Saturday, July 31, 2010

Special Challenge Sale!

Challenge is starting! Challenge is starting!

Special Challenge Sale: 15% Off all Challenge materials

This Friday, July 30, at 12:01 a.m. (EDST) through Sunday, August 1, 11:59 p.m. (EDST), ALL Challenge books will be 15% off! ONLINE SALE ONLY.

  • Don't wait for the smaller discount on tax-free weekend!
  • Don't wait until the Challenge seminars have already started!
  • Beat the rush, and order your books online this weekend!
  • Online Sale ONLY.
  • Free shipping on media mail over $150 still applies.
For orders over $250, non-Challenge items will still receive 10% discount and Challenge items will receive 15% discount.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

(Don't) Just Ask Ben

If you're looking for a resource with a lot of information about the U.S. government in one place, you might enjoy using Ben's Guide, a government website run by the Government Printing Office.

Ben's Guide is designed with children in mind; the site's content is broken down by age level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and P&T - parents and teachers).

You can use the website with preschoolers to find out more about symbols of government : the flag, the bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty, or the Liberty Bell. Elementary-aged children might be interested in understanding the election process. In middle school, you can discuss national versus state governments, and high schoolers might be interested in an in-depth look at the way laws are made.

For an additional challenge, why not invite your older children to analyze the rhetoric this website uses? Try to figure out if it has a "slant" in its presentation of the proper role of government, the responsibilities of state and national governments respectively, and the significance of immigration and citizenship.

Remember, even though this website might be a credible source of information, that doesn't mean you should read it with your brain set to "snooze". Think of all the great conversations you might miss!

Keep your eyes on my blog for periodic snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

Tax Free in MS


It's here! Tax Free Weekends for Back-to-School shopping 2010. If you live in or near Mississippi, get ready to start shopping and saving.

In Mississippi: July 30 (Saturday) to July 31 (Sunday), shop sales tax free on clothing under $100 and shoes under $100.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Layers of Laws

Even though July 4th is over, we certainly don't stop being Americans with civic responsibilities on July 5th! Let's keep exploring the history and structure of the U.S. government together...

The Constitution is the basis of American law, but if you've ever run up against corporate law or tax law--or looked at the course listings for a law school--you know that the Constitution does not include every law in the United States.

Constitutional authority for lawmaking comes from Article 1, Section 1, which says, "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives." Article 1 goes on to detail the powers that Congress is permitted to legislate.

That's where the U.S. Code comes in. According to the Government Printing Office, "The United States Code is the codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States."

The Code is broken into sections (titles) by topic: for example, Title 20 is about education and Title 50 deals with war and national defense. Each Title is divided into chapters, which are divided into subchapters, parts, sections, and so on, leading you to something like this:
From the U.S. Code Online via GPO Access
[Laws in effect as of January 3, 2007]
[CITE: 20USC2341]

[Page 783]




Part B--State Provisions

Sec. 2341. State administration

(a) Eligible agency responsibilities

The responsibilities of an eligible agency under this subchapter shall include--
(1) coordination of the development, submission, and implementation of the State plan...
The entire Code is available in searchable format online. So, the next time you want to know about the proper time and occasions to display the U.S. flag, you can go to the U.S. Code, browse the topics, go to Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 6, and start reading!

Keep your eyes on my blog for periodic snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Contemplating Liberty

This week, we're Contemplating Liberty at the 2010 CiRCE Conference (July 14-17) in Arlington, Texas.

I'll be speaking today at 1:30 about using Scripture to teach language arts, and I hope I see you there! At the end of the weekend, tell me (1SmartMama(at) about your favorite conference moment!

Can't make it to Texas? Pre-order the 2010 Conference CDs from CiRCE to listen to Andrew Kern, Laura Berquist, Dr. Vigen Guroian, and more share their insights into liberty, education, and the pursuit of wisdom.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dialogue, not Diatribe

Even though July 4th is over, we certainly don't stop being Americans with civic responsibilities on July 5th! Let's keep exploring the history and structure of the U.S. government together...

Ever listened to a political speech and thought the statistics sounded a little too simplistic?

One online resource designed to help with this problem was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 2009. The website,, is described this way:

PolitiFact is a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in politics.

Every day, reporters and researchers from the Times examine statements by members of Congress, the president, cabinet secretaries, lobbyists, people who testify before Congress and anyone else who speaks up in Washington. We research their statements and then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True and False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get our lowest rating, Pants on Fire.

We also rate the consistency of public officials on our Flip-O-Meter using three ratings: No Flip, Half Flip and Full Flop.

We created the Obameter to help you assess the Obama presidency. Our reporters have compiled a database of more than 500 individual promises that Barack Obama made during the campaign. We research and rate their status as No Action, Stalled or In the Works and then ultimately determine whether it earns a Promise Kept, Compromise or Promise Broken.

Although you shouldn't stop at one source -- someone needs to fact-check the fact-checkers, after all! -- this is a good place to start looking into the details that may not make it into a five-second sound byte.

It's easy to get frustrated if television politics are a monologue, so why not take this opportunity to make it a dialogue the whole family can share? You can do it!

Keep your eyes on my blog for periodic snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blog Redesign

This week, in order to make my site cleaner and easier for you to use, 1 Smart Mama will be going through some redesigning. It should be finished by the end of the week, and posting will continue in the meantime. Don't worry - the URL will stay the same, but keep your eyes out for my new look!

If you have suggestions or requests, I would love to hear them, and please be patient as we work through any glitches that occur during the process.

Thank you!


Leigh and the CC Team

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In Order to Establish Justice

Even though July 4th is over, we certainly don't stop being Americans with civic responsibilities on July 5th! Let's keep exploring the history and structure of the U.S. government together...

The Supreme Court has been in the news a lot lately, with the nomination of Elena Kagan to replace retiring justice John Paul Stevens.

Although the Internet is rife with commentary, and you could easily jump ahead to the rhetoric, it's a great opportunity to stop and ask a few basic questions about the process itself.

How is a justice nominated? The Georgetown Law Library has a handy guide to the nomination process:
  1. The President usually will consult with Senators before announcing a nomination.
  2. When the President nominates a candidate, the nomination is sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.
  3. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominee. The Committee usually takes a month to collect and receive all necessary records, from the FBI and other sources, about the nominee and for the nominee to be prepared for the hearings.
  4. During the hearings, witnesses, both supporting and opposing the nomination, present their views. Senators question the nominee on his or her qualifications, judgment, and philosophy.
  5. The Judiciary Committee then votes on the nomination and sends its recommendation (that it be confirmed, that it be rejected, or with no recommendation) to the full Senate.
  6. The full Senate debates the nomination.
  7. The Senate rules allow unlimited debate (a practice known as filibustering). To end the debate, it requires the votes of 3/5 of the Senate or 60 senators (known as the cloture vote).
  8. When the debate ends, the Senate votes on the nomination. A simple majority of the Senators present and voting is required for the judicial nominee to be confirmed. If there is a tie, the Vice President who also presides over the Senate casts the deciding vote.
What is the basis in the Constitution? This process takes place in order to fulfill Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which says the President "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the Supreme Court..." (U.S. Const. art. 2 § 2, cl. 2.)

Who are the current and past Supreme Court justices? You can track the terms of Supreme Court justices, including the presidents who nominated them, on a timeline from the Supreme Court website,

What happens once a justice is appointed? Supreme Court justices must take two separate oaths, a constitutional oath and a judicial oath, before they can begin to serve. The oaths are available here, along with information about historical changes to the wording.

The great part about learning is that one question leads to another: How does the President choose his nominee? What is the most important quality a justice should have? What are the potential flaws of this system of appointment? How should the Constitution be interpreted?

Now it's your turn! I hope you'll enjoy wrestling through these inquiries into the nature of American government with your family today!

Keep your eyes on my blog for periodic snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Radio Interview - Listen Now!

If you missed my interview on the Janet Mefferd show last Wednesday at 2 p.m., I have good news! You can now listen to the archive online at

Listen now to find out how John the Baptist is like Winnie-the-Pooh, and what in the world that has to do with classical education!

How's that for a teaser?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

A month ago, I challenged you to take the month before Independence Day to work deliberately to improve your and your family's civic knowledge.

I asked you to declare independence from ignorance, and not be part of the two-thirds of Americans who, according to former justice Sandra Day O'Connor, cannot "even name the three branches of government, much less say what they do."

Together, we've looked at the language of the legislature, the details of state constitutions, and the controversy over Executive Orders. Over the next few months, we'll continue to expand our knowledge of the U.S. government little by little.

But today is a day to celebrate, not only our nation's independence, but also our journey toward personal freedom from fear and ignorance. And as Christians, we celebrate above all God's work in us as He grows us toward righteousness and freedom from sin!

Happy Independence Day!!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Something to Celebrate

It's almost Independence Day! I'm looking forward to welcoming friends and celebrating with family by the lake.

This weekend, as you collapse beside some form of water, set off small legal explosions, or try to prove that anything and everything can be cooked on a grill, I hope you'll take a minute to read the Declaration of Independence with your family and remember what we're celebrating and what it cost to win.

Safe travels, and Happy 4th!

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

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, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, July 2, 2010