especially when I created the citations page where I provided the web address for each picture. Now, Voicethread has direct access to 700,000 images from the New York Public Library (NYPL), including primary source materials, maps, photos, drawings, and paintings. They also have access to the Flickr Creative Commons Search where you can find images which are not limited by copyright restrictions. Voicethread enables you to search and import images from NYPL and Flickr, and the links are automatically inserted to make citations and attributions.

Voicethread is a social network; however, you, the parent/teacher, control who has access to your account, and how and with whom your voicethreads are shared. You can moderate all comments, and even have the option to disallow comments.

Here's the best part: You can make unlimited voicethreads for free!!! Who believes it? For $10, you can create groups and have access to the controlled K-12 network. And Voicethread provides wonderful support with tutorials, a help manual, blog, and online help. They are very responsive to email requests for help.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Techonolgy and Learning

One of the things I'd like to do with this blog is to highlight some of the wonderful online utilities and applications that can be used for educational purposes. Our world is becoming increasingly technology and media-driven, and our computers play a more centralized role. I know that I do more online with each passing day: keep up with my friends and family through e-mails and social networking sites; manage our finances; pay my bills; attend classes at the University of South Carolina; research areas of interests; read and write papers; research consumer information prior to big purchases; shop; find recipes; play games; store and organize photos... the list goes on and on. And the fact is that our children are growing up in a world where technology is ubiquitous. We have cellphones, iphones, ipods, mp3 players, wii, and whole virtual worlds.

We often think that our children take to technology naturally. We ask them to program the TiVo or DVR (whereas we used to rely on them to figure out the VCR). They seem to know how to use all the functions on our cellphones way before we do. They search the Internet without fear and download games and applications. Despite this seeming expertise, they still need us to teach them Internet safety, the responsible use of information, and how to use Internet applications to create, collaborate, and communicate. More than likely, they will need this knowledge when they enter the work world, regardless of the field they enter. Doctors, bank presidents, politicians, plumbers, mechanics, seamstresses, chefs, whatever--they are all using ever-changing technology.

Educators around the world are recognizing the importance of incorporating technology into their lesson plans. Take a look at the National Education Standards promoted by the International Society for Technology in Education. The American Association of School Librarians (of which I am a proud member) has also published information literacy standards which address the use of technology in education.

Online technologies, also known as Web 2.0, provide numerous ways for home schoolers to learn, collaborate, create, and share. Web 2.0 applications include, but are not limited to, social networking sites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, video blogs, content creation applications, photo sharing, virtual worlds, and games. Using technology, homeschoolers can hold live, real-time classes online; video conference; collaborate on projects or assignments; deliver information in a variety of formats; create posters, mosaics, photo albums, stories, videos, etc; publish... the list goes on and on. And the best part it: KIDS LOVE THIS!!! Using online technologies engage kids in learning in ways that traditional methods never will. Ask a kid to write a report and you'll hear a lot of grumbling and complaining. Ask that same child to create a voicethread, wiki, or webquest on that same topic, and they can't wait to start.

Some of you may have noticed the Voicethread project included in the multicultural study of the year 1492. If you didn't look at it in the last post, take a look at it now . My daughter created this all by herself! I gave her the assignment, taught her how to use the technology, and just let her go! She loved this assignment, worked independently with enthusiasm and gusto, and was incredibly proud of the product. She didn't even mind doing all of the necessary reading and research. And boy, did she learn and remember the content. This is just one example of what home schoolers can do with the Internet and Web 2.0. Next time, some more information about Voicethread.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

6th Grade Curriculum for Real

Okay, this week I really will post the curriculum materials we used last year for sixth grade. In future blogs, I will comment on some of things we did, books we used, and the special projects my daughter completed, as well as explore other topics.

  1. Science: Exploring Creation with General Science, 2nd ed. by Dr. Jay L. Wile, Apologia
  2. Math: Saxon Home School 7/6
  3. Grammar: Voyages in English, Volume 6, Loyola Press Rex Barks: Diagramming Sentences Made Easy, Davenport
  4. Spelling: Spelling Workout Level G, Modern Curriculum Press
  5. Writing: Writing Strands Level 3, National Writing Institute
  6. Logic: Critical Thinking, Books 1 and 2, Harnadek, Critical Thinking Company
  7. Social Studies: The Story of the World, Vol 2, Wise Bauer, Peace Hill Press The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia
  8. Geography: The Geography Coloring Book, 3rd ed., Kappit, Prentice Hall
  9. Jewish History: The Atlas of Great Jewish Communities, Leiman, UAHC Press
  10. Hebrew: Rosetta Stone Homeschool ed.

Assigned Readings

Assigned reading roughly followed the topics we were studying in history (The Medieval Period)


The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliffe

The Shadow of Ghadames by Joelle Stoeltz

The Horn of Roland by Jay Williams

The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow by Allen French

Tales from India

The One Thousand and One Nights

Gods and Heroes from Viking Mythology

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Magna Charta by Jame Daugherty

A Door in the Wall by Maurgarite De Angeli

When Plague Strikes by James Giblin

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

Akbar Birbal

Shylock’s Daughter by Mirjam Pressler

Othello: A Novel by Julius Lester

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Button de Trevino

Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Merchant of Venice Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds

Merchant of Venice DVD

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Manga Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Kate Brown

A Midsummer Night’s Dream DVD

Much Ado About Nothing by Williams Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing DVD

Multicultural Study of 1492

The World in 1492 by Jean Fritz, Katherine Paterson, and Pat McKissack

Encounter by Jane Yolen

The Other 1492: Jewish Settlement in the New World by Norman Finklestein

First Voyage to America: From the Log of the Santa Maria by Christopher Columbus

My daughter's Multicultural Voicethread: 1492

Evolution Unit

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (skimmed)

Evolution by Joanna Cole

Evolution by Andre Llamas Ruiz

Charles Darwin by Don Nardo