History/Social Studies

The Solution to World Peace, According to My 10 Year Old

“If everyone in the world had a balloon, Mama, there wouldn’t be any wars.  How can you be anything but happy when you have a balloon in your hand?  And even if people did go to war, no would die or get hurt since the only thing they’d have to fight with would be balloons.  Even if there was a big battle, where everyone hit each other with their balloons, it would be alright!  No one would get hurt and everyone would end up laughing.  How can you not end up laughing in a balloon fight?!  That’s the way it always ends in our house.  And we’re regular people just like everybody else in the world.”

I think he needs to take his brilliant idea to the UN.  :oD

Nat Geo Kids’ Weird But True App

Do you have this app for your child?  I do.  I’m always on the look out for free ebooks and apps to download and this one was a WINNER.  I don’t know if this app is free, currently, but I got it for free last year.  I have a love/hate relationship with this app.  B loves it more than Angry Birds and that’s saying a lot.  Any chance he gets, he is on this app reading the one line “weird but true” facts.  And he can’t just read them to himself; OH, NO, 8 out of 10, he has to share them with me.  And I want to trust that it’s a NatGeo app, so they must be true, right?  But some of these facts are just so off the wall!  Such as:

  • A vending machine in Singapore gave away a free soda to anyone who hugged the machine.
  • Hot water can freeze faster that cold water.
  • Sticking raw bacon in your nostrils can stop serious nosebleeds.

But here’s the best part – B remembers ALL of them!  These facts are so crazy and off the wall and perfect for kids that he remembers them.  He brings them up in conversation when applicable.  Like when I commented that the hubs Asian hot wings were extra hot last time and he said he didn’t they were hot at all.  B said, “Well, girls have more taste buds than boys, so maybe that’s why it tastes hotter to mom.”  That’s when we teachers know that a child has absorbed, understood and retained something – when they “teach” it to others or use it appropriately.  It is a beautiful thing to behold!  That’s the love.  Here’s the hate – I wish B had that same verve for History!  History – I wish there was an app for that.  If I could get him to absorb, retain, love History like he does the NatGeo Weird But True facts I’d be so happy and grateful!

I think I need to take a lesson from this app.  We are using Story of the World, Vol. II as our History curriculum this year.  Hmmmm… Just now, when I looked up the link for SOTW on Amazon, the title was different that it was when I received it last Summer….there is an addition to the description…. “History for the Classical Child”.  Oh, well, I have enough to concern myself with right now, so I won’t dwell.  Anywho, I need to start pulling out the important/big/interesting/quirky one-line facts of our History chapters to focus on.  I don’t need him to remember all the details, especially the 1st time around.  The beauty of History class is that you revisit it, in more detail, when you get older.  So I am going to focus in on the key points, reduce them to one-liners, and make a slide presentation on the computer for B, going forward.

I love this about homeschooling!  We pulled B out of public school for him, but the hubs and I have benefitted and learned so much more about our son, ourselves, the world, that we have become students again, too, and we embrace it.  There is no pressure for B, the hubs nor me to memorize.  We are to hear, to absorb, to find what resonates with us and retain.  I love and am grateful for the journey we are on.

A Mock Election for Our Homeschool Group and the Hard Lesson B Learned from It

A pretty amazing and smart 6 year old girl in our homeschool group was so interested in the 2012 presidential election, she and her family decided to open a private voting precinct on their front porch so the children could vote!  Isn’t that just fabulous?!  The mock election was yesterday and the family even provided an “absentee ballot” option, via Survey Monkey, for those who were unable to vote in person.  Brilliant!
The hubs and I talk about national and world issues regularly and B absorbs it all.  He has formed some pretty strong opinions regarding our country and it’s presidents.  He has very strongly believed that his candidate of choice for the 2012 election is the one and only choice for America.  We’ve actually had to reign him in tell him he cannot exclaim in horror at the sight of bumper stickers and yard signs supporting the other candidate and it is not his duty to try to “enlighten” strangers to the “error” of their choice.  LOL!
However, when I told B that he was going to participate in a mock election, he actually changed from being one candidate’s fan, to a researcher.  He wanted to hear more details of both candidates, their qualifications, their records, their experiences and their promises.  And he came up with one very astute observation: he perceived one candidate to be best for our family and the other candidate best for our country.  Read that sentence again.  My 10 year old figured that out all on his own and was faced with the moral dilemma and burden of which candidate to choose.
I could see that weight on his deflated shoulders as his excitement over this election leaked right out of him.  Oh, how hard it is for a parent to watch your idealistic child smack head-on into reality!  We sat down and talked about it.  I pointed out how intelligent and compassionate he is to not only come to this realization but also heed it!  He is so far ahead of many adults!  It’s a tough choice, one we all need to take seriously and weigh and I am so proud of him.
When we went to the polling station yesterday, he actually stood in his voting booth for a long time, wrestling with his decision.  Finally, some more voters arrived and I told him he had to make a choice and move on.  So he did.  After putting his ballot in the box he said he felt nothing but relief.  I’m so proud of my little man and the lesson he learned.  And so grateful to an amazing and smart 6 year old homeschooled girl who made it all possible.

Where in the World?

I picked up a geography game – Where in the World, A World Awareness Game – at a yard sale recently for $1.  I love yard sale finds!  It has 6 different levels, ranging from getting familiar with which region of the world a country belongs to, to relating geographic knowledge to current events.  B and I played it twice last week and had fun.  In fact, he’s asked me if we can play it again, but we didn’t have time.  I need to schedule in game time for the educational games we have!  The game was originally published in 1986 and there have been a lot of country changes since then!  However, when we came upon an “outdated” issue, such as Germany being divided into two separate countries on the board, it became a learning opportunity.  I spoke to B about why Germany was divided into East and West and how they came to be united.
Here’s B rolling back and forth on his stability ball as we play.  We played level 1, finding which of the 6 regions – Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania – each country card we were dealt belonged to.  Each card has a picture of the country’s flag as well as the following information: capital; population; monetary unit; literacy rate; major languages; major religions; major export; major import; major seacoasts; it’s size ranking in that region.  And although details such as population and monetary unit may have significantly changed in the last 26 years, it’s still a great way to learn basics (especially for my cost) and I recommend it.
I looked the game up on both Amazon’s and Toys R Us’ websites to see if they offer the game and how up-to-date it is.  I didn’t find date information on Amazon, but the description on Toys R Us referenced the games introduction 16 years ago, so it sound like their copy was last updated in 1996.  But if you find it at a yard sale, give it a try and let me know how you like it!

The Story of the World – Our History Curriculum for 4th Grade

Last year, based on feedback from other homeschoolers, we used Sonlight curriculum for Social Studies, Geography, Language Arts and Science.  Regardless of how good or bad a curriculum sounds, it’s always good to get the feedback of someone you know who has used it, as well as what learning and personality style worked best with it.  We loved the literature-based approach of Sonlight, but with me working full-time outside of the home this past year, it was way too much to keep up with and I felt it lacked review to ensure retention of information.  This year, we are using The Story of the World, Volume II for History.  We received a number of thumbs-up from homeschoolers we know regarding these curricula.  And by “this year” let me explain our “school” year.  We take the month of June and around the 2nd week of December through the Epiphany off.  The rest of the time, we are learning in some form or another.

This is our 3rd year homeschooling.  B went to public school for kindergarten and 1st grade, but we made the decision to homeschool him for 2nd grade, and have reevaluated that decision in the 2 years since then.  At this time, the hubs and I have decided to homeschool B through elementary school and see if he wants to go back to public school when he reaches middle school age.  In my estimation, that gives me 4 years in which to teach him all he needs to know according to the state standards.  Although we are using a different timeline, we hope to arrive at the same destination within the same ETA.  ;o)

I was excited about the Activity book that SOTW offered but didn’t have an opportunity to see what those activities were until it arrived.  So far, there are great craft ideas but they involve supplies we don’t have on hand and buying them can really add up.  There are also role playing activities which can be challenging with an only child.  But we are creative and we really enjoy this curriculum.

The hubs and B have visited my SIL at the beach a couple of weekends this Summer and I’ve stayed home to have a nice break.  So last month, B and I went to my parents for the weekend to give the hubs a nice break at home by himself.  My brother came over and I enlisted his help in a Celtic reenactment.  My brother and B made Celtic double-headed war axes and then proceeded to have a battle.  I thought for sure my mom would have some blue eyeshadow left over from the 60s for me to paint their faces like warriors, but I was disappointed.  My brother has no hair so we could not use gel or crisco to spike his hair out and B’s hair is wild most of the time anyway, so we just let them at each other, as is.

Today we are reading our first chapter on Islam.  While B was doing his map work and some other activity pages related to this chapter, the two of us were singing Carpenters songs complete with harmony.  We are quite a pair when left alone together all day!  ;o)  We have so much fun.  In a couple of hours we’ll be heading to the sprayground with some other homeschool families.  I love our life!


Watching the Space Shuttle Discovery Land on April 17, 2012

Can you see the flag? The pilot of the carrier plane opened the far cockpit window and hung up a flag!
(If you click on this picture, it will open in a bigger screen and you can click through all pictures in one space.)

The hubs called and woke us up at 7am to tell us we should get dressed, grab some breakfast and head out to the Udvar-Hazy Center.  I won’t share with you the language I used to express my, “No“.  He then proceeded to call every 10 minutes to tell us to go outside with the camera and make sure to take pictures.  His last call, around 10am, was to tell me how excited he was that Discovery had flown over his office building and he got to see it out the window.  He also told me to put on a local news channel that was tracking the route.  I did that and found that it was flying over The Capitol building in DC.  “You have to get outside now so you don’t miss it,” he exclaimed.  “Uhm, it’s not even in our state and it’s cold out.  Stop calling,” I replied.

B was upstairs, having just gotten out of the bath after spilling a bowl of cereal and milk in his lap.  *sigh*  I called for him to come down and watch the Discovery coverage with me.  According to the news, the trip was ahead of schedule and Discovery would land at Dulles at 10:30am instead of 11am.  At 10:25am, B says, “Let’s go see it, Mama!”  Thoughts that went through my head:

  1. It’s supposed to land in 5 minutes and we’ll never get there in time
  2. I have not showered
  3. I’m still in my PJs
  4. I still haven’t dealt with the spilled cereal and milk that had, by now, soaked into the couch
  5. Traffic is stopped on all major roads and bridges and we’ll never get through
I hopped up, ran upstairs, grabbed some socks, a zip-up and a hat, ran back downstairs and yelled, “Let’s go!”  Luckily, B was already dressed appropriately.  We back out of the garage at 10:28am and I just knew it was too late.  But, he wanted to try and I said yes.  He couldn’t ask me for anything more than that.  I had planned to get as far as traffic would allow on the main road leading to Udvar-Hazy, but at the last minute decided to head into the airport.  I figured I would pay to park in the hourly lot in front of the terminal and stand outside the car.
As we drove up, there were cars lining the roads.  It was amazing to see so many people out there.  On my way to the hourly lot, there was a lighted sign directing traffic to a designated Discovery viewing spot.  It was a parking garage to the right of the main terminal.  We parked on the top level and walked over to the designated viewing end that was blocked off to cars.  People are talking with their friends, kids are running around and most spots at the railing are taken.  I see a plane in the distance, directly in front of us, coming toward the airport.  I asked B to come over and the gentleman in front of us told B to go up to the railing in front of him.  “I can see over him,” he said and I thanked him profusely.  It turned out to be the shuttle!  It flew over the terminal and the hourly parking lot next to us and then turned around and flew over Loudoun County, Virginia.
Then it came back toward the airport at the same angle, straight at us, and landed on a runway on the far side of the terminal from us.

Then it turned around, went back behind the main terminal and stopped on the other side, where the pilot hung the flag out the window, and we got cool, closeup shots.

This is the little plane that accompanied the shuttle.  When it was in the air, we thought it was a fighter jet escort.

On the move again, heading over to the cranes which will lift the shuttle off the carrier plane.

Now it is parked in front of the cranes.
People movers showed up.  Who was in them?
Wheeling the stairs over.
Told you he was dressed appropriately. Just gotta find him the leather helmet…
Another mom was kind enough to take this with the shuttle in the background, behind the huge UPS plane close in.
The excitement was tangible and the adults were more excited than the kids.  I saw goosebumps on many arms besides mine.  The animation in our voices as we talked to perfect strangers and the consideration shown to get out of the way after one person got their pictures to make way for others was amazing.  Why can’t we all treat each other that every day?
I am so glad B asked to go and that I didn’t listen to all my reasons why we shouldn’t.
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