Archive for the ‘Social Science’ Category


My daughter has always been weird. (Photo from June 2008.)

And we have always talked about politics. Elliott doesn’t tune in for most of it, but Margie has long been aware of the bigger issues and we discuss them. This year we kept tuned into the news for nearly the whole day, and defnitely from about 4pm on. Elliott had opinions as to who should win. For instance, he thought that Carl DeMaio is more handsome than Bob Filner so he’d rather have DeMaio as mayor of San Diego. I have hopes that as he grows up, he will pay closer attention to the actual issues. He will, right?

Margie and I looked at this infographic about the electoral college while we watched the results on NBC. I kind of sort of understand it now. Ish. Margie seemed to grasp it really well.

This election was also historic for women. Here’s a link to six important moments for women, and here’s a link to another two.

In other social studies news, I spent way too long the other day reading this and Margie peeked over my shoulder for some of it. It’s not, technically, kid-friendly. But maybe appropriate for high schoolers. In any case, it was highly entertaining.


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japanese friendship garden

Balboa Park had a special event over the weekend for families and kids in costumes. So I hurried and finished up Elliott’s costume (he’s going to be a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who) and we left. Unfortunately it was a hot, very dry day (welcome to October in San Diego) so we didn’t stay long. We did, though, enjoy a very cool scavenger hunt at the Japanese Friendship garden. The kids learned about zen gardens, did some origami, planted some honeysuckle, and learned about kabocha (a Japanese pumpkin; we actually used to get them from our CSA sometimes). Margie created her witch costume herself, she is planning a blog post about it in the near future.

making a zen garden

and then the weeping angel fed the koi

she made that paper container and planted the plant

And then we ran home to cower in the dark in front of fans. I wish we’d taken time to go to MOPA. I heard they had a photo backdrop of the Man in the Moon.

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We visited the Fire Department’s open house again today. The kids tried on uniforms and had a hose-dragging race, climbed in a fire truck, toured a van designed to teach you about fire safety (where they learned about hazards, how to use a fire extinguisher, and what a smoky room feels like), toured the firehouse, watched them fire a hose from a tall ladder, made wooden fireboats via the Home Depot, and took a ride on a pretend firetruck. It was a pretty great day with lots learned.

firehose races

and then we sat in a smoky room and elliott wasn't pleased and clearly i was scary

margie making a fireboat

that doesn't look as effective as you think it should

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On Saturday I drove the kids up to Barona to check out their museum. I’d also planned on a hike and when I realized we were driving right past Stelzer Park where I knew a few trails to be, we decided to stop for lunch there.

The hike was lovely. A very simple trail with lots of good educational signs along the way. Right along a stream and almost entirely under oaks. We only got so far as the point where the stream gently crossed the path when we turned back. We had to make it to the museum before closing and I didn’t want to argue with Elliott about how it’s really OK if shoes get wet.


animal prints

it really is pretty though, isn't it?


fuzzy wuzzy was a caterpillar

elliott found a black acorn

The kids watched a tiny whirlpool in the stream, found acorns of varying kinds, found a fuzzy caterpillar (I think it may be a wooly bear, or a tiger moth), learned about poison oak, and hunted for animals tracks.

We did not stay for more than a few minutes at the Barona museum because Elliott was having a bellyache – I think he just needed to use the bathroom, but public bathrooms don’t feel as comfortable as home and since we were so far from home I felt it best to leave quickly. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the museum, and it was very small anyway so, while I’d wanted to stay longer to study how to prepare and cook acorn, we pretty much saw it all in those few minutes. I think I’d like to set up a field trip there, I bet that would be fantastic.

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vole skull

Yesterday we met some friends at the Natural History Museum. The kids had some free passes from the summer reading program at the library and I figured I’d pay the $8 or $10 it cost to get in and we’d have a lovely day. WRONG. Well, the day was lovely (unless you count all the kid drama, which I don’t), but the price was wrong. I have, apparently, reached that point in my life where I wave my cane and compare the ridiculous prices of today to the ones of my youth. Every time I go to the movies I’m re-shocked (yes, “re-shocked”) that an adult price is more than $7.


lifting water


So I paid my $17 entrance fee to the museum (which is a far nobler cause than $15 for a damn movie) which came with a free 3D nature movie ticket and dammit, I was making use of that ticket. I hate 3D. I always have – this has nothing to do with me being prematurely elderly. It gives me a headache, and, honestly? 2D can be just as beautiful. I often feel that 3D is a really weak way to sell crappy movies to the basic American public which normally feeds on reality TV and crotch jokes. In this case the movie wasn’t crappy at all, it was pretty great. And I will even say that it was pretty cool (at times) to see the ocean in 3D. And, IMO, museums should do whatever it takes to draw people in and educate them, so, I don’t feel it demoralizes the movie or the audience nearly as much as I mind the fact that Harry Potter has to be showed in 3D. While my headache was bigger than usual and I had a hard time focusing on the 3D images b/c of a serious case of Camera Eye, I enjoyed the movie and so did the kids. It wasn’t loud or scary, and it was only 20 minutes which is just the perfect length for wearing those horrid glasses.

So. The rest of the day? Well, aside from the many varieties of kid-drama my children exhibited, we had fun. In addition to the usual exhibits we love, we also saw two new ones. Lizards and Snakes: Alive! and All That Glitters.


elliott, zooming in on the gecko cam

giant snake

hot pink mad scientist lab



And the gems…

balboa park's carousel, tiny version

naturally crystallized gold and silver




But my favorite part of the gem exhibit was the photo of a mine down in Mexico full of giant crystals. It looks like something out of a Jim Henson movie. I don’t do heat, but I’d brave the 112 degrees for this.

crystals in a cave

about the crystal cave in Mexico

Stay tuned for more Lego trains!

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Sadly, it was just an imaginary trip. Which may be for the best, actually, since I forgot to bring warm coats and hats for my kids. Luckily, my co-leader and knitter-friend brought extras. So my kids didn’t imaginarily freeze. (As a homeschooling mom, I reserve my right to invent words such as, “imaginarily.”)

First the kids discussed methods of travel and places they’d been as well as places they wanted to go. My daughter, who did not understand the concept of “going around the circle and taking turns in order” was getting seriously hurt feelings over the fact that she wasn’t next and when it finally was her turn, she pointed to a sign on the wall and said she wanted “get small” and “go there.” I don’t really understand why she’d want to go to the sign, but I’m totally on board with becoming small. For awhile, anyway. Then the kids sat down and drew those places on little cards.

story time

elliott draws the beach

margie's intended destination

And then! Karen took them to Norway!

showing the route a boat would take

e was really into the plane ride


The kids boarded a plane and when they landed, they put on their jackets (or not), and learned a little about the holidays in Norway. They were served a rice cereal sweetened with honey and one of the bowls had an almond in it, declaring the King or Queen of the new year – who turned out to be Margie!

winning almond

After story time, the kids took a red eye flight home and returned to their families safe and sound, thanks to our incredible pilot/flight attendant, Karen.

ben peeks during the redeye flight home

karen lands the plane safely

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Years ago I had bought the second volume of Story of the World at a used curricula sale and so I had ploanned to use that this year. Until that whole thing about the Mosque at Ground Zero happened this summer (my best Linda Richman voice: “Tawk amongst yourselves: The Mosque at Ground Zero is neither a Mosque nor at Ground Zero. Discuss.”). I knew that SOTW would be covering a lot of the history of Islam this year, and I knew that I didn’t know enough about it to be able to keep it balanced. Based on my experience with the bits on Christianity and Jesus at the end of SOTW’s volume one – which I do know a fair amount about – I did not trust them to be very balanced about Islam’s origins. So at the last minute, we gave away our copy of SOTWV2 and switched to History Odyssey based on our love of their science curriculum.

And I am so glad I did.

History Odyssey is, frankly, a better curriculum. In my humble opinion. It draws from many sources – including Story of the World, actually – and has extensive book lists which are, for the most part, easy to find at the public libraries. Right now, I have close to 60 books checked out for this other curricula, several weeks worth at a time. It’s incredibly literature-based which I adore. We have books from Tomie de Paola, Demi, and Aliki. There are also excellent-quality nonfiction books listed. The story books are not always secular – but that is totally fine with me since it is a mere part of a large amount of balanced views, and since I find truth in every aspect of history. In other words, believe it or not, I find it really important to know and read the Bible and other religious texts and stories, but SOTW does not present it along with other fact-based sources to make things as honest as possible.

HO draws from several main texts. The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History is one we already happened to have and to love (it’s not only factual and balanced, but also includes kid-safe websites to learn more! awesome!). As I said before, it also draws from SOTW, so we listen to that in audiobook form when applicable. It adds a nice dimension to a curriculum. The last one is a book I was torn on owning or not. I probably would have bought it for the literature aspect of it, but money is tight right now and when it advertised that the new edition was free of racial slurs, I figured maybe it was a little less balanced, even, than SOTW. Heh. If I had the cash, I might have invested in it anyway, but we do get plenty of good historical literature in so many other ways that I am not particularly feeling it’s loss. The last book we use each week is not so much a text book as it is an activity book. I find it really helpful that HO tells me which projects would be good for each chapter. So far we have made cabbage soup and dumplings (oddly a big hit, at least with my older child), porridge and done a few crafty projects.

In addition to the daily work that SOTW recommends, such as map work, HO includes dictionary work which I find to be an excellent addition on every possible level. Copywork, dictionary skills, alphabetizing, vocabulary, all rolled into one small assignment each week.

I wish I’d taken the time to learn about this years ago when I first heard of it. I am completely pleased with History Odyssey so far.

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