Expand and Strengthen your history studies with this terrific story!

History is a tricky thing. On the one hand, we’ve got the well-known, “front burner” historical facts and figures that most of us learn growing up. But then there’s all the less-well-known aspects of history that are just as true, just as valuable, yet often hidden from most people as they learn about all the things that brought us to the place we are today.

When I started Enrichment Studies many years ago, right away I noticed the lack of women and people of color in the arts, and that put me on a path of questioning and discovery. Were there any women or non-white people creating music and art through the ages?  I learned that the answer was yes!  But why don’t we hear more about them?  Why haven’t their contributions earned a spot in the history books?  If we only look at the surface, it would be easy to think that so many things have come to us solely through the talents and innovations of white men. Indeed, due to the social structures and conquests of the past, white men have often been in the best position to create and innovate, but they are not the only ones that have.  Home educators and involved, mindful parents can reclaim the fullness of history for ourselves and our children by digging deeper and learning more than just the surface level with helpful resources like the ones Tamara Shiloh has created in her Just Imagine….What If There Were No Black People In the World book series.  Affiliate links are used in this post.

This book caught my attention one day, because the topic matches two we focus on at Enrichment Studies: Inventors and Scientists.   I also liked it because this fits in with my desire to help bring about a broader awareness of our diverse history to the homeschool community.  I have had the privilege of speaking to Mrs. Shiloh on the phone a few times, and was so excited when she agreed to have me review these books for you.  She is also generously sponsoring a giveaway, so be sure to enter at the bottom of this post!

In this sweet story, a young boy named Jaxon is taken on a magical adventure, thanks to his grandmother’s necklace and his curious mind. When he asks himself one day, “What if there were no Black people in the world?” he is taken on a journey of discovery about how his everyday life would be impacted without the many inventions and scientific advancements that were created by the men and women of color that came before him.  As I kept learning about these remarkable  people, I was filled with gratitude for being able to learn about them, and also filled with a desire to make sure other families get to learn about this too.  This isn’t just a book for Black families, although certainly people of color will want to add this delightful book to their collection.  But this is a book for every family that truly values history and wants their children to grow up with a broader awareness of our collective human story, and wants to be purposeful in fostering a curious mindset and appreciation for the diversity that is woven into our everyday lives.  In the book, one of the inventors says to Jaxon, “We’re your history, and history never goes away.”  We have an opportunity to make sure the history and accomplishments of all people is not swept aside and hidden from our awareness, if we are willing to.  Change starts at home, and every family has the power to foster greater awareness, compassion, and appreciation for our fellow humans.  

In addition to the main storybook, there are three wonderful companion books in the series, so far.  Jaxon’s Journal reinforces the information from the main book, while also inspiring kids to create their own journals about things they have learned.  Jaxon’s Black History Coloring Book includes the many inventions and scientific advancements from the main book, plus many more.  It’s a perfect addition to the book, and provides an activity for younger siblings and students who love to get out their crayons and colored pencils!  Jaxon’s Black History Activity Book includes word scrambles, crossword puzzles, word puzzles and games, reading and writing activities about the inventors and scientists, and more.  All together this set will provide a lot of fun, historical richness, and reinforcement for your children.  It is perfect for a unit study for homeschoolers, or a starting point for research projects.  Due to the nice range of materials included in this bundle, I think children from K-high school could certainly appreciate the content, with the elementary and middle school ages probably being most ideal.  These books are available at TamaraShiloh.com as well as through Amazon Prime.

Author Tamara Shiloh is on a mission to educate about Black History year-round, and has many other books in this series coming soon!  You can look forward to sharing with your children about Black women that were instrumental in science and inventions, Black cowboys, Black people involved in aviation and astronomy at NASA and beyond, and more.

 



Streamable Learning offers exciting live stream events to homeschoolers!

Field trips can be one of the most exciting and memorable learning events for our children, but there’s a limit to how many places we can go.  Between the obvious geographical challenges, there are also financial considerations, logistical issues, and your time and energy!

Streamable Learning is a site that offers an awesome solution to this for homeschool families!  They provide live, interactive streaming educational events that you and your children can attend and participate in right from the comfort of your own home.  Their modern, easy-to-use platform makes it simple to see what events are coming up, and to schedule your family to join in the fun.  Since these are LIVE events, you and your kiddos get to be a part of the learning in real time, including getting to ask questions and learn from what other participants had to say.

Many of the programs offer pre and post-event materials, so you can really get the most of out preparing for the event and taking advantage of learning opportunities that came up from being a part of the event. Most events include multiple time slots, so you can easily find a time that will work with your schedule.  Recordings for most programs are available, too, so if for some reason you end up not being able to attend live, you can still enjoy the opportunity when it’s convenient for you.

Topics included at Streamable Learning include science, technology, engineering, math, culture, reading, literature, health and wellness, art, history, careers, essential skills, and more!

There are events geared toward all levels K-12, so there is plenty for all of your children.  I am very excited to start using Streamable Learning with my high school boys.  Here are the events for October and November that I scheduled us for.  Look at the variety!

  • The Team it Takes to Build a Video Game:  What teen boys can’t appreciate this?
  • An event discussing the themes in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (we are going on a road trip now, so we’ll listen to this book on our way)
  • Charleston Jazz presenting a Live Jazz for Kids and a History of Jazz event (which are both geared toward grades 3-6, but I’m thinking jazz is great for everybody, so we will attend even though my guys are older)
  • A program about volunteering to help Sea Turtles that looks really cool
  • A presentation on Women’s Suffrage from the National Women’s History Museum

When I think about even the free or inexpensive field trips I’ve done with my children over the years, by the time I’ve put gas in the van and bought snacks or lunch (or both), it typically would cost us $40+, plus the loss of an entire school day.  And if I had to buy tickets to an event, well….those are an investment, to be sure!  (and well worth it, but not always easy on the family budget)   I just love that Streamable Learning makes it possible to have so many cool educational experiences for all ages in such a convenient way, at a price that is so affordable.  Here’s a link to go check them out

 

You can also connect with Streamable Learning on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Learn About Leonardo da Vinci with this book series!

Leonardo da Vinci is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and inspiring men in history.  Not only was he a great Renaissance artist, but was also a great thinker and inventor, considering ideas that were far ahead of his time.  The range of talents and skills he shared with the world offer an inspiring example for your own children!

 
I’m excited to share with you about this book series available at Amazon (aff), The Life and Travels of da Vinci from Creative Learning Connection.  This five book series tells about many historical details of Leonardo’s life, including his art, in a fun, engaging manner.  The books are relatively short, so you can read them to your children, or let them enjoy reading them on their own!
  
These books would make a terrific addition to your study of Leonardo in our Renaissance Artists and Famous Inventors collections!
 
Whether you are studying the Renaissance this year, or just love to provide inspiring and interesting educational materials for your children, you will want to check these books out!


The Good and the Beautiful Review

If you are connected to any groups of Christian homeschoolers on the internet, you have probably heard about The Good and the Beautiful. This newcomer to the homeschool world has taken off as one of the fastest-growing and incredibly popular choices for home education.

One thing that got my attention about The Good and the Beautiful was the mention that they integrate art into their materials.  For anyone that has followed me for awhile, you know that I like to say that Art IS History.  I know that the works of great artists can enhance our understanding and appreciation of other times, cultures, and historical events in a way that words cannot.  So, I had to check it out!

The Good and the Beautiful sponsored this review and giveaway so I could let you know my thoughts on their programs.  I’m excited to share with you today what I’ve learned.

The Good and the Beautiful is a non-denominational Christian program that aims to connect learning to the good and beautiful things in life, such as family, God, high moral character, wholesome literature, nature, and more.

Year 1 History

The first collection I reviewed was their Year 1 History.  All of their history levels are meant to work for grades 1-12, and to be revisited every 3-4 years.  All 4 years of their history cover the same sweep of history, from Ancient times through to Modern history, but each year stops at different spots along the way to dig in and learn more about particular people and events.  The family-style intent of the program allows you to gather all of your children around 2 or 3 times a week for an hour-long lesson that includes a wide variety of activities that will keep your children interested and delighted.  Leveled Student Explorer books enable each child to work at their own ability level, while the whole family learns the same basic content together, taking the guesswork out of trying to figure out what each age child should be doing.  Designed to require very little prep time, I believe homeschool moms will find that a quick glance over the next several lessons will easily allow you to anticipate any extra materials you will need.

The Good and the Beautiful keeps things interesting in their history program by offering a wide variety of activities, which will virtually guarantee that your kids are never bored.  Each lesson includes several different elements, which normally include reading to your children, but then spin off into other areas such as:

  • memorization
  • crafts
  • map activities
  • timeline activities
  • high-quality audio presentations and stories
  • opportunities for oral presentations/public speaking
  • review activities
  • printables
  • food activities to enhance the lesson
  • cutting activities
  • playdough creation
  • Keys of History game
  • art projects
  • writing activities
  • fun and interesting learning activities
  • videos/documentaries
  • copywork/dictation/notebooking elements
  • vocabulary
  • science activities

I was VERY impressed with the range of different activities that are included, and I appreciated it that you are not bombarded with too many to choose from.  In Year 1 History you’ll find that there is a nice balance of interesting variety that will not take too much time or be too overwhelming.

Who is this great for?

  • Families homeschooling multiple children that want to simplify and streamline learning
  • Families that enjoy bringing together elements from Classical, Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, and traditional approaches to education.  The Good and the Beautiful combines them all, without burning you (or your kids) out on any one thing.
  • Conservative Christian families that desire Bible-based teaching, completely wholesome literature, and strong instruction about high moral character

Language Arts & Literature

The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts & Literature program has a lot of similarities in the approach to the way the history program is set up:

  • Very little prep time required
  • wide range of activities throughout
  • thoroughly Christian viewpoint
  • wholesome content

This program has several components:

  • a Course book (one needed per child)
  • the course companion (non-consumable and can be shared)
  • the reader for this level (non-consumable and can be shared)
  • Daily Checklists (each child needs their own copy)
  • Geography & Grammar Cards (non-consumable and can be shared)

Lessons are designed to be open-and-go, with little or no prep time required. Children over level 4 are expected/encouraged to work independently through their lessons, and the lessons are written in such a way that they are guided through the steps to actually take ownership of the process.  Having had two dyslexic children and some non-typical learners myself, I know that the goal of total independence in learning is not necessarily realistic for all people at a particular stage, but I do like that each step the student should take is clearly communicated, giving them the tools they need to organize themselves and learn to study and progress through the lessons carefully.

Similar to the history program, the Language Arts offers a wide range of activities and approaches to the lessons, so it’s not the same-old-same-old day after day.  Instead, new surprises and activity types await with each turn of the page!  Included throughout the program are things like:

  • memorization (classical educators will especially appreciate this)
  • maps
  • grammar terms
  • literary terms
  • sentence diagramming
  • drawing
  • art appreciation and art history
  • reading comprehension
  • editing activities
  • Latin and Greek roots
  • Writing activities
  • grammar activities
  • poetry appreciation, response, and analysis
  • and more!

Several times as I read through the lessons I had the thought that this course would be good for someone that was interested in the grammar portion of Classical Conversations’ Essentials program, but wanted a much less expensive alternative.  Classical educators are sure to appreciate the inclusion of sentence diagramming and grammar instruction.  Charlotte Mason-style educators are likely to enjoy the inclusion of art and poetry.  For those of us that appreciate the practical and efficient route to learning, one of my favorite parts of this program is that they use factual, historical, and informational content while teaching other concepts.  So, for instance, instead of a silly made up story used for reading comprehension, your child will be reading about a famous person or event from history, or perhaps about some interesting geographical information.  So, you’re getting more “bang for your buck” simply because The Good and the Beautiful capitalizes on these learning opportunities in a meaningful, valuable way.

This Language Arts program has a lot of different components, and it switches things up frequently.  For some kids this will be an absolutely delight.  For others it may be too unpredictable.  Levels 1-5 are available FREE in PDF format, so I think that’s an excellent opportunity to dig in and see if you think this sort of approach is a good fit for your particular children.  Personally, I would recommend that once you know The Good and the Beautiful is right for your family, go ahead and order the physical versions.  The books are nicely printed, the colored pages are lovely, and it will cost you so much more to try to print it on your own.  I believe that these materials are priced at a very good value, with many non-consumable components.  You’ll be glad to have the printed versions available to you.

I know that a lot of Enrichment Studies families are curious to know about the inclusion of art and drawing in this program.  In the History program, the art was more specifically linked to the content and felt like an enhancement.  In the Language Arts & Literature program, the art and drawing activities seemed independent of the content in most cases.  I would have loved to see more connections throughout, but for families that enjoy a sprinkle of art throughout their day, it may fit that need very well.

 

Who is this great for?

  • Conservative Christian homeschoolers that want a thoroughly Christian perspective presented and completely wholesome content
  • Families that enjoy combining elements of classical, Charlotte Mason, and traditional styles
  • Students that thrive on variety and surprise
  • Students that can manage multiple different books and materials without difficulty
  • Families that enjoy a splash of art and creativity every now and then

 

Many thanks to all who entered our giveaway.  The winners are Carrie and Yvie.  Congratulations!  Stay connected with Enrichment Studies because we will have more giveaways from The Good and The Beautiful in the future!



Spark your child’s multi-cultural awareness with these wonderful books!

Learning about foreign countries and cultures can delight and inspire our children for a lifetime.  My own experience as a child doing a research project about Norway fueled a life-long interest in that country and a visit there remains on my bucket list!  Carole P. Roman‘s If You Were Me and Lived in…. series offers a delightful walk across the globe for you and your children, so I am very happy that she sent me some books so I could review them for you!

 

This award-winning collection manages to engage, entertain, inform, and delight the reader with a wide spectrum of sights and sounds from the featured nation.  Each book typically tells about the food, families, pasttimes, schools, toys, money, culture, and climate in a way that’s conversational, and also gets the reader thinking and responding to the information. One of the things I appreciated was the pronunciation guides.  I can easily imagine a family reading these books together and trying out new names from each culture, and learning a few vocabulary words from the new language.  Sounding less “gringo” is a bonus!  🙂   I also enjoyed that the illustrations are full-color, and often combine actual photographs with the friendly artwork.

Officially aimed at ages 5-8, I believe these books will be enjoyed by your older children as well.  I had my 14, 16, and 17 year old sons take a look, and they all enjoyed reading through a few of the books, and said that they thought they were well-done and informative, though certainly geared toward somewhat younger readers.  I read through my entire stack of If You Were Me books, and learned so many things that I did not already know!  I’m sharing some of those insights this week on Instagram this week, so come check those out for some fun.  

 

 

As I often say, you never know what will inspire your child and spark a flame of interest and exploration, so it is well worth it to provide a nice range of interesting and appealing resources and experiences for our children to draw from.  These books would be a wonderful addition to your home library because they provide a nice starting point for becoming more aware of how people in other places live.

Countries included in this series (aff):  Italy, Australia, Mexico, India, Cuba, South Korea, France, Scotland, Germany, Greece, Russia, Portugal, Kenya, Turkey, Peru, China, Hungary, Norway, Egypt, Israel, Poland, and Brazil.

Carole P. Roman has many other books for homeschoolers as well, including her If You Were Me and Lived In…History Series!  I can enthusiastically recommend her work to other homeschool families.  I hope you’ll check her books out!

 



Product Review: Torch Wifi Router for Families

I think most parents today realize that, while awesome and helpful and fun in so many ways, the internet also has inherent dangers that we need to be careful of. And don’t even get me started on all the issues with screen time and sensible limits!

In our family, we’ve used an internet safety filter on our computers for probably at least 10 years or more, and while it has been a comfort to have it, it’s not been all that I needed it to be. Every time my kids get a new kindle, phone, or game system, I go through the dance of trying to set up parental controls, and hoping that I’m doing it right, but never really feeling sure that I’ve covered all the bases to keep them safe. And THEN, what about when their friends come over and brings their phones or devices with them? I don’t know what’s safe or not safe on those items at all. Eesh. It’s a lot of responsibility, and even if you trust your kids, you definitely can’t trust that nothing bad will pop up in front of your kids and lead them on a path that you don’t want them on.

Recently I found out that the service we’ve been using is going out of business, so I knew we needed something else for our basic coverage on our computers. Thankfully, I found out about Torch, and it’s a solution to most of my additional concerns about the other devices as well.

Torch Wifi Router and internet filterTorch is a wifi router that has internet filtering built right into it.  Basically, it works to filter content before it comes into your home.  Every device that’s connected to it will be able to be made safe for your family, according to your specifications.  As a person who really, really hates setting up new technology, Torch is fairly painless.  They say it should take about 5 minutes.  For me it was a little longer because I didn’t realize that our setup with a combo router/modem required a different approach than it will for folks that are just replacing a router.  Once I understood that, it was fairly straightforward to get it going.

Parents can login to the Parental Dashboard to set up users and devices, set bedtimes or other time limits for users, and select what types of content you want filtered for your home.  You can choose categories, as well as enter specific sites that you want blocked.  There are currently over 30 categories, including adult sites/porn, various types of social media, violence, extremism, weapons, hate, gambling, and more.  You can customize this as you see fit.

The Parental Dashboard can be accessed on your computer, tablet, or phone, so even if you’re off at the store or at work, you can manage what’s going on if you need to.  The Dashboard also offers you Reporting, so you can see what your kids have been doing online.

Things I liked about it the most:

One thing that I really appreciate about Torch is that it is a tool that helps me control when devices are available.  We’ve tried various methods over the years for handling this issue, but overall none have been entirely successful.  (Yes, if my kids were perfect, that would have helped, but alas, they are normal kids….)  Torch allows me to set my time frame solution once, and forget it. It’s done.  So if I want the kindles and game systems to stop being available for my teens at 10pm on school nights, that’s how it goes down even if I’m not there to enforce it.  Boom.  The end.  Parent power!

And if we’re having a hard time getting people to focus on chores or some other task because of all the bright and shiny things vying for their attention on their devices?  I can easily hit Pause for the whole house, and amazingly, chores can get done at lightning speed!  It’s amazing how motivating the lack of internet access can be.  lol

As a family that uses out laptops for school time, I wanted a solution that lets the computers be on, but the rest of the devices off.  All I had to do was create a user for School and attach the laptops to that, and give it the parameters I wanted, and then each kid can have their personal devices set for other parameters.  For instance, if I don’t want any gaming or kindle access til after school, and stopped before bedtime, that’s easy to set up too.

 

What it won’t do:

  • While I think Torch is a great help for keeping my family safer, it isn’t a replacement for actual parental oversight and awareness.
  • If someone turns their phone from wifi to 4G, Torch is no longer working for them.  Internal parental controls on all devices are still important and you need to learn how to use them.  For my kids, all devices other than computers have parental controls with browsers turned off, app store turned off, and limits on types of music, TV, and movies that can be watched.  All that still needs to be there, because most of their devices are portable and aren’t always home, having their content filtered by Torch.
  • If you, like us, have a combo router/modem, your Torch is going to connect to that, instead of replacing it.  That means that you’ll have to change the password on your old wifi network, therefore forcing everybody to link up with Torch for their wifi instead.  If they can still use the old wifi, they can bypass Torch, and that’s not what you want.

 

Product review: Torch router and internet filterSpecs and Details:

Torch covers up to 4000  square feet and offers 1 gig per second connection speed

It’s attractive!  You won’t hate seeing this on your desk.

Torch will help you

  • Pause the internet
  • Set bedtimes
  • Customize for each child
  • Block bad content including adult content
  • See reporting and insights to know what your kids are doing online

Torch is available for a one time purchase of the wifi router, and then a monthly fee of $9.99.  The purpose of the monthly fee is to support the continuous need for indexing new sites as they come up, and keeping ahead of all the new ways that bad guys have to try to mess with your family through the web.  Having seen my own longtime filtering service go out of business, I can see that it is essential for a business like this to have the proper financial setup to be able to keep doing their job of  keeping our families safe.  That being said, you are not locked into any time commitments for the monthly fee.  If you ever choose to stop paying that, you’ll still have the working router and the ability to manually block websites through the Parental Dashboard.

Click here to visit the Torch website.

This review has been underwritten by the kind folks at Torch.



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