What We’re Watching (And Reading!)–Rick Steves’ Europe

This year’s summer school is going to be a little different, because instead of focusing on books, we’re going to be focusing on episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe. Here’s a look at all the shows we’ll be watching (you’ll have to wait and see all of the different European recipes we’ll be trying to go with our viewing!):

  • Rick Steves’ Europe: The Blu-Ray Collection (70 shows!!!)
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: The Complete Collection (Which I only got because it was super marked-down, and contained some episodes that neither the blu-ray collection nor our other discs had).
  • Rick Steves’ Travel Extras
  • Rick Steves’ European Easter
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 12 New Shows 2015-1016
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 10 New Shows 2017-2018
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 12 New Shows 2019-2020

Of course, there will be some books, too:

  • Europe Through the Back Door
  • Travel as a Political Act
  • London
  • French, Italian & German Phrase Book
  • Rick Steves’ European Christmas
  • Rick Steves’ European Easter
  • Rick Steves’ European Festivals
  • Rick Steves’ Europe Planning Map (yes, not technically a book, but I didn’t know where else to put it!)

And even a CD (perfect for Christmas in July!):

  • Rick Steves’ European Christmas CD

For fun, because I always like to have something hands-on as part of summer school, I got the Lego Architecture Paris skyline set for us to build. We’ve collected quite a few of these skylines now, in addition to the Eiffel Tower model we have, and I think it will make a nice addition to our display!

I also got the children travel journals to go with our viewing. My plan is to have them keep one page for each episode, and list specific places they would like to visit in the future if they are able for each location Rick highlights. My hope is that they will keep these journals, and someday, when they hopefully travel to Europe, they will already know which are must-see locations for them.

I’m really excited about this year’s summer school, and quite honestly, I don’t know why it took me so long to come up with the idea, because I’ve been a fan of Rick Steves for quite some time!

2018-19 School Year–Week Seven

Another week completed…we’re already about a fifth of the way through our school year! How crazy is that?!?

What’s really crazy is how much Turkey and Bunny have been learning in chemistry. They’ve learned things about the atom this week that I’m sure I never did. One especially interesting topic was orbitals. They also wrote a few more short stories for creative writing, and I have to say, I really enjoyed reading them! We also started our literature study of Romeo and Juliet (Turkey is less than thrilled), and a lesson on the Huns (including Attila), in history.

Ladybug enjoyed her math lessons this week, because they focused on geometry. She finally got to use her protractor to measure angles. Her history lessons were centered on China at the time the Grand Canal was built. She’s also almost finished her literature study of the White Stallion of Lipizza, and is continuing to enjoy learning about horses in science.

Chickadee has reached a really fun stage in reading. Now that she’s learned some more blends, she’s started noticing all the things there are to read everywhere, and she’s attempting to sound out the signs she sees when we’re out and about. She got to work on counting with money in math this week, and she’s also really enjoying the second Grandma’s Attic book.

We finally went on the field trip I’ve been hoping for, and the weather was perfect for it…it actually kinds of feels like fall! Laumeier Sculpture Park just debuted an exhibit of restored neon signs and new neon artwork by David Hutson. It’s been awhile since we visited the park, and neon signs are right up my alley, so we took the morning today to see the exhibit and walk through the park.

We also watched Rick Steves’ The Story of Fascism in Europe special this week. I highly recommend this show, because he ties history and the present day together very well, explaining how the horrors that accompanied WWII came to be, and what European countries are doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It was definitely heavier than the regular Rick Steves’ Europe shows we watch, but it contained a lot of good information, and gave us much to talk about.

A Letter to Rick Steves

It is my sincere hope in writing this that through the wonders of the internet, Rick Steves himself will read this letter, and know what a profound impact he and his show have had on our family’s life. But I also hope other parents will read it and realize what a great resource “Rick Steves’ Europe” is, and share it with their children, too.

Dear Mr. Steves:

I have never been to Europe. Actually, I’ve never left the U.S., not even to visit one of our neighboring countries. But I dream of it constantly. Visiting London is at the top of my list. But in addition to traveling to that great city, there are other places I would also like to visit on that list. Germany…specifically at Christmastime. The charming little town of Switzerland. I’d love to tour Italy, one historical location and great restaurant at a time. Not to mention beautiful Sweden, the ancient ruins of Greece, and of course the Loire Valley in France. And that’s just the beginning! If I could, I would travel from North to South, from East to West, across that great continent, and see and taste as many things as possible.

If that sounds like a pipe dream, then the idea of my husband and I traveling with our five children, of showing them the great sights of Europe, is a dream beyond my wildest imagination. Taking that many children “across the pond,” staying for any length of time in Europe’s great cities, visiting the museums, historical locations, and restaurants is basically impossible. It is not something I think many families, certainly not families of our size, could ever afford to do.

But I want my children to know there’s more out there, even if we can’t travel together to see it all. I want them to be the kind of people who would never be mistaken for “Ugly Americans.” I want them to realize that the millions of people living across Europe are fantastic people, with unique cultures, great cuisine, and amazing histories of their own.

Your show has given me the perfect opportunity to “travel” with them. We have explored interesting and diverse cultures, and learned a bit of their histories. We have seen great architecture, landmarks, and works of art. We have heard music and the stories of fascinating people. We have felt that in some small way, we have stepped out of our own home and visited the world. We have watched our favorite episodes so many times that occasionally, we feel like we’ve actually been to some of those places!

I hope that someday, my children will have the chance to travel abroad, and see for themselves the places we’ve learned about on your show. I hope they will experience those cultures firsthand, try the cuisine, visit the museums, talk to the people. But even if they don’t, they have had a glimpse of the greater world, and they have an appreciation for it thanks to the journeys you have shared with us!

Keep on Travelin’! (We’re counting on it!!!)

Amanda Markel

The Top Five–Places I Want to Visit

OK, first of all, let’s just take London out of the equation. This is not just a place I want to visit…I need to go there, eventually. I’ve said many times that my heart is British, and my British heart is crying out to visit London. It’s simply not fair to put in on a “Top Five” list when it’s so much more than that. So, with that out-of-the-way, and in a category all its own, here are the “Top Five” places I hope to visit someday (yes, the list is again at six…but I figure it’s ok that two baseball locations tie for fifth place!):

  • Florence/Pisa–Italy in general, and the Tuscan towns of Florence and Pisa, were not even on my radar before last year. I mean, sure, I knew that Italy has tons of culture and history and good food and architecture (which is really what I’m looking for when I travel), but there was no place there I really desired to visit. Enter Rick Steves’ Europe. After seeing all that region has to offer, it’s now at the top of my list!
  • Canadian Rockies–I would love to take a train trip through the Rocky Mountains in Canada. And spend some time in Banff. Yes, I know, it’s pretty cliché, as far as Canadian travel goes, but it’s also, as far as I can tell from pictures, stunningly beautiful.
  • Gimmewald–This charming little town in Switzerland is another place I hope to see someday thanks to Rick Steves. He visited there in a regular episode of Rick Steves’ Europe, and went back again for his Christmas special. Gimmelwald was charming and lovely in both, and I’d love to visit that Alpine town someday!
  • Germany–This is a tough one. First off, when would I want to visit Germany? There are two main things I would want to experience…Oktoberfest and a Christkindlmarkt. So I guess I’d have to go hang out in Germany for several months? But that leads to the second question of where? Obviously, Munich would be an awesome place to be during Oktoberfest, but what about the Christkindlmarkt? There are so many beautiful towns that have their own version, I’m not sure where I’d begin. The classic in Nuremberg is an obvious choice, although I also really like the idea of going to Köln. So many choices…
  • Spring Training–I love baseball. And the return of baseball, after a long, dreary winter brings so much hope. Plus, it’s often still dreary when spring training begins, so a trip to Jupiter to see the Cardinals put their team together would be most welcome!
  • Cooperstown–Again, I love baseball. And history. And when you put those two things together, you end up in Cooperstown. I saw the traveling Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit when it passed through St. Louis last year, and it only made me want to visit the Hall of Fame more!

I don’t know if I’ll ever actually get to travel anywhere (but if I do, it better be to London, at the very least!), but I like to keep a list of the places I hope to go, just in case the opportunity ever presents itself! At least we saw the ocean two years ago, because if we hadn’t, that would have taken up a space on this list…that’s one location checked off!

What We’re Watching–Documentaries and Other Educational Films

I have shared a lot of different reading lists over the years, so I thought it was about time I shared a different kind of list…this time of the documentaries and educational and fine arts films we’ve watched, either to coordinate with our school work, or to learn something entirely new! (I didn’t include Doctor Who, even though it was originally created as an educational program to teach history, but it is also something we regularly watch!)


The British Monarchy

Other British Documentaries

The Space Program



Miscellaneous (Including travel, fine arts, and American history.)

Animated Shows

Over the years, I have found it really helpful to have some trusted films covering various topics and suitable for different grade levels that we can watch to supplement what we’re learning in school, or to give me a break from teaching school on the rare occasion that I’m sick. A lot of the time, we even end up watching something from this list just for the fun of it in the evening or during the weekend! What educational films do you like to watch?