World History with Videos

Kiddo’s world history learning has been nothing short of sporadic over the years. So far, for world history, we have relied on audiobooks, graphic novels (ala Larry Gonick), documentaries, history of scientific inventions and scientist biographies, miscellaneous historical literature, a child-led project or two and numerous dinner-table discussions.

This year, thanks to sale prices, I was able to grab this Teaching Company World History course for high schoolers by Prof. Linwood Thompson. It is very much a survey course and I don’t intend for us to go into too much depth since he’s already experienced some age appropriate depth in the past. And while history is an interest, it is not yet his passion. Treading lightly is therefore, my best bet.

The following are multimedia resources (fun websites, interactive maps where available and related documentaries) that correlate with the Teaching Company course. Experience has shown that when everything is planned ahead of time and links are easily available, we’ll be more likely to actually use what we buy. ūüôā So here we go with another list! (Ha, of course, who am I kidding…I’m also addicted to list-making!)

Note: Several links lead to YouTube videos and I should warn you that I’ve heard horror stories about hacked YouTube links. I‘m also using this list as a catch-all bookmarking spot without actually checking to see whether each one truly fits our purpose. I will weed out bad links that don’t do what they say they do. So until I get to watching them all, if you would like to use this list, please preview or supervise the viewing with your kids to prevent unpleasant surprises. Also, kiddo is almost past the stage of disliking violence in movies. Please be aware of possibly violent and other possibly inappropriate scenes if viewing with sensitive children.¬†

I will be adding more links to this list and including comments where possible as I find them and we view them so please stay tuned!

  1. Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent: Mesopotamia (interactive map), The Kings: From Babylon to Baghdad (YouTube) (part 1 of 10) — violent scenes alert!, East To West (Netflix)
  2. Egypt‚ÄĒThe Gift of the Nile: Egypt: Engineering an Empire (YouTube) and also available for instant viewing on Netflix, Egypt: Rediscovering a Lost World (YouTube parts 1 and 2 of 4 only)
  3. Early India and China: An interactive ancient civilizations map
  4. The Ancient Greeks: BBC schools site on Ancient Greeks
  5. Ancient Rome: BBC schools site on an Ancient Roman death scene
  6. The Growth of Christianity: How Christianity Spread Throughout the Roman Empire (YouTube)
  7. The Fall of Rome: Engineering an Empire: Rome (YouTube) (part 1 of 10)
  8. The Byzantine Empire: neoK12 Byzantine Empire playlist (streaming video)
  9. The Rise of Islam: Islam: Empire of Faith (YouTube)
  10. Early Russia and the Fall of Constantinople: Engineering an Empire: Russia (YouTube) (part 1 of 5)
  11. The Early Christian Church: Christianity: The First 1000 Years (YouTube), Christianity: The Second 1000 Years (YouTube)
  12. The Vikings: BBC Viking Quest (game), Vikings interactive from the Smithsonian
  13. Medieval Life: Medieval Map (interactive map), Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives (YouTube)
  14. The Crusades: The Crusades: Crescent and The Cross (YouTube) (part 1 of 2), Crusades interactive map
  15. The 1300’s, The Age of Despair:
  16. The Renaissance:
  17. Africa‚ÄĒThe Civilizations of the Sub-Sahara:
  18. China: Engineering an Empire: China (YouTube) (part 1 of 5)
  19. The Mongols and Marco Polo:
  20. Early Japan through the Tokugawa Period:
  21. Discoverers and Conquistadors:
  22. North American Explorers:
  23. The Old World vs. The New World‚ÄĒHazards and Benefits:
  24. Civilizations of The Americas:
  25. The Protestant Reformation:
  26. Tudor England:
  27. The English Civil War and Parliament:
  28. The Monarchs of Europe:
  29. The Growth of Democracy:
  30. The American Revolution:

More resources:
We may also rely on this Story of the World-Netflix documentary spreadsheet that someone generously shared on another forum.

A Quick 2012 Half-Year Learning Review

Yes, we’re still homeschooling! I know it’s been a while since I posted an academic update. I just haven’t been able to keep up with these updates as much as I’d like to.

Kiddo’s fourth grade year is officially over according to our charter school. But since his two core subject classes began in January, we are just going to keep plugging away over summer (at a slower pace), into the first semester of fifth grade in the fall and possibly beyond, in spring 2013 too.¬†
Our 2012 curriculum choices are quite successful so far (but don’t be surprised if six months from now, things look very different!). He chose most of the resources after I listed some options based on his interests and ability level:

Geometry with his Online Tutor is his favorite core course this year! Going very slowly but very steadily too (according to his tutor, this is good for his math stamina; but it is not good for impatient mom).

Physics with Derek Owens: Kiddo loves the lectures and practice videos but the homework and tests are hard work. Still, he’s managing this on his own so far. This and German are his first officially graded courses.

Irasshai Japanese I: His favorite elective. He’s finished half of Japanese I and is currently reviewing the 30+ lessons using the Irasshai workbook.

German Online German I: He’s able to lead, read and understand simple (and silly!) German conversations. Three more chapters to the end of German I.

Literature and Philosophy discussions with:


Philosophy lessons are read one or two at a time and included into daily conversations. Kiddo has read the lit titles and we’ll listen to the audiobook versions in the car in the coming weeks. We discuss interesting bits as the opportunity comes up but without emphasis on mechanics or analysis for now.

History and Other: History happens on an extremely random basis here. History through math and science is so much more eagerly embraced than history through curriculum. We periodically read aloud from well-written children’s books (mostly fiction) and listen to audiobooks too…I’m hoping kiddo is soaking something up from there.

Kiddo also finished a three-week audit of Introduction to Cryptology with Coursera. He wanted to work on it himself in the evenings and finished half the course at a slower pace.

ETA: Piano and swimming continue with the former being a hit and the latter being in between hit and miss. Kiddo participated in a jazz band program for six weeks in spring and even sang lead vocals for one song!

I’d love to read your school year reviews if you’ve written them. Please link to them when commenting.

Happy summer everyone!

Excavating English: A Review

I’d promised to review some of the materials we’ve been¬†using this summer so here is¬†my review of Excavating English: A Hands-on ‚ÄúDig‚ÄĚ Into the Multicultural Roots of English from 4000BC to the present. Quick disclosure: I do not profit from promoting or reviewing this curriculum on my blog!

I will begin by saying that the kiddo and I generally enjoyed our 5-month-ish experience¬†with this curriculum. To be fair and honest, I will say that I did not read it as thoroughly as kiddo did. Also¬†my purpose was not to study word roots as much as it was to introduce a fun history supplement for our loosey-goosey Middle Ages history studies and this curriculum fit the bill quite well.¬†We’d previously had good experiences with one of Ellen McHenry’s science curricula so I felt we couldn’t go very wrong with another sold under her Basement Workshop banner.

Excavating English was written by Ruth A. Johnston and Ellen J. McHenry. It contains many of Ellen’s quirky illustrations which kiddo has enjoyed in the past¬†(a sucker for cute illustrations this boy!). It’s divided into 17 chapters and according to my Homeschool Skedtrack records, it will take him just about 40 lessons to reach completion (he is supposed to work on chapter 17 this week). If you go to the link above, you’ll be able to view the table of contents and sample two chapters for free. Kiddo used one day’s lesson to read the notes followed by one or two days to complete the activities for an average of two lessons per chapter.

The curriculum progresses in chronological order, starting from about 4000BC to the present day and offers an entertaining overview of how much the English Language has changed, or not changed over the years.

Every chapter begins with about¬†three pages of historical notes and anecdotes, followed by¬†two or three¬†pages of activities to promote understanding and retention. Although some of the activities could be described as fill-in-the-blanks in format, they are not¬†so simple¬†in spirit or style. There’s some good, old fashioned thinking involved, especially when you’re trying to¬†classify present-day words with their origins (is this word from Danish? Old Norse? Norman? Anglo-Saxon? etc).

Kiddo checks our OED to solve a word puzzle

Kiddo didn’t complete every single activity but did a good amount of them, especially the ones involving¬†word search,¬†crosswords and other word puzzles. Although he read them, he didn’t care too much for¬†Olde English/ pidgin etc. excerpts but if you have a learner who loves that level of linguistic detail, go for it! Ruth and Ellen have included audio tracks in a CD to go with these excerpts too (CD included in curriculum). We’d finished reading Geraldine McCaughrean’s retold version of The Canterbury Tales just before beginning this study and he’d enjoyed it so he was familiar with any mention of Chaucer’s work in the notes. Our foray into British history late last year and early this year also provided a good background for this curriculum.

In toto,¬†for my specific goal, I will say I’m¬†happy I chose this product.

Price at time of this blog post:
$28.50 for hard copy (in binder) incl. CD
$19.95 for a CD containing pdf files and audio tracks
$15.95 for instant, digital download

I must however, caution you that the curriculum has a number of typos and that the answer key has suggested answers that either do not match the question or feel counter-intuitive. I’ve forwarded our list of typos and possible errors to Ruth. Hopefully, they will be checked and the errata corrected in a future edition. Email me if you are interested to see the list!

ETA: It’s a good idea to have a high-quality dictionary and if possible, a globe or atlas handy when using this curriculum.

Harry Hastings’ History Heroes

Subtitled “How Well Do You Know Your Monarchs?” and “1,000 Years if History in a Game”, Harry Hastings’ History Heroes (H4) is a deck of 43 game cards. One of them gives you the rules and a little inspiration to mix it up a little if required.¬†The other 42 contain caricaturish illustrations of Britain’s monarchs past (from William I, 1066) to¬†present (Elizabeth II, 2011).

Also included in each H4 card¬†is a list of¬†six facts about a monarch, the reigning years¬†and hints at the bottom for playing one of the games. The set doesn’t include the die needed to play Games 3 and 5¬†but any 6-sided playing die from another board game will do.¬†Cards are printed in full color and measure approximately 4.5 inches x 3 inches (about 11.5cm x 7.75cm).

I discovered these the same way I¬†stumble upon other¬†fun stuff: late, late, late¬†one dark, dark, dark¬†night. Like any self-respecting homeschooler, I like checking up on the latest curricula and on a whim,¬†looked at¬†Galore Park and saw these and found that they¬†would soon be available. I was beside myself in glee–I’ve been extremely curious about the British monarchy since my tweens and would spend hours neglecting homework to read and re-read a set of encyclopedias Dad owned about English¬†kings and queens (funny how I don’t remember most of what I read though).

A quick check showed that Amazon wasn’t carrying them so I pre-ordered¬†it from¬†Galore Park.¬†Almost kissed the packet when it arrived.

Rotten Rulers (Horrible Histories Special)So we’ve played three games so far and it’s not exactly easy unless you have your British history down pat. But that’s the whole point for us. To learn as we play. Knowing all the answers would somehow kill the fun me thinks. If you’re interested, here’s a bunch of fun books that I think will give you an upper hand: any of the Horrible Histories that go on and on about British kings and queens like Rotten Rulers or Terrible Tudors, and the very fun Kings and Things by HE Marshall.¬†Oh I’m sure there are a bunch of better books out there like reference texts and encyclopedias but I really like the irreverent humor¬†of Horrible Histories and whimsical tone of Kings¬†and Things for a fun game like this one.
Kings and ThingsPlay with any number of players. Games 1 to 5 have the same objective: to ID which monarch card the other player is holding in his hand. Game 6 is to see which player is holding a card of a monarch with the longer reign.

I like Game 1 the best. You have to identify the monarch by looking only at the illustration. Game 2:¬†read¬†facts to guess which monarch they describe. Facts are divided into three categories: easy, medium and hard. In Game 3, you use the die to select which fact to read out. Game 4 might be the most difficult as you have to ID said monarch after being told the dates of his/ her reign. Game 5 requires a throw of a die as does Game 3. You read out the same number of hints at the bottom of the card as the number shown on the die. Game 6, Trumps,¬†is based on the length of the monarch’s reign.

Being¬†a total busy body,¬†I googled Harry Hastings. The name refers to the Sussex-based teacher who invented the game.¬†Read more here.¬†Check out the game’s website here. Apparently there are a few more games like these in the pipeline!¬†If you’re ordering something from Galore Park and want to add this in since you’re paying for shipping anyway, click here. Apparently the recommended retail price is GBP7.99. Galore Park is selling it for GBP9.99 (at the time of this post). I’m not a Harry Hastings or Galore Park affiliate so I don’t profit from recommending this game through them.

February FunSchooling

There’s something about February at Funschooling Academy that begs for unstructured, unplanned fun.¬†Poking around my archives, I can’t help but notice that most of my posts around this time of the year have revolved around using audio visual tools or field trips or random, unplanned activities for family learning and enjoyment.

This February is no different. Although we’re both a little tired from battling tummy bugs and runny noses, I feel as if we are learning much from just letting things take their natural course.

First up, tons of Mythbusters on the menu. Honestly, Adam and Jamie have the best job in the world. From playing with explosives to duct tape to ballistics gel to Saint Bernards…those guys must have had some pretty awesome karma from their previous lives don’t you think?

Second, my maze-lover, previously content with completing maze puzzle books, is now designing and drawing his own. Above is¬†one he’s working on at the moment (still incomplete).
Next, we’re reading a bunch of titles that we don’t normally pick up during our more eclectically-structured months.

 Black Pioneers of Science and Invention [BLACK PIONEERS OF SCIENCE & IN] Cats are not Peas: A Calico History of Genetics The Chemical History Of A Candle 
I’m reading Black Pioneers of Science and Invention¬†for Black History Month. I’m¬†absolutely flabbergasted by the lack of recognition the brilliant African-Americans featured have received during their lifetimes. Kiddo is enjoying Cats are not Peas: A Calico History of Genetics¬†as a bedtime read aloud.Honestly, I don’t know how the boy got to loving cats this much–it’s definitely not in his genes–but¬†he’s hanging onto every word. What I like about this book is that it is written from the point of view of a very interested, curious,¬†layman calico cat owner and her journey of discovery into the mysteries of feline genetics. She writes as if she’s inviting us to discover and investigate these mysteries with her and that is an awesome way to get kids interested in genetics IMHO. I’ve always wanted to read The Chemical History Of A Candle¬†by Faraday and kiddo and I are taking turns reading it as and when we get the time.
We’re also catching up with movies we’ve missed. Temple Grandin was one that inspired the both of us and brought about quite a bit of silent tears. What a brilliant, riveting movie! Kiddo was surprised that it’s the same Claire Danes (in the titular role) as the lovey-dovey (and he hates lovey-dovey! For the moment at least) one in Stardust.

The little man is in a joyful tizzy (after counting down for a month) over the Jeopardy! IBM Challenge featuring Watson (the supercomputer), Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

Last bit of fun news: we splurged on Harry Hasting’s History Heroes card game from Galore Park. I couldn’t help it. I’m using the excuse that it ties in with our Medieval History study (grin). More about the game in a post to come.

Our Board of Ages (Timeline AD1 – 2100)

I’ve written about our Prehistory Timeline.¬†And I made an Ancient History timeline recently using a set from Beautiful Feet (pictured on the right). This year, since we have a larger family room space (and a fireplace we don’t use), I decided to give myself a project. I wanted to create a highly visual timeline that would literally stare us in the face when we were reading aloud or when the¬†kiddo read some sort of history-themed literature.

Two years ago, I purchased all of¬†Beautiful Feet’s timeline packets.¬†But never got around to doing anything with them except for the Ancient History timeline, which I completed around May of this year.¬†Then in June, I brought the rest of the packets out and have been gradually coloring them in. The kiddo is very excited about this…the fact that I am doing it and not requiring him to LOL. But hey, a start is a start right?

Here are pictures, posted with the intention to inspire anyone like me who has timeline figures saved on their hard drives/ drawers/ shelves but no motivation to do anything with them.

First, identify a good place to secure your timeline. You will probably need to improvise these materials according to the space you have. Also, decide if you want your timeline to include the BC as well as AD years. Since I already have separate Prehistory and BC timelines, I decided to make this one an AD timeline, i.e. from years AD1-2100.


  1. Any medium-sized packing box…I used U-Haul’s since we have those saved from our move last summer
  2. 12″ x 12″ scrapbook or card stock sheets…I used solid color cardstock like this one, three each of six different colors, so 18 sheets in all
  3. Light colored construction paper to mark out every 25 years (rows)…I used the long, cream-colored sheets that come with every Beautiful Feet timeline packet
  4. One full roll of masking tape or a container of school glue (I think masking tape will offer more reliable, less messy adherence). Having more tape than less is useful in case you make mistakes!
  5. Craft knife
  6. Removable Scotch Tape (optional) to secure sheets on box before taping them permanently
  7. A 12″ ruler
  8. String or twine to mark every 100 years (columns).
  9. Timeline figures and paper to label the years.
  10. Color pencils to color your timeline figures
  11. Rubber cement or some other suitable acid-free glue to attach timeline figures
Steps (click on photos to zoom):
Split open box.¬†Tape flaps so that they don’t separate from body of box. Then, layer board with card stock. Use removable tape to secure before you tape it down with masking tape.
You’ll need 21 columns for every 100 years from AD1 to 2100. So measure the width of your box and cut sufficient twine/ string for each column. I measured about 3″ for AD1- 1899 but made columns for¬†AD1900 and AD2000 wider. You can secure the twine using short strips of masking tape. You may then cover up these taped-up bits with the horizontal sheets that make up every 25 years. Note that in the photo, I’ve already labeled the years.
Here’s the completed Board of Ages. Not a very nifty name, I know, but I couldn’t think of anything else! For the record, it took me about¬†3 hours to do this (with a few breaks between).

It sits in front of our unused fireplace, right next to where we do read alouds.

If you don’t fancy Beautiful Feet’s timeline sets or figures, you may also find links to timeline figures at Paula’s Archives or by googling them. If you plan to create one of these too, good luck!

The Red Pyramid

Kane Chronicles, The, Book One: Red Pyramid, The (Int'l Paperback Edition)This time, it’s ancient Egypt! Rick Riordan, author of the ancient-Greece themed Percy Jackson series, sets his sights on resurrecting Set with The Red Pyramid. I’m so grateful to Susan for highlighting this in her latest blog post (Susan, you rock!).

Looks like it’ll be some time before we get the book though. For one, I’m a little bit of a mule when it comes to prefering to waiting for the paperbacks (we still haven’t read The Last Olympian for that reason). Errr…paperback version expected out on June 8 so I may not really have to wait that long! For another, we have too many books in all sorts of states of completion littering the carpet up and downstairs. He has to finish a few before I will budge. So there (he he).

But wait till he hears about this book. Wait till his Dad hears I’ll be contemplating another book purchase!

Creation Myths

If you’re into Creation Myths in your ancient world studies right now, don’t miss The Big Myth flash videos on the¬†Mythic Journeys¬†website!

Really nice to watch on a quiet Friday ūüôā

Here’s an interview with creator Fiona Passantino. I like her emphasis on finding the middle way between exciting format and educational content because that’s exactly where DS is right now (and me too for that matter!):

Greek Myths on the Web

Kiddo’s mythology course is unveiling a number of awesome websites that address Greek myths. A huge thanks to the course creator, JS, for her very dedicated research and excellent course design! I wanted to bookmark a few sites just in case DS wants to use them again in the future.

The National Mythology Exam prep course is offered at JS’ OnlineG3.

Some of the amazing sites we’ve used so far in the course as well as through googling:

Odyssey Online Greece – be sure to mouse over some of the graphics of Greek statues…they make some cool moves! Also check out the Ancient Greece Meets Hogwarts link. There’s also an Odyssey Online Ancient Americas sister site and other ancient world sites but none as cool as the one on Greece in my humble opinion.

The Theoi Project – this site seems to be updated regularly so keep checking back…there’s info on dragons, giants etc too.

MythWeb – I like the illustrated version of Hercules’ Labors here.

Rick Riordan’s (author of Percy Jackson series) Explore Greek Mythology page. Contains more links, including links to games.

Ancient Greece for Kids – lots of cool info and clip arts.

More Greek Myth info in these previous posts:
Greek Mythology Booklist
National Mythology Exam Prep Course

National Mythology Exam

This semester we decided to do something a little different and enrol in an 8-week mythology course that prepares students for the National Mythology Exam (NME). The NME is open to any student from grades 3 to 9.

We are doing the course just for fun and not so much for the NME. But if DS wishes to, we may try the exam out for size. The course and exam use the D’Aulaire Greek and Norse Myth books as core texts. The course has been very engaging so far for DS because it feeds his appetite for myths, helps him use a web conferencing platform independently (something I’ve not been good at encouraging) and also throws in lots of cool supplementary games, activities and projects like creating these trading cards:

If you’d like more info about the National Mythology Exam, see the Excellence Through Classics website. You can create trading cards like these and other nifty stuff through Big Huge Labs.

DVDs/Videos We’ve Enjoyed

We don’t subscribe to cable TV at home so we checked most of these DVDs out either via the Santa Clara County Library system or through our account.


The Story of 1 (PBS)
Very entertaining production on the history of the number one. DS watched this over and over and over again. Available on and possibly through your library too.

Donald in Mathmagic Land
Acclaimed video of Donald Duck in a land full of numbers. See how math is connected to the arts, nature and more. We watched it through Netflix.


Secrets of Ancient Empires: The First Civilizations
The rise of man from primitive hunter to city builder and that of the earliest civilizations. Ancient cities profiled include Babylon and Jericho.

Egypt: Rediscovering a Lost World (BBC)
A six-part production. Shows like a movie but filled with memorable lessons in Ancient Egyptian history. Among the luminaries profiled are Howard Carter (who discovered the tomb of King Tut), Giovanni Belzoni (who found the many monuments built in honor of Ramses II) and Jean Francois Champollion (first to decipher the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone).

Lost Treasures of the Ancient World series: lots of titles to choose from, including Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, Ancient India, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Jerusalem, Dark Age England, Samurai Japan, Empires in the Americas and many more. We’ve watched about 8 to 10 of these and have enjoyed them to varying extents. There are instances of violence, reference to promiscuous behavior and so on although nothing extremely overt has assailed DS’ senses so far. Nevertheless, I would strongly suggest viewing them with your child or at least previewing in advance.


Walking with Dinosaurs (BBC)
Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (BBC)
Always hits in our home. Amazing CGI effects! They look so real that younger kids may have a fright.

The Ascent of Man
Surveys the survival of Man: from primitive times to today’s high-tech world. An American Film Festival Award winner. Not as riveting as some of the other DVDs listed here but very educational.

Einstein’s Big Idea (NOVA)
Dramatizes how E=mc2 came to be. Profiles not only a dreamy, younger Einstein but also, the contributions of Michael Faraday, Antoine Lavoisier, Mme du Ch√Ętelet (a French, aristocratic lady mathematician and scientist who translated Newton’s Principia Mathematica) and the brilliant Lise Meitner (Jewish lady physicist largely responsible for her discoveries on nuclear fission but glaringly left out by the Nobel committee).

Other good biographical works we’ve watched (with and without DS in attendance):

Einstein Revealed (Nova)
Galileo’s Battle for the Heavens (Nova) – Based on Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel (some parts may not be age appropriate)
Newton’s Dark Secrets (Nova) (April 2009)
Infinite Secrets: The Genius of Archimedes (Nova) (March 2009)


The Life of Birds (BBC) (Feb-March 2009)
A riveting series narrated by Sir David Attenborough. A must for the young (and older) bird lover. We loved the close ups! And boy do some birds have attitude!

and another title lovingly narrated by Sir Attenborough: The Life of Mammals (May 2009). There are liberal references to mating and sexual reproduction in a few parts.

My attempt to get the kiddo very interested in marine biology/ ocean science didn’t go smoothly.¬†But oh well, I personally liked these videos.

Deep Blue, narrated by Pierce Brosnan (amazing underwater photography!), James Cameron’s exciting Aliens of the Deep and gorgeous Earth, narrated by James Earl Jones.


A definite treat for a budding young biologist is National Geographic’s Inside The Living Body which takes a fascinating trip through the body of a human female right from birth to her 80’s. Expect mesmerizing (and to some, it might look real gross) footage of how food goes through the gut, how the immune system attacks viruses and basically how our body, well works! It was immensely riveting to DS and I but there are also inevitable references to puberty and sexual reproduction and even a death scene which might make you squeamish or nervous to show around young kids. Preview if possible and/ or use the remote liberally to forward to more comfortable parts.


We are huge fans of Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson and loved NOVA’s Origins which he narrated.

We also watched a little of Teaching Company’s My Favorite Universe (May 2009), beautifully narrated by Dr Tyson, for some reason that I cannot remember, not completing the viewing.

NOVA’s The Elegant Universe is another must-watch if you have a space/ astronomy fan at home.

Just thought I should mention that all of these videos take the evolution view of how the universe and our world came about to be.

Very recently, we’ve been watching History Channel’s The Universe, (we’re on Season 1 for now; there are a total of 4 seasons I believe) and are enjoying it very much. I personally found the parts on Mars: The Red Planet and The End of the Earth: Deep Space Threats to Our Planet very intriguing. I should highlight that if you have a very sensitive young viewer who would immensely dread any possible threat to Earth from outer space, you might want to wait a while before watching this with him/ her.

On the to-watch-soon list:
Planet Earth – The Complete BBC Series

Links to video sources:
Library Video
Delta Education’s List – inspiration for DVD titles to check out from Netflix or your library

Stories of Great People & Crafty Inventions

The very first I heard about a book from the Stories of Great People series was when my friend sheila responded to someone’s query on the SecularCM Yahoo Group about age-appropriate books on Shakespeare. Knowing that our kids’ taste in books was quite similar, I checked out the book she recommended, Shakespeare’s Quill. While trying to find more books by the author, Gerry Bailey, I unearthed a whole motherlode of highly-visual, well-written titles on a variety of historical figures and history/ science topics.

The Stories of Great People series profiles a number of famous names–from Marco Polo to The Wright Brothers. Bailey’s Crafty Inventions series provides a number of titles that would be a good science/ art complement to studying both ancient and modern civilizations. For instance, the Early Civilizations title discusses how the ancients probably used pulleys and then provides ideas for an experiment. A page on the usage of inks provides a t-shirt printing activity idea.

A page from Columbus’ Chart

A page from Early Civilizations

Although these books aren’t as tongue-in-cheek as the You Wouldn’t Want To series and don’t have the bowel-curdling humor of the Horrible series that DS likes, they are a lovely feast for the eyes and a good choice if you just want to dump the curriculum and spark bunny trails for a while. No dumbed-down language. Liberal use of fun typography. Definitely worth a peek if you’re looking for illustrated books with a good balance of serious/ humorous text plus just-enough depth to whet the appetite for further study.

Sept 2 and Sept 9 Field Trips

When we signed up for the coop, I didn’t realize we’d be making field trips that were another 50 miles or so south from our already 50 mile drive down to San Jose. I know my memories of these trips will be filled with stressed thoughts of wanting to get there on time and then reaching these destinations and being calmed down by the realization of how fortunate we are to be living in such a lovely, enriching, naturally, fabulously beautiful area ūüôā Some of these sights almost completely took my breath away.

The San Juan Bautista Mission (Sept 2)

Founded in 1797 and growing to house over a thousand Ohlone Native Americans by 1803, the San Juan Bautista (named for St John the Baptist) Mission is the largest of the Spanish Missions in California.

During the field trip, the kids were introduced to the mission’s architecture. Inspired by the founding priests’ Spanish homeland, the mission is constructed primarily from adobe bricks (a mix of sand, clay, water and organic materials like dung). Under the hot summer sun, we felt first hand how cool it could be inside! Since the mission is located on the San Andreas Fault, doorways were built thick and low. A few lucky kids (including DS to his utmost glee) got to see how a seismograph works by jumping real hard around the (poor) machine. We were also very pleasantly surprised to see animal paw prints on the aging red tile floor of the mission’s chapel!

For more information, please see this page and this one too. Read this informative article if you can too. It includes a link to instructions on making a mission model. And here are a few photos:

Relaxing green areas

19th century sickles under the roof beams

Tallow vats

Elkhorn Slough, Monterey Bay (Sept 9)

Elkhorn Slough (say slew), is one of California’s largest and last remaining coastal wetlands. The slough’s main channel, winding inland for almost seven miles, is flanked by a 2500-acre salt marsh habitat that is home to over 400 species of invertebrates, 80 species of fish and possibly over 200 species of birds!

Apart from taking the trail to the slough’s Overlook (where we could see the outlines of river-cut terraces, and were spied upon by turkey buzzards), we also visited the remains of the Elkhorn Farm site (now home to only barn owls), viewing lots and lots of poison hemlock (did you know hemlock is related to carrots?) along the way.

After the field trip, we tagged along with one of DS’ best buddies to the Salinas River State Park at Monterey Bay. The boys had a huge rush catching the waves!

Train on the slough

Farm that once was
Making leaf rubbings (above) and looking
at a gull wing under the microscope (below)
Beach boys

Adobe structures and majestic arches

Mythical Creatures Crafts

The DH returned from a month-long business trip today and to surprise the DS, bought him something only a very perceptive Dad could have thought of: Origami Fantastic Creatures by Michael G. LaFosse.

DS of course shrieked in absolute delight. He peppered his Dad with kisses on both cheeks (this wasn’t merely out of gratitude–DS has this thing going on where he *needs* to give his Dad the exact number of kisses he gives me or he feels he is being unfair to the other parent, so he had faithfully kept a tally of kisses he owed his Dad while Dad was away). Then, he promptly folded out a Cyclops head. This gift was not only perfect for DS, it was perfect timing too since the kiddo only recently completed Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Book #2: The Sea of Monsters.

Since he’s having so much fun with Greek myth-themed stories and origami, I was curious to see what else could be found on Amazon for Ancient Greek-themed crafts.

The Classical Kids Activity Book is of course a favorite among homeschoolers. As you can see from the carousel above, there’s a nice number of other interesting looking craft and paperfolding guides too:
Dragons, Witches, and Other Fantasy Creatures in Origami (Dover Craft Books) by Mario Adrados Netto and J. Anibal Voyer Iniesta
From Start Exploring, Bulfinch’s Mythology: A Fact-Filled Coloring Book by Steven Zorn
and if you or your child has a thing for cross-stitch, check out Julie Hasler’s Fantasy Cross Stitch: Zodiac Signs, Mythical Beasts and Mystical Characters.
If you know a chess-crazy kid or grown-up (anyone feeling generous towards me?), put this or this on your wishlist!

For a Greek Myths book/ link list, see this recent post.

Greek Mythology Booklist

DS was just a few months shy of turning 5 when he was first introduced to Greek Myths. He was so caught up by the stories that he wrote, actually wrote, out a scrapbook and with lots of maternal help, added illustrations.

With enthusiasm like this, all thoughts of leaving the study of Greek mythology to coincide with our study of Ancient Greek for History were joyfully abandoned.

The following are the books and audiobooks we’ve enjoyed on Greek Myths and mean to enjoy in the future. Most of these titles, unless otherwise noted, are for young readers/ listeners aged 4 onwards.

Enjoyed/ enjoying now:

The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki. DS’ first favorite and a wonderful introduction to the topic. This was the book that provided him the inspiration for his scrapbook.

Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Great Stories of Greek and Roman Mythology, Specially Arranged for Children Five and Up by an Educational Expert by William F. Russell. Our current bedtime read-aloud. Wonderfully written for reading aloud. DS always looks forward to the finale of each chapter where Mr Russell offers explanatory notes on words used and their Greek or Roman roots.

Greek Myths by Jim Weiss. Audiobook narration delivered in this master storyteller’s ever-engaging style. We’ve listened to this over and over and over again.

Mythology (Ologies) by Lady Hestia Evans and Dugald A. Steer(File Mile Press). A veritable cavern of Greek Myth info, pretty illustrations and lots of little pockets of discoveries!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan: The Lightning Thief (Book 1), The Sea of Monsters (Book 2), The Titan’s Curse (Book 3), The Battle of the Labyrinth (Book 4) and The Last Olympian (Book 5). The extremely popular (among homeschoolers anyway) adventure series has a slightly simpler reading level than Harry Potter and I must say, is almost as enjoyable.

Books we plan to check out:

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire. Hands down one of the most popular Greek Myth for kids books out there. Gorgeous illustrations. Quite text heavy for the younger set but immensely enjoyable as a read aloud. It’s always been on my to-read list with DS but we’re constantly being side-tracked by other books.

The McElderry Book of Greek Myths by Eric A. Kimmel and Pep Montserrat. Recommended by my pal, the Fiddler. Read her review here. Her recommendations have always been a hit for us so we can’t wait to read this!
Favorite Greek Myths by Mary Pope Osborne and Troy Howell

Greek Myths for Young Children (Stories for Young Children) by Heather Amery and Linda Edwards

The Classic Treasury of Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch and Giles Greenfield
Favorite Greek Myths (Dover Children’s Thrift Classics) by Bob Blaisdell

Mythological Creatures: A Classical Bestiary by Lynn Curlee
Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths by Bernard Evslin
Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths by Lucy Coats
Greek Myths and Legends by Anna Claybourne

Graphic Greek Myths
These seem to be aimed at 9-12 yo:

Websites that may be of interest (please preview):
For Greek Myth-themed craft ideas, see this post.
See this post for info on the National Mythology Exam (NME). And this one on an NME prep course.

Year 1 in Words and Pictures

Year 1 (2008/2009) began in June 2008 and ends May 2009.

Our academic year isn’t officially over yet, what with at least five more weeks of reading and review to go but I figured I may as well begin this post now while I have the time, energy and memory to do so (I’ve been more than usually forgetful lately). If anything else exciting happens I’ll update and republish.

JULY: Terrifically sunburnt after our trip to the Grand Canyon, DS holds on to one of our earliest read-alouds of the year, Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry.

AUGUST: His favorite project of the year: a Prehistory Timeline. Details here.

AUGUST: Striking a pose with his Public Speaking (summer camp) teacher.

SEPTEMBER: A brief stint with a soccer class.

OCTOBER: He was very taken by his MagNext kit, and created a number of interesting geometrical solids.

NOVEMBER: It was a historical moment for the entire nation and obviously, great fun for us too.

NOVEMBER: Thanks to the wonderful charter school education specialist, who joined us in October, DS fell absolutely in love with origami. First Piano Recital at his new piano school
(and fourth overall since 2006). He played “Dance of the Irish” (composer unknown).

NOVEMBER: Exploring squaring numbers and finding square roots with Dad.

DECEMBER: Another wonderful read aloud, A Rat’s Tale by Tor Seidler.

DECEMBER: Exploring electricity with Snap Circuits.

JANUARY: We began Secret Treasures and Magical Measures: Adventures in Measuring: Time, Temperature, Length, Weight, Volume, Angles, Shapes and Money by Chris Kensler. It took us four well-worth months to complete the book.

FEBRUARY: We began our Ancient Egypt scrapbook project, based on The Egyptology Handbook: A Course in the Wonders of Egypt by Emily Sands.

MARCH: He began expressing great interest in learning fractions in February and since March, began working on random problems whenever we have the time.

MARCH: Enjoying proofreading grammatical errors with
Scholastic’s Grammar Cop by the Staff of Storyworks.

APRIL: A discussion on recycling and a visit to the Cantor Art Center to see Rodin sculptures led to the making of Ciggers, his very own cigar-chomping, egg-carton mouthed, craft tube-bodied, styrofoam hat-wearing croc.

APRIL: Where he’s at with memorizing The Periodic Table of Elements. (With some sort of scientific explanation from Dad below that’s waaay beyond me).

APRIL: At a “one small square” plot study behind Dad’s office.

Our Year 1 Curriculum:
MEP Math 2A and 2B,
Various Young Math titles,
Secret Treasures and Magical Measures by Chris Kensler
and various titles from the Living Math booklists.

Language Arts:
Grammar Land by ML Nesbitt,
and the Scholastic Parts of Speech and Scholastic Grammar Cop workbooks.

Latin and Word Roots:
English from the Roots Up Vol 1 by Joegil Lundquist (flashcards) and
Latin for Children Primer A Workbook, Activity Book, Chant CD and DVD.

Literature/ Bedtime Reading:
Titles suggested in the CM/WTM lists and Fiction/Sci-fi lists,
Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield,
Classic Myths to Read Aloud by William F Russell and
poetry compilations like A Family of Poems edited by Caroline Kennedy.

World History/ Ancients (focus is on Prehistory to Ancient Egypt):
Books listed here.
Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History (prehistory only)
The Story of the World text (till Ancient Egypt) and audiobook Vol 1 (all chapters)

US/ World History:
Free-reading misc. Jean Fritz books
Magic Tree House-themed History coop
American History for Little Folks by Blaisdell and Ball

Cyber Ed Plato Life Science (first unit)
Biology (fish & insects) and Earth Science (rocks and volcanos) co-op classes
Classic Science Life (first 2 chapters)
Robert Krampf Science Education videos
Lots of biographies and living books from Living Science Booklists

Nature Study:
The Burgess Bird Book by Thornton Burgess

Art/ Craft/ Music Appreciation:
The National Gallery of Art 2009 desk calendar
Mike Venezia Artists biographies
Origami calendar 2009
The Story of Classical Music
Music Monday posts at Rockhound Place

Delight-Directed Self Reading
What Einstein Didn’t Know : Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions by Robert Wolke
The Great Naturalists by Robert Huxley (random chapters/ pages)

Life Skills & Special Interests
The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden

Literature/ Bedtime/ Free Reading for the year: Year 1 FunReading

All Year 1 posts: Year 1 Journey