Homeschool Journey: Alaska, Cranberries, Evergreens (still)

It’s December and that means Christmas school in the homeschool world! Some people drop their entire regular curriculum and supplement with all Christmas themed special unit studies; I have done this in the past, but Wyatt is in second grade now, and I am not feeling like that is the best choice for him at this time. So, I am adapting our regular curriculum around the holidays. I wasn’t going to include Social Studies this month, but I decided to take one state and just run with it for the whole month. That state – Alaska! I guess the biggest state in our country deserves an entire month, don’t you think? And, it so easy to adapt it to our needs. We still have our The Good and The Beautiful math and language arts everyday, but for everything else we are sliding into Christmas school.

Where to start… let’s start with science as this was where I really focused the bulk of our Christmas themed studies. In our regular curriculum of Blossom and Root we are actually on conifers and evergreens, so I didn’t have to do much there. But then we are putting the rest of the weeks on pause until January to study a few more wintry botanicals.

This week we looked at studied cranberries in addition to learning about conifers. (I honestly had no idea that not all evergreens are conifers!) I tied it into Alaska with the help of The Museum of the North’s website. I find so much cool stuff on museum websites! I have a few different lessons that I printed from The Museum of the North, but the first one we did was the Berries and Animals lesson and collage. We talked about how important berries are to the animals that eat them, and tried to think of alternatives for what they would eat if they couldn’t find the berries. Then Wyatt used the template of animals and berries to make a collage.

This month I also wanted to add a baking component to our school – I have some different kitchen projects planned, but for our first one I had Wyatt make his very own sourdough starter. We read The Sourdough Man, which is an Alaskan folktale based on the gingerbread man. Sourdough Annie is doing well so far, and in a few days we will turn it into our little Sourdough man cookie (biscuits?). We also talked about how sourdough has a long history in Alaska, and how some strains have been around for 200 years!

We also read the book Berry Song, which is one of my very favorite picture books that I have read all year. We read it in August, and I liked it so much that I added it to our curriculum. Here is the book description:

On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea, a girl and her grandmother gather gifts from the earth. Salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and in the forest, a world of berries.

Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry.

Huckleberry, Snowberry, Strawberry, Crowberry.

Through the seasons, they sing to the land as the land sings to them. Brimming with joy and gratitude, in every step of their journey, they forge a deeper kinship with both the earth and the generations that came before, joining in the song that connects us all. Michaela Goade’s luminous rendering of water and forest, berries and jams glows with her love of the land and offers an invitation to readers to deepen their own relationship with the earth.

We also started a berry book, which I found on the Museum of the North website as well. We are going to continue working on it this week. And art – we are a bit behind! I plan on doing two art projects this week and since this is a bit more relaxed month with everything kind of flowing over and through the weeks that will be ok.

What We Used:

This section contains Amazon Affiliate links. In addition to the curriculum I am creating for him, we also use curriculum from The Good and the Beautiful, The Waldock Way, and Blossom and Root for phonics, reading, science, and social studies.

The Littlest Evergreen || Christmas Farm || The Sourdough Man || L is for Last Frontier

If you are interested in The Sourdough Man but can’t find it, I did find a YouTube video of someone reading it.

The Museum of the North

Sourdough Starter recipe

13 thoughts on “Homeschool Journey: Alaska, Cranberries, Evergreens (still)

  1. Alaska is on my bucket list. A former student of mine had a brother who taught there for a couple of years. I think it would probably be a good place to visit rather than to live! Have you read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah? It’s kinda dark but also really good!

    I think everything you are doing for Christmas season at school sounds like lots of fun! I can’t wait to see your art projects! And, I’ve never heard of sourdough cookies but maybe they’re an extra good treat! You’ll have to let us know how that goes!

    https://marshainthemiddle.com/

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  2. lifeasanasandpranayamamama

    I have been wanting to begin a sourdough starter for months! I’m so intimidated but Wyatt gave me courage to try🥹 Also, 200 year old strains?? Woooowww!!

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    1. I know! It is so impressive!! I love that starter recipe from Clever Carrot. I have used it in the past and it is a really good one. 🙂 I am glad that Wyatt gave you the courage to try! They are so needy sometimes, those starters, but they are really cool too.

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  3. Ooh, Alaska. We were fortunate to spend last summer there with my husband’s job. I wish I were still there so I could send you some things! I love sunshine and the summer was overcast and cooler than I really like so I liked it but I didn’t love it. But then fall came and the air was so clear you could see forever and I was suddenly sad to leave. It wormed its way into our hearts more than we thought it did because we still talk about it. I couldn’t take that long, dark winter but summer? Summer and fall are magical.

    I don’t know if you’ll be able to find these books but we visited the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, AK and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood and I fell in love with the musk oxen! They are so adorable! So there’s a picture book by Jan Brett about a musk ox called Cozy and it was cute, especially for the winter. I think there’s a sequel too. The Musk Ox Farm published a beautiful little picture book about one of their musk ox who accidentally injured herself and it’s called Luna’s Big Oxcident. I bought that one for my cousin’s daughter, who’s about Wyatt’s age. I flipped through but didn’t buy The Sleeping Lady by Ann Dixon, The Salmon Princess by Mindy Dwyer, oh, and more by Mindy Dwyer. I loved the look of them but there are only so many books you can ship home 🙂

    The Musk Ox Farm, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, the Reindeer Farm, and the Alaska Sea Life Center all have very active Instagram accounts and they are constantly posting great pictures and videos of their animals if that’s something you’re interested in. I would be happy just scrolling through those four accounts all day, every day!

    Oh, and another plant for you to check out! We’ve seen fireweed in Montana and Wyoming, so it’s not exclusive to Alaska (heck, for all I know you have it in Michigan LOL), but it’s so pretty and it’s absolutely everywhere! In Alaska we had fireweed jelly and a fireweed milkshake and they were both so good! It has a floral flavor but nothing too overpowering, like lavender can be. I’ve forgotten my plant terminology but the plant is made of a bunch of small flowers that sort of bloom their way up the stem. We heard that you can judge how much summer is left by how many buds are left at the top of the fireweed.

    And I’ll stop there! I’ve written a blog post myself! 🙂

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    1. Wow thank you for all of this information!! First off, I am jealous that you got to live there. You guys get to go so many cool places!! I think that long winter would be tough as well, but how was the midnight sun? Was that hard too?

      I am going to look up all of those Instagram accts and websites!! We did read a little tiny bit about the musk ox the other day but it would be cool to expand on them. I will also see if I can get the books as well. I did preview The Salmon Princess as a reading choice for Wyatt and it was so cute. I really liked it!

      And thank you for telling me about the fireweed! I googled it and it DOES grow in Michigan! I had not heard of it before but now I am going to do a bit of a deep dive. I wonder if I can order fireweed jelly for us to try? And I love that little tidbit about weather forecasting with the fireweed! I love adding in those bits of lore. We did a whole little thing on wooly bear caterpillars last year. Lol.

      Thank you for sharing all of this with me!!

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      1. I was just ordering an Alaskan food basket for a friend who visited us so I happen to know that you can order fireweed jelly 😂 https://akwildberry.com/product/signature-jams-jellies-individual/

        I didn’t order from this company (I ordered from a birch syrup company instead. I think something like 90 or 95% of the birch syrup in the world is made in Alaska) but we visited their store *many* times while we were in Anchorage.

        The midnight sun was really cool. The sun did set in Anchorage for about 4 hours a night. But it never got fully dark. It was just like twilight merged straight into dawn. Luckily the apartment we rented had room-darkening shades. I set an alarm every night for 9:00 and we lowered them so we would trigger that circadian rhythm response. We took sleep masks with us but found we didn’t need them after the first week or two. It was crazy to hear my husband’s co-workers talking about going out on a long, hard hike after work but they didn’t have to worry about getting caught in the dark!

        We left at the end of September, which is just barely the beginning of aurora borealis season. We drove up to Fairbanks in mid-September for our last weekend trip. We were in search of the northern lights. We found them! It wasn’t one of those crazy displays with all the purples and greens filling the sky. We just saw green ribbons. But we did see them! It was awe-inspiring!

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      2. Ooo! I am going to look it up and order some!! And what a cool fact about birch syrup. I had no idea! I knew you could make birch syrup but didn’t realize that most of it was produced in Alaska. Hmm. Maybe we need that too!

        That would be so cool!! I always wondered how people slept but room darkening shades make sense. Lol.

        And what a sight that must have been!! I would love to see the northern lights one day. 🙂

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  4. Pingback: My Sunday-Monday Post – Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs..

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