Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Why of English (and Western) History

In this book I am trying to give you only those events of the past which can throw a light upon the conditions of the present world. If I do not mention certain countries, the cause is not to be found in any secret dislike on my part. I wish that I could tell you what happened to Norway and Switzerland and Serbia and China. But these lands exercised no great influence upon the development of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I therefore pass them by with a polite and very respectful bow. England however is in a different position. What the people of that small island have done during the last five hundred years has shaped the course of history in every corner of the world. Without a proper knowledge of the background of English history, you cannot understand what you read in the newspapers. And it is therefore necessary that you know how England happened to develop a parliamentary form of government while the rest of the European continent was still ruled by absolute monarchs.

--from The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Van Loon (Chapter 45)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Notes on Madam How and Lady Why: Ch. 4 The Transformations of a Grain of Soil

Ch. 4 The Transformations of a Grain of Soil

 P. 78 In 1529 in Mexico, the conquistador Cortes ordered one of his men, Montano, to lead a very dangerous expedition to retrieve 60 lbs of sulphur from Popocat├ępetl (Popo’s Crater), which was used as gunpowder:

 P. 79-80 The difference between soul/spirit and physical body

 P. 81-83 Description of lava flow

 Video of Kilauea (Hawaii) erupting:

 Whinstone: any various hard, dark-colored rocks, esp. basalt and chert (Free Online Dictionary)

 Slag: vitreous (glass-like) residue left by the smelting (melting or fusing) of metallic ore (Free Online Dictionary)

 Cinder: a burnt or partially burnt substance that cannot be reduced to ashes but is incapable of further combustion (Free Online Dictionary)

 Fascinating photo essay of volcanism and other geologic phenomena in Hawaii:

 P. 85-96 Kingsley explains the rock cycle

 Madeira: an island near Portugal

 Lothians of Scotland: Lothian is a region in Scotland which includes Edinburgh and Dunbar (Wikipedia)

 Rock cycle:

 Advantages/fertile soil:

 Advantages/mineral resources:

 Advantages/geothermal energy:

 Potash: a potassium compound often used in agriculture, being an ingredient in fertilizers (

 Magnesia: also called periclase; magnesium oxide (

 Silicates: types of rock that consist predominantly of silicon/oxygen; most of the Earth’s mantle and crust are made up of silicate rocks (

 Carbonic acid gas: carbon dioxide gas (absorbed from the air by plants in photosynthesis) (

 P. 88 Eruption of Skaptar Jokull in 1783 (and some other stories of volcanoes affecting the weather):

 West India Islands: West Indies, a group of islands just to the east of South/Central America

 Giant’s Causeway/Fingal’s Cave: Two corresponding areas of unique lava formations in Ireland and the Hebrides (near Scotland); they figure in legends about Finn McCool (Fionn Mac Cumhaill)'s_Cave's_Causeway

 An example of a trap dyke in the Adirondacks of upstate New York:

 Chalk:

 An old geological map of the British Isles (volcanic—igneous—rock is labeled ‘E’ for “eruptive rocks” and is colored dark red):

 Some very cool pictures of rock formations in the South of England (Wessex), and more geological maps of the British Isles and Europe:

 Since we live in Texas, a geological map of our state (igneous rock shown in pink):

 Virtual geology field trips:

 Geological structures and landforms in Dallas County:

 Madam How’s ice plough: glaciers

 Madam How’s gentle spade: rain

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Notes on Madam How and Lady Why: Ch. 3 Volcanoes

(Previous MHLW posts)

Ch. 3 Volcanoes

My favorite part of this chapter is Kingsley's imaginative description of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. :)

 P. 123-133 in Exploring His Earth is about volcanoes (and earthquakes)

 P. 54-55 is more admonition to people who live near volcanoes and earthquake activity

 Relationships between volcanoes and earthquakes:

 P. 55 Sandwich Islands: an old name for the Hawaiian Islands

 P. 55 Pele’s Hair: Thin strands of volcanic glass drawn out from molten lava

 Story of Kapiolani defying the volcano:

 Friendly Islands: an old name for the Kingdom of Tonga

 Fortunate Islands: legendary islands believed by the Greeks to be the gateway to Paradise

 P. 56 Use the following map (showing earth’s plates and earthquake/volcano activity) and an atlas to locate regions listed on p. 56, and identify areas of activity in the U.S.:

 P. 57-59 Pacific Ring of Fire traced (he begins in the Bay of Bengal, which is outside the Ring, but quickly gets to Java and the Philippines and traces most of the rest of it.

 Map of Ring of Fire:

 P. 61-66 Excellent description of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79

 Different types of volcanoes and a photo essay of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s:

 P. 68-77 Definitions of cone, crater; and a description of an eruption

 Movie on different types of volcanoes:

 Videos of 2010 Icelandic eruption:

 Volcanoes:

 National Geographic lesson plan for Gr. 3-5 on earthquakes and volcanoes (plate tectonics):

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Notes on Madam How and Lady Why: Ch. 2 Earthquakes

(Previous MHLW post)

Ch. 2 Earthquakes

 P. 33 This chapter begins with a discussion of the 1868 earthquake in Arica, Peru. (Kingsley published Madam How and Lady Why in 1869.) We can also talk about the earthquake in Haiti, or the one Daddy experienced in 1991 in Northern California.

 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake:

 Wikipedia article:

* Addition: The girls pulled out two books when we started reading about earthquakes-- The Usborne Book of World Geography and All About Volcanoes and Earthquakes by Frederick H. Pough

 He goes into quite a bit of speculation about why—- not how-- the earthquake might have happened. This is a good time to discuss whether every bad thing that happens is because of the sin of the individual or group— in the Gospel of John Ch. 9, for instance, the Lord himself said that a certain man’s blindness came upon him not because of sin he or his parents committed, “but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”. (Later note: The Bible also says, "The wise man foresees the danger and hides himself," and it could be argued that people who live in earthquake-prone areas really ought to protect themselves, or else move. Proverbs 22:3, 27:12. Kingsley starts with this argument.)

 P. 37 The simplest explanation is usually the correct one (an idea popularly known as Occam’s Razor).

 P. 38 He speculates on the likeliest explanation for earthquakes. Here is a modern explanation of earthquakes (make sure to read the brief history of seismology to 1910, as it tells of different theories people used to believe):



 An explanation of earthquakes in Yellowstone (scroll down to “Earthquakes”):

 Skip p. 38-40 and begin again at the middle of p. 41, “…as I had come up the valley…”

 Ch. 7-9 in Exploring His Earth (Ann Voskamp) deals with the earth’s structure, earthquakes, and plate tectonics.

 P. 46 Tsunamis discussed.

 P. 52 Fen: low, flat, swampy land (we see something similar just off the highway in our neighborhood)

 A picture of a fen:

 P. 52 Bog: an area having a wet, spongy, acidic substrate composed chiefly of sphagnum moss and peat…

 Dersingham Bog:

 Sunken forest:

 Another portion of the sunken forest:

 Pholas: a bivalve mussel

 P. 53 Change in the Earth is inevitable

 Science fair idea: