Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blackline Maps

Learning where things are in relation to the rest of the world is very helpful when learning about a place's culture, history, or current events. There are several ways to do this. I like playing online games. One of the most effective ways to learn the location of countries, states, cities, rivers, mountains, and other land formations, however, is to study maps and fill out blackline maps. Filling out blackline maps over and over again provides for multiple learning styles. We fill out blackline maps for whatever area we are studying.

Here is how we fill out blackline maps. First, we figure out what we want to fill in. If we are studying the expansion of the Roman civilization across Europe, Asia, and Africa, we might fill in important water sources, the path they took, and their eventual territory.

Then, we'll use different colors to color different things. We usually use blue for water. However, we use different colors mainly to differentiate between various paths, civilizations, etc.

If we are trying to memorize where the various states are, we'll color them different colors to help keep them straight in our minds. Then, we'll label them. The different colors help those visual learners. The act of coloring and writing the names in the shapes helps kinesthetic learners. Reading the words while you write also helps visual learners. Have the children say the names while they write them. This will help auditory learners.

There are many resources for blackline maps. You can find many free printable maps online. Maps of the World has a good selection. World Atlas also has a good selection. You can find links to historical maps here. If you can afford it, buying a good blackline map book, made for this purpose, will save you a lot of time. Knowledge Quest has an excellent book and cd set that has every historical blackline map you could want for $45 (for families- it may be more for schools and co-ops). If anyone has any suggestions for other resources for blackline maps, I would love to add links to this.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Understood Betsy: Chapter 1

This is a truly delightful book that all children should read. Xavier and I are currently reading it, and it is the first book he asks for each day.

Summary: Elizabeth Ann is a fragile girl of nine. Because her great-aunt becomes sick, she is forced to go live with distant relatives in the country. She learns a whole new way of living.


manifest duty
correspondence course


Mental math: The book mentions mental math. During these times, children were expected to be able to do long complicated math problems in their head. (This is mentioned in one of the Little House books, too.) Have your child attempt doing long problems in his head to have a comparison for what they have to do.

stethoscopes- Stethoscopes got their start in 1816. Study the history of stethoscopes and the science behind them. This can morph into the science of sound.

scarlet fever- Did you know that scarlet fever is a rash caused by Strep? This is interesting because we rarely see scarlet fever, in America, today thanks to medication. This is a disease that used to be extremely fatal and contagious. Hence the reason for quarantines.

quarantine- There was a time when the only way to stop the spread of disease was to quarantine those that were sick. Discuss what it must feel like to be quarantined. Discuss how this stops the spread of disease. This would be a good jumping off point for discussing the spread of germs in modern times.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Value of Down Time

There is an aspect of teaching children that I think a lot of people forget about. Many people get so caught up in making sure children have all the facts they need stuffed in their heads, that the child doesn't have time to process it all.

One of the things that I have noticed with my children is that when they are having difficulty with a math concept, if I let them take a week or two off from math, they frequently pick up the concept without further instruction. Now, I understand that this is a hard thing to do. The tendency is to try to find other ways to teach the child the concept. After all, the problem may be that they just didn't get what you were trying to teach them. On the other hand, their brains may just not be developmentally ready for that concept. Or, they may just need time to process it and let their brain mull over it without the pressure of needing to apply the knowledge.

Another aspect of this is the actual need for time to play and explore. Many children these days spend hours in school, then turn around and spend hours doing homework, or playing sports, or doing dance, etc. As a result, the only down time they have is during the summer. And, since we don't want them to lose the knowledge that they gained over the school year, or be bored, we feel their days with activities. I truly believe that children's brains need time to assimilate knowledge. I believe that children need to be bored in order to take the things they have learned and apply them to their lives. Children need time to get outside and get to know their bodies. They need time for trial and error. They need to lie on the grass and stare at the clouds. They need to have the time to put their feet up and think about nothing. Their brains need quiet.

If you have the ability, give your child time each day, whether during the school year or summer, to explore his life on his own. Give his brain time to assimilate the things he learned that day. Give him time to really think about things instead of just adding more and more things to his plate. Eventually, things that he has not assimilated will start to leave to make room for more stuff. However, if he takes the time to think about something, really understand it, and make it his own, it will be his knowledge for life.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Copywork is an old form of language arts study. Copywork can be used for a multitude of things. It is a simple process that has many rewards.

The basic premise of copywork is to have your student copy from great literature, or from great quotes. The child learns spelling and grammar in this way. He also learns about different styles of writing. This is not an overt learning. Rather, this is an absorption that all writers need in order to write well. Depending on the quotes or literature you use, you can also use this to further your student's knowledge of history, literature, science, math, current events, foreign languages, geography, citizenship, and more. This also helps them improve their handwriting.

One of my friends likes to do what she calls "Character Quotes". Rather than using a different quote each time her children do copywork, she has them use the same quote all week. She ties their copywork to things she believes they need to work on in their characters.

Some of the quotes we've used this year are:

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." Thomas Jefferson

"Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind." Robert Green Ingersoll

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." Mark Twain

"We can't all be Washingtons, but we can all be patriots." Charles F. Browne

"Where liberty dwells, there is my country." Benjamin Frankly

Copywork has many benefits. My children have come to enjoy copywork, for the most part. I was able to start their copywork with quotes that they enjoyed. I found humorous quotes from their readings for Xavier. I found patriotic quotes for Gabriel. As a result, they got into the idea without much resistance.

Saturday, June 20, 2009