Free Homeschool Resource: CrashCourse US History

The internet has lots of free content with a wide range of quality, from total junk to absolutely amazing. Today I’m going to talk about Crash Course US History, which is free and available on YouTube. First, here is the link to Crash Course US History on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8dPuuaLjXtMwmepBjTSG593eG7ObzO7s

The course is narrated by John Green, who I’ve otherwise seen on the YouTube channel Mental Floss. He is a fast talker, but his mannerisms are funny and engaging. Each episode covers a period of European-era US history, with a total of 47 regular episodes (and one bonus episode) bringing us up to the present day, at least the present day when the series was created. Each episode features a narration of the relevant events and people, uneducated comments from “Me from the Past” (John Green’s former self), an exaggerated animated depiction of some historical event in question (the “Thought Bubble”), and the reading of an original-source document where John Green has to guess the author, and if he gets it wrong, he gets fake-shocked by a “shock pen” as punishment.

So, here are some of the strengths of the series:

  • It’s brief and to-the-point. It doesn’t get bogged down in boring details that aren’t relevant for a surface-level discussion of history.
  • It’s funny and engaging.
  • It places minimal emphasis on dates and no emphasis on memorizing dates.
  • It’s not just a history of wars and battles. Wars are mentioned, but not in the manner common of many other history books where history is basically just a way to get from one war to the next.
  • It’s divided neatly into bite-size segments.
  • It provides a good context for historical discussions. It’s easy to pause a lesson and have a brief discussion on whatever topic comes up.

Now, the videos are sprinkled with commentary and it’s primarily politically-left leaning commentary. However, for the most part the commentary is brief and not way overboard.

A here’s a video:

 

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And now we have a range

Another quick addition to the project: A Jenn Air JGR8775RDS Gas Range. I bought this at the Bellevue Habitat store as I was passing through the area on other business for $149. It was factory-configured for natural gas, but it has the LP conversion kit still in the back for converting to propane.

Jenn Air Range

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Windows and dishwasher

Today I got some fantastic windows from the Snohomish County Habitat stores. They get a lot of Home Depot’s custom windows that customers don’t accept. That is, they are brand new windows. So, I picked up 3 windows that hadn’t sold for a while, so they were discounted further off their already-discounted price. The problem with selling used windows is that there aren’t really many standard window sizes like there are standard door sizes. So, a window from one place simply will not fit in another place lest it is by a huge stroke of luck. But if you’re building a new house you can design your house around your windows. So, I picked up a 4 foot tall by 8 foot wide window (brand new, u-factor 0.29, low-E, argon gas filled) for $42.35. I got another window for $60 and yet another for $44.

I also picked up another 24 LED light bulbs on recent trips (they limit you to 12 bulbs per day). I also got an air gap for dishwashers for just $1.75. (A similar one on Amazon.com costs around $20.)

And then one of my friends was doing some appliance installation for a friend, and his friend was giving away the old appliances. They weren’t spectacular appliances, but they were in fine shape. So, I got a free dishwasher. Free is my favorite price, and it’s a bonus when I don’t have to do any extra driving or ferries to get it.

Dishwasher and dryer

Dishwasher and dryer

 

Big window

Big window

 

Other window

Another window

 

Window stick

Window sticker – u-factor of 0.29 on this one. Another is 0.27. (Lower is better for u-factor.)

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Dryer and bathroom mirrors and some light bulbs

Today was another good day of acquisitions. Someone on Craigslist was generously giving away a mostly-functional gas dryer (Whirlpool GGW9250PL0). The sensor dry function isn’t working, but time dry works fine. I need a $20 propane conversion kit (Whirlpool 8576846A). Using Archive.org, I found out that this dryer sold for $829 in 2006.

I also got two 3-foot wide in-wall medicine cabinets from the Habitat Store in Lynnwood for $15 each. Each one has 3 mirrored doors and a number of shelves inside. I also bought a 4 pack of LED bulbs for the utility-subsidized price of just $10. I put a couple in sockets here and the light is good.

I also spent 5 hours, 2 ferry trips, and 63 miles driving around. Sorry about the poor quality of the pictures. I only had my cell phone with me, and the light was poor.

Lisa and Emma in one jacket
Lisa and Emma in one jacket

 

 

Emma in dryer
Emma in dryer

 

 

Lisa in dryer
Lisa in dryer

 

 

Bathroom mirrors
Bathroom mirrors

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Updated floor plan

Yesterday I talked with the supplier of the house kit that I’ve been looking at. The kit is basically for the shell, so the inside floor plan is pretty flexible. But he mentioned that there will need to be a support beam in the middle of the house. My old floor plan did not included a wall in the middle of the house to hold the support beam, so it needed modification. I started pushing walls around and I came up with a new floor plan that offers some benefits (and some disadvantages) compared to the old plan. First, here it is:

floor_plan_2

The biggest change is this went from 3 bedrooms to just 2. However, the bedrooms got bigger and they got closets, making them legit bedrooms. The kitchen got shifted to the left by about three and a half feet, and the utility room got moved behind the bathrooms. However, this new utility room location has the clear advantage of being able to deliver hot water to the bathrooms lightning fast. The laundry has been moved into the utility room.

Also, with this new configuration, I’m thinking about going to a wall hung toilet and bathtubs with drains above floor level. That way, all my plumbing will be above the slab, and thus easier to service. There will be two points where the plumbing goes into the slab, one inside the utility room, and one under the island. Here’s a great advantage (in my mind) to a wall hung toilet: it’s easier to clean the floor in the bathroom. There’s no more yucky area around the toilet because the toilet does not touch the floor. If I also make the bathroom sink a wall-mount sink, then the entire bathroom floor with be clear for a quick mopping.

Also, I talked with the kit supplier about increasing the roof pitch to 10:12, and he said it should be possible without too much trouble. So, it would be possible to have an upstairs for a future edition of the house. So, the left side of the house would have high ceilings. The right side would have normal height ceilings and an attic that could be converted at some future point to living area. (That could potentially support one or two more bedrooms and another bathroom.)

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Homeschool Resource: Reading Eggs

There are hundreds of different ways to learn to read. One of the bigger dividing lines is sight words vs phonics. First, a note: English is not a phonetic language. Phonics will only help you so far. Case in point, how do you say “read”? Is it red or reed (both of which are also words). With German, our kids’ other native language, it’s easier. German is almost phonetic with few ambiguities, so it’s much easier to read. That being said, some basic phonetic patterns make it easier to deal with words you don’t know yet. So, that being said, one resource that we’ve used with Lisa, Emma and a bit with Ben is Reading Eggs. It costs $59/year as of this writing. It has a number of sequential, relatively fun, computerized reading lessons that simultaneously deal with phonics and sight words. Phonics is really a bridge to sight words. Adults, generally, do not sound out words as they read them, but just glance at them and know them by sight. Even in phonetic languages like German, you don’t sound things out. If you see Strassenbahnschienen, you don’t go through sound-by-sound, but rather, you immediately see the word splits (strassen-bahn-schienen) and recognize each word on its own. (The word means street car tracks, in case you were wondering.)

So, if you have a bit of money to spend, Reading Eggs might be good for you. I believe they have a free trial so you can see if it meshes with your kid.

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Code Note: Vents in Islands

Typically plumbing requires a vent for a few purposes, among them: ensuring that sewer gases go through the roof, not into the living space, reducing the risk of bad siphoning, and ensuring optimal drain flow. A kitchen island, however, is not an ideal space for venting. You don’t want a pipe going up through your island and through the roof. One solution is a device called an Air Admittance Valve (AAV). This allows air in for good flow, but does not let sewer gases out. The P-trap of the sink ensures that no sewer gases exit through the sink.

The 2012 International Building Code allows AAV’s, section 918 of the International Plumbing Code. You can pick up an AAV on Amazon.com for $17.

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Kitchen countertops

One of the most expensive parts of a house is the kitchen. People love to remodel kitchens, so there are often perfectly good kitchens being removed from houses. So, reuse stores are a great place to pick up used kitchens. However, the big problem is getting the used kitchen to fit in your space. But if you’re building a new house and the floor plan isn’t fixed yet, you can build your kitchen floor plan around the items that you buy.

So, I was monitoring SecondUse’s website and I found some nice countertops in inventory. The material is Terrazzo, which is a composite of sorts, but in a fairly elegant way. So, I bought 4 sections of countertop and designed a kitchen around it.

The largest piece will be an eat-at-island with built-in sink and dishwasher underneath. That way, there will be a cleaning sink and a cooking sink. That should help workflow in a busy kitchen.

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