The Great War For Kids

There’s one thing about history that my daughter quickly learned in her early elementary school days. Humans seem to always be fighting each other.

It’s an unpleasant subject on the surface, but if you’re going to instill a love of history in your children, you can’t avoid the fact that they will, inevitably, be reading about war.

And they will find it utterly fascinating.

With this year marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, or The Great War, we’ve seen a deluge of books on the subject.

One of these new ones is especially for kids. It’s not only a fascinating look at the deadliest conflict in human history, but it’s a primer on how to enjoy reading history.

Photo Oct 23, 11 17 45 PM-001

World War I for Kids, by R. Kent Rasmussen, is, quite simply, the best children’s book about war that I’ve ever seen. The reason I think it’s the best is because of the way the author engages young readers with vibrant illustrations and hands-on activities.

This is not just a book for reading. It’s a book for doing. Activities include camouflaging an egg, making a trench periscope, and baking up some genuine “war bread” (no sugar or lard allowed). There are 21 activities in all, spread throughout the book to help bring the descriptive passages to life.

Photo Oct 23, 11 15 35 PM-001

The author never talks down to his readers. He offers up clear and lively explanations on key aspects of the war, from its buildup to the rapid advances in military technology to the war’s impact on later historical events.

If your kids think history is boring, hand them this book. I guarantee they won’t put it down for awhile. The easygoing format, incredible photos, and fun activities are a welcome change from the usual dull texts with their laundry lists of names and dates.

World War I For Kids encourages its readers to connect the dots between the major events, why they happened, and how all the events, both past and future, are related. That, right there, is critical thinking, folks.

This book is good for any age from 4th grade up to early high school. It can certainly be enjoyed by anyone who is looking for an introduction to World War I.

Photo Oct 23, 11 16 14 PM-001

You can buy a copy of World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities at Amazon.

I also have a copy to give away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment here or on the Idaho Dad Facebook page. I will pick a winner in a week’s time.

The Homeschool Decision

People often ask us why we first decided to school our kids at home.

We started in 2006, which seems forever ago, so it’s hard to remember all of the reasons why we turned away from the public schools.

Luckily, I wrote down a conversation I had with my son a few months before we made the decision.

He was in second grade at the time.

Me: “Did you go to the library today?”
Him: “Yes, I found a Bailey School Kids book!”
Me: “Cool. You can read it tonight.”
Him: “No, I already read it.”
Me: “What? When?”
Him: “Today, during my free time.”
Me: “Exactly how much free time do you have that you could read an 80-page chapter book in one afternoon?”
Him: “Lots.”
Me: “And what is the teacher doing during all this free time?”
Him: “Making sure we’re quiet.”
Me: “Uh-huh, are you sure she’s not doing her nails or taking a nap or something?”
Him: “No, she helps the kids who need help, and the rest of us have free time.”

I’m sure that this, combined with a host of other things, lit the fire for us to try something different.

We’ve never doubted our homeschool decision. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been totally worth it.

My kids have succeeded well beyond our expectations.

My son is taking college courses at the age of 16, while my 8th grade daughter is on track to do the same.

I have a feeling that my son and daughter would not have thrived as they do now if we had stayed with the public schools. They would have learned to keep their head down, to work quietly, to move forward, and, certainly, to do as well as necessary to avoid attention, both negative and positive.

I’m not sure the fire for learning would still be burning as brightly for them if we’d made a different decision way back then.

To be fair, it’s all conjecture at this point.

The homeschool decision worked for us. That’s the one thing I do know.

10 Benefits of Homeschooling

10 Benefits Of Homeschooling

1. Our cat never gets lonely waiting for the kids to come home from school. He just curls up right at their feet, and in their lap, and on their desk.

2. The librarian is starting to recognize us from our frequent trips to get more books. Last week she looked the other way on an overdue book.

3. Stockinged feet walking around the house all day means I don’t have to worry about polishing the wood floor.

4. There is no better place to read The History of Colonial America than curled up on the couch in front of a roaring fire.

5. We don’t need permission slips to take field trips. We just go.

6. No bullies, no PTO moms, no drop-off lane, no fashion police, no dumbing down, no fundraising, no harried teachers, no busy work. Nothing but learning.

7. The manager of our favorite deli recognizes us from our frequent lunches out and upgrades our meals with big drinks and free cookies.

8. The quality of handwriting always improves when the incentive is a half-hour morning break to watch an episode of Get Smart.

9. When the kids are asked what they did in school that day, they actually give a clear and detailed answer instead of the standard, “Oh, nothing.”

10. School becomes exciting. Knowledge becomes a treasure. Learning becomes a way of life.

It’s All Good

How was I supposed to know that a simple remark to my kids would trigger a slow descent into madness?

It all began during my daughter’s grammar lessons. I was teaching her the difference between the words well and good.

This is easy to explain to anyone. Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb.

Examples: “This is good ice cream,” and “The girl performed well on her test.”

There’s a slight exception for well when it concerns describing a person’s health, such as “Dad is not feeling well,” but other than that, this is a straightforward grammar lesson.

I should’ve just stopped there, but no, I had to say it to both my kids: “A common mistake that some people make is to use good as an adverb. Next time you’re around a group of people, listen for how they mix up these words.”

That did it. Because now I started listening. At the store, in friendly conversations, watching TV and movies, on the phone… I had my radar on and I didn’t know how to turn it off.

Across the board, regardless of education or age, we are unbelievably bad about using the word good as an adverb. Now, I’m not the grammar police, and there is a part of me that doesn’t much care how you want to talk or write.

But I’m trying to teach my kids that the English language does have some hard and fast rules, and this is one of the easy ones to remember.

I never realized just how many instances of this abuse would reach my ears until I started paying attention. My son says I am now having a noticeable physical reaction, like a twitch, when I hear someone say, “You did good,” or “The team played good,” or some other example.

In the interest of my mental health, I might have to lower my standards and accept this new use of the word.

Someday maybe I can talk good like everyone else.

Still Running Through It

Check, check… Is this thing on?

Let’s see, where were we last I wrote a blog post?

Something about killing a dad blog through a good night’s sleep.

My little family blog is coming up on its tenth birthday next year, and there’s a lot of history here. About raising kids, homeschooling, being a stay at home dad. The history is still being made. The family is still running through it.

So, where are we now?

My son is in tenth grade, still schooling at home through an online charter school. The biggest change with him is that he’s fully in charge of his learning.

I’ve gone from being a teacher to being an administrator. My job is to keep him on schedule, although he’s even made great strides to doing that all for himself as well. He has slowly been mastering the art of time management. Making schedules, budgeting his workload, writing up daily and weekly to-do lists.

My daughter is in 7th grade, also schooling at home, through a different online charter school. She is following in her brother’s footsteps with taking charge of her learning, for no better reason, really, than she doesn’t want him to show her up.

Because little sisters are always smarter than big brothers, right?

There are many reasons why we continue to school at home, but over the years we have come to realize that doing things differently than everyone else sometimes has tremendous benefits. My kids are not afraid of trying new things, of looking at the world in a different way, of approaching problems with solutions that are beyond the norm.

We celebrate people like that, don’t we? Steve Jobs, anyone?

Well, I’m going to keep this post short. I hope to return to regular blogging here, despite the many current demands on my time (and the early bedtime I’ve inflicted on myself).

Please let me know if you’re still reading. Thanks!

Graphic Violence

There’s no quicker way to lose a teenager’s interest than to bring up the subject of history.

But say the words, “Graphic violence,” and suddenly they’re paying attention again.

History is already filled with violence (seriously, take all the wars out of a history book and you’re left with a thin pamphlet). Now all you have to do is make it graphic, and you have a brilliant way of teaching history to kids.

That’s the aim of a new book by Wayne Vansant, The Graphic History of Gettysburg. It’s an exciting, fast-paced telling of the landmark Civil War battle, told in comic book form.

And, yes, it’s got guns and explosions and blood spraying everywhere. Just enough to keep kids tuned in like it’s an episode of The Walking Dead.

The book describes the period leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, and includes charts and portraits of all the major players in the battle.

But Vansant wastes little time getting to the heat of the battle. His illustrations put you right in among the troops on both sides. The descriptions and dialogue are simple and straightforward, allowing readers with no prior knowledge of Gettysburg to follow the action and to understand why things happened the way they did.

Gettysburg is widely recognized as the turning point of the Civil War, so it’s vital for kids to learn why and how it happened. With the 150th Anniversary of the battle coming up in July, The Graphic History of Gettysburg is a great introduction to an important time in our nation’s history.

If you have a kid, or an adult, who nods off at the mere mention of history, these kinds of books might just be the spark that gets them interested.

Thanks to the good people at Zenith Press, I have TWO COPIES of The Graphic History of Gettysburg to give away! Simply leave a comment on this post, telling me your favorite time period in history, and why. I’ll pick a winner next week!