Saturday, January 22, 2022

Building With Foam Mats

Back when my kids were little, we found a very fun alternate use for those foam floor padding mats.  Here's a few of the fun buildings we made with them.

Foam Block Tower

Cube House

Foam block tunnel

Tri Block Foam Playhouse

I found several styles of foam blocks on Amazon....they have some fun shapes and designs that weren't available when my kids were little.  I'm so curious what type of things kids could build with hexagon and rhombus shaped mats!

(Note:   The links below are affiliate links through which I can earn commission.).)

You may have noticed that I actually showed some faces in this post (usually not something I do). Well, my "little boys" are teens now, all three taller than me, and I got permission from two of them to share. My third still didn't want me to so I respected that. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Videos About Christopher Columbus ...that are actually accurate!

Videos on Columbus that are actually accurate.

Several years back I did a post about Christopher Columbus fact checking a lot of the errors floating around.    Now, I'd like to share some short videos you CAN use to teach this history to children, without exposing kids to things they aren't ready for or sugar coating this history.   Further down on this page are some good videos related to Spanish exploration, conquest and colonization.

Recommended Columbus Videos

BrainPop:  Columbus

(Recommended for All Ages)
This was free when I first accessed it, but sadly it isn't now.  But, because this was literally the best video for kids on Columbus I've found, I couldn't leave it off the list.  It was kid friendly, animated, accurate, and didn't try to demonize Columbus or make him into a hero.  It also dealt to some extent with both the positive and negative ramifications of Columbus' journey, both for the people of Europe and the people of the Americas. (NOTE:  I didn't have a chance to look into the "extras" about Columbus they have...just the video, so can't comment on those). 

Crash Course World History:  15th Century Mariners:  Columbus, de Gama, and Zheng He
(Recommended for Upper Elementary through High School)
This video talks briefly about Columbus, along with two other sailors from this time.  This doesn't at all deal much with the results of Columbus' trip across the Atlantic, positive or negative, but later videos in this series do (see below), so combined with those this covers this well.   My middle-schoolers loved the humor in John Green's crash course videos.

CONTENT CONCERNS:  Contains one joke related to a Chinese explorer being a Eunuch that some may find inappropriate (minute 1:40-2:05, easy to skip if you want to). You could also just watch the part about Columbus (6:30-9:27), though I really think the it's worth adding the part about the Portuguese explorer De Gama, which really sets up why the Spanish were looking for a passage to Asia and would fund Columbus' journeys. (That starts at minute 4:24).

Crash Course World History:  The Colombian Exchange

(Recommended for Upper Elementary through High School)
This video shows but shows the impact of Columbus discovery on both sides the the Atlantic, for good and bad, so its a really important follow up to the last video.

CONTENT CONCERNS:   Smaller children might be scared by depictions of war and people dying of smallpox.  It uses OMG, spelled out, once (in an easily skippable side-segment in minutes 1:22-1:33).   There is, in talk about syphilis, some indirect reference to sex (in talking how it was spread by sailors they mention a quote "sailors...are men without women and therefor men of many women.")

Bartolomé de las Casas: Conscious of an Empire
(Recommended for Upper Elementary through High School)
I highly suggest this for high schoolers and middle schoolers who prefer un-animated documentaries.   This video is mainly about Bartolomé de las Casas, a priest who came to the new world shortly after Columbus had been removed of his governorship there, and later spent his life trying to end the enslavement and oppression of the native people in the Spanish colonies.   After briefly introducing De las Casas and Nicolás de Ovando (the 3rd governor of the new world), it backtracks to Columbus's previous journeys, including the establishment of colonies and subjugation of the native peoples, which continues until minute 12:04  (though I suggest watching the whole thing to learn more about what happened after Columbus in the Spanish colonies).    It is accurate overall, apart from one small error  mentioned below which is easy to discuss.  

CONTENT CONCERNS:  Contains one brief instance of cultural nudity.   Around minute 4:15 it briefly shows native people being shown to queen Isabela, including a woman with bare breasts (only slightly blurred).  It also contains more depictions of violence.  

Related to accuracy, it said that Bobadilla was sent back specifically to replace Columbus, but actually he was sent back mainly to investigate a colonist rebellion though he had the power to replace Columbus based on his investigation.   Another important detail that is left out is how Bobadilla also mishandling of the governing of the  colonies, and that things got worse for the indigenous people under his government.  While Columbus and his brothers had tried to maintain discipline of the colonists through arguably cruel means, Bobadilla went in the other direction and let the Colonists basically do what they wanted, including rape and abuse the native peoples without any censure (which I wrote about more in this article, in the section, "After Columbus".)

Biography.Com - Several Videos
(Recommended for Upper Elementary through High School)
There are three videos embedded in this article (and unfortunately when you load the article they all begin playing at you will want to scroll down and turn off the other two before showing to your kids).   All are are in the more typical older documentary style (not animated).     The first video covers the basics of the Columbus journeys and the first Spanish colonies started under Columbus.  My only slight criticism is they could have said something to clarify the differences at the time between subjugation under a feudal system (which we might recognize as a form of slavery today, but which they would not have), and chattel slavery (Columbus subjugated many Taino on his 2nd journey and later enslaved some).   But overall this is accurate. 

The 2nd video listed is more about the ships used on the journey, and the 3rd is a short footnote with a few more details.

The text article is also well done, but contains one error (it says on his 4th journey he was shipwrecked in Cuba when he was actually shipwrecked in Jamaica).

CONTENT CONCERNS:   The videos contain some artistic nudity (middle age drawings of the natives without clothing). 

Recommended Videos on
 Spanish Conquest/Colonization

The following aren't directly about Columbus, but can make a good follow up to show what happened in the new world after the voyages of Columbus.

Crash Course US History:  The Black Legend, Native Americans, and Spaniards
(Recommended for Middle School and High School)

This video covers, very briefly, the Native American peoples who lived in what is now the US before European contact, and covers what happened to them during Spanish colonization/exploration (which was after Columbus, but still related). My one minor quibble is that it sort of suggests that Bartolomé de las Casas was the only Spaniard fighting against the oppression of the natives, while in fact, he was convinced that the enslavement of the native peoples were wrong by other priests who were preaching this before him.   But none were as vocal or steadfast in their fight, so I don't think that oversimplification is worth skipping this video, which overall sets up well what happened to the native people during colonization.  

CONTENT CONCERNS:  It has pictures/depictions of massacres and torture which are not suitable for younger kids, and which also contain nudity (medieval artistic nudity).  

Extra Credits History:  Bartolomé de las Casas - Changing Your Mind
(Recommended for All Ages)
This one deals a little bit more with
Bartolomé de las Casas, who is mentioned briefly in the last video. I was so excited when this came out because this is probably my favorite historical character and the person who got me studying this time period. He was a Spanish priest who came to the colonies just after Columbus had his governorship stripped. While he originally participated in the oppression of the indigenous people he soon realized what was happening to them was wrong and spent the rest of his life trying to end their oppression.  The video did an excellent job and even managed to be completely kid friendly.

NOTE TO CHRISTIAN READERS:  Though this is a secular resource, they did very well at portraying de las Casas' faith.   They did however offer a brief  critical note about proselytizing (presenting as a negative that las Casas supported it).  Las Casas believed in
proselytizing through love and logic, not force or coercion, and  preached that this was the only Biblical way to share the gospel.      I found it ironic that they would share anti-proseletizing sentiment, even related to this specific type of proselytizing, in a video that was largely praising an individual's openness to worldview change.

Crash Course US History:   The Spanish Empire, Silver, and Runaway Inflation
(Suggested for Middle School and High School ...may work for late elementary also.)
This covers, briefly, the empires that existed before Spanish Conquest and what followed in the next several hundred years, and the results in America, Spain, and even China. 

Extra Credits - The Inca Empire
(Suggested for Mid-elementary through High School)
This series, about an hour long in all, tells what life was like in the Inca Empire and than chronicles it's conquest by the Spanish.  

CONTENT CONCERNS:   There is violence but it is animated and somewhat abstract.   I let my child watch other videos by Extra Credits with similar levels of violence around age 8. 

TedEd - The Rise and Fall of the Inca Empire

(Suggested for All Ages)
This video also has some history of the Inca, and tells of their conquest.  It has less detail than the longer video by Extra Credits.   I feel like this video is more appropriate for younger kids because of the way it's told, in a way that reminds me of how a fable is told and with paper cut-out people that I think make the violence even more abstract than the stick people drawings of Extra Credits.  

Thanks to Pixabay for the images used to make the intro graphic.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Torn Paper Mountain Craft


Make torn paper mountains:   An easy craft for all ages.

Post contains some affiliate links, through which I can earn commission

Making torn paper mountains is a fun, really easy artwork you can do with kids of almost any age (or even adults!).


Different color paper
Scissors (optional, for second part).

You will need different shades of paper.   In mine I used different shades of purple cardstock, plus black for silhouettes in the front and a blue background.   Shades of green or blue look nice too, or you can also do this with multiple colors of paper, or even patterned paper, for a different look.  

One town paper mountain sheet example

First, tear the paper in a zig-zag or wave pattern to make mountains.

Two torn paper mountain sheets laid out overlapping

Before gluing anything down, you might want to suggest your kids figure out what order they want their mountains in. 

While it seems obvious, as adults, that you have to glue the mountains in the background first, you may need to explain that to your children.   I've done this with two groups of kids now, and I notice little kids often start by gluing the mountain in the foreground, even though that needs to go over the the other mountain.   

Also, if you are going to add trees (see below) decide if you want any between your mountains before gluing.

Completed torn paper mountain craft, in shades of purple


The mountains on their own look beautiful, but if you want you can add a silhouette of a tree, or a few trees, like the ones I cut out here.  

Cut out of pine trees

Here are several arrangements I tried of my trees...I encourage kids to move around their pieces and find the way they would like them to be placed before gluing.

Arrangement 1:  Lone Tree on a Hill

Arrangement 2:    Two trees

Arrangement 3:  2 Trees

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Story of the World Ancient Times - Chapter 14 - Moses, the Isaelites, and the Exodus from Egypt

Hands on ideas for learning about the story of Moses, the 10 Plagues, and the Exodus, alligned with Story of the World Ancient Times History Curriculum for homeschool
Painting in header is "Mother of Moses", by Simeon Solomon, 1860
and is in the public domain

This is part of my Story of the World lesson series, but this post especially can be used by those not using that curriculum.  In stead of reading these stories about Moses in SOTW, we actually read them in our Children's Bible (since we were reading other parts of the story as well to supplement).   And we didn't do a lot of activities, since we had just recently attended a Vacation Bible School camp related to the story of Moses and the Israelites.  But there are SO MANY hands on activities you can do related to the story of Moses, so I decided to share links to some of the best of those with you (both ones directly related to the parts of this story SOTW includes, and ones not included...I've noted which are which in the activity section below.).  

But before I get to those activities, here are some Children's Bible versions I suggest for these stories...
DISCLOSURE:  Post contains some affiliate links, through which I can earn commission.

The Jesus Storybook BibleThe Jesus Storybook Bible
This is a beautiful retelling of various Bible stories, told in a way that  shows how each separate event is  really part of ONE story...a Love story about how God rescues his people.  It's gentle and perfect for younger children, yet brings out aspects of the stories that even adults can learn from. 

I suggest buying the version with the audio CD, as David Suchet's reading of this story is really wonderful (my oldest listened to these tapes over and over...he couldn't get enough of them).   You can also purchase just the book by itself or get it with the animated movie version of this on DVDS too (which I haven't seen so can't comment on).

(DK) Children's Illustrated Bible

This book has faithful retelling of the Bible stories along with beautiful illustrations, and sidebars with helpful maps, pictures of artifacts and places, and historical and cultural information related to the text.   It's really a perfect book if you want to connect the Bible stories with other aspects of history.


The Action Bible
This comic book style Bible is great for older elementary age kids and middle school kids.   My own kids really liked this was the first one they read on their own. 



For All Sections
Old Testament Notebooking Activities

Baby Moses Activities
(Included in SOTW Narrative)

Moses and the Burning Bush Craft
(NOT included in SOTW narrative)

The Israelite Make Bricks
(NOT included in SOTW narrative, but it would be easy to add this without additional reading just by explaining that this was one thing the Isrealites had to do when they were slaves).

10 Plagues Activity
(Included in SOTW Narrative)

Crossing the Red Sea

(Included in SOTW Narrative)

Crossing the Red Sea 3D Paper Craft
Cross the Red Sea Interactive Coloring Page
*Technically, these are crossing the Jordan activities, but they would totally work for crossing the red sea too. 

See also "Notes for Christian Homeschoolers" at the bottom of this page for additional discussions, especially for older children

The following things that happened to the Israelites while they were wandering around in the desert aren't part of what was included in Story of the World narrative, but if you want to extend this by reading Bible stories from the Exodus, here are some fun activities to go with this.

10 Commandments Activities
While this was not included in SOTW Narrative, a picture of Moses carrying the 10 commandments is one of the illustration)
Various 10 Commandments Crafts

Wandering in the Desert

Exodus (and other Bible Stories) Play Activity with Sand (Ages 4-8)
A way to tell the Exodus story to very young children using a sand box and wood figures (you could print out figures in stead and glue them to popsicle sticks to use in the sand in similar ways).

Learn about the Sinai desert
The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the Sinai.   This would be a great chance to explore a little bit of what this desert is like.   Below are some great resources for that.
  • Foods of the Sinai (With Recipes) - This blog post from one of my other blogs, which I wrote largely using info from the three previous sources, has suggestions for snacks that relate to various parts of the Exodus, and at the bottom has a list of edible plants in the Sinai, and recipes, most using only foods that the Israelites would have had. It includes some activities you could do for learning about God's provision  manna and quail to the Israelites.
  • Wild Plants of the Sinai - A short list of plants that grow in the Sinai (not all plants, but just some common ones), with pictures.
  • Bedouin History Desert Safari - A blog with lots of great stories about what life is like today for Bedouins in the Sinai desert.   This post, with a story about children digging for wild tubers in the desert, I thought would be a good one to read to children. 

The Making of the Tabernacle


There are stories similar to the story Moses' and how he was placed in the Nile by his mother.    One of these stories is the story of Sargon, and some people have claimed that the Moses story was based off of that.    This article does a pretty good job of refuting that claim

Another ancient myth that is similar to the Moses story is the story of Isis and Horus.   According to the myth, while hiding from Set, Isis gave birth to Horus in the swamps of the Delta.   She kept the baby hidden in the thickets, and the goddess Selket (or in some versions Neith) watched over Horus when Isis needed to go out for food.   (Source:

This is similar to how Moses' mother hid Moses in the reeds, and had her sister watch over him. 

While it's just conjecture, this idea popped into my head:   What if Moses' mother knew these stories?   What if what happened to Moses was BOTH a copy and a reality?   What if, having heard these stories from the Egyptians she lived with, she hid her baby in a way that she thought would make any Egyptian who found her child hesitant to harm him?  Horus was an important god in Egypt, associated with the rule of the Pharaohs.  If an Egyptian found a baby in a basket hiding in the reeds, I imagine it could make them pause, possibly treat the child a little more kindly (or have second thoughts over turning it over to be killed if they realized it was a Hebrew child).  

This blog post discusses the question "Did Pharoah die with his army?"