Posts Tagged ‘History’

Booklist: Native Americans

Dear Reader,

As we continue with booklists I have put together over the years today’s list is books on Native Americans. Because these are books we read a number of years ago, they are geared toward younger ages. I also have a post here with some choices for middle and high school. You can find all my lists of living books here.

Living Books on Native Americans

Averill, Esther. King Phillip: the Indian Chief. A wonderful older author but may be hard to find. Elementary?

Bruchac, Jospeh. Arrow over the Door. Elementary.

Colver, Anne. Bread and Butter Indian. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Chapter book. Elementary.

Garst, Shannon. Picture Story and Biography of Red Cloud. Older book. May be hard to find. Elementary?

Hays, Wilma Pitchford. Little Yellow Fur. Wonderful author. Elementary.

Holling,  Holling C. The Book of Indians. I don’t love all of Holling’s books but I do like this one. Elementary.

Lenski, Lois. Indian Captive and Little Sioux Girl. We love Lenski’s books. Elementary-middle.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Hiawatha’s Childhood. A famous poem about a Native American boy. There is a lot of idealization here but it is worth reading because a) it is famous and oft-quoted and b) you can discuss how Hiawatha is portrayed and if this is fair and/or accurate.

McGovern, Ann. Defenders. Another good author. Her books are usually chapter books. Elementary.

Monjo. Indian Summer. Love Monjo too. Elementary.

O’Dell, Scott. Zia and Thunder Rolling in the Mountains. O’Dell has lots of wonderful historical fiction. Middle years.

Speare, Elizabeth George. Calico Captive and Sign of the Beaver. Middle years.

Spradlin, Michael P. The Legend of Blue Jacket. Long picture book. Elementary.

Steele, William O. Flaming Arrows and Buffalo Knife, et. al. Steele has wonderful, adventurous books. Middle years.

Syme, Roald. Geronimo. Older author. Syme writes great elementary level biographies.

Turner, Ann. Dakota Dugout and Sitting Bull Remembers. Elementary.

Various. If You Lived with the . . . (series). Maybe a little less living but a good series for reading about how various tribes lived. Elementary.

Whelan, Gloria. Indian School. Middle years (?).

Nebby

 

 

 

Booklist: the Middle Ages

Dear Reader,

As we continue with booklists I have put together over the years today’s list is books on the Middle Ages. You can find all my lists of living books here.

The first time we studied the Middle Ages, I went to Heritage History for a lot of our resources. If you are willing to use older books (which are often better anyway) and don’t mind have them in a digital format, this is a wonderful site.  We went through the Middle Ages once in broader perspective in the first 12-week term and then once focusing in on specific countries in our second term.

Living Books about the Middle Ages

Ackroyd, Peter. The Canterbury Tales . There are of course other versions of these classic stories. I happened to find the version edited by Peter Ackroyd  so that is what we used. The original tales are bawdy and this version includes those bits so I was discriminating. We did not read every tale and I occasionally edited on the spot while reading aloud.

Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. This time period is as good as any other for covering Muslim history. I have liked many of the short books in this series. Middle-teens.

Avi. Crispin (series). We loved these books. Middle years.

Baldwin, James. The Story of Roland. Version of the medieval tale. Middle years-teens.

Bonner, John.  A Child’s History of Spain. Middle years (?).

Cushman, Karen. Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice. Middle years.

D’Angeli, Marguerite. Door in the Wall. Upper elementary-middle.

Demi. Marco Polo. Demi mostly does picture books on China. Elementary.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. White Company. From the author of Sherlock Holmes. Middle years +.

Florian, M. The Moors in Spain. Available from Heritage History. Middle years.

Gray, Elizabeth Janet. Adam of the Road. Historical fiction. Middle years.

Harding, S.B.  Story of the Middle Ages. Another older book. Middle years.

Kelly, Eric. Trumpeter of Krakow. A wonderful, don’t-miss book on Poland. Middle years but you can read it aloud earlier.

Konigsburg, E.L. Proud Taste of Scarlet and Miniver. Historical fiction re Eleanor of Aquitaine. Middle years +.

Marshall, H.E. The Story of Europe. An older spine book. She also has books on specific countries, eg. The Story of Germany and Scotland’s Story. Our Island Story covers English history. Heritage History uses Marshall’s books and I find them very engaging. Middle years but could be used with a wide range of ages.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. El Cid. Spanish hero. McCaughrean has lovely illustrated books. Elementary.

Meigs, Elizabeth. Crusade and the Cup. Older book. Middle years.

The Middle Ages: An Illustrated History of the Church from 900 to 1300. This is a book I stumbled across some years ago. It is not the best living book though it is somewhat engaging. I like that it gives church history. Middle years but can be used for a wide range of ages.

Mills, Dorothy. The Middle Ages. Middle years.

O’Dell, Scott. The Road to Damietta (about Francis of Assisi) and Hawk that Dare Not Hunt (about Tyndale). Middle years.

Paterson, Katherine. King’s Equal. Chapter book. Upper elementary-middle.

Pyle, Howard. Men of Iron and Otto of the Silver Hand. An older author. Middle years.

Riley-Smith, Jonathan. Crusades, Christianity and Islam. A good, scholarly consideration. Teens.

Scott, Sir Walter. Ivanhoe and Talisman. Classic. Teens.

Seraillier, Ian. Beowulf, the Warrior. A fairly short version of the story. Various ages.

Seredyk, Kate. White Stag. Re Attila the Hun and the Huns and Magyars in modern day Hungary. Elementary.

Skurzynski, Gloria. Minstrel in the Tower. Upper elementary-middle.

Stanley, Diane. Saladin and Lionhearts. Stanley had lots of biographies. Elementary.

Tappan, Eva Marie. When Knights were Bold. Middle years.

White, T.H. The Once and Future King. Classic version of the King Arthur tales. Middle-teens.

Withrow, Mindy and Brandon. Monks and Mystics. This volume of the Withrows’ church history series fits the period. Elementary-middle.

Nebby

Living History Books, Settlement and Native Americans

Dear Reader,

Last year in our homeschool we covered the Middle Ages so this year we are up to the Renaissance, Reformation, and Age of Exploration. In term one our emphasis was more global as we looked at the big ideological trends. In terms 2 and 3 we looked at the settlement of the new world and Native Americans respectively.  You can find all my lists of living books here.

Living History Books: Settlement

There are relatively few selections in these sections as I mostly had my two kids read the same books. If you are looking for books for younger kids, check out my lists from the first time we covered this period of history: this one on Colonial New England and on the Settlement of Virginia and on the Colonization of America more generally.

Sweet Land of Liberty by Charles Coffin — My oldest son actually used this book years ago when we covered settlement (see links above). It covers quite a span of time and does so fairly thoroughly without having overly long chapters. A great spine book for this period. 

Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken — I really like this book on the Puritans. I think it gives a very fair portrayal of them. 

The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster — I read this one (or sections thereof) aloud to them in our time together. Foster’s books are wonderful and are often used at younger ages but I find they still have quite a lot to tell to high schoolers. They contain a lot of info. I chose this one mainly because it gives an international perspective and brings in events in Europe (and beyond) from the time period. And frankly, I couldn’t find anything better for that.

Living History Books: Native Americans

We ended the year with a term on Native Americans and the various wars and battles involving them. I had dated going right into the Revolution but didn’t think we could miss the French-Indian Wars entirely. I had them both continue with Sweet Land of Liberty (see above).

Flames Over New England by Olga Hall-Quest — This is a nice, not too long volume on King Philip’s War. You might skip over these events if you live elsewhere but we are in new England and actually quite a lot of things around here are named for Philip. (My son took drivers’ ed at King Philip High School.)

The Struggle for a Continent by Albert Marrin –Marrin is one of my favorite authors for this age because he covers so much ground in a readable way. This one is on the French and Indian Wars. 

Nine Years Among the Indians: 1870-1879 by Herman Lehmann– I was looking for something on Native American life for each of my kids. I had my son read this one. It is about a boy who was originally kidnapped by Native Americans and later decides to stay with them, joining a couple of different tribes. Amazon had a few books with titles like this one but this seemed the most readable. 

The Tracker: The True Story of Tom Brown, Jr. by Tom Brown — My daughter expressed an interest in “how Indians know how to do what they do in the woods.” I am not sure this book is what she had in mind but I read it myself first and thought it was fabulous. It would be a great nature lore book even apart from the Native American element. The author was actually a white boy who learned Native American ways from a friend’s grandfather. There is a bit of a pantheistic/nature-is-God element but I did not think it was too obvious in this book (though it appears to be in some of his others) and I don’t worry too much about my kids getting messed up on that point at this age. 

Happy Reading!

Nebby

Living History Books, 1400-1600

Dear Reader,

Last year in our homeschool we covered the Middle Ages so this year we are up to the Renaissance, Reformation, and Age of Exploration. Next term we will focus on the settlement of the New World which will take us into early American History. This term our emphasis was still more global. I am down to two students this year, a ninth- and a tenth-grader. You can find all my lists of living books here.

Living History Books, 1400-1600

There are three big topics within this time frame: the Renaissance brought cultural and philosophical transformation; the Reformation changed the religious landscape; and the Age of Exploration and particularly the discovery of the New World had profound political consequences. I tried to give each of my children at least one book dealing with each of these three areas.

History: The Age of Exploration

Around the World in a Hundred Years by Jean Fritz — This is more of a middle school level book but it provides a good overview as it covers some 10-12 explorers. I had both my kids read it so I would feel that they had both at least heard of all the major figures of the period. Because each figure is given a chapter, it divides up very nicely in a typical 12-13 week term. I know some have concerns about Fritz’s portrayal of Christianity in this book in particular. Honestly at this stage of life I feel my kids have a solid enough foundation that I am not too worried about it.

Albert Marrin is one of my favorite authors for middle and high school history because he covers a lot of ground in a book on a single person. He gives you the feel for an era. A perfect example is the book my 10th grader read: Marrin’s The Sea King: Sir Francis Drake and His Times.  For something on the Americas, I also had him read Inca and Spaniard (Pizarro and the Conquest of Peru). There are a lot of good stories from this time and place and he seemed to enjoy reading them. My 9th grader read his Terror of the Spanish Main: Sir Henry Morgan and His Buccanneers. She was thrilled to read about pirates.

I also had my 9th grader read Iris Noble’s Spain’s Golden Queen Isabella which again could be a middle school book. Noble is another favorite author.

Philosophy

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The Renaissance brought a lot of new ideas. We began a study of philosophy with Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live. As I did with my older kids, I have them both read the book and watch the video series. They contain the same information but I like to reinforce it. To date, we have only gotten through the first two-thirds or so of the book but this covers the relevant portion and we plan to continue with it and to do a full-year course on philosophy next year. Schaeffer, while a wonderful resource, is mainly for us an introduction to the concept that there are ideas out there define an age and affect its art and politics.

We also read the relevant sections of Hendrik Van Loon’s The Arts. This is a wonderful, thick book of art history which also covers a fair amount of history and culture along the way. If you haven’t stumbled across it yet, I highly recommend getting a copy.

Religion

Schaeffer’s book addresses the Protestant Reformation but I also had both my children read Benjamin Wiker’s The Reformation 500 Years Later. Wiker is a favorite author of mine. I am a little more hesitant with this book. As he is Roman Catholic and I am Protestant, this is the area where our differences are most apparent. Nonetheless, The Reformation is an accessible book that covers a lot of topics and gives one a fair amount to think about. Rather than having my kids merely narrate it, I gave them a list of readings and specific questions to address for each section. Think of it more as a guided narration. You can find that assignment list here (opens a Google doc). You can find my review of the book here.

Happy Reading!

Nebby

Living Books on Asia for Middle and High School

Dear Reader,

The first two terms of this year we were studying the Middle Ages (see this list). That was really all the time we needed on that so I thought I’d use the third and final term to look at various Asian cultures. I had each of my three currently-homeschooled children pick a culture and in our time together we looked at Asia more broadly. If you are looking for books for younger kids, I had an earlier booklist on China here and some books on the Boxer rebellion in this list. You can find all my lists of living books here.

Books on China

 

My 9th grader studied China. For the historical side of things I had him read The Pageant of Chinese History by Elizabeth Seeger. This is a lovely older book. For historical fiction he read Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. It is the story of a young boy who becomes an apprentice coppersmith and has various adventures. Based on his narrations, it didn’t seem like the best book, though I am finding he is a poor narrator for fiction especially so that could be just him. I also threw in The Long Rampart by Robert Silverberg because I love this author. There are various smaller books on Chinese inventions and the like. I had him read Made in China by  Suzanne Williams. It is probably not the most living book — it is short readings on a variety of subjects — but it fit our purpose. Other, slightly lower level books, which are similar are The Technology of Ancient China, Arts and Crafts in Ancient China, and Science in Ancient China.

Other books to consider:

The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert De Jong — a wonderful historical fiction book but we had already done it as a read-aloud. Probably middle school level or even upper elementary, though imo living books are ageless.

Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Yin Chang Compestine — We had also already read this one and it is about communist China, not ancient China, but it was quite good.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck — a classic I usually have my high schoolers read for literature. I didn’t think my 9th grader was up to it. Does have some adult content.

Li Lun, Lad of Courage — I don’t know much about this historical fiction book.

Other authors with historical fiction books on China: Katherine Paterson, Laurence Yep, Gloria Whelan (my girls have loved this author but her books do tend to be girl-y)

Missionary biographies of Eric Liddell, Gladys Alward and others. We just didn’t have time for more. I also recently read The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. See my blurb on that here.

Books on Japan

My 8th grader studied Japan. I couldn’t find one book on the history that covered the whole period so she read Japan Under the Shoguns: 1185-1868 by Mavis Pilbeam and Japan from Shogun to Sony: 1543-1984 by John R. Roberson. She also read Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg. This book is often on lists for younger kids but is a good one and we hadn’t had a chance to use it yet. I found fewer books on the culture and science of Japan but had her read Technology of Ancient Japan by Meg Greene. Again, this is not truly a living book.

For historical fiction, she read The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson and The Samurai’s Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard. They are set in the 18th and 16th centuries respectively.

Other books to consider:

Japanese Castles by Turnbull – I checked this one out from our library but it seemed too detailed and dry. If you have a kid that loves castles though it could be a good choice.

Other historical fiction I considered but didn’t use: Bamboo Sword by Preus (set in 1853; 335pp); Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes (younger ages; 80pp), Born in the Year of Courage by Crofford (set in 1841), The Big Wave by Pearl Buck (about a tsunami; 80pp), Shipwrecked by Blumberg (set it 1841; middle school level); Heart if a Samurai (set it 1841; 300pp). Also other books by: Paterson, Crofford, Haugaard, Preus, and Hoobler (who has a mystery series set in Japan apparently).

Books on Mongolia

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My high school senior wanted to study Mongolia which was easier in the sense that there aren’t many books out there so they weren’t many decisions to make. For history she read Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. This author also has other books on Genghis.  For historical fiction she read I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson which she said was not very good or well-written. I also had her read the story of a missionary in Mongolia, There’s  a Sheep in My Bathtub by Brian Hogan which she seemed to like much better.

Books on Asia more generally

In our time together we read selections from The Travels of Marco Polo. I have an edition illustrated by Corbino that I had picked up somewhere. There are lots of versions of this, some simplified for younger readers as well.  For “spines” I used two books from a series: The Asian World: 800-1500 by Roger Des Forges and Marjorie Wall Bingham’s Age of Empires: 1200-1750. These books are written in a fairly engaging way without a lot of sidebars (and those there were I tended to skip). I found them a bit heavy on dates which tends to bog a book down and deplete its living-ness (if you know what I mean) but since I was reading them aloud I could skip some of the details which I think made it actually easier to take in the information. Lastly, we read the chapter form Van Loon’s The Arts on Asia. I am in love with this book now. It is like Hillyer’s art history but for a higher level and includes a lot of history and culture/religion too.

Happy Reading!

Nebby

What We Study and Why We Study It: History

What We Study and Why We Study It: History

Dear Reader,

This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here.

In this part of our series, we are looking at individual subjects and asking why we study them and, to a lesser extent, how. Thus far we looked at two “STEM” subjects, math and science. This time I’d like to look at what I have always considered the core of our homeschool: history.

Why We Study History

We have all heard the saying “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” but why, from a biblical perspective, should we study history?

In mathematics, we look at the structure God built into Creation. In science, we learn about the Creator from what He has made. When we study history, we are studying how God has worked in the lives of individual humans and of larger human societies. Another corny truism: history is His story. It tells us about God and it tells us about ourselves, our propensities for evil and the good that we, through the Spirit, can do.

The Scriptures instruct us to tell our children the things God has done:

“Things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” (Ps. 78:3-4; all biblical quotes are from the ESV unless otherwise noted)

The forces of history, nations and rulers, are formed and controlled by Him:

“And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” (Acts 7:26)

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Prov. 21:1; cf. Rom. 13:1)

“He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings . . .” (Dan. 2:21; cf. Dan 2:37-38; 4:17)

We see specific examples of this in the Scriptures themselves. God uses the situation in Egypt to save His people in the days of Joseph. He raises up the Persian King Cyrus, again to save His people and return them from exile (Isa. 45:1). He uses the nations as rods to punish His people (2 Kgs. 18:9-12; cf. Isa. 9:11; 10:5-6).

But it is no less true that Christ is king of nations today and that He is still as intimately involved with their rise and fall as well as the more day-to-day lives of people (Ps. 135:6; Prov. 16:4).

Cornelius Van Til argues that because history is about man, it should be the center of our educational endeavor:

“Arithmetic and all other subjects that emphasize the space aspect of the space-time world lie in the nature of the case in the periphery of the whole area of the creation of God. This is due to the arrangement God has made in his creation, namely, that man should stand at the center of it. And since man is a selfconscious and active being his most characteristic human traits will manifest themselves more fully in the movement of time, that is in history, than in the immovable atmosphere of space. Accordingly it is easier to bring out the more specifically human and the more specifically Christian interpretation of reality when teaching history than when teaching nature.” [Cornelius Van Til, Essays on Christian Education (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1974) p. 204]

How We Teach History

“The curves of history are more vivid and more informing than the dry catalogues of names and dates . . .  ” (Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education, p. 8)

Christians tend to get themselves bent out of shape over science resources — Does it present a biblical view of Creation? Is it godless? Does it assume evolution? Does it agree with my view of Creation? But the Van Til quote above argues that the mindset of our history curriculum is even more vital. As he says elsewhere, there are no uninterpreted facts (p. 88; see also this post for a number of quotes from other authors on this point). We see history through a lens. If we assume a godless universe, there will be no meaning to the events we study. Cultures will rise and fall, wars will be won and lost because of economic and political and military factors but there can be no higher meaning nor is there any end towards which events are moving. Even those who accept the idea of a Creator can misunderstand events if they do not accept that He is a Sovereign God who is in control of all things. As reformed people, we believe that there is a purpose towards which all things work and that there is no event or detail, no matter how small, that is outside God’s sovereign plan [Ps. 135:6; Lk. 12:22-26; Acts 17:25-28; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11; Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) 3:1; 5:1; Van Til does an excellent and thorough job of critiquing other Christian worldviews and showing how they fall short (pp. 72ff)].

Those beginning with young children often wonder where they should begin with history. Is it best to start at the beginning of human history or to begin with one’s own country? I don’t think there is one biblical answer to this question but my own inclination is to begin with what is closest. The child should first learn how God has worked in his own life and that of his people. “His people” here can include a few different circles. Most narrowly, it may include the family — Where do we come from? How did his parents come to faith? Are there family stories of deliverance from illness or other troubles?

Beyond that there is the state and nation in which he lives. I do not believe the United States is a Christian nation but its history does contain wonderful tales of God’s deliverance that affect the lives of small children. The story of the First Thanksgiving comes to mind. Nor should the bad stories be neglected, the ones about our failures.

I would add that though history should always be taught with the assumption that God is in control of people and events, we do not need to beat children over the head with the fact. The Bible (largely) does not do so when it tells us of God’s actions. It tells the stories and leaves us to see God working and to judge the humans involved and to make our own conclusions. It does not moralize. Lessons are best learned when one is allowed to draw one’s own conclusions. The tendency on the part of adults to want to add morals to every story often arises, I believe, from our own lack of faith in God’s story. His deeds speak for themselves more powerfully than we can when we turn a history lesson into a sermon.

We are also all part of a community of faith. The Scriptures give us part of the story of God’s work among His people. The story continues as well through the history of the church, both on a broad basis and, depending on one’s denomination, on a more local level. (As I outline my proposals for a Reformed approach to education, I am assuming that “religious” education is going on as well but I am largely confining myself to education on “secular” subjects so I will not spend much time on how we teach the Bible.)

Though we may begin with history close to home, it is also good and necessary to expand beyond one’s own people. We learn first what God has done for us, but then we also need to learn that God works in other societies as well. How we expand may depend upon our particular circumstances. It seems reasonable to me for those of us in the United States, having learned something of our own nation, to next consider those close to us. What it means to be “close” can be defined in various ways. We are a big country and personally I don’t live especially close to a national border. So “close” may be defined by geography but it need not be. Historically and culturally, England is our closest neighbor. In my own homeschool, I tend to emphasize the history of England when we cover the middle ages in the hopes that it will give my children a feel for where our own government comes from. Looking back even further, we are part of the stream that is western civilization so again it seems reasonable to spend a little more time on western civilization and its foundations (read: Greece and Rome) than on other cultures. There may be other societies to which you feel a particular tie that you want to spend more time on as well. It could be a family tie. It could be another kind of connection. Perhaps your church has missionaries there. Perhaps you have friends from another country.

And then there are peoples to whom we have no immediate tie (though you never know where God will take you in the future). Here too we can study them to learn how God has acted among people very different from us. We can also learn about the people themselves. We may see that they are very like us and that the same forces work in their societies as in ours. We may learn that they have different values and that the things we have always assumed need not be true for everyone (perhaps this is good, perhaps not).

A word especially to homeschooling parents: Human history if a huge subject. You will not get to everything. We all have gaps in our educations. Personally I learned very little about the middle ages when in school and no American history after WWII. The point is not to do everything but to do what you can and to do it with the right mindset.

The other big question I hear about history is whether it is safe or wise to teach the myths of pagan cultures to children, especially young children. Of course if you begin, as I am suggesting, with more local history this may not be an issue for a few years. I will say my own children heard Greek myths from an early age. One child was particularly attracted to these and now has declared a college minor in classics. I have never known a child to be confused by these myths and to wonder if Zeus is real or Jesus isn’t. If anything, even younger children seem to see quite clearly how messed up the lives of the Greek gods are and how hard it is to live in a world with many gods to please. On the positive side, I do believe these myths teach us about human nature (which is really what is reflected in them, though the characters are divine). And, as mentioned above, they in some sense form the basis of our own culture and a familiarity with them can help one understand later allusions and ideas.

While I am trying to give broad outlines and not specifics in these posts, let me make one more plug for “living books” (see this post for a longer explanation of what makes a living book and why we should use them). If the history we are teaching is God’s story and if we want children to see Him in it, we need to provide them with interesting books. Dry compendiums that are little more than names and dates are not going to engage their interest or help them see the majesty that is there. And similarly, I am not opposed to all memorization, but recalling facts (lists of presidents, for example) is not knowing.

Those are my thoughts in history, why we study it and its importance and place within the curriculum and a little bit on the how. Do you have other questions about history?

Until next time,

Nebby

Living Books on the Ancient Near East

Dear Reader,

We did a mini-term between Thanksgiving and Christmas on Mesopotamia and Canaan. As a once and future Hebrew scholar, it kills me to give the short shrift to the Ancient Near East but there is only so much one can fit into a school year. You can find all my booklists here.

Living Books on the Ancient Near East

In our time all together, we concentrated on art and myths. I used Hillyer’s book for the art. Though it can be understood by elementary level, I think it still provides a good introduction for older children as well. Note that Hillyer has a few volumes, on painting, sculpture and architecture. I have the three in one volume, A Child’s History of Art, and we covered all the areas.

The Ancient Near East includes a number of cultures. While they all have similarities, there is also some variation. We tried to include both Mesopotamian and Canaanite myths. I used Padraic Colum’s Myths of the World which I got on Kindle. It is nice because it gives some introduction to what we find in each of the cultures as well. For Mesopotamia, we also got a few of the storybooks by Zeman by tell the epic of Gilgamesh. There are three I believe that they each tell part of the story so you want to read them in order. Though these are picture books, they do a great job. For Canaan, I used Coogan’s Stories from Ancient Canaan. These are tales from Ugarit, a Canaanite town which was destroyed by fire. The destruction meant that the clay tablets on which the stories were written were baked hard and survived. It is interesting to see the similarities and differences here with one of Israel’s close neighbors. What we have is somewhat fragmentary. Coogan gives good introductions to each. I recommend prereading so you can give context and read selections. I blogged on these myths when we studied them previously. You can see one of those posts here.

We also talked about writing together using the book Sign, Symbol, Script. This is one I had leftover from my grad school days. It is actually a catalog from an exhibition but gives lots of info on the history of writing and the alphabet, a topic I couldn’t pass by. I have no idea how easy this is to find. We didn’t use Ancient Israelites and Their Neighbors. I find it a bit cumbersome. It has lots of extras like recipes if you are into that sort of thing.

I’m not thrilled with the historical fiction in this period. I don’t find it very well-written. My high school daughter read Adara by Gormley. My middle schooler read  Hittite Warrior by Williamson. The latter in particular seemed to through in every biblical motif it could (not in a good way). My senior read Silverberg’s Gilgamesh the King. I chose this book partly because he has been studying science fiction for his literature this year and Silverberg is a sci-fi writer. I thought the book would stray farther from the myth but it actually seemed to do better than I expected.

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My 8th grader read Science in Ancient Mesopotamia. I am not thrilled with this series but it is decent and provides info that one might not get elsewhere. He also read a book I loved for him — Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons by Nosov. I only had him read the portions relevant to what we are studying. It seemed to be a very readable book. My 7th grader read Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Persian Costumes and Decorations by Houston. There are a lot of pictures in this book. She chose to do drawings of the costumes for most narrations and seemed to really get into it.

Lastly, we get to the actual history books.

My7th grader read The Ancient Near Eastern World by Podany. I’m not sure it’s 100% living but it seemed well-written. She liked that it included a lot of different things, like history and myths and how people lived. My 12th grader read A Short History of the Near East by Hitti. He seems to have really enjoyed it and says that it did a good job of being both broad and specific if that makes sense. My 11th grader read Fairservis’ Mesopotamia. She says it was pretty good. Since Fairservis only covers Mesopotamia, I also had her read The Phoenicians by Pamela Odijk. My 8th grader read the relevant portions of Dorothy Mills’ Book of the Ancient World. I am not thrilled with the book though I see it recommended a lot. It seems overly brief and simple (though her book on Greece is longer and I am planning to use that one). I was supposed to read Maspero’s Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria but life got away from me and I never started it 😦

And some bonus resources if you need more:

McCaughrean, Geraldine. Gilgamesh the Hero. Picture book. Her books are always lovely, illustrated ones.

Moore, Balit. Ishtar and Tammuz. Picture book.

Glubok, Shirley. Digging in Assyria. Archaeology.

Morley, Jacqueline, Temple at Jerusalem. Maybe not living but lays out what the Temple was like.

Robinson, Charles. First book of Ancient Mesopotamia and Persia. An older, hard to find book.

Mohr, Louise Maud. Babylonia and Assyria. Another old, hard-to-find book.

Next up: Ancient Greece

Nebby

Living Books on the 1960s

Dear Reader,

You can find all my posts on the living books we’ve been using for history (and other subjects!) here.

Our spine series is, as it has been this year Our Century. You can look at those earlier posts to find out more about it and why we are using it.

The big topic for the 1960s is the Vietnam War. But there are  a few other topics as well so let’s start with those:

I couldn’t find a lot of living books on the Cuban Missile Crisis. I chose the one in the middle — Cuban Missile Crisis: In the Shadow of Nuclear War by R. Conrad Stein — above for my 6th grader to read. Stein is an author I have used before (but only from other series, I think). He does pretty well with making history interesting, not too dry.

Living through the Cuban Missile Crisis is actually a series of essays and first-hand resources. I didn’t end up using it but it could be good if you’d like your child to use original sources.

I checked out Thirteen Days Ninety Miles by Norman H. Finkelstein but it seemed to dry to me; my eyes began to glaze over on the first page. Did you ever notice how living books let the facts come at you slowly? I think this would be a hard book to read if you don’t already have some background knowledge of the people and events of the time.

I like the series Cornerstones of Freedom for brief intros to various topics we don’t have more time for. Be sure to look for the ones that begin “The Story of . . .” They are older and better-written. There are probably more on this time period but these are the two my library system had. FYI these are really elementary level books.

Turning then to the big topic, Vietnam, I was able to find quite a lot on both the war and the society or culture.

My 10th grader is reading Albert Marrin’s America and Vietnam: The Elephant and the Tiger. Marrin’s book are mostly high school level (though some are simpler). He does a good job of incorporating a lot of elements and strands in a cohesive narrative of his topic. We use his books a lot.

(My 11th grader, btw, is still working on a book on the Cold War, a more comprehensive account that will take him longer.)

My 7th grader is reading Captive Warriors: A Vietnam POW’s Story by Sam Johnson. This is an autobiographical account. It would not be for the squeamish but seems quite well-done.

I looked at but did not use A Place Called Heartbreak by Walter Dean Myers and The Wall by Eve Bunting. The latter is (you may have guessed) about the Memorial Wall. Bunting is an author I like but this is really a not too hard picture book and my kids are too old for it. Myers’ book is a chapter book for grades 3-5 or so. Again, I thought my kids were beyond it. I am not sure how good the writing is but it looks like a story at least, not just facts.

The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland is another picture book which we skipped; this one is about a family escaping civil war in Vietnam.

My 6th grader read A Boat to Nowhere by Maureen Crane Wartski. It tells the tale of a family of boat people fleeing the Communists.

For a read aloud for my younger two I debated between The Land I Lost and Water Buffalo Days both by Quang Nhuong Hyunh. They both looked so good. I chose The Land I Lost. It tells about life for a boy in Vietnam before the war and is humorous  and entertaining. I can’t speak for Water Buffalo Days but I suspect all books by this author will please.

Happy Reading!

Nebby

Living Books on the 1930s

Dear Reader,

This is the latest installment in my series on the living books we have been using in our homeschool. You can find all the booklists here.

Living Books on the 1930s

This segment came for us between Thanksgiving and Christmas so I hope you will forgive me for not making all of it that we could. While I was surprised on how little of value I found on the Roaring 20s, there is seemingly no end of resources on the Great Depression; it is a time that has captured our imaginations and continues to fascinate. My goal in this section was to give more of a flavor of the time, a taste of what life in this difficult period was like, rather than to get caught up in the political and economic details and the barrage of acronyms (CCC, TVA, etc.).

Our spine, as it has been this year, was from the series Our Century. I have discussed the pros and cons of this series previously so I will not get into it again. Suffice it to say it provides a nice, if brief, overview of the major events ans trends.

A few years back I read The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan which gives a wrenching account of the Dust Bowl. I could not wait for one of my kids to read this book. I assigned it to my 11th grader for this period. It is a non-fiction book but with lots of personal narratives. It is intended for popular reading for adults though it was not hard reading. I would call it high school level.

My 10th grader tends to be very busy with other things near the holidays so I went easy on her. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t read (or didn’t remember reading) Blue Willow by Doris Gates. Though I haven’t looked at it in years, I remember loving this book as a child. It was easy reading for her; I would call it middle school level. Sadly, she did not seem to love it.

My 7th grader read a non-fiction book: A Nation Fights Back: the Depression and its Aftermath by Irving Werstein. This is one of our favorite authors and he did not disappoint.

My 6th grader read Queenie Peavey by Robert Burch. She seemed to enjoy it. It was not hard reading for her. I would call it upper elementary-lower middle school.

I read a couple of long picture books aloud to my younger two. (Side note: Just because my kids are older, we haven’t given up picture books. Sometimes they provide a good introduction to another topic that we don’t have time to get into in depth. And when they are well-done, picture books can be wonderful, living books. By “longer picture books” I mean books that cannot usually be read in one sitting.)

Wingwalker by Rosemary Wells and Brian Selznick tells the story of a family who must leave Oklahoma and finds themselves in Minnesota (I believe) where the father becomes a wingwalker with the circus.

Fire in the Sky by Candice Ransom tells the story of the Hindenburg’s fateful last voyage. I did not think it was incredibly well-written but it was hard not to be moved by the events of the final chapters.

Some other picture books we considered but did not find time for are: When Grandpa Wore Knickers by Fern Brown and Andree Vilas Grabe and What You Know First by Patricia Maclachan.

Longer books you might want to consider: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy, Long Way from Chicago and Year Down Under by Richard Peck, Shiloh by Phyllis Naylor, and Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry (and many others) by Mildred Taylor. Many of these we had read previously. They are good books even if you are not studying this period.

And, of course, you can’t cover this era without mentioning John Steinbeck. My oldest read Of Mice and Men recently for literature. It is one of Steinbeck’s more manageable book for length. If you too are limited on time, the old Grapes of Wrath movie is a great choice too (see below).

If you are looking for more non-fiction, especially for older kids (middle to high school), some of our favorite authors have quiet a lot on this period:

Shattered Decade 1929 by Irving Werstein (so also Werstein’s book above; I have not seen this volume but most of Werstein’s books could be used in middle school)

Books by Albert Marrin (Most of Marrin’s books are high school level, but some are simpler and could be middle school.):

Years of Dust

FDR and the American Crisis

Movies on the 1930s:

We watched a number of movies relating to this period. The movie industry really took off in the 30s so one can find both movies made in the 30s and those set in the 30s.

Gone with the Wind – Though set in the Civil War and Reconstruction, Margaret Mitchell’s classic was both a best-selling book and movie in the 1930s. I made my kids discuss why people living through the Depression might have been so attracted to this story.

Bonnie and Clyde – Enough humor and violence for my kids. A slightly older movie, it does not really show much nudity or blood but there are a couple of “adult” scenes and Bonnie and Clyde’s deaths at the end are vivid (though again not bloody). The movie does a good job of showing that crime does not pay though it also hints at why people supported outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde at the time.

The Untouchables – Criminal activity was booming in the 30s. This movie tells the story of Scarface Al Capone and his capture. …

O Brother, Where Art Thou? – We watched this a few years ago. It is the story of Homer’s Odysseus set in 1930s America. Humorous and and ultimately wholesome. I don’t remember how much adult content there was, not too much I think. Great soundtrack too.

The Grapes of Wrath – We didn’t want to take the time to read Steinbeck’s (long) classic but the classic movie covers a lot of the bases. My kids enjoyed it.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl – We watched this movie last time we studied this era, when my kids were much younger. I am not a fan of the American Girl franchise but I think this movie is one of their better pieces. When we watched it, our neighbor’s house across the street was being foreclosed on.

To see what people in the 30s were watching (and for a more wholesome choice), try some Shirley Temple classics. The Little Colonel (set in post-Civil War south) is one of our favorites.

Happy reading (and watching)!

Nebby

Living Books on the Roaring Twenties

Dear Reader,

We’ve finished another decade in our study of 20th century history so here again are the books we used and what I thought of them. Find all the booklists here.

Living Books on the Roaring Twenties

This is going to be  a fairly short list. We only spent 2 weeks on the 1920s and I did not find a lot of good books to use. My goal for this section was to convey life in the 20s. We are saving the big stock market crash to go with the 30s since it really begins a new era.

Our spine books this year are from this series:

1900s-3

As I’ve said before, they are not classic living books but they at written in a quite readable style compared to more modern works. They do give a good selection of American history, world history, and popular culture. I don’t always read all the culture stuff (especially anything about sports, yawn). I did read the section on pole sitters this time. My kids found it very amusing and my oldest was surprised that this was such a phenomenon that they included it in the book.

I had both high schoolers read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I remember liking this book in high school. I read it again before I gave it to them. Though it starts a little slow, it is a good story with a lot of action at one point. The picture of life in the 20s it gives is very much of the extreme upper classes but I think that is okay for an era known for its freedom and excess. If you have not read the book recently, I do recommend prereading as there are some adult themes like adultery. Other Fitzgerald works could also be good choices. He has many short stories.

I really struggled to find any other living books on this era. I got out a small stack from my library and was pleased with pretty much none of them.

Here first are a couple of the books I rejected as being too dry and not at all stories:

For my 7th grader, I chose Al Capone and the Roaring Twenties:

1920s-5

Perhaps because it is on one more narrow subject, it seemed better than most of the others I looked at.

I had my 6th grader read three short books:

The Roaring Twenties by R. Conrad Stein (above left) is from a series I like, Cornerstones of Freedom. Unfortunately, this time I was not able to get one of the older books from that series which typically have titles like “The Story of . . .” But I settled for one of their newer books. American has Fun by Sean Price (above right) is also not a living book and is actually fairly simple for her age but a) I had another week to fill and b) it seemed less horrendously dull than my other choices. The one book which was decent was And Now, A Word from Our Sponsor : The Story of a Roaring ’20’s Girl by Dorothy Hoobler (sorry, no picture on this one). It was not the finest writing but it was a story, about a young girl who builds a radio on the 20s, and seemed engaging.

And lastly, a few of the books we didn’t use but which might be worth a look:

From left to right we have:

  • Top Drawer: American High Society from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties by Mary Cable — seems to be about what its title suggests. I chose not to use it because it was too broad chronologically for what we wanted to it seems like an interesting subject.
  • Joy Hakim’s War, Peace and All That Jazz — I know a lot of homeschoolers like Hakim’s books. I’ve mostly looked at her science books and find them too busy — eg. with side boxes of added info — for my tastes. Given the scarcity of good materials on this age, however, this one could be worth a look.
  • First Book of the Long Armistice by Louis L. Snyder — Despite its title, this seemed like it was a higher level book, at least middle school age. Again, it seemed broader than what I was looking for.
  • Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen — This looked to be an adult book (reading level, not content, though I didn’t look at it enough to know about that). It could work for high schoolers.

Are there better books on the 20s? I think there must be; I’m not sure if the lack is just in my library system. If not, somebody get out there and right some stories about this fun era!

Nebby

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