Categories
Curricula and Books

Magic Tree House Series For History And Making Connections

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Pea is obsessed with Mary Pope Osbourne’s Magic Tree House series right now. If you aren’t familiar with this series, the stories revolve around Jack and Annie, two young siblings who travel through history (and sometimes space) to help an enchantress collect stories and lift spells. I won’t give away more plot than that. Each book is 10 chapters long, and the “missions” they go on are in groups of four books. It’s the perfect bedtime reading for Pea. She can’t read them on her own yet, but they help stretch her vocabulary and are a great way to introduce some history. Plus, by reading a few chapters at a time we can spread the reading of stories over days instead of minutes and go through the exercise of recalling what we’ve already read before starting each night.


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And she gets completely lost in the stories. We read three or four chapters each night, and she loves to look ahead at the pictures and try to predict what’s going to happen next. At the end of each book, she loves to go get the next book in the series and see where Jack and Annie will go next.

Keep in mind, she’s five years old. Bug is three and doesn’t quite appreciate the depth of the stories yet. I think her exact words were, “Jack and Annie aw bawing!” And of course, New Baby isn’t a huge fan either since these books aren’t very chewy and don’t have large colored photos.


Last night, something really cool happened while we were reading Magic Tree House #22: Revolutionary War on Wednesday. Pea was looking at the front cover photo of Jack and Annie crossing the Delaware with George Washington, and I was reminded of this post I wrote a while back. I was telling her how I used to lie on her bottom bunk and read a big-grown-up story about the same thing we were reading in the Magic Tree House adventures.

Just like Bug doesn’t quite get the stories on the level Pea does, Pea doesn’t understand how cool it is that she and I sat in the exact same spot and enjoyed the exact same story. Isn’t it cool that she will very likely read this story at least three or four times? I have no doubt she’ll go back and read the Magic Tree House series on her own when she’s able. She’ll also learn about the Revolutionary War and the Christmas night crossing of the Delaware when studying history (non-fiction). And if I am able to influence her, she’ll also catch it again in the historical fiction version I read last year.

We’re already on the hunt for the next series of books we think she may like. Anyone have ideas for kids who love Magic Treehouse?

Categories
Curricula and Books

Choosing Curriculum – The Never Ending Story Of History

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At our house, “school” starts at birth…at least that’s the way we look at it. But things are shifting a little these days because “real school” will be starting soon. That means paperwork has to be filled out to declare that we’re officially home schooling. But there’s more…

Curricula must be chosen.

We may have a different approach than others, but here’s what we talked about and decided on for kindergarten/first grade history.

In our estimation, reading is the key to everything. The most important thing we can teach our children are the skills to read and comprehend, and (most importantly) to love it. A love of reading opens up every other subject. We’re easing the kids into this with the stories we read to them at bedtime. Pea (the 5 yo) has moved past the Dr. Seuss type books for bedtime stories since she’s able to read them herself now, so we have been increasing the density of what we read to her, continuing to model good reading habits and challenging her with tougher content and vocabulary.

Her current favorite is the Magic Tree House series, and it’s been great for introducing a little information about the histories of different parts f the world, although it’s fictional, and getting her to ask questions and wonder about different time periods and places. Admittedly, Bug (the 3yo) says that “Jack and Annie awe boawing!” There aren’t crazy pictures to look at, and they don’t do silly things like grow daisies out of their heads. That’s ok…she still listens to the stories, and she still gets her turn to pick books that are more appropriate for her.


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What we’ve decided to do to introduce history more formally is use the Story of the World books. All the reviews we’ve read lead us to believe this is the right choice for our family because it will let us introduce history as a story. What kid wouldn’t love that? We also have friends with older children who rave about these books and the results they’ve seen with their own kids. We’re hoping we can begin reading this book simply as a series of bedtime stories and letting Pea work through the accompanying activity books during the day. She loves when things “magically happen” during the day that she’s been learning about someplace else. That really helps her learn to make her own connections between what she reads and things that happen in her own life.

Feel free to share your own experiences with these books, especially if there are unseen pitfalls we need to look out for!

Categories
Just For Fun

What Your Kids See You Read

George Washington Crossing The Delaware

I’ve read articles before (someone can provide links in the comments) about how important it is to have books around the house and to set an example for your kids by making sure they see you reading. But I’ve always looked at that as a general idea–just make sure they see that you read, and the magic will happen later on. Last night I got my first glimpse of how it can affect them in ways I hadn’t considered.

I’m currently reading To Try Men’s Souls, which is a historical novel about George Washington and the Continental Army’s crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night, 1776. The cover of the book features the famous painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. Yesterday afternoon, Pea was looking at the cover and asked, “Who’s that?”. I told her it was a painting of George Washington crossing a river in a boat, and the book is a story about him going across the river. She’s familiar with George Washington because she’s seen another painting of him when going over the Presidents of the United States with Ana. She immediately said, “Look Mami! Daddy’s reading a book about George Washington! He’s one of the Presidents in my pictures!” She looked through the pages for a little while before putting the book down. I assume she was looking for more pictures–that’s what I did when I was little. It didn’t take long for her to get bored and go play with something else.

We read books together before bed every night, then Pea climbs up to her top bunk and looks at books in her bed before she goes to sleep while I hang out on the bottom bunk and read.┬áLast night, as she was looking at her books and going to sleep she whispered down to me, “Daddy, are you looking at the book about George Washington in the boat?”

Cool! She just made a connection between two paintings she’s seen at different times and something the person in those painting did, and it’s stuck in her memory! She also understands the that I’m reading the story (learning) about what happened from the book. Hopefully this will lead to more questions about George Washington in the future. Maybe she’ll even ask me to tell her the story.