Monday, August 31, 2015

Do Your Kids Know Why We Celebrate Labor Day?

Labor Day.  When I was a kid I had mixed emotions about Labor Day.  Labor Day meant the end of summer.  It also meant that when you went to bed on Labor Day evening you'd wake  up to the excitement of the first day of a new school year.  Not many schools start the day after Labor Day any more.  Now Labor Day is a day off after a few weeks of a new school year.

A day off.  That's what kids think Labor Day is.  It is also a day off for workers - which is its original intended purpose.  Here are the facts of how Labor Day came to be a holiday:

- Workers used to work in harsh conditions with long hours and very little pay.  Children were also subject to working under the same conditions as adults.

- Labor unions sprung up to fight for workers.  They worked to get the US worker higher wages with less working time and to protect children from working at a young age.

- Peter McGuire started the first Labor Day rally in 1872.  Tired of working in horrendous conditions he got 100,000 workers to go on strike and march through the streets of New York City demanding a better work environment for all.

- In 1882 McGuire proposed that workers deserved their own holiday.  On September 5, 1882 10,000 workers marched in the streets of New York City for the first Labor Day Parade

- In 1884 the celebration was moved to the first Monday of September.

- In 1894 Congress passed a law making Labor Day a national holiday.

Kids should know that it was the work of the labor unions that ensured they would not be spending their days working in factories rather than in school. And they can thank Peter McGuire for this day off of school.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Having Girls Play More Video Games is NOT the Answer to Getting Them into the STEM Fields

"Goodness! Do we really want more kids playing more video games?"  That was my first thought when I came across an article by Samantha Parent about how girls should be encouraged to play more video games.  The article is pure absurdity!  Parent states that because brothers and fathers play, girls should too. Video games apparently have gender disparity as does everything else on this planet these days. 

FYI!  Some kids don't like playing video games - just like some kids don't like to read or play board games.   My daughter is one of those kids.  Her brother is a video game junkie.  He tried to get her to play with him to no avail. She is the type of girl who likes to paint, cook and read. She does things that girls like to do!  And these are things that girls, as well as humans, have enjoyed doing for hundreds of years. The few video games she has enjoyed playing involved dogs and cooking.  Both girly topics.  Which is fine, because she is a girl! 

The article also stated that girls still are not going into the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Unfortunately these numbers have dropped dramatically in recent decades.  The fix?  Play more video games!  This will spark a new found interest in these fields.  Has anyone considered that most kids are on tech gadgets all day long?  They are on them at school.  They have to do their homework on them.  They play on them.  They communicate with all their friends on them.  Watch movies on them.  Some may actually choose to go into careers or spend their free time where they are not chained to a tech gadget.  Quite frankly, the numbers of girls entering the STEM fields has dropped since the rise of girls playing video games. In all actuality maybe we should be trying to have them do other things rather than play video games.

Why coerce a child who loves to paint, cook and read into playing games that will just suck her in on more tech gadgets?  She is enjoying life like kids SHOULD be enjoying life.  She is one of the few who is not majorly technologically connected.  Why do people think that all kids need to be so full of tech and games?  Why can't they just be kids? And another FYI, after reading this article as well, my teenage son claims that of his friends it's pretty even (55% boys 45% girls) as to what genders play video games. There were no stats on gender disparity in the article, but according to Wikipedia "the gender ratio has become closer to equal and since the 2010s females have been found to make up about half of all gamers."  As my son pointed out, there really is no gender disparity of video game use.

My daughter has long mentioned that if they made science and math more interesting to learn she may actually like those subjects.  She initially began her education in a Montessori school.  In 6th grade she moved into a public school.  After learning in an exciting hands-on environment and then being moved to dull textbook and computer learning, these subjects have become extremely boring to her.  If the education system would utilize a teaching method that made these classes more interesting to girls they may be more apt to go into the STEM fields.  Playing more video games certainly is not the answer.

Full text of the article can be found here: 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Do Your Kids Know Who Christopher Columbus is and Why He Sailed the Ocean Blue?

 In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  We all know the exact year Christopher Columbus set sail and found the Americas because we all have learned this saying.  But have your kids learned it?  Do they know why Christopher Columbus set sail?  Do they even know who Christopher Columbus was?  Here are some quick and fun facts to teach your kids so they can learn a bit more about this great explorer.

Christopher Columbus was born, Christoforo Colombo, in 1450 or 1451 in Genoa, Italy.  They didn't have birth certificates back then so we are not sure which exact year it was.  He lived during the Age of Discovery when Europeans explored for lands and wealth.

When Christopher Columbus was 14 he became an apprentice on a trading ship.  An apprentice works for no pay to learn a trade.  Back then this is how many learned a trade instead of going to high school or college.

When he was 19, and then again when he was 24, he went on a long voyage to an island called Chios.  This island is in the Aegean Sea.  On these trips he learned how to navigate long voyages on an open sea.

During the time of Columbus people thought there was one landmass on a flat surface surrounded by one ocean called the Ocean Sea.

Columbus' first expedition was funded by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.  He set sail in 1492.

Of Columbus' three ships, The Nina, The Pinta and the Santa Maria, he favored The Nina for its swiftness.

His first voyage took 43 days.  The ship was full of fleas and rats.  The sailors were full of lice.  They wore the same outfit the entire voyage and went barefoot.

When Columbus landed in the Americas he thought he was near China, Japan and the Indies.  He actually landed on Watling Island in the Bahamas.

As Columbus thought he had landed in the Indies, he called the native people of the Americas Indians.  More than 500 years later we still call the native inhabitants of the Americas Indians.

In Europe and in the Americas, October 12 (the date he landed on his first island in the Caribbean) is celebrated as Columbus Day to honor the great explorer and circumnavigator.  Since 1970 the United States celebrates it on the second Monday of October with lots of sales rather than sails.  (Sales / Sails is a great way to introduce or reiterate homonyms - words that sound the same, but have a different spelling and meaning - to your kids.)

Although Christopher Columbus was credited as the person who discovered the Americas or New World as many called it, he was not the first one to arrive there.  Human beings had lived in the Americas for over 20,000 years.  Norse Viking, Leif Erickson, beat Christopher Columbus to the Americas 500 years earlier. Many before Erickson may have been there as well. 

His goal was to find a direct route from Europe to Asia.  He never found Asia, but he did find the Caribbean Islands, Central America and South America. 

Christopher Columbus was the first European to see the coast of South America.

Columbus never set foot on North America.

Columbus brought horses to the New World.  They were one of the first European exports to this area of the world.

Natives traded tabaco for horses with the Europeans.

May 20, 1506, Columbus died in Spain not realizing he had found a New World.  He still thought he had found a different path to the Indies. 

For more fun learning about Christopher Columbus:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

12 Home Schooling Tips from a Seasoned Home School Mom

As our last year of home schooling our eldest son begins, I thought I'd write out this list to help others through their home schooling years.  Having home schooled preschool through high school, with a few private and public school years intermingled, I've seen and dealt with it all.  Here is my advice to others who have the blessing of home schooling their children.
1.  Treat each kid individually.  Just as not all kids thrive in a public school setting, not all kids thrive in a home school setting.  We have one child we home schooled 2nd - 8th grade and 11th and now 12th grade. He is the poster child for home schooling as a traditional classroom is too noisy and too disruptive for him.  It was also too slow-paced.  He was bored out of his mind! Our other child went to an arts-based Montessori preschool through kindergarten.  We then home schooled her until 6th grade.  Being such a social butterfly, the school setting and being among her peers all day suits her well.  She loves doing homework (used to beg for it as a home schooler!), loves her classes and her teachers.  For her she thrives better in a classroom setting.  School your kids where and how they will thrive best.
2.  Follow your state's educational standards. Even though you want to dictate what your kids learn and when they learn it, be sure they are on par with your state's educational standards.  One never knows what life may bring, so you want them to be prepared properly if they end up having to go to a traditional school.  If you follow your state's standards, your child will test at least at grade level when they enter the system.
3.  Teach your kids cursive writing.  Kids need to know how to read and write in cursive.  Schools that have pulled away from it are reintroducing it.  They must be able to sign their college and mortgage applications some day.  It's also helpful for them to be able to read Aunt Martha's note in their birthday card.
Have your kids take tests.  Get your kids taking tests, and more tests.  I'm not an advocate of tests showing a person's knowledge on a subject, but if kids are not used to taking tests they will not perform well on them if they have to enter the public school system. They certainly won't test well on the ACT or SAT either if they are not accustomed to taking tests.  When they go off to college they will definitely be taking tests.  Prepare them well.  After all for most of us, aren't we preparing our kids for college?
5.  Get your kids involved in other groups besides just home school groups.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Have the kids mingle, play and associate with other kids outside your home school group(s).  Put them on a non-home school sports team.  Get them involved in scouts and organizations not associated with your home school group.  This gives them more diverse interaction with others and doesn't limit them to one certain group or type of kids.  This was something my own son taught me.   There are more kids out there within your community that your kids may really enjoy being friends with.  Don't limit them. 
6.  Foster each child's individual interests.  Whatever they are interested in, run with it!  My son couldn't soak up enough science.  He loved it, and was good at it, so we fostered it.  His home schooling years focused on science topics with English, math and reading added in as unit studies.  History was done separate as well as other fun subjects such as art.  When he went to high school his science teacher told me he had the most knowledge of science concepts out of any of her advanced students. He is now planning on a career in the medical field.  Our daughter spends much of her time on art and loves to draw and paint.  We fostered her curriculum with art.  She now is in the fine arts track at our local high school. What ever it is that makes your child "tick", foster it.  Run with it.  Use it to make learning fun for them.
7.  Take advantage of the co-op classes offered by home school groups in your area.  Most areas have home school co-op classes available.  This is where groups of parents get together to teach each others' kids.  A former English teacher or writer may offer to teach English classes.  An artist teaches art classes.  This is a great way for kids to learn from some experts. It also gets the kids together with other kids. 
8.  Go on field trips!  The more field trips the better. There is no better way for kids to learn than to see and experience what they are learning about first hand.  Take advantage of all the places you can go to in your area - historical places, museums, farms, aquariums, nature centers.  If you are able to travel, travel for field trips.  One of my kids' favorite field trips we ever went on was when were were studying Helen Keller.  My son actually taught himself braille.  And then he asked to go see the Helen Keller house.  Her house is in Alabama! Over 1,000 miles away.  But we drove to Tuscumbia, Alabama just to see her house. I was bound and determined to foster that interest!  Those kids were so excited to see where that well was where Helen had her big break through.  They were able to see first hand how Helen had lived and where she learned.  Our greatest memories of home schooling and being together as a family are from all those field trips we went on.  These could be yours too.
9.  Read to your kids! It makes them strong readers and better thinkers.  You can introduce the real versions of the classics as soon as your kids are born.  Read to them.  Read them living books. Read them every book they want read.  And once they learn to read, don't stop reading to them.  You can always read more advanced books to them than they can read.  This is a fantastic way to build their vocabulary.  Kids also still love to be read to even after they learn to read themselves.  Reading together builds a huge bond among families.
10.  Follow through.  For that child who thrives in your home school environment, don't send them to the wolves just because you may think he/she will miss out on the fun middle school or high school years.  Follow through and finish what you set out to do.  There is nothing worse than seeing your bright child squashed by the public school system and a 16 year old boy literally crying days on end because he cannot bear another day at school.  Spare yourself and your child this. 
11.  Let them know the option to come home is always open.  If you put your child in public or private school, keep the option open that they can come back home.  Just because you put them in public school does not mean they have to stay there. If it becomes clear that putting them in school was the wrong choice for them, pull them out.  Don't make a whirlwind decision right away at the first inkling.  See how things progress and you will know if it is right to pull them back home.
12.  Teach your kids how to take care of themselves.  We all want to raise independent adults who can take good care of themselves.  Be sure they know how to do their laundry, cook, clean the house properly, manage their money and all other basics of taking care of themselves.  Have them make their beds and straighten their rooms each morning.  Have them help with making breakfast and lunch - even dinner.  They can set the table.  Set up a bank account and teach them how to manage it.  I made sure that if anything happened to me the kids would be able to take good care of themselves.  This will carry them into adulthood.  Of course, these learning activities need to be age appropriate.  You know your kids and what they are capable of doing.  By the age of eight my daughter could whip up an awesome lemon cake!   Now by almost the age of 18 I am confident my son will be able to live on his own and survive just fine. After all, isn't raising them into adulthood another of our purposes?
I certainly hope these tips save you some heart ache and also provide some guidance as you advance through your home school years.  Bless you for what you are doing for your children.  Enjoy these years with them.  They will be the best of your life.  And always remember, you know what is best for your kids.

Friday, August 21, 2015

When Did Kids Stop Playing Kick the Can?

Do you remember playing Kick the Can?  Do your kids play kick the can?  For some reason, I think my generation may have been the last to have enjoyed this evening past time that kept us busy on hot, summer nights.  After dinner, as the sun started to set, every kid on our block, about 20 or so of us, would meet down the block to play.  All you needed was one coffee can, which someone stole out of their basement.  Moms kept coffee cans for no apparent reason back then, so I'm sure it wasn't missed.  This blast of a game didn't cost any of us one penny!  The best part of the game was all the noise that can made when someone got to it and kicked it really hard!  It's truly amazing what small things amused kids back then!

How do you play Kick the Can?  It's simple.

~ Gather a group of friends

~ Someone needs to bring along an empty coffee can (no lid is needed)

~ Select your play area (a large space with lots of bushes, trees, and things to hide behind)

~ Put your coffee can in the middle of your play area (this should be an open space)

~ Pick someone to be "It" for the first round (volunteers are always nice)

~ Whomever is "It" stands by the coffee can, closes his eyes, and counts to 50 or 100 while all the other players hide.  When "It" gets to the end of counting he or she shouts really loud so everyone can hear "Ready, or not, here I come!"  Then "It" proceeds to look for other players.

~ When "Its" finds a player, he or she must shout there name and that person must run to the can and kick it really hard.  If "It" catches them and tags them then they are out.  If the player makes it to the can and kicks it, he or she may hide again while "It" resets the can.

~ This play continues until there is only one person left to kick the can. 

~ Then the group selects another "It" and you replay for hours and hours of great fun!

*What's even more amazing is we played this not only in the dark, but in the street and the entire neighborhood.  We hid in people's bushes, back yards, you name it.  And not once did anyone get hurt, hit by a car and most of all yelled by an adult for us being in their yards!  People let kids play back then.  This was the '70's.  If kids were playing Kick the Can on my block tonight, I may just join them!