Saturday, October 15, 2016

Reading Through the U.S. Presidential Elections & Government

Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts…
It is impossible to rightly govern a nation
without God and the Bible - George Washington


As the 2016 Presidential election is upon us I decided to do a quick study of the United States government and how it works.  I threw this together quickly and I know the time is nearly upon us but I wanted to share in case other homeschool families' wanted to do the same with their children.
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? by Jean…The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
I will just highlight briefly some of the books on this list although all of them are worth your time and effort for a unit study on government.

If you need a quick review of our nation's beginning you can start with The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dagliesh (or check out my American Revolution unit part 1 and part 2).

Jean Fritz has wonderful books and Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? is no exception! This book makes learning so much fun that your children won't realize they are doing school.  Read about Hancock's eccentricies and why he wrote his no so large on the Declaration of Independence. 
Shh! We're Writing the Constitution by…The Hatmaker's Sign by Candace Fleming
Thomas Jefferson was struggling with making everyone happy with his wording of the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin wrote a timely tale in The Hatmaker's Sign, making the point that, "No matter what you write, or how well you write it, if the public is going to read it, you can be sure they will want to change it."

You will want to follow that up with Shh! We're Writing the Constitution by Fritz.

Syl Sobel has some great basic books on government: how it works, elections, the Bill of Rights, etc.  Several of these are on this list and you won't want to miss these for teaching the basics of government to your children.
Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of…
My 10 yod showed an unusual interest in presidents and wanted to read about all of them! So he has been reading Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of American Presidents.  I have mixed feelings about this book as it has some left leaning bias (but all of the books I found along these lines did).  The book is a huge, beautiful book and is engaging.  We talk about politics alot at my house and my son has been able to discern when he reads that a particular thing a particular president did was "good" or not. While the policies that Presidents put into place are fact whether they are good or bad is a matter of opinion and whether you have a Christian, Biblical worldview or not affects your opinion on these matters.  You may need to discuss some of the things in this books (particularly the last 75 years) with your children.
Being An American Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf

Skyrockets for the President;: A true story…A vintage treasure that you might want to include is Being An American Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf. Written before political correctness this book teaches your child how he or she can be a good citizen of America.  It talks about freedoms, rights and RESPONSIBILITIES (such as work and contributing to the good of your community).  


Skyrockets for President is another vintage book that is worth finding.  It is about George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States of America! 

Check out these and the list below.  Let me know some of your favorites that might not be on this list!

(P.S. I've found many of these older books are available at no charge electronically through openlibrary.org)




Reading Through the Civil War

Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less.
General Robert E. Lee


The Civil War or War Between the States or War of Northern Aggression (depending on who you are talking to) is a war that we are still feeling the effects of today. The reasons for the war are much debated and discussed and many books today are biased toward the North, show the North as absolutely right and good and the South as the ones who were wrong. I personally feel it isn't that simple. One thing for certain slavery wasn't the cause of the war and only became an issue as the war continued on. The North needed support for their cause and slavery was an issue that they could win people to their side on. I believe the war had more to do with how big Federal government wanted to be and would become. If you listen to the songs and testimonies of the South they believed they were fighting for their state rights. The South saw this war the same as the colonists saw the American Revolution (my booklist here), they were fighting against a too powerful and intrusive governement.



Today we are so accustomed to big Federal government I don't think we realize how these people saw their state. It was more like it was their country and the Federal government needed to stick to the basic things that would benefit all of the states and keep their nose out of the rest. While I believe that slavery needed to be eliminated this could have been done with an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. A war was not necessary. I encourage you to watch get and watch The Great Civil War Debate early in your reading journey!


A Nation Torn is a good starting point. It discusses many of the events that were going on in the years prior to the war and helps you to see that it was not as simple as abolishing slavery. Many things were going on that divided people and this book does a good job of presenting them.

We read many bio
graphies for this unit study but as a family read aloud we read Stonewall Jackson: Loved in the South Admired in the North (A Sower Biography). I personally enjoyed reading about this Godly man and you might find it appropriate to watch Gods and Generals after finishing. I believe this movie does a wonderful job portraying General Jackson and his love for God and his country (Virginia).
Another family read aloud was The Boy's War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the War. I'll be honest I almost didn't get this book but I am so glad I did. It turned out to be such a enlightening series of first hand accounts from boys (under 18) who fought in the war. It has a lot of wonderful photos from the time and you learn about all aspects of what these boys did and went through in this war. Don't miss this one!

As Texans we enjoyed Texans in the Confederate Calvary by Anne J. Bailey. If you wonder why Texans think they are the biggest, baddest and boldest you just need to read this book. Texas has a long history (booklist here) of men who were men. These guys carried multiple knives (including a Bowie knife) and multiple guns while fighting the Civil War. They chased nothern troops miles and miles back to their own states. They were bigger than life!



Three favorite picture books (upper elementary but all ages will enjoy) were Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor vs. the Virginia by Patrick O'Brien, The Story of the H.L. Hunley and Queenie's Coin by Fran Hawk and Runaway Balloon: The Last Flight of Confederate Air Force One by Burke Davis. All three of these are unique stories about military craft. Duel of the Ironclads tells about the first ironclad battleship, H.L. Hunley was a Civil War submarine and Runaway Balloon was about a reconnaissance hot air balloon made from the dresses of Southern ladies.

These are just some highlights from the list below. I waded through a lot of books to select these and feel like they were some great choices for this homeschool unit study! Let me know your favorites!

P.S. My 10 yod son said he really liked Iron Scouts of the Confederacy and Amos Fortune Free Man.



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reading Through Hearing Ear and the Seeing Eye (the Lord has made them both)

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both. - Prov. 20:12

I love reading biographies.  I am always amazed at what people can accomplish, even in the face of overwhelming disabilities.  Helen Keller, Ludwig Beethoven and Laura Bridgman are all such people. In this unit study we read biographies about these amazing people and learned about the marvelous gift of eyes and ears.  Helen Keller wrote an essay about what it would be like to see for three days and what she would do.  But what impressed me the most about her essay was when she talked about her desire for people to do without eyesight and hearing for three days.  "I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life. Darkness would make him more appreciative of sight, silence would teach him the joys of sound."  Stop and think about how much we see but never really look at and appreciate, how much we hear but never really listen too.  While traveling on this reading voyage I challenge you to take your children on a walk and really look and really listen to what is around you. The eyes and the ears are each incredible instruments designed by God. (Answers in Genesis has a great video for this study here).
She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman,…

The Bible says much about eyes and ears.  It talks about guarding them, it talks about God making them, it talks about spiritual eyes and spiritual ears.  It talks about Jesus opening blind eyes and Moses eyesight not being dim at 120 years old. The Bible has a lot to say about hearing and seeing. (Some scriptures to get you started: Prov. 4:20-23, 20:12; Matt. 13:13-17; Luke 11:33-36).


We read She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman Deaf-Blind Pioneer as a family read aloud.  Let me say, this book was the biggest surprise in this list. Never having heard of Laura Bridgman and knowing so much about Helen Keller I wasn't going to be easy to impress.  Yet, Laura Bridgman is inspiring and heart touching in her own right and in fact, Helen might not of been helped if it had not been for Laura.  Don't miss this book!

Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells…The Heroic Symphony by Anna Harwell CelenzaOf course we included a biography on Helen Keller (Courage of Helen Keller is good for early elementary, Helen Keller by Davidson for older)  My 10 yod read the latter and really enjoyed it. Thinking about not being able to hear or what it would be like to be blind were new concepts for him.  He made a lot of comments and observations.  I know Helen Keller impacted me greatly when I first learned about her life, her courage and amazing accomplishments.

Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World by…The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven by…I've included several books about Beethoven on this list.  Really each one brings it's own unique story and shouldn't be missed (well, I couldn't eliminate one anyway!)  The Heroic Symphony tells of one of Beethoven's symphonies and why he wrote it and what each part meant.  I know I've always wondered what story the music was telling and here is a great book to help children (and adults) understand the meaning behind a classical masterpiece. (BTW this one has to do with Napoleon) A cd is included so that your family can listen to the complete symphony that is the subject of this book. The 39 Apartments of Ludwid Van Beethoven is a comic look at the eccentrics of Ludwig and all of his legless pianos and many apartments.  While the author does take some fictional liberties the story is based in fact and my 10 yod read it multiple times he was so amused.  Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells is a good elementary biography covering the life of Beethoven. 


Did You Hear That? Animals with Super…Handsigns: A Sign Language Alphabet by…Eye See You: A Poster Book by Deborah L.…We also read about animal eyes and their amazing abilities and  the different kinds of eyes that God created: Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World (of course there is the obligatory evolutionary explanation included) and Eye See You by Deborah Balmuth (my 10 yod LOVED this book).  Did You Hear That? Animals with Super Hearing by Caroline Arnold tells about the amazing hearing capabilities of various animals.

you don't need words! a book about ways…We learned the handsign alphabet using: Handsigns: A Sign Language Alphabet and we talked about other ways of communicating (without words) using You Don't Need Words! A Book About Ways People Talk Without Words.

These are just a few of the books we included (the full list is below). 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reading Through Physics with Isaac Newton and the Road Runner


In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone
would convince me of God's existence.  - Isaac Newton



Splat!: Wile E. Coyote Experiments with…
My 10 yod son has been asking a lot of questions lately about why things move and behave the way they do.  Couple that with his love for the Coyote and Road Runner and you have a fun little unit study on physics.  We started with a series of books by Suzanne Slade and Mark Weakland that teach about physical science (such things as laws of motion, states of matter, gravity and simple machines) using the failed attempts of the Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner.  There are four titles in the series:  Splat!: Wile E. Coyote Experiments with States of Matter, Thud!: Wile E Coyote Experiments with Forces and Motion, Smash!: Wile E. Coyote Experiments with Simple Machines, Zap!: Wile E. Coyote Experiments with Energy.

I, Galileo by Bonnie ChristensenIsaac Newton: Inventor, Scientist, and…While there are many books you could add to this for a unit study we stuck mainly with biographies about scientists who discovered physical laws and principles.  As a family read aloud we read Isaac Newton: Inventor, Scientist and Teacher by John Hudson Tiner.  The Sower Series has some great biographies about men and women of God and this one is no exception.  I personally learned so much about Sir Isaac Newton and why he is and should be remembered today.

Come See the Earth Turn by Lori MortensenJeanne Bendick has written a pair of biographies that you will want to include for upper elementary students: Along Came Galileo and Archimedes and the Door of Science.  For younger children you can check out I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen (this is a wonderful picture book!) and Archimedes Takes a Bath and/or Archimedes and His Wonderful Discoveries (both of these are well worth reading and I've written about them here)

We included a picture book about Leon Foucault that I found in a clearance bin awhile back.  Who is Leon Foucault, you may wonder, well we did anyway!  Scientists believes knew that the earth turned on it's axis but were unable to prove it.  Foucault, through a very simple demonstration was able to prove this was true.  If you include this book in your homeschool study you might ask your children how they might be able to prove the earth was spinning.  Have them brainstorm ways to prove this is so and see what they come up with and then read this book and find out how Leon Foucalt did it in Come See the Earth Turn by Lori Mortensen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Reading Through Noah Webster and Words


Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase…

Education is useless without the Bible. The Bible was America's basic text book in all fields. God's Word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct. - Noah Webster

American Dictionary of the English Language…Noah Webster was an incredible man. He learned twenty languages and spent twenty-five years of his life writing his famous American Dictionary of the English Language (1828). If you have one of these dictionaries you know the enormous value of his work. The first American English dictionary, he used scriptures to help define many of the entries. He felt a need for Americans to have their own dictionary (that wasn't British English) due to the differences in the two. I highly recommend you have one of these dictionaries in your home or at least use the online version

My 10 yod son continually shows amazement when I 
have him use this dictionary. He has asked me many questions about how one man could write such an giant book. His questions led me to the idea to make a unit study about Noah Webster and the value of words. The Bible makes it clear how powerful words are. After all, Hebrews 11:3 tells us that the world is framed (or held together) by words. In this case, God's words. And our words contain the power of life and death in them according to Proverbs 18:21. The Bible has much to say about words - God's word and ours, so we have spent time looking at many scriptures along these lines.

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb…Noah Webster's Advice to the Young and…For an introduction to Noah Webster we read the wonderful picture book, Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris. We also read the Abeka book, Noah Webster: A Man Who Loved Words, a more complete biography about Noah Webster's entire life. While reading these we read sections of Noah Webster's Advice to the Young and Moral Catechism in print by Wallbuilders. (There may be a free version online). In reading this I kept thinking that we need men like this today to speak out about the moral issues that desperately need to be taught and lived. It is was clear that Webster had spent much time in the Word of God and walking with the Lord.
Abe Lincoln : The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay…The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by…
We also read several quirky and unusual books about famous men who valued words. This is obvious from the amount of importance they placed on reading and on having a large 
library. Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus and Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books. Also, we read about the Irish Saint, Columba in The Man Who Loved Books by Jean Fritz.
The Library of Alexandria by Kelly Trumble
With all of
 this emphasis on words and reading and books I decided to include a book about the largest ancient library we know about, The Library at Alexandria and America's largest library, The Library of Congress by Cornerstones of Freedom.
How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear?: What Are…
If doing this as a unit study you might want to include some books on words such as How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? What are Homonyms and Homophones?:  and Vocabulary Cartoons: Kids Learn a Word a Minute and Never Forget It.


Today, I had m
y 10 yod son look up something in the 1828 Webster's dictionary and he said, "Just think, Noah Webster learned 20 languages to write this book and he wrote it all by hand!"

Friday, May 27, 2016

About Homeschooling or I Saw the Angel in the Marble 2

...Children are curious.  God built this into them.  They want to know all sorts of stuff (and if we aren't careful we will educate them out of wanting to learn)
- from I Saw the Angel in the Marble (comments in parenthesis mine)

It is on my heart to try to help those new to homeschooling or those who have been doing it awhile but who have just brought traditional, public school home.  I want to encourage you that God has a better plan and way than the governmental system that most of us have experienced and feel obligated to use as our measure of our homeschooling progress.

I Saw the Angel in the Marble by Chris DavisPreviously I posted about the book (read part one of this artcle here), I Saw the Angel in the Marble by Chris & Ellen Davis and today I want to share more about this book and my thoughts about homeschooling. (BTW, if you only read one book on homeschooling please read this book!)

"For those of you who have "brought the school home" let me suggest that you rethink what you are really doing with your children.  Do you ever consider what kind of person this little boy or girl is to become by the time he or she leaves homes?  Have you ever wondered if God, Himself, has placed some very specific talents, giftings and callings in this youngster that He expects you to discover and promote during the child's stay with you?  Do such things determine your family's priorities, weekly schedule or the curricula you purchase?" - from page 100-101 of I Saw the Angel in the Marble.

Most of us, when we begin homeschooling, think that homeschooling is about education. But hopefully, as you travel this road you will learn that homeschooling isn't about education. Certainly, it includes education but that is not the point.  I want to encourage you to study scripture, listen to the Holy Spirit and read this book to gain wisdom and vision for your family's home school journey.  

I've watched the way that homeschooling families operate change a lot over the last 20+ years.  When I began in the 1990's people home schooled because they were pioneers, people who did this because they wanted a new and different way to teach and train their children, not the one size fits all, government-expert planned, education that takes learning out of context of real life.  Today, I see masses or refugees fleeing this system to "do school at home".  Unfortunately, because of fear of failure, or measuring up they use this same system they are fleeing, just at home.

This system pulls children from their families, takes more and more time away from family time with each passing year (i.e. sports, extra-curricular activities, etc.)  I encourage you to put FAMILY as a priority in your home school life.  In my observation I see many who are "running to and fro" taking their children to every activity possible and not instilling in them family life, family closeness and family routines because, well, quite frankly, they are never home.  How is it that homeschoolers are home so seldom?  We are losing the home in "homeschooling" and that is very sad.

From the book, "Children lose when parents don't have a clear vision for what they are really trying to accomplish.  It's simply easier to "bring home the school" along with the child than to ask God what this is all about"

When I first began this journey, I used prepackaged curriculum (read TEXTBOOKS) and tested and did like school systems that I had witnessed.  I was afraid of failure, of being behind, of not measuring up.  We need to ask ourselves who set those guidelines?  What kind of people are they?  Who decided they were so smart?  The truth is we need to use the word of God as our measure, not the secular government system that was designed to educate masses of people simultaneously.

As I began to deviate from this traditional system (I did it in baby steps), I began to realize what a joy it was just to be with my children.  To do routine things together.  To help develop their natural curiosity and to be able to freely enjoy finding a bug and reading about it, reading a fun book on a topic we cared about, reading real books and doing things in context of real life.  While using a packaged curricula I was so busy trying to accomplish it all (and failing miserably) that I wondered how people had time for fun books or nature walks?  

Chapter 18 of I Saw the Angel in the Marble talks about homeschool burnout.  We have to guard against people who steal our time and energy, events that steal our time and energy and beliefs that steal our time and energy.  If you believe you have to measure up to an academic system that has proven to be a failure you will be worn out and unhappy.  If you spend too much time running from this event to that event I think at least you will miss out on the simple, wonderful time that you could be experiencing everyday joys watching your children and the wonder and curiosity they have about life.  Busyness has become a plague in our culture and we have to be careful that we don't wear it as a badge of honor. Truthfully, busyness is a choice.  We need to prioritize what is really important for our families.  Ask yourself what is truly important? God and our relationship with him, our relationships with our family, church and others and the skills needed for these.  Then comes life skills.  Then academics and sports and extracurricular comes somewhere way down the line.

I encourage you to put the "HOME" back in "HOMEschooling"

(Read part 1 of this article here)