Saturday, February 28, 2009

Karate Kid

Four years ago, my cousin (who is like a brother to me and my kids call Uncle Mark), came to visit us and brought a copy of the Karate Kid. DD11 really enjoyed it. Soon after, she started begging me for karate lessons. As much as I tried to tell her taking karate would not be like getting lessons from Mr. Miagi, she persisted. I found a studio less than a mile from our home that offered two weeks free. I told her she could try it out for 2 weeks and then we would make a decision. I thought for sure she would hate it, but she went every day that two weeks.

About one year later, she had the option to commit to earning her black belt. In parent terms, this meant a 2-year contract with the studio and $$$$$. We talked it over with her and the seriousness of such a commitment. At the time, she was 8 years old. We explained that she would have to follow through, but after the 2 years, she could go on and try something else. So last year she earned her black belt. Family drove in from out of town and we had a big party with her friends to celebrate her accomplishment.

At that point, her commitment was fulfilled and she could go on and try something else if she wanted. She wouldn't hear of it. I really couldn't argue because I felt what she was learning at the studio coincided nicely with our family values and it is great exercise that counts as PE for us.

Fast forward one year -

Last night, she had another belt test. It's a black belt with a green stripe. I thought it was her 2nd degree black belt, but she has another year before she earns that.

As I watched her kicking, blocking, rolling and sparring I was in awe of how much she had grown. She was so coordinated and her movements were smooth and direct.

Here are some pictures from her test last night.

In this picture, she has to use techniques she's learned to fight off two "opponents". Her daddy especially liked this part.

I thought this was just a good action shot.

Monday, February 23, 2009

CM Discussion Group: History

Our discussion group was small this month, but very dynamic. We discussed Chapter 32: History from Karen Andreola's book, A Charlotte Mason Companion.
These are my notes from the evening.

Imagination is so important to children, young and old. The power of imagination is a "delight in one's childhood and remains a pleasure in adulthood." When a child uses his imagination, it helps to build the brain to become stronger in all areas.

When teaching history, it is not beneficial to teach just facts. At a young age, history should be presented in literary language to help secure the child's interest in the topic. He will use his imagination and start acting out scenes that he has read (or has been read to him). This is what helps him to remember what was learned.
As he grows older (about 7th grade up) and starts thinking about social and political issues, then history may be studied at a different level. Then discussions can take place about political views and why a group of people may have a certain viewpoint.

According to Andreola, it's a mistake to make children learn an overview of history. It is better to focus on one person or one small period of time and become intimate with it. The goal is for the child to know the thoughts of the person or to be at home in the ways of the period. In learning these small pieces, the child is actually learning about the entire scope of events around that person.

Biographies are good for this. In learning about George Washington, the child will learn all about the beginnings of our country. Or in learning about Harriet Tubman, the entire Underground Railroad will unfold.

For young children (kindergarten - 2nd grade level), you may wish to start with 50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. This is an excellent resource that tells stories about historical figures. The Baldwin Online Children's Literature Project offers many more books that can be downloaded for free.

Having a timeline somewhere in your home is a good idea, but not always practical. A timeline book is a good alternative since it's also portable. Keeping a Book of Centuries in addition to a timeline is good. In the Book of Centuries, you will keep written narrations and drawings or pictures of people and events the child has learned about.

You can get a downloadable Book of Centuries from Tanglewood School Curriculum, Inc. for only $2.25. This provides a good outline and once you purchase it, you can print out all the pages you need as often as you need for your family.

You can also find pages to use in your Book of Centuries from She has several free pages that you can print out and use.

To get this type of learning into your portfolio is easy. If you keep a Book of Centuries, make photocopies and place the pages in the portfolio.

Be sure to take photographs when learning spills over into play. Those photos can be put on a sheet of paper and the child can write a caption or quick paragraph to be put in the portfolio.

Imagination is key. If they can imagine it, that means they have learned it.

Here are some samples of our timeline book and Book of Centuries.

Timeline book page 1850AD to 1899AD

Front cover of Book of Centuries

218 BC - Hannibal used elephants to attack Rome.

1894 AD Hershey's Chocolate Company is founded.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lessons That Stick

Confession: I love magazines. Weird, I know, but I really like them. Maybe because they are very light reading and I can actually get through an article before someone discovers I am reading and decides that they need my attention right at that moment. (Breathe)

The latest issue of Woman's Day magazine has an article that I found to be very interesting and am glad that it is out there in the mainstream instead of a homeschool-specific magazine. The article is called "Lessons that Stick with a Child" and it is written by Paula Spencer. I'll stop writing about it here and give you the link so you can read it yourself. It's a great article to keep in mind as you beging curriculum shopping for next year.

Lessons That Stick With a Child by Paula Spencer

I wonder if any of the educators in our schools will pick this one up and read it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chocolate Poetry and S'mores

One of the advantages to home education is that you are not bound to a curriculum. Education is a way of life and being able to adapt academics to your family is wonderful.

Right now we are doing activities based on chocolate. I was going to teach a class from my home for other homeschoolers to join us, but our schedule didn't work out. Since we have a flexible schedule within our own family, we can make it work for us.

Today we wrote chocolate poetry. After they wrote their draft and I checked for any spelling mistakes (grammar is a little more difficult with poetry since there really are no rules), they copy them onto a brown paper cut out in the shape of a Herhsey Kiss. Then we use aluminum foil to make a wrapper. Here are my daughters works:


I love chocolate
Chocolate is very sweet
And it's good for you!


Lost in dreamy world of thought,
I look at the candy bar I have bought.
Dark and tarry wrapped so slenderly,
Unworthy I hold it ever so tenderly.
Hearts in my eyes, they bulge ecstatically;
For it just sits there so erratically.
But I close my eyes to the health benefits
I must eat it beore the apocalypse!
I look down and try to comprehend its power
I look down and it's been devoured.

After the poetry, we made S'mores in the microwave. I also made a notebook page to go with it.

The notebook page contains the recipe, two places in which you can place photographs or the child can draw a picture and lines for notes at the bottom. I told them the notes could be anything they want relating to making the s'mores in the microwave. Besides eating the s'mores, I think their favorite part was watching the marshmallow expand in the microwave.

I love this job!

Saturday, February 7, 2009


For some reason, this time of year, I just get a craving to teach about chocolate. It's a very interesting topic and there are many resources availble out there. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to do activities and lessons based on this irresistable treat.

Pennsylvania home school law requires us to cover certain subject areas. I think they can all be covered under our chocolate topic.

English to include spelling, reading and writing

  • I feel that spelling and writing can be covered with copywork. Have the child copy an excerpt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
  • Your child could also write poetry about chocolate. I've had my kids write a poem. When they had it perfect, they copied it on a Hershey Kiss cut out.
  • This topic is rich with vocabulary.
  • Your local library probably has both fiction and nonfiction books on chocolate.


  • Use a Hershey Bar to work on fractions.
  • Find out the price of a Hershey bar at the local grocery store and have the child figure out how much 3 candy bars would cost. If they paid with a $10.00 how much change should they get back? Did you figure sales tax?
  • Make a recipe using chocolate.
  • Buy a small bag of M & M's and make a bar graph showing how many of each color are in the bag.
  • Think of 3 (or possibly more) chocolate bars and ask everyone you know, which is his or her favorite. Use tally marks to keep track and make a bar graph to organize the results.

  • Lay out the process of taking a cacao bean and making it into sweet chocolate.
  • Find out what kind of environment a cacao tree needs to grow.

  • On a map of Pennsylvania, locate Hershey, Pa.
  • On a world map, mark where cocoa beans are grown.
  • On a world map (or on a map of Central America), color the areas where the first tribes lived who discovered the cacao bean.

    History of the US and Pennsylvania
  • When did chocolate first come to the United States?
  • Where did Milton Hershey make his chocolate? Why did he choose that area? What else did Milton Hersehy do?

  • Milton Hershey was a philanthropist. Research the school he built and other ways he was a good citizen.

    Safety Ed
  • Discuss what to do when you get a bag of candy wrapper is off of a piece.
  • Discuss why pets should not have chocolate.

    Health and Physiology
  • Compare and contrast the nutritional values of different types of chocolate (eg hot chocolate, candy bars, raw cacao beans, etc.)

    This one has me stumped, too.

  • Write a song about your favorite form of chocolate.
  • Listen to music from the Mayan and Aztec people.
  • Listen to jingles from advertisements for chocolate.

  • Create your own chocolate bar. Design a wrapper for the bar.

Field trip

  • Hershey's Chocolate World - this trip is free and you get to take a ride through the chocolate making process. Hershey now has a new museum with classes for school students. The Chocolate World tour is free, but the classes at the museum come with a fee.

The following resources contain many more ideas.
Homeschool Share Free Unit on Chocolate
Currclick resources
Chocolate Theme Page
Exploratorium Magazine: Chocolate

Information on the Hershey Company

Feel free to post any additional ideas in my comments.