Greek Mythology… with children

August 9, 2013 at 9:35 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

(Weekly Low Down on Kids Books)

mythologyUnfortunately this awesome image is not from a book. I think it’s from a video game.

The kiddo and I have been reading Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  Is she a little young to catch everything, of course, she’s not yet three.  Is she following the story? Better than you might imagine.  I highly recommend that parents read kids stories that are far outside the child’s reading level.  By doing this they are exposed to mature language styles sooner, learn new vocabulary words, and in the case of Rick Riordan, appreciate Disney movies like Hercules that much more.

We’re not finished reading Percy Jackson, so this review isn’t about that.  This review is about picture books we’ve been reading during the day in preparation for our before bed time romps with Riordan’s Olympians.

godsTitle: Gods and Goddesses from Greek Myths

Publisher: McGraw Hill Childrens/ Peter Bendrick Books/ Octopus Publishing Group

Retold by: Pat Rosner

Illustrated by:  Olwyn Whelan

ISBN: 1-57768-508-3

Typically I provide links and images to the book, where you can find and purchase it, etc.  But it seems that Gods and Goddesses lives an off the grid book life.  It seems to be extremely difficult to find online and I was in the middle of typing here that I could not find it when I got the idea to check hpbmarketplace.com.  I purchased it from a Half Price Books a few years ago, but sure enough the marketplace wins again!  As you browse through the prices, you’ll see some are quite expensive.  I only paid about $5 for this at the store, I wonder if it is currently out of print.  Mine is in mint condition.

The illustrations are delightful, the retold myths thorough but easy to grasp.  It’s not kiddo’s favorite book, but I can tell it has helped her grasp what is happening in the Percy Jackson books.  Sometimes she just flips through the Greek style pictures while listening to me read Riordan’s work.

If I were in McKinney, TX right now I’d purchase the Fantastic Creatures from Greek Mythology as well, because I like these so much and I think Olwyn Whelan is a genius illustrator.  Everything she touches, I think, would be great homeschooling resources.

Other resources we enjoy:

Myths & Legends

In Search

Black Ships

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Kings

July 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books/ Adventures in The Magic Tree House

crouching_tigerTitle: Crouching Tiger

Author: Ying Chang Compestine

Illustrator: Yan Nascimbene

This book was an unexpected treasure from the public library.  Kiddo picked this book out herself and I was really excited about it once I was in the middle of reading it.

As a third degree black belt who grew up around a lot of Chinese culture, I love finding unique children’s stories like these.  It teaches etiquette, respect for your elders, culture appreciation, diligence, perfection through practice, and each page also has a diagram of a Tai Chi stance.

This was an excellent book to jolt us into our week on Ancient China.

Day of the Dragon KingTitle: Day of the Dragon King (Magic Tree House #14)

Author: Mary Pope Osborne

Publisher: Scholastic

Although we don’t have a research guide for this topic, we’ve been perusing all things Ancient China while reading this book this week.  There are pages from Life in the Ancient World specifically on the Chinese that we read through for a second time, I can’t wait to do some of the art projects when she is older.

toddler chopsticksAlthough we didn’t do anything crafty with this week’s topic, we did enjoy some stir fry for dinner and kiddo got to practice eating with her toddler chopsticks.

The kiddo’s chopsticks are an orange elephant, but the concept is pretty much the same.  These things are so handy and I think they are a great way to give your tiny person an ounce of how other countries live.

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Falling in love with History…

April 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

ancient bauerTitle: The History of the Ancient World

Author: Susan Wise Bauer

Publisher: Norton

Genre: History

Length: 868 pages

I enjoyed history in school, but only when it was taught by certain teachers.  I distinctly remember thoroughly loving Coach Masters, my World History teacher in high school.  In hindsight, I’m not sure if it was because he was so awesome, or because it was the first time someone actually presented me with history I could be passionate about – not just enjoy in passing.  Masters made you dive in with all you had and really learn it; it wasn’t just dates and factoids, it was people, their dreams, their loves, and their wars.

As an adult, reading history has become a little more specific.  I tend to read a lot of Ancient and Medieval history most, they are kind of my go to topics.  There is so much that was skipped over in school and it is so riveting! So naturally, when I decided to homeschool my daughter I started collecting the Susan Wise Bauer history books – they are fascinating overviews of history as well as wonderful teaching tools.

Reading Susan Wise Bauer reminds me of that history class with Coach Masters.  She gets personal.

It took me a full year to read The History of the Ancient World, mostly because I made a promise to do at a snail’s pace.  I plan to use it as a loose textbook for kiddo’s high school years and I wanted to make sure that you could pause, go read other things, and come back to it.  Is it reasonable to assign this for a year in addition to x number of other books? Yes, oh, well then lovely.

The book is wonderful and impressive.  Bauer makes history accessible and easy to understand in a world filled with dull and extensive flow charts  that will make even the most knowledgeable scholars heads spin.

My absolute favorite is a lengthy footnote on the Borg (from Star Trek) and how similar the mentality of the Borg was to a tribe of people sweeping the land in the very earliest parts of history.  ‘See?’ she practically says, ‘It’s good to be a sci-fi nerd.’

My only lament – and this may simply be a first edition issue – is that toward the end I began to find typos (I think).  There’s an amputed that should be amputated.  I honestly thought maybe it was a variance of the word I had never seen used and had to look it up.  There’s a died that should have been die.  These two things tripped me up for a second, but I found it a little refreshing.  Having just written a book myself it was good to know that someone I esteem so highly also makes errors when writing her books.

But then there was the bit that tripped me up a LOT.  During the aftermath of Alexander the Great’s death there are two spellings for what I’m 99% positive is supposed to be one person.  Welcome to the great Cassander vs. Cassender dilemma…

The first time I saw this, I thought: Is there one person or two? Am I really ignorant with poor reading comprehension and these are two distinct people? There’s no way I can be the only person to find the longest running series of typos ever… But for pages on end Bauer switched from Cassander to Cassender.

If it is a typo, I get it.  In my novella I couldn’t keep my fingers from typing Lilly Hollow to save my life, when the name of my imaginary town is Lily Hollow.  It drove me absolutely crazy going through and fixing them all.  If there is a typo found in my novella post publication, I would bet money that it will be in the form of an extra L.

With Cassander and Cassender there are soooooo many times that it is written as both.  Part of me is still convinced that there is a strong possibility that I am just that dumb.  I will be seeking out a second edition just to figure it out.  The ancient world is full of mystery and excitement and long winded Chinese dynasties and Egyptians going crazy with who they marry and who they kill, but the acting king(s) of Macedonia post Alexander the Great is the guy(s?) that throws me for a loop.

All in all, though, I STILL think this is a must have in any historian’s or homeschooler’s library.  It was worth every penny and I think that this one – for once – is one I actually paid full price for at Barnes & Noble.  Bauer will remind you that there is so much to discover and be passionate about in history, because there’s just so much of it in general… you may even fall in love.

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Homeschooling a 2 Year Old

January 31, 2013 at 8:48 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Looks like this…

DSC02507

I read Magic Tree House #3 Mummies in the Morning and its companion research guide Mummies and Pyramids while she looked at lots of pictures. The books with pictures were The Kingfisher Atlas of the Ancient World, a Reader’s Digest What Life Was Like, a coffee table book called The Pyramids and Sphinx, and a hardback I plan to use as a textbook when we do this again called Life in the Ancient World. I can’t wait to dive into that last one with her. It has activities and projects and all sorts of fun things.

DSC02514

Then we learned that P is for Pyramid. After several pictures, lots of blue lines, a few attempts to write some letters, she can at least say the word and identify the drawing – mostly – sometimes she says triangle or boat instead. I think she sees triangles and thinks of the sails on a crude drawing of a sailboat.

Anyway, that quickly turned into this:

DSC02512

And that’s what homeschooling a two year old looks like.

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A Rainy Day With the Olympics

July 13, 2012 at 4:05 am (Education, Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Gabby Douglas, Winner of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials 2012

Bright and early this morning, I went to my best friend’s house to watch the Olympic Trials (old news, we were watching what we missed of the Women’s Gymnastics Team Trials on the DVR).  It had been pouring down rain most the night and well into the morning, keeping my sweet baby asleep much longer than usual.  So by the time I was heading over for some Olympic goodness, kiddo still cozy in her pajamas, the streets were quite flooded.  It was a delightful morning, sipping coffee, hanging out, watching the best athletes in the country do their thing.  It set me up for my whole day.

First, while watching Gabby Douglas rock day two and Sarah Finnegan do that fancy beam skill she shares with Terin Humphrey (Click to see the awesome beam skill I’m talking about: Sarah,  Terin), I heard a commentator say something that got me pretty curious about Olympic rules and regulations I wasn’t familiar with already.  They were talking about how young Sarah was.  Young? I thought. Dominque Moceanu was young.  This girl is normal… right? Nope, not anymore.

Dominique Moceanu was the youngest to win nationals at 13.  She was allowed to compete because she would turn 15 during the Olympic year, which means she was actually 14 during the summer Olympics when the Magnificent Seven awed the world.  That was 1996.  In 1997 the rules were changed.  Instead of gymnasts being required to turn 15 in the Olympic year, the eminent “they” that makes important Olympic rules added an extra year to that requirement, and now girls must be 16 (or turning 16).  So Dominique Moceanu will remain the youngest for quite sometime, because it will be impossible for any equally talented 13-year-old to even have the same chances to prove themselves.  In addition to that, there are rumors that the age may be increased to 18! I, personally, am not a fan of these rules.  Yes, our children should be protected, but I think there is a higher risk of injury for training that intensely after an athlete has peaked.  No, I was never an Olympian, but I am very familiar with peaking as an athlete and then things going downhill from there, no matter how hard you train.

Of course, I discovered all this and formed all these opinions today during kiddo’s nap time, while also polishing off my assigned reading for the day:

Title: The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games

Author: Tony Perrottet

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Sports, Ancient History

Length: 214 pages

Perrottet takes an already fascinating subject and presents it in the form of riveting history.  I was surprised how much detail had been discovered regarding the ancient games, and was impressed at how well Perrottet presents it step by step, without leaving anything out.   There were so many things included in the games back then, beauty contests, poetry readings; it wasn’t just for athletes, it was an all out ancient world pagan party honoring Zeus and Eros.  A lot of this information (though it makes perfect sense and fits right in with what I already knew about the times) was new to me.

I was fascinated by how often names I knew popped up in the commentary… Plato, Socrates, Herodotus… I didn’t expect them at the Olympic games!  I also was ignorant of the role the Nazi’s played in our modern view of today’s Olympics, and the lighting of the torch.  An interesting tidbit about the Nazis being so fascinated with Sparta kept popping up, along with tales that put shivers up my spine.

Regardless of the Olympic Games origins and history, and how much of it goes against my personal world view and moral standing, I still find the Olympics wonderful.  Should you purposely breed Olympians? No.  But if someone has the drive and talent and has a passion for it, competing in the Olympics is a beautiful dream and an awesome thing to behold.

Perrottet has done a great job portraying the Olympics for what they are, presenting a well-rounded quick study of the origins of an event which everyone is already familiar.  As I plan to educate kiddo classically, I think this would make a fun optional read during the summer games when she hits her teens.  I see us doing what we did today, eating tomato, avocado, honey mustard, parmesan cheese sandwiches on toasted wheat, sipping coffee, watching the trials, and doing some research.  It could be a fun study/ study break from regular school assignments.

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