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 12

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The Islamic invation of Spain was a fascinating chapter, especially in the light of what is going on right now in Europe with the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis and the November 13 Paris attacks. As adults, we are aware of all these historic connections, but the children are not. Maybe they should stay this way for a little while longer. The world is turning into a scary place and I just don’t want them to know that yet.

Vegetarian arroz con pollo

Moorish food: arroz con pollo – vegetarian version

They colored the pages provided and we made arroz con pollo according to the recipe given for a Moorish meal. Except we don’t eat pollo, so we used Fri-Chik instead.  Continue reading »

It’s very hard for my second grader to retain these international names, e.g. Tariq ibn-Ziyad. It’s actually even hard for him to pronounce them, i.e. to repeat after me as I pronounce them. I don’t stress over this too much. As long as we understand where we are on the map and in history, these names can come later.

Maybe we did this too late in the day, but it was hard for him to answer the comprehension questions. Narration was virtually impossible. Well, we all have good days and bad days. I read certain passages to clarify how he should answer all over again and we called it a lesson.

Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 5

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Chapter 5 deals with Medieval India. The best part was the weaving craft, although the two stories were pretty interesting, too. The kids learned the word “dynasty.” New vocabulary is always fun and it is one of the reasons why I chose to do history with them in grades 1-4.

Weaving Craft

Sometimes it does seem like too much when so many people simply focus on the 3 Rs, but I really think there is something to exposure to vocabulary, true stories, geography and historical figures.

They liked coloring the map and the man riding on an elephant, which was the coloring sheet provided for this chapter in the Activity Book. I can already tell the Activity Book has more projects and on a higher level than last year. I can see a progression of difficulty level.

The kids were really excited about weaving. They used the nail to poke holes and my son even made a pun when he said, “I nailed it!” My daughter got discouraged with the weaving process and I had to encourage her to continue and to persevere. “This is only your first time trying weaving, so give yourself some room to make mistakes,” I said, or something to that effect.

Woven Cloth

Finished product

She really enjoyed coloring the elephant. I know she needed to do something more familiar after all that weaving, so she threw herself at coloring with all her might.

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


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.

Continue reading »

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 24

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We spread the study of The Wars of the Greeks or Chapter 24 over two weeks. It just happened that way. I read this chapter to them but we did not do the map work right away. We were reading recommended books from previous chapters at the time. I like reading the lesson and the extra books in an offset fashion. It keeps reminding us of previous chapters, where we came from. We also got busy with other projects and a week went by.

Soap Bar Sculpture Supplies

Soap Bar Sculpture Supplies

When we got back to it, it was all about the craft project: carving our first Greek “stone” sculpture… out of a soap bar.  Continue reading »

We gathered the supplies and went to work. Shaving was a new technique for us. I used these children’s knives from Amazon (affiliate link). We use them in the kitchen when they want to help me cut up fruits and vegetables. They work for bread, too. And, apparently, they can also be used for carving into soap.

My daughter was caught up in her play with felts – we had just finished a Bible story about the sheep and goats and there were several modern-day felts. So she decided I should make her sculpture. Since art is a growth area for me, I chose to follow Susan Wise Bauer’s instructions to make a simple fish design.

My son decided he was going to make a king standing in front of a city he recently conquered. Then, he noticed there was not enough room for the king. So he drew the building on the soap and started carving. It was harder than he thought, but he did not give up. When he finally got tired of carving, I suggested that he keep more of the soap and just enlarge the building. I helped him a bit and then we washed off the marker lines.

Soap Castle Gate

Soap Castle Gate

We re-read the story of the battle of Marathon and I made it a point to tell them about the word marathon we use today. Etymology is one of my favorite linguistic fields. I find it fascinating. Thus ended another history lesson.

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