Right now we are listening to The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 1: Ancient Times CDs by Susan Wise Bauer. There are seven CDs that go with the audio version, as well as a detailed table of contents that is helpful in case you want to fast forward to a certain part of history. The narrator is Jim Weiss, whom our whole family absolutely loves because he can do so many different voices and accents.
At first, I hesitated to purchase SOTW because the Amazon ratings are very skewed. Half of the reviewers absolutely the series, the other half claim it is riddled with historical inaccuracies. Here’s what my friend Claire said about this controversy:
Claire: Most of the criticisms I’ve seen of Mrs. Bauer’s history series (both SOTW and her adult one) has to do with her treatment of Biblical stories as historical fact. She is a pastor’s wife, and her books reflect a Protestant Christian POV, though not a “Providential” one.
I have also heard the opposite opinion expressed. Some Christian conservatives dislike SOTW because she doesn’t cite all of the Bible as historical fact. We have only listened to the first CD so far, but in no way does it seem to be from a Bible literalist point of view.
Another criticism of SOTW I have heard is that there are not clear delineations between fact and myth. I do not think this is true either. Not only does SWB distinguish between stories and verifiable fact, but she knits them together along with fictional stories that appeal to young readers to create an engaging narrative experience.
We are listening to SOTW as a work of historical fiction, and are enjoying it tremendously. Since we are an Afterschooling family, this is just a Classical Education supplement to my son’s public school education. I have not purchased the written version of SOTW, or the activity guide that goes with it.
The activity guide however, does look pretty cool if you have the time, or are using SOTW for homeschooling. Here are three of my favorite blogs that show some of the activities from the book:
Pretty cool blogs, hunh? I’m enjoying seeing the activities and showing Bruce the pictures, without having to create the actual mess! We just have too much on our plate right now to add anything else. However, I am thinking about purchasing the activity guide in the future and doing some of the projects over winter break.
P.S. I will be updating this page in the future as we listen to more of the CDs. These are just my initial impressions after hearing disc one.
One of Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise’s main ideas in The Well Trained Mind is to create a timeline in your house starting out in ancient times. (This is something that is typically done in public school classrooms.) Over at Ourlearningjourney, you can print out free timeline cards that the mom created to coincide with SOTW. These cards are really beautiful, so be sure to check out her pictures and be inspired.
We are listening to Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World Volume 1 right now, and have just finished disc four. So far, I have been very impressed by the way the author ties in history, archeology, mythology and religion into one cohesive storyline. My six year old son Bruce asks to listen to this book, and my two year old daughter Jenna has tolerated it pretty well. 🙂
When we were at my parents’ house last weekend, I got out my old AP Art history textbook, H.W. Janson’s History of Art, so that I could show Bruce some pictures of the pyramids. As I flipped through the section on the Ancients, I was shocked to see picture after picture of things we had just heard about from SOTW.
This all got me to thinking about how much easier it would have been for me as an 11th grader to study for the AP Art History test if I had listened to something like SOTW as a child. Not to brag, but I still ended up getting a 5 on the test, but heck! That 5 was hard to get! Maybe it would have been easy if I had all of this ancient history wormed into my memory as a young child.
Think about this. If a first grader like Bruce listens to SOTW Volume 1 about two-three times at age six, and then listens to it again four years later when his sister is six, he will probably end up remembering a huge portion of the material just through repetition. Then in high school all he would have to do is listen to SOTW one more time and boom! It would be fresh in his head again, and ready to help him write detailed essays on the AP exam.
The take home lesson for me as a parent is that I really need to store these CDs carefully so that they don’t get scratched up. In our household, that’s not as easy as it sounds.