Showing posts with label History Info. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History Info. Show all posts

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pulling Together a History Study (or any other subject for that matter) Part I

Before I go any further-please note, my son is in high school but you can take this advice and morph it to fit any grade level. I am mentioning this because I have a in depth history planning post that talks about the books/ideas and materials we will use for him.  If you have many children you can always organize your study to include various levels of material to fit everyone. Obviously, for the younger student, designing your study with a less intense agenda with more activities is your best option.  But don't think the older kids should be regulated to text books and boring stuff-no ma'am.  Be sure to include fun, hands-on projects that really pull everything together.  Esp. if you have a student who learns better that way.

My son is a hands-on kinda guy so having a few things that are not notebooking, reading, or narrating is essential.  I add in timelines, cooking/baking, art projects, building stuff, and hopefully-a few trips to places that resonate with the era we are studying.

Helpful Tips and Ideas:

*START with catalogs, websites/blogs and Pinterest.  Depending on what it is you are going to cover-you should find oodles of ideas and links.  

*Look at those teacher guides...(most sites allow you to see what their scope and sequence is)  it should list what is covered and when.  This is a general baseline to follow (after all, you may have already covered some of that material), it is not a "must do" for you.  It should help you corral the main areas into a manageable 'to cover' list so you can keep from becoming overwhelmed. 

*Jot down some notes on what your goal is for this study.  Refer to this a lot.  History (esp) is a whopper to tackle.  You cannot do it all, or cover every bit of it.  Just pare it down to fit your schedule. Once you know what truly interests your child(ren) then you can always revisit that time frame with a more in-depth look into those particular areas.  

*Utilize your LIBRARY!  I cannot stress this enough.  I usually go to Amazon first, to search the title so I know for sure what it is I am looking for, then click over to the library catalog to hunt them down. Usually, you should be able to get many of the books you are interested in.  Request them now.  Once they arrive, go through them.  You'd be surprised at how many of them won't meet your needs or simply won't fit your study (schedule/child's age/etc.) -so check them off the list and look for more. This way you can eliminate and whittle the list down to only those books that should work for you.

*Write down every book you do want to use and the author. Note if your library owns it or if you need to pre-request it before your target date for that lesson.  Now you'll have a master list to refer to as you pull together your study.

*I must point out-there are many good programs are out there that have done this for you.  BUT-I have been at this for ages-so I can attest to the fact that even those guides will fail at some point.  Not every kid will be engaged in the books/projects that are listed.  Many will be boring...seriously. Others will just be too young/old for your child(ren)'s current skills/level or just plain stupid.  I say that because we follow Charlotte Mason's method of choosing living books that are written by people who love and know the subject.  Not those written by uniformed, or silly authors who are required to fill some quota or the shelves.  Does this mean we never read a 'fun' book-oh of course not. But be selective folks.   
I personally love to supplement a bunch of reference material and additional books to really jazz up what we are studying.  It's a bit of work but always pays off in the end.  That includes finding art projects, kits, songs, movies, and so forth that will enhance and solidify the point of your study. Knowing your child's learning style is a must here. This is where you find those items that will engage and keep them interested from beginning to end.

OH, and here is a soapbox moment from a seasoned (or is that battered? LOL) mother. Kids will have to learn to 'just deal' with some things they deem boring or useless.  It's a fact of life-and a valuable lesson-not everything we will do is a picnic or an amazing amusement park vacation type of event. Let's face it, most of what we do is mundane and necessary but not always a whoop it up good time. Push them through those rough moments and continue on.  Bail only if it sinks faster than a lead filled sub. But don't dump it until you have given it sufficient time. I have found allowing my son to do something else whilst I read helps a lot with this problem.  When he was younger he could play quietly with Legos, Play-Doh or small toys but was required to listen.  In fact, he learns best this way-boring book or not! All too often Junior will 'think' it will stink, only to find that those very books/activities were what they say they enjoyed the most. Go figure. Remember-you are the parent/teacher with foresight and life knowledge-right?  So press on dear mother-press on.

*Depending on what type of a planner you are (big time all fancy like, or just a simple outline kinda gal)-sketch it out and type up your schedule with potential dates, books needed by and other must haves (be prepared) so that when the time comes you can start with (hopefully) little or no glitches. Also, if possible-print up any notebook pages, coloring sheets, and any other needed items way before the study is to begin.  It will save you tons of frustration and time later on.  I place all the books I own onto our current year bookshelf so they are within my grasp and I put the projects/kits and any other pre-gather items I can into a tub to pull out when needed.  

*Know your state/college requirements for documenting this stuff.  Esp. for Jr/Sr high.  Keep your records and if need be-a few good projects/papers/etc. that you can put into your portfolio or 'save' tub for reference.  Our state doesn't require anything really, but I do keep records for my ability to create a transcript (only for high school) otherwise, I would just save a few cute projects to tuck away for "Mom's Cry and Remember When" keepsake box.  

What If?

*We get off schedule (pretty sure that will happen)?...well don't panic.  Just pick up where you left off and keep going.  Adjust or drop things on your list if you must stick to a strict time frame-otherwise, just delete what you can live without or don't do anything at all and just keep on keeping on til done.

*The child and/or I loathe the book/project choice?  Well first off, figure out why you loathe it, maybe just finding a different version of it will fix the problem. If it is closer to the 'just don't wanna do it' or what have ya-then see if changing the attitude about it refreshes the zeal to carry on with it. IF it totally bombs, just drop it.  Life is too short to fuss over a book or something 'others say' is an absolute must for your child. Bah humbug to that!  Trust your gut. Just note what it was, find a different version or another way to cover it, then down the road, revisit it.  

*I am not good at planning or researching?  Well sistah, it's time to strap on your planner's cap and get to it.  Research how others do it (Pinterest is great for this, blogs too!) and try out options til you find what works.  Even if that simply means listing books, resources and noting your overall goal. That should be enough for most.  

*I just dropped a pretty penny on an all-inclusive study guide/curriculum.  Do I need to do all this? Well, yes and no. Your work will be less, but I still suggest you hunt down some other book options and additional activities/projects as a cushion.  Esp. if you are uncertain how you child learns best.  I always have a guide (usually Beautiful Feet Books or Sonlight for history) as my backbone.  I tweak it to fit each student.  I have taught three through high school graduation and am currently on number four.
For example:  I have two girls and two boys.  Each child was drawn to different book topics and styles and they all absorbed info differently. Due to their learning style I would change (when necessary) some of what was required for their reading.  My son (14) loves the manly-man stuff, where my daughter (graduated in 2012) could have cared less. She truly enjoyed the clothing/life styles/cooking/art styles and general aspect of the different eras over the particular wars/battles/political events and all that related to it.  So I added and deleted books that would appeal to each of them. The older two were closer in styles but still had enough variances to require some changes. Our oldest daughter really liked the political side of history and our oldest son was more about timelines/dates and again-no guide will completely hit each child's interests. So be prepared and if you don't need for this particular year, perhaps you can pull that out down the road for another student.

*I cannot afford all those books!? Remember how I said to utilize your library?  Well here is where you can save hundreds.  Also, look for their book sales...I have found many good books for our history and science needs for just a few dollars per stack!  Borrow from a friend, if you have the good fortune of having a pal who has already studied or has the particular book you need.  Be sure to respect that privilege and return it in a timely manner and without damage...don't lose a friend over a book. :)

Also, look to used book sites such as Homeschool Classifieds, Vegsource's used curriculum boards, Ebay or Amazon. 

I rarely buy the whole curriculum unless I know I have a lot of kids to go thru it.  So I have not bought any big program for years now, but did way back when. I definitely got our money out of it and then some.  But not every book worked (as I have said) so I had to adjust as needed.  I usually only buy what I absolutely cannot find. That is where going through the book lists is a must. Go through your shelves and library catalog then jot down what is totally unavailable. Buy only those books.  It always saves me lots of cash to put toward other things for our homeschool.  Like those cool activity kits, games and so forth.

What Next?

At this point, I am not completely sure how it will all work together.  What I will do is keep a log so I can refer to this when actually writing out the schedule. So I will:

*Count the number of pages each book has so I can assign a certain number per day to cover. Or go by chapters.  That will give me a good guideline for planning
*Look at my backbone guide to check the order of how things are introduced. I can then add that info into my notes, listing all the extras or switch ups I will want to cover.
*Note if it is a reader for my son, a read-aloud or if it is simply a good reference book.
Then again, when compiling this into a plan I can simply add those selections in. 

**Remember, if you are using an all inclusive/pre-designed/boxed curriculum, just take a few notes and mention where the extras need to be added so that when the time comes-you have that material ready to go.  Since I need to tweak this study to fit my son's interests and skill levels, I have my work cut out for me.  But I have done this enough times through the years that I am able to whip up something usable, and well, I kinda enjoy the challenge.  I can always add or delete if I have to. Again-this is my backbone plus goodies guide...not a millstone about my neck.

Now that should give you some tips to take that leap and pull together a nice unit.  Don't forget to decide if you will make it a semester or year long study and what era you will delve into.

Need more help?  Leave a comment and I will try to answer.  :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

History and Artist Study Resources: Lewis and Clark & George Catlin

As we are moving through the Beautiful Feet Books Westward Expansion guide, we have come to an exciting point-the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition.  I have been waiting for this part for some time.  I want to really ingrain the significance and well-coolness of this part of our history, so I am slowing way down to bring in several more resources, a DVD, arts and crafts and a great Lewis and Clark game to bring it all together. I reserved what I could not find at our library (use that feature peeps-great way to save money on books you'll only use once or twice) and pulled what I had on our shelves. The required text, Of Courage Undaunted: Across the Continent with Lewis and Clark by James Daugherty is serving as the backbone of the study but is not pictured because I didn't have it from the library when I posted.

I own some of these (What's the Deal, the top two Lewis and Clark 
activity books and the coloring book in the center pile ) 
 the others are from the library

So while we wait to get that book, we will read thru many of the excellent books I did get.  I will use some of the art/crafts books to cherry pick a few activities to add a bit more excitement to this study as well.  We will also be notebooking pages as we move thru the lessons (working on those right now, but so far I do have the Louisiana Purchase map from Homeschool in the Woods Olde World Style World and US maps printed, which he colored in while listening to me read one of the books. He also has T. Jefferson, Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea pics to cut out and place on his pages to write down their data for his history notebook too.

Because we have already covered Audubon, we won't be studying him as denoted in the study. We will, however, be covering George Catlin who did paint various Native American tribes/chiefs and village life a few years after L and C had explored the vast territory.  I found some real gems in regard to the colored prints of his work. I will have the boy go thru and find about 6 different ones he wants to do for his picture study, then get them printed and mounted on card stock for ease of reference. As a part of the Charlotte Mason way of studying artists, we'll put together an artist info page on George too.
image from
Wow-the price of this has gone up-I did not pay that amt. 
Do some research and look for a better deal.

And because I find games to be a great way to bring interest into a study-we'll be playing the Lewis and Clark game I purchased at the beginning of the year.  Once we have wrapped up the study, I will post a new ditty on the links/resources we used.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Supplementing Heart of Dakota-Creation to Christ Poetry unit and Human Body unit

If you are a follower or if you just pop by to read up on the Heart of Dakota [HOD] program we have been using this year, you are probably familiar with my feelings on it by now, but I wanted to highlight a couple things we have done that has taken outside the box.

I found we (personally-as this may not be for every family so keep that in mind) needed to do something different regarding one recommend book for science; and that one area definitely needed a more in-depth investigation-the poet Robert Frost.

I have the Considering God's Creation [CGC] curricula (which I have been plucking units from for about a year and 1/2 now) that has a section on the body. After we read the book Exploring the History of Medicine (very good book!) we simply have moved into this study.  I ditched the An Illustrated Adventure in Human Anatomy book that was scheduled (I had received it via the library inter-loan prior to the Exploring History one...and it needed to be returned before we came to this section-I didn't feel it was worth trying to re-hold/check out again as I have enough human body books on our shelf that are very similar to this one) and that is why I chose not to follow that part. Plus, being we are lapbooking/notebooking sorta folk-the CGC fit the bill perfectly. So we have been working our way through this unit and are just about done.  I am very satisfied with it and find it is just the right amount of info/work for our boy.  Again-this stresses the need for the instructor to look at what does and does not fit the student or situation when using an all-encompassing type of guide such as HOD.  Just because it is listed and recommended does not mean it must be used.  Esp. when you are at the mercy of library loan books, and other circumstances that require tweaking. [image from]

As for the lack of any biographical data/study on the poet Robert Frost...well here is where I was sadly disappointed with this section.  It is very Charlotte Masony to study the person and not just their work.  So being that I am versed in scrounging up data-I found a few things to offer the boy as a backdrop into who this dude was. The one I got via the library is older-so not everyone will be able to find it.  It is Robert Frost: America's Poet by Doris Faber. I have to say it was a very nicely written book that hits all the key points a book should when following the CM method for choosing books-it was twaddle free. :)  Anyhoo-I saw the other listed book below via Amazon, but was not able to get a hold of not sure how great it is but looks to be written for children and looks lovely.  If I do get my hands on it-I will come back and update my thoughts on it.

Robert Frost: America's Poet by Doris Faber

Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie Bober

Product Details
image from

I also downloaded these free notebooking pages on Robert from 
to give him some opportunities to jot down 
some essential data and such.

I have also pulled those noted human body books from the shelf and we refer to them when needed. Again-I am using what I have to wrap up this unit and it is all good.  Just not what was originally outlined in the study.

And now for one of my favorite projects the Boy has done so far...and yes, it is a fav because he put some personality into it.  Our floating-head skeleton boy with a Barber of Seville curly mustache and a rocker dude goatee. [I say-if you do this study-dry place the pieces prior to the child gluing unlike us. Otherwise, you too will end up with a lovely floating, non-connected skull]

And that my blogger peeps is how we tweaked our HOD study to fit us and our current needs.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

HOD C to C History Project: Ancient Roman Meal

As we are winding down in the study of the Romans, we were to partake in a mock "ancient" Roman meal.  We managed to find some similar foods (we avoided other kinds the kids would not touch with a 10 foot pole) and we think it came out lovely.  The only big thing we didn't do were the togas.  Just couldn't get the fam to go that far.

We had the yellow bowls with water and the blue cloths for wiping one's fingers clean between food changes. They didn't use flatware. We had cucumbers, almonds, salami, provolone cheese, grapes, mango (OK, not sure if they had that-probably not but I had one we had to use and it went well with the selection...we were progressive thinking Romans); also olive oil/ feta cheese/Italian seasoning together with hot bread to dip in it. I didn't make a suggested dessert they listed b/cuz I had just made brownies the day before...and we did not need any more sweets around here, but there is that option if you choose to do so. I wanted to get some sparkling grape juice to represent wine but I simply forgot to go down the isle when I was shopping for this stuff..ooopsies.  All in all-it was a fun activity that even dad was able to partake in with us!

This was a part of the Heart of Dakota Creation to Christ study.  But if you are going on your own or with another curriculum and are studying Rome, it is an easy and fun way to bring history alive.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Archimedes project

Here is a fun project we did as a part of the BFBooks History of Science guide/curriculum.  The boy wasn't being super neat but he was also using a big, chunky charcoal pencil from our art supply so that probably didn't help.  I just taped the paper to a dowel and we stuffed it in the labeled paper towel tube. I still have to scrounge up some yarn for the carrying strap, but wanted to share with ya now.  I will get pics of the notebook up soon-once we have more stuff in it as it is pretty sparse yet, since we just started it this week.

Again-as the other post noted:  I am piggy backing this unit with the HOD study to beef up the Greek section    because it is fun :) and adds a bit of spice to it.  It is just my way, nothing against what is already in the HOD program.  I also found a neat art project to do via the Mystery of History website and will share that once we have completed it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sonlight VS Beautiful Feet and another option tossed in for good measure

Amy asks:
Hi Sheri, I have twin 12 yr. old girls and am undecided between Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere core (which has been overhauled this year) and Beautiful Feet (probably the Medieval Period). I just stumbled on BF. Seeing that you've done both, do you have a suggestion? 

Here are the programs she is asking about:

Sonlight Core F: Eastern Hemisphere*

(image from Sonlight website)

*I am basing my opinion on the older version that I own.
The updated one offers 3 weeks to look over and appears to easier 
to read/use.  I won't have access to the updated version until late June when
it is available. Please keep this in mind when pondering this info.


(image from BFBooks website)

Sample pages can be seen by scrolling 
thru the cover image on that page.

*I do not have the updated version so all of my opinions are
based on the old one but by looking thru the samples,
I see they have vastly improved the look/layout and
it is much more appealing to the user

And just for giggles-let's toss into the bunch the 

(images from Heart of Dakota website)

*I have not used either of these two guides, but am currently using the
HOD Creation to Christ one. The layout is the same, the subjects 
covered are the core plus a few extra just like the C to C guide.
I tossed these two in because they hit the era that you mentioned
you'd be interested in for the Beautiful Feet choice. On each page
with the description you can download a sample of the pages for a
better look at what they offer.

There are obviously many more history program choices, but the reader asked specifically about the SL or the BFB so that is why I am focusing on them.  I added the HOD because the layout and coverage is quite similar.  Remember, it all depends on what best suits your family and their current interests. We use them all-mostly because of the eras they touch on and sometimes due to the amount of time I have to put into preparing the material and teaching it.  

Factors to consider:

*The era you want most to cover 
*The manner in which your child(ren) best learn
*Literature vs textbook or unit learning-which best fits your family's style and preference
*Your pocket book-these can be spency unless you do what I do (I will write another post on how to save money on books later)
*Your life right now-is is crazy busy?  New baby?  Family situations that are demanding more time that usual?  A recent or soon to be move?  Any big events that can change the amount of time you have to invest in the planning/gathering and subsequent tutelage of it to your student(s) should be taken into consideration so that you choose a program that is easiest for you and your students to work through without causing undue stress and possible burn-out (for/in you or your students)

Now that you have pondered those factors-you can turn your attention to the program's strengths and weaknesses.  Mind you-this is my opinion and experience noted from this point on.  What worked for us may not for you and vice versa. You ultimately need to decide on what you know will work, take a bit of a risk to test something you never have tried before and just roll with it.  Some of the programs I thought would never hold my kids' attentions or work for them-did. Others I thought were just "perfect" for us went over like a lead balloon.  The nice thing about the above programs is they all hold good resale value and some even offer money back take it with a grain of salt and for those who believe in this-PRAY about it first.  It will make a huge difference in how things go.

They are all good programs in their own right.  All use literature as the foundation of the program and all have some type of layout to follow (which remember-you do not need to do everything!).  All adequately cover an era/time frame so that the child will have a good grasp of basic history in those areas.  Some include additional subjects already figured out in the plan (math, science, lang. arts, writing, etc.) others have a bit of it and some only offer the history with some vocab/writing assignments (BFBooks).  It all depends on what you need and are looking for.  I strongly suggest going over each site and reading through all their information to get a better grasp of what they offer. I also strongly suggest downloading the samples, and asking your dear daughters to look over it too so they can see which program best matches what they like.

Here is the chart you can go over. It is not extensive in all areas-but a brief (personal) overview of them.  I am basing this on my guides and how they worked for us. Right now we are using HOD's Creation to Christ program so I am basing the info on what I see on the site and what we have experienced by using the C to C guide.  I hope this helps by offering some 'real world' opinion/advice.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dinosaurs study for HOD Creation to Christ study

So as a part of the Creation to Christ curriculum, dinosaurs are studied. But not as in depth [of a study] as I want-so I am adding in some goodies for the boy and we'll just mosey along at our speed covering a bit here and there from the resources and activities I have, as well as the study in the guide.

I was looking through my shelves and found most of what I was searching for.  I have to hit the stash in the basement for a couple books (including the dinosaur joke book my hubby had as a kid) but for the most part,  I will use what is shown in this picture.  I am sure I will add a few more notebooking/lapbook components as we go through the unit but this is a good start.

I was just drifting off to sleep the other nite when my brain snapped on and reminded me that I had a set of dinosaur pictures [bulletin board set] that I bought eons ago when the two older kids were very young.  I have not covered the dinos like I have had wanted to with the boy, so I am excited for this unit.  He has always enjoyed dinosaurs (those Jurassic Park movies are on his top 10 list-even tho they are gross) so this should be fun!

We have very, very limited wall space in the education room, so I had to put these puppies up on the entrance walls [which is kind of angled, hence the two pictures to show all of them].  This spot is actually good b/cuz the boy sits so he can look up at them, at any time.  I DID NOT put the evolutionist time line up-what I want to do is put up a couple note cards highlighting a few Bible verses that mention the leviathan.  The little people are to show the scale (although this is far from being accurate) of the dinosaurs to humans.


(you can get the Answers books there too)

the other books I probably got from Amazon

I have no idea where I got the dino bulletin board set-
it would have been from a teacher's store/catalog

The Adventures in Science: Dinosaurs booklet is 
probably out of print-it came in a group of activity books
 that I also bought years ago.  It has a bunch 
of activity pages and I will just pick and choose
 what we want to do.

OH YEAH!  I just remembered I have the 
Dinosaur and Things Game by Aristoplay!

I bought this when my oldest was about 4/5 yrs old!  By the looks of the box, you can tell it's been played with a lot!  :)  Even tho the boy is on the outer age limit noted on the box, we'll still play but be sure to add those question cards to make it a bit more difficult. And yes, we know this shows millions of years as the dates-we simply ignore them.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Heart of Dakota: Creation to Christ curriculum for the boy

So after much deliberation, examination, ponder-ation, and prayer-ation:  I took the leap and bought the guide to use with the boy.  We have been skimming along with history this year because we simply didn't have the cashola before the start of this school year to purchase much material.  So we made do. Which is totally acceptable, esp. when I have a boat load of books on the shelves. We wrapped up a few snippets of American history from our previous study...but it didn't last long.  So we've been lacking in that subject for him for the most part! Ouch!  That is not acceptable for this history loving mama!  So I debated. I am was sadly devoid of early/beginning times to ancient civilizations for my elementary age kids (well now it is just one kid) and so I wanted to find something-something that would hit that era with good coverage but not be so in depth or overwhelming that he'd run in fear every time we did our history lessons.
image from Heart of Dakota

So after reading my good friend Lynn's 4 posts on the Heart of Dakota curriculum....and after all those "ation" thoughts noted above...I felt good about purchasing the guide which covers creation to Christ.  I already have most of the books needed on my shelves or in my 'puter (as eBooks) so it wasn't hard to make the final decision.

Anyway-I received the guide today and I will start to get a handle on what I need to do [read thru it to figure it all out], wait for a couple books I had to order and get him started in another week or so.  We'll just keep on with it until it is done (probably sometime next spring).

I do love how the Charlotte Mason style is integrated into the whole enchilada.  With HOD (Heart of Dakota) the plans cover Bible, History, Science, Lang. Arts, Narration, Copywork, and she has math (Singapore) scheduled in it too.  I use Abeka math for the younger years, so (as noted in the guide) we'll do our own thing.  I will also throw in a bit of my own ideas/plans for lang. art stuff (I am not using their Reading Program) and am changing the science up a tad (he doesn't want to cover the human body so I will do a more in depth study of dinosaurs since we haven't really had the time to do that. I may be able to toss in a bit of the human body stuff later).

What is missing is the study of great artists/musicians and nature study.  So maybe when I get some time I will write a complimentary guide to go with it on those very things :) But that is OK, I do my own thing with those anyway and I enjoy coming up with my plans for it. Actually, I have decided to continue on with the Impressionist artists and plan on adding in a bit of a mini-study on Egyptian art and poss. Roman/Greek art too. The musician has yet to be determined, and nature study is always a breeze to include.

So there you have it-our new way of doing things for the boy this year and next.  I will try to post some updates as we move through it but until then, take a look see at what my pal Lynn wrote (some great, thorough posts) about HOD.

(about the Preparing Hearts for His Glory but the layout is the same for the other guides and it gives you a good glimpse of what the goal/layout is)

From my pal, Lynn's blog:  Ladybug Chronicles

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Medieval History

So we are doing a condensed version of Beautiful Feet Book's Medieval History (but I have the older teacher guide that has the younger guide section [grade 6-8] and the high school combined in it-they now sell them separately).
image from Beautiful Feet Books

Anyhoo, we're just picking and choosing the books we want to cover so we can wrap this up asap.  My teen sort of did the Medieval era a couple years ago but didn't finish it-so since she had no other history program she was working on...we decided to pull this off the shelf and do a quick wrap up of it.
Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe

We chose to just watch the A and E version (2 disks, at about 2.5 hours each) of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.  It was not too shabby.  We simply didn't have the time to read it all and we kinda touched on it prior, so it was just an intro to the study and a mini-refresher.

Then we moved right into Marco Polo (completed just yesterday) and are working through the huge The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter.  I am reading this aloud (so even the 10 yr old is hearing this story) and all I ask is that she listen (and pay attention) whilst I do so.  My dd will simply narrate back a bit of it so I am sure she gets it (and believe you me...uh, this woman [Jane Porter] was long-winded in some of her sentences so it is easy to start drifting off).  Fun fact: the Braveheart movie was spawned from her book/story line.

Anyhoo-it is taking some time to read through but I must say that the way this was written only confirms my feelings about having good literature for our kids to read-it is a must.  I wish I would have marked some of the lines that just jumped out at me because they were so eloquent and lively. We were able to imagine ourselves there with the characters and could "see" what she was describing.  Most of the junk on the market is completely devoid of such things...but alas-I digress.....

The Scottish Chiefs; or, The Life of Sir William Wallace
Scottish Cheifs*
attached to my Amazon Affiliate link

It is easy with the BFB study guides to pick and choose and still walk away with a decent understanding of the era you are studying.  Even when in a pinch like we are. :)  So if you are looking for a different history program, I have always touted and will continue to do so, the Beautiful Feet Books line.  I have used them pretty much since we started homeschooling and have thoroughly enjoyed them with the kiddos.  It fits the literature/CM way to educate. The emphasis is mostly on American history but there are the Medieval and Ancient study guides too.  Lots to look at on their site-I recommend heading there to see for yourself. :) 

Before you think I am a total devotee-let me just say-I have also used Bright Ideas Press (All Am. History, which was a review item and my teen loved), and Sonlight (Eastern Hemisphere and 20th Century World).  We will be venturing into the Heart of Dakota (Creation to Christ) for my 10 yr old as soon as I order it and have a chance to go through the guide to get acquainted with it.  

It is all about using what fits our needs, the era we want to cover, and changing it up a bit to stave off boredom.  :)  

Hope this gives you some history program ideas!  Feel free to ask questions about the above curriculum (except HOD b/cuz we haven't started using it so I am new to it)....I will do my best to answer them before you make a purchase for your family :).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don't Know much about History? Pre-K thru Early Elementary

How sad that song really is when you consider it. I love history and therefore, it will be my first subject to cover. I will save my least favorite for last.

What to do? Where to go?

Preschool :

Little ones do not have much to base their history on. After all, they have only been on this earth a mere couple of years. So, keep it simple.

Talking about their history is a great place to start. Show them photos of family and friends. Talk about when they were a baby and how your family came about. I have yet to meet a preschooler who doesn't love to hear (over and over again) what they were like as babies. They need tangible history lessons. I doubt many would even have a reference point to truly understand Egyptian Pharaohs and Spanish explorers. But do by all means introduce these things if they show some interest. Use dress-up and children's books. No need to bore them to death. This is a great age for imagination. Utilize this desire. Whatever you do-DO NOT over teach it! That will just suck the life out of it. We want to build an interest and desire to know more about history, not bury the desire before they enter "real" school. If they have older siblings, invite them sit in on readings and discussions, but do not require them to stay thru it.

Avoid packaged programs for now. It will only stress you out, and create bad undertones for future teaching.

When they start showing better writing skills, and listening skills that extend past -oh five seconds- then start (gently) introducing a more structured approach (this may take until they are 7!)

I would like to interject a story that perfectly illustrates this:

My youngest was about 5ish when I decided to include him in the regular routine of "school".

I carefully set up his work area with his supplies and chair. I made a paper with 2 lines each of the lower case "a" and "b". Four lines! They were dotted out as well, so this was a no brainer.

He was so excited. He plopped himself down, proudly picked up his pencil, listened to my directions and quickly set out to his task. I stepped away, confident that I had maybe 5 minutes or so to work with his sister. Pencil scratches and head down-he was really working at it. I smiled inside thinking, "Finally-my last student is ready to move along with school."

Five seconds into it, he sat up, drew a deep breath, blew it out loudly, set his pencil down, pushed his chair back and proudly announced, "Well I am done with school!"

A bit astonished, I went to see this work of art. How amazing of a kid did I have? He could get his work done in 5 seconds! And to not laugh at his serious comment of being finished! Two, yep two scribbled "a" letters graced the page, and he was no where to be seen! Priceless, simply priceless. He thought 2 letters constituted school and he was done.

Maybe I should of saved this for the Language Arts blog-but it beautifully illustrates the readiness of a child. Getting him to sit through a book without pictures at that point-impossible. He simply was not ready for any sort of structure. I had to rethink how to approach this and spent more time doing "fun" things (which I would like to point out is "fun" in his eyes but was actually play that taught!) until he was ready. Which really wasn't too many months later. I adjusted the learning experiences to his abilities to handle it. I still have to keep it less structured at this point--but experience has taught me that it will all work out in the end, he will graduate knowing how to read, write and do 'rithmetic. Remaining patient and not falling into that nasty trap of "what others are doing" will produce a well-rounded, educated young man in the very near future.

Know your kid. Use play to teach, your voice to tell stories and your arms to embrace. That is what a preschooler needs.

*history instruction: google book lists or purchase one of the many great books that are written for this very purpose, use costumes and lots of picture books. Use songs and crafts. Make those cardboard forts, castles and trains. Use field trips to places of historical happenings to teach. Use grannies, grampies and old Mr. Brown down the road, to talk about what life was like when they were kids. That is history! (uh, the big kids love this too-including ME!)

Kindergarten (and a few years beyond if necessary):

Most four/five/six year olds are still not ready to handle a big scheduled out program. Again, this goes back to writing/reading/listening skills. Some curriculum require a lot of writing or reading on the part of the child. If you have a non-reader, this can be a huge hindrance. Other programs are full of what Charlotte Mason called "Twaddle". That basically means that it is full of fillers, junk and unnecessary work that takes away from the meat of the lesson.

If you are graced with one of those particularly precocious children..then skip this part. Otherwise, all others should read on. If they have some ability to to write/draw and can sit through readings of non-illustrated books as well as the illustrated ones..then by all means start using a program. Tweak it to fit your child/family's needs. You are not a slave to it nor should you feel it necessary to do every little thing suggested by the author. Use it as a tool, not a yoke!

We started out in 1994 (officially) and there really wasn't the avalanche of materials that there is today. That said, with all the research I did, we found that we could afford (and then fell truly in love)with the Beautiful Feet Books curriculum. We didn't want to spend a lot, because after all, we were only going to do this homeschooling thing until we figured out a better plan. We originally did not start for religious convictions- all though we were concerned with the moral decline of the schools. That better plan led to homeschooling all the way through high school! GOD is awesome! He used a particularly not so swell school dilemma, and turned it into a way of life for our family!

I bought the Early American History guide for K-3. I felt that it really should be listed for grades 1-4 (depending on the child.) I loved that it used real books to teach history, and the timeline and notebook were right up our alley. Plus, it played right into what Charlotte Mason taught...and to think I didn't even know about her until years later...but thought the same way she did in this matter! I still have that puppy on my shelf, along with just about every other guide they sell. It is a must in our home.

Rea Berg(BF Books) lays out the entire year in a gentle and easy to follow manner. Starting with the Vikings, she progresses through to the Civil War. The program is not so overly crammed with information that the child will become bogged down with it. The time-line offers a nice way for visual and tactile learners to enhance their studies. You can also add to, or delete whenever you choose (ah the beauty of homeschooling!). You snuggle with the child(ren) and read the majority of the books together. For those with the skills, I let them read the books they could handle. I still have those notebooks my three oldest made, and get almost teary-eyed when I go through them now. My two oldest have graduated from high school so these little treasures are priceless to me!
I plan on using it in the fall of 09 with my youngest. I cannot say enough good about the program!

I have decided though, to go with Sonlight's Intro to the World: Cultures program for my youngest this year. I debated over whether to start with this or BF's Early American. I knew the boy was not ready for BF only because I want him to be able to do the notebook with all of its writing and such. SL's program is really geared more for pre-K to Kindergarten-but due to his needs, this should be a good match. I will let you know how it went in the spring. I have used SL for higher grades and greatly appreciate the fine job they did with the scheduling and layout. I am looking forward to giving the lower level a try this year.

I am a loyalist and stick with what I truly love and what works. I have not skipped around or tried too many programs. BF Books was a perfect fit-so I stuck with it. Since my youngest is not quite up to the first BF program, and SL has a seemingly good one for his age, I am giving it a try. I do not have personal experience with the other programs out there. I have heard a lot of good buzz about the classical approach using Susan Wise Bauer's program-The Story of the World. If you tend to be more classical...consider them. If you are into more unit study styles-find some friends who have used those types of programs and give it a whirl. I have heard a lot of good about Diana Waring's history programs too. In fact, I may use her Romans, Reformers and Revolutionaries program to piggy back my 9th grader's Medieval study this fall (yep-using BF's Medieval program).

AVOID at all costs-teaching history by using textbooks! You know the type..the ones we were exposed to in PS! History is much more complex, and interesting than the typical textbook 2 paragraph quip on something. Oh, and you can avoid those crazy myths and legends that proliferate them...learn history through authors who love their topics, have researched and have accurately depicted the events. I cannot stress this enough!!!!!!!

I am going to break these history blogs into age sections. That way you can pinpoint your age group better and my hands can take a break from typing. WHEW~


History-Elementary Part II

The best thing to do before undertaking any program is to really figure out what kind of student you have. That should help narrow down your choices. But don't fore go something because it has more writing than your child may like to do, or requires more reading and so on. Consider those very programs to help stretch your child's abilities. Ignoring or avoiding them will only hurt the child in the long run-eventually they are going to have to do those things which they do not like. Get them into the habit of pushing through the undesirable task now!

What is nice about homeschooling is that you can stretch your program out if more time is needed. If it takes 18 months to cover your program, then it takes 18 months. And no, you do not need to cover every single thing. I do not know of anyone who is an expert in every time period of history! That would be a lot of info to store and frankly, just about impossible. Everyone (by the time they graduate) should at least know the basics of our country's history, major historical events worldwide, and some of the folks involved. They should, at the very least, be able to pin down the decade of these occurrences.

They MUST know how to look up information, or where to go to find the answers! That is one life skill that everyone should have. Sadly, many do not. I know there will be gaps in our children's education, but I also know that they have the skills, and necessary desire to be able to figure out how to find it!

Elementary students: 1-6 grades (approx.)

This is when the fun can really begin. Once the child has mastered basic writing and reading skills, they should be ready for a more scheduled program.
If you read the previous post, then you know that I love BF Books guides for history. I am also a big fan of SL. Whichever program you choose, be sure it meets the needs of you and the children. If it requires a lot of parent prep, and your time is limited, maybe it isn't a good choice. If you have a lot of students close in age, perhaps the Unit Study program is best (I have heard there is a lot of teacher prep-hmmm, maybe that isn't so swell). SL will work for a children close in age with similiar writing/listening/reading skills. BF can work but you may have to adjust a bit here and there. It probably will not work with big gaps in age/skills. You may have to do the similar studies jointly (primary and Intermediate) to avoid that problem.

If you follow the classical approach, then you would be familiar with the 4 cycles of teaching history. Teach one era, then the next and so and then cycle back (but in more detail) to the first. Not a bad idea really, it means that eventually-your child will cover it again and they should get it later if they didn't the first time. Many advocate starting with Ancient history so that when you get to American, your child can say they know how we came to be. Again, not bad.

We didn't know about all that tho. We just plunged forth into our BF studies and made the overall plan up while we went along. If I had to go back and redo it-I would be more careful to lay out the a revolving time block and stick to it. We had to take some side roads to get us to our end point. BF does not offer (oh, but I can hope) an Ancient History study for the early elementary. So I knew we had that gap. I also know they tend to lean a lot toward US history in the early levels. So I also knew, eventually, I would like to find some program that covers the other parts of the world, with similar teaching styles.

We ended up doing BF early Am., California , Science and the Intermediate level of Am. History.
We slipped in Green Leaf Press' Ancient Egypt. I was not super duper impressed, so we did not continue on to the Greece/Roman studies. So, again, another era missing. What I did do, was to take what I had on the shelf and read through those books and lightly covered the basics. I figured we would get back to it eventually.
I found SL 5 for the gaps on the other parts of the world. It is better known as their Eastern Hemisphere program. That is when I discovered SL and now my BF program had some serious competition!

With BF you can take a side trip and cover the History of the Horse, of Classical Music and of Science- if your child is in need of a little breather from the typical history coverage. They are still learning history so don't be afraid to try these little sweeties. Throw those in there if your child needs extra time to mature into the harder history programs.

I like how BF guides start with American history. Really though, it starts with Norse history and carries us through European events and people that lead to the settlement of the Americas. So it really does expand outside of US history. It uses enough but not too much info. Again, that gets a gold star from me. Elementary aged children (mine at least) do not need college level info on history. They simply are not going to remember everything, so why go so overboard and exhaust yourself and student?

Once we completed the primary Am. History we moved on to California history (so guess what? It no longer is published. I have my copy and books: but those of you out there-it may be difficult to locate. ) Now you may be saying, "What is up with Cal. history and why should I bother? We don't live in CA!" True. We don't either and never have. It is unfortunate that she dropped it. I didn't use it to learn CA history per say, I did it because it was an awesome introduction to all the wonderful explorers from all over the world who made their way to our Golden Coast. We learned about explorers I never knew existed. It covered the Gold Rush and settlement of the West. It covered the mission work of priests and Indian tribes there. For boys who love anything related to adventure, sailing and the stories of the West-it is perfect. My girls liked it but were not quite as impressed (too adventurous for them maybe-they like the castles and maidens and such).....I know my youngest will be my most excited student when we hit this program!
I know a lot of programs mostly cover the east coast and stop somewhere around the Louisiana Purchase. What a shame! I see she now carries the Early Am. and World History for Jr high. I wonder if she put the good stuff from the California program in there? That could be another option to try if you want to continue to use her guides.

So by the time the kids finished 6th grade they had a pretty good coverage of history. A few of my kids actually did some of these programs in their 7-8th grades. Due to moves, babies, daddy traveling a lot and finding SL later on, we had some years where there was little or no history. Yes, gasp if you must. Because of the coverage of these programs I didn't worry. It is far more history than their peers receive in PS!

I do like SL. The World Cultures I am doing with my 7 year old. It will give him enough snippets of a variety of lands and peoples before we slip into the American history. I would say, that if you purchase SL for your family and really like it-then stick to their plan. They do world cultures, then ancient, World, move to the Americas, hit the Eastern Hemisphere, come back to World, do American, God's Kingdom, World and Government. Kindergarten (I do not advocate the lower levels-see my comments on that in the previous post) through high school graduation. But buyer beware-it is not cheap! Even when you buy thru resale. The beauty though-they worked in every area of learning and scheduled it out. We just tweak it to suit our needs.

Sonlight can be very daunting, too random at times and could be down right boring. I found this out when I bought the 1+2 combo for my daughter. Less than 2 months into it, I realized it didn't make much sense. It bopped around so much that I was having trouble figuring out how it all "fit" and she loathed it! Simply put, it was too much for her at that time in her schooling career. I very warily decided to give the K program a try this year. I truly hope I am not disappointed. I do like the higher levels of SL, so suggest the lower ones with a bit of hesitation. Not having tried the 3-4 or 6-8 programs-I can only speculate. Time will tell.

So for our family, history has been taught through BF Book guides, and SL. They have read (or will) real books, done projects, time lines and spent a lot of time on the couch (my office) with me going hoarse with all those fantastic reads.

I do plan on giving Diana Waring's Ancient Civilizations a try for my youngest (possibly having my high schooler listen in) to get more of the early history in. I just have to figure out when I will squeeze that in.

I must say, BF does not schedule out anything but history with some writing projects. You will find some Bible in there, but not nearly enough to consider it a Bible program. SL schedules out Bible, history reading and literature. I believe they also have math scheduled out too. I would actually have to go look to verify that one. The other subjects have their own schedules you can purchase.

So that is what we do for elementary and into Jr high for history.

My brain is toast. Over and out.

Monday, March 23, 2009

For those more visual homeschooling mommas

I thought I would post the covers of the Beautiful Feet Books, and Sonlight guides mentioned in the history posts. Sometimes, it just helps to "see" the stuff. My plan is to remember to add those little gems, along with the info, in the posts that describe them. That is my plan anyhoo-