“Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?” Makes Economics Understandable

 

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Does economics seem like a distant, difficult-to-grasp subject to you? Do you have a hard time really, I mean really understanding the basics of our American free enterprise system? Do you have a hard time explaining it to children and teens? I did, till I read the book Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury. It is part of his Uncle Eric series, in which the fictional Uncle Eric explains to his nephew Chris, through a series of letters, all about history, government, justice, and economics.

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? now in its sixth edition, promises, quote, “a fast, clear, and fun explanation of the economics you need for success in your career, business, and investments.” Is there anybody who doesn’t need to learn about such things? Raise your hand. No one? Well, I recommend this little 160-page, fifteen-chapter volume that is written for tweens through adults.

Sometimes when you’re faced with a little bit of a hazy subject, you just need the right explanation from the right author to clear it up for you, and that’s what Maybury did for me and my high school son who also read it.

For instance, most of us think of inflation as an increase in prices and falling of the value of money. That is actually a result of inflation, the real cause being the printing of more money. It goes like this: Government prints money which is not backed by gold or silver, floods the market with it so that the value of each individual unit goes down, which means you need more of it to buy what you want. Goods don’t cost more because they have more value; they cost more because the units of money used to purchase them are nearly worthless.

Maybury draws extensively from the history of the Roman Empire to show the cycle of money and civilizations and how playing politics so vastly affects the economic core of all nations, past and present. The book speaks to my own motto, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Well, I didn’t originate that; it’s an adopted motto, but a most true one.

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? includes an extensive appendix of charts and graphs, excerpts and anecdotes, websites, suggestions of films to go along with the subject, and more to really give you a good, basic knowledge of economics.

With its wonderful conversational style, it is not a bit boring. It easily held my interest and I felt the more richly educated because of it.

George Washington: A Father for All Time

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We revere George Washington as a great military and political leader and “father of our country”. However, not much is mentioned about his stepson, whom he raised, John Parke Custis, and understandably so, as the young man just didn’t seem to have the genes of leadership and accomplishment in him. He played around and largely squandered his educational years and dropped out of college, despite George’s constant attempts to inspire him to apply and better himself. They say hindsight is 20/20. Can you imagine what John Custis might think now if he could see, from the perspective of history, who he was so fortunate to be related to, and what opportunity he missed?

John Custis did get himself elected to the Virginia General Assembly in 1778, but it seems George was not impressed with his legislative showing. The latter wrote: “I do not suppose that so young a senator as you are, so little versed in political disquisition, can yet have much influence in a popular assembly, composed of various talents and different views, but it is in your power to be punctual in attendance.”

Sadly, Custis died of illness at the age of 27, leaving a wife and four living children (out of seven born to them). But to his credit, he showed great maturity by showing respect for his stepfather by writing to him in 1776: “It pleased the Almighty to deprive me at a very early Period of Life of my Father, but I can not sufficiently adore His Goodness in sending Me so good a Guardian as you Sir; Few have experience’d such Care and Attention from real Parents as I have done. He best deserves the Name of Father who acts the Part of one.” And in 1781, six months before his own death, Custis named his youngest son George Washington Parke Custis. A fitting tribute indeed.

Books and Movies I’ve Loved

My son who is currently a student at Brigham Young University is in the process of applying to film school. One of his requirements is to list ten books/music/movies/TV shows that have had some effect on his life. Naturally, I began to come up with my own list of such that has had a major effect on me. In fact, it became an obsession—that’s just how my brain works.

You can really get to know a person by learning about the factors that have influenced them most. It’s an icebreaker, a little window into their personality, and with authors, it can give you a clue as to what informs their own creative expression.

Without further ado, here are ten things I came up with that have been the most significant creative influencers for me, not in any particular order. I bet I could easily come up with ten or twenty more.

The Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I already loved reading when I hit fourth grade, but it was my teacher’s practice that year of reading aloud a chapter a day from novels that really set me on fire for reading, and eventually, writing. Her reading of Little House on the Prairie was my first introduction to Laura and her stories of mid-19th century pioneer life. I devoured the rest of the series, several times, and many of her descriptions of things like small prairie towns, textiles used for women’s clothing, and commonly eaten foods have informed my own western stories.

Native American potteryBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown – I’ve been through this tome twice, and for me it remains the single most knowledgeable and powerful description of the tragedy of the American Indian.

The Jackrabbit Factor by Leslie Householder – This quick read was my first introduction to the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking. I’ve read many things since which have completely changed my perspective on our own potential, and goals and how to achieve them, but this was what started me on the path.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – Been through this one twice too. (I’d rather read a good book twice than a mediocre one once.) I loved Lewis’ humorous and thought-provoking take on human nature, temptation, and how to recognize and guard against evil.

The 5000 Year Leap and The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution both by W. Cleon Brass bookendsSkousen – I include these together because I studied them simultaneously as part of a course. These gave me a real in-depth understanding of the U.S. Founding Fathers and the principles they studied which shaped their ideas on freedom and government, and I gained new appreciation and awe for the Constitution.

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury – A good, simple-to-understand explanation of the principles of sound economics, a subject I feel is very important to learn about currently, but which I always had trouble understanding before.

The music of Johann Strauss Jr. – When I was a girl, my father bought a collection (of LPs, remember those?) of all Johann Strauss music…and I was in heaven! It was my first real introduction to classical music, and to this day my heart thrills to hear “The Beautiful Blue Danube,” “Tales of the Vienna Woods,” “The Emperor Waltz,” and so many other majestic and beautiful pieces.

Dances With Wolves – In my humble opinion, the greatest movie ever made. No other film since 1990 has ever captured my imagination like this one. As a lifelong fan of the Old West, this film made me feel, for the first time, that I was truly there and could feel the spirit of it.

Antique store picture & bottlesLonesome Dove – Where Dances With Wolves gave me the Native American view of the Old West as it was, this 1988 miniseries did the same for the cowboys’ view. Its characters are so memorable, our family has quoted them for years.

The Harry Potter movie series – How did that get in here, right? Okay, it’s true I’ve never been a big fan of fantasy, but my reason for including this is quite different than my other entries. For two summers in a row, my two sons and I have watched all eight movies. We call it a marathon, even though we only watched one movie a week. It’s the memories of that activity with my boys that I so treasure, and will my whole life as they grow up and move on in life. What fun that was, and you know what? I loved the movies too, and J.K. Rowlings’ brilliant concept.

Well, there it is, 10 things, and I didn’t even get to Who Moved My Cheese? or Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, or the movie Glory or…

But I’ve got more reading, listening, and watching to do. Bye for now.

 

Homeschool Curriculum Series: Social Studies Pt. 2

So as promised, I will give some recommendations for social studies resources, things that really facilitated learning for us. As tomorrow marks the 126th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, I will begin with American history and government resources. I used several things available from the National Center for Constitutional Studies, namely the I Love America parts 1 and 2 for young children, and the American Government and Constitution Study Course. I have only good things to say about both of them. They were some of my favorite resources in all of our homeschool and were more memorable to my kids, (in a good way!) than other things. We also kept on hand The Declaration of Independence and Other Great Documents of American History. It’s always good to have the primary sources close by to refer to.

I mentioned in my last post the value of eyewitness accounts to history. Two outstanding books we read were When the Banks Closed, We Opened Our Hearts about the Great Depression, and We Pulled Together…and Won about World War II, both filled with fascinating short stories and anecdotes from the people who lived through those times.

You Decide! Applying the Bill of Rights to Real Cases provided a good study of court cases involving the Bill of Rights. The student is placed in the role of judge and they have to take the facts given, study the amendment involved in the case, and make their own decision and back it up with argument. Then they get to find out what the court really decided.

For economics, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Maybury and the accompanying Bluestocking Guide provided a good, clear, understandable study of that subject.

We wanted to study our own state during seventh grade, and most states require such a study. For this, I designed a study myself using websites, books, DVDs, field trips, and several hands-on experiments and art projects. The kids had a booklet in which they could check off assignments and projects and earn treats, with the final reward being a field trip to the state Capitol building when the legislature was in session.

Historical Wall TimelineOne of the most valuable things we ever did and of which I’m most proud, all through their years of schooling, 1st through 12th grades, was to maintain historical timelines. They are indispensable to a good study of history. For instance, Mozart was composing music at the same time the American Revolutionary War was happening, but you never study those two things together, so timelines give you a sense of the world as a whole at any given time. I keep up a large timeline covering an entire wall, running from 5000 B.C. to the present, and color coded according to different types of history, such as political, religious, exploration, scientific discovery, inventions, and cultural events. Then each of the boys had their own sketchbook in which they put the events as they studied them, and including a small quarter-sized picture drawn in colored pencil to go with each entry.Historical Timelines Book

Some favorite geography resources: Children Just Like Mea fun look into the lives of ordinary children all over the world, and Trail Guide to World Geography which includes a most enjoyable study of the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80 Days. So fun to make an adventure part of your learning.

And speaking of adventure, we are often armchair travelers and have enjoyed some very inspiring documentaries and films to supplement our studies. Some of the most impressionable to us were History Channel’s The Story of Us, the Ken Burns’ documentaries Lewis & Clark and the Journey of the Corps of Discovery, and Baseball. Others that bear mentioning are the old James Stewart film The Spirit of St. Lewis, Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, which we never tire of watching, and Steven Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln.

Have fun doing your own exploring. It can be fun for adults and kids alike!

 

 

Answers to Great Documents Quiz

Brass bookends

I hope you had a great Fourth of July. Here are the answers to the great documents quiz I posted earlier this week. The answers appear in parentheses after each quote. How did you do?

1. “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” (Patrick Henry speech)

2. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Bill of Rights)

3. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (Gettysburg Address)

4. “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…” (The Declaration of Independence)

5. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more Perfect Union…” (Preamble of the Constitution)

6. “…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” (The Declaration of Independence)

7. “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Gettysburg Address)

8. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” (The Declaration of Independence)

How Familiar Are You With America’s Great Documents?

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The following lines, penned generations ago, are familiar to most of us, but can you remember which documents they are found in? Take this quiz to see how you do. Match up the numbered quotes with the letters corresponding to the documents they come from. Some documents are used more than once. The answers will appear here on Friday.

1. “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

2. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

3. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

4. “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…”

5. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more Perfect Union…”

6. “…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

7. “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

8. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A. The Declaration of Independence (1776)

B. Preamble to the Constitution (1787)

C. Bill of Rights (1787)

D. Gettysburg Address (1863)

E. Patrick Henry’s speech (1775)

 

 

 

A Historic Meeting of Great Minds

Eagle eye

Welcome to July 4th week on the Eagle’s Quill. This is my other favorite holiday (the other being jingle bells and all that), and it is a time for me to reflect on the amazing history of our country. In our homeschool, we talk a lot about the “world stage”, using our historical timelines to see when certain important figures entered the stage (were born) and exited the stage (died) in the grand live performance of world history. For us, this points out God’s hand in history in bringing certain discoveries, explorations, inventions, and accomplishments to the earth with carefully calculated precision.

Nowhere is this more evident to me than in the miraculous placement of the American Founding Fathers during the beginnings of our country. Benjamin Franklin was one of the first to enter the stage, being born in 1706, followed by George Wythe in 1726. Wythe was not only a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the Constitutional Convention, but served as a teacher and mentor for many other leaders, including Thomas Jefferson. George Washington, John Adams, and Patrick Henry were born in 1732, 1735, and 1736 respectively. In 1743 Thomas Jefferson took his place on the stage, with James Madison following in 1751 and Alexander Hamilton in 1755. These are just a few of the many who worked hard to form a new nation.

It’s no mistake that these infants were born at the time and in the place they were, or that they were brought together at the appropriate time to fulfill their destiny. Having accomplished their noble task, they began exiting the stage in the late 1700s. And here’s a bit of remarkable trivia for you. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both passed away on the same day–July 4, 1826, the 50th birthday of the United States of America. Shakespeare could not have written a better play.

Said John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail, May 12, 1780, “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

They certainly knew and played well their parts on the world stage.

 

 

 

Discovery of Historical Pocket Watches

Willard Richards watch

I could send thee a timepiece
and by thy neglect stop its pace
but not forevermore
the thought will keep its own time.

DK Davis

My husband’s antique business affords the most amazing opportunities to discover treasures from yesteryear, items filled with mystery as we wonder where they’ve been and who their owners were. Every antique picker, as well as historical authors like myself who love old things, dreams of discovering that “big find”. Two and a half years ago, we discovered such a treasure in the form of two 19th-century timepieces.

David had traveled to a rural home in Utah and spent several hours with the owners who had a mountain of inherited knick-knacks that they needed to be taken off their hands. They also needed property tax money and had no idea how they were going to get it. They’d been praying for a solution, when that solution showed up in the form of my husband. He excitedly looked through their gold and silver watches, knives, lighters, and such and chose a large number of things he wanted to stock in his store. Paying them well over what they needed for their tax bill, he left an extremely relieved and grateful couple and brought the treasures home.

That evening, David’s partner came to our house, and we all started investigating the new treasures, oohing and ahhing over the beautiful pieces whose original, unknown owners were long gone. We could even hear ticking coming from one of the many old pocket watches and marveled at such workmanship that proved so longlasting.

But the highlight of the evening was when David opened one watch and read the inscription claiming it belonged to a Vilate Kimball, a gift from her husband H.C. Kimball. Being familiar with Utah’s Mormon history, my mouth fell open and I exclaimed, “Vilate Kimball? Heber C. Kimball’s wife?” Heber C. Kimball was an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the mid-1800s. Suddenly we handled the relic with even more delicate care than we already had been. Vilate Kimball watch

Breathless, we started checking all the other watches for signs of the original owner. The next watch David picked up had another very famous name inside, Willard Richards, another LDS Church apostle from the same time period. We will never forget that exciting night!

The following weeks we did lots of research, had both watches authenticated by LDS Church headquarters, and others, had them appraised, and procured a safe place to store them. And began searching for buyers, for, once we had had our turn enjoying and handling such beauty and history, we knew they wouldn’t be ours to keep and a permanent home would need to be found where they could be appreciated and enjoyed.Vilate Kimball watch

The Kimball watch has since sold to an entity for which it holds deep personal meaning and connection. In this transaction, four families’ lives were greatly blessed: the family who prayed for help with their taxes, ours and our partner’s families who very much needed a financial break ourselves, and the buyers who are very happy with their treasure.

The Willard Richards watch is still for sale. Interested parties may contact Shelly at eagleshadow2003@yahoo.com.

 

Willard Richards watch

If You Loved “Lincoln” You Will LOVE…

…the 1989 film Glory. The Academy Awards happen this Sunday night, and history buffs and many others will be rooting for Steven Spielberg’s excellent film Lincoln, nominated for Best Picture and 11 other Oscars. If you are one of those who appreciates the attention this film is getting, and if you never saw Glory, I highly recommend this precious celluloid gem, which won three Oscars in 1990 among many other awards. It has remained a top 10 favorite of mine ever since.

Glory tells the true story of the 54th Colored Regiment during the Civil War, and it is brilliantly told, powerfully acted, and stunningly filmed. Matthew Broderick plays the very young Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, thrust into a position of leadership he was hardly prepared for. (The real Colonel Shaw is pictured at right.)The real Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

The cast is filled out by some fictional characters who effectively capture the essence of the 54th Regiment. Morgan Freeman is the seasoned soldier who keeps the younger ones in line and reminds them of why they’re there. Denzel Washington (Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor) is the rebellious runaway slave, at once difficult but courageous. Andre Braugher is Thomas Searles, a proud freeman who must toughen up to serve alongside his brothers in arms. Jihmi Kennedy is Jupiter Sharts, an illiterate field hand eager to do his part.

The molding of these characters into a cohesive, stalwart unit is a remarkable story, and the film is an inspiring, memorable piece of work and a fine tribute to that brave regiment.

                                            

U.S. Founding Fathers’ Thoughts on Government

During the recent very heated U.S. presidential campaign, I saw social media posts from several people who, feeling put upon by the “other” party, defended their opinion by stating words to the effect of, “I am not stupid. I am well-read.” But not one that I noticed ever said what it was they read that informed their opinions. Judging from how quickly they recommended the cheesy romances, cozy mysteries, vulgar comedies, or porn that they’d recently devoured, I rather doubt they’d read anything about government. (Go ahead, accuse me of literary profiling.) So, what have you read that you feel has enlightened you? Some of us genuinely, sincerely are interested to understand where you’re coming from.

I’ll go first. I have been reading two books that really explain things to me well and from which I think I’ve learned much of value: The 5000 Year Leap and The Making of America, both by W. Cleon Skousen. I can’t possibly encapsulize 1200 pages of reading adequately, but here are a few quotes that stood out to me.

Skousen on proper incentives for political service to one’s country:

“In the early history of the United States, community offices were looked upon as stations of honor granted to the recipients by an admiring community, state, or nation. These offices were therefore often filled by those who performed their services with little or no compensation. Even when an annual salary of $25,000 was provided in the Constitution for President Washington, he determined to somehow manage without it. Some might think that this was no sacrifice because he had a large plantation. However, the Mount Vernon plantation had been virtually ruined during the Revolutionary War, and he had not yet built it back into efficient production when he was called to be President. Washington declined his salary on principle. He did the same thing while serving as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces during the Revolutionary War. Not all could afford to do this, but it was considered the proper procedure when circumstances permitted it.”

Thomas Jefferson on the need for the voting populace to be educated:

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone.  The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.  And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”

Skousen explaining a democracy:

“Theoretically, a democracy requires the full participation of the masses of the people in the legislative or decision making processes of government. This has never worked because the people become so occupied with their daily tasks that they will not properly study the issues, nor will they take the time to participate in extensive hearings before the vote is taken. The Greeks tried to use democratic mass participation in the government of their city-states, and each time it ended in tyranny.”

James Madison explaining a republic:

“We may define a republic to be … a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people and is administered by persons holding their offices during [the people’s] pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior.”

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin, the oldest delegate at 81, was asked what kind of government the delegates had given them. He replied, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

And so it really is in our hands, the people’s hands, to keep our republic strong and safe, and we must all realize the importance of that and the responsibility that requires.