Monthly Archives: January 2014

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. for kids

About two weeks ago, our family went to the local art museum. We were there primarily to see an exhibit of Norman Rockwell’s work, but also on display was an exhibit that highlighted art by some of our country’s African American artists.

We wandered through this exhibit first, and as we went along, we came to this piece.

Duck Duck Noose by Gary Simmons (1992)

Neither of my children (5 and 7) understood the piece at all. And so, I found myself in the middle of a museum trying to explain to my children how people can choose to judge each other entirely by the outside appearance rather than by looking at the heart. Truth be told, I started explaining, but started tearing up about it (somehow having children has turned me into a really easy crier). I was EXTREMELY thankful that my husband was with us on this particular day because he took one look at me trying to breathe deeply (lest I become a true weepy mess, which NONE of us wanted. Trust me.) and just picked up where I had trailed of. So, between the two of us, we talked about racism and the Klu Klux Klan and how horribly wrong it is to make assumptions about people based on what they look like.

My 5 year old looked up at us and asked “What color are WE?”

It was one of those rare FANTASTIC parenting moments where I thought we’d done something right. That’s EXACTLY what I would have chosen for him to have asked.

He looked down at his arm and thought for a second and said “Are we white . . . you know, white-ish?”

So, I explained to him that if we had to check a box on a form, we’d probably check the “white” box. I was in the middle of following that up with something deep and meaningful when he said:

“Yay! We’re white!”

(and for about a second I wanted to die)

And then he said:

“They [meaning the KKK] couldn’t do anything like that to us, right?”

And then, I just REALLY wanted to cry.

Obviously, more discussion was required. It’s a hard thing to explain to a 5 year old that “couldn’t” and “probably wouldn’t” are not the same thing and that just choosing to disagree with people who use violence as their means of settling arguments might make you a target regardless of your skin color. And of course, just because someone might not treat us as badly as someone else, it’s still just wrong in the first place, and not something we want to celebrate having been spared. That kind of violence just shouldn’t happen in the first place.

It was one of those days when you know that your children’s view of the world has expanded and changed . . . a lot. And it makes you sad on some levels, because you know that the world the way they knew it before that experience was much more innocent and straight-forward (and color-blind). And yet, it’s important to develop empathy and to begin to understand that life continues to be about choices and about how we choose to treat one another. That’s not something reserved just for childhood.

So, even though we watched Martin Luther King Jr’s speech during the 1963 March on Washington last year on this day, this year it meant even more to me and more to my children, and my husband joined us on the couch as we watched. And we talked about how ordinary people can choose to make a difference. And about how no human being (save one, and He died on a cross 2000 years ago) is perfect, but there ARE such things as heroes, and the people who deserve that title are the ones who do the hard stuff and make the world a better place.

And now, since I’m all about a good book, here’s the one we read today. Do read the reviews. There’s a shadowy drawing of a man who has been lynched. If you have very young children or aren’t ready to get into that kind of detail, this may not be the right book for you. It is a very informative book about the Civil Rights movement in general and written in a very straight-forward style.





Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 14

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 14 teaching World War I history. CUTE dress up kit!

While there were some tough grammar areas, in my opinion, this week (English, History and Math were all just really long meaty!), I still really enjoyed it and we came up with some fun stuff to do with all of them!

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 14 teach World War I historical figures with a printable "Dress-up" kit. SO CUTE!History

Who else noticed this week that crazy, over-the-top mustaches must have been ALL the rage in Europe during WWI? I mean, SERIOUSLY the facial hair on these world leaders was crazy! There’s actually quite a bit of discussion on the internet about it, and I even read that David Lloyd George kept his specifically trimmed to a length that would not interfere with the seal on his gas mask. Crazy!

So, to have a little fun with what was otherwise just a long list of names and countries, we played a little dress-up! If you’d like to download some “glasses and ‘staches” of your own, you can do so here ( WW-I-Historical-Character-Dress-up.pdf (3530 downloads) ) or by clicking the image to the right. Have some fun and learn a little history! (I added a card for Austria-Hungary in case anyone would like to use these cards next week when we discuss Axis vs. Allies).

By the way, I asked my children to smile when I was taking their pictures wearing their “glasses and ‘staches” and my daughter (without changing the expression on her face or the tilt of her head) pointed to the photo of Wilson on the card in front of her and said “I can’t.” Apparently, if you’re going to wear the glasses (or ‘staches) you gotta’ wear the expression, too.

Horrible Histories has done several fun videos about World War I. I haven’t watched them all. This one is an overview of what caused WWI and how Britain came to get involved:

This is just an interesting one about the British forces in WWI and where they were from:

This book looks great! It does a nice little summary of the causes of WWI, and then focuses on the Christmas Day truce, a topic that always fascinates me !

Book for expanding on Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 4 WWI History Sentence.

We checked this book out at Christmas and I loved it (totally made me cry . . . not that that is too hard to do). It’s definitely more about the Christmas Day truce than it is about all of the details of WWI, but it’s still a wonderful little book!

Great book about the Christmas Truce of WWI. Excellent for expanding on CC Cycle 2 Week 14, or for adding to a collection of Christmas books.

This is SUCH a neat concept for a book!  Here’s a history of WWI where “you choose” your role as you explore the events that transpired.  The excerpt from Amazon: “World War I has just exploded in Europe. The peace of the entire world is in danger. How will you help? Will you: Join the Belgian resistance movement? Fight as a British Army soldier? Serve as a volunteer with the American Field Service?”  There are hardcopy versions of the book, as well as a Kindle version. Very cool! My daughter JUST finished earning the money she needed to buy her own Kindle. She’s going to love trying this book out on it!

COOL book! Reader can "choose their path" through the book and get an overview of World War I. Available in hardcopy or an interactive Kindle version.


I didn’t find any great resources for reinforcing at, an elementary level, the difference between an acid and a base, this week. If you did, please leave me a note in the comments! I’d love to have something.

One thing that might be fun this week is just to explain to the kids what happens when you combine an acid and a base. They work to neutralize each other, and as a result, sometimes the reactions are really interesting! The classic example of this in your home is Baking Soda and Vinegar.  There’s a fun example of a way to show this here.

Here’s some trivia that I didn’t know: Cabbage juice can be used as an indicator of whether something is an acid or a base.  Apparently, this is interesting enough trivia that even Martha Stewart was willing to include it on her show (instructions at the link . . . or you can just watch the video from her show).

Fine Art

There’s also not a lot to say about this week’s “Artist” since he’s known better as a scientist than an artist! However, I want to take a moment and recommend this book. I was only able to find it used, but it’s a neat perspective on art appreciation and contains all of the artists we’re covering this semester except for Linnaeus. I was able to pick up a “Very Good” used copy from Amazon for about $5.  The only real downside – my children have been fighting over it since it arrived.

Neat book for broadening art appreciation! Contains paintings by 5 of the 6 artists from Cycle 2 of Classical Conversations.


Review Games

I made up a Jeopardy game board this week like the one found at this blog. Brilliant! The kids enjoyed it in class and my children loved playing today at home. Sometimes you just need to freshen things up and throw in something new and this worked perfectly! I’m so appreciative to all the other CC parents who share their ideas and creativity!

This post is linked to:

Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

Menu Plan Monday 1/13/2014

Menu Plan

It’s January. Where did December go? It just seemed to disappear in a whirling, twirling craze of wrapping paper, lights, Christmas preparations and celebrations, late nights, little sleep, LOTS of eating out, and then . . . finally . . . we all got sick.

That began on Christmas day when my little guy woke up at about 3 in the morning (around 45 minutes after my husband and I had finally collapsed into bed) with croup and a scary round of stridor. For about an hour we thought an ambulance wasn’t necessary but an emergency room visit might be inevitable. Finally, the steamy bathroom alternating with the COLD outside air eased up his airway enough that we felt okay about putting him back to bed as long as he slept with us so we could listen for him. The next morning, his breathing was still audible, so I called our pediatrician (BLESS sweet doctors who have to take calls on Christmas morning!). She called him in a prescription, which my husband went and picked up later, spending over two hours at the only pharmacy open on our side of town on Christmas day.

The pharmacy is where we think my husband probably picked up the flu . . . which he started coming down with the day after Christmas. He felt yuckier and yuckier for 5 days before he began to rebound. In the meantime, my daughter and I started fighting it too, although thankfully, we never got as sick as he did.

If you want a classic example of how lack of sleep and poor eating results in poor health – we were definitely it during the month of December. We got less sleep than EVER and ate out more than we probably have in a year. We are VERY, VERY rarely truly sick. Prior to this, I can’t even remember the last time we were all sick at the same time, or even had some illness that we passed amongst us.

And so, it is DEFINITELY time to make a menu plan! Time to eat better, get some exercise, and regularly get some decent sleep!

So, here’s the menu plan for feeding people this week:

Gluten Free Pancakes, Breakfast Table


Eggs, Gluten Free Pancakes, Oranges

Salads and Smoothies

Shepherd’s Pie from yesterday’s roast beef


Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

Hummus, Chips, Apples

Baked Salmon, Broccoli

Gluten Free Pumpkin MuffinsWednesday

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

Almond Butter & Honey Sandwiches on Gluten Free Bread

Pumpkin Soup


Gluten Free Banana Bread

Leftover Pumpkin Soup or Hummus

Pork Roast, Roast Carrots


Gluten Free Banana Bread

Potato Soup

Crockpot Pizza Pasta, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies



Gluten Free Applesauce Bread


Egg Drop Soup and Tuna Fried Rice


Gluten Free Applesauce Bread

Slow Roasted Chicken, Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes

Breakfast for Dinner


Snacks for the week

Homemade: Super Swim Bars (Granola Bars), Popped Amaranth and Bananas, Almonds and Chocolate Chips, Smoothies, Popcorn, Apples/PB/Granola Sandwiches

Storebought: Fruit PouchesFreeze-dried FruitGluten Free Pretzels


If you’re looking for a menu plan template, you are welcome to download one by visiting the Printables page.

This post linked to:

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 13

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 13 Liquid Equivalents

Welcome Back! I hope that you all had a wonderful break. We’re back in action in our Classical Conversations community this week, and although I feel a little like I’m swimming through jello trying to get myself and my family back into the routine of things, we ARE slowly getting our cylinders all fired up and in sync!


Usually, for this week’s Math, I use a Gallon Man or Gallon Bot to reinforce the idea of liquid equivalents. There is a nice Gallon Man that someone has posted on CC Connected (C3) and there is a Gallon Bot available at Super Teacher Worksheets.

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 13 Liquid Equivalents Homeschool Math

What I’ve noticed about myself, however, is that it actually helps me more to SEE the liquid equivalents in action. I understand it much better when I think about it as I’m working around the kitchen. So, this time I decided to actually do a demonstration. In class, we took a gallon of water and broke it down backwards. Because of the time constraints, we were only able to do it once (I took an extra gallon pitcher to house excess water), but then were still able to use the empty containers to go over the grammar multiple times in class.

At home, we’re continuing to use the same containers as we review the memory work. My children just pretend to pour the liquid the appropriate number of times. They’ve been able to remember the grammar, as well as think about the math a little more (if there are 2 cups in a pint and 2 pints in a quart, how many cups are in a quart? etc.). I think it’s been very helpful! Seeing the relative size of the containers has made the abstract concept much more concrete in their minds.


I may have mentioned this before, but I like to do impromptu presentations a couple of times each year. This year, I did more planning than usual and arranged things so that we did impromptu presentations the week after coming back from each of our breaks in the Fall and Winter. I realize that sometimes the kids have GREAT things to report on from their breaks, and I would never mind a bit if someone preferred to do a prepared presentation those days, but as a parent, trying to get presentations ready those weeks always causes me a ridiculous amount of stress! It’s just like I’m not ready to start getting snacks packed, lunches packed, backpacks packed, and all the other things that go with preparing for CC Community day, and trying to get the presentations rounded up and ready on top of that is just too much for me that first week back! It always spoils my break a little. All the rest of you are probably much more pulled together than me and don’t mind it a bit, BUT I think it’s the PERFECT time to just do impromptu presentations!

In the Fall, I brought in a box of random objects. This children each drew an object out of the box and did a presentation on it. Some of them were VERY creative! Kids are so awesome! Some examples of things I put in the box were:

  • Plain paper
  • Paper plates
  • Egg carton
  • Plastic cups
  • Cotton balls
  • Yarn/String
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Dried pasta
  • Small pieces of PVC pipe (they were actually part of a marshmallow shooter)
  • Paper clips
  • Buttons
  • Paint stirrers

Impromptu-Speech-PromptsI tried to come up with things for which I could think of at least two uses quickly and things that I thought the kids would generally be familiar with. I did this last year during second semester with abecedarians and was absolutely AMAZED at how well they did! My whole crew of 4 and 5 year olds walked up to the box, picked something out without debate or distress, walked straight to the front of the class and just talked. It just reminded me again about what a wonderful blessing CC and this presentation time each week is!

This week, we used some speech prompts. The kids drew a slip of paper from a bag (I allowed them to draw 2 and choose between them) and then made their presentation. Again, I was so impressed with how well they all did! If you’d like to download the Speech Prompts we used, you’ll find them here ( Impromptu-Topics.pdf (603 downloads) ) or on the Printables page.


Here’s a pretty decent video with information about Prince Henry the Navigator. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s difficult to read some of the text aloud quickly enough. On the upside, my effort to do so totally cracked my kiddos up and they cheered for me on the shorter slides where I was able to actually read the content to them completely before they changed. You know . . . it’s good to stay humble.

There are also some good videos and linked on the Age of Exploration and Prince Henry at this website:

One of the copies of the Gutenberg Bible is on display in the Library of Congress. We were able to see it when we went to DC last spring. It really is an amazing thing to behold! Especially since it’s displayed across from the Giant Bible of Mainz, which looks very similar and was handwritten in the same town of Mainz, Germany around the same time that Gutenberg was printing his Bibles. It took over a year for the handwritten Mainz Bible to be completed. Our tour guide told us 150 copies of Gutenberg’s Bible were probably completed in about the same time period. Fascinating! It’s definitely a must see (in my book) on your next trip to Washington DC. The Library of Congress, as a whole, was my favorite part of our last trip there!

This book on Gutenberg is great, but it looks like only used copies are available via Amazon (check your local library!).

Product Details


I have 2 books to recommend this week relating to our history grammar. The first, in particular, is great! It contains a section on Gutenberg (this week’s timeline) as well as one on James Watt. It’s written comic book style, and the histories are brief, but well done and interesting.

Product DetailsProduct Details

I thought this video was an interesting overview of the Industrial Revolution. My 5 and 7 year old were not as enamored. To quote my very tactful 7 year-old: “He blabbed on too much.” It is a little longer, and moves a bit quickly for younger children. Probably best for middle school and up.


I found several videos this week. This first one is the very best one that I found for discussing all 4 states of matter. At 2:50, there is a vague reference to the Big Bang (a large amount of energy converts to matter). Near the end, there is a tie in to the definition of inertia, which will be coming up in our Science grammar.

Cute video excerpt from the Zula Patrol cartoon. Does a nice (quick) overview of 3 of the states of matter. Great for preschoolers and early elementary age children:

This is an excellent video on 3 of the states of matter, filmed in a glass studio. Excellent for early elementary and up. There is some non-narrated text that will need to be read aloud for non-readers (or slower readers):

Since the two videos above only discuss solids, liquids, and gases, we need to give plasma some attention! This video offers a good overview of what plasma is and where it can be found:

Fine Art

I’ve created some artist bios with examples of their artwork and have uploaded them to C3. Link is here for those of you with access to C3.

I adore the”Getting to Know” series written by Mike Venezia. There are books on SO many artists and other famous historical figures and they are written in an extremely approachable way. There are also videos on many, but not all, of the individuals. Rembrandt is one for whom there is a book and a video and I would HIGHLY recommend them both. The book is very reasonably priced on Amazon. The videos are cost prohibitive (I can only assume that they expect well-funded school and library systems to shell out big bucks), so if you’re able to find it at your local library snag it! They are SO good!

Product Details


Here are two websites with good links to Rembrand bios and artwork:

A very brief video studying one of Rembrandt’s self portraits. This is a particularly good video choice if your community chose to sketch self-portraits for art for this week. Good for all ages:

My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE thing to recommend this week is this video. I love a good flash mob video! This is a flash mob sponsored by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to publicize a Rembrandt exhibition that included his most famous work – The Night Watch. It really is very cool! Be sure and pause it after the frame falls down and see if your children can see the characters from the original painting. It’s a fun way to really take some time to examine the artwork.



This post is linked to: Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood