Sunday, December 30, 2007

We begin the new year studying the concept of civil disobedience. Our lesson plan centers on emphasis on college students who disagreed with the Vietnam War.

We will also examine the protesters who spoke out against the design of the Vietnam Memorial but then ultimately found it a moving, fitting, and proper tribute to fallen soldiers. Open-mindedness is an important attribute of citizenship, and even protesters can change their minds. We, E's parents, were at the Memorial's dedication ceremony 25 years ago. Four million people now visit the Memorial each year.
Here is a recent Washington Post interview with Jan Scruggs, founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
The VVMF's Lesson Plans for studying Vietnam and the Wall are provided here in PDF format.

We begin with Henry David Thoreau's 1849 essay, Civil Disobedience. Click here at for full text.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

World geography puzzle....completed.

Aunt Barbara gave us an Esphera360 puzzle for Christmas. Building this is a great way to brush up on world geography.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What's ahead?

As we go forth perhaps not so placidly into the noise and haste of Christmas vacation, we would like to lay some groundwork for the start of our new year.

We will intensify study of art history and post assignments and essay questions along the way.

We plan to study the Vietnam War, not only in and of itself but as part of the change in national cultural awareness that led ultimately to the contest to build a memorial, culminating with the story of the remarkable Maya Lin.

And we will sharpen writing skills. Here is a good beginning: these sites deftly explore the best way to build an essay. All of these links have been vetted by us.

You must begin with a thesis and a clear thesis in your mind that is strongly expressed in a topic sentence. The writer must be very, very clear about the thesis of an essay. This can't be emphasized enough, because without a strong thesis, there can't be strong support, and doom, or at least lack of clarity, is inevitable.

Good advice from Purdue University on how to go about answering an essay question.

Grammar and Writing Handbook from Capital Community College Foundation.

Good writing is rewriting. What to check when you're editing.

Master the comma.

OR just skip everything else and go to this outstanding East Syracuse-Minoa Schools site on writing a listening essay.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Learning the art of abstract strategy.

If your home learner enjoys chess or the game of Go, then he or she undoubtedly will like Stratego. (Pictured is our vintage version of the game, but Target carries Stratego in a classic form for under $20. )
Here is an excellent site describing other strategy games.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Meals on Wheels was a special experience today. E. met the new cook, Robert, who is stationed at the Ken and Patty Adam Senior Center right near us. E. talked to him at length and got a tour of the new industrial kitchen. Then at our last stop, Frances and Norman presented us with some beautiful Christmas cookies.

PS We are reading another book by Lisa Yee. So Totally Emily Ebers includes an appearance by none other than Milllicent Min, girl genius.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rules by Cynthia Lord.

The author has a very good site that addresses the book's complex themes and it includes reproducible worksheets. E. answered all the thoughtful study guide questions, which works well as an approach to assess reading comprehension.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Making do. Surviving.

We are reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Thematically relevant to our Lewis and Clark studies, the modern-day hero (Brian) is lost in the Canadian wilderness (fortunately not in the winter, or it might not be a survival story) after a plane crash with a single tool and must survive on his own.
Here's a very good school site loaded with questions and study guides about the book.
PS Have we mentioned lately the terrific Southside branch of the Santa Fe library? Visit and plan to spend some time.

Hm. What IS "Social Studies," anyway?

Here are some helpful links we use for teaching history and "social studies" to a middle school home learner.

Mr. Kash's History Page

Today in History

Conversations with History (Berkeley)

Time's 100 People Who Shape Our World (arguable but worth a look)

Teaching Current Events

Colonial Biography Unit (Harvard)

National Geographic Lesson Plans and Activities

Mapmaking Guide (6-8)

Latitude and Longitude

Social Studies Lesson Plans (CalState Northridge)

Ben's Guide to the US Government for Kids (6-8)

Adeline Hornbek and the Homestead Act

The Moonlit Road (folktales of the American South)

Abraham Lincoln Research Site

Links to Lincoln on the Web (Education World)

World War II (Grolier summary article)

World War II History Test (Grolier) - 25 challenging questions

Lascaux Caves (art history)

The Middle Ages

An Introduction to the History of Time

China Social Studies:

Six Paths to China

China Unique

China: An Ancient Culture in a Modern World

History Teacher Dot Net AP quizzes

Jeffersonian Age quiz

World War II

Truman and Beginnings of the Cold War

American Presidents

Presidents 2

Presidents 3

Presidents 4

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Girls and science.

If you have any doubts, read this NY Times story.
Illustration by Victoria Power.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Our fiction break (as we continue study of Lewis and Clark) is a novel by Robert C. O'Brien that tells of a strong friendship between a mouse family and a band of intelligent rats. Here is a very good site for study of this book.

Thematically, the story ties in well with the Corps of Discovery as it illuminates the themes of friendship, courage, cooperation, and survival.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Project GUTS meet-up

We participate in the 'Project GUTS' homeschool group. Other schools--private, public and charter--participate in this city-wide educational effort for middle schoolers.

The Project GUTS initiative is to teach 7th & 8th graders scientific methodology and some computer-based modeling. At our parent break-out group, we learned that part of the impetus for these groups is to prepare kids for the supercomputing challenges they might undertake in high school.

This quarter the students have been working on epidemiology. They use agent-based computer modeling to show how a virus might spread (or how something else might spread, like a rumor or a wildfire.) About sixty kids were in attendance today at this gathering of the various clubs. Groups presented the results of their work and some of the simulations they had created.

Next quarter, the kids are going to work on modeling 'egress' and 'ingress,' or traffic patterns and emergency planning. There will be a field trip to City Hall included in the planned activities.