Monday, January 15, 2018

Great Ways to Homeschool History

There are lots of WONDERFUL Homeschool history resources!
History is, by far, one of the easiest subjects to teach as a parent-educator. History is the story of human beings, and what they have done. It appeals to a natural human interest - storytelling - and what kid doesn't love a story?

Now, granted, history can be taught poorly, but if taught well, it is naturally a delight!

I've found that there are a few subjects in school that I have to "push" -and a few that my daughter will voluntarily work on when she has a "day off school" or in the evening when school is "done for the day." History is one of those subjects that gets picked up outside of "school hours" : )

I'm not a fan of history textbooks - unfortunately they tend to condense history down to a dreadfully boring list of dates of battles and long lists of names of explorers with absolutely no appeal for the average reader - child or adult.

But, tossing the textbook doesn't mean less history is learned, but rather that MORE history is covered! 

 Here are a few resources that have been our favorites.

(Remember, if you find something good on Youtube, you can download it so that you're not in danger of losing it if it is taken down, and you're not dependent on an internet connection for viewing : )
This is the site I use for downloading Video Download Site I use the free feature. Use at your own risk, but so far the free feature for downloading only has worked well for me.)

The Bible & Bible Story Books - the Bible is the ultimate Historical document. Written by eyewitnesses, you can't beat it. After all, as the cliche goes, History is HIS Story!

Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Station - perfect for getting a little kid introduced to history. These books are mostly make-believe - with modern children time traveling to meet some historic person or see some important event. They're incredibly fun, with a very light smattering of history. They're a treasure because in addition to all that, they also teach Christian Values.

If You Were There . . .These books are a series of very brief chapters on some historical event, told at a kids' interest level. We've only read one (the Signing of the Constitution) but found it very nice.

Who Was . . . This is a secular biography set. It is well-written for children, as far as reading level and interest are concerned. If the person you're reading about was a devout Christian, the author will mention that. Unfortunately, if the person you're reading about was an adulterer, that detail will also be included. So, Caveat Emptor. Choose carefully which personalities you want to read about, and at which ages. Some simply aren't suitable - but many are delightful. They're all well written, and an easy read. They're even good for adults who want to learn about someone without an in depth study.

American Girl - Make Believe Characters set in various periods of American history. All in all, they're a wholesome, fun set. This publisher makes both books and movies. They make history and the people who lived then seem more interesting to young children (grade school). As far as the movies go, I'd only recommend the "Kit" "Molly" and "Samantha" movies (many I haven't even seen!). All the books we've read have been delightful. In addition to encouraging an interest in history, they also teach positive social skills and character traits.
(I do take issue with the occasional point, but overall we enjoy them : )




Little House Series - Everyone knows these, they're great. They give kids a "feel" for what life was like in the Pioneering days of America, as well as teaching wholesome values. The author was a Christian, and that is reflected in her writing, as these stories are autobiographical. Nearly all libraries carry these.

Liberty's Kids - this is a 40 episode video set, that features fictional teen-aged reporters covering the events of the American Revolution. It is done in a cartoon style. If you child watches every episode more than once (as mine has) you'll probably find out that he or she knows more about this period of history than almost any adult you encounter. And, better yet, will barely even realize that the set is "educational." This is an older set that is available at many libraries, but the entire set may be purchased quite cheaply online. Ours was $5 for all 40 episodes! I have also seen them on Youtube.



My America - These books are diaries of fictional people from various periods of American history. They are incredibly informative about the period in which they were written, and help a child feel exactly what it would have been like to experience those events. They do include some content that requires parental guidance, for instance, a child who visits a fortune teller,  experiences war, hears about assassination, witnesses illness or starvation, gets angry at God, or mentions blood loss during childbirth. These are marketed for 3rd through 5th grade, but sometimes the content requires a little extra parental guidance and discussion. They're written from a secularist perspective, but often contain a positive depiction of Christianity.

Dear America - These books are the next step up from the My America Set. They are extremely well done, with LOTS of historical information. But, if the younger set is PG, these are PG-13. They're thicker, and are written at more difficult reading level. And, they have lots more content that you'll want to discuss as your kids read them. Dating, sneaking behind parents, war, prejudice, divorce, cohabitation, etc. But, these things are dealt with in a gentle way, and not overly graphic for an older elementary reader. Written from a secularist perspective, but often contains a positive depiction of Christianity. The historical notes in the back are a gem.

Drive Thru History with Dave Stotts - we LOVE this series of videos. Mr. Stotts takes the viewer to historic sites, and explains what happened there. He inserts his wacky brand of slapstick humor, which adult viewers might occasionally find annoying, but kids just can't seem to get enough of. Which means that kids will watch way more hours of this historical documentary than adults might expect. There are several videos on American History, Ancient History, and Biblical History. There is the occasional inaccuracy (a parent who is a history buff will notice one from time to time), but as video series go, it is outstanding. Sometimes you'll find an episode on Youtube : )



Backstairs at the White House - This 4 part miniseries was released as a television miniseries in 1979. It is based on the true story of a mother and a daughter who worked as maids in the White House for about 50 years of the 20th century. It gives an "insider's look" at the goings-on and personalities of the White House during those years, as well as the historic events of the time period. It is SO much more interesting to hear about the Teapot Dome scandal as President Harding discusses it with buddies over a game of poker and an illegal drink during Prohibition, than to read about it in a textbook! There are references to scandals, but no overly graphic depictions or descriptions. This is also a real gem because it gives a first person account of the racial injustices of the times, encouraging the viewer's compassion, without being polemical.



Classical Conversations Timeline Song - don't let your kid be one of those who asks grandpa if he knew Alexander the Great! Let him get a good grasp of the relationship of historical events by learning this song : )






1940's House - This is a BBC reality show that shows a modern family trying to live as people did on the "homefront" in 1940's England. It is 3 hours, and my daughter finds it fascinating enough to watch repeatedly. For the most part, it gives children an idea of the difficulties of the war, without having them become TOO aware of the horrors of war just yet. (We do fast forward past the BBC Radio Broadcast of the liberation of Concentration Camps - we'll wait a little longer to learn about that). There are a few bawdy jokes in the dialogue as well as some references to babies born to GI's out of wedlock, but all in all, it's a very helpful educational series. (The Link is to the review where I first read about this one )

Peril & Peace - This is a series of novelized short stories of several Saints from the early centuries of Christianity. The authors are Protestant, resulting in the occasional perspective difference, but it is well written and an interesting read.

Museums, Archeological Ruins and Living History Villages - Whenever you travel, look up the local history.  And for that matter, look it up at home, too! Museums, historic houses, Battlefields, Churches, Monasteries, Reenactments, see it all! These things make history come alive for kids!

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Monday, January 8, 2018

A Tribute to a Man I Never Met

A Tribute to a Man I Never Met
In yesterday's news, it was reported that a local teacher at Elder, a Cincinnati Catholic High School had died. A few weeks ago, Mark Klusman, who had taught high school at Elder High School for more than 50 years, was badly injured by a hit-and-run, drugged driver. His injuries led to his death. A tragedy for his family, and a tragedy for the young driver involved - whose life, sadly, will never be the same.


As I read the many online tributes to this popular teacher, one of them has stuck in my mind and just won't go away. One prior student wrote of him, "My strongest memory of him was that he would never let a kid eat by himself in the Elder cafeteria."

A seemingly small gesture, that this former student remembered years later.

But IS it such a small thing?

Our culture is obsessed with "Me Time." I see a constant stream of blog posts, magazine articles and spa ads about "Me Time." And, chatter amongst friends -  especially Teachers and Moms who spend their days with children - focuses unrelentingly on "Me Time."

I'm sure that Mr. Klusman also wanted "Me Time." When lunch time came and he no doubt needed rest from a long morning of demanding interactions with young people.

But, in imitation of Christ, he took the high road.

13When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.


He ROUTINELY sacrificially offered his "Me Time" and made it into "You Time."

A finer tribute I cannot imagine.

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Stuffed Veggies Top 17 posts of 2017

At the end of the year, it's fun to look back and see which posts really captured readers' imaginations. I always enjoy reading annual retrospectives of my favorite blogs, so I figured I'd return the favor and write one of my own this year.

Quite frequently, as a blogger, I'm surprised to see what does - and doesn't - attract readers. It's not always predictable!

My top post of the year was a tribute to my Great-Grandfather, Samuel:



Grandpa's Last Will & Testament



Another surprise hit was about my Christian Faith:

Orthodox Christian Icon Alphabet

I fully expected this post to be popular - and it was. People tend to like tech tips : )

How and Why I use Scheduled Posts on Blogger


But these two were a total shock! Who knew that upcycling & reusing would interest so many people?

Upcycling the Vinegar Jug
About that Coffee Cup



My individual recipes seldom attract much attention on their own (although some of them are steady producers of hits), but my menus featuring them are a perennial favorite - as evidenced by FIVE super-popular menus this year. I guess people just love variety : )


Winter Week Menu


Chinese New Year Week's Menu


Vegan Valentine Treats


Lenten & Omnivore Week's Menu

Mexican Week of Meals





Holy Week Menu

And, Homeschooling Resources are often quite popular

History & Geography Fun Homeschool Video Day




Rethinking Learning Styles



Math Homeschool Fun Video Day



English Homeschool Fun Video Day
Multiplication Quick Tricks Memory Song





But, invariably, there's a post or two in a year that I EXPECT to be hugely popular that for some reason doesn't attract attention. In past years, those posts have turned out to be "late bloomers" - attracting little attention when first published, but later becoming hits. That's my hope for my "Stir & Pour Bread Variety" Series. I mean, seriously, who can pass up a homemade yeast bread variety that's easier to make than Just-Add-Water Pancakes? Time will tell, but here's hoping this one will "bloom" later!


Stir & Pour Bread Variety


I hope you have a Wonderful, Blessed 2018!

and, if you're looking for a worthy New Year's Resolution, check out this post:

The One Resolution that is the Best

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