Homeschooling

“Project Passport” Review: Hands-on World History

Project Passport Review: Hands-on World History Curriculum from Home School in the Woods

When I was in middle school, ancient history was the bane of my existence. I balked at all the facts I was supposed to care about, gave lackluster effort toward the chapter quizzes, spent most of my time lamenting over the old marble men of yore, and defaced my textbook by drawing pupils and irises onto all the hollow-eyed busts (as an adult, I just add googly eyes.)

A hands-on approach to world history makes a difference.

Even though I stubbornly insisted ancient history was pointless — sorry, mom! — if you would have talked to the seventh-grade me about the extravagantly tiered Hanging Gardens of Babylon, I’d have sprung to life, rattling off fact after fact about this wonder of the ancient world, indignant at your insinuation that these incredible gardens might not have existed at all. Why? Because I built a miniature version of the Hanging Gardens out of styrofoam, and the hands-on immersion cemented it in my brain and secured my loyalty forever more. Tactile experiences made an impression on me, bookworm and writer though I was. (Maybe let’s not mention the Borax-salt paste my brother and I slathered on the metal microscope before we reshelved it and forgot about it.)

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Homeschooling

Finding Accurate Thanksgiving History Books for Kids

Finding Accurate Thanksgiving History Books for Kids

Finding Accurate Thanksgiving History Books for Kids

Looking for accurate Thanksgiving history books for children can be difficult. So many of them have been romanticized to the point of falsehood. Stories about the Pilgrims and the colonial times overall  are often problematic anyway. Many of the books which do provide a truly accurate account contain content unsuitable for sensitive children. Child-friendly volumes, on the other hand, often take liberties with history, since the true story of the colonies’ tragedies and trials isn’t a child-friendly topic. And of course (and this is a biggie) many books about Pilgrims depict Native Americans in a incredibly offensive way. (I’ve written more about the way Native Americans are depicted in children’s literature.)

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Thankfully, Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving is one of those rare early American history books. It’s accurate and compelling while still being child-friendly. In fact, it’s the only picture book about the first Thanksgiving I recommend. With empathy and strength, the author — who is of Native American ancestry himself — tells Squanto’s story in the first person.  I love how he begins not with the First Thanksgiving or with planting corn, but with Squanto’s first difficult journey away from North America to England. Squanto is portrayed as a man of courage, and Bruchac masterfully writes of Squanto’s difficult role in Patuxet-turned-Plymouth. With a book as solid, factual, and beautiful as this, there’s no reason to turn instead to watered-down inaccurate stories about this misunderstood man. Definitely add it to your library request queue or your bookstore wishlist if you haven’t already.

Another book which handles this difficult time period fairly tastefully, but not perfectly, is Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness.  This is a good choice to give children a broad overview over of the Pilgrim perspective during the early colonial years,  since it shows various trials, hardships, and joys the Pilgrims experienced while adjusting to the New World during and after arrival.  Kids will love the large, illustrated primer format, and the wealth of hand-lettered facts incorporated into the rich, brooding illustrations. But there’s a caveat: the author admits in the foreword that Three Young Pilgrims only tells “part of the story”,  and hopes it will “lead the reader to study further”.  I agree. It’s beautiful and touching, but glosses over a few details and romanticizes a bit, so definitely read it alongside Bruchac’s book.

And talk to your kids! Like Cheryl Harness said, that any book we read only tells “part of the story”.  As children take in the folklore surrounding the holiday this Thanksgiving, let’s begin conversations to help kids sort out legend from historical fact. I’ve created a series of discussion prompts to help you talk about real Thanksgiving history with your kids.

Click here to read 10 Thanksgiving History Conversation-Starters for Kids on the iHomeschool Network blog

What resources are you using to delve into Thanksgiving history this year?

 

Poetry & Words

A Brief History of Cinco de Mayo

Does anyone find it mildly amusing that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of  the Mexican militia’s victory over the French?

Apparently the French were peeved that Mexico had stopped repaying a loan they owed France  and took it upon themselves to invade Mexico. (You know, they say Abraham Lincoln took Mexico’s side, but he didn’t exactly do anything about it — he was kind of preoccupied fighting a war of his own).

Oaxaca, Mexico, gringo toddler with spanish man playing guitar

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