10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

Once it got below 100 and we started to get over this spring bug, we ended up accomplishing some pretty neat things this week after all.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to…

1.  Victoria and Anna have been learning about the Bubonic Plague. I have no idea how Victoria first learned about it, but she brought it up during a kitchen conversation (“Just so you know, rats weren’t responsible for spreading the Bubonic Plague.  It was fleas on rats and people…”).  We weren’t even discussing the Bubonic Plague, so I’m really confused why she felt it was necessary to correct any misconceptions we may have had!  🙂  But I let her run with it and tell us more.  Then a show came on the History Channel about it the very next day and Anna watched it and decided to write a report about it.

2.  The kids have been doing lots of art, especially with the new oil pastels I got from Rainbow Resource. Jack had a field day and I bought art from him for 5 cents a page (10 cents if they were really elaborate).  I love his art!

3.  We continue to read “A Little History of the World.” The girls continue to ask for it when it’s been too long since I’ve read some.  I do love that book!

4.  Anna has been creating signs, articles, scripts, etc. about recycling, saving the Earth and vegetarianism. Billions of them.

5.  Victoria taught herself to write CSS code. I’m not even sure what that means but I’m pretty sure it’s awesome.  😉

6.  The kids rigged up a water slide using the slip-n-slide, the watering wand attachment of the garden hose and the slide and used it to cool off on one of our days that was in the upper 90’s (This is Minnesota in May?  August does not bode well!).

7.  We’ve been going to the lake a lot and finding tons of treasures that became science and history lessons. More on that later!

8.  Victoria and I took night pictures the other night when the moon was so bright and full that it was like dusk outside at midnight.  The sky looked like blue tie-dye with the clouds and the moonlight.  Unfortunately, my camera couldn’t capture it.  My camera could capture Victoria trying though…

9.  We read a book about John Brown, the abolitionist who “raised a storm” fighting slavery. It was a picture book but it told the story well.  I learned a lot about the time and the man.  It also led to a good discussion about right and wrong, and different viewpoints about whether violence is ever okay to try to end bad things.  This man gave his life for the rights of others and was so devoted to doing the right thing, but the fact that he sometimes used violence meant that he was deemed a villain for much of history and executed by his country.  It’s a good story to get into with the kids for so many reasons.

10. We’ve been going on lots of walks. Goofy outfits and all.  🙂

A Little History of the World

I mentioned that we’d been reading A Little History of the World the other day and Kat commented that she’d love to know what I thought of it.

So far, we love this book!  Having started out with Story of the World, the kids and I all much prefer the charming conversational tone of this fun little volume.

We also adore the history of it — written in a matter of weeks nearly a hundred years ago by a German art student, and then updated recently by the author in his old age, when it was still highly in demand after all of these years.

I think that SOTW attempted in many ways to copy this book, but that series failed for us where this one shines.

That one is full of so many names and dates that we could never remember past the paragraph when they were mentioned.  This one limits the amount of details and focuses on the big picture, plus cheerfully reminds us of the characters and events we need to remember later.

That one drones on and we had to keep pushing ourselves to read more.  This one makes us laugh and makes us love the author, and the kids ask for one more chapter.

So far, religion seems to be treated very differently in this book compared to SOTW as well.  I’m curious to see how it plays out as we go along, since I know the spread of various religions is supposed to be a big theme in the book.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

This is an unusual work for Yale: a children’s history originally published 70 years ago. But it is a work one can quickly come to love. Gombrich, later known as an art historian, wrote this primer in 1935, when he was a young man in Vienna (it was soon banned by the Nazis as too “pacifist”). Rewritten (and updated) in English mainly by Gombrich himself (who died in 2001, age 92, while working on it), the book is still aimed at children, as the language makes clear: “Then, slowly the clouds parted to reveal the starry night of the Middle Ages.” But while he addresses his readers directly at times, Gombrich never talks down to them. Using vivid imagery, storytelling and sly humor, he brings history to life in a way that adults as well as children can appreciate. The book displays a breadth of knowledge, as Gombrich begins with prehistoric man and ends with the close of WWII. In the final, newly added chapter, Gombrich’s tone sadly darkens as he relates the rise of Hitler and his own escape from the Holocaust – children, he writes, “must learn from history how easy it is for human beings to be transformed into inhuman beings” – and ends on a note of cautious optimism about humanity’s future.

We are on about chapter 6 or 7 and have MANY chapters to go, but so far the book not only teaches us but makes us smile.

I have heard that parts about America are completely inaccurate and I’ve told the kids as much.  We are anxiously awaiting our country’s mention so we can see how we’re portrayed.  The kids understand that all history is a reflection of who gets to tell the stories, and that it should all be taken in context with other sources.  We’re also planning on researching the areas that are supposedly inaccurate to see how far off he was, too.

I also understand that SOTW is much longer and has multiple volumes to cover all the history out there, so obviously this one is not going to teach as much.  But just in terms of what the title says… we love it.

It is also available as an audio CD, on Kindle and as a new illustrated edition, which are all tempting me as well (edited to update that now they have a whole series of little history books for United States, literature, economics, religion, science and more).  I’ve heard of a lot of families that use the audio version in the car and enjoy it, and we are always on the road….

In any case, we’re very happy with it so far.

I’ll update as we go.  Considering it’s so inexpensive, it was definitely worth getting for our gang.


** Note that this post contains affiliate links.




This, That and the Other


Victoria found this article about albino animals.  It’s pretty neat to look at with the kids!  I’m not sure it’s all the best scientific information, but it’s a fantastic springboard to find out more.  She’s also taught me some fancy word for an animal that seems albino but isn’t, but I’ve forgotten (I have a mind like a collander!).  I’ll have her write up a paragraph and I’ll post it.  🙂


Here’s a huge list of secular homeschool blogs.

The Other:

I finished this series up a few days ago and had a lot of fun with it.

It’s easy to get in a rut with math and rely on lots of workbook pages and drilling. That’s a shame, because there really are lots of…
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Remember when grammar involved diagramming sentences at a chalkboard? Lucky for us, there are so many more ways to teach this subject and make it…
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Looking for some fun new science-related activities to do with the kids? Here’s a few simple ways to teach astronomy, chemistry, the human body…
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Looking for some fun ways to help your child along with reading skills? Here’s five wonderful ways that have always been helpful hits at our…
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Map darts: Find or make a large corkboard and rotate various large maps on top of it. Challenge the kids to throw darts at a specific state,…
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Looking for a way to add some fun to your history studies? Here’s five fun ways to help bring the subject to life. Write historic diary…
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So what should I write about next?  Ideas welcome!  🙂

Summer School

Summer has started early here.

This has been such an odd year, with spring starting way earlier than I can ever remember — no snow at all past February, though it took a whole month to melt all that we had.

Now summer seems to have hurried on too.  Daryl hauled the air conditioner into the living room window today and we all stayed downstairs for much of the day because the upstairs was too massively hot and humid.

Our days have been spent with lots of water and lots of mud.  The kids have constructed elaborate waterways to create cooling fun.  We have toweled up mud and wet footprints throughout the house a dozen times in two days.

Half of us are sick, too, with some miserable cold that has given us sore throats and coughs and runny noses.  Jack spiked a high fever from it (so I suppose it’s not technically a cold) and we’ve all been moving in slow motion as we move through all the stages into the end of it and back (hopefully soon!) to health.

I have been thinking of all sorts of things to blog, strange and silly and interesting ways we’ve learned this or that or the other.  But of course not a bit of it is coming to me now.  🙂

Pageant practice starts soon, and I’ll lose Daryl and the girls nearly every evening as they rehearse lines and dances in Walnut Grove.  The boys and I will read books and do crafts and go on really long walks when I get to the point where it’s either that or break out the wine.

We’re still doing all sorts of learning… reading “A Little History of the World” and discussing court protocol and so on and so forth.  But right now it’s so hot and so humid and I’m so stuffy that it all seems to be happening underwater.

Head colds, heat and homeschooling just don’t mix!  But like everything else, they have their place and they help make everything else balanced and right.  The trick is to find the joy in it all.  Because there always is so much.

Other than the head cold.

The 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

This is a must-read!  Not only is it interesting, but the public needs to know about these places and these plans.  I didn’t know anything about the arts site that is right in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I happily spend time with Tiffany and gang many times a year.

And the proposal by Walmart to build a “commercial sprawl” over one of the most important battlefields in the Civil War????  I’m speechless, yet sadly not surprised.

See if there are any in your neck of the woods

The annual list has profiled over 200 sites over the years and has been so successful at getting public attention that only 7 have been lost.  Let’s hope it works again.