Friday, September 18, 2020

You Tube Through Ancient History - For Middle School and High School

This is a collection of videos to expose student to an overview of ancient history, organized in a way that they could be used as a spine or as supplements for another spine or curriculum.  It's a bit unpolished as yet, and I'm hoping to add more resources to go with the videos (like free printables and such as I find them), but I wanted to get it up, unpolished or not, so that people can start to use this if they want. 

AGE LEVEL:   The general age level for this is Junior High through High School.   Most of these videos could be watched by younger children, but some may have content that is a little over their head.     However, I realize that with families it's good to know what is ok to have a younger child watch too.  See CONTENT WARNINGS below notes below about content that you might want to watch for, and notes on Main Video Series Used for which of these would be more and less appropriate for younger children.


Crash Course
Crash course offers chronological broad overviews of history.   While it is partially animated, the concepts and pace are aimed at adults (and I feel like overall it's suitable for Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers).   There are a few jokes that are inappropriate and might want to be skipped, especially if viewing while younger children are present.  I've tried to note these but may have missed some (and if so, please tell me in a comment).  Apart from these episodes, most episodes could be watched by younger children without issue though.   

Extra Credits History
Extra Credits History is my favorite history series.   It offers deeper dives into various subjects.   The series is animated, and funny, but done respectfully as well, I think.   It appeals to a wide age 8 year old and my high schooler both enjoyed these equally.

TEDed offers brief, annimated glimpses into various subjects, including history.  It is, in general, safe for all ages of children.   TedEd videos also come with an online questionnaire students can use to quiz themselves, and links to places they can find more info on the subject.  

TICE Art History
These are short animated videos on art history.  


I have listed a few "discussion question" worksheets I found for free on Teachers Pay Teachers related to these videos.   There isn't one for every video, but I'd thought I'd list one where I found them free.   If you are willing to pay for them, you can find many similar discussion question sheets listed on Teachers Pay Teachers.  As mentioned earlier, TedEd videos also come with some additional resources.


Various videos suggested here have descriptions of historical violence, I felt like this was depicted appropriately and not gratuitously.  I have not made mention of violence in videos because it is so common.  A certain tolerance for historical violence is necessary. 

There are references to sex in a few of these videos, but usually handled subtly/well (nothing gratuitous or crude, with the exception of a joke in one Crash course video, which I've included a warning with).   Crash course refers to sex as "skoodlypooting" and shows an animated blanket with feet hanging out.   Some of the "Overly Sarcastic Productions" mention sex more explicitly.  There's also a few videos with historical artwork that depicts nudity.   I try to make note (see red text) of these but may miss something. 

Most of these contain no profanity.   A few of the Crash Course videos contain a "Long A** time" joke (and then they say they aren't swearing, because they mean a donkey).  Some of the Overly Sarcastic Productions I've tried to also mention where profanity is present in any of these videos, though I cannot guarantee may have missed something (look for red text below).



Below are the videos to watch in chronological order.  The videos listed on the left are ones that cover broad topics, and the videos in the bullet lists under them are extra videos related to this topic.   I've listed key videos in bold, while videos that are less essential and can be skipped if you are using these videos as a spine, are listed in regular text.

The Agricultural Revolution: Crash Course World History #1 

- Worksheet:  Discussion Questions

Indus Valley Civilization: Crash Course World History #2

Mesopotamia: Crash Course World History #
CONTENT WARNING: This has an inappropriate joke about a sex tape
(Alternative/Or Addition to Above)
Ancient Civilizations of Mesopotamia This video is aimed at Elementary/Middle School, so may be a little "young" for High Schoolers.   Its a little longer and goes more in depth on some of the civilizations, but shares a little less of the "progression of history" that Crash Course does.  It could be used as a replacement for Crash Course#3, but covers enough separately that could also be an addition)
CONTENT WARNING: Mild "swearing" (long a** time joke)
The Bronze Age Collapse SERIES - Extra History (1200 and 1150 BC)

The Persians & Greeks: Crash Course World History #5

The Alphabet - Origins of Writing - Extra History

The History of Paper Money - Origins of Exchange - Extra History - #1
(NOTE:  This one travels far out of our time frame, but does start in ancient times)

Buddha and Ashoka: Crash Course World History #6

2,000 Years of Chinese History! The Mandate of Heaven and Confucius: World History #7 

-Worksheet:  Discussion Questions

Alexander the Great - Crash Course World History #8

The Silk Road and Ancient Trade: Crash Course World History #9

- Worksheet:  Discussion Questions

The Roman Empire. Or Republic. Or...Which Was It?: Crash Course World History #10

Christianity from Judaism to Constantine: Crash Course World History #11

- Worksheet:  Discussion Questions

Fall of The Roman the 15th Century: Crash Course World History #12

The History of Rome in 20 Minutes (nice summary to re-cap) 
CONTENT WARING:  Brief mention of a rape, Renaissance paintings containing nudity.


TO ADD:   Third Century Crisis - The Great Persecution - Extra History (it's a series they aren't finished with)

Friday, July 17, 2020

My 5 Favorite Read-Aloud Picture Books

Here are five of my favorite picture books to read aloud to, or with, my kids.  

1.  Stellaluna

My oldest son had most of this book memorized at 3 years old - we read it that much!  In it a bat gets adopted by a family of birds, but eventually finds his mother.   The story is so touching, the characters so vivid, and the dialog is just wonderfully fun to read. 

The rhythm of the dialogue even seem to fit the characters...the lines spoken by the birds are full of short words that sound chirpy when you read them aloud, while the bat's dialogue has a smoother sound.  And, the illustrations are nothing short of beautiful.

 2.  Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type

We got four fun farm animal stories by Doreen Cronin in various Chick File kids meals (the others are Dooby Dooby MooGiggle, Giggle, QuackDuck for President), and there has never been a kids meal toy we liked better! We have read these over and over and over again and it's always a joy.  They are hilarious.  Click Clack Moo is the one I loved reading aloud the most because I always made the "moo" deep and loud (although after a while the kids usually wanted say this part...which of course is even better!)

3.    We Are In A Book

I love ALL the Piggie and Elephant books.  These are the books that moved my youngest son from hating reading, to wanting to do reading first thing.  Most of the books just have two main characters, Piggie and Elephant, and the book is a dialogue between them, shown in speech bubbles in a large, easy to read font.  I would read one character's part and my son would read the other, which was a fun way to encourage him to read.

I had a hard time choosing just one to feature, but picked this one because I think it's the best one to read first, and because it has a lot of fun features especially for reading aloud.   In it Piggie and Elephant discover that they are in a book, and the way they interact with the reader is super charming and fun.  Plus, you get to say banana...many times, and who doesn't like that?  

I do want to mention my second pick though, also.   I Am A Frog is about pretending, and is super fun to read.  It is fun narrating Elephant as he worries about turning into a frog, lets you do some great animal noises, has a cute, insightful nod to parents mid way through, and a really funny twist at the end.

4.  Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

My mom grew up in New England and I think she bought this book wanting to share a little of home with us.   I really enjoy reading this with my kids.  It's so matter of fact and down to earth.   The way they describe the personalities and quirks of the different animals on this farm make me think of the animals we've had in our life. 

It's not squeamish about things like cats catching mice and hens being carried away by foxes...but it's not brutal about those things either either.    There's a frank gentleness to it.   One of the last pages is a remembering of beloved animals on the farm that had been buried in a little secluded wooded patch on the corner of a's a touching moment, and I think would be comforting to a child who had lost a pet.  

I have read this book so many times, and never get tired of it.

NOTE:   It is pretty long to read in one setting, so I usually would read a several pages from it over several days (and its easy to split up that way).

5.  A Quiet Night In

This is a charming story about a dad who is too tired for the birthday celebration his family was planning for him, and asks in stead if they can do "a quiet night in."   The humor is really directed at parents, but my children loved these books.   I love how tender the family members are to each other, even when they are mad or annoyed.   I The dialogue is fun to read, and if you have a large family you will really relate. 

(I can't find this story for sale by itself anymore though, which is why I linked to the set.   The only other one of these I've read is All in One Piece which was also a fun read, though I liked A Quiet Night In better). 

What are your favorite read-alouds? 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Educational Games for Middle and High School

Playing games can be a great way to make learning fun, and spend quality family time together.   Below are a list of learning games for middle and high school students you can use to practice and learn about various topics  (for elementary games, click here ).   While there are many great online games too, in this list I'm only listing games you play offline with others (siblings, parents).  

Most of the items on this list are free, but there are a few board games (some of which may already be in your closet) or printable games you can purchase which I've include, which are marked with a $

$ = Not a free resource
PK = Preschool
E = All of Elementary
LE = Late Elementary (3rd - 6th)
MS = Middle School/Junior High (6th - 8th)*
HS = High School (9th - 12th)*
K-12 = All school age (not PK)
ALL = All Ages

*Why do I even bother including Elementary in the Key?   Because sometimes its nice to find a game you can play with the whole family that everyone can learn from.

English/Language Arts

Boggle Word Game (E/MS)


Various French Games by Ellen McHenry (E/7+/MS)

Latin Games, Various (ALL)

(Also see History)

South America

Birds of Brazil Bingo (K-12)

US States - Specific States
Pennsylvania Geogrphy/Geology - Bottom of Page (K-12)


Fruits and Vegetable Nutrition Games (ALL)


Digging Up Greece (LE/MS/HS)

Ancient Rome - Tabula, and Ancient Roman Game (MS/HS)

Viking Voyages (LE/MS)

Sail the Seas - Explorers/Bodies of Water (LE/MS/HS)



Bone Bingo (HS $)

Animals and Habitats

Phyla Ecology Game (LE/MS/MS)

Birds of Brazil Bingo (K-12)

Gastropods (Mollusks) Bingo (K-12)

Poison Dart Frog Habitats/Rainforest (Requires cardboard, Lots of Set Up, E/MS)

(See Animals, Botany, Cells, Human Body/Anatomy)


Various Games About Plants by Ellen McHenry (ALL)

Photosynthesis Game (MS/HS $)

Pond Scum - A Protazoa Game (LE/MS/HS)

Translation Taxi RNA Game (MS/HS $)

Cellular Respiration Game (MS/HS $)

Earth Science


Various Free Games by Ellen McHenry  (K-12)

Periodic Table Battleship (Requires File Folder, MS/HS)

Carbon 14 Game (MS/HS) $

Nuclear War/Radioactive Decay (MS/HS) $

AP Biology Games  (HS $)

Human Body/Anatomy

Various Games by Ellen McHenry

Habitats (see Animals and Habitats)

Pond Scum - A Protazoa Game (LE/MS/HS)

Nature Study

Nature Scavenger Hunt (K-12)

Family Friendly Version of Cards Against Humanity (LE/MS/HS)

Lego Building Game (Requires Legos, ALL 4+)

Bible Games, Various (ALL)

Concentration, Memorization, and Observation Games (LE/MS)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Ocean Themed Party Cake and Snacks

My son loves anything to do with sea life, so of course I had to have an ocean themed party last year.    I had some fun decorative food for this party I want to share with you all.

Ocean Cookie Cake

First, we had I think my favorite cake I've ever made.  

This post contains affiliate links through which I can earn commission.

The funny part is, this wasn't my original plan.  I was going to make the cookies separate from the cake, but the jumping place we were going to only allowed a cake and fruit and veggie trays.   Anything else cost extra to bring.  

So, I thought...I'll just add the cookies to the cake!

First, of course, I made the cookies with the ocean animals from a larger animal cookie cutter set I'd been given.    You can use your favorite sugar cookie recipe, but we used this Eggless sugar cookie recipe I found on a allergy forum.

I made a lot more cookies than I needed for the cake, and only used the best ones.  The rest we saved for after the party.

TIP:  When icing a cookie, add outlines and small detail first, and then fill in around it.


Then I baked my cake (just regular store bought cake mix).   I baked two layers in a square cake pan.  

Make sure the icing on the cookies is totally dry and firm before beginning to ice the outside of the cake (don't touch the icing...just leave it for a long while or chilll it in the fridge and it should be fine).   Otherwise, the icing your cookies may drip once turned sideways.   You want to do this before frosting the cake because you want to stick the cookies on right after the frosting goes on the cake.

I used store bought frosting, which I added food coloring to.   You will need A LOT of  make or buy more than you think you will need).  This particular cake is nice because it's all one color frosting and you don't need to frost it smoothly.  When mixing in the food coloring, it's ok to not mix the blue completely.  It actually ads a little "ocean foam" like texture if there are parts with a little white, or a slightly darker blue.     

Frost between each layer and cover the cake generously.    After you have frosted it, use the flat side of a frosting spreader or rubber spatula to dab at the frosting to create the frothy wave affect.   Then smush your cookies of choice into the side of your cake, and stick your dolphins straight into the top of the cake. 

Sea Life Snacks

Dolphin Bananas in a Grape Sea

So, I did not come up with this's something I saw on pinterest and thought was adorable so had to do it.  You can try it with blueberries or jello too.

It's pretty simple.  You cut bananas in half, only using the end with the stem (eat the other ends or save them for something like banana bread).  Slice the stem in half to make a mouth, and put them in a sea of "grapes"  (or in my case a casserole dish pool...can be in clear plastic cups too).  Add eyes with a sharpie.  Put some grapes in the dolphins mouths (some will fall out, but some will stay and that's all you need).

Octopus Pear

This little guy I did come up with on my own, and I'm quite proud of him.  To make him, I cut a pear in half, and then cut two grapes at an angle, stem side up.   I attached the grape eyes with toothpicks.  The legs are slices from a green bell pepper.

Coral Reef

OK, this one I've seen online with veggies, and it looks much cooler the way other people do it (check out this cool veggie reef that was what I was originally intending to duplicate).   But by the time I got to the veggies I was running out of time, so I just sliced some celery and added a coral looking piece of ginger into a bowl of strawberries.  The carrots got put on the plate with the octopus the "cauliflower coral," which I suspected they wouldn't eat anyways, got skipped.

The rest of the party wasn't themed, since we had it at a trampoline place.   But the kids really thought the snacks were cool...and most importantly, the birthday boy loved it!