Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
Powered by Squarespace
Live and Learn Categories
Live and Learn Tags

Entries in history (10)


Weekly book shelf, 10/31/14

In history this week, The Story of the World took us to the time of Tariq bin Ziyad and the Islamic invasion of Spain. One of the things I've been increasingly disappointed with in SOTW is its bias—its white, male, Christian bias. It's a continuous problem in all history books for children, really, so to this week's schedule I added some reading on the Islamic faith and what it means to be a Muslim. Muslim Child came highly recommended, oddly enough, by the SOTW. It is a collection, as it says, of stories and poems about the Islamic faith. It is written fairly well and illustrated with tasteful sketches in black and white, but it did come across as proselytizing, or felt a bit like propaganda to me. At least we are learning quite a bit about bias in general.

In science this week we tackled the world's decomposers (BFSU2 B16). For comparison of the various kingdoms, in particular the animal and plant kingdoms, we used Flowering Plants and Mammals from the Classifying Living Things series. For the main portion of our week study, though, we used Steve Parker's Molds, Mushrooms, & Other Fungi. All of these are great books for understanding the criteria that determine kingdom classification, and for deeper study of Kingdom, and more detailed, classification.

For his reading comprehension notebook this week, Calvin picked The Book of Three. It's the first in the five book series, The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. Taran, a young pig-farmer, is chasing a runaway pig when he meets a prince, and thus begins his quest to become a hero. Calvin was unable to put this one down.



Calvin was also reading Carl Sandberg's Rutabaga Stories. It was a favorite of my dad's when he was little, so when we found his old copy, Calvin decided to give it a try. It's a collection of stories that display Sandberg's talent for the truly absurd. And hilarious.


Weekly book shelf, 10/24/14

In History, we're up to the Merovingian Dynasty. We have used the Life and Times biography series for a few different points in history. I'm not in love with the books—they're a little disjointed for me. With all their insets and sidebars, or sidetracks, they're a little too like a textbook or one of those DK factoid explosion books that I try so hard to avoid. Also, right out of the gate, in the very first paragraph, the white Christian bias was loud and kicking. Still, these books do provide a pretty good general idea of the era in which these famous people lived.

In science we revisited the concept of seasons and the various movements of our multi-colored orb that brings about the seasonal and daily variations we observe in our neck of the woods. No books, just a few demonstrations with a globe and a flashlight.

One of my favorite parts about this week was our return to poetry performance. When we first started with more curriculum based learning, poem memorization was a big part of our weekly efforts. When we switched to our new curriculum, although we were still studying poetry, the memorization component kind of went out the window. But this week, after spending some time with Tennyson's The Charge of the Light Brigade, Calvin asked to memorize it. We have lots of poetry books, but we used Kennedy's book for this occasion. We also used The Poetry Archive for an amazing audio file of Tennyson reading his own poem.

Continuing in the tradition of October ghost stories, Calvin read The Ghost of Thomas Kempe this week. It is the story of a young boy who is being bullied by a ghost. Framed for destruction wrought by the ghost throughout the town, and believed by only two of the townspeople, he turns to a local man to help him get rid of the ghost's harassing presence. You can also read Calvin's review.


And one more ghost story from this week: The Specter from the Magician's Museum, by John Bellairs. This is one book in a mystery-adventure series. I don't know much about this one, but Calvin categorized it as an enjoyable junk food book.





Weekly book shelf, 10/17/14

In Story of the World this week we checked in with the good people of Australia and New Zealand. One of the things I find most difficult about history is connecting all the corners of the world at once. It's all good and well to look at a thousand years of activity in Europe, or in Asia, or in the Americas, but to study them all concurrently is difficult. Even more difficult is making sure that the corners of the world that we have less written history from are not forgotten or treated as less than equal. For that reason alone, I enjoyed this book. 1000 Years Ago on Planet Earth is not stuffed with enticing facts, really it's full of over simplification, but it does kind of sew the corners together.

In science this week we practiced reading latitude and longitude, and explored the ways that these measurements of the earth were made. It was a pretty fascinating week. I've always taken such things for granted, but now I know the why behind the what. The Illustrated Longitude tells the story of John Harrison and his quest to create a sea clock for determining longitude at sea. This is an adult book, and the illustrations are mainly notes and sketches, but Calvin loved it.

Tom's Midnight Garden is a sweet coming of age story. Tom is packed off to his relatives when his brother comes down with the measles. Unhappy about being stuck in a small country town, one night Tom answers the call of a clock striking thirteen and discovers a secret garden where he make a lifelong friend. Mystery abounds, and ends with a large dose of magic.


And our end the day read is still The Subtle Knife.


Greece Gets Civilized Again (SOTW ch. 20)

The emergence of Greece from the dark ages with a new language and altered culture, plus Homer's arrival on the scene, makes for a colorful chapter of history. We paused here for a moment, actually, and blended this chapter with a look into Greece's next few years of culture, mainly their contributions to general wisdom that have been passed down through the ages.

The Life and Times series of "biographies" was something we leaned on a lot here, not because I think it's a great series, but because there weren't a lot of options available to us that fell somewhere between picture books and adult tomes. The series is a victim of modern kid book insanity, so it has insets and font changes and tidbits of information that are entirely out of place, but it worked out alright because with each book I selected small sections I thought would impart the knowledge we were looking for, and Calvin had time to peruse the rest based on his own desire. We used The Life and Times of Homer, by Tracy Kathleen, The Life and Times of Pythagoras, by Susan Sally Harkins, The Life and Times of Socrates, by Suan Zannos, and The Life and Times of Plato, by Jim Whiting.

Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates, by Mark David Usher, falls under the category of "well, it was better than nothing." Created to appeal to the younger crowd, the book tries to walk the line between picture book and biography to the tune of over-simplifying the facts. That being said, used with lots of discussion and additional resources, the book isn't a bad introduction, and the pictures keep it interesting.

Pythagoras and the Ratios and What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?, both by Julie Ellis, are fun picture book introductions to the story of Pythagoras and his discoveries. I find historical fiction to be a valuable genre, and these books fit the bill for some lighter yet still informative reading, to go along with the biography we used (listed above).

Aristotle and Scientific Thought, by Steve Parker, was probably my favorite book from this section. That may be due in part to my personal love for Aristotle, but the book was also pretty well done, with lots of information presented in an easy-to-follow yet not overly-simplified manner and illustrations intended to add and not distract.

Rosemary Sutcliff's version of The Iliad, Black Ships Before Troy, is an excellent retelling for youthful readers. Her ability to retain much of the mythical grandeur of the original poem whilst making it readable for the younger set keeps the tale truly enjoyable. There are different issues of her perfect retelling out there. We selected the set (Black Ships Before Troy and The Wandering of Odysseus) with the stunning illustrations by Alan Lee. I cannot say enough about this pair of books, or the others in Sutcliff's estimable library of traditional tales retold.


Comparing myths (and SOTW ch. 14, The Israelites)

Last week we were having so much fun with Egypt that we spent an extra week there. Part of that time was spent getting a better feel for the pharaohs who ruled throughout the dynastic period, and linking the dates and eras to things going on in other parts of the world at the time, like the Hyksos, the Nubians, the tribes of people to the northeast, and the mysterious Sea Peoples.

We also spent some time looking at chapter 14 of The Story of the World, which, titled The Israelites, deals with the purported slavery of those people in, and their exodus led by Moses out of the Kingdom of Egypt. We read a few versions of this story and found it hauntingly familiar. The story of Moses as a baby, after all, is the exact same story told in Uruk, 1,000 years earlier, about Sargon. This started us on a journey of myth comparison. The parallels between the stories of Abraham (once Abram) and Akhenaten (once Amenhotep IV) are also eerily similar. And of course we compared the creation myths of a variety of cultures as well.

We did not really read the chapter in SOTW on the exodus from Egypt. Instead we read myths from a variety of cultures, including a children's Bible, the Enuma Elish, excerpts from The Epic of Gilgamesh, excerpts from the Iliad, and a variety of other myth stories.

These are some of the resources we used:

The Big Myth is a paid subscription website that offers animated renderings of creation myths from around the world. The art and sound are rich, contrasty, and pretty Art Deco, which would not be my first choice, but it allows for all traditions to be given the same treatment and credence. We've watched them all together, and Calvin will also sit by himself and click through the links, watching the videos over and over. He finds them fascinating. We paid for the subscription, and I'm pleased, but a few of their works are available for free.

The Enuma Elish (the Babylonian creation myth), available for reading online.

Egyptian Myths, by Jacqueline Morley, combines beautiful illustrations with short tellings of the major Egyptian myths of creation. A lovely book, easy to enjoy.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest and most intriguing epics of all time, but much of the original is questionable reading material for young children. In Gilgamesh the Hero, McCaughrean retains enough of the original's clipped style to make it sound like what it is, but adds enough vibrant tone to make it friendly reading for an older child, and the illustrations enliven without detracting. We both loved this book.

In Puffin's version of the epic story, The Mahabharata is broken down into managably sized tales with readable text and interesting illustrations.