Saturday, September 15, 2007

History Classics

Now we come to History. History was my least favorite class when I was in school. It is now one of my favorite subjects. How could I not love it, its all about people. People doing great and courageous things, people doing dumb things, people living and learning. . .great stuff.

A Children's Book of World History by V.M. Hillyer I cannot recommend this wonderful book highly enough! It was written in 1951, and it is still a treasure. It is a little difficult to find,
but well worth the search. Mr. Hillyer has a wonderful style of writing that both informs children and entertains them. Along with history of the world, he teaches word origins. A book I could read again and again. Even more importantly, my children love it too!

I just learned that V.M. Hillyer wrote a book on American (Canada, US and Mexico) history as well. I have to get that!! AND he wrote a book about Art that I am salivating just thinking about. I would like to learn more about great art, and share that with the children. I have to get that book!!! But I digress....

Horrible Histories..."history with the nasty bits left in". My oldest son is a whiz at history. If you ask him what his favorite "school topic" is, he will tell you history. And if you ask him what his favorite history books are he will tell you Horrible Histories. We have about 10 of them and he has read them all, and keeps begging me for more! He tells me things I didn't know about history all the time!! He knows more about Romans, Saxons, Normans, Vikings, Egyptians and Greeks than I do! These books got him hooked on history then he branched out to other books. What more could a mom ask?!

You wouldn't want to be a............ This is a series with many titles. You wouldn't want to be a Roman Soldier, or a Pirate etc. My oldest son, the history buff really enjoyed these. Though they are full of pictures, they are not something you want to read to younger children, history can be gruesome.

Learning Through History....this is a magazine that again my oldest has fallen in love with. Thank goodness...when I first got it he wasn't interested, so I just read it myself and waited for him to come around...he did. It doesn't have any color pictures, but it is fabulous. Each issue centers on a certain time period, and it has great articles, often recipes from the time period and web links. My son loves the web stuff. One time he found one where you "make a mummy" (it was from a museum somewhere) that we all enjoyed and laughed over. You can find out more about it at

Personally my favorite way to learn history is through Historical Fiction. My oldest son is not interested in this genre yet. I guess it just goes to show that sometimes different styles of writing can engage different people. So for those, like me, who like Historical Fiction, here is my personal list of classics sorted by themes. Some of them I have not read yet, but put on my list to get to eventually, though I realize my reading list is longer than my potential lifetime! In case you are interested the ones with an * are the ones I have read and recommend.

Early American History and Revolutionary War
Johnny Tremain, Ester Forbes*
Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Spear*
Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson*
A Peculiar Service, Corey Ford
The Story of Liberty, Charles Coffin
Sweet Land of Liberty, Francis S. Fox
The Boys of '76, Charles Coffin
My Brother Sam is Dead
April Morning

Ships - Voyages - Survival
A Long Vacation, Jules Verne
Robinson Crusoe
Treasure Island*
Call It Courage, Armstrong Sperry*
Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O'Dell*
Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George*
Naya Nuki

Native Americans
Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare*
Last of the Mohicans*
Naya Nuki

Little House on the Prairie*
Little Britches*
Summer of the Monkeys*
Old Yeller*
Where the Red Fern Grows*

World War II
The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom*
The Watchmakers Daughter, Corrie ten Boom
The Devil's Arithmetic, Yolen*
Children of the Promise Series*
Diary of Anne Frank*

Civil War
Stealing South, Katherine Ayres*
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beacher Stowe

The Door in the Wall, Marguerite DeAngeli*
Adam of the Road, Elizabeth Janet Gray*
Morning Star of the Reformation, Andy Thomson
The Midwife's Apprentice, Karen Cushman*
Crispin and the Cross of Lead, Avi*

Time of Jesus
The Robe, Lloyd C. Douglas*
The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Spear*
Ben Hur, Lew Wallace
Quo Vadis, Sienkiewicez

Folk Tales
Paul Bunyon*
Mike Fink
One Grain of Rice

Science Classics

Science was never a favorite class of mine in school. As a homeschooler, I wanted to make it more appealing to my children. The key I found is to get the right mentors. . .or in this case books.

You are familiar with Curious George right? But did you know, that the author, H.A. Rey is a scientist? (who knew?!) For a couple years I searched for a book about the constellations that would give me the info I wanted, but not overwhelm me. I just wanted to know some constellations and the stories behind them not a lot of other technical details. I almost given up when I found H.A. Rey....bless him!

The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H.A. Rey...I love this book because he tells the stories about the Constellations, and he has redrawn them dot to dot style, rather than those pictures you find in other astronomy books. His pictures are so easy to remember and find in the sky. And he tells the stories about them that I had been searching for!! The writing is simple enough for children, but not "dumbed down". It is a book that we refer to again and again.

Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey...this is a much shorter (about the same length as a Curious George book) and simpler book, but just as wonderful in its own way. This book is for a younger audience.

For us moms or teenagers serious about science If you like Constellations, you have to check out the writings of John Pratt at Meridian Magazine about how the Constellations testify of Christ!!

Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method by Sally Kneidel...I stumbled on this treasure at a library. One of my sons is a very hands on learner, since I'm not this has been a challenge for me. This book is perfect for both of us. This lady really knows bugs! She give great info about where to find bugs, and how to keep them alive once you've caught them. Dehydration is the death knoll for most captive bugs apparently. Then she has suggestions for experiments to do with the bugs (99% of which do NOT harm the bugs). She also talks a lot about the Scientific Method, and I found that very helpful. This book is directed to school teachers, but easily adapted to home use.

Horrible Science...this is a series by those wonderful people in England that brought us Murderous Maths and Horrible Histories...both which my family love. We haven't actually read any of these yet, (so many books so little time!) But I am breaking my rule of only talking about books I have read because we love the other Horrible books.

Junior Master Gardeners...this is a 4-H program that is wonderful. They offer a book that is filled with wonderful, fun lessons about gardening. You could just buy the book, you don't need to do the whole 4-H thing if you don't want to. The kids love the activities in the book and I am amazed at how much even I have learned about plants and gardening!

Magic School Bus...this is an oldie but a goodie. If you can find copies of this show, they are awesome. Entertaining and educational, who could ask for more?

Myth Busters....this is a fun science show we currently watch. Each show they take a myth (sometimes more than one) and prove or disprove it. (Remember learning doesn't have to be an 8am to 3 pm project...we learn whenever the opportunity arises!!!)

Stop Faking It: Finally Understanding Science So You Can Teach It by William C. Robertson PhD

There are eight books in this series so far (or that I am aware of)
Force and Motion
Chemistry Basics
Electricity and Magnetism
Air, Water, Weather

As the title, "Finally understanding science so you can teach it" suggests, this book is written for teachers, homeschooling moms, or parents helping their kids with their homework. I believe these books are also great for people who want to learn more about science but feel a little overwhelmed by it. . .like me.

For sometime I have been thinking about Physics, and wanting to learn more about it. But like learning about constellations, I was having trouble finding the RIGHT book. I wanted one that would not overwhelm me but satisfy my passion to learn at the same time. When I found Force and Motion, I knew that I had found a treasure! I am still reading it, but it is just what I was looking for!

One of my sons is interested in electricity, one of me worst subjects in the science area! Thank goodness this series has a book on electricity. I look forward to reading it. And yes, I have another son interested in Chemistry. Thank goodness, for the Stop Faking It series. They will be a wonderful addition to my home library, and my own personal education! Highly recommended!!

Math Classics

One of my favorite things in life is books!!! Reading books, talking about books, looking for more good books! Ahh...that is the good life.

I also love learning, and teaching. So finding books that teach...nirvana!

The day someone told me about , was a great day. Julie Brennan has a created a wonderful resource there. Good enough that you should stop reading this and go visit. . . really!

Among the great things you will find at Julie's website is a list of math literature. This list reignited my love of math. Here I want to share my new favorite list of math classics. Most of them I got from Julie, some I found on my own after being inspired by her. The comments are all mine.

For Adults

Math: An American Phobia by Marilyn Burns
Although Marilyn is really talking to school teachers here, I found so much that I could use in homeschooling. Her writing style is relaxed, reading her book is like talking to a good friend. Reading her book helped me feel less fearful of numbers as well.

Mathematics: Is God Silent by James Nickel
This wonderful book is highly technical, and way over my head, but I love it! I love the math history and I love the correlation between God and math

For Adults and kids:

Anything by Marilyn Burns! She is my math hero! I think that woman is a genius! Here are a couple of my favorites:
Amanda Bean's Amazing (then) 7 yr old daughter, and (then) 4 yr old son love to hear this book over and over. It's so cute that I don't mind reading it to them over and over. It's a basic intro to multiplication. Neither my daughter or son were ready for times tables at that time, but they loved this book, and that is enough for now. My older boys even listened to it once or twice.

Spaghetti and Meatballs for all...another book I wouldn't mind reading over and over! Who knew math could be so fun? In this one Marilyn Burns introduces division in a simple and humorous way.

The Greedy Triangle...although this picture book is written for a young audience, my children all ages adore it. I don't know how many times my older boys have listened in as I read it to their younger siblings. It's addictive. It's a intro to geometry...the triangle goes to a "shape shifter" to be a different shape...really fun!After reading this book my children began to notice geometry shapes all around us. It also teaches a lesson that children and sometimes adults need to hear. . .stop comparing yourself to others and enjoy being YOU.

Math for Smarty older boys (then 10 and 11) really enjoy this one. It is basically a collection of math puzzles or games. You can just open it up anywhere and pick something to do. This book really opened my eye to the concept that math is so much more than numbers. Wow! In fact, it was this book that inspired me that someday I would like to organize a "Math Fest" for homeschoolers. I mean why not, we have spelling bees, and Science Fairs, why shouldn't math get it's due?! More about that later.

I Hate Mathematics...after the year when my oldest son began to hate math because I was dutifully trying to make him memorize the times tables, this was one of the first books I "reintroduced" math with. I thought the title would intrigue him. It didn't. I opened it up and started having fun with the activities inside and soon he joined me. Soon he was hooked. There is power in leading by example! I sincerely enjoyed the activities myself.

Greg Tang...

Is another of my math hero/authors. Here are some of his our family has enjoyed:

Math daughter loved this book. It is a very simple introduction to addition, with beautiful illustrations of animals.

The Best of Times...its about multiplication. Although I faithfully memorized the times tables when I was a child, I find I have trouble remembering them today...but not enough to memorize them again. This book offers fun "tricks" that I use in a pinch! The kids don't seem to like it as much as I do though.

My boys love these math riddle books (also by Greg Tang)
Grapes of Math
Math Appeal
Math for All Seasons
Math-ter-pieces....this is my favorite as it combines math and great art...its not the boys favorite though.

Cindy list of great math literature would be complete without her. She is so clever! Her "Sir Cumference" series that makes me laugh out loud, and helps me review my rusty geometry skills. All my kids, including my (then) four year old, love these. I want to collect them all! These are the ones we have read so far:
Sir Cumference and the Knights of the First Round Table
Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi

Murderous Maths! (they also have a website! Be sure and check it out

If my oldest son were making this list, he would put Murderous Math at the top. He adores these books. And that is quite an endorsement, since he used to hate math. These books are from England, but we have found we can get some great deals on them on Ebay...some are starting to show up in libraries too! Again here are some we have read and loved:

Vicious Circles and Other Savage Shapes (Murderous Maths)...this one I really got just for me. I loved geometry in high school, but can't remember it. I wanted to brush up, but I wasn't ready to tackle Euclid (I have it). When I read it and started laughing out loud, the boys wanted to know what I was reading! I read it out loud to them and we would all get out our protractors and do projects together. It's been a few years since we did this so, imagine the boys were 8 and 9...I doubt that they remember much of it, but I don't worry about that. Right now, I'm just trying to instill a love of math AND more importantly the beginning of skills that math teaches like logic, problem solving, and strategy.

Do You Feel Lucky? (Murderous Maths)...this is a book about probability. I got this book because the boys were intrigued by and always wanting to join some the kind on candy bar wrappers. I tried to explain to them their actually chance of winning to no avail. They understand now that those candy bar lotteries are a scam!

Here are some treasures by other authors:

G is for Googol by David Schwartz Wow! I found this at the library and I am so in love with this book, that I'm going to buy my own copy. Before I started reading this it I could not have told you what the Binary Code was, nor what it had to do with computers, now I get it! And whats better my boys do too! We also learned about Mobius strips, and all kinds of other really cool math stuff.

Circles: Fun Ideas for getting A-round in math I just can't resist geometry! This book makes it fun. The kids think these projects are interesting to. I don't ask them to join me, they just can't resist. Even my husband picked up this book and was pleased to learn why circles are measured in 360 degrees. It's because of the Babylonians, by the way.

Great Graphs and Sensational Statistics by Lynette Long I hadn't had a chance to get to this one yet, but one day I found my (then) 11 year old devouring it. I was so excited. The boys have done a lot of math with me, but this was a first time of them seeking out a math book and doing it alone! He was doing a graph about probability and dice. When he finished I mentioned that I had bought some m&m's for the candy graph, and suddenly his siblings wanted to do graphs too, imagine that. They had a great time. Lynette Long has other great books available about multiplication, division and others.

I will end with a favorite book that I LOVE. I just recently found it at the library. It's another must BUY.

Math Games and Activities from Around the World by Claudia Zaslavsky
I was impressed with the combination of math and geography in this book. I started making "game boards" from this book and soon the children joined me...not only in making game boards, but looking on the globe to see where these games came from. One of our favorite games is Nerenchi from Sri Lanka. Check out this book, if you like games, you won't be disappointed.

Okay, that's my list. As I said before there is a great list at You couldn't help but notice my list was mostly for younger kids. . .that is because that is where my family is, but if you check out Julie's Living Math website, you will find math literature for high school and beyond.

Before I close...Math Fest...wouldn't it be fun to have an activity centered around math? I am thinking that one would use activities from "Math for Smarty Pants" and "Math Games and Activities from Around the World", and also some math games like Chess, Mancala, Muggins etc. And naturally, have some math literature on display. It could be fun, and show kids and adults that math is so much more than numbers.


Photo Attribution: Jiri Hodan