Sunday, June 9, 2013

Story of the World - my take

I have heard, rather read, several negative reviews about Story of The World by Susan Wise Bauer saying that this is not a Christian curriculum and other things.  While I have only used the first year and purchased the second year and skimmed it briefly, I really feel it has been given some unfair press.
I researched the author and she is a Christian.  She claims to be a Christian and her writings outside of this curriculum suggest that she is a believer in the resurrected Son of God.  It is not mine to debate her faith, nor is at for anyone else to debate.  Her publishing company is called Peace Hill Press, feel free to explore it on your own.
The curriculum in question is not out and out Christian as some homeschool curricula.  What I mean by that is that each chapter does not contain a Bible reference, lesson or story.  Instead, each chapter is written about a different civilization or time from the perspective of someone who could have lived in that time period or culture.  The author is a story teller.  The facts are included in these stories to give a timeline and culturally significant details within a folk-tale-like lesson.
The very thing that many are opposed to is that Bible stories are treated in the same manner as other stories.  My argument against that is if we are learning the Chinese emperors and are expected to believe this is, in fact, history, we should also believe that the Bible stories are, in fact, history.  When she she shares about things like the Cyclops or other mythological beings, she clarifies the difference.  Not many world history books include Bible history as fact.  In my opinion, this alone clearly makes this series Christian.
Now, I questioned a few things in her timeline, but even Bauer acknowledges this when you look at the appendix.  "In order to keep the narrative coherent, I have occasionally told the story of one culture or country before going back in time to begin the story of another." (Page 389 SOTW Volume 2:The Middle Ages)  even the Bible itself is not in Chronological order.  There are so many philosophies about how a history book should be written so there are certainly going to be people that disagree with her approach.  She has a definite targeted audience and that audience is reached with this style.
The next argument is that she skips the flood and several key Bible teachings in this book.  Now as Christian home educators, are we really going to solely rely on anyone's history writings to teach our children the Bible?  There is an interspersing of Bible in all we do.  Not a day goes by that we do not talk about the Bible, so even if I only have 2 pieces of curriculum that mention the Bible in daily work, we are still giving them more Word than they would get at a public school.  Peace Hill Press even offers a Bible Curriculum, which I will not entertain as I have no first-hand knowledge of it and have only read reviews.  I personally do not use a Bible curriculum at all because we read our Bibles and pray and discuss things using our Bibles all the time.  My kids' Sunday School teachers tell me that my kids have the answers to most of the questions and can tell the stories along side the teachers, so I am confident that we are in the Word enough.
Now if someone wants to argue that their children don't care for it or they don't care for her style, I get that.  Not every student and not every teacher are the same.  That is why it is such a joy to homeschool and teach what works for our families.  My kids are excited about history and I can hardly keep them from reading ahead.  To me, this makes a good curriculum.  I have researched some of the things mentioned in the book and found the book to agree with other Christian and non-Christian writers.  There have been a few discrepancies, BUT in those cases, there were several theories floating about regarding that piece of history.  For instance, she describes the process of mummification.  The recipe and amount of days for each stage was different in this book than my niece's history book from a Christian school and different in a few different web sites.  Those details are not important for memorization or testing and it is not enough for me to want to throw out the book.  Especially if historians can't agree on them.
What we love is the stories.  My kids retain the information well and after reading it to themselves, they usually get most of the review questions correct.  Sometimes I do review orally and sometimes written. My son loves the map work and my daughter loves the coloring.  My son was in 4th grade last year and didn't care for the coloring pages.  They both loved the games and extra activities that are optional in the activity guide.  The tests are well formatted and give a great review of each chapter.  My second grader passed them all.
The whole curriculum is not necessary, but we did purchase it.  I opted for the hard cover text this year since we are not nice to paperbacks.  I ordered one activity book which has the activity pages at the end and review questions, additional reading, and projects, games and recipes at the beginning.  I then ordered a set of activity pages for each child.  For the cost of my ink and paper, this was a less expensive option for me.  I also chose to order a test book for each child as well.
I would say that is my 2 cents, but I think I put more in there than that. 
A picture of one of our game days.  The instructions told us to use beans and a penny.  We chose glam.