Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Geography Blog

Two of my friends and I just started a new geography blog called The Map Guys. For now I am not going post any more on this blog.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New stories from the Vatican Exhibit

Yesterday we (that is Electroblogster, Gus, Terri, Bernie and I) went for a last peek at the Vatican Exhibit. We were lucky enough to arrange to meet up with a friend of Grandma's who is an amazing tour guide. We spent three hours in there and we didn't even look at a whole bunch of stuff. She told us several stories about St. Gregory the Great.
Once there was a great famine in Rome, equal in destructive powers to the Black Plague that one raged over Europe. The newly elected St. Gregory begged God for mercy and to stop the famine. So the whole town did penance and after a time they all met around Hadrian's tomb. Then every single one of the many, many people gathered there saw an angel on top of the tomb, holding a fiery sword, then as everyone watched he sheathed his sword and everyone took it as a sign from God that there prayers were answered. The tomb was renamed The Castle of Angels.
Then there was the pantocrater, an icon with Jesus seated in the middle and Sts. Peter and Paul on either side of him. Jesus is clothed in red, divinity, with a blue(symbolizing humanity) mantle over, showing that he took on humanity over his divintity. He is holding a book on which are two bible verses,
I am the light of the world
Take and eat, this is my body
These are a very unusual combination, but also a pretty neat one.
The first is the Liturgy of the Word the second the Liturgy of the Eucharist, this is the same combination as in the Holy Mass.
Then it was on to probably my favorite part of the Exhibit, The Mandylion. Although there are many legends about the Mandylion there is one which isn't a legend which is a really cool story.
The one they have at the exhibit is only a copy of the original which was kept folded most of the time but when unfolded was a full bodied picture of Jesus. Now a copy was made, this Mandylion, The Mandylion of Edessa, and several copies were made of it, then the original disapeared. A long time later they discovered The Shoud of Turin, many chemical tests were run on it, pollen was found on it from all the places the original Mandylion was known to have been. Carbon dating tests were run on it, those were less encouraging, they said that this cloth was over 1000 years younger than it should be, but later it was discovered that carbon dating tests are off 1000 to 1500 years off if a certain kind of bacteria is on the cloth, that bacteria was found on the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is fading, due to many pictures taken of it, but we can see the face still in the Mandylion, or in Veronica's veil, the beautiful faces are identical.
The Mandylion's frame, though quite impressive studded with gems galore is nothing compared to the actual painting. One more thing is really cool, whatever direction you are looking from He is looking at you.

I am running out of time so I am only going to post one more story, that of St. Stanislaw. He was the Archbishop of Cracow, and consequently of Poland. Now the king of Poland at that time was a really bad king, so after repeated warnings to stop his evil ways and the kings persistent wickedness St. Stanislaw excommunicated him. The king ignored it and one day decided to go to Mass at the cathedral. St. Stanislaw saw him there and told him to leave, the king refused, St. Stanislaw stopped the Mass. The king, being just a bit hasty, went up to the altar grabbed the bishop by the neck and strangled him. Then he had to run away from the wrath of the people. He fled to a monastary where he did penance for his sin, and had such a change of heart that after his death he was declared a Blessed. Now that is a really cool story.

Well I have spent enough time on the computer but expect another post from Gus shortly.

Monday, April 24, 2006

South Africa

We haven't Posted in a while because of Easter.

Here are some interesting facts about South Africa.

Capital: Pretoria
Highest point: Mafadi 11,306 feet
Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 feet
Desert: Kalahari
Oceans: Atlantic, and Pacific
Rivers: Limpopo, Orange, and Vaal
Provinces:Eastern Cape, Free State, Guateng, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North-West, and Western Cape
Religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs, Islam, Hinduism
Currency: rand

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Hanseatic League

A little off topic here. Ria and Electroblogster were following the "random article" link on Wikipedia that the Mapguy discovered for us. We came upon the Hanseatic League. This group of trading cities from Sweden, Germany, Poland, Holland/Netherlands etc. created a monopoly on trade in the Baltic Sea for 400 years!! (c. 1300 - 1700)

And coolest of all is this high resolution ancient map called the Carta Marina. Check out the seamonsters and ancient names (Lappia - where the Laplanders live.) I know about Lapland because of a book I read when I was a kid called Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and the Reindeer. The three little Swedish protagonists spend a holiday in Lapland. Lapland is in Finland.

[posted by electroblogster]


Tanzania only became a country in 1964 when the mainland country of Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar united. The capital is Dar Es Salaam. You can read the official website in English or Kiswahili. Tanganyika had been part of the German East Africa territory. The British got rule of it in World War I and ruled it until it became independent in 1961.

Sissal is used to make rope and twine. Sissal happens to be one of Tanzania's main crops. Yummy!

Whoaa! Wait a minute here. This is a cool country!! They have Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti Reserve Park, Lions, Giraffes, Leopards, Elephants, sandy tropical beaches, HALF of Lake Victoria, and how cool is the name of that archipelago (group of islands) Zanzibar?!?!? It seems like there are lots of exotic tours that go to the Rufiji River.

There is a lot of water in this African nation. The east is on the Indian Ocean. Part of Lake Victoria (Lake Vicky for short) is in this nation. On two other borders are Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa. And there is a big river running down the middle called the Rufiji River. And here is a place that will take you on tours all over Tanzania including Beho Beho. They have videos if you would like to SEE what Tanzania looks like - look out for the elephant in Beho Beho.

By the way, the country is south of the equator. They have a national park (one of those that are comprised of a little land, some islands, atols and an archipelago and a lot of water) that has 61 genera of coral alone!! That's a lot of different kinds of coral!

Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Tanganyika, Serengeti and so forth. These words are just plain FUN to say. I think that this Kiswahili language would be really neat to learn!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mt. Kilimanjaro

This week is Tanzania, the home of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Unlike the dangerous snow-coated pile of ice and rock that is Mt. Everest, Mt. Kilimanjaro has much plant and animal life living amazingly high on it's slopes. These creatures are a trifle exotic, but what could you expect from plants and animals living on the high slopes of a mountain?

The cold, though thoroughly bone chilling I'm sure, is not nearly as severe as those chilling temperatures on Mt. Everest which pass out frost bites and worse with an eager hand.

Here is a really interesting link about Kilimanjaro.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is made up of three different volcanoes. Kibo, the youngest, is in the middle, Shira is on the west side and Mawenza is on the east.

Anyways, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro sounds like it would be much more enjoyable than doing the same to Mt. Everest, and I intend to climb it as soon as I can.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Praying for China

The Holy Father has a special prayer intention he shares with all the faithful each month. For the month of April, it is to pray for the persecuted Christians in China. (hat-tip Open Book)

The Vatican has announced that during the month of April, Pope Benedict XVI will focus his prayer specifically on the plight of the much-persecuted Church in China. The text of the Holy Father’s April mission intention, released today, is "That the Church in China may carry out its evangelizing mission serenely and in full freedom."

You can read about special intentions for each month at the Apostleship of Prayer website.

The Nile

The White Nile(which starts in Sudan) and the Blue Nile(which starts in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan) join together in Sudan to make the Nile which flows north into Egypt. I thought that they joined together in Ethiopia but I looked in an atlas to find where the Blue and White Niles started and found out that they joined together in Sudan not Ethiopia.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Solar Eclipse

I just found out on NASA that today there is going to be a total solar eclipse. The solar eclipse can be seen from Libya in North Africa. I think that it sounds realy neat and wish that I could see it from where I live.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Library Adventure

Yesterday my mom and I were looking for books about Morocco at the Library. We found a book about French Guiana in the Africa shelf because it was numbered wrong (we think because somebody thought French Guiana was in Africa though it is really in South America). So we searched "French Guiana" to find where the book was supposed to go but the only match that it came up with was the same book that we already had. So we decided to search for "Brazil" and we finally found out where the book about French Guiana belonged.

We went and told the lady at the desk about it and it will get fixed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I was just reading a book called Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. In it I found out that to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean sea you would have to go through the strait of Gibraltar and the Alaboran sea. On most maps the Alaboran sea is Shown as part of the Mediterranean sea.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


On Monday, March 20th,, Tunisia celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence from French rule.

Timeline of Tunisia History

Tunisia in the News: Human Rights/Terror Issue


Founding of Carthage according to The Story of the Romans by H.A. Guerber

Overview of Carthage and what can be seen today

Hannibal Barca and the Punic Wars

Tunisians in the Catholic Church:

Tunisia was the birthplace of numerous well-known saints, including Pope Victor (d. 199) , the martyrs Felicity and Perpetua (d. 203), St. Cyprian of Carthage (Father and Doctor of the Church, bishop and martyr) and, of course, the great Father and Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 - also one of the Map Guy's patron saints, by the way).

We read about some of these saints this morning in Saints of Africa by Vincent J. O'Malley, C.M. (Our Sunday Visitor). We were particularly amazed at this part of the story about St. Cyprian when he is condemned to die:

The proconsul consulted his assesor. He then pronounced sentence, very reluctantly, as follows: You have long lived an irreligious life; you have gathered round you many members of a wicked association; you have set yourself up against the Roman gods and their religion; and you have rejected the call of our pious and most sacred emperors...to the observance of their rites. Accordingly, since you are found guilty of being the author and leader of most shameful crimes, you shall be made an example to those whom you have associated with yourself in wickedness; the law must be vindicated in your blood. (Here he read from his tablets.) "We order that Thascius Cyprianus be put to death by the sword." And Cyprian answered, "Thanks be to God."

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Library of Alexandria

I think the Library of Alexandria deserves a place among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, although if it were counted among them there would be eight instead of seven and seven wonders sounds better then eight wonders don't you think? Anyway, the Library of Alexandria must have been an incredible place to visit. There were amassed there many scrolls of the works of famous men. But tragically the Library was burnt - how is widely disputed.
There many scholars studied, Eratosthenes, Archimedes, Euclid et. alii.

Eratosthenes was a Greek who, after studying in Athens, came to the Library and in time became the head librarian. Eventually after much hard work he was the first person to calculate the distance around the Earth.

Archimedes was one of the most famous mathematicians of the ancient world. He invented the Archimedes Screw and effectively defended Syracuse from the Romans for many years with other samples of his creative mind.

Euclid was another widely known mathematician of ancient times. He is perhaps most famous for his book The Elements.

There is much more to know about the Library and you can start your explorations with this short article.


The Map Guy doesn't know what to say about Egypt. But he approves of Egypt generally.

Things he thinks are neat about Egypt:

  • Sweet pyramids *
  • Hot (not like HERE right now)
  • There's a big sandbox called "the desert"
  • The Nile - which flows from South to North (kind of strange for such a big river.) It has the Aswan High Dam (you can see a movie that talks about how it was built called Building Big - Dams by David Maucallay) on it. It waters and fertilizes crops. And it has alligators with toothbrush birds. (ref. Tomie dePaola book Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile) According to Margaret Dashwood "The source of the Nile is in Abyssinia". Abyssinia is the ancient name for Ethiopia.
  • Stinks Sphynx. Big stone statue of a weird creature. The creature has the body of a lion (this is Africa remember) and the head of a woman I think. The nose got broken off by Napoleon's soldiers doing target practice!! What a shame!
  • Lot of old temples. Which are neat because they are so old. It is neat to think that people were in them THOUSANDS of years ago. Like the Pharaohs (the "kings" that ruled Egypt) and even Moses from the Old Testament.
  • The temples are covered with really neat writing called Hieroglyphics. For hundreds of years no-one knew how to read these hieroglyphics. Not until 1799 when they found the Rosetta Stone were they able to read them.
  • The Suez Canal is in Egypt.
  • Alexandria is one ancient Egyptian city. The library was said to have been the greatest of the ancient world. But you will hear more about this from Ria in another post.
  • Eratosthenes was a librarian. He measured the earth to amazing accuracy.
  • The Pharos (lighthouse) at Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The pyramids are another. Two of the seven in one country! Pretty amazing country!

The Map Guy asks: "So have we done enough?"

Electroblogster says "I guess so."


* The Map Guy does not endorse the actual TASTING of pyramids. - - - maybe the pyramid candy souvenir chocolates would be OK though.

Disclaimer: Electroblogster "helped" the Map Guy do this post.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Stories about Egypt

Hello again, I'm back. I know I just did a post but since it is the last day of Egypt study I have to hurry. Most of the titles are linked to my moms reviews of them. Now here is the reading list for Egypt:

The Golden Goblet By Eloise Jarvis McGraw
A boy living unhappily with his unkind step-brother may have a chance to be free of him and learn the goldsmith craft of his dreams.

Mara Daughter of the Nile By Eloise Jarvis McGraw
A clever slave girl finds herself playing the dangerous role for spy on two opposing sides. When she finally is ready to choose the side of the imprisoned king, Thutmose III her double role is discovered.

God King By Joanne Williamson
An unexpected heir comes to the throne of Egypt, that is until he is forced to flee for his life. In his exile he comes into contact with the fighting kings of the Judeans and the Assyrians, whom will he side with?

Shadow Hawk By Andre Norton

Pyramid By David Macaulay

St Athanasius By F. A. Forbes
A easy biography of the Egyptian saint.

The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone By James Cross Giblin
A great book on the path to the knowledge of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics.

Tales of Ancient Egypt By Roger Lancelyn Green
Title says all (:

The Great Pyramid

This week was supposed to be Egypt week, and we sort of forgot to post, oops. That is really inexcusable since Egypt has such a captivating history. Its history has interested me for a long time.

Egypt can boast of the only one of the seven ancient wonders to remain intact, The Great Pyramid. It is so tall that it remained the tallest structure in the world until the Eiffel Tower was built in the late 18oos. It took incredible engineering to build such a massive structure with out the use of modern mechanics, even without the use of the wheel. They needed a huge workforce to begin with. Thousands upon thousands of men were brought from all over Egypt to assist in the building of the Pharoah's tomb. Two huge ramps for hauling stone brought them about halfway up the pyramid. When they reached that point they used a smaller ramp that wound around the pyramid until they at last reached the top.

I said earlier that the pyramid remains intact, but it is not completely so. The outer casing of limestone is gone, stripped off to build medieval Cairo. That makes me really mad. It wouldn't have looked quite so dazzling as it would have soon after it was built, but still I think it would have looked amazing.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Saint Paul the Apostle

We just read a book called Saint Paul the Apostle by Mary
Fabyan Windeatt. He made a lot of friends, enemies, and converts in Greece, Turkey, and Italy.

Recently we watched a movie called Visions of Greece. It shows some of the places he went to, like: Kavala (Neapolis), Philippi, Thessaloniki, Athens, Corinth and Crete.

When Saint Paul was traveling, he sometimes wrote letters to cities he had been to because they were having problems. The letters helped teach them the truth and encouraged them. You can read these letters today in the New Testament and hear them at Mass on Sundays. They are named for the people who they were written to, for example, The First Letter from St. Paul to the Corinthians was written to the people of Corinth. Here are some more examples:

From Greece:

The Second Letter to the Corinthians - Corinth (still a major city in Greece)
The Letter to the Philippians - Philippi (just ruins today)
Letters to the Thessalonians - Thessalonica (now called Thessaloniki, and still a major city)

Other Countries:

Letter to the Romans (in Italy of course!)
Letter to the Galatians (Galatia is a region of central Turkey - including the city of Iconium, now called Konya)
Letter to the Ephesians (Ephesus - its ruins are on the coast of western Turkey near the Greek Island of Samos)
Letters to the Colossians (Colossae - its ruins are 120 miles east of Ephesus - Saint Paul never actually went to Colossae, but he wrote the letter to help with the Church there)
Letter to the Hebrews (written to the Church in Jerusalem)

Here are Maps of Saint Paul's Missionary Journeys.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Greek Alphabet

Well, we haven't really done any blogging yet on Greece, so I thought I'd just mention that the kids are attempting to learn the Greek alphabet. As Chesterton mentioned, young children can really enjoy this sort of thing in a fun setting. We got this beautiful poster from the Exploratorium Store (a funny coincidence because I found it through the search engine, but we used to visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco when I was a child) at the request of the Map Guy for his ninth birthday. Unfortunately, the poster only includes the upper case Greek letters. You CAN find the Greek alphabet (including lower case letters) here.

We also watched the film Visions of Greece, which is very beautiful and informative.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Vatican Exhibit

When we went to the Vatican Exhibit last Sunday we had an addition to our normal crowd. My friend, "Cathy", was with us, so she is going to help me with this post.

The adventure began with a video preping us for the exhibit. In the next room there was a model of the old St. Peter's Basilica. A little further on was the highlight of the exhibit(for me at least), the Mandylion. One of the first paintings done of Jesus, It is surrounded by an ornately carved frame made of gold and jewels. Here is a picture(obviously).

The Mandylion is featured in a enchanting book entitled The Weka-Feather Cloak By Leo Madigan. It is set in New Zealand. Its complex plot makes it difficult to summarize. It is about an aspiring young artist, Danny Mago, and his adventures while helping out at a convent. He finds an elevator that takes him to many of the different scenes of his adventures.

Later on in the exhibit was a replica of the scaffolding Michelangelo used to paint the Sistine Chapel. As you walk on the replica you see above you the famous portrayal of God bringing life to Adam at the begining of time. Michelangelo had to poke holes into wet plaster so the paint would soak into it and make it last longer than normal. So fresh plaster was always needed to paint these frescoes. In fact the word fresco comes from the italian word for fresh.

In the following rooms were many different artifacts of the Vatican anywhere from the popes garments, thrones, Staffs (We were especially impressed with Pope John Paul II's staff) and chalices. There were many, many chalices but one of my favorites was the simplest in the exhibit. While most of them were ornately carved of gold and bedecked with jewels of all sorts, this one was a simple cup and the paten was the bottom of a can. It was a chalice used by the prisoners in one of the worst death camps in Europe, Auschwitz. Although that was my favorite many other ones were quite spectacular. My second favorite chalice was one that had pictures of saints as well as the typical carvings and jewels. But the chalices were not by any means the only things to be encrusted with gold and gems. The Pope's vestments and the like were simply covered with them. In the last room was the staff of Pope John Paul II. Knowing that it was the staff that belonged to the great Pope, that he actually touched it, was an overwhelming feeling. At the very end of the exhibit there was a cast of Pope John Paul II's hand that you were invited to touch.

Anyways the exhibit was really, really neat and it is well worth the trip, the cost etc. as is the optional audio tour.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Excavations under St. Peter's Basilica

This article is really, really interesting and..... I can't say (my mom won't let me use cool in my posts.)
It is about the excavations, under St. Peter's Basilica, also known as the scavi. While trying to make room for a spectacular tomb for Pope Pius XI it was necessary for the workmen to dig under St. Peters. While engaged in this noble task the workmen found a series of old tombs found to be a necropilis. Pope Pius XII organized a excavation of the site. Near the center was a altar shaped tomb, the wall behind was covered with graffiti. One piece of the graffiti seemed to say, Peter is here! So it seems that the tomb of St. Peter has come to light. It was found in exactly the place tradition said it would be.
To learn more about the scavi read this article.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More Links on the Sistine Chapel

Here is a nice site that lets you explore the walls of the Sistine Chapel (the frescoes not painted by Michelangelo).


The whole Web Gallery of Art looks like a great site.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Old St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel

We just went to an exhibit on objects from the Vatican. They mostly had works of art having to do with St. Peter and the popes, but also about St. Peter's Basilica - both the old one (built by Constantine) and the new one (built during the Renaissance). We also got to talk to a nice volunteer who told us a lot about Old St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel and answered our questions we had about them.

They had a neat model of the Old St Peter's at the exhibit - we found a drawing of it on the Internet (shown above with link to the site). I was excited to see it, because I never knew what it looked like and we were just reading about it yesterday. Old St. Peter's was built in the 300s at the place where St. Peter died, which was a Roman circus (it's not a circus with clowns and jugglers, it's more like the Colosseum - they might have chariot races and gladiator fights and things like that). Around 1450, the pope decided to take it down because it was falling apart. From 1475-1483 they built a chapel and when it was completed, the pope hired Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Rosselli, and Perugino to paint the walls on the sides of the chapel. They painted the ceiling blue with stars. In 1508, another pope, hired Michelangelo to paint frescoes of the twelve apostles on the ceiling. After he started the work, Michelangelo decided that he didn't like them and came up with a different idea that we can see today. He finished the frescoes in 1512.

The groundbreaking for the new St. Peter's Basilica was in 1506 and it was consecrated in 1626.

Terri adds her own commentary about something that impressed her at the exhibit:

We saw the Mandylion [hat tip - Mrs. Brown]. The frame was made only out of gold, silver and jewels. It had angels on each side - their wings were gold and their bodies were silver. The picture was of God's face. It was really neat.

Slight Change of Plans

Instead of moving on to Greece next week and then hitting one more European country, we decided to take a week on Vatican City (this was inspired by our visit today to the exhibit St. Peter and the Vatican: Legacy of the Popes). We'll study Greece the following week, and then move on to Africa, beginning with the most familiar - Egypt.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Italy and the Olympics

We've been busy learning about Italy and enjoying the Olympics this week.

The DVD (2 disc set) Visions of Italy is breathtakingly beautiful (aerial tour of the country - gorgeous! - we borrowed it from Netflix).

Italy is one of the countries we are so familiar with that it's hard to know where to begin. At the moment, it seems that there's no place quite like Torino (Turin).

Turin has always been famous, in my mind, for the "Shroud of Turin" - a cloth widely believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus. This website has a lot of helpful information, and the film Silent Witness is quite good. It examines a number of different scientific angles that suggest the authenticity of the Shroud.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati lived in Turin from 1901-1925. He's been receiving some extra attention with the Olympics arriving in his hometown because of his own interest in sports and the outdoors and because of one of his devotees who is competing in the Olympics: Rebecca Dussault's Olympic Journal (hat tip - Flying Stars).

Saint John Bosco (1815-1888) lived and worked in Turin as well.

Here are some beautiful pictures of Turin

Official Website: City of Turin

Eating in Turin (with an emphasis on chocolate - Turin claims to be the birthplace of chocolate)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Look Back at France

Although we're working our way from Poland to Italy this weekend, today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and "the Map Guy"'s aunt has a beautiful post of her own experience living in Lourdes for several years.

The movie Song of Bernadette is a great film about the appartions of Mary to Saint Bernadette in the 1850s. (It won the Academy Award for best picture in 1940!) You may find it at your local library.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Narration: The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse

2004, Scholastic, 30 pages, hardcover
ISBN: 0439435404

(narration by "Terri" age: almost 8)

Once upon a time there lived a girl and her older sister in the city of Warsaw in Poland. The girl, after she escaped from the ghetto, loved playing with the cats that were wild (the cats' owners could not take care of them anymore because they were too poor or that they escaped from the houses that got bombed by the Germans). She and her sister were making plans about getting food into the ghetto for the people there. People were trying to get food into the city for the poor people who lived in the ghetto. They were sneaking it into the city on trains (in backpacks and bags). Someone found out that the Gestapo were going to try to get the food away from the people coming in on the trains. The girl and her sister were worried that the people would get arrested and that the poor people in the ghetto would die from not getting enough food.

The girl had an idea. She asked lots of people to come over to get the cats and hide them in baskets, bags and backpacks. And they all went to the train station and saw the soldiers with dogs (but they seem more like wolves). Suddenly the train came and the people got off of it and the dogs were set loose. And right when the dogs were set loose, the good people set the cats loose too. So the dogs couldn't get at the people because they loved cats more than the other food (the cats got away). So the good people with the food got safely away and brought it to the poor people in the ghetto.

I liked the book because the main girl was really smart about what she did.

Some places to go for Literary adventures in Poland

Interesting title, huh? I'm still experimenting. Anyways, hopefully my mind won't blank as much as it usually does.

Escape from Warsaw By Ian Serraillier

When both their parents are taken away, their father to a concentration camp and their mother to work in Germany, the Balicki children are alone in the bombed city of Warsaw occupied by the Nazis during WWII. Ruth, Edek and Bronia manage quite well, then Edek is captured by the Nazis and sent to work in Germany. Ruth who had been running a sort of school, one day meets a boy who had met her father during his brief stay in Warsaw. They learn from him that their father had escaped and are reminded that they are to go to Switzerland to meet up with their parents. The Girls, accompanied by the boy, Jan, leave Warsaw on the long journey to Switzerland. The journey is long and the way is hard, even when they find Edek again. Read this book to learn about that journey and the hardships along the way.

I haven't actually read a whole lot of books on Poland but there are plenty to keep you busy. Also some great people came from there and any books about or by them could easily qualify for this list. Among those people are:

Pope John Paul II:

Aside from being a wondeful Pope, Pope John Paul II wrote many books. Also books and movies about him, Witness to Hope for instance, are probably wondeful. (I have only seen the movie, for Witness to Hope and listened to some of it on audio.

St. Maximilian Kolbe:

This great saint died in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. e was in a concentration camp for being a priest. One day one of the other prisoners escaped. To punish the camp the Nazis decided to kill twenty of the other prisoners. They lined everyone up and began to pick. One of the men chosen protested that he had a wife and children and begged the Nazis to let him go. The Nazis refused until Fr. Kolbe offered to go in his place. St. Maximilian Kolbe died along with nineteen others, they were starved to death.

St. Hyacinth:

St Hyacinth was a native of Poland, but he did not stay there. Even in the 1200swhen he lived and the transporation options were limited he traveled all over Europe and preached the Gospel. I am going to be reading a book on him later this week I believe.

I can't think of many right now, or maybe I just haven't read many, but if you have read any that I missed please add them, this list seems rather incomplete.

Narration: Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serralier

Scholastic, 218 pages, softcover
ISBN: 0590437151

Ruth, Edek and Bronia were children who lived in Warsaw, Poland, at the beginning of World War II. Their father got taken away to a concentration camp, but before he left he told his family to meet him in Switzerland. One night the Germans came and took their mother, so the children had to take care of themselves. In the summer they lived in the forest and in the winter they would go back and live in a cellar of a bombed house in Warsaw. Next Edek got taken away to work for the Germans.

During that time Warsaw got completely destroyed (because of the Warsaw uprising) and around that time Ruth and Bronia had to live in the forest even in the winter.

After several years the father escaped, but when he got back to Warsaw, he found that his house was gone. He met a boy named Jan and left him with a message (that he was safe and going to Switzerland) and a Silver Sword (which was a special paper knife he had given to his wife, and would prove that Jan met their father).

Sometime later on, Ruth found Jan hurt in the street and took care of him. Jan told them about meeting their father. The three of them (Ruth, Bronia and Jan) decided to leave the city together to head towards Switzerland even though they didn't know where Edek was.

Along the way they were eating at a restaurant when they met Edek, who had escaped from the Germans. He told them the story later that he escaped by hanging on to the underside of a train! When he was under the train, it went through a big puddle. He got wet and then froze to the train. So, by the time he found his sisters, he was sick. By this time the war was over.

I just looked at a map of Europe and found that they traveled about 750 miles from Warsaw, Poland, to Lake Constance on the border of Germany and Switzerland! They traveled by boat , truck and train, but mostly on foot. It took them months to get there and the trip was very hard and dangerous. After a stormy ride across the lake, they were reunited with their father and their mother (who had been in a concentration camp for years, but found by their father).

I really liked this story. It was really exciting and sometimes funny.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Famous Sites in Poland - in and around Krakow

Witness to Hope (a video based on George Wiegel's biography of Pope John Paul II) and Rick Steves' travel video on Poland provided a nice introduction to some of these sites for us:

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel Cathedral People Buried in Wawel Cathedral Photos

Wieliczka Salt Mines more info more photos

Jagiellonian University famous alumni include Nicholas Copernicus and Pope John Paul the Great (on the website, the "history/museum" and "walk through" sections are worth a peek)

Czestochowa Sanctuary

Auschwitz-Birkenau - a pair of the most terrible Nazi concentration camps in all of Europe. Poland had a long history of peace between Catholic and Jews and for that reason had one of the largest Jewish populations in all of Europe. I heard the figure (from the Rick Steves' video) that only 10 percent of Poland's Jewish population survived the war. St. Maximillian Kolbe and St. Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta) were killed here. Elie Wiesel, the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, wrote of his life at Auschwitz as a teenager in his bestseller Night (the book is suitable for older teens and adults). It was also from Auschwitz that Oscar Schindler saved more than 1200 Jews on his famous "list". (The movie is amazing, but very difficult to watch and best suited for older teens or adults - younger children could read A Place to Hide: True Stories of Holocaust Rescues by Jayne Pettit).

UPDATE: There were actually three parts to Auschwitz - Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II/Birkenau and Auschwitz III.

Side Note on the Olympics

We eagerly look forward to watching the Olympics whenever they come around and we planned next week's "week in Italy" partly because of the Olympics (starting this Friday - February 10th) being in Turin (also the home of the famous "Shroud of Turin" - believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus).

Here is a website to explore past Olympic games and moments
Here you can learn more about different sports included in the Olympics

Love2learn Mom adds: The Olympics are the one time at which I slightly regret our decision not to have cable. Network TV coverage stinks.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Re-orient yourself - Happy New Year!

Nope - not a month late - it is actually the Chinese New Year. The old Chinese calendar is a Lunar (moon)-based calendar. So they celebrate new year based on the new moon. New Years Day was this last Sunday.

The lunar calendar is not 365 days long though. So they get "off" if they don't do something fancy. What they do is to add a month once in a while. Sounds like our leap year doesn't it? We have a solar calendar so it makes sense to add a day (the day IS a solar cycle). They have a lunar calendar so it makes sense to add a month (one cycle of the moon).

Unfortunately, I don't know the math of their leap years - I heard about it from a native chinese woman who I was not very good at understanding. There is a fairly clear description here from someone who seems to have spent some time getting it all straight in his head. But it is a bit much for my weekend-head to wrap around and so he loses me in terms like intercalation.

By the way it is the year 4704 - and a year of the Dog in this calendar !!

Sorry for the oriental jump - a non-linear jump out of the regular flow here. I hope no one minds too much.

Great Deal on Aerial Tours of Europe

This week we discovered a new video series courtesy of our local library. The title we viewed yesterday was Visions of England - more than an hour of aerial views of interesting sites and architecture of England. Beautiful music and interesting commentary nicely complement the breathtaking scenery (and the kids got a kick out of spotting the shadow of the helicopter on occasion), but we were especially grateful for the labels of famous sites that show up on screen. The video takes in lots of castles, gardens and famous sites (we particularly enjoyed the White Horse made famous by Chesterton in his great ballad) as well as a generous tour of London itself.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A List for literary adventures taking place in France

I was getting tired of just, "Reading List for ......." so I'm trying a new title.
Anyways here is a reading List for the country of France.

Twenty and Ten By Clare Huchet Bishop
Twenty French children are living in a country house with Sister Gabrielle during WWII. Children were often sent to the country during the war. One day a man comes to ask them to take in ten Jewish children. They do but the Nazi soldiers come to look for the fugitives. This is the wonderful story of there adventures during that time.

The Scarlet Pimpernel series By Baroness Orczy
These were mentioned also in the England section, but since they take place in both countries it deserves a place in this list as well.

St. Therese and the Roses By Helen Walker Homan
A wonderful story about St. Therese the Little Flower. As it was my first chapter book I can bear testimony that it is a wonderful introduction for children to the life of this great saint.

A Long Way From Welcome By Echo Lewis
The two things Maggie fears most are big cities and changes. When her mother remarries she is sent to live with some nuns for the summer in a convent in Paris. Although this is a combination of the two most dreaded things in the world for her she makes friends and gets caught up in a mystery. This is a great book and I highly reccomend it.

I can't think of many now but doubtless I will remember some later on. If you have any additions to make please do, I love comments!

Saints and Heroes of France

Saint Joan of Arc was a girl who lived in the early 1400s. She led the soldiers to fight the English and got them out of France. She was brave and always tried to do what God wanted. The enemy captured her and they killed her.

Saint Bernadette was a girl who lived in the 1800s in Lourdes, France. She saw Mary in a grotto, but a lot of people didn't believe her. One of the times at the grotto, a lot of people came with her. Mary talked to her and told her to wash in the spring. The problem was there wasn't a spring nearby. Bernadette asked Mary what she meant. Mary told her to dig in the dirt and the people thought Bernadette was weird because they saw her digging in the dirt, but they couldn't see Mary. Water started coming from the ground where Bernadette was digging. That was amazing. Sick people started to wash in it and some of them got better! Today there's a church there and the spring is there too. Sick people still go there and some of them get better.

Saint Therese of Lisieux

Saint John Vianney became a priest after the French Revolution. He became the parish priest at Ars and started a school there. The devil got really angry because he was converting people. He made a lot of noise at night and tried to scare him, but every night that the devil would bother him, the next day a great conversion would take place. He was a very holy priest.

Heroes of the Holocaust: France

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Two Museums in Paris plus a Side-Trip

The Louvre - this used to be a palace for Kings and Queens of France. It was first built around the 1200s, but it was added onto over and over again, until it's really huge now. The Kings and Queens bought a lot of art and when they left (because they had other places to live) it was still there and so they decided to turn it into a museum. Until about twenty years ago, the government still had some offices in there, but now they've moved out so the museum has more room to display paintings.

I just looked through our big book called Paintings in the Louvre and especially liked paintings by Annibale Carracci (who painted in the 1500s) and Raphael (I just told my mom "I was wondering who painted all these neat paintings, and I looked, and it was Raphael!")

Musee d'Orsay - this was originally a train station which opened around 1900 right near the Louvre.

We have a book on the Musee d'Orsay which tells this funny story: "Another architectural marvel built for the World's Fair of that year was the Grand Palais, a breathtaking glass-roofed exhibition hall dedicated to French art. The painter Edouard Detaille - today represented in the Musee d'Orsay - commented humorously of the two edifices: 'The train station is splendid; it looks like a Palace of the Fine Arts. Since the [Grand Palais] looks like a train station, I suggest that Laloux switch their purposes while there's still time.'"

The building wasn't long enough for most modern trains, and so wasn't used as a station anymore by the 1940s. In 1970, the government was going to demolish it to put up a hotel, but the people of Paris didn't want that to happen They decided to make it a museum and it finally opened up in 1986 for art from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The paintings I especially liked from this museum (in our book) were: The Virgin of the Host by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and paintings by Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh (those are kind of unique).

Monet's House and Gardens (Giverny)

Today my mom read a book called Linnea in Monet's Garden to us. It was about a girl who went to Monet's house because she liked his paintings. The book mentioned the Musee d'Orsay in it, so my little sister got out our big book about the Musee d'Orsay and found a lot of the paintings from Linnea in Monet's Garden. It was a lot of fun looking through the different books with everyone.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Few Interesting People and Places in France

Lascaux Cave Paintings (dating from the Stone Age - located in south eastern France near Dordogne)

People from Brittany (the big tip of France, pointing into the Atlantic Ocean) are called Bretons and wear traditional costumes for things like religious processions. The costumes are colorful and the women wear fancy, lacy hats that are different for each part of Brittany. (Here on the left are a lot of pictures of the women wearing their hats - click on this poster to find a really neat site about the Bretons - I really like the pictures.)

France had a lot of damage done to it in both World Wars. Here is a site about damage to Cathedrals during World War I (not just French ones) Vintage Photographs of Cathedrals and Churches from World War I The Cathedral at Rheims, in particular (north east of Paris, in the province of Champagne) , was destroyed by the Germans in 1914. Here is a 1937 TIME magazine article about its restoration. (Rheims is where the kings of France were once crowned and it comes up in the story of Joan of Arc.)

My mom just read me a book called Pasteur's Fight Against Microbes (by Beverly Birch) about Louis Pasteur, who lived in Paris. Pasteur came up with the process of pasteurization (for example, heating up milk before selling it kills germs) and the concept of vaccinations. Here is a brief bio of his life. He was devoted to the Rosary and there is a funny story about that here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Reading List for the British Isles update one

I know we are into France not but my mind really blanked last night and I need to make a hopefully more accurate list. Despite the fact that my mom added several extra by way of comments, There are more to add.

From Scotland:

Little House in the Highlands by Melissa Wiley
The Far Side of the Loch by Melissa Wiley
Down to the Bonny Glenn by Melissa Wiey
Beyond the Heather Hills by Melissa Wiley
The above series is about the great-great-grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

From England:
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green.
I have begun this one and will hopefully finish it soon but I must admit I prefer King Alfred to King Arthur. King Arthur is more well known but I think King Alfred deserves as much fame as the fomer.
Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
This is a wonderful retelling of the famous story of Robin Hood.

I crave your pardon for missing Shakespeare, that is a major offence. One of the greatest authors of all time, I can't believe I forgot him.
William Shakespeare wrote a large collection of plays which by the way are really fun to read outloud with your friends.

I will probably have to update this post several times but that is all I can think of.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Reading List for the British Isles

There are many books set in the British Isles and also some wonderful authors from there. I will begin with a list of books and continue with the authors. Note: There are probably many other great books taking place in the British Isles, but inconveniently, my mind has blanked. Please remind me of other books I should have mentioned.

Taking Place at least partially in England:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A wonderful story about Elizabeth and Jane Bennett and their three sisters, and the path to a good (or not so good) marriage.

Note: Any book by Jane Austen is highly recommended.

Enemy Brothers By Constance Savery
Anthony Ingelford was kidnapped by a German woman when he was six months old. At last one of his brothers finds him during World War II, but Tony has been raised as a Nazi. This is the story of his adventures in England, trying to escape from his real family.

The Reb and the Redcoats By Constance Savery
An American prisoner befriends some English children during the time of the American Revolution. But he is the prisoner of their seemingly coldhearted uncle. Will he win his good graces and eventually return to America?

Sun Slower, Sun Faster By Meriol Trevor
Cecil is sent to live at a family estate near Bath in England. One day while exploring the ancient family mansion, Cecil and her cousin Rickie are thrown back to Victorian times. After that those two and sometimes their tutor Dominic go further and further back in time, learning about history and the Catholic Faith

The Perilous Gard By Elizabeth Marie Pope
Kate is sent to live in the country. There she is captured by fairies. A very interesting story about her adventures there.

The Chronicles of Narnia By C.S. Lewis
Four children are evacuated from London. In the house they are sent to there is a wardrobe, a path to the wonderful land of Narnia. In the other books they, and sometimes their friends, return to Narnia.

The Scarlet Pimpernel series By Baroness Orczy
During the time of the French Revolution hundreds of aristocrats are executed daily, but there is hope. The elusive and mysterious man known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel along with his band of Englishmen are rescuing aristocrats from the horrible fate they would otherwise suffer. A wonderful, but hard to find series of his many adventures.

The Ballad of the White Horse By G.K. Chesterton
This chapter book length poem is a wonderful story of the battle between King Alfred and the Danes. I highly recommend it.

Father Brown series By G.K. Chesterton
An unremarkable looking Roman Catholic priest may seem the last person you would expect to be a brilliant detective, but as you will discover in these humorous and wonderful stories, looks can be deceiving.

Note: Most books by Chesterton take place in England and are highly reccomended.

The White Isle By Caroline Dale Snedker
In Roman times Lavinia moves with her family to England, or Brittania as it was then called. She was as was normal a pagan, but her adventures in England may turn her into a Christian.

Taking place in Ireland:

The Cottage at Bantry Bay By Hilda Van Stockum
A wonderful story about a family living in Ireland. Proving yet again that Hilda Van Stockum is a wonderful author
Francie on the Run By Hilda Van Stockum
One of the children from that family has been in the hospital and now decides to run away. He has many adventures across Ireland before he finally returns home.
Pegeen By Hilda Van Stockum
One of the friends that Francie made during his previously mentioned adventures is a orphan named Pegeen. She comes to stay with Francie and his family. This wonderful story is the result.

Some of the many Great authors from The British Isles:

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings which in my opinion is the best book ever written. He also wrote many other books having to do with the land he created, Middle Earth

C.S. Lewis wrote a whole library of books but he is perhaps most famous for his series about Narnia in which English children travel to the fantastic world of Narnia.

G.K. Chesterton is just about the best author ever. He also wrote an entire library, of poetry, mystery stories and other wonderful books. To learn more about him visit this website:

Jane Austen wrote several books mostly about young women in England. I highly recommend anything by her.

Tragically it is time to say farewell to the British Isles. The British Isles are fascinating and I wish that we could spend longer on them, but it is time to move on. Farewell, British Isles, Bon Jour, France.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Heads Up for Next Week

We'll be covering France this coming week.

It's hard spending only a week on each country, and we don't get around to nearly everything we could (and don't get around to writing about half of what we DO study), although there are advantages. 1. It's useful to keep some things on a stricter schedule when we let a lot of things go at our own pace. 2. It's really sparking the children's interest in these different places.

The Map Guy, especially, is looking forward to studying Africa when we're done with Europe. He's always been drawn to the lesser-known (to us) places it seems.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mystery Class Starts Today

Check it out here
Discover the locations of secret "mystery classes" by comparing their daily sunrise and sunset times with your own as they change through the Spring.

Hat tip - Bonny Glen

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Emerald Isle

Ireland is a beautiful and fascanating country. It has a long history full of peace and war,famine and times of plenty. For about 800 years it was under British rule. Before that, in Roman times it was the home of tribes that were unfriendly to the romans. In the 400s a young man named Patrick was captured by some raiders from Ireland. He was in captivity for six years and then escaped to return to his parents. When he returned he began to study to become a priest. When he became one he returned to Ireland in about 432 to preach Christianity to the mostly pagan population. He succeeded in converting much of the population and Ireland has been a largely Catholic country since, withstanding the persecutions of England. In 1171 Ireland came into the control of England. It was not until 1921 that Ireland regained it's freedom. During the hundreds of years in between sometimes there was peace and sometimes not. Many times throughout their history Catholics were persecuted for their faith. In 1603 land was taken from the Catholics in Nothern Irealnd and given to protestants. There were many other times when things became difficult for the Catholics in Ireland and some times when things became difficult for everyone in Ireland, for instance the potato famine from 1845-1851. But Ireland survived and Irish dancing and music is popular. Ireland is beautiful, it's hills, castles and cliffs are gorgeous. Ireland has an added attraction for me, I am an Irish dancer and I would love to see the country of that dances origin. The people of Ireland are famed for being friendly and welcoming to visitors. On the whole it sounds a delghtful place to visit and I am anxious to visit there myself.

Favorite Movies about/set in the British Isles

Here are a few favorites (many are available in libraries or on Netflix):

David Macaulay's Building Big series (originally a WGBH/PBS series) - particularly tunnel and bridge - have a lot of interesting tidbits set in the British Isles.

A Man for All Seasons (1966) St. Thomas More - this one with Paul Scofield (and Orson Welles!) is much better than the later one with Charlton Heston.

Pride and Prejudice (BBC/A&E version with Colin Firth is the best) Jane Austen's classic, humorous and romantic tale of a British Family of the early 19th century whose mother's chief aim in life is to have her five daughters marry rich men. The book is delightful (many will find the book more accessible after watching the movie), but the movie is quite good even on its own.

Sense and Sensibility (the one with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet is our favorite - actually I'm not sure if there is another option in this case). This is a long-time favorite in our family, though we've never yet tackled the book - this is even one of electroblogster's favorite movies. Something about the scenery and the language and the refined customes ...

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1980s version with Jane Seymour and Anthony Andrews is best, but there is a small amount of "mature" content to watch out for with children) based on the books by Baroness Orczy, the story is of English noblemen who risk life and limb to rescue aristocrats from certain death under the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. Naturally the book is better.

Into the Arms of Strangers A well-crafted documentary on the Kindertransport that saved 10,000 children from Nazi Germany by taking them away from their parents to live with families in England. Moving and interesting stories.

Rick Steves Best of Europe - his public TV travel shows are readily available on DVD and VHS (also can be found in many libraries). While some of his opinions (particularly regarding history, which will always have its controversies) might need to be taken with a grain of salt, on the whole we've found these to be nice introductions to history, culture, art, architecture, food and geography of many European countries. These shows are loaded with interesting facts and information. The England and Ireland ones are some of our favorites.

Some favorite Irish movies - Darby O'Gill and the Little People, The Quiet Man and The Secret of Roan Inish.

The British Isles

Well, we're a little late getting our first post up this week, but we've already been talking and learning more about the British Isles. It's hard to know where to start because we've already read a lot of books and watched a lot movies, etc.

First, let's talk about terms. British Isles, Great Britain, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales - why are there so many names?

Ria answers (with a little help from the Map Guy) - The British Isles, not a country in its own right, includes the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland (technically called a "kingdom") and Wales (technically called a "principality"). The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as you can tell from its full name, also includes Northern Ireland. So, the geographical difference between the British Isles and the United Kingdom lies in Ireland, which gained its independence from Great Britain in 1921.

The Map Guy's comments...

Roman Times - If you went to Great Britain today, you would still find evidence of the Ancient Romans. For example, Hadrian's Wall was built by the Romans in 128 AD because they were afraid of the Scots attacking them. It is 73 miles long.

If you go a little north of Hadrian's wall, you'll come to the much-more-recently built Firth of Forth Bridge (built in 1890).

If you look at a map, you'll notice that the south-east corner of England is very close to France. It is about 30 miles from Dover, England, to Calais, France across the English Channel. England and France decided they wanted to have a tunnel under the English Channel - and naturally they wanted to make it as short as possible. So the Channel Tunnel (which runs from Folkestone, England to Sangatte, France) was built. It took three years to tunnel through the dirt under the English Channel (they started on both sides and met in the middle). It opened in 1994.

More links

Online Map Puzzle of Africa (try it at varying levels of difficulty)

NASA ISS (International Space Station) EarthKam (hat tip to one of the Map Guy's Latin class classmates)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Online Resource

Here is a similar resource online to Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

You select a country (such as Philippines) from the drop-down menu and it gives you a little map, and lots of no-nonsense info on the country (including that "On 4 July 1946 the Philippines attained their independence." in this case).

The info is organized into sections:

  • Geography
  • People
  • Government
  • Economy
  • Communications
  • Transportation
  • Military
  • Transnational Issues (for example, it includes interesting information about the much desired Spratly Islands: "The Philippines claims sovereignty over certain of the Spratly Islands, known locally as the Kalayaan (Freedom) Islands, also claimed by China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.")

This is a brief source covering LOTS of up-to-date information. It is friendly to use and you can get the information anywhere there is a computer. However it is not nearly as friendly or portable as the book mentioned below. (Just something nice about holding a book I guess).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Afghanistan to Zimbabwe: A Book by the 2004 National Geographic Bee Winner

I really like the book Afghanistan to Zimbabwe: Country Facts that helped me win the National Geographic Bee by Andrew Wojtanik, 2004 National Champion. Here is what he says about the book in the introduction:

After answering many geographical questions correctly and surviving an intense final round, I was declared the champion of the 2004 National Geographic Bee. It was an accomplishment that exceeded all expectations, but one that could not have been achieved without lots of hard work.

When Alex Trebek, host of the hit game show JEOPARDY! and moderator of the National Geographic Bee, asked me how I studied for the contest, I smiled and gave an answer that wasn't exactly expected. I explained how I had created a 400-page "study guide," which consisted of information about the physical, political, and environmental features for each of the world's 192 countries. I believe that this guide, along with a decent memory (and a little luck), were major contributors to my success.

A mere three months later - just when I thought all the hype from the Bee had died down - I received a telephone call from National Geographic regarding my geography fact book. I responded by asking in an excited tone, "Publish? What do you mean, you want to publish it?" The surprises never end.

Countries are listed alphabetically and each one includes: a small map, the size, population and population density, capital, highest and lowest points, major physical features, independence date, former name, administrative divisions (like states for the U.S.), external territories, ethnic groups, religions, languages, currency, major cities, climate, natural resources, agricultural products, major exports, and natural hazards. Most countries have about two pages of text.

This book has a lot of interesting facts about each country. I like comparing a certain fact between countries, like when they gained their independence. For example, I noticed that the Phillipines gained their independence from the U.S. on the 4th of July in 1946. Then I noticed that, on our really old U.S. Map Puzzle, the Phillipines are shown as belonging to the U.S. So in addition to the basic facts I expected to learn from this book, it also has gotten me interested in other things I didn't expect.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What We're Doing

The way we're studying geography right now is working on learning basic facts (available from links at the right under "Objectives") while highlighting a country each week from the continent being studied (we won't make it through every country in one year - hoping instead to make some good mental connections about some of them from which to expand a "base of knowledge" in the future). The facts we're focusing on are: learning the names, locations and capital cities of each country in that continent as well as principal rivers and mountains/mountain ranges.

We're using library books, travel movies and documentaries, biographies, living books and the Internet to do a little exploring in each chosen country as we have time.

"Ria" (the oldest) is writing all of her posts on her own. "The Map Guy" generally does his via narration, but will be moving toward more and more independence over time. "Terri" (his 8 year old sister) should be contributing some narrations of favorite books in the near future.

Heroes of the Holocaust: Germany

Saint Edith Stein and others

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Cathedrals of Germany

Here is a nice site with lots of pictures

Next Stop: Germany

The Map Guy's dad got to visit Germany last January. He visited Mainz and Wiesbaden (not too far from Frankfurt). Then got to travel by car down to Nurnburg (Nurenburg) by autobahn - enjoying the Bavarian scenery along the way.

Here are a few of his pictures with his commentary...

This is the Catholic church in Wiesbaden. The stone parts are older than World War II. They have photos inside showing that all the other parts were destroyed during the war (I wish I could have seen the stained glass windows!). The bombers avoided hitting the building - but there was not much that could be done to save the glass etc.

Part of an ancient Roman wall in Wiesbaden. In the foreground is one of a number of items in the "open air" museum from Roman times. The wall was built during the reign of Valentinian - 370 A.D.

Most towns are isolated from each other - left over from the days when they would war against each other I guess. They have distinct boundaries unlike the suburbs of the USA. Some even have walls still! Like the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber that I visited. All towns seem to have a central area with a fountain - also left over from the days when water was not generally available from indoor plumbing!

There are a lot of German cities in the area with the word "bad" in them. They sound funny to us - Bad Kreuznach, Baden-Baden and Bad Windsheim. "Bad" means "bath" indicating that there are lots of hot springs in the area enjoyed by people back at least as far as Roman times. Baden-Baden is at the western edge of the famed Black Forest

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Keeping water out of the Netherlands

Most of the Netherlands is below sea level so it needs things like dams, barriers, and windmills.

Why wind?.Wind turns windmills which can operate pumps to pump the water out.

Barriers and dams are like big walls that hold out water.
One of the bariers that looks realy cool is called the Maeslant Barrier (to get to some realy cool puzzles go to the link just given, then go to "various", puzzles).

When a storm comes computers will close the Maeslant Barrier.

Mount Everest

This is a little off-topic, but very beautiful.

Panoramic view from Mount Everest

(hat tip - Left of the Dial)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

Earlier today my mom told us about the queen of the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix. She was crowned in 1980. She has three sons,
Wilhem-Alexander, Johan-Frisco and Constantijn. Prince Wilhem will succeed her to the throne.
But there's more. If you have read the wonderful book, The Winged Watchman, you probably recognize the name. In the story the mother of the Veerhagen family manages to rescue a Jewish baby when it's family was taken by the Nazis. And since they did not know the baby's name they named her Beatrix, the princess.
I thought that was interesting and worthy of being put on this blog.

Heroes of the Holocaust from Holland

This has some good stories about Blessed Titus Brandmsa and the Lob Family.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Reading list for the Netherlands

Right now we are doing stuff about the Netherlands and since I am into literature, history etc. I was given the task of compiling a reading list for the Netherlands. These are all really good books which take place in the Netherlands:

The Borrowed House by Hilda Van Stockum
Janna was born and bred in Nazi Germany. Then when she is thirteen she is sent to live in the Netherlands. She makes new friends and begins to learn the truth about Hitler and the Nazis. This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum
The Winged Watchman is also set in the Netherlands during WWII. It is about a family living in a windmill during the Nazi occupation. This is the story of their experiences during the war. From saving their dog from being taken by the Nazis to taking in a british airman who was shot down, their adventures are humorous and make a wonderful story. You know Hilda Van Stockum really is a great author.

Andries by Hilda Van Stockum
An orphan from the city is sent to live with his uncle in the country. He makes friends with the family nearby. Yet another wonderful book by Hilda Van Stockum.

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
I haven't read this book in quite a while but I remember it was a cool story about a boy growing up in the Netherlands.

The above are books that I have read. But also on my reading list is the Diary of Anne Frank (the author is obvious.)

If there are any other books in this catagory that should be added please let me know.

Rembrandt Van Rijn

Rembrandt (1606-1669) is probably the most famous of Dutch artists.

Short Bio and Paintings Can Be Seen Here
Take a virtual tour of Rembrandt's House

The Netherlands

We're starting Europe by learning about the Netherlands (it's hard not to say Holland).
Here are some links for now. I'll be adding more to this post later.
Great site on the Netherlands (hat tip Men-a-Men)
The Dutch Windmill

Monday, January 09, 2006


The Map Guy (my little brother) and my mom talked me into joining this blog. Geography isn't really my thing but I LOVE history. So I will be sharing some things about history in Europe.

I have been learning about Ancient Rome in my Latin Class. Not everyone realizes that there are Roman sites (not websites!!!!!!!!!!!) all over Europe and even into north Africa. Here's a place I just found that looks really cool.
It has lots of links to things about Ancient Roman places.
Have fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Earth Viewer

This is a really interesting map. It shows, live when you are looking at it, where it's day and where it's night all over the world. I noticed that, for part of the summer, the North Pole only has day and, for part of the winter, the North Pole only has night. And my mom said that if you stand at the North Pole during this part of the summer, the sun circles all the way around at the horizon.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Gulf Stream and Europe

Look at a globe. Two sets of lines criss-cross the globe. Longtitude lines run north-south from one pole to the other. Latitude lines circle the globe from east-west (the equator is also a latitude line). Latitude lines can help you compare different parts of the world in relation to something - like the North Pole.

Now take a look at Europe. Europe is actually quite small in relation to the rest of the world (although a flat map will tend to make it look larger).

Most people know that in the U.S., the further north you go, the colder the winters are. And when it comes to cold, North Dakota is famous for it. Blizzards, crazy sub-zero weather, you name it.

Back to the globe. Find South Dakota and the latitude line that crosses it (45N). Now follow that line eastward all the way to Western Europe. What cities do you find?

I found Venice, Italy. This place isn't famous for blizzards, but for canals with boats instead of roads and cars. If you move north west from Venice, Italy (farther north than Bismarck, North Dakota in fact) you can find Paris, France.

In Bismarck, the average high temperature in January is 20 degrees Farenheit. The average high temperature for January in Paris is 43 degrees Farenheit. Quite a difference!

The reason for this is something called the Gulf Stream - a major Atlantic Ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico. Europe would be a much different place without this - perhaps a little more like the Dakotas.

Our First Post

Welcome to our new Geography site. My mom and I are setting this up so people like you can learn to like Geography as much as I do. I am ten years old and I just won a local Geography Bee. I think it's a lot of fun and we'll be studying a new continent every eight weeks. So come and learn along with us.