Early American History-Immigration and Industrilazation

This month our history studies have focused on immigration and industry in America. As we have wrapped up our stories and readings from Civil War era history, we have begun to explore the late 1800's and early 1900's. This was an exciting time for our continent. So many new industries meant new opportunities for hopeful immigrants.

The thing that I have most looked forward to in our year of history co-op, has been this month's meeting. At the beginning of the year, when we mapped out the plan for our co-op, I knew this would be a fun day for our children. Instead of the usual program of singing, geography and art projects, our children would have the opportunity to open up a real store as well as explore their diverse ancestry.

The plan was simple. Each family would pick one of their ancestors to study, and prepare a presentation based on that ancestor's country and history. They would also bring products which related in some way to their ancestry to sell for a small amount, in this way representing the small businesses and farming endeavors which these people undertook in order to provide for their families. 
We did this same project over four years ago, in the last community that we lived in, and at that time, we chose Portugal which represents my husband's grandmother. For Portugal, we sold veggies from our garden, and homemade sweet rolls. This time, we chose England, which is where my grandmother's parents came from. 

We started our country fair by having each family stand at their "store" and share their presentation. One of the best parts of preparing an ancestor presentation is the opportunity to learn about our family history. I listened intently as my son shared the interesting information that we had compiled after interviewing my grandmother. For instance, I had never heard that my great grandfather was the son of an English strawberry farmer near Kent. Nor, that his brave fiancé, after waiting three years for him to send for her, took matters into her own hands, and headed to Canada. She wanted to give him the opportunity to make good on his commitment to marry her.

They did marry, and had six beautiful children, one of whom was my own dear grandmother.

We celebrated our heritage today at our country fair by cutting up an old sheet to make "Nearly Proper English Hankies" which we sold for twenty-five cents, along with fresh homemade scones and tea.

The children listened eagerly to their friend's presentations as well. They heard reports from several European countries, as well as one from our darling little friend, who was welcomed here eight years ago by her lovely parents, becoming a first generation Chinese-American.

After the children took turns giving their presentations, the stores were open for business! My kids were excited for the opportunity to make a meager profit, one of the benefits of not offering allowance. 

They were also excited to spend their money at their friends' stores. The goods for sale were exciting! Hawaiian soap, Scottish shortbread, and Chinese fans were big hits with my kids as they eagerly divested themselves of their small change. I did end up raiding my husbands coin stash a few times, to replenish their coffers, it didn't occur to me to teach them a real lesson on economy when they, and their friends were so hopeful of selling their products.

Although this day was simple to prepare for; we merely did a little crafting, cooking and report writing in the few days preceding the event, it had a big impact on the children. Now they can have a small glimpse into the process of creating products and marketing them, and a taste of what some of their ancestors experienced as they crossed the sea in search of opportunity.


Homeschool Speech and Debate

We just returned from participating in two back-to-back STOA speech tournaments. As I recover from the exhaustion which wandering around a campus with hundreds of teenagers has induced, I am reflecting on all that we learned from our experience.

We began the year by participating in a speech club with some local families. The boys enjoyed going to club, and the experience helped them to craft an organized essay and respond well to critiques from other parents. As part of the club requirements, we needed to participate in a minimum of two events. Many of the families had signed up for as many as eight tournaments, which in retrospect is a huge commitment of time and money.

We arrived at our first tournament, bright and early on a Monday morning. There might have been some mild hysterics in the car on the way up, but once we got there and they saw all the interesting young people, who were also clad in conservative dress suits, looking like so many mini business people, they started to get excited about competing, or at least about playing ninja and discussing LOTR.

As a parent, I was required to judge, so my two littles and I were given a round of humorous speeches to listen to. Only a couple of the eight speeches were actually funny, but having to tell teenagers that their efforts at inducing laughs were in vain, is not my jam. I gave my best shot at being constructive and kind on the ballots, as the critique forms are called.

On the third day we were required to show up by 7 am to see if any of our children had "broken" as they call making it to finals. Unfortunately, my boys had ranked fifth and below on nearly every ballot, which was quite disappointing. After we spoke with some of the moms, who had been doing it for a few years, but whose children had rarely broken either, we were mildly encouraged that it wasn't just us.

The next tournament, just a week later was not quite as confusing, since our previous experience was so fresh in our mind. We arrived, once again at the ungodly hour of 7am, dropped off our snacks and scripts and worked on finding our rooms. 

Again, I had to bring my two youngest children and when I had finished all my other duties, I was assigned a round to judge. This was a round of eight persuasive speeches and in order to give them my full attention I had left my 6 year old in the care of his older brother. About two speeches in, the older brother dropped him off, saying that he could no longer handle him. Embarrassing, but it would get worse. 

He was pretty quiet through the speeches, merely knocking his swivel chair against the bookshelves a few times in a passive aggressive show of protest, but by the eighth speech he was done. He quietly wandered up behind the speaker, picked up a soft ball, and lobbed it in the direction of the young speaker. I responded by running my hand deftly across my neck, a motion which I hoped would clearly communicate my disapproval. Needless to say, I gave the patient speaker first place, if not for his clever speech, then assuredly for his ability to concentrate amid the distractions. 

The boys finished up the tournament again without placing. I loved their speeches, one boy had written about the benefits of twelve year olds having part time labor and the other had written about finding joy in a world of sorrow, based on a book he wrote by the same name. However, as we watched the young people who swept the trophies, it was clear that their families had put in much more time than ourselves. One highly organized mother had invested in a week of speech camp for her successful teens, and another family had boys who were involved in many online classes, as well as having a father who was both a lawyer and their coach. It was like being at a gathering of the Tiger Mothers (and fathers) of the homeschool world.

Our year of speech was a worthwhile experience. My boys had the opportunity to craft an organized essay, respond well to critique, and get input from other caring mothers. We are very grateful to all the amazing people who contributed to our year, and the tournament. 

Would we do it again? I hope not. Although it was worthwhile, the idea of spending days away from home, hundreds of dollars on tournaments, and neglecting the schooling of the younger ones to be there, does not appeal to me. Although it is a wonderful opportunity for some families, it is not for everyone.

In speaking to adult alumni and their parents, it seems that the results are mixed as well. Some of them got scholarships, while others needed loans. Some had gone to college and others started their own businesses. One mother inferred that her chronic fatigue was a result of her years of debate. Another mother inferred that her children had become much more confident communicators, while another mother felt that her children had also gotten better at arguing with her, as a result of their experience. So, it seems that like many activities we put our time into; sports, lessons, and clubs, the results are mixed.

My prayer is that as homeschool parents, we would use our variety of gifts to encourage our students. Science clubs, art co-ops, choirs, business apprenticeships, 4H, and drama groups are all wonderful ways to encourage our students, and to develop the many different gifts that God has placed in our children.

If your community doesn't have a group that fits your family's learning style, then find some friends and start one. This is the beauty of homeschooling. One size doesn't fit all. It doesn't need to. You just have to discover what your family loves doing, do it well, and then trust the results to God. 

Did your family participate in speech and debate? Do you have a favorite homeschool club or activity? I would love to hear about your experiences!

This post contains affiliate links.


Write You On My Heart

A few months ago, I stumbled across the website, "Write You On My Heart", and was able to get a copy of the book, Playful Pictures, which is written by the website owners, Jeremy and Alicia Brown. I was so excited to find this resource for improving the photos we take of our children, and only wish I had found it years earlier.

 I have always loved recording memories with my children through photos but there were so many basics that I had no idea about. Simple things, such as being aware of busy backgrounds and getting the right lighting, were new ideas to me. Knowing these basics would have made such a difference in the pictures that I took of my older children, it breaks my heart a little to think of how much lovelier my photos could have been.


The authors of the book convey so much enjoyment of their children, and their ideas about photography resonate with me; picture time doesn't have to be misery, it could actually be fun.

"In experimenting with our own kids, we discovered that adding play into the mix is the magic ingredient, and we wrote Playful Pictures to show you exactly how to find the same thing come true in your own family. Along with sharing our favorite iPhone photo tips, we've filled the book with inspiration, games and other ideas for making picture time playful and fun while creating space for you to easily take pictures that capture your child's heart. " (Jeremy and Alicia Brown)


The book includes a very handy checklist for making sure you are set up for success. I use the checklist regularly when I am taking pictures of my children, and it has made a big difference in the quality of my photos. One very precious feature of the book is a list, and descriptions of several games to play with your children as you are taking pictures. Games, which will not only create joy-filled pictures, but which will also make picture time a happy-memory making time with your children.


I have loved interacting with Alicia Brown. She is a very genuine person, who, with her husband has created an amazing book which so beautifully captures the joy of parenting. Not only is this book a wonderful beginning photography resource, it is also a heartfelt expression of love; capturing the joy of childhood, and the awesome privilege it is to be a parent.


This is an affiliate post, which I am so honored to do.
You can purchase the book through the ad in my sidebar, or by clicking here.