Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Things

We picked up a few new educational items this past week. FDPG found this one, it's one of a series called Stories of Great People. There are 9 other titles in the series (ie: Shakespeare's Quill, Marco Polo's Silk Purse). So far it looks quite fun. It reminds me of that history series with the Binkerton Twins and their Travel Agency (forget the title) and has already proved quite popular with FDPG and Dominic. They immediately gravitated towards its clever, colourful, and engaging combination of Art & History & Comedy. I liked how they distinguished so clearly between the historical aspect (brown paper) and the modern story (glossy white).

Another FDPG pick. She's on a mission, no, make that A Mission to learn Japanese. She loves all things Japanese (well, all things she's come in contact with so far: sushi, Totoro, Miyazaki movies, Pocky, and Hello Kitty). And she's decided that learning Japanese will be a cinch. And I, I am but a passive (and deeply admiring) observer on this trip. Good luck to you FDPG.

We chose this particular CD set because it seemed the simplest language learning package at the bookstore we were at. The others looked far too complicated, with workbooks to fill in and all those characters to memorize. FDPG might be one bright little spark, but she's still only seven years old. I don't want to kill her zest. This will give her some phrases to memorize, some funny things to say to native speakers she might happen to meet, and she'll have a little dictionary to play around with, but in the end it'll be light. Light is good. Light is fun. Nekobasu!

History has been moving at a snail's pace around here lately. We really got bogged down took a long time with the Greeks, winding down way too many roads, but now we're on the bright and shiny other side. Phew. And with that other side comes some Latin for the twins. Max has done a few years of Latin, but dropped it this year (it's not much fun doing some things all on your own, I've noticed), so we're all going to pick it up this time. The twins will be starting with Prima Latina, but we're going to use Minimus for the historical angle. I think it's something all three of them can have fun with.
Anyhow, this is the audio CD that comes with the book. FDPG and I have listened to it twice, once with the book and once without, and while we both enjoyed it (I finally discovered how to pronounce "eheu!"), I thought it a bit overpriced for what it is. That said, I'm sure I'll be less critical once I've had the kids listen to it a few times.
Here is a video series we've been watching. We didn't buy this one - it's from the library - but after watching my kids watch it I will say that it's highly engaging to the male brain. The makers of this series have taken a game engine and used it to recreate several famous battles in history, sprinkling the 'recreations' with the remarks and interviews of various experts in the field, all of whom are fairly absorbing speakers. There's an Eric Bana doppleganger earnest host who appears in the exact geographic location of each historical event (Marathon, Thermopylae, etc), sets up the details of each event, then lets the game machine take over. At first we were all snickering a bit because the figures were so stilted and fake-looking, and the armies move in a weird hive-like mass, but the stories are very exciting and the action, while artificial in that slightly cheesy video game manner, is so clearly laid out and panoramic you can't help but get carried along. I liked that each segment is only about 20-25 minutes each: some of the History Channel videos we've had out really test the patience of the twins. Who am I kidding, they really test MY patience. So this was a hit with everyone.

Finally, this came for Dominic this week. Dominic is a bit of a dark horse around here. He's quite the comic, but he's also fairly shy in public and not nearly as verbal as his twin, so he tends to hang back a bit. Which inevitably carves out a niche in the family totem (and those niches are hard to get out of). But during Max's experience with the Lego League Dominic discovered that he has a gift for motors and gears and figuring out mechanical things in ways none of us can. So it's perfectly charming to see him hitting his stride with this. It's got a different motor on it than the one that he got at Christmas, so he can attempt several of the models in the Forbidden Lego book, plus it comes with a whack of model booklets and intricate pieces - all to do with building powered mechanisms. It nearly caused me to inhale my latté when I saw how much it cost, but given the intellectual stretch it'll give him, I think it's worth it.


shaun said...

I can hardly keep up with all this posting, after being out of the loop for so long! But I love the resources -- can't wait to check out the Stories of Great People.

Vivian said...

Isn't it wonderful when children get into the learning? Not sure whether this fad has reached your area, but the kids here are into the Iwako Japanese erasers. They are in the cutest shapes (food, animals, sports stuff, etc.) and you can take them apart and put them back together again.

Good luck to FDPG!

Becky said...

I'd say congratulations and good luck in Japanese to FDPG but have no clue how to do it. She has more get up and go than I do!

I have two motorized boys here too. They are constantly making and attaching motors to previously unmotorized things and startlingly me badly. But I figure it's educational. Well, the motorizing, not the scaring mother part...

sheila said...

Nice to see you again, Shaun!

OMG, Vivian, I hope you realize what you've done with that eraser comment...FDPG is now on the hunt for Iwako erasers. They are AMAZINGLY cute! We have a friend in Bellingham who's going to send her some. Oh boy. I sense a massive FAD coming on!

Becky, she has more get up and go than all the people in this house put together. She's like a ticking bomb, that girl. And I'm really getting into these motorized thingies. It's incredible what's out there these days (oops, should preface my remarks with 'Old Geezer Alert').