Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for ... "History books"

How do you feel about history books? I recall the ones I used at school, one or two (ahem) years back. Gosh they were dull. I couldn't stand history, it was so dull and boring.

Now I absolutely love history as do my two little girls. It can be made into such a fun and interesting subject. We cook, act, build things, dig things up, do artwork, dress up, watch things on YouTube and even sing songs to accompany our lessons.

We are using a book called The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, which is very popular amongst homeschoolers, as the formal part of our history homeschooling. There are also activity books that you can purchase to accompany the novel as well as lap books that can be purchased and loads and loads of ideas on the Internet to accompany the books. We do different things for different chapters to keep it always interesting.

We have also started reading the above series of scholastic historical books (My Story and My Royal Story)aimed at older children. They are written in diary form of fictional (eg Factory Girl) and real (Mary Queen of Scots) characters in various parts of the world at various times throughout history. For example Catherine of Aragon is a diary kept by her childhood friend and seamstress.

These are strictly read alouds at this stage as some of the historical terminology is unknown to my pre-tween and tween age girls and I can explain things to them. Some of the things that happened are also a little too mature. Catherine was married off at 15 and there is the wedding and ritual of following the couple to the room, etc. These themes are a little old for my girls to understand without me explaining things. I admit I also have skipped a line or two that I really didn't want to explain yet (the sheets after the first night could have turned into a whole different conversation best saved for another time). When they are teens they'll be ready to read them again by themselves and will be able to comprehend things a little better.

Because of the way these are written, they are not at all boring or dull and the girls really seem to understand and have a better concept of the time period as they can relate more to living books. They were thrilled when they realised that Catherine was actually Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand's youngest and favoured daughter as they have come across these characters in their lessons before.

Those times are so extremelly different to what we are used to, that my girls are rather horrified at the way women were basically treated as chattels and to be blunt, morons who couldn't think for themselves and had no rights. I think think it would be a disservice to them if the harshness, brutality and crudeness of history was avoided. Princess did not have it easy ... any one married to King Henry VIII would know that and it silly for me to educate them thinking it was all sweetness and light living in a castle and having servants. Reading one chapter can take us a little while as sometimes that are mentioned can suddenly turn into a bit of a discussion about a subject (cooking, servants, fashion, etc) which we all enjoy. So whilst some people may think they can be a little too graphic on occasion for younger children, I think they are a perfect way to make history more real.

The only thing I would recommend is that you may want to read them first (I have actually enjoyed reading them) to be sure that there are no subjects or issues that you will need to discuss with your child. Older teens would be fine with them but they are written in such a way that they are easily read and digested by a younger child.

I understand there are also area specific books in these series, IE My Australian Story, My Story (New Zealand, Dear Canada and Dear America along with some written about boys but we haven't read any of those yet.


  1. Lisa, we just love historical fiction! I'm always looking out for new recommendations for suitable books. Like you, I read many of our books out loud to the girls. I also skip over various sentences and substitute my own words for any bad language. I am getting to be an expert at changing words on the go! I don't even think the girls notice. You know I can't resist looking at new books. I must find out more about these ones!

    1. Even our library has these ones so yours might too. Otherwise I apologise to your bank balance in advance ;)

      Here's a little secret I'll share with you ... when I was in my 20's I was totally hooked on historical romances ... lol


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