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The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor, Revised Edition Paperback – April 17, 2006
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“This may well be the best multi-age read aloud narrative of world history yet to have been written.” (Homeschooling in Japan)
About the Author
Susan Wise Bauer is a writer, teacher, and historian. Her books include The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, the History of the World series (W. W. Norton) and the Story of the World series (Well-Trained Mind Press). She has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William & Mary in Virginia, as well as an M.A. in seventeenth-century literature and a Master of Divinity in Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literature. For fifteen years, she taught literature and composition at the College of William and Mary.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is our first year homeschooling our 4th grade daughter and we met and grilled many of the homeschool mothers in our area on their system of teaching. One of them recommended the Wise/Bauer book "The Well-Trained Mind" which seemed to be a very good fit for both my teaching style and our daughter's learning style. "The Well-Trained Mind" recommends, of course, this series of books for teaching history. But what a lot of people are missing, I think, is that Volume 1 is meant for 1st grade, Volume 2 for 2nd grade, etc. These 4 volumes are also meant to be the first of 3 levels of teaching history as the child goes through his/her 12 years of education. In other words, these four volumes are laying the groundwork for what's to come. It's not a be-all end-all history course.
The reason my approach is different is because I'm using this series of books to catch my daughter up to where a well-educated child should be by the 4th grade. Up through to the end of 3rd grade in the public school system, the only exposure she'd had to history is to the timespan just before and just after the American revolutionary war. So we had a lot of ground to cover. But I didn't want it to turn into a grind for her, so I took the authors' intentions to heart and I'm using this series to form a groundwork for a basic understanding of history.
So what I'm doing is covering all four volumes in 1 year. That works out to a little over 2 months per volume or 4 chapters (for Volume 1) per week. I skipped the activity book but did buy the workbook with the quizzes. We've read to our daughter since she was a baby and she still loves to be read to, so for the 1-hour class (which I hold twice a week) I read 2 chapters to her, discussing what we're reading as I go along. She loves it and the book is easy to read from. Before class starts, I give her 2 quizzes from the 2 chapters read in the previous class. She gets about as many questions right as I would and it's just to help reinforce what I've read to her.
So all the complaints about inaccuracies in the book and the author's religious slant (which I didn't find and I was looking for), they don't matter. What really matters is that my daughter enjoys learning about history (it's her favorite class) and she's building a foundation that can be built on in later years.
In addition to this series and its workbooks, I also picked up "The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia." Once a week I give her homework to read assigned pages from this book to reinforce or, perhaps, to give a different point of view on what she's just learned.
All history books will turn up people who will disagree with the content, will find inaccuracies in the material, or won't agree with the author's point of view. But, guess what? It doesn't matter. Your child is still young and you are filling in a background in history that his/her public school peers will never have.
What I really like about this book is that it is designed to introduce young kids to history. It isn't a college-level, peer-reviewed, well-researched, completely accurate book. But it functions well as (I believe) it was intended - to give children a broad introduction to history and historical periods and ideas, to get them excited about history, and curious.
I see some inaccuracies in the text, and I see some things I will not be teaching my kids about in a very detailed manner, and I see some things that I will teach my kids, but I will use the Bible to do it, rather than the book's text.
I have no problem whatsoever using this book as a GUIDE to teach my kids history - tossing out the things I can't or don't want to use, and using the things I find useful, and going farther in depth about things I think are important. I think for this purpose, the book works very well, and, I find this to be the case for most curriculum. Even math - which is not biased - has parts my children need and other parts they do not. So we may go light on some parts and heavier on others. This is the nature of teaching, and the nature of learning.
If you are looking for something less religious, you could try R.E.A.L. History (google that).
Many of the critiques of this series hinge on the fact that the book is loaded with inaccuracies and mythology. It is. But even stick-to-the-facts-and-only-the-facts history text books (which are BORING) are full of inaccuracies. At least this is interesting. Also, an understanding of the intended purpose of the book is important. It's designed as a read-aloud, NOT to be read independently by the child. It's also designed to serve as an INTRODUCTION to historical topics and parents are encouraged to supplement the stories by doing further investigation. I'd like to see the book that could adequately present all of the complexities and varying historical arguments about a topic in two pages in a child-friendly format.
I think there is a Christian bias throughout the book, but as a non-Christian I haven't found that to be particularly problematic. For example, the story of the Exodus is presented in a much more factual format than many of the other mythologies in the book. There are plenty of people who believe in the absolute historical accuracy of that story, so for them that's just fine. If you don't, it's not like it's exactly difficult to point out to your child how extremely similar that story is to so many other religious mythologies of the time period (which are also included in the book). Again, that's why it's designed as a read-aloud, rather than a story to be read independently, so that the stories can inspire a discussion between the parent and the child. In areas that don't touch on sensitive topics for Christians, I've found the stories to be fairly balanced and there's plenty of places where Bauer points out the limitations of historical "knowledge."
For us, the books have served their purpose exactly. My 7 year old son thinks history is interesting and fun. He's also able to ask some pretty interesting questions and draw connections. The viewpoints he's acquiring through studying history in this format are thoughtful and he's not inclined to take everything he reads as verbatim truth. A few of his historical observations:
1- reacting to a story on the news about suicide bombers "That's not such a good idea. The Egyptians would have thought that the devourer would eat your heart if you carry around so much hatred in it."
2- reacting to another story about the conflict between modern day Iran and the US. "Why doesn't the Iranian government read their own history? If they'd treat people the way Cyrus the Great did they wouldn't have so many problems."
3- reaction to the story of David and Goliath- "Why was David so sure God would be on his side? Didn't the Jews teach that God created all people? So doesn't that mean that God created Goliath too? Then why is David so sure God will choose him?"
4- after reading about Confucious- "Oh, his teachings were a whole lot like the Buddha's teachings. Maybe they learned from the same place."
5- after reading about the Chinese invasion of Korea and the Frankish King Clovis' forced conversion to Christianity of his people- "These kings didn't pay very much attention to their own religions. How can the Chinese kings claim to be Buddhists and then attack Korea? And I don't know if the French people would really be Christians if they were forced to be but obviously Clovis wasn't a very good Christian. Christ never said you could cut somebody's head off if they didn't believe in Christ!"
Now, I contrast that to my own historical perspectives when I was his age and learning history (which was naturally confined to American history) in a 2nd grade public classroom: The pilgrims and the Indians were great friends, as indicated by the story of Thanksgiving. President Lincoln was always completely honest and he loved black people so he freed the slaves. Talk about bias. All in all, I'm not in the least concerned about the inaccuracies in Story of the World.