Tuesday, June 28

Caroline's Comet & Astronomy

Astronomy is one of the few sciences in which amateurs play an active role, such as finding new comets. In 'Caroline's Comets,' we meet Caroline Herschel, a German astronomer, whose most significant contributions to astronomy were the discoveries of several comets. She was the younger sister of astronomer William Herschel, and the first woman to receive a salary as a scientist...

Astronomy is one of the oldest natural sciences, and uses math, physics, and chemistry to study celestial objects and phenomena.  Ancient civilizations, including the Babylonians, Greeks, Indians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Mayans, made methodical observations of the night sky and used these observations to determine the seasons, an important factor in knowing when to plant crops and in understanding the length of the year.

Before tools such as the telescope were invented, early study of the stars was conducted using the naked eye.  The Earth was believed to be the center of the universe, with the sun, the moon, and the stars rotating around it.  This is known as the geocentric model, or the Ptolemaic system, named after Ptolemy.

During the Middle Ages, astronomy flourished in the Islamic world.  In 964, the Andromeda Galaxy, the largest galaxy in the Local Group, was described by the Persian Muslim astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi in his Book of Fixed Stars.  It is also believed that the ruins at Great Zimbabwe and Timbuktu may have housed astronomical observatories.

During the Renaissance, Nicolaus Copernicus proposed a heliocentric model of the solar system.  His work was defended by Galileo Galilei and expanded upon by Johannes Kepler.  Kepler was the first to devise a system that correctly described the details of the motion of the planets around the Sun.  It was Isaac Newton, however, with his invention of celestial dynamics and his law of gravitation, who finally explained the motions of the planets.

The existence of the Earth's galaxy, the Milky Way, as its own group of stars was only proven in the 20th century, along with the existence of "external" galaxies.  In the early 1900s the model of the Big Bang theory was formulated.  Theoretical astronomy led to speculations on the existence of objects such as black holes and neutron stars.  

Four Astronomers to Remember

  • Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer, mathematician and physicist.  In 1609, he created the very first telescope; with it, he discovered what the surface of the moon looked like and was the first person to see some of Jupiter’s moons.
  • Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) was a Danish astronomer and the most prominent astronomer of the late 16th century. His many accomplishments include his precision in fixing the positions of the planets and stars and studying a supernova.
  • Nikolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Polish astronomer who devised the theory that the earth and other planets move around the sun. Modern astronomy was built upon the foundation of the Copernican system.
  • Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) was an American and the first astronomer to find observable evidence that the universe is expanding. He is the astronomer that the Hubble space telescope is named after.

Our spine read for this unit is Caroline's Comet

Explore the entire unit in Literature-Based Science Bundle!

Includes nine unit studies covering a variety of science topics presented in literature selections.
  • Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Units include:
  • Misty of Chincoteague & Horses
  • Hugo Cabret & Clocks / Time
  • Caroline’s Comet & Astronomy
  • Fuzzy Mud & Microbiology
  • Hatchet & Outdoor Skills
  • Airplanes & Flight
  • Marine Biology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Plant Dissection

Tuesday, June 21

Teaching Math to Visual Learners

When it comes to learning styles, my boys couldn't be more different!  We span from one who eschews structured teaching, but picks up things quickly (even things we didn't want him to), to the traditional classroom-style learner, to the one who really just prefers to float through life, a la uber-type-B.  It is this baby of the family who has challenged mom most through the homeschooling years....

What is a Visual Learner?

Most people have a combination of learning styles, but tend more toward one than the others.  Students who are predominantly visual learners will learn by seeing new information (think charts, graphics, and pictures).  Auditory learners prefer hearing information (think presentations and audiobooks), and kinesthetic learners need that hands-on element (think 'learning by doing').

Visual learners tend to be drawn toward photos and illustrations, movies, and graphic novels.  This last was one of our biggest clues to our son's learning style.  He was disinterested in reading until he discovered his first graphic novel.  Today, he reads thick chapter books and his textbooks, but still prefers the graphic collections best.

If your child prefers to draw pictures with his word problems...he might be a visual learner.  Color-coding positives and negatives on a number line (and when adding negative numbers) can help visual children, too.  Many of our students also NEED to know how these concepts are being used in a real world application.  It's also worth noting that
 visual learners do NOT do so well with rote memorization and math drills.

Making Math Visual

Most people initially think to just draw a picture for word problems, and that's a start, but visual learners really need more than that.  They need pictures to help illustrate new concepts and walk them through the application.  They need less abstract and more concrete.  

Math manipulatives are a fantastic, concrete tool for visual learners...just as for kinesthetic ones.  They're not just for littles, either.  Hands-on learning can help break down algebraic concepts for older learners, too!  Some that you'll want to add for your upper grades toolbox include:

Simply Good & Beautiful Math 6

Until last year, when we made the switch to Simply Good & Beautiful Math, we had always used Saxon Math - and it is a fantastic course all on its own.  It definitely prepared my boys for higher learning, using a spiral method of mastery that included DIVE videos, and providing a great foundation for math skills.  It's an older program, but it works well.  

But we needed something different.  Something more visual.  Saxon is a black and white program - all the way around - and it just wasn't working as well for our youngest.  As we bridge into advanced concepts and look toward algebra, it has become very important to make sure he masters the foundational skills in a way that works for him.

The Math 6 course includes two course books, the answer key, and access to course videos.  The student has the option of reading a mini-lesson or watching the course videos, but I find he does best by doing both.  We start each lesson by watching the video, completing a couple of problems alongside the video, and then we complete the mental math together.  Last year, for the first time ever, math class was something he looked forward to!  I thought it was because we got to work together on the mental math mysteries, but he said he enjoyed the video lessons.

The video lessons really bring the material to life in a real-world application way...exactly what he needs to answer that "why should I care?" question I'm always fielding.  But that's not to say that it's not a comprehensive, well-rounded book.  There are also pre-algebraic lessons, graphing exercises, multiplication tables, geometric formulas, and all the things that a good math course needs.

The course book features simple daily lessons, with a format including enjoyable activities and games. Basic statistics, geometry, graphing, measurement, probabilities, and so much more are all taught, along with continuing calculations. This book serves as both the teacher’s guide and the student book, and it guides parents and students through each engaging lesson.  The course also includes logic puzzles, math strategies, and has world cultures and geography incorporated into the lessons.  Poetry and literature bits are also scattered throughout the book, breaking up longer lessons with a bit of change.

While there is no Mental Math Mysteries book as part of this set, that piece is still incorporated into the course.  It's just included in each of the daily lessons within the book.  This is to foster more independence for the student, though I must admit that I liked the older format as it ensured at least five minutes of face-to-face check in time during math.  My son was also a bit disappointed to not have a story at the end of this course to look forward to, but these are our only downsides.  Overall, we're both very pleased at this course and look forward to continuing on with TGTB Math.  As long as they stay on schedule for course releases, we will be able to stay with them through at least level eight.

The course is so visually appealing, colorful, and engaging through multiple games and teaching methods, and it was exactly what our son was needing.  Even the answer key is beautiful!  For a kid who already strongly dislikes math, changing the format to something that at least seems like fun has already made a big difference.  He enjoyed Math 5 so much last year that his biggest concern about starting school this year was whether he would have to go back to Saxon or not...

Watch a Video Lesson  Try Sample Lessons Here!

You may also be interested in...

Exploring Government & Finance with the Tuttle Twins

In our home, we watch several channels for the news, encompassing both left and right.  It's important to discuss the biases of media, as well as to acknowledge that the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle of all that is being said....

When we first learned about a new series that featured government and economics for kids, I'll admit to being skeptical.  Aren't they getting enough exposure already?  I mean, when I was a kid, we didn't know anything about this stuff!  Then again, the news wasn't blaring from multiple channels and online services constantly either....it just came on at 6pm.  Ah, the good ol' days....

However, after much consideration and discussion, hubby and I agreed to check it out and give it a whirl.  What we found was a libertarian perspective on political and economical trends, not only in America, but that were applicable worldwide.  The creators of the Tuttle Twins make no secret about their goals. They want to counterbalance (what its creators see as) the left-leaning propaganda found in schools and children's programming. In the words of the founders:

“Our books recognize that the world is full of companies, people, and politicians who want to expose your children to ideas you do not support. This includes school teachers who see their job as ‘activism’ to spread leftist ideas and encourage children to think like they do.”

Elementary Series

There are twelve books in the elementary series.  These are written around a 3rd grade level, so most children can read them independently, but I find that they make great read aloud material.  We read the stories together as a family, stopping along the way to discuss what is happening and how it applies to the world around us.  With my older kids, we discuss current events and the lessons we can apply to them from these stories.

The twelve books include:
  • The Law
    • What are individual rights, and where do they come from? Should the government help people, or should we? Ethan and Emily explore these and more questions as they learn about the law and help your kids do the same. Full of bright, engaging illustrations, this unique book introduces your child to fundamental principles that schools no longer teach.
  • Miraculous Pencil
    • What is the free market and why is it so important? Ethan and Emily embark on a fun field trip to learn how pencils are made using parts from all over the world—and how in an economy, people work together in harmony to produce helpful products that improve our lives. Leonard Read’s classic essay “I, Pencil” comes to life in this engaging adventure featuring amazing illustrations to help children become immersed in the story.
  • Creature from Jekyll Island
    • Markets come to life in the third installment of the Tuttle Twins series, with Ethan and Emily exploring a farmer’s market and county fair to understand just how controlling the Creature from Jekyll Island can be. But what is the creature—and why can it raise prices and steal people’s money? And what exactly is money, anyway? Your children will discover the answers to these and other questions in this engaging and energetic book! Monetary policy, central banking, inflation, and other important topics need not be boring—let Ethan and Emily make these ideas accessible and exciting for your children.
  • Food Truck Fiasco
    • Disruptive businesses must fight against their crony competitors—the ones with friends in government who try and protect them from innovative upstarts. Ethan and Emily Tuttle witness this battle firsthand with their food truck friends as they embark on a campaign to win public support and overturn the laws that shut them down. Incorporating key concepts from the classic Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt, this book helps young readers learn about business, regulations, economics, protectionism, competition, and other basic market principles. Learn alongside the Tuttle Twins how government harms the economy, and what one person—or two!—can do about it.
  • Road to Surfdom
    • History abounds with examples of government officials making decisions, well-intentioned or otherwise, that harm others. Unfortunately, these unintended consequences are never anticipated, and rarely considered once they occur. As the Tuttle Twins find in their latest adventure, central planning can ruin people’s lives. Nobel prize winning economist F.A. Hayek’s famous book The Road to Serfdom comes to life in this edition, showing that people get what they wish for, they often get much more than they bargained. Read along as Ethan and Emily investigate a new road built to take travelers to a beach named Surfdom—and the disruption it brings to the entire community.
  • Golden Rule
    • People throughout the world strongly disagree on many things, yet there is one universal principle—a “Golden Rule” as it’s often called— upon which many people do agree: we should treat others the way we want them to treat us. Ethan and Emily Tuttle embark on their first summer camp adventure where they learn this lesson firsthand. Competing teams turn into fighting rivals, but Chief Ron and his camp counselors help the twins and their teammates learn the dangers of aggression, revenge, and blowback—and why peace and friendship are important!
  • Search for Atlas
    • In a world filled with consumers, what happens if the producers give up and leave? And how can people better practice personal responsibility and not have a sense of entitlement about the things they think they deserve? Ethan and Emily Tuttle tackle these questions in their latest adventure, this time as clowns in the visiting circus. Incorporating ideas from Ayn Rand’s hit novel Atlas Shrugged, this book shows how things begin falling apart when socialism creeps in. Join the clown twins as they try to figure out where Atlas went—and more importantly, why he left.
  • Spectacular Show Business
    • While most people prefer the relative safety of working at a job for somebody else, others are more interested in the independence, excitement, and creative problem solving that are all part of starting your own business and being an entrepreneur. But as Ethan and Emily Tuttle learn in their latest adventure, being an entrepreneur isn’t easy—especially when you’re up against some tough competition. Join the twins as they dive into the ins and outs of becoming business owners, solving the many problems that pop up along the way!
  • Fate of the Future
    • The history of the world is a tale of some people bossing others around, but brave thinkers have always offered ideas for a better future where people use persuasion instead. And after Ethan and Emily watch a dystopian film portraying a future full of coercion, they realize that they need to learn how to avoid it. Enter Murray Rothbard, author of Anatomy of the State, whose book teaches the Tuttle Twins that the fate of the future—and all of humanity—depends on thinking of ways we can work together peacefully, to build a better society without relying on coercion.
  • Education Vacation
    • Ethan and Emily Tuttle have spent several years in school being graded on the quality of their work. But after hearing an award-winning teacher discuss some problems with schooling and share a vision for how children are best educated, the Tuttle family decides to embark on a new learning adventure. Long-time educator John Taylor Gatto shares ideas with the Tuttle family from his book The Underground History of American Education. As they soon learn, education works best when we have the freedom to discover our interests and develop our abilities, rather than being shaped into what somebody else wants.
  • Messed Up Market
    • Now that they’ve made some money, Ethan and Emily Tuttle begin to wonder how they can put it to good use and earn even more. So the idea of a Children’s Entrepreneur Market is born, which can help them find other kids who might want to borrow their money to build their small business. But as the twins soon learn—thanks to the ideas from Human Action by Ludwig von Mises—this is risky business. People have different incentives for why they make the choices they do, and certain choices can cause their market to become messed up!
  • Leviathan Crisis
    • The Tuttle twins and their team of heroes tackle a new quest in an adventure game that they soon begin to realize is closer to reality than they might have guessed. A magical battle against the forces of Leviathan and its Idol turns out to be packed with lessons for what’s happening in the world around them. Based on the book Crisis and Leviathan by Robert Higgs, this story finds the twins learning the power of truth in a world filled with fearmongering, ignorance, Trojan horses, and demagogues—a message with substantial relevance to our lives today.

If you know you want the entire series, you can save BIG when you buy all 12 children’s books at once! Plus, get each of our PDF activity workbooks for free — a $60 value.

Parent Guides

Each of the twelve books in the series has an accompanying parent guide. These workbooks include introductory and background information, historic connections, coloring pages, writing practice, word searches, decode the messages, crosswords, mazes, bingo cards, discussion questions, mad libs games, writing assignments, cooking projects, and opportunities for application of the material.


Currently, there are three graphic novels available for kids who prefer that medium, with another three in the works to come out soon.  Both the graphic novels and the cartoon videos have a Magic School Bus or Magic Treehouse vibe, which is not to say that they incorporate magic, per se, unless you count a time-travelling wheelchair. But the kids travel through time with their Grandma Gabby, learning from different people in history, including economist Adam Smith, activist Rosa Parks, and iconic figures such as Gandhi.

As a caveat, some parents may want to know that the jokes incorporated into the videos tend to lean toward the immature, with gags predicated on everything from flatulence to body odor. That said, they aren't inappropriate, and as a parent, while I may have rolled my eyes, I wouldn't stop my children from watching this because of said jokes.  Currently there are nine episodes of the Tuttle Twins Show available.  The cartoons are free to stream online, so there's no loss in checking one out ahead of time!

Things We Haven't Tried Yet...have you?

  • Books for Toddlers
    • These ABC and 123 series each feature colorful, simple introductions to economics and liberty principles for fun, early learning.
  • Choose Your Own Consequences series
    • These story books for teens feature a series of adventures where the readers control the story! With 33 total story endings between the four books, kids will be able to observe the outcomes of different economic and political situations that Ethan and Emily—age 15 in this new book series—encounter and have to figure out.
  • Guidebook Set
    • This illustrated, hardback series of books for pre-teens and teenagers (and adults!) introduces all kinds of important topics: critical thinking, logic, entrepreneurship, hard work, standing up for what is right, and much more! A whopping 806 pages of content will fill your child’s mind with the essential information they need to become well-rounded.
      • Beware Your Bias
      • Courageous Heroes
      • Inspiring Entrepreneurs
      • Logical Fallacies
  • Tuttle Times Monthly Magazine
    • These printed magazines are shipped to your home each month! They are filled with fun information, fully illustrated explainers, projects, interviews, and more.  This monthly cadence is important to help keep the minds of children engaged in the ideas of freedom, providing them with new perspectives and questions to think about as they go throughout their daily life.

If you have older kids, you may also be interested in...

Co-op Classes

Sparks Academy offers two versions of the US Constitution & Government class as part of their online courses. One is a single-semester government course, while the other is a year-long course that also includes a semester of economics and entrepreneurship.

For a peer group setting and /or more structured needs (available for language arts, science, and history)Sparks Academy provides blended classes. These are classes hosted online that include textbook and video elements, discussion feeds with peers, and live, virtual meetings.  Each week, the students are interacting through facilitated discussion in a private forum.  Classes “meet” weekly via shared assignments and moderated discussion during the school year (August 15,2022 – May 5, 2023 for the ’22-’23 school year).

Monday, June 20

Exploring Ancient Hawaii with Island Boy

I mau ka 'ike kupuna o ke au I hala iā kākou nā hanauana o ke au nei. (May the ancestral understandings of the past live on through the practices of the present generation.)

The islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago were formed by volcanic eruptions that began more than 80 million years ago.  Heat, by convection currents, causes tectonic plates to move, and these sliding movements create stresses on the boundaries, resulting in earthquakes and potential breaks in the rock, known as faults.  When tectonic plates move apart from each other, a rift is formed, allowing magma from deep in the Earth to harden into solid rock, known as basalt.  Volcanoes can also be formed by hotspots, which are naturally caused veins to reservoirs of magma in the upper mantle of the Earth. 

The Hawaiian Islands are a result of volcanic activity from a hotspot.  As the plate moves across the hotspot, magma erupts and creates volcanoes that eventually become islands.  The oldest island is Kure Atoll at the most northern point of the Hawaiian Islands, and the youngest island is Hawaii at the southeastern end of the archipelago.  As the tectonic plate moves northwest, the older islands move farther away from the hotspot. 

Ancient Hawaiʻi is the period preceding the unification in 1810 of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi by Kamehameha the Great.  Archeologists believe Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands, about 2000 miles to the south of Hawaii, began voyaging there around 450 AD.  The islands were perfect for colonization; they had no predators, mosquitos, or disease.  These voyagers brought with them what was needed to survive – banana, coconut, sweet potato, taro, breadfruit, pigs, chickens, and dogs. 

Around 1200 AD, the islands were invaded by Tahitian priests and warriors.  Led by a priest named Paao, they established a caste based social system and warrior society known as the Kapu system.  A kapu chief’s bloodline connected them directly to the gods, and the ruling class of families spread their power and control throughout the island chain through war and marriage.  Soon each island was ruled by multiple chiefs, temples were built, and human sacrifices were performed.  Eventually this resulted in what scholars have estimated to have been close to 100 years of intermittent war for control of multiple islands and the entire Hawaiian archipelago.

Over time, Hawaiian society grew as distinct as it had been left to evolve in isolation.  Captain James Cook made the first known European contact with ancient Hawaiians in 1778.  He was followed by many other Europeans and Americans.

One fascinating fact is that Hawaii is the only state whose landmass is still growing.  The islands sit on a geothermal “hot spot” located deep under the surface of the ocean.  As the tectonic plates move over the hot spot, the rock is turned to magma, which gushes upward, hits sea level, and adds landmass to the islands every day.  Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano located on the Big Island, continuously erupts.  Each year, its lava increases the land of Hawaii by over 40 acres!

Hawaiian Myths and Legends

Hawaii is full of myths and legends - stories that are full of passion, betrayal, loyalty, birth and death.  Some of these myths and legends were similar to the stories told in Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and other islands in the Pacific Ocean.  The ancient Hawaiians, like most indigenous peoples, felt a deep connection with nature and explained everything from the creation of the Earth to the lava flowing from the volcanoes through the stories of their gods and goddesses.  The many gods of Hawaii and Polynesia were often represented by tikis.  Tiki statues were carved to represent the image of a certain god and as an embodiment of that specific god's mana, or power.

Some of the Hawaiian gods include:
  • Kane: Father of living creatures. Kane is the highest of the four major gods.
  • Ku: God of war. Human sacrifices were made to Ku in ancient times.
  • Kanaloa: God of the underworld and a teacher of magic. Ruler of the ocean. Complementary power and close companion of Kane.
  • Lono: God of agriculture. Associated with fertility, rainfall, music and peace.
  • Pele: Goddess of the volcanoes, as well as fire, lightning and wind.
  • Hina: Goddess of Moon.
  • Laka: Goddess of the hula.
  • Kuula: God of fishermen.
  • Papa: Fertility goddess. Earth mother.
  • Poliahu: One of the four goddesses of snow. The rival of Pele.
  • Million BP - The main Hawaiian Islands began to form as the Pacific tectonic plate moved over a "hotspot"in the Earth's mantle. The 5 largest islands formed in order: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and the Big Island. Molokai and Maui were originally joined.
  • 800,000 - The Haleakala shield volcano on Maui, Hawaii, appeared about this time.
  • 200,000 - About this time a major earthquake in Hawaii caused a large tsunami that crossed the Pacific in 4 hours and up the shoreline of Japan for 300 yards. 
  • 100,000- About this time another major earthquake in Hawaii caused a large tsunami that crossed the Pacific in 4 hours and up the shoreline of Japan for 300 yards. 
  • c38,000BCE - Volcanic activity on Kauai ended. 
  • 200-300CE - The original Polynesians arrived probably from the Marquesas. They brought with them edible plants and animals.
  • c600CE - Small porkers came to Hawaii with the Polynesians some 1400 years ago, and big pigs arrived with the Europeans.
  • c600CE - Early settlers from the Marquesas built the Alakoko fishpond and taro fields on Kauai. 
  • 1100 AD - Migration from the Society Islands
  • c1297 - A temple was built near the Kilauea Volcano that is believed to have been used for human sacrifice. The Waha'ula Heiau temple near Volcanoes National Park was one of the first temples built on the islands, supposedly by a foreigner, who brought brutal religious rituals to the islands. 
  • c1550 -A Great Wall was built on the Big Island behind which refuge, sanctuary and purification could be sought. Puhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park later marked the area.
  • 300 - 900 AD - Polynesians arrive by outrigger canoe from Tahiti.

Our spine read for this unit is Island Boy (Robert Harry)  

Get the entire unit in the World History Bundle!

Includes ten unit studies (plus a bonus!) covering World History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning from Ancient Hawaii to modern-day. There is also a study of archaeological concepts. Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Product samples:   Motel of the Mysteries & Encounter

  • Motel of the Mysteries
  • Island Boy
  • Encounter
  • The Odyssey
  • A Loyal Foe
  • Indigo Girl
  • Gold Rush Girl
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Number the Stars
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • House of the Seven Gables (bonus)

Tuesday, June 14

Crime and Punishment + Free Will vs Determinism

Nearly every character in 'Crime & Punishment' has a brush with coincidence or free will, and the novel itself is rife with coincidence.  Do things happen 'just because,' or is there an element of predestination?  What exactly are determinism and free will? 

In the book, the murder itself is defined by a coincidence.  Some people tend to spot “coincidence” in everyday chance events and derive causation from them (think: superstition).  By placing coincidences throughout the text, Dostoevsky increases the dramatic pressure and helps the reader identify with Raskolnikov’s mental state. 

So let's go back to free will and determinism...  The free will vs determinism debate revolves around the extent to which our behavior is the result of forces over which we have no control or whether people are able to decide for themselves whether to act or behave in a certain way.

If you believe in determinism, you might say that all behavior has a cause and is thus predictable.  Or that free will is an illusion, and our behavior is governed by forces over which we have no control.   External (or environmental) determinists see the cause of behavior as being outside the individual, such as parental influence, media, or school.  Internal (or biological) determinists believe that genetics, hormones, neurology, and personality traits cause certain behaviors to occur.  If any of this sounds familiar, think about the Nature vs Nurture debate!

Strong determinists, such as behavior theorist B.F. Skinner, would say that the person who commits a crime has no real choice.  He is propelled in this direction by environmental circumstances and a personal history, which makes breaking the law natural and inevitable.  Likewise, having been rewarded for following rules in the past, the law-abiding individual continues to do so in the future.  For a determinist, concepts like “free will” and “motivation” are dismissed as illusions that disguise the real causes of human behavior.

On the other hand, free will is the idea that we are able to have some choice in how we act and assumes that we are free to choose our behavior.  For example, people can make a free choice as to whether to commit a crime or not (unless they are a child or they are insane).  This does not mean that behavior is random, but we are free from the causal influences of past events.

Psychologists who take the free will view suggest that determinism removes freedom and dignity, and devalues human behavior.  In “Fear of Freedom," Sigmund Freud argued that all of us have the potential to control our own lives, but that many of us are too afraid to do so.  As a result, we give up our freedom and allow our lives to be governed by circumstance, other people, political ideology, or irrational feelings.

What kind of implications does this debate have?  A person arrested for a violent attack for example might plead that they were not responsible for their behavior – it was due to their upbringing, a bang on the head they received earlier in life, recent relationship stresses, or a psychiatric problem. In other words, their behavior was determined.  Mental illnesses also appear to undermine the concept of freewill.  For example, individuals with OCD lose control of their thoughts and actions and people with depression lose control over their emotions.

So where do you fall in this philosophical debate?  Deterministic?  Free will?  Or somewhere in between?

Our spine read for this unit is Crime & Punishment

Snag the entire unit in the Advanced High School Literature bundle!

Includes six unit studies covering a variety of topics presented in more mature literature selections.
  • Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!
Units include:
· Oliver Twist & the Industrial Revolution
· Things Fall Apart & the Colonization of Africa
· The Chosen & the Zionist Movement
· Five People You Meet in Heaven & Human Impact
· The Things they Carried & the Vietnam War
· Crime and Punishment & Free Will vs Determinism