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    Proposed Living Geography for California

    August 2, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    My oldest is in Year Four of AmblesideOnline this year, and I’ve decided to add in California geography this year. Up until now, I haven’t done much on our state because we study our history chronologically, for the most part, and there wasn’t a whole lot going on here until the 1700s.

    However, comma.

    Once we get to the 1800s, there are numerous options for state history, and I want to cover a number of them. I don’t remember any of my state history from growing up, other than that there were a lot of missions built up and down the coast, and I think that’s because I only read about it in dry, dusty, boring textbooks.

    I want my children to love and appreciate where they are from, and studying their state history is one way to kindle that affection.

    This year, I decided to pull one of the books on my list, and study it as state geography. That book is Scott O’Dell’s The Cruise of the Arctic Star. If you have completed Ambleside Year Two, you may recall our precious geography book Seabird by Holling C. Holling. This book feels like a combination of that, and also Paddle to the Sea, only it is a more mature chapter book.

    The Cruise of the Arctic Star by Scott O’Dell

    It is so geographically minded, it even has maps interspersed throughout in order to trace the journey of the ship, the Arctic Star! Along the way, it explores the history of the state as far back as Sir Francis Drake and Juan Cabrillo, through Father Junipero Serra, all the way to the actual setting of the story, which is firmly in the Modern Era.

    How’s that for a pitch?

    Below, I’ll insert an Ambleside-style reading schedule, as special gift to you Californians out there, but first I want to note that there is nothing about this book which restricts it to Year Four. I definitely wouldn’t do it any younger, but I think this geography schedule could easily be followed anywhere from Year Four through Year Seven without any problems.

    Alright. So here’s the schedule:

    The Cruise of the Arctic Star
    by Scott O’Dell

    Week 1:The Greek God Ch. 1 Pt. 1
    Week 2: Little Goat Ch. 1 Pt. 2; Serpent on the Rock Ch. 1 Pt. 3
    Week 3: The Unsilent Sea Ch. 1 Pt. 4
    Week 4: The Silver Trees Ch. 1 Pt. 5; Army of the West Ch. 2 Pt 1
    Week 5: Surprise at Dawn Ch. 2 Pt. 2
    Week 6: Starvation Peak Ch. 2 Pt. 3; Swordfish! Ch. 3 Pt. 1
    Week 7: Shark? Ch. 3 Pt. 2
    Week 8: Ship’s Log Ch. 3 Pt. 3; Ship’s Log Continued Ch. 3 Pt. 4
    Week 9: Duck in the Bilge? Ch. 4 Pt. 1
    Week 10: Traffic in Hides Ch. 4 Pt. 2;
    Week 11: A Good Dinner Ch. 4 Pt. 3
    Week 12:Captain Thompson Ch. 4 Pt. 4

    Optional Exam Week

    Week 13: The Navigator Ch. 5 Pt. 1
    Week 14: Brown Pelican Ch. 5 Pt. 2; Mountain Man Ch. 5 Pt. 3
    Week 15: The White Grizzly Ch. 5 Pt. 4
    Week 16: Ambush on the Mojave Ch. 5 Pt. 5; Sink or Swim Ch. 6 Pt. 1
    Week 17: Gila Monster Ch. 6 Pt. 2
    Week 18: Dead Man’s Island Ch. 6 Pt. 3
    Week 19: Young Magellans Ch. 6 Pt. 4; Ship’s Log Ch. 7 Pt. 1
    Week 20: The Green Monster Ch. 7 Pt. 2
    Week 21: Fandango! Ch. 7 Pt. 3; Trouble Ch. 8 Pt. 1
    Week 22: The Jaws of the Devil Ch.8 Pt. 2
    Week 23:  Sea Otter Ch. 8 Pt. 3
    Week 24:  Morro Ch. 8 Pt. 4

    Option Exam Week

    Week 25: The Gray Ox Ch. 9 Pt. 1; Monterey Ch. 9 Pt. 2
    Week 26: Lean John Brown Ch. 9 Pt. 3
    Week 27: Message Ch. 9 Pt. 4; San Francisco Ch. 10 Pt. 1
    Week 28: The Man with the Big Gold Watch Ch. 10 Pt. 2
    Week 29: Gold! Gold! Ch. 10 Pt. 3; Ship’s Log Ch. 10 Pt. 4
    Week 30: Waiting for Rod Ch. 11 Pt. 1
    Week 31: Gentleman Pirate Ch. 11 Pt. 2;
    Week 32: Ship’s Log Ch. 11 Pt. 3
    Week 33: Voice in the Night Ch. 11 Pt. 4
    Week 34: Ship’s Log Ch. 12 Pt. 1; Wrecks Ch. 12 Pt. 2
    Week 35: Ship’s Log Continued Ch. 12 Pt. 3
    Week 36: Red Sky in the Morning Ch. 12 Pt. 4

    As usual, these readings would be accompanied by map work, where the child has a nice, blank map of California upon which he can both trace the journey of the ship, as well as mark other points of interest he encounters along the way.


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  • Reply Kirsten Kernc August 5, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Hello Brandy,

    We live in Colorado and are adding some of Beautiful Feet CA History to our American History studies this year at our homeschool co-op. I am looking for fun ideas to enhance Cruise of Arctic Star for 3rd & 4th graders. It’s a more difficult book and I’d like some great reinforcement activities I’m not finding in Teacher Guide. I do plan to add to our BF maps but would appreciate any other ideas!

    Blessings & Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 5, 2019 at 11:26 am

      I don’t know if I can really be of any help … I’m sorry! I don’t usually do anything beyond read/narrate/map work. For us, because we live here, we have already seen about half of these places so it was interesting to know more about them.

  • Reply Sarah Jonnalagadda April 20, 2019 at 8:59 am

    I am looking at Year 4 right now, and wondering if you dropped an AO book when you added this in, or if it didn’t really feel like you needed to. Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 20, 2019 at 9:11 am

      Yes! I do think I did this in place of whatever else was planned for geography during that time. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Tanya Stone November 1, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    I’ve been using this book with my eldest, and he loves it. But I admit to not getting around to pre-reading it yet. So . . . .would it be absolutely terrible if I picked your brain for exam questions? LOL Or should I just have him map the journey “thus far” at the end of each term?

  • Reply Rebecca July 5, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    This is great, Brandy. Perfect for us to use this summer as my daughter eases back into Ambleside after our horrible year of public school. πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing this and making a schedule!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 5, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Oh no! I didn’t realize it was horrible! πŸ™ I’m so sorry. If you ever want to come back to meetings, give me a holler! πŸ™‚

      • Reply Rebecca July 26, 2016 at 10:23 am

        I would love to! Do you need my email address again or anything? πŸ™‚

        • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 10:33 am

          I can see the email address this comment is under — do you want me to use that one? If so, I can add you to the mailing list! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Catherine August 5, 2015 at 8:26 am

    Never mind :). I found them. Thank you!

  • Reply Catherine August 5, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Hi brandy
    I’m also in CA. My DD is year four this year. Just found your great book suggestions and those over at Joyous Lessons. Have you created schedules for Fremont and Smith yet? I would love to use them :). Thanks!

  • Reply Helen November 19, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Thank you! We’re only in Year 2, and do lots of state history just hiking around our local parks (Native American), visiting missions and our local Adobe, but this looks like a great addition for when we get to Year 4 or so! Thank you for breaking out the schedule.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 19, 2012 at 11:37 pm

      You are very welcome! Just FYI…for Y5, the second and third terms, I plan to work out schedules for two books {one per term}, a biography of Jessie Benton Fremont, and another of Jed Smith…in case you are looking for more resources. I might have that in backwards order. I cannot remember offhand who should come first…

      Visiting the missions is just wonderful, isn’t it? We haven’t been to any in Northern California yet, but we’ve visited a number in Southern and Central California. We go regularly to the one in San Luis Obispo.

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