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Visiting the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

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I still feel a bit guilty. Last weekend my family went to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Oregon and we didn’t eat any beef jerky. Or smoked salmon. Or dog. Yuck! Okay, dog and horsemeat were never on the table but I did have some teriyaki jerky in the cooler. If we were truly going to immerse ourselves in the Corps of Discovery experience we should have been eating preserved meat.

At least we geeked out in the car. On our way down to Oregon we listened to chapter 32 of Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times. Narrator Jim Weiss gave a delightful introduction to what we would find at Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark’s winter camp has been faithfully reconstructed.

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The actual fort was a lot smaller than I had imagined–and darker. My five-year-old daughter objected to its “earthy” smell. I have a cute picture of her holding her nose, but I don’t share my children’s photos online. So take a look at the mens’ quarters and imagine the aroma of animal hide.

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A cool part of the park is that they have rangers dressed up in period costumes giving demonstrations, like this one, where they actually fired a rifle.

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As you might expect, Sacajawea has a major presence at the camp. I don’t know if the scale is accurate, but this statue of her and her baby “Pompey” is about 5 feet, 5 inches.

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In the fort itself, Sacajawea’s family had their own room.

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The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park is a fun place to spend between 2-4 hours with kids, but it’s not on the same scale as Plimoth Plantation. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think we would visit again unless we were camping at Cape Disappointment.

 

Afterschooling with Story of the World v4

The deep, dark, SOTW IV

The deep, dark, SOTW IV

Third grade has started and our schedule is packed.  More importantly, my son’s classroom teacher is keeping his brain very full.  That’s not just good, that’s great.

So how can we meet our 1 hour and 45 minutes a week goal of Afterschooling without me being a mean mom?

Easy.  I’ve got two words for you: Carschooling and Kindle.

For the past month, Bruce(8) has been listening to Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age: From Victoria’s Empire to the End of the USSR.  (I couldn’t find the audio version of SOTW Volume 4 on Amazon anymore, but here’s the link to Peace Hill Press.)

SOTW v4 is a marked change from the previous three volumes which I have also reviewed on my blog: SOTW v1, SOTW v2, and SOTW v3.  It’s deeper, darker, and not meant for young children.  In the introduction, SWB gives a sober advisement to parents that this book is four fourth grade and up.

Bruce is still a year shy of that mark, but he has learned so much history, religion, and philosophy already, that I felt he could handle it.  But we are being very careful to listen to SOTW v4 when Jenna(4) isn’t in the car with us, or else asleep.

There are 11 discs in the volume, and we got through the first four before school ever began.

We’ve heard about the Second Reich, the Russo-Japanese War, the internment of Afrikaans in the Boer War, and the beginnings of World War I.  See what I mean about this volume being dark?

But we also learned a lot that ties in with our own Russo-German family history. That’s been interesting to hear, because it provides a more global understanding of why my ancestors came to America.

To supplement the audio discs, we also own the book version.  On the weekends when Bruce wants to earn extra time on his Kindle, I have him read a few chapters.  The new Angry Birds Star War edition is a great motivator!

The John Locke Experiment, SOTW III

A marshmallow, a chocolate chip, a raisin and a teaspoon of sugar.

A marshmallow, a chocolate chip, a raisin and a teaspoon of sugar.

Do you know what sweetness is?  Were you born knowing what sweetness is, or did you have to experience sweetness to understand?

That’s the question we were asking today as we learned about John Locke.

In case you were wondering, yes, this is another part of our summer adventure listening to Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times, 2nd Edition (9 CDs).

  

(Btw, check out the SOTW Pinterest board I’m creating with Mrs. Warde from Sceleratus Classical Academy.)

The John Locke experiment comes from page 99 of The Story of the World Activity Book Three: Early Modern Times.  Parents read actual exerpts from John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, while kids eat the sweet stuff.

Then you have a discussion about how John Locke believed people were born as a “blank slate”, or “tabula rasa”.

As activities go, this one only took about five minutes.  But hey, how many 8-year-olds and 4-year-olds are out there learning about John Locke this summer?

You might even say that my kids were born blank slates with ultimate potential, but their mommy is turning them into nerds, one summer day at a time…

Guerilla Warfare and SOTW III

Rocking out with history this summer!

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)

A hands-on learning approach to understanding guerilla warfare (without anyone being hurt).

A hands-on learning approach to understanding guerilla warfare (without anyone being hurt).

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…

Story of the World III

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!

The Grammar Stage

Diverse Exposure without In-Depth Analysis

When I first read The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, I had a lot of difficulty with the concept of the Grammar Stage, the first four years of Classical Education from the first through fourth grade.  My main opposition was to the wording that the Grammar Stage should include memorization without understanding.  As an educator, I am 98% philosophically opposed to this.  For some reason, certain conservative homeschooling groups like Classical Conversations seem to have really latched on to the idea of memorization without understanding, and that further soured my take on the Grammar Stage for a while.

But  after multiple readings of the WTM, and after discussing it with parents who put some of the ideas into practice (please see our online book discussion here), I think that what Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise are really proposing is that in the Grammar Stage you flood children’s minds with stories and information.  Their theory is that children under the age of nine do not necessarily need to analyze and evaluate information deeply (although they might), but that they should hear as much information as possible.   

My understanding now is that SWB and JW are advocating exposing children to a plethora of information, not sitting them down and having them memorizes lists and dates.  Instead of “memorization without understanding”, why I think they meant was diverse exposure without in-depth analysis.  True understanding of this thesis put into practice becomes clear if you listen or read Story of the World with your children.  There are no lists to memorize, just lots of historical stories and myths to listen to and enjoy.  Here’s a quote from page 22 of the third edition of The Well Trained Mind that really sums up this point:

 “In the first four years of learning, you’ll be filling your child’s mind and imagination with as many pictures, stories, and facts as you can.  Your goal is to supply mental pegs on which later information can be hung.”

 Right now we are listening to SOTW #3 in the car on the way to Bruce(6)’s school, and to Jenna(2)’s Kindermusik CD on the way home from dropping him off.  The Kindermusik CD has a lot of songs about trains on it, and as I was listening to the music today the perfect metaphor for the Grammar Stage came to mind.  The Grammar Stage is a time when parents can help their children lay down tracks for future learning.  Your goal is to lay down as many tracks to as many places as possible.  Some day in the future your child will be older and more mature, ready for full-blown locomotives of information.  If the tracks are already in place, those steam engines will be able to come quicker, faster, and heavier because they have someplace to stick to.  Kids who have a maze of tracks already in place will have a huge advantage over their peers who do not.

If you have ever tried to learn a foreign language as an adult, or pick up a new musical instrument, or (eek!) tried to fully understand and remember the Mongol Empire section from SOTW #3, then you know how difficult it is to learn something when you do not have the proper train tracks laid down in your brain.  There is nothing for the information to “stick” to.  That doesn’t mean you can’t learn new information at an older age, it just means it is more difficult.

Good public schools will hopefully be doing an excellent job of exposing children to great books, strong mathematics, beginning science concepts, and a smattering of social studies.  If you are lucky like my son is, school will also include music, poetry, and art.  But my job description as parent means that I am ultimately in charge of my children’s’ educations, and I take that role seriously through Afterchooling.  This is why we do cool science experiments on the weekend, listen to world history in the car, learn extra math over the summer, and (heaven help me!) are trying to learn Spanish at home.  At the end of the Grammar Stage both of my kids will have a maze of train tacks going through their heads, and when they hit middle school and high school– watch out!

Story of the World Volume 2 Update

We finished !!!!!!

(For more on Story of the World Volume 2 please see here.)

Kids Discover Magazine

How sweet is this? Bruce’s new issue of “Kids Discover” magazine came yesterday, and it is all about the Middle Ages! What a great compliment to Story of the World Volume 2, which we are continuing to listen to.

In case you are interested in ordering the back issue of this particular issue on the Middle Ages, it is Volume 21, Issue 10, October 2011.

Story of the World Volume 2, Disc 4

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!

Holy Chickens and Story of the World

 

We’ve had another long car trip this weekend, on our way to a family reunion.  This time, my husband was in the car with us and got to listen to Story of the World for the first time.  He was suitably impressed, but that’s not what this post is about.  This is about my parenting-oops moment of the evening.

At some point in the ancient Rome section…disc 4?  disc 5?  I’ve been in the car so long I can’t remember!… Anyhow, Susan Wise Bauer tells this story of a general who takes sacred chickens with him on his navy boat to help predict how the battle will go.  The chickens get seasick, refuse to eat, and eventually get thrown overboard.  The soldiers freak out about how the sacred chickens have behaved as well as how they were treated.  The army ends up being defeated.

This concept of ancient people really believing in something (to us) as crazy as sacred chickens really hit home for Bruce and we have been talking about it all evening.  I joked with him: I should start saying “Holy chickens” instead of “Holy cow”.  That seemed pretty innocent at the time, although I understand that saying “Holy cow” would be offensive on its own to certain faith backgrounds.

Later on in the evening the kids were brushing their teeth and I looked up and saw a giant spider web drifting down from the skylight.  My chance had arrived!  Holy chickens, would you look at that spider web?  The problem was, try saying “Holy chickens”.  Oh my gosh!  It sounds like you are going to say an expletive. I might as well have taught them to say: mother fudging son of a biscuit.

The Story of the World Volume 1 Audio CD

Initial Impressions:

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.

The Well Trained Mind: Thoughts from Chapter 7

This is a series of posts I am writing about The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Although the WTM has a decidedly homeschooling bent, it is an excellent reference book for any parent who is interested in taking an active role in their child’s education.

Over the next few weeks I am reading the WTM again for the second time and blogging about my thoughts chapter by chapter. I want to be conscientious about not violating any copyrights, so I will not be including quotes from the book on my blog. I will however, be referencing specific page numbers from the third edition. I invite you to read along with me, and chime in your own thoughts in the comment section below.

Chapter 7

General Thoughts:

The history and geography section of the WTM is in my mind, one of the easiest ways to enrich a 1st-4th grader’s education through Afterschooling. It would be so easy to take the author’s main idea of a four year study from the ancients through modern time, and use their book suggestions for bedtime read alouds. This is similar to what I am already doing with my SLE inspired reading list. Another way that I intend to incorporate some ancient history into my first grader’s life is through my In the Car Curriculum plan for fall. The WTM book recommendations are great fodder for future reading choices.

My big question about this whole chapter however, is in regards to Susan Wise Bauer’s book series Story of the World, which she recommends as the heart of her history program. When I originally read the WTM I went immediately onto Amazon intending to purchase the first book to read with my son this summer. But the reviews of it really changed my mind. Half of them are glowing, and half of them pan the book and say that it is full of historical inaccuracies. I have searched and searched on the web, but I can’t seem to find any answers as to whether or not SWB has addressed these concerns or allegations. This is all very puzzling to me, because one of the main points of the WTM is that in the Grammar stage memorization before understanding is encouraged/allowable. So why would you have children learn facts that might actually be untrue?

I have hemmed and hawed about purchasing Story of the World, and finally decided to order it anyway. I am an intensely curious person and can just not stand not knowing what all of the fuss is about! I’m intending on making sure my son understands that the book is an artistic retelling of history, mythology and legends tied together, and not necessarily verifiable fact.  Thoughts?

Page 115: Boy do the authors have my attention on page 115 when they describe this page by page history notebook that their homeschoolers would create. The idea is to draw a picture and write a little bit about each person or historical event they study. Over the course of four years, the notebook would become their own student created history book of what they had learned.  I think this idea is fantastic!

Page 118: I love when the authors emphasize that reading skills should not be tied to writing skills. I think the same could be said for math.

Page 120: Regarding learning the states and capitals: My son learned all of the states when he was just five and a half by playing Stack the States on our ipod touch. This is an example of image based learning, which the authors of the WTM discourage. As a teacher, I would argue do whatever it takes, and pull out any trick to make learning happen.