Tag Archives: geography

New Year’s Around the World

No matter if we’re home together or visiting other family members, we usually celebrate on New Year’s Eve with games, snacks, movies, fireworks, and of course, staying up until midnight. This year, as we get ready for the festivities, we thought it would be interesting to find out how the rest of the world welcomes the new year. Here’s what we discovered:

In England, New Year’s Eve customs are quite similar to our own here in America. Many people celebrate with parties either in their homes, restaurants, or pubs with friends and family. They also watch fireworks displays, and at midnight sing “Auld Lang Syne”. They count down with the clock and toast the new year. Sound familiar? It did to my kids!

But here are some other things we learned:

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay, and it’s an evening full of traditions. One of the customs is called first footing, or being the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight. This “first footer” will bring all the luck of the coming year with him, but there are some criteria he must meet. Ideally, he will be tall and handsome with dark hair, but he cannot be a doctor, a minister, or a grave digger. It’s also traditional for the first footer to carry a lump of coal to signify life, comfort, and warmth, along with a cake to represent prosperity.

Omisoko, New Year’s Eve in Japan, is one of the country’s most important holidays, coming second only New Year’s Day. Buckwheat noodles, called toshikoshi soba, are eaten to ensure longevity and prosperity. Families gather to watch the Red and White Song Festival, a television program that features singers whose songs were popular during the year. As the clock approaches midnight, many people visit the shrines and temples. Getting up to watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day is another important tradition, as viewing the first sunrise is considered a good and proper start to the new year. Popular foods for New Year’s Day include fish, fish eggs attached to seaweed, black beans, and kelp. New Year’s postcards sent to friends and family are delivered on New Year’s Day, and children receive monetary gifts in special envelopes.

In Mexico, Año Nuevo (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated by decorating homes in red ( improved lifestyle and love), yellow (blessings and good employment), white (improved health), and green (improved financial situations). Families often celebrate with a late-night dinner of turkey and mole. If Mexican sweet bread is served, it was usually baked with a coin or charm inside the dough. It’s tradition that whoever receives the piece with the coin  will have good luck in the coming year. When the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten — one at a time with each chime of the bell – and a wish is made with each one.

People ring in the New Year in so many different ways! What interesting New Year’s traditions do you have in your family?

 

Photo by Matthew Hull

All About Egypt

This year, my younger children are  going to be diving back into world history. Because we did a little bit over the summer, I decided to start off the new school year by reviewing ancient Egypt. While we’re using the Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer as our primary text, we’re also supplementing with some great books from the library. And, as always, I’m learning a lot right along with them!

If your family is studying ancient Egypt, here are some resources you might like to look into:

Books:

Ancient Civilizations – Egypt by Christy Steele.  A nice book to read aloud together or assign as silent reading for older elementary students. Includes a glossary in the back.

The Great Pyramid by Elizabeth Mann – The story of the Pharaoh Khufu and the construction of the Great Pyramid. Contains both actual photos and traditional illustrations. While older students could read this book  on their own, it’s one I would choose to read to them, as we could go over all the information as it’s presented.

Tutankhamun by Robert Green – A book full of information about King Tut and the discovery of his tomb. Contains  interesting photos, including one of Tut’s mummy and one of the dig site at the Valley of the Kings.

Great Ancient Egypt Projects You Can Build Yourself – To add in some hands-on learning, check out this book with projects such as making boats, papyrus, bread, jewelry, and hieroglyphs.

 

Other Resources:

Ancient Egypt Unit Study and Lapbook by Jodi Small – Contains a library list and over 30 “minit” books.

Ancient Egypt Lapbook by JoAnn S. – Includes a reading list, activities, crafts, and cooking ideas.

Ancient Egypt Lesson Plans and Classroom Activities
by Mr. Donn – lots of lesson plans featuring the geography, history, religion, art, and daily life of ancient Egypt.

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery for Kids
– Ancient Egypt – online activities featuring ancient civilizations, including Egypt.

 

Photo by embalu

Around the World

This summer, we have a lot of friends traveling all over the world. My niece and her husband came back last month from Rwanda, our neighbor just returned from a trip to Turkey, another friend is on her way to Australia to finish school, and another niece is set to go as a missionary to Uganda for a year. We also have friends who are long-term missionaries in Paraguay. What amazing adventures! Not only do these trips make the world seem much smaller, but they offer great opportunities for learning!

When someone we know travels to another country, it provides a more personal reason to study that country. We can study the culture, language, people, cities, government, religion, landscape, flora and fauna, and cuisine of a particular nation with our friends and family in mind. We’ll discover what they’ll see and experience while they are there.

But even better, we’ll also be able to learn more than we ever would from books or online. We’ll be able to take what we’ve learned from reading and ask them about it. They’ll be able to give us details that would be hard to find in a typical report. For example, we learned that many Australians are very laid back, and use the phrase “No worries!” quite often, even in situations when the average American would be stressing out.

If you have a friend of family member who will be traveling soon, try creating your own unit study about the country they will be visiting. Start off with basic maps and facts about the country. Then tap into your friend’s experiences. If your friend has  a blog or Facebook page, visit it often with your children to see where he is and what’s he’s doing.  Find the cities where he’s been and have the kids mark them on a map. If he posts photos, include those in their notebooks as well.  If he’s staying a while, have them write letters, and add any they receive in return.

So even if you’re not traveling around the world this summer — no worries! Your children will have a great learning experience anyway!

 

Photo by xandert

Time Management Strategies Part II

h 039With all the busyness of life recently, I haven’t spent as much time reading as I should. It seems a little ironic that I’m too busy to read about time management. 🙂

However, I have read through the planning chapter of The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum W. Smith. Like the chapters before it, I have found this chapter to be very helpful as I try to get my days more under control. In it, the author provides a sample page from the Franklin Planner, the planning tool he helped create. He describes how he uses the daily pages to keep track of appointments, phone calls, and anything else he needs to remember.

Although I’d love to purchase that planner, it’s really not in our budget at this time, so I decided to make my own planner pages on the computer and make copies for my notebook. As I was doing so, my 13-year-old son came in and said, “Mom, I have so much homework to do for co-op.”

“What do you have to do?” I asked. He answered me with a long list of things he had to finish for his science and geography classes. He also had some scout projects that needed to be completed. That’s when I realized that he needed some planning pages too.

I pulled out some extra copies I had made and sat him down. “Okay,” I began, “this is where you list all the things you have to do. When you’re finished, bring it back to me, and I’ll show you how to prioritize them.” Within fifteen minutes, he had a written list with every assignment and a number by each one, indicating the order in which they needed to be accomplished. Then he got to work.

How easy that was to show him, and what a difference it made! Instead of scattered thoughts of having this and that to do, he had a concrete plan of what needed to be done and how he was going to do it. The day went smoothly, and he finished everything on time.

Having a plan really does work — for all ages!

Out For the Day

Traffic_Assorted_8580 (15)Ever have one of those days when you feel as if you are just running…running… running… until the day ends? We had one of those days.

It started out in a rough way — my son John had forgotten to do one of his Geography assignments for his co-op class, and it was due at 9:00 am. I got up at 5:30 to get a jump on the day, then I woke him up an hour later. By the time we had to leave, he had his project done, but that’s about all that was ready.

I knew we had yearbook pictures to take, but the kids didn’t get their clothes out the night before — it was a mad scramble to find something clean that sort of matched for their group picture. As it was, two went in t-shirts, one in a long-sleeved velvety shirt, and one in a hooded sweatshirt. So much for coordination!

After we dropped John off at co-op, my other three children and I ran errands until class was over. When it was time to pick him up again, I realized I hadn’t purchased the right supplies, and I would need to take them all back. Oh well, anther time — we still had to get John and get to the place where the photos were being taken.

The line for the pictures was a little longer than I expected. Normally, it wouldn’t have mattered, except there was a fall party the kids all wanted to go to, and it was starting the same time our pictures were to be taken. When we finally finished up, we were already an hour late.

But we continued on… and unprepared! Everyone was supposed to bring some type of lunch food to share at the party, but I didn’t remember until that morning. We stopped for a moment by the grocery store for cookies and chips, and kept going on our way.

We eventually made it to the get-together, and it was relaxing. We visited with friends and enjoyed the colorful mountain scenery for a few hours. Then we had to hurry to…

Another activity — a PE class for John. We stayed an hour but then had more errands to do. We stopped by two stores on the way home, finally arriving around 5:00 pm.

A day of fun with friends? It was, but did we get any schoolwork done? Except for John’s co-op class, the answer is “no.”  A day like that is just proof of the saying, “You have to stay home to homeschool!”

Reassurance

earthe_01After John took his geography test on Monday, he was sure he did very poorly. The test involved naming the countries in northern Africa, and though he did study a little, he quickly realized it wasn’t nearly enough.

A good learning experience, I thought. Next time he’ll be more prepared.

Then John did something that surprised me. On his way home from scouts with his dad Monday night, he told him about the test. He told his dad he had failed, that he probably made a zero on it.  Naturally, my husband expressed his disapproval and was quite frustrated that I wasn’t more concerned. But that got me thinking…

Why would a boy tell his parent about a bad test score, even before he knew just how bad it was? Especially when he knew what the reaction would be? I believe John told his dad because he needed reassurance.

John needed to know that although he did poorly on a test, everything would still be okay. It’s still early in the semester, and there will be opportunities to bring his grade up. He might even ask the teacher if he could do an assignment for extra credit if he was really concerned about it.  He needed a cheering section, and he was hoping that it would be us.

And I’m happy to say, when we understood, we did cheer him on. I told him how this was a good lesson for life, for learning how to organize yourself in such a way that you are able to meet deadlines and come prepared. I told him how some adults forget to pay their electric, telephone, or credit card bills, and how they’re fined because of it. Sometimes people will miss an appointment, too, just because they don’t write it down.  What he’s learning now, then, will only help him when he’s grown.

John went to bed feeling a little better that night, and all this week he’s been studying and studying those African nations. He received the test back today; he didn’t do as badly as he thought, and to his relief, it was actually a quiz, so the grade won’t count as much toward his final grade. Now we have to tell Dad, so he can have some reassurance as well.

Ready for the Test?

october_27_001This morning, John had his first test in his Geography co-op class. The class meets once a week, and he was given a syllabus at the beginning of the course, so he knew the test was coming up. The class meets on Mondays, and we were all headed out of town for the weekend; I knew he wouldn’t have much time to finish his homework. I reminded him all week that he needed to get it done early (I realize now I reminded him too many times), and he said he would.

Off we went for the weekend, arriving home again Sunday afternoon. “Are you ready for tomorrow?” I asked him again Sunday night. He answered in the affirmative, so I went on to help the others prepare for the next day.

This morning we got up later than expected and rushed around to get out the door in time. In the midst of the fray, John calls out, “Oh no, I forgot to study for my geography test!”

“But I reminded and reminded you,” I replied.
“Yes, but you were going to email the teacher to ask her about the website.” There was a certain website that would help with studying, but he forgot the web address.

I grumbled as I continued rushing around, and he went off to study as quickly as he could. I had told him that I’d get the website address for him, but it was still his job to keep up with things.

He went into class, and I saw him just for a moment afterward. “I didn’t get any of them right,” he whispered before heading off down the hall.

I think he probably answered more of them correctly than he thinks he did, but either way, we both learned some valuable lessons from this experience. He learned that he is responsible for his homework and his tests, even if I fall short in emailing a teacher. And I learned that I shouldn’t take on his responsibilities; he knows when his assignments are due, and if he has any questions, he can email the teacher himself. After all, he is the one who receives the grade, not me. If I had to receive one, I’d have given myself a B+ for my efforts. But I probably would have made a C- in Laundry for the week.

Homework? What’s That?

cohdra100_1473 This week marked our second full week of co-op. Elementary students can sign up for one morning a week of enrichment-type classes, but for middle school and high school students, the co-op follows the university model. Students choose individual classes, attend class one or two days of the week, then work on their assignments at home. So while my younger three might be doing a  science experiment, art project, or PE class, John, who’s in eighth grade this year, is taking Geography and Physical Science. And it’s been a bit of a rough start. 

Each class requires quite a bit of work at home. Homework? We hadn’t used the word very much before this year. John brings home workbook assignments, reading assignments, study questions to answer… all of which he has to turn in to someone else besides me. He has deadlines now; he doesn’t get extra time to complete his work if it’s not done. He takes quizzes and tests just one time – there’s no opportunity to try the problems again. And he’s responsible for writing down his assignments and finishing them in a timely manner. 

How’s it going? Well, he told me he worked on his assignments all week, but the night before they were due, he stayed up two hours past his bedtime trying to finish. He tells me briefly about his current event and lab reports, then tells me he’s not sure when he’s supposed to turn them in. Sometimes he doesn’t even understand the assignment. “Why don’t you ask your teacher?” I ask him, but he just replies, “I don’t know.” 

So do I think these classes are worth it? I’d have to answer with a resounding “Yes!” No matter what grade he receives, he’ll have had an experience that requires he manage his time well, complete a project by a due date, and speak up when he has a question. And from what I’ve seen so far, he’s up to the challenge. He’s beginning to understand what’s expected, and he’s working hard at it. And hopefully next week will go a little better.

First Day of Co-op

y 039aWe joined a co-op again this year for the first time in several years. Today was the first day for my oldest son, John. He had a one-hour class in geography that started at 9:00 am. He didn’t want to go; he doesn’t know many people at the co-op. “But,” I reassured him, “this is going to be good. You’ll see.”

All I had to do was get him ready with his supplies and get him to the class on time. Then I had an hour to wait before I picked him up and headed home again. The rest of the children will start their classes on Monday, so this was to be a good trial run.

Well, it should have been. I remembered reading in an email that he needed to bring a notebook and pen, but it’s been a busy week, month, — okay, summer, and I forgot to look over the list again. John reminded me to do it last night, and when I checked I saw that he needed a workbook too. We had no way to get it in time.

I felt sick inside. He was going to his first class with students he didn’t know, and he’d be the only one without a book. In my panic, I emailed the teacher, asking if she had an extra I could replace later. But that was all I could do. I gathered the rest of the supplies and went to bed, quite discouraged.

I woke up all the kids early this morning, so we could be sure to leave early in case I had to meet with the teacher. I checked my email once more and whew! — there was her note, saying they didn’t need their workbooks today. I took a deep breath, and we headed out the door anyway, just to be sure we’d be on time.

When we arrived at the church where the co-op is held, I didn’t see very many cars — and we weren’t that early. Where was everyone? Then I remembered another email I received earlier in the week giving instructions on where to park. I had briefly read over it at the time, and now I couldn’t remember. We followed another car into a lower lot and tried all the doors. They were all locked.

“Well, we’re getting off to a great start,” John said. All we could do was laugh and keep looking for the entrance. It wasn’t a good start at all — I was disorganized, un-informed, and confused.

But, the good news is, we did start. We found the door, the classroom, the teacher, and he went in for his first class. On Monday, though, I have to get all four to class. Hmmm….