Tag Archives: history

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to AO…

As you know from earlier posts, I am an Ambleside Online girl. I love the organization of the materials, love the Advisory and the many women who give of themselves to make things run smoothly and I love the community!

However… (ahem)… I have found that I don’t love some of the selected books. I won’t go into detail at this point, but suffice it to say that some of the selections have felt a bit… stodgy?… or a bit… dry?… which is likely just a personal taste issue since I know AO searches for the best living books around.

Let me tell you about a book substitution I’ve tried this year that has really worked for us.

Second grade (Year 2) history is covered in AO by H.E. Marshall’s ‘An Island Story’. I was prepared to LOVE this book- and to this day, I refer to England as ‘the little island’. However, about the time that the White Ship was going down in the channel, I began feeling like the book was simply recounting one battle after another- and each chapter was really long. I was bored. And so was Alex.

So I had to revisit Dear Charlotte’s principals to remind myself that this particular author was not capturing my son’s attention and helping him make connections within the material- I also remember that the wonderful ladies at AO remind us that the book list alone does not a CM curriculum make- it is truly more than the sum of its parts.  I went in search of an appropriate alternative and- thank you Amazon Kindle!- found ‘The Story of the English’ Volumes I and II by Helene Guerber.

Story of the EnglishWe began this book by matching the included chapters to those in AIS. It is closely matched- we began this book at the start of the second semester and went right back to the very beginning of English history. Along with this book, we began a visual timeline- just a simple computer file in which we keep a picture that represents the major event or person in each chapter. We set a brisk pace of three chapters a week so we could finish the year about where AIS would let off at the end of Year 2. This means we do have to spill over into Volume II, but by just a few chapters.

I feel like ‘The Story of the English’ is superior to ‘An Island Story’. Why? Well, first of all, the language is clearer, but in no way talks down to the children. The stories are more succinct, allowing us to gain a feel and flavor of the person or event without dragging us through ‘fluff language’ (that is, language that, to the average reader, would often lead them down the many unnecessary, winding, and often cumbersome paths of language- just like this parenthetical sentence), and there is much more than an account of battle after battle after battle. For example, we have been able to learn about the culture and importance of the Druids to ancient English peoples, have come to celebrate the translation of scripture into the vernacular by both the Venerable Bede and Wycliffe, studied the Bayeux Tapestry, the Magna Carta, Eleanor Crosses, and the formation of Parliament, explored the architecture of the Tower of London and Canterbury Cathedral and much more, all by simply following the chapters in ‘The Story of the English’.  To be fair, as we didn’t finish AIS, I can’t be positive that many of these religious, architectural, artistic and literary events aren’t covered as well as the political and military history of the land, but I do notice enough differences in content and tone that I’m glad we made the switch.

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On Board the Dawn Treader- Two (or more) lessons before breakfast

This morning, my little loves awoke and my daughter immediately went to our resource shelf (this is a fancy name for the place I keep all the oddly shaped educational toys I’ve bought but don’t want the kids wrecking or losing) and pulled out a pack of Bible story cards. These cards are made of heavy cardboard and feature an illustration of a well-known Bible story on one side and a retelling of the story on the other. Fae delighted in the pictures and was very content pulling them out and placing them back in the little box over and over. Alex, however, surprised me by naming almost all of the stories by recognizing the illustration.

I was impressed at how many Bible stories he knows. He named off the creation, Jonah, Daniel, Moses, Jesus’ crucifixion, the Resurrection and others. (At one point, I explained we were looking at a picture of Peter telling people about Jesus. Fae said, “Wow. That Peter Pan loves Jesus.” Wonderful…) Something tickled in the back of my mind though; I’ve recently read an article by Ken Hamm (of Answers in Genesis) postulating that children in Sunday school who are taught Bible “stories” begin to believe that these stories are fairy tales and that they fall away at a greater rate than those who do not attend Sunday school. Hamm, according to the article, believes that these ‘Sunday school kids’ are being convinced that Scripture is just a bunch of fairy tales and that the Bible doesn’t answer real questions. They eventually find the Word irrelevant to their lives.

While I would want to read his book for myself, (I have questions about the way the research was conducted), I also wanted to be sure that Alex understands the difference between history and fantasy. I asked him if he knew the difference between the two, but he just stared at me blankly. So I asked if he knows the difference between stories that really happened and stories that are just pretend. He said, a little uncertainly, that he did. So I gave him an example by reminding him that Daddy and I tell him stories about history- we talk about the day we were married and the days he and Fae were born. These are real stories- the events really happened. These kinds of stories- and the stories in his book about William Penn and the stories in the Bible- are history. They are true and tell us about something that happened far away or a long time ago. Fantasy, I told him, is make-believe. Pegasus, Perseus, Andromeda, Snow White, Rose Red- these are all characters in make-believe stories. The people never lived, the action never really happened.

Alex took that in, nodded, and continued playing with Bible cards… Twenty minutes later, we were dressed and headed to the kitchen for breakfast. Then, stopping me in my tracks, Alex asked, “Mommy, why aren’t there dinosaurs in the Bible?”

My sweet son is in love with animals, prehistoric and otherwise. His mind roams over the African plains, to the jungles of South America to the prairies of Kansas. If an animal lives there, his mind is there. So it’s not so surprising that he eventually wanted to know what the Bible has to say about dinosaurs.

So... this is a Behemoth

Now, I believe that the Bible is to be taken literally at all points, so I believe that the world was created in seven literal days (when we start giving ourselves the authority to dismiss scripture as poetic, we give ourselves authority to judge ALL of Scripture including that concerning sin, Jesus, and the Lord’s will for us. I’m just not willing to set a foot on that slippery slope myself…). I believe that men co-existed with every animal that has ever lived and there are scientists who believe the same thing. So I hopped on the computer to do some quick research. I found a really wonderful site that shows where the Bible talks about animals that don’t fit the description of any animal we know except a dinosaur. Then I showed Alex the pictures of the dinosaurs the Bible writers were likely describing. It was ten minutes of research and sharing and it reaffirmed my son’s belief in God’s Word.

The Leviathan that plays in the deep...

I believe that the Word says exactly what it means. It is not fantasy, it is not make-believe. We can trust those words because they are THE Word- our Lord reveals Himself to us in those pages. I want my children to have that kind of relationship to God’s Word- a relationship where they don’t give themselves authority to remake it after the world’s image and where they are willing to be careful & honest about what it does say.

I didn’t know when I woke up this morning that I would be giving my son lessons about the reliability of the Word, but that’s what happens when you homeschool- you get to be there to respond to all those little moments in which your child’s faith is built or torn down. I am so grateful and truly humbled- to have partnered with the Lord today in bringing Alex another step closer to relationship with Him.

What a joy this life is!

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