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 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.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 1

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Here we go again. Another school year means we go on with history. It’s hard to believe, but we have reached the year 1600 in our studies. On our first day of school this year, we read Chapter 1 of Volume 3 in Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer.

Story of the World Volume 3

Story of the World Volume 3

 

I don’t know why the layout is slightly different but it does not matter. It’s the same basic format:

  • I read a chapter out loud from the main book, which contains the actual “stories”
  • They color a picture which I copy from the Activity Book
  • We work on the map provided for that chapter in the Activity Book
  • We do a craft suggested, if I feel up to it
  • We read a suggested title, optional

Continue reading »

This first lesson was a bit longer, because I read the Introduction and then Chapter 1, which had two stories. But they liked it.

And, truth be told, as soon as they saw the new curriculum and realized it was “history,” they started squealing for joy. A homeschooling mom’s dream come true: children who love to learn.

My six-year-old gets bored at times through longer chapters. And, lately, she has embraced two expressions: “I don’t get it” and “I can’t.” Well, I told her I will not accept “I can’t” and that’s the end of that conversation. She may say, “This is hard,” or “It sounds challenging” but not “I can’t.”

Two other teachers in her life tell her the same thing: her violin teacher and her tae kwon do instructor. So I am on the same page with other adults in her life and hopefully we can get her out of that habit.

When she says “I don’t get it,” I stop and explain. But I noticed that she does get it. She just says it because she thinks it is a cool thing to say. I am not sure where she picked it up (a book? a movie?). But we are working on fixing it and yes, history is one area where she uses it.

The first chapter was a bit convoluted. We had lots of opportunities to get lost in the story. So I just stopped and repeated what she was missing and we moved on.


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.


Tuesday Tome Week 18 – Madame Bovary

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I read Madame Bovary painstakingly. It took me longer than a week because I had to put it down over and over again. I was not sure I could finish it. It pains me to see characters – especially women – making foolish mistakes again and again. When I finally came to about 80% of the book, – yes, I read it on my Kindle – I started enjoying it. Why? Because Emma Bovary was finally hitting rock bottom.

Madame Bovary

I don’t like reckless behavior, whether in real life or in literary fiction. I understand why Susan Wise Bauer included this novel in her list of 32 best novels to read from Western literature. It is the first novel chronologically which puts an end to Romanticism and starts Realism as a current in literature.

Gustave Flaubert shocked many people with the realistic depictions of every day life and the adultery Madame Bovary engaged in while married to Charles Bovary, a country doctor in Yonville, France. Flaubert even got sued over the book, which shocked the sensibilities of many in the 19th century.

Continue reading »

Anyway, I am glad I read it because (1) I read it in French, in the original, and I saw it as a way to practice my French; (2) now I can tell you about it; (3) I can keep going down the list in The Well-Educated Mind without feeling like I skipped over something; (4) it is always good to finish what you start.

And (5), I found several pearls – any book has them, you just have to be willing to look for them. The pharmacist was one of the few characters who ends well by the time the story is over. He said a few things and just the way he was, the way Flaubert described him, I gained insight into somebody I know – we won’t mention any names.

So Emma Bovary reads too many romantic novels for her own good and wants to live her life on an emotional high. The daughter of a farmer, she gets sent to a Catholic convent for education. As a Protestant, I have never thought sending children to a Catholic school is a good idea and this book proves it – and this 200 years ago! Of course, we are dealing with fiction, but art imitates life most of the time.

The books we read and what we make of them can really influence our thinking. No wonder many Puritanical educators do away with fiction altogether. They don’t know how to handle them or how to teach them to their children.

Our heroine Emma Rouault marries Dr. Bovary, a widower, and becomes completely disgusted with her husband because he is not refined. She craves expensive goodies and launches into not one but two affairs (not simultaneously) with men who could not have been more different from each other. The woman is confused to say the least and ends her own life in the most horrible way, by eating arsenic. Her daughter becomes an orphan not long after that, as Dr. Bovary dies of a broken heart once he finds Emma’s love correspondence with the two men – although he told one of the men that he did not hate him.

So what’s the good in such a novel? First of all, the form. Flaubert invented the art of telling it like it is – a reaction against the Romantic novels up until that time. It is not by accident that Emma’s sad life and tragic end are caused by reading romantic novels. Secondly, if you can read it in French, it would help you tremendously. Don’t stop to look up every word you don’t know. As long as you can get the gist of what is happening, move on. Thirdly, read it so you can count yourself warned – adultery and living beyond your means never take you down a good path. At least Flaubert did not reward Emma by letting her live on and somehow glorifying her mistakes.

For me, “tout à coup” remains the main expression I learned after reading Madame Bovary. I saw it many, many times throughout the book. I should have counted it. Glad it’s over though.


Tuesday Tome Week 6 – Jane Eyre

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Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a masterpiece. No wonder then that of all the things the Bronte sisters wrote, Susan Wise Bauer included only Jane Eyre into her list of 32 novels produced by the Western world since the genre was created, around the 1600s. Jane is way ahead of her time. She makes herself the equal of a man (a wealthy gentleman, too) – great feat in 1847! – through conversation and wit and attitude.

Jane Eyre

But Jane Eyre is more than just an early feminist. She is a Christian who is grappling with injustice, hypocrisy, delusion, and missionarism in the people around her. Some have said this book is anti-Christian because of characters like Mr. Brocklehurst and St John Rivers. These men seem more like caricatures, but have you not met hypocritical characters in your local congregation? Have you not met exalted young missionaries who are deluded into thinking they are doing God and the world a favor through their daily sacrifices? I know I have met my fair share of such people. So this book spoke to me on a very personal level.  Continue reading »

I have also enjoyed reading the development of Jane herself. This book is written as an autobiography, so we hear Jane speak in the first person. She takes us on a journey about her life from the time she was 10 until her late 20s.

And then, there is the love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester. I will not give away much of the plot, but suffice it to say that it is fascinating. Personally, I have never liked men my father’s age in a romantic way. But I know several women who enjoyed relationships with men who were older by 13-25 years. In that aspect, I did not “get” Jane. Everything else about the evolution of their relationship though was very believable and I could come to terms with.

I liked how Charlotte Bronte described the landscape and the rest of the characters. I enjoyed looking into the metaphors hidden in the names of the different places Jane stayed at: from Lowood to Ferndean, the author hid a message and a description in each location name.

This has been such a powerful book, I need a break from fiction for the next week, so that I can still bask in the atmosphere of Jane’s universe while I read a nonfiction book.

By the way, I watched the 1970 production of Jane Eyre, which is available for free on Amazon Prime, but did not like it very much. A lot was left out of the book – big chunks, which gave a lot of insight into the development of Jane’s thoughts and feelings. Several things were changed from the book, to fit a simpler plot. It is really not worth your time unless you want to have a visual of what some of the scenes might look like – and even then, would you not like to stick to what your mind imagined by reading the book?

This movie is definitely not a replacement for reading the book. Oh, and you can get Jane Eyre free on Kindle. Your local library probably carries it too, in the Classics section.


The Well-Educated Mind

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When I purchased my copy of The Well-Trained Mind three years ago, I thought I would never be interested in The Well-Educated Mind. I thought I would be reading right along my children as we followed suggestions from The Well-Trained Mind. Who would have time for anything else? I was wrong.

The Well-Educated Mind

The book for homeschooling parents who are thirsty for more

Not that I find myself with “vast chasms of time” on my hands, to use Thomas Jefferson’s expression. But I got my kids on track with their assignments from The Well-Trained Mind and now I find myself curious, hungry, and eager for filling in the gaps in my own education. When I heard The Well-Educated Mind was being revised and re-published in October 2015, I placed my pre-order in September and waited (im)patiently for it to come out.  Continue reading »

Right from the introduction, I was very impressed. The book offers tremendous information about how to read a book. I read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler last summer and learned a lot, but The Well-Educated Mind offers more precise advice, better organized ideas, and information geared specifically toward the homeschooling parent. Sorry, Mr. Adler!

I have already started down the list of 32 novels, which are listed in chronological order and have been chosen for their meaning in the history of novel evolution. I keep The Well-Educated Mind nearby and refer to it often, as I am still learning how to mark each book and how to read it on the three levels of classical education. And while I do not have the time to do everything Susan Wise Bauer recommends, I think I follow 90% of her suggestions in this book.


Smithsonian Associates Event

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The Smithsonian Associates is the largest museum-based educational program in the world. They offer over 750 events in a calendar year: workshops, tours, lectures, performances, summer camps etc.

My educational guru, Susan Wise Bauer, will be lecturing there on December 5, about one of her books – The Story of Western Science. I have read the book and learned a lot from it. I highly recommend it. It will give you an overview of the scientific themes humanity grappled with over the centuries. The book also contains enough details about each important scientific manuscript to help you understand specific topics.

Her all-day lecture (with lunch break) at the Smithsonian it titled Reading the Great Books of Science. The cost to attend is $150 if you are not a Smithsonian Associate member.  Continue reading »

I own this book because I think it makes for a great reference tome. But if your budget for traveling to DC or for reference books is short this year, I say get the book from your library, curl up with a cup of hot tea and count your blessings. Keep your $150 for an annual membership at your local zoo or science-technology center.

It would be fun though. And very, very fascinating, no doubt. Sigh. I live eight hours from DC and so my equation of time-space just does not allow for such jaunts. Sigh again.


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 1

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We started the second volume of Story of the World during what is officially our summer break because (1) my children asked for history and (2) the textbook has 42 chapters while the school year only has 36 weeks. It is recommended that we cover one chapter per week, so we need to cover six chapters before we start our new school year in August. Of course, nothing bad happens if we get behind or if we finish the textbook after we close our 180 days of school next year…

But when my five-year-old says, “Mommy, we have not done history in a long time. We need to do history!” and when my son says, “When do we start studying about the Middle Ages, mom?” I know it is time to start photocopying the activity pages and order extra reading material from the library.

Magic carpet craft activity

I printed out a picture of them so we can glue their faces onto the page provided.

Just to clarify, the Activity Book gives parents permission to photocopy activity pages (maps, coloring, craft patterns, paper dolls etc) for the needs of their family. Also in the Activity Book one can find lists of corresponding literature, fiction and non fiction, which one can purchase or borrow from the library, to enhance the study of each chapter.  Continue reading »

When I met Susan Wise Bauer, the author of the Story of the World curriculum, at the recent Appalachian Home Educators Conference in Knoxville, I asked her how many books she thinks my seven-year-old should be reading for each chapter. She said, “One a week. And maybe alternate each week, one fiction and one non fiction.”

Flying over the Mediterranean

Flying over the Mediterranean

I asked her because I used to order a lot of books, almost all of them. And I noticed a trend: some books were intended for middle schoolers going through this program and, as such, they were completely inappropriate for us. On the other hand, too many books on one subject makes one sick and tired of the topic. But I am a rather thorough person and if you give me a list of six book I will read all of them… I needed some clarification and I received it. Now I have the author’s permission to only get one extra book on the topic we are studying. Sigh of relief.

Teddybear flying over the Roman Empire

Teddybear flying over the Roman Empire

So the first chapter of this second volume, which deals with the Middle Ages, was a recap of the fall of Rome. We traveled all around the Roman Empire on an imaginary magic carpet, which allowed us a chance to review geography. My kids both noted that the activity page provided was too large for our wall map or for the atlas pages. They came up with other solutions to represent themselves: my son picked a LEGO brick, my daughter one of the counting teddy bears.