Monday, May 25, 2015

We remember.

Most monuments to soldiers remembrances include a line from Horace: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." - "Sweet and righteous it is to die for one's country." True? Yes. But these markers also are reminders of a greater gift. Not freedom, but love. 

"No greater love is there than to lay down one's life for a friend." 

Thank you, friends.

 Fort Necessity, PA

 Breed's Hill
Boston, MA

 Antietam National Cemetery
Sharpsburg, MD

 Gettysburg, PA

Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers
 Arlington, VA

 Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA

Korean War Memorial,
Washington, DC

USS Albacore Memorial Garden
Portsmouth, NH

4,048 Gold Stars, WWII Memorial
One star for every one hundred soldiers killed or missing in WWII
Washington, DC

Ground Zero
New York, NY

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tandoori Chicken and Coconut Rice - Dairy Free

Tandoori chicken is a dish that originates in India and Pakistan. It gets its name from the clay tandoor oven that is traditionally used to cook it. Meat - usually chicken - is marinated in yogurt and spices to give it flavor, and then baked. I tried it for the first time when our family ate at Sanaa, an Indian-themed restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was a bit nervous at first, but when I realized it was basically spicy roasted chicken, I ordered it. It quickly became my favorite dish of the trip, putting it on my “try this at home” list.

Unlike most marinades, the yogurt mixture is not wiped off the meat after its marinade, but left clinging to the meat to help give it a flavorful crust. Tandoori chicken can be extremely hot and spicy (often its red color comes from cayenne or other pepper used in the marinade), but while this recipe does call for a mountain of spices, it does not taste like edible lava. There is only a small amount of cayenne pepper, which is spread among a fair bit of chicken, making it mild enough for less adventurous palates. Feel free to add more heat if you prefer spicier foods, either more cayenne powder, or even adding a hot pepper to the aromatics in the blender. A shot or two of sriracha, an Asian hot chile pepper sauce, will seriously ramp up the heat as well. (You might want to put that on the table, rather than the marinade. THAT stuff is edible lava.) The recipe looks like a lot of effort, but trust me -- it’s just a lot of baby steps that mature into a great dish.

Oh - and watch it with the turmeric. It stains.

Chicken Tandoori with Coconut Rice

Serves 6-8

Chicken & Marinade:

4 pounds chicken thighs (about 10 thighs), skin removed
2 small onions
8 garlic cloves
1 cup coconut yogurt
¼ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
3 Tbsp cumin
3 Tbsp garam masala
2 Tbsp coriander
2 Tbsp ginger
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil

Coconut Rice

1 small onion, finely minced
4-6 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp salt
3 cups Basmati rice
1 quart chicken stock
1 - 13 oz can Coconut milk

Fresh pineapple, diced, for garnish (optional)

Directions for the chicken:

  1. On each thigh, remove and discard the outer skin. Place the skinned thighs in a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Peel onion and cut in half. Remove skin from garlic. Place into a blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. 
  3. Add yogurt, lemon juice, and spices to the blender. Puree until smooth.
  4. Add olive oil to marinade and blend until mixed in, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary. 
  5. Pour the marinade over the chicken, and toss to coat. as much of the chicken possible. You can do this with tongs or a spoon, but honestly -- the easiest way is to just use your hands. 
  6. Cover with plastic wrap, then allow the chicken to marinate for 1 hour. (Store it in the fridge! You can let the chicken sit for up to 4 hours, but more than that and it will get mushy from the acid in the marinade.) 
  7. While the chicken marinades, begin to prepare the rice. (see below for directions) 
  8.  Preheat your oven to 375ºF and line two baking pans with aluminum foil. Divide the chicken among the two trays, leaving the marinade on it. 
  9. Bake chicken for 35 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

 Directions for the Rice: 

  1. About an hour before you're ready to cook the chicken, preheat a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium heat, and mince the garlic and onion. 
  2.  Add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan, and heat until it shimmers. Add your onion and 1 tbsp of salt, and sauté until the onion begins to caramelize. Once the onion has started to caramelize, add your garlic and saute until the garlic is fragrant. 
  3. Remove from heat and cover the aromatics with a lid. Let it rest, covered, until the chicken is ready for the oven.
  4.  When you place the chicken in the oven, return pot to heat. Allow it to reheat until vegetables are sizzling. 
  5. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, and stir. Add rice. Stir to coat with oil/aromatics, and saute until rice starts to toast.
  6.  Pour in 1 quart (8 cups) chicken broth. Stir and bring to a boil, allowing rice to soak up most of the broth. 
  7. Shake the can of coconut milk vigorously to combine coconut cream and coconut. Add to rice and turn heat to low (liquid should barely simmer). 
  8. Cover and allow rice to cook for about 25 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. 

 To serve, lay chicken over a bed of rice, and garnish with chopped fresh pineapple.

Dairy free Gluten free tandoori chicken and coconut rice

 ©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Homeschool Legacy Unit Studies (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Coming from a brick-and-mortar school background, I've long considered each subject independently: math is math, reading is reading, history is history.  While there is some overlap - reading the math problem, calculating how many years since the Declaration of Independence was signed - seeing the "whole concept" was not my norm.  The longer we've homeschooled, the more I find myself drawn to the "unit study" concept.  In this manner of study, you choose a topic and then explore it from different angles.  (Pun intended -- including geometry!)  However, sometimes you still need to teach the "individual subjects" in order to meet core requirements.  Homeschool Legacy has created a number of "Once a Week Unit Studies" that allow you to balance the need for topic-specific teaching with global learning.  We had the opportunity to review their medieval-themed Knights & Nobles unit study and had a fantastic time.

What sets the Homeschool Legacy unit studies apart is their "once a week" approach.  Instead of teaching all academics though a single theme, Homeschool Legacy's studies allow you to use your favorite curricula for your core topics (math, science, reading, etc.) and then put them to use during a single concentrated "Unit Study" day.  Step-by-step instructions are given, and a focused curriculum laid out, so that you have simple before-and-after activities and get the most out of your one unit study day.  I had been looking for a history program for Jude - he has long been drawn to a history-based method of learning.  In the past, we have generally focused on American history, so the Medieval era was new to him; however, like many little boys, knights and castles fascinate him.  As an adult, I can appreciate the beauty of these ruins, and the amazing ingenuity that the people of this period needed to survive.  In addition, Matthew is working on a World History program.  This unit study helped pull him out of the "names and dates" mindset and round his studies with the culture of the people.  The Knights & Nobles unit study cover states it is for grades 2-12, and I admit to some serious skepticism.  It's hard for a course to be simple enough for a young student but meaty enough for an older one, but I figured for a four-week program, it was worth a shot.

"Wow!" is about all I can say.  I think Homeschool Legacy is my new favorite company.  We had a fantastic time with this program.

A schedule is laid out, but it's only a suggestion.  I liked how flexible these were.  Jude (and Damien) tended to do a little bit of activity each day, finishing the week mostly "on time."  Matthew took longer, but also dug deeper.  Rather than a group read-aloud (which would take us far longer than the week due to attention spans), Jude read the books that were more at his academic level, while Matthew was assigned the "group" book as a literature assignment, and I purchased (independently from the review) some study guides to go along with them to round this out.  Some of the books we read include:

The Door in The Wall by Marguerite DeAngeli (Progeny Press study guide)
Many Moons by James Thurber
Designs from the Book of Kells  by Judy Balchin
The Three Musketeers  by Alexander Dumas  (7 Sisters Homeschool study guide)
The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborn (Magic Treehouse Series #2)

Each week has 10-15 books to choose from. Most can be found at your local library; we even borrowed The Three Musketeers as an audiobook from Amazon (we are Kindle Unlimited members). However, there is no need to read all of them. The author suggests you think of these lists "as a buffet" - everyone can choose his favorites, but none is left hungry.  We found for Matthew, one big piece of classic literature was enough for him to handle, while Jude read several stories.

Each week focuses on a different topic. I really liked this.  I felt that it gave each topic an opportunity to really be explored.  For example, one can explore medieval castles in just one day, and if you wanted to just have more of a simple/overview course, you certainly could.  However, there is so much to be learned.  We found having a focused topic allowed us a secure foundation to work from.  For example, while we went down several "rabbit trails" with castles, knowing that we had a wide variety of resources for them and that we would get to the people who lived in them eventually, we felt like we could focus on these incredible fortresses without feeling like we had to learn about the building and the defending knights and the king and queen and what they did for fun and what they ate simultaneously.

As written and outlined, I think "one-day-a-week" (or its equivalent) is a great "overview" pace, especially if you have a student who is studying Medieval times just to tick that box on the syllabus.  However, we found that we loved the era so much that "one day" just wasn't enough! We broke "one-day-a-week" into parts over the course of one - or even three! - weeks, allowing us to really dig deeply into topics.  While this is intended to be a four week course (with an optional fifth week of activities), we have spent six weeks on the first three lessons. You certainly don't need to do every bit of reading and activity listed, but we found that there was plenty of variety to what was listed that we could do more activities and not feel like we were reading the same thing.  If you didn't want to dig deeply all in one go, you certainly could use it as a spiral-type curriculum, working on some of the activities the first time with a younger student and revisit with an older one.  As for having two students of very diverse levels (three if you count kindergartener Damien, who enjoyed the lessons as well!), it was easy to balance them and keep them in the same "area" of study.  For example, while Matthew read one larger book over two weeks,  Jude (and Damien) read some of the more age-appropriate books, three days per week rather than daily.  (And we did find a couple extra videos, such as this gorgeous stop-animation series on the history Colm Cille to add in while Matthew was still working on his activities.) 

Week 1 took us much longer than "intended."  Instead of a single day (week), we spent a full two weeks!  While the sections focuses on castles, but also includes the Gothic Cathedral.  We spent a full week working on the medieval fortress castle and seeing how it evolved from a sparse fortress to the incredible "fairy tale" buildings we think of today, but then allowed a second week to focus on the beautiful "castles of God."

For the castle studies, we read books about them, watched movies about castles, and were lucky that we had recently been to Castillo de San Marcos - the oldest Bastion fort in the New World.  We had a chance to re-explore the castillo (the Spanish word for castle) through our photos, and talk about the practical features of these structures.

We then took a week to study the Gothic Cathedral.  These beautiful churches were as important as castles.  If the castles saved the peoples' bodies from danger, the cathedrals saved their souls.  One of the suggested activities is a field trip to look at the stained glass windows of a church.  These exquisite structures let in light, both physical and metaphorical.  Many of the worshippers - most, really - were illiterate and these gorgeous windows allowed them to learn stories from the Bible with pictures. We were blessed with a "virtual" field trip.  Neal's parents were in Europe at the same time we studied these, so every day we checked Facebook to see where they had been.

Our Lady of Strasbourg Cathedral, France

Mimie at Cologne Cathedral, Germany
Stained glass windows, Cologne Cathedral

Inspired by their photographs, we then did our own stained glass projects. While Damien and Jude focused more on just creating beautiful pictures, Matthew was assigned to create a "window" in the same style - one that would allow a story to be seen.

(Leave a comment if you can tell the story being retold!)

In addition to reading and hands-on activities, a classic game or movie for each topic was suggested.  Chess and draughts (checkers to us modern folk) were on the list - some of our favorites.  During the "Kings and Queens" week, we watched A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court starring Bing Crosby.  Jude absolutely loved it.  (So did I - there is a reason why Bing Crosby is a classic.)

All of the videos and films are available via Netflix.  We don't have a Netflix membership, though, but it wasn't an issue.  Most of the videos assigned are also available via YouTube.  However, what I liked is the flexibility of this program.  If you couldn't find a specific video, it was easy to substitute something on the same topic.  While A Connecticut Yankee... is classic Americana, you could substitute another King Arthur-themed movie.

We are currently working on Week 3: Knights.   Knights began their training as pages and squires, training for many, many years in both chivalrous character and as soldiers.  We have a family business that Luke has begun working in, and Matthew pitches in at times, too.  They have their own knightly mentor - Sir Pop Pop.

In addition to history and art, science is incorporated into the program.  Check out our catapult. Similar styles were used to launch large projectiles as well as smaller shrapnel when laying siege.

Though not one of our homeschoolers, Celia didn't want to be left out.

She's interested in working through the unit study on her own during summer break.  I think this is a great idea!  All of Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week unit studies are an engaging yet not "but I don't want to do schoolwork!" activity for traditional brick-and-mortar students on a summer break.  If you have a Boy Scout or an American Heritage Girl, each of these follow the merit badge requirements for the programs.  They'd be perfect for a 1-2 week day camp program, or just worked on piecemeal at a weekly meeting - about a month, they'd have earned an Art Merit Badge.

We absolutely loved Knights and Nobles from Homeschool Legacy.  It's a program that can be worked on just once a week, allowing you to keep your "regular" curriculum yet inject something "different" into your week.  It allows for all grade levels to participate, even the kindergarteners outside the Grades 2-12 age range, and at the appropriate course depth for their needs.  We'll continue through this program (Life on a Manor is up next), and probably consider their other programs for next year.

Click the banner below to read reviews of other Once-a-Week unit studies from Homeschool Legacy, or follow them on social media:


Homeschool Legacy Review

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pumpkin Waffle Wednesday

vegan pumpkin waffles and cream cheese frosting recipes

We've had a theme going this week.  We had Meatloaf Monday (Neal makes an awesome meatloaf, but don't ask me for the recipe - it's one of a "little of this, bit of that, Meg stay out of the way" thing), followed by Taco Tuesday.  Last night, we tossed around Wednesday dinner ideas, and "Waffle Wednesday" won.  (Say THAT last bit ten times fast!)

Matthew requested pumpkin waffles, so I decided to up the ante and make cream cheese frosting to serve with them, instead of maple syrup.  You could just top them with maple syrup, but hey...any reason for cream cheese frosting.  These recipes are gluten free and vegan, but you'd never know it.  All you can taste is YUM!

Pumpkin Waffles 

Makes 4-5 large Belgian-style waffles

2 cups  sugar
1  cup  canola oil
1 large (29-oz) can pumpkin puree
2 cups water
1 box gluten free Bisquick baking mix (approx 3 cups)
3 tbsp  pumpkin pie spice

Preheat your waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.

Mix the sugar, oil, pumpkin and water in a large bowl.

Add the baking mix and spices.  Stir to thoroughly combine.  Mixture will be thick.

Spoon into waffle iron.  (Ours takes about 2 cups per waffle.)

Bake in iron for 10-12 minutes.  

Serve with maple syrup, or cream cheese topping.

Vegan Cream Cheese Topping

1 tub Daiya cream cheese (plain flavor)
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla 
1/2 tsp cinnamon extract (optional)

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients until smooth.  Spoon over hot waffles and allow to melt and ooze deliciousness everywhere.

(Somebody dove in before I could take pictures!  He wasn't waiting for mom!)

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

The Wright Brothers: On the Wings of a Dream

American brothers, inventors, and aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright are credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane, as well as making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight. While they were the first to successfully fly, they are not the first to try to get this idea off the ground. While the dream of flying is as old as mankind itself, the concept of the airplane has only been around for two centuries. Rather than building flying vehicles, people thought to imitate birds, strapping wings onto their arms. It seemed like it should be a good plan; after all, there are plenty of birds in the air to show that the concept does work. The trouble is, not only does works better at bird-scale than it does at the much larger human sizes, but mass of the flier is an issue. Even larger birds have a hidden secret that makes them lightweight enough to fly; unlike humans, birds have hollow bones. People tried to build machines with flapping wings called ornithopters, but again, mass was an issue, so other ways to fly were sought. The first hot air balloon floated into the sky in 1783, and while this type of travel was amusing, navigation was at the mercy of wind direction. Then in 1804, Sir George Cayley created the first glider that flew with a man on board, but gliders were difficult to control and weren’t able to travel long distances. By studying the successes and flaws of each of these concepts, the Wright brothers made the dream of human-operated flight a reality.

Early life and experiments

Orville and Wilbur were two of seven children born to Protestant Bishop Milton Wright and Susan Catherine Koerner. Wilbur was born near Millville, Indiana, in 1867; Orville in Dayton, Ohio, in 1871. Their mother, who spent her youth assisting in her father’s carriage shop and became the family’s toolsmith, became their mentor because she was able to answer just about any engineering-related question the brothers could conceive. While Orville dropped out of high school after his junior year to start a printing business in 1889, Wilbur planned to attend college to further his study of engineering. However, Wilbur’s plans to enter college ended when he was injured in a hockey accident in the winter of 1885. It took him three years to recover his health, during which time he read extensively in his father’s library, assisted his father with legal and church problems, and cared for his invalid mother, who died of tuberculosis in 1889.

Otto Lilienthal
Otto Lilienthal
US Public Domain
In 1892, the brothers opened a bicycle sales and repair shop, and by 1896. they began to build bicycles themselves. By 1899, they were successful enough to be able to stop reinvesting in the shop. They took their experience from designing and building lightweight bicycles and the shop’s profits and began experimenting in aeronautics. In interviews, the Wrights dated their fascination with flight to a small helicopter toy their father had gifted them as youths. Accounts of German glider pioneer Otto Lilienthal also piqued their interest, but it was news reports of Lilienthal’s death in a glider crash- in August 1896 that marked the beginning of their serious interest in flight. By 1899, the brothers had exhausted the resources of the local library, and wrote to the Smithsonian Institution for suggestions for further study. They wrote to Octave Chanute, a leading civil engineer and an authority on aviation, asking for his aid; he became a great confidant of the brothers during the early years of study.

A Dream Takes Flight 


The ability of the Wright brothers to analyze a mechanical problem and move toward a solution was invaluable to their work in aeronautics. The brothers identified three components to a successful flight: wings of sufficient size and shape to generate lift, a propulsion system to move the craft through the air, and a system to control the it during flight. In studying prior aeronautic engineers’ designs, they found two of them fairly well developed. Lilienthal had built wings capable of carrying him in flight, while the builders of self-propelled vehicles were developing lighter and more powerful internal-combustion engines. The final problem to be solved, they concluded, was controlling the aircraft.

Their first experiments with “wing warping,” as the system would be called, were made with a small biplane kite flown in Dayton in the summer of 1899. Discovering that they could cause the kite to climb, dive, and bank to the right or left at will, the brothers began to design their first full-scale glider using Lilienthal’s data to calculate the amount of wing surface area required to lift the estimated weight of the machine and pilot in a wind of given velocity. However the brothers soon realized that Dayton, with its relatively low winds and flat terrain, was not the ideal place to conduct aeronautical experiments. The Wrights sent a request to the U.S. Weather Bureau, asking for a list of more suitable areas. From the list in the reply, the brothers selected Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It provided the perfect requirements for aviation experiments. On the island were few inhabitants (less risk of civilian casualty), high average winds, tall dunes from which to glide, and soft sand for landings.

1900 Wright flyer Replica
Replica of 1900 Wright flyer
On Display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
In October, 1900, the Wrights began testing their first biplane glider. It featured 165 square feet (15 square meters) of wing area, a forward elevator for pitch control, and Wilbur Wright in the cockpit. The glider developed less lift than expected, however, and very few free flights were made with a pilot on board. The brothers ultimately flew the glider as a kite. However, these test flights gathered information that would be critically important in the design of future aircraft.

Eager to improve on the disappointing performance of their 1900 glider, the Wrights increased the wing area of their next machine to 290 square feet (26 square meters). Establishing their camp at the foot of the Kill Devil Hills, 4 miles (6.5 km) south of Kitty Hawk, the brothers completed 50 to 100 glides in July and August of 1901. As in 1900, Wilbur made all the glides, the best of which covered nearly 400 feet (120 meters). The 1901 Wright aircraft was an improvement over its predecessor, but it still did not perform as well as their calculations had predicted. Moreover, the experience of 1901 suggested that the problems of control were not fully resolved. In the end, they determined that the failure of their gliders to match calculated performance was the result of errors in the experimental data published by their predecessors. To create new, more accurate calculations, the Wrights constructed a small wind tunnel with which to gather their own information.

Even if one refused to acknowledge the brothers’ critical thinking skills, their brilliance was unmistakably obvious in the design of their wind-tunnel balances. These instruments mounted inside the tunnel and actually measured the forces operating on the model wings. During the fall and early winter of 1901, the Wrights tested between 100 and 200 wing designs in their wind tunnel, gathering information on the relative efficiencies and effects of different wing shapes, wing tip designs, and gap sizes between the two wings of a biplane. With the results of the wind-tunnel tests in hand, the brothers began work on their third full-scale glider.

1902 Glider test flight
US Public Domain
They tested the machine at the Kill Devil Hills camp in September and October of 1902. It performed exactly as the design calculations predicted. For the first time, the brothers shared the flying duties, completing over 700 flights. The airplane was finally covering significant distances (up to 622.5 feet), and it remained in the air for as long as 26 seconds! In addition to gaining significant experience in the air, the Wrights were able to complete their control system by adding a movable rudder linked to the wing-warping system. With the major aerodynamic and control problems behind them, the brothers were ready to build a motor-powered flying machine.

The Wrights enlisted Charles Taylor, a machinist from the bicycle shop, to help them design and built a four-cylinder internal-combustion engine. Recognizing that propeller blades could be understood as secondary and rotary wings, the group used their wind tunnel data to develop twin pusher propellers. Returning to Kill Devil Hills in late 1903, with the blueprints for the 1902 glider and a motor, they spent the next seven weeks assembling, testing, and repairing their powered machine. Wilbur made the first attempt at powered flight on December 14,1903, but he stalled the aircraft on take-off and damaged the forward section of the machine. Three days were spent making repairs and waiting for the return of good weather. Finally, the morning of December 17, 1903, the brother and five local citizen witnesses were ready. Orville made the first successful flight, covering 120 feet through the air in 12 seconds. Returning to the cockpit, Wilbur flew 175 feet in 12 seconds on his first flight. Each took a second flight that day; Orville’s second effort stayed airborne for 15 seconds and covered 200 feet, but it was Wilbur’s next flight that was most successful. Wilbur’s 59 second flight sailed flew 852 feet over the island. For the first time in history, a heavier-than-air machine had demonstrated powered and sustained flight under the complete control of the pilot.

Orville's Telegraph Home
Telegraph from Orville to his father announcing four successful flights.
US Public Domain

1905 Wright Flyer III
1905 Wright Flyer III
US Public Domain
Despite the excitement of those flights, the brothers wanted to build a practical airplane. Returning to Huffman Prairie near Dayton, Ohio, the Wrights spent 1904 and 1905 building and testing two new aircraft. After nearly each flight, they tinkered with the planes, gaining skill and confidence in the air with each flight. By October 1905 the brothers could remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time, performing circles and other maneuvers. No longer able to hide the extent of their success from the press, and concerned that the essential features of their machine would be understood and copied by knowledgeable observers, the Wrights decided to cease flying and remain on the ground until their invention was protected by patents and they had negotiated a contract for its sale.

Making the Invention Public

With this now near-complete blackout, few believed in the Wright brothers’ success. During 1906 and 1907, a handful of European and American pioneers, armed with incomplete understandings of the Wrights’ research, struggled into the air. Meanwhile the brothers, confident that they retained a commanding lead over their rivals, continued to quietly negotiate with financiers and government purchasing agents on two continents.

In February 1908, the Wrights triumphantly signed a contract with the U.S. Army. They would receive $25,000 for delivering a machine capable of flying for at least one hour with a pilot and passenger at an average speed of 40 miles per hour. The following month, they signed a second agreement with a group of French investors interested in building and selling Wright machines under license. Returning to Kill Devil Hills in May 1908, they made 22 flights with their old 1905 machine, and modified it with upright seating and hand controls. On May 14, 1908, Wilbur took off with mechanic Charles Furnas as his first passenger. He then sailed to France. There he made his first public flight, flying over the Hunaudières Race Course near Le Mans, France on August 8, 1908. During the months that followed, the elite of the continent traveled to France and Italy to watch Wilbur fly.

Wright Military Flyer
The Wright Military Flyer
On Display at The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Back in Fort Myer, Virginia, Orville began the U.S. Army trials with a flight on September 3, 1908. Two weeks later, later a split propeller caused a crash that badly injured the piloting Orville and killed passenger Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge. While recovering, Orville and his sister Katharine visited Wilbur in Europe. Together, the brothers returned to Fort Myer to complete the Army trials in 1909. Because this craft could exceed the the required speed of 40 miles per hour, the Wrights earned a bonus of $5,000. Following the successful Fort Myer trials, Orville traveled to Germany, where he flew at Berlin and Potsdam, while Wilbur made several important flights as part of New York City’s Hudson-Fulton Celebration. Wilbur then went to College Park, Maryland, where he trained the first three U.S. Army pilots.

Going Into Business

In November 1909, the Wright Company was incorporated. Wilbur served as president, Orville as one of two vice presidents, and the a board of trustees included some of the leaders of American business. The Wright Company established a factory in Dayton and an airfield at Huffman Prairie to train pilots. Among the Army pilots trained at the facility was Henry H. (“Hap”) Arnold, who would rise to command of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. The brothers also formed the Wright Exhibition Company in March 1910, with A. Roy Knabenshue, an experienced balloon and airship pilot, as manager. Although the Wrights were not particularly interested in this sort of venture, they recognized that an exhibition team would generate a steady supplemental revenues. Orville began training pilots for the exhibition team at Montgomery, Alabama, and continued instruction at Huffman Prairie. The exhibition company made its first appearance at Indianapolis in June, 1910. However, the death of several team members in the first year of business underscored the risk in this venture, and the brothers decided to dissolve the second company in November, 1911.

Despite their brilliance, the brothers’ success was tempered by intellectual property theft. While Orville took over training pilots in 1909, Wilbur turned his energy to the legal end of the business. He brought a series of lawsuits against rival aircraft builders whom the brothers believed had infringed upon their patent rights in the United States and Europe. In Germany, the Wright claims were denied. The position of the Wright brothers was upheld in virtually every court judgment in France and America, but the defendants manipulated the legal process to avoid being forced into substantial payments. (Many of them likely had attorneys who studied case law that included how farmers skirted patent rights held by American engineer Eli Whitney.) In addition to the financial burden these suits caused, the Wrights’ spirited defense of their patents complicated their public image. Once inaccurately regarded as a pair of naive mechanical geniuses, they were now unfairly blamed for having retarded the advance of flight technology by bringing suit against other talented experimenters. Eventually, lawsuits regarding the Wrights’ patents ended; by 1917, the Wright patents expired in France and the U.S. government created a patent pool in the interest of national defense.

Orville carries on the legacy

Exhausted by business and legal concerns and suffering from typhoid fever, Wilbur died on May 30, 1912. Although Wilbur had drawn Orville into aeronautics, he had taken the lead in business matters since 1905. Upon his brother’s death, Orville assumed leadership of the Wright Company, and won the 1913 Collier Trophy for his work on an automatic stabilizer for aircraft. He remained active in the company until 1915, when he sold his interest to a group of financiers. One of the first legacies of the Wrights’ work was realized during World War I, when Orville worked as a consulting engineer. The Dayton-Wright Company planned production of foreign aircraft designs, and assisted in the development of a pilotless aircraft bomb, changing how it and all future wars would be fought. On January 27, 1948, Orville suffered a heart attack and died three days later in a Dayton hospital.

Raised in small-town Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright never attended college but had an innate intellectual curiosity and aptitude for science that knew few bounds. Through careful observation and experimentation, they discovered and corrected past aviators’ flaws. Together, the Wright brothers developed the first successful airplane in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, developed innovative aeronautic technology, and changed how wars would be fought. There is perhaps no more fitting epitaph for either of the Wright brothers than the words crafted by a group of their friends to identify the 1903 Wright airplane on display at the Smithsonian:

Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright are arguably spokesmen for the idea of the blue collar American. Considered the fathers of modern aviation, these national heroes took the concept of dream of human flight and made it soar.

Cover Image Source:
Orville Wright
Wilbur Wright

 ©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Homeschooling Made Easy (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Homeschooling Made Easy Review

Recently, we were chosen to review the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course by Stephanie Walmsley. The goal of Successful Homeschooling Made Easy is to help new homeschoolers navigate a sometimes intimidating array of choices.  Even as "experienced" homeschoolers - this is our fourth year of homeschooling - there's always something new to learn.  This 26-week course covers all the basics of homeschooling itself - schedules, organization, lesson plans, and choosing curriculum - as well as ideas for balancing homeschooling, homekeeping, and family life.

The lessons arrive via weekly email.  I had a mixed experience with this system.  While this is great way for information to not seem overwhelming, I found that often I needed to hunt the emails.  This may be partly due to my email address (I use a gmail account for homeschool work), but she does address that sometimes, overeager filters can send the emails to spam.  If you don't receive the next email within about a week of the last, you may need to go hunt them down.  I finally was able to convince my inbox to sort them by sender, so that even if I couldn't find them in my inbox, I could find them together in their "file."

The lessons are written in a conversational style. Parents are encouraged to print out the PDF downloads so they can take notes or answer any of the questions asked, and then keep them in a binder.  I chose to use the "Writer" feature and type on them, then file on my computer.  

Lesson 1

At the very beginning is "create a schedule."  Stephanie also insists it be realistic.  In other words, write down the time you actually get up and moving, not the time you'd like to.  She also asks you to include extra time in your estimates - for example, once you've calculated your "morning routine" time, add a twenty minute buffer.  I think this is a good idea, because invariably I will plan on something taking "just a few minutes" and it takes double!

However -- and at the risk of sounding like Debbie Downer at the very start, basing our homeschool off of a schedule is like trying to pin Jello to a dartboard.  The only thing standard is that nothing is standard, from what appointments we have on the calendar for the day to just what time Celia needs to be picked up in the afternoon.  Realistically, we just work through the to-do list and keel over into bed at night.  But, trying to keep an open mind, I set that part aside and figured maybe the rest would help, and we can come back to the schedule idea later.

Next is the idea of a "Literacy Hour" - everyone sits down at the table and writes.  (She is clearly adamant that this is a group exercise.) For a younger child, it might only take five or ten minutes of writing, for an older student, it would be closer to half an hour with reading taking the balance of the time.  Each works to his own ability during this time.

Again, I like the idea.  However with two younger children who need assistance - a preschooler who is still working on pencil manipulation, and an emerging reader/writer who can think in sentences but only transfer idea to paper one word at a time - and one of me, this left me feeling like a ping-pong ball.   I spent a lot of time saying, "Please wait a minute...please wait your turn..." during "Literature Hour" when everyone had questions at once, rather than being able to give one child undivided attention.  We ditched that idea by the end of the week, especially because it was difficult to line up everyone's schedules with online classes and doctor/therapy appointments.

I also was not a fan of the her idea that I should use a pencil to correct work because it was "more gentle" than a pen.   I'll start with "I've seen my papers be a sea of red and turned out ok," and end with "How can you tell what your mistakes are if they blend in with the rest of your writing?"  Even just correcting spelling, the boys struggled to see what they needed to fix when they made revisions.  I went back to my red pen.

Already, I was getting really skeptical that this is going to be a practical support for us.  However, it was only Week 1, so I tried to keep an open mind.

Lessons 2 - 4

Lesson 2 is a bit more practical - how to teach math.  She includes a 12-point checklist to help you choose a math curriculum.  This is actually pretty helpful.  There are lots of questions to ask yourself about a program, and it includes the caveat that "just because it's popular, doesn't mean it's the 'best' one for you."  VERY true.   I also think this list can be applied to ANY program.  What I would add is that you should do this examination for EACH child.  I think it's easy to get caught up in "Well, it was great for my oldest, so we'll just reuse it for little brother," when they're two opposing learning styles.   While maybe it doesn't burn quite as badly (after all, at least you have not put out much more money, if any), it may be a losing battle that's going to really frustrate you.

Lesson 3 is comprised of sixteen mothers extolling the virtues of homeschooling.  Homeschooling rocks!  Homeschooling is the way to go!  Do it! Do it!

Yes, homeschooling is great.  Otherwise, we wouldn't be doing it.  It fits our needs because of geographic/schedule issues, the special needs that are impossible to accommodate in a public or private school setting (at least not without a huge battle), and yes, I do enjoy watching the light bulbs come on.  But it's not all sunshine and fun and a big kum-bay-ah experience.  It's rewarding, but it's a lot of work.   I wish some of the moms had been honest and said this, rather than just cheering for Team Homeschool.

Lesson 4 is mainly a "review" week.  Not "Review the lessons," but review your homeschool.  How are things going? Do they need adjusting?  Are your days fitting in with your life, or do you need to change things? Are you focused on why you are homeschooling, or are you getting pulled in six directions by others' influence?   I think this is a good idea for anyone to periodically take an inventory of what's going on.  The program also points out that it's OK if it's not going how you wanted, take a deep breath, find the parts you want to adjust, and reboot.  Wise advice.

The other task is to add something "fun" to your homeschool.  If you're following the program, you'll already have math and language under control, so it's time to branch out into a "new" subject.  This is a tall order when your students range from preschool to high school.  You might decide that each child has an "independent study" type program suited to his needs/interests, or you rotate the interests of everyone.

Thinking long term

Further lessons get into adding other classes, balancing homekeeping, a candid look on socialization (and over-scheduling!).  It also encourages you to look at the larger picture, and not stress over "today" because homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint.  Not bad theory, but putting everything into action just was impractical for our family.

For us, there were several flaws in the premise of the program.  First, with students at such varied age ranges and schedules, having a "everyone does this at one time" plan is a recipe for chaos.  It also doesn't allow for playing to student strengths - one of the reasons we homeschool.  Jude does much better if his schoolwork starts first thing in the morning, while Luke is a better writer later in the day.  As a seasoned homeschooler, I'd suggest to a parent, "Consider a 'one room schoolhouse' approach, but keep a rotating schedule idea in the back of your mind, and then each student will get the same core program but when it works for him and when you're not stretched thin helping everyone."

I also think the program disregards the legal side of homeschooling. Not everyone has the luxury of taking four weeks to get to adding "extras".  If you have a student in high school, you have relatively fixed course of study you need to complete.   If you have specific criteria to meet to be in compliance with your state's homeschool laws, you'll likely wind up stressed over the time lost.  We are blessed to be in an "anything goes" state, and still wondering "when do we get to..."  I have friends in a  more regulated states that would be scrambling to make up time.

Even in saying "Take what works for you, leave the rest," I found there wasn't a whole lot for us to really take away except the "Why this program?" questions.  I've received 9 of 26 lessons during the review period, and honestly, I'm no further to thinking this is "easy" than I was at the start.  Were there some good ideas? Yes.  Did the program help us overall?  Not really.

80 Crew Members reviewed Homeschooling Made Easy.  Check out their reviews to see how it worked for their families, or follow the author on social media:


Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Review

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.
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