• books,  history,  science

    learning about Marie Curie and radioactivity

    As I was preparing to write that blog post about comic books, there was a day when I asked my husband to grab some more comic books when he goes to the library. One of the books he brought back was called Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. It was from the adult graphic novel section, and it isn’t exactly a comic book. It’s an artistic exploration of the Curie’s life and also of the “fallout” of their discovery of radioactivity. The book tells how Marie and husband met, and how they grew in fame but suffered ill health problems. It describes…

  • history,  homeschooling

    a non-sports person watches a jousting competition

    My husband and I took the kids last night to watch the Knights of Valour Jousting Competition. It was quite an interesting experience. Jousting is an incredibly strange form of target practice where both opponents have targets on them and the goal is to break one’s weapon or unseat one’s opponent. The Knights had pretty impressive armor but injuries sound pretty common place. The evening began with a couple of side acts – a bareback riding demonstration from someone dressed to resemble Alexander the Great, a quick mock fight between a gladiator and a legionary, and the site of a chariot delivering the legionary to the fight. Then the M.C.,…

  • books,  history

    Learning about medieval religious plays and poems

    Yesterday I finished reading the book A Little Lower Than the Angels by Geraldine McCaughrean. It is a great historical fiction novel, set in Britain during the middle ages and one of the wonderful things about it is that it isn’t about knights and castles. Instead its about a stone-mason’s apprentice, Gabriel, who runs away with a group of travelling mystery players. Gabriel enjoys the care given to him by Garvey, the playmaster who plays God, but he’s a little nervous around the Frenchman Lucier, who plays Lucifer. When they run into some trouble Garvey decides to turn Gabriel into a faux miracle worker and tensions mount. Gabriel is innocent…

  • books,  history,  homeschooling

    great children’s books for exploring the 19th Century

    The 19th century was an amazing century of industrialization, railways and colonization. The Napoleonic wars, Crimean war, opium wars, the American civil war were just a few of the wars fought during the century. Beethoven was composing his symphonies. Railways were transforming travel, trade and many other things. My appreciation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days grows as I learn to recognize how new and exciting the ability to travel far distances by rail was. My appreciation of feminism grows as I read about the nineteen century woman’s struggle to break free of the limits placed on her, but it helps too in recognizing the limits of…

  • books,  history,  homeschooling

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti

    While reading about Christina Rossetti, I couldn’t help becoming interested in the story of her brother Dante too. Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a member of a group that jokingly referred to themselves as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, signing PRB after their names. He was the older brother of Christina Rossetti. Named Gabriel, he choose to add the name Dante, as the Italian poet was an important part of upbringing – each of the four Rossetti siblings published something about Dante at some point in their lives. Dante fell in love with one of his models, a working class woman named Elizabeth Siddal, but continued to put off marriage to her for…

  • books,  history

    Christina Rossetti – philosophical questions within her poetry & life

     This is a follow-up post to the my previous post about lesson ideas based on Christina Rossetti. These are the deeper topics I found while reading about Christina, and I felt the deserved a separate page rather than be mixed in with the previous posts ideas. These are things I’ve been discussing and will continue to discuss with my children, and they are questions I wonder about in my every day life. Feminism Christina Rossetti lived during a time when politicians were concerned about the number of single women (according to William Rathbone Greg in 1851 only 57% of women over 20 were married, 12% were widows and 30% spinsters).…

  • history,  politics,  religion

    Inside the mall or outside: thoughts on the allegiance to capitalism.

    It was bitterly cold today but I joined with others in handing out candy canes and holiday themed postcards in support of the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Ontario. There were six others from my anti-poverty group and we took turns warming up inside the mall and standing outside fumbling with our gloves trying to give things out. I did the interview with CTV. We gave out about a 100 candy canes and had some supportive feedback yet with weather this cold no one wants to stand and talk. Inside the mall feels like such a different world. The food court was packed.  The security guards were lingering and…

  • books,  history

    Racing the Moon, gifted children and Nestbeschmutzer

    The book: Racing the Moon The book I’m currently reading to my children is called Racing the Moon by Alan Armstrong. Set in 1947 the book is wonderfully sophisticated. The main story is of a brother and sister, Alex and Chuck. Alex is 11 and idealizes Ameilia Earheart. Chuck is 17 and, booted out of college, drifting with a bit of a suicidial wreckless streak. They befriend an army scientist Captian Ebbs. Captain Ebbs is working on food for the space program, so she’s a natural fit with the two space obsessed youngsters and can help guide them. Other threads to the story is the story of Captian John Smith and the Nazi-turned-American…

  • books,  history,  homeschooling

    Homeschooling Resources for learning about the Norman Conquest

    Recently we’ve been learning about the Norman conquest of England. The kids had a vague memory of hearing about it from our earlier approaches to history, and I reminded them of it by showing them again the animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry we watched earlier: (This post contains a few affiliate links to Amazon. Some of the books are older and hard to find, but check your local library and used bookstores first.) Then we turned to reading The Striped Ships by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. McGraw’s book is written for an older audience and I’m pretty sure my children missed noticing some of the beautiful complexity of it, but…

  • history,  homeschooling

    Henry Hudson, 17th Century Navigation and my homeschooling children

    I’ve been reading Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World and God’s Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal and the Dream of Discovery, both by Douglas Hunter, and while this is my interest not the children’s, I wanted to share parts of it with them. Without planning ahead, but just exploring different details as we go along, we came up with the following little “unit study.” Learning about 17th century navigational techniques seemed like a logical first step. We’ve learned before how to use an astrolabe, and now we learn that Henry Hudson used an older cross staff despite the invention of a more accurate…