Category Archives: Social Studies

History of the World in 2 Minutes

I just saw this video today and had to share. It’s really cool! Video: History of the World In 2 Minutes

Labels: Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We Will Be Reading Wednesday–Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2012-13

I originally had planned out a nice little “mom reading time” post for this week, but as the school year has officially started or will be starting soon for people, it seems like every other homeschool blogger is posting their curriculum choices for the year. So I felt compelled to post about Gohan’s curriculum choices for this year. Each year, I hand select curriculum options, schooling options, outside classes options, etc. for each of my children. I now have three children in college, so this is getting to be less of a chore. I don’t do this because I’m a great mom who puts so much effort in to preparing lessons, I do this because this will make the whole school year easier for me. For me, in the long run, using the best curriculum and schooling choices that I can find for each individual child, even though it means having to do all new school/co-op researching and all new lesson planning each and every year, takes less time than trying to reuse curriculum from one child to the next. If I don’t use individually hand-picked selections, I spend the year pounding my head against the wall, wondering why one child can’t learn from the same book his or her older sibling did.


This year, Gohan will be doing much more bookwork than usual as he is hoping to go to a very competitive public STEM school for 9th-12th grades. He has a lot of catching up to do, because of his learning disabilities (not sure how well this is going to work, but it is what he really wants). His curriculum plan is:

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.
Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Language Arts, Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Ravine Experience

Vivi, Dot, Newton, and Linus at Botanical Gardens 2

We recently went to the new Ravine Experience at Bellevue Botanical Garden with some friends. Dora was so excited to be seeing her friends, she refused to eat any breakfast and as a result, was a big stinker for the actual garden tour. So I don’t have any good pictures of the garden. This photo above is of the suspension bridge that you cross to see the ravine. The foliage is your typical Pacific Northwest gorgeous scenery, but the actual ravine is what makes the experience worth the hike. It is not often that one gets to cross over a 150’ ravine. I was a little worried that Dora would be afraid of the suspension bridge, as she is afraid of the bouncy bridges at parks, but she eagerly ran ahead and had no fear of the height at all.

Vivi, Dot, Newton, and Linus at Botanical Gardens 3

This is one of the few photos I actually took. I thought this fallen tree being held up by another tree looked really cool.

Bellevue Botanical Garden is definitely a sight worth seeing if you are ever in the Seattle area. They have a large variety of gardens, such as the Alpine Rock Garden,Yao Garden, Fuchsia Garden, etc. My absolutely favorite garden there is the Dahlia Garden, but obviously that is only if I time it right so that the dahlias are blooming. Many years ago, we went there with my in-laws. My father in-law, who has since passed away, knew all about the plants and flowers and it was his narration that initiated me into the world of plant appreciation. When we stumbled upon the Dahlia Garden, however, was the single moment when I became a passionate plant lover and gardener. Before that moment, I was of the “you’ve seen one plant, you’ve seen them all” mindset. Unfortunately, my father-in-law passed away before he could see the results of narration or before he could meet Dora, our little botanist. It has been almost a decade since he passed away from pancreatic cancer, and tonight is just one of those nights that I find myself missing him as much as I did the day he died, if not more.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Labels: Social Studies, Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Dora is Interested in Geocaching!

Tree Stump Throne 2
I am very excited, because Dora has finally expressed an interest in geocaching. Hopefully, her interest will last. I used to geocache a lot before she was born, but since her birth, have only found a few caches. Geocaching is a great way to get exercise, explore new places, practice geography skills, work on problem solving skills, and more, depending on the cache. This particular cache was an easy cache, which was a necessity if I was to keep Dora’s interest. It also helps that it was at a park. She played for a long time, then we hit the trails. It didn’t hurt that there is a tree stump chair/throne on the trail.
Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Labels: Nature Study, Physical Education, Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Handa’s Suprise

I posted previously about Handa’s Surprise – we used the book when we were studying the sense of taste. Recently, Dora has started requesting that I read it again, every….single…day. It is a wonderful book that really should be on more “Recommended Reading” lists. This time around, however, Dora was more interested in the African culture shown in the book and the various animals that eat each piece of fruit as Handa is walking by. Reading this book has made Dora absolutely obsessed with Africa! In fact, during a variety of her imaginary games, she will say that various people or dolls are going to Africa for various reasons. Dora also has started trying to carry various things on her head, just like Handa does. One of Tertia’s best friends was from Kenya and visits there frequently.  I’m afraid to admit it, but her stories of malaria and the anti-malaria medication possible side effects (which I just know I would suffer) have made me very nervous about visiting Africa. Not to mention the fact that she got badly sunburned there, so I cannot even begin to imagine what would happen to my fair skin! Obviously, if Dora continues to be this obsessed with Africa, I will have to get over my malaria-phobia,  invest in some super SPF sunscreen, and take her there. In the interim, I do think it is time to bring out some geography materials!  

Woodland Park Zoo 10

Since Dora was so interested in the animals in the book, some of which are less common, we took a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo. Overall, it was a good day for a trip to the zoo. It was a bit cloudy, so it wasn’t too crowded (though driving there was H-E-double hockey sticks and I would like to point out that allowing street parking in the right lane on the main road to the zoo is very stupid). Anyway, we went in a different entrance than we usually do and went in the opposite direction that we usually go. The highlight of the trip for Dora was the Willawong Bird Station, where they sell seed sticks that you can feed birds with (parakeets, cockatiels, and parrots). We spent about on hour there!

Woodland Park Zoo 11

After we left the bird station, we stumbled upon the snow leopard right after it had been fed a huge piece of meat (I have no idea what type of animal it was eating). I believe that is the only time the snow leopard came out of it’s cave the whole day. So we were very lucky to be able to see this beautiful animal.

Woodland Park Zoo 14

We saw many animals, but one of the more unusual animals that we were able to see was the tree kangaroo, which never moved at all. It was kind of freaky, I couldn’t tell if it was sleeping with its eyes open or having some sort of weird staring contest, but it stood in this exact position for at least five minutes.

Woodland Park Zoo 13

In addition, I have never seen a sloth bear anywhere else, but the Woodland Park Zoo. They make you want to hug them while you are running away from them!

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature, Social Studies, Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–Studying Corn

In honor of Thanksgiving, we studied corn this week. For science, we used this “From Seed to Plant Specimen Center” from Lakeshore Learning. Dora really enjoyed trying to figure out which seed, leaf, and fruit/vegetable went together. If you buy this set, do yourself a favor and somehow mark the leaves so that you know which one is which. They come in little baggies that are labeled, but if you take them all out of the baggies without marking them in some way, some of them are hard to figure out. The seeds are very easy to identify, as are the fruit/vegetable cards, which are color-coded anyway. It took a large group effort for us to match all of the leaves though.
Corn Art
For our art project, we made corn prints with bubble wrap. We cut the bubble wrap into a corn cob shape, which Dora then painted. We placed a piece of paper on top of the painted bubble wrap and used a rolling pin to make a to fully press the paper onto the bubble wrap. Later, I made some corn leaves, which Dora glued onto the corn prints.
Our literature focus this week was The Littlest Pilgrim, which is not a Thanksgiving book, per se. This book had been highly recommended to me, but I was quite disappointed. While the book is not offensive per se, it teaches a lesson that is contrary to what I believe and to how I am raising Dora. The book is about a little girl, named Mini, who is the littlest pilgrim in her village. Each two page spread discusses all of the things that she is too little to do. At the end, she learns that the one thing that she is not too little to do is make friends. I found this to be rather disappointing. I am spending so much effort using Montessori methods and materials to help Dora learn the skills to be as independent and capable as possible and this book teaches that little children aren’t capable of doing anything useful. So this book will be added to our donation pile. 
Fire Station TourFor our fieldtrip, we did not go anywhere corn-related. Our local homeschool group had scheduled a tour of a fire station, so we joined them for that. Originally, the tour had been advertised as being for ages 8-10, then it seemed like only younger children were going, so I signed Dora up. Unfortunately, the change in age range was not communicated to the fire station instructor, so the instruction level was at a much higher level than was really appropriate for Dora. She did really well, behavior-wise, and with attempting to answer questions. She did, however, get a bit confused. The whole afternoon after the tour, I had to check every single door to see if it was hot before I was allowed to open it! When we finally were able to go see the fire equipment, it was very impressive, but the whole area was a bit much for Dora. When I tried to put her in the fire truck to have a turn, she totally freaked out. Then she asked to go back in it and freaked out again. I couldn’t even get a picture of her in the truck. We actually had to leave at that point, because she was just wore out from being over-stimulated.
H Basket
In other areas, we continue to work through our alphabet baskets and are on the letter “H”. In case you missed a previous post about this, I fill a basket with objects that begin with our letter of the week, a capital and lowercase sandpaper letter, and a Leapfrog Magnetic Alphabet letter. We then discuss the sound the letter makes in relation to the objects, listen to Leapfrog pronounce the letter, and finger trace the sandpaper letters. We also continue to use Handwriting Without Tear’s wooden letter pieces, play dough letter set, and chalkboard.
Art Display 2
I’ve started putting out art prints from Child Size Masterpieces of Steps 1, 2, 3 – Level 1 Easy. I’m going to start implementing all of the elements from the curriculum soon, but for now am just putting out one print in a clear acrylic frame every couple of weeks. Dora has been very interested in all of the prints, except for the one I put out last week, which was a modern art piece (the photo above is from several weeks ago).
Our School Shelves
In addition, I’ve been setting out one music tray a week, with themed instruments. Dora already goes to a Kindermusik class every week, so we don’t a super lot with these instruments, but I like for her to explore some different concepts in addition to what they teach in class sometimes. For this week, I set out a tray of instruments that are all played by shaking them – a woodpecker, maracas, and a tambourine.
Finally, you may note that there is a globe on her shelves. That is brand new. I absolutely love the way Montessori geography objects are all colored exactly the same way, no matter what the object is (i.e. Asia is always yellow, whether it’s a globe, map puzzle, wall map, etc.). So I have just started the most basic geography introduction, by putting out the globe and showing her where we live.
Dora has been doing lots of math also, but that is a separate post unto itself. I’ll try to post about some of it next week. We are going to be taking all of next week off from homeschooling, just because we’re homeschoolers, so we can. I actually have rather mixed feelings about Thanksgiving and we usually do not make a big fuss about it around here, other than enjoying Mr. Mo being home for an extra two days (this year he is working on a Christmas-release product, so we will consider ourselves lucky if we even see him over Thanksgiving, but he will be taking three weeks off at Christmas and for part of January!).
What about you? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving and if so, how?
Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.
I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStoreFootprints in the Butter’s Reading Aloud Challenge, and…

Chestnut Grove Academy
Shibley SmilesChestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop Favorite Resource This Week Science Sunday
Tots and Me

Labels: Language Arts, Literature, Montessori, Preschool, Science, Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Apps for Teaching Social Studies

This summer I have been trying to keep Gohan’s brain alive with educational resources that are more a bit more focused on fun. I’ve really enjoyed some of the apps we’ve used for practicing geography. I also stumbled on some history apps that I thought I’d share. While I’m sure there are other great apps out there, I’m only listing ones that I have personally tried.


Constitution (free)


History: Maps of the World (free)

Smithsonian Channel

Smithsonian Channel (Free)

imageStack the Countries ($1.99 – but, try the free Lite version first)


Stack the States ($0.99 – but, try the free Lite version first)


TapQuiz Maps World Edition (Free)


USA Factbook and Quiz ($0.99)


The World Factbook ($0.99)

Labels: Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Cheap and Free Summer Fun for Families


Summer vacation is quickly coming up for us and I always like to take advantage of the numerous free or cheap fun activities that are available each summer. Here is a list of some summer fun activities that we like to do. How about you? What are some of your favorite things to do during the summer?

  • Beaches and Parks – in addition to being a great place for active outdoor fun, many beaches and parks host special activities during the summer, such as guided tours, classes, concerts, movies, festivals, plays, etc. As an added bonus, many parks have started adding water play areas to their repertoire of play equipment.
  • Berry Picking – check this site for a list of local u-pick places
  • Bowling
    • AMF Summer Unplugged – “This summer, your children 16 and under can bowl for free at your local AMF. Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Just register your children to get weekly coupons via email for two free games per child per day all summer long.”
    • Kids Bowl Free – “Children whose age does not exceed a limit by a participating bowling center are eligible to register for 2 free games a day, all summer long, courtesy of the participating bowling centers along with the schools and organizations.”
  • City/County entertainment – check with your city and county, as well as neighboring cities, to see if they will be hosting any events, such as concerts, plays, outdoor movies, kids’ entertainment (magicians, musicians, etc.), festivals, etc.
  • Crafts – many craft, sewing, and educational supply stores, such as Michael’s and Lakeshore Learning host free or discounted kids’ craft events and classes.
  • Drop-in Play Places – if the heat is getting to be too much, but your kids need to burn off some excess energy, drop-in play places may be just the place for you
  • Farmer’s Markets are a great place to shop for healthy, locally grown, foods, but they also often host concerts, arts and crafts, and other fun activities
  • Game Stores (and some toy stores) often host free or cheap game leagues/days/nights
  • Kids’ Movie Series/Festivals
    • Cinemark Movie Clubhouse – Ten weeks of movies for kids, shown weekday mornings. All 10 movies can be purchased in advance for $5.00, or can be purchased separately at the box office for $1.00 per show.  $5 Series punch cards are limited and are now available only at the theatre box office while supplies last.
    • Malco Theatres Kids Summer Film Fest – June 7th – July 27th – Kid-friendly films every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 AM. A portion of the $2 admission price will benefit local children’s hospitals.
    • Marcus Theatres Kids Rule Kids Summer Film Series – June 21st – August 11th, 2011. Kid-friendly films every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10 AM. $2/person.
    • Marquee Cinemas Kid Summer Movie Program – Marquee Cinemas presents a special selection of family films brought to you each week during the summer at no charge. Check your location for dates and selections.
    • Regal Summer Movie Express – During this 9-week festival, select Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theatres will offer selected G or PG rated movies for only a dollar on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00am.
    • I’m sad to say that the AMC Summer Movie Camp program has been discontinued. Sad smile
  • Libraries – in addition to summer reading programs, your library may have concerts, performances, storytimes, arts and crafts, etc.
  • Museums – though they can be crowded during the summer, museums often offer extra kid-friendly classes, activities, and displays
  • Reading programs – you can read my previous post about summer reading programs for kids
  • Storytimes – most libraries and bookstores will offer storytimes during the week
  • Woodworking programs for kids are free at Lowe’s and Home Depot

Labels: Freebies, High School, Social Studies, Summer Fun, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Enrich Your Homeschool Experience for Free During National Parks Week 2011


April 16-24, 2011 is National Parks Week, when admission to all 394 National Parks is free. Did you know that many historic sites and natural wonders are National Parks also? For instance, the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Antietam National Battlefield, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Cape Cod National Seashore, Death Valley National Park, and Aztec Ruins National Monument are all National Parks and would make wonderful field trip destinations for some interesting history or science lessons. I find that one of the joys of homeschooling is having the flexibility to incorporate more field trips into my kids education.

Also, Saturday, April 23, is National Junior Ranger Day, and children can take part in many fun activities and earn junior ranger patches.

Many parks even have curriculum based education programs!

Labels: Freebies, High School, Social Studies, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

World History Resources for Homeschoolers


Continuing with the social studies theme, this week I have a list of internet resources for teaching world history. I also just learned from my friend how to easily get screen shots, so I am going to try including small screenshots for now on, which I think makes it easier to decide if a site is worth pursuing. Do you know of any other great sites for teaching world history?

image Adventures in Ancient Greece

image BBC History for Kids

image Ghosts in the Castle

imageEvolve or Perish (a printable board game)

imageGuest Hollow Ancient History

imageHoernersburg Lego Castle and Medieval Lego Town & Cathedral Tour

imageHyper History Online (when click on one of the options on the left, look at the sidebar on the right to fine-tune and actually see your selection)

image Kids’ Castle


imageLife in the Middle Ages

imageMaps of War

image Medieval Women: An Interactive Exploration

imageMosaic Curriculum


imageNova Online: The Vikings

image Owl and Mouse Software


image Scholastic: Sir Edmund Hilary

imageTimeline Index

image Tomb of the Unknown Mummy

imageVikings: The North Atlantic Saga

image Walk Through Time

Labels: Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff