Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Today's Words

I'm in desperate need of a break from posts that require a lot of research on my part. So, today (and maybe for a few weeks), I will be giving you a word from the dictionary and a word from the Word—the Bible—along with a few of my own to discuss the words I have chosen.

As I look through the dictionary, I am amazed by how many entries are animals and plants. Some of the ones I've run across tonight are:

bandicoot - large rat from southern Asia
capybara - South and Central American rodent
Devon rex - large-eared cat with a short wavy or curly coat
fossa - carnivorous mammal found in Madagascar
tamandua - kind of anteater
tamarin - type of monkey

aster - herb
baneberry - herb of the buttercup family with poisonous berries
breadfruit - fruit that resembles bread in color and texture when baked
devil's claw - herb found in U.S. and Mexico that has pods which can be used to make baskets
episcia - tropical American herb related to the African violet
tamarack - larch found in America
tamarillo - South American fruit or the shrub that grows the fruit
tamarind - tropical tree of the legume family

God's Word (NIV):

Genesis 1:20-25:

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it,according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.


Matthew 6:25-34:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."


My Thoughts:

As I notice the wide variety of creatures and plants that God created, I am amazed by the vastness of his imagination. Animals and plants exist throughout the entire earth—on land, in the ocean, and in the air. Though God took great care to make the animals, he took even more care when he created mankind. He made man and said, "It is very good." He gave man the directives of naming the animals and ruling over them.

We see, though, in Matthew 6 that God still takes care of his creatures. He feeds the birds, and he clothes the grass of the field. He pours beauty upon His creation. However, man still holds a special place in His heart. He encourages us not to worry about anything we need because He loves us—his very good creation. We are to seek Him first. When we are faced with a situation that causes us to worry, we should go to Him first. He will give us His strength and His peace.

It is difficult to not worry. Trust me, I know. When we can't fix our situation and when we can't see the other end, we worry about how it will turn out, but that takes our focus off of God. Do we doubt that He knows what is going on? Do we doubt that He really does have what is best for us in mind? When we focus on Him, we begin to understand that He is always with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

If he allows the flowers to be beautiful, if he allows the animals to find food and survive, won't he take care of you no matter what you are going through? You are the one He created to have relationship with. You are the one He died to save.




Friday, July 11, 2014

The Build Your Own Bundle Sale is Coming!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!
The BIGGEST digital homeschooling curriculum sale EVER is coming! Mark your calendars!

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Teach your K-3 children basic skills and core truths through easily understandable lessons and hands-on activities. Our K-3 Bundle includes reading, math, science, handwriting, character training and Bible resources.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

#2 Grand Canyon National Park


With a depth of one mile and a width of 10 miles, Grand Canyon National Park is considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world. Located in Arizona, more than 5 million people tour this awe-inspiring park each year. It was granted national park status in 1919.

There is a fee for entering the park—$25 per vehicle and $12 for those on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle—and is good for seven days. There are lodges located within the park that provide a beautiful view of the canyon, and there are hotels available on the road that leads to the park. If you are planning a visit and want to stay in one of the lodges, reserve your room at least a year in advance as they fill up quickly. Another option for visiting the park is to take the Grand Canyon Railway out of Williams, Arizona.



We visited the Grand Canyon in May 2010. It was quite windy and cold in the evenings. We weren't expecting this and had to buy sweatshirts and windbreakers in the gift shop. That twenty-dollar sweatshirt was one of the most comfortable I've ever worn; I still own it and wear it when and if it ever gets cold enough in Florida to need it.


There are two specific destinations within the park from which tours begin, museums and restaurants are located, and trails descend—the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim is open to visitors all year long who can participate in ranger programs, visit museums and bookstores, watch a video about the Grand Canyon, take an audio tour using your phone and points of interest along a driving trail, walk the Rim Trail, backpack down into the canyon, go whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, take a mule trip, rent a bike, ride the lodge tour shuttle which stops at various points of interest with breathtaking views and information boards. View this map of the South Rim.


One of the signs we encountered said, "What goes down, must come up." Big deal, you say? Even a short hike down into the canyon turned into quite the cardiovascular workout for us as we made our way back to the top. The trails are well marked, though a bit treacherous at times. They are definitely not jogging trails.



The North Rim operates on a somewhat different schedule: mid-May through mid-October. Ranger programs are available here as well, as are a visitors' center, day hikes, mule trips, and scenic drives. View this map of the North Rim.

On the west side of the park, actually outside of the park, is the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This is a sky bridge created by the Hualapai Tribe. It is a cantilever that juts out from the rim, 4000 feet above the Grand Canyon floor. Watch this video about the Skywalk. (Consider viewing in full screen to avoid any potentially offensive ads in the margins.) A permit and a ticket must be purchased. There is also the need for a $15 bus ride to take visitors from the parking lot to the Skywalk. Be sure to check all information and requirements before visiting.






CREATION VIEWPOINT: The Grand Canyon, according to the National Park Service and most, if not all, evolutionists, was formed over billions of years. However, creationists believe there is irrefutable proof found in the walls of the canyons—layering, fossils, rocks—that it was created by a great flood, the flood we see in Genesis.

If you are interested in learning more about the Grand Canyon from a creationist view, consider purchasing Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, a canyon river guide. This book is for sale through Answers in Genesis.

It is said that the Grand Canyon contains five of the seven life zones and three of the four desert types in North America. Because of this, there is great diversity in the species of plant and animal that live there. There are more than 1500 plants species, 89 mammal species, 355 bird species, 47 reptile species, 9 amphibian species, and 17 fish species. Visit the Animals of the Grand Canyon page to read about those present. Be sure to choose from a variety of species listed on the left, including crustaceans, insects, mammals, birds, and mollusks, as well as plants. Learn about the wildlife safety standards that are in place in the park.







Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I Review

Veritas Press Review

For years, I have been receiving Veritas Press catalogs in the mail but have never purchased anything from them. I always look through the catalogs, wishing I could afford some of the programs that appeared to be very well constructed and educational. I had the opportunity, as a part of the Schoolhouse Crew, to finally try one of their programs: Self-Paced Omnibus I. This is an online video program that also has a book (or ebook) available. In the catalog, Omnibus I is listed in the seventh grade section. It can be used for children older than seventh grade, however, so the recommended age range is 12 and up.

Veritas Press Review
Each video session contains numerous engaging activities. As each part of the session ends, the video screen "slides" to the next activity. In the upper right corner, the progression can be viewed so that the student knows exactly where he/she is in the lesson. Also, each segment has a bar across the bottom of the screen that displays the time left in each particular video.

There are usually between 10 and 15 different segments per session, including lectures, debates, on-the-street interviews, quizzes, and games. The course begins at Genesis and discusses other books of the Bible, including Exodus, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, Luke, and Acts throughout. Ancient texts include Gilgamesh, the Code of Hammurabi, Odyssey, Oresteia, the Theban Triology, Aeneid, and Julius Caesar. Not only is history taught in this course, but literature and theology are taught as well.

The self-paced program is $295.00 for the full year; siblings receive a discount of $100 off the price. All of the reading materials required for the program can be purchased through Veritas Press for $151.32. Those who choose to follow the live program will pay $595. The textbook is a 605-page hardcover book that takes the student through the course and provides questions for discussion.

The way Omnibus I works, students cannot move forward until everything in the video session is heard, games played, and quizzes taken. They can review everything once they are finished but cannot skip ahead. Quiz reports can be printed out. Some quizzes ask questions about material heard in the lectures, while others simply deal with what is in the assigned reading. Most of the information in the assigned reading is not discussed in the videos.

(The two images below are from the book.)

Veritas Press Review                                     Veritas Press Review

OPINION: I am torn in my opinion about this program. While there is a lot of knowledge shared, I had to listen to everything very closely to be sure what was shared was sound theology. During the session on Genesis, there was a discussion about Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel. In one scene in the painting, God is surrounded by cherubim, and under his arm, there is a woman. Two different views of who the woman could be—Mary or Eve—were shared. After sharing these views, the speaker, Bruce Etter, shared his own view, that this woman is wisdom—Sophia. When my husband heard this, it raised all sorts of red flags (goddess Sophia), and he didn't want my daughter to listen to any more. From that point on, she didn't believe anything that was said. This opened up a deep discussion about Gnostics and testing everything someone says against Scripture.

We talked about the fact that Mr. Etter never mentioned "goddess" Sophia but explained that the term is Greek for wisdom. I also told her that she needs to learn how to test what anyone says, even Mom and Dad, against Scripture to see if what they are saying is true. She continued with the program, but she had put up a wall and found it hard to believe the rest of what he had to say.

As we continued on, it seemed to me that the topics that were discussed could potentially confuse students. Various theories are discussed; some of these theories I've never even heard of. I was concerned that my daughter would believe some of these theories. They are presented in a way that they sound plausible. Not until the end of the discussion are they contradicted. While it is important to understand other beliefs that are out there, I'm not sure this format is the best way to do that. I'm not sure middle schoolers are capable of differentiating between good theories and bad theories. Much discussion is required to be sure they understand the truth.

I would have liked to have seen more history when discussing Genesis and Exodus and a little less philosophy, a little less "this is what non-Christians think." If I purchase a program that it supposed to teach my child about the Bible and Christian theology, I don't expect to hear about what everyone else thinks. The conversation about predestination and free will was completely over my daughter's head. It is an ages-old debate, and I feel that too much time was spent on it. There was little discussion about the events in Exodus and even less, I feel, on the majesty of God.

During the discussion about the Ten Commandments, I did appreciate how Mr. Etter presented the information. He explained the spirit of the Ten Commandments, how it is not just obeying the letter of the law but obeying it in spirit. For example, the seventh commandment says to not commit adultery. Obviously middle schoolers are not in danger of committing that sin. However, do they obey the spirit of the law? Do they keep themselves pure? Do they pray for their future spouse? I REALLY like the way he presented this information.

As far as the video sessions, I was bored with the on-the-street interviews. I felt they were too long. One of the activities in Genesis had me a bit confused. We were supposed to watch how certain items morphed into something beautiful. I thought we were going to watch a caterpillar become a moth. Instead, we watched pictures of slugs, tornadoes, rotten oranges, and creepy spiders being used to make a photo montage. Not only was it not what we thought it would be, it lasted too long. Also, some of the debates we watched were almost 30 minutes long.

I looked through most of the ebook, though we didn't use it except for some reading at the very beginning of the course. It is put together well and filled with many illustrations. I tend to be on the conservative side of things, so I probably would not feel comfortable using this book. There are many, many paintings, drawings, and pictures of statues that include partially naked men and women. I understand that these pieces of art are classical pieces and many people do not find them offensive, but if I am raising my children to be modest and to not obsess over the human figure as simply an object, then I'm not going to let them look at pictures of naked people even though it is consider to be classical art.

I am glad that I had the chance to review this product. It allowed for some good discussions with my daughter I might not have had otherwise. I was also able to see that not everything that looks like it would work for our family will and that I don't have to be disappointed if I can't afford a more expensive program.

I know that there are people who love this program. Be sure to read some other reviews to see how this worked or not with other families. Just because it didn't work for us, doesn't mean it won't work for you.

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#1 Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The first national park we will explore is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is located within the states of North Carolina and Tennessee at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains and sees more visitors every year than any other national park—9 million.

HISTORY

This region was originally inhabited by the Cherokee people, but they were forced west in the 1830s. This event is known as "The Trail of Tears."

Those European settlers who lived in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s lived off the land. They built their houses from the trees in the region and hunted for and planted their own food.

When the logging industry came to the area in the early 1900s, it didn't take long before those living there were heavily reliant on things that were manufactured and food bought in grocery stores instead of being self-sufficient. The industry, also, was decimating the forests. In 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established to preserve the remaining woodlands from destruction. Those living here were forced to move. (Does anybody else notice the irony?)

More than 70 structures that were left behind when the inhabitants were evicted have been preserved. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the largest collection of historic log buildings in the eastern part of the country.

Some of the folks responsible for championing the cause of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were David Chapman, Ann Davis, Paul Fink, Horace Kephart, George Masa, Ben Morton, Mark Squires, Jim Thompson, and Charles A. Webb.

View some historical photos here.
Learn more about the people responsible here.


NATURE

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers 800 square miles. There have been more than 17,000 documented species, including 66 kinds of mammals, 67 fish species, 39 reptiles, 43 amphibians, 200 types of birds, and 100 native species of trees. One species of mammal present in the park is the American Black Bear. This is actually the symbol of the Smoky Mountains. This area is also home to white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bats, deer mice, otters, wolves, shrew, and more.

If you want to find out more about the specific animals and plants that live in this park, visit the National Park animal page.


ACTIVITIES

If you are able to visit the park, there are numerous programs available. However, if a visit is not in the near future, consider participating in one of the distance learning programs. These include learning about current research projects and electronic field trips.

Park visitors can participate in the Junior Ranger program, if they are between the ages of 5 and 12. Booklets can be purchased in person and online. Kids can complete the activities in the book to earn a badge.

Other activities that the whole family can enjoy include touring the park in your car. The visitors' center has inexpensive booklets that help to guide the way, as well as numbered posts and landmarks along the way. You can also purchase them online before your trip. Bicycling is a wonderful activity in the park. There are many trails and roadways that allow for a view of the landscape and historical structures that are present throughout the park. There is a road within the park, Cades Cove Loop Road, that is closed to vehicular traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m. so that bicycles need to be concerned with cars. There are no trails specific to mountain biking here, however.

If you're looking to spend some time in the park, camping is an option. If your idea of camping is hiking to a remote location and sleeping under the stars and using the nearest tree as the necessary, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some rules and regulations. Permits are also required. They want to know you are out there, but they don't want to know you've been there. In other words, they want you to leave the park in better shape than what you found it. The same goes for those who choose to pitch a tent or drive their RV to the front country where there are electric hookups and bathrooms with showers available. There are 10 separate campgrounds located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. View a map to see where they are located in relation to other points of interest within the park. Each campground has a different number of sites, a slightly different elevation, a different season length, and different restrictions on RV length.

Consider fishing, hiking, picnicking, and watching the wildlife. From mid-March through late November, horseback riding is available at four different locations within the park. The guided trail rides last 45 minutes to a few hours and start at a rate of $30 per hour. You can even bring your own horse. Hayrides and wagon rides are available as well.

Besides the beautiful panoramas that are offered throughout the park, visitors can trek inside to view one of the many waterfalls. The park receives an average rainfall of 85 inches per year. That means that this rain flows down the mountainside and fills the rivers and streams, creating an abundant flow of water to spill over the falls. There are a couple of waterfalls that can be reached by car.

The park offers various workshops and classes for grade-school kids through adults. Some of the programs have a fee associated with them. Call the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont at 865-448-6709 or the Smoky Mountain Field School at 865-974-0150 to find out what classes are being offered and how much they cost.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The number of activities and beautiful scenery make this a wonderful vacation spot for a weekend, a week, or just a get away for the day.

If there is something else you'd like to see in these national park posts, please let me know. If you have pictures you'd be willing to share, please also let me know that. I haven't been to too many of the parks to share my own photos.



BOOKS



Your Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park'

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (National Geographic: Trails Illustrated Map #229) (National Geographic Maps: Trails Illustrated)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Thirty Years of American Landscapes

Top Trails: Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone





References:
http://www.nps.gov/grsm/historyculture/people.htm

Monday, June 23, 2014

National Parks of the United States


As we begin our journey into the national parks of the United States, let's begin with a history of the National Park Service. As early as 1872, Congress designated a piece of land as a national park. This piece of land was located in the territories (not yet states) of Montana and Wyoming—Yellowstone. It was henceforth under the protection of the United States government so that its beauty could remain "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people."

President Theodore Roosevelt, during his term in office from 1901 to 1909, established five more national parks: Crater Lake, Wind Cave, Sullys Hill, Mesa Verde, and Platt. Some of these have been redesignated and are no longer national parks. Roosevelt also signed the Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906. This act would allow future generations to designate historic landmarks, structures, and other objects as national monuments.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the act that created the National Park Service under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. The mission of the Department of the Interior reads: "...protects and manages the nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities."

The mission of the National Park Service reads: "The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world."


Today, there are 401 national parks. They exist in every state and in Washington, D.C.; Guam; Puerto Rico; the Virgin Islands; and American Samoa. These 401 national parks cover 84,000,000 acres of land and 4,500,000 acres of water (oceans, lakes, and reservoirs). In addition to the parks, there are 77 national monuments. As of 2008, there were 27,000 historic structures and more than 2400 historic landmarks. The smallest national park is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Park in PA which is just 0.2 acres. The largest is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in AK which is 13.2 million acres.

The current director of the National Park Service is Jon Jarvis. He has served in this capacity since 2009. Nearly 28,000 people are employed by the National Park Service with another 2.5 million volunteers.

Our national parks are visited by roughly 300,000,000 people per year. Most national parks have a wide variety of activities year-round. Camping is available in many parks as well. Some parks take reservations for camping, but others are first-come, first-served. Find a park through the National Park Service and then click "Plan Your Visit" to find out about the operating hours, fees, reservations, and things to do.

Spend some time researching the National Park Service website, even if you aren't planning a trip. Consider using the website for supplemental material if you homeschool. With tabs like "Discovery History" and "Explore Nature," you're sure to find information that will interest your whole family. Choose a park and do some "Distance Learning."

The 10 most popular national parks are as follows:

1. Great Smoky Mountain National Park
2. Grand Canyon National Park
3. Yosemite National Park
4. Yellowstone National Park
5. Olympic National Park
6. Rocky Mountain National Park
7. Zion National Park
8. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
9. Grand Teton National Park
10. Acadia National Park

The series, National Parks of the United States, will begin with these 10 most popular destinations. If you aren't sure where each of these is located, be sure to check back to find out. There is most likely a national park within driving distance of where you live (maybe not one of these, but there is certainly another). Plan a trip. Enjoy a day off!