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Boy Gift Ideas, History Choices, Computer Literacy

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, December 03, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 87                         December 3, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

  If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
  And please visit our sponsors!  They make it possible.


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  Guest Article
  -- Gifts for Boys
  Helpful Tip
  -- 'Hand' Made Gifts
  Winning Website
  -- History Curricula
  Reader Question
  -- Computer Literacy
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

        Guest Article

  Great Gifts for Your Guys
    by Hal and Melanie Young


  Does Christmas shopping have to be a burden or puzzle?  Not
  necessarily.  If you have good ideas, and the right attitude,
  you too can survive the annual shopping flurry.
  A few principles we've adopted over the years help manage the
  gift budget for our family.  First, having multiple sons (six
  in our case) introduces economies of scale.  We taught our sons
  to share most of their gifts from the beginning, so they don't
  blink at 'presents for the family'.  It also means they don't
  expect a large pile under the tree for each person.  We also
  believe that a new/old gift – old books, a toy handed down,
  a family keepsake – may have greater value than a brand new
  item.  Practical gifts can be a lot of fun, too; underwear is
  still underwear, but things that encourage them to grow up a
  little, like real tools of their own, can both entertain and
  So here are some of the gift ideas we've found useful for our
  Constructive Things – LEGOs immediately come to mind.  After
  two decades collecting them, if we don't have ten thousand
  pieces of LEGO ware, then we've got twenty thousand.  You may
  need to shop around if you don't want to buy into the licensed
  character sets, though you can reinterpret them, too.  We
  changed the "Indiana Jones" narrative into a paleontology
  expedition, for example.  Likewise, we have no trouble chucking
  out one or two problematic pieces from an otherwise great set –
  just be neat with the package!  For preschoolers, LEGO has the
  DUPLO junior line, too.
  Fischertechnik is a great line for older boys.  It was originally
  designed for engineering simulations, but the technicians found
  their kids liked playing with them, too.  Now they're packaged
  for building all kinds of models, some with motors, sensors,
  and controls, others for historical models or workable toys.
  The pieces don't fall apart by themselves during active play
  like LEGO tends to, either.  Oh, and why not spend a few more
  dollars and purchase plastic storage bins for them?
  What if you just can't afford new sets?  We've suggested to our
  less-solvent sons that hunting through the closets and bins,
  finding the misplaced pieces, then repackaging them in a bin
  with the directions (we keep all directions in one file drawer)
  would be a great gift for their younger brothers.  You could do
  the same thing with bins of outgrown toys from a friend's house
  or freecycle.
  Do you remember model kits, plastic cement and tiny jars of paint
  from your youth?  They're still available, and your son might
  enjoy building one with Dad (who might enjoy it, too).  Kits
  are available for a few dollars on up, and many of the toxic
  chemicals in glue and paint have alternatives or have been phased
  Imaginative Things - Boys like to collect realistic gear to suit
  up as knights, soldiers, ranch hands or explorers.  Sometimes
  this can double as useful clothing items (a western-style winter
  coat, for example, or an Army surplus field jacket).  Our fellows
  have had fun with a stack of inexpensive cowboy hats we bought by
  the dozen from an importing company specializing in party favors.
  Speaking of Army surplus, many towns have one of these dream
  emporiums available.  You'll want to chaperone any visits by
  younger boys because sometimes the other merchandise is, well,
  edgy, but we've never met a boy who wasn't thrilled to shop for
  canteens, web belts, compasses and folding shovels.  A little
  investment can go a long way here.
  For pretend-world-play indoors, we prefer Playmobil when we can
  afford it; it's built so well the castles and ships we bought
  when our grown-up son was a toddler still look like new.  A more
  affordable option, though more limited, is the GeoTrax system
  of toy trains.  It's great to have things you can add to over
  the years - it simplifies shopping for grandparents, too.
  Useful Things - Boys appreciate having their own tools.  Maybe
  they can't handle Dad's 16-ounce framing hammer, but they work
  fine with a smaller, lighter tool.  Take a look at what is most
  useful for your family; construction tools might be awkward around
  an apartment, but standard maintenance tools like a tack hammer,
  pliers and screwdrivers are practical everywhere.  Cull lumber
  from the lumberyard can give him an inexpensive way to try his
  skills.  A technically-inclined son might enjoy his own precision
  screwdrivers or drafting instruments.  One of our boys wants tools
  to get a lawn business going -- new, old, from yard sales, he
  doesn't care!  Another son recently suggested that his brothers
  find free classical sheet music online, print it out and make him
  a notebook to play the piano from.  It's practically free, but a
  big time savings for him.  All of our sons have been thrilled
  with gifts like a briefcase and power tools as they become teens.
  Boys want to do real things.  They want to be men!
  Ballistic Things - Should boys be allowed to play with toy guns?
  We think so, for several reasons, but we do forbid them to 'shoot'
  their family members or friends, or to play out activities that
  would be sinful in reality.  There are only cops visible in our
  yard, the robbers are imaginary.  In our family we do use toy
  weapons to teach firearm safety, otherwise, they are the props
  the boys use pretending they are pioneers, soldiers, policemen,
  and hunters -- all God-honoring roles.
  Toy swords take some supervision -- they can really raise a welt,
  whereas a cap pistol at ten paces is just a noise.  Bows and arrows,
  or slingshots, are truly weapon material and need to be handled
  with care, but can be great fun.  Our sons particularly love their
  three man slingshots for hurling pine cones and snowballs.
  We have always lived near other homes and in subdivisions so real
  guns, even air rifles, require an excursion to use safely (and
  legally!).  We teach our sons how to handle firearms and to shoot
  safely, but not as frequently as we would if we had more land.
  Teenagers are fully capable of owning and caring for firearms,
  though; the National Rifle Association and 4-H offer classes in
  hunter safety, target shooting, and competitive sport shooting,
  if you are looking for more opportunities in this area.
  Don't forget ballistic rockets!  Our boys have always loved model
.  Of course, what boy wouldn't like something that goes
  boom and flies away?
  Books and Games - Used book stores and library book sales can be
  a source of inexpensive pleasure for your young men.  Old series
  books like Childhood of Famous Americans, G.A.Henty, and the
  Landmark Books are full of excitement and entertainment, but also
  history!  We also love audio books - what a great thing to take
  in the van on a long ride.  Games that the family can play together
  are a hit here, too.  We love games everyone can play like Pit, but
  also harder games like Mille Bornes and Clue - we just team a
  younger child with an older one.  The younger children mostly want
  to roll the dice and move the 'man', while the older boys get into
  the strategy; as a team they can all play together.  Games like
  Catch Phrase that can be played in a crowd are great when other
  families visit.
  Active Things - The old standbys, balls and bicycles, are always
  good for gifts.  One family recently told us they bought used
  bicycles, sanded them down and gave them in pieces to their boys
  with paint in their stockings.  They had many hours of fun putting
  their 'new' bikes together and customizing them with their dad. 
  Video Games - Top on the list for many boys are video and computer
  games, but we think they should be last on most lists.  We do allow
  our boys to play video games and game systems, but for the most
  part we keep them at grandmother's house for an occasional or
  weekend treat.  Why?  Most boys love exciting, action-packed games
  the most and those games fill a boy's system with adrenaline, then
  leave him with no way to be active.  We find that boys who spend a
  lot of time playing video games tend to get cranky and irritable
  with the rest of the family.  They're all charged up with no place
  to go!  The exciting inaction just doesn't work out too well for
  us.  We do like computer-based games that have some historical
  or practical premise, like Age of Empires or Microsoft's Flight
.  They are time consuming to learn, though, and isolate
  both the player and the computer from the rest of the family.
  As we get past the idea that our boys need the latest hot toy and
  think about what will not only give them pleasure, but develop
  their skills, their imaginations, their minds, souls, and bodies,
  we've found that gift giving has become a lot more fun for all of us!

  Hal and Melanie Young are the authors of Raising Real Men:
  Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys
, an acclaimed new
  release from Great Waters Press.  "...this book is a breath of
  fresh air..." - Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child's Heart.


  Editor's note:  There are some FREE bonuses when you purchase
  "Raising Real Men" at the website -- including a 2-CD set of the
  first story in the Sugar Creek Gang audio series!  See the website
  above for details. :-)


  Do you have comments to share?  Please do!
  Send your emails to:  mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


  Do-able Daily Devotions

  Fun devotions to help children
  easily connect with God every day




      Helpful Tip

  "Hand" Made Gifts

  This is a tip *and* a question.  I'll put the answers received in
  our "helpful tip" area next issue!

  Please send your answers to:  hn-ideas@familyclassroom.net


  "For Christmas gifts each year, we give a personalized gift to
  special people in our lives (like grandparents, aunts, etc.).  Each
  year, we choose something to put our hand prints on.  In the past
  we have done a dish towel, a canvas bag, a small stool, a placemat,
  t-shirts, an apron, and a door mat (with feet prints).  I have a
  few more ideas, but I am hoping to add more.  The people we bless
  with these gifts always rave about them.  Since we live away from
  our families, it brings something personal to our gift giving.
  Any ideas?  Thank you!" -- Jane in Texas

  Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share?  Please write!
  Send to:  mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

      Winning Website

  History Recommendations at Knowledge Quest Maps


  This is an awesome evaluation and comparison of some of the
  'living' history curricula I recommend most often to families!

  Terri Johnson of Knowledge Quest Maps writes...

  "I get asked all the time which history programs I recommend
  and why.  Well, I have done quite a bit of research (with my own
  children as the guinea pigs in many instances) and have some great
  recommendations for you."

  Terri provides an audio MP3 version of her talk -- and also the
  transcript to read!

  She gives an unbiased comparison of the following 6 resources:

  The Story of the World
  Biblioplan for Families (I had never heard of this one before!)
  Tapestry of Grace
  TruthQuest History (My personal favorite!)
  Sonlight Curriculum
  Mystery of History

  This is the type of advice I get asked for a lot, too, so Terri's
  great site is my pick for a Winning Website this week!

  -- Heather

  History Recommendations at Knowledge Quest Maps

  P.S. Terri doesn't sell any of the history she is evaluating, but
  she has some AWESOME history resources!!  Check out her "products"
  link and her other pages when you visit.

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "Does anyone know of any programs that we can use to teach our
  Junior and Senior High children Excel, Power Point and other
  common computer programs?  Thank you." -- Gayle in Alabama

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "This site has a great many free educational tools:
  I haven't used it in a few years, since I graduated a young lady
  who wanted some practical computer experience.  I can't speak for
  how in depth the programs are.  Signing up is free, and all of the
  classes are free.  You can go through a tutorial at your own pace,
  or sign up for a free class that gives you access to a tutor with
  whom you can communicate.  Topics cover computer literacy, but also
  many other subjects.  Some might even work for middle school, or
  for subjects other than computers.  Good luck!" -- Anne


  "Hi -- We use Alpha Omega's LIFEPAC 'Computer Literacy' series.
  There are several options: Access, Excel, Power Point, etc.

  These are great for the motivated middle schooler or highschooler.
  Self taught!" -- Deidra


  "There are many free tutorials online that do a great job of
  teaching various computer programs -- just type the name of the
  program plus 'tutorial' in a search engine." -- Cyndy


  "I have used Video Professor, the company founded by John Scherr
  that advertises so much on television and radio, to learn Power Point.
  They are rather expensive (at least I think) but their CDs walk you
  through the process in a very easy to understand way.  They have
  three levels of CDs for most programs and offer one beginner level
  CD for free.  You can either order the free CD (you must pay the
  shipping), or you can order all three level CDs for a particular
  program, use them for a specified period of time, and then either
  pay for all three (usually just under $200) if you want to keep
  them, or send the two upper level CDs back and keep the beginner
  one for free (again, I think that you have to pay the shipping)."
  -- Wayne S. Walker


  "I ordered two different computer programs from Sonlight:

  Professor Teaches Microsoft 2007 (includes Word, Excel, Access,
  PowerPoint, Outlook and Publisher)

  Professor Teaches 'How to Create Web Pages and Graphics'
  There are 12 program tutorial sets in each program. 

  I have not used it yet, but intend to use it for computer electives
  for my high schooler (and for myself!)" -- Tari in TX


  "Try your local library.  Ours does adult classes for Word and Excel.
  They may be willing to let your children join the class." -- Jamie B.


     Answer our NEW Question

  "My daughter is 9 with ADHD and she keeps telling me everything
  is too hard.  She would be in third grade for public school this
  year.  I ask her how she got good grades in school if this is too
  hard and she admitted to me that she copied off the other kids.
  So we have started over with first grade stuff.  I'm tired of the
  fighting every day and her crying.  What else can I do??"

  -- Exhausted in Indiana


  Do you have some encouragement and/or advice for this weary mom? 

  Please send your answer to:  mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

     Ask YOUR Question

  Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

  Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
  if we can help you out in a future issue!

     Need Immediate Help?

  Visit our Homeschool Encouragement Center!  When you get there,
  just introduce yourself and let them know that Heather sent you!

  This ultra-safe chat is supervised by experienced moms who are
  there to serve and share their wisdom... or just offer a listening
  ear and encouragement.


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