Queen Girls: Inspiring Girls with Real Stories of Female Heroes

Today I divert from my usual content to share with you a book series that I am very excited about. Though my children are no longer the target age, I love the mission of Queen Girls – to inspire girls to follow their dreams and envision them as possible and I look forward to sharing the books with my nieces and nephews. I also love that the stories are based on real women – short biographies that highlight the struggles and successes of women the world over.

Often times, classic stories highlight the strength, courage and skills of men while female characters are often stereotyped or one-dimensionall: the mother figure, the homemaker, the exotic beauty, the love seeker.

Did you know that 57% of children’s books have male protagonists, while only 31% are female? We believe that we should be telling different stories to our children. Let’s encourage girls to find their happiness, passions, drive and self-confidence from within. At the same time, let’s help boys to move to a place of equality.

Queen Girls Kickstarter

They also believe in giving back to the community and this is why they stand on a One for One model. Every time you purchase a book, another will be donated to local and international organizations who are fighting illiteracy and empowering girls.

The first fairy tale is Bessie, Queen of the Sky inspired by the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license. The book will be available in English and Spanish.

When Bessie was growing up, no one could have imagined that a girl from a humble family would get out of the cotton fields and become a pilot. But with the help of her best friend Bloony, Bessie uses her courage and determination to make her dream come true!

How to get involved?

They are running a Kickstarter campaign to collect necessary funds to print the first book! Queen Girls is hoping to reach like-minded people who can help them ‘kick’ their crowdfunding campaign! If you believe in their mission and want to be part of the movement, donate and receive one of the first limited copies here!

bessie-and-bloony-flying

This multicultural team is formed by Jimena Durán (Spain), Andrea Doshi (USA) and Chiara Fabbri (Italy). They bring their diverse experiences to this initiative along with tons of love and dedication. Their intention is to open this collection to fellow authors and illustrators that could potentially bring their own Queens on board.

Books

Available in English & Spanish
Recommended age – 4 to 7 y.o.
32 page, hardcover & digital

Bessie, Queen of the Sky! Inspired by the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license in the world – When Bessie was growing up, no one could have imagined that a girl from a humble family would get out of the cotton fields and become a pilot. But with the help of her best friend Bloony, Bessie uses her courage and determination to make her dream come true!

Isadora, the Rebel Queen! Inspired by the story of Isadora Duncan, a ballerina who danced away from rigid ballet technique towards what she perceived as natural movement. Influenced by the sea, she started dancing like no one ever did before, imitating the waves of the sea with her arms and feet – She defied conventionalist minds by creating what today we refer to as Modern Dance or “Barefoot Style.”

Savi, Queen of Education! Inspired by the story of Savitribhai Phule, a woman poet, an educationalist and a social reformer, Savi was one of the earliest crusaders of education for girls in India. She defied all odds to become the first female teacher at the first women’s school founded by her and her family.

And more books to come! We have the firm intention to grow this collection and open it up to fellow authors and illustrators that could potentially bring their own queens on board.

If this sounds appealing to you, please pledge to make it happen here!

#queeengirls #childrensbooks #booksforgirls
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The Evolution of STEM to STEAM: A Book Review & Activity Resources

When I was teaching full time, there was a big push to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering, and math courses and ultimately encourage youth to pursue these careers. In fact, I was hired as an elementary science specialist and was responsible for the science instruction of over 330 students in 4th – 6th grades. In this role, I discovered my true passion … science education.

The Evolution of STEM to STEAM @EvaVarga.netThe Push for STEM

STEM arose from the desire of policy makers to encourage the natural curiosity of youth and their sense of wonder about these fields. These experts say our young people need strong STEM skills to compete in the world market. We must work together to cultivate the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators.

The US Department of Education reports that the number of STEM / STEAM jobs in the United States will grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020, growth that the is “much faster “ than the national average of 5-8% across all job sectors. Computer programming and IT jobs top the list of the the hardest to fill jobs and yet they are not the most popular college majors.

With this push for STEM programs and my broad work experiences, I have written extensively about STEM concepts. For several years, I coordinated a STEM Club for homeschool kids in our local area and shared many our activities here with you.

STEAM is the Future

The inclusion of the arts component into STEM makes it more fun to learn, and more approachable to kids. Arts and creativity are crucial to these fields and are the tool that allows technology to be usable in real life.

STEAM represents a paradigm shift from traditional education philosophy, based on standardized test scores, to a modern ideal which focuses on valuing the learning process as much as the results. The arts are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.

Fostering a strong STEAM education is our best opportunity to boost the spirit of innovation. It’s what we need to help ensure we continue on a prosperous and secure journey. STEAM literacy is also critical because it has a profound and growing impact on our day-to-day lives. Nature, space exploration, the arts, and any STEAM-related interest reveals to us the beauty and power of the world we inhabit.

steam-kidsSTEAM Kids

I am excited to share with you all a fabulous new book by a group of homeschool moms and science advocates, STEAM Kids: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Hands-on Projects for Kids. They authors have pulled their collective experience and wisdom to provide you with a wealth of fun activities young children will LOVE!

They have just launched and I am delighted to have been given a sneak peak at STEAM Kids in exchange for an honest review. I encourage you to take a peak – I know you’ll love it, too. Over 140 pages of fun hands-on STEAM related activities for young children.

If you’re looking for great hands on activities that encourage children to develop their creative abilities while building upon their skills, STEAM Kids is the answer. Teachers and parents alike will find plenty of ideas to captivate young kids and immerse them in an engaging learning environment.

Like what you see? The STEAM Kids ebook is available for just $14.99!  If you have older kids, consider purchasing copies to give as gifts. One activity a week fully outlined using materials easily found around the house for less than 30¢ a week. You can’t go wrong!

steam-halloweenThat’s not all! During launch week (9/14-9/21), you will also received their STEAM Kids: Halloween activity book free. Thereafter, it will be available for $4.99 so don’t delay. Inside you’ll find 59 pages filled with spooky and sweet Halloween activities perfect for the classroom or at home. Things like pumpkin brush bots, spider web science, Halloween building challenges and more.

As an little expression of gratitude, they’ve also created a FREE Printable highlighting 52 weeks of STEAM activities.

100 Tips for Traveling with Kids in Europe: A Book Review & GIVEAWAY

I am so very excited! Several months ago, fellow travel blogger, Ashley Steel, reached out to me to inquire if my children would be interested in submitting their photography for a new book she was writing with Bill Richards. The focus of their new book was on traveling with kids in Europe and we had just returned from a three week excursion to Italy and Greece.

100 Tips for Traveling with Kids in Europe

This post may contain affiliate links.

My kids were delighted to take part and submitted several photos each – their favorites from each of the two countries we had recently visited. We didn’t know which photographs would be selected and have been looking forward to the discovery.

Our wait is now over! Traveling with Kids in Europe is now available in paperback from Amazon. We couldn’t be happier with the final product. The layout of the book is fabulous and I just love how the children’s photographs are dispersed throughout the book to augment the many wonderful travel tips provided by Steel and Richards.

lovelocks

Traveling with Kids in Europe is divided into three sections: preparing for your trip (get the kids involved in planning and setting an itinerary), the trip itself (navigating the airport, finding your hotel, etc.), and finally logistical tips and safety (alerting your credit card company prior to departure). There is so much packed into this book.

While we can’t list all of the tourist activities across this exciting continent, we sow the seeds for what your trip can really be. Don’t settle for just the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, and Big Ben. Explore Europe! Dance to street musicians, learn about politics, eat seven kinds of waffles, go punting, and see fairy tale scenery (literally!).

Whether you are new to foreign travel or are planning your first trip aboard, you’ll find ideas and suggestions to ensure your excursion is memorable and enjoyable!

sails
Traveling with Kids in Europe is a fabulous book full of great tips for traveling with kids. What I love best are the photographs on every page – taken by children of all ages as they traveled in Europe with their families. Though I could be partial – I just love seeing Europe from the perspective of the kids. Their creativity brings to life the culture of each country through the eyes of the young travelers themselves.

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You might also be interested in their earlier book, Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids. You can learn more about their works by visiting their website.

Smart Money, Smart Kids: How We’ve Applied Dave Ramsey Strategies to Our Life

Patrick and I have always been careful with our finances. Making smart money decisions has not always been easy, however. I had a significant amount of credit card debt in college. When we married, we vowed not to let debt break us. In fact, we even lived with Patrick’s parents for three years as we paid off our college loans!

About a year ago, we started listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts. Hearing couples and families all over the country scream, “I’m debt free!” has been really inspiring. I love his Seven Baby Steps. We’ve been working on steps 4 (savings for retirement) and 5 (college funding) simultaneously for years – even before we knew of Dave Ramsey.

Smart Money Smart Kids: Applying Dave Ramsey Strategies to Our Life @EvaVarga.netWhile we were living in Redding, we were renting so step 6 (paying off house) didn’t really apply to us. Now that we’ve moved back to Oregon and are in the process of buying a home once more, we have made owning our home outright a family priority. Our goal is to pay off our home before the kids begin college full-time. That gives us just 5 years!

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be describing how we have applied Dave Ramsey strategies to our life. I begin today with the resources we’ve used getting started. 

Money Smart Kids

Dave Ramsey has written many books on personal finance and budgeting. Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money is the first book written with his daughter, Rachel. In his usual writing style, Dave presents a no nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is guide to raising money-smart kids. His daughter offers story after story of what life was like growing up as Dave Ramsey’s daughter. I just loved her! Her stories give the book humor and soften Dave’s usual dry approach.

We listened to the audio version while traveling to Portland with the kiddos several weeks ago. We have been using many of the strategies he describes such as:

  • Not giving the kids an allowance but expecting them to earn their own money by doing work (Dave calls this “earning a commission”)
  • Expecting them to save and pay for things they want

We’d stop the audio periodically on our trip and talk over the points presented. My son’s ears perked up when he heard of Dave’s 401 plan. When your teenager starts driving and wants his own car, the money the child has saved for this purchase is matched dollar for dollar. In other words, if your teen saves $5,000, then you match them with $5,000, and they can buy a $10,000 car.

My son quickly asked, “Instead of buying a car, would you match the money I save to buy a grand piano?” Absolutely little man. Absolutely.

Our conversations quickly evolved into brainstorming entrepreneurial ideas. “I’m only 10 years old! How can I make money?” Next week, I will share some of the creative ideas we came up with – ways kids can earn money of their own.

Personal Finance Course

Throughout his books and podcasts, Dave recommends his other publications and materials. I was certainly intrigued when I learned of his Foundations in Personal Finance, a high school personal finance course designed specifically for homeschoolers.

Much to my delight, this product was recently available for a significant discount through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. While the offer has now expired, they have invited him to return. You can request a reminder from the co-op when they offer is available again.

Please note, as my kids are only 8th and 6th grades, we aren’t using this material presently. However, we look forward to implementing this curriculum in a few years.

Related Posts:

We Have Enough .. Our Efforts in Frugality

Our 4 Steps on the Pursuit of Happiness

Lessons Learned from my Father

Timelines of History & Science

When we first started homeschooling,a Book of Centuries was one of the first things we implemented in our curriculum. We love the concept so much – we still use them today!

I have learned a few things along the way. I share these insights with you in hopes you’ll benefit from my past experience.

Timelines of History & Science @EvaVarga.netA Book of Centuries is basically a timeline in a book. A timeline allows the reader to compare advances and discoveries in different cultures relative to each other in time.

I first discovered them when I was researching Charlotte Mason’s teaching. Charlotte recommended that history be taught in chronological order, which makes sense since so much of what happened was based on cause and effect. Essentially, as we learn about people and events in history – either through readings or documentaries – we record them on the appropriate pages in our Book of Centuries.

When we add a person to a page that already contains someone or something that occurred in the same century, our brain makes a connection. “Oh! Beatrix Potter lived at the same time as Theodore Roosevelt. The Boer War and Boxer Rebellion were happening at the same time!” A Book of Centuries is the perfect tool to make those mental connections. Making these connections for ourself has a deeper impression and last longer.

Getting Started with a Book of Centuries

When we first started, the kids and I each had our own Book of Centuries. I downloaded the Basic Book of Centuries template from the Simply Charlotte Mason website and we set up our timelines in a 3-ring binder.

As we read about different events and people through history, I printed images onto sticker paper and we sat down together to adhere them to the appropriate pages. I would then ask that they write a short sentence or two summarizing the event or accomplishments of the historical figure. We would also color code each event by outlining each image – a different color for each continent.

While my daughter was as engaged as I, my son was too young. He managed putting the stickers in his book but would soon become distracted and would fail to write the sentence as instructed. Additionally, we would often struggle to stay current with our history reading. After we completed the four volume series of Story of the World, we slowly began to drift away from our Book of Centuries.

Recently, I opened my Book of Centuries and began to revisit the people and events that I had documented over the years. My daughter came to sit beside me and she expressed interest in revisiting this process. Our books had become a great companion and record of the fascinating people we had met through our texts, living history books, and documentaries.

Looking back, I should have compiled a family Book of Centuries when the kids were younger. I have since learned that Charlotte’s students didn’t receive their own until they were about ten years old. During the younger years, we should have collaborated together and it would not have been so overwhelming to my son.

Timelines of History & Science @EvaVarga.netTimelines Resources

As we have begun to revisit our timeline books, I was delighted to get the opportunity to review Dorling Kindersley’s (DK) Timelines of History and Timelines of Science. Produced in association with the Smithsonian Institution, these excellent timeline reference books are filled with striking photography, infographics, and illustrations. Each edition is a fabulous addition to a home library.

Timelines of History is by far one of the best books that DK has published thus far. It is a stunning visual chronology of the events and people that have defined our history, providing a clear picture of our human past and the events that have changed our world. For anyone who is fascinated with history, this is a must-have. It is a great reference for students and teachers alike with a passion for understanding the past.

Timelines of History is over 500 pages long with full color on every page. I love the timeline at the bottom of each page; a great quick-reference tool that allows us to more accurately place events and historical figures on our own Book of Centuries.

DK’s companion text, Timelines of Science, is another excellent reference book. However, as scientific discoveries are shown chronologically, unrelated topics are sometimes presented together. This can be confusing to some readers if they are not accustomed to this approach.

The book is organized in six main sections based on the era of scientific discovery,

  • Before Science Began (including advances made by Greek medicine);
  • European and Islamic Renaissance;
  • Age of Discovery;
  • Age of Revolutions (including Faraday’s experiments);
  • Atomic Age; and finally
  • Information Age (including a discussion of global warming).

Like its companion, the main component of  Timelines of Science is the timeline that runs along the bottom of each page. The upper part of each page contains related pictures and illustrations as well as brief descriptions of the advances noted on the timeline.

Cogswheels & Gear Trains: Career Education Activities for Middle School

A cogwheel is a rotating machine part having teeth, or cogs, which mesh with another toothed part to transmit torque. Two or more gears working in a sequence (train) are called a gear train or, in many cases, a transmission. Gear arrangements as described, can produce a mechanical advantage through a gear ratio and thus may be considered a simple machine.

I know what you are thinking,

What does all this have to do with career education?

Career Education for Middle School @EvaVarga.netAs parents of students in middle school, one of our roles is to help our kids understand how their current educational and personal choices will affect their future life roles. In particular, their choices for a career.

In many ways, you can think of the variety of careers as a cogwheel. Each cogwheel is a career option and the individual teeth or cogs are the skill sets required for success in that given field.

Over the years, we have taken advantage of numerous opportunities to explore career options as a family. We’ve reached out to our friends and family members – encouraging the kids to ask questions to learn more about their chosen fields of work.

We talk regularly about their dad’s role as a hospital administrator and their uncles’ careers as a pharmacist and microbiologist. Coincidentally, though their career choices differ (the cogwheel), they all work in health care (the gear train).

Each cogwheel works closely with one another in a larger system – the gear train. Together, the system has an advantage.

Youth are more likely to think about their future careers, and believe that they have a variety of career options, when they have families that help them learn about career choices and support their efforts to prepare for a career. Given an opportunity to evaluate career information and compare and contrast a variety of careers is also important.

Exploring the many varied career options when students are in middle school will help assure they have a greater grasp of what skills they will need as an adult.

One of our newest additions to our library is Careers: The Graphic Guide to Finding the Perfect Job for You. We have had a great time investigating the careers the kids are interested in with this resource guide.

{Many thanks to DK Publishing for providing the book to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.}

More than 400 career options are described in this book, color coded and divided into fifteen categories (or gear trains): health and medicine; arts, crafts, & design; and science & research are just a few.

Each job has a career path journey graphically laid out with important aspects including what actions one would have to take to be successful in this career as far as personality, interests, type and quality of education and the life/work balance you’d like to achieve among other criteria.

Career Education for Middle School @EvaVarga.netThe Role of Parents of Middle School Students

You can encourage middle school children to plan for a career in several ways:

  • Talk to your children about your own work, and/or the jobs of friends and relatives, so they will learn about several work alternatives.
  • Ask your children what they like to do and help them look for ways that their interests can be reflected in a career choice.
  • Help your children get information about middle and high school courses they can take to better prepare them for college or a post-secondary training program.
  • Plan a “career day” for your homeschool co-op and invite guest speakers (or parents).
  • Take a trip to local employer and employment agencies.

Exploring Options

I have written a few posts describing how we’ve used the interests of our children as a guide to explore career options. I will be adding more in the future.
Hydrology
Entomology
Private Pilot

What interests and passions do your children have? What careers are they likely to pursue as a result? Take time to sit down with your kids and begin exploring the many career options available to them today.