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.