Saturday, 23 August 2014

'Story of the World' review

The 'Story of the World,' by Susan Wise Bauer is a popular history program written to be used with grades one to four, or for older children to read independently. The text is available in hard cover or as an audio book read by Jim Weiss. It is currently also available in Korean, both Simplified and Traditional Chinese, and Turkish, with further translations in progress. The accompanying activity guide is available as a paperback or download from Peace Hill Press. The activity guide includes suggested reading, colouring pages, map work, narration prompts, craft ideas and other such activities. Don't miss the chicken mummy! All the cool mums and dads let their kids make chicken mummies!

Volume 1: The Ancient World

Rosie's review

I'm using the text and parts of the activity book with my grade one daughter. A typical chapter will see us attempt narration, do the map work, colouring page, watch vaguely relevant Horrible Histories clips (insert link for earlier blog post) and often some supplemental reading. I have bought a few decks of Oracle cards to use as props when learning about the gods. They are convenient and it helps keep them all straight if I can point to a picture when I'm reading a wonderful tale with an inconveniently long cast list! As this is a world history program, I also inserted a chapter of our Australian history book on the pre-colonial period into the SOTW chapter on early nomads. 

I don't like the chapters on the early Jews as they present Bible stories as history instead of literature, so I skip them. I also find it strange that there are three chapters on the Jews and none at all on the Hittites whose empire lasted a thousand years, so I searched Amazon for some supplemental material to include them, but didn't find much. I must also confess that Daughter remembers very little of the actual history content, but hey, we have to talk about something and she enjoys it. The chicken mummy was a hit, and one day she absolutely insisted we stop school so she could ring Nanna and tell her about Persephone. For a language delayed seven year old, I consider this a perfectly good use of our time and we plan to continue with the series.

Jack's review: 

Story of the World 1 started our journey of exploring history. We used the activity guide alongside the main text. This mainly helped me get used to the process of doing narrations. The kids enjoyed the coloring pages and map work. I have bought the activity guide again for subsequent levels, though the reading suggestions aren't helpful at all here because our local library doesn't carry any of these things and I can't even begin to attempt to buy all those books. We follow chapters up by watching stuff on YouTube and picking anything related up from the library.

While I noticed a definite Christian bias, I can't say that's surprising. The author is pretty open about her religious views in the Well-Trained Mind, after all. She did an excellent job including bits and pieces from all over the world, something that is lacking in some history programs. 

My oldest "remembers" most of  what she learned about ancient history through Story of the World. That's in inverted commas because the book is still on her bookshelf and I regularly catch her reading it. Stories from that book still pop up in daily conversation regularly.

Volume 2: The Middle Ages

To be continued next year…

Volume 3: Early Modern

To be continued the year after...

Volume 4: Modern Period 

To be continued the year after that if the sky does not fall and the world does not end...

Series Review

Hannah's review:

We do "History Club" with four other families who meet once a week. Each mom takes a turn to host the group and to prepare the activities for the chapter of the week. The afternoon starts off with a recap of the story and an explanation of how the activity fits into this. The kids benefit from each mom having a different approach and talents and knowing that the other families are depending on a well prepared activity keeps everyone accountable! We are doing history club for the 2nd cycle with my younger daughter and over the years with older and younger we have covered the spectrum of crafts, sewing, drama and games initiated by our sporty mom.

Before the history club afternoon we start by reading (or listening to the audio of) the relevant chapter from SOTW. This is mostly for my benefit as my 10 year old daughter enjoys the audio cd's and she has listened to each of the chapters more than once. The audio for each chapter is typically between 5 and 15 minutes long. She might do a colouring page while listening if the picture appeals to her.

The next day we do the review questions and narrations. Again this takes only a few minutes. We also take out any additional books we have and we google away. Our history club keeps us moving along through the chapters, but one could stop and do an in-depth study of just about any of the topics. There is an incredible amount of materials available online developed by other homeschoolers and loads to google on each topic. SOTW has lead to some great rabbit trails and more in-depth study for us. Both daughter's have developed a keen interest in Greek mythology and my ten year old has a neat party trick of naming and describing the Greek gods which impresses most adults!
We spend a fair amount of time in the car and mostly have a history audiobook going. I gave up on matching the audiobooks to SOTW topics, but it does tie up to the general time period. 

For your listening pleasure:
Ancient History Audio:
Middle Ages Audio:

While I had fun making and putting up a timeline and playing with memory cards (available together with a random bunch of other stuff in the file section in this yahoo group here: I’m not sure how much my daughters or their friends in history club really benefitted. They do remember a surprising amount of the names and details of the stories, but this is due more to repetion than the visual aids. They still don’t have a very good idea of the chronology and even though they did memorise some of the timeline, this has been forgotten. But I figure that they at least have the mental hooks for future studies.

My older dd completed and enjoyed the first three books of Story of the World and a few selected chapters of book 4 before she decided that she did not want to learn about 'all those wars', so we moved on.

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