This week’s discussion question…

This week’s discussion: Would you allow your high schooler to play an M rated video game that is history based (like Assassins Creed III)? Click the link if you aren’t familiar with the game. It’s set during the American Revolution and is fairly well-researched history-wise.

https://www.cnn.com/2012/10/19/tech/gaming-gadgets/assassins-creed-3-history/index.html

Our family had policies that varied over the years with different children. We had games we would not allow in the house and others we didn’t mind (example: our daughter enjoyed playing Age of Empires). We never forbid games outright (unless one of our kids “needed” a break from technology *cough* or was grounded, lol). I enjoy gaming and sometimes would play with the kids (or would hog a game on my own PC, lol).

This conversation isn’t to judge anyone, but to get a discussion going. ūüėČ What is your family’s policy about video games? What exceptions do you make (if any)?

This post is also cross-posted on the Guest Hollow Facebook page, the Guest Hollow High School Curriculum group and the Guest Hollow High School History Group. ūüôā Feel free to comment here (via the comments) or one the above linked FB pages.

History Timeline Schedule Update

Homeschool History Curriculum

It was recently brought to my attention that some visitors to my site couldn’t access the entire right-hand side of the online Awesome History Timeline Schedule pages. I’ve fixed the html and now you should be able to see ALL of the assignments, even if you have a smaller monitor screen. Just scroll back and forth horizontally using the bottom of your browser bar.

For those of you unfamiliar with this FREE homeschool history curriculum, it’s completely based on WHEN things happened and covers both American and world history at the same time. It’s set up so that you can study American history by itself, world history by itself or both together (my preference). It’s totally flexible and can work as a stand-alone curriculum or can be used to supplement any other history program.

I designed it because I got sick and tired of history curriculums jumping from one event to the next going back and forth in time. How confusing! ¬†It was always difficult to keep track of what was happening in the context of time. It was also nearly impossible to see how so many events in history are interrelated!¬†With the History Timeline Schedule, a student can immediately see in a VISUAL context things like how the French Revolution followed the American Revolution, what was happening in the Americas during Henry the VIII’s reign, and that Victoria became Queen of England right after Texans lost the Battle of the Alamo.

As with all my other homeschool programs, I’ve scheduled in lots of goodies like “living books”, colorful non-fiction, hands-on activities, video suggestions, map assignments, art & music studies. It’s probably best used as-is for 6th graders and up, but you can easily adapt it for 1st grade to adult learners.

The History Timeline Schedule is totally flexible! Don’t like a book I scheduled in or can’t access it at your local library for free? Replace it with ANY other suitable book. Just plug your book (or activity or video) into the correct time slot. It’s that easy! Want even more book and video suggestions? Visit my free History Shelf that follows the same timeline format but has hundreds and hundreds more book and video suggestions for an even greater variety of ages.

Happy homeschooling!

State Test Results Show Otter’s Curriculum Works

…for us anyway! ūüėČstar test

star3

I recently received Otter’s results from the California state STAR test he took last spring and I’m very happy with the results. Otter did quite well in all the tested subjects, but he scored ADVANCED in science and would have also scored advanced in history except for one category of history on the test we hadn’t studied yet. That one category brought his history score down a little bit,¬†just below¬†the advanced cut-off.

A sample of Otter’s science scores (chemistry and a variety of other science topics):

barexplanation

bar

bar2

bar3

Despite not reaching the advanced score for history, Otter got top results in the other history categories we’ve covered in our homeschool (like Ancient Civilizations, Middle Ages, Renaissance & Reformation, etc.), even in history topics we haven’t studied for years!

I don’t like the STAR tests, but they do allow me to see how Otter compares to other students in the state. To see he’s scoring advanced in the areas where *I* designed his curriculum is really a payoff for all the untold hours of hard work creating¬†Otter’s science and history programs.

The bottom line is that I know what works for my son. It’s so encouraging to see him scoring¬†so¬†well despite some learning struggles we are working very hard to overcome.¬†I can’t guarantee these kinds of results from my curriculum for anyone else, but it’s satisfying to see it’s working for Otter, since he’s who I designed it for, after all! ūüôā

If you are teaching a student who is struggling,¬†DON’T get discouraged. Keep on going and hang in there. It’s taken us¬†years¬†to get to where Otter is currently in regards to academics and there is still a lot of hard work to be done before he graduates and heads off for college. Some students are slow to blossom, but when they do…the reward is somehow so much sweeter for all the trying.

Book Review: Madeleine Takes Command

Madeleine Takes Command Book Review

I just finished reading Madeleine Takes Command to Otter for history. He really enjoyed this adventurous tale set in the 17th century.

Otter’s rating:¬†5 stars

Madeleine Takes Command was originally written in 1946 and is based on the true story about a 14 year old girl and her two younger brothers as they defend their family fort on the St. Lawrence River against an attack by the Iroquois.

The story starts out in the fall of 1692 with Madeleine’s father away in Quebec and her mother leaving to conduct business in Montreal. Madeleine is left in charge of her family’s seigneury. A seigneury was a piece of land given in New France – Canada – belonging to the French King and managed by landlords. Tenant farmers called habitants farmed the land and paid taxes to the seigneur (landlord) assigned to each parcel. As Madeleine’s mother states when embarking on a canoe to leave, “…one cannot put much trust in strange soldiers…That’s why there must always be some member of the family left in charge.” Even though Madeleine is only 14, as the eldest child of the seigneur, she needs to remain behind to keep an eye on things. Her two younger brothers, 12 and 10 years old, stay with her. One thing that struck me about this book was the level of responsibility put on the shoulders of such young children, and yet they were fully capable and trustworthy.

Madeleine was left in charge of 10 militiamen as well as the seigneury’s habitants. When the Iroquois attack and kidnap or kill all but two of the militiamen, Madeleine is left with her two brothers, an 80 year old retired soldier who is her family’s servant and the two remaining soldiers to guard the remaining women, children and the fort itself. The two soldiers turn out to be cowards who threaten to blow up the fort rather than be taken alive by the Mohawk Indians. Madeleine now not only has to manage the fort’s defense, she also has to manage these two men who are a liability and unable to be fully trusted. Eventually she is joined by an additional man and his family who narrowly escape capture as they arrive via their canoes on the river.

Over the course of a week, the small band manages to keep the Indians at bay through a combination of sheer determination, wits and teamwork. Staying up for days on end with only short naps, the group makes it seem as if the fort is well guarded and filled with many more people than it really is. Madeleine proves to be a resourceful commander and is obeyed without question, despite her youth or the fact that she is a young woman (I say woman because she is most definitely not a child). Even her ten year old brother has an important part to play in the fort’s defense and turns out to be a better man than the two adult soldiers who are nearly useless.

Madeleine and her brothers were portrayed very realistically. They were afraid and yet brave. Certainly not perfect, you can see them struggling in various areas. Madeleine is a good leader. She isn’t some super hero. Instead, she relies on those around her and very capably assigns them duties based on their various temperaments and abilities. Her quick thinking and devotion to do the right thing is the reason for her success, not her physical strength. The others around her all show different strengths and weaknesses. There is the wife of Monsieur Fontaine who lies around crying in the blockhouse all day and solid, dependable Nanette who makes sure the fort’s defenders are well-fed with a hearty stew and yet doesn’t question or argue with Madeleine when told NOT to come out at night, even though she wants to help. She sets an example for the other women and children. There is Louis who, though he disagrees with Madeleine at times, bends to her will even when conflicted. Little Alexander, who is scared out of his wits and honestly admits it, manages to hang on through the long nights, exhausted but courageous and determined to help in any way he can. There are also the adults who obey Madeleine’s commands. Recognizing that there can only be one leader, they LET her lead. Any conflict in this area could mean the forfeit of all of their lives. They follow the chain of command, even when it would be easy to take it over themselves.

I scheduled this book in our history studies (using the Awesome History Timeline Schedule) and learned a bit about French Canada and the dangers faced by colonists during this time period. The book also briefly mentions William of Orange, King of England and the conflict between England and France which was played out in the colonies as well. The Indians are portrayed as savages, however the Christian mission Indians turn out to be the saviors of many of the fort’s captured farmers. This is not an overtly Christian book, even though it’s published by Bethlehem Books. It does mention prayer as well as Madeleine finding brief comfort in her fort’s chapel. It’s clear that Madeleine’s family are Catholic as there is mention once of thanking the “Virgin” or something along those lines. The book also portrays how things were run in New France and what steps were taken to fight the Indians in order to secure the colonist’s land. It’s clearly presented from the European side, with very little sympathy towards the Indians.

The book itself has 18 pen and ink illustrations that are old-fashioned and perfect accompaniments to the story. My favorite is on page 175 where it shows Madeleine resting her head on her arms on a table and sound asleep, when all she meant to do was get a quick bite to eat. The rest show pictures of things like the Indians, the colonists running into the fort, etc.

While the book isn’t my favorite writing style, my son found it to be engaging and looked forward my reading it out loud each night. While so many modern books have heroes with characteristics I would NOT want my son to emulate, I didn’t find that to be the case in Madeleine Takes Command. This was a great choice for our history studies with a good dose of character training to boot. Madeleine Takes Command does this double duty with a heavy splash of adventure and a generous telling of history. It’s a perfect book to read when studying the late 17th century and I highly recommend it for either homeschool studies, or just for your child’s home library.

Want to read more of my book reviews (for adults, teens and children)? Click here!

A Walk-through of Otter’s Timeline

As promised in an earlier post where I featured the free timeline printables available on my website, here is a¬†walk-through¬†of Otter’s timeline.

I’ve had Otter work on a timeline ever since Kindergarten. He filled up his first timeline and is currently working on the one I feature below. This second one will last him through high school. It’s not the timeline I offer on my site (my own personal timeline actually uses those printables – yes, I’ve made one too over the years with the kids!). Otter’s current timeline is¬†one I purchased from WinterPromise years ago. I actually don’t like the WinterPromise timeline very much because the background isn’t clean and uncluttered. Also, the pages face each other, so in between each timeline spread you have blank pages. I believe WinterPromise designed their timeline this way so you can insert maps and other items in between the timeline pages in the appropriate time period. We don’t use it like that though since I put those types of papers in Otter’s history notebook, so it makes flipping through the timeline a little more difficult. I do like that the pages are sturdy card stock.

Timelines are a great way to SEE history unfolding and to be able to better understand the march of events and people through time. Our timelines are a scrapbook of memories of all the things we’ve studied and also a great way to visually review our history lessons. Otter really enjoys flipping through the pages. We usually play a little “game” when we pull it out where we verbally pick our favorite image or item studied on each page.

First I’ll show you some of Otter’s timeline pages and then I’ll dissect an individual page and point out some of the different items on it. His timeline is in a THICK notebook with really sturdy binder rings. I chose this type of timeline because it’s easier to handle, store and doesn’t take up space on the wall, etc. I’ve used wall timelines with the big kids, in the past, but found that eventually they have to come down off the wall (even if you leave it up for years) and then they aren’t really practical to store. I wanted more of a scrapbook style BOOK that could be kept and shown to Otter’s kids someday. A wall timeline, while neat for awhile, is just junk when you are finished with it.

Click on each picture to see it larger (my apologies to those of you reading this post in an RSS feed where the pictures may be featured full size). I’m not showing ALL the pages, just several examples from different time periods.

1200-1000 B.C.

As you can see on this page spread, there are a variety of items pasted in: books we’ve read, people and events we’ve studied and even pictures of “things” from that time period like Solomon’s temple and a picture of Canaan merchants. Other¬†timeline¬†pages from this era (not pictured) show an Egyptian home and other similar things that show not just an event or person, but how people lived.

Homeschool timeline page

600-400 B.C.

Besides people and events, we also sometimes put in inventions (such as the Chinese kite) or discoveries and advancements in science, math (Pythagorean theorem as seen below) and even art and/or artists.

Timeline example

 

500-700 A.D.

Even though we are Christians, I’ve always felt it important to cover major people and events from other religions. In the page spread below, you can see Otter’s timeline entry for¬†Muhammad as well as the cover of a book about him that we checked out from the library.

Timeline example

700-900 A.D.

On the¬†left-hand¬†page on the entry for King Egbert I’ve placed a small¬†genealogy¬†symbol to show that we directly descended from him. Otter has enjoyed learning about famous people in our family tree and we make sure to mark them in his timeline for an extra bit of fun.

Homeschool timeline

1500-1550 A.D.

There are a lot of WinterPromise timeline figures (created by Homeschool in the Woods) on this page spread. They are the black and white ones with a bunch of text underneath. Later on I decided I liked my homemade timeline figures better as they were more customized and colorful so we switched to them after we left off using the WinterPromise curriculum.

Homeschool timeline example

 

1550-1600 A.D.

As you can see from the pages below, some parts of Otter’s timeline are not as full as others.

Homeschool timeline

 

Timeline page

Here I’ve dissected a timeline page in a bit more detail so you can see specific things we’ve entered in. You can see how we incorporate the covers of various books we read as we move through our history studies (we use the custom made GuestHollow history curriculum I created which is available for free on my website). I get the pictures we use in our timeline from the Internet and then I paste them into a timeline template page via either Photoshop or Microsoft Word (I have templates created for both programs). You can download a ¬†free timeline figure¬†template from the timeline section of my website.

Timeline page

 

So there you have it! We really love our timelines! I think they are really helpful for seeing the big picture and for remembering things we studied in our history lessons. If you haven’t started a timeline with your kids, I highly recommend it. They are a fun and colorful addition to any history curriculum that your kids can look back on and remember their lessons in the years to come.

Book Review: Living Through the Mexican-American War

¬†I’m always on the lookout for engaging books to use with my history curriculum. Sometimes it’s hard to find a good book that’s affordable, covers a topic with enough depth and yet isn’t something a student has to “slog” through. Non-fiction can be especially challenging because I have fairly high standards. Each book has to be something Otter is going to connect to (unless there really isn’t anything else to choose from and it’s something I want to cover!).

I recently was on the lookout for a book on the Mexican-American War – a conflict that still has some present day repercussions and one that I think is generally ignored in most history programs but shouldn’t be! Living Through the Mexican-American War by John DiConsiglio does a great job of presenting this conflict as well as other related stories covering the years 1821-1849. The book itself is colorful and has a nice layout. There is a mix of maps, photos, illustrations and colored sidebars that bring some visual interest to the pages. I like the added touch of the “burnt/worn” edges look on each page. It’s details like this that set this particular book above the rest I’ve looked at for this topic.

The Mexican-American War

Even though it’s 80 pages long, Living Through the Mexican-American War is a fairly quick read that shouldn’t take your students more than a day or two to finish. Or, if you prefer to use it as a read-aloud, you can easily get through it in a week.

All throughout the book more difficult words and terms are presented in bold and defined via a glossary in the back. Here are a few examples:

  • Whig Party
  • Manifest Destiny
  • sovereign
  • chaparral
  • fortified
  • adobe
  • guerrilla
  • dysentery

If you like to combine assignments, it would be super-easy to pick out words your student isn’t familiar with and assign them for vocabulary study.

Based on the vocabulary and the writing style, I’d say this book targets the upper elementary to middle school age bracket, although I think it’s perfectly appropriate for high schoolers as well. Even I learned a thing or two after reading it and it’s written/presented in such a way that I think most students will retain most of it.

There is also a small “Find Out More” section in the back with a list of books, websites and DVD’s to explore, if interested.

I feel the book does a good job at presenting both sides of the Mexican-American War. It gives you a great understanding of the circumstances surrounding it from various perspectives and not only gives an overview of incidents like the Battle of the Alamo but various sections cover some of the people involved and topics like weaponry and hardships. There is even a section about Sarah Borginnis “The Heroine of Fort Brown” so your girls don’t have to feel too left out amidst all the battle-talk.

The Mexican American War

The Mexican-American War happened because of a variety of factors and if affected different people in a variety of ways. Living Through the Mexican-American War doesn’t shy away from these topics and yet covers them in an age-appropriate way. Portions of the book cover various interesting facts about things like yellow fever, deserters, Irish immigrants, the Donner Party and more. It’s written in a way that shows your students how all of these different things were connected. I like that.

Since there are no previews that I can find online, I’ve pasted an example of a small section below so you can get a feel for the writing style.

Mexican American War

After reading through the book I’ve decided it’s a winner! I’m planning on including it in my Awesome Timeline History Schedule, which will be posted here in the next several months (hopefully!) on my website. It’s an excellent resource that should help any student learn about this important part of our nation’s history. Click here to take a look at it on Amazon.

*Note: We received this book for free after I requested it for the purpose of reviewing it. However, our review was not in anyway influenced by this fact. All our reviews reflect only our personal opinion(s) of materials. We aren’t experts! We’re just a homeschooling family with ideas of our own about what works and what doesn’t for US. smile

Siege Tower

I like to include a variety of projects and extras for most of our school subjects. As one mom who recently wrote me put it…it’s the “whipped cream and cherry on top” of our studies! Here’s a recent project Otter made for history:

 

It’s one thing to read about a siege tower. It’s quite another to actually construct one and see how it works first hand. That’s some major whipped cream and cherry action right there.

You can order your own siege tower from Pathfinders here.

We are moving out of the middle ages now and heading into the Renaissance. My Awesome Timeline History Schedule has been a great success and I look forward to continuing with it. If you’d like a copy, send me an email.

Timeline Figures Template & Sample

I’ve been working on making timeline figures for Otter’s timeline notebook. I thought I’d share the template with everyone else with a sample of how it works. Feel free to download and use to make your own timeline figures for any period of history.
It’s easy to clear the template for your own use. I’ve included instructions on how to do that quickly (1 click!) for Microsoft Word and Open Office users.

Timeline figure template in .doc format

Timeline figure template in .docx format

Timeline figure template in .odt (Open Office) format (This template has a few differences than the Microsoft template. I had to adjust a few things. Also, shapes and text boxes from Word don’t show up in Open Office. However, the main parts of the template should work fine. I have no way of checking though if the embedded font worked at the top of the page!)

Timeline figures template
A little bit more about timelines…

I’ve found that a timeline is a very wonderful tool for not only seeing the big picture of history, but also as a way to help foster the retention of everything we’ve studied. As Otter thumbs through the pages of his timeline notebook, he’s able to see how everything fits together AND at the same time review all of the wonderful books we’ve read since we paste the covers in on a regular basis. Timelines don’t have to be tied to your history classes. You can also paste in scientists and achievements from your science curriculum, artists (and even the works they created), composers from your music studies and novels you read for literature, if they fall into a historical time period. If you get your children into the habit of pulling out their timeline on a regular basis for a variety of school subjects, they’ll start to really understand how things fit together in the past. Also, when they finally graduate, they will have a lovely scrapbook featuring their many learning adventures over the years!

Ancient History Curriculum

Ancient History Curriculum

We are about 5-6 weeks away from finishing the ancient history curriculum I wrote for my son. I decided to go ahead and post it on the site now, since I’ve received several emails asking for it. Click here to go to the page where you can download it.

Learning about Egypt

In history we are finally wrapping up ancient Egypt! Here are some pictures of some recent projects:

This papyrus kit was a big hit. You get real bundles of papyrus, a plain sheet of papyrus paper and another sheet with a printed outline on it of an Egyptian scene you can color or paint. The kit comes with instructions on how to make your own sheet of papyrus paper. We ordered ours from Rainbow Resource.
We never did successfully create a piece of paper from the plant fibers, but the kit was still worthwhile to get to look at/feel a sheet of real papyrus paper (which is quite rough and sturdy!) and to see the plant material that makes it.

Papyrus kit

Here’s a map of Egyptian sites on the Nile from Remembering God’s Awesome Acts. I didn’t schedule this book into Otter’s ancient history schedule even though I think it makes a good supplement. We just didn’t have the time or interest to use all of it. If your student really wants to dig into early Biblical history and Egypt, you might want to check it out.

map

This Lift The Lid On Mummies kit comes with lots of mummy making “stuff”. I bought it years ago to use with the “big kids. Now it was Otter’s turn, but he didn’t like it as much as the others had.

Lift the Lid on Mummies

This is a lift the flap Rosetta Stone with a hieroglyphic translation exercise:

Rosetta stone

I’ve been working with Otter on narrating summaries. After I read a selection from our history to him, I ask him questions about it (to help him pick out the “main” facts). Then I have him narrate out loud. After that he writes his narrations down on notebooking pages and files them in his history notebook:

Notebooking pages

For a great article on narration, click here to go to Jimmie’s Squidoo page.

Here is Moses from Famous Figures of Ancient Times: Movable Paper Figures to Cut, Color, and Assemble:

Moses

Otter also painted King Tut. We used a simple lesson from the Art Projects For Kids website. I love some of the art lessons on Kathy’s site and plan to visit again soon for some lesson ideas!

The paint container in the pictures was made from the bottom of a plastic milk jug. It’s perfect- it even has raised areas inside to keep the colors of the paint separate.

How to Draw King Tut

Otter also colored a map of the 12 tribes of Israel instead of the scheduled map lesson in Mystery of History. You can download it for free from Bible History Online.

map