Nuts n’ Bolts (& twigs)


Summer of Homeschool Curriculum Ideas!
Because Planning is Super Fun!


After lurking about on the Secular Homeschool forum, I have come to the conclusion that we’ll not be using the very popular Story of the World history series. I had come across the audiobook version of the Medieval Times portion of the SOTW series at the library, and was tempted to borrow it, but now I’m pretty sure that I want to stay far away from it.

  • Western-centric
  • “Great (White) Men” approach
  • Presents Biblical myths as history, possibly takes a Providential approach

To be clear, I have not seen the books or heard the audiobooks.  But from this very helpful review  ( as well as other bits and snips I’ve gleaned from reading forum posts and blog posts (mostly over at )

Instead, we’ll be listening to bits of Howard Zinn’s Audiobook, People’s History of the United States, Highlights from the 20th Century

Z has already listened to “Galileo and The Stargazers” audiobook by Jim Weiss, and “Ask Albert Einstein” by Lynn Barasch.  We also have Phillis Wheatley: A Revolutionary Poetby Jacqeuelyn McLendon on audiobook.  There also seem to be some excellent history podcasts out there, but we haven’t really gotten very far into them yet, so I will post reviews when we’ve had a proper listen.  Also, we’ve started “Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs” by Barbara Mertz, she of Elizabeth Peters mysteries fame.  While it was written in the 1960’s (most recent publication, with revisions, dated 2007), it is a lively account of the history and archaeology of Egypt, complete with entertaining accounts of the hard work and foibles of Egyptologists.

(Have I mentioned how awesome the Davis, Ca library is?  Totally awesome.  Completely amazing collection of everything, but right now, I’m really digging their audiobooks.  Tons and tons and tons of them!  Which, for my little inefficient reader, is the best thing ever.  He has an excellent memory for things he hears, especially when it’s stuff that interests him.)


The Totally Awesome Davis Library again supplies us with treasures!  Z apparently loves being read stories about math!  So far, we’ve read 2 Sir Cumference books (Sword in the Cone and All the King’s Tens), “What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?” by Julie Ellis, and “How do Octopi Eat Pizza Pie? Pizza Math”, which is part of the I Love Math series published by Time Life in the early 90’s.  He loved each one.  Totally engaged, and was totally willing to do simple math problems I’d ask him, off the cuff, related to what was going on in the text.  Super Win!

Other things I plan to do with him include:

  • Worksheets/minidrills!  Yeah, not the most thrill-a-minute task ever, I know, but he needs to acquire some fluency with his basic functions so he can feel more confident about his numeracy abilities (which are fine, really, but he gets so frustrated when he can’t remember simple addition or subtraction that all heck tends to break loose when he tries to tackle more interesting problems).
  • Analog Clock skills.  Again, worksheets are in order.

2 responses »

  1. Replying to content from a bunch of posts at once…

    I really don’t think SOTW deserves quite that harsh a condemnation, at least until you’ve actually looked it over yourself. The problematic Bible stories are a very small part of one volume and can easily be corrected by stating that they are myths from the Christian Bible, which puts it in line with all the other non-Biblical myths that are included. Or just left out entirely. I wouldn’t call it Providential, and while the focus is on Western cultures, it includes more about non-Western cultures than you’re going to find in most any other similar resource for the elementary to middle-grade age group.

    It sounds to me like Z should NOT go back with the same teacher next year, regardless of whether she thinks it is “ok”.

    L has jumped in his reading by leaps and bounds this year. I’d say he’s now capable of reading a year or so ABOVE grade level, and will actually sit and read books. It just took him longer to reach critical mass. I hope the same proves true of Z. I think you can’t blame anyone – there are just so many stories of kids (especially boys) who don’t really catch on until 7-10 when it comes to reading and writing.

    Dunno if you’re still having trouble with time or if he’s caught on, but when L got an analog watch, he suddenly figured out how to tell time pretty much instantaneously. Having an actual clock of his own was both motivating and more real than any worksheets we tried.

  2. Analog watch – he broke it within the first 20 minutes he had it. So we haven’t tried that again, but I think that he’s gotten more responsible about keeping track of and caring for his things, like his glasses, so it’s probably time to revisit the watch thing. He does like puzzles and fractions and doing worksheets when he’s feeling confident that he can handle it. But if he runs into a challenge, he gets so frustrated at himself he starts slapping his head, saying “work, brain, WORK!” It’s so sad. It is also directly related to what he sees in his father, because he’s said as much (for example: “Dad says his brain just doesn’t work sometimes”).

    Re: reading, I think it is completely fair in this case to to lay a portion of the blame on his school experience. I don’t really think his teacher did anything really wrong, or that they failed to teach him properly, or that the reading room teacher was using “whole language” when she should have been using “phonics” or anything like that. I blame the experience *as a whole package* , with his dad’s obvious issues with reading thrown in, in undercutting his confidence in his own ability to learn. I know that you can’t really “teach” reading, and I also know that Z is able to read more than he seems to. But again, when faced with a challenging word, instead of working it out with his knowledge of phonemes and context, he gives up. It’s a learned helplessness thing. Which, again, his dad is a major, major influence in this regard, as B is pretty much all about learned helplessness.

    I wouldn’t be that concerned about his reading “lateness” if it weren’t for school, that’s for dang sure. He wants to be able to read, he wants the power that is inherent in reading. The desire is there. We just have to work on the confidence part. That’s why I’m not going to require structured reading times this summer. Instead we’re going to concentrate on listening to audiobooks, reading together, and enjoying the library. Handwriting is going to be our only structured language activity.

    Re: his teacher – I totally hear you (” It sounds to me like Z should NOT go back with the same teacher next year, regardless of whether she thinks it is “ok”.) Ms W is a mixed bag. We’re scheduled to do all the SSP stuff in the fall. Z has and will continue to have good friends in the class, and he’ll be a 3rd grader. Last year’s 3rd grade boys were just piles of crap, and good riddance to them. Without them around, Z will likely feel that he has more ownership of the classroom. For all her flaws, Ms W is one of the better 2nd-3rd grade teachers. The others are “very strict, and they yell a lot”, according to Z. And Ms W is good for students who are clear academic achievers. On the other hand, she seems to be somehow threatened by the kids who are, according to my friend S (whose son, K, is in the same class) ” a little different”.

    Re: SOTW, I’m willing to glance through it for my own curiosity, but given her apparent approach to historiography, I think there’s plenty of stuff out there that’s better, it just requires more work to cobble it together. And I’m just very leery about general elementary school history texts period. I don’t think there’s any version of world history for kids that I would find satisfactory. Instead, I’m going to go for a materialistic/social history approach. Big surprise there, I know, an archaeologist teaching archaeology! Also, I think it would be way more interesting for Z to tackle history from a science and technology viewpoint. Well, I think it’s more interesting period. Big surprise again 😉 !

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