It’s All Greek Tonight

We’re back on the Way Back Machine from Mr. Peabody and Sherman (you can read more about this movie in an earlier post.). This time we’re headed to Ancient Greece and the Trojan War.

My kids and my husband love Ancient Greece and Rome, so this was a pretty fun lesson for them. At least until my husband started going on a little too long (sorry, honey) about all of his knowledge of the Classics.

Anyway, there are so many great sources for kids to learn more about mythology. Check these out:

BBC: Primary History: Ancient Greeks: The Greek world Trojan War

Kids Past: Trojan Horse

Until next time!


Articles to Make You Feel Like a Good Parent

Here are a couple of articles that have been making the rounds and you might find interesting.

Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework: Despite our love of learning and our attempt to pass this love on to our sons, we really don’t spend a lot of time on their homework. We figure that is their responsibility. If they ask, we help them with problems they are having. And we have to do that obligatory thing where we sign a sheet every day saying they did their homework. But that really just consists of me saying, “Did you do your homework?” and them shaking their heads yes. So far this laissez-faire approach has worked. Good to see that research has backed it up.

In McLean, a crusade to get people to back off in the parenting arms race: When I read articles like these, I feel very glad to live in the Midwest. Now for all I know this stuff is going on in the Midwest, but I’m just hanging around the wrong people. Or this stuff really doesn’t happen that much on the coasts either and the media just likes to points out the rare groups of parents that do crazy stuff. According to tons of articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post, it is super competitive for kids out there.  I do actually have some friends who are determined to get their kids into Ivy League (or close) schools. So best of luck to them. But I like the quote in this article from psychologist Madeline Levine, the author of The Price of Privilegewho said to a group of parents, “A majority of your children are average. And guess what? So are you.” As Garrison Keillor has pointed out, even in the Midwest we all think our children are above average. It’s probably good for someone to (try to) remind us every once and a while that we can’t all be above average. Now if my friends and family members would just get that through their thick skulls!

Until next time!

The Mummy That Started It All

King Tut

Our next stop on the Way Back Machine from the movie Mr. Peabody and Sherman (you can read more about this movie in my last post) was Ancient Egypt. My boys are certainly familiar with King Tut and mummies from movies and cartoons, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go over some of the historical facts.

Here is the basic outline of what we discussed:

  • Tut is short for Tutankhamun;
  • He was an Egyptian pharoah from 1332 to 1333 BC;
  • He married his half-sister;
  • He was discovered in 1922 with a nearly intact tomb, which is probably why he has captured the world’s imagination; and
  • He died young, at the age of 18.

There is a ton of interesting stuff to talk about with King Tut, and it is definitely a topic that most kids are interested in. So have fun with it. Here are some cool links:

National Geographic Kids: Tutankhamun Facts

Ten Facts About Tutankhamun

History Channel: 6 Secrets of King Tut

Also, if you live anywhere close to Kansas City, The Discovery of King Tut exhibit will be open at Union Station on April 4. It looks super cool. We will definitely be checking that out!

Until next time!



Let Them Eat Cake? Well, Not Exactly


I took my boys to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman over the weekend. It’s a great movie for Dinner Table Academy because it’s about a dog who invents a time machine to teach his adopted son (who’s a boy, not a dog) about history. I guess it makes DTA seem a little lame. Probably need to start working on that time machine! But it did give me lots of ideas for DTA topics. So this week is Mr. Peabody and Sherman theme week.

The movie started with a visit to Versailles, where Marie Antoinette was depicted saying those famous words,”Let them eat cake.” I knew there there were some questions about the historical accuracy of that statement, so I had to do a little digging. Everyone now agrees that Marie Antoinette never said those infamous words. Here’s an explanation from the History Channel:

“Let them eat cake” story had been floating around for years before 1789. It was first told in a slightly different form about Marie-Thérèse, the Spanish princess who married King Louis XIV in 1660. She allegedly suggested that the French people eat “la croûte de pâté” (or the crust of the pâté). Over the next century, several other 18th-century royals were also blamed for the remark, including two aunts of Louis XVI. Most famously, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau included the pâté story in his “Confessions” in 1766, attributing the words to “a great princess” (probably Marie-Thérèse). Whoever uttered those unforgettable words, it was almost certainly not Marie-Antoinette, who at the time Rousseau was writing was only 10 years old—three years away from marrying the French prince and eight years from becoming queen.

Sometimes busting a myth can be a good place to start a lesson. The French Revolution is a pretty important piece of world history, and it is certainly prominent in popular culture, not just Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Plus, I think the boys will be really into the guillotines.

Here are some great sources if you want to have a DTA discussion about the French Revolution:

A Short Summary of the French Revolution

Fact Monster: French Revolution

The History Channel: French Revolution

Until next time! Vive la revolution!

Didn’t We Already Learn Art?


A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat


Quite a while back, we did a Dinner Table Academy on Impressionism. We asked the boys to remember the most famous Impressionists painters. Here are the key facts that we emphasized with the boys:

  • Impressionism was an art movement in Paris in the 19th century.
  • The most famous Impressionist painters were Claude Monet and Vincent VanGogh.

We showed them a few paintings from some art books we had, and that was that. They seemed familiar with Impressionism and remembered the concepts the next night. It was all pretty painless and seemed like a successful DTA.

Probably about a month later I decided we should discuss cubism and Picasso, but as soon as I got out the art books, my youngest son says in an exasperated voice, “Didn’t we already learn art?”

So probably like many people across this great nation, my sons think that Impressionism is Art. They think that is all they need to know about it. Unfortunately, they have me and my husband for parents, so they had to learn about cubism and Picasso too. And they will have to learn about lots of other art in future DTA discussions.

In the meantime, check out this blog Art History Mom. A great site if you’re interested in exposing your kids to art.

I also really like the Disney book Looking at Paintings. It’s a nice introduction for kids to some basic art concepts.

Until next time!



I Need a Break from My Break

Well, the kids are on Spring Break, so I’m using this time as a chance to catch up. Oh the days when Spring Break meant sunny days at the beach or at least just sleeping until noon at my parents house without a care in the world. But this Spring Break I’m working and cleaning and trying to run a bunch of errands I’ve been putting off for weeks. Also, trying to enjoy the quiet in the house while the boys are visiting their grandparents.

I also thought I would try to catch up on the blog. Our Dinner Table Academy discussions have been pretty hit and miss lately. Work has been very busy and stressful for both my husband and I, and we don’t seem to take the time to come up with regular DTA topics. So we are exploring the idea of having theme weeks. We were hesitiant to do that and wanted to be more spontaneous. But we are finding the problem with spontaneity, is that some days we have none. Consequently, themes it is. At least until we find that we can’t think of any themes either.

In the meantime, I saw this TED-Ed video on Brain Pickings about how trains created standardized time. Pretty cool, don’t you think? I’m going to share it with the boys as soon a they get home.


Until next time!


How to Pretend to Be Interested

How to Be Interested

My husband and I actually got away for a weekend without the kids awhile back. On our weekend getaway we decided to visit an art museum, and while we were there we picked up a couple of cool books we wanted to share with the boys. One of them is How to Be Interesting: (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy. It was laying on a chair in our bedroom and several times our youngest son said that he wanted to read it. I thought that was kind of funny, but also cool. But then last night, he picked it up again and said, “Oh, I thought it was called ‘How to Be Interested.’ I know how to pretend to be interested. You just look at something and then sit there and think about your favorite thing.”

I’m pretty sure that’s what he does most of the time that my husband and I are talking to him about our Dinner Table Academy topics.

Anyway, both of these books we bought are full of great ideas that you should definitely share with your kids.

How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps) (if not always interested) is a great book full of illustrations by Jessica Hagy, a contributor to Forbes. Her steps include “Embrace your innate weirdness” and “Minimize the swagger.” A great read for all ages.

The other book, which I just finished and loved, was Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. I haven’t shared it with the boys yet, but there are some key things in here that I want them to read. The main reason I bought the book was because of a page I saw when I was thumbing through called “The Life of a Project.” It”s the best description of a creative project I’ve ever seen, including a dot on the project line described as “dark night of the soul.” My oldest son really struggles with perfectionism at times, and I thought it would be good for him to see this illustration and know that everyone goes through these frustrations.

I hope that my boys will get a little bit out of these books about being creative and just taking  the chance to do the things that they want to do. I hope that I will get something out of them too!

Until next time!