Sunday, July 7, 2013

Turning Off the Television

While I am not a big TV watcher, the boys in my family are.  SportsCenter is the first thing J turns on in the morning.  Sports events of all kinds, but especially basketball and baseball,  are a staple. Certain TV shows capture their attention for a while - NCIS,  Big Bang Theory, Duck Dynasty. 
And when they watch TV, I typically am on the computer, although I do enjoy a few shows too. Cupcakes Wars and So You Think You Can Dance are set up to record on our  DVR each week.   Since it is something my husband enjoys doing to unwind and relax after work, he isn't always willing to put limits on screen time.  However, from time to time, we both agree that it is time for a "No TV Month". 

We have done this numerous times over the years.  We try to be considerate of any big TV "events" that are being looked forward to, like March Madness or the Olympic Games, or even the American Idol finale, IF we have been watching all season. (we didn't watch at all last season, but were glued during the Scotty McCreery season.)  But this spring after the NCAA Championship college basketball game was over, the TVwent off.

The only exception  during "No TV month" is if I have planned something to watch for school - a movie or documentary for history, for instance.   Or extreme weather that perhaps warrants keeping tabs on the weather reports.  Otherwise, the screen is off, and while we don't forbid computer time, we do try to curtail it.  It is amazing how quiet and peaceful the house is when the TV isn't on all the time.  Much more reading gets done. Board games come out.  There is more talking.  We go on more walks  After a couple of days, nobody really misses it anymore.  After 30 days, I was more than ready to go for month 2, but got overruled.  Still it was a nice respite, and good for each of us to remember what other things we enjoy doing during "down time".

What would you do with your time if you turned the TV off for 30 days?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ten Resources for Learning Geography

What is the largest freshwater lake in the world?

        What is the capital of Nevada?

                     Is the Tropic of Capricorn north or south of the equator?

                                     What language is spoken in Switzerland?

 I have always enjoyed learning geography - memorizing states and capitals, rivers, bodies of water, countries and continents, etc. Geography study is included in our Tapestry of Grace history curriculum, so we label outline maps and learn about the geography of the places we are reading about in history. This really helps with understanding how people and places are connected through time, and how factors like climate, topography, language, etc. play into the events of history and the way people live. In addition to outline maps, we utilized websites as well as games that I accumulated to build our geography skills.

 Another way I encouraged geography knowledge in my kids was to host a monthly Geography Club for middle schoolers/ high schoolers , where we played quiz games, geography board games, puzzles, sampled food from different countries, let the kids do presentations. and had a lot of fun! 

Here are some of our favorite geography resources that you might enjoy using to increase your and your children's geography literacy!

1. Geo Puzzles  -
These puzzles are enjoyed by young children as well as teens and adults, and will help you learn the countries and continents in a hurry!  There is a puzzle for each continent, and puzzle pieces are the shapes of countries or groups of countries. The pieces are sturdy and thick, easy for small fingers to handle, and they fit together cleanly.  Good quality.

2.  Ten Days in the Americas  ( Asia, Europe, USA, Africa )
  This board game seems complicated at first, but is surprisingly easy to learn, even for elementary age children, so the whole family can play and learn together!  Using country cards and transportation cards, you must be the first to put together a sequence of 10 cards that constitutes a  "journey" from country to country.

 3.  Professor Noggins card games
Players take turns rolling the dice and asking each other questions from the cards, choosing from the Easy or Hard section depending on the age of the player.  If you answer correctly, you get to keep the card; incorrectly and the card goes to the bottom of the pile.  The player with the most cards at the end wins!  Simple and fun way to learn or review basic facts and trivia. 


4. MegaMaps
These have been a lot of fun and a favorite in my TOG Co-op class!  With your regular printer at home, you can print outline maps of continents and countries in a variety of sizes, ranging from a single sheet of paper to an 8 page x 8 page monstrosity that is over 6 feet across!  My favorite size is 4 pages by 4 pages,  which as great size for laying on the kitchen table or taping up on wall or door.  Once printed, it takes a bit of work to tape the pages together.  I then color ( or have the kids color ) bodies of water, countries, etc with crayon, and use Sharpie markers to add whatever features I desire, like mountain ranges, stars for capital cities, etc. An atlas book or a detailed map printed off the internet is a great help with this part.  Then I cover the entire thing with clear contact paper, add self-stick Velcro dots, and print off labels on card stock, also covered with clear contact paper and stuck with a Velcro dot ( I buy them in the craft section of WalMart ).  Now I have a great, reusable teaching tool!   Put all the labels on the map and study it together, then remove the labels and use a digital kitchen timer to make a contest out of seeing who can put the labels back on correctly in the fastest time!

5.  Enchanted Learning
This has been one of my very favorite websites for printing off school enrichment activities, not just for geography, for my kids from K-8th grade!  Maps, phonics helps, graphic organizers for writing, holiday projects,  foreign language words,  fun worksheets on science topics... all kinds of neat things can be found here and are definitely worth the annual $20 fee.


This is another fun and educational card game.  Younger children will need help at first, and you may allow them to look at the enclosed map for "help", while older players have to use their memories. This game is similar to UNO, with players putting down cards on top of each other in a pile. Instead of matching a number or color, however, the card must show a geographic entity ( country, ocean, etc.) that shares a border with the previous card.  Passing is not allowed, but bluffing is.   Great fun, and you'll learn some obscure seas and bays that you never knew existed!

This is a free website with tons of learning games and quizzes for all ages  - geography, science, health, animals, history, math...    The geography games include a Tutorial level for learning, and then Beginner, Intermediate, Expert, Explorer, and even harder levels for some games, making this a site to test the knowledge of mom and dad as well as the kids.  

8. GeoSafari:   Electronic Game and Talking Globe

There was a GeoSafari electronic game under the Christmas tree our very first year of homeschooling, and it has gotten use pretty much every year since!  The styling is different now - there was no such thing as a "laptop" 19 years ago - but the fun of trying to beat the timer, or the time of your brother or sister, is still the same.  Card packs are available for just about every subject area - geography, phonics, science, art, math, history.   We've gotten a lot of mileage out of our game.  The Talking Globe is a new product that we never used, but it looks like it would be a great learning tool as well -  and every household should have a globe!

9.  National Geographic for Kids

National Geographic is the iconic source for photos and articles highlighting the variety of earth's people and places, and NG Kids has fun learning games, photos, and videos.  Teens and adults can click over to the main National Geographic site for more in-depth information.   *The magazine subscriptions are a good investment for those who like print media in their hands to encourage reading  and want a good source for photos to cut out for craft projects, etc. 

10. Mapping the World by Heart
This unique geography curriculum teaches students to draw from memory a detailed world map. 

Answers to the questions at the top of the page:
1. Lake Superior (by surface area )
2. Carson City
3. south
4.There are 4 official languages spoken in Switzerland - German, French, Italian, and Romansh

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Homeschool Love Story

 There was a little girl....

 and there was a little boy...

who grew up not that far from each other, being homeschooled, playing sports, going to summer camp...

and it was at this summer camp that they met and became friends.

Before the boy left home for college, he asked her to be his girlfriend, and she said okay.
Because here's the thing.  She really liked that boy.

It just so happened that a year later she went to the same college. And soon they fell in love.

Then one day the boy asked the girl a very important question.

 She said YES.

So they picked a date in June. Made plans for a special celebration. Invited their friends and loved ones to share the day with them. And they vowed to love, honor, cherish, and care for each other for the rest of their lives.

But that is not "The End".  It is just the beginning.... of a new and great adventure.


He Pushed the Clouds Aside...

And the rain just keeps falling... We've had one wet month of June here in the Triangle. Even as I sit here writing this, I am listening to the deluge coming down outside.  It would come as only a small surprise if we started seeing animals lining up by twos. Normal rainfall amount recorded at Raleigh-Durham airport for the average month of June is 3.52 inches. The actual amount we just received in June was 10.08 inches. See what I mean? This particular wet month of June also happened to be the month for two very special weddings - the daughter of one of my dearest friends got married on June 9th and my son married his long-time sweetheart two weeks later, on June 22nd. 

Both couples planned outdoor ceremonies. Gulp.

Weeks and weeks of planning and frantic preparations (I would say months, but I try not to lie here on this blog) led up to both of these days as two precious, young , Christian couples prepared to commit to a lifetime of love, devotion, and shared everythings before God, family, and special friends.  Neither wedding was lavish, but both were do-it-yourself celebrations marked by the contributions of time and labor by an army of loving volunteers.  As details fell into place and checklists were marked off, the one variable that could dampen the festivities ( pun intended ) was the weather.

Two days before Ellie & Jonathan's wedding, her dad posted this request on Facebook.
"Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. James 5:17
 ...I am asking all of God's people to pray as Elijah did, that God would hold back the rain, not for 3 1/2 years, but only for about 3 1/2 hours. Please LORD ! Thank you all for praying!"

That's right. All that sunshine is making her squint -  God answered this father's prayer and Ellie and Jonathan had a beautiful day for their wedding.

Jump ahead 2 weeks and several inches of rain later.  The forecast for June 22nd had started out calling for partly cloudy with widely scattered showers, but as the day drew closer, the forecast became more foreboding.   Here is my Facebook appeal from the morning of the wedding.
"The weather forecast for today has deteriorated slightly, and is now calling for scattered showers and storms. The ceremony is outdoors at 5:30pm and the reception following is partially outdoors. Please pray with us for N.Durham/Bahama to remain rain-free this afternoon and evening. Thank you!"

The wedding venue for both ceremony and reception was an hour from our house. The wedding party and a few other friends spent all morning out there setting up and then went home to get ready. Around lunchtime, the clouds started to roll in and we saw the big expanse of green ( rain ) on the Doppler radar on the local weather channel, headed straight for us. It poured at our house.  Friends in the area were reporting rain at their locations as well. We got in the cars and headed towards the venue, fully expecting to initiate Plan B, where we would pack all the guests into the small reception lodge and make the best of the weather, celebrating the new couple even as the decorations outside became drenched.  But still I prayed. "Lord, we will praise you no matter what, for You are always good and we know that Your ways are not our ways.  But I ask for Your favor. Could you just push those clouds aside over Spruce Pine Lodge,  just for a couple of hours?"

1 John 5:14  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

As we approached Bahama, NC, we saw that the clouds overhead were breaking up.  Upon arrival at the venue, we found everything nice and dry.  And it remained that way. For the entire rest of the day. The first raindrops started to fall, no lie, as the couple was saying goodbye and walking out to their car at 10:30 pm.  And there was only a very light rain as we spent the next hour packing up, loading up, and heading home.  God pushed the clouds aside and gave my son and his bride a gorgeous outdoor June wedding...  His wedding gift to these children of His.