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History/Geography 1st, 4th, and 6th


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I am trying to figure out what to do for history/geography next year.  We have had a difficult time for a year now. I have always done Story of the World with my children, but, I did it where we listened in the car. Then at home, we did the various activities and/or extra readings.  It was great. However, ever since the Covid shut down, we just don't drive anyway. And getting the kids to sit still while I read just does not work. Add in the complication that I bought a new car shortly before the shut down and it does not have a disk drive and I have had some difficulty with transferring the books to electronic version. I still try to play the stories, but they are out of order and not on a regular basis. 

I am worried that moving on to SOTW 3 might not be a good idea for the 1st grader. I am wondering if I should just not worry about it and continue with Story of the World and work harder to make it work, or maybe split the kids up and have the 6th grader do something different from the younger children. Even though it would seem the 6th and 4th grader should work together, the rising 6th grader is quite advanced and an eager worker where as the rising 4th grader struggles and does not like to work. She loves to read, but she reads what she wants to read and drags her feet on school work. The rising 1st grader is a quick learner and really retains stuff so it would be best to pair the 1st and 4th grader and let the 6th grader move on. I am open to all sorts of things, including doing something completely different for everyone. I just cannot have tons of prep work (a program that has a list of supplies/prep in at the beginning of the year is fine, but not something where I am constantly having to do a ton the day or week before). And it would be good if the 6th grader does his own thing if he could be at least half independent. 4th grader, however, is very hands on and artsy and says crafts is her favorite thing. 

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It's tricky when there's a spread of ages, isn't it?  I did SOTW 3 with kids in 6th, 2nd and K a couple of years ago.  My experience was that it had enough for the 6th grader (because you can assign higher level books for the 6th grader to read independently), the second grader kept up, and the K just tagged along.  The following year the then-7th grader kept going with SOTW 4, but the then-1st and 3rd graders did a year of cultures and geography and have now started another loop of SOTW 1.  SOTW 4 is great for teaching outlining (with the activity guide to hold your hand) but in order to do that well it loses the friendly narrative feel of the first two books, and you will probably not want to take your youngest through it as a second grader.

Any path you choose is likely to involve you reading supplementary picture books to the first and fourth graders, with the 6th grader possibly joining in, and choosing supplementary independent reading for the fourth and 6th graders at their own levels.  Here are some possibilities:

Keep going: start SOTW 3 in the new school year. Use a spread of supplementary picture books, chapter books and bios to meet each of your learners where they are.  Extend for the 6th grader by having her do some of the Reading Like a Historian source studies, giving her age appropriate independent reading, and requiring written output.  The WTM suggestions for middle schoolers would be great for this kid: extra research, outlines, summaries that begin to synthesize a couple of sources instead of just the SOTW material (so, she reads SOTW and another book on the same topic, and then writes a single summary that reflects both of them).  Keep the fourth grader at level, expecting a similar level of narration as provided in the activity guide, and let the first grader tag along as interest dictates, knowing that your priorities in first grade are reading, handwriting and math.  Next year, expect to do more of the same with SOTW 4, using it to teach your middle kid outlining, and continuing to assign your oldest extra reading, outlining, source work, and a reading list of primary sources such as the WTM provides for logic stage modern history.  Expect to do something different with your youngest that year: just reading picture books together, or taking a year to learn about cultures, geography, national history, inventions, whatever floats your boat.  Then, the following year you can loop back to SOTW 1 with your youngest if you love it, or consider choosing a more middle grade spine like K12's Human Odyssey or OUP's The World in Ancient Times - @wendyroo mentioned recently that she is having great success reading this aloud to elementary kiddos as well as middle schoolers, on this thread: https://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/706974-logic-stage-history-ideas/  This approach could allow you to keep everyone together for a read-aloud-on-the-couch style of history, while still giving your two middle schoolers the extra rigor they need, but you might find that the older ones start to want to be more independent and prefer to work on their own anyway.

Jump ship now.  You could take a year off the history cycle now and do something different - I'm going to repeat my suggestions of a one-year course of national and state history, or (present day) countries and cultures, or geography - to give yourselves a breather.  Then you can reassess your priorities: is it still important to keep everyone together?  Has the middle kid had a leap in maturity that moves her closer to the oldest?  Have you discovered that either you really miss SOTW or secretly hate it and can't stand the idea of going back?  At that point, you can decide whether to start back at ancients or pick up again at early modern times, and choose either to keep everyone in the same time period but with different spines (SOTW for the youngest, SOTW or a middle school spine for the middle, and definitely a middle school spine for the oldest).  

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I have a similar spread.  My 6th is academically oriented, advanced, and inhales books.  My 4th is crafty and sociable, but not very interested in history.  I also have a bright, interested 2nd grader who can't sit still or pass up an argument.  What has worked well the last two years is having everyone listen to history together (Story of Civilization) and completing the relevant mapping on half of our history dqys.  The other half I have the younger two together with high quality picture books or documentaries to sort of prep them for the correlated chapters from the curriculum.  The older does independent reading in older non-fiction books.  I use in-depth biographies or something all about a single, narrow topic rather than broad overview books for his independent reading.  We alternate these days so every other day is together.  So far, so good.

Edited by Syllieann
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Similar here, so we are doing just one chapter of story of the world each week, I get a ton of books on that topic from library, and they are required to explore those books during school hours on their own.  For our relaxed read aloud time we are doing around the world with picture books by beautiful feet.  I also get lots of books on that particular country from the library. It has been a great break, and lots to tie into story of the world with the maps, countries, and everything.  I have cookbooks that are that countries’ theme, so we will be cooking and really getting into it for the littler ones.  The older ones are reading historical fiction based on where we are at in SOTW (bronze bow, golden goblet) as part of their reading assignment.  Basically, we are doing sotw but it is not front and center, just a  small part of our weekly schedule.  If my older child doesn’t want to sit through, then he just needs to read that chapter at some point.  I still feel like they have a good sense of the flow of history, even without all the projects and me reading aloud books on it.  I may try to set a time they must explore the books (15 minutes each day reading about Rome for example).  They like the books, but they’d rather play with legos ;).

Edited by Lovinglife123
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We've had the same trouble with a new car without a cd player. It really derails things. 

My suggestion, since your 6th grader is motivated, is just to get that child working independently on history. Gather a few high quality books and assign that day's reading and talk about it or assign a paragraph summary of the chapter or an outline (the "famous men of" series is good, or Dorothy Mills, or Our Island Story etc).  Or there's book shark and sonlight too if she's really an eager reader. She's old enough to work at her own pace.

Then you could do whatever clicks with your 4th grader, kind of unschooling or kid's choice - D'Aulaires Greek or Norse myths and bios are great.

For 1st grade, that's so young. They won't remember content at all. Just have fun by doing some cultural or biography or geography picture books from the library.

Sometimes when you try to get the perfect thing for everyone, it's paralyzing. Just get a decent match with the minimum of mom-work for each kid (i.e., doable independently except for the 1st grader) and call it good.

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I would keep going with 3 but let the 6 year old opt out if they want to and plan to do the cycle with them again.  I have my kids do the colouring, or draw pictures of the reading while we’re doing it to make it easier for them to be quiet.

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Also I hear you on the CD player thing! My car still has one but the problem we’ve had is no computer has a DVD drive now and we have a few curricula on DVD that I can no longer use.

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