War of 1812

One thing that amused me when we were studying the states on the East Coast were the number of books I was able to find set during this war, and they all had amusing stories that the “family swore was true.”

It’s an interesting war, not many people remember it, because it didn’t change a whole lot.  It didn’t end because we were such amazing tacticians.  It ended more because some of the causes ended.

1.  Impressement of American soldiers onto British ships.  This also was happening with French, but the British were also causing other problems.

2.  Blockade of American shipping.

3.  British encouraging Natives to attack Americans.

Many of these were the result of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.

We fought many battles, both at land and on sea.  At sea the American ships often did better against bigger and better armed forces because the ships were more maneuverable.

We did end up winning many impressive battles, but it was mostly because Britain was engaged fighting off Napoleon in France.  Come 1815, after Napoleon had been defeated we knew we had to end the war.

A peace treaty was signed and agreed to, basically leaving things as they were before the war started.

A British fleet came to attack New Orleans, they vastly outnumbered and outgunned the small American army led by General Jackson.

General Jackson assessed the situation and told the governor he was pardoning Jean Laffitte, a notorious pirate in the area and drafting him for the battle.  Next he armed the freed blacks in the city and they joined the army, and finally he drafted all of the Natives who were not with the British into the army, and gained a miraculous victory.

Shortly afterwards the British general sent him a letter congratulating him on the war they had already won.  Jackson opted to continue to “monitor” the general until they remembered they were not in their own waters.

Well, I have now covered this battle and another post about it (tangentially) all the times I’m planning on covering it.  I wasn’t going to go into such detail again with the kids, but they really like acting out battles.

Our next war to cover in a week or so: The Mexican American War, can you guess who fought in it and when?  True trivia here……..  And the Battle of the Alamo!
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50 State Study: Louisiana


Louisiana is a fun state to study, we spent a couple of weeks on it and I feel like there is still so much we could have done.

Going clockwise, starting in the top left:

Louisiana state picture

My plan to save the levies- this is one I never blogged about for some reason, but we talked about how New Orleans is below sea level and the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.  Afterwards the kids drew their plans to fix the levies.  For whatever reason Princess decided they really needed to rebuild it with stronger bricks.


Down in Louisiana– I seriously love Johnette Downing’s books, and this was one of the first ones we read.  We also did a project with Chef Creole, but that has disappeared into the nether


Battle for New Orleans- I mentioned this battle and song when we first learned about Andrew Jackson for Tennessee.  This time we talked about it some more and then we drew who they would draft into their army.  My kids were so amused by the crocodiles in the song they all decided to draft crocodiles……


Blues invented in Louisiana-Any excuse to play big band and blues music to my kids is always welcome.  My kids are going to grow up with very interesting taste in music (as I’m typing this my playlist changed from “Into the Woods” to “Chicago.”).  They drew all in blues to illustrate what it sounded like.  It led to some fun illustrations.


Not shown in the picture because certain 5 year old girls lose things and “forget” to glue them in, I’m not naming any names……..


Study of crawdads

Chef Creole from the Johnette Downing books…….

Mardi Gras masks……  This one has disappeared into their rooms, and has been repaired many many times by me.  I might break down and make one out of fabric.

A whale for Jean Laffitte (who will reappear when we get to Texas, apparently he founded Galveston)


Okay that last one wouldn’t have fit in her book anyways, but it has been interesting finding bits and pieces around the house………

Louisiana: Jean Laffitte

Jean Laffite is a real historical figure.  He was a pirate and probably a few other things that sailed mainly out of New Orleans until he got kicked out of there and then he moved to Galveston, where he founded the town.

This story is a cute tall tale about how he saved New Orleans when a whale got stuck in the Mississippi River.

supplies collage
Well after reading it I decided we’re going to make our own whales.

Here’s what you need: googly eyes, milk cartons, blue paper, glue, paint, and paint brush


Princess opted to paint hers, so she had the relatively simple job of just putting lots of blue paint all over it.

She really enjoyed doing it this way because we haven’t painted for a while, at least not with tempera paint.

The boys went with the “decoupage” option and glued and tore to their hearts content.

We all really enjoyed making our whales, and it was quite the project.  Now I need to scrounge up more milk cartons for any future projects I come up with.

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Science Sunday on Saturday: Louisiana Crawdads

Science Sunday


So do you say Crayfish, crawfish, or crawdaddy?


We read one of the Johnette Downing books I referred to earlier, “Why the Crawfish Lives in the Mud?”  You like how Aunt Tara got suckered into reading to them when visiting?

Afterwards we took some time to read through it again more slowly and we talked about what was true in the book (where crawdads live, what the eat) and what wasn’t true (the animals talking, crawfish being a trickster).


Sigh, and sigh again, I have no pictures of them doing this.  None, my computer ate them, bad computer.


My follow on was going to be to study one from the grocery store, like we did shrimp, but timing never worked out right.  Maybe we’ll check it out again someday and do that.


Have you ever looked for truth in fiction books?



A couple of weeks ago Mama to 4 Blessings linked drawing out a primeval reptile’s head.  I love the visual of that, and we forgot to do that when we covered that chapter.

I loved these snakes over at Learning Hypothisis to demonstrate gravity.

Over at All Things Beautiful she found these great worksheets on whales and a few other fun things on the course website for Apologia Swimming Creatures.  I keep forgetting to check these out.

Books 4 Learning reviewed a cute picture book about insects this week.  I’ve pinned it for next time we get to Flying Creatures.

Louisiana: Johnette Downing books

For whatever reason my library has about 10 books by this author for Louisiana.  They all have great voice and flair to them.  They also have a very distinctive illustration style.  It’s a variation of collage artwork, a sort of cut work that is very appealing, and lends itself easily to art projects.

We used two of her books for art projects: “Down in the Bayou,” and “Chef Creole,” both were different projects.
Forgive the quality of the pictures, I forgot my camera at home, and we did this at a friend’s house.

For “Chef Creole” I gave them a bin of various pre-cut out shapes I made using various hole punches I have.  If you don’t have hole punches, just go crazy before hand randomly cutting out things.
This was a big hit and I’m looking forward to trying it again with just my kids and letting them use the punches with A LOT of supervision (mainly because I don’t want them dropped on toes, OUCH!).

Project 2 was using “Down in Louisiana,” it’s a fun counting book, and I made a small booklet with about 5 pages and gave them a stack of pictures for the animals in it from clip art images.

Their instructions were to draw the background with markers and then glue on the pictures.

This wasn’t as popular, they just wanted to cut and glue.
Either way I highly recommend these books, especially for the early elementary/preschool set.  They were wildly popular with all of the kids, and mine haven’t let me return these to the library yet.

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Louisiana: Mardi Gras


“Mardi Gras” is a great book about the holiday and how it is celebrate particularly in New Orleans.


It approaches this holiday at a kid level and gives a fair amount of background.  I loved how well it covered how New Orleans celebrates it and I learned all sorts of things.  It made me want to go to New Orleans to see Mardi Gras, and then the other mom who was with me burst my bubble.  Apparently it’s a higher crime rate then and most locals just stay off the streets as much as possible.


I guess I always picture it sort of like this:

Well, after reading the book we made our own Mardi Gras masks in the traditional colors of purple, green, and yellow.


I found these great masks at First Palette and printed them off on cardstock.

Then I turned them loose to make it.

Mardi Gras masksMardi Gras masks008

All we need to add now is a ribbon to tie it on.  I also want to applaud myself for not making it too over the top in effort and overthinking it.


At the time of picture taking Princess didn’t have hers done, but she’s since gotten it done.


Oh, and in case you’re wondering the boys masks are superhero masks.

Louisiana: Ol’ Bloo’s Boogie Woogie Band and Blue’s Ensemble


“Ol’ Bloo’s” is a fun retelling of “Bremen’s Town Musicians.”  If you’re not familiar with the tale, it’s about 4 old animals who are about to be “put out to pasture,” and decide instead decide to take off into the wide world and become traveling musicians.


The kids thought it was hilarious, and they laughed throughout the whole book, especially when they got to make the noises of the animals.


After we read the story we watched Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” from Fantasia 2000 to get the idea of what blues music is like.



After watching it we talked about how the cartoon was drawn mostly in blue, and the style of drawings.  Then I challenged them to draw a picture using many different shades of blue and media styles.  It could be inspired by the cartoon or the book.


They had access to markers, crayons, colored pencils, and watercolor pencils.  My kids only used the watercolor pencils, but the others tried different media.


End results: two inspired by the book with the animals, and two of soldiers………  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions of who drew the soldiers.

And one last Louisiana post



We woke up this morning to a horrible rainstorm and hurriedly got ready to go amidst lots of tornado warnings and the kids asking “Will a tornado come and hit us?”


YES!  And it’s going to fly us far away!  Okay, I didn’t really say that, but there was times I was tempted to answer like that.


There were several times as we drove that nearly stopped for the rain, but just as I said let’s find a safe place it’d let up for a while.


Ummmm……  That would be a video of the tornado that came through the town today after we left.  My aunt just shared it with me.


After it had cleared up a bunch we stopped in Ruston for the Northern Louisiana Military Museum.  The boys LOVED it.  They walked excitedly from case to case asking about all the different soldier paraphernalia to find out what it was.





I think my favorite display was the chaplain display they had for World War 2


It just cracked me up to see this nice calm chaplain praying in the scene and then this sign.

Yes, I have a screwy sense of humor sometimes.  Okay, often.

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But, the high point for the kiddos was getting to actually touch and climb on some of the old military vehicles.  You know old tanks, helicopters, all sorts of decommissioned stuff.  What could make a better playground than things used for blowing stuff up?

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From there we drove an hour or so to find the Gator and Friends Exotic animal zoo.  We had tried going out there on our way to Mississippi and it was closed, but it was going to open up again on Wednesday or something like that.  We went on in and wandered around feeding as many different animals as would come up to us.


Princess cracked me up, before she would feed anything she’d wait for her brothers to feed them, and then say, “Brothers did your hand get dirty?”  And only if it didn’t get dirty would she feed the silly animals.  That’s that last picture, Princess proudly holding her hand up and showing that it didn’t get dirty.

And the most amazing part?  Before leaving we each got to hold an alligator.  When we asked about it, he pulled out this burlap sack and I thought he was going to bring out a gag or something so I was expecting something to jump out at us, but it wasn’t…….

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By the time he got to Mom and myself that guy was feeling feisty.  And as you can see in my picture his tail was lashing around and he was tired of being held.  Of course as soon as the guy that worked there picked him up he calmed right down.


Go figure.

We’ve crossed another state border


But of course we had to stop at the Monroe zoo, which is AWESOME.  If you’re ever in Monroe, LA and you have a few hours to spare stop in and wander around.  It’s the perfect size for little guys, and it has a super neat train and boat ride, which sadly weren’t working when we went there.




The coolest part for the teacher in me was their “Small World” exhibit.  I know that’s not what they called it, but it had great explanations for how different insects make their sounds, and all sorts of other hands on ways to learn about insects.


My kids loved the nocturnal animals exhibit because they got to see all of the bats and other night animals.  Batman is currently quite obsessed with bats (which is ironic considering his nickname).



We traveled on for all of an hour and crossed the Mississippi.  Incidentally, I accidentally put the wrong initials in my phone to check the distance and was quite shocked to learn we had 19 hours to go, and then realized it was taking me up to Michigan……


I didn’t get my usual picture at the state line, but instead got a picture of us in front of the river.  The kids were suitably impressed by the size of the river.



We stopped in Vicksburg at the Coca-Cola museum there.  Coke was first put in  a bottle by the drug store there, and they helped with a lot of the early advertising campaigns.  Batman, who loves Coke, was quite happy to go through there and pose in front of the Santa coke ads.  And by the way keep an eye out next week for a post about Coca-Cola and Georgia (it was invented in Georgia, so it was one of our Georgia activities).  Batman was very disappointed he did not get to drink a Coke from the Coke Museum.  Poor guy.

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Of course the kids favorite thing about Vicksburg is an awesome park that is a block South of the Coke Museum.  I mean look at it.  It’s got a couple of awesome playscapes, wonderful water play area, and there’s a whole art area that I didn’t get a picture of.  Or, as my kids called it “Mommy, that’s the labyrinth.”


And now we’re in Jackson, MS and at our hotel for the night we’re about to leave and go to my grandparents house.  I can’t wait to see everyone.

Our progress so far

Well, it was a bit of a rocky start yesterday as we had lots of forgotten items and false starts, but we finally got off and driving.

And then after about 15 minutes Superman started the dreaded question, “Are we to the hotel yet?”
And then it morphed into his own personal quest to point out to us every hotel we passed.  “MOM!  You missed the hotel,” sounding more and more aggrieved as we passed each successive hotel.  It got even worse when it started to get dark.  He was somewhat mollified by the idea of we were looking for a hotel with a pool.  Until we drove by one of those…….

But eventually we stopped for the night and we did swim in the morning.  And then drove for all of 30 minutes before we stopped at a McDonalds to make sure of where the road we were on split off from where we were going.  But, as you can see from the first picture, it was three very happy kids at that McDonalds running around while Mom and I drank our drinks and studied maps.


Mom and I happily took turns getting pictures at the state welcome sign.  Yes, it’s a silly tradition, but it’s a fun one.

And then we were totally confused as a couple pulled up and asked us if we were looking for the clue too.  Apparently there’s some sort of treasure hunt going on in this parish for prize cash.


We did our usual stop at the Welcome Center, and the kids had a LOT of fun picking out brochures.  We tried to stop at the first place they’d found only to discover it wasn’t open on Mondays, and the same was true for the next several ideas we had………

I’ve decided for this duration to leave off the watermarks because it takes too much time on my slow laptop, and besides I really doubt anyone is going to try and steal my travel pictures.

We finally found a museum that was open, but it was more of a Mommy type of museum.

The boys had fun running from diorama to diorama counting the people in it, and I enjoyed taking pictures of all the things that happened in Louisiana state history, mainly focusing on agriculture and production.  Either way I took a slew of pictures planning on making it into a book about Louisiana.
IMG_0973 So, if you’re ever driving through Shreveport I totally recommend the Louisiana State Historical Museum.  It was built as part of the WPA, and had all sorts of interesting history.

Ahhhh, fun history museums.  It’ll be even better when my kids have the patience to look at them.  But, now I’ve got lots of ideas for my unit on Louisiana………  Farming stuff, lots of farming stuff.

Oh, and I’ve figured out another great idea for traveling with kids:

Raid the library for books on CD, in particular Hank the Cow Dog.  I’ve mentioned before our love of Adventures in Odyssey.  Now, we’ve got a new one to add to our mix.

Oh, and those single serve things you add to water bottles.  I bought some of the Target ones on clearance last year.  Admittedly (and Jeff caught me on this) more because the box they come in is cool, than for the contents.  They loved watching the water change color and the mix of it all as it went down.  Great little mini-science lesson on diffusion.

We’re continuing to learn as well, They each read me or Mom a book in the morning and at night.  I want to add in at lunch, but haven’t yet.

Now, I’m off to read for a little before going to bed, and hopefully the kids will fall asleep soon.  I swear it’s like they don’t need to sleep.

And as a final thought, in case anyone thought it was restful sleeping in a Queen size bed with 2 six year olds, think again.  At one point I think we formed an H in the bed, and at another point I think Superman was spinning in the bed, and Batman had about 2 feet of bed on the other side of him while I was making do with a piddly six inches.