Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 42

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Chapter 42 is the last chapter. It feels rather sad to be done with the Middle Ages. My son said he would like to do it all over again. I told him he was welcome to read the book to himself when he has a moment. He realized he could not talk me into reading it aloud all over again.

Spanish Armada coloring page

Spanish Armada coloring page

By the way, we got our new printer and I was able to print all the necessary coloring pages and maps. What an adventure! We have had the old printer for a decade or so and my husband was ready to upgrade a long time ago. I was not. I am the kind of person who will use a tool until it shreds to pieces or does not function anymore.  Continue reading »

When the printer finally went kaput on me a couple of days ago, I knew this was it. We had to get a new printer/scanner/copier. My husband was very happy to order one for us.

So this last chapter dealt with the kingdoms of Spain and England colliding at sea. King Philip again – this must be the third lesson which refers to his actions. He did get around.

The mention of Sir Francis Drake reminded me of an audio book we had listened to a few years ago and guess what? The kids do not remember it. I have to dig it out so we could listen to it all over again. It would be fun.

I had just enough mental energy left to ask them to color the Spanish armada page and do the map work. We talked about the word armada in Spanish, which is very close to its Romanian equivalent, armata.

The second story was a recap of the XVI century. Ms. Bauer described the whole world, region by region, as she took us on a trip by ship this time. You might remember that we started out by magic carpet. So long, Middle Ages!


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 41

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Chapter 41 deals with more explorations in North America. We learned where the name Canada comes from (kanata, an Iroquoian word) and what it means (village or settlement or land). There were two stories: one about John Cabot and the other about Jacques Cartier. In all honesty, all this was new to me. I love learning alongside my children.

Jacques Cartier coloring page

Jacques Cartier coloring page

Newfoundland or Terre Neuve sounds like a great place to visit one day. I imagine the climate is similar to Sweden, where I lived for three years, so summer would be the best time to plan a trip up there.  Continue reading »

As to Cartier and his treatment of Donnacona, the Native American chief he took to France. Donnacona was the chief of the Hurons, to be exact. Cartier kidnapped him and took him to France, where Donnacona died in captivity.

Ms. Bauer does not glorify colonialism and calls things for what they are. The rough treatment of the natives should not be avoided, though neither should we only dwell on how bad the explorers were. I find that Ms. Bauer struck a very good balance between reporting the facts and not making the explorers look like monsters.

This was, after all, the XVI century and everybody was treating everybody cruelly. Catholics and Protestants, Turks and Germans, peasants and nobility, everybody was fighting somebody and – let’s not forget – when they got prisoners, they really made them suffer.

We colored the portrait of Jacques Cartier, did the map work, and called it a lesson. One more lesson to go.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 40

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Chapter 40 deals with other New World explorations – those ordered and supported by Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Walter Raleigh is featured in the first story, the Lost Colony in the second. As I read to the kids, I teared up at the notion of the first English baby born in the New World – Virginia Dare.

The Lost Colony coloring page

The Lost Colony coloring page

It’s just really touching to know there was a first baby born in the colonies. And what a fitting last name: Dare! What’s even more touching is that we don’t know what happened to her. Don’t you look forward to the day when finally we can solve all these mysteries of times past?  Continue reading »

Our printer decided to stop working just as I was getting ready to print out the maps and coloring pages. What an adventure! Will we be able to finish this history curriculum this week?

I decided to go ahead and continue with reading the last two chapters while we wait for our new printer to arrive. It is going to make it confusing for all parties, but I will not complain. We are almost there and we will get it done.

The children were also touched by the story of the first baby. The following day, they brought her up in a conversation. The second day, the same thing. “Mommy, don’t you want to know what happened to Virginia?” asked my daughter. It’s very real to them. They know we learn about real people and places in history and they take it to heart.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 39

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Chapter 39 deals with England’s Best Playwright – William Shakespeare. For the first time in two years, I chose not to read something from our main book of history (Story of the World). The first story which explains entertainment during Elizabeth’s reign and the details of Shakespeare’s life and career was fine. I read that to them. But the second story was a summary of Macbeth.

William Shakespeare Coloring Page

William Shakespeare Coloring Page

Especially because of my youngest being only six years old, I chose to skip that part. Assassinations and too much revenge, too much description of the bad guy’s feelings of envy, jealousy, greed etc. While I can appreciate Shakespeare genius at capturing the transition from good to evil intents in somebody’s heart, I don’t think children can focus on that. They just get the shock of the violence described.  Continue reading »

My children don’t need those images in front of them at this age. They need positive role models. When they get older, they could handle this as we will talk about consequences for the bad and they could probably handle the dynamics of medieval relationships. But for right now, no Macbeth for us. I am all for teaching Shakespeare in upper grades. I cannot imagine going through life without studying the Bard.

My goal in the lower grades is for them to know who William Shakespeare was, what he was famous for, the definitions of words like tragedy, comedy, historical play, and some of the famous phrases we use today which originated with his plays: to be or not to be, that is the question; a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse; there is something rotten in the state of Denmark etc.

I wondered why Ms. Bauer chose Macbeth. Why not choose a comedy instead? I looked at the passage she suggested the kids memorize and decided that it was way too heavy in content, not to mention the Shakespearean form. It was heavy and depressing even for me. Macbeth’s famous speech about life and death and the foolishness of our existence is enough to depress even a happy camper.

We did the map and they colored the portrait of William Shakespeare and we called it a lesson. Three more chapters to go!


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 38

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Chapter 38 deals with England’s greatest queen: Elizabeth I. Two stories cover her ascension to the throne and then the reign itself. Bauer simplified the plot quite a bit and it’s a good thing, because it is already quite convoluted.

Good Queen Bess Coloring Page

Queen Elizabeth I coloring page

The children retained the details quite well and I don’t know if it’s because the chapter was so clearly laid out or because they are getting older or because simply they paid attention better than other times. Narration went well and so did the questions, though they still don’t answer in full sentences all the time.  Continue reading »

They colored the maps and then the portrait of Queen Elizabeth. This rendering looks quite different compared to the classic portrait of Elizabeth I that we have all seen of her in history books.

I remember watching the movie with Cate Blanchett and being quite touched by the good queen’s dedication to her role in history. I abstained from mentioning the movie to the children because of its rating. But as I looked it up again, I discovered there have been quite a few movies and plays based on her life. Alas, nothing rated G or PG.

The kids heard some new words (litter, canopy, orb) today. They remembered “litter” from The Horse and His Boy. See, that’s why we read literature and history: to learn new vocabulary. It’s gratifying to see they accumulate new words.

The crafts – oh, the crafts in this chapter – left me speechless. Who has the time, the energy? More power to you if you do! As for me, we moved on after coloring and doing the map work. Four more chapters await and then we will have finished this second volume. It’s a great curriculum but it also feels good to know we will be done soon.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 33

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Spain, Portugal, and the New World or Chapter 33 continued the violence theme but from a different perspective. I think it is important for children to understand that Europeans used to look at black-skinned or brown-skinned people as if they were not fully human. Also, that slaves were brought from West Africa and how this was done and why.

Conquistador mask with a pink beard

Conquistador mask with a pink beard

We got a chance to color a conquistador and to learn the word itself. We made a conquistador mask. My daughter was appalled that the mask had a beard. “I’m a girl! How can I wear this with a beard?” she asked. So she colored the beard pink. Problem solved.  Continue reading »

The second story was about Cortes and Montezuma. My son liked it so much, he asked to hear it again. I read the narration paragraph to him. He wasn’t satisfied. I told him I would not read it again, but he could read it to himself later on.

These kids… they will ask for the moon. They push the boundaries over and over again. If you don’t stop and place firm edges to what you are willing to do, they will take away all your energy. Learn to say no. That’s my advice to you. It’s hard, I know, but for your own protection, you have to learn to say no to your kids.

The map work was rather easy. By now they know Portugal was not a part of Spain, but just another country. They understand where West Africa is. This lesson teaches the meaning of “West Indies,” too.

Chapter 33. Done. Check.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 32

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The American Kingdoms or Chapter 32 brought back the challenge of violence. How do you tell small children that the Mayans played a ball game at the end of which the losers were put to death? And if you do tell them, do you tell them how the losers died? Very tricky.

Actually, it’s not that tricky if we divide and conquer this dilemma. Death is part of life and we have already experienced the death of loved ones: one of their friends died last November (still as shocking today as I think about it) and their grandfathers died one year and two years ago respectively.  Continue reading »

So I have no problem with telling them that people die in these history lessons. But how they die, that’s another matter altogether. I have chosen not to tell them how these poor people were killed. You can do whatever you want.

The crafts did not speak to me at all. Maybe also because I am in a hurry to get through this curriculum. Maybe because the one craft I did print out for them, Mayan math, seemed rather involved. First off, I had to learn how the Mayans did math before I could explain it to the kids. Honestly, I was feeling lazy. There, I said it. I was feeling lazy.

So these pages went into their history binders without being done. Is there anything wrong with that? I don’t know. I am the mom. I am the teacher. I decided that they understood quite a bit about the Mayans, the Aztecs and the Incas. Solving this math problem with Mayan figures would not make or break us.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 31

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Chapter 31 dealt with Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and Ferdinand Magellan. What’s not to like? The kids loved it, I loved it. We pretty much stood by the world wall map we have in the living room and, as I read, we followed along the different routes these adventurers took throughout the XIV century.

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One of Columbus’ ships

These true stories of courage, ignorance, dreams of world supremacy, trade routes, and the overpowering desire for Indian spices really capture the imagination of small children and adults alike. I was riveted and I knew these stories already. It’s amazing to remember how little humanity knew about itself just five hundred years ago.  Continue reading »

One thing that was new to me was the point that Amerigo Vespucci wrote more about his travels than Christopher Columbus. That’s why we live in the United States of America and not the United States of Columbia. Amerigo wrote more about his travels. That’s it.

That’s why he became better known at the time than Christopher Columbus. Sure, Columbus landed in North America first. But for the next 10 years he honestly thought he discovered India.

Amerigo Vespucci (also an Italian) decided to travel the routes opened by Columbus’s voyages. But as Vespucci sailed up and down the American coast, he realized, “This is not India. This is a whole new continent.” And he wrote about his travels. More than Columbus.

When a cartographer put together a map of the world a few years later, he called the new continents America because he knew about Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci wrote more about his travels. Period. Columbus wrote some, but not as much.

I told the kids about the Latin expression, “Verba volant, scripta manent.” Spoken words fly away, but what is written remains. Which is why I love publishing, online, offline and everywhere in between. Writing is paramount.

Sweet potatoes baked on aluminium foil

European explorers ate sweet potatoes for the first time as they landed in the New World.

We baked some sweet potatoes for our edible crafts, to remember how the European explorers ate such things for the first time once they landed in Bermuda. The map work was quick and easy and we even unscrambled the words about the different explorers. I had to write it down for them. They were tired by then and what really mattered for me was that they memorized the facts. This is not their writing curriculum.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 29

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African Kingdoms or Chapter 29 contains three stories on Ghana, Mali and Songhay respectively. The kids loved it and I can tell we have crossed into a different phase now. They are more aware of geography. They run to the world map we have hanging on the wall to place these countries from the black-and-white map provided in Story of the World onto the bigger, colorful one on the wall.

Musu Mansa coloring page

Musa Mansa coloring page

Timbuktu was important to share with them. So many Americans use Timbuktu without realizing it is an actual city and it used to be a great center of learning and urban trade in the Middle Ages.  Continue reading »

They also had fun with Musa Mansa. The name seemed silly to them and so they ran with it. Kids like to laugh at silly things and I joined in. They colored the page representing this great sultan and marveled at his pilgrimage to Mecca, with his entourage of 60,000 people. Ah! Where is Mecca? So we looked Mecca up, too.

They really are enjoying these stories. I love their educational value, but I must say my children simply love the stories. They ask for more, as soon as one is over. “I want to know what happens next,” said my daughter as we finished one of these stories.

Are they getting older and expressing themselves better? Or are they falling in love with history? Or is the curriculum getting better? It’s hard to tell. But I know these children are different from the ones I started on Story of the World Volume 1 almost two years ago. And that helps.

Also, my son wanted to learn some more about the Roman Empire. He thinks they invented a lot of things, the Romans. And he mentioned going to the library for a book called “The Librarian Who Measured the Earth.” I told you these kids are changing. We borrowed that book a few years ago and it was not very interesting to them. But when my son spotted it again at the library as one of the books featured on a shelf, it caught his attention.

Lots of crafts provided in this chapter but I just could not get into it. Playing games I have to learn so I can teach them just seems like a lot of work. And we still have a dozen chapters to finish, plus a couple more summer camps to attend and Chronicles of Narnia to read, and violin and piano lessons and daily practice. I would also like to make it to the pool more often this summer. And did I mention I would like to do some canning and start a more serious gardening effort? Now if only this patch of rainy weather would go away…


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 28

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The kingdoms of Spain and Portugal are covered in chapter 28 and the kids really enjoyed the lesson. Our son loves explorations and Henry the Navigator really impressed him. The saga of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile captured the imagination of both our children. Who needs fiction when history is so full of amazing stories, right?

Ferdinand and Isabella paper dolls

Ferdinand and Isabella paper dolls

We need more writers who can put these stories into great books for little children. However, you will always run into the problem of violence and how to depict it for children while staying historically accurate. For instance, Susan Wise Bauer totally skipped over the Inquisition in this chapter. She put a note at the end of the chapter about her concern over the topic and young children.  Continue reading »

Well, I can totally understand that. And yet, there are so many other violent incidents in history that Story of the World does not shy away from. Tough choices. Glad I don’t have to make them.

So there were two lessons, one on Ferdinand and Isabella, the other one on Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese explorations of the West African coast. We decided building our own compass was too much work. But, it turns out, my son already understood the principle behind the magnetic needle always pointing north. How does he know all this?

He has a mind geared for science and technology. He has read a lot about the earth, the magnetic fields, the north and south poles etc. Plus I guess I might have done a few things with him in science. I guess. I’m kidding. I don’t guess. I know we have covered a lot of ground in science, which is why he has always scored really, really high in science on his standardized tests. Well, I’m just happy he’s got a scientific mind.

The map again was cause for celebration, as I realized they understand where things are. They ran between the wall map of the world and the map for this chapter and we looked at the coast of Africa and how the Portuguese never made it to South Africa.

At the end of the day, when I tuck them in, I ask each of them what their high point of the day was, as well as their low point. My son said reading about Henry the Navigator was the high point of his day. Wow! That’s one for the books.