Bookworm Fridays: Robot Wars

Robot Wars @ Three CorneredRobot Wars @ Three Cornered Hug

Robot Wars, by Sigmund Brouwer, is for the high-tech, space-age, future-loving young person. Set in the future, 14-year old Tyce lives in an experimental colony on Mars. This series has almost everything you can think of: futuristic gadgets including a robot army, strange experimental animals, space-age flying dog-fights, conspiracy theories revolving around the government agencies back on Earth, bad guys, and scenarios that cause one to consider faith and family.

It would take me a coon’s age (something I learned in Kentucky!) to tell you about every book, so you should head on over to Amazon to read the story lines and reviews. **Please note: this series was originally published as The Mars Diaries, a 10 book series. Now as Robot Wars, there are 5 books with 2 stories in each.

I want to add a disclaimer here. There is some material that is pretty heavy in this series, after you get past the first book. However, in my view, and considering what I see out there in the “teen” section at the libraries, it may be considered very mild to some. The author is obviously a Christian, and he handled things very well while still adding elements of danger and science fiction. Yet, as always I recommend that you look through these books first.

If you have a boy, you NEED this! DYI PVC Building Set

PVC Building Set @ Three Cornered Hug

A seemingly simple idea has provided us with a lot of fun–especially during the winter months when we need active indoor ideas.

We first saw a set like this at a kid’s museum (Cincinnati maybe?), and my son and husband spent forever lingering at station. When I got home, I thought–how expensive could that be? Well as it turns out, some of the little connectors add up, but overall, this is a good deal when you consider the cost of Legos and other building sets for kids. In addition we’ve been able to use this in so many more ways!

So, the set up is basic. We bought several long lengths of PVC pipe from Lowe’s and cut them down to 1′ lengths. We did this the hard way (with a hand saw), but a friend who borrowed the idea had her handyman husband cut them with an electric saw, which was much more accurate and faster. If you do this, I suggest you find a friend with a good saw.

Then, we basically bought every kind of connector we could find. AND THAT’S IT! See? I told you it was simple!

The amazing thing is all the different ways your kids will find to use these. You can make a structure which you can throw a blanket over for a fort, you can get a hose attachment and use them outside for a wacky sprinkler, I have seen kids make letters with them–the possibilities are endless! (If you blow into them just right they make a weird sound, too- like a sheep’s horn!)

So, what are you waiting for? Run out and get some! You won’t be sorry! (Unless you don’t warn your kids ahead of time about using these as swords)

“You Wouldn’t Want To…” :a Recommended Resource for History

History Resources @ Three Cornered HugIf I haven’t already mentioned it, history was not my favorite subject in school. In fact, I would have rather taken “Watching Paint Dry 101”.

Now, as a homeschooling mom, my view is quite different. We both look forward to our history lessons. I believe this is due in large part to the way we’ve approached history–as a story. A fascinating story.

We have a timeline in our basement consisting of about 20 pieces of poster board. We’ve been studying history from Mesopotamia on, pasting little facts in the appropriate time slots.

While we’ve used many resources to do this, such as Story of the World, and various works of historical fiction, one of our favorite and most informative sources is a series of books whose titles all begin with “You Wouldn’t Want To…”  These silly books give you information from Sumerian times to the more recent American History events in a memorable way.

Amazingly, the amount and type of information given in these books means that they’re real competitors in the non-fiction genre. For instance, when we were studying Ancient Egypt, I picked up You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Egyptian Mummy! and a couple other from that series, along with some more “serious” works. To my surprise, the former contained almost all of the same facts as the latter–and in better format! The comedic presentation makes for an interesting read that will stick in the minds of youngsters–especially boys!

You can find these books on Amazon, but check your library first. In my experience, most libraries carry at least some of this series.

Here is a complete list of what’s available that I found at
http://teachwithpicturebooks.blogspot.com/2009/05/you-wouldnt-want-to.html

***Please note that although I do appreciate this series as a whole, all of these books don’t necessarily represent our views. Use your best discretion, as usual.

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Mammoth Hunter!(c. 10,000BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Sumerian Slave (c. 5000-2000BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be An Egyptian Mummy! (c. 3000BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Pyramid Builder! (c. 2500BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be An Assyrian Soldier (c. 2000-600BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Slave In Ancient Greece! (c. 1100 – 150BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Work On The Great Wall of China! (500-200BC)
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Roman Soldier!(400BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be In Alexander The Great’s Army! (336-323BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Roman Gladiator! (c. 260BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be Cleopatra (69-30BC)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Viking Explorer! (c. 1000)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Crusader! (1095-1099)
You Wouldn’t Want To Live In A Medieval Castle! (c. 1200s?)
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Medieval Knight!(c. 1200s?)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be In A Medieval Dungeon! (c. 1200s?)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be In The Forbidden City! (built 1406-1420)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be Married To Henry VIII! (1491 – 1547)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be Ill In The 16th Century/ Tudor Times! (1500s)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be Mary, Queen Of Scots! (1542-1587)
You Wouldn’t Want To Sail In The Spanish Armada! (1588)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Pirate’s Prisoner! (1660s?)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be An 18th-Century British Convict!
You Wouldn’t Want To Travel With Captain Cook! (1760s)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be An Aristocrat In The French
Revolution! (1789-1799)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A 19th-Century Coal Miner in England!
You Wouldn’t Want To Sail On An Irish Famine Ship! (19th Century)
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Suffragist!(19th Century)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Victorian Schoolchild! (1880s)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Victorian Miner! (1880s)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Victorian Servant! (1880s)
You Wouldn’t Want to Be A Victorian Mill Worker! (1880s)
You Wouldn’t Want To Live In Pompeii! (AD79)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Mayan Soothsayer! (AD250-900)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be An Aztec Sacrifice! (c. 1200s)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be An Inca Mummy! (c. 1450)
You Wouldn’t Want to Sail With Christopher Columbus!(1492)
You Wouldn’t Want to Explore With Sir Francis Drake! (1570s)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be An American Colonist! (1585)
You Wouldn’t Want To Sail On The Mayflower! (1620)
You Wouldn’t Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party!(1773)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be An American Pioneer (18th Century)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be In The First Submarine! (19th Century)
You Wouldn’t Want Sail On A 19th-Century Whaling Ship!
You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Civil War Soldier!(1861-1865)
You Wouldn’t Want To Work On The Railroads! (1860s)
You Wouldn’t Want To Live In A Wild West Town!
(c. mid 19th Century)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Worker On The Statue
Of Liberty! (1876-1886)
You Wouldn’t Want to Sail on the Titanic!(April 1912)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Polar Explorer!
(Ernest Shackleton: 1914-1917)
You Wouldn’t Want To Be On Apollo 13! (April 1970)

A Boy, a Bike, and a Bribe: Father Knows Best?

Photo Credit: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Photo Credit: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Sweat was running down my…everything. I panted in the hot sun as I ran alongside my son’s bicycle, holding on to the handlebars and seat. As I labored, little Mr. Car Lover, was smiling and looking around from his perch on the bicycle seat, chanting out the names of the different vehicles he saw. “Cadillac Escalade, Honda CR-V, Buick Rendezvous…” I looked down–

HE WASN’T EVEN PEDALING!!!

Argh! Here was my almost 7 year old child, still with training wheels, and no ambition to attempt a two-wheeler. Usually, I believe in letting kids go at their own pace, but there were three problems with this.

1. He was about to need a bigger bike, he was out growing his current model.
2. I was imagining how much harder it would be to run alongside a teenager’s bike.
3. It just seems to me that riding a bike falls into that category of “Things you’re expected to know”.
4. (Who’s counting?) My pride might have played a smallish part.

When his Dad came home one evening, I expressed my frustrations with the whole thing, and so he took matters into his hands. That weekend, he took our son out front and marched back in triumphantly about 20 minutes later, announcing that said son had ridden to the end of the block by himself! “HOW DID YOU MANAGE THAT!?”, I asked incredulously. “Offered him $20 bucks if he could get to the end of the street.”

I was crazed! Not only am I wholly against bribing kids, but he was able to do something I had utterly failed at! And the child wasn’t even very interested in money!

Just the other day, I was reminded of this story which is why I’m telling it now. Looking back, I’d say it’s a good example of the fact that a father’s methods, however different, are not necessarily wrong. In fact, they may be just the thing your child needs. However, I do want to mention that, however effective this was, it’s not something we’ve adopted as a regular practice. 🙂

Boys & Writing

Boys & Writing @Three Cornered Hug

“Boys just struggle more with writing. In fact I wouldn’t even try to put a pencil in a boy’s hand til he was 6, or maybe even older.”

This came from my grandmother, who was a retired teacher. The statement shocked me, but I took her word for it. There was nothing about kids that she didn’t understand.

For the next two months, when I did schoolwork with my reluctant writer, he told me the answers and I wrote. This way, frustration with lack of fine motor skills disappeared, and he zoomed ahead. One day, he asked me, “How come you never let me write anymore?” Boy, was I thrilled! “You can write…want to?” The rest is history. Well, sort of. We still have to do what we can to avoid
“Male Writing Fatigue Syndrome”.

After years of experience in this area, I thought I would share some of the things we’ve done to work around this very common problem.

For younger kids:

  • First of all chill out!
  • Find dotted fonts and print out pages with words based on a child’s favorite subject. For instance: my son has loved cars for years, so we printed out pages with car names on them. We would talk about the cars as he traced the dots. For your child, you may use the names of the engines on Thomas, or Spiderman related things. Even if he can’t read them all yet, he’ll like it if you tell him what it says.

Here are some fonts you might choose from:

KG Primary Dots (dafont.com)
Dotness (dafont.com)
LL Dot (dafont.com)
BP Dots (found at Font Squirrel)

  • When my son was little, his grandma got him a doodle toy very similar to this. I would say a glow writing app on an ipad would do a similar job if you have one.
  • Get a dry erase marker and let him write on your mirror.
  • Oddly enough, sometimes just an interesting type of paper may spark interest. A friend of ours worked at a printing company, and gave us a whole box of different papers. Some were just thick like index card stock, and some had textures or were colored. This really sparked an interest in writing and drawing at our house.
  • If you are a homeschooling mom, one of the biggest advantages you may have is the time and ability to do schoolwork one on one with your child. While you need to make sure that he can form letters, and learn proper punctuation as he gets older, do as much work as you can orally. This may mean, for instance, writing only during Spelling and English, and answering questions for science and other subjects orally.

For older kids:

  • The advice directly above still applies. We write out in nice proper sentences with properly formed letters for some subjects. For others we may do the work orally or even use a dictation app or something similar to get words down quickly and efficiently and then print them out.
  • IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) is a wonderful writing curriculum for boys. Very engaging. We have changed it up a little, however. If the paper is written right with all the proper elements the first time, there’s no need to write several drafts.
  • If your child has other interests you may be able to incorporate writing with those. For instance, my son loves to draw up his own maps (hello Tolkien!) and although he may write sloppy at other times, I notice that he’s very careful to write the names on the maps nicely. Same for drawing comics, or names on concept car and plane plans. I’ve been amazed at the beautiful writing he applies to these, and try to encourage it!

Hopefully, this will be enough to get started. If you have any other ideas- please submit to comments.

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Bookworm Friday: No Place Like Holmes

No Place Like HolmesSomeone’s in the shadows, observing, his pipe glowing in the darkness. Who could it be but Sherlock himself?

No Place Like Holmes is another stand-out from all of the material we’ve read. If you liked Sherlock mysteries as a child (or even if you didn’t!), you’ll most certainly want to try it out.

This book follows a young boy, Griffin, who is going to stay with his Uncle at 221 Baker Street. When he discovers that it’s the address of Sherlock Holmes, he assumes that his uncle is the Master of Mysteries himself! When he arrives, however, he finds that his uncle lives at 221A not 221B–next door to Mr. Holmes. Nevertheless, his inventor uncle thinks himself a detective as well, and with Griffin’s sharp skills of observation, mystery and adventure ensues. Sherlock himself is woven throughout this story as well.

While I’ll admit that this book is a little bent towards boys, I thoroughly enjoyed it myself. Find it here.

Beat Summer Boredom: Printable Paper Planes

Printable Airplane & Helicopter PatternsSome years ago, I found this great site for printing out plane and “helicopter” templates. I’ve found that they never, never cease to amaze kids. The planes have varying degrees of difficulty, but the helicopters are so simple, it’s ridiculous, and they’ll keep kids busy for EVER- especially boys. And just a warning: if you make a boy one of these copters, he’ll want you to make more. Many more. You can make them fly just by throwing them up, but if you’re a cool mom you’ll let the kids stand on a chair.

*note: you’ll need a paper clip for each little helicopter.

Find the templates here.