Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 35

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Chapter 35 covers Mexican independence in two stories: the cry of Dolores and the Republic of Mexico. We stayed in history only. Lots of things are going on right now around our border with Mexico, but I did not want to get the kids too involved in it. I am so sick and tired of all the illegal alien situation in the US and the liberal media’s handling of the topic.

Paper flowers in the colors of the Mexican flag

Paper flowers in the colors of the Mexican flag

As an immigrant myself, I did not have the option to cross a border by foot and get into the US. I had to get a proper visa, after a tough interview at the US Embassy in my country, buy an expensive plane ticket, and then wait my turn in the documentation line when it came to adjust my status from non-immigrant to immigrant. That’s the legal way to become a US permanent resident. Anyway.

Mexico is a great country with an exciting language, which we learn a bit here and there. Our neighbor to the south has a lovely culture and we need to study their history and how they came to be independent. We have great friends from Mexico, too. That’s all that matters. Continue reading »

The kids are getting the picture of all the turmoil in history lessons. When they hear about yet another revolt or battle or execution, they groan and roll their eyes.

The crafts were pretty cool: paper flowers to represent the colors of the Mexican flag and huevos rancheros. I made it vegan, with scrambled tofu instead of sunny side up eggs. The recipe for hot chocolate included chili pepper. We did not think that would taste good, so no chili in our hot chocolate.

Huevos rancheros and hot chocolate - a Mexican breakfast

Huevos rancheros and hot chocolate – a Mexican breakfast

For some reason, we go through waves. Some weeks they love to color the coloring page provided in the Activity Books. We are going through such a time right now. While I read the stories out loud, they color with a passion.

The comprehension and review questions can really help remind us of key pointers in the lesson, so I ask them. When it comes to the narration exercises, even Susan Wise Bauer points out that some chapters have more details than others and, as a result, may not be that easy to summarize.

Preparing huevos rancheros

Preparing huevos rancheros

So yes, I have skipped narration in some chapters because I do not want to overdo it. We get plenty of practice with narration in our writing curriculum (Writing with Ease) and in general, as the kids narrate back to me the books they read or some parts they really enjoyed from a movie or a book.

Bonjour! Let’s Learn French

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Even if you cannot speak French, you could pick up Bonjour! Let’s Learn French (not an affiliate link) and stimulate your children’s neurons for a few good months. This relatively short book can function as your French curriculum for at least six weeks.

Bonjour! Let's Learn French

A new resource to learn French, for ages 6-10.

How is that possible? You have the free audio version online at A native speaker of French pronounces all the French words and sentences in the book, so you don’t have to. A native speaker of English pronounces all the English words in the book, so you don’t have to. Continue reading »

On the same page, you will find a whole unit study on French culture and food, as well as games to practice your new vocabulary. French for parents is another feature on the website, where practical advice is given for – you guessed it – parents.

The other thing I really like on are the activity sheets. One of them in particular lets us set up a schedule for repeating one French phrase per day. At the end of the day, you record how many times you used that particular expression.

I have been waiting for this book for about two years. If you remember, I reviewed its sister, Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish, a similar book for Spanish. The author of both books, Judy Martialay, a retired foreign language teacher from New York, has come through for us with a volume for French this time.

Inside Bonjour! Let's Learn French

Inside Bonjour! Let’s Learn French

In Bonjour! Let’s Learn French, children meet Pete the Pilot, who takes them to France. During this imaginary trip, they learn some useful French phrases. Another character in the book is Louis l’escargot (the snail). The game on the website involves Louis and his love of croissants. It’s a lot of fun!

The book is a mixture of English and French and the chapters change format, so nobody gets bored of a particular routine. You know how most foreign language textbooks follow the same format for every lesson? First the new words, then the text, reading comprehension questions, and a bit of grammar. Next lesson, same drill. After about three weeks of this, no wonder so many people give up on learning another language.

That’s why I like Bonjour! Let’s Learn French. Every chapter switches things around. At some point, you learn about life in France and impressionist art, for example. You also learn how to make an impressionist-style picture with oil pastels.

Your effort as a homeschool teacher is minimal. Purchase the book, open the book, click Play on the audio version of the book online. Sit back and relax. You do have to ensure your children repeat the French expressions during the pauses on the recording.

Repetition is key. So come back to this book regularly and you should find it easier to pronounce and understand every time. Just like with anything else, learning a language can get exciting at times and boring at times. As long as you persevere, you are setting yourself up for success.

I received a free copy of this material in exchange for providing an honest review on my blog.

Family Activities For All Ages

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Making time for family activities isn’t always easy to do. If it isn’t prior commitments and the general pressures of modern life holding you back, it’s the sheer fact of having to find family activities which everyone will enjoy.

Driving toward mountains

Great Smoky Mountains in the distance are always a great family destination.

When your children’s ages cover a wide range, it is even harder to find something that everyone will be willing to give a go. If you can manage it though, your family time will benefit greatly as a result. The following family activities are guaranteed to raise smiles all round. Continue reading »

The United States is home to a diverse range of scenery. There are scenes of outstanding natural beauty all across the nation. No matter where in the US you live, it is all but guaranteed that you will have access to some kind of worthwhile scenery. Hiking is a great family activity. Not only is it the perfect opportunity for some family bonding, it will also help you all to get some exercise and keep fit.

Another great thing about hiking is that you can combine it with a variety of other activities. For example, bring a camera out with you and encourage your kids to try their hand at photography. This will get them to think about their surroundings and to interact more with their environment.

Bowling is one of those timeless activities that still possesses the same charm today as 50 years ago. Advances in technology, as well as changing consumer expectations, have meant that many once popular pastimes have fallen by the wayside. Bowling has proven resilient to these pressures.

In fact, for many people, it is this retro feel that they like the most about bowling. Kids of all ages, and even adults, can enjoy a round of bowling.

Many bowling alleys still have an attached laser tag area. Talk about some real retro fun!

Escape Room
Escape rooms are a new craze which has been sweeping to world. We saw them in Stockholm and my sister tells me they have them in Romania. Even in Sevier County, where I live, I spotted at least one in Pigeon Forge or Sevierville.

Participants in an escape room have to solve a series of puzzles in order to, well, escape from a room. These escape rooms are often themed, although some are set up purely as puzzles to be solved. Check out this Indianapolis Escape Room for an example.

Escape rooms make a nice change of pace from the usual activities you might do with your family. They are highly interactive and encourage creative and critical thinking, if you are not claustrophobic.

This makes the escape room experience a valuable one for children of all ages. You should check ahead as different escape rooms will have different age restrictions.

It isn’t easy finding activities which are suitable for the entire family, especially when there is a wide range of ages involved. The above activities are some of the most universally enjoyable and should appeal to everyone, regardless of their age.

Exciting Ways Parents Can Get Their Kids Interested In Music

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Are you one of those parents who goes to bed at night hoping your child will be the next generation’s top musician? Would you like to, at the very least, ensure your children appreciate the magic and wonder of music from a young age? Read on, then.

Music is a fantastic thing, and it can help support and inspire young people throughout their lives. Even if your children do not become professional musicians, research shows music makes children smarter, which means you should really think about incorporating music lessons in your homeschool. Continue reading »


Keep some instruments at home

Children are inquisitive creatures. They struggle to leave items alone if they see them around the house. So, maybe you should go out and purchase some affordable musical instruments? A ukulele or violin is not going to break the bank, and there are plenty of sites like where you can get some inspiration and encourage your loved ones to learn some of their favorite tracks.

I have a friend whose son took piano lessons for years and years. He was pretty good, or so said his teacher, but the boy himself just could not get into it. Instead, one day, he decided to pick up a ukulele. He said its sound made him happy. Whatever works.

The same goes for people who want their kids to learn to play the guitar or something similar. Leave some instruments around and see what happens!


Pay for professional lessons

If you’re committed to making sure your child ends up with an appreciation of music, then you might think about contacting an instructor and paying for some professional lessons. Do a Google search for music teachers in your area, or ask around your group of homeschooling moms.

We are also in the age of social media, and so you should have no trouble when it comes to identifying the best music teachers in your area using social networks like Facebook. Lessons can get expensive, but they could set your child off on the right path.


Take your kids to gigs and concerts

Any parent who wants to instill a love of music in their child will have to take them to see live performances at some point. Sites like are excellent places to look for the latest listings. Make sure you consider their likes and interests when you purchase the tickets.

Another idea would be to go see some masterworks – classic music in different genres. Recognizable tunes will keep their interest during long concerts. Play these pieces for them before you go. YouTube or Pandora and other sites should have pretty much anything toward which you are leaning.

Whatever you decide to do during the coming months, ensure that you work hard to encourage your loved ones to form an interest in music. Who knows? Maybe they’ll pick up that ukulele and struggle to put it down? Perhaps this will be the beginning of a new musical hobby that will last for the rest of their lives?

You can then start pushing your little one towards some public performances if they like that idea. Music touches people in many ways and your homeschooler can be a giver to others through music.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 34

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Chapter 34 took us to South America in order to meet a certain Simon Bolivar. The craft was edible and easy to make: arroz con leche. We used to make a lot of “rice with milk” when I was growing up in Romania, so it was a familiar dish to me.

Arroz con leche

Arroz con leche

The difference was the orange juice and the cinnamon. I have to say, I did not expect the orange juice to give it a nice flavor. It just did not seem right. Continue reading »

Once I tried it though, I was really impressed. The rice is starchy and the milk has protein, so, in a way, it is a bit of a heavy dish. But the orange juice gives it a lift, a tropical nuance that makes it very pleasant.

If you can, try to make this dish for this chapter. Depending on your rice, you might have to cook it longer. I have the kind of rice that needs a good 45 minutes to cook. In conclusion, this was a rice pudding with a South American flavor. Very, very nice.

Ingredients for arroz con leche

Ingredients for arroz con leche

The kids noticed that greed seems to be a running theme through history. Even liberators like Simon Bolivar end up giving in to their humanity and seek a throne for life. Is it any wonder that it is hard to work toward term limits in our American Congress?

We had a conversation about our fallen human nature. We may say now that we are not interested in power, but when the opportunity is given to us, there’s no telling where our greed might take us.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 33

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Chapter 33 covered the end of Napoleon and the craft was really exciting. I had no idea it would be so easy to create our own snow globe with a soldier inside to represent the poor French soldiers trudging through Russia in the winter.

Snow globe soldier

Snow globe soldier craft

We made sure the pronunciation of Napoleon’s name is different from that of Neapolitan ice cream. We love Neapolitan ice cream at our house and they asked me if it got named after Napoleon. That’s when I realized we needed to clarify some pronunciation. Continue reading »

The chapter also covers the useless war of 1812. We have listened to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture before and we listened to it again. My son thinks the cannon sounds are really exciting. You can find a recording with real cannons on YouTube if you do not have a copy of this piece.

I did not play Abba’s Waterloo song for them, but I told them how the name can be used in different contexts to mean a battle you were supposed to win, but you lost. I also mentioned how the Duke of Wellington lived long enough to overlap his life and career with those of Queen Victoria.

The kids know I watch “Victoria” on PBS and I told them the Duke of Wellington makes several appearances in Victoria’s life as represented on this TV show. He is older and he advises her with his wisdom.

Here’s another reason to do history even before fifth grade: all the vocabulary used in popular culture, in newspapers, in songs, in symbolic ways. Vocabulary is very important in our homeschool and you might be sick of my reminding you about it over and over again.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 32

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Lewis and Clark star in chapter 32. Oh, and Lewis’s dog, Seaman. My children love animals and they melted over the idea of this dog that came along during this expedition. In fact, he was the only animal to complete the trip.

Lewis and Clark diary craft

Lewis and Clark diary out of construction paper, computer paper, and two brads.

When I looked him up online, he looks adorable. Well, the statues that represent him. Seaman was a Newfoundland dog and his fluffy tail and long hair make him very cute. Continue reading »

Pompy stole the show though. The coloring page featured Sacagawea and her baby boy, Jean-Baptiste, nicknamed Pompy. Can you imagine carrying a baby with you in that wilderness? No Huggies or Pampers. No wet wipes. Talk about adventure.

I really wish I had time to supplement this chapter with some of the reading suggestions provided. However, I am on a mission to complete volume 3 as soon as possible, so we can start on chapter 4 and finish that one before the next school year starts.

Yes, this means we will be doing history through the summer, too, but they enjoy it. It’s like reading to them out loud, which they do not consider school. If we get really ambitious, we might even be able to finish volume four before the school year ends in the middle of May.

Here’s why: we have finished our math curricula and so math does not necessarily have to happen anymore through April and May. We could cover two chapters of history every day. In 21 days of school, we could finish 42 chapters, which is what Story of the World has in every book.

It took me a bit to get this flexible in my mind about homeschooling. This process is called “de-schooling yourself.” For those of us who attended public school, it seems that we must do at least five subjects every day. Or else. But that’s not realistic for a homeschool setting.

Back to Lewis and Clark. I know that we will cover them again and again before they finish high school. We must declare ourselves satisfied with this quick glance at their story and move on. Who knows? I might order some of those books through the summer months for us to read after all.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 31

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Chapter 31 deals with a different kind of rebellion: the factory workers in England smashing machines for being abused in the work place. This chapter is our opportunity, parents, to steer young minds away from entitlement.

Factories in England

Coloring pages – our only craft for this chapter

Why? Because this chapter talks about children working in factories starting at age 8. That’s right. Let that sink in, especially if you have normal children, like I do, who are still learning not to complain when they hear they have to study or read or practice an instrument. Continue reading »

My children will do their work every day, but it is not without a bit of coaxing on my part. We are still working on attitude and getting things done without having to be told.

I have a friend who is homeschooling her children after she was homeschooled herself. She told me that when her mom used to give her different assignments, my friend would ask, “Do I have to?”

Somehow, somewhere, my children learned this phrase, too. It’s funny, really. When I say they have to do this or that before they can consider themselves finished with school for the day, they ask, “Do I have to?”

Where did that come from? So anyway, this chapter will teach them they should be thankful they do not have to work in a factory 12 hours a day. They only have to read a book (which is interesting), copy a paragraph (which can be amusing), practice an instrument (which is intriguing), solve some math problems (which prepares them for fun science experiments later), and listen to a history lesson (which makes them wiser).

What’s not to like? Why would you not want to “have to” do school today?

The crafts or activities suggested in this chapter did not inspire us. Sorry.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 30

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Chapter 30 covers Haiti’s fight for independence from France. If we studied anything about Haiti when I was growing up in Romania, I must have forgotten it, because I remember nothing on the subject. So I was learning alongside my children in this chapter.

Symbol of Haiti - the palm tree

Symbol of Haiti – the palm tree

My fourth grader studied big numbers in math this year, so he had the task of explaining to his sister (who is only in second grade) what the difference is between 36,000 white French aristocrats and 500,000 African slaves. Unit studies are not my thing, but when I can make a connection between subjects, I make it. In this case, math and history came together and it was fun. Continue reading »

The chapter has some violence, which would be normal when you study a rebellion, right? But we move quickly over these parts of the stories. I do not want to minimize the suffering of the slaves. We talk about the terrible institution of slavery every time it comes up and I remind them the Bible clearly speaks against slavery.

Haitian flags

Haitian flags

On the other hand, I do not want to get too graphic about what they did to slaves back then. After all, my children are only 7 and 10. When the time comes, I will let them read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and we will study the American Civil War and many other related lessons.

As always, I rejoiced because they learned new vocabulary. “Aristocracy” was one of the words in this lesson and they knew what it meant but they were not sure. Sometimes words we hear seem clear but not 100% and we need to look them up or ask an adult. That was the case here.

Dessalines creates the new Haitian flag

Dessalines creates the new Haitian flag

We discussed the different types of aristocrats and how some are lower or less important than others etc. For our craft, they created palm trees out of craft foam. They also colored the Haitian flag and, of their own free will, made some drawings.

One represents Jean-Jacques Dessalines creating the flag and the other, well, just a cool medieval castle under attack. Because we can. Homeschooling fun at its best. I think.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 29

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Chapter 29 deals with Napoleon’s rise to power. Two stories about Napoleon document first his becoming a consul and then an emperor. The kids want to understand why Napoleon behaved the way he did, which to me signifies that we are moving into the logic stage of their development.

French and British War Game

The French side is blue but technical difficulties made it so their cards ended up being white instead.

They are not just concerned about the facts. Now they want to know why the facts are as they are. What motivates people to want power? Why does a man want to become a leader at any cost? Greed. That’s the short answer. Continue reading »

So we discussed greed and what it does to people and relationships. We gave examples from our own lives and from some of the literature we have read or movies we have watched. The Bible verse came to mind, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

We talked about all the art that Napoleon brought from Italy and which is now in the Louvre. “Was the Mona Lisa among those paintings?” they asked me. I did not know the answer to that question.

When I researched it, I found out that no, the Mona Lisa did not come to France with Napoleon. It actually came a long time before that. Da Vinci himself brought it over from Italy.

For the craft or activity, we decided to play the game provided in the Activity Book, called “Conquer the World.” I printed out the cards on construction paper: blue for the French and red for the English. Well, would you believe this? The blue paper got warped in the printer and I got tired of working with it, so I printed out the French cards on regular printer paper.

I did not enlarge the board, either, as they were suggesting. And I did not want to laminate it because I knew we would want to color it. They enjoyed playing the game and I could really tell they remembered the details. It would be interesting to play it again in a month or six months and see if they still remember.