Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 24

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The Ottoman Empire or Chapter 24 hit home with me, as I grew up in Romania, and our medieval history was riddled with battles against the Turks. In fact, as late as 1878, Romania was fighting the Ottoman Empire or what had remained of it. It’s always interesting to read history from an English source, a source that would not be as biased as a Romanian historian, for instance.

Dancing bear crafts

Dancing bear crafts

My children did not appreciate the fact that Muslims took over Constantinople and called it Istanbul. My daughter, who loves art and would color anything, refused to color the page I had printed out from our history curriculum – a page depicting the fall of Constantinople. I then offered the portrait of Suleiman. She took one glance at him and said, “No, I don’t want to color him either.”  Continue reading »

When it comes to coloring, I think it falls in the category of “busy work” unless the child takes great delight in it. So I don’t make my children color unless they really want to. Instead, we worked on a craft with dancing bears. We made the puppets and then we recorded a short clip of the kids working them as puppeteers, the way an itinerant Turkish entertainer might have.

I tried reading to them from a Romanian history book for children, “Mircea cel Mare si luptele lui cu turcii” by Nicolae Djuvara. We bought this book in the gift shop at Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s Castle) when we were in Romania in April. My son wanted it. It has beautiful full-color illustrations, but I am afraid the level it is written on may be for higher grades than my children’s Romanian level. I got through the first chapter and then they started with all sorts of questions which revealed it was way over their heads. I put it back on the shelf for a later time.

This is a fairly long lesson, with four different story lines, so we had plenty to discuss as it is. I have given up on trying to read the recommended texts, whether fiction or nonfiction. Our goal at this stage is to introduce children to names, places, historical facts, and lots of vocabulary. I think we certainly accomplish that goal with the text of our history book.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 4

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Chapter 4 dealt with the Byzantine Empire, Justinian, Theodora, and St. Nicholas. It was a long chapter: four different stories. Lots of coloring, cutting and pasting fun with paper dolls and pictures of Empress Theodora, Hagia Sophia, and Theodora’s crown happened today.

The kids were ready to color though. It’s like we can go a few days without history and then they miss it and are so ready for it. I was a bit nervous about the story of St. Nicholas, a.k.a. St. Nick and then the connection with Santa Claus. But it was done well in the book and I had nothing to worry about.

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What surprised me this week about their coloring was that they filled out the page. I attribute that to Craft Day, which we attended last Monday. Our local homeschool support group organizes Craft Days twice a month. We attend once a month because we are already doing a lot of other things… as you know… if you have been reading this blog for awhile.

So, we were there for the first time this school year and we made mosaic pieces for the new Children’s Hospital being built in Knoxville. That’s right. There will be no contest. They simply accept any drawing and they will make sure it fits within the overall picture. We had to follow only this guideline: fill up the whole page with color. I think that rule sort of stuck with my kids.

As they worked on coloring for history about Justinian and Theodora, my son suddenly expressed the desire to dress like them. I was not sure we could find costumes fancy enough, but we did… They had a lot of fun dressing up and posing for me.

Theodora and Justinian costumes

Theodora and Justinian costumes

It was a good day in the homeschooling trenches. We needed a good day, too. The day before, they had exhibited major attitude problems. After I applied consequences that evening (no screen time plus milk and bread for supper, which we call “naughty supper”), they changed their attitude by the morning. And we ended up having a much better day. It works. Consequences work. You find the pressure point and you let them know who is the parent in this operation. They shape up fast, until the next time when they push boundaries…


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 33

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Chapter 33 deals with Confucius, tangrams and tea. We drank tea. Not green tea, because we stay away from caffeine, nor mint tea, as suggested in the activity book, because we did not have any on hand. I started a tea pot and placed three Bigelow Orange and Spice tea bags (affiliate link) in our respective tea cups.

Tea Cups

Our tea bags steeping in the cups

They remembered how we used to drink tea with cake or cookies or scones in the winter and at our recent afternoon tea at Buckhorn Inn, so they decided they wanted some pumpkin pie with their tea. (We made pumpkin pie yesterday so they knew we had some in the fridge.) It was a lot of fun and we talked about how tea originated in China, but it is now the national drink in the United Kingdom, India and many other countries.  Continue reading »

They colored Confucius and cut up the tangrams.

Confucius Tangram Craft

I set up the desk for them to work on before they got there.

We own a set of magnetic tangrams called Travel Tangoes (affiliate link), which gives you 24 images to build with tangrams. My daughter chose a squirrel and we built one together with the tangrams she just cut up.

Tangram Squirrel

Tangram Squirrel

The kids loved the story of Confucius and his teachings. My son actually started applying one of the sayings given in the history book to a situation we dealt with the night before. We stopped history (so to speak) and conversed about that instead. It showed me that he really is a thinker and applies wisdom to every day situation.


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 29

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Rome’s War with Carthage introduced the children to Hannibal and his elephants. Also, to drinking poison as a form of suicide. I briefly told them that suicide is the ultimate form of self-destruction and it hurts God very much, not to mention the family you leave behind. I said they should never, ever take life for granted because it is a gift from God. We moved on.

Elephant Ear Donuts

Hanibal’s elephant ears were delicious

They liked the maze with Hannibal crossing the Alps and the elephant story. So we made donuts shaped as big elephant ears. Continue reading »

I could not imagine using frozen biscuit dough for this project, as suggested in the book. Wouldn’t that be too salty to turn around and cover it in cinnamon sugar? Nope. I was wrong. These donuts were delicious.

I used demerara sugar mixed with cinnamon, but the sugar was too rough as far as texture. We ended up sprinkling the donuts with confectioner’s sugar.

Powder Sugar Donuts

Powder Sugar Donuts

Next time, we will know better and mix the cinnamon with confectioner’s sugar instead from the beginning.


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 28

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The Roman Empire was fascinating for the children. I liked it, too, as I have always liked any stories about ancient Rome. Can we all agree that the Roman soldiers should be worthy of our admiration? They and their bracelets and their bracelet inscription, SPQR, which stands for Senatus Populus que Romanus, which translates to “The Senate and the Roman People.”

Roman soldier cuff bracelet

The famous Roman soldier cuff bracelet

The crafts (aqueducts, sand dough, Roman road model) were a 10 on a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is the most difficult level. I decided to stay clear of glue and sand and little pebbles in a shoe box lid. We made the cuff bracelets from the next chapter instead. We cut up a cereal box, measured it around the kids’ wrists, stapled them, and then covered them in aluminium foil.

Craft bracelet

I stapled the cardboard bracelets first.

I did not show them the gladiator coloring page. Too raw for my taste, I suppose. It’s enough for them to hear that some gladiators preferred to commit suicide than to kill others for sport.


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 27

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The Rise of Rome, or Chapter 27, finally brought us to my favorite ancient kingdom. I have always loved Rome, its culture, language, art, and influence on the modern world.

Homemade fasces

Fasces

I brought them into the school room with the words, “Let’s do history! We finally get to learn about the babies on the cover of this book!”

My kids are interested in babies right now. They want stories of their baby years and they zoom in on anything about babies. So I took advantage and used it as an entering wedge into our history lesson today.  Continue reading »

One funny anecdote for me about Remus and Romulus was that my primary school teacher (I had her for grades 1-4) had twins. Their names? Remus and Romulus. The other funny part was that they were in my sister’s class, two years older than I. I saw them a lot at school events involving my sister’s class. So I sort of grew up with a Romanian version of Remus and Romulus.

We made fasces and cecina. The kids liked cecina up to a point. It has an aftertaste, maybe because of the liquid in the can. If I make it again, I would rinse the chickpeas and use regular water. I was surprised that you can actually serve it out as a pizza slice.


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 26

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Chapter 26 finally introduced us to the ancient civilizations of the Americas. I showed them on a world map how we moved from the Fertile Crescent and the Mediterranean Sea across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. My daughter misunderstood. She thought we were done with Ancient History and we were going to now study more recent events. She was excited!

First off, I had no idea she had any feelings or opinions about what kind of historical period we were learning. I love these moments in our homeschool when I discover how my children feel about what we do.

Rabbit Shoots the Moon comic strip

Rabbit Shoots the Moon comic strip

I don’t necessarily change our routine or curriculum based on their likes or dislikes, but it’s good to keep my ear to the ground and be in touch with their true selves, their inner lives.

The Americas Coloring Page

Coloring page by my son

That is a major reason to homeschool. So many parents who send their children to school have no idea who their children really are, by virtue of the schedule which keeps them apart for most of the day.

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I read them the three stories and they colored the map and the comic strip. We made tapioca pudding. My daughter and I are big fans of tapioca pudding. Daddy and son, not so much. Oh well. More for the girls in the family, right?

The recipe provided in the activity book calls for a lot of sugar. De gustibus non est disputandum, of course, but I am just forewarning you that even the minute tapioca pudding recipe on the box calls for a lot less sugar. You can always sweeten it more with dried fruit, which helps with decorating the pudding, too. Just my two cents’ worth.


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 23

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The Greek Gods or Chapter 23 allowed me to introduce the kids to the neurotic gods who make up much of Antiquity’s myths and legends. I choose the word “introduce” for a reason. We are not going in depth. Maybe next time around. That is why we are not building a family tree for the Greek gods (Olympus Family Tree) or drawing a home for the gods. I am also staying away from most of the titles suggested.

To the Most Beautiful, the golden apple that started the Trojan War.

“To the Most Beautiful,” the words on the golden apple which started the Trojan War.

I really enjoyed those stories as a child, but I am pretty sure I was at least in fourth grade by the time I read about the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece. Most of their stories contain adult themes and, besides, I don’t want to confuse my kids with all sorts of gods right now. We are still coming out of the concrete stage of thinking. When the lines between reality and fiction get blurry, it’s best to stay away from certain stories.

We chose the golden apple craft project to illustrate the reason why the Trojan war got started. The kids enjoyed the story. I read it to them twice, a few days apart, and they still did not get all the plot. A bit too many layers, I suppose. I don’t mind stretching their minds and challenging them.

It was only after we made the golden apple and I wrote “To the Most Beautiful” on it that it finally sank in with them why the gods were upset with each other. We had conversations about this for several days. I usually keep their crafts where we can see them, on the kitchen isle, so we can admire them for a few days before we go on to the next craft. They serve as conversation pieces and as an excuse to rehearse facts and new terminology


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 21

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The Medes and the Persians brought a sigh of relief over all of us. With Cyrus, we finally could say, “Here is a great king, who loved and respected his people!” We talked about how the Bible mentions Cyrus as the Anointed of the Lord. My son exclaimed how nice a king Cyrus was.

Six brown paper bags

Six bags for six puppets

The first story, of course, was a bit tricky. A grandfather who plans to kill his grandchild? Rather cruel and unusual. But we soldiered through. I noticed that if I don’t make a big deal out of it, they just move on.

Girl with paper bag puppet

Showing off Cyrus, the paper bag puppet version

I prepared six brown bags for puppets to act out the story. They decorated one and decided they would decorate five more for the next five days. Well, I don’t like projects that stretch for days. Besides, I cannot imagine myself directing a puppet show with lines like, “Take my grandson and kill him!” or “Shepherd, the king sent me to kill this baby out here, but I will not. I will let you do it. And if you don’t, you will be punished…” Last but not least, I asked myself at what point a craft project becomes busy work. One brown paper bag puppet is a great craft. Two may be stretching it. But six? Even if each child made three each, it would be busy work in my book.

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We played the Conquer Mesopotamia Game. Take it from me… If you want to play the Conquer Mesopotamia Game, definitely print it out enlarged, as directed in the Activity Book.

Chess pieces and a history board game

The chess pieces were too big for the board

As you can see, our chess figures were way too big for the 8 1/2 x 11 page I printed it out on. Even when we switched to small LEGO pieces and a pencil eraser, we still had a hard time moving around the board.

LEGO pieces and a pencil eraser as board game tokens

Better choice – LEGO pieces and a pencil eraser

We got to about place #20 before they tired of the small page. My son ran to get Sorry. I had a phone call and excused myself. When I came back, they were arguing about how to play Sorry. I declared a recess and sent them outside.

Conquer Mesopotamia Board Game

Conquer Mesopotamia Board Game

Thus ended a very enjoyable history lesson.


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 18

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Life in Early Crete finally brings us closer and closer to Greece and Rome – my favorite part of Ancient History. We lead Theseus through the maze to fight the Minotaur and then we build a LEGO maze.

LEGO Maze and Minotaur

LEGO Maze and Minotaur, the first version

We forgot all about Ariadne’s yarn. Oh well. The kids got really fancy and built an even bigger maze. Then they replaced the rhino with a leopard and brought in a small toy person to represent Theseus. They came up with all sorts of stories. By now, I was not there anymore. This story got them playing and I went on with my day.

LEGO Maze, Theseus, and Minotaur

LEGO Maze, Theseus, and Minotaur

A few months ago, we made an erupting volcano; here’s the YouTube video. When we read about Thera, I reminded the kids of the experiment. Of course they wanted to make another one. I said, “Maybe another time.” I remembered how they kept pouring vinegar and baking soda onto the poor “mountain” and how they did not know when to stop.

LEGO Maze, Revised

LEGO Maze, Revised

We ordered some of the recommended books from the library. Atlantis fascinates my son very much, especially after watching a 28-minute LEGO movie about it, LEGO Atlantis. They found it on YouTube one day and have gone back to see it a few times since.

The Minoan Ship seemed too involved for a craft. Sculpture has never been my gift, so I stayed away from it.

With the coloring page of bull jumpers, we had this long conversation about boys and girls. The three figures look like men, but they have long hair. My daughter was confused. I pointed out their chests were bare and – um – they looked like men in that area. She still wanted to pretend that at least one of them is a girl. We gave her permission to pretend that way.

Narration efforts are still feeble, but we press on.