Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Story of the World | A Review

We have recently completed our 1st grade year. At the end of any school year (whether I was in the classroom or homeschooling), I have always taken a step back to evaluate what worked, what didn't, and what I needed to change for the following year.

As you saw from last week's post, we will be continuing First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind in second grade. However, something we will be changing is our approach to history (more on how we will be doing this will come in the next two weeks).

This year we used The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor along with the accompanying workbook. There were definitely pros and cons to this book for me. In fact, there were more pros and only one issue for me. But for me and my preferences, the con outweighed the pros.


Addie loved it! 

When you have all of your school books laid out and your child chooses history as the first subject they want to work on, you know the book is great in terms of keeping their attention. The book itself was thick and had 42 chapters with very few illustrations. There was a lot of reading, but my daughter (who started the year as a five year old and turned six in February) loved it.

Geography became a familiar friend.

We have all heard of the statistics of Americans not knowing where the USA is on a world map.
That is not an issue with this approach. Geography is a daily exercise. Depending on which portion of history you are learning, your geography will center around that region for the entire year. The maps have different tasks to be completed, and crayons are usually involved making for a fun approach to learning the geography of the region being studied.

Shorter segments of history.

As a teacher in a classroom setting, our history books every year began at Creation and spanned time by ending with Reagan and the fall of communism (the books definitely needed to be updated!). With any curriculum using a classical approach, small chunks of information are used for one year so the child can really grasp the concepts and information being given.

This past year, we only learned about Ancient History from the Nomads to the fall of Rome. I loved this approach because we were able to really focus on specific historical events and people. That is where the real learning comes in. Just remembering dates and names means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Learning from the times and people, from their mistakes and triumphs, and connecting the dots from an event from history and how it has affected our present, that is where learning truly happens.

Narrative form

The book is written as if  a story was being told. That type of approach is very engaging. Not just for the reader, but for the listener as well. For me personally, if you tell me a story, I am more likely to remember what I heard than if you gave me the same information in a very clinical, factual way.

A few weeks after we had finished history for the year, my father was visiting and we were talking about the movie "Braveheart," a historical movie based on the life of William Wallace, a 13th century Scottish warrior who led the first Scottish war for independence again England (very graphic in battle scenes and we skip over the entire wedding scene- NOT a movie for children). There were certain details in the movie that I had been unaware until reading The Story of the World were actually historically based details, such as the warriors painting themselves blue. While my father and I were talking about that particular fact, Addie who had overheard us talking about "blue paint" came over and explained to Dad why the men from Britain had used blue paint on themselves in battle against the Romans based on what we had read when Rome invaded Britain. I was amazed that she still remembered that after several weeks.

Another time, after studying Egypt, my father had gotten us a DVD about Egypt that featured many of the places we had learned about, including tombs of the pharaohs. As they showed different tombs, one tomb shown was for the only woman pharaoh of Egypt, Hatshepsut. Addie got so excited and said, "Mom, it's the tomb for Hatshepsut, the lady pharaoh!" She would never have remembered anything about this obscure woman had it not been for the intriguing story of her life and how she took the throne away from her only brother.

It is designed to be a spring board.

The workbook has a teacher's guide section at the front of the book. In this section, parents are given ideas on how to turn each chapter in to an entire unit of study from arts and crafts to which books should be borrowed from the library or bought in order to read in more depth about the people, civilizations, and times currently being studied. 


Too liberal in its approach to history

This negative comes from my worldview. As a Christian, God's Word is the lens through which I choose to view the world and the choices I make.

God's Word and the aspects of history that we learn from His Word took place in what is considered Ancient Times. Yet, the author of The Story of the World inserted these moments in history as mere hiccups and gave no authoritative credibility to the Bible. It was given the same, if not less, credibility as any other book of history. (From my understanding, the author is considered to be a Christian, which is why I chose this book.)

When great Biblical historical figures such as Abraham, Joseph, and Moses were talked about, the Bible (where their account comes from) was not even treated as though its account was completely accurate. Part of Abraham's account was even taken from documents other than Scripture- causing him to appear different than how God's Word portrays him. At those times, we would just close the book and read God's account of these men.

There were many times when a historical reference was made that I would have to connect the dots to God's Word on my own because the connection was not given in the book (for example, when we learned about Cyrus, I had to show his connection to God's people on my own).

With as little as God was mentioned and as little credibility He was given, I found it disturbing that the gods of the civilizations we were studying were given so much "time" and so many mythological stories were written. We skipped these.  

The curriculum we will be using this coming year takes the approach that history fits into God's timeline. They do recommend The Story of the World as a supplement to their history if more background information is wanted, but it is not the foundation for their history. I am looking forward to sharing with you what our upcoming school year will look like.

Do you use The Story of the World? Do you like it? What do you like about it? What don't you care for about it?


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