I’ve been feeling a bit guilty that this is supposed to – at least partly – be a homeschooling blog, but I hardly ever blog about homeschooling anymore. Now that spring is almost here, it’s time to make plans for next year. This is the first time in a few years that I have to do more planning than just purchasing the next grade level for all of the curriculum we use, because Natalie is entering – gasp! – junior high. Her schooling will differ a lot from what we’ve done in the past – more independent learning, less joint classes with her brothers – as she gets ready for high school and the Running Start program, which will enable her to graduate from high school with her Associate’s Degree.
I’ll be posting later about what we’ll be doing differently next year, but I thought it would be good to do some curriculum reviews in the next few weeks of the programs that have been working so well for us the past few years. I’m starting with Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World, which we have used for history for the past three years. This year we’re using The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 3: Early Modern Times, which covers the time period starting with Elizabeth I and the Age of Exploration, and ends with the Gold Rush and the 49ers.
We started with this curriculum three years ago, with Volume 1 on Ancient History. I bought both the book and the activity guide, which is loaded with comprehension questions, coloring pages, map pages, and tons of activities. I quickly learned that I could not do everything in the activity book, unless I wanted to spend two or three years on Ancient History. The activities range from the simple, like making masks, to the more complex, like mummifying a chicken.
If you’re the kind of homeschooling parent who feels like you must do everything the book says, then this curriculum will drive you crazy. However, if you, like me, have no problem crossing things out, skipping sections, and picking and choosing activities, then this is an amazing program. We quickly settled into a routine. While I read the section aloud, the kids color the corresponding coloring page. I ask the section questions, and then we do the map work. We also do the less complicated activities. We did build a pyramid of sugar cubes. We did not mummify a chicken. (Ew.)
This program is designed for grade school kids. When we started, Natalie was in 4th grade, Noah in 2nd, Jonathan in 1st, and Josiah wasn’t doing school yet. As the kids have gotten older, Natalie and Noah have done some additional reading, and I have incorporated some of our read-aloud time to include books that fit with what we’re studying in history. If the library has movies available on important persons or events of the time period, we also watch those. (Which was one of the reasons I freaked when our VCR died and I found out that you can’t buy just a VCR anymore, but that’s a whole different story.) This program has given the kids a good overview of history. They may not be able to recite dates by memory, but they know what the major civilizations were and who the major people were and can describe major events.
Because of the map work included with each chapter, they also have a good working knowledge of world geography. I have supplemented their map work with a Map Skills workbooks for each grade, that goes into more detail about types of maps, hemispheres, lines of longitude and latitude and other map features. I have been really happy with the way this method of teaching history has worked for us – and I love this curriculum.
This year, we are doing an abridged version of Voume 3, Early Modern Times. Because Bauer takes a world-wide approach to history, each book teaches the history of each continent and country. Natalie needs to be ready to start studying the Civil War next year in 7th grade, and so to get through Volume 3, which ends with the Gold Rush, we are only doing American and European history. I will skip the Asian and Australian sections for now, knowing that the kids will come back around to it in later grades. If I left those sections in, it would take us two years to get through Volume 3.
Next year, the boys and I will continue on with The Story of the Word, Volume 4: Modern Times, while Natalie will be using a different, middle school curriculum. It will be a change for her, but good preparation for high school and college work. I haven’t decided which curriculum to use for Natalie yet, though I’m thinking about The Story of Us. Any suggestions for a good middle school history curriculum?