Category Archives: Unit Studies

Making Soap

One of the items we offered at our Middle Ages market stand was soap.  I got into soap making several years ago and made my own for a short while but then eventually stopped.  I decided it might be fun to offer soap at our stand, so I got out all my dusty supplies and made a few batches.

This is the book I use when making soap.


I usually always make the Basic Soap recipe.

First I assembled all my supplies:  distilled water, lye, kitchen scale (a must), glass jar w/ long wooden spoon, olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, grapefruit seed extract, essential oils for scent.


The next step, after assembling your supplies, is to measure your lye into the glass jar.


Add distilled water to the lye… and you get a very interesting reaction.  The mixture heats up to 200°.  It happens instantaneously.   It then takes about an hour and sometimes more  to cool down to the proper temperature for use.

While the lye is cooling, I then melted/heated the oils.  The oils are heated just until the bulk of it has melted.  I added calendula (I think it was) to the oils to try and get a yellow soap.


Once the oils had cooled to the proper temperature, I strained the blossoms out.


I then added the lye to the oils.


To this mixture was added the grapefruit seed extract and essential oils.  This was stirred until it reached a trace.  (A term used in soap making that stands for just the point when the soap is starting to thicken and you can take a spoon and drizzle some mixture across the top mixture and you are able to see it the trail you make.)

I poured the liquid soap into my molds which were boxes I had on hand.  I lined the boxes with freezer paper using masking tape to hold it in place.


I placed the soap under a few sleeping bags to keep it warm and left it overnight.


I made a second batch and used liquid chlorophyll for the colorant.  This is the soap after setting overnight.


I took the soap out of the mold and using a ruler measured the bars, then cut.


I don’t know why I get white spots on the top surface of the soap but it seems to always happen.  So, I scraped it off.


All the pieces that are scraped off can be gathered together into a ball and used.  It’s not pretty but no soap goes to waste either.


The soap is left to cure for 3-4 weeks.  The odd shaped bars were kept for our own use.


I wrapped the soap in saran wrap and printed labels to go on the wrapped bars of soap.  

Did you know there really was a group of knights called Knights of the Bath?  They received this name when going through the ceremony to become a knight.  Part of the ceremony involved taking a bath as a symbol of purification.  Maybe if you have boys that are allergic to baths you could entice them by explaining that even knights had to take baths. 🙂  Scrub away boys!




Filed under Craft Corner, Unit Studies

Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part II

To see part I of our day go to my post on Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part I

Just at the time our event began, the rain completely stopped (after raining for 4 hours) and it was quite beautiful outside.  It was too late to change anything so we continued with having the event in the racquetball court.

The marketplace was so much fun for everyone.


We told the kids to haggle and to be loud when offering what was at their table.  “Fresh bread and butter.  2 shillings!”



We also told our guests beforehand to haggle because once the “coins” in their moneybags was gone, it was gone.  Everyone did great on the haggling.  It was a very lively marketplace.


Newspapers were sold.


A lord helping his lady down the hillside.


Since we are of Scottish descent my Zachary told some of William Wallace’s life story.  Someone at our church had a Scottish kilt, of what clan I do not know, and we were able to borrow a Wallace tam.  The afghan which is almost identical to a Wallace plaid we found at Goodw*ll.  Zachary’s form of speech was a dramatic interpretation and if you do not know what that is ( we learned about it during our speech class) you can look it up on YouT*be.  It’s a very fun and interesting way to give a speech.  Do you see the knife he is holding in his hand?  Zachary and Wesley both made one. (Wesley’s is still the size of a spear.)  They spent hours working on it.  They built a fire that burned all day so that the coals would be extremely hot.  They pounded and pounded their piece of rebar until they had the shape they wanted.  You know how much satisfaction one gets the more effort they put into it, well they are so happy with the end result.


Why don’t I just show you a close-up picture of it?


This was the first time for all these little ones to give a speech.  Not too many years from now, they’ll be so big.


We were taken on a tour of different rooms in the castle.  This was the dungeon.


Wesley was an old man telling his grandchildren the story of King Alfred, whom he had fought with in his younger years.  Wesley was breathing heavily the whole time he gave his speech.  At first I thought it was part of it but then I realized that he was having a hard time breathing with that big beard!


At intermission, the lads had a melee.  We had about 12 swords.  Eventually, they made up teams.  Sometimes one side would charge the other side and demolish their army.  At other times they would have several people in the “ring” at one time.




“Joan of Arc”


Our family, minus one.  Where are you, Seth?


This royal family’s servant (daughter)  prepared the food for everyone (about 80 people) as part of her high school requirements.  The meal was perfectly done and served right on time.  A++  Then the royal family served it. 


Speeches are all done.  Whew.  Time to eat, talk and relax/play (depending on your age 🙂 )


And finally, a group picture of all who spoke.  (The spots are caused by dust in the air.)


Filed under Unit Studies

Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part I

Here at last I’m getting to the pictures of our co-op day.  How fun it was!

The day started out beautifully and the framework for our marketplace was started.


But then it started to rain and it rained off and on for several hours.


We couldn’t put the sheets on the “roof” of the marketplace because of the rain.  What to do?  Our whole event was planned for the outdoors.  A last minute decision was made to move into the racquetball court.  Off to the store some of the men went to buy some plywood and such for a platform and straw for the floor.  A racquetball court is very echoey so you have to do something to absorb sound. 



Meanwhile, much preparation was also being done inside the house.  Zachary made iced mint tea from his garden to sell at the marketplace. 


“Money” was being put into coin bags to give to our guests.  They then used the “money” to buy goods at the marketplace.


Beautiful long hair was being braided in medieval hair styles.


At last it was time to begin.  To start, we had all our guests go to our front yard.  We then would take 13 at a time and have them enter the time machine.  The time machine that a few of the mom’s worked on turned out to be just great.

All the windows in the dining room were covered with black plastic .  Around the door you can see where the sign reads “Time Portal – Destination”.  Around the edges of the door which you cannot see, it read “Middle Ages”.


The light bulbs in the dining room were changed to colored ones.  These were blinked on and off during our journey back in time.  To complete the effect and make it totally dark a black piece of plastic was pulled across the opening once everyone entered the time machine.  Noises were made resembling space ship sounds using a karaoke machine,

All the participants went through first. 


A poem from the middle ages was read while “time” rolled backwards on this big time wheel.


Then a soft voice spoke saying “You have now reached the middle ages.  You may exit to the right.”  They were now back in time. 

Ready for adventure!


Off the participants went to the marketplace to await our guests.


Lots more pictures to follow but that’s all for today! 🙂

Updated to add:  Part II is up.  Click here.


Filed under Unit Studies

Bread for our Middle Ages Market Stand

I arrived home yesterday to the lovely smell of bread wafting through the house.  The kids had been busy making 40+ loaves of bread for our Middle Ages Market.  We are going to have a market place where our guests that come to hear the children give speeches (see this post if you are wondering what I’m talking about) can shop and bargain for any goods they would like to purchase.  We made coin bags (see this post) several weeks ago and each family will be given one with “money” (flat marbles) inside to buy anything that pleases them in the marketplace.

One of the items we’re offering is bread.

Just look at these beauties.

It would have been nice to have the dark rye bread but since we hadn’t experimented with any recipes we used our tried and true 12-Grain Whole Wheat Bread recipe.

The tired bakers that worked at this for several hours.


Wesley had been in on the action the day before…


making these beauties… but sometimes things don’t go as planned.  Little brother (we won’t mention any names here 🙂 ) cranked the oven up to 500° and the bread burnt some on the outside and was doughy on the inside.  😦  We get to eat this bread but we had to make some more for our guests.  This was before the bread went into the oven.


Thus, Wesley retired from the kitchen and Zachary became Serenity’s assistant baker.


Not to leave Wesley out, we let him come back in and do some clean-up!


Even though he’s wearing the same shirt this really was the day before.  I think he looks like he was having more fun making bread than… 


washing dishes.  What do you think?

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Filed under Unit Studies

Keeping Organized with Schedules – Part 1

I cannot function very well without a schedule.  Oh, I manage to squeak by but inside I feel like I have nothing together.  I do whatever task or distraction is at hand rather than doing what may be a higher priority.  By the end of the day when I look back on what I have accomplished it amounts to very little. 

Did I do a load of  laundry?  Yes, but somehow I never did find the time to put it in the dryer, never-mind it being folded.  The baskets start to overflow and the ironing piles up.  The family eats well (most days) but what about the dishes that need to be hand-washed?  “Oh, I am too tired to face them.  I’ll get them tomorrow.”  Schoolwork needs to be checked and on and on. 

Homemaking is a full-time job besidestrying to homeschool.  And if you have a family business (which we do) that takes even more time.  Time is irretrievable; when it’s gone it cannot be taken back for us to reuse in a different way.  As I read somewhere, we all have 24 hours in our day.  No one is given any more and no one is given any less.  We have to decide what we will do with it.  

For me this means a schedule, especially if I’m homeschooling.  For cleaning your home  I love Flylady .  She has done a wonderful job of splitting up the areas of your home into Zones and giving you lists of what needs to be cleaned in that area.  I’m still trying to understand if she thinks you should do everything on the list once a month or little by little through the year.  Here’s a link to her lists.  For me, it’s little by little and sometimes not at all – depending on what’s happening at our home.  Be sure to check out Flylady’s Kelly’s Mission for the Day, too. 

I spent a good portion of my Saturday a few weeks ago figuring out schedules for the upcoming school term. I’m always on the look-out for new and improved methods so trying to find better ways to organize my kids’ school schedule’s fits right in there.  Besides I’m a lover of charts and lists so it’s of fun for me, too.  Mostly. 🙂

My new schedule for school was inspired by my dear sister of 7 children who was inspired by Lindafay of Higher Up and Further In.  Lindafay has been a great scource of inspiration to me and so many others – a lady who seems to have wisdom in how she implements a Charlotte Mason education.  I highly recommend her blog.  View Lindafay’s 12 week schedule for one of her daughters.

The beauty of this schedule is that everything is planned for 12 weeks.  You don’t have to think about what your kids assignments are for 3 months.  There is also a daily checklist you can give your child with the 12 weeks broken down as to what they do each day.

I’m a total novice when it comes to working with Microsoft Excel but I’ve learned a few things and that is where I typed up my own 12 week schedule.  We’re currently doing a unit study on the Middle Ages and so I’m finding it quite helpful to have everything laid out for me.  I can see at a glance everything that I’ll need to do with the children for our unit study.  There are some areas I still need to fill in but this is pretty well completed. 

I don’t know of a better way to show an example of how I did our schedule; hopefully, you will be able to get the general idea.

What do you use to organize your children’s schoolwork?   


Filed under Organization, Unit Studies

Craft/Work Day for our Back to the Middle Ages Co-op Day

We were able to accomplish quite a bit yesterday in our craft/work day. 

When everyone arrived we began a group project of making mosaic stepping stones.


This young lady is feeling the pain at the thought of breaking a pretty salad plate.  Breaking tile and dishes was great for the boys.  They did it with relish – with not one iota of remorse. 🙂


After making our stepping stones we took a break for lunch.  Then it was on to sewing for the girls and a wood working project for the boys.




The girls were making little coin bags for our co-op day.  We are going to hand out these bags with some fake money (what we’ll use for money we’re not sure about – any ideas?  our guests will actually get what they want for free, we’re just “pretending” that they’re buying it) to friends and family on the day we give our speeches.  Each family is going to have a table set up with wares they are hawking.  Friends and family will be able to go from table to table deciding on what they would like to purchase.


The boys made catapults.  This one is a Wild Donkey or Onager Catapult and came from the book The Art of the Catapult by William Gurstelle.  Beware though that if you make this, there are some instructions that were incorrect. Russell and another dad that was here were in charge of this project and spotted the error and was able to correct it before they made a mistake.  This project only cost each boy $6.


The the painting of signs and castles began.  Cardboard everywhere.





A couple of the girls even drew and painted a knight.  They cut out his face so that people can put their own into it and get a picture.

After the painting, supper was served and then there was clean-up, grouting of the stepping stones and gabbing.  Oh, and even more sewing.  Don’t pass out, but yours truly started a sewing project.  IF I get it finished or even somewhat finished I’ll let you have a preview of it before our Big Day in September.  Just one of the perks from reading my blog.  I know you feel so privileged. 😀


Filed under Craft Corner, Unit Studies

Castles of Long Ago

 Thursday the families that will be involved in our homeschool speech co-op day will be getting together to do a few projects related to the time period of the middle ages as well as to paint and build props for our speech day.  One of the props will be a castle – or at least a small portion of one.

I decided to look on the Internet for castles from that time period.

Here’s a few that I found…

Lindisfarne castle is located in England on the border between it and Scotland.  Not only did it see the English and Scots fight but Vikings frequented the area.  Irish monks built the abbey’s foundation on a point of land that was accessible only during low tide.  All the stones from that abbey were used to build the castle that is there now in the 1500’s.


Dover Castle in Kent, England was/is in a strategic location – England’s closest point to continental Europe.  In WWII, its tunnels were used for secret operations and radio and telephone communications could be sent without the enemy’s knowledge.


Caerphilly Castle is located in Wales and was built in the 1200’s.  It is the 2nd largest castle in Britain, Windsor Castle being the largest.  At the time it was built it was the most thought out and best castle in terms of defense and is considered to be the first truly concentric castle in Britain.  (I’m still not sure what this is supposed to mean entirely.)  The tower to the right of the castle still stands even though some tried to destroy it.


Conwy Castle, located also in Wales and built in the 1200’s, has walls that are spread over 1 mile long and are nearly 30′  in height.  In places, the walls are 15′ thick.  The castle has 22 towers and 3 gates. 


This castle (San Gimigniano) is located in Italy.  I found it interesting to read that many of the castles were built because of feuding families and aristocrats.  By law, the castle towers had to be less than 200′ high.  The towers are joined with other families that were aligned together by bridges.


Vincennes Castle, located in France, was built in the 1300’s and was a residence for Kings.  It was built using strict mathematics giving it almost perfect symmetry.


And lastly, I leave you with a Scottish castle, which is Russell’s (my dh) heritage – the Edinburgh Castle.  This is England’s strongest and most important castle and was home to the Kings and Queens that reigned throughout the years.  It started as a fort but through the years walls were built making it into a castle.  The walls you see from the outside today were built in the 1400’s but within are 11th century walls – the oldest found in Scotland.  James VI was born here in 1566 and became King of the Scots when he was 13 months old, after his mother, Mary Queen of Scots died. (thanks Beth for the correction – Mary Queen of Scots and Bloody Mary were not the same person as I had originally stated)


Filed under History, Homeschooling, Unit Studies