Free American History DVD

Just an FYI!  The History Channel is giving away free DVDs about American History to schools and homeschools.  Here’s information from their website (i.e., the particulars):

America The Story of US – premiering on HISTORY™ April 25 at 9pm/8c – is a six-week event that provides a fascinating look at the stories of the people, events, and innovations that forged our nation. It will provide you with an unprecedented opportunity to bring our nation’s history to life for your students. This 12-hour series will be supported by educational materials tied to curriculum standards and is copyright cleared for Fair Use in the classroom by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities.

* HISTORY is offering America The Story of US on DVD to every school in the United States. School must be an accredited public, private or home school, grades K-12 and college. In order to receive your school’s DVD, your school principal (grades K-12) or Dean of Students (college) should fill out the request form (that would be on their website) below. HISTORY strictly limits each school to one request. DVD requests must be made prior to July 1, 2010. DVDs will be mailed around August 2010, and free shipping is included in this offer.

That last sentence is pretty important, so get on it if you want to use this series.  Don’t you just love free stuff?



If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.

If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.

If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.

~ Chinese proverb

Children learn a lot from the adults closest to them.  They watch, emulate, absorb ideals and values.  We carry so much responsibility when bringing a child into the world!  Sometimes I ponder on this and allow the seriousness of parenting to settle around me – we have so much to teach!  Manners, be kind to others, be kind to animals, bring your dishes to the sink and rinse them, apply your gifts, find your passions, take care of the world, put your shoes on before you go outside.  It is up to us to raise strong young men and women who can someday help to make the world a better place.  Our world needs all the help it can get some days!  Most days.  Sigh.  Our first step could be teaching how to spell ‘altruism’?

Here are a few guides to help us help our children learn how to help others:

Takes the child through some thoughtful exercises to get him thinking.

Gotta’ love the underdog with the heart of a hero.  Dex is special!  I am fond of this book.

Just a few ideas.  There are many books that specialize in this topic.

Learning Calendar

Sometimes I’m not sure if books that contain lots of trivia are all that effective – I think there has to be some sort of personal association for information like that to stick, but I could be wrong. Some people just seem to have ‘trivia-prepped’ brains and can feed on this stuff.

We had this calendar last year. When I remembered to glance at it, look at the correct day and read aloud what was written, we often learned something cool and interesting. However, there were several blocks of time when I completely ignored the calendar and promptly forgot about it. So, not sure if it’s a good investment, at least for me.

You might like it, though, and find it useful. The 2011 edition is available now:

It makes for a great gift, too.  It is useful to use as jumping-off points or to provide you with unit study ideas, too.  Available for around $20.  FatBrain Toys has it, but right now it looks like it’s sold out.  I didn’t check Amazon or other places, but it’s got to be out there somewhere!

Hindsight is 20/60, Still a Little Blurry

It’s still a little blurry, because I’m so close to it, this year of homeschooling……but I think I have enough perspective to reflect on what has transpired.  Have you reached that point in your life yet when you have to hold objects away from your face just to see them?  Oy.  The fourth decade has its novelties, doesn’t it?  Brace yourself if you are not there yet -it’s coming!

The purpose of this post is to reflect on the last year of our homeschooling experience with a 10-year-old in the 4th grade and to decide what needs tweaking for next year. These are the questions running through my mind right now:

1.  Was it a successful year?  YES.

2.  Was it a stressful year?  Yes, but I can thank myself for that.

3.  Did I reach burn out?  Yes (ouch).

4.  Did Max thrive?  YES.

5.  Did our homeschooling lifestyle have a positive effect on our family?  A resounding yes!

6.  Are our relationships with one another better because of homeschooling?  Most certainly.

7.  Are we sticking with homeschooling next year and the years after that?  YES.

8.  Am I going to do things differently next year for 5th grade?  Yes, oh yes!

This year can be summed up as an experiment, an ‘in-house’ rigorously tested trial of eclectic eccentricity, laughter, wild historical rides, and very little predictability.  We were all over the place in our studies, trying this and that, now and then hitting upon a rhythm.  Most of the time we bumped along happily and Max grew in knowledge, experiences and maturity level.

Occasionally I tripped, lost my balance and didn’t know what to do next.  Like many newer homeschooling parents, I did pay homage to the WORRY monster and let him toy with me occasionally.  Were we covering ‘good’ material, whatever good means in this context?  Was I being inclusive in my choice for resources, again, whatever that means?  Was I helping or hindering him?  Was I missing important pieces to the giant puzzle of education?  More importantly, what was my definition of a great education (I’ve thought about this a lot)?  Was I putting too much pressure on him?  Was he keeping up with his peers, even though the very thought of just thinking that felt like rubbish, but I admit, I did pay a teensy bit of attention to that niggling question.  All of this was almost a constant low-grade buzz in the back of my head as we traveled through the year, but I plugged on and was gamely determined to find that happy middle ground where Max was growing and learning.  Overall I think we did great and we all have emerged with lessons learned and valuable information for the future as to how to continue to do this wonderful thing called homeschooling.

Okay, to explain myself,  I don’t take on something new lightly.  I attack that something with all of the vim and vigor I can muster (it’s my good German upbringing, I guess.)  I go full-bore for as long as I can hold it together, and then eventually collapse in a heap of dust, face down, after exhaustion has grabbed me by the shirt collar and yanked me roughly to the ground.  Skinned knees, the works.  This technique has always been my modus operandi, and it’s probably not going to change anytime soon, being that I’m in my fourth decade and all.  I plan like a madwoman, make lists, start files, ask questions, search and search for resources, turn things over in my mind and then subject everyone around me to the grand unleashing of the ‘GREAT ENDEAVOR’.  I’m currently immersed in a garden project and am clearly following this pattern which is so natural to me.  It will be a wonder if I manage to stay on top of it and the carrots survive.  I start out so strong and am pretty much a marvel (stated humbly, of course).

According to the laws of nature, this type of concentrated energy simply can’t be sustained; therefore I end up suffering for burning so much energy in such a short period of time.  I’m like an extremely inefficient furnace (hah – a forty-year old model!)  Classic maneuvers, very much me.  Absolutely, homeschooling has been subjected to this crazy way of operating, but I have learned much and have developed a slightly healthier perspective because I continually remind myself that this is not about me.  It is about Max.  I have had to learn how to reign in my raging inner beast to accommodate his needs, and believe me, that was by far my most challenging task of the year.  Max’s was math :).  I was wrestling with my inner self and he was wigging out over worksheets.  Plus, I wrote a post about the concept of ‘slow parenting‘ and that notion has provided much for me to chew on.  Max is certainly not a project.

Eclectic is the word that best describes our homeschool over the last school year.  If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you may note that I cast a broad net to find resources that are unusual, fun, clever and quirky.  That has been the whole purpose of this blog – to share these resources and to encourage families to inject some laughter into learning.  If you haven’t looked at some past posts, go ahead and browse a little.  You might find some treasures with which to line your bookshelves!  We hit upon so many terrific materials and enjoyed them immensely, both of us, and there are many still left for us to dig into.  I’m glad I put the time and energy into finding these gems because we can always pull the appropriate piece and fit it in to what Max is doing.  I did think it interesting that on several occasions we stumbled upon the perfect accompaniment to what we were studying, at just the right time, helping the information to gel quite nicely.  Some sort of cool homeschooling karma?

We primarily used a unit study approach with a dash of unschooling and a smidge of structured curriculum.  Whatever felt right, I went with.  The unit study way of homeschooling is fabulous, albeit a huge amount of front work for the homeschooling parent.  For this reason we have been homeschooling six weeks on, one week off throughout the year.  These mini breaks gave me a clear space in which to prepare the next unit study.  I vaguely had subjects in mind for the unit studies, but did ask Max for his input on what he wanted to learn about.  Once we settled on a topic, I hit the ground running and brought in tractor loads of information to choose from, which was total overkill.  I learned to tone it down as we went…….  We did units on Ancient Greece, Prehistoric Man, Ancient Egypt, Whales and Dolphins (Cetacea), a short unit on Anne Frank and the Holocaust, the beginnings of a unit on Outer Space (this is where the burnout started rearing its ugly, hairy head), a short unit on honey bees, and now are finishing up with a unit on the human body.  Incidentally, all of the materials utilized in these units are detailed in this blog – click on ‘unit studies’ to find them.  I started assembling the Outer Space unit, but just couldn’t muster the willpower to make it complete, so we tackled an introduction so-to-speak.  Stephen Hawking to the rescue, here.  He and his daughter wrote some insanely terrific books about the solar system that whet our appetites for more space adventure.  I was very happy that we got those read – great adventure stories perfect for kids.

Grammar was a bit more structured.  Max did daily worksheets out of the Daily Grams curriculum and I used the Internet to supplement and clarify.  Short and sweet.  We are almost to the end of the workbook and it has been an adequate tool.  I would have liked for him to have had more instruction, so probably should have purchased the teacher’s manual.  I signed him up for an online live grammar webclass in May for a week to pull it all together.  Max likes grammar and has a knack for it.

Science was kind of all over the place.  We got much covered within our unit studies and ventured outside those boundaries to whatever we thought was interesting.  We goofed around with various experiments and setups.  We enjoyed several physics classes with Science Jim online.  Brown Paper School books made us think and laugh.  Jay Hosler tickled our funny bone as well with his graphic novels about honey bees and human eyes.  Many documentaries were watched via Netflix.  We played the Totally Gross game, enjoyed software like Clue Finders and went to see Slim GoodbodyStephen Hawking wowed us with the wonders of outer space.  The current unit on the human body is ripe with science!  I considered signing up for a science co-op, but wanted to curtail the amount of running around we did each week.

Max learned some geography by visiting the huge world map and U.S. map taped up in the hallway.  We did some blackline maps, not a favorite, while studying Ancient Greece and Egypt.  We played The Amazing Mammoth Hunt to learn country locations and names.  Brown Paper School has a great book called The Book of Where that is foundational.   We dug into it, but did not finish it.  We also used to quiz ourselves on the name of countries and locations and Carmen Sandiego lended a hand, too.

Literature – this was a strong element during the year.  I am a fan of reading aloud to your child, well into his teens if he’ll stand for it.  Max and I read oodles of books together, most of them novel length.  From August until now I think we have logged about 36 books.  Books like Moby Dick, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchet, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, George’s Secret Key to the Universe, The BFG, The Curse of the Titans, etc.  I started a list of interesting books a long time ago, so there is plenty to choose from depending on our mood.

Writing.  Sore spot!  Max is a reluctant writer.  I tried all kinds of tricks from creating zany book report sheets to starting silly stories and asking him to add to them to starting a blog for him to write in (it’s about his hamster), to dictating his stories.  He sputtered with all of this.  I decided to give him space and time to grow into this side of himself.  The curriculum I have chosen for next year incorporates more writing.  Hopefully he’ll be more open to it, but it’s fine if he’s not.  He has plenty of time to discover that inner expressive part of himself.  Maybe he’s just not a writer.

Art.  We fiddled with painting, an art treasury book of projects, cultural art as part of the unit studies, a little sewing and whatever else he wanted to create with his hands.  I did not pursue a structured art program.  Max likes to draw, so we got him a drafting table where he can work.  I purchased a few drawing technique books for him to peruse at his leisure.

Music.  Fun!  Max started drum lessons in the fall and has taken off with it.  His ability to hear a rhythm and memorize it is kind of scary.  He bangs away on his drum set as he sees fit.  I don’t put any practice pressure on him.  Drumming for him is an outlet and he is drawn to his drums whenever he feels the need.  I grew up playing the violin and was made to practice and I disliked that.

MATH.  Math was the most tricky, treacherous territory to maneuver through the entire year.  I spouted out several times in this blog about the joys of a living math approach, one where you create a strong math foundation by reading all kinds of books about math and play games about math concepts.  Penrose taught us math through the eyes of a cat, The Great Number Rumble was a fab read about how math is everywhere and we can’t live without it.  The I Hate Mathematics and Math for Smarty Pants books by Brown Paper School were entertaining.  We used to practice addition and multiplication facts and used Key Curriculum Press products to learn about fractions.  Family Math was pulled out occasionally, too.  Alas, this is where the WORRY MONSTER tackled me and I couldn’t get away, no matter how hard I bit him.  I am in the process of purchasing a structured curriculum called Math U See for Max for next year – it’s one he used during his charter school days.  Our current state of affairs is just too piecemeal for me and my reasoning is this – if for some reason Max has to go back to ‘regular’ school, he is going to be mighty embarrassed to have to do remedial studies in third grade math, because that’s pretty much where he is sitting right now.  Maybe even carrying more weight is my growing belief that math facts serve a person well if they are learned well – by that I mean our brains store information after a certain amount of repetition.  This is a different kind of math foundation, but one that is equally important as a conceptual foundation (as in the living math approach).  If the basic math facts are readily accessible inside a child’s brain……..well, that just makes learning the rest of math less stressful down the road.  Our brains are so complex, we don’t even understand exactly how things happen up in that gray matter; but scientists who study how information is sorted and stored in the brain do know a few tricks for encouraging long-term retention.  Much like we need to exercise our muscles to keep them in working order, we need to exercise our brains in different ways, too.  Some contend a child can use a calculator when needed for math facts – I think this does the child a great disservice down the road just for the sake of laying down effective brain pathways.  There, I said it.  I am buying a math curriculum!!  I’m not abandoning the premise of living math because I still like it and admire it very much.  We will combine that approach with a structured, orderly curriculum.  I am certainly not structured and orderly and I think Max needs that balance in his life.  So it is to Math U See that I am turning.  I am SO relieved about this, I can’t even put it into words.

History.  Huge part of our unit studies.  We used some of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World.  We giggled over Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe.  The units on Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt were fascinating and probably our most thorough studies.  Anne Frank and the Holocaust definitely turned Max’s head.  I still cannot answer his question of ‘why’ and will never be able to.

PE.  Karate lessons twice a week and plenty of sword play while I read aloud, bike riding, walks and hikes with dogs and wrestling/karate with Dad.

These are the things I absolutely love and cherish about homeschooling:

1.  I have had the pleasure of being re-introduced to my child

2.  I get to see him have his light bulb moments when he makes a connection

3.  I get to laugh with him often

4.  I get to play catch with him in the middle of the day

5.  We get to stay in our jams until noon or later

6.  We avoid that horrible morning rush

7.  We wake up rested and refreshed, not harried and stressed

8.  We get to tell Dad about what we did when he gets home

9.  I can share some of my passions with Max and he can witness me enjoying my hobbies

10.  I can feed him good food throughout the day

11.  We can take breaks whenever we need to.

12.  We can switch gears and tailor our materials as needed

13.  We can take whatever we are learning and travel with it to different locations.

14.  We take field trips, enjoy the zoo, and other city sites when they are not crowded.  Grocery shopping is less stressful, too.

15.  He has many close friends in the neighborhood and from his old school who he sees frequently

16.  I can drag him to Lowe’s with me when I need some wood or a welder.

17.  We can hang out with our animals all day long and enjoy them.  He can read with a cat on his lap or his pet rat on his shoulder.

18.  We can take a nap if needed.

19.  We can navigate the mom-son relationship and learn to communicate well and this extends nicely to his relationship with his dad, and to everyone else for that matter.

20.  He doesn’t cry over homework anymore (that broke my heart, honestly.  They weren’t manipulative tears but tears of real stress and angst).

21.  He gets to MOVE his body all around the room when we are working.  He’s an active 10-year-old who needs an outlet to develop his  gross motor skills!

22.  He does not get sick nearly as much as he did while in school.

23.  He seems content and happy.  Much of the stress in his life has dissolved.  He is fun to be around.

24.  We no longer have to run all over the place, back and forth to school, to afterschool activities…’s blessedly CALM around here!  And we’re going down to having just one car.  Good for the earth, good for the pocketbook.

Oh, I could go on and on and on.  Homeschooling has terrific perks and often does wonders for family health and well-being.  Admittedly, next year will have a different tone to it, but I remain incredibly excited about this journey we are on.  This last year has been pivotal.  It was a dramatic lifestyle change that has had positive reverberations which continue to sing in our ears.  Simply put, I love homeschooling, even when my internal furnace has conked out due to burning too much fuel too quickly and I have to find a way to repair myself.  All I really need to do is look at my kiddo and see how he is coming into his own person, how he carries that smile on his face, how he enjoys many moments during his day.

Next year will be different, yes.  He won’t have to rely on me so much for his materials, and that’s a good thing (for me and him).  He needs to work more independently and I think he’s ready.  Plus, I’ll be less likely to implode, which is also a very good thing.  I can’t wait!  No more implosions, or at least they will be fewer and farther between one another and maybe I can cut down on the amount of dark chocolate in the house.  It’s gotten me through many a moment, let me tell you.  I am looking forward to his school work being a bit more orderly, but we’ll still sprinkle it with fun.  Innately, I think humans crave at least a little structure – having some boundaries like that can be a relief!  Babies like it.  Dogs need it.  I don’t think that changes as we grow up.   Fourth grade was a massive undertaking from which we both learned vital information – some of it educational, some of it emotional, some of it logical.  All of it necessary.  This is a long journey we are on and I fully expect that we will have to continually adjust as we go.

In summary, I would not change much about this last year of homeschooling, maybe just my approach to certain things as we would have benefited from a little more structure.  At one time I toyed with the idea of unschooling and researched it.  I peered across the abyss and couldn’t summon the courage to jump.  I admire people who can.  Get too far from structure, chaos steps to the plate, and as we’ve learned, my mental status gets compromised.  I’m proud of what we accomplished and so very happy that Max is happy, that he has room to revel in his childhood.  There – I think that statement just nailed it.  Kids should have time to revel in childhood.  Homeschooling makes plenty of room for that to happen!

Jay Hosler is One Funny Guy……er, Biologist

I posted once or twice before about Jay Hosler’s writing, but he deserves another plug. This weekend I read Optical Allusions from cover to cover and I just have to tell you that I laughed and learned all the way through it, right into the credits, even.  I really admire this author and what he is trying to do with respect to teaching children and child-like adults.  Here’s the book – you may have seen it in the Unit Study on the Human Body post, or in a previous post about other books by Dr. Hosler.

Max read this book last week, too, although he did not dive very deeply into the heavy-duty science sections between the comic pages (can’t blame him – they were pretty detailed).  I read those particular scientific pages with a great deal of interest, but then again I am some thirty years older than Max and appreciate a hydrophilic protein when I see one, or understand what role messenger RNA plays in coding proteins.  Max is scarcely aware of what a cell is, so these parts were indeed way over his head.  However, he got a bunch of great information about eyesight via Wrinkles the Wonder Brain by reading the comic pages.  If you are an adult prepped to read this book, dig into those sections – they are fascinating!  You will never ‘look’ at your eyes or eyesight the same way again.  What an amazingly complex system.

Please note that this book is HEAVILY evolution-based.  Dr. Hosler received a grant from the National Science Foundation to write this book and then subsequently study the effect of its use in classroom settings on children and their knowledge of science – he is wondering if this teaching approach works.  I do not know if that study is completed yet or has been published, but his aim was obviously to entertain while teach and he succeeded on a grand scale on both accounts, in my opinion.  He is up there with my favorite authors.  We so far have read Clan Apis and Optical Allusions.  His other book is called The Sandwalk Adventures. All three of these are graphic novels that teach biology (and evolution) in various forms.  Kudos to Jay Hosler for writing these books and for his quirky sense of humor.  Your brain will never be the same after reading them!

Ideas for a Unit Study on the Human Body

Boy, am I excited about this one!  Max is still on the fence – he’s concerned that we’ll be looking at pictures of intestines and hearts, bless his little worried heart.  I intend to make this unit as fun as can be while we learn all about how complex and wonderful and mind-boggling our bodies are!  These few resources highlighted below are the beginning of my search for the next six-week period of schooling.  Next week is off (hooray!).  We both need that week to reassemble ourselves.  After that we’ll be trying hard to avoid pictures of intestines at all costs.

I majored in pre-med in college and then did a few years of bench research for a university, for a hospital, and for a pharmaceutical company, all in the area of immunology.  I’m particularly excited about unveiling the way our immune system works to Max – just because it’s so cool.  I hope he thinks so, too.  I need to remind myself that he’s only ten and probably isn’t all that jazzed about the major histocompatibility complex, or antigens, or how an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay works and why it is important.  This is going to be a GREATLY simplified look at how we are put together and what amazing things our bodies do without us even being aware of the goings on most of the time.

I wrote a post on Slim Goodbody (John Burnstein) not too long ago (here) – we saw him recently in our city and really enjoyed his approach.  His main message was to encourage kids to be good to their bodies.  I purchased his activity book when we attended the show, so we’ll begin with it, but the first books listed below are his new publications tailored for 9 to 12 year olds – they look great!

I have not selected the exact materials we’ll be working with, but have narrowed the options down. Fortunately, there are many very good books and games available, so enjoy yourself while perusing.

Click on the pictures to link to Amazon and other places for more information:

By Slim Goodbody, John Burnstein

Let’s hope there are not graphic pictures of the intestines in here!

John Burnstein (Slim Goodbody) also has two others about the respiratory system and the nervous system available on Amazon.

This one is already on our shelf, about to be unveiled!  I LOVE Brown Paper School publications, so am looking forward to using this very much.  In fact, this would be probably all we would need along with a few supplementary materials to cover a pretty thorough introduction to the human body.  Here is a post about other Brown Paper School products – they come highly recommended by many sources and are popular among homeschoolers.  If you’ve never heard of them, go take a look!

Later……we started it and so far so good!  Thorough, entertaining, and factually accurate.  What more could you ask for?

Good introduction to cells and their structures.  Written by Frances Balkwill – she has written several books for kids about the body.

Also written by Frances Balkwill; this one will be helpful in explaining how our bodies fight infection – the immune system!

Looks fiendishly fun, although I can already see that I’ll need to put a book cover on this book…….  The product description says, “The Body Owner’s Handbook is the guide you simply can’t live without. You’ll discover a range of fantastic features you didn’t even know you had, including: an auto-repair function, a built-in cooling system, top-of-the range sensory equipment, and rear gas and waste disposal. So you think you can stomach the sick side of science? This mad manual shows you how to get the best from your body machine. Get the lowdown on the pluses of pus, the vitals of vomit and the science of snot. With trouble-shooting tips, terrific tests and curious quizzes, The Body Owner’s Handbook is bursting with info! Science has never been so horrible!”

Just because DK books are visually pleasing.

Head to Toe Science:  Over 40 Eye-Popping, Spine-Tingling, Heart-Pounding Activities that Teach Kids about the Human Body by Jim Wiese.  This will get kids moving and at the same time engage some scientific inquiry.  Lots of experiments and investigations about our bodies.

If you have some time to assemble these, they could be very helpful.

Okay, to be honest, Mrs. Frizzle’s voice kind of grates on my nerves, so we haven’t done too much with The Magic School Bus series.  I would prefer to read this book over watching the corresponding DVD.  Lots of families love this series – wish I could cope with Mrs. Frizzle a bit better……

Here is the DVD that goes with the book:

The Magic School Bus:  Journey into the Human Body GAME (hooray!)

“Young Scientists bend bones, make joints, map taste buds, expand lungs, build a stethoscope, measure lung capacities and heart rates, perform the iodine starch test, spin glitter, simulate synovial fluid, create a human body poster, and much, much more.”  Recommended for ages up to ten.

Ooooo.  Might have struck gold, here.  This is an interactive DVD that gets kids involved in the study of the human body.  Created for grades 4-8 and meets National Science Standards, so that tells me it might be a bit more thorough.  I don’t necessarily buy into standards, but that’s just me.  Includes short (5 minute) practice tests that are multiple choice, songs, excellent 3-D models, which in and of themselves probably make this DVD worthwhile.  It helps to see the workings of the human body in 3-D.  Note that a motive for producing this DVD is to help kids improve their abilities to take standardized tests, so take that into consideration.  Overall I like it and will look for it or order it.

We have this book, too, and I’ve been saving it for this unit.  The first part of the book is called, “Exploring Yourself” and you learn about your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, hands and brain with silly activities and experiments.  Should be lots of fun to work through – I think Max is going to really like this resource.

As I run across other ideas, books, games, I will add to this post.  For now I feel like we are off to a good start with whatever I choose from the materials highlighted here.  And I have to remind myself………Max is ten!  I’ll try to go easy on him while we work with a subject that I get excited about :).


See? There had to be more……..I did a post on The Mysterious You series a few weeks ago and remembered that several of those books would fit nicely in this unit study, too.  Here’s one of the books.  You can refer back to the post if you’d like to take a look at the whole series.

Here’s another really fun book by Jay Hosler called Optical Allusions:

Jay Hosler is one of my favorite authors.  He has a wild sense of humor and shall we say, ‘a unique perspective’ on all things scientific.  “OPTICAL ALLUSIONS is the cure for all those clamoring for a painstakingly researched, scientifically accurate, eye-themed comic book adventure. WRINKLES THE WONDER BRAIN has lost his bosses’ eye and now he has to search all of human imagination for it. Along the way, he confronts biology head on and accidentally learns more about eyes and the evolution of vision than he thought possible. And, as if a compelling story with disembodied talking brains, shape-changing proteins and giant robot eyes wasn’t enough, each tale is followed by a fully illustrated, in-depth exploration of the ideas introduced in the comic story. Following in the tradition of the author’s first two books, Clan Apis and The Sandwalk Adventures, Optical Allusions uses humor and adventure to weave an unforgettable story about the wonders of seeing.”

“From blistering bee stings to pus-filled pimples, this eye-popping book takes readers on a virtual tour of all of the grossest, gooiest, and most fascinating events that bodies have to endure. Featuring incredible 3-D graphics that reveal the action and body’s response in microscopic detail, Ouch! Combines kid-friendly gross-out value with cutting-edge anatomical and biological expertise.”  The book also comes with a CD that contains videos and supplementary material.  Looks grossly engaging!

Managing Money Like a Grown Up

Since the beginning of the school year, Max has had a credit card…..of sorts.  You can’t put your finger on it exactly, because it’s an idea and the source is none other than The Mom and Dad Bank of the Southwest.  It’s a great place to get all of your banking needs met.  I consider this part of his education at home – if we don’t teach him how to manage money, who will, and what better time to start than at age 10?  Any age, really.  That also goes for learning how to sort darks and lights, emptying the dishwasher, how to operate a broom, and how to bathe a dog without hurting yourself while managing to get all of the soap rinsed out.  All important stuff!

I set up a folder and tucked three sheets of paper inside titled:

1.  Max’s “Change-His-Mind-At-the-Last-Second-About-What-He-Is-Wanting-Which-Always-Happens-and-Should-be-Predictable-by-Now” spending account

2.  Max’s Savings Account (once money’s in, it stays in.  No exceptions no matter how much he tries to out-think me.)

3.  Max’s Giving Account

Each week I hang a chore chart in the kitchen and he checks off things when he feels like doing them.  No pressure from me, well at least that’s supposed to be the theory.  Some days I’m not so good about that part.  He gets paid per chore.  Some weeks he is very motivated, others not so much.  Just like his mom, I guess.  On Mondays he adds up what he earned and then he divides it accordingly amongst his accounts.  He has to put a minimum amount into savings and into his giving account first.

Now to the credit card.  I set it up with a $20 limit and 5% straight interest on purchases.  He can’t go over the limit and has thirty days to pay his bill and get it back to a zero balance.  If he didn’t do enough chores to cover his balance, he gets one of those nasty late fees!  We haven’t had to issue the late fee…..yet.  He gets a little cavalier with the idea of credit sometimes and I try not to say anything.  I let the balance do the talking.  Maybe I should raise his interest rate so it would have more oomph?

It’s kind of a fun experiment, for me, anyway.  Max doesn’t particularly like when his balances are low at the very moment he’s convinced he can’t take another sustaining breath without that new Lego set.

With respect to his giving account, when it reaches a balance of $10 or so, he decides where it will go.  Last month he donated to a world food project through the United Nations.

All of this is virtual money because I don’t actually hand him dollar bills.  He just keeps track of his accounts on his sheets of paper (math!) on Mondays.

Just an idea for helping kids manage money.  There are lots of variations on this theme – try some out and see what happens!  It takes a little discipline on your part to stay on top of it, but setting the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of your child isn’t such a bad thing.  You can be available as the money guru, to offer advice and encouragement as needed.  Good luck and may your house be cleaner because of it, too!