Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 20

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Chapter 20 dealt with Ch’ien Lung (Qianlong) in two different stories. The first focused on his interest in books. Ch’ien Long was a patron of the arts in general, but he really, really liked books. He knew there were lots of books all over China and he wanted them in one place, for posterity. Yes, it sounds like he wanted a library.

Chi'en Lung (public domain picture)

Chi’en Lung (public domain picture)

He sent men all over China to gather up these volumes and split them into four categories. Then, he ordered them copied so that he may have nine copies of each. Of course, they copied them by hand. Continue reading »

Why of course? He lived between 1711-1799 and Gutenberg invented his printing press in 1440. The Chinese actually invented a printing process with wooden blocks back in 868. Well, I guess Ch’ien Long wanted things done the hard way, the beautiful way, the long way.

It took years and years. The bad part? He had certain books burned – the ones that spoke against the Manchu. Freedom of the press did not quite enter the picture for this Chinese emperor.

Dragon paw prints over the eight provinces of China

Dragon paw prints over the eight provinces of China

The second story was about the accumulation of land. Susan Wise Bauer places the reader on a dragon who flies all over the different parts of China at the time. It was neat to direct the kids over their maps. Then, we made eight pages with the names of each province and applied a dragon paw print over each.

We did not stick these on different doors in the house. I was afraid the paint might come off. But I was glad my son took the time to improve his dragon paw print and made me six different designs. I printed two others from the internet. We made sure our dragons had five claws, as the activity books points out.

One new thing we are doing is a timeline. Until now, I felt my children were too young to bother with dates. Well, they have grown some. It’s time for a timeline. I will tell you about that project in a separate blog post.


How to Prepare for a Spelling Bee

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Last year, our son attended his first Spelling Bee. He was in third grade, which is the first year a child can attend a Spelling Bee. On a national level, I see some first graders who make it to Washington, D. C. (usually homeschoolers) and I wonder how they got there. Their parents and teachers must have realized they are so good, they enrolled them and the youngsters blew their older peers out of the water.

BHEA Spelling Bee - January 2017

BHEA Spelling Bee – January 2017

Precocious kiddoes aside, third grade is where Spelling Bee starts. So how does one prepare for a Spelling Bee? Here are a few ideas: Continue reading »

First, I would invest in a good spelling curriculum. I use Logic of English Foundations for my second grader and Essentials for my fourth grader. I hear good things about All About Spelling and, also, about Spelling Zoo (IEW spelling program).

Secondly, I would let them read as many books as possible. Aim for at least one picture book a day for K-2 and at least one small chapter book (150 pages or so) per week for grades 3-5. In grades 6-8, children should read at least 100 pages per day.

Spelling Bee Logo

This may seem like a lot, but think about it. If your child is reading 20 pages in a longer biography, that covers history for the day. Twenty pages in a cool science book would cover science. Twenty pages in a mystery would cover fun reading. The rest, 40 pages, can be spent on a classic, which takes care of Language Arts and Reading.

Now, if your child can finish over 150 pages in one day in a single book only because they love that book, more power to them. Tomorrow is another day for another book. My son loves to read and he can finish a 250-page book in one day simply because he likes it. Don’t lose heart. We did not get here overnight.

If your child does not enjoy reading, you read to him. Take 20 minutes every day with books you know might interest him and I promise you that in a few months your child will be a more independent reader.

Last but not least, sign up for the National Spelling Bee newsletter. They have all sorts of ideas on how to study, Word Wall printouts, and book lists to read. Your homeschool co-op will have to pay a fee to enroll with the National Spelling Bee. Then, you will have access to their proprietary materials, which are VERY important. Hope this helps!


Gluten Free Apple Crisp

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September and October are apple months where we live. That’s when we can applesauce and make apple crisp almost every day. November can be apple crisp month too. Why not?

Gluten free apple crisp to warm you on a cool fall morning

If you ask me, any month is apple crisp month. I love, love, love apple crisp and any kind of fruit crisp, really. And since becoming gluten free, I have changed my baking recipes and the result is just as tasty if not even better.

Gluten free apple crisp with vegan cream

Option: serve it with vegan cream

This recipe I will share with you is inspired by the Minimalist Baker apple crisp, but I had to modify it because I like a different apple-to-topping ratio than what their recipe was. Also, I like a healthier take on it, so I put less sugar in mine. Continue reading »

 

Apple Layer

4 apples, cored and diced into bite sizes

1/4 c sugar in the raw or any other unrefined sugar

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

small dash of lemon juice (optional)

IKEA apple corer/slicer

I love my IKEA apple corer/slicer

 

Topping

1/4 cup sugar in the raw or any other unrefined sugar like Muscovado

1 cup gluten free flour (I like King Arthur or Bob’s Mill)

2 cups rolled oats*

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup avocado oil

1/4 cup water

pinch salt

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 F and spray a 9×13 casserole dish with oil. Mix apples well with the rest of the ingredients in that list. Place in a uniform layer at the bottom of the casserole dish.

Mix dry Topping ingredients in a clean, dry bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix well until you do not see any more flour and the oats look wet. Layer over the apples in the dish. Bake for 1 hour. My oven is slow, especially if I bake using the convection feature. Sometimes I have to bake it for an extra 10 minutes, so use your judgment.

*Gluten sensitivity comes in many levels. Regular oats do not bother me, for instance, so I do not have to buy gluten free oats. If you know you must have gluten free oats, by all means use them instead of regular oats.


Gluten Free, Vegan Enchiladas

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Over the summer months, I found out what has been causing my abdominal pain for the past 24 years: gluten. As a result, I am now adapting all my recipes to be gluten free. Most of them are easy to switch. There are so many gluten free substitutes out there.

However, there is a learning curve. I have never been afraid of a little learning, so it’s all good. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised to hear from my husband and children that they like gluten free pancakes better than regular ones. The same goes for store-bought gluten free cookies and a gluten free zucchini cake I made a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s how I have adapted my enchilada recipe to be gluten free and vegan. By the way, if you do not like vegan cheese, you can always use the genuine article.

Gluten free, vegan enchiladas

Gluten free, vegan enchiladas

 

Ingredients

One pack of Bfree tortilla wraps (or use whatever brand you like)

1 1/2 c Bob’s Mill TVP

1 jar of your favorite Marinara sauce Continue reading »

1/2 c – 3/4 c Daiya cheddar style shreds or block cheese, which you will have to shred yourself

3 Tbsp McKay’s chicken style seasoning

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder

salt to taste

 

Directions

In a bowl, pour 3 cups of hot water over TVP and add 2 Tbsp of the chicken style seasoning. Let rehydrate for at least 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 11 casserole dish with oil spray. Pour a thin layer of Marinara sauce at the bottom of the dish.

When the TVP has softened, strain it in a colander over the sink and transfer to a large pan. Add the oil, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, the last Tbsp of McKay’s chicken style seasoning, about 2 Tbsp of Marinara sauce, and salt to taste. Stir fry until the contents are well mixed and the TVP has darkened in color, about 7 minutes.

While the TVP is cooking, shred your cheese if you are not using shreds.

Turn off the heat under the TVP and start assembling the enchiladas. I use about 1/4 c of TVP per tortilla. If your wrap pack has more than six tortillas, you may want to put less TVP per enchilada, or simply double the TVP recipe for two packs of wraps.

Pour the rest of the Marinara sauce over the enchiladas. Cover with cheese.

Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before enjoying. The enchiladas are hotter on the inside.


Enriching Children’s Minds

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There are so many ways to enrich a child’s mind that do not involve being sat in front of a teacher for hours at a time. This is where homeschooling comes into its own. In a natural, comfortable environment, it’s so much easier for your child to concentrate and learn.

Helping your own child through their life as a parent and a teacher is very rewarding. Yet the majority of parents send their children to a mainstream school for two main reasons. It’s easy and it is sociable. But homeschooling can be just as sociable! 

Girl homeschooling

Image Source

 

Field Trips

In school, your child will have two or three field trips or educational visits a year. With homeschooling, you can base as much of the learning as you want around field trips. For example, if you’re studying a part of history that your local museum is showcasing, it is so much more effective for it to be seen and understood by looking at artifacts face to face. Continue reading »

Museums are full of knowledge that a classroom can’t teach as easily. It is more likely to stick in your child’s mind compared to reading out of a textbook. Learning in the great outdoors is also much more effective.

Homeschool learning is just so much more hands on, it really can’t be beat. You’ll be able to pick how many of these visits you do a year, and where you’d like them to be. Nothing is more exciting than a day at school where you’d leave to go on a trip. You can bring this excitement and enrichment as many times as you’d like.

 

Online Help

Many online resources can help keep your child interested. Educational games help enrich a child’s mind through the power of fun. Whether it be math or English, the internet will have it.

There are even typing games available to help build up the first basic computer skill needed. Sometimes it can be difficult to teach something. Let the online teacher do the work for you. For example, if you struggle with fractions, there may be a game out there that can help you both learn at the same time.

 

Different Teaching Methods

In school, different teachers have different teaching methods that some children just cannot learn from. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can constantly evolve your teaching method to suit your child. They won’t go through their whole schooling time with just one method of learning. As they age through teenage years, it’s likely to change.

This is where schools falls short, they don’t adapt. The adaptation you give is what will be able to enrich your child’s mind constantly. You know them better than anyone else. You’ll be able to see if what you’re saying is sinking in, or whether they’re paying any attention at all. Talk to them often to find out what you can do to improve.

 

Choose curriculum

Having to study a subject you don’t even like can be less than enriching. The lack of interest will lead to lack of attention straight away. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can choose the curriculum depending on what your child wishes to study.

You’ll obviously have to study the basics such as math and English, but the rest can be up to you and your child. As they get older, you’ll be able to tailor the curriculum more to the career they wish to head to, rather than what a school would want to study.

Homeschooling is ultimately one of the best ways to enrich a child’s mind. The freedom, the comfort, and the tailored curriculum are exactly what children need to learn.


Stockholm Technology Museum

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Tekniska Museet is the Swedish name for this museum in Stockholm, Sweden, which features a mathematical garden outside, and two floors of interactive exhibits covering physics, chemistry, biology, robotics, computer science etc. In other words, a STEM museum.

Tekniska Museet

One of the installations in the mathematical garden. Preschoolers and their vests in the foreground.

There is also a large collection of early innovations showing the history of technology since the 18th century, e.g. an old printing press, sewing machine, early MacIntosh computer, automobile and so on. All the exhibits have iPads where one can select the language of the presentation, either Swedish or English.

Continue reading »

We spent three hours in there and still felt like our kids could have spent even more time there without getting bored. In fact, they were very sorry that we had to leave.

Moving ball with your brain

If you relaxed enough, you could move the ball with your mind.

The museum is free on Wednesdays from 5pm-8pm. All other times there is a fee for anybody over the age of 6. We did not go there on a Wednesday because we made other plans for our Wednesdays and then it was too late. Oh well.

We saw several groups of preschoolers come in. They would have been free any day. And they were adorable.

Side note: preschoolers in Sweden are super-cute in their fluorescent vests which they don over their rain jackets. They hold hands two by two and usually come in groups of 10-12, accompanied by at least two preschool teachers. It’s a cute, cute sight, let me tell you.

Climbing Wall at Tekniska Museet

Interactive climbing wall

I would have taken pictures of them but I did not know if this were not against the law. Sweden has some pretty strict rules on photographing children. So I settled for taking pictures of my children and, if any preschoolers happen to walk by, oh well. Not my fault or intention.

At the bus stop, one of the little girls looked straight at me and started talking. Unfortunately, I did not understand what she said. I smiled at her and said, “Really?” in Swedish. She nodded.

The Nautilus Slide in the Mathematical Garden

The Nautilus Slide in the Mathematical Garden

When the bus turned a corner and Grona Lund appeared in the distance, they all started pointing and shouting, “Grona Lund! Grona Lund!” Grona Lund is an amusement park in Stockholm and its rides and pointed towers can be seen from this particular boulevard our bus was traveling on.

Here are some of the things our children did there: they smelled different substances; looked through screens to see how different animals see; built virtual garments from vintage fabric within a certain budget; moved a ball with their mind; talked to a robot who talked back; learned about synapses in the brain; climbed a wall and got instant feedback from the computer that was telling them how to change the route; rested in a “resting room” where music and lights change in a certain way, which is supposed to spark creativity and a new thought and too many other things to mention.


Legoland, Billund

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When you think of LEGO bricks and Legoland, you think of toys and playtime, right? Right. But LEGO bricks are so much more than a toy. Children gain a lot of knowledge about the world around them when they play with LEGO bricks.

Legoland Billund

My husband took this picture of us.

A visit to Legoland is always fun, but it can also help you focus your child on building if you have ventured too much into screen time. Many people get lured into “educational video games” and forget all about the box of LEGO bricks they have in the corner of the play room. I say it is time to give LEGO bricks another chance. Your child will find the joy of building and story telling all over again.

Miniland Legoland Billund

My favorite part of the park was Miniland.

I have always wanted to take my children to the closest Legoland to us, which is in Florida. We never made it. Instead, we visited the Legoland Discovery Centery in Atlanta. Continue reading »

It was great, but small and, well, just a Discovery Center.

Dragon Castle Legoland Billund

My husband and children went on rides together. I don’t do roller coasters.

When I realized that we would be in Sweden for 23 days, I knew we should be able to make it to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark, where the LEGO Group got started. Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter and toy maker, realized his biggest success were interlocking wooden blocks. As he perfected his product, with help from his four sons who played with the blocks, plastics were becoming more available. This was happening in the 1930s and 1940s. The LEGO brick went from wood to plastic and the world was never the same.

Legoland Billund Driver's License Course

The first thing they wanted to do was to get their LEGO Driver’s License.

Today, LEGO is the world’s most powerful brand. The company’s motto, created by Christiansen, is “The best is never too good.” He encouraged his employees not to skimp on quality. I wonder what would happen in my homeschool if I took that as my motto.

I am not talking about perfectionism here. Just an insistence on quality. Quality time with the children when they need me, quality books, quality curriculum, quality meals etc. In our quest to “do it all,” I fear that we skimp on quality just so we can get the quantity done.

Girl at Miniland Legoland Billund Boy at Miniland Legoland Billund

I don’t know how that applies in your homeschool, but I have a pretty good idea how that translates for mine. And that, my friends, is why we travel. So that when we come back, we can see our lives in a new light, and challenge ourselves to go to the next level.


Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights

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One of our goals in traveling to Sweden for our family vacation this year was to see the northern lights, or aurora borealis. Growing up with the story of Fram, the polar bear, by Cezar Petrescu, I loved the words “aurora borealis.” I did not know what they meant, but I knew it had something to do with special lights one can see way up there, beyond the arctic circle.

Aurora Borealis in Sweden

The northern lights as we saw them in Abisko National Park.

I wanted my children to understand the phenomenon before we witnessed it, so we read up on it on the internet and saw some pictures. Of course, we had no idea if we were actually going to get to see them. Three factors must be there for you to see them and one of them is a clear sky. Continue reading »

The weather in Kiruna did not look promising during the month of September, when we were going to be there.

Aurora Borealis Sweden

Pictures do not do justice to the dance of the lights we saw that night.

My Swedish friend and I talked it over and we realized it would have taken too long for us to take a train from Stockholm to Kiruna, the most northern Swedish city. So we booked a flight. It cut the travel time down to a fraction, i.e. from 15 hours to 70 minutes. Not bad, especially when you are running out of vacation days and still have so many other things to see. We flew with SAS going to Kiruna and with Norwegian coming back to Stockholm. We would have taken Norwegian both ways, but they do not fly there every day.

We found a company, appropriately called Kiruna Guidetur, which offered northern light tours as well as many other packages. We wanted to see Abisko National Park and the northern lights. Those were two separate tours we paid for and they happened on two different days. However, we ended up in Abisko on both days and here’s why.

It’s a funny thing… When it rains in Kiruna, you can bet it is dry in Abisko, toward the Norwegian border. Something to do with the geography of the land and the currents of air etc. Our tour guide knew how to give us the best chance to see the northern lights: he drove us way out of Kiruna, into the Abisko National Park, where it is always dry. And that is why you pay for a local to take you around.

He picked us up from the hotel where we were staying and brought us back. There were five of us: our family of four and my Swedish friend, Connie. The van could seat nine, so there was plenty of room. Our tour guide prepared an open-fire meal: lentil soup with Gouda cheese sandwiches on Polar bread (a Swedish specialty made of rye, beloved by Swedish children especially) and warm lingonberry juice.

We danced for joy under the northern lights. Our guide was happy for us, as well. He told us many people come chasing the lights and they only get to see them on their fifth or sixth attempt.

Needless to say, we were very thankful and humbled that our prayers were answered that night. We took pictures which do not do justice to the show we saw that night, had our delicious meal, and headed back home to our hotel rooms. Mission accomplished!


2017 Solar Eclipse Lesson Plan

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On August 21, 2017, the US will experience a solar eclipse. Some places are in the path of totality, but even if your location is not, you will still get to experience some darkness or partial darkness for a few seconds and up to a couple of minutes.

Solar Eclipse Glasses

Our children’s aunt bought us solar eclipse glasses. Hurray for aunties!

What are you doing to prepare for this rare event? This is the perfect excuse to get out the physics books and a space encyclopedia and teach your homeschooler about the Sun and the Moon and how they fit together with the Earth.

Here’s a lesson plan if you need one. Continue reading »

Or click to download a 2017 Solar Eclipse Lesson Plan PDF.

 

Solar Eclipse Lesson Plan

August 21, 2017

A. Devotional with Bible verses about celestial bodies. Here are just a few:

1. God created the Sun, Moon and Earth – Genesis 1; Psalm 8:3-4

2. God holds the Earth in space – Job 26:7; Isaiah 40:22

3. God knows the stars by name – Psalm 147:14

4. Space proclaims God is the Creator – Psalm 19:1-6

5. God will re-create Earth when Jesus returns – Revelation 21

B. Solar eclipse breakfast – pancakes with your favorite topping; get creative and make three different sizes to represent the Moon, Earth and Sun; melt chocolate/carob and cover up the Earth with “darkness” etc. The sky is the limit (get it?).

C. Read from your space encyclopedia/science textbook/library books about solar eclipses. Words to look up: orbit, totality, umbra, penumbra, corona, eclipse, atmosphere, lunar, solar. For older students, prepare a handout with these words and have them copy the definition from the encyclopedia (or use the second page below).

D. Watch NASA live streaming: some libraries will have a public event of the four-hour broadcast but, of course, you can watch it from home if you have access to NASA TV or the internet. You don’t have to watch it all, of course. One hour will probably be enough to give your children an idea of what is going on across the nation.

E. Solar eclipse lunch. Tostadas with black beans (the Sun covered by the “dark” Moon). Definitely have chocolate/carob cake for dessert. Use a round pan.

F. Solar eclipse art and/or craft. Here are three ideas, all simple and cute.

1. Have the children draw what they saw or how they would imagine a total eclipse would look.

2. Using play dough, have them make a model of the position of the Sun, Moon and Earth during a solar eclipse. You could connect the three celestial bodies with toothpicks and make each in a different color: white play dough for the Moon, yellow for the Sun, and blue or green for the Earth. Set it on a paper plate and take pictures of it for your science binder/portfolio/lapbook (so you can discard the actual project later and not feel so guilty about it).

3. Have the children paint one paper plate yellow, red and orange to represent the Sun. They can then paint another one black to represent the Moon. Have them use sponges or small circles from a pool noodle for a great texture, instead of brushes. Once dry, they can simulate the eclipse by slowly moving the Moon over the Sun.

 

Plan ahead

1. Buy solar eclipse glasses if you plan to look at the actual event. We got ours from the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many physical or online stores have them.

2. Get all your food made the day before.

3. Gather all books and supplies.

 

 

Talk Like A Scientist

Look up these words in a science encyclopedia. Copy the definitions in the space below.

  • orbit =
  • totality =
  • umbra =
  • penumbra =
  • corona =
  • eclipse =
  • atmosphere =
  • lunar =
  • solar =

Stay safe! Do not look at the Sun without special eclipse glasses. Sunglasses are not safe.


First Family Hike After Fire

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It has taken us more than eight months to get back on the Gatlinburg trail for a family hike after the November wildfires. It was therapeutic to be out in nature again.

Family hike and bike in the Smokies

Family hike and bike in the Smokies

So many things have kept us from hiking. In the winter right after the fire, the last place we wanted to visit was the park – even though not much actual burning actually happened on this particular trail. The sheer nature of a busy spring schedule precluded us from going there while school was in session. Then summer rolled around with its whirlwind of camps and tourist traffic. Continue reading »

We have also had some health challenges for the past six months. My husband had a mowing accident last month and he has had to be in bed with his leg propped up for weeks. I have had an upper respiratory infection for weeks. Our daughter has been struggling with a mild form of asthma. It seems that only our son has been healthy and fully operational lately, but even he struggles with the occasional growing pain in his legs or wrists.

Dad and son looking at the river gage on Gatlinburg Trail.

Dad and son looking at the river gage on Gatlinburg Trail.

The humidity here in the South can be forbidding to outdoor exercise, not to mention the mosquitoes and ticks. So yes, plenty of reasons to avoid hiking. Until today. All of the sudden, I found myself proposing to the family that we go on a hike. The children protested, but we ignored them. We know what they said after every hike: “That was fun!”

Gatlinburg Trail wooden bridge

Gatlinburg Trail wooden bridge

And off we went. I took some random pictures of a few burned trees – for those of you who want to see some of the damage. I know it’s in the back of everybody’s mind: “What actually burned?”

Burned trees on the Gatlinburg Trail

Burned trees on the Gatlinburg Trail

I have mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand, I want to show non-residents the devastation, on the other hand, well, this is our hometown. People died. People lost their homes. This was a national disaster. Can we please stop treating it like it is a tourist attraction?

It has been sad to hear people ask for directions to the burned down cabins. “We just want to show our kids. Can you direct us to the streets where the most devastation happened?” Seriously, folks. Is there any sensitivity left in the world?