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Under an Elm Tree

Family, Travel, Homeschool, Food

Weekend in the Country from the DC/Baltimore area for couples. 

Welcome to Berkeley Springs, the Nation’s oldest spa town.  Berkeley is about 100 miles from DC or Baltimore, MD, which makes it a nice weekend escape to the country.  There are more spas here than stoplights. So,  when they say “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” you can’t really disagree.  This is a great place for a romantic weekend.

Where to Stay:  The Country Inn and Spa  is a gem. Rooms are beautiful.  It’s run by a local family.  Be sure to have drinks in the garden after dark.  It’s lit with twinkling lights,  the flowers are lovely,  and it’s very romantic.

Where to eat:

For breakfast,  consider Black Dog Coffee for pastries and java. The best lunch spot is Tari’s Cafe .  The crab cakes are great here.  For dinner,  make reservations at Lot 12 Public House. Damien is a James Beard chef. This is a great restaurant to celebrate a special occasion.  The decor is simple and the food is extravagantly good. The menu is locally sourced and very impressive.

Things to do:

Play eighteen holes of golf at Cacapon State Park. After finishing your round,  drive to the overlook here in the park for breathtaking views. This is where my husband proposed. I know another couple who did wedding photographs here. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Enjoy the warm natural springs at the Roman Bath House at Berkeley Springs State Park. Then, have massages at Atasia Spa. There are lots of options for a spa appointment in this town.  But,  I like Atasia the best.

Browse the shops.  There are lots of little boutiques in town.  Books,  herbs,  handmade jewelry,  and lots of antiques can be found here. There’s funky new age shops, a music store, fair trade goods from around the globe, and even a cat café.

Check out the Ice House. Run by the Morgan Arts Council, this gallery has a variety of artwork on display.  Exhibits change regularly. There’s a quilt exhibit every year.  Also,  they celebrate Youth Art Month every Spring. It’s a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. They also do theater productions and host storytellers here occasionally. Morgan Arts Council also sponsors concerts in the park every weekend of the summer. There is always a wide variety of music genres represented.

This small town is a beautiful, friendly place to relax for a couple days with your sweetheart.

A Weekend at Lake Gaston

We decided to spend a long weekend at Lake Gaston.  Gaston is a huge reservoir with over three hundred miles of shoreline. It saddles the Virginia/North Carolina border. Fisherman flock here for catfish, bass,  and walleye. Families enjoy cruising around in pontoon boats. Often, you’ll see inflatable tubes trailing behind them.  Wakeboarders, jet skis, and bass boats navigate the main lake. But,  in the quieter coves, you’ll find paddle boards,  kayaks,  sunbathers enjoying the decks of boathouses. The towns around the Lake aren’t much to write home about.  People generally spend their days on the water and their evenings on their porches.  Giant homes line the shore,  each with their own covered boat dock.  

Lake life is low-key and slower paced.  We arrived late Friday night and woke up to a sunny crowded Saturday for Memorial Day weekend.  We were sharing the lake house with my parents for the holiday. The morning was spent playing Uno and fishing for whatever would bite.  We ordered great pizza from Lake Gaston Pizza, they make homemade crust,  are generous with the cheese,  and very friendly.  

The rest of the day, my kids enjoyed finding toads and lizards around the house,  swimming around the dock,  and making S’mores in the fire pit. Then,  we snuggled and watched movies and read magazines until everyone was nodding off. 

My little boy loves it on the lake,  he’s up bright and early getting slathered in sunblock.  With a baggie of pancakes in one hand and a fishing pole in the other,  he heads out with his daddy in the morning to try out every lure in his tackle box. At night, as the sun is setting,  he’s bobbing around the dock in his red life jacket, happy as a lark.  

Sunday,  we cruised around the lake, stopped for bait and candy bars at Holly Grove Marina, and fished for a while before heading back to the house for steaks on the grill and canasta.  Holly Grove also has a deli and they rent out pontoon boats by the day or week.

You can rent a home on the water or there are campgrounds.  Rental houses vary but often include kayaks, paddle boards,  or various types of boats.  This campground has a pool,  playground,  and mini golf. This campground does too.  But,  it also offers cabins. 

Lake Gaston is a great place to unplug and just relax. Bring along monopoly,  a swimsuit,  or a good book. Prop your feet up and enjoy the sunsets on the water.  Enjoy “Lake Life” at Gaston. 

 

The Strangest State Park You’ll Ever Visit

This is not a typical state park.  Sure,  there are nature trails,  there are fields for team sports,  there’s even a stretch of beach and a nature center.  But,  how many state parks have you been to with 16 inch guns,  underground bunkers,  and casings from floating bombs? Welcome to Fort Miles, a retired military installation/now state park in Cape Henolopen, DE. We recently visited this gem and had a great time. We took a tour of Battery 519 which is a massive underground lair built to carry out covert missions against the threat of ships and submarines on our coastlines during WWII.  This base was established to protect the waterway leading to Philadelphia, a hub for war supply manufacturing. 

What I initially thought were old lighthouses, turned out to be observation towers where soldiers would keep watch for enemy ships. 

They offer some really neat views of the area and I was fascinated to read about the history here.

The above picture shows the spiral staircase leading up to the observation deck.

I was concerned that my kids would be bored on the battery tour but,  my son loved it. He wanted to see every gun on base.  There were several “This is awesome!” remarks and there were no complaints from my little girl either. 

The base is a restoration work-in-progress.  Park staff are slowly putting things back to the way they would have appeared during war time.  The shear size of the underground bunker is impressive.

The variety of artifacts on display are genuinely interesting and our tour guide was beyond knowledgeable. 

My son nicknamed this ominous looking contraption a “boom boom buoy”. It’s essentially a floating bomb.  

This bomb was anchored to the ocean floor. We learned how the bombs could be harmless to commercial fishing boats that moved freely through the area but, deadly to enemy ships.  Also,  we learned about the recovery process after the war was over and how the area was cleared of this aquatic minefield.

It’s staggering to think of the accuracy and timing that could be achieved with the very basic tools the soldiers had at their disposal. 

There are special events scheduled throughout the year including renactments. 

The park also has a small nature center with touch tanks,  there were ultimate Frisbee matches going on while we were there,  and a group was doing a beach clean up among surf fisherman. Overall,  this was a lively park with lots to do.  There are hiking trails as well.  

We had a great time.  If you are looking for something a little different to do on your beach trip, besides boardwalk fries and miniature golf, check out Fort Miles at Cape Henelopen, DE. And,  if you want both-try Thrashers Fries and Shell We Golf in Rehoboth 😉 

State Park info

Fort Miles info
mini golf info

boardwalk fries

A Weekend in Delaware State Parks: Delaware Seashore State Park

We just spent a couple nights in Delaware. It was a much-needed relaxing escape. We stayed in Delaware Seashore State Park. We rented a cottage at the Indian River Marina.

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The cottages are a really nice option for families who aren’t interested in camping. Or, in our case, the weather is not cooperating. Each cottage has two units that are connected by a breezeway. Each unit includes two downstairs bedrooms and a loft bedroom, living room with a gas fireplace, kitchen, bathroom, and a screened-in patio.

20170422_065015They have a nice view of the water. We also had a glimpse of the Charles W. Cullen Bridge from our loft. It is so pretty lit up at night with blue lights.

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There is a marina in this state park that will accommodate large fishing boats. There’s a large stretch of beach, a fishing jetty, and campsites for RVs, campers, and tents.

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The beach here is lovely. We spotted a baby sea turtle, seashells, and remnants of horseshoe crabs. We flew a kite, enjoyed a stroll, and buried our feet in the sand. It was cold and drizzly the weekend we visited. But, we didn’t let that keep us from having a good time. Delaware Seashore State Park is beautiful. I loved waking up to salty breezes and sand outside my door.

These are the rates for the cottages:

Cottages at Indian River Marina Winter Spring & Fall Summer Peak
Summer
Weekends $300 $550 $600 $700
Weekday – per night
(2-night minimum)
$100 $125 $150 $175
Full Week (7-night stay) $850 $  1,250 $  1,750 $1,900

If camping is more your taste…

Full Hook-Up Sites Winter Spring & Fall Summer Peak
Summer
Weekends Resident $35 $40 $42 $45
Non-Resident $35 $45 $47 $50
Weekdays Resident $30 $35 $40 $45
Non-Resident $30 $40 $45 $50
No Hook-Up Sites Winter Spring & Fall Summer Peak
Summer
Weekends Resident $30 $30 $35 $40
Non-Resident $30 $35 $40 $45
Weekdays Resident $25 $25 $30 $35
Non-Resident $25 $30 $35 $40
Tent Only Sites Winter Spring & Fall Summer Peak
Summer
Weekends Resident $25 $30 $30 $35
Non-Resident $25 $35 $35 $40
Weekdays Resident $20 $20 $25 $30
Non-Resident $20 $25 $30

For more info call 1-877-98-PARKS or click here.

Philadelphia History Weekend-Independence Hall

We just came home from a very quick roadtrip to Philadelphia,  PA. Philly is a history lover’s paradise.  There is so much to see and do in this city.  Unfortunately,  we were on a very tight schedule and could only spare a couple days.  Day one was spent at Valley Forge followed by a show at the Tower theater in Upper Darby Read about that here.

Day two offered us a little time in the city before heading home.  We decided that we wanted our kids to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. 

Here are my tips for families visiting these national landmarks:

  • Allow lots of time for traffic. On our first night,  we spent over an hour to travel 14 miles.  Ugh. We thought we were going to miss our show.  When you purchase tickets for Independence Hall, allow plenty of time for traffic, parking,  and security.
  • Speaking of parking…it’s limited everywhere. If you stay overnight in the city,  expect that your only option for parking will be valet and that you will have a parking charge on your hotel bill. Some hotels even charge extra each time your car leaves the garage. We stayed in a Philly suburb and drove into the city for the day.  It cost $20 for us to park at the Independence Visitor Center parking garage for a few hours. The last time we stayed in town,  we were surprised to find out our hotel had no parking.  None.  We ended up in a garage blocks away carrying our luggage down crowded sidewalks. We had to valet park it with someone who didn’t speak English and they left cigarette buts on the floor of my car.  We were not happy. 
  • The Liberty Bell is on first-come basis.  No ticket is needed.  However,  you need a ticket for Independence Hall.  Tickets sell quickly. So, call a day ahead or purchase online. Reserve tickets here for $1.50 per ticket. 
  • The national park service offers a free app to help you navigate around the area with lots of good information and even audio tours. Search for “NPS Independence” on the app store.  

There are other things to see within very short walking distance including Ben Franklin’s grave at Christ Church cemetery, Congress Hall, and the American Philosophical Society Museum more about that here There are horse and carriages lining the streets to take your family for a ride as well. 

  • Bathrooms-there is a public restroom at the visitor center but not at the landmarks.  So be sure to take little ones there first.  If you are in a bind,  there’s a Dairy Queen nearby as well. 

    Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence was signed.  The second continental congress met here to debate the Declaration and also the U.S. Constitution. This building has also been used for a courtroom, including supreme court cases, an art gallery,  and a natural science museum. 

    Explore this building by guided tour only.  Tour guides are knowledgeable park service rangers. Security is tight.  You’ll need to pass through a security area similar to an airport. No weapons,  pepper spray,  firearms,  etc. are permitted.

    Also,  in this area in the Congress building.  While Washington DC was still under construction,  Philadelphia was our nation’s capital city.  The Senate and the House met here to test and make amendments to the Constitution. This is also the site of the first peaceful transfer of power from President Washington to President Adams. 

    The area around the Liberty Bell has a lot of police presence and we felt safe here.  But,  with any city,  be aware of your surroundings and keep little ones close. 

    My favorite lunch spot in Philly is the Reading Terminal Market. You can get a real deal cheese steaks here, Amish fare,  seafood,  meat,  sweets, you name it! more info here The market is located at at 

    51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 and is currently advertising $4 parking (for 2hrs with a $10 purchase and validation).

    If you have more time to explore the city,  check out the world-class art museums,  the Mint,  the Franklin Institute,  Please Touch museum,  or one of the science museums.  Philly has bicycle trails,  spectator sports,  and interesting festivals and events year round.  It’s a great destination. 

    Philadelphia History Weekend-Valley Forge

    Welcome to Philly,  the city of brotherly love. We were in Philadelphia this weekend to see the  Dan TDM Live Tour. Dan TDM is a YouTube sensation who commentates video games and is loved by millions of young gamers all over the world.  He is currently touring in the U.S. and stopped at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA, just outside Philadelphia. My kids had a great time at the show.  The neighborhood around the theater is a little sketchy at night. Traffic in this area was terrible. It took well over n hour to go just 14 miles.   If you come here with children,  I’d suggest a matinee. Also,  give yourself lots of extra time to secure parking.

      You could easily spend a week in Philadelphia , taking in all the great things to do in town.  But,  since we were just making a quick weekend jaunt,  we did the highlights.  

    First stop, Valley Forge. 

    Valley Forge is one of the infamous winter encampments of George Washington and his men during the American Revolutionary War. Sadly underfunded, Washington’s troops suffered with little food,  inadequate clothing,  and rampant sickness.  Shockingly, nearly two thousand men died from sickness during the winter at Valley Forge.  But, the soldiers’ tenacious patriot spirit and sense of duty prevailed. They left Valley Forge determined to secure their liberty.  

    For GPS:

    1400 North Outer Line Drive

    King of PrussiaPA 19406

    Some tips for families: 

    First,  this is part of the National Park system.  This particular park has free admission. Start your day with a video in the visitor center theater. Showings are every 30 minutes starting at 9:30. The last showing is 4:30. The video was short enough to keep my kid’s attention. There are some neat artifacts in the visitor center to see as well.  

    Also,  have your national park’s passport book stamped more info about that here, pick up your junior ranger booklet more info here at the front desk. There is a nice gift shop and some light prepackaged snacks here as well. 

    There are several ways to tour the park.  We saw several families on bicycles.  This is a very hilly park.  So,  I’d only suggest this option for older kids who can handle some inclines.

    There are several ways to tour this national park. There is an audio tour available on CD. You can purchase one in the gift shop and tour with your car.  But,  there is a FREE cell phone tour available as well.  Call 484-396-1018. It’s available 24/7. The park opens at 7 am and closes at dusk.  So,  if you want to beat the crowds and come before the visitor center opens at 9am, you are welcome to. Another option is the trolley tour. It’s a 90 minute tour. $17.50 for adults. Students, seniors,  and military are $14.50. Children under 11 are $9. Meet at the visitor center.  These tours sell out. To pre-purchase and find out available dates and times call 610-783-1074. Finally,  you can get a good old fashioned map and walk the park. click here for official map download, trail guides, and nature pamphlets 

    Be sure to check out the events calendar for scheduled bird walks,  star parties,  and even a 5 mile race day. calendar of events here

    Homeschool families will appreciate these resources to supplement their curriculum. lesson plans herefield trip info here 

    Minimalist Homeschooling

    I’m a minimalist. What does that mean exactly? Well,  in short, it means that I regularly survey the items in my home that belong to me.  I ask myself,  “Do I love this?” “Do I use this?” If the answer is no; then I donate it or throw it away. I’m ruthless about it. I’ve been on this journey for a couple years, reducing and reducing. It’s very freeing.  My house is cleaner. I have more time. I’m more comfortable in my space.  It’s life altering,  really.  I’m also very intentional about what I purchase. I don’t impulse-buy. In fact,  I don’t go shopping unless it’s for groceries or for a specific item. It saves our family a lot of money.

     I used to have a huge amount of curriculum,  mountains of books,  math manipulatives, school supplies,  etc.  I used to shop used curriculum sales,  library sales,  and book stores all the time. I was picking up “deals” left and right. The problem was,  our homeschool day was all over the place.  We’d start with one math book, for example.  Then,  a couple weeks later, I’d pick up another one because it looked better. We’d try it for a while and then I’d decide I liked the first one better. We were kind of all over the place that first year.  Luckily,  my kids were pre-K at the time.  So,  I had more leeway to try things out and experiment. I thought it was good to have lots of options.  I thought the variety would help keep their interests.  But  honestly,  it kind of stressed me out.  Bouncing back and forth between textbooks in nearly every subject meant that we rarely finished any of them. Plus,  everyone knows that children thrive under routine.  We were all craving a little stability. 

    I had been happily reducing things in my home but,  those giant bookshelves of homeschool stuff were still staring at me. Friends had given me hand-me-down books,  a local school had closed down and I had saved boxes of items from the dumpster,  my mom,  a teacher’s aid in the public school system, had brought me things too. I had accumulated A LOT.  It was great…and kinda terribly overwhelming. The stock pile was spreading through the house.  There were educational games in the coat closet,  craft supplies in the pantry,  boxes in the basement. I had every resource I could possibly want…but did I really want all this?

    I tried organizing it several times.  I moved things around,  sorted, and stacked.  It was a losing battle.  

    I hated the idea of getting rid of something and then having to buy it again later. 

    But, something had to give.  I started slow. I donated a few books to the library book sale. I gave some of the things my kids had outgrown to friends.  This didn’t even put a dent in the pile. I had to get serious about weeding things out. I signed up as a vendor at a used curriculum sale. I posted things to sell online.  I dropped things off at a used bookstore.  I gave things away.  Finally,  I threw things away.  It took forever.  I was sooo over it.  I got to the point that I didn’t care if I needed to rebuy something later. It wasn’t worth storing it.  Also,  I stopped shopping. If I thought I needed something for school,  I decided to wait a week.  Way more often than not,  I decided we could do without it. 

    It’s been months now since I started narrowing things down. I feel like we are finally in a groove with our schooling. We have a routine down pat.  My kids know what is expected of them. They are thriving.  I feel like a weight was lifted from my shoulders.  I can actually find the things I need. We use the things we have. Homeschool life has become much more simple.  If we decide to do school at the park or in the car,  I can put all of the necessary supplies into a basket and go. We actually finished our history book and handwriting book earlier than expected. A simple life is a fulfilling life. 

    Are you ready to simplify? Here are some tips:

    1. Stop browsing.  If you must hit the bookstore or search Amazon,  do it with a single item in mind.  Get what you need and go.  Browsing leads to impulse buys and unnecessary purchases.

    2. Wait before buying.  It’s great to downsize.  But,  if you keep bringing things into your home,  you’ll never really get a handle on the clutter.  If you are considering a new item,  wait one week and see if you can do without it.  If you decide you really want it,  follow the “one in,  one out” rule.  For each new item you introduce into your homeschool,  you get rid of one item. This keeps clutter in check. 

    3.Utilize your local library.  We go to the library at least once a week. We constantly have new and interesting books in our home. We get educational videos,  audio books,  and music.  I love our library. The best thing is,  all that goes back to be stored and organized by someone else when we’re finished with it. 

    4. Trade with other homeschool moms.  If you are doing Apologia Botany and your friend’s family is studying Apologia Astronomy, see if they want to trade books at the end of the year. Help each other out! I have a telescope. My friend Melissa has a nice microscope. We’re planning to trade for a couple weeks ago that it kids can learn to use both. 

    5. Google is your friend. Before buying art books or CDs of classical music, or a history video,  see if you can view what you need online. Speaking of art, be sure to check out my blog post Teaching Art Appreciation in 5 min a Day. It has a great lending resource.

    6. Do one elective at a time. Keep it simple.  Do one elective course per semester.  Don’t feel obligated to teach sewing,  Spanish,  and auto mechanics all at the same time.  You’ll be bogged down with supplies and you’ll have no downtime. Do your core subjects. Then, pick electives sparingly. 

    Enjoy your extra time,  extra money,  and extra space. You’ll soon see that minimizing possessions can free you up to maximize on life. 

    Minimalist Easter Baskets

    No, I don’t expect you to put a single M&M in a basket. Contrary to popular belief, minimalism isn’t about owning the least amount of items imaginable.  It is about owning only what you use or what you love and nothing else. So,  if you are considering this type of lifestyle or if you are already a practicing minimalist,  what does that look like on the practical level.  For example,  what would a minimalist fill their child’s Easter basket with? Easter has become like a second Christmas for a lot of families in terms of gifts.  It can easily get out of hand. So,  how do you reign it in? 

    1. First,  think “useful.” 

    Who says useful can’t be fun?  My kids both got new crocs style shoes in their basket last year. My kids live in those plastic shoes. I found pink tye dye knock offs for my daughter and a fun minions style for my son.  They were thrilled.  They wore them until they were literally falling apart. My daughter also got a new dress. This was not a frilly ruffled number that she could wear once to an Easter church service and then hang in her closet to collect dust.  It was a simple cotton dress with pockets.  Dresses with pockets are her absolute favorite thing to wear. She was super excited.  Is your child starting baseball or tennis this spring? Why not gift a needed piece of sporting equipment. Did they sit on their sunglasses and break them? Pick up some new shades.  Think about something they need. Likely, it’s something they also want. 

    2. Go easy on the candy.  Does your child really need an entire basket of sugar? Two pounds of chocolate is good for no one but your dentist.  What is your child’s favorite candy? Pick up that and one package of peeps-done. If they participate in an egg hunt they will have more than enough candy anyway. 

    3. Don’t fall for the clearance rack/dollar store “fillers”. Tiny rabbit figurines and egg erasers are not going to be used. Plastic trinkets designed to fill empty space in your baskets are a waste of money and ultimately just clutter. Buy one or two items that  your child will cherish instead of ten that your kid will feel ehh about. 

    4. Get something they will LOVE. We are probably getting my daughter a new bike.  We don’t generally spend that much on Easter.  But,  she has outgrown her current bike and the weather is finally getting warmer. So,  we were planning on getting one soon anyway. We’ll get it Easter weekend and kill two birds with one stone.  I’ll put a chocolate bunny in the bike basket and call it a day.  She will be estatic. 

    5. Go classic.  My kids don’t own a soccer ball because they’ve never signed up for a soccer team.  They also don’t have a good jump rope. I know that these are classic toys that would get a lot of use if I bought them.  So,  they might show up this Easter. What is a classic item that your child doesn’t have that she would likely use again and again?  A paint set?  A sleeping bag? They are classic for a reason. 

    6. Think outside the basket.  I remember one year as a kid,  my mom made me a beautiful quilt with ballerinas on it for my bed.  She put it in a laundry basket with some candy.  I loved it. I still have it.  I didn’t care what kind of container it came in. My kids don’t have “Easter baskets” per se. They have whatever basket is currently empty.  I have 4 or 5 baskets in this house that are used for everything from gathering vegetables in the garden to returning library books. Fill a new sunhat or a sandbucket or a gift bag.  Trust me,  your kid will not care about the container. Having a “special” basket that is used exactly once per year is silly and unnecessary. 

    7. Consider an experience. A play card to Chuck-E-Cheese or a gift card to Dairy Queen is fun.  You’ll share a fun day together and you won’t need to find room in the toy box. Dantdm, a YouTube star that my son loves, is touring live this spring. So,  we bought tickets. He will get a show ticket and a chocolate bunny. I think experiences always hold more value than things. Maybe, start an Easter tradition this year. Go fishing after Easter dinner for example. When I was little,  my mom took us to a local state park every spring break for a hike and a picnic lunch. Sometimes, we invited a cousin to tag along. It was so simple. But,  I looked forward to that every year. Your kids are going to remember the quality time you spend with them more than the stuff you bought them. Hope you have a great holiday. 

    Do You Seriously Teach First Graders Latin?!

    The short answer is: Yep! The inevitable reply is WHY?! Do you really think that’s necessary?! The short answer: Nope! But, I do it anyway. Here’s why…

    I don’t teach art history because it’s necessary. I don’t teach music appreciation because it’s necessary. And, I don’t teach Latin because it’s necessary. But, learning these subjects is fun. It’s enriching. And, it’s worthwhile. I was super skeptical at first too. I thought that Latin seemed like “a little much” for primary school. But, I was wrong.

    Now, I’m not saying you should incorporate Latin into your home school day. But, I’m sure glad I included it in mine.

    Here’s how it started. My daughter was begging to learn a foreign language. I’m not bilingual. I took Spanish in high school but, I don’t remember much. In fact, I don’t think I learned much to begin with. I didn’t want to invest a lot of money in this venture because I really thought it would be fleeting. I thought her attention span would wane and all the money would go down the drain. So, I ordered a couple free resources from the library. Among them was a Spanish video, and a book/CD Latin combo I had found when browsing Amazon. My daughter anxiously awaited the call that our items were available.

    Finally, we picked them up on our weekly library run. The video was a total flop. We couldn’t even finish it. It wasn’t age appropriate. It was scattered and disorganized. Even with my rudimentary Spanglish, I couldn’t keep up. We were disappointed and decided to try Latin the next day. I reminded her that learning a language was difficult and  a lot of hard work. She proceeded to skip around the living room speaking enthusiastically in made up jibberish and loudly and triumphantly proclaimed tomorrow “Latin Day!” Gotta love optimism.

    The next day, I opened the package. There was a big cartoon monkey on the cover. I tried not to roll my eyes as I took the CD out of the plastic sleeve. I popped the CD in the player and started to leaf through the companion book. Very catchy upbeat tunes filled the room. In no time at all, we were singing along. The kids were giggling and having a great time. I couldn’t believe it. We were actually picking up a few words and phrases. After a half hour or so, I suggested we get some other work done. “One more! One more song!” was the reply. The next day was the same. So was the next… and the next. Long story short, we renewed the book/CD as many times as was allowed and the kids were still interested. I finally conceded. I had been wrong. This might actually work. That night, I ordered our own copy from Amazon.

    This is what I bought.Book and CD

    It’s called Song School Latin. Right now it’s $24.95 on Amazon. There’s also a video option that my friend Jody swears by. Buy video here.

    I make flash cards of the words we learn to add to our word chart.

     

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    If you want the work done for you though, you can purchase ready-made cards.

    Buy flash cards here.

    Or, you can get a whole kit here. Latin 1 Bundle

    I mentioned our Latin venture to a friend. She told me that her kids loved a Latin cassette tape/book set someone had given her. She said that they were finished with it and moving to the next level. I was welcome to have it too. We tried it and my little boy was enthralled. It is an audio adventure about kids who discover a hidden island of people who speak Latin. It’s fun and interesting. It’s been updated to CD.

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    Get the Children’s Latin Power-Glide course here.

    So, how do we do this? We’re not super disciplined with it. We keep the Latin CD in the car. When we are going to the grocery store or the post office, I’ll turn it on. We listen to the familiar songs that we know by heart and then I’ll play one we haven’t done before. I only play one “new” song at a time.  We listen to the “new song” two or three times and try to sing along. Each time we are in the car, we follow this routine until we all know the “new song” and can easily sing along with it. Then, the next track on the CD becomes our “new song.” At home, we sometimes use the worksheets in our Latin book for our handwriting practice. The kids welcome this because it gives them a break from their regular routine. Some weeks we “do Latin” several times. Other weeks, we might get to it once. But, it’s viewed as a fun elective like art or music. I’m careful not to make it a core subject that is mandatory. We enjoy it, even me. And, even with just this small exposure to it, we’ve learned a good bit. I think it adds something to our overall educational experience. It gives the kids a source of pride. Plus, there’s this: This is an excerpt from languageguru.net explaining how a  knowledge of Latin makes learning other languages much easier.

    1. “Helps you gain a better understanding of many languages  – This is one of the main arguing points for Latin. Latin helps you gain a better understanding of many modern languages in the world. Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian all are direct descendants of Latin. They aren’t the only ones, however. About 42 other languages take something from Latin. About 80% of the vocabulary of these languages comes from Latin and will give you a great head start if you want to learn more than one of these. In addition to this, it also helps with understanding modern inflected languages such as German and Arabic (which I can personally attest to). Don’t get me wrong, if you just want to learn one other language (whether for personal or professional reasons), just learn that language. It would be a waste of your time to learn Latin if you just want to gain working proficiency in one other language, but, if you wish to gain a better understanding of that language or learn many languages (especially the Romance languages), you should at least consider learning Latin.”

    My kids have picked up on Latin words in our Science textbook too. Remember, human anatomy, botany terms, and the animal kingdom all share Latin names. And, we’ve run into it in our history text too. (Anno Domini- A.D., Augustus means blessed, etc.)

    The above resources are geared toward younger kids (K-3) but, older kids will benefit even more. Statistics show that teens with two years of Latin in high school will score much higher on the SAT verbal than teens who have taken two years in another foreign language. Read about that here.

    So, whether your kids are youngsters singing along with a cartoon monkey, big kids taking an audio adventure to a deserted island, or teens prepping for college, Latin might be something to consider. I was super skeptical when this all started. But, now we love it and value it. It will be something we will continue to learn.

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