April 2012

Foucault's Pendulum

Umberto Eco


“Foucault's Pendulum” by Umberto Eco is a fun and rather erudite novel about much of the same material as Dan Brown's “DaVinci Code,” but with a much less credulous approach to it. In fact, one line in this novel gave me a rule of life that has stood me in good stead on a number of occasions: “if a man mentions the Knights Templar, you can assume him to be a madman.” Of course, I had to just mention the Knights Templar in order to give you the warning, so I suppose it technically applies to me as well.

Why Do Old Books Smell?

Ever wondered why old books have that distinctive smell?

Used bookseller marketplace AbeBooks has produced a fascinating video about the origins of the smells of old books. 
Long story short, when you sniff an old book, what you are smelling is the book's destruction. As it slowly (ever so slowly) decomposes in contact with the corrosive elements of light and air, the paper in a book releases "hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air." 
Even more poignantly, a major factor in the decomposition of a paper book is the chemicals which were used in its production. Both the ink and the paper both contain within them the seeds of their own destruction. 
EBooks have no smell, of course. Because eBooks do not decompose. It's a good news/bad news type situation.

Ever Heard of Carschooling?

This can be a wonderful way to learn as a family!

Since my family homeschools, we are often asked all about homeschooling, as if we are experts. (I always want to ask families who attend public school such specific questions—what curriculum is used with your child? What is he or she learning about right now? How do you know he or she is learning? And see what kinds of answers I get!) Every homeschooler, however, is different. From unschoolers who let the world serve as their classroom to parents who use complete curriculums—and even classrooms inside their homes—we come in way more than 32 flavors.

Free study guides from the History Channel

Almost everyone has heard of the History Channel, even if you don't currently subscribe to it. I was surprised to find out that the History Channel caters to homeschoolers with the use of free study guides. Parents can easily print out a study guide to go with the classroom program that is aired each week. Schedule time for your child to watch the program, and then complete the study guide for homework.

The study guides include such sections as an introduction to the subject, vocabulary lists, discussion questions, a list of extended activities for advanced students, or students that wish to learn even more about the topic, a list of reputable books available within most libraries and links to more information on the web. 

Free home school companion to We Bought a Zoo

I recently purchased the DVD We Bought a Zoo. The girls and I loved it. It was an inspirational story with a positive message for both children and adults. Soon after we watched the movie, I got an e-mail with a link to a free home school companion guide to the movie from homeschool.com.

We Bought a Zoo stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. Matt Damon's character, Benjamin Mee, is a widow raising two children. When his son begins to struggle in school, he decides to make a fresh start with his family. Little does he know that the house he and his daughter fall in love with is actually part of a zoo.

Reading Bestsellers: You Say That Like It's A Bad Thing

It's high time we stopped judging other people's reading choices, and celebrating the fact that in this day and age, anyone at all reads a book


Book Riot editor Jeff O'Neal points out a curious fact (tongue-in-cheek): if you ask people to list their favorite books, they will throw out a handful of literary classics. But at the same time, the bestseller list is full of (horrified gasp!) crime and romance novels. He then proceeds to excoriate readers for consuming these mass market novels.
So many problems with this tired old argument. First of all, there is no single "reader." I know many people who would never stoop to reading a mass market book. These are the people who cheered Jonathan Franzen for rejecting Oprah's imprint, then abandoned him when he made peace. (Darn that Oprah's Book Club! Encouraging Americans to read cheap, mindless trash like, um, Eli Wiesel's Night and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina! Um, wait…)

Consider taking advantage of Time4Learning

Several years ago I discovered a company called Time4Learning. What this company offers homeschoolers is amazing. They have curriculum available for preschool through eighth grade, which includes math, grammar, social studies, and science. All of the lessons are available online, and parents never have to download any software to their computer.

What I love about Time4Learning is that parents can use it as a main curriculum, or as a tutoring tool for the subjects their child is having trouble with. I had my daughter complete the math lessons during her sixth grade year, as she was having a bit of trouble understanding some of the concepts. The lessons are interactive, and often contain goofy characters that capture a child's attention. You won't have to beg your child to do their school work. He will want to do it!

Finishing up the school year

The one thing I love about homeschooling is the ability to finish up the school year early. At the beginning of the year, I choose the curriculum I want to use with my daughter for each subject. I may use Bob Jones University for history, and A Beka Books for math, but I use a real curriculum for each subject.

Once I choose the curriculum, I divide the lessons up by day for the entire school year . When you homeschool, you can complete two lessons in one day if you have the time. You can also hold classes on holidays or teacher in-service days when other students tend to have off. This all adds up, and before you know it you have finished the entire curriculum. My daughter usually has completed all of the information in her books by the end of April.

Merkabah Rider

The "High Planes" Drifter


If you're a fan of old pulp fiction, Clint Eastwood, the Weird Western genre, adventure stories or Jewish mysticism, you should pick up the “Merkabah Rider” series by Edward M. Erdelac. This series seems to be built around the amusing coincidence that Clint Eastwood's “Man With No Name” character sometimes wears a flat-brimmed black hat and a long black coat, and so do the members of most Orthodox Jewish sects, and most people can't seem to tell the difference.

The Good Egg Project

The Good Egg Project is great for homeschoolers to take part in, as well as children who are attending school. It is produced by Discover Education and is meant to help kids understand the benefits of a nutritious breakfast.

A live broadcast is set to take place on April 18 on the Discovery Education website. This broadcast will focus on how fresh foods, such as eggs, make their way to your kitchen table. Homeschoolers are free to submit any questions they may have about farms, or farm fresh foods ahead of time. These questions will be answered on the live broadcast.