Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 12

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Chapter 12 covered Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. What a chapter! For some reason, England is always interesting for us to study.

Homemade bread

Homemade bread

We made some bread in the bread machine and talked about the cooking project in the book, a loaf that measures up. Susan Wise Bauer provides a recipe for “easy bread” in the Activity Book. I am curious enough to try it some day, but not right now. I have too many things going. Maybe I will try making it during spring break, which is coming up shortly. Continue reading »

So for all intents and purposes I baked some bread in my trusted bread machine and called it a project. The kids love homemade bread. The house fills with the aroma and we all just feel like we are home. A friend of mine says that a home just does not feel like a home to her unless there is a cat around. I feel the same way about the smell of homemade bread.

Anyway, the kids do not remember the names of the people we study in history – it’s a fact. If we go through this history cycle three times, as SWB recommends it, they probably will. I keep telling myself this is only the first time they encounter these characters. They will have to read about them several times before they finally understand who is who and why they do what they do.

It is a new way of doing things for me, because I learned a lesson by heart and then considered my job as a student done. This is different. Reading and narrating, then hoping things will stick as we go through the cycle again in the next four years… Hmm… it’s all a big adventure, isn’t it?


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 11

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Chapter 11 was all about India and the Mogul emperors there. The craft was not that complicated. We put a couple of stuffed animals in the math balance and tried to see what goods could make them balance.

Foofa on a math balance

The weight of Foofa in costume jewelry and such

The story was that of the young Indian prince whose weight was measured in gold and food which were then given to the poor on his birthday. The kids had fun bringing costume jewelry, marbles and other objects to try to make things balance. Continue reading »

I suppose you could really dive into this activity and transform it into a math activity and other things – a whole unit study in itself about India. The thing is, unit studies do not appeal to me. I would suspect one cannot do a unit study about India either without cooking an Indian dish. Alas, I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate Indian cuisine.

Teddybear in math balance

Teddybear in math balance

I have several Indian friends who have cooked their dishes for me and promised me to tone down the spices. The food was so spicy, I had tears in my eyes as I ate the first couple of forkfuls and then asked to be excused from finishing the rest of my plate. I am sorry, but Indian food is not my thing. I have never liked spicy food to begin with. Ginger and curry are not at all flavors I like, either. There it is.

The kids enjoy looking cities up on the world map. We talked about how large India is – large enough to be called the Indian subcontinent in some contexts. And that was another chapter done.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 10

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Chapter 10 dealt with China and the rise of the Manchu. The kids could not believe how stubborn and self-sufficient the Chinese were.

Girl gets sand from a sandbox

Getting sand from our sandbox

For our craft, we made a Zen garden. Oh, the fun! We have an aluminium pan for our crafts and first my daughter filled it up with sand from the sandbox. Then, they cleaned the sand a bit. Lots of little leaves and pebbles somehow manage to get into our sandbox, despite the lid. Continue reading »

Raking the Zen garden

Raking the Zen garden

Then, I explained to them how to rake it and decorate it with rocks. My children have recently started rock collections and they were very willing to part with three of their rocks for this project.

We talked about the difference between Zen and Christianity. We believe, as Christians, that there is nothing good in us. The heart is desperately wicked, the Bible says. That is why we need a Redeemer and we believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Through faith in Him, we receive eternal life. He lives in our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and so now our hearts are renewed. Our actions reflect this inward change.

Zen garden

Zen garden

With Zen, things are different. Zen believers turn inwardly to achieve peace. Christians reach outside of themselves, to God and His Son, while Zen teaches people to look inside themselves. The kids did not seem to have a problem distinguishing the two principles.

For the record, I have given up on reading the suggested books. Maybe this summer? We are in the home stretch of preparing for the annual standardized test and I seem to have tunnel vision about the 3Rs. We will definitely look at some of the titles suggested by SWB and see if the library can get them for us.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 9

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Chapter 9 deals with the Western War or the Thirty Years’ War. This was a fascinating lesson to me. I had forgotten the details of this war. After all, it has been decades since I studied it in school. Now that I know more about the difference between Catholics and Protestants, I looked at the story in a different light anyway.

Shredded apples

Shredded apples for the Swedish apple cake

First of all, religious wars are sad. We talked about the fact that war may be a necessary evil at times, but it should never start simply because you persecute somebody for their faith. Continue reading »

For our craft, I made a Swedish apple cake according to the recipe in the Activity Book. It was fun and, as usual, I substituted some ingredients for health reasons. No matter how you cut it, one cup of sugar in a cake recipe seems extremely rich. I used some molasses and honey instead of the sugar. I definitely did not use a cup of the sweeteners.

Molasses, coconut oil and honey

Molasses, coconut oil and honey

My suggestion to you it to omit the nutmeg in the recipe. Even though I like nutmeg, it totally seemed to overwhelm the cloves and other ingredients. So skip the nutmeg altogether and make your Swedish apple cake more palatable.

Swedish apple cake

Swedish apple cake

The consistency was more that of a fruit cake – dense and fruity. I was the only one who consumed this apple cake and that’s because I don’t believe in throwing away food. Maybe I went too far with my substitutions? Maybe it is supposed to be that way?

Swedish apple cake in pan

Swedish apple cake in pan

It was edible, especially with a cup of milk nearby, but I am not a picky eater. My children tried it and did not like it. It must have been the nutmeg, but I also think that the name “cake” made them expect something fluffier and softer.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 8

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The Middle of the East or Chapter 8 was all about the Persian puzzle and the Ottoman Turks. Needless to say, I have a great deal to add to the history lessons on the Ottoman Empire, as someone who grew up in Romania. Thanks to our proximity to the Black Sea area, Romanians were always being invaded or threatened to be invaded. For centuries, the Turks were our greatest enemies.

Bridge of four arches

One soldier was enough to make the bridge of four arches bend.

The craft we chose was to build a bridge of four arches. It was not that hard, but it was not easy either. Scotch tape helps but it can be unruly, as I just used scrap paper for the arches, and scrap paper is flimsy. By the way, let us talk about the supplies needed. Typing paper? I had to look that up. Continue reading »

Apparently, that is another name for A4 – the European size for what we call 8 1/2 x 11 or Letter size in America. A4 is slightly longer and wider than Letter size.

The good news is, what you need to cut out of a piece of “typing paper” also fits within a Letter size. So we used some scrap paper, Letter size, and cut out the strips required. This was a great exercise in measuring with a ruler, by the way. If your children need some practice with measuring and using a ruler, there’s your opportunity.

We put them together with tape and then tested them with plastic soldiers. One plastic soldier was OK on it, but two proved too heavy. The kids played with the soldiers as if they were having a battle around the bridge and did not place them on the bridge.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 7

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Chapter 7 dealt with the spread of slavery. The children were appalled by the institution of slavery and we clarified some things about it with this chapter. Tobacco as a source of income was discussed and, of course, we talked about smoking. Again.

Anti-smoking poster

My daughter made an anti-tobacco poster

I read somewhere that children as young as 8 already know if they plan to start smoking when they get older. Even if their parents do not smoke, some children become influenced by a movie or another adult in their life who smokes and they already develop an idea that smoking might just be something they want to do one day. Continue reading »

Because of this, I have been on an anti-smoking campaign with my children from day 1. I had one non-smoking parent and one who smoked. I knew the smell of cigarettes even though my smoking parent made an effort to always smoke on the balcony or in front of an open window. I never liked the smell of it and I never thought smoking was cool – no matter how many French movies I watched.

Strangely enough, my husband had the same background: one smoking parent and one non-smoking parent. He has also never entertained the idea of smoking. So we used our own story mingled with this history chapter on tobacco as an income source to discuss that smoking is bad for you and that we should not get involved in the smoking industry at any level.

Boy and girl create anti-smoking posters

They each worked on an anti-smoking poster

We read the background to the tobacco poster and King James’s Counter Tobacco document – rather long, but we did it. I had to work up an appetite for it because it just seemed long and redundant. Then, they worked on an anti-smoking poster. I printed out an infographic from the CDC website about all the risks associated with smoking and they worked around it.

Queen Nzinga was another part of the chapter and – in all honesty – it was all new to me. Fascinating woman she was – a great role model for our daughters.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 6

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The last time I blogged about Story of the World and our adventures in history was in October. That does not mean we have done done history. In fact, today we covered chapter 34. I suppose you can say I’m a bit behind in blogging about SOTW. My apologies. I will do my best to recount our efforts and catch up in the next couple of months.

Chapter 6 dealt with new colonies in the new world: Plymouth Plantation and New Amsterdam. For our craft, we made cornbread based on the recipe provided in the Activity Book – an original Wampanoag recipe with modern ingredients.

Wampanoag Cornbread

Wampanoag Cornbread

I modified the recipe a bit: soy milk instead of “milk,” vegetarian margarine (we like Smart Balance) instead of “margarine,” and honey instead of sugar. The one egg needed in the recipe can be replaced with Egg Replacer, of course. Even with all the substitutions, the cornbread came out well and everybody enjoyed it. I made some vegetarian chili and a cabbage salad and that was our lunch.

The kids loved to hear the story of The Mayflower all over again. We have covered it every year around Thanksgiving and they remembered some bits. The thing is, I don’t harp so much on dates and details. Maybe I should. The way I learned history was dry and fact-oriented and I want them to get into history through the avenue of a story.

Continue reading »

I had good history teachers, but the way they taught us was via a textbook. Here are the five reasons why the peasant revolts happened in 1907; memorize the years when King Stephen the Great reigned; now list the seven outcomes of World War II. I never understood why people got interested in history. What was the big deal?

Cornbread in pan

Cornbread in pan

Well, now that I am older, I look at history differently – as a story. I think that Susan Wise Bauer inspired me in that way, but I grew into this experience organically, through my fascination with royalty and by watching period dramas like ‘Downton Abbey’ and, more recently, ‘Victoria.’

You get the story and then you start asking questions about the people, the times, the inventions, and the government of the era. You get answers by Googling, by looking things up in a history encyclopedia, by listening to music from that time, by buying a history magazine etc. And then you know more about what happened and why. You discover you love history because it is so fascinating to hang on to the story.

That’s my strategy with the kids and I think it works because my son declares he loves history. My daughter – not so much, but she is still young. When my son was my daughter’s age, he was OK with history, but he would not declare his love for it.


Youth Symphony Winter Concert

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The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras held their Winter Concert on February 13, 2017 at the Tennessee Theater in downtown Knoxville, as usual. My son’s orchestra, Preludium, played first. Their two pieces were March of the Meistersingers by Richard Wagner and Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Boy walks with his violin at Tennessee Theater

Our son after playing with his orchestra

The other three orchestras – Philharmonia, Sinfonia and the Youth Chamber – also played that night. The top youth symphony orchestra played on the following Monday, on February 20, along with the Concerto Competition winners. We live one hour away from Knoxville so we excused ourselves from attending the concert on the 20th. The kids love classical music but they get bored by sitting in the audience for more than 45 minutes and these concerts last for at least one hour.  Continue reading »

I did not want to drive for two hours both ways only to sit in the audience and shush them down every two minutes. I know they need the opportunity to practice sitting down and being quiet, but I think we do pretty well by attending our regular concerts when one of them is on stage or the professional concerts for children by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra plus church events. One must draw the line somewhere, otherwise we would be all over the place.

So on the 13th, when our son was on stage, we had a lot of fun taking in the sights and sounds at the Tennessee Theater again. For me, there is no greater joy than to see my children make music. I am proud of their other achievements but there is something about music. I wish I had gone further in my own music efforts as a child and so I naturally want my children to go further than I did. It’s the classic syndrome of a parent’s unfulfilled dreams which get passed onto the children.

My children enjoy music and they hum while they play throughout the day. They even hum while doing their math. Do they complain about having to practice daily? Sure. But they are slowly learning that quitting is not an option and skipping practice is not an option either. If they had to choose, they would probably stick with piano and ditch violin, but I will not give them an out. We have invested too much in this endeavor – it would be a waste.

Therefore, we press on, and participating in orchestra actually helps them enjoy violin more. They get to be with other children and receive that gentle peer pressure from having to keep up with their stand partners. They belong to a group who plays string instruments and I think it helps them stay motivated to practice. By building skills, they build confidence and enjoyment ensues. We look forward to receiving their new music for the spring concert, which will be in May.


Adventure Science Center in Nashville

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When we went to Nashville recently for TeenPact One Day, we also spent some time at the Adventure Science Center. That place is so big, your child could spend hours in there and not get bored. In the process, your child would be learning all sorts of science concepts hands-on.

Boy and girl play at Adventure Science Center

Sending parachutes up to be released

One can, for instance, lift a car with the help of a lever and fulcrum. The famous Aristotelian quote is written right on the lever: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Continue reading »

There is a piano you can play with your feet and an organ you play by covering holes with large cylinders. If your children are over 45 lbs, they can experience Moon’s gravity in a harness and try to moon walk. My son kept talking about the experience weeks after he did it, even though he did not master the squatting. Apparently, one must squat as soon as your feet touch the ground.

Upstairs, there is a large hall about the human body. You learn about the different parts of the brain by actually walking into a brain. They have a grossology game which is exactly what it sounds like. They ask you questions on a screen about the excretory function and you get to answer by pushing buttons, against three other contestants, or alone, if you prefer. Children love the topic, of course.

Adventure Science Center in Nashville

Body heat screen reacts to their movements

They also have a large water table to demonstrate the flow of blood in and out of the heart. Children can manipulate small gates to close and open different paths for the water. Of course, they make up their own games and forget all about the circulatory system. They are having fun and moving about and learning a little bit about the four chambers of the heart though.

In the planetarium, we were able to catch a documentary about solar eclipses, produced right there in Nashville. It was so fascinating, I was sorry I fell asleep ten minutes into it, but I suppose I am more tired than I think I am. At least I know the children enjoyed it very much.

If you are a teacher, you get into the Adventure Science Center for free. Just make sure you bring your homeschool educator ID if you have one from your local support group.


TeenPact One Day Class

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For the second year in a row, we traveled to Nashville for TeenPact One Day. This is a seminar for homeschoolers ages 8-12 during which they learn about government, civics, politics, how bills become laws, and how they can help a political campaign even before they have the right to vote. They also get to tour the Capitol and see where the State Senate and House of Representatives meet.

Mom and son in front of the Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville.

Mom and son in front of the Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville.

They learn a lot of history in the process, too. The staircase inside the Capitol bears bullet marks since the Civil War. Busts of Andrew Jackson and Sequoia along with paintings of former governors beg to be noticed. It would be impossible not to learn at least a little something about history in this place. Continue reading »

Last but not least, homeschooled children get to interact in a group setting and make friends. During the Capitol tour, which happens right before lunch, my son and another little boy from Knoxville struck up a conversation and then decided they should sit together for lunch.

TeenPact One Day

My son gives his speech as his campaign staff hold signs behind him.

Lunch happens in the cafeteria, as there is not enough time to leave the premises. You either place your order ahead or you wing it with the options they have. Even for a vegetarian, I found their buffet to be great and, at $5, it does not break the bank.

Tennessee State Senate

Looking onto the Senate hall

The staffers in the classroom are teenagers from all over the nation. This year, my son’s class leaders hailed from Alaska, Nevada, Tennessee, and Florida. The cost is only $35 and the seminar lasts from 10am until 4pm.

TeenPact One Day

Tired at the end of the day, but proud of his certificate

Once your child reaches age 13, the option is to take the full TeenPact program which lasts Monday-Thursday, the same week as the One Day program, which happens on a Friday.

We recommend the experience to all families who have conservative values and want to raise a child interested in government and politics. Our son thoroughly enjoys it and our daughter looks forward to being old enough to attend.