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What would you study before a long-term European visit?


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My kids and I will most likely be going to Europe next October for three to six months. We are going to be based in England but will also be spending a great deal of time in Switzerland, where my brother and his family lives. I am trying to plan our new school year which will be from January to October. I want to tie their history into our trip, but I am feeling a little overwhelmed with it all. I am not sure if I should have them do a broad study of Europe, or if we should narrow it down to a specific time period, or if I should base it around their interests. What would you do?

 

Also, if you have been before with kids or teens, what were your favorite things to see/do? I am trying to get a list going of the top ten things we must do.

 

Thanks. :001_smile:

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18yo dd and I went to England and France for just 2 weeks. You all should have a wonderful time.

 

I'd study geography & major cities, Kings & Queens of England (we have a nickname poem), Major Battles for your ds.

Maybe learn simple phrases in German, and the funny differences in the British-English language.

I guess I'd want them to be able to see artifacts in the British Museum, and have some basic understanding of them, like the Rosetta Stone.

It will be fun to see what others recommend!

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I'd look at the sites you really want to visit and then work from there. A medieval focus would be good (lots of extant castles), or Roman (Bath, Italy etc.) or perhaps a Georgian one (Bath again). Then you can use their interests (textiles? Bath Costume Museum; jousting? Live demonstrations, etc.) to tailor the coverage/visits.

 

Laura

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Maybe have a look on the National Trust websites and the English Heritage Website. The only thing with being here from October is that lots of historical places shut down or have short opening hours over winter from late oct until late feb/march, so that might dictate where you visit.

 

The Roman baths in Bath is good. The museum is very well done, we went there a couple of weeks ago.

 

There are just so many options. I live in the south west, there are lots of nice properties to visit down here in early spring as it warms up here early.

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I did two college trips to Europe, and I wish I had read up more on the Royalty, especially British. I had studied so many things, but it had been a long time, so I was pretty rusty. I think a basic overview of the major European Wars (tough call, I know) would be helpful because a lot of historical sites are significant because they were built/occupied when a new ruler tool over.

 

Westminster Abbey was my favorite site. I could have spent days there. Also, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Buckingham Palace. Versailles was incredible, but it was so crowded that it made the whole experience miserable. I hope that your timing will be better than mine (late May).

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I'd look at the sites you really want to visit and then work from there. A medieval focus would be good (lots of extant castles), or Roman (Bath, Italy etc.) or perhaps a Georgian one (Bath again). Then you can use their interests (textiles? Bath Costume Museum; jousting? Live demonstrations, etc.) to tailor the coverage/visits.

 

Laura

 

I agree with this. There are SO many things to see and do. If you know you want to go to Stratford, for example, and catch a play at the Old Globe, you could go online, see what is playing, and read/discuss the play. If you're heading to Rouen in France, you could explore the life and final days of Joan of Arc. There is just so much history there, from interesting castles to fabulous museums to small villages just dying to be explored.

 

I'm jealous - we go for a month at at time but that is nowhere NEAR long enough.

 

P.S. Hey, are you going to be there in June by any chance? Always happy to meet fellow WTMers, and we'll be in the Burgundy area of France then. :001_smile:

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Oooo, yeah, and if you go to Versailles, spend time studying Louis XVI (and XIV) and enjoy that amazing palace. If you go, rent a golf cart to see the gardens and Marie Antoinette's Hamlet. It's fun to zoom around and get to all the little nooks and crannies. We were there in May of 2010 and the crowds weren't bad at all, but especially nice out in the far reaches of the garden.

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I would recommend the video series A History of Britian by Simon Schama. We all found it very interesting and helpful for visiting England. We were living in Belgium for three years and visited England a few times.

 

Otherwise, I would second Laura Corin's suggestion to identify where you will be going and what you are likely to visit and work from there.

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I'd have the olders read Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, as we'll as At Home. Narrative nonfiction in general usually includes quite a bit of history while providing a real sense of place (I'm thinking of Hemingway's Immovable Feast for Paris and Mayle's A Year in Provence for southern France, but I'm sure there are books like that for Switzerland too). Tony Robinson's Worst Jobs in History mostly focuses on English jobs, and the series is on YouTube if you search for it.

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Depending on if you are going to the French or German speaking part of Switzerland, I would have everyone learn enough French or German to be able to order food and ask where there is a bathroom. I found the German In Switzerland easier to understand than the German in Germany.

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I would do as others have suggested and do some preplanning. Figure out where you definitely want to visit and look at the opening times. Many places away from London close for the winter months but are open for school holidays and special events. Our local English Heritage will be open in December for Christmas events on weekends then close until March. The websites frequently have great educational material.

 

One of the easiest ways to get an overview of British history is to read "Our Island Story" by Marshall. It gives you a great idea of the timeline and a bit of knowledge about most major figures. We bump into history all over. In a local park there is a plaque that says that a long ago king died here, he ruled in Saxon times, my kids looked at it and told everyone who he was. None of the locals knew. LOL Marshall also did a European History. These books a easy reading SOTW level but good.

 

I would also get a how to read a church book if you have any interest. The BBC also did a series on it. It is a really interesting topic. It is also fun to be able to tell which parts are Saxon, Norman........There are lots of Churches and they won't close for the winter. We were recently in France. The church architecture is very different. We plan to learn why before our next visit.

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Just wanted to say that I am sorry about the weird bit at the end. I can't scroll down behind it to delete not even in edit. I think it has to do with the kindle fire that I post on. Anyway sorry.

 

UPDATE: DH fixed the typo.......

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My kids and I will most likely be going to Europe next October for three to six months. We are going to be based in England but will also be spending a great deal of time in Switzerland, where my brother and his family lives. I am trying to plan our new school year which will be from January to October. I want to tie their history into our trip, but I am feeling a little overwhelmed with it all. I am not sure if I should have them do a broad study of Europe, or if we should narrow it down to a specific time period, or if I should base it around their interests. What would you do?

 

Also, if you have been before with kids or teens, what were your favorite things to see/do? I am trying to get a list going of the top ten things we must do.

 

Thanks. :001_smile:

 

Oh, you are going to have such a great time. Our first three years of homeschooling were in Europe and it was wonderful. We were looking at pictures of trips to Paris and Rome a few days ago and remembering what great adventures we'd had.

 

Have you gotten through much history with them already? I think ancients and medieval were the topics that were newest to us, but that we also saw all around us. It was fabulous to be able to visit sites of Roman towns or battles (the Varusschlacht near Osnabrück was a favorite). We visited dozens of castles and churches. I used the book Signs and Symbols in Christian Art to make up my own art guide for churches (it had things like the symbols related to different saints so we could pick out who was who among the statues and stained glass).

 

We were constantly amazed at how central historical events that we'd never heard of were. Just as an example, the Thirty Years' War was a major period in Central Europe. Even though dh has history degrees, this was a subject we had little detailed knowledge of.

 

One of my favorite memories is hours and hours at historic sites and museums. When we see a painting or sculpture in a book, we often remember seeing it in real life. I remember touring around the Tower of London and seeing the room where Elizabeth was held as a girl and the window from which the Welsh prince fell to his death. Wonderful touchstones to history. But it was often the little out of the way places that were best. The Varusschlacht isn't on many tour lists. But it was the site where three legions were killed by German tribesmen. It ended Roman occupation of Germany east of the Rhine. And we walked the battlefield where it happened.

 

I would also very much recommend a trip into France and Belgium for WWI and WWII sites. Normandy is incredible (take the side trip to see Mont St Michael while you're there) and Ypres, the Somme and Verdun are amazing. There are many historic sites and small museums (often private) that are very good. The guides by Major and Mrs. Holt are the best for this. (If this trip is impractical, don't miss going to the Imperial War Museum in London. Plan to spend the whole day.)

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The Famous Men of the Middle Ages book would give you a lot of background on people important in European history but often overlooked by American curriculum.

 

Great Tales from English History by Robert Lacey is a really good book. Actually there are several volumes. The chapters are short and very interesting. There are also well done audio versions. My son and I listened to a lot of these driving to and from swimming. Bite sized and interesting. If you had the audiobooks loaded on an ipod or iphone, when you were somewhere and had a question about who someone was, you could have a quick refresher at your fingertips.

 

1066: The Year of the Conquest is a well done book about the Norman Invasion. (Oh, if you go to Normandy, don't miss visiting the tapestry. It is jaw droppingly amazing.)

 

I really enjoyed reading the big historical fiction books by Sharon Kaye Penman. She packs a lot of history into a good story. (Skip the shorter mystery series books like The Queen's Man.) The Brother Caedfael mysteries by Ellis Peters are also good historical fiction.

 

We're listening to Victorian Britain, a Teaching Company series by Patrick Allitt. This is another winner. There are several other Teaching Company sets that might be helpful. DH just finished Utopia and Terror and said it was good. That would cover modern era developments like fascism and communism.

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We were there in May of 2010 and the crowds weren't bad at all, but especially nice out in the far reaches of the garden.

 

 

Hey, we were there on May 15, 2010! Versailles was one of our favorite stops, esp. the outside gardens (and the fountains were flowing when we were there).

I chuckle because we were FLOORED by the crowds (~20,000+) and dd and I got separated in the crowd for about 30 minutes.

Just enjoying the different perspective, as I do know that it is likely MUCH more crowded during the official tourist season.

(We are from a small town in KY--a big change from our usual life--which is usually the POINT of travel.) :laugh:

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I recently got the book, History of England in 100 Places. I've only just started it, but it seems like it might be a good fit for you. You could have the older kids read it before you go and then visit the places that sound most interesting. For the 9yo I'd recommend Our Island Story for a great overview of the history of England. As far as places to visit in England, I'd recommend the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the British Museum. Get a National Trust and/or English Heritage membership if you'll be in England for a while, and that will give you entry to many fantastic sites. Another place that I love is Salisbury, particularly the cathedral there which has an original of the Magna Carta. It's very close to Stonehenge which you could visit at the same time. If you're interested in the Vikings, you could make a trip to York also. It's a beautiful city with lots of history. And Bath is beautiful and it has the Roman Baths. So many fantastic places to visit here.

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Hey, we were there on May 15, 2010! Versailles was one of our favorite stops, esp. the outside gardens (and the fountains were flowing when we were there).

I chuckle because we were FLOORED by the crowds (~20,000+) and dd and I got separated in the crowd for about 30 minutes.

Just enjoying the different perspective, as I do know that it is likely MUCH more crowded during the official tourist season.

(We are from a small town in KY--a big change from our usual life--which is usually the POINT of travel.) :laugh:

 

 

Funny, Versailles is one of the few places I regret spending the time on. It was fabulous, but so crowded (even in Jan/Feb when we visited) and the crowds were some of the most obtuse, trample the kid crowds that we'd encountered in several years of living overseas. I was a little disappointed that there weren't more behind the scenes spaces open like kitchens or workrooms. And more than half of the Hall of Mirrors was under renovation, so that space was just not itself. In hindsight, I wish that we'd gone to Chartres instead, or to the museum with the large format Monet waterlily paintings. (Of course, everyone is a different traveler. YMMV)

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Funny, Versailles is one of the few places I regret spending the time on. It was fabulous, but so crowded (even in Jan/Feb when we visited) and the crowds were some of the most obtuse, trample the kid crowds that we'd encountered in several years of living overseas. I was a little disappointed that there weren't more behind the scenes spaces open like kitchens or workrooms. And more than half of the Hall of Mirrors was under renovation, so that space was just not itself. In hindsight, I wish that we'd gone to Chartres instead, or to the museum with the large format Monet waterlily paintings. (Of course, everyone is a different traveler. YMMV)

 

My mother went to Versailles the last week of october and thought it was a bit of a waste of time. It wasn't too busy when she was there but it was so run down. I think she said 10 rooms were open and the garden was mostly bare earth. She felt like they could have used the time more effectiely somewhere else.

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We took the following books with us around Europe: Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, How to Read a Church, Rick Steve's Europe 101 and Blue Guides. If you aren't familiar with them, Blue Guides are our favorite travel guide. They give minimal information on hotels and restaurants but will describe a museum or historic site room by room and case by case with notes on what you are seeing and why it is important. Also-invest in a good map book if you will be driving. Wait and buy it in country and try to find one that includes place names written in the local language-tough to get to Vienna if you don't realize that it is really Wien or Turin which is really Torino. For travel tips, hotel and restuarant info we had the best luck with Rick Steve's guides.

 

I'd be inclined to study ancients, middle ages, and renaissance for history. That may just be a personal preference and reflect my preferences for tourism though. I'd also take a look at your literature and historical fiction and see if that can be matched up to any planned trips. I think one topic I would look at is art history. Our kids really enjoyed (even as elementary aged students) art history programs and Great Courses/Teaching Company lectures. We didn't try to use it as a full program or survey course but would watch the portions that related to what we were seeing on a given trip and use that as a spring board for understanding all the art and architecture that we were exposed to. Also, when going to major churches, museums, etc. it is often worth a stop in the book store or information center before beginning your tour. We found several places that offered kids activity/tour books that focused on the city or building we were visiting. The kids enjoyed the activities and it helped them focus on and understand what they were seeing.

 

Where to go in Britain? Everywhere! I don't even know how to pick favorites. The big London trip for the churches, museums, Tower, palaces, etc. is typically touristy but wonderful! We also loved stopping in small towns, following historical markers and visiting smaller churches when possible.

 

From Switzerland the north of Italy isn't too far. I would recommend seeing Florence and Pisa. Plan ahead if possible and purchase advanced tickets for the major museums. The lines tend to be hours long to get in if you don't have a pre-purchased timed entry tickets.

 

Germany is full of wonderful places-we enjoyed Trier, Heidleburg, Berlin and Dresden.

 

My kids have fond memories of the national museums in Lichtenstein and Luxembourg of all places.

 

Off the beaten path-we really enjoyed Poland and Romania. Highlights were Krakow, Auschwitz, Sighisoara, Brasov and the surrounding area and the painted churches/monestaries near Suceava.

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Someone once told me that before you visit a place, reading a novel set there can give you more preparation for the real world experience than the obvious, big-picture things that a travel guide might tell. So, don't forget that literature can help here too. Dunno if your oldest is old enough for Dickens, but things like that might be a fun addition.

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Oh, just a thought: don't forget that you can drive to Scotland and Wales fairly easily; you don't need to stick to England.

 

Laura

 

My brother and his family just left Scotland after a three week visit. They loved it there, and they think I would, so we have plans to spend part of our time there. I would also love to get to Wales. :001_smile:

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Depending on if you are going to the French or German speaking part of Switzerland, I would have everyone learn enough French or German to be able to order food and ask where there is a bathroom. I found the German In Switzerland easier to understand than the German in Germany.

 

This is a great idea. We will be in the French part, and the twins already know enough French to get by. I think I will have my nine-year-old start learning French this year, so he will be able to do this too.

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Funny, Versailles is one of the few places I regret spending the time on. It was fabulous, but so crowded (even in Jan/Feb when we visited) and the crowds were some of the most obtuse, trample the kid crowds that we'd encountered in several years of living overseas. I was a little disappointed that there weren't more behind the scenes spaces open like kitchens or workrooms. And more than half of the Hall of Mirrors was under renovation, so that space was just not itself. In hindsight, I wish that we'd gone to Chartres instead, or to the museum with the large format Monet waterlily paintings. (Of course, everyone is a different traveler. YMMV)

 

I love Versailles, but I took my mom there in 2000, and it was super crowded and she did not enjoy it at all. It did seem like this particular busload of Russian tourists were determined to trample her to death, though. I've gone in the fall and the early spring, and it seemed to me that April was less crowded.

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Guest David Lafferty

We were in Italy in September. If you have the opportunity to visit the Uffizi gallery in Florence it would be wonderful. My niece is studying in Florence for a year, it's a fun city and is steeped in history and art.

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I would study art history--"Professor Carol" has a course on "Western culture" that has a lot of good stuff in it (it's on my wish list). It includes DVD's of her visiting different places and might be a great introduction to help you decide what you are most interested in. I would go to the Louvre in France. I have been to loved Rothenburg in German (the one on the "Tauber"--not sure of spelling)--it's a mediveal walled city. Except in a tourist-y place in German like Rothenburg, never ask a German if they speak English--they almost always say no, but if you ask them a question in English, they will usually answer back! Anybody under about 50 has had YEARS of English in school, not to mention constant exposure through music and movies.

 

I would also want to study British history and see Stonehenge. Anything old is really unique to us Americans--old houses and churches and remains of Romans--it's all pretty amazing to see or touch.

 

And don't forget to learn about everyday life--buy groceries some place where you have to bring your own sacks or go to the playgrounds--get beyond the tourist location and get to know some of the culture and people who aren't making money off catering to you!

 

Have a great time!

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Oh - don't forget that you may be able to use libraries in the UK while you are there. I would contact the library where you will be based and see whether they have a visiting membership or whether they need some kind of proof of residence.

 

Just so that you know: libraries tend to be very oriented towards the subjects that are studied in the National Curriculum. A friend found absolutely nothing at the library for children about the Byzantine Empire: it's not in the NC, so the library doesn't carry it (it didn't help that she was saying BIZZ-uhn-teen, as she's American, and the librarian had no idea what word she was pronouncing). Book shops have the same problem. This page will give you an idea of what is studied.

 

Laura

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(If this trip is impractical, don't miss going to the Imperial War Museum in London. Plan to spend the whole day.)

 

Make sure to check before planning a trip around the Imperial War Museum. The WWI galleries were shut when we were in London in October and I believe the whole museum is shutting shortly for renovation.

 

Laura

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Oh - don't forget that you may be able to use libraries in the UK while you are there. I would contact the library where you will be based and see whether they have a visiting membership or whether they need some kind of proof of residence.

 

Just so that you know: libraries tend to be very oriented towards the subjects that are studied in the National Curriculum. A friend found absolutely nothing at the library for children about the Byzantine Empire: it's not in the NC, so the library doesn't carry it (it didn't help that she was saying BIZZ-uhn-teen, as she's American, and the librarian had no idea what word she was pronouncing). Book shops have the same problem. This page will give you an idea of what is studied.

 

Laura

Make sure to check before planning a trip around the Imperial War Museum. The WWI galleries were shut when we were in London in October and I believe the whole museum is shutting shortly for renovation.

 

Laura

 

Thanks for all the information and tips.

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Make sure to check before planning a trip around the Imperial War Museum. The WWI galleries were shut when we were in London in October and I believe the whole museum is shutting shortly for renovation.

 

Laura

 

Oh no. I can just see us finally getting there after two buses and several blocks walking to find it closed. (Something similar happened in Greece actually.)

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We traveled to Europe several years ago and we studied V.M. Hillyer's A Child's History of Art beforehand. (The same author from a Child's History of the World, Calvert). It was hands-down the best educational enrichment to our experience. The book is hard to find and out of print, although Calvert still offers some versions of the book, separated by topic and in soft cover. Here is a thread about it: http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/51148-free-a-childs-history-of-art-vm-hillyer-online/

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We traveled to Europe several years ago and we studied V.M. Hillyer's A Child's History of Art beforehand. (The same author from a Child's History of the World, Calvert). It was hands-down the best educational enrichment to our experience. The book is hard to find and out of print, although Calvert still offers some versions of the book, separated by topic and in soft cover. Here is a thread about it: http://forums.welltr...hillyer-online/

 

 

Thanks for recommending this. I would like my youngest to be knowledgeable about the art we will be viewing. :001_smile:

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Thanks for recommending this. I would like my youngest to be knowledgeable about the art we will be viewing. :001_smile:

 

 

Janson's History of Art for Young People is also very good. I have several different versions of Janson's art history books. The Young People title is one of my favorites, because it doesn't assume prior knowledge of art or history. There were several sections that I copied and took with us, like pages showing all of the different parts of a gothic church or a page with glossary of terms related to monastaries and churches.

 

The book has been through several revisions. You should be able to get a used copy for $15-25.

 

ETA: Actually I found some of the older versions on Amazon for under $5.

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