Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 39

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Chapter 39 deals with England’s Best Playwright – William Shakespeare. For the first time in two years, I chose not to read something from our main book of history (Story of the World). The first story which explains entertainment during Elizabeth’s reign and the details of Shakespeare’s life and career was fine. I read that to them. But the second story was a summary of Macbeth.

William Shakespeare Coloring Page

William Shakespeare Coloring Page

Especially because of my youngest being only six years old, I chose to skip that part. Assassinations and too much revenge, too much description of the bad guy’s feelings of envy, jealousy, greed etc. While I can appreciate Shakespeare genius at capturing the transition from good to evil intents in somebody’s heart, I don’t think children can focus on that. They just get the shock of the violence described.  Continue reading »

My children don’t need those images in front of them at this age. They need positive role models. When they get older, they could handle this as we will talk about consequences for the bad and they could probably handle the dynamics of medieval relationships. But for right now, no Macbeth for us. I am all for teaching Shakespeare in upper grades. I cannot imagine going through life without studying the Bard.

My goal in the lower grades is for them to know who William Shakespeare was, what he was famous for, the definitions of words like tragedy, comedy, historical play, and some of the famous phrases we use today which originated with his plays: to be or not to be, that is the question; a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse; there is something rotten in the state of Denmark etc.

I wondered why Ms. Bauer chose Macbeth. Why not choose a comedy instead? I looked at the passage she suggested the kids memorize and decided that it was way too heavy in content, not to mention the Shakespearean form. It was heavy and depressing even for me. Macbeth’s famous speech about life and death and the foolishness of our existence is enough to depress even a happy camper.

We did the map and they colored the portrait of William Shakespeare and we called it a lesson. Three more chapters to go!


Tuesday Tome Week 30 – One Amazing Thing

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One Amazing Thing was the book of the month of August at our book club. Its author, Chitra Divakaruni (say that three times fast!), teaches Creative Writing at the University of Houson. Her 18 novels have received awards and been translated into 29 languages. Two have been made into movies.

One Amazing Thing - Tuesday Tome

I read this book in three days and I could probably have read it in one if I were not a mom with responsibilities. What a great story about the human condition!  Continue reading »

Nine people seeking travel visas to India for different reasons get trapped in an Indian Consulate in the US after an earthquake. When it becomes clear that they will die, because the building keeps shaking due to aftershocks, they decide to share one amazing thing about themselves – a story to connect them to each other in their last hour, something nobody knows about them.

One of the nine people is an African American ex-Marine and he becomes the leader of the group, rationing their food and water, telling them not to open doors (which might endanger the structure above their heads) and administering medicine as needed (some people got hit by debris during the earthquake).

Another one is the consular officer who was hitting on a young employee just before the earthquake started. The other one is the employee herself. The dynamics of their relationship is a reminder that flirting is always dangerous, especially when one is married.

There is also an older couple in the room – a childless couple with serious marital and communication issues. The aftermath of the earthquake helps them get to know each other better – although the pain of “why haven’t you told me this before?” is something they will have to deal with if they get rescued.

Another couple in the room is made up of a grandmother and her granddaughter. They were Chinese living in India who emigrated to the US. The writer captures the essence of different cultures very well.

Uma is a graduate student who gets everybody to start telling their story and Malik is a Muslim teenager on the verge of becoming radicalized, especially in the aftermath of 9/11. A lot of dynamics in this group, as you can imagine. Chitra Divakaruni knows how to tell a story while giving just enough cultural background without insulting our intelligence.

Spoiler alert: the book ends with the hope of rescuers coming by, but we are not told for sure how and if everybody will get rescued.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 38

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Chapter 38 deals with England’s greatest queen: Elizabeth I. Two stories cover her ascension to the throne and then the reign itself. Bauer simplified the plot quite a bit and it’s a good thing, because it is already quite convoluted.

Good Queen Bess Coloring Page

Queen Elizabeth I coloring page

The children retained the details quite well and I don’t know if it’s because the chapter was so clearly laid out or because they are getting older or because simply they paid attention better than other times. Narration went well and so did the questions, though they still don’t answer in full sentences all the time.  Continue reading »

They colored the maps and then the portrait of Queen Elizabeth. This rendering looks quite different compared to the classic portrait of Elizabeth I that we have all seen of her in history books.

I remember watching the movie with Cate Blanchett and being quite touched by the good queen’s dedication to her role in history. I abstained from mentioning the movie to the children because of its rating. But as I looked it up again, I discovered there have been quite a few movies and plays based on her life. Alas, nothing rated G or PG.

The kids heard some new words (litter, canopy, orb) today. They remembered “litter” from The Horse and His Boy. See, that’s why we read literature and history: to learn new vocabulary. It’s gratifying to see they accumulate new words.

The crafts – oh, the crafts in this chapter – left me speechless. Who has the time, the energy? More power to you if you do! As for me, we moved on after coloring and doing the map work. Four more chapters await and then we will have finished this second volume. It’s a great curriculum but it also feels good to know we will be done soon.


Princesses and Housework

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After spending a week at Princess Camp with my daughter, Friday rolled around. That’s our weekly cleaning day. Since the children are older, cleaning day is so much easier. They help quite a bit. Each of them cleans a bathroom and, of course, their individual rooms. They dust everywhere. And my daughter enjoys mopping. She really does. She asks to do it.

Girl mopping kitchen floor

Our daughter mopping the kitchen floor after Princess Camp.

Until she doesn’t. For some reason, last Friday she said, “No, thanks.” I would have none of that. I dangled a consequence in front of her (no “Mulan” – as we were going to watch this movie for the first time over the weekend) very politely and she agreed to mop.  Continue reading »

Housework is very important for children to learn and to do. I grew up with a wonderful mom who believed she should do all the chores so that my sister and I could study. “You will do plenty of this when you have your own family,” she would say. She and I know now that she was misguided.

I have spoken to other grandmothers who have adult daughters with issues when it comes to their roles as mothers and housekeepers. This one lady told me, “I made my daughters’ life easy and now they cannot handle simple house chores without falling apart. And they have children of their own. It’s just a mess.”

If you want to help your children, teach them to clean the house and do their own laundry. When they get old enough, teach them to do the dishes, iron their clothes, and mow the lawn. Rotate them doing chores on a regular basis. I may be preaching to the choir, because most homeschooling moms know to do this.

Let’s face it, homeschooling moms would not survive without the kids’ doing some of the chores around the house. For us, it is a matter of not just good common sense for the children’s future, but also a matter of survival. I know I feel sometimes that if I have to sweep under the dining room table one more time, my head will explode. So I learn to delegate.

The most important step for me – and for most people – is to get over my desire for things to be done just so. We all have different standards of “clean” and “neat.” When my eight-year-old son sweeps under the table, he may leave some things behind. Some days I make him do it again, if it’s obvious he was being sloppy and he missed big chunks. But most days I just let it be – it depends on the size of the chunks and how strict I feel on those days.

I know he is still developing his coordination and still building the “chore muscle” in his mind. I don’t want to discourage him. I praise his work and we move on. I have just been spared sweeping and he just learned to sweep even better than yesterday. The message is, “You are a valuable member of our family and we trust your skills to do your part in our team.”


Special Music in Church

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In our church, right before the pastor stands up to deliver the sermon, there is a musical selection called Special Music – usually by a soloist, but not necessarily so. About three times a year, my son is asked to play Special Music. So far, he has played violin once and piano three times.

Boy playing piano in church

Our son playing Jesus Loves Me in church last week.

Even though he has played violin longer than piano, our son prefers piano. It’s a long story. We are now on our third violin teacher. It has been a little harder to be consistent, but I think we have finally found somebody who can help us get through all sorts of technical issues and finally make violin attractive for the kids.  Continue reading »

The latest song he played for special music on the piano is Jesus Loves Me. This arrangement is way below my son’s piano level right now, but we chose it so that we can get over the nerves. He wants to do special music, but he gets nervous every time. I figured it would help if he had to play something easier. A lot of performing has to do with mental toughness. And he is still a small boy.

People love to see small children play music and I tell him he inspires people with his talent. By the way, we believe talent is developed, not inborn. I have been reading so much about the Talent Education movement, a.k.a. the Suzuki Method, that I have come to believe it is true.

However, this talent which we keep honing in both my son and my daughter must be shared with others to inspire them and help them along the way. A lot of people come to church with broken hearts. Hearing a simple song like “Jesus Loves Me” brings them back to basic truths about life.

H.M.S. Richards, a great preacher, was asked once what is the deepest theological statement he could think of. He replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.” And that’s what I hope my son’s playing in church impressed upon everyone. We are loved. There is love for us. It does take faith to accept it, but there is a lot of love for each of us.


More On Coding

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Last Thursday, my husband spotted an article in our local newspaper about a coding camp. One week later, I was sitting in the office of the director of Code College on the campus of Walter State Community College (Sevierville campus). My children were present and they duly logged into their Scratch accounts and showed the professor their work. We also brought our four books on coding which we have used a bit here and there.

Learn to Program With Scratch cover

The best book of the four: Learn to Program With Scratch

But I am getting ahead of myself. Here’s what happened in the seven days since we read the newspaper article…  Continue reading »

After we talked about it, we decided I should contact the professor mentioned in the article and ask a few questions. The article mentioned the students were all in high school, but did they have a camp for younger students? Would they be interested in starting one? Would the kind professor have time for a quick interview as I try to put together the best path to teach my children coding?

I took notice of the name of the camp director, a professor at Walters State Community College, and emailed him about our children’s ages and their 200+ projects built with Scratch for the past four months.

He answered me the next day, that no, there is no camp for younger children. The grant their college received was for high school students. The camp director said he would forward my email to the department chairperson. Two days later, I received another email, this time from Treyton Williams, who is a coding professor at Walters State (the Sevierville Campus) and who agreed to see me and the children.

We spent about 90 minutes in his office. The children showed him their projects, he asked them a few questions, and then he showed them the robots they use at camp and in class. The kids loved it. The professor deemed them “very advanced,” as I said earlier, and then he gave me a few pointers in how to guide them in learning about coding:

  1. Let them continue exploring Scratch.
  2. Have them learn typing. Mavis Beacon is still the best typing curriculum out there.
  3. Use Learn to Program with Scratch as the main textbook and read through and work through and understand the sequencing needed in coding. We already have the book and that’s the one book out of the four we showed him which he said resembles their college textbooks the most in its organization.
  4. Get into Code Academy when the kids get bored with the above. Stay on the free side of the site for as long as they need to before paying for the Pro Version ($20/month). This site is for intermediate students and it has a system of badges one can earn, which makes it exciting for children.
  5. Start in html, then CSS, then Java Script, then Java, they Python. Go deep in the one programming language they prefer. It’s all about being comfortable with it because if you spend your days in languages you cannot stand, you will not last.
  6. Start taking classes and/or nano degrees in Udacity. This is for advanced coding students. Again, there is a free area where one can learn quite a bit before paying for classes and degrees. By the way, this professor thinks that nano degrees will eventually kill the community college market, because a two-year degree needs two years. A nano degree can be finished at your own speed online and it is highly specialized. No English Composition, History, Math etc. Once you have a nano degree in Coding with Java or any other language, the job market will pick you up.

As of right now, there are 200 coding jobs available that this professor knew for sure he could not fill. Dollywood, for instance, one of the biggest employers in our county, is outsourcing all their computer jobs to Atlanta. Even Knoxville, the nearest city to us, cannot provide enough programmers for Dollywood.

I don’t know how my children will choose to order their life. I would prefer for them to go to college one day, but we are talking 10 years from now. A lot can change between now and then. And coding is a very important skill for the future. Plus, they love coding. Now that we have a map on how to proceed, we just need to focus on implementation. Hope this information helps you as well.


Princess Camp

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This week, my daughter and I attended Princess Camp at the Community Center in Gatlinburg. Janice Collart, who teaches tumbling and dance throughout the year, organizes a four-day princess camp in July. It is a drop-off event, but you know me. I don’t drop off my children somewhere in the name of education or fun.

Princess Camp - Day 3 outfit

Princess Camp – Day 3 outfit

While big brother was in Daddy Camp, i.e. he went with daddy wherever daddy’s job took him every day, my daughter and I went to Princess Camp. It was three hours every day – the fastest three hours I have ever experienced. They really kept the princesses busy.  Continue reading »

They played together while everybody was arriving – princesses tend to be late, so there were 5-15 minutes of free play. There was a bouncy house plus several tunnels and tents to run through. They took a roll call when everybody was finally there – it also helped them learn each other’s name. They learned a song, then they sat at tables and did a craft.

One day they colored Cinderella, another day they decorated a foam crown, the third day they colored Princess Ariel, and the fourth day they decorated a butterfly. After snacks, they had a bathroom break. Then, split into three age groups, they rotated between tumbling, dance rehearsal, and more crafts (or nails). On the second day, they pinned lips on a frog. They also learned to shoot arrows (as in the movie Brave).

On the last day, they performed for everybody – two dance routines, one slow, one fast (mostly marching motions and with ribbons). There was also a royal parade – they got to walk up and down the ramps inside the Community Center and wave at the crowd of parents and family members that had come for the performance.

One of the reasons why I agreed to this Princess Camp is the dance routines, which helps a child become more aware of tempo, rhythm, and counting. Stepping in sync with the music, involving the whole body, really helps a small child get in touch with the idea of tempo. My daughter, like any six-year-old, has a hard time slowing down when she plays piano or violin, and she has a hard time keeping a consistent tempo. Doing a dance routine where she hears 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 and has to count her steps can help a lot, even if it’s just for four days. We have no long terms goals of enrolling her in dance classes.

These girls were ages 3-9 and loved every minute of Princess Camp. We did not have any behavior incidents other than one or two who cried for “mommy” and one princess who had a bit of an attitude toward everybody. But Ms. Collart and her daughter, who helped a lot, knew how to talk to these girls and how to appease them.

My daughter and I baked cupcakes for the third day of snacks. She had fun decorating with sprinkles after I frosted them. What was I thinking? I did not even take pictures of them. Anyway, she went to town with the decorations and I decided to get over myself and my need for things to be “just so.” I rejoiced that decorating the cupcakes was one less thing for me to do and I accepted her work with gratitude. I even praised her for the good job. And, for the most part, it really was a good job. The ladies complimented us on the cupcakes, so we will take it.

On the last day, we had a visit from Cinderella herself – a local young lady with whom I used to play tennis. She is tall and blond and very beautiful. When she puts on this Cinderella blue gown and white gloves, she really looks the part. The girls loved meeting her.

As a general rule, I stay away from Disney and its princesses, but I have a girlie girl of a daughter and I did not see any reason to refuse her when she asked to go to Princess Camp. We are slowly learning about Mulan and Jasmine and Pocahontas and other Disney princesses. They are a part of Americana, so we must know what these movies portray. It’s all innocent and good feminine fun for the girls. But I will have some serious conversations with my daughter about what Prince Charming must be like when she hits a certain age.

I will close with a quote from Cinderella: “The right shoe can change your life.” Isn’t that the truth?


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 37

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Chapter 37 deals with Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei. The title is … May I just say – all over again – how much I am enjoying myself in history this year? My son loves science and a history lesson about scientists really grabbed his attention. My daughter liked the topic, too. I love it when the kids are listening.

The Solar System Coloring Page

The Solar System Coloring Page

The scientific method explained all over again, the facts of these good Catholic men going against an establishment they revered and feared – what’s not to like? Who needs fiction when we have history?  Continue reading »

Copernicus had a tough job and I can relate. Challenging the establishment – who wants to do that for a living? Homeschooling parents do that every single day. We turn our backs on the free babysitter named public school and we take our children’s education into our own hands. We decide that the established ideology is not good enough.

We have the courage to say, like Copernicus, that what is accepted as education is not right according to human nature, to our observations of children, and to research and past experience. It takes a lot of courage actually to say that, especially for those of us who thrived at school.

Copernicus loved his church and yet he had to correct some of its views. We may have loved our school back in the day but oh how it has changed. And what about poor Galileo Galilei? We don’t know for sure if he actually said this phrase, “E pur si muove,” but I told the kids about it.

Map work and coloring page went well and so did the narrations. We are making progress. Only five more chapters to go.


Tuesday Tome Week 29 – Child Guidance

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If you are a Christian parent, you will probably enjoy Child Guidance, learn a lot, and, at the same time, you will be challenged by it. It would be hard to read it in one week because it is such a deeply spiritual book. You would want to savor some of the principles outlined and really meditate and pray about them before you read more pages.

Child Guidance

It contains practical advice but also general principles in how to guide your child toward maturity. It also makes it clear that we cannot expect children to do and be something we are not, as parents, as adults. So you will be challenged to become a better person, a better parent, a better Christian as you read this book.

Continue reading »

Since it was compiled from several books and articles written by E.G. White over 100 years ago, expect some repetition under each heading. Think of it as the same principle presented from different angles. There will be a lot of Scriptural references.

The author was a committed Christian, church leader and missionary. She took the Bible seriously and made it a rule of her life. If you are uncomfortable with that, this book is not for you.

I found many quotes that touched my heart and wish I had taken the time to underline them all. I guess the one that stands out the most was something along the lines that a spoiled child carries a heavy burden for the rest of her life.

Have you seen spoiled children who become adults? I have. They are not happy and they make sure everybody around them is unhappy, as well. They are spoiled children in adult bodies.

I recently attended several meetings for children. To protect the anonymity of the children, I won’t give more details than that. Children are cute and lovely but they are not perfect. I get that. Adults are not perfect nor are we perfectly pleasant and unselfish all the time. I know.

But one little girl in particular drew my attention by her spoiled manners. “No, I don’t want you to sit next to me!” she said to another little girl. “No, I don’t want to do this!” – after the teacher had just asked them to perform a certain task. And then she started crying. When two adults in the room finally calmed her down, she explained that the other children were laughing at her.

Now, I was watching the whole scene and nobody was laughing. They also knew nobody was laughing, and told her so. “No, they ARE laughing at me!” She was shouting and sobbing. It was like her own conscience was correcting her from the inside and she did not want to accept it. Instead, she was still blaming others for her own behavior.

That little girl may have had a bad day. Maybe she is not like this all the time. But if this is her behavior consistently and somebody in her life does not take steps to guide her in better ways, she has a difficult road ahead of her.

You may disagree with some of the principles presented in the book – that’s fine. But I would think that, overall, you will greatly benefit, as a Christian parent, from reading and really taking this book to heart.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 36

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Chapter 36 explains more about the Reformation and the Counter Reformation. Personally, I have read a few books about the reformers and the amazing work of Melanchton. So I was glad to see Ms. Bauer mentioned his contribution to the Reformation. If you are looking for some good reading on the matter, you should read The Great Controversy – it’s about church history from AD 70 through the Protestant Reformation and beyond. You can read it for free here.

Stained Glass Coloring page

Stained Glass Coloring Page

The kids liked the story about the Council of Trent because of the two bishops who were acting silly. Also, because it took 18 years for this meeting to accomplish all its goals. That’s quite a meeting. Next time you have to sit through a one-hour meeting somewhere, before you complain, remember the Council of Trent.  Continue reading »

Now and then I had to stop and make them repeat the terms Catholic and Protestant. We don’t use them every day and these are longer words. I liked how it was explained that these two groups are still different today. Incidentally, today is the anniversary of the doctrine of the pope’s infallibility. That’s one difficult charism to wrap your mind around, whether you are Protestant or Catholic.

The map was easy to do and then they colored the Holy Family. The crafts seemed cute (a Catholic priest’s hat, a Protestant preacher’s hat, stained glass). Alas, I am still in vacation mode and want to stay there. As long was we keep moving along, I am happy. They are learning historical facts and names and places. That’s what matters.

Oh, my daughter had forgotten who Martin Luther was and my son explained to her that he was the man who nailed the 95 Theses on a church door to show how the Catholic Church teachings were different from the Bible. I was happy to know my son knew who Martin Luther was.