Submersible Bridge on the Corinth Canal

May 3rd, 2013 / No Comments » / by Terri

Excerpted from A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World (publication date 6/30/13)

How a submersible bridge works.

Let’s cross the canal and see what’s on the other side of this four-fingered peninsula. We can cross by train or by car on one of the five bridges spanning the canal. We’ll cross on one of the submersible bridges located at either end of the canal. A submersible bridge is a type of movable bridge that lowers into the water when a ship is coming. It is a rather unique type of bridge as most bridges spanning a canal or waterway lift or rise up to allow ships to pass underneath. Here comes a ship! We’ll have to wait to cross over the canal. Of course, we don’t mind a bit, because we can watch the bridge lower, lower, lower, and then disappear below the surface of the water. After several minutes, the large ship passes, and our bridge seems to magically rise from the water until it reaches the top of the canal and becomes level with our roadway. The line of waiting traffic is now free to pass over the bridge.

The video below is in Russian, but the final section shows the lowering and raising of the submersible bridge:

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Windmills Used to Grind Grain

May 2nd, 2013 / No Comments » / by Terri

Excerpted from A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World (publication date 6/30/13)


From the ferry, I can point out the last landmark I want you to see. The old windmills of Mykonos are giant sentinels guarding the island and can be seen from nearly any point in Mykonos as they stand proudly on a hill overlooking the town and busy harbor. Built by the Venetians during the sixteenth century, they were used primarily as grain mills. The mills have not been in operation since the middle of the last century (1950s), but they represent the economy and hardworking nature of a people who lived and worked here in days gone by. Are you interested to know how windmills operate to grind grain?

This video shows a working windmill grinding grain in Derbyshire, England:

This video demonstrates in delightful detail how a windmill pumps water from the lowlands in the Netherlands:

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Would you leap over a charging bull?

May 2nd, 2013 / No Comments » / by Terri

Excerpt from A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World (publication date 6/30/13)


On the island of Crete, the bull was celebrated and worshipped by the ancient Minoans, as well as by other nearby Mediterranean civilizations. The scenes in these old frescoes show young athletes vaulting over bulls as part of a ceremonial ritual, not unlike how modern gymnasts flip, twist and turn over the vault during the Olympic games—only this vault moves!  How would you like to leap over a charging bull?

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Lessons from Coffee…

April 30th, 2013 / 12 Comments » / by Terri

(An espresso enjoyed along the shores of Lake Bled, Slovenia)

I have learned that ordering a large (venti) coffee “to go” from a drive-through window is a uniquely American concept. I did not realize this until I stepped outside of my own culture and entered another. Three things make this activity uniquely American and they are:

  1. 1. Driving to a coffee shop to buy your coffee.
  2. 2. Ordering coffee to take with you “on the go.”
  3. 3. Drinking more than 8oz of coffee at a time.

Since visiting Italy and Slovenia, I have come to understand that “going for coffee” is not just about the coffee. It includes three elements and they are… Read more…

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The World is a Book…

March 25th, 2013 / 2 Comments » / by Terri

Does it seem ironic to you that this geography enthusiast (moi!) has barely stepped out of the country? Yes, I have been to Tijuana, Mexico and British Columbia, but not too many miles outside of my own country border. I have spent the last twelve years of my life writing about other places and other time periods, helping families to look outside of their own walls, their own borders.

God has created a marvelous earth and beautiful people in every corner of our globe. I love sharing about these places with you. I have finished writing the first draft of the next volume in the Child’s Geography series, which Ann Voskamp began several years ago. We are excited to bring volume 3 to life in early summer. It will cover many of the Balkan countries (Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Slovenia, Italy and Malta – the Classical World of Ancient times. It will be a fitting sequel to the Holy Land. Take a peek at the cover:

We’ve had several parents proof read the text for us. Here are some of the comments we are receiving:

Read more…

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On Curriculum and Common Core, Part 2

March 25th, 2013 / 19 Comments » / by Terri

Maybe it was a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t know. I did what I was asked to do… post our view on Common Core Standards. When your inbox becomes filled with people asking where your company stands on an issue that you haven’t had a chance to fully research, you start doing your research. When you post on your blog where you do stand after doing said research and your character is attacked both on your blog and on social media sites, you write a comments policy and ask that guests kindly read it before commenting.

This blog post is much less reactive. I hope. This post comes out of a brain that has had time and space to assimilate the information on Common Core Standards and arrive at some conclusions. I hope that we can discuss this rationally and from the same “side” so to speak.

I speak for myself, Terri Johnson. Yes, I am the face of Knowledge Quest, Inc. and represent the company. But companies don’t have opinions (they have policies). People do. Here’s mine…

Common Core Standards are dangerous. They are dangerous not because they are standards (we’ve had various state standards for years) but because they are mandated from the federal government. Education is supposed to be the jurisdiction of the state and supervised from the state and local levels. The Federal Government should stay out (much like health care, but that is a whole ‘nother beast!). The scary part is that 45 states have already bought into this national control – hook, line and sinker. The state adoption of these standards is where the battleground should be. Here is a helpful video series to help you understand the issue at hand and our freedoms that are at stake:

As an aside, some well-intentioned homeschooling parents have decided to find out how their favorite curriculum publishers line up against these standards. A list has been drawn up and posted online. Parents are choosing their resources for next year based on this list, which really doesn’t tell you much of anything as alignment is easy because standards are low. However, alignment to Common Core Standards (CCS) is not the critical issue. State adoption of these standards is the issue. Currently, home and private schools are not regulated by the CCS. But they may be in the future. CCS needs to be stopped at the state level.

The best way to fight this battle is to contact your governor and state leaders. Send them this link to the video above – Sign petitions. Educate your friends, especially those who have children in the public schools. We are losing our freedoms in this country, one piece at a time, by a crafty federal government. This battle is worth our fight.

As far as your favorite curriculum is concerned, buy the materials that work the best for your family – quality materials with high standards, effective methods and sound worldview. Most of the curricula you are considering probably far exceeds the Common Core Standards anyway.

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10 Steps to a Great Start in Homeschooling

March 20th, 2013 / 12 Comments » / by Terri

(Excerpted from Homeschooling ABCs –

So, you’ve decided that you will take a stab at homeschooling this year.  Or maybe you even pulled your child out of school part way through the previous school year.  If you are anything like me, once you have made the decision to homeschool, the excitement begins to build and you might be anxious to get started right away.  Well, there is no reason why you can’t!

The beauty of teaching our children at home is that it will look slightly different for each of us.  This is not a cookie-cutter process!  Each family functions differently and so each homeschool will function differently, BUT it helps tremendously if we can start with the best tools and know-how to get this thing off the ground and running in a happy and successful way.

A note about authorship – you will see “I” and “we” used in reference to the author(s) of these lessons.  I, Terri, am the writer of this team.  But we, Todd and Terri, are in fact a team and both teach school in our home and decide together how these lessons should be organized and written.  So you will see both pronouns used regularly throughout.

Here are 10 steps to a great start in homeschooling…

Read more…

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On Curriculum and Common Core…

March 20th, 2013 / 89 Comments » / by Terri

I received an email on March 11 from the founder of the newly formed Education Freedom Coalition asking if Knowledge Quest has already aligned, or plans to align, our materials with the Common Core Standards. The email was forceful in tone and the writer deliberately stated that any reply I gave would be shared on Facebook and on a new website that was created for this purpose – identifying homeschool curriculum publishers that have aligned or not aligned with the standards.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to speak my own mind, rather than having it shared “for me” by a 3rd party. In this case, I was not given the choice… any response I made for our company would be shared. It felt like I was being backed into a corner with only one way out – say what they (the coalition) wanted me to say. The funny thing is… even though I agree (in content, not in tone) with their stance on the issue, I didn’t like the approach or the ramifications:

a. Reply that KQ is not aligned and will never align – appease a crowd, but put KQ at risk if standards become mandatory in the future (they are not required of private schools and homeschools at this time, thank goodness!) We would either have to 1. align and go back on our word; or 2. go out of business.

b. Reply that KQ is aligned (most homeschool curriculum publishers meet and exceed standards because the standards aren’t that high and are quite vague) – risk becoming boycotted by the very customers it loves to serve. We love what we do and we love those we serve. It is an absolute joy to serve the homeschooling community!

c. Not reply – be listed as a “nonresponsive” company that is indifferent to the concerns of customers. We want to be anything but unresponsive and indifferent, especially when it comes to important matters of government control over education.

I like the whole messy situation even less now that I have replied to the email!

I stated that we would rather not be “listed” on a 3rd party site, but answer parents individually as they have questions. This reply was taken to assume (strong emphasis on the word assume, because apparently, by this coalition, one is guilty before proven innocent) that Knowledge Quest would prefer to ride the fence, stay politically neutral, and reply differently to parents depending on what they would like to hear.

Really? Both our integrity and our honesty have been brought into question, just because we said we would rather not be “listed” on a 3rd party site. Oh my, what have we come to?

We are happy to talk with anyone about this who has concerns. Standards implemented by the government affect educational freedom, especially standards mandated from the federal level. However, these Common Core Standards do not apply to private or homeschools currently. Knowledge Quest’s materials are not being forced to align to any standards at this time, which means that we will do what we have always done – provide the best resources available for history and geography regardless of what the public schools are doing. Frankly, we aren’t that interested in what the public schools are doing. We are excited about the materials that curriculum providers have made available for homeschooling families!

There was another set of standards for social studies in place before Common Core. They were perhaps even more generalized, but share these traits in common with Common Core – vague and therefore hard to implement.

We have no reason to update any of our materials at this time to align with standards that aren’t required for homeschool families. And we will continue to love the companies we love, whether they align to these standards or not. We choose our curricula based on the quality, worldview and method of the materials produced, not by a list.

The cornering, accusing and pigeonholing of curriculum providers need to stop. Homeschool curriculum providers should not be on trial over this issue. They are not the ones implementing the standards. The federal government is issuing the standards that the states choose to adopt (45 states have!). We can be thankful for the educational freedom that we currently have and the large variety of curricula that we have to choose from at this time. Let’s join together in prayer that it continues! It may change down the road the more the federal government continues to reach into areas it has no jurisdiction over. Let’s get out of the courtroom and back to the couch for a great read-aloud. Or, if you would rather stay in the courtroom, find the right one. This isn’t it.

The issue at hand is not whether a specific curriculum aligns or doesn’t align with Common Core Standards; the issue is the overstepping of the Federal Government into the arena of education, which should be handled at the state and local level.

Read Part 2 here.

Question: Um, now what do you think?

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I Can’t Homeschool Because…

March 10th, 2013 / 14 Comments » / by Terri

I Might Kill My Kids!

This is the #1 reason I hear why moms don’t want to homeschool their kids. Really? I get that this is an exaggeration, but the very excuse indicates that the excuse-maker’s kids drive her crazy. Well, guess what? My kids have exasperated me on occasion too. I have even threatened them with the big yellow bus tomorrow morning, if they didn’t shape up. I can report, however, that each one of my children are still alive (smile).

What is it about our kids that makes us want to scream in frustration and throw in the homeschooling towel, or never begin in the first place? Anger and frustration can come from anywhere, but I’m going to boil it down to 3 problem areas:

1. The parent hasn’t properly trained her children to respect her authority and obey. Just as we are imperfect people, so are our children. But, our kids are teachable and trainable. We can raise them up to be respectful and obedient kids who are a pleasure to be around. Yes, it takes hard work, diligence and consistency, but it is worth it. There are lots of great books on this topic. If you struggle with children who do not obey or who disrespect you, read up on child-training, whether you homeschool or not. Parenting is the hardest job we’ll ever do, but also the most worthwhile. Teaching your child anything is just an extension of parenting.

2. The parent/teacher is being erratic or inconsistent. Kids need to know what to expect. Schedules are great tools for both teacher and student. They get everyone on the same page so they can know what to expect. Some adults really despise schedules and routines; they want to be spontaneous and free. Most kids, however, crave structure. They want to know what’s coming next. If every day is different, kids will become frustrated and more difficult to work with. Keep a consistent schedule and routine for your school days. That doesn’t mean that you can’t change things up on occasion or take an unscheduled field trip. It does mean that regular days should follow a regular order with predictable tasks and school work, if you want easy-going students.

3. The parent/teacher is stubborn and so is the child. Maybe “determined” is a better word. However, the meaning is the same. As the teacher, I might decide that something must be done and I am determined that it get done. I can have all kinds of reasons why I want the task done, such as: 1.) because I want to finish the book on time (i.e. the end of the school year); 2.) because I think the child needs extra practice in this area (i.e. math, handwriting, etc.); 3.) because I SAID SO. However, there may be more going on that might cause a clash of wills. Perhaps the child doesn’t understand a foundational principle or is sad about something or is hungry or… In any case, a clash of wills causes an eruption of emotions, usually anger and tears.

So, how can we all get along peacefully so that our school days flow smoothly and without frustration?

These are a few of the principles that we live and work by in the Johnson household:

1. We start with devotions and prayer. If one of our children has a prayer request, we can pray for it before we even begin our school day. Sometimes, a child will ask prayer for a better attitude or to get along better with a sibling. Sometimes, as the teacher, I ask my kids to pray for me… that I would be patient and kind. Prayer is a powerful force and God is an ever-present helper in times of need.

2. If someone begins to develop a bad attitude, they take that attitude to their room rather than disrupting everyone else with it. Sometimes the person with the bad attitude is me. We all need time outs sometimes, even us parents. I don’t see time-outs so much as a punishment as a time to cool down and regroup. It’s a good time to pray and catch up on Bible reading too. (Everyone in our family reads the Bible for 5+ minutes a day).

3. If a certain subject is troublesome for a child over and over again, we’ll take a step back and make some changes. Maybe we need to try a new curriculum. Or maybe a foundational skill has been glossed over and needs to be learned again. As an example, my 7yo dd was struggling in math for a month or two when she wasn’t before. It was beginning to feel like we were banging our heads against the wall. I pulled out a hundred chart and we went over the numbers up through 100 and looked at the logical nature of our numbering system that is based on 10. A lightbulb went on in her head. She kept the hundred chart tucked in her math book and referred to it as needed. Within a couple weeks, she didn’t need it anymore.

Similarly, we switched to a spelling app on the ipad for one of our kids, as the regular spelling book that we use – Spelling Power – just wasn’t working for her. Creativity and looking at a subject from a new angle goes a long way.

I’ve been homeschooling for 15 years. I am not more patient than you. I can get just as angry as anyone else. But I love homeschooling because we have systems in place that work for us. We step away from each other when we get angry; we pray and seek forgiveness; we follow a daily routine and schedule; we use the curricula that works best for each of our children. And I haven’t killed any of my kids yet!

Anything worthwhile takes effort. Homeschooling takes effort, but it is one of the most worthwhile endeavors that I have pursued in my life. My kids like it too.

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Enter to Win 2 Book Combo

March 2nd, 2013 / 123 Comments » / by Terri

As part of Home Educating Family’s Homeschool Block Party, which begins at 8:30pm EST on Monday 3/4/13, we are pleased to give away a set of these two books:

Just follow the directions in the giveaway widget below to enter between 3/4/13 and 3/10/13!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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