Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tying It All Together

One reason I suppose I love homeschooling so much is that I have days like today. It wasn't a remarkable day in most respects. It was overcast, feeling colder because of a brisk wind. We tried going to an indoor playground so that William would play with his friend while the girls and I studied together. We didn't accomplish as much as I'd have liked.

So, you might be thinking, what did happen that renews my spirit? The feeling that the way we are conducting our learning ties together, follows interests and is natural in its progression. This is a welcome feeling, after feeling rather alarmed and down-trodden on Monday.

We'd attended the open house of a newly formed cottage school with "Classical Education" offerings. The speaker decried that even most educated people hadn't studied Homer, Socrates, Aristotle. Vaguely, I know who they are, but I'd never studied them despite my years of schooling. Anxiety easily grips the heart of traditionally schooled homeschool mom. Am I covering enough? Are they learning enough? Have I ruined them???

But this week, today in particular, made me feel better despite the fact that Flylady would cry in shame at her student. I'd just recently finished a book Lauren had asked me to read - Annie Between the States by L. M. Elliott - so that we could discuss it. Set in the Civil War, Lauren and I have discussed that the central issue in the war was states' rights, and only later, slavery. I marvelled that we still fight this same issue today - states' rights, something I hear about on National Public Radio or in the paper quite frequently: Does the central government or states have the right to legislate on issues such as abortion and gay marriage? Fortunately, this battle today is fought in courts and not on battle fields.

Speaking of battle fields, the main character of the book, Annie, had a great love for her horse, which she had to allow her brother to ride off to battle. Horses featured greatly in the Civil War. As avid horse lovers, we followed this thread to a DVD called Horses of Gettysburg: Civil War Minutes IV. So far, we've watched half an hour of this documentary about an estimated 72,000 horses and mules which served in the Civil War. Tonight, we learned that Kentucky in particular was noted for the strong, fine mules that it bred.

And speaking of mules, we were studying cellular reproduction in biology when I ran across an interesting item in a 4H publication, Horse Science. (I'd saved it for years, thinking some day, we might use it.) In it, it said that horses crossed with donkeys, producing either a mule or a hinny, are usually sterile. I'd heard this before, but never knew why. This booklet explains that "they have 63 chromosomes, with 32 from the horse and 31 from the donkey parent. the resulting chromosomes are not in pairs and the sex cells usually end up without a complete set. The unbalanced chromosome situation prevents functioning of the sex cells, resulting in sterility." So there you have it, from the horse's mouth!

Sterility. Lauren remembered hearing her relatives, who'd run a dairy farm, that if a cow gave birth to twins, one boy, one girl, that the heifer was often sterile. Why is that, she asked? So we are off on another path, finding answers, learning along the way, tying it all together.

Follow - Up
A heifer born with a male twin is called a free-martin, and they indeed are usually sterile. To learn more, read at that a female calf, twin to a male, is usually sterile, is no myth at the bottom of the page. If you Google it, you will see that, as one website puts it, it happens often enough to have a name.


Julie Halapchuk said...

I work for the studio that produced the documentary film, Horses of Gettysburg. I was happy to see that you had found the DVD and I'm curious about where you saw it listed and where you purchased it.

Also, just to let you and other homeschool moms know, we have produced many other historical documentaries that might be helpful to you. You can visit www.inecom.com to see them or e-mail me at jhalapch@inecom.com if you have any questions.

Junosmom said...

I ordered the DVD from Netflix. I joined Netflix versus other through the mail rental services because they offer a wide range of documentaries as well as popular films. I did a search for "Civil War" and this was one of the search results.

Camflock said...

Among the many reasons I feel blessed to call you my friend is that you "teach" me all sorts of interesting things. I love to learn, as do you--thus the blog name "Lifetime Learning." Yet, just when I honestly had begun to believe that KY had a dirth of adult learners--you appeared. I cannot begin to tell you how pleased my mommy brain was to find such fascinating conversation/reading in my friend. Keep on sharing! It keeps me sane on crazy Mommy homeschool days!


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