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Curriculum Review: The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor by Susan Wise Bauer October 5, 2015

Filed under: Homeschooling — Meghan Hamilton @ 6:00 am
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When it comes to homeschooling curricula, I’ve found a number of books that can be used at a variety of ages and grade levels. “The Story of the World” is one of those. We are about three quarters of the way through volume 1. My son and I have enjoyed it and plan to move on to volume 2 when we finish.

In addition to my plans to complete the series, I also want to repeat the books we cover at this early age. He is seven and working at a 2nd grade level for most of our subjects. At this age, I’m treating this as an introduction to history. The activity book that accompanies the main text has lists of questions, maps to fill in, pictures to color, writing assignments, craft activities, worksheets, and suggested additional reading. (I probably missed something, but you get the idea, there is a lot going on there.) We’ve managed to answer the basic questions orally so I can check that he understood the story and was paying attention. But he’s not so into crafts and isn’t ready to do a lot of writing. Right now that is enough. But by the end of this year, I expect him to be doing some of the writing and we may delve into extra reading when it touches on a subject that grabs his attention. By 4th and 5th grade, I can see this as a great resource to tie into learning how to write essays and do a basic research paper using the additional resources suggested. If you have more than one child in elementary school, this would allow you to do one history lesson for everyone, then each student can do as much responsive work as fits their learning level and style. As an audio-visual learner, my son doesn’t need crafts to learn what a fasces looked like. A visit to our favorite search engine produced an image that he remembers. But a kinesthetic learner may want to make the fasces as suggested by the activity book.

The text is written in an engaging narrative. The language is simple enough to be understood by early elementary students, but it doesn’t come across as watered down and over-simplified, making it accessible to older elementary students. I would recommend a more complex history book if you are teaching Jr. High or High School students. There is a CD that you can buy to have the text read to your child(ren). I didn’t purchase it. I am glad I didn’t, because this way I am forced to read the text myself. You’ll see why this is important to me when I explain the drawbacks to this book. But if your schedule is crazy or you have difficulty reading one more thing aloud to your children, this would be a nice thing to get so that they can have that portion done independently. By the time they are in 4th grade, the students should be able to read this on their own.

As to the drawbacks, there isn’t a lot to say. I don’t believe anyone can be unbiased in writing. As much as the author tries to stick to the facts, she paints a picture with her choice of adjectives and with her choice of which facts to include and which to leave out. This is the sort of history that most Americans, Canadians, and Europeans will learn and find in their school text books. As my own horizons have expanded, I’ve become rather critical of the approach of some of my past teachers and of this author. Overall I have to say that there is very little I disagree with in her portrayal of ancient times, but there have been instances where I’ve pointed attitudes out to my son. I’ve offered him different views of the same events and people. There was nothing so big that I can even remember specific examples. But I tend to read things with a critical eye. I don’t avoid difficult subjects with my child. I use them as opportunities for discussion. If you aren’t reading the text yourself and are relying on the CD or your child to read it himself, you may miss out on some of those opportunities.

In conclusion, if you have an elementary school student, this is a great text book. The workbook is well worth the additional expense as lessons are planned out and easy to do. If you are a crafty family, the crafts use materials that are easy to obtain if you don’t already have them on hand. The optional CD would be great if you need your non-readers or early readers to listen to the story independently of you.

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