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Secular alternative to the Story of the World?


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#1 lfields19

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:10 PM

I tried searching because I'm sure this has been discussed before, but I can't find anything. I have a daughter going into 2nd grade this year (our 2nd year of homeschooling - she went to public kindergarten). We really didn't do anything with history for 1st grade at all, and I love SWB's approach to history. But I am very non-religious. I'm concerned with some of the reviews I've seen on Amazon, of these books containing biblical stories as if they're fact. I know Christians believe them to be facts; I don't necessarily agree. I'd like to stick to history without a religious slant though I'm happy for her to learn about the beliefs of various religions. Is there an alternative to SotW? If not, how much bible-related stuff is in these books? Is it little enough that I could skip it or explain to my daughter that certain parts aren't history but faith-related?

#2 zenjenn

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:23 PM

I think the Story of the World IS secular. It includes Bible stories along with a variety of creation myths. I am Jewish but a non-literalist when it comes to the Bible, and read the same reviews you read on Amazon. I borrowed the first volume from a friend.

I really don't see anything that is objectionable. IMO SotW is designed to be a read-aloud, discuss-aloud program, so you'd be pausing and discussing everything presented. Every chapter is short so it is not like it goes on and on telling Bible stories. Mythology and religious stories included in the history lends itself well to its narrative approach, IMO. I felt like the reviews on Amazon were like "Ohmygoodness! My kids are going to be so confused and not understand fact from fiction!" as if they were going to be exposed to this book in a vacuum. IMO, one of the first things you should do with ANY study of history is discuss what history to encourage children to ask:

What is history?
What is fact?
What is opinion?
What is perception/perspective?
What are lies? Why do people tell lies (in the context of history)?
What is religion?
What is evidence?
What is written record? Oral record?

And then any time you read ANYTHING, include these questions in the discussion. Do I think this is true? Who accepts this as true? Is this piece of history universally accepted as true? What do different people think about this event in history?

It is funny because some Christians are uncomfortable with it because it includes mythology and non-Christian religious stories. ;)

I would recommend at least getting SotW Volume 1 from the library and assessing it for yourself. IMO a rudimentary understanding of history includes understanding religion, culture, and myths.

K12 is a completely secular curriculum that has been recommended to me, but it is pricey and too "public school at home" for my taste, but many people are happy with it.

Edited by zenjenn, 23 July 2011 - 06:25 PM.


#3 sàmhchair

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:24 PM

It isn't nearly the same as SOTW, but a friend of mine used The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia as her spine, and supplemented books and activities as needed. You could also use it in combination with SOTW and the Activity Book and just omit (or alter) the religious passages and activities (which is what we'll be doing, except when it is culturally significant). We'll also be adding some pre-human history, starting with the Big Bang. My 2nd grader wasn't especially interested in that, so it'll be brief.

#4 elizabeth

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:25 PM

http://www.overstock...html?cid=123620 A fine alternative.

#5 phathui5

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:25 PM

Story of the World does treat the Bible as a historical document, which makes sense.

#6 Hedgehog

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:28 PM

IMO, SOTW isn't specifically religious, or secular, really. The Bible stories only in SOTW 1, and infrequent at that. If you wanted you could skip those chapters and you'd still be reading 90 - 95% of the book.

#7 zenjenn

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:28 PM

Of course, the Bible it IS a historical document. So are Egyptian hieroglyphs that show a pharaoh as God-incarnate. Just because the historian rejects the idea that pharaoh is God-incarnate doesn't mean the hieroglyphs are completely invalid as a historic record.

Same thing with the Bible, IMO.

#8 EKS

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:32 PM

I am also non-religious and I understand your concern. However, I think you could use SOTW in good conscience. Either skip the chapters with biblical stories or simply tell your child that these are stories that were written down back in the day. I do think it is important for children to know bible stories because they are important stories in our culture.

However, you might want to check out K12's history courses. They are very similar to SOTW and they are used by public schools, so they can't be religious.

#9 crstarlette

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:37 PM

There are Bible stories in there and they are written in there as if they were fact, whereas stories from other beliefs are sort of boxed off so that it's obvious that it is just a story, not a fact.

The Bible stories in SOTW are few, so it is easy to skip them, or if you are reading it aloud, add in the missing explanation that the section you're about to read is a Bible story.

If it helps, History Odyssey is a secular alternative to SOTW. It schedules several books from which to choose. The spine is an Usborne encyclopedia. SOTW is one of the optional books that is scheduled, and the Bible stories in it are not scheduled.

#10 Sue in St Pete

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:39 PM

I think the Story of the World IS secular.

:iagree: though I come from a liberal Christian perspective myself. We LOVED SOTW. I only wish SWB had a logic stage equivalent.

Story of the world vs other history books

Story of the World

SOTW - Any truth in the lower starred reviews?


Is "Story of the World" any good?

#11 lfields19

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:40 PM

Thanks everyone. I absolutely don't mind the kids hearing bible stories or learning about religion, which is a very important part of the human experience. Mostly I want to be sure we can separate what's actual fact, and what's fact-according-to-this-or-that-religion, if that makes sense. I've looked into K-12 and am not really excited about it. It sounds like SotW will probably be an ok fit. I appreciate all the input.

#12 Sue in St Pete

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:41 PM

never mind

#13 Angel

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:48 PM

IMO, SOTW isn't specifically religious, or secular, really. The Bible stories are only in SOTW 1, and infrequent at that. If you wanted you could skip those chapters and you'd still be reading 90 - 95% of the book.


:iagree:

In fact, I am a Christian and I'm skipping those chapters this year because I believe she tells them as just another story (along the lines of every other culture story in the book) and I'd rather use the Bible for a more accurate account ;)

There are very few of those chapters. I think some of them are Abraham, Joseph/Moses, and Jesus Christ. I'd have to double check my list, but there can't be many others. Easily skipped over.

#14 NanceXToo

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:55 PM

I am a non-religious Jew who homeschools secularly for the most part, and while we are only 16 chapters into SOTW, I don't find it overly religious or one-sided or objectionable. We have a lot of fun with SOTW. Yes, there are some bible stories (Old Testament so far) but there are other viewpoints and gods and goddesses from various myths and legends, too. It's more from the viewpoint of showing what the different cultures and places believed back then as opposed to "This is religious fact from my specific religion" or whatever. (And even so, there's a lot more to it than religion of ANY sort, so you don't end up feeling like you're focusing mainly on that or anything).

My daughter (age 10) and I are really enjoying SOTW.

Here's a review I wrote of it which shows pics of lots of the fun projects we've done so far if you want to check it out:

http://nancextoo.liv...com/124469.html

#15 lmrich

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:12 PM

The Biblical portions are shared as stories. You have to remember that much of early history was told through stories and that facts are embedded in stories. You can skip those chapters if you like, but it is very light.

#16 nmoira

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:22 PM

I find SOTW to be workable in a secular context, but some of the activities in the AG for Volume 1 left me scratching my head. You may wish to look at History Odyssey from Pandia Press. The grammar stage units incorporate SOTW, among other resources.

#17 laundrycrisis

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:46 PM

We are a non-religious family. I have not found any religious content in SOTW that is a problem. Stories from various traditions are included. I read them all with the preface, "this is a story from x religion or tradition and we don't know how much of it is really true." That handles it. I don't use the activity guide so I don't know about that.

#18 redsquirrel

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:01 PM

We are a totally secular family. We haven't had any issue with SOTW. Whenever we did a bible story I prefaced it with "Oh, look, a story from Christian Mythology". There are also Egyptian and Greek myths presented so I include Christian Mythology as equal to that. To my way of thinking it is, so I am very comfortable putting it into that context.

There is one, maybe two, sentences that I altered. It was something like God told Abraham to do something. I changed that to Abraham believed his God to him to do something.

I can honestly tell you it was minimal and not difficult or troubling.

The activity guide is so easy to pick and choose from that there should be no difficulty. I only did an activity from book one every other week or so. We just don't have the time to do one every week.

If it is still problematic to you, then check out Pandia Press. However, it uses SOTW so it seems a bit like reinventing the wheel.

#19 mommamoody

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:21 PM

I sent you a pm:)

#20 mrsbushman

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:34 PM

We are also VERY secular and use SOTW. Someone mentioned Pandia Press, which is History Odyssey. I will tell you that is a much less secular option because it uses Child's History of the World which is quite religious.

I encourage you to try SOTW. The Old Testament Bible stories are simply stories about Jewish history. At least that was my spin I put on it for my own kiddos. We also found oportunity to discuss the similarities and differences between some of the origin stories of various faiths. I truly don't think you'll feel uncomfortable. If you find something off-putting, just modify as you go along.

My kids also love to do History Pockets. Personally, I fold them into SOTW but they would love it if that's all we did. :001_smile:

#21 crstarlette

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:55 PM

We are also VERY secular and use SOTW. Someone mentioned Pandia Press, which is History Odyssey. I will tell you that is a much less secular option because it uses Child's History of the World which is quite religious.

I encourage you to try SOTW. The Old Testament Bible stories are simply stories about Jewish history. At least that was my spin I put on it for my own kiddos. We also found oportunity to discuss the similarities and differences between some of the origin stories of various faiths. I truly don't think you'll feel uncomfortable. If you find something off-putting, just modify as you go along.

My kids also love to do History Pockets. Personally, I fold them into SOTW but they would love it if that's all we did. :001_smile:


To clarify, CHOW is one of the optional books scheduled in HO that you can choose to use. The spine is an Usborne encyclopedia; SOTW and CHOW are scheduled in should you choose to use them too. There is also a list of more focused books for each lesson that you could choose to use (books about specific events/people/etc. - like the You Wouldn't Wanna... series), as well as scheduled coloring books, crafts, poetry books, and dictionary work.

#22 Mergath

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:58 PM

We haven't started yet, of course, but I did manage to get hold of a copy of the first SOTW and the activity guide, and I think it's workable. We're Pagans, and though there were a couple places that made me cringe when I was reading through, it's far, far less religious than most of what I've seen available.

#23 nmoira

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 10:42 PM

To clarify, CHOW is one of the optional books scheduled in HO that you can choose to use. The spine is an Usborne encyclopedia; SOTW and CHOW are scheduled in should you choose to use them too. There is also a list of more focused books for each lesson that you could choose to use (books about specific events/people/etc. - like the You Wouldn't Wanna... series), as well as scheduled coloring books, crafts, poetry books, and dictionary work.

This. I wouldn't recommend using History Odyssey without SOTW, but CHOW is entirely optional.

HO uses two project books in Ancients Level 1 I'd highly recommend to anyone doing history secularly:

Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors
Ancient Israelites and Their Neighbors

The text may require some occasional paraphrasing due to complexity, but the projects are first rate and the text can be revisited during Ancients Level 2.

#24 Ray

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 10:46 PM

HAOH

Some reviews here: http://www.homeschoo...ews.aspx?id=795

#25 poetic license

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 10:53 PM

I find SOTW to be workable in a secular context, but some of the activities in the AG for Volume 1 left me scratching my head. You may wish to look at History Odyssey from Pandia Press. The grammar stage units incorporate SOTW, among other resources.


Can you elaborate on the AG? Was your issue with the content being questionable as far as secular vs religious or you didn't like the AG activities. I'm still waffling about the AG as I don't like busywork or crafty activities (I have no interest in mummifying a chicken or building a pyramid :lol: )

#26 frankcassiesmom

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:02 PM

Even not doing any activites I like having the AG because it has narration questions, supplemental reading suggestions, mapwork pages, coloring pages for younger tagalongs, etc.

#27 nmoira

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:08 PM

Can you elaborate on the AG? Was your issue with the content being questionable as far as secular vs religious or you didn't like the AG activities. I'm still waffling about the AG as I don't like busywork or crafty activities (I have no interest in mummifying a chicken or building a pyramid :lol: )

There was a fair amount of Biblical content... off the top of my head, a relatively long comic-book-style Joseph and his coat and a cut-out interactive plagues of Egypt activity, contrasted with a single Gilgamesh colouring page. Any, even many, of the activities can be skipped, so it's not a huge deal, but it rubbed me the wrong way.

#28 poetic license

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:16 PM

There was a fair amount of Biblical content... off the top of my head, a relatively long comic-book-style Joseph and his coat and a cut-out interactive plagues of Egypt activity, contrasted with a single Gilgamesh colouring page. Any, even many, of the activities can be skipped, so it's not a huge deal, but it rubbed me the wrong way.


ok thanks for the info, that helps to know.

I was recently reading through the WTM blog and this article helped me to understand Susan's perspective as a Christian writing the WTM through a secular publisher. I realized why, given her firm convictions, there is going to be things that will "slip through" that show her Protestant background. As a non-Christian home educator I still don't mind using her materials, it just has helped to know her perspective so I can be more aware to edit or provide our own family's background instead of the Christian slant.

#29 poetic license

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:22 PM

HAOH

Some reviews here: http://www.homeschoo...ews.aspx?id=795


This looks really interesting! I went to the website and he has an article about secular education:

http://historyatourhouse.com/?p=78

#30 mamajag

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 01:20 AM

I use SOTW secularly and teach the Christian/Jewish parts as mythology/culture just like any other religion or civilization we studied. It's not a huge deal, and they really are presented as stories in a very secular manner as equals to the other reviewers. I only have experience with SOTW 1 so far. I tried History Odyssey last year but it didn't really fit us and offered SOTW as a spine, so this year we ended up going completely classical and just grabbed SOTW activity books since the girls liked the stories in SOTW before things got crazy and we gave up on HO.

#31 Laura Corin

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 02:49 AM

We used SOTW in an agnostic/atheist household. There are lots of myths used in the early chapters of SOTW1, so it was not hard to talk about the bible stories in the same way as any of the other myths. I did precede SOTW with the first section of the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History, to give an overview of planetary origins and human evolution.

Laura

#32 Kate in Arabia

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 03:42 AM

We are a Muslim family and use SOTW, I'll be starting SOTW 1 in my second go 'round with younger kids this year. There are a few chapters we will be skipping and using different materials, as the Islamic narrative does not always correlate with the Christian narrative vis a vis Biblical folks.

We also edited in the subsequent volumes, as appropriate for us. I use a range of supplemental books for history, some secular and some Muslim, and I always have to read with a little alertness in the back of my mind. Even with "Muslim materials" I sometimes need to rephrase or edit, or be sure to add more from a different viewpoint -- I think it's just the nature of the subject.

#33 SparklyUnicorn

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 05:50 AM

I'm an atheist and have used SOTW for three years now. We love it. There aren't that many religious stories, and I look at studying religion as a part of history. It's impossible to separate the two to get an understanding of people throughout history.

#34 Sue in St Pete

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 06:38 AM

HAOH

HaoH does not cover nearly as much as SOTW. SOTW is perfect for elementary age, imo.

Here are 2 theads about HaoH:
History at our House?? Opinions?
Can someone talk to me about History at our House?

Edited by Sue in St Pete, 24 July 2011 - 07:13 AM.


#35 NotSoObvious

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 06:39 AM

We aren't Christian (Unitarian) and we love SOTW. I treat the Bible stories like any other myth.
IMHO, I truly believe there is great value in my kids knowing some of the major Bible stories. For me, it's helping them to be culturally literate.
And, honestly, we supplement with SO many other books, my kids are getting lots of different explanations. The chapters in SOTW are very short. If you do it the way SWB recommends, most of your time is actually spent with other sources.
I wouldn't not use them based on religion. They are that good.

#36 nestof3

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 07:53 AM

SOTW is secular.

#37 KarenNC

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 08:41 AM

I can tell you how we used SOTW 1 in a Neopagan Unitarian Universalist household. We used the whole series, but the later books weren't as problematic in this respect. We had the books, AG and cd. Because I was reading SOTW 1 aloud (and listening to the cd in the car), I added in "The Jews believed..." or "The Christians believed..." to those chapters where it was applicable. The Jewish and Christian stories are typically not prefaced this way as I remember (we're long past that level and I no longer have the book), where those of other cultures are.

I did a lot of picking and choosing in the AG. We did the majority of the mapwork and many of the coloring sheets (she did them while I read). I used some of the literature suggestions (though also chose others) and we discussed the review questions orally. I skipped or modified many of the activities that either didn't fit us (we mummified potatoes instead of a chicken, for instance) or for which we didn't have time. I skipped entirely activities for several of the chapters that dealt solely with Jewish stories, listening to them on cd only, as my goal with them was for familiarity only and she'd encountered them already in other settings. I did feel there was a larger emphasis and amount of that sort of material included for the Jewish stories than for other cultures, so that helped keep things more proportional and allowed me time to beef up other areas where I wanted to put more focus.

I haven't found a better story-based history for secular use for that age. While Kingfisher is good, it is not the same style at all.

#38 ChandlerMom

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 08:48 AM

I agree that while SOTW is NOT truly secular (presents bible stories as history instead of cultural stories, and presents some of the usual western christian bias, for example, claiming the Romans feared Jesus) overall it is easy to compensate for that.

I was able to get SOTW and the AG from our library. I didn't care for the AG, but did get SOTW. You can also find samples from this site to make your own call.

[Full Disclosure: I am christian, but I do not like to use history with a religious bias, esp since the "christian worldview" may well not be My christian world view. :D I find that ethnocentric bias to be the source of too much violence in this world. I like to use secular materials and teach religion separately. I believe you can do this with SOTW, but only if you are aware and knowledgeable -- something like Kingfisher or Osborne is a good cross-ref or supplement with other fully secular topical books. ]

#39 NanceXToo

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 09:37 AM

I love the Activity Guide. It gives you review questions to ask (and provides the answers), it tells you to have them do a brief narration of what you read (and provides a few examples of acceptable answers), it gives pages of simple mapwork and coloring pages, it recommends a bunch of extra/supplemental reading materials so I know what to look for at my library, and it suggests lots of fun crafts, projects and activities and tells you how to do them- for all different levels of craftiness. I don't consider myself especially "crafty" but there are lots that we can easily do and that the whole family enjoys.

Yes, some of the activities are a bit more religious than others- we do them if they seem fun, skip them if we don't want to do them. And yes, some of them are more elaborate than others. We do them if we're so inclined, skip them if we're not. There are usually several ideas presented and it's easy to pick one or two that you DO want to do in any given chapter and just skip the rest.

We didn't mummify anything (we made scented oil instead). We didn't bother with that long comic book someone mentioned, but found "Joseph's coat of many colors" to be fun simply because what kid doesn't like having free reign over a white button down shirt and a bunch of fabric paints? :D And yes there was the ten plagues sticker/activity sheet (which we did do). But other than that, nothing I've come across activity wise so far has been religious in nature. There's been a really fun variety of ideas and activities and subjects presented.

In my opinion, if you're going to use SOTW, don't do it without the Activity Guide. That's what makes the whole thing so much fun and more interesting! (Well, I guess you could do that on your own, too, but it's so nicely and easily laid out for you in the Activity Guide- things I'd NEVER have thought of on my own)!

#40 Sue in St Pete

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 10:12 AM

In my opinion, if you're going to use SOTW, don't do it without the Activity Guide. That's what makes the whole thing so much fun and more interesting!

:iagree: The AG makes the program rich, imo. We used every bit of it.

#41 ~Kirsten~

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 10:34 AM

:iagree: The AG makes the program rich, imo. We used every bit of it.


In my opinion, if you're going to use SOTW, don't do it without the Activity Guide. That's what makes the whole thing so much fun and more interesting! (Well, I guess you could do that on your own, too, but it's so nicely and easily laid out for you in the Activity Guide- things I'd NEVER have thought of on my own)!


I totally agree with both of these ladies. First, my daughter really enjoys doing the coloring pages while I read the relevant chapter. It would have taken a lot of effort for me to track down my own for her. Second, I found the supplemental book lists indispensable. Seriously! Wonderful, wonderful feature! Each chapter has a book list, and each book listed has a short description. I'd buy the guide for the lists alone, honestly. Third, I found the review questions helpful. We practiced the skill of narration with history, and having the questions right there in front of me helped me see what my daughter retained and what we missed.

As far as the activities, they're hit-and-miss. We did regular activities from the first half of the book, including mummifying a cornish hen. That was a HUGE hit. The second half, well, it wasn't as useful for our family. So if you just want crafts and supplemental activities, I'm 50/50 on the usefulness of the guide. There are a lot of blogs where you could probably find that kind of information, if that's all you want. HTH!

#42 Satori

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 11:01 AM

Another completely secular homeschooler that happily uses SOTW and AG. :)

I'm going to try to incorporate History Odyssey this upcoming year just to see what that might be like. We won't do the history pockets though.

#43 creeksidelearning

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 01:08 PM

There are lots of myths used in the early chapters of SOTW1, so it was not hard to talk about the bible stories in the same way as any of the other myths. I did precede SOTW with the first section of the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History, to give an overview of planetary origins and human evolution.

Laura


Yes, this. We are a secular family just beginning to do SOTW after doing our own unit on pre-history. I went through the same thought process as the original poster about a year ago and came to the conclusion that SOTW would work best for our family. So far, so good. It's such a rich, fun curriculum. My kids are loving it so far. And I am comfortable with the Bible stories, just as I am with the Egyptian myths of Gods and Goddesses, etc.

#44 mcconnellboys

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 01:46 PM

I think SOTW is secular, although it does tell some Bible stories (also stories of other religions). I don't think you can really study history without religion, as it's an integral part of history.

I also like the series People of the Ancient World, by Scholastic (various authors), for ancient studies. Here's a link to one of those books:

http://www.amazon.co...s/dp/0531167410

There are also books covering China, Indian, Romans, Greeks, the Maya, Aztecs, and Celts. I'm not sure that there's one for Africa.... Not sure why....

This Kingfisher book could also help you fill in for those cultures not covered by the Scholastic series:

http://www.amazon.co...l/dp/0753453975

Kingfisher also has some books for the Medieval World, but Scholastic does not have a series that covers that, to my knowledge:

http://us.macmillan....hemedievalworld

http://www.amazon.co...d/dp/0753459469

For the early modern world:

http://www.amazon.co...s/dp/0753460335

And the modern world:

http://www.amazon.co...d/dp/0753460343

I think that these books offer more info for each time period than you'd get from the Kingfisher history encyclopedia that covers the entire span of time....

For more specific U.S. studies, I like Joy Hakim's History of US. Our library carries these, too, so you might check yours to see if they have them and if you like the books....

#45 NoPlaceLikeHome

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 02:11 PM

I am also non-religious and I understand your concern. However, I think you could use SOTW in good conscience. Either skip the chapters with biblical stories or simply tell your child that these are stories that were written down back in the day. I do think it is important for children to know bible stories because they are important stories in our culture.

However, you might want to check out K12's history courses. They are very similar to SOTW and they are used by public schools, so they can't be religious.


:iagree: Also from what I understand K12's History was written by SWB for at least grades 1-2. DS did K12 for those grades and I can attest to the similarity of STOW and K12 history:). I too very much prefer secular materials and saw nothing objectionable to STOW especially since there are definitely some historical aspects of the Bible such as the Jewish exile according to archeologists from what little I know.


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