Books with maps in them are the best kind of books. I still recall the maps from My Father’s Dragon, Moominland, Redwall, and (of course) anything by Tolkien. Some of them are hanging on my wall at home, directly opposite a large map of the (real) world. But a step better than books with maps are books of maps.
When I was six years old I made my first atlas. It was a small collection of maps I had traced from our world atlas consisting only of coastlines, country boarders, and country names. If I remember rightly, it was a grand total of seven pages long — just enough space for each continent to make an appearance. At the time, I could barely read most of the words I was tracing. After tracing for several days (or maybe an hour, time’s tricky when you’re six) I took my pages, stapled them together with all the care an elementary school child can muster, and presented it, beaming, to my dad for father’s day. Thus began my life-long love affair with Atlases.
Growing up, I spent hours making maps of places both real and imagined. I would never have guessed that this pastime would culminate in a project like WonderMaps, although I think my parents suspected as much. They were always happy to provide atlases and maps for me to peruse. We had some wonderful reference atlases and a few good historical atlases on hand. However, it wasn’t until I was writing North Star Geography that I discovered how many different kinds of atlases there are. In this post, I’d like to introduce you to a few of my favorite kinds of atlases in hopes that you, like my parents, can use them to foster your child’s love of geography, and really their whole love of learning. Continue reading
There are so many types of atlases that it can be hard knowing what it the right choice for your homeschool library. Here are things to consider plus some of my top picks.
Please don’t use a grossly out-of-date atlas for your studies. If you bought one at a yard sale for 50 cents, but it was printed in 1985, well, you got what you paid for. Country names and borders change frequently. Digital atlases usually update frequently enough that this isn’t a problem, but paper atlases either need to be replaced, or you can draw in new borders or write in changed names yourself.
It is important to match, as best as possible, the right atlas for the student’s age. The level of detail in an atlas is usually a good indicator of its usability. The older the student, the more information can be put on a map and still be useable. The younger the student, the more important it is to keep the maps clean and simple for easy readability. Too many place names will be unreadable for younger kids, while insufficient detail will frustrate older students who can’t find what they need.
Also consider the use of color, if it includes any almanac-esque information, if it includes topography or just political information, and if it’s visually appealing for your student.
I believe a good home library will have all three! Why? Current or modern atlases show you the world today. Historical and Biblical atlases show you the world yesterday. Need to find Thebes, the extent of the Holy Roman Empire, or where Paul’s Missionary Journeys took place? Then you would look in a historical or Biblical atlases.
Most mainstream historical atlases will have few, if any, maps showing biblical history. That’s why we also recommend having a good Bible Atlas on hand as well—especially when studying ancient civilizations. Bible Atlases are great for both history class and Bible study, although they’re a bit too specialized to be your only historical atlas. You won’t find the Inca Empire or the Han Dynasty in a Bible atlas. So the reality is that all types of atlases are important when studying history.
Besides WonderMaps, I suggest these excellent print resources. Links will take you to the Bright Ideas Press store:
This book is our favorite, inexpensive Bible atlas. We find it easy for younger students to use while being compelling enough for adults.
This atlas adds a wow! factor with cool overlays showing modern borders over ancient sites.
This modern atlas is for secondary students from grades 6-12.
This historical atlas is for secondary students from grades 6-12.
This modern USA atlas is for grades K-6.
This modern world atlas is for grades K-6.
The difference between BAKING Soda and WASHING Soda is one sodium atom and 1 Hydrogen atom. Baking soda is Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3) whereas Washing Soda is Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3). That molecular structure makes Washing Soda more receptive and allows it to scrub more thoroughly.
Additionally, Baking Soda has a pH of about 8 (slightly alkaline) whereas Washing Soda has a pH of about 11 (so alkaline it’s caustic) which is why you should NEVER bake with washing soda. (Don’t ask how I found out.)
A schedule can make or break a family’s success with homeschooling. Over plan and you will feel stressed and constantly behind. But under plan and you may look back to realize you accomplished very little with your precious days and weeks. Where do you fall on that continuum?
Here are some questions to use to decide if your schedule works for you or not.
After reading those questions, maybe you realize that you need a schedule. But you don’t know where to start. Here are my suggestions.
What books or curriculum do you want to use, and do you want or need to finish it by the end of the year?
Don’t forget to read the teacher’s guides because they almost always have great advice on how to schedule.
Divide the material you want to cover over the course of the year, one week at a time, on your calendar.
For example, if you have a 32-lesson program, what lesson will you work on each week? Leave room for holidays, travel, family events, sick days, etc. I like to schedule a week off at least every 8 weeks or so. If you don’t need the week off, that’s fine, but it is better to factor in buffer days than to feel behind.
You don’t need to be super detailed, but fill in the regular, repeating tasks like these examples.
Post your template on your fridge, schoolroom wall, or planner. Make it visible. Maybe even laminate it or use a whiteboard so you can add specifics each week.
My Homeschool Schedule Triage form is a quick survey that guides you to write down your goals and to start thinking about what you can do to get from A to B.
For more information about schedules, take a look at our live panel about Homeschool Schedules.
If you’re interested in talking with me about your schedule, I’d be happy to consult with you. Send an email, and we can discuss rates and get a phone or Skype call on the calendar. I’ll definitely want to see your finished copy of the Homeschool Schedule Triage form.
Every year on February 2, millions of people ask themselves “What does the groundhog say?” as Punxsutawney Phil tries to forecast the weather for the next six weeks. Why do we trust a rodent to predict the weather? How accurate is he? What’s so special about February 2? And why does he have such a funky name?
First, where did this bizarre tradition come from? The short answer is Germany, where local legend indicated that if February 2 was cloudy, spring was imminent, but if the skies were clear, you could expect a long winter. Somehow this merged with other local traditions involving badgers and morphed. Sunny skies resulted in the badger casting a shadow; cloudy days meant no shadow. When some Germans emigrated to Pennsylvania, they brought the legend with them—but due to a badger shortage, they substituted groundhogs. Frankly, there is no meteorological basis for the legend. Phil’s predictions over the years are right about 30% of the time—no better than guessing. February 2 sits right between the winter solstice (midwinter, the shortest day of the year) and the vernal equinox (a day with equal lengths of day and night). So, by February 2, daylight has started to make significant gains against the long nights of winter. It’s also the date of Candlemas—a celebration of Jesus’ presentation at the temple 40 days after his birth.
These days, the “official” groundhog is a rodent named Punxsutawney Phil, named after Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania Punxsutawney Phil has been making official predictions from a hill called Gobbler’s Knob since 1887. He lives under the care of the Inner Circle of the Groundhog Club, who, in addition to interpreting his annual prediction from “groundhogese” to English, gives him a swig of the “Groundhog Elixir” which keeps him alive for yet another year. (I can’t think of a better reason why the same groundhog has supposedly been alive for over 100 years.) He is also said to be named after King Philip—and though it’s not clear which King Philip, my best guess is King Philip II, who was the husband of Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”) and later attempted to attack the English with his ill-fated Spanish Armada. Perhaps they named him after this king due to the role adverse weather played in the Armada’s defeat. If you want to celebrate, you can:
I love to travel. Aside from the derailment of my schedule, the expense, the hassle of airport security with three kids, the planning, the food (or rather, my gut’s reactions to it), not speaking the native language, getting a house sitter, and all that other stuff that travel often involves, it’s great. Visiting historical sites, exploring museums, soaking up local culture, and buying souvenirs are all awesome. However, I am here to tell you that you can have all the awesomeness and none of the headaches using one simple tool: the Internet.
How to Take a Virtual Vacation
Taking the Trip:
Bedtime stories at my house are a zoo. The pre-schooler tries to delay bedtime by asking a bazillion repetitive questions. The toddler does not want to sit still and read. The baby is ready to nurse. My wife has a bad case of end-of-the-day frazzles. Inwardly, I’m bemoaning the fact that our kids have yet to fall in love with books (because, they’re supposed to be reading before age 2, right?). We’re all a bit cranky.
So you know what we’re doing?
We’re giving up.
That’s right. Bedtime stories, that beloved childhood staple, are going to disappear from our home.
Instead, we’re replacing them with the following story-times that totally work for us:
1) Breakfast Stories. The kids are captive and are too busy eating to interrupt unnecessarily.
2) Bath-Time Stories. The older two love playing in the tub, will listen quietly so as to prolong the fun.
3) Wake-Up Stories. It takes the kids a while for their hyperness to kick in, so we can squeeze in a story while they’re still rubbing the sleeps out of their eyes. Plus, they’re extra snuggly when they wake up 🙂
4) Grandparents’ House Stories. Me-Ma and Grandad could sort socks with the them and the kids would be thrilled. No chance they’ll turn down a chance to read a book with them.
5) In-The-Car Stories. While we don’t spend a lot of time in the car, the kids love to listen to audiobooks anyway, so this is a no-brainer.
We probably won’t get rid of bedtime stories altogether. Some nights it works out really well. But at the least we’ll stop making it the most important reading time of the day, knowing that there’s plenty of other times and ways to read to the kiddos.
How about you: when do you find reading to your kids works best?
Being at conventions and watching thousands of people flip through books trying to determine if they need them or not has its ups and downs. Sometimes people just look at the title and *know* they need that book. They’re often right and are shortly proud owners of useful and enjoyable reads. On the other hand, I’ve seen people spend five seconds glancing at something that they *should* buy and put it back on the shelf without a second thought. Sometimes their friends will talk them out of a good purchase and into a mistake. It’s hard for us vendors, knowing what is in our books and having heard about your life and homeschool — we don’t want to be pushy, but we also don’t want you to miss out on something wonderful.
I have come to the conclusion that the single least effective way to determine if you should buy a book is also the most common. Please, please, please do not do this simple thing – it does not help you. I have caught myself doing it lately and was ashamed.
PLEASE DO NOT hold the book in your dominant hand THUMBING BACKWARDS through the book in hope that something will FLY OFF THE PAGES screaming “YES! I’M THE BOOK YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!” You inevitably miss the most important features of the book and wind up judging it based on the amount of white space and the quality of the illustrations.
Instead, I’d like to share with you 5 tips for better book browsing.
1) What’s on the front and back cover?
Does it sound like it addresses your question or meets your need? The back cover description may be more helpful then the title. Blue Like Jazz is not about color theory or music, but you wouldn’t know that without reading the back, or at least the subtitle. Try not to be put off by bad cover art – sometimes the best books just aren’t pretty.
2) What’s in the Table of Contents (TOC)?
The TOC should tell you exactly what topics are addressed, as well as which ones are given priority and which ones are glossed over. If the book is on a topic that interests you, or one that you’ve read much about elsewhere, the TOC will tell you if what you’re holding is new material or old hat. Obviously, a work of fiction’s TOC will be less telling then non-fiction, but otherwise you should be able to get a good outline of the material in a few pages.
3) Who wrote it?
Check the author’s credentials. Lots of letters after a name is good, but look for practical experience and wisdom in their subject area. I tend not to trust parenting books by people who’s eldest is not yet 12. (Come back and write to me when you have several well-adjusted grown-ups under your belt.) However “twenty-five years on the missions field,” “professor of (subject) at (respectable institution),” “mother of 7,” etc. mean a lot.
4) Who recommends it?
Check to see if there are reviews, praise, or a forward from anyone you know. Sometimes, just knowing that someone you trust likes the book is enough. Sometimes, knowing that someone I mistrust likes the book tells me everything I need to know.
5) What does chapter 3 look like?
Often I like to pick a single chapter and quickly scan it to see if the writing style, lesson set-up, or even (and I know this is silly) the font is appealing. If there’s a “Letter to the teacher,” “Introduction,” or “How to use this book” always read that first, then pick a random chapter to peruse. The “flavor” of the book makes a big difference.
We all judge books by their covers, but we’ll make better judgement if we ask better questions while we browse.
Have you ever *almost* missed out on a great book because of its cover?
We’re expecting another child! Due date is ~Sep 30th. Prayers for a safe pregnancy and delivery are always appreciated!
Sorry – please stand by.
‘ht Casey and Andy