Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 24

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Chapter 24 deals with Captain Cook’s voyages and the beginnings of Australia as a British colony. Since we just finished “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” the kids were already somewhat familiar with the name “Captain Cook” and the whole idea of explorations. It was a happy coincidence that our literature selection and our history lesson overlapped in a way.

Boy looking through telescope

My son looking for Venus after sundown

I am more interested in the reading comprehension questions now, as the nationally standardized test is coming up in six weeks. There will be lots of reading comprehension items on that test and I want the kids to learn how to approach their texts.  Continue reading »

If the questions are really easy, I direct the question to my second grader. She sits with us in history and loves to color and do the maps. She also loves the crafts, if any. But until recently she did not show an interest in answering the questions. As she grows and matures, I also want to challenge her to answer in full sentences and to scour the text for the right answer.

The other exercise that I did not emphasize before but on which I insist now is narration. My son gets lost in the details and has a hard time summarizing a text into three sentences. So we work on that skill at the end of the history lesson. I give him the examples given in the book if he does not know how to do it, or I correct him as he goes along and starts giving too many details.

Looking through the telescope

Looking through the telescope

For our activity, we chose to look at planet Venus one evening, after the sun set. We were leaving the house to go to tae kwon do, which should explain why my son is wearing what he is wearing in the picture. The moon was out, but no sign of Venus.

We looked around the moon through the telescope, but we could not find Venus. Later on, after tae kwon do, Venus was out and I just don’t have the right camera to capture it. But we spotted it and thought about Captain Cook and his secret mission.

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.

Chinese New Year Books

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In the past, the kids and I have marked the Chinese New Year with a paper craft. This year, I came across a series of books about Chinese history and thought we might just change the pace a bit. One in particular interested me because it talked about how the Great Wall of China came to be. “The Emperor Who Built The Great Wall” tells the story of the first emperor of China, who not only built the Great Wall, but is also famous for the terracotta warriors in his tomb, and for unifying China when it previously consisted of seven states.

To celebrate Chinese New Year, the author, Jillian Lin, has made this book available for free on Amazon, on February 19-20, 2015. Here’s the link. I hope you use it and download it, especially if you are studying ancient history this year. We found the book informative and easy to read and understand. The illustrations are Chinese-style, so it will be a total immersion in all things China.

The Emperor Who Built The Great Wall

For Chinese New Year, we read some books on ancient Chinese history

The kids actually asked me to read it again. At the end of the story, there is a very informative section called “Did You Know?” which contains even more historical facts presented in a short and sweet way. Then, you get to test their knowledge with a series of multiple-choice questions based on the book. You only have three choices: a, b, and c, which I think is better for younger children.  Continue reading »

For my kids, it was a learning experience through and through. We located China on a world map, we saw who were the northern tribes invading (Mongolia), and we learned that when both a. and b. are correct answers, we choose “c. all of the above.”

My son has a standardized test coming up in a month or so – his first ever. So this book made for a great preparation.

I would have only one word of caution: ancient history is rather violent, so use discretion. The story mentions an assassination attempt. There is one paragraph about how the emperor used to put his enemies to death. I did not read that paragraph to my children. Definitely preview this book before sharing it with a younger audience.

The other book I read to the kids is about Hua Tuo, the Miracle Doctor. As you can see there are other books in the series, coming out throughout 2015.

I received both books for free in exchange for my honest review. No other form of remuneration has been exchanged. The links in this post are my Amazon affiliate links: at no extra cost to you, I receive a small percentage of the sale price.


Jillian Lin’s social media links and online presence are as follows:

Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 13

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Chapter 13 deals with The New Kingdom of Egypt. The kids colored the map and the mask of Tut while I read the first two stories. I asked if they could handle two more stories and they said yes. So I finished the chapter in that one sitting. The following day, my son brought his coloring pages to Daddy and told him about the Valley of the Kings and how it is full of tombs etc. I praised him for his narration, which I had not even requested.

That’s one thing I learned: when the chapter is long and we do it in one sitting, they do not want to answer review questions or to do a narration. They are ready to get away from the table and play! So I will have to work on reviewing this lesson later this week.

I asked if they wanted to make a monument and read the paragraph which explains it could be about somebody who died, a toy, an activity they enjoy or whatever. My son said he wanted to make a monument to Papaw – my husband’s father, who passed away one year ago. My children both were affected greatly by his passing and the concept of death became real to them then.

Bread and Glue

Bread and Glue

So we took bread and glue and proceeded to mix them together as indicated. It required white bread, which we never buy – we like whole wheat bread. My daughter, who is almost five, saw how messy and sticky this exercise was, and told me she did not want to build a monument.

Ball of glue and white bread

Ball of glue and white bread

Instead, she wanted to try the white bread. She ate a slice and loved it so much, she grabbed a second slice. Then, she asked for a third and a fourth, in a PBJ. I am always happy to see her eat, so I obliged, after we finished our monument and we washed our hands very well.  Continue reading »

Flattened ball of bread and glue

Flattened ball of bread and glue

My son gave up on his monument at this point. His hands were super sticky and covered with patches of sticky bread. He did not know how to flatten the ball of glue and bread. So he went to wash his hands. I was determined to make a monument. If somebody had told me 10 years ago that I would write a sentence like “I was determined to make a monument” in order to describe a homeschooling moment at our house, I would have told them that they were crazy.

Rectangle cut out of clay

I cut a rectangle out of that irregular shape, with the blunt edge of a knife.

So a monument I made, based on my son’s original plan. My son came back and declared himself happy with it. He wants it to dry first and then he will paint it gold – he loves that gold paint!

UT Monument to Papaw

UT Monument to Papaw

Since Papaw was a UT Vols fan, I used a plastic plate as a base for this monument. I could not bend it any more without breaking it, but it had just enough curvature to stand on its own. I did use the extra pieces (which I had cut out to obtain the rectangle) as reinforcements in the front and in the back.

It actually looks a bit like marble. But if you removed the crust of the bread slices, you would not get as much dark brown spots. The instructions did not say to remove the crust, so I had not.

Gold Paint Monument

Gold Paint Monument Craft

A few days later, my son painted it gold and it looked even better. What do you think?

Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 12

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Chapter 12 deals with the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. I read to them while they colored the brooch pictures. To my surprise, it really worked. I thought maybe it was just a fluke last time. But it really works. Coloring keeps them focused and they listen while I read.

We worked through the review questions and tried our best to narrate. Let’s just say, it’s a work in progress. But we shall not give up…

For our craft, we made gold color bracelets. Big mess, but worth it. My son enjoyed it so much, he decided to paint his hand and do a hand print in gold paint.

Painting a gold bracelet

Painting a gold bracelet


Gold Hand Print

Gold Hand Print

I discovered that the tube of tissue paper is impossible to cut the way they recommended in the book (first in half, then lengthwise). At least, for me, it was impossible. I found it easier to cut it first lengthwise and then in half.  Continue reading »

The only trouble was, once we painted our bracelets, they lost their curve. They got too straight. Once the paint dried up, only one out of three could still be used as a bracelet and I could not tell you why and how that happened. Oh well. It’s not like we were going to put them on every day…

For our activity project, we burned incense. It was interesting and brought back childhood memories of Easter services in the Romanian Orthodox Church. The only difference was that this incense really smelled like fragrance more than regular incense. I got this set from Amazon and it had different colors and different smells. By the time we were done, our home smelled like a cacophony of fragrances and we had to open the windows despite the cold outside.

Burning Incense

Burning Incense

Colorful Incense

Colorful Incense

If you need incense, by the way, I will hook you up. This set included a few too many and I don’t see us using it for anything else in the future.

The mapwork was a bit confusing, just like the general line of the stories. But we got through it all and are now ready for the next chapter.

Story of the World, Volume 1, Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 of Story of the World Volume 1 is called “Egyptians Lived on the Nile River.” It would be really easy to spend three months on this chapter. We spent almost three weeks.

I read the first section to them, “Two Kingdoms Become One,” and we looked at our wall world map to locate Egypt and the Nile river. We did the map work recommended, Student Page 6. With that fresh in mind, we built a model of the Nile according to the directions given in the Activity Book. My Egyptians got very sow-happy with the grass seed, as you can see from the picture.

Nile River Model

Our Nile River Model, Day 1. I should probably take pictures in three weeks, too.

We read “The Longest River” as a substitute book for “The Nile River,” but it seemed extremely dry and boring. I’m all for nonfiction books. Yet, my children just could not get excited about this one. Not all nonfiction books are created equal, obviously.  Continue reading »

What I learned through this switch is that, if my library does not have a particular title, I may have to buy it. The library’s “equivalent” may be free, but we may not get anything out of it, either.

The Nile River Map

Map Work

It helps that during our Bible class/devotional we are working through Old Testament stories. Egypt gets mentioned again and again. The idolatry, the abundance of water and crops, etc.

So I made the connection for them with the Nile. I think it gives the kids a better understanding of our history lessons. I really like linking our subjects through the backbone of history.

One other craft I found cute and easy to make, relatively speaking, is a pharaoh’s headdress inspired by this blog.

Pharaoh's Headdress

My daughter wearing the headdress we put together.

I read the second section to them a few days later – “Gods of Ancient Egypt.” My son said he enjoyed the story. A few days passed before I asked him to color the Osiris and Set coloring page. He remembered the story and told me the plot in one sentence. I did not even have to ask him.

These narration exercises are interesting to me because sometimes I have to ask him questions to get him to talk about the story, while other times I don’t need to do anything. He just starts talking about it and gives me the story in a nutshell.

We also read Egyptian Gods and Goddesses and found it rather creepy. The kids were almost afraid of some of the pictures in there. We did not read it again. Usually, we read books several times. Not this one.

Osiris and Set

My son chose to color only the coffin. I thought it was a great way to summarize the story and emphasize the main idea.

As you can tell, I am still getting used to the whole teaching process. There are so many things to prepare and so many manipulatives to bring out. Then, the lesson itself happens super fast. My children move on to other things and I am left to clean up the mess. We went outside on the patio to prepare the Nile river model. The sandbox is on the patio, too. As soon as we flooded the Nile and watered the grass seed, the kids moved on to the sand box. I was happy, because my other goal was for them to play outside after we finished history. So it worked out.

I am explaining this lest my readers think I have it all figured out and brim with self-confidence. I don’t. It’s OK to tackle this homeschooling thing with butterflies in your stomach. It really is.

As you can tell from his map work and coloring page, I don’t require perfection. He is only six and I accept his best effort and praise him for it. Just because we study ancient history in the first grade and lean towards classical education does not mean we are perfectionists.

Story of The World, Volume 1, Introduction

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Story Sunday is a new series on Homeschool Ways – a series about how we learn from Story of the World, Volume 1 in our homeschool.

I will link up regularly to SOTW Blog Roll 2014, which, by the way, offers a number of inspirational blog posts from many other families using this history curriculum.  Continue reading »

We use mostly library books for the suggested reading titles, but we bought the four recommended history encyclopedias. I have a card in three different libraries within our county. Since I don’t want to spend time pulling books off the shelves in three different locations, I learned how to place reserves online. Then, I had to call them to find out if they call me when the books are ready for me at the Circulation Desk.

Mom and son digging for an archaeology study

We dug a hole for our artifacts.

It’s a good thing I called. It turns out that at least one of the libraries has gotten pretty tired with people placing reserves and never picking up the books. They were even questioning if they should remove that option from their website. I assured them that I would show up. 🙂

It’s details like this one that can make homeschooling smooth or bumpy. I like smooth, don’t you? So I communicate as much as I can with all the parties involved.

For the Introduction, I read the whole chapter to my children in one sitting and we built a timeline of their lives – pictures of themselves at different ages, taped on poster board.

I should have read only one section at a time. The Introduction is pretty theoretical, even though Ms. Bauer uses a story line to explain her points. I lost the kids towards the end, but it’s all good. That’s how I can learn where their limitations are.

My daughter is only four – a PreK student or, if you will, a K4 student. As such, she sits with us through the reading time, but I will not require her to build a history notebook. I do print out the coloring pages and maps for her and she likes coloring them.

Archaeology Booklet

I also plan to involve her in our projects, if she is interested. Today, for instance, she came and helped with cleaning the artifacts, the shovels, and the boots – of her own free will. Then she asked me to sit with her “in school” and tell her how things get covered up. So some things do stay with her and she wants reassurance that I will give her attention when she needs to really grasp a new concept.

I am sharing all these details because I really was not sure whether I should start history with a first grader, let alone a K4 student. And yet, I see that their minds are able to grasp things. Since I don’t require perfection, they don’t get stressed out. This history study is more about having fun doing hands-on projects together, while being exposed to names, concepts, vocabulary and a time frame for the world around us.

We read the suggested literature titles at night, before bedtime, during our regular read-aloud routine. They really got into these, because they are picture books.

Bou hauling tools to a dig site, red wagon hitched to his bike

My son hauling tools to the dig site, red wagon hitched to his bike

Next, we got started on the family tree booklet. My son will interview different family members as we have contact with them in the next few weeks. My family lives overseas and we Skype regularly, but you never know when we catch up with each other.

For the review and narration exercises, I printed out a booklet I found on one of the SOTW blogs I mentioned above. Since my son cannot write comfortably yet, I work with him orally and then I write down what he narrates back to me.

He wasn’t as excited about these pen-and-paper exercises as he was about our archaeological dig. We buried some artifacts in our backyard – things which would tell others about our civilization (a spoon, keys, a cell phone battery, a particle board, a pen, a plastic toy).

My son loved digging and burying the “artifacts.” We waited a few days and then we dug them all back up.

So far, I have noticed that he learns best if his whole body is engaged – like digging, riding his bicycle, and towing our red wagon which he filled up with shovels and boundary markers.

But something has to trigger interest before he even gets there. The book that turned the switch on for him was Archaeologists Dig for Clues. It had pictures and he could see what in the world I am talking about. He is very visual, not just kinesthetic.

Boy digging an archaeological site

My son digging at our archaeological site, which I made into a grid with four skewers and yarn.

Last but not least, I realized the importance of repetition, especially for new vocabulary and concepts. He only got the definition of history and archaeology after we repeated it over a few days. So I ordered the SOTW Vol. 1 CDs. We will listen to them in the car as we commute to different activities.

Muddy keys on a blue sieve

The first “artifact” we found: two keys on a ring. This ancient civilization believed houses must be locked to be protected. Fascinating!

On the Facebook group for SOTW Vol. 1 users, many people rave about listening to the CDs and how much it has helped them. Bonus: you get to hear the pronunciation of all these ancient names mentioned in the book. The activity guide includes a great pronunciation guide, but one can never be too sure when it comes to foreign names.

I created a Pinterest Board with all the cool projects I find online and might want to do when the time comes. I will add to it as I study and plan my lessons.

In conclusion, we are excited to delve into the study of history!  How are you tackling history this year in your homeschool?

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