Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 9

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Chapter 9 covered the Dutch East Indies in the first story and the fall of the Ottoman Empire through the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 in the second story. The first story was totally new information to me, but not the second one.

Red and white ribbon traditionally worn in Eastern Europe in March - martsishor

Red and white ribbon traditionally worn in Romania in March – martsishor

Why? Because it was not just Russia and Bulgaria fighting the Ottoman Turks. The coalition was led by Russia and included Bulgaria, but it also included Romania, Serbia and Montenegro. Continue reading »

I grew up in Romania and this war of 1877-1878 was taught to us as the “War of Independence” from the Ottoman Empire. I was disappointed that Susan Wise Bauer did not explain the coalition included more countries than just Bulgaria. And why not put Romania, Serbia and Montenegro on the map?

Why mention only Bulgaria? Why say that Bulgaria lay “just south of the Russian border?” How do you define “just south?” You skip a whole country, i.e. Romania, which is tucked between Russia and Bulgaria, and then you declare Bulgaria “just south of Russia?”


Ribbon for brooches worn to celebrate the arrival of spring in Romania and Bulgaria

I told the kids my feelings on the subject and explained that there were several battles where Romanian soldiers bravely fought against the Turks at the time. It was an Eastern Orthodox coalition, too, against Muslims. This was mentioned in the chapter, but only briefly.

Anyway, I will stop complaining. FYI, the Bulgarian-inspired craft called “Martenitsa” sounded familiar as well. We have the exact same thing in Romania, called “Martsishor” and it dates back to when our territory was a Roman Province. I used to wear the red and white ribbon with small brooches too, along with everybody else, on March 1, when I was growing up.

Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 8

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Chapter 8 is titled “Becoming Modern.” What a simple yet beautiful title! I pointed out to the kids that for most of history people have not lived with electricity, cars, trains, or time zones. It was a new concept for them.

Gold and silver spikes to unite the two railways

Gold and silver spikes to unite the two railways

There was a brief explanation about time zones and about light bulbs. I supposed this would be the moment to stop and read a short biography of Thomas Edison but we must exercise self-control. This time around through the Story of the World, we will not read extra books.  Continue reading »

As I explained several times before, I am trying to get through volume 4 as quickly as possible so that we can start volume 1 all over again in the fall. My youngest is really young and I just do not want to get bogged down with too much information at this stage.

The second story was about Japan’s restoration of the emperor’s power. Matthew Perry is mentioned and I remembered how we placed a sticker of him on our timelines. Good thing we can reinforce these names and dates in several ways.

The craft we chose was the spike used in the ceremony celebrating the two lines of railroads meeting together in Utah. We made a silver one with aluminium foil and a gold one using a gold paint marker. We do not own gold aluminium foil and I was not about to get some just for this one craft, in the hopes that we could use it in the future for other things.

We brought out the toy train set and pretended to have a ceremony but not really. Just building the rails and putting the spikes in was all we did. I took a picture and voila! Chapter 8 is in the books.

Elementary Science Olympiad

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Since 2013, when I started this blog, I have published 700 posts, which works out to be two posts per week and a bit – exactly what I promised and purposed to do back then. This is post number 701. Here’s to the power of grit and determination.

This year, we joined Cedar Springs Homeschool Group, a support group in Knoxville, which gathers motivated homeschoolers for different competitions: American Math Contest, National Spelling Bee, Science Olympiad, Scholars Bowl, History and Geography Bees etc.

Science Olympiad

They left the stage in a blur after winning their gold medals.

Every team is coached by a homeschooling parent. Since even Susan Wise Bauer confessed she did not do a great job teaching science in her homeschool, I decided I should look for outside support in that area. In the process, our children would become a part of a team and forge some friendships. Continue reading »

Cedar Springs Homeschool Group is not a co-op. It is, as I wrote above, a support group. Moms meet once a month at the Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville. Cedar Springs Homeschool is a ministry of this particular Presbyterian church, but one does not have to be a church member to join.

Gunk Event

Our daughter (pink vest) and her team mate, making gunk for a bouncy ball

Once you pay a nominal membership fee, you get access to their Yahoo Group where most communication happen. They also have a Facebook page for the Science Olympiad. The most recent success is that their middle school team qualified for the nationals, beating all the public and private schools in Tennessee. How do you like them apples?

Circuit Wizardry

Our son and his team mate in Circuit Wizardry

For grade 3-5, Knox County schools organized a Science Olympiad which felt more like a play date. It was not intensely competitive. The kids chose their events and made projects. There was very little writing involved in the events. Most had no writing.

In aerodynamics, they had to build a paper airplane, test it, and then fly it for the judges. The longest flight won. In Circuit Wizardry, they had to build a circuit out of a bag of supplies. In Gunk, they built bouncy balls out of borax, glue and water and tested how high they bounced. You get the picture.

Our team brought eight students and ended up in second place by a small margin (1-2 points). All children won medals in their events. The first three scores in each event receive medals. Then, the totals add up and give the first two teams a trophy they can take home.

Cedar Springs Homeschool Group and three public schools participated: West Hills Elementary (they won), Amherst and Sterchi. The question is, where were the other elementary schools of Knoxville? Dozens and dozens of elementary schools with no team for the Science Olympiad. Private schools, where parents pay tens of thousands of dollars every year, decided not to show up. Why? I can only speculate but I won’t go there.

We left with three medals: our son got a bronze in Mystery Architecture and a gold in Metric Mastery. Our daughter was his team mate in Metric Mastery so she also received a gold medal. They also have the pride of having contributed to the team’s second place finish. They got such a boost of confidence.

Also, they became part of a team. They made fast friends with some of their team mates and we have play dates set up for the Aquarium and the Zoo – what else? These are future scientists.

Here I thought we did not do enough science this year, not enough experiments, not enough notebooking about the science that we did cover. Sometimes you have to come to these events and put things into perspective: good enough homeschooling gets children farther than fancy private or public schools.

Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 7

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Chapter 7 covered France and Prussia. The French are struggling between monarchy, empire, and republic as a form of government. The Prussians are trying hard to unite all German principalities into a Second Reich. Interesting stories indeed.

Pikealhaube Craft

Pickelhaube craft – helmet from Prussia

The kids are eager to get to Hitler. They have heard so much about the terrible things he did. I explained that he was in the Third Reich. Will that be in the next lesson? They wanted to know. Actually, we need to cover more decades before we get to him. Continue reading »

We are still in the 1870s and Hitler will be in the 1930s-1940s. Sometimes just simply communicating about dates works just as much as a timeline. We are putting together our timeline binders all right, but a general idea about where we are in reference to a particular event or person can be shared in a simple dialogue.

The map work was not as complicated as in other lessons. Or are we just getting used to it by now? This is already chapter 7. We may be getting used to labeling things, who knows?

The craft was fun. Finally, we have something to color and cut with scissors and attach with tape. The craft started them onto a war path. I am still trying to understand what happened.

Just so you know, my children are real and they do fight with each other sometimes.

Today was one of those days. I take that back. The morning went pretty smoothly. Then we had an art class in town and they finished their paintings. They proudly brought home their creations. I was looking forward to finishing up history and violin practice and then be done.

Not sure what happened, but they fell apart. They were irritating each other over and over again. By the grace of God, I stayed calm and worked with them. When my husband came home, he was telling me about some of the stress he had today and I thought, you know, we all have stressful situations every day.

We homeschooling moms might have these unrealistic expectations of cherubs eagerly awaiting for us to teach them one more lesson. In reality, they are just children. They have good days and bad days. They are still learning how to manage their feelings. If we have not taught them how to manage their anger right, no wonder they are still floundering.

After dinner, we all sat down and talked a bit more about what happened. But I hope tomorrow is a better day – for my sanity’s sake.

Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 6

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Chapter 6 offers a strange combination of countries: Paraguay and Canada, but it makes sense because they both struggled for independence about the same time. The mapwork was challenging. We are still getting used to having to label things on the map.

Canadian motto activity

Canadian motto activity

We need to rise up to this new challenge though. It is teaching us a lot more than having to just look at a page and draw arrows from point A to point B or highlight a country or circle a city. Continue reading »

There was no debate over Lopez in Paraguay. The kids thought he was a crazy dictator. When they heard people have split opinions about him, they could not believe it. Somebody who kills half the population of his country because he is insane enough to go against three countries cannot be a patriot.

The story about Canada was interesting. I did not know many details about Canadian history myself, so I enjoyed learning with them.

The kids liked locating Prince Edward Island on the map. They thought is was small and cute. I told them I know a lady who lives on Prince Edward Island. I added that she homeschools and blogs about it. They said, “Oh, like you!”

For the activity, we filled out the page provided with the puzzle that makes out Canada’s motto, “From Sea to Sea.”

My son noted that “patriot” rhymes with “idiot” and we had a good laugh about it. I reminded them that we say “patriot” in Romanian too and it comes from “patria” which in Latin means “fatherland.”

Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 5

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We got to the Civil War in chapter 5. Both stories covered the topic: first the conditions in the country before, during, and after the war. Lincoln’s assassination is one of those events like the Titanic going down – you know how the story ends, but as you read the story again, you hope against all hopes that it would have another ending.

Juneteenth Feast

Juneteenth Feast to celebrate the emancipation of slaves

Walt Whitman’s poem was touching, but because of the drops of blood mentioned we will not memorize it. My eight-year-old was a bit disturbed by the expression and the mental image. Continue reading »

Instead, we are going to attempt to memorize the Gettysburg address. And by “we” I mean my son. My daughter is too young to memorize prose, at least in my mind. She has her poems to memorize and she is happy with them. They rhyme and are easier to commit to memory.

For our craft or activity, we made a Juneteenth feast: red beans, rice, coleslaw and biscuits. I did not use the recipes in the book, but I was glad the author provided us with traditional recipes from even before the Civil War.

The cabbage salad you see is very easy to make. It has three ingredients: cabbage, coarse kosher salt, and dill. It takes about 10 minutes to put together. I chop the cabbage in the food processor, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt (for about half a head of cabbage) and 1 teaspoon of dill.

If you want a really good taste, you should massage that coarse salt into the cabbage. The salt makes the cabbage softer plus the saltiness gets incorporated evenly in the salad. The dill gives it a heavenly taste.

Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 4

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For chapter 4, we traveled to the Italian peninsula and then to China. It was so interesting to really stop and think about the fact that there was no Italy in 1850. The small states on the boot-shaped peninsula were either ruled by Italian princes or by Austria. Talk about a mess that needs to be cleaned up.

Gluten free pizza - Scharr crust

Gluten free pizza – Scharr crust, my toppings

Garibaldi came into the picture, as well as the Young Italy Society, which reminded me of the Young England Society who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria over in England about the same time. I feel good when I start to make connections of my own as we study. Continue reading »

Truth be told, homeschooling moms love to learn, otherwise we could not crack open new books and new topics every year. I am having so much fun teaching my children, spending time with them, listening to their little worries and big worries, and learning alongside them.

Cheese pizza

Regular cheese pizza from the freezer section – almost Pizza Margherita

No coloring for this volume, it seems like, so I had to print out some other coloring pages for my children to work on while I read. The theme of their coloring pages had nothing to do with history, but they love it and it works.

Over in China, the Taiping Rebellion covered a few years and a few good pages. We don’t do narration or outline this time around, because my children are still too small for that kind of work on a regular basis. In three years time, when we end up in volume 4 again, all things being equal, we will take care of outlining.

For our craft, we made pizza. The story about Pizza Margherita and how it came about was listed in the craft and it touched me. I did not know it was named after a queen. And to be honest, I did not make pizza from scratch.

I heated up theirs, a cheese pizza from the freezer section of our local grocery store. Since I am on a gluten free diet, I buy my crusts already made, Scharr brand. I added some toppings and I was ready to have some pizza, too, in 12 minutes.

Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 took us back to Great Britain. This time, it was about the great game between Russia and Great Britain regarding Afghanistan. The second story was about David Livingstone and his travels through Africa.

The Great Game craft

Britain and Russia needed a buffer represented by purple between red and blue.

We had just learned about the color wheel in our art class outside the home. Now, the history craft was all about colors and, in particular, how primary colors combine to create secondary colors. It was a great coincidence – though I do not believe in coincidences, friends. Continue reading »

When a mama starts homeschooling her children, there is an Overseer up above Who arranges details in a most fortuitous way. I am amazed at some of the “coincidences” that happen in our homeschool between subjects and curricula.

Now, about the craft. I usually take pictures of the supplies before we start a craft and then I take pictures of the finished product. I am only showing what our craft looked like before, because we are not proud of what it looked like at the end.

It is not a big deal, but it is just not internet worthy. Despite very clear instructions of how to arrange red and blue on the page and how to create a buffer between them, my children decided to take artistic licenses and do their own thing.

But here’s what matters: they understood Russia and Great Britain needed Afghanistan between them as a buffer (that would have been the purple). And, again, crafts only reinforce the history lesson. They are not meant to be perfect and Pinterest-ready.

Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 deals with the re-opening of Japan for the West, as well as the Crimean War. It was fun to learn about Florence Nightingale and fill out the forms about patients’ basic health information.

Learning how to take the pulse

Learning how to take the pulse

I became our daughter’s patient and my husband became our son’s patient. They will probably not go back to that form to fill it out every day as suggested, but at least they got started and understood the concept of medical records. Continue reading »

I taught them how to feel the pulse and count. It was hard for them to find the pulse, but after a few tries they got it. So I took pictures of them taking each other’s pulse, too.

A word about the map work in this volume: there is actually an answer key for the map exercises. Frankly, these are tricky even for me, so I am glad we have an answer key. I was a bit disappointed that countries and cities were not clearly labeled, but I suppose the thinking is that a fourth grader should be able to write and do his/her own labeling.

The maps become messier because they have to write in the names and they do not always take the time to gauge if they have enough room for longer names etc. But who cares? It does not need to be perfect. What matters is that they are learning geography and history.

I have three bookmarks in the activity book: one in the first section where all the instructions are, with the reading comprehension questions, crafts, etc; a second one in the map work answer key; and a third one in the back section with reproducible maps and poems etc.

Story of the World, Vol. 4, Chapter 1

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We have made it to volume 4! Yeah! We should celebrate somehow, but we are too excited about history to stop, even for a celebration. We have built momentum and we want to keep on going.

British Empire craft

“The sun never sets on the British Empire.”

My plan is to finish volume 4 before we start school again in August, because I would like to start the whole four-year history cycle all-over again. My son will be in fifth grade next year, so he gets to experience it on a different level than my daughter. But I think this time it will be clearer for her and I want her to start again with the Ancients so that things will make more sense. Continue reading »

I know she gets a lot out of it, for her level. The advice for multi-level teaching has always been that we should teach for the oldest child and let the chips of understanding fall where they may for the younger siblings.

My daughter knows to ask questions if she does not understand a word or a sequence of events. She likes to color when my son likes to just listen and not color. They do their thing and the caravan of history moves along. It works!

About volume 4: there are less coloring pages, more maps, and a new feature called “Outline.” The children are supposed to narrate the story and, also, write down an outline.

British Empire craft - the sun never sets

British Empire craft – the sun never sets

Since this is our first time going through this volume, I have decided we will not get bogged down with writing down an outline. For the sake of my younger child, we will skip this exercise until we come back around to it, three years from now. She will be older and writing fast will not be an issue, so we will be able to move better.

We will not be reading the extra books recommended, either. We will simply read the stories, do the map work, and create one craft. That’s it. It’s a good initial introduction to modern history. The next time we go through it, we will be older and wiser and we will be able to tackle extra reading and outlines.

Now, if they really become fascinated with a particular topic, I may get them an extra book about it or open up the reference books we have on history (Usborne etc). But I will not be focusing on extra reading of my own free will.

The first chapter was about Queen Victoria and the kids loved the expression, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” It was neat to find out that the British Empire was represented with color pink on old maps. I did not know that. We made the craft and they loved shining the flash light on the “globe” we created.