Material World

Material World: A Global Family Portrait is an excellent book for sort of a general social studies unit. It explores daily life for an average family from each of 30 countries. Our daughter was just fascinated with the book. One Amazon reviewer mentioned that they used it for their college level course, but it’s more of a coffee table photo book, not a dry textbook.

Five of the family photos are available on the PBS Nova website. Nova’s World in the Balance: The Population Paradox show covers some of the same material but is more concerned with population growth.

DK has a similar book, A Life Like Mine, which is completely focused on the daily life of kids around the world. Our daughter has also read that book repeatedly. One Amazon reviewer did warn that, since it’s produced with UNICEF, it does emphasize the importance of vaccinations and school, which wasn’t acceptable to her. That’s not much of a concern for us, but it is for some home schoolers.


Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do

Earlier this year I blogged about Gever Tulley’s TED talk on Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do. He really touches on six things though: play with fire, have a pocket knife, throw a spear, take apart appliances, break the DMCA, and drive a car.

We’ve not yet let either of our kids do any of these. Breaking the DMCA is the only one I disagree with and we (or at least I) intend to have the kids do most of these eventually.

I also made my own list of semi-dangerous things we have already done with our kids. Ann’s really not too happy that I let the kids eat berries from the woods.


Blink card game

Last year I blogged about the card game Blink. It’s been an awesome game to play with both of our kids (8 and 4). There’s no reading required, so the 4 year old plays fine. I just deal him a somewhat smaller pile until he legitimately wins his fair share of games. We’ve gotten a lot of set theory / matching exercise out of a little $5 card game that’s sold in every Walmart and Target.


Book introductions from the NIV Study Bible

The International Bible Society now has the book introductions from the NIV Study Bible available online. The introductions give the background and an outline for each book of the Bible. That can help understand who the author was, their intended audience, and time frame of each book. Note that most Bible study sources, including the NIV Study Bible, disagree with each other on some points, but this is a decent resource to start with.


Planarity Insanity

Do you get excited when your yo-yo gets tangled? Does your heart leap at the opportunity to rewind a gnarly skein of yarn? Planarity by John Tantalo just might be your dream come true! This incredible game is a great supplement to the study of planar graphs. The object of the game is to “untangle” the nonplanar graph by clicking and dragging the vertices around the playing area.The example here is the opening of a level 15 nonplanar graph. My husband and I are very competitive with this game. We have both gone far into the 20s, and probably will not continue because time is a real factor when you get to the really difficult levels. When you check this out, post a comment with your top level and time! Enjoy!


The Fantastic Contraption

Fantastic Contraption screenshotOne of our family’s favorite pastimes is solving puzzles and Fantastic Contraption captivated us from the beginning.

The goal of the game is to move a given object into the goal, a designated box. The object starts in a workspace where you build your contraption.

There are just so many different possible solutions that we’ve had great fun comparing ours. It is very important not to look ahead. After you’ve solved a puzzle, you will have the opportunity to view many different solutions from other users and rate them! This is much less frustrating than working the problems, and has proven to be quite humbling.

This is a great experiential site if you’ve been working with building Lego machines and although this is a completely 2-D activity, much can be learned about the gears, force, gravity, tension, friction, structure, and creative problem solving.

This game is addictive. Consider yourself warned.


Free astronomy lessons

This site has an excellent interactive slideshow that teachs you to recognize the basic star constellations and navigate by the night sky.

Once you master those basic landmarks, has full printable star charts.


Library Elf

We’ve become big users of Library Elf, a web site that can monitor our whole family’s activity at our local library. Now we get text messages and emails whenever books are about to become overdue or a book that we held is now available. It also collects all of the library cards for the whole family in one place. There’s even an RSS feed of the activity. It’s saved us some time and a lot of library fines.