Stamp Collecting Archives - Eva Varga

May 25, 2016

My son recently joined Scouts and we’ve thus been immersed in learning about the history and opportunities provided to members. Everyone is likely familiar with the merit badge system whereby Scouts can learn about sports, handcrafts, science, trades, business, and future careers. Did you realize there are more than 100 merit badges?

Stamp Collecting Merit Badge

The merit badge system, I discovered was a huge motivating factor for my son. It is not surprising that the first two merit badges he chose to earn were swimming and music. He breezed through the requirements for each and was soon ready to tackle another.

stampcollectingmeritbadgesThis time he chose stamp collecting – one of the rarest badges earned. I thereby volunteered to serve as the merit badge counselor and thereby guide the interested scouts through badge requirements. Not surprisingly, only two others joined us.

Delightfully, the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs has a Boy Scout stamp collecting merit badge PowerPoint presentation available on its website. It follows, in order, the requirements from the merit badge book and thus introduces new philatelists to the hobby with ease.

I had enough stamps from which each of the boys were able to sort through and find everything they needed to complete the merit badge requirements. They just need to put their projects together. 🙂

Stamp Collecting & Exhibiting

My children and I have been avid stamp collectors for years and we have learned so much along the way. We got started in earnest shortly after we had moved to Redding, California and learned of a collector who wanted to pass on his collection of world stamps to a young child interested in learning about stamp collecting.

We reached out to him and spent an afternoon learning the ins and outs of philately. We discovered that philatelists collect a wide variety of different material – while many collect stamps from a single country, others collect stamps on a variety of topics, and others focus solely on cancellation marks. It really is very diverse!

stamp collectingStamp Collecting Championships

We soon discovered that thematic collecting was our preferred approach. Over the past five years, the kids and I have put together numerous exhibits to showcase stamps and philatelic material expressing our individual interests.

They have entered their exhibits in local shows in both California (NOVAPEX) and Oregon (SOPEX) as well as regional and national shows around the country. In doing so, they have met many wonderful people (dealers, other exhibitors, and judges).

Jeffrey’s Exhibits

  • Aeronautics
  • How the Engine Changed the World
  • Bridges of the World
  • Maersk Group*

Geneva’s Exhibits

  • Birds of the World*
  • Lunar New Year*
  • Mythologies of the World
  • Folkloric Mysteries of Harry Potter*

My Exhibits

  • All About Me
  • Mythology of the Moon
  • Phylum Insecta
*Denotes exhibits that have won a youth grand award at a nationally accredited show and thereby qualified for the AAPE Youth Champion of Champions competition. Maersk Group and Folkloric Mysteries of Harry Potter will be competing head to head in August along with numerous other youth exhibitors.

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas by iHomeschool NetworkInterested in learning how to integrate stamps into your curriculum? My article, How to Use Postage Stamps for Learning, was published in the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas.

55 homeschool moms contributed to The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Providing you with inspiration and ideas that go beyond the basics of academics. Delve into delightful methods like active learning, learning with video games, using LEGO bricks for learning, teaching on the road, learning with movies, and gardening.

The eBook is available now for only $5.99.


March 9, 20151

I recently sat down with my daughter to discover what subjects she wanted to study. Greek and Norse Mythology were at the top of her list. I was not surprised. For the past few months, my middle school aged daughter has been fascinated with thePercy Jackson series. I thereby was not surprised that she used the Barnes & Noble gift card she received for Christmas to purchase the boxed set.

mythslegendsTeaching mythology in middle school and high school is a great way to get students interested in reading, writing, and researching ancient history. With the recent popularity of Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan as well as Harry Potter and The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, it has never been easier to capture their attention.

Getting Started with Myths & Legends

Using the book Myths & Legends from DK Publishing as a spine for this unit, I began to gather materials and projects to engage her in a self-guided unit study.  {Many thanks to DK Publishing for providing the book to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.}

This book retells the stories central to every culture that have been passed down from generation to generation. Well known tales from the Ancient Greeks, as well as lesser-known, but richly colorful, myths of the Americas and the East are included.

What was most appealing about this book was how universal themes such as creation, heroic trials, tricksters’ tales, and death and the afterlife are compared across different cultures. The cultures featured are:

  • Classical Europe (Roman & Greek)
  • Northern, Western, and Eastern Europe
  • Asia
  • Africa
  • The Americas and Oceania

Myths & Legends Philatelic Exhibit

The past few months, my daughter has been utilizing her knowledge of myths & legends to put together a philatelic exhibit entitled, Mythology of the World. She has gathered a variety of philatelic material (postage stamps, first day covers, cancellation marks, as well as postcards and maximum cards) to create a visual story of of how myths & legends continue to captivate us today.

She has entered her project in both local and regional exhibitions and placed well considering how quickly she put it together. She is excited to use the Myths & Legends book from DK Publishing to expand her projects. Her vision is to improve on this one as well as create additional exhibits – one each for British, Greek, and Norse mythology. {A single frame exhibit, as shown below, typically has 16 pages (8 1/2 x 11″).}

A philatelic exhibition is an exhibition of stamps and postal history where stamp collectors (philatelists) compete for medals. The displays are shown in glass frames, and the exhibition is normally accompanied by stamp dealer bourses and post office stands where stamps and other philatelic items may be purchased.

National Mythology Exam

During our research, we also learned of the National Mythology Exam (NME), the most prominent undertaking of Excellence Through Classics, a committee of the American Classical League dedicated to promoting and supporting the study of classics. This seemed like the perfect challenge for her and she was equally intrigued. She plans to take the exam in 2016.

For students in grades 6-9, the examination process consists of a basic 30-item exam, 10 questions on the theme (Theseus), and at least one 10-item literary sub-test of the student’s choice of the following:

  • Iliad
  • Odyssey
  • Aeneid
  • Native American tales
  • African tales
  • Norse Mythology

Homeschooled students are welcome to take the NME. Parents are expected to serve as proctors of the exam, following the same procedures lined out for regular classroom teachers.

The National Mythology Exam website also provides suggestions for texts and resources.

Myths & Legends Unit Resources

In preparation for the NME, I will continue to gather materials and resources for her. We’ve begun to discuss additional projects and activities to help her in her quest.

Some teachers use mythology as a stand-alone unit; other teachers have entire, year-long courses dedicated to the study of myths and legends from around the world. No matter how you choose to teach myths and legends, you’re bound to find some helpful resources here.

  • Greek Mythology – This website contains copies of the Greek stories as well as a wide variety of notes, worksheets, and activities
  • Ticia shares a fun scavenger hunt activity in her post, Greek Mythology Lesson
  • The Scholastic book Greek Mythology Activities includes a mock interview with a god or goddess, a reproducible board game, mapping activities, a read-aloud play, and lots more
  • Classical Mythology – This website provides an extensive list of activities and lessons for the study of mythology with middle school students

August 1, 201415

My children and I love to collect stamps. We learn a lot about history, science, and even language through this dynamic hobby – suitable for nearly all ages.

To celebrate our love of country and philately, I’ve thereby put together a gift basket to help you discover the hobby of stamp collecting.

patriotic philatelic giveawayThe Philatelic & Patriotic Giveaway Basket includes:

America: A Patriotic Primer is a succinct history of the United States, an ABC of the principles on which this country was founded, and a book for children and families to pore over, discuss, and cherish. Though it is written by Lynne Cheney (author and wife of Vice President Richard Cheney), no political viewpoint is taken. Instead, she professes the greatness of our history and the profundity of our nation’s ideals.  (Value $15)

The Early America Library CD from The Heritage History Classical Curriculum includes a specialized library that features stories about explorers, settlers, inventors, military heroes, writers, presidents, and Indian leaders, as well as political developments. (Value $19)

A set of seven beautiful notecards from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation featuring images from Williamsburg, the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia—the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost of empire in the New World.

The Civil War: 1863 commemorative collection from the United States Postal Service. A must for every collector and every Civil War enthusiast, this commemorative set includes narrative on the Battle of Gettysburg and the Battle of Vicksburg, two First Day Covers are the third pair to be issued as part of the ongoing five-year Civil War Sesquicentennial series, and a full souvenir sheet of 12 stamps. (Value $9)

A variety of additional philatelic ephemera to kickstart a new hobby of stamp collecting:

  • American history learning activities with accompanying stamps to introduce stamp collecting from the Postal History Foundation
  • A packet of United States stamps (mint and cancelled) commemorating various historical events
  • Stamp Collector’s Stamp Booklet to aide a young collector in organizing their stamps and planning a philatelic exhibit

So there you have it!  Everything you need to get started using stamps in your curriculum this year and a delightful collection of patriotic stories!  Make sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!

This gift basket was inspired by the chapter that I wrote for the new book Big Book of Homeschool Ideas.  In my chapter, How to Use Postage Stamps for Learning, I share with readers ideas for using postage stamps for learning history, science, and art. My hope is that along with this philatelic and patriotic giveaway, you will discover an interest in the hobby of stamp collecting yourself.

Big Book of Homeschool Ideas

Big-Book-promo-2So do you want to know more about the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas?  This is a massive (561 page) ebook written by 55 ladies of the iHomeschool Network.  We cover 103 hmeschool topics to help and inspire you, no matter what stage of homeschooling you are at!

This book covers everything from academic topics, to fun learning ideas like using LEGOs and teaching handicrafts!  I have contributed two chapters myself. One of which is a tutorial to stamp collecting – perfect for this of you interested in getting started in the hobby of philately! This is a book you will turn to time and time again.  To learn more and see the full table of contents, check out the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas website.

What is neat is that when you purchase this book, you get three versions of it: pdf, mobi, and epub.  That means that you can read it virtually anywhere!  Pull it up on your computer, you iphone, table, or wherever!

Buy-it-now - Big Book of Homeschool Ideas

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But that is not all! My giveaway is one of several back-to-school giveaways taking place this week. Be sure to check out the other gift baskets from the bloggers at iHomeschool Network.  Take a minute and go enter as many as you’d like.


April 1, 2012
Locals and tourists alike flock to the tidal basin in the nation’s capitol each spring enthralled by the beautiful blossoms that celebrate our friendship with Japan. A century ago, the city of Tokyo gave 3,020 cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC. First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees.
the light filling the air
is so mild this spring day
only the cherry blossoms
keep falling in haste —
why is that so?

~ Ki no Tomonori

In 1927, local citizens held the first cherry blossom festival. Today, the celebration draws more than a million visitors. Because these trees are in bloom so briefly, the Japanese often see them as symbols of transience – making every blossom an invitation to celebrate life.

On March 24th of this year, the U. S. Postal Service commemorated the centennial of the gift of more than 3,000 cherry blossom trees from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C with the Cherry Blossom Centennial stamp design. The two stamps, which are near mirror images, form the left and right halves of a panoramic view of blooming cherry trees surrounding the tidal basin. The stamp on the left depicts blossoming trees arching over two girls dressed in bright kimonos, and a family on a stroll with the Washington Monument in the background. On the second stamp, the Jefferson Memorial forms the backdrop for tourists taking in the sights under a canopy of pink blooms. Artist Paul Rogers worked with art director Phil Jordan to create the two stamp designs.

Sadly, we were not able to attend the unveiling ceremony.  We all loved the artistry of this setenet pair, however, and thus we created cherry blossoms of our own.

March 5, 2012
Reviewing their entries with their mentor, Bob.  We owe much gratitude to him – without his guidance we’d still be floating amidst our unorganized stamps. 

Sorting through the freebie box in search of stamps for our themes. 
  Sweetie’s exhibit:  Birds of the World

Buddy’s exhibit:  Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

Awaiting the judges decision

The proud philatelists beside their winning exhibits
Here is an extensive explanation of philatelic judging guidelines, if you are interested.