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 6

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The last time I blogged about Story of the World and our adventures in history was in October. That does not mean we have done done history. In fact, today we covered chapter 34. I suppose you can say I’m a bit behind in blogging about SOTW. My apologies. I will do my best to recount our efforts and catch up in the next couple of months.

Chapter 6 dealt with new colonies in the new world: Plymouth Plantation and New Amsterdam. For our craft, we made cornbread based on the recipe provided in the Activity Book – an original Wampanoag recipe with modern ingredients.

Wampanoag Cornbread

Wampanoag Cornbread

I modified the recipe a bit: soy milk instead of “milk,” vegetarian margarine (we like Smart Balance) instead of “margarine,” and honey instead of sugar. The one egg needed in the recipe can be replaced with Egg Replacer, of course. Even with all the substitutions, the cornbread came out well and everybody enjoyed it. I made some vegetarian chili and a cabbage salad and that was our lunch.

The kids loved to hear the story of The Mayflower all over again. We have covered it every year around Thanksgiving and they remembered some bits. The thing is, I don’t harp so much on dates and details. Maybe I should. The way I learned history was dry and fact-oriented and I want them to get into history through the avenue of a story.

Continue reading »

I had good history teachers, but the way they taught us was via a textbook. Here are the five reasons why the peasant revolts happened in 1907; memorize the years when King Stephen the Great reigned; now list the seven outcomes of World War II. I never understood why people got interested in history. What was the big deal?

Cornbread in pan

Cornbread in pan

Well, now that I am older, I look at history differently – as a story. I think that Susan Wise Bauer inspired me in that way, but I grew into this experience organically, through my fascination with royalty and by watching period dramas like ‘Downton Abbey’ and, more recently, ‘Victoria.’

You get the story and then you start asking questions about the people, the times, the inventions, and the government of the era. You get answers by Googling, by looking things up in a history encyclopedia, by listening to music from that time, by buying a history magazine etc. And then you know more about what happened and why. You discover you love history because it is so fascinating to hang on to the story.

That’s my strategy with the kids and I think it works because my son declares he loves history. My daughter – not so much, but she is still young. When my son was my daughter’s age, he was OK with history, but he would not declare his love for it.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 4

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Chapter 4 in The Story of the World Volume 3 deals with the struggle to look for a Northwestern passage. Hudson and Champlain are the main heroes of the two stories in the chapter. I did not exactly have the milk cartons required to make the craft boat – we drink non-dairy milk which comes in a totally different shaped-carton.

LEGO friends in a boat

Floating cakes of ice during the search for a northwestern passage. Yes, LEGO friends in the boat…

So I set the kids on an adventure with LEGO people and boats. We used white LEGO bricks as the floating cakes of ice mentioned in the stories, an expression which made them laugh. Cakes of ice? They kept repeating it. This is why we read extensively. They learn new ways to use words and to put them together.  Continue reading »

They barely colored and I did not insist. They have been coloring a lot of history sheets lately and we don’t need to drive this activity into the ground.

The best moment for me during the history class was when my daughter heard Hudson wanted to sail to India by going over the top of the earth. “Wait!” she started. “The top of the earth?” Her eyes thoughtfully rested on my eyes for a quiet second. And then she burst out, “He is going to Santa!”

I laughed for a few minutes. We all did. She started explaining how she connected things in her mind. “The top of the earth is the North Pole. That’s where Santa lives! Hudson is going to Santa!”

I made a point to remind them their violin teacher lives in Quebec. They should tease her about the first colonists being beggars and convicted criminals. They said they might mention it. I also asked them, “Should we not be thankful that all these explorers have gone before us? Our lives are so comfortable now here in North America. These people sacrificed everything in order to find a way toward global trade.” They appeared thoughtful, so hopefully some realization of our blessed stated is sinking in.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 2

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The second chapter of volume three had two stories about Protestant Rebellions: first in the Netherlands, then in Scotland. We got introduced to the many times over great-grandfather of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who reigns today with his lovely Argentinian wife, Maxima. The royal couple have three cute daughters and he is the second youngest reigning European monarch.

William The Silent Coloring Page

William The Silent Coloring Page

But let me not get carried away with modern-day monarchs. Back to their ancestors. So William of Orange or William I, or William the Silent, or William the Taciturn are one and the same person – the ancestor of the monarchy of the Netherlands. He was a Protestant who lived in a Catholic world until he could not take it anymore and he lead some serious rebellions against the Catholic king of his country.  Continue reading »

From the Netherlands, we moved to Scotland, where we got introduced to the parents of King James I, of KJV Bible translation fame. Queen Mary of Scotland returned a widow from France, where she had been sent to grow up and get educated. She got remarried to Lord Darnley and they had Baby James who was destined to become King James I of Great Britain and Ireland.

I could talk about monarchy all day but this is not a history encyclopedia. It’s a blog post about how our children interacted with this history lesson. First off, there were beheadings in both stories; mentioned, not described. Even so, it was shocking to the six-year-old, who was coloring Queen Mary. She asked several times if she was coloring the lady who got beheaded in the story. She was very sad for her.

Secondly, they enjoyed the story but it was rather hard to keep all the details straight. I don’t expect them to, at their age. Again, we are simply introducing an approximate timeline, names, places, concepts – history gives everybody a foundation. I even gave up on narration for this chapter.

History repeats itself and if we don’t know it, we are bound the repeat the mistakes of the past. Homeschooling allows us to not repeat the mistakes of our educational past, for instance, right? We remember what it was like going to school and being bullied or misunderstood. I remember how traumatic sixth grade was for me socially – and I was one of the good students in the class.

I showed them pictures of the kilt-making craft but we did not make one. I don’t have Scottish ancestry and I do not want my son to wear a kilt any time soon. To make one for my daughter seemed bizarre, so no kilt craft for us. But it sure explained a lot about the way the clans chose their colors and patterns.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 6

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Chapter 6 deals with the rise of Islam. We worked on the craft first. I definitely did not want to make an oasis scene with all the candy recommended, so I was glad they provided a low-sugar version. Even so, I decided that we could use LEGO bricks for the camel, since we did not have animal crackers.

Camel and bedouin in an oasis

Camel and bedouin in an oasis

The kids got into it when I told them to build me some palm trees.

Oasis craft

Putting the oasis together

I prepared the sand by crushing up some old wheat crackers in a zip lock bag, with a rolling pin.

I made "sand" by crushing wheat crackers

I made “sand” by crushing wheat crackers

They surprised me by adding a mini-figure to the scene. The water was aluminium foil, which I kept in place with double tape. Maybe it should have been something blue, like in the sugared up version of the scene, but aluminium works too, as it reflects light the way a body of water does.

Bedouin on camel coloring sheet

Bedouin on camel coloring sheet; can you tell which one was colored by my kindergartner?

As I read the stories to them, they colored the bedouin on his camel (coloring sheet provided in the Activity Book). Then, I asked them the review questions. Finally, we worked on the map. It’s very tempting to do it all. But I decided this was enough for this chapter. There are three other activities recommended in the book, for those who do not have the book.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 of SOTW Volume 2 deals with the British Isles as they got invaded by Anglo-Saxons. There are two stories in the chapter, one being the one about Beowulf.

We worked on coloring Beowulf and did the map work. I also printed out the brooch design for them to color. We were supposed to make brooches for their Celtic cloaks, but we gave up. Sometimes you just have to say, we have read, we have colored, we have worked on the map, we are done. Nothing bad will happen to you if you don’t do a craft for history.

Beowulf coloring page

Beowulf colored by my five-year-old

I just want to send this message out there into the blogosphere. I am not super mom. I don’t do everything required in a history curriculum. This marks an important step in my homeschooling journey, as I am naturally inclined to dot every i and cross every t. But, with everything else we have going on this summer, I have to organize my priorities and some things have to go.

We can run around trying to do so many things and then we end up close to burnout before the school even started. Summer can be a bit too busy, I think. And I am not even doing everything I thought would be nice to try.

Speaking of requirements, one book per week to read from the suggested list is enough. I heard it from the mouth of this curriculum’s creator, Susan Wise Bauer herself.

Celtic brooch materials

Celtic brooch materials all ready to go… before I gave up

So take heart, homeschooling mom, you are not the only one cutting corners. Some days are low energy, other days are just full of so much to do. You may want to tackle it all, but something has to give. Again, nothing bad will happen if we don’t do a craft for every chapter in our history book. Can you tell I am actually writing this for my own benefit?


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 15

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The Ancient Phoenicians, chapter 15, has been a convoluted chapter for us. First off, I remembered Carthage from when I studied Ancient History in the fifth grade and I looked forward to it. But we went skiing instead, as a family, the day we were supposed to cover this chapter.We called it a P.E. day.

Secondly, every time I tried to play the chapter in the car, to make up for lost time, the kids did not show an interest. I did not have the energy to enforce learning time (car schooling). It does take energy, at least for me, and some days I have it in limited supplies.

Thirdly, the weather has made the roads so bad, the library has had irregular hours and they have not been able to procure my ILL titles to read about this chapter this week.

Stack of history books

Our stack of 12 books from the library, to catch up on our history reading

But we persevered, despite more seeming setbacks.

The other day I got a screw in one of my car tires, and spent two hours in a mechanic’s waiting room. They were super busy because, as fate would have it, two of their guys quit that day. They did not charge me anything for patching the tire, because of my wait. I insisted I wanted to at least pay for their expenses. I told the shop owner I understand “overhead” and that I feel bad for not paying for something. He said he felt bad I had to wait for two hours.

Well, I had brought my knitting with me and it was not a total loss of my time. Of course, I was there with the kids. My son had brought a LEGO magazine to read and my daughter had her Hello Kitty coloring book and crayons.

Something happened inside of me while waiting there. On the way home, despite their protests, I told them gently that we would listen to Chapter 15 after all; that it was a short chapter and, afterwards, we would listen to Wizzy Gizmo, which was their initial request. They love Wizzy Gizmo… but we need to do our history lessons as well. And we did. I have said it before, these CDs are worth it.

When the library finally called me that they had my ILL titles, I drove over there and brought home 12 titles from our previous lessons. We are catching up with reading from previous chapters.

One project I want to do for the Phoenician chapter is the bread recipe, but there is no way I can do it this week. I have to prepare my daughter’s birthday party on Sunday.


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 14

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Chapter 14 deals with the life of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt. The kids knew the story from their Bible lessons. This was very good reinforcement though.

I read while they colored. We made a Moses basket. Well, I made it. They painted it. Team effort, right?

It was not exactly easy, but I persevered. I know what you are thinking, that I have too much time on my hands. The thing is, I take time for things that matter. And the story of Moses is very dear to my heart – God used this story to speak to me about homeschooling a few years ago.

For some reason, gold paint really appeals to my children. Continue reading »

I gave in and let them paint it gold. We decided not to seal it with polyurethane, as we did not plan on putting the basket in water.

We laminated the sheet about the 10 plagues and covered it with the stickers provided. I found out that even if you get the right Avery labels, they are not removable. My son decided he did not want his stickers to overlap, so he used the back of the laminated worksheet, as well.

I read the passages from Exodus as directed while they colored and cut their stickers. My son is the proud owner of an NIrV Bible for children and I was glad to read from it, so that the language may be more accessible to both of them.

The 10th plague was tough. I avoided saying it in my own words. I let the Bible speak for itself. My daughter, 4, said, “So no girls died.” My son told me afterwards he did not want to hear anymore about people dying. I intend to leave the subject of death on the shelf for a long time. With the passing of his two grandfathers in the past year, my son has been quite affected by the darkness of death.

We will skip over the diorama simply because I have no action figures to put in and no desire to get more little toys around the house. There used to be this great wooden set of Exodus figurines on Etsy, but alas it is no longer available. That would have been perfect. Oh well…


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 9

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The First Cities of India was a delightful chapter. We listened to it in the car on the way to an appointment. The kids were intrigued by the story of the quail. A week later, I played the chapter again on another trip.

They colored their maps. I chose not to have them color the ceremonial mask. It looks a little scary.

Map Work SOTW

My daughter with her mapwork for Ancient India

My daughter colored the picture of the statue from Mohenjo-Daro, but my son did not. I am beginning to see a pattern here. I really don’t like to enforce coloring for a boy who is into drawing more than coloring. So I let it go.

We made little bricks out of air-drying clay and let them dry overnight.

Rolled Out Clay

Rolled Out Clay

Because I did not press their corners down, the bricks dried up with one or two corners tipped up, which made them unstackable. Oh well… I guess we can recycle them into math manipulatives.

Air-Dry Clay Bricks

Air-Dry Clay Bricks

But I have to say, this project would have been daunting, requiring a lot of patience. The bricks are really thin and it would take a lot of them to build a whole village. Just my $.02.

Air-Dry Clay

Air-Dry Clay

We enjoy our history lessons, but other things get in the way. We will have to catch up in the next semester. But if the next semester happens to be just as busy as this one, we will have to finish our history curriculum during the summer. We homeschool year round anyway.