Episode 14: History Books


When we are clear in the direction we are headed in our children's history studies, know the time period and the order and the streams to cover, what books will we use to explore those unfathomable numbers of events and characters in history? Is a spine necessary? What is the real value of a biography? How much should we be concerned about the historical accuracy of the account we are reading? Explore these ideas with us in this episode.

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"[B]ut let the mother beware: there is nothing which calls for more delicate tact and understanding sympathy with the children than this apparently simple matter of choosing their lesson-books, and especially, perhaps, their lesson-books in history." (Vol. 1, pg. 289)

"We know that young people are enormously interested in the subject and give concentrated attention if we give them the right books." (Vol. 6, pg. )

"The knowledge of children so taught is consecutive, intelligent and complete as far as it goes, in however many directions." (Vol. 6, pg. 158)

"In Form IV the children are promoted to Gardiner's Student's History of England, clear and able, but somewhat stiffer than that they have hitherto been engaged upon." (Vol. 6, pg. 176)

"Of all the pleasant places in the world of mind, I do not know that any are more delightful than those in the domain of History. Have you ever looked through a kinetoscope? Many figures are there, living and moving, dancing, walking in procession, whatever they happened to be doing at the time the picture was taken. History is a little like that, only much more interesting, because in these curious living photographs the figures are very small and rather dim, and most attentive gazing cannot make them clearer; now, History shows you its personages, clothed as they were clothed, moving, looking, speaking, as they looked, moved, and spoke, engaged in serious matters or in pleasures; and, the longer you look at any one person, the more clearly he stands out until at last he may become more real to you than the people who live in your own home." (Vol. 4, pg. 36)

"The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn 'outlines,' or a baby edition of the whole history of England, or of Rome, just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age." (Vol. 1, pg. 280)

"Literature is dangerous--except when taken in large doses." --Martin Cothran (quoted here.)



America Begins, Alice Dalgliesh

America Builds Homes, Alice Dalgliesh

And There Was America, Roger Duvoisin

Land of the Free, Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft

D'Aulaire Picture Biographies

Gerald Johnson's A History for Peter: America is Born (Volume 1)

America Grows Up (Volume 2)

America Moves Forward (Volume 3)

Dorothy Mills' History Books, Reprints available as well

Paul Johnson's Histories

Barbara Tuchman's Histories

Basic History of the United States, Clarence Carson

The Silent Storm, Marion Marsh Brown and Ruth Crone

Isaac Newton, Harry Sootin

(Contains affiliate links)



A wonderful resource with reviews of living books series, See especially Messner Biographies, Signature Series, Garrard History Series Books, and Landmark Books

184 comments:

  1. Soooo helpful! :D I went back and listened to #12 again and I'm thinking so much there is smoke coming out of my ears. ;) I might email you all soon, I hope!

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  2. When choosing biographies, do you have any suggestions as to how many to read during a term or year? History is one of my favorite subjects and I almost always go overboard and pick too many books! I'd love any advice on how to limit myself to a more reasonable amount that we can slowly enjoy instead of devouring them all or feeling as though we must finish the stack.

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    1. Elisabeth,

      We all feel your tension of trying to select the best books and limiting the number. More is not always better in appealing to the appetite of a child, however, so you are right to be careful. The great thing is that if they strongly connect with the books you do use for school, they will devour many of the titles you would like them to read, but on their own. In general, I never have more than one biography per term, and if it is long, it may cross over to a second term. Some biographies do make great family reading and are always helpful to have on your "free reading" shelf for their own feasting outside of school.

      - Liz

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  3. Would any of these be considered Form II level books? Looking for a spine that would be more enjoyable for us. My oldest has sloggrd through 28 chapters of This Country of Ours (I noticed that one wasn't mentioned--made me less guilty for not enjoying it, or maybe you guys like it but didn't mention it?). I'm trying to start it again with my form I kiddos and I have been avoiding it and getting behind etc. All while my oldest avoids it (at her later chapters) and gets behind lol. The Gerald Johnson ones, or are those considered Form I? Are the Dorothy Mills or Paul Johnson ones too "old" for form II? I'm also confused about how forms I and II can be in the same time period in a family, if they have a different respective rotation. Or is American history all the same time period and then when adding British for form II that is the only thing different? So then British history is a spine and American history isn't for form II or you have a spine for each? Sorry, getting confused. We have gone all the way through Our Island Story, except for my
    6 year old of course (was trying to start that over with form I but after the podcast it sounds like I should wait until form II anyway?) and trying to figure out where to go for British history with my form II girl as well.

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    1. Hi, Bekah. You noticed we did not mention TCOO, did you? ;) It is not one of our top choices. While we do love Marshall's Our Island Story, her American history book doesn't have the same engaging tone that captures students' imaginations (perhaps because the author isn't American?). I should edit these notes to include form suggestions, though there is room to adjust for your own student's abilities. Johnson's books would be excellent for Form 2 students, and even into Form 3 as they do not talk down to the reader. The Dalgliesh and Duvoisin books would be great for the first year of American history studies, and for the rest of Form 1, my very favorite is Enid Meadowcroft's Land of the Free. It is out of print, but can still be had inexpensively through used book sites.

      Our Island Story would be a great history spine for Form 2 when your children start their British history studies. Mills' books are also good for Forms 2 & 3 when Ancient History is introduced, but I would save Paul Johnson and Barbara Tuchman for high school.

      To answer your questions about American vs. British in Form 2, in a nutshell, the simple answer is both. Your Form 1 students will continue to study American history throughout their education, but in Form 2 will add a separate lesson time to their weekly schedule to study British history, then in the second year of Form 2 another lesson is added for Ancient history. In CM education, once a subject is begun it continues throughout school, so you won't drop off any of these streams (generally). I am going to work on a visual that hopefully makes this cycle/rotation/stream stuff more clear and will post that on Episode 12's page when it is complete. I will post here to let you know when that is up on the site.

      Thanks for asking your questions!

      Emily

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    2. It appears that all of the people listening to this podcast have purchased every available copy of The Land of the Free by Enid Meadowcroft! Truly, I cannot find a copy. What would be your next suggestion to round out Form I? I have a good number of books on each phase in American history, but do not have any other good spines for this age (we are about to finish Roger Duvoision's book). Would the Dalgliesh books work? We have one year left in Form I.

      Thank you!

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    3. As for the Dalgliesh books, I have American Begins but America Builds Houses is too expensive at this point. Thank you!

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    4. I read through all of the comments and see that others encountered a similar problem and that you offered alternatives. I did get The Land of the Free through OLL, but went ahead and ordered America First by Evans. I'll need Land of the Free for next school year, so if I can't get it again through OLL, I will have this back-up.

      Thanks again!

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    5. Kelly,

      We were afraid that would happen if we made those titles known. If it's any consolation, we are hoping to have them reprinted. Meanwhile, you feel stuck. Mason, I was reading the other day, didn't pick out books till the term before they were needed, to keep things fresh. See if the Dalgliesh seems appropriate for your third grader for next year. Maybe you could advertise the need for certain books in your local homeschool groups, go to some curriculum sales or library sales, and pray you find a copy. I think if you diligently search, you will find something appropriate.

      Liz

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    6. Thanks so much for answering my questions. Here's another one. My children already read Our Island Story following AO year 1 & 2. Do you have a different book to recommend for form 2 or should we do Our Island Story again? I'm thinking I don't really want to do the same book again, but will they get more out of it if we read it a 2nd time? Ideas?
      Thanks

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    7. Never mind my question. I see that you answered it already back in April. Thanks again.

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  4. I am also curious about your opinion of This Country of Ours as a spine, or A Child's First Book of American History by Earl Schenck Miers. I happen to own both of these books, and do not have a copy of the History for Peter books. Would you recommend either or these, or suggest steering clear of them? Thank you for the great podcasts!

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    1. Rachel,

      See the above response to Bekah about This Country of Ours, but it is not one we recommend. While I have several books by Miers in my library, I have to say that I'm not familiar with the one you mention. It very well may be a good choice. The History of Peter books are our favorites for Form 2 (and even some Form 3 students may still use them), but they are not the only good choices. If you use the criteria that we talk about in Episode 7 (Recognizing Living Books) to evaluate it, you can feel confident in your decision to use it or not.

      Best wishes for your history studies!

      Emily

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    2. Thanks so much. I found your website at episode 14 just this week, and have only gone back to episode 12 so far. I will go listen to episode 7 now. :)

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  5. Also, I wondered if you made a suggestion for a British history spine and I missed it? I wrote down the suggestions for American History, and Ancient History for Form 2, but did not catch a spine suggestion for British History. TIA!

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    1. I think we mentioned in passing how much we love H.E. Marshall's *British* spine, Our Island Story, which would be great to use in Form 2. I'm sorry I didn't spell that out in the notes above!

      Emily

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    2. Well, I seem to have missed the mention in passing so thank you for the clarification!

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  6. Hello! Will you be talking about the use of timelines or century books in a future episode? We've never used them successfully in our homeschool, and I would like to hear your take on them.

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    1. Parshall Family,

      Coming right up. Stay tuned.

      - Liz

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  7. I'm sorry, I also thought of a second question. If the student was expected to keep three threads of history going after Form 2, what do you recommend for Forms 3 and 4 for British history and western civ, after Island Story and Dorothy Mills books are finished? Thanks.

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    1. No problem! Actually, in the PNEU students in forms 2&3 would be using the same books for their history studies, so it makes sense to do the Marshall and Mills books for both these forms and that would also enable a student to read through the entire rotation in those books before moving on. In Form 4 when they expand to western civilization beyond Britain Barbara Tuchman would be a great resource or Jacques Barzun perhaps. This is high school and as CM said, students were given "stiffer" books that weren't as living but delved more deeply into the issues.

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  8. What would a term look like with the three streams going? A spine, biography, and perhaps a historical fiction book for each stream? Would we read from each of those books once a week, or alternate? I'm trying to wrap my mind around this.

    Thank you - love the podcast!

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    1. I'm sorry - one more question! When it comes to spines, it sounds like you (via CM) would eschew a far-reaching spine covering the whole world. Would we then choose a spine for each country/civilization? American history makes sense, as well as British history, but what about the Ancients? Would there be a separate spine for the Romans? Greeks? Egyptians? What about beyond the Ancients? Any specific book suggestions would be very helpful. Thank you!

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    2. Kelly,

      It does sometimes make the mind spin when we try to take it all in as a whole, but remember that school happens day by day and book by book and the actual working it all out isn't as crazy as it sounds. If your children are small, remember you have time to get to the point of having all those books and adding the three "streams" of history together. Also, remember we said that books are read slowly, and not that many of them, at that. You do not necessarily have a biography in each stream of history in the same term. Historical fiction can be read outside of school lessons. Spines can take several years to work your way through. The key is knowing where you're going, choosing good books to spend that time in, and then moving along one step at a time.

      - Liz

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    3. Thank you! I find we are generally moving in the right direction, but I have not been using spines. I have not been quite sure how to use them. We have used biographies and historical fiction. I have the vision for how the streams can work together. I guess my question really is, are there spines that only deal with ancients? Medieval/dark ages? If so, are you able to suggest specific titles/works? I already have a large selection of living books but am short on spines that are not summaries of the entire world's history.

      Thank you!

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    4. Okay - now I see that Dorothy Mills has spines for these time periods. I guess I have some research to do. :) Thank you again!

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    5. You got it! I really like her style and they would work well for Forms 2 & 3.

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  9. Great podcast. This has been extremely useful! My oldest is 9th grade and I wonder what CM did for the older students (form 5?, 11-12th grades) since I'm close to that and need a plan. Would the cycle you explained just continue until the end? Maybe you mentioned this and I missed it. Thanks!

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    1. Yes, it would just continue that next four-year rotation in all the streams, but instead of just focusing on British history, they would be studying all of European (Western Civ) history from the time period of their American studies.

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    2. Thank you! I went back last night through my notes and realized I had forgotten about the European history. I'm glad you mentioned it again!

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    3. We now have a link to some diagrams that attempt to give the whole big picture of the history streams: http://www.adelectableeducation.com/p/history-rotations.html

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  10. I'm so thankful for your podcasts!! These about history are especially helpful! Taking lots and lots of notes! :) THANK YOU!

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    1. Thank you, Katie, for your support and encouragement. We are also
      thankful they are helpful to you.

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  11. If the student was expected to keep three threads of history going after Form 2, what do you recommend for Forms 3 and 4 for British history and western civ, after Island Story and Dorothy Mills books are finished? Thanks.

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    1. Both forms 2 & 3 can (and did in Mason's schools,) use the same books. It will take all of forms 2 & 3 to get through one ancient history rotation, because you don't start that the first year of form 2, and this is the case for British history as well, since the first year of form 2 they should do the early part of Our Island Story (as we should always begin a new stream with the tales.) So then they would only need another source to complete the 20th century the last year of their rotation.

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    2. Thank you…. I just can't wait for the diagram…this is probably simple but seems so complicated.

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  12. Do I understand correctly that a student would be studying the same time period in British history as he would be in American history? If so, is there anything for Form II that would come after Our Island Story? For example, I would like to resume our American history study with WWI and have it in my mind that we should be studying British history for that same time period. Would any of the authors you mentioned have a book to cover this period, and WWII as well? Or any other suggestions?

    I am beginning to get this. I think. :) Thank you!

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    1. Yes, you are understanding that correctly, Kelly. Finding suitable spines for the modern period of the last hundred
      years is challenging. We are currently researching this for both American and British. Up to now, I have used some excellent biographies and individual history books to fill in for this lack, but don't have a single spine book to recommend. Winston Churchill, books on The Battle of Britain, etc. come to mind as examples that I have used.

      Liz

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  13. Are you all familiar with The Story of the Greeks by H.A Guerber? Is that similar to Mills books? Do you recommend one over another? I am trying to rethink my use of history spines knowing that there are more to choose from than I originally thought. So thankful for your expertise and passion for all things books. I have steered quite a few ladies this way already!

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    1. Guerber's history is a good choice, though perhaps written for a bit of a younger audience; certainly it is appropriate for form II, but a switch to Mills might be best for most form III students.

      Liz

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  14. WOW! I was just reviewing these podcasts and look at all the comments! So exciting! Now ya just don't have to talk to me! LOL! :)

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    1. We'll be forever grateful for the time you took to be our first "engager" on this site!

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  15. Thanks for posting the links. Great CM quotes. Thank you for doing these podcasts.

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  16. I just found your podcasts, Thank you!!!
    I just finished our first term of level one of Ambleside Online with my oldest daughter, and as I started into the second term, I felt that I should not follow the Ambleside suggestion for history. Even though the books we were reading were great, she was struggling with them and hating these books. I decided to save them for when she is a little older and can appreciate British and ancient history, and for now, just stick with our own country's history. Listening to your History series, confirmed my feelings, has given me so much to start with, and has taken a huge burden off my shoulders. I see CM's wisdom in starting out the little ones in their own countries history, because I think for them, home is easier to comprehend. Thank you again!

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    1. This just makes our hearts sing! We are so very glad for you and your daughter!

      It sounds like you have a wonderful grasp of Mason's principles and intuitively know how to apply them best for your daughter. Thank you so much for sharing this with us today!

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  17. I really appreciate your explanations of history cycles. I have been obsessed with researching different ways to do order history in keeping with cm principles. I will be entering year one with my son next year. I did not resonate with starting with british history as AO outlines. I liked the ideas presented in Higher UP and Further In, which starts with American history but also gives an overview of world history with Hillyer's "Children's History of the World". In your opinion is this too much? Also when you mentioned "hero tales" the first year, could you offer some titles in that category? I have been reading American History stories by Mara Pratt...Are you familiar with that? It definitely needs some editing regarding racist and outdated terms but it seems to flow nicely. I would love a copy of Dalgleish's America Begins and America Builds Homes. America Begins is about 30-40 used and I can't find America Builds Homes for under $80. Would it be worth buying both of those and would i use them in year 2-3? And lastly when I start with hero tales in Year 1 next year could my 4 year daughter sit in on the readings of my son's first and second years and then officially join him in 1C? Thanks so much for providing such incredible resources and inspiration!

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    1. Hello, Little Songster,

      Thanks so much for giving us your feedback. We understand the dilemma, which is what prompted us to explore how Mason taught history in the first place.

      I do tend to think that the overview of World History is too abstract for most year 1 students. Do not worry, your students will get this if you follow the rotations we describe, but in upper elementary school when they have already had a solid foundation in their own country. (On another note, Mason was adamant that Biblical history was real history too, but did include that in her Bible lessons so the children would connect the stories they were reading in the Bible with recorded history; same goal as HUFI, but different ways of accomplishing it)

      Hero Tales, or "tales from the heroic age before recorded history" as Mason put it, for Americans could be those stories of the discoverers, Native American legends, American Tall Tales, etc. I think America Begins is the perfect book to use in Form IB for this category. I only have Pratt's Stories from around the Civil War Era, so I'm not sure what her earliest volume contains, but it very well might fit the bill. America Builds Homes is absolutely lovely, but not necessary. It doesn't cover all of history in a chronological way, instead just focuses on the major colonizers of America and the typical households of each respectively. I plan to use America Begins for Form IB with my sons and then move into The Land of the Free for Form IA.

      If your daughter is interested and wants to sit and listen, that would be perfectly fine, although you wouldn't require narration and would still spend her first year of school reading Hero Tales of American history. Her second year of school she would jump into the rotation in whichever year your son is.

      Please let us know if you have any more questions!

      Emily

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  18. Emily,
    Thanks for helping me to understand. I am still unclear about the circles that have A B C D. I was thinking that was rotation of 4 years but it looks like there are only 3 years of simply American History before World and British are added in Year 4, with one of those years being Hero Tales. You mentioned that America Begins could be used in 1B and then Land of the Free in Form 1A. I was thinking 1A was hero tales, 1B America Begins, then Land of the Free would be 1C. Am I to look at the letters as years? And if my daughter starts in 1C or 1D does she progress with my son to 2A or do 1A at simplier level? Also when you mention Hero tales, is there a spine along with that or is America Begins the spine? Sorry for all the questions. I really like the ideas here I just am trying to wrap my head around it! Thanks, Amy

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    1. Hi Amy,

      This *can* be confusing, with all the numbers and letters! I was attempting to make it less so by choosing letters instead of numbers to signify the four years of the rotations...but maybe that made it worse. :)

      (Also, keep in mind that a student wouldn't have been in one form long enough to complete the whole rotation in *that* form. This is consistent with CM's schools. However, since the years overlap, or are completely lined up across the whole school, when they change forms they would still be moving along in history chronologically, and pretty seamlessly too.) I'll try to explain more.

      Form I is divided into Upper (IA) and Lower (IB) sections. A student's first year is in Lower I (IB). This is probably the most confusing thing for us as we think of A before B, but that's not how the PNEU labeled their classes. Form II is also divided like that into Upper (IIA) and Lower (IIB). This is completely separate from my using the letters A, B, C, and D. So in Form IB, or 1st grade, a students always started with those "tales" (and I believe America Begins is a great book for that. They don't need a "spine" since CM insisted that they not begin with the methodical study of history until Upper Form I or IA). Then, in 2nd grade that student would move up into Upper Form I (IA). If you already have other students already studying the rotations of history, this IA student would jump in wherever the rest of your school/homeschool is, take year B, for example. They then continue to the next year (year C) of the rotation in 3rd grade. In 4th grade they are ready to move up to Form II (IIB), so they leave off reading the book they used in Form IA (Like Land of the Free, or whichever you choose to use) and pick up with the Form II book and read year D. So while they haven't finished the book necessarily, that isn't the point, since they continue to study history in a consecutive manner. This is true for all the transitions between forms.

      Does this help at all? Let me know if I need to clarify further. And thank you for asking! This hones my ability to describe my research. Thank you!

      -Emily

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  19. You ladies are a blessing! Thanks for all this hard work.

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    1. Cheri,

      Glad we can help you as you have always inspired and helped us over the years.

      -Liz

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  20. I know you said that Form II and III would use the same spine for ancients, but what about Post Civil War to present American History for Form III?

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    1. Dear Stacey,

      Book choices are often decided based on age and ability; the form alone can't always tell you exactly which book to use. Probably the average child could use the same American history spine in those forms too, if you choose one with wide appeal, not too easy and not too difficult.  If your form 3 student is very advanced in reading comprehension and thinking, they might need a separate spine than the form 2 fourth grader, for example.  I probably haven't helped you as far as a specific title, but do hope I answered your question.

      -Liz

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  21. I have found all of your podcasts so helpful. Thank you! I am looking for a history spine for Form 1. The one you mention above, Land of the Free, I can't find for less than $50. Are there any others you would recommend?

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    1. There are a few options available online, or through reprint by Yesterday's Classics. America First by Lawton Evans; First Book of American History by Eggleston, American History Stories by Mara Pratt. Have you checked your public library system for Land of the Free?

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    2. I found First Book of American History by Eggleston on archive.org for free.

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    3. Thank you so much for posting about archive.org. I was beginning to panic trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get through this year. My library does not have even 1 of the above mentioned books. Now I can at least have a spine. But I am feeling a bit bummed as I realized that I have done things backwards. I have done a full year of British history and no US. Well time marches on and I can move forward. Thankfully they are only in 2nd and 3rd grade this year.

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    4. Holly,

      We all feel that way from time to time as we make changes and re-evaluate. I promise your children will be fine! The big issue is helping them connect with people from the past and build deep relationships through living books. Use the best biographies you can find to supplement your spine. Read historical fiction in your afternoon reading time. I hope your year goes superbly.

      -Emily

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  22. hey! can you please link to the Land of the Free book mentioned for form 1A? thank you!

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    1. Done. Sorry about that. It is hard to find, but may be in a library!

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  23. Is there any way to preview Land of the Free or to see a passage from it? Can you share why its your favorite? Thank you!

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    1. Have you put in a request for Inter-Library Loan? I don't know of a preview that exists online.

      "The October moon was bright and the sea was rough. A strong wind filled the sails of the three little Spanish ships which were scudding toward the west.

      "It was midnight, but the men on those ships were wide awake. They lined the railing or perched high in the rigging, keeping a sharp watch on the horizon. Standing on the quarter-deck of the flagship, their commander strained his eyes, peering anxiously ahead.

      "Ten long weeks had passed since Christopher Columbus and his men had left Spain. Day after day they had sailed across an unknown ocean, trying to find a short route to a country called the Indies--a land rich in gold and spices."

      (From Land of the Free, Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft)

      The language, though simple, is excellent, the description is rich and vivid. I know of no other book that comes close to matching this in my requirements of a living book as far as a spine for American history for Form I use. (you can pray that it gets re-printed!)

      -Emily

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    2. Wow! That sounds amazing! I will definitely pray it comes back into print! What about And There Was America, by Roger Duvoisin? Could that be a form 1 spine? What age is that best for?

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    3. I do love And There Was America, but it is just the story of the discovery of America--it doesn't go up far enough in history to work for the spine. I would recommend that as the main text for IB--first grade when they read tales of our heroic past.

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    4. Hey again! I have my copy of Land of the Free but am having a hard time finding bios to go with the early chapters about the explorers, Jamestown and the Mayflower. Do you have a list somewhere like you do with the Nature Lore books?

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    5. Well, I don't have it laid out as nicely as Nicole has her Nature Lore page, that's for sure! There are so many books, especially biographies, that that project seems daunting.

      I'd recommend Pocahontas by D'Aulaire, the Garrard World Explorers (see Valerie's Living Library page: http://www.valerieslivinglibrary.com/garrard.htm) and Native Americans (They have one on pretty much every explorer, Pocahontas, Squanto, Massasoit, and there's even a Colonial Leaders on William Bradford). Alternatively, for the explorers, check out Ronald Syme's books.

      And remember, you don't need to read a bio on every figure. Just a few, one at a time, read slowly, will give your students a deeper connection to those persons.

      Enjoy!

      -Emily

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    6. thank you! that is so helpful!

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    7. Just got some of the bios in the mail; they are wonderful! I can't wait to share with my children. Thanks for the recommendations!

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  24. First I want to say thank you for your podcasts!

    You recommended to someone above some public domain books - Eggleston's, Lawton's, and Pratt's. I'm trying to wrap my brain around how I might use those for form I and thought you may have some suggestions!

    Lawton's is long, over 400 pages, so at first I thought that could be a spine for form I, but I don't think the stories are in chronological order.

    Eggleston's is not as long, only 33 stories, so I'm thinking it wouldn't last for all of form I.

    Then there's Pratt's which is 4 volumes. It seems a little too long. I wonder if it's a little too in depth for this age.

    How would you recommend to use these for grades 1 through 3?

    Thank you so much in advance!

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    1. Hi Angela,

      You are very welcome for the podcast!

      First, let me say, none of these are my favorites for Form I. I still prefer Land of the Free by far, but it is difficult to find. I have ordered a book I hope will be a good Form I spine that is in print, but I have yet to receive and preview it. I will definitely post it on this page if I think it worthy, so stay tuned!

      Lawton (America First) is in fact chronological, and goes up through WWI, and this is probably my first choice for a Form I spine of these secondary options. Eggleston's covers slightly less time, ending at about 1900. Chapters in Pratt's books would probably need to be selected to limit the amount of material covered in each year of the 4-year rotation from 1600-2000, and would only go up to the end of the Civil War, so another book would need to be used for the remaining portion of history.

      As you can see, I haven't found the perfect book to substitute--yet. It is unbelievable with the vast quantity of material available for American History that we don't have better "spine" options!

      As far as how to use any of these for grades 1-3...The first year of school (Form IB, 1st grade), remember, the student reads tales from the age of discovery. Then when they move up to Form IA, in 2nd grade, they will jump into the 4-year rotation in whichever "year" the school is if there are older siblings, or in "Year A" if they are the first student. They would read in the chosen spine only the period covered in that "Year A"--approximately 1600-1700. Depending on which book you had chosen, there may be time to add 1-3 biographies to the spine to complete the allotted time for American history in their schedule.

      Note, they won't go through the entire 4-year rotation in Form I, but will continue to finish it in Form 2 using different books.

      I hope that clarifies some of your questions, but if you have any more, feel free to ask!

      Emily

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  25. I bought Land of the Free, because you are so convincing about it :) but could you share more on how to use it for Form 1? I think there are only 17 chapters (I haven't gotten the book yet, I am just going by info I have gathered online), and if you divide that by a 4 year cycle, then there are only 4 chapters to read a year. So do you fill in the rest of the slots for reading with biographies and living books based on historical events? The only thing I have to compare a schedule to is Ambleside and for Year 2- they have 2 history readings and 1 biography reading a week. Thanks again for your help! I am so excited!

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    1. Oh, hooray! I hope your family enjoys it as much as I do.

      Yes, you don't read very much in the spine over the year, which leaves time for a few biographies. Charlotte Mason only scheduled history readings twice a week for 15-20 mins. per lesson. Take a look at her P.U.S. schedule for where we gather our information on this: http://amblesideonline.org/PR/PR19p899Timetables.shtml (history was included in the "Reading" slots, as well as Tales/Literature). Nicole also has wonderful information about scheduling on her blog here: http://sabbathmoodhomeschool.com/preparing-a-cm-schedule/

      If you spread those 4 chapters out across the year, and read corresponding biographies during the rest of the time, you will have a wonderful Form I history study! Add to that, in leisure time, as many read-aloud and independent reading choices of historical fiction that corresponds to the time period. As Mason reminds us, more is not better, and it is best to walk in one man's shoes until we know him so well we feel like we know what it was like to live in his time.

      Please let me know if you have further questions!

      -Emily

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    2. I should also mention that the purpose of the Spine is to connect the dots and introduce the big ideas of that period of American History being studied. It helps a student learn to think bigger, that there was a whole world of things going on while the subject of their biography was living. If you begin teaching chronology (see articles listed in show notes for Episode 15) with the history charts, your children will also learn that they are a part of the same history and that much is going on beyond their own spheres.

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  26. I was also able to get America Begins and Land of the Free used - I have enjoyed read them immensely! I do love the way they are written as well as the content. I have to admit they actually helped me connect the dots on several historical events. I think it is always hard to adjust to the "less is more"philosophy when you are personally excited about the material and want to share the next great event in history. I don't mind piecing together a history program but sometimes I feel insecure about selecting the best books to accompany the spine. Many of my friends use Ambleside for their history all the way through. In attempting to follow the history cycles as you propose, I feel a little like I am inventing the wheel. I suspect your consulting business helps with advising how to create the whole scope of books? Thanks again for all of these suggestions! I am looking forward to using each of them :)

    Amy

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    1. Amy,

      I completely understand both your own joy of rediscovering history
      through your children's books, and your uncertainty or insecurity
      about finding good living books on your own for the future. May I
      suggest you simply start to search for the best books a term or two
      ahead of time, putting out inquiries to friends and more experienced
      living book users for specific time periods? There are lists of
      period-specific history books on our website, for example. As you
      continue to read the older, more literary books, you will grow more
      confident in discerning them at the library or used book sales and may find some treasures of your own. There is never any guarantee that any book list or recommended book may suit your family, anyhow.
      Certainly, we can offer good suggestions through a consultation,
      especially in the beginning of forging your own path, but you will
      grow in ability just by reading and teaching your children too.

      Liz

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    2. Amy,

      I think it also might help you to keep in mind what I just wrote to Jason and Katie above: CM only scheduled history for 2) 15-20 minute lessons each week. You won't read a whole passel of books, but by reading them deeply, your students will form more lasting relationships with those figures and ideas they encounter in their school books. As you said, less is really more.

      A resource that has helped us immensely over the years to find excellent history books is Truth Quest History (www.truthquesthistory.com), written by our dear friend and inimitable model librarian Michelle Miller. And as mom said, even Mason didn't think she was worthy to come up with "the best booklist," so you are in good company. Your diligence already shows that you are on the right track and your children are blessed.

      -Emily

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  27. Thank you Liz and Emily for your encouragement and wise suggestions! 😊

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  28. I've just loved all of your podcasts. They are so thorough and inspiring at the same time. I feel set free to explore more books and what will work for my children rather than sticking to a static booklist, based on their age alone! I just was rereading in Volume 3 where Mason writes, "The 'hundred best books for the schoolroom' may be put down on a list, but not by me." Thank you for all of your suggestions!!

    I've confused myself now about the Ancient Track you mention! Do you think the Ancient track of History, just becomes Plutarch, or that students were reading Plutarch and an Ancient History source as well?

    What about Ancient Literature, History and Philosophy, like Homer, Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, etc? Have you seen evidence that Mason included these texts in the programs of the upper grades?

    Thanks!

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  29. I am excited to report that I recently found America Begins by Alice Dalgliesh at a local antique mall. Got it for $3 and it is in great shape! Thank you so much for the work you ladies are doing, I am looking forward to using it next school year...I read the whole book as soon as I got in the car and totally loved it! I never would have found it without you guys... Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Maria,

      That is phenomenal! I'm so glad you were able to find a copy, and so economically! And even more glad to hear you enjoyed it as much as I do. Our hope in mentioning these harder to find books is that more people will come across them and recognize them, just as you did. What a treasure!

      -Emily

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  30. so I sent my thoughts as an email but I am posting here as there are so many questions that I have learned from. i thought I should share.

    I have been catching up on your podcasts and looking over the notes on your site. I created a chart using yours. I only have one child so I have it easier (I think), but this is what I am taking away from your talks about timing.


    1 grade - US stories

    2 grade - US 1607-1750

    3 grade US 1750-1900


    4 grade - US 1900 - present Brit stories

    5 grade - US/Brit 1000 - 1600 Ancient 3200BC - 1000BC

    6 grade US/Brit 1600 - 1850 Ancients 1000BC - 500BC


    7 grade US/Brit 1850 - 1940 Ancients 500BC - 0

    8 grade US/Brit 1940 - present Ancients 0 - 500 AD

    9 grade US/Brit 1492 - 1600 Ancients 500 AD - 1000AD


    10 grade US/Western 1600 - 1850 Ancients 3200BC - 0

    11grade US/Western 1850-1940 Ancients 0 - 1000AD

    12 grade US/Western 1940 - Present Ancient 1000- 1500AD


    So I know these are wide time frames, but my take is that we read spines for these time frames and then pick out specific individuals to read about during that time such as Martin Luther King Jr or Benjamin Franklin.


    I heard what you said about studying other areas superficially and better to skip that (my interpretation), but because China, Japan, and the Middle east are so important in our time would you expand western history particularly in high school?


    thanks for your podcasts and any response you can supply.

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    Replies
    1. I think I am still wrapping my head around what you said, so I should have followed with they start with a broad overview of these time frames narrowing it down to form IV where they may not cover as much in that time frame but a few events/people OR is it that while we have time frames we might discuss Lafayette in one round, but not necessarily in another as we looked at other aspects, yes?

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    2. You have the general idea, but there are a few differences. First, that initial year of American history tales stands apart from the 4-year cycle of history for Form I. You show it as part of the 4-year and so have reduced that cycle down to only three additional years. Obviously, your child won't complete that rotation while in Form I, but they will as they move up to Form 2, using different books.

      Secondly, I use different years to align the rotations between forms after the initial year that covers the most ground. That is up to you how you break it down, but would greatly benefit a family with multiple students in different Forms.

      Thirdly, I don't believe Ancient History should be broken into such distinct years. Mason focused on one great culture/civilization at a time, moving generally chronologically forward, but as we know there was history going on in the near East at the same time as in Egypt. Your year breakdown may come off more like a sweeping history study of the time period like Story of the World, instead we are giving our children a fuller view of one culture at a time. They will sort the time periods out as they use their history charts and Book of Centuries.

      As for your last question, in high school students are daily including current events in their studies, so will be studying all those cultures and events in places other than the west regularly. Their history still hones in on Western Civ, that way they have a good foundation and point of reference to compare/contrast these other cultures with. The goal is not insular, but knowledgeable enough to engage deeply with our own history so we can appreciate and then begin to understand others'.

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    3. Laurie,

      I like to think of the beginning forms as getting acquainted, shaking hands with various people and events, and when that time period is returned to later, as a chance to go a little deeper because the child has some familiarity from before. You are right that they might not study a specific individual or event again, but a different aspect the second or third visit to that time period. By high school, they will be grappling more with the ideas and attitudes of the time, the motivations behind certain elections or wars, rather than just what happened to who. History is a vast subject and no one ever can know about all of it and everything that has occurred.

      Liz

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    4. Also, I just noticed that you have 1 5-year rotation through the Ancients, and 1 3-year rotation. CM did 2 4-year rotations, since she was focusing on cultures as a whole and not dates as I explained above, this is very doable.

      -Emily

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    5. Thank you for all that. Oops, I did not mean to split ancient that way. I am amazed at how many interpretations of CM there are out there and how different history can be presented.

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    6. Indeed. The outline I've presented on this podcast comes from what I've gleaned from Mason's own writings and what that looked like put into practice in the programmes of assigned work for her P.N.E.U. schools and home classrooms.

      -Emily

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    7. I struggle with that too. I am so new to homeschooling that it is hard to know what the CM goals are for form 1,2 and 3 history. From what I gather- form one is focused on people, form 2 on events and form 3 on ideas and attitudes? Is that right? I get confused because looking at AO it seems that the goal for Form 1 would be a detailed overview of history. But as I said, I am a little confused....

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    8. Katie,

      I think it can be much simpler than how you are trying to arrange it. Form I is American history, tales in the first year, 200 of the 400 years for the second and third years; then, the next forms continue to follow in chronological order with appropriate level history and biography books, when reaching the present, going back to early American history. Form 2 also adds British, and ancients. The
      ancient cultures are covered in four years and once through, begin over again; British history follows the same time period as American people and events are always studied in every form.

      The food that the mind feeds on, Mason tells us, is ideas, living ideas. No book should be without living ideas or it isn't really a living book, and won't go far in educating our children. Obviously, ideas become more complex as the child's intellect expands. One reason we love the Johnson books (History for Peter) so well is that he presents not only the people and events but the informing ideas of the age--and that is our recommended spine for Form 2.

      The main point here is that we study History because it helps us understand people better--those from all times and places and helps inform our own time and place. We strive to give the students a "Pageant of History" so that they truly see it in their mind's eye, and feel like they've lived in other times and places. This is the result of their *entire* history curriculum, from year 1 through year 12 and beyond. Thus, every book we give them should provide a bit of this to them, at every level, appropriate for their age and reading ability, but rich in living ideas.

      Education, and especially homeschooling with the Charlotte Mason method, doesn't often divide into neat and tidy, distinct packages. Take a deep breath and remember that you are educating whole persons. They need nourishment mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. The subjects of Mason's wide curriculum blend well together and often overlap, and when taken in entirety lead to a much greater whole than the sum of individual parts. Education is the Science of Relations. It takes a bit of faith, we don't always get immediate results, but we trust that the Holy Spirit is doing his work in each one of our students. We are diligent to keep spreading the feast and help them develop and strengthen the tools they need to digest it all.

      Liz and Emily

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  31. I wonder if there is some way to get those out of print books into digital that can be purchased. I would rather have an actual book, but on a Kindle is better than nothing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keep hoping. We're working on it. Obtaining permission is a laborious process.

      -Liz

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  32. When it comes to year1 with folktales I am not finding Living books. The books are just that, stories. Do you have any examples of narrative tall tales? or is this one area that does not have living books? thanks

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    Replies
    1. Laurie,

      I am not certain I am understanding your question well, so apologize if my answer is not adequate. Stories are what you are after. The story is what makes the book living. Stories are what children connect with. Not all living books need to be stories, of course, but for "tales" are the very thing you want. Have you listened to our episodes on "Why Living Books Episode 6)," and "How to Recognize Living Books (Episode 7)" or read Emily's description on Living Books Library's website (http://www.livingbookslibrary.com/2015/04/whats-in-living-book-or-why-we-collect.html) that outlines the elements of a "living" book?

      Liz

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    2. I guess I should have explained that these stories are more like some of the books that you read as examples of laid out facts and locations, but not really connecting the character to the place. Does that make sense? Our librarian is pulling every book in district for me to look through and some have been ok, but maybe it is my lack of practice for these younger year. It feels like I am just being given information with no heart, so I was hoping for a few recommendations that i could look at to compare. thanks

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    3. Hi Laurie,

      For first grade, I like the tall tales series published by Garrard (many written by Wyatt Blassingame and Elizabeth Coatsworth) like Pecos Bill Rides a Tornado. There is also American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenburg and American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne (I haven't read the latter but hear some good things about that one). Ezra Keat's John Henry, and Jerry Pinckney's version written by Julius Lester are both good as well.

      I hope you can find some of those and they will be helpful to you!

      Emily

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    4. Oh thank you. I glanced at the previews and these are much better than the stories I was finding.

      Delete
  33. I am switching over to a Charlotte Mason approach in my homeschool and am enjoying your podcasts. I have never heard of a lot of these history books but I'm excited to check them out. I want to include more of the "narrative" type of history books. Is there anywhere that you list your book suggestions by form? So I can look at the forms my kids are in and know what books are appropriate for their age?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jen,

      We don't have such a chart available. There are hundreds of titles that might be appropriate at various form levels. We do offer consultation services if you need more specific help, or you can check out our book lists on Living Books Library's website, top picks for various time periods. Enjoy your new adventure.

      -Liz

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  34. Wonderful series! Any suggestions for a British History spine after An Island Story? Or asked another way, what do you recommend for a British History spine in Form 2 if you've already read AIS? Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Deborah,

      I like R.J. Unstead's "The Story of Britain" or Eva March Tappan's "England's Story" or Helene Guerber's "Story of the English." I do think AIS (or, OIS) is a great spine still for Form 2 for any students who haven't previously read it though!

      Blessings on your journey,
      -Emily

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  35. This is all so helpful! I am seeing the need to customize our curriculum. (We have been using AO for years and so grateful for it.) Do you incorporate the biography (one per year per history stream, right?) into the once a week lesson for that stream or elsewhere? Also, about how many pages do students cover per stream per term? Thank you! My students are forms 2 & 3.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you think this is helpful! Remember, you only have to customize if you want to, this is just my development based on researching CM's own patterns of doing things in her schools.

      As far as biographies go, you would only read 1-3 for the whole year, not a separate bio for each stream. At these ages they only do history 3) 20-30 minute lessons per week--and that includes oral or written narration. So they don't read a lot over the year. Page counts don't seem too reliable a way for me to judge the amount to assign, there is such a variety of types and spacing. The print was smaller in books Mason used, but there was much more white space on a page. I prefer to go by the amount of time allotted for lessons (stay tuned for a scheduling podcast in the next few weeks...). I should say, that I divide up the lessons one per stream per week.

      Hope that helps!

      -Emily

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  36. Any luck finding a good sub for Land of the Free by Meadowcroft? I can not find that book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Morgan,

      First, pray! We are attempting to obtain copyrights to that book to bring it back in print! In the meantime, I would say the best substitute that I know is America First by Lawton Evans--reprinted by Yesterday's Classics or available free online at mainlesson.com.

      Emily

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    2. I will pray that it works out to bring it back in print. I will check out the Evans book online before purchasing. Thank you so much!

      Delete
  37. Also-what do you recommend for British tales?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If your children haven't read Our Island Story yet, I'd have them read the first 20 chapters in that for 4th grade before they jump into the book wherever your "school" is at.

      Emily

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  38. Ooo, I look forward to the scheduling podcast!

    Yes, I just find that I just am increasingly creating our own booklists since we are behind in some books, ahead in others, substituting other books, and I am recently, like you all, leaning more toward starting with the timetable rather than the page numbers. So, what you all are saying in this podcast really resonates with me and confirms my suspensions. I really appreciate you guys!

    So, Emily, it sounds like those 1-3 biographies would be part of history class and displace some of the spine reading. (There would be plenty of relevant historical biographies & historical fiction available for weekend and evening reading.) I am understanding?

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  39. Maple Grove Mom,

    I don't know if it is simply because there are so many fabulous books, but we all have the tendency to clutch at too many of them. Every year I try to shrink my list, cut it in half, then inevitably have to cut that one in half. It is respecting the child to read slowly and one-time carefully through the book, and not overburden him with cramming, to respect the time and the narration and trust that the child's mind will absorb nutritional ideas enough for one year--or term. We are quantity crazy as a culture, and forget all the space a child needs to process and absorb, so must realize this and guard against our worship of facts and allow delight and freedom instead.

    -Liz

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  40. Is there a spine that you would recommend for the early forms (1 or 2) that cover more recent American history - WWII to present day? I'll have a year 4 and a year 2 student by the time we reach that time period and I *think* (I don't have my copies yet) that Gerald Johnson's books only go up through WWII. Maybe it'll just be a hodgepodge? Or Story of the World Volume 4 by Susan Wise Bauer may just have to work even though it's not just American history. Thank you for all your wisdom!

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    Replies
    1. Angela,

      If you do use Story of the World, you can certainly omit the non-American portions. Another thought is to read some excellent biographies of Martin Luther King, JFK, or other figures from the latter half of the century; Johnson ends with Eisenhower elected and the Korean War. There are other spines as well.

      -Liz

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    2. I'm searching for suggestions for my 3rd grader to cover the 20th century. Anyone found anything good that's readily available? Biography authors or series? Thanks!

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    3. Biographies are generally the way to go for the 20th century in Form I. I'd recommend the Landmark series, Signature Biographies, and maybe Messner biographies. See this post.

      Delete
  41. and speaking of ... what do you think of Story of the World and the History of US?

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    1. Laurie,

      I admit I've never read the History of US series...a trusted friend's review kept me from pursuing them.

      Story of the World is not my favorite, particularly because of the broad nature of it--that isn't how most children approach chronology nor is it how Mason recommended we start. Mason tells us that it is arrogant to give a superficial survey of cultures--if we don't have the time to study them in depth, we can tacitly give our students the idea that they know *all* about a culture when they have just scratched the surface. The inclusion of the non-Western cultures in these volumes makes me shy away, not because I don't value their contributions to society and existence, but the contrary. I also found her anti-Catholic bias very off-putting. Since there are much better-written spines available, I suggest those instead.

      I hope I've not been too forward...I prefer to state which books I love instead of dwelling on those I don't...

      -Emily

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  42. I see where many folks on different websties will use the same spine for each history rotation, but if I read CM correctly she recommended a different spine for each one. I am still trying to grasp spines for high school so what history spine would you use there for US or world?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Laurie,

      Do you mean that one spine is used for all of history--American, World, Ancient? Or a different spine for each year of the rotation?

      For high school, we like Paul Johnson's History of the American People, Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence (Western Civilization--Europe), and Isaac Asimov's Ancient books (The Greeks, The Roman Empire, etc.).

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    2. A different spine for the specific, as in, one spine for rotations 1 of American, another for rotation 2 and another for rotation 3 is how I understood what she wrote. It makes sense since the child is older and can handle different information.

      I love the book suggestions you give, but I struggle to find them at a reasonable price. America Begins I found ok, but the next two are $35+ each. A bit much for a small book. Other than STOW and A History of US are there more available options? I have not looked at the recommendations above yet. Thanks

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    3. Interesting reviews on the history books you recommended. I am amazed at how you have found such diverse books that look like they will be wonderful additions. History is always a tough topic as it is written from a perspective no matter how neutral an author tries to be. I love have several views to open discussion. Thanks.

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    4. I am fond of the quote that says, "Literature is Dangerous except when taken in large doses." I think that is exactly what we can gain/learn by reading a wide variety of authors (and from different cultural/historical contexts from ourselves).

      -Emily

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    5. Laurie,

      I just saw your note about the rotations and America Begins. I wasn't intending to recommend continuing with Dalgliesh's next two books--just that first one. The three are set up differently, and while I love them, I think moving into Land of the Free (if you can possibly access it, or borrow it!) or America First as the Form IA Spine. The Gerald Johnson trilogy (America is Born, America Grows Up, America Moves Forward, which are really just three installments of what could be published as one complete spine) will take you through Form 2 and maybe into Form 3 depending on your child, but you don't read one/year--rather reading from them the chapters that correspond to the time period studied that year. You would then have a British history spine (preferably one spine book for the entire history cycle, and then, if you can find a good Ancient history spine that is thorough enough, you wouldn't have to use a separate one for each year of the Ancient history stream's cycle...though you ideally want one that focuses on each culture in turn, not breaking up the narrative history of that culture.

      Hope that clears things up a bit! By the way, Johnson's books are still very reasonable, albeit out-of-print, and America First is in print as well as available free on MainLesson.com if you don't mind reading from the screen.

      -Emily

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    6. Emily,

      Thank you for the explanation on Dalgliesh's next two books. My thought was to use her in the first rotation, with appropriate chapters as you mention above. My next thought was to use Johnson's for the second rotation. I did find his second one "America Grows up". and then move to your suggestion above for high school. It sounds like Johnson's would work for that middle rotation form 2 and 3.

      I will have to look for America First or Land of the Free.

      The hardest part is not being able to see them first to see if they are appropriate for the age. The other is really getting into the habitat of thinking Forms and not grades.

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    7. Laurie,

      You can read the entirety of America First online for free--so a preview of that one is definitely possible: http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=evans&book=america&story=_contents

      Have you checked your library system? It is often possible that even if your branch library doesn't hold a book, they can get it from another that does within their system; Inter-Library-Loan also should be available to you and they are usually able to get a book from any other library at least in your state. Often a University library (especially those with good colleges of education) will have these older, wonderful books as well. It is worth scouting them out!

      -Emily

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    8. Do you have any thoughts about William Bennet's the children book of America for hero tales? I have America Begins to use for 1B (yay) and just was wondering about this book to accompany it, since I bought it a long time ago. It's in my library just wondering what your thoughts were about it. Thank you for all you guys do, I'm praying y'all get the reprint rights for our 1A spine! Excited to have y'all to guide our History studies. Blessings, Amber

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    9. Amber,

      I am not acquainted with that book, nor do we have it in our library. What do you think of it? Is it full of whole stories that spark your own curiosity? If a book is not dull to you, it probably won't be to your child.

      And I am glad you are enjoying and learning from the podcasts.

      Liz

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    10. Do you have any thoughts about William Bennet's the children book of America for hero tales? I have America Begins to use for 1B (yay) and just was wondering about this book to accompany it, since I bought it a long time ago. It's in my library just wondering what your thoughts were about it. Thank you for all you guys do, I'm praying y'all get the reprint rights for our 1A spine! Excited to have y'all to guide our History studies. Blessings, Amber

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  43. I have one more question that may not belong on this thread but here goes...you mention there are 2 - 20 min history sessions outlined in CMs time tables. From my research she sets "reading" time for 20-30 min. It's my understanding that I would break up literature, history, and their own learn to read type books (we are 1b) in this time allotted. Based on what you posted about 2-20 min sessions, I should devote two days of "reading" to history and then the remaining time would be used for their literature & narrations/easy reader books? I've been having a hard time deciding how much of what to schedule for her general "reading" time frame. I'm a newbie just doing my best to understand! Thanks again!

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    Replies
    1. Amber,

      Stay tuned! We are addressing scheduling on next week's podcast!

      For now, those "Reading" lessons included the decoding-learning-to-read part of reading, and also the reading of material to feed the mind. The time-tables aren't complete without the programmes that accompany them, and under "Reading" in the programs you will see both learning to read exercises and a note to use books set for Tales, History, and Geography. Our suggestion for 2-20 minute lessons for history is based on CM's recommendation that reading lessons should be no longer than 10 minutes (when learning how to read), and speculating on how much time they would need to cover the material assigned for those other subjects that just appear on the schedule as "reading."

      -Emily

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  44. Can't wait for the podcast!! Thank you Emily!

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  45. Hey again! Do you have any living history books you could recommend for a Mama whose public education background leaves little wonder and excitement at the heroic age of our own country? (I even have a little bit of shame!) In the first chapter of Land of the Free it has a great sentance: "America! That word soon became a magic word to the people of Europe." I want to recapture that flame in my own heart. When I hear names like George Washington or Christopher Columbus, I yawn. The books I am buying for the kids help- but I would love something for me to read as well! Thank you!

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    1. Hi Katie,

      What a great question! I do think that the best place to start is those same books your children are feasting on--a truly living book should appeal to you as much as them. Additionally, what about Louise Andrews Kent's lovely historical fiction books about the explorers? He Went with Christopher Columbus, He Went with da Gama, He Went with Magellan, etc? I love historical fiction (well-done HF at that) for just this sort of thing--it puts you into the mindset of the figures who lived in a certain age.

      Enjoy recapturing the wonder that is our past!

      Emily

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  46. I have my American spines figured out, but I am having a hard time with English history spines for all forms and Ancient History spines for forms 5&6. Any suggestions?
    Also, have you used Truthquest guides, and if so, how do you incorporate them?

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  47. I've read some reviews about Johnson's series having some significant liberal leanings, specifically after volume 1. One reviewer wrote about how the author repeatedly praises every Democrat president and downplays any contribution of some of the more conservative presidents -- just as one example.

    Obviously every author has a bias, and sometimes that is more apparent than others. And of course, I do not know your own personal viewpoint. ;) But do you have a thought on Johnson's fairness in presenting history, and do you feel the need to edit or balance his writing?

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    1. Stacey,

      You are, of course, correct about each author having his bias. We each come to the thoughts of others with our own. I think the best informing viewpoint we can give our children is their first lesson of the day: the Bible; its lessons fairly balance every worldly view. Johnson's books are not recommended because they are the very best, because I don't know the "very" best. They are recommended as a good option because of their historical accuracy and the fact that he addresses not just facts of events and people, but offers to young people some ideas about the opinions, perspectives, and ideas of the time periods that affected the course of history. If children are persons, their minds are capable of learning to think, and that is one of our goals in this living relational educational method. Mason believed the child should form his own opinions and that we ought not to intrude in that sacred ground, nor get between the child and his book because it prevented the child from using his own mind to come to conclusions. I think that if God is who we fear, and His ways the standard of the parent (who is the most influential person in a child's life), other dissenting views will pale in the child's mind in force and influence. Surely, we do not want to convey to our children in 2016 that there is any lasting righteousness, beauty, or goodness in the existing political parties?

      -Liz

      I would only add that Johnson did not upset my very conservative sensibilities. He made me want to learn more about several presidents, and while they may have been his favorites, he in no way degraded others. Of course, keep in mind that other books read in time will balance his particular bias. (For example, the Uncle Eric books!)

      ~Nicole

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    2. lol, Liz your final comment made me laugh -- we certainly do not! ;) Thank you both for sharing your feedback. We just finished reading volume 1 this week and yes, enjoyed it! I was planning to move ahead into purchasing/scheduling the next volume for the upcoming term but was getting cold feet after reading some rather unpleasant reviews.

      Nicole, your comment about not degrading other presidents is particularly encouraging. (And yay for Uncle Eric books!)

      Thank you, ladies!

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  48. Have you ever heard of A Picturesque Tale of Progress by Olive Beaupre Miller? There are 9 volumes and I believe they are World History. Would you recommend them over the Dorothy Mills books? Would you recommend them for Form 2?

    I am planning to use Gerald Johnson, Our Island Story and need a World History option. I would appreciate your help on this. Thank you! Your podcast has been so helpful!

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    1. I'm so glad our podcast is helpful to you!

      I am familiar with PTP, but I wouldn't recommend them over Mills. The reading level is fine for Form 2, but it's not "World History" you're after at this age, but "Ancient" and the spines Mason used focus on one culture at a time instead of trying to give a picture of life in multiple places at once. For example, you would read about Mesopotamia, then Egypt, say, instead of intertwining them in time. Does that help? Of course, you are free to use whatever material you choose. We keep those on hand as a reference for a child who is inspired to read more.

      -Emily

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    2. Yes, thank you! After looking at CM books for several days my brain is tired. :) One more question, I read that I should buy the Dorothy Mills versions edited by Memoria Press since they have cleaned up racist and religious bias instead of trying to find the older books. Thoughts on this?

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    3. I think that is a personal decision to be made with the knowledge of your own children. You could get the slightly modified versions or have the conversation with your student about how perspectives and words change in use and connotation over time. That will be an important distinction to be made as they grow old, but if you need to discuss that now, or wait a few years, would depend on your own student.

      -Emily

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  49. I appreciate the fact you are replying to questions. What generosity. Listening eagerly and trying to catch up on past episodes!

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    1. Replying to comments is the best we can do to achieve some semblance of conversation with our patient listeners.

      Liz

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  50. Trying to decide between the Dorothy Mills series and Isaac Asimov for ancient history high school. I like the excerpts in the Mills series. Had not heard of Asimov until the comment above. Could you take a minute to just briefly compare and contrast?

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    1. Sure. Basically, the Asimov is going to be much more of a high school text. Mills is great for upper-elementary (5-6th grades) through Middle School. If your student hadn't had very much history prior to this, it might be fine to stick with Mills into high school, but generally they would need more.

      Emily

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  51. Thank you for these history podcasts. Between the podcast and the charts you posted, I think I got it! Do you think Eggleston's Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans would be a good choice for the "heroic tales" in first grade?

    Thank you,
    Lori

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    1. Hi Lori,

      I'm glad you are finding the charts helpful. I think that that book by Eggleston isn't quite right. You're looking for tales of the "Heroic Age" as Mason called it, the discoverers journeying to America and landing on unknown shores...Every age has it's heroes, but this it the "dimmer" history before we had a continuous chronological record after Europeans settled here. This book begins after this period, but is too choppy to make a good Form IA spine either...I'd keep looking, if I were you (and you want to take my advice, which you are of course free to reject!). Have you checked Inter-library Loan for either Dalgliesh's America Begins or Duvoisin's And There Was America? That might give you an idea of what I consider good material for 1st grade.

      Blessings to you on your journey,
      Emily

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    2. Hi Emily,
      Thank you for your response. Unfortunately, I checked and I am not going to be able to get a hold of either of those books. However, I feel confident good literature exists that can be found! :o) Perhaps I should skip the spine idea and just go with D'Aulaire's Leif, Columbus, Pocahontas, and maybe a book on the pilgrims or Squanto? I looked at SCM's Stories of Americas but I don't think that is going to hold the attention of my form 1 girls. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge of living books.

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    3. Lori,

      Since our Authentic history (as Mason called it) begins when we have a continuous chronological record, I'd save the Pilgrims and Squanto for next year.

      If you can't get a hold of either the Dalgliesh or Duvoisin books, check out America First by Lawton Evans (Yesterday's Classics has a nice reprint of this)--the first several chapters cover the time period for Form IB, first grade, up to Jamestown.

      Emily

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  52. Hello again - I'm still playing with your scheduling cards for form 1, 3 and 4 (he he)....the form 3 and 4 both have history 3x week - so thats one lesson for each history stream's spine - so where do I fit in a biography? thanks for your patience in answering all my questions, Jo in uk xx

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    1. Jo,

      It is not necessary to read only one book during a history period, or the same book during that period every week. You could alternate the readings, or split the 30 minutes between two books. Most spines do not have enough pages to fill the time allotted for the entire year.

      Liz

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    2. Hooray! I was just trying to puzzle this out myself as I work with the scheduling cards and re-listening to various podcast episodes. :-) Thank you to Jo for asking the question already, and thanks, Liz, for answering it!

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  53. and hello again! (this is getting embarrasing!) do you have any thoughts on Winston Churchills 4 volume set "history of the english speaking peoples" (I think AO use it for yr 7,8,9, and 10) - would this be a good spine for the british stream to follow on after middle school's Our Island Story in middle school? Thanks again, Jo in Uk

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    1. Jo,

      If you are following my history rotations, when a student reaches High School (Form IV), they are no longer just doing British history as their "neighbor" stream...they expand to all of European History, so Churchill's wouldn't work for that. Now, you are in the UK, so if you want to use them for your High School "Own Country" spines, that would probably be a good idea! Are you doing French history as your close neighbor (just curious)? Either way, your neighbor stream would be all of European history--contemporary with the time period you are studying in British history.

      -Emily

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  54. Hi. I am so thankful for your website and podcasts and all of the answers to so many comments and questions. I have been devouring your website since a friend introduced it to me earlier this summer. I agree with so many others in saying thank you for your hard work and your willingness to share what you've learned and discovered!

    I have a couple of questions as I plan history for my upcoming 9th grader. As I try to decide on the spines I will use for him, I have ordered Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence to cover European history. Have any of you read this, and will it be comprehensive enough to use as his spine through high school? And do you have a preference between Carson's American history books and Paul Johnson's History of the American People? thanks for any help in choosing!
    Ashley Armistead

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    1. Dear Ashley,

      Thank you for your encouraging words and we are so thankful as well that the podcast has been encouraging and helpful to you.
      I do think the Barzun book is perfect for all of history in high school as it covers the exact time period, is a commentary of the ideas in western civilization during that era, and is in four parts, one for each high school year.

      It is probably your best call which of the two American titles would be right for your child for American high school history.

      I have read the Barzun and the Johnson, and my children have read the Carson.

      Liz

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    2. Thanks so much Liz! I am in the thick of planning history today, so I appreciate your quick reply.

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  55. Thank you so much for these podcasts! I'm so delighted to have found them! So I have a 6 year old who is crazy about American history. I inherited a set of Beautiful Feet history books and from the time he was just turned five he kept pestering me to read the D'Auliare biographies to him. So we read them. Then we let him watch Liberty's Kids and he begged me to read to him about the American Revolution last year, but I wanted to start at the beginning so we read about Leif Erikson, and Columbus. and early American Indians, then we read Squanto and William Bradford,Sign of the Beaver, and then much to his delight dug into story after story on the American Revolution and just kept on reading through Lewis & Clark with living books. So I know we gone quite a bit overboard for his age, but his interest has fueled this. I blame/credit living close to Mt. Vernon. Now that we are this far in would you suggest doing the year of hero stories? My inclination is to just keep going on. We've been reading Little House books this summer at night which fit right into the pioneer period. My inclination is to just keep cruising along from here but take it at a slower pace. Thanks for any insight you might have. Which of the books above would be a good spine for the 1800's onward for a Form 1 child?

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    1. I would agree--just keep moving forward. If you read the notes above, and the previous comments, you will see recommendations for spines.

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  56. Your podcasts are amazing. I am new to CM and have been able to learn a lot in a short amount of time! Thank you so much. I do have one question. I have one Form 3 (8th grader) and two Form 2 (4th and 5th graders). I have been trying to locate the Gerald Johnson series without much luck (at least that I could afford!!) Do you have any other suggestions for these forms that I could combine their spines? (Also, I recently was at a book store and picked up Paul Johnson's A History of the American People- will that be okay once my daughter enters Form 4?) Thank you so much for any advice- it is truly appreciated!!

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  57. Any chance "A history for Peter" will be on the list for Publishing through you? All the inexpensive copies have been snatched up. guess we are all enjoying your book suggestions.

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  58. Ok..I hope this is an acceptable plan for two Form 2s (4th & 5th gr) and one Form 3 (8th grader)!

    Our Island Story 1d/week
    Ancients by Dorothy Mills 1d/week
    The Story of the Thirteen Colonies 2-3d/week

    We will also be using book suggestions from Beautiful Feet based on these time periods according to age.

    Does this seem acceptable and appropriate for their forms! Thank you for any advice or guidance! Blessings!

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    1. Shannon,

      The books will be shared by all students, I assume. I don't think you probably need additional books by Beautiful feet and may have a little too much planned--i.e., 2-3 days for Thirteen Colonies. Also, Mason used not only spines, but biographies as well. Since there are three days for history and three streams (except for your fourth rader, who would only read the first part of OIS this year and have two days for American), fitting in these three spines plus a biography or two will take up most of that allotted time.

      -Liz

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  59. Hi! I want to start off by giving my thanks for all the time and hard work that I can only imagine goes into each episode as well as the time you take to answer each question here. I am a new listener and have been "binge-listening", so to speak. I just cannot get enough! :)

    I was referred to your podcast after I had asked a few questions in an online forum regarding History with my 7 year old and doing more than one time period...and I am so glad they sent me to you all.

    I have 4 children, 2 of which are school age. One is in Form 1 (2nd grade) and the other is in Form 2 (4th grade). Before getting more familiar with CM and the "streams" of history as you so wonderfully described, I ordered a History curriculum earlier this summer that will take us through Ancient History this year. Well, we just finished up week 3 of our new homeschool year this past Friday, and my 7 year old keeps asking me when he is going to get to talk about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. So, because I was feeling guilty that he was just not enjoying History and also feeling like I messed up by not doing more research, I hopped onto the AO website and ordered This Country of Ours, as well as 2 landmark books, one about George Washington and one about Abe Lincoln. I'm excited about using the Landmark books with him, but after listening to this episode, I'm wondering if I should return TCOO in exchange for something else? Which leads me, after all this rambling, to my main questions and reason for leaving this comment in the first place! ;)

    Since most of the spines you linked to are either out of print or hard to find, is there any spine you can recommend I use for a Form 1 student that should be more easier to track down? And, if I am understanding this correctly, I would spread the readings out throughout the week and read to him a little from our spine and then a little from one of the biographies, correct? And, I use the spine for the whole year, but try to keep it to one biography per 12 week term? I am understanding that all correctly? And all he should be studying this year is American History?

    Now, for my Form 2 child...Here is what I was thinking. Am I correct in thinking that for the American History, she could join in on the read a louds with her brother, but then she would also be studying British History...so should I have her do those readings on her own? And, what would be recommended as a spine for her? Should I return TCOO and exhange it for Our Island Story for her to use? And what would be some great biographies for her to start with?

    I apologize in advance for the post being so long. However, I just got so excited after listening to your episodes on History that I want to just wipe the slate clean and start all over again with our history plans for the year. I'm thinking that since it's still so early into our school year, that it is ok to do this. I'll just keep what I have purchased for Ancient History to use when my children reach that "stream".

    THANK YOU so very much in advance for taking the time to answer my questions and offer any guidance. Blessings to each one of you! Amy :)

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  60. For form 1b (y1) british tales (i am in uk) I have our island story the first 20 chapters - but history tales is scheduled 2 x 20 minutes a week....even if i split 1 chapter over the two lesson for a week, there will not be enough chapters for the whole year - so should i be using a second different book for the second lesson each week? if so would that be about? Thanks
    Jo

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  61. I am so so very grateful for your wealth of knowledge. It is so very helpful! I was wondering what age you would consider 1st grade. I have a son that turned 7 in May and we started at the beginning of creation for history in January, but I am finding that it just doesn't feel right. I love your insight about American History. So for this school year, I am wondering if I should go ahead and start with America Begins, even though I see you recommend Land of the Free for Form1A (which according to his age might be what form he is in)? We haven't done any American Hero books yet, so I thought I could start with America Begins. I also have a 5 year old that is with us. Also, would the D'Aulaire biographies be what you would recommend for the three years of Form 1 for biographies?

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    1. Tina,

      I think you will find your son enjoys history more in beginning with America. As to which of the two books you mention to read, it might be possible to intersperse some of America Begins with Land of the Free. The D'Aulaire biographies are good choices for form 1A. You might also like to investigate America First (www.mainlesson.com) as an alternative to either of these.

      Since your son has had a year of school already, I probably would consider him "second grade," but the first form has thre years, which enables young children to progress at their own pace and not to be too concerned about which exact year they are in. We need to progress our children in terms of their own development, not according to the materials they use. If you haven't purchased either of those history spine books, you might want to find them through the library system as they have become expensive online since our recommendations.

      -Liz

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    2. Thank you so much for your help. I am very excited to begin this journey as it just feels that it will be much more enjoyable for all of us. I did find America Begins and Land of the Free at the library, so I was excited about that. However, since I am really a newbie, I am not sure how I would go about doing them together. Any advice? America First does look like a great option to. Do you have a preference? How do they compare?

      I thought he might be considered "second grade" as well. However, since we hadn't really started in the best beginning (history, geography, etc.), I didn't want to miss these wonderful ideas that were mentioned for Form IA. So I was hoping to begin with them even if he was in "second grade." However, I didn't know if that would be a problem if he didn't have the full two years of something like Land of the Free after the Heroic Stories as he would then technically move to Form II in only two years. And then my mind is trying to understand what is best as I have a 5 year old that I will start with next year and wondering how my decision for my 7 year old will affect her course and preparation as she likes to be a part of everything now too. Thanks for your time as I try to process all my thoughts.

      That you for these wonderful podcasts. I am learning so very much!!!

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    3. I definitely prefer America Begins and Land of the Free to America First--so if you have access to those, use them. I recommend America Begins for 1st grade Form IB) as it covers the early American history tales of the explorers. If your son has done a year of school I wouldn't hold him "back" to make up things he has missed--he will get that time period again. In Mason's schools children jumped to wherever the rest of the school was when they entered. It doesn't matter where he begins, as long as he continues to move forward chronologically once he's begun. You can make "jumps" forward in time, as long as you keep moving forward. As for Land of the Free, just read the portion that falls within the time period he should be studying per the history chart I posted in the Links section above. Next year when your daughter begins, you will have her do the tales (America Begins) and your son will continue on to the next part of time. The year after that they will both be in the same time period.

      Emily

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    4. This is super helpful. I guess the main reason I struggled with where to begin my son is because we did a full year of Kindergarten (prior to my knowledge of CM). Then we moved to another state, was house searching 6 mo., so things in school were really light and sporadic. We really didn't fully start 1st grade until this past March and didn't take a break during the past summer. From what I understand I should probably go ahead and start Land of the Free with him as if he is 2nd grade. However, I could add in a little America Begins if there is time.

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    5. Another thought...Or since I haven't done an official full year of 1st grade, maybe I could do America Begins for only 6 months, then start with Land of the Free?

      When do you decide to start 'school' with your kids? (When do they begin Form I?) Do you start right after their 6th birthday since we homeschool or is it best to follow the traditional school calendar and start the fall after they turn 6 years old, which would mean some might be close to 7 if they have a late birthday?

      I apologize for the many questions. Thank you so much for your time in helping me sort this out in my mind!

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    6. Tina,

      Yes, just go on ahead from where he is now and don't worry about what you did or did not do with him before. Most of my children didn't get to read those lovely books either, but they still love to learn--and even love history.
      -Liz

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  62. Thanks for your encouragement and wisdom! I think why I got confused is because in a previous comment above there was a statement made that we should always begin a new stream with the tales. So I thought I should go ahead and begin with the tales still since I am starting this new American stream with my son.

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  63. Thank you again for doing this whole podcast, etc. I have learned so much! I have a question about ancient history books. My daughter (grade 5 / form 2a) is enjoying Dorothy mills' book of the ancient world; it is a good level for her. I tried using this same text for my son (grade 8 / form 3), but it was way too basic for him. He is enjoying Asimov's history of Egypt. However, I notice that Mill's text is half Egypt and half Canaan/middle eastern region. I thought about having my form 3 son move on to Asimov's Canaan text later this year, but I'm concerned that Asimov's views may be hostile to a Christian worldview. Are you familiar with this book and do you find it to be objectionable in tone or otherwise? Or can you recommend another text that would be appropriate for an advanced 8th grader's Canaan/ Middle East / bible lands ancient history? Thank you so much!

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    1. We're glad to hear how the ancient spines are working for your children. Asimov is a secular writer, but if your son is enjoying the Egyptian history by him, he likely will also connect with the next civilization he describes. On the other hand, we have found that CM always had her children skip the portions of their history books that covered the ancient Hebrews. She did this because they were studying the Biblical history as part of their Bible lessons and it would be redundant. So maybe you are fine without an additional book. If you do choose to use it, we recommend that you scan it yourself to see if it seems acceptable.

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  64. I was wondering what your opinion is of the James Daugherty biographies?

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    1. Mr. Daugherty is an excellent author. I cannot say whether they are appropriate for your children as I don't know their age, etc., but if you feel the reading level is compatible with their comprehension abilities, I would try one for a term and see how the narrations go.

      -Liz

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  65. After reading the comments above, I have pieced together the following for my soon to be Form 1A daughter. Before finding ADE, we trudged through TCOO up to approx 1620 WAY less than enthused over our lessons, but we were able to get a copy of Land of the Free, so I would love to plan 1607-1750 (chapters 2-5) in 2nd grade and then 1750-1815 (chapters 6-9) in 3rd grade with 1-3 biographies added in per year and lots of other yummy historical fiction and other biographies added onto our shelves for her to peruse in her free time. I'd love your thoughts (my consult date is coming up, but I'd love to use that time for yummy biography advice (smile)). Thanks so much!

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    1. The time periods covered in form I are only in second and third grade, 100 years for each of those years. The full rotation continues after whichever century you have finished at the end of form I, into form II in their entirety. I look forward to our consult.

      -Liz

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