Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 17

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Chapter 17 dealt with Russia’s Peter the Great. I have mixed feelings about Russia. I grew up in Romania and Russia influenced our culture in a very tangible way. I do not like Russia because they brought communism to Romania, but I like Russia for its art and literature.

Foam medal craft

We used foam sheets with sticky backs for the medals.

Russian history explains a lot about its art and culture, so I am curious to learn more about all the details that have shaped this country.  Continue reading »

The temper of Peter the Great gave us an opportunity to discuss our own tempers. Homeschooling families spend a lot of their time together. We have more opportunities to get on each other’s nerves than families who send their children to school for seven hours a day.

Foam medal

One of the medals made by the kids out of sticky foam sheets.

Thankfully, we do not get as ugly with each other as Peter the Great did, but we have our moments when our tone with each other could use some modulation. I call it our “meek voice” and I am the first one to admit that I need a lot of help in developing my meek voice and using it more often.

Foam sheets with design drawn

First we drew the design onto the foam sheet.

For our craft, we used foam sheets to create medals. When Susan Wise Bauer wrote this curriculum, the foam sheets she recommended did not have sticky backing. Well, this made our craft a lot easier. We did not have to apply glue. Our foam sheets are like stickers.

#1 Place Medal Craft

The other medal my children made

You just remove the protective cover and voila, you have a sheet ready to be stuck onto another foam sheet. So first we drew the shape, then they cut it out, then we removed the protective cover and stuck the pieces together according to the design shown in the book.

We used different color foam sheets, but then the kids decided to color them with markers anyway. Oh well. Whatever works. You will notice that one of my children is still learning how to spell “place.”


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 16

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Chapter 16 dealt with people like John Locke and Isaac Newton – fascinating discoveries and advances in the sciences and philosophy. I really enjoy a chapter which speaks about people (or events) I have already studied for myself. Not that I don’t enjoy learning new things. But I have a frame of reference and it intrigues me to see how Susan Wise Bauer covers the topic.

Gravity experiment

The children took balls into the tree house to see how they fall to the ground.

Besides, I am kind of ready to get out of the Dark Ages and move on with human civilization. I am ready for early modern history to actually happen. Bring on the scientific revolution! Continue reading »

For the activity, we went to the tree house and dropped balls of different sizes and weights to the ground. Isaac Newton’s a-ha moment changed humanity in so many ways. It is inspiring to share things like that with the children.

We found some simple biographies of Newton and Locke at the library. In all honesty, I have given up trying to locate the exact titles suggested in the history curriculum. I found some of them to be too long and others to be too advanced. And our librarians make the effort of ordering these specific titles through ILL, which is time consuming.

I end up not reading all of these titles to the kids and then I feel guilty. I am that mom who has to finish the book to feel like she has gotten the job done. And even though now they can read lots of books to themselves, I still prefer for us to read at least one history book out loud.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 15

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Chapter 15 dealt with three things, all of them happening in the New World. First, we looked at the Wampanoag’s war against the English colonists, also known as King Philip’s war. Such a mess! It is one thing to inspire the children with stories of brave explorers who sailed across unknown seas in search of a shorter route to India. It’s another thing altogether to talk about the aftermath of such explorations and colonization attempts.

But history must be taught, no matter how painful and sad it may have been. Since history repeats itself, we want to make sure that we learn what happened in the past so that we may not repeat others’ mistakes.

Boy and girl in camo

Having fun in camouflage outfits

The second story dealt with the French having trouble in New France, today’s Quebec. One trouble was the lack of women and the other was the attack of the Iroquois. Since we are vaguely making plans to visit Montreal and Quebec City one day, we made a mental note of Marie-Madeleine de Vercheres and her statue which we should definitely see. Continue reading »

King Louis XIV paid women to cross the ocean in order to live in New France, where they could meet lonely soldiers, settle down and have families together. Somebody should come up with a similar idea for the Chinese these days, but that is another history lesson for another time.

The third story was about William Penn’s holy experiment or the beginning of Pennsylvania. We talked about Quakers and I showed them the oat box – Quaker Oats – which has a man in his characteristic Quaker suit and hat on the label. We eat a lot of oatmeal for breakfast. The children are very familiar with that box. Now they know what the man represents.

My children are going through an army phase, so it was very easy to get them dressed in camo for this chapter’s project of blending in.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 14

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Chapter 14 covers the very interesting country of Prussia in early modern times. With my renewed interest in all things German, thanks to Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, who hailed from the small German principality of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, this chapter provided a lot of information we all received eagerly.

German flag

The flag of Germany today still reflects the colors of the old flag of Prussia.

I told the children about the three colors of the German flag, which can be found in the coloring page from Story of the World, on the Prussian emblem. With everything going on now in the European Union, reading about how these countries used to be really puts things in perspective. Continue reading »

I have friends and family who live in Germany and I feel very concerned for them. They have so many Muslims there, it is only a matter of time before a larger terrorist attack will happen in Germany. That is my sad, sad prediction.

For our project, we studied a bit of German. Now German is one language I have not attempted to introduce because I simply think we are doing enough languages. But I used to study German and I know a smattering of expressions, so I found it easy to follow Susan Wise Bauer’s list of German words.

If you don’t know how to pronounce German, never fear. She provides a pronunciation guide for each word. No excuses now. We found it fun because the children remembered how Mr. Weenie in Open Season used to say “Nein! Ja!” and eat yet another biscuit.

For a quick, funny example of the German accent in English, there is another scene where Mr. Weenie teaches a friend to say “I am wild” which sounds like “I am vild” in English. Mr. Weenie’s “I am vild” is – well – wild.

We talked about the national anthem of Germany which is the melody of the Christian hymn “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” The words were written by John Newton on a melody by Franz Joseph Haydn. This song is called Austria because it was originally the national anthem of Austria. We noticed how the colors of the modern-day German flag (red, yellow, and black) were used on the old Prussian flag.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 13

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Chapter 13 was all about the Sun King of France, none other than Louis XIV. We made masks and talked about Versailles and the man in the iron mask. It was a bit of a crazy story to tell. Maybe I did not explain well, because they had a lot of questions about it.

Versailles Mask

Versailles Mask

A few years back, I watched the famous movie about it with Leonardo di Caprio but I remember some of the action was inappropriate for small children, so we will not be watching that any time soon. Maybe I can look up some books on the subject. Continue reading »

We talked about Versailles and I showed them pictures online. Of course, my daughter and I love the dresses the ladies wore back then. As we were admiring them, my son rolled his eyes. Typical boy, what can I say?

Scary Versailles Mask

Scary Versailles Mask

About the craft: we made these Versailles masks but I could not convince my daughter to accept that the tips go up. She wanted them to go down. Therefore, the mask covered her whole face. Also, if you did not want to do an elastic, you could just glue a popsicle stick to one side of it. Not all balls were fully masked and secretive.

Susan Wise Bauer mentions this as an option as well. They did not necessarily want to hide their identity. It was more of a fun thing to do – keep a mask in one hand and cover your face now and then, depending on the conversation.

The Sun King, of course, was quite a topic. I am not impressed with absolute monarchs and neither are my children. We discussed the divine right of kings – again. It’s important for them to understand why these people behaved this way. As soon as you invoke God’s permission for your actions, you need to tread carefully.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 12

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Chapter 12 covered Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. What a chapter! For some reason, England is always interesting for us to study.

Homemade bread

Homemade bread

We made some bread in the bread machine and talked about the cooking project in the book, a loaf that measures up. Susan Wise Bauer provides a recipe for “easy bread” in the Activity Book. I am curious enough to try it some day, but not right now. I have too many things going. Maybe I will try making it during spring break, which is coming up shortly. Continue reading »

So for all intents and purposes I baked some bread in my trusted bread machine and called it a project. The kids love homemade bread. The house fills with the aroma and we all just feel like we are home. A friend of mine says that a home just does not feel like a home to her unless there is a cat around. I feel the same way about the smell of homemade bread.

Anyway, the kids do not remember the names of the people we study in history – it’s a fact. If we go through this history cycle three times, as SWB recommends it, they probably will. I keep telling myself this is only the first time they encounter these characters. They will have to read about them several times before they finally understand who is who and why they do what they do.

It is a new way of doing things for me, because I learned a lesson by heart and then considered my job as a student done. This is different. Reading and narrating, then hoping things will stick as we go through the cycle again in the next four years… Hmm… it’s all a big adventure, isn’t it?


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 11

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Chapter 11 was all about India and the Mogul emperors there. The craft was not that complicated. We put a couple of stuffed animals in the math balance and tried to see what goods could make them balance.

Foofa on a math balance

The weight of Foofa in costume jewelry and such

The story was that of the young Indian prince whose weight was measured in gold and food which were then given to the poor on his birthday. The kids had fun bringing costume jewelry, marbles and other objects to try to make things balance. Continue reading »

I suppose you could really dive into this activity and transform it into a math activity and other things – a whole unit study in itself about India. The thing is, unit studies do not appeal to me. I would suspect one cannot do a unit study about India either without cooking an Indian dish. Alas, I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate Indian cuisine.

Teddybear in math balance

Teddybear in math balance

I have several Indian friends who have cooked their dishes for me and promised me to tone down the spices. The food was so spicy, I had tears in my eyes as I ate the first couple of forkfuls and then asked to be excused from finishing the rest of my plate. I am sorry, but Indian food is not my thing. I have never liked spicy food to begin with. Ginger and curry are not at all flavors I like, either. There it is.

The kids enjoy looking cities up on the world map. We talked about how large India is – large enough to be called the Indian subcontinent in some contexts. And that was another chapter done.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 10

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Chapter 10 dealt with China and the rise of the Manchu. The kids could not believe how stubborn and self-sufficient the Chinese were.

Girl gets sand from a sandbox

Getting sand from our sandbox

For our craft, we made a Zen garden. Oh, the fun! We have an aluminium pan for our crafts and first my daughter filled it up with sand from the sandbox. Then, they cleaned the sand a bit. Lots of little leaves and pebbles somehow manage to get into our sandbox, despite the lid. Continue reading »

Raking the Zen garden

Raking the Zen garden

Then, I explained to them how to rake it and decorate it with rocks. My children have recently started rock collections and they were very willing to part with three of their rocks for this project.

We talked about the difference between Zen and Christianity. We believe, as Christians, that there is nothing good in us. The heart is desperately wicked, the Bible says. That is why we need a Redeemer and we believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Through faith in Him, we receive eternal life. He lives in our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and so now our hearts are renewed. Our actions reflect this inward change.

Zen garden

Zen garden

With Zen, things are different. Zen believers turn inwardly to achieve peace. Christians reach outside of themselves, to God and His Son, while Zen teaches people to look inside themselves. The kids did not seem to have a problem distinguishing the two principles.

For the record, I have given up on reading the suggested books. Maybe this summer? We are in the home stretch of preparing for the annual standardized test and I seem to have tunnel vision about the 3Rs. We will definitely look at some of the titles suggested by SWB and see if the library can get them for us.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 9

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Chapter 9 deals with the Western War or the Thirty Years’ War. This was a fascinating lesson to me. I had forgotten the details of this war. After all, it has been decades since I studied it in school. Now that I know more about the difference between Catholics and Protestants, I looked at the story in a different light anyway.

Shredded apples

Shredded apples for the Swedish apple cake

First of all, religious wars are sad. We talked about the fact that war may be a necessary evil at times, but it should never start simply because you persecute somebody for their faith. Continue reading »

For our craft, I made a Swedish apple cake according to the recipe in the Activity Book. It was fun and, as usual, I substituted some ingredients for health reasons. No matter how you cut it, one cup of sugar in a cake recipe seems extremely rich. I used some molasses and honey instead of the sugar. I definitely did not use a cup of the sweeteners.

Molasses, coconut oil and honey

Molasses, coconut oil and honey

My suggestion to you it to omit the nutmeg in the recipe. Even though I like nutmeg, it totally seemed to overwhelm the cloves and other ingredients. So skip the nutmeg altogether and make your Swedish apple cake more palatable.

Swedish apple cake

Swedish apple cake

The consistency was more that of a fruit cake – dense and fruity. I was the only one who consumed this apple cake and that’s because I don’t believe in throwing away food. Maybe I went too far with my substitutions? Maybe it is supposed to be that way?

Swedish apple cake in pan

Swedish apple cake in pan

It was edible, especially with a cup of milk nearby, but I am not a picky eater. My children tried it and did not like it. It must have been the nutmeg, but I also think that the name “cake” made them expect something fluffier and softer.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 8

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The Middle of the East or Chapter 8 was all about the Persian puzzle and the Ottoman Turks. Needless to say, I have a great deal to add to the history lessons on the Ottoman Empire, as someone who grew up in Romania. Thanks to our proximity to the Black Sea area, Romanians were always being invaded or threatened to be invaded. For centuries, the Turks were our greatest enemies.

Bridge of four arches

One soldier was enough to make the bridge of four arches bend.

The craft we chose was to build a bridge of four arches. It was not that hard, but it was not easy either. Scotch tape helps but it can be unruly, as I just used scrap paper for the arches, and scrap paper is flimsy. By the way, let us talk about the supplies needed. Typing paper? I had to look that up. Continue reading »

Apparently, that is another name for A4 – the European size for what we call 8 1/2 x 11 or Letter size in America. A4 is slightly longer and wider than Letter size.

The good news is, what you need to cut out of a piece of “typing paper” also fits within a Letter size. So we used some scrap paper, Letter size, and cut out the strips required. This was a great exercise in measuring with a ruler, by the way. If your children need some practice with measuring and using a ruler, there’s your opportunity.

We put them together with tape and then tested them with plastic soldiers. One plastic soldier was OK on it, but two proved too heavy. The kids played with the soldiers as if they were having a battle around the bridge and did not place them on the bridge.