Architecture & Engineering and my experience with YouTube schooling

I have wanted more art history. As we work through Rome, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance I know I learned a great deal about architecture- you know in the old days- but where was that and how do I share it with my kids?

As they love studying sciences, inventors and explorers I wanted to approach this as part history, part art, part engineering and inventing. So that is what we did. We added it to the end of our read aloud/morning basket/history.

age? good question! I did this as a read-a-loud with my 8th grader and 5th grader. Some of the materials looked geared younger and we all LOVED them. Some were geared much much higher and we all struggled with the weight of the reading so we began supplementing with YouTube tours. It’s been amazing! We’ve enojoyed this so much that friends keep asking me to share…..the trouble is- I didn’t take notes. Maybe that is the key? or maybe I just don’t keep records enough to share- I’m not sure.

So, this is just an idea. How I handled. it. Some jumping off places I guess. Please take what you can- change to what suits you or use it as is- just explore.


k5 Architecture: It’s Elementary-FREE download * this served as an introduction. vocabulary. and art. I printed all levels: k-5. I liked some of the lessons and drawings but not any of them necessarily the way they were written. I printed them and then grouped them together (give or take):

  • houses people live in
  • features of houses
  • the lay of a city
  • a park or outdoor space
  • perspective drawing.

I sorted the papers the way I wanted, three hole punched them, paper clipped my  ‘groupings’ and put them in a binder. This worked for me, but I find as I go back to share them it is nearly impossible- for that I apologize. I titled them in our schedule with whatever was on the first page- not what the material was. It would’ve helped, I think, If I’d kept the paperclips in place too :\ We spent about 4 -6 weeks on this material.

Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design Build and Test– This may be my favorite book EVER!! This was sooo much fun and so informative. This looked and was geared toward my younger girls but the information was SO wonderful that I learned amazing (BIG!) things. I recommend it to anyone!

In between lessons I filled in with some books from my shelf, friends and the library. I will try to name them and we did enjoy them but none were shining examples I’d recommend (I can’t remember the titles- it’s like the library books you opened and enjoyed and then sent back. they were fine. I would encourage adding books like these- I just don’t know that I have a specific suggestion. sorry)  little like this:

cities then and now– we really enjoyed the pictures in here. The reading was heavier then we wanted. I’m not sure I would purchase it for the pix but I did really enjoy them- they are an overlay picture. The top clear sheet lets the current/modern picture behind show through where buildings are still there while the overlay has the ancient cityscape on it.

Buildings of the World

Stone and Steel

Bridges were Made to Cross

ONE more book I used first semester that I do recommend- but is EASILY adaptable to anything- I had picked up a big coffee table book of Manhattan. The book is predominately photography of the architecture of Manhattan- very artfully taken. Any city, any coffee table book…. We opened each day, oooh’d and ah’ed and drew some of the beautiful lines of the architecture as much as the lines of the photography. (we draw for memory. for exploring, for experiencing- the CM method right? not for beautiful finished drawings!)

we LOVED the book Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design Build and Test so much that we wanted to see more and added a couple of videos in the middle like these:


I began to learn the real value of YouTube in my homeschool!

SO, second semester we stepped it up and toured the world! 😉

We began the semester with this book:

annotated arch   The annotated Arch by Carol Strickland

While I was, and still am, very impressed with this book- both in information and in photos- it was heavier reading than we wanted in our read aloud study. SO- this is my spine. Every morning after history, we open this book. sometimes we read, but sometimes we just look up a building, an architect or a style and watch videos.

I did not keep a record to share 😦 but some stick out more than others, so I can give you some examples (and btw- I think you could google a timeline of architecture, or styles -I’d do a google image search- and find a spine that suits you too)

The Khan Academy videos, when they emerge, we’ve found very informative! and short.

and this


and then there are the ones I found quite impressive with information and I DID watch them with my girls but are a little shakier on content…I watch with them which I think is a HUGE factor.

This one was SO impressive. I really did enjoy it (below). I would caution two things: 1 camera shot, in my opinion, stays too long focused on a nude classical statue of a lady with bare breasts. These image are all over in these works and classical architecture but this one was too long (IMHO). The other is in the history of the building. It spent a minute or two discussing the fact that one room exceeded its intended use and was often used as a brothel for a time. again- history of the building. This video is filled with incredible pictures, amazing architectural and design feats of just one man and a rich history. (so many of the videos spend so much time on the connection to the Phantom of the Opera- FUN! but I wanted more than that story)

the architecture of Versailles (2-each below).

I confess. We watched another video on Versailles that I really enjoyed-but I would really caution you to view this for content. It is rich in the history of Louis the XIV, builder of Versailles, but is also full of the libertine life in the palace.  I did enjoy knowing the political history! It is an extraordinary lesson on how he usurped absolute power! So I’ll share it here, but not as easily accessible. It is a documentary, well done, just possibly too intriguing into the lifestyle and drama of the palace. ( There is little in this 0f the architecture- but so rich in history and life I thought I’d share- quietly I hope, so that you can be the judge. 😉

please share ideas you’ve used to learn architecture, art history or tour the world.

I hope this inspires you to explore rabbit trails and fun learning in your homeschool! (and to share them!)






Ag Literacy Resources: Where does my food come from?

As a farmer, I have a passion for Ag Literacy! I work with a couple of organizations working with Ag Literacy, volunteer in school organizations and am active with FFA, 4H and my County Fair. Extension has some great resources too.

I’d like to have ongoing information about Agriculture, but at this point I’d like to share some resources and lesson plans that are available.


searching online for resources can be a tricky minefield these days. It is akin to seeking medical advise online- you may find that you are dying!! Hopefully I can help you find some resources that you can use.

  1. My first suggestion to you is check the terms. If any resource is using what I call ‘terror words’ then it is more likely they are trying to sway your opinion rather than teach. I think you can recognize these words easily enough. Be aware.
  2. Ag Literacy is a good search term. It allows you to find farmers and folks in the business of producing food to tell you what is happening in their world.
  3. Other good search terms: Agronomy, Soil Science, Seed Science, Seed Genetics, Animal Husbandry, Animal Science
  4. Farm Bureau is very active in the Ag Literacy movement so they might be a good place to look. I am an active member of Farm Bureau and am often confused with an insurance company agent, so please let me help define that ;):

American Farm Bureau is an organization is made up of farmers all across the country. We band together to help be one voice for ALL kinds of farming operations. We don’t promote only conventional or only organic or only livestock- but EVERYTHING farming. Ag Literacy is a major focus these days and Farm Bureau is getting involved.

Each state has a State Farm Bureau. (i.e. Iowa Farm Bureau, Florida Farm Bureau, Hawaii Farm Bureau, Kansas Farm Bureau) We grow food in every state, and each state has their own grass roots organization. (you can actually find one in each County (or most, I know Iowa has 99 counties and 100 County Farm Bureaus. Not sure about other states specifically))

American Farm Bureau Federation is the group of all state’s FB members (think federal  government and state government and county government) It is a similar system EXCEPT this is NOT a government entity at all but private citizens coming together as ONE VOICE for agriculture. Often to address government or citizens with its members’ voice.


I follow a few individual farmers around the country just because they have taken an active role in showing us and telling us what they do. They share what happens on their farms, how and way they make certain decisions and sometimes have fun ways to share that.

I happen to follow many of them on Facebook because it is a ‘news feed’ I follow fairly regularly and I will get new stuff as it is posted. All of these folks have several ways to follow them whether it is blogs, youtube channels or something else. I’m going to share Facebook pages because I like to follow them there.

Peterson Farm Bros – these Kansas farmers have been making fun song parody videos to share their story, and have recently added written blogs.

Dairy Carrie– just like her name sounds- she is a dairy farmer. She shares her love for her girls (milking cows) and daily life on a dairy farm in Wisconsin

The Foodie Farmer– another family farmer on the east coast of the US. (Maryland maybe? I’m not sure. sorry.) She has a lot of good information on how her operations works and since she grows both Organic AND Conventional crops, we can learn about both operations here. She is also a part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed where there has been a lot of news and regulation in recent years.

There are others! These guys post often and I collect constant information just by following these three. They will often post great articles or link to other blogs posts worth your time and maybe someone else you would enjoy following. I know there are a few I read from time to time: I am agriculture Proud, Nurse Loves Farmer (Canada)


My American has interactive games, lesson plans and resources for home, school, and community.

Iowa Ag Literacy has lesson plans (some great ones for younger students especially) you might search your own state to learn more about crops grown in your area.

American Farm Bureau Agriculture Foundation is a foundation set up to make resources available for ag literacy.  There are free resources and lesson plans available here. There is also a great list of agriculturally accurate books and teacher books/lesson plant to go with them. They spend a great deal of time researching children’s books for accurate portrayal of farm and animals. For example- animals that are not animated or talking but animals being animals.

There are links to resources from Ag in the Classroom (this is a classroom program that has been a part of Farm Bureau for a long time and as demand for this information continues to expand, so does the program and websites.) – there is certainly a lot of talk about GMO- do you know what it is and what it isn’t? This site has all kinds of folks from all kinds of ag fields answering any and all questions you have. Read through others questions, or ask one for yourself. Test your own knowledge.

Nutrients for Life is a foundation supplying FREE resources about soil and fertilizer among other things. Farmers make up only 2% of the population. It used to be that we were all connected to someone who farmed but now we are 3 generations removed. It is because we have all specialized- not just farmers and we all do what we do best and share it. Farm kids have grown up to leave the farm, get an education and work away from the farm. As a result- we (as a general class of people) don’t understand AGRONOMY (that is the study of SOIL) These resources help us understand why we fertilize- how important it is to have just the right amount- keeping the soil healthy is our number one objective- too much is wasteful, expensive and can affect other things like ground water. Farmers are careful to keep the soil, air and water healthy. It affects us every day and every generation.

Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation has some great teaching materials. If you are from Iowa, you’ve heard his name. Norman Borlaug spent his life farming and working against world hunger. He was recognized and honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for his work because there was not prize for working against hunger- so he started one. the World Food Prize. (headquarters is in Des Moines, Iowa and if you have the opportunity to stop in or schedule a tour- do it. It is amazing!) These materials teach about the man, Iowa history (because he is from Iowa) his lifelong passion to feed the world, the work he did, and the World Food Prize. This link is the curriculum package available FREE on the website. Here are related sites including World Food Prize.

TEXTBOOKS and Living Books:

Exploring Agriscience by Ray Herren is one we have used an enjoyed. We located a less expensive older, used edition, but I assume this one is even better 😉 *textbook

Life in a Bucket of Soil – this is geared toward young readers, and yet the information is pretty good. I kind of have a philosophy like this: if we haven’t learned it yet- then it is our level, and we’ll continue to build on it as much as we can find- curiosity being our guide. So, this may be labeled elementary but we’ve used it in middle school and early high school. It’s good information.

Farm Anatomy – this book is beautifully illustrated! It gives a great overview of things. Not very deep in its content but so beautifully done.

Soil by Richard Cromer seems to be an out of print 1960’s elementary science picture book. It’s pretty good. you might find something used. I happen to have an old library copy. Is it funny how these old elementary books cover more than today’s high school books in some ways… at any rate I think this has good information that can be easily understood and retained. I did find a generic re-print? not sure but it doesn’t look like mine yet has the same name and author!  here. is BOVINE (cattle) anatomy. good stuff!

Botany by Ellen J McHenry is a really fun study of plants! I used this as part of my Biology curriculum. She has also just published one called dirt and rocks. I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet but I hope it is a good agronomy resource!

I did a Biotech unit in my Biology curriculum that used this printable resource from Ag Literacy Foundation

My children dual enrolled with the local school to participate in the FFA organization. It has been very helpful for them in learning about Agriculture and Leadership.

 ****** READ THIS!******

Articles, videos and blog posts I enjoyed:

‘Allergic to All Known Chemicals?’ – Forbes Magazine by Henry I. Miller

RoundUp: What It Is (and what it isn’t)

It’s Practically Impossible to define “GMOs”

How My Visit to a Small Farm Led to a Food Attitude Change

What is a GMO? by Piffle