A brilliant weekend in St Augustine

We have had some hectic weeks with work projects lately. We decided that we would have a bona fide weekend and get out of the house and away from the computers. We ended up spending a lot of time in St. Augustine, which is one of our favorite cities.

Friday night, we drove up to St. Augustine to visit a bookstore there. Elise was in need of some more challenging chapter books to read. I have written before about how she’s something of a kid naturalist, so I have been trying to find books that play to her interests. I highly recommend Jane Goodall’s My Life With The Chimpanzees for children. It talks about being an ethnologist in an extraordinarily conversational and engaging tone, and she provides a lot of details about her childhood that children would love (living in a creepy old manor house, her uncle allowing her to ride his racehorses, her grandmother “giving” her her favorite tree in their backyard for her birthday, her dad’s Aston Martin). I think I am going to try to read The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle to Elise sometime, which Goodall says was the first book she fell in love with as a child. She read the book three times after checking it out from the library, and then was given her very own copy for Christmas. It was then that she decided she absolutely must go to Africa.

I also found Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel, which is a story about learning to control a cholera outbreak. It should be a fun introduction to epidemiology and a transition to our next science book, which is on the history of medicine.

After we had done our damage at the bookstore, we went to Elise’s favorite restaurant on the A1A in St. Augustine Beach, which is Tide’s Oyster Company and Grill. Elise loves, loves, loves oysters, and Tide’s gets these positively enormous oysters from the Gulf of Mexico. They remember her there, the seven-year-old who can put away a dozen raw oysters on her own. The oysters at Tide’s will separate the people who genuinely like to eat oysters from the folks who ritually choke them down “when in Rome.” They are so big you have to consume them in multiple bites. Our server told us that she’s had tables get upset before because they were so freakishly large.

It was the perfect evening to sit outside at Tide’s. There were storms all around us, but they stayed away from the restaurant’s patio. We were able to enjoy the constant, cool ocean breeze and an incredible lightning show in the distance.

Driving home from St. Augustine on the A1A, we saw an amazing moonrise over the water. We pulled the car over and walked out onto the beach at Marineland, in the dark, with only moonlight on the whitecaps.

We often refer to a line from the movie A Good Year, where Russell Crowe’s character talks about how all of his childhood memories take place at or around his Uncle Henry’s vineyard in France. “Are they good memories?” he is asked. “No,” he replies, “they are grand.” I hope this is the way Elise talks about her childhood when she is an adult. She had the kind of parents who would take her to dance on the beach under the Moon at close to midnight, because that’s important to do.

We had so much fun sitting by the beach on Friday that we decided to do it again on Saturday. In the evening, we headed over to Flagler Beachfront Winery, along the A1A in Flagler Beach. To be honest, we went there with very low expectations. Boutique wines almost always taste like Hawaiian Punch to me, and seriously… a vineyard in steamy, hot Florida? But we found a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay that were actually quite fantastic. For dinner, we had plates of meats and cheeses and toasted baguettes. It was wonderful. Elise, obviously, could not enjoy the wines, but she had a grand time tasting and critiquing the array of cheeses. Surprisingly, I think her favorite had been rolled in ground espresso. I am constantly surprised by her palate.

The party behind us on the patio at the winery was there to celebrate a lady’s 29th birthday. It would seem more than a few of the people who showed up to the party were not, in fact, her friends and were simply there for the wine, based on some of their (rather loud) exchanges. She did not seem to be enjoying her birthday at all. Although I initially begged her not too, Elise insisted on walking up to the lady’s table and singing “Happy Birthday” in her sweet, little voice (albeit at the top of her lungs). Everyone around her whipped out their phones to record the kid serenading a total stranger for her birthday. The lady, who turned out to be a school teacher here, was so moved by all the attention that she looked like she was going to weep. “You don’t understand,” her friend leaned over to tell me, “your daughter just made her night. Probably even her year.” Here I thought we were going to be humiliated by the whole thing, but it turned out to be a wonderful act of kindness. We were joking that with Elise’s love of languages and her love of people, she’s probably going to end up an ambassador.

On Sunday, we kept the bona fide weekend going by heading back up to St. Augustine. This time, we went to the A1A Ale Works in historic downtown, overlooking the harbor and the Bridge of Lions. (The lions are a reference to Ponce de Leon, who is ubiquitous in St. Augustine.)

The restaurant/brewery has an upstairs balcony with ornate wrought iron like one might find in New Orleans. It’s sufficient shelter on a stormy night, so long as the storms are coming from the west and not from over the ocean. We enjoyed watching the city and the boats in the rain. (Though not as entertaining, a bride who was posing for pictures with her wedding party on the bridge ended up drenched and fled the downpour over muddy city streets. She will probably have to have her dress emergency cleaned before the big day. Summer storms in Florida are no joke, y’all. You have to watch the sky.)

We had a neat conversation about what kind of communications equipment to get for our future boat with three chaps who had sailed down from Savannah that day. They seemed to be contractors with the Coast Guard, as they were talking about their efforts to locate a missing boat.

Putting away the paella at the A1A Ale Works.

Walking back to our car, the Cathedral of St. Augustine was all lit up for a nighttime service. We had a wonderful view of all their stained glass windows in the darkness. I feel like we are constantly finding new and unusual spots in the Ancient City.

A wonderful weekend playing in the most beautiful corner of the world. We need to do this more often.

A beautiful evening on Flagler Beach

We are blessed to live on a stretch of pristine beach here in Florida. Sometimes it blows my mind that there are still places in the United States where you can walk for miles and miles along the ocean without seeing many people at all, but dozens of sea turtle nests. I love how serious about conservation this state is.

Tonight we saw something I have never seen before – a mother-of-pearl sunset. I have seen many sunsets, but never one that included an iridescent green color. There was a massive storm in the west this evening that I believe was responsible for colors that truly looked like the Northern Lights. (On the radar, the storm had a black-purple center. ‘Tis the season… the lightning crashes from the storms we’ve had this week would just about give you a heart attack.)

We waited until after 6 pm to hang out on the beach because the heat index has been so intense. But even in the evenings, the water feels like taking a warm bath. Here’s a shot of Elise capturing crabs.

Our rough-coat Jack Russell terrier, Sherlock, is now totally accustomed to the ocean. I figure this will be the year that he learns to sail with us. I feel like we can trust him on a sailboat now. He was afraid of the waves as a young pup, but now he wants to play in the surf.

Why South Carolina was the most important theater in the Revolutionary War

A few days ago, I referred readers to Kevin Honold’s essay on the rewards of studying history. In that essay, he talks about how reading a biography of the Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion as a child kindled his love of history. I had not read much about the famous warrior, so I bought and have been working my way through John Oller’s excellent book The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution.

It takes a lot of effort to write a biography on Marion, Oller notes. Mason Weems wrote a largely embellished biography of Marion in the early 1800s that turned him into a Rambo-esque guerrilla fighter not unlike the protagonist played by Mel Gibson in the godawful, historically inaccurate movie The Patriot. Weems was the same person who gave us the fictional story of Washington cutting down the cherry tree that countless kindergartners have been taught in US schools.

(FYI, absolutely nothing like the church scene in The Patriot happened during the American Revolution, even though it was a brutal conflict for soldiers and civilians alike. I guess in the eyes of a German director, every antagonist is a Nazi psychopath. Also, Colonel Banastre Tarleton – whom Mel Gibson’s military foil is based upon – did not die in the American Revolution at all. He lived 50 years beyond the war to become a member of Parliament representing Liverpool. The son of wealthy merchants from Liverpool, he was an ardent supporter of the slave trade, which was a boon to the shipping industry there. A truly terrible human being, but he wasn’t taken out by the swamp fox and his clan as the film suggests. He was the origin of the “swamp fox” moniker, however. And speaking of slaves, if the film were accurate, the main character would have owned slaves. Marion himself had a favorite black valet who accompanied him everywhere.)

At any rate, one of the things that makes this book so fascinating is Oller starts off with the argument that South Carolina was the most significant theater of conflict in the Revolutionary War.

Living as we do outside of St. Augustine, Florida, I complain a lot about how oddly obsessed with Yankee settlements American history textbooks are. American kids are raised talking about Plymouth and Jamestown, when the oldest settlement (by several decades) in what is now the United States is St. Augustine. St. Augustine was a bustling city before the people on the Mayflower were even born.

This has the effect of making American history seem very small and settlers homogeneous. This behavior is not particularly limited to American history either. When schools teach world history, they usually start with the civilizations that will eventually become relevant to the Judeo-Christian wisdom traditions. There is no attention paid to, say, China or India. There is no curiosity that a vast metropolis that had over a million inhabitants was revealed by satellite imagery of the Amazon rain forest.

Anyway, I digress. Back to South Carolina and the “swamp fox”:

More battles, engagements, and skirmishes were fought in South Carolina during the Revolution than in any other colony. Conservative estimates place the number of combat actions in the state at more than two hundred, a third of all that took place in the entire war. No other colony had as many inches of territory affected by battle: of the state’s forty-six present-day counties, forty-five ended up seeing Revolutionary War actions. Nearly 20 percent of all Americans who died in battle in the Revolution died in South Carolina during the last two years of the war.

Ever since the shots were fired at Lexington and Concord in 1775, the South had been mostly untouched by the conflict, which was famously fought at places such as Bunker Hill, Fort Ticonderoga, Trenton, and Brandywine. But by 1779 the war in the North had reached a stalemate, with the British firmly in control of New York City under Sir Henry Clinton, and the Americans, led by George Washington, camped out thirty miles away in Morristown, New Jersey, desperately hoping for help from a French navy anchored in the West Indies [i.e. the Caribbean]. The last significant engagement in the North had been in June 1778 at Monmouth Courthouse, where Washington and his most dependable officer, Nathaniel Greene, battled Clinton and his lieutenant general, Charles Corwallis, to a draw. But while the Americans were hard-pressed, Britain had grown increasingly weary of war. Its coffers nearly bankrupt and its military stretched thin by an expanded conflict with France and Spain, Parliament agreed to finance one final effort to end the American rebellion.

It came to be known as Britain’s “southern strategy.” Jointly agreed on by Clinton, King George, and Lord Germain, the British secretary of state for America, the plan was eloquent in both logic and economy. The British would begin by occupying and pacifying Georgia, where revolutionary sentiment was weakest among the thirteen colonies. They would then subdue South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia while gathering men to confront George Washington in the North.

Hence you have the fall of Savannah and the long siege of Charleston (Charles Town), where from the Continentals’ standpoint, the war looked finally lost. Most of the locals were desperate to show they were still loyal to the crown. The British believed they could save money by getting Tories in the southern colonies to fight the war for themselves. Oller likens this to the military strategy in the Vietnam War.

It was in the Carolina lowcountry and backcountry that the war would finally change direction, with many casualties.

A Florida version of salad niçoise with fresh local swordfish

I knew a girl in college who loved shoes so much that every morning she’d select a pair of shoes from her hundreds of pairs and then try to construct an outfit.

That’s sort of how we are with cooking living in Florida. We have a constant supply of fresh seafood, where the fishmongers either caught the fish themselves or directly know the person who did. We start by looking at what fish are available and then build a meal around that. For lunch we made a curry out of mutton snapper. For dinner I made a salad niçoise with swordfish. This truly is paradise.

I’d say nothing says summer like salad niçoise and chilled wine, but that’s another great thing about living here…. It is the land of eternal summer. Well, it’s usually great. Going out to get the fish today was the only time anyone left the house. When we are not being thrashed about by the squalls, it is so humid that it feels like you are walking around in a cloud. It wasn’t even nominally hot today, but the moisture in the air gave us a heat index of 110 degrees. Not exactly gardening weather.

Anyway, back to the salad…. This is pretty basic if you love to cook, but someone is going to ask me how to make it, so here you go.

I make a vinaigrette of 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, juice from three or four lemons (just try to get about half a cup), 1 minced shallot, a bunch of fresh basil (finely chopped), fresh oregano, fresh thyme, a couple teaspoons of Dijon mustard, and a pinch or two of kosher salt. (It is important to use fresh herbs, and a lot of them – they really are part of the salad.) Let the vinaigrette sit for a while as you cook the rest, so the flavors have a chance to mingle. This makes a lot of dressing, but trust me…. You are going to want that much.

The salad itself is made of 1 and 1/2 pounds of small red potatoes, quartered and boiled with a pinch of salt until they are just tender (watch them closely so they do not get so tender that they break apart or start to lose their skins); trimmed green beans (boil for three minutes and then transfer them to an ice bath); a few medium tomatoes, cored and sliced; a few hard boiled eggs, sliced; a couple tablespoons of capers; and some anchovies (though you could add a touch of anchovy paste to the vinaigrette for the same effect). And of course, olives (you are supposed to use niçoise, but I use kalamata because they are easily available and I love them) and fish. Traditionally, the fish is tuna, but I often switch it out for swordfish. We eat a ton of tuna here, especially when we go out to eat. Ahi is everywhere along the beach.

There is a fantastic restaurant in Flagler Beach called the Flagler Fish Company that makes an outstanding salad niçoise with ahi. I wish I could replicate their Dijon vinaigrette – it sounds simple, but I’m not sure what I am missing. The taste of potatoes and Dijon mustard that is sublime, so I am always pretty heavy on the Dijon.

(It’s hard to explain to people who have tried Dijon straight and hated it that Dijon subtly improves many foods and often in unpredictable ways. For example, when I make quiche, I coat the crust with a heavy layer of Dijon mustard before filling it and putting it in the oven. This has an absolutely transformative effect on pie crust. It does not come out tasting like mustard, but it an unreal improvement. I’ve gotten to where I don’t tell people my trick until they’ve tasted the final product first. Every Southern woman needs a signature dish that people associate with them specifically. My signature dish is quiche, and the grand secret – lol – is Dijon.)

And of course for dessert… A key lime pie. The perfect summer meal. These are good days.

The problem of underemployed college grads

I know I promised everyone that I would use this as my personal blog and not geek out about economic data, but I can’t help myself when it comes to education.

Articles questioning the value of a college education have practically become their own genre in journalism. The media tend to cover this topic with the same hysterical tone with which they write articles about brain-eating amoebas in the drinking water supply. At the end of the day, parents don’t know what to believe as they consider wiping out their home equity so Junior can get a degree.

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating, if depressing, article today that gets into Federal Reserve data on the wage performance of college graduates. The data suggest that college graduates are not underperforming previous generations as a monolithic group, but are starkly divided into haves and have-nots.

Here are some statistics from the article (which is unfortunately only available to WSJ subscribers):

  • The share of Americans between the ages of 25-29 with a bachelor’s degree has risen to 37% from 29% in 2000.
  • College and graduate school tuition have risen at three times the rate of inflation since 2000.
  • Student borrowers leave college with $30,000 of debt on average.
  • An increasing percentage of student borrowers are leaving college with more than $50,000 in student debt.
  • The wage premium for college graduates is at an all-time high: “Americans with a bachelor’s degree—but not a graduate degree—earned an average $77,239, nearly $32,000 more than the average earnings of workers with only a high-school diploma.” College graduates are also more likely to be employed than high school graduates. (Though I am not sure how useful that statistic is in an economy where unemployment in general is so low that there are more job listings than people searching for work for the first time in American history.)
  • But the *average* earnings for college graduates has become a somewhat meaningless number because roughly 4 in 10 college graduates currently have jobs that have historically been done by people with only a high school diploma (and that competition artificially depresses wages for people who only graduated from high school as well).

So 40% of college graduates are underemployed relative to their level of education and are working in lower wage jobs and the other 60% is responsible for driving the wage premium to a record high. Clearly, the question should not be “Is college worth it?” but “For whom is college worth it?”

Then there is the issue of wealth (net worth) of college graduates vs folks with a high school diploma. This is what is really shocking:

College graduates still have more wealth than nongraduates, as they have had for decades. In 2016, the typical household headed by someone with a bachelor’s degree but no graduate degree had more than twice as much wealth as the typical household headed by a nongraduate, according to a St. Louis Fed paper released in January, which analyzed data from the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

But that wealth premium has declined substantially for younger generations of college graduates, particularly those born in the 1980s. Among some demographic groups, there is little or no wealth advantage at all.

The typical black family headed by someone with a college degree—but no graduate degree—born in the 1970s and 1980s barely had any more wealth than the typical black household headed by a nongraduate. Hispanic households of the same age groups have only a small wealth premium.

The paper concludes: “Among families born in the 1980s, the college wealth premium weakens to the point of statistical insignificance with the single exception of white bachelor’s-degree holders, which remains positive but much smaller than that enjoyed by previous cohorts.”

Many news reports push the cliche of the millennial liberal arts graduate with six figures of student debt that is working as a Starbucks barista. But looking at the data, it would seem that many of the college graduates that are taking lower wage jobs are minorities, not privileged hipster philosophy majors. That’s a far more difficult problem to solve.

Our classical home education program

Since it is the beginning of the traditional school year, a lot of homeschooling families are sharing the education materials and curricula they will be using for the upcoming school year. Some friends have asked me to do the same, so that’s what I am going to do here.

We homeschool year-round and our “academic year” starts after our required evaluation in March/April. This means our daughter is well into what we are calling her third grade year. Chronologically, she is seven years old and would be rising into second grade in a traditional school environment.

We only talk about our daughter being in “third grade” so she will have something to say when strangers ask her what grade she is in. In reality, she is working far beyond that level in many subjects, both by virtue of her native intelligence and the fact that we started homeschooling before she was pre-K aged (we decided she could handle it). Third grade is actually the lowest level we are teaching any subject at.

For each subject, we teach her at the level that she can successfully work at and do not try to force her into some arbitrary education format. This is a considerable advantage of homeschooling. Your child does not have to be taught at the average level of their wildly different talents. You can do what is best for them clear across the board.

There are a lot of free homeschooling resources out there. However, nothing beats investing in high-quality curriculum for homeschooling in my opinion. It’s not free, but it is not out of reach for most people either. And if you have more than one child, they can share resources across the years, which offers a huge cumulative savings from paying for private school tuition. (Our daughter is an only child, but I know a lot parents worry about this.)

I have spent many, many evenings researching curricula and getting feedback from my mother-in-law, who has a PhD in education and literacy and taught in the school of education at her university at the graduate level. I have purchased a ton of academic materials that I ended up simply throwing in the garbage. These are the best resources that I have found that work and that our daughter finds engaging.

Language Arts

In terms of literature, we have piles of novels that we read to our daughter and that she reads aloud to us. We decide what we are reading as we go along. Right now, she is working her way through Little House in the Big Woods. Before that, she was reading The Boxcar Children. (Interestingly, she did not like the latter at all. I think part of that is that the image of homeless children in the book does not fit the modern version of homelessness that unfortunately a lot of kids are familiar with seeing. There’s nothing quaint about it, and even kids catch on to that.) I tried ordering workbooks that would ask questions about the texts and introduce vocabulary, but I found it much more beneficial to simply sit down and talk about the books. We’ve had many impromptu digressions into history, philosophy, and religion that way too. Our daughter has a huge vocabulary already (she loved Martha Speaks when she was smaller), so the words the publishers think kids don’t know are actually kind of tedious to her.

For language arts in general, we started using Michael Clay Thompson’s series from Royal Fireworks Press. Royal Fireworks Press is a publisher that specializes in materials for gifted and talented education. Their catalog is unreal.

MCT’s books are gorgeous. Our daughter refused to do any work until she had studied the artwork in his books and tried to reproduce it. I never thought I would have ever uttered the words “my child is in love with her grammar book.” But these are sui generis.

The tone is conversational and the pages are uncluttered, which makes it easy for kids to read through the books on their own. He introduces children to new vocabulary in every book, but beyond that, there is so much intellectually stimulating, beautiful wordplay. He starts with the observation that if you are good with language, you will be good with every other subject. I’ve found this to be very true in life.

MCT’s book Building Language is especially perfect if your child is also studying Latin (like ours). This book treats language as a code, based on Latin roots, that can easily be deciphered with the right background knowledge.

Yes, MCT’s program also includes a study of poetics for children – how to manipulate how what you are saying sounds to make it more pleasing. It’s brilliant.

Another blogger recommended getting this book, with the sense that MCT’s program was not as strong as it could be on punctuation. I like this book too, because each lesson is short and sweet. It has a powerful cumulative effect, but it’s not painful.

This writing book is absolutely fantastic. It is organized around a long series of short writing projects that all build up teaching a child how to outline their thoughts, brainstorm important or interesting details, and include twists and turns. Best of all, our daughter is very proud and possessive of this book as a collection of her creative endeavors.

We only started the All About Spelling program this year. Our daughter loves this program. I think there are two things that make this a wonderful resource. First, it’s not straight memorization. We grew up having spelling tests in school. At the beginning of the week, the teacher would give you a list of 20 or so random words to memorize and regurgitate for a test on Friday. After that, it did not matter if you could spell them. All About Spelling is about learning to spell words from how they sound. You learn the relationships and then can apply that knowledge going forward. If you used a phonics program for literacy, then these lessons will reinforce those lessons.

Second, the book involves a lot of tactile activities and games. Our daughter looks forward to spelling. It’s wild.

Latin

I wrote recently that Latin has become our daughter’s favorite subject. Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press made that possible. We are planning to finish this series and then transition into their Latin For Children series.

Ecce Caecilia et Verus is part of a Latin series from Royal Fireworks Press. I do not recommend these books as a stand-alone program like Song School Latin. However, they are great books for practicing translation skills (the book is in story format), which will be entertaining and inspiring and reinforce what was already learned.

We started off our Latin studies with Memoria Press’ Prima Latina, which is Ecclesiastical Latin and not Classical Latin. (The difference is a J.) The book is a little dry, but it does make a good supplement, which is what we are using it for now, off and on. The great thing about this book is that if you are Catholic, your child will learn the words to the Latin Mass. I love that.

Classical Studies

We are likewise using Memoria Press’ Classical Studies program. This series starts with Greek Myths and progresses to Famous Men of Rome and Famous Men of Greece.

History and Geography

For studying world history, we are using Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World and the corresponding activity book. I did not start this series until last year. I know some folks who are trying to start it with Kindergartners, which I think could be a bit premature. The difference in maturity between a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old when you are talking about topics like war is tremendous.

There are several things I like about this series. First, SWB is really telling the story of humanity at a kid level. She starts with the dawn of humankind and works her way across the centuries talking about what was happening in each major civilization on each inhabited continent and when. This makes it very easy for kids to grasp the collision of certain cultures when it happens. If you like timelines, this is one long, well organized timeline.

Another thing I like about this series is SWB introduces kids to every major world religion in an unbiased and charitable fashion. I like the idea that when our seven-year-old daughter talks to the Buddhist owner of our favorite Thai restaurant, she has an understanding of what he believes and a respect for his wisdom tradition. This is exactly the sort of thing a good liberal arts education should do for a person.

The corresponding activity books have a lot of brilliant projects and games for children to reinforce what they are learning about. But what I really love about them is the mapwork. Our daughter knows so much about geography now it is truly unbelievable.

If you love timelines, Smithsonian’s History Year By Year is an essential resource. The book has vivid pictures of artifacts and maps. It explores subtopics for specific civilizations, like the introduction of new technology or what it was like to be a child in a certain culture.

We supplement our history studies with a lot of high-quality children’s books, field trips, and travel. Here is a sample of some great books related to the Middle Ages, which is the volume of The Story of the World we are working on now.

I can’t imagine teaching history without a great globe. This one plugs in and lights up with the constellations when it is dark.

We recently subscribed to Kiwi Co’s Atlas Crate to supplement our history and geography lessons. Every month, we get a box with projects related to a specific country. These are great!

Science

We are such STEM enthusiasts that I wrote this crazy long post about creating a homeschooling science program with tons of handy resources.

This year, we have been focusing on ecology and biology in our science studies. We used a middle school level textbook for ecology, which was pretty dry. I’m not sure I would recommend it. For the most part, we ended up checking out dozens of books on the topic from the library. That in itself is, I think, a brilliant approach to teaching science.

A friend recommended the “Exploring” series of books from John Hudson Tiner. I don’t know how to describe these books except to say that they a delightful and nuanced study of each topic, with lots of the unusual and esoteric information that children love to collect.

Tiner is intense in his science, but he is also religious. He loves to talk about important scientists that embody Christian ethics (particularly having a strong work ethic). This will certainly disqualify his work for many secular homeschoolers, which is a shame, because these are some of the most intellectually rigorous science books I have encountered. And frankly, talking about the rewards – not only for individuals, but all of humanity – of a Christian work ethic is wonderful.

His other books are on the history of medicine, astronomy, chemistry, physics and mathematics.

We try to take as many nature walks and hikes as possible, and the following three books have been invaluable.

Logic and Mathematics

We are not planning on starting formal logic courses for a couple of years, but Royal Fireworks Press has a wonderful series of logic books for children, which are more along the lines of pattern recognition, understanding attributes, part-to-whole relationships, and a sort of introduction to symbolic logic. These books are fantastic for mathematical reasoning.

We use Saxon Math for our math curriculum. There are things I do not love about it (like the constant repetition), but I see them as necessary evils more than dealbreakers. I have a lot of friends who use Singapore Math. To be honest, the main reason I did not choose Singapore was that I don’t know a single person who has stuck with it. There are a lot of resources and online communities for supporting Saxon.

We have loved the Awesum Alex series from Royal Fireworks Press as a fun diversion. I like the reinforcement of place value. Most of the times I have seen a young child struggling with math, it has derived from difficulty understanding place value. The books are creative and fun.

Engineering and Computer Science

As technology is the family business, computer science is treated as a core subject in our household. Right now, we have our daughter working through projects from BitsBox, which is another monthly subscription service. They do not send only one project for the month, however – it’s more like monthly units of study. For example, you will receive several projects that all involve the use of coordinates. This is also a great way to reinforce math concepts.

We also subscribe to KiwiCo’s Tinker Crates. Each month, your child receives an engineering project with a magazine that explores some concept related to physics and engineering. I have been amazed by some of these projects and the ease with which they explain concepts in physics to children. I like having these boxes around for sick or rainy days too. “I’m bored.” *pulls crate from closet* “Here, learn about hydraulics. It involves drenching my kitchen with water.” *ecstatic scurrying of little feet*

Playing with a homemade LED light.

Philosophy and Religion

Both of these books are excellent for early discussions of philosophy and religion. The first tackles various historical arguments for the existence of God through a kid-friendly story where the characters represent famous philosophers and theologians. The second book talks about what it means to be a saint and the traits that make saints special.

Art and Music Appreciation

So this is a very, very cool book. It is loaded with projects that kids can do that give them a sense of the techniques the masters used to produce their great works.

Memoria Press also has a great art book for young children that covers technical topics like color theory and perspective.

It’s easier to post a picture of all the books we use for teaching music and dance than to cover them singly. They are all excellent.

Extracurricular Activities

Our daughter usually has at least two extracurricular activities going. She rides hunter-jumper at local horse farm and has done her first horse show. She had been taking piano lessons, which we allowed her to quit to take up karate. (Karate is more social and suits her character.) She might go back to piano eventually, but we are okay with her taking a break.

Great Books for Homeschooling Ideas