Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

It's been weeks since I've done a Weekly Wrap-up. I've been in one of those months in which every minute seems to be eaten up by some kind of deadline.

But I'm breathing now, catching up on all the things I've let slide. For the past few weeks we've been studying the 1920s and 30s. We had one movie blitz week, in which we watched: Sergeant York, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, The Journey of Natty Gann, and also Cheaper by the Dozen (the 1950 one). We read Cheaper by the Dozen a couple of months ago but I waited forever for the movie come back in at the library. Ultimately, I ended up buying it as well as the sequel, Belles on Their Toes, which we haven't watched yet.

Sergeant York, which is the story of a poor farm boy from Tennessee who becomes a WWI hero, was phenomenal. This is a must-see for studying World War 1. We are going to try to work out a field trip to his home in Pall Mall, TN. It's about 2 hours from here, so we'll see what else we can do in that neck of the woods. We all absolutely loved this movie!

We've seen Kit Kittredge before but it was well worth watching again as we studied the Great Depression. Laurel took a whole 10-week American Girl history class that focused on Kit, but that was a couple of years ago. This was a great refresher. The movie really hits on a lot of Depression-era topics and is definitely one that appeals to kids and adults alike.

The Journey of Natty Gann tells the story of a Chicago girl (maybe 13 or 14) who decides to ride the rails to find her father, who took a job in Washington State and promised to send for her. This also provided a fantastic picture of a different aspect of the Depression. It was definitely darker and rougher than Kit Kittredge. There was some pretty rough language, which surprised me for a PG-rated Disney flick. But the whole focus on riding the rails, hobo camps, and the hobo's life was excellent.

We finished reading the American Adventures novel The Great Depression. As always in this series, the dialogue isn't great and the writing is formulaic and often cheesy, but the history itself is fantastic. My kids really like these books, and I try to keep my own opinion as an avid reader and writer out of my voice.

We've also been reading about the Depression from Landmark History of the American People and Usborne's World History, but the very best history lessons my kids had through all of this was their own grandparents and great-uncle. My uncle was visiting last week, and one afternoon the kids and I went over to my parents' house and said, "Please tell us about your memories of the Great Depression."
We spent over an hour listening to their stories. My mother and my uncle (that's them in the photo above) were city kids, and they told how their folks lost their house and moved into the apartment above their store, and how they'd see the breadlines and recognizing people they knew. My uncle talked about the hobo jungles on the other side of the tracks and how they wouldn't go down there. My dad (in the checked shirt), who grew up on a farm 10 miles away, said that the Depression really didn't affect them much. They were poor anyway and lived off the land. They had all the fruit and meat they wanted.

My parents often talk about "old times" around the supper table, but it was great for my kids (and me) to ask specific questions based on what we've been studying and to understand that they have the privilege of really knowing—and being known by—these precious people of "the greatest generation."

In other school-related news, our weekly Monday co-op classes are now finished until September! We're always happy when the year comes to end, although we enjoy it all while we're in the midst of it. I still have 3 weeks left of the World Lit/geography class that I teach on Fridays. With Monday Fun being over, we can make more progress toward "finishing," a term I use lightly and somewhat ironically. We are now reading up on World War II, starting with The Winged Watchman. Laurel has already spent 10 weeks reading about various experiences in WW2 during our first literature circle class last fall, so we aren't going to spend a huge amount of time on this time period. Of course, we also have my Dad for first-person narratives on the war.

I'll be looking for PG-rated movies to watch for my kids, so I'd welcome any suggestions!

Ah yes, one more thing. I had one of "those" encounters this week, but it all turned out OK. A woman I've recently met and learned to really enjoy and I had a conversation about homeschooling. She said that she had been a librarian in a small town out west and that all these homeschoolers would come in to check out books, and the moms had no business homeschooling--that they couldn't read or speak correctly, etc. etc. So I was able to talk to her about stereotyping and about how there certainly are undereducated (and/or ignorant) people who are homeschooling their kids; but that this segment represents only a small--but unfortunately media-attractive— portion of homeschoolers. Homeschoolers in this area, I emphasized, are largely (but not entirely, for sure) well-educated parents who, in fact, refuse to put their kids in a mediocre public school system. After all, I told her, our state historically ranks in the bottom 3-4 states in its public school scores over all. She conceded that, in fact, she would never put her kids in public schools had they raised them here. (Her kids are grown.) We talked about the large percentage of former public school teachers in our support group who are now homeschooling their kids. Anyway, I share that because I have a tendency to either get defensive in the face of comments like this or, more likely, to let the comment slide on by. But we ended up having a great discussion. She did assure me that I was an OK homeschooler. ;-)

Linked up at Weekly Wrap-up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.


  1. So glad to hear you're getting back to the "norm"...

    I LOVE "The Journey of Natty Gann"! It brings back memories for me from my childhood...Going to the local video store, (local, mind you, not a Blockbuster)getting to pick out a movie from the "Disney" section, and grabbing a Little Ceasar's pizza for supper. I still remember the smell of that video place- stale cigarettes, popcorn, and vinyl...

  2. Hello! I found you on the Weekly Wrap Up and saw you were looking for suggestions for movies for your WWII unit. I don't know if you're including the Holocaust in your study but one of my favorite movies for younger kids about the holocaust is The Devil's Arithmetic.

    It's based on the novel by the same name and it stars Kirsten Dunst. My video doesn't show a rating on it because it was a made for TV movie in 1999 before they started all the ratings stuff for TV. You kind info about it here at IMDb. The link is

    If you decide to use it you'll probably want to watch it first, but I've found it to be pretty good, and easy for children to understand. (It's definitely not Schindler's List!!!)

    I hope that helps. Enjoy your unit. WWII is one of my passions and I can't wait til my kids are old enough (right now they're 5, 3 and 9 months...a little too young!!!!)

  3. We like This is the Army- it's a musical with Ronald Reagan starring about the Army Relief shows they put on in WWI and WWII. Also, we got a War Movie pack a long time ago with a movie called Go For Broke with Van Johnson about the Japanese American Unit 442. I have both of these if you would like to borrow them. We love old movies and our kids love This is the Army, even ask to watch it for their movie night.

  4. Welcome back! We're working on the Great Depression too. My son is reading Nothing to Fear by Jackie Koller and enjoying it.

  5. What an interesting homeschool discussion. :-)

    We loved the Kit Kittredge movie, and The Journey of Natty Gann is one of my long time favorites. I showed it to the kids a few months ago, and I didn't remember all the language, bu it was really a good movie about the depression.

  6. how neat for you & your kids to be able to do personal interviews with family members about the great depression! that just goes so far beyond mere academics (but you already knew that). my kids interviewed my parents a couple months ago about life in the 50's & 60's & about the jfk assassination.

    we spent last fall (yes, nearly all of it!) studying ww2 & the holocaust. we watched "the sound of music" (which is only loosely about ww2, but fun), a holocaust documentary about the kindertransport (which i found more fascinating than did my kids), and "the hiding place" (which gave my 11-y/o nightmares). we did better in the audiobook dept-- in addition to the excellent "the winged watchman", we listened to "enemy brothers" (so-so) and "when my name was keoko". this was my 2nd time through the latter, and i HIGHLY recommend the latter, in either book or audiobook form. the reason i like it so much is that it sheds light on an aspect of the war that is not generally covered, and that is the japanese occupation of korea.

    i've missed your weekly wrap-ups. perhaps tomorrow i will be able to motivate myself to do mine.

    (ps- thanks for the email re cabins; i might answer that tomorrow, too. :-)

  7. That was a good conversation to have. Gave you the opportunity to present a different side of homeschooling to that lady. Have a good week!

  8. That is so great that the kids could ask family members about the Great Depression. It's so neat to learn about how it actually affected your family members instead of just the general population. It makes it more real.
    I also remember watching "The Journey of Natty Gann" as a kid. Haven't seen it in years and years!

  9. I'm sure you probably already know, but there is an American Girl movie about WWII also - it is Molly's movie. I can't remember the exact title. My girls love it, although I think it's a little corny (like all the other AG movies and books).

  10. I can not believe the librarian only thinks you are OK - I come to your site weekly to read your post and you are very smart! I have my BA in accounting and consider you very very smart! Why do people always think homeschoolers are not smart. Even IF they are not college educated, MOST want their children to excell, schools are NOT doing this!
    I enjoy reading what you are doing with your children and I get great ideas from you - being this is coming to the end of our 1st year of US history (next year will do from birth of nation to current), so I always see what you read on the subject. I am a vast reader but you outdo me!
    Thanks for your blog IT is Great! Tina

  11. That picture of Max and Mom was great. I would love to have heard the stories. I was trying to get Max to tell me stories of his Grandfather, who he never knew, John Thomas, and I got a little out of him. He didn't really know much. I really don't think the term "greatest generation" is a good one. As much as I admire my folks, etc. I honestly think there were far greater generations in American history, particularly the earliest Pilgrim/Puritan generation which literally set the tone for the new nation to come with the understandings of William Bradford and Governor Winthrop's "city on a hill" influencing the country for hundreds of years. As that truly greatest generation fades from memory so does America's glory.

    As to Sargent York, that, and several other Cooper movies I think are some of the BEST ever made. Gary Cooper was absolutely superb as an actor and York was just one of the most beautiful stories and he was Tennessean of course.

  12. You said concerning the "librarian" (I mean how good of a librarian was she? was she qualified?)

    "So I was able to talk to her about stereotyping and about how there certainly are undereducated (and/or ignorant) people who are homeschooling their kids; but that this segment represents only a small--but unfortunately media-attractive— portion of homeschoolers."

    My thoughts are nearly the opposite in thinking that there are loads and loads of IGNORANT, unqualified "teachers" in the state skrool system that constantly put out idiotic, robotic, brain-washed automatons that I would hope would NEVER, ever vote in any election. I would point out to the librarian the "quality" of the governmental schools....and question the SANITY of anyone placing their kids in those asylums run by lunatics.

    THERE I feel better!

  13. For your WWI studies, you may want to read "All quiet on the Western front" or watch the movie (the older one). I wouldn't recommend it for the young ones since it's quite realistic (written by Erich Maria Remarque, a German). It's actually an anti-war book/movie; very moving. The first time I read the book when I was 16 and to this date it has remained one of my favorite ones.


  14. Forgot to add to my previous post that "All quiet on the Western Front" is based on the author's actual experiences (French-German border) and was published between WWI and WWII; during WWII it was prohibited in Germany due to its anti-war/realistic content.



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