Tag Archives: ss

Online Game for Learning About Constitutional Rights

Today I found a fun game to play to learn and practice constitutional rights:
Do I Have a Right?

You are a lawyer who opens a practice to defend people with issues regarding their rights. You hire other lawyers who specialize in certain rights — some aspect or another of a constitutional amendment. People come to visit you with a problem, and your job is to first tell them if their rights are being violated or not, and if they are you need to match them up with a lawyer (including why that lawyer is the correct one) or you can tell them to come back another day.

I played it and it’s pretty fun! Then I sent it to my 12 year old who seemed to find it easy enough… last I saw he had an office with three other lawyers and they were handling a case where a person had trespassed on school grounds and was sentenced to be tied to a flagpole so people could walk past and throw things at them.

It’s pretty humorous, with fun punny names and rather interesting cases.

Spring 2012 Homeschool Portfolio Review: English and Social Studies

Continuing our review of the spring 2012 semester, this is what we did in English and Social Studies.


The Boy finished up Grammar Town, learning more about
phrases and clauses and semicolons, and we began semi-weekly work in
Practice Town, “diagramming” one or two sentences a week. He continued
to use Caesar’s English to learn new words and stems, and The Girl even
chirped up with a sentence using a new word here and there. He stopped
using All About Spelling when, apparently, phonics suddenly clicked and
he could spell just about any regular word. In fact he has a bit of a
compulsion about it, randomly spelling the words in his head. Sometimes
for hours. So now he just asks about larger or stranger words when he’s
typing something to a friend to trying to name things in a game. He’s
started writing his first paragraph, guided by Paragraph Town. Of
course, he demonstrates no ability to spell when he’s composing a

The Girl continued into All About Spelling 2, which
she seems to really like the idea of, but if she ever gets a word
non-right she dissolves into tears. It appears I have another little
perfectionist. So we put that aside for a while and just worked on
reading some simple books, like Green Eggs and Ham, and Amelia Bedelia,
and Frog and Toad. Sometimes she even reads the instructions in her math
book, but mostly she’s too timid about possibly being wrong that she
asks for clarification of any instruction up to three times. (Yes, just
circle it! Argh!!!) I may need more patience. She’s also learning parts
of speech and occasionally dictating a story for me to write down.

The baby’s talking abilities and vocabulary are growing by leaps and bounds, and she even likes to move her finger along words as she pretends to read them. Green Eggs and Ham is one of her favorite books, probably because it taught her her new favorite phrase, “I do not like…” which she uses. All. Day. Long. Of course, “I do not like baths!!!!” is at least a little cuter than just screaming, “No!!!”.

Social Studies

To mix things up a little this year, we’re not just reading Story of the World and doing some activities. While it was fun when The Boy was little, The Girl isn’t as into dead leaders and their wars. Plus, The Boy needed something additional. So we added in some reading and activities from History Odyssey, Living Math, and went on a few trips that were mostly unrelated.

The Boy finished up SOTW 3, leading up to the civil war: Mexican independence, abolitionists, the Boers and Zulus, Trail of Tears, Opium Wars, the Alamo, New Zealand and the treaty of Waitangi, and the Gold Rush. He also read the entire declaration of independence with me and we discussed what the whole thing meant, using the metaphor of a breakup letter. He also studied France a bit.

Then, with his sister, they studied through SOTW chapter 13, about ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, etc.), Egypt (Old, Middle, And New Kingdoms), Kush (Nubia), the Indus Valley, Ancient China, and Africa. They visited the American History museum, the Clara Barton House, Mount Vernon, the ground of the Needmore Mansion (a real archeological dig!), and (yesterday) toured the Constellation, the Lightship Chesapeake, and the Torsk (a submarine!).

I really enjoyed the reading and activities in Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors.
It focused on regular everyday life, how people lived, what they ate,
and who they worshiped, not just leaders and their wars.

Then, of course, they did some study of World War II, just by playing Battlefield 1942. 😉 They also study geography quite often, following their family members paths as they go on exotic trips across the Atlantic, through Europe, and to islands in the Pacific!

Playing Battlefield 1942

Some people may think it’s odd to play a war game with their kids. A 10-year old game. With Nazis.

Other people would think I’m delusional for thinking it’s educational. But you know what? It is. They’re learning all about the two sides in WWII, which countries were on those sides (The Boy was sure it was a mistake that the Russians were on the Allies), and the names of dozens of the important battles. In fact, they get a general idea of what the battles were like — they know which were at sea, which were in sand, and which countries were fighting there. They get an idea of the technology level at the time, such as what sorts of weapons, planes, ships, and tanks each side had.

The Girl declared the Axis machine guns “dorky”. I told her, yes, they were “dorky” and in fact, their sideways design made them get jammed much more often than the Allies’ guns, which may or may not have been an important factor in the war.

The kids are learning how hard it is to live if you are the person manning the machine gun on top of the tank or the ball turret gunner. (If they were older, I might read them The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.)

Yesterday, they decided to make a role playing game out of WWII in the backyard.

Here, the leaders are making their battle plans in the shade of a canopy.

The medic and the engineer. She declared she could be in battle because she was just like Clara Barton.

(They take in information from games, shows, books, and museums and synthesize them together and make really amazing statements and ask really interesting questions!)

In the lower left, the first Ally spawn point. The troops are running to the upper right in order to capture the next spawn point.

Claiming the base for the Allies.

I think the red thing is an anti-tank mine.

Running to the third base.

After this they overturned the wheelbarrow, which was sometimes a tank and sometimes a bomber.

I’m not quite sure which side was using a morning star, but that’s the side The Baby is on.

Update (6/18/2012):  Because I am submitting this to the Carnival of Homeschooling, I’ll add that clearly not all children react well to games like Battlefield 1942, which does have some older-kid sort of content. If you disagree with it, or your kids are sensitive to that sort of thing, naturally don’t play this sort of game with them. I just wanted to give an example of education in video games, or education in unexpected places.

Also, it was interesting to watch the third Indiana Jones movie (the Last Crusade) see all the tanks, planes, and other technology that the kids learned about from Battlefield 1942.

I Guess This is What Unschooling Is Like

For those of you who aren’t homeschoolers, or don’t know a lot about it, there are actually a lot of different categories of homeschoolers. These are really general categories and there is a lot of overlap and squishiness about the categories, but sometimes it’s helpful to explain to other people the sort of philosophy you have about these things. It’s not entirely unlike explaining what sorts of foods you eat — low carb, vegetarian, kosher, and so forth. Broad categories that everyone stretches this way and that to make it work for them.

I probably can’t do justice to all the flavors of homeschooler right here, but if you’re interested the Homeschool Diner has a list they compiled.

We don’t really fit into any particular group. We have fewer rules than many families, but we’re not radical unschoolers without bedtimes or required chores or anything. I like a lot of the ideas of classical schooling, such as using original sources and mastery of concepts, but we’re not obsessed with following anyone’s particular idea of it and no one is learning latin right now! I buy curricula, but we don’t necessarily follow it, we use it as another source. We sometimes do unit studies, sometimes not. In fact, anytime I try to follow any schedule or routine or list, the kids object.

We are dedicated to randomness.

Lately, I’ve managed to injure myself in annoying ways, or get sick, or find some other reason to be busy, or cranky, or unprepared, and we’ve had a week or two (ahem) here or there (cough) where maybe we weren’t all at the kitchen table doing math worksheets every morning, if you know what I mean.

But the kids still learn. It really hard to keep them from learning, as it turns out. Boredom actually causes them to do all sorts of things. And kids can make anything fun.

One day a few weeks ago, all of us were sick with a fever, a cold, or bronchitis, so my son was playing on the computer. He was using Minecraft, along with a friend of his half way across the country, and he managed to do an entire day of school-worthy activities in just about every subject we need to cover.

This is what a home school sick day looks like: he had to multiply out the gold he won in the minecraft RPG he and his friend invented and divide by 64 to see how many stacks that would be (math). He’s making logic gates to power his doors and traps (science). He has to type to me to communicate (English). He taught his sister about the immune response system (health). He made a sculpture of a creeper (Art) and composed a song about how it holds his treasure chests (Music). As soon as I fix the printer, he can print and mail a certificate for another Junior Ranger badge (history — it’s about Clara Barton). 

It’s semesters like this one that makes me wonder if I’m going to eventually just relax, let go of the reins of control, and just be an unschooler. I wonder how far away that even is…

Haiku for the Guild

We’ve recently re-activated our World of Warcraft accounts, thanks to Blizzard’s latest resurrection scroll deal. Originally I stopped playing when I was pregnant with the third child. I can’t think or sit or exist when I’m pregnant, and you can’t do raids with morning sickness. Or at least I can’t. Then I had a baby and we moved and there wasn’t any time. Instead I played a lot of Terraria, Minecraft, Bejewelled, and a few short DS games.

In order to join a particular guild, the requirement is to write a haiku. Now, my son once threw a tempter tantrum for an hour because I suggested it might be fun to write one, back when we were studying medieval Japan. I didn’t say he had to. Just started telling him how it’s done. It was Golden week, too, so we already made samuri hats and origami baskets and all sorts of fun stuff. But he would not even listen to haiku. Apparently it was too much.

Fast forward to today. He wanted to join the guild, so he wrote the haiku.

The little worm plays
Dancing in the sunlit park
Under the oak tree

Trips Lead to New Ideas

One thing I’m really enjoying about the little trips we’re taking is that it really seems to help get the kids out of their rut and try something new. Last month we went to Mount Vernon and really had a great time. In the gift shop, The Boy picked up a nice little quill and ink holder set with a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Not only did he have me read him the entire thing, which I interpreted in the form of a break-up letter (It’s not me, it’s you!), but then we just had to get some ink for his ink well.
I didn’t really want him with permanent ink all over the house, so we made some. After checking around on the internet, we found a recipe using coffee. So we made that. Then we made one with tea. Then we remembered the beets we canned and how beautiful the beet juice was, so he drew with that as well!
So, for a change, he didn’t spend the morning playing on the computer, he spent it on a little chemistry, civics, and penmanship!

Planting the Three Sisters and Other Companions

Against my better judgement, we’re going to try planting corn this year! It was an utter failure when I was a kid, but I am in Maryland, and corn is supposed to grow really well here. Of course, I’m going to have the bare minimum amount of corn to really expect it to fertilize well, which might be an issue. Another problem is that we’re in a windy area, and the wind might blow all the pollen away before it can fertilize. We did have some fertilization issues last year in the cucumbers and squash, but that might be because of their varieties.

Not only are we planting corn, but we’re using the three sisters method. It was the way many Native American tribes planted their crops. It involves three different plant types: corn (maize, really), squash, and beans. They are naturally complimentary crops — the corn makes a great trellis for the beans to climb and the beans in turn help stabilize the corn against the wind. Beans also fix nitrogen back into the soil, helping to fertilize the other plants. The squash act as a ground cover, blocking weeds from growing and shading the soil to help the soil keep from drying out as quickly. If you plant a spiny squash, it can also discourage predators.

 I read a nearly 100-year-old account of a Native American woman’s recollections of how she and her tribe farmed, using this method in Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden.

For information about planting your own garden with the Three Sisters method, check out Renee’s Garden.

A Cherokee tribe in Alabama posted some three sisters myths online.

The farmer’s almanac has more information about companion planting. Some of these most gardeners are familiar with, such as planting basil and marigolds with tomatoes. There are also plants that need to planted away from each other, such an onions and beans.

My plan is to plant two 4′ x 4′ raised beds. One has early varieties of corn, squash, and beans, the other will have varieties the mature in a more regular length of time. If you divide the beds into 1′ x 1′ squares, each has 16 squares. I plan on putting five squash plants in five squares (the corners and center). The other 11 squares will each get 2-3 corn plants and 2-3 bean plants. If you’ve never heard of square foot gardening, this can seem awfully close, but the “experts” indicate that it does actually work, if you can water everything enough and fertilize often. That’s where the compost pile and the beans’ ability to fix nitrogen really comes in handy. 

And yes, this is just another way to make homeschooling fun — we get to learn all sorts of things:

  • Science — Life cycle of seeds, soil science, nutrition.
  • Social studies — Native American culture, traditions, stories.
  • Math — building the raised beds requires a lot of measuring and engineering, volume calculations to determine how many bags of dirt to buy, figuring out how many seeds to grow, timing everything just right, writing and reading charts of planting, and more!

Wish us luck — we barely had winter this year, which is a double edged sword. I think we’ll get to start the garden 1-2 months earlier than last year, and get some nice cool weather for the broccoli and such, but the bugs will probably be overwhelming. But the kids are pretty excited!

This week in Homeschooling #9 and #10

The past week is a blur of tiredness and illness. We all came down with the infamous rotavirus, and had fevers and horribleness. (And just as I’m publishing this, looks like the baby has roseola on top of everything. Wow. What a bad week.)

Math practice

World maths Day!

The Boy participated in World Maths Day, competing against kids from around the world in doing addition and subtraction problems against each other in real time. He was so delighted he declared his two favorite subjects to be “math and competition”. So I signed him up for spring soccer — but I’m sure this is one of those teams you’re not supposed to be too competitive on. Whatever. Like you can stop kids.

We also are moving our facts memorization to a cabinet. If you open the right door you can quiz yourself! Plus, it’s right next to where he eats, so he’ll get it by osmosis. The girl is enjoying quizzing us on math and doing simple addition and subtraction still.

Baby plants!


We played with acids and bases and red cabbage
indicator, planted plants, and saw the tulips start coming up in the
backyard. We talked about spring and signs of spring, too. In the past
few days they’ve learned a lot more about earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear reactors, as well. 🙁


We learned a lot about electrolytes, dehydration, and ways your body fights disease. Hands on!

A guy with a urine-based laser gun


A lot of our sick time we’ve been doodling and drawing things.

Social Studies

We started re-watching Liberty’s Kids since we’re about to read the chapter of our book about the American Revolution. We’ve also been talking about all the uprisings going on around northern Africa right now and discussing different sorts of governments.


The boy has been typing emails and text messages to me, family and friends a lot lately. He’s also started reading Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. He’s heard it read to him twice, but it’s an enormous book written somewhere in the 4th-5th grade level, and he’s already about 50 pages into it, I think. I’m proud of him just for trying! The girl has been doing a lot of writing of letters, and trying to sound out small words. The baby is using more and more words and has started playing with consonants. Which should help us be able to understand her. (Right now, she mostly talks in vowels, which makes me slightly crazy.)

Painting with dirt


We went to PE class right before we came down with the evil
illness. With spring just about here, it was impossible to keep the
kids happy playing in a gym. So we adjourned to the park. 😀 Also, we
went to gymnastics class last week (but not this week).


The kids went to their cousin’s band concept and enjoyed it thoroughly! Excellent band. We also listened to some Irish music in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day. Plus, they listened to their dad work on a song he’s been composing for, um, 10 years or so. The boy went to a singing class where they talked a bit about harmony, chords, and rests.

Scrubbing dishes


While they weren’t sick, they did some cooking and enjoyed cleaning. They both suddenly like mopping (which is a good thing, since they keep tracking mud everywhere) and the girl constantly begs to help scrub dishes!

This week in Homeschooling #5 and #6

This is what I remember from the week of 1/31/2011 – 2/11/2011. I combined two weeks since I’m behind, and because week six was mostly about being sick.


The boy is spending time memorizing his addition, subtraction, and multiplications tables, and doing some review problems. Also, we reviewed factoring and prime numbers, one of his favorite topics. The girl is working on addition with digits 0-5.

We studied probability a little bit, by rolling our platonic and archimedian 8 sided dice and regular 2d6. All results were tallied and plotted on appropriate graphs, and why things ended up the way they did. Naturally we had to reconcile our observations with our hypotheses. 😉 Then we used that knowledge to figure out when you would want a weapon that did 1d12 damage vs. 3d4 damage.

And we played math games. Interesting variants on war, go fish, and so forth to do some computation. He also signed up for international maths day, which is March 1st, and practiced some.


After watching part of a documentary about Yellowstone in the winter and the wolves that live there, we learned about a neat learning game called WolfQuest, where you get to pretend to be a wolf. The Boy played until he won it, learning a lot about wolf body language, raising wolf pups, and wolf pack behavior. He was especially amazed when he chased off an alpha male from the druid pack. It made his day!

The Girl’s science lessons are continuing, and we read a short book about the different forms of energy, what energy is, and what energy does. The Boy finished up his lesson about cells and cell division. Then we started (and finished!) a lesson about fungi and bacteria, classification, and decomposition. They loved this one!

We also read a lot about pre-dinosuar plants and animals, which also doubles as The Girls entry into her history lessons. I absolutely adore a book we found at the library, When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life before Dinosaurs. The Girl also wanted this book, Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones, read to her over and over. I really like his books.

And we talked about the magnetic fields around earths and learned what “concentric torses” are.


The girl is doing well with All About Spelling. She knows most of her phonograms decently well, and now we’re playing with making short three-letter words. She still gets confused about letters having to be in order and starting on the left. Or maybe she’s just pretending to to make me insane. There really isn’t any telling. She can set up the letters in alphabetical order, though, which is a great achievement!

We read more about poetry, about alliteration and bringing it together with rhyme and meter and onomatopoeia to bring about interesting effects with words, and The boy wrote a poem. In grammar, we studied prepositional phrases and independent clauses and marked up the structure of many more sentences. He’s done with Grammar Island and gets to move on to Sentence Island. Yay! And we started the first chapter of Sentence Island, which was review of the contents of Grammar Island, plus an introduction to the new characters for that book.

We read a lot of books together. A lot. And The Boy even read a few on his own.


They both did their gymnastics and extra gym time, but I think I’ve learned that the extra hour is far too much all at once for them. They get way too tired. Plus, The Boy hurt his back, and laid in bed the rest of the afternoon, evening, and most of the next day.

We also watched the Superbowl and a hockey game, and the kids learned a bit about the rules for those sports.


We did some coloring pages from Kid Power, which teaches about how to not be a victim and when and how to get help when you’re in a dangerous situation. Also some about dealing with bullies and projecting confidence.

We also talked way, way, way too much about egg fertilization and sperm and printed a bazillion weird pictures. And discussed prudish people with our grandparents.


We didn’t have any planned art activities, but there is always a lot of building and coloring going on around the house.


While we had to miss one class for colds, the other class went well. The boy is learning more songs, and more about music as well as other cultures and time periods. I’m constantly amazed at how well behaved he is in this class.

Social Studies/History

This week, we read about the decline of the Ottoman empire. We also touched on a lot of other history in our other discussions. For example, when we were discussing American prudishness, we reviewed about Puritans, and discussed how the same subjects are treated differently in other countries. Plus all the good dinosuar and pre-dinosaur content is considered history and science around here. 🙂 We discussed the history of animal classification when we discussed fungi and bacteria, from Linneaus to the 1960s when they added new Kingdoms, and then in the past decade when they’ve restructured into Domains. And in music class, they learned a song in Hebrew, plus some more Old West cowboy tunes, and talked about the meanings of the words and what it was all about.

It’s amazing how much we get done and I don’t even realize it until I list it all!