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This summer the kids and I have been listening to Susan Wise Bauer‘s epic book The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times, 2nd Edition (9 CDs).
My eight-year-old son Bruce has also been reading the text version, and we’ve been trying to do some of the projects from the activity guide, which I’ve shared on the SOTW Pinterest board I’m creating with Mrs. Warde from Sceleratus Classical Academy.
But with Alaska, camping, swimming lessons and sleeping in, we haven’t done as much with SOTW III as I had hoped.
Yesterday however, was a lot of fun. That’s because we played the guerilla warfare game from page 71 of the Activity Guide. This was a tie-in to the story of Aurangzeb, “World Seizer” of India.
(On a side note, since we are listening to the audio version of SOTW, I thought the name was “World Caesar”. Ooops!)
Here’s a brief quote from the Activity Guide: “Aurangzeb spent twenty-six years in the Deccan, fighting off guerilla warriors. Guerilla warriors are soldiers who fight in sneak attacks and from under cover.” (p 71)
Susan Wise Bauer’s idea is to have kids try to hide under furniture around the house, and sneak attack their parents, grabbing ribbons which are close-pinned to mom and dad’s back. If they pull this off unnoticed, the kids get a point. If the children are caught, the point goes to mom and dad.
Granted, there is a moral issue to be considered when you are turning something as horribly serious as guerilla warfare into a game. This isn’t a subject to be taken lightly.
But I think the point is to teach children that in many wars, weaker fighters are successful combating stronger troops by not following the traditional rules of warfare. This also becomes important when understanding America’s Revolutionary War, which is also covered in SOTW III.
So a “game” like this is only one part of a larger discussion about power, control, and the heartbreak of war.
Stay tuned for more of our SOTW adventures this summer…
This summer my kids and I are going to be exploring Susan Wise Bauer’s “Story of the World, History for the Classical Child, Volume 3, Early Modern Times”.
We have already listened to SOTW III a couple of years ago in the car. This time around, we are listening, reading, and doing some of the projects in the activity guide.
I’ll be blogging about our SOTW III adventure, and updating the SOTW Pinterest Board I’m making with The Younger Mrs. Warde from Sceleratus Classical Academy.
As you can see from our picture, we jumped into SOTW III in the middle, because Catherine the Great is of particular interest to our whole family. But now we are back at the beginning, taking things chapter by chapter.
As always, I’m considerably impressed by what Susan Wise Bauer has accomplished.
Do you think Shakespeare is too hard for kids? Think again!
With the right type of scaffolding, almost any age can enjoy the “Bard of Avon”. Here are some ideas to get you started:
For Kids 2.5 Years Old and Up
Shakepeare’s Storybook with CD by Patrick Ryan doesn’t exactly tell the stories of Shakespeare. Instead, it includes the stories that inspired Shakespeare. So instead of “Hamlet”, you hear the story of “Ashboy”. “A Bargain is a Bargain” tells the story of “The Merchant of Venice.”
There are two CDs with this book, as well as lots of pictures. None of the stories were too scary for my daughter, who started listening to them as young as two and a half.
For Kids 4 and Up
Can I just say how much I love Jim Weiss? Basically anything you purchase from Greathall Productions is going to be golden. Shakespeare for Children is no exception. This is an audio CD that tells the stories of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and “The Taming of the Shrew”. Both versions are awesome!
Tales from Shakespeare by Tina Packer is another great choice for kids. My son and I have read this book at bedtime over and over again. The plays are told in narrative form but include original lines whenever possible. The illustrations are beautiful; my only complaint is that there aren’t more of them.
For Kids 6 and Up
Chapter 39 of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World Volume 2 includes historical information about Shakespeare, as well as a brief retelling of “Macbeth”. If you have Jim Weiss reading the audio version of SOTW2, this appears on Disc 9. I love the entire SOTW series to begin with, so getting a bit of Shakespeare thrown in is a nice bonus.
The Shakespeare Stealer is a historical novel for middle grade audiences by Gary Blackwood. It tells the fictional story of Widge, an orphan boy who knows how to do a cryptic shorthand that allows him to transcribe plays when he should just be watching them. The language is pretty advanced (not inappropriate, just challenging). You really feel like you are getting a history lesson when you read this, as well as being entertained.
For Kids 10 and Up
Imagine if Monty Python, the Globe Theatre, and the evening news were mixed together. You might end up with “This is Macbeth” and “This is Hamlet”. These are two really wonderful introductions to Shakespeare for older students, created by Greg Watkins and Jeremy Sabol from Stanford’s Structured Liberal Education program. (More about my own interest in SLE here.)
There are key scenes from the plays performed, faux interviews of the characters, musical interludes, and pretend medieval commercials.
My son Bruce is only seven, so he doesn’t quite have the attention span to make it through an entire DVD. But he loves the medieval commercials so much, we have watched those on repeat. It’s going to be really difficult to walk past the replica sword store, the next time I take Bruce to the mall…
We are now on disc 8 out of the 9 disc audio version of Story of the World Volume III by Susan Wise Bauer. Bruce(6.5) and I continue to love this series. Jenna(2) alternates between yelling “No Story of the World! Music CD!” from the back seat, or paradoxically, sometimes asking for it. I’m not deluding myself into thinking my two year old has learned anything from thirty plus hours of listening to SOTW volumes 1-3, but I think it hasn’t hurt her language development at all to listen to speaking, stories, and big vocabulary words.
For his part, Bruce told me recently:
“Mom, I’ll tell you what history is about. It’s about Christians fighting Muslims, Muslims fighting Christians, Catholics fighting Protestants, and Protestants fighting Catholics. Every once in a while a real powerful guy comes along and builds up a great empire. But then after a while the empire gets all messed up.”
I found this reflection to be both wise and poignant, especially since it was coming from my six year old. This is not to say that I found SOTW III very dark or depressing, because it was not. There were a lot of wonderful stories of historical heroes, heroines, brave explorers, and noble defenders.
SOTW III is also the only book for children that I have been able to find that discusses John Locke specifically. There is a good, five minute section about Locke and his theory that in a natural state all men are equal and have the right to pursue life, liberty and possessions. I mention this because Bruce and I are currently plugging through my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2, which by design, needed to include a child’s introduction to John Locke.
The theories created by John Locke of course flow straight into the creation of America, and so SOTW III also includes some early American history. In fact, it goes into more detail about certain parts of American history than the AP US History text I had in 11th grade. The history of Manhattan for example, was all new to me and very intriguing.
In fact, I was shocked at how much history I learned from Volume III myself. I had never studied the liberation of South America, nor the Mongol empire in India. These are the hardest parts for me to learn, because I don’t have any tracks laid down in my brain from childhood for the information to stick to. This won’t be a problem for Bruce or Jenna!
We finished !!!!!!
(For more on Story of the World Volume 2 please see here.)
For all of you moms and dads who are reading Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World with your kids, this is fabulous self-education bridge between SOTW 1 and SOTW 2. Richard E. Rubenstein’s book Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages is wonderful refresher to anyone who read Aristotle or Plato in college, but also a good introduction to ancient philosophy for those who did not.
There are a lot of books I have enjoyed reading sitting on the toilet (lid down!) while my kids take their bath each night. This book is not one of them. You really need to be able to concentrate on the text longer than in 60 second intervals. That doesn’t mean it is a difficult read, just one that you want to fully engage in without being distracted.
The way that Rubenstein compares and contrasts Plato and Aristotle is enlightening. Bear with me, and read this little excerpt slowly enough so that it sinks in:
“In Aristotelian epochs, economic growth, political expansion, and cultural optimism color the intellectual atmosphere. People feel connected to each other and to the natural world. Confident that they can direct their emotions instead of being dominated by them they are generally comfortable with their humanity. Proud of their ability to understand how things work, they believe that they can make use of nature and improve society. The natural world seems to them vast and harmonious, populated by highly individualized people and things, but integrated, purposeful and beautiful. Aristotelian thinkers know that they will die as all nature’s creatures do, but the environment that nurtures them seems immortal, and this gives meaning to their lives. Curiosity and sociability are their characteristic virtues, egoism and complacency their most common vices.
“Platonic eras, by contrast, are filled with discomfort and longing. The source of this discomfort is a sense of contradiction dramatized by personal and social conflicts that seem all but unresolvable. Society is fractured, its potential integrity disrupted by violent strife, and this brokenness is mirrored in the souls of individuals. People feel divided against themselves –not ruled by reason but driven by uncontrollable instincts and desires. The universe as a whole may not be evil, but it is far from what it should be–far, indeed, from what in some other dimension, it truly is. Latter-day Platonists are haunted by a sense that the world people call real is, at least in part, illusory…and this is also the source of their longing. They believe that a better and truer self, society, and universe await them on the other side of some necessary transformation. Earthly life is therefore a pilgrimage, a stern quest whose pursuit generates the virtues of selflessness, endurance, and imagination. The characteristic Neoplatonic vices (the dark side of its virtues) are self-hatred, intolerance, and fanaticism.” pp 49-50
I don’t know about you, but that gives me chills when I read it. It also gives an incredible amount of perspective when you look back through history and think about the thoughts and values that shaped action. Of course, how can you not read that and wonder to yourself what type of era we live in now, or on a more personal level, what is your own fundamental belief? Are you more of an Aristotelian thinker, or are you Platonic?
I started off this post referencing Story of the World, and you just have to trust me that if your child is reading SOTW, then Aristotle’s Children is really worth your time as a parent to read. It gives you depth, perspective, clarity… you name it. The section on the relationship between Aristotle and Alexander the Great for example, is truly fascinating. Now I might just have to go back and reread the primary sources…
Bruce(6) and I listened to disc 4 of Susan Wise Bauer’s wonderful book The Story of the World Volume 2 last night. We heard all about William the Conqueror, Harald, and the Battle of Hastings. We also learned about what castles were like at the turn of the first millennium.
Here is a picture of William the Conqueror’s fortress, The White Castle, that my husband and I took when we visited London last May.
Here’s another picture. Right now The White Tower is used as an armory/museum.
Look how thick the walls are!
This is the portcullis we walked through, just like Susan Wise Bauer describes in her section on castles. Pretty cool!
(I will be revisiting this post soon with updates.)
We are now on disc #3 of the 9 disc audio set for Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World Volume 2. It is absolutely fabulous! That being said, it is also leading to a lot of problems in our household. Jenna(25m) has now listened to ten hours of Jim Weiss reading SOTW, since we also listed to SOTW Volume 1 this summer. To put it bluntly, Jenna has now had enough. Bruce(6) on the other hand, is desperate to hear to more. So this is what it is like every time we get in the car:
Bruce: Story of the World! Story of the World! Turn it on Mom!!!
Jenna: No Story of the World! I want music. CLASSICAL music! No Story of the World! Music!! Mommy put on classical music!
Repeat 100 X
Sigh…. As my husband has put it, our children have no hope. They are being trained to be nerds from the start. The first grader is begging to hear history from the middle ages, and the two year old is a classical music snob. 🙂 We are going to try putting an old boom box into Bruce’s room so he can listen to SOTW on his own.
Please note that I haven’t been deluding myself into thinking Jenna was learning anything from listening to SOTW, but she had been tolerating it pretty well for Bruce’s sake. And who knows? Maybe she did pick up some vocabulary along the way. She is pretty darn good a stringing sentences together for such a little girl.
To help support SOTW #2 I have gathered up all of the books in our home library that correspond to the years 300-1500. As you can see, we are a little knight heavy. Mary Pope Osborne’s Favorite Medieval Tales is one of the best of the bunch. I will write and link up full reviews of all of the books in the next few months.
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.
The Ziggurat from Ur, for example. I think that was discussed on disc two.
Bull jumpers from Crete, which was on disc three.
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.
Right now we are listening to The Story of the World Volume 1 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.
Update #1 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.