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!

Girls Rock! And So Can Everybody.

While looking at some more books by Trudy Romanek, I noticed a fantastic theme that can be celebrated in a homeschool environment for both girls AND boys.  We will definitely choose some of these to read.  As a mother to a son, I can help carve his perceptions of women in umpteen ways.  Positive perceptions trickle to the next generation, so I look at it as helping to make my great-great-great granddaughters stronger and more adventurous!

If you are a mom to girls, consider investigating some of these.  They look intriguing and encouraging and fun and ripe with ideas.  If you are a mom of boys, consider investigating some of these.  The foundation we lay now will help all of our children change the world for the better.

It started with this book by Trudy Romanek.  Click on the books for more information!

“Focusing specifically on the fun aspects, this book succeeds at showing how relevant science and technology are in the world in which we live, and tries to entice girls to explore the many possibilities in the field. Beginning at home with the television remote, automatic doors and automatic hand dryers, the author explains the intricate details of how these items actually work and the science involved…..”

Personally, I would like to know how the remote and smoke detectors work, so I would enjoy this book.  I think Max would, too.  The book also profiles several women who have careers in technology.

Girls Who Rocked the World:  Heroines from Sacagawea to Sheryl Swoops by Amelie Welden.  Short biographies of thirty-three women who accomplished something tremendous before the age of twenty.

Girls Who Rocked the World 2:  From Harriet Tubman to Mia Hamm by Michelle Roehm McCann

“This sequel volume features black-and-white photos and drawings to complement the inspiring stories of Golda Meir, Israeli prime minister, ambassador, and U.N. delegate; Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemalan activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; Italian physicist Laura Bassi, one of the first women scientists in western history; Lauryn Hill, American singer and winner of multiple Grammy awards who produced her first album at age 17; Alexandra Nechita, internationally acclaimed Romanian artist; and others. The book also contains photos and writings of over 30 contemporary young women from across America who respond to the question, ‘How do you plan to rock the world?’ In conjunction with the book’s publication, these girls will tour their hometowns, inspiring their peers to go for their dreams.”

Girls Think of Everything:  Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh

Another by Catherine Thimmesh.  The Sky’s the Limit:  Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls

Women discovered X and Y chromosomes, dark matter in the universe, 15,000 year old cave paintings – highlights some discoveries by 11 and 12-year-old girls, too!

“The six women portrayed in this book–Maria Merian (b.1647), Anna Comstock (b.1854), Frances Hamerstrom (b.1907), Rachel Carson (b.1907), Miriam Rothschild (b.1908) and Jane Goodall (b.1934–all grew up to become award-winning scientists, writers and artists, as comfortable with a pen as with a magnifying glass. Often they were discouraged from getting dirty, much less pursuing careers in science. But they all became renowned scientists, frequently the only women in their fields. They overcame opposition and found ways to pass on their vision of how all lives in nature are beautifully connected. Their stories remind us to look and to look harder and then to look again. Under rotten logs or in puddles, there are amazing things to see.”

This theme could easily be expanded into a unit study, and a fun one at that.  The message behind all of these books is:  encourage, encourage, encourage!  When you’re done with that, encourage some more!

Clue Finders

Well, it all started with Carmen Sandiego, which led to me paying attention to the software company, which led to me looking up said software company, which led to finding all of this OTHER software…..this is how it always happens!  Following these trails is exciting because the end result is usually good.   Mapless, no global positioning system – just hunting for out-of-the-ordinary materials to make our school days more creative and fun.

The Learning Company produces a few noteworthy products for sure.  We have thoroughly enjoyed chasing Carmen Sandiego hither and yon all over the globe, learning world geography along the way.  She’s just so darn slippery!  Kind of like those games in Las Vegas, if you ask me – she’s rigged to get away every time.  The Learning Company is responsible for the Carmen Sandiego games and here are some others to hopefully get you and your kiddo excited:

[Click on the pictures to get more information and to read reviews]

Learn Essential Subjects in an Egyptian Adventure!

  • Math – Multiply the two numbers on the sign above each jeep to figure out which one can make it all the way to Cairo.
  • Reading – Build reading comprehension skills as you interpret reading passages and earn valuable Cairoglyphs to gain your next clue.
  • Geography – Master U.S. and world geography as you help ship packages around the world. Can you locate the city west of Denver?
  • Vocabulary – Learn antonyms, synonyms, and homonyms as you move blocks of stone one at a time to complete a sentence.
  • Science – Develop your knowledge of mass, force, and angle to construct a bridge across a river. Watch out for the crocodiles!
  • Math – Solve math problems with decimals as you stack the correct column sections to build a miniature palace.
  • Word Problems –  Solve word problems to gain access into a mysterious ancient pyramid. More adventure awaits inside!
  • Spelling – Spell your way across the chasm to stop the evil archaeologist before he takes over. Be careful, one wrong letter can spell disaster!

***UPDATE AS OF 3/24/10Well, I had high hopes for the above-mentioned software.  I purchased it used on Amazon and we have stumbled upon some computer glitches.  We are able to get maybe 15 minutes into the adventure and then the computer crashes.  We’ve tried two different computers (Windows platform), to no avail.  I’m really disappointed!  I may contact The Learning Company to see if the problem can be resolved because what I saw of the game so far I really liked.  Math, geography, history…….Max was having fun while it lasted.  So, read the reviews and decide if you want to give it a try.

A tsunami, a lost island and a volcano ready to erupt add the adventure to this edition – this is probably the one we would start with.

Mutant plant warriors (?) threaten to take over a town and it’s your job to protect it through sheer brain power!

All of these tap into math, reading, science, vocabulary, geography and spelling skills.  They are formulated for your PC or Mac and are not expensive.  Don’t forget to check eBay or your local homeschool co-ops – you might be pleasantly surprised at the inexpensive or free materials floating around out there!  Good luck on your hunt.

We Haven’t Found Carmen Sandiego…..Yet.

What an adventure Max is having trying to locate the lady in red who is none other than Carmen Sandiego!  Carmen’s been around for many years and you can try and track her with uploadable software or by playing a board game.  I picked up a cheap version of the software and uploaded it yesterday.  Max has been jet-setting all over the world and learning as he goes.  Occasionally he’ll yell out something like, “Mom!  Where do I go to get to Capetown?”  or “whose country flag is this one?”

It’s a twisty-turny adventure through many cities and countries.  The two A.C.M.E. agents tracking Ms. Sandiego are fun because they sometimes bicker.  You have a database of information at your disposal so you can research some information about a clue, you can collect electronic gadgets along the way (like a clue analyzer or an ‘electron illuminator’, which is just a plain old flashlight) to help you out in certain situations, and there’s a notebook wherein you can store information about your clues, etc. etc.  Occasionally you’ll run into a logic puzzle that you need to solve in order to receive another clue.  I sat with Max for the first 30 minutes to help if he got stuck, but then he took off on his own and got lost in the hunt for clues.

It’s cleverly designed and worth playing.  Since yesterday Max has been to Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Antarctica, the United Kingdom, Russia, New Zealand……….all the while being exposed to cultural and country facts.  The graphics do a good job of capturing the essence of each place, right down to the foods that are favored and the mode of dress.  The Peruvians are so colorful!

Here’s a picture of this particular software.  Staples carries it as does The Learning Company, which is the retailer for this software (Broderbund Software):

I’m very pleased with the game.  I also suspect that Carmen might not be as vile as she is made out to be.  But we’ll have to see once we figure out her motives and find her!

There are many other similar products that involve Carmen Sandiego.  Here are a few choices to get you searching in case you are interested:

This one looks particularly intriguing since you need to use more abstract thinking to solve pieces to the puzzle – and you get to meet interesting characters from history like Julius Caesar, Beethoven, Thomas Jefferson, Leif Erikson and many others.  Looks like a fantastic history game!

Good for us non-quick thinkers.

I did notice while reading some of the reviews that the software sometimes has challenges in various platforms like Windows XP or MacOs, and other newer versions.  Most seemed to generally be very pleased with Carmen and her hijinks!

Oooo – several episodes from Carmen’s TV series in DVD format!  How cool is this?

Rita Moreno plays the role of Carmen.  There are a few other DVD episode sets available, too.