world history

World History at the Movies

World History at the Movies

The messiness of history does not easily fit into the mold of a Hollywood blockbuster. But movies can do something history books often can’t — they can bring human stories to life and make us care about them.

Stuff We Like :: 7.21.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources. 

Apparently, finishing an issue makes me very chatty. I promise I am not enjoying a glass of frosé while writing this. (But no promises about what I’ll be doing after it’s written!)


around the web

The best thing I read this week was Rebecca Solnit’s talk about the time she spent roaming—both books and wilderness—during her childhood summers: “I was lucky that children were weeds, not hothouse flowers, in those days, left to our own devices, and my own devices led in two directions: north to the hills and the horses, south to the library.”

One thing you have to decide when you have a website is how you want to handle ads. I guess it’s obvious that my decision has been to limit them to the occasional sponsored post from companies whose homeschool philosophy syncs with ours, which is maybe not the most financially savvy decision but one I (mostly!) feel good about. (Obviously other people make other decisions, and those are the decisions that work best for them, so this isn’t any kind of criticism, just me musing.) But this piece about video ads taking over editorial content makes glad we’ve made the decisions we have—and that I’ve been the person with the power to make those decisions.

This is terrifying.

Great piece on how we think poetry is so much more complicated than it actually is.

Ooh, more Agatha Christie adaptations! (I have always thought Ordeal by Innocence would make a great series.)

Nice to see book clubs have remained consistent since the 1700s: “In most cases, food and alcohol in copious quantities, accompanied we may suspect by a considerable element of boisterous good humour, played an important part in the life of the book clubs.”


at home/school/life

on the blog: Look! I finally posted our 9th grade reading list. Now to finish our reading list for 10th grade! (It's a world history year—suggestions welcome.)

one year ago: Homeschooling High School: Mythbusters Edition

two years ago: Resources for teaching current events in your homeschool

three years ago: Mindful Homeschool: You Have All the Time You Need


reading list

I have basically rocked Library Chicken this week in my post-issue to-do list vacuum, so I am just going to give this whole space to my own reading list this week. I returned Just One Damned Thing After Another (first in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s series) because I was having second thoughts, but I picked it up again because some of my requests for further books in the series came in, so I read my way through the aforementioned Just One Damned Thing After Another, A Symphony of Echoes, A Second Chance, and A Trail Through Time like I was a binging a TV series. (And this would make a great series—ooh, maybe Eleanor Tomlinson could play Max!) These books are pure, history nerd, easy reading fun—the perfect back-porch-poolside-too-lazy-to-get-out-of-bed-today summer reading. Resist the urge to compare them to Connie Willis, and you should be fine. (Library Chicken score: +4)

I also recently discovered that Joan Aiken (you may remember her from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and the Armitage family stories) wrote Jane Austen fan-fiction. How did I not know this? Suzanne said to start with Jane Fairfax (whom you may remember from Emma—she marries Frank Churchill), so I did, and it was such fun revisiting the world of Highbury and getting a different perspective on some of the characters. Some parts were better than others, and I definitely wouldn’t describe it Austenian, but it was certainly worth reading. Next up: Mansfield Park Revisited. (Library Chicken score: +1)

I am also really digging into my upcoming Greek history/literature/music/philosophy/art/science class for this fall. I’ve been reading a lot of context and criticism to help get oriented in the Classical world, and now I’m going back to the primary sources, some of which I hadn’t read since college and some of which I read before I had my inner chronology of Greek history properly in place. First up: Herodotus’s Histories, which really helped me get into the Greek mindset (and to appreciate that history has always been a narrative rather than an objective collection of facts) and Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War (again, now that I have the Peloponnesian War straight in my head and a different edition, which I really liked), which goes into long, delicious (and only very occasionally tedious) detail about the war between Sparta and Athens. Is it weird that I’m starting to view Greek history as my own personal soap opera? (Library Chicken score: +2)

I’m also trying to wrap my brain around a plan for high school world history next year, so I’ve been reading with that in mind. I really enjoyed Glimpses of World History, which Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in the 1930s as a series of letters to introduce his daughter to world history—I’m always looking for a way to see world history through non-Western eyes. I also enjoyed the perspective offered by Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which mixes science into history in a way that many traditional world history books don’t.  And I know we’re going to read Guns, Germs, and Steel, so I gave it a quick reread. (Library Chicken score: +3)


at home

Another summer, another friend with a baby on the way. This time I’m knitting a Tiny Tea Leaves (I love this pattern!), some Tiny Shoes, and a matching Violets Are Blue headband. (It’s a girl.) I got some lavender-ish yarn in the KnitPicks summer sale, and I think it's going to be adorable.

It is apparently our Summer of New Appliances. We recently replaced our hot water heater, and now we’re getting a new fridge. Yay?

The kids and I have taken up cross-stitching to cope with all the steamy, soggy afternoons we’ve been having this summer, and it’s a really fun project. I think I know what I am getting for Hanukkah this year! I would be really happy to get in some pool time, too, though.

HSL Book Deal of the Day 5.28.17: Heart of a Samurai

Heart of a Samurai
By Margi Preus

Japan in 1841 is completely isolated from the rest of the world—so when 14-year-old Manjiro finds himself making a connection with the United States after an unexpected shipwreck, he's thrilled to have the opportunity to visit a whole new world as the adopted son of the captain who rescued him. Life in the United States is full of adventure and kindness, adversity and racism for its (allegedly) first Japanese resident, but Manjiro still dreams of someday going back to his native land. A great story that brings a piece of Asian history to life.

We're highlighting our picks for best book deal of the day on the blog, but you can always find our favorite Kindle book deals here.

Topics in History: Nelson Mandela

Topics in History: Nelson Mandela

“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” Mandela famously said. Learn more about the life of South Africa’s celebrated leader with this little unit study.

Topics in History: Mary, Queen of Scots

Great reading list for studying Mary Stuart, Mary Queen of Scots

Mysterious deaths! Tragic beauties! Political drama! Honestly, it’s no wonder the life of Mary Stuart, queen of France and Scotland, has inspired a televised teen drama. Mary’s life and eventual execution have intrigued creative types for centuries. Was Mary really a manipulative black widow determined to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I and reign over England and Scotland? Or was she an innocent victim of a time when women’s political power was controlled by men? Four hundred and seventy years after she was crowned Queen of Scotland, Mary and her motives remain a mystery. Once you’ve read (and watched) a few versions of her story, you’ll no doubt have your own opinion.

In Books

The mysterious death of Lord Darnley was the beginning of the end for Mary. Weir thinks Mary is innocent of her second husband’s murder — Weir puts the blame on the very nobles who accused their Queen — but her Mary is definitely guilty of poor judgment. 


Mary was only nine months old when was crowned Queen of Scotland and seventeen years old when she became the Queen of France. Lasky focuses her attention on what may have been the only truly happy time in Mary’s life — her childhood growing up at the French court with her fiancé Francis, the heir to the French throne.


Mary Queen of Scots
By Antonia Fraser

Mary wasn’t a very good queen, concedes Fraser in her groundbreaking biography. But she certainly wasn’t guilty of the murders and conspiracies that led to her execution in England.



Unlike her cousin Elizabeth who never traveled outside of England, Mary lived in England, Scotland, and France during her life. Cheetham brings the geography of Mary’s life to the forefront, telling her story through the places she lived.


Scotland Under Mary Stuart
By Madeleine Bingham

What was life like for women in the 1500s who didn’t happen to be born into the Scottish royal family? Bingham answers that question, illuminating the vast differences between Mary’s tumultuous life and the life a common woman of the time would have led.


George takes a sympathetic approach, painting the queen as an emotionally and politically naïve young woman whose bad decisions ultimately led to her downfall.


Queen's Own Fool (Stuart Quartet)
By Jane Yolen, Robert Harris

Why were so many people loyal to the Scottish queen? In her book, Yolen examines the charming, affectionate, and generous Mary through the eyes of her fool, Nicola, and the members of her adoring court.


A Traveller in Time
By Alison Uttley

When bookish Penelope travels back in time from the 1930s to the 1500s, she becomes caught up in her ancestors’ efforts to restore the captive-in-England Mary to the throne. Uttley explores some of the legal, religious, and personal reasons Elizabeth I’s subjects may have supported Mary.


Adieux de Marie Stuart  (c. 1876)
By Pierre-Jean de Béranger

De Béranger’s nineteenth-century poem paints the young Queen Mary as a tragic, romantic heroine whose fate is sealed when she departs the shores of her beloved France.


On the screen

Mary of Scotland
Starring Katharine Hepburn, Fredric March

Katharine Hepburn plays Mary as a martyr in this romantic tragedy. Interestingly, the Earl of Bothwell, generally regarded as a manipulative scoundrel, gets the heartthrob treatment in this film version.


Mary and Elizabeth meet face-to-face in this drama, an event that never occurred in historical fact. Mary, played by Vanessa Redgrave, is an emotionally impulsive young woman who is easily manipulated into making bad decisions by her more rational cousin in this film.


Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Starring Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Rhys Ifans, Jordi Molla

Mary, played by Samantha Morton, is not much more than a pawn in a bigger Catholic conspiracy in this film.


Elizabeth R
Starring Glenda Jackson, Robin Ellis

The “Horrible Conspiracies” episode of this BBC miniseries focuses on Mary’s years of captivity in England and ultimate execution, as seen through the eyes of Elizabeth I and her councilors. 


The Wonderful World of Disney: The Truth About Mother Goose  (1957)

An animated short about Mary’s life attributes the origins of the Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary nursery rhyme to the Scottish queen.

Topics in History: The Amazing Political Life of Otto von Bismarck

Great read about the leader who unified Germany and was a political force to be reckoned with in 19th c. Europe -- plus good recs for additional reading #homeschool #history

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg—or, as some refer to him, Otto Von Bismarck—boasts a name that echoes in the annals of history. A man who was by all means larger than life and who single-handedly influenced and shaped the way Europe would develop even after his death, Otto was born in Schönhausen, Prussia, on April 1st 1815. Otto wouldn’t truly truly enter the spotlight until he was in his 30s, but what he accomplished between that time and his death in 1898 would forever change the European landscape.

During his life, Bismarck took on many titles and jobs. From simple foot soldier in the Prussian army, to Major-General of the same army, to lawyer, to diplomat, to elected representative, to Minister of Foreign affairs, to Chancellor of the North German Confederation. The skills he picked up in each position he worked would carry on to the next. He was a practical man and a charismatic one, too. He knew how to play the political game and would waste no time or expense in the effort to accomplish what he wanted. And what he ultimately wanted was a united Germany.

There is, in political geography, no Germany proper to speak of. There are Kingdoms and Grand Duchies, and Duchies and Principalities, inhabited by Germans, and each separately ruled by an independent sovereign with all the machinery of State. Yet there is a natural undercurrent tending to a national feeling and toward a union of the Germans into one great nation, ruled by one common head as a national unit.
— The New York Times, July 1, 1866.

Bismarck had a vision. At the time, Germany was split into dozens of minor states, all loosely connected by confederations and treaties. The Holy Roman Empire, which had made up most of Central Europe, had been dismantled in 1806. And the landscape of Europe was one filled with complicated boundaries, confusing borders, and a population of people who considered themselves German but had no true nation to call their own. In the west sat France, home of the French. And in the east sat Russia, land of the Russians. Bismarck saw this as a sad disparity, and in the end, made it his life goal to oversee the formation of a German homeland.

How he would go about accomplishing this was the work of a genius. Otto von Bismarck was a sly negotiator, a charismatic man who had a knack for building alliances and relationships with his contemporaries. And at the same time, he was a cold-hearted general, a man who, when placed in charge of an army, would almost always see victory, no matter the odds. With a silver tongue, he convinced the varied German duchies and kingdoms to concede to Prussian rule. And when they wouldn't peacefully bend the knee, the might of the Prussian military, a force to be reckoned with, would descend upon the holdout, easily knocking aside whatever military the minor nation states could field.

Bismarck would oversee the Second Schleswig war in 1864, in which Prussians and Austrians marched together against Denmark in an effort to keep the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg in German-speaking hands. Two years later, the two former allies would be at each other's throats as the Austro-Prussian War broke out over disputes over who should properly administrate the land that has just been jointly conquered. What followed was a conflict that affected almost all of central Europe, with Italy and the Principality of Romania even throwing their hats into the ring on Prussia's side. While Austria had for a long time exerted its influence over Central Europe, Prussia was ready to usurp the Austrian throne as the central European power. The armies were essentially matched in size, but as the Italians entered the war, things tipped amazingly in Prussia's favor. The Austrian Empire faced a brutal defeat at the hands of their northern neighbors, and Otto von Bismarck used this moment to reinforce the bond that many of the northern German states had developed over the course of the measly two-month war. As part of the peace accords, the loose federation of states that had joined Prussia in the conflict were dismantled, and in their place arose the North German Confederation.

For the first time in history, the German people at large had a place to call home. The Austrian Empire in the south had a distinct cultural identity, and was by and large a multicultural nation that didn't adhere to any one culture, religion, or language. But now with the formation of the North German Confederation, the idea of a true German nation seemed to be a reality. But before anyone could rejoice, the new country would have its trial by fire.

For years, France had made no secret of its distrust of the Germans—and the sudden rise of a unified power in central Europe rightfully turned quite a few heads. Suddenly, the French empire found itself living next-door not just a collection of minor states but to a powerful, unified kingdom. Tensions quickly escalated between the new Confederation and the French empire, but this was the perfect time for Bismarck to put his diplomatic abilities to work. Bismarck realized that adversity was something that could bring people together, and if he truly wanted the Germany nation to last, he'd have to show the Germans, who were still adjusting to unified rule, that they could not only work together to beat an intimidating foe but that they could come out of the fight stronger than when they entered it.

In 1870, the German prince Leopold of house Hohenzollern was offered the Spanish throne. (The nation had become kingless in 1868 during a revolution.) France, not wanting the Germans of the upstart state to gain any more influence, attempted to pressure Leopold into not accepting the offer. While Leopold agreed not to assume the Spanish throne, that concession wasnot enough for the French. So on the early morning of July 13, 1870, when the Prussian King William the First was walking through the Kurpark in the town of Ems, hr was stopped by the French ambassador to Prussia, Vincent Benedetti. The two had a rather casual, polite meeting in which Benedetti presented a French demand that the King prohibit any Hohenzollern prince from attempting to ascend to the Spanish throne. The king declined in a kind manner, and the two men carried on their separate ways.

Bismarck asked the king if he would be allowed to publish an account of the events and was given permission. What followed next was Bismarck’s slyest maneuver yet.

After the meeting, Heinrich Abeken, King William's secretary, wrote an account of the meeting which was then passed on to Otto von Bismarck in Berlin. Bismarck asked the king if he would be allowed to publish an account of the events and was given permission. What followed next was Bismarck's slyest maneuver yet.

Bismarck carefully edited the Ems account, changing the language used by both men and generally bending the events oh-so-carefully to ignite further conflict between the two nations. The new, edited account was published as the Ems Dispatch and succeeded in outraging both French and Germans as they read about the diplomatic faux pas that had occurred.  

"After the news of the renunciation of the Prince von Hohenzollern had been communicated to the Imperial French government by the Royal Spanish government, the French Ambassador in Ems made a further demand on His Majesty the King that he should authorize him to telegraph to Paris that His Majesty the King undertook for all time never again to give his assent should the Hohenzollerns once more take up their candidature.

His Majesty the King thereupon refused to receive the Ambassador again and had the latter informed by the Adjutant of the day that His Majesty had no further communication to make to the Ambassador."
-The Ems Dispatch as published by Otto von Bismarck

The French interpreted the dispatch as the Prussian King outright disrespecting the ambassador, being short and generally unprofessional with him. As for the Germans, they were enraged that the French should make any sort of demand at all. Who exactly did they think they were, coming up to the Prussian king in such a way and making such brazen demands?

The utter confusion and distrust led to a mobilization of the French army. Such supposed disrespect could only be apologized for with blood, and the Franco-Prussian war broke out—and the remaining minor German states rushed to the aid of the Northern Confederation, just as Bismarck had planned.

In the end, France was defeated by the unified German states, and the French Empire fell, to be replaced by the Third French Republic. The victorious Northern Confederation gladly snatched up the land of Alsace-Lorraine, strengthening its borders against France. The war had only lasted nine months, but it had the desired effect: A sort of camaraderie had been born in the German lands, and Bismarck acted quickly as the war came to a close, hoping to ensure German unification. All that remained was to integration the southern German states which had so gladly answered the call to war against the French, and it didn't take much to bring them into the fold in the post-victory afterglow. Wilhelm the First of Prussia was crowned Kaiser (German for emperor) of Germany on January 18, 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors in the Chateau of Vesailles. In just over eight years, Bismarck had seemingly transformed the scattered German landscape into a single state, a powerhouse in Central Europe that could stand shoulder to shoulder with the numerous great powers that surrounded it.

Alas, things would not remain that way for long. Bismarck spent the rest of his career cultivating a careful political balance in Europe, forging bonds with Austria, Italy, Russia, and Britain, and even mending wounds with France. With Germany unified, he wanted to see a time of peace for his people, but in 1888, Wilhelm of Germany died, ceding the throne to his son Friedrich III. Friedrich was suffering from incurable throat cancer and died after only holding the throne for 99 days. Wilhelm II then ascended to the throne, and this would mark the beginning of the end for the still-budding German Kaiserreich. Bismarck was 16 years older than Friedrich, and the aging statesman never thought he'd live to see Wilhelm the II take the throne. As such, he hadn't developed much of a plan when it came to dealing with the young Emperor, and as it turns out, the Emperor wasn't very interested in dealing with Otto either. He saw Bismarck's careful balance of power to be pointless and cared little for maintaining good relations with his European neighbors. The two men butted heads on more than one occasion, and in 1890, at nearly 75 years of age, Bismarck resigned from his position of chancellor at the request of Wilhelm II.

One of the last things he told the Kaiser was this; “One day, the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.

Thus ended Bismarck's grand career as the great unifier of Germany. He would die just eight years later, in 1898, 16years before the outbreak of World War I. Already though, he could see the deterioration of his work as Kaiser Wilhelm II dismantled the carefully woven diplomatic ties he had formed in the later years of his life. In December of 1897, Bismarck met with Wilhelm II for the last time. One of the last things he told the Kaiser was this; "One day, the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.”

If only Bismarck knew just how right he was.

Recommended Reading

Bismarck: A Life by Jonathan Steinberg
A larger-than-life biography of a larger-than-life man, this history of Iron Chancellor is deeply researched, hard-core history and incredibly readable—not an easy combination to pull off.

Great Leaders, Great Tyrants?: Contemporary Views of World Rulers Who Made History by Arnold Blumberg
One of the first chapters in this thoughtful history resource takes a thorough look at Bismarck’s political achievements. (This is a nice title for your history bookshelf: Among the other 51 leaders profiled are Napoleon I, Akhenaton, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Oliver Cromwell.)

KANE TAYLOR is home/school/life's Tech Talk columnist and an avid history buff.

Topics in History: The Russo-Japanese War

Fun homeschool history rabbit trail for military history buffs: The war between the Japanese and Russians during the early 20th century is fascinating but not very well known. Good recap of events, plus book/movie list. 

by Kane Taylor

The Russo-Japanese war is something we never hear about, and yet, is a war of extreme interest to me. In the confusing web of alliances, disagreements, and events which resulted in World War I, the civil strife that led to the rise of the Soviet Union, and Imperial Japan's policy of total Far Eastern supremacy, I feel this war often gets overlooked by modern historians—which is a shame.

Following the First Sino-Japanese War (from 1849-1895) and Japan's aggressive expansion into the Korean peninsula, Tsarist Russia made several moves to consolidate its influence in the region. It was no secret that Japan saw itself on the same footing as the Western countries of the world, with Great Britain being major inspiration to them. So in an effort to ward off any Japanese encroachment, the Russians brokered a deal with the Chinese government to lease land in the Liaoning peninsula, north of Korea.

It was there, in the port city of Dalian, that the Russians constructed the fortress Port Arthur. This port served to fill a role that the Russians desperately sought after. At the time, the only operational harbor in the Far East was Vladivostok—which, due to its location, could only hold boats during the summer and warmer months of spring. Dalian was a warm water port, though, and so it became the home of Russia's Pacific Fleet.

Unfortunately, this did little to help Russia in the long run. While fears of Japanese imperialism were present in the minds of the Russians at the time, the Japanese had the same concerns about Russian imperialism. Of major note was Russia's influence in the Manchurian region and Sakhalin island which is located directly north of the north most Japanese islands. Tsarist Russia's influence and expansion into Siberia and Manchuria evoked an image of unbridled imperialism in the mind of the Japanese—to them, it was merely a question of how long it would be until Russia came for them.

Initially, diplomacy seemed to be an option. Japan suggested that Korea and Manchuria act as a buffer zone between Japan and the Russian-owned Siberia. Back-and-forth negotiations ensued. For nearly a year, proposals and counter-proposals were met with disdain by both parties, and by early 1904, the Japanese government decided that Russia had no plans of settling the matter diplomatically. On February 6, 1904, Japan severed diplomatic ties with Russia.

Two nights later, on February 8, Japan declared war. Three hours before the declaration reached Moscow, however, the Imperial Japanese Navy began its first action of the war—the assault on Port Arthur. In the middle of a cloudy night, Admiral Heiharchiro Togo led his ships towards the harbor and ordered the fleet to break into two formations to commence attack. The Russians were caught completely unprepared, as most of the Naval Officers including Admiral Stark, were off partying as the attack began. The naval assault raged late into the night and into the early morning of February 9. By the end of it, the fortress of Port Arthur had taken considerable damage, and the Russian Pacific Fleet were down seven ships from its original twelve.

With the Russian Pacific fleet in disarray, Japan began to conduct its land invasion, pushing up north to the Sakhalin island. With Russia's far eastern troops barely holding the line, and in some places collapsing under the Japanese assault, the Russian military decided to send the entire Baltic fleet around the globe to help relieve the Pacific fleet, and hopefully break the blockade of Port Arthur before the fortress was overrun.

“In the end, the Russians not only ended up firing on some of their own boats, but it also turned out that the group of boats they had initially fired on were British fishing ships.”

And now things turn almost comical. The Baltic fleet set out at once, making its way towards the Sinai peninsula to pass through the Suez Canal. For whatever reason, as the Russian fleet pulled into the Dogger Bank off the coast of England. Against all logic, the admiral ordered the fleet to fire upon any ships that even came close to the fleet. Late at night, on October 21, the supply ship Kamchatka radioed that it was under attack. The war ships at the front of the line flashed their searchlights and spotted several dozen boats. They began to fire immediately, causing the other ships in the line to go on high alert. As the other ships in the fleet began to open fire, chaos spread, since no one was quite sure what was happening. In the end, the Russians not only ended up firing on some of their own boats, but it also turned out that the group of boats they had initially fired on were British fishing ships. And to top it off, the ship that sent the Kamchatka on alert in the first place was simply a Swedish trawler.

Several British and Russian citizens died in the incident, and it nearly caused Great Britain to declare war on Russia. While conflict was averted, the British disallowed the Russian navy from using the Suez Canal. So now the Baltic fleet would have to travel all the way around the entirety of Africa if they hoped to reach the Far East.

This trip was marred with disaster for the Baltic Fleet. As the ironclad vessels traveled farther than such ships were ever meant to go, the engines began to break down. Damage to the hulls accumulated. And to make matters worse, disease was starting to spread amongst the crews.

As the ships pulled into a port of French-controlled Madagascar, the admiral realized just how dire things were. Deciding that the best way to raise the men's spirits would be to run a quick war games, he set about preparing for it. Targets were laid out in the open water, and the fleet began to advance towards them, ready to put their canons to the test.

But before even a shot could be fired, one of the vessels burst into flame from yet another engine malfunction and had to be evacuated. As such, the war games were canceled and the fleet continued on its way.

By the time the fleet reached the far east, news came to them that Port Arthur had fallen to the Japanese. Realizing now that the only other port they could reach was Vladivostok and that they would need to resupply before they could engage the Japanese, the remaining officers of the navy had to weigh what few options they had. The path to Vladivostok put the fleet right between the Japanese isles and Korea. but to go around Japan would take far too long. So they decided to try their luck, and traveled under the cover of night.

As the remains of the Baltic fleet passed by the Japanese islands, the admiral ordered that all the lights on the boats be snuffed out. But due to the rules of war, the hospital vessels had to keep its lights on at all times so it wouldn't be fired upon. This of course, allowed Japanese sentries to spot them right away, and within the hour the Imperial Japanese Navy was on the move, ready to engage the battered Russians.

The battle of Tsushima, as it would become known, was absolutely humiliating for the Russian Empire. Eighty-nine Japanese vessels went up against 38 Russian ships, and through the entire engagement only three of those Japanese vessels were sunk while 21 Russian ships met a watery grave. Seven Russian ships ended up captured, and six more were damaged beyond fighting capacity. This naval engagement practically marked the end of the Russo-Japanese War as the Japanese now had complete control the seas, and the Russians could barely hold back the tide of soldiers pouring onto land.

The war was so bad for the Russians, that the U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt stepped in to help broker a peace in an attempt to at least help the Russians save a little face.

Tsar Nicholas II was absolutely humiliated by the defeat, as the largest nation on Earth lost to what seemed a fledgling Empire. The war was so bad for the Russians, that the U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt stepped in to help broker a peace in an attempt to at least help the Russians save a little face. In the end, the Japanese managed to push Russian influence out of Asia and set the stage for their conquests of Korea, China, and Manchuria in the lead-up to World War II.

The Russo-Japanese war also marks the first time that an Asian country ever won a war against a Western power and no doubt helped fuel the Imperialistic fever that burnt brightly in Japan at the time. It built confidence in their navy and in the country as a whole and no doubt eased some of the national skepticism as the Emperor and his confidents considered war with the British, and the United states.

The startling defeat also helped plant confidence in the generals of Austria-Hungary and Germany, who considered Russia to not even be a threat as they declared war on Serbia, and World War I began in earnest. Of course, things wouldn't quite go their way in the end.

Reading (and Watching) Recommendations

Battleship Potemkin (Restored Kino Edition)
Starring Grigori Aleksandrov, Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky, Ivan Bobrov

Battleship Potemkin (1925), a silent movie about a 1905 mutiny on a Russian battleship, which ends up on almost every list of best films ever made, really illustrates what a toll the Russian defeat took on that country’s military morale.

If you’re ready to really dig into what can arguably be considered the first modern war, pick up Denis Ashton Warner’s thorough and deeply researchedThe Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905. It’s heavy going but worth it if you want to really immerse yourself in the subject. (I'm linking to the book, but borrow it from the library or get it used—the price is nuts!)

Another scholarly read, Clouds above the Hill: A Historical Novel of the Russo-Japanese War—one of Japan’s best-selling novels—has been translated into English and offers a really interesting look at the Japanese perspective on the conflict and its national importance.

Kane Taylor is home/school/life's Tech Talk columnist and an avid history buff.

Study Topic: Mary Tudor

Study Topic: Mary Tudor

From lonely child to merciless monarch, Queen Mary I of England never seemed to catch a break. Mark the 500th anniversary of her birth (on Feb. 18, 1516) by learning more about England’s first queen regnant.

Classical History for Homeschoolers: History Odyssey

Classical History for Homeschoolers: History Odyssey

I talk with a lot of homeschooling families – it’s one of my favorite pastimes! A reoccurring concern among many is a shortage of comprehensive history curricula.

More than many other subjects, history typically requires home educators to scramble unaided to scour libraries, bookstores, yard sales, and the internet for engaging works. Piecemeal-ing a course of study only to find selected titles that are cost-prohibitive, out of print, subjective, or, worst of all, boring is a time-consuming disappointment.

If you can relate to the scenario described above, I’ve got some good news for you; it is Pandia Press, a producer of secular history curricula created with home educators in mind. 

The History Odyssey series combines a classical approach to teaching with a thoughtful reading list and hands-on activities for grades 1 through 12. The classical method expects that students will cycle through a study of historical periods three times throughout their education. With this in mind, Pandia’s curriculum provides three levels: Level One, for grades 1-4, Level Two, for grades 5-8, and Level Three, for grades 9-12. Each level provides four programs lasting one year apiece; they are Ancients, Middle Ages, Early Modern, and Modern Times. If a student were to start with this program in grade one, completing the entire twelve-year program employing the classical method, she would revisit each history section three times.

For this review I looked at the ebook version of History Odyssey Ancients, Level One, which is a look at world history from 6000 BCE to 500 CE. A hard copy edition of this work is also available; however it is not a bound book; rather, it’s a set of loose leaf papers, which for some might be disappointing.

History Odyssey is not a textbook but rather a guide. Think of it like this—your closest homeschooler friend, the organized, well-read mother you so admire, mentions what a great year of history studies her family has enjoyed. She tells you this is thanks to all of the great resources she managed to glean from hours of exhaustive research. She happens to have recorded all of the details in a digestible, comprehensive format and over of cup of coffee she offers to share it all with you—this is what it’s like to thumb through the pages of this guide.

Each chapter of this guide is a complete week-long lesson plan organized and presented in a straightforward fashion that harried home educators will appreciate. An instructor’s prep list, a lesson plan chock-full of readings, map work, writing assignments and project ideas, and animpressive reading list are all provided. 

Elementary level guides are for use with children 6 to 10 years old. Understanding that the range of skill sets in this age range varies dramatically, the author provides lesson ideas that can be easily adapted to suit the needs of individual students.

As there may be more suggested readings and project ideas than a family could complete comfortably in a year’s time, there is no need to acquire all of the suggested resources in advance. Take time to gauge your child’s level of interest and select the resources that will be most appealing. The author acknowledges that families will choose to approach these materials in number of different ways; for this reason she has designed flexible lesson plans that can be modified accordingly.

History Odyssey is not a canned curriculum, and parental involvement is required; however, I’m pretty certain you’ll enjoy the process. Along with overseeing lessons, time enough to locate all of the books and project materials referenced is also required. The good news here is that these titles are generally easy to come by at libraries and online. This guide also eliminates countless hours one might spend trying to identify history’s most important themes and organizes them in a linear, practical manner.

Secular and religious homeschoolers are likely to feel equally at home with History Odyssey’s respectful approach to world religions.

Kinesthetic learners who learn best through movement and hands-on activities may not find this curriculum is a fit. Although there are opportunities for projects and map activities, History Odyssey is primarily a book-focused curriculum that entails a great deal of reading and listening.

History Odyssey is bit pricey. At $46 for a loose leaf series of pages and $37.99 for the e-Book, you’ll want to be certain your library can provide the bulk of required reading materials.

A unique program, History Odyssey makes wearisome, lifeless textbooks a thing of the past. Children for whom this program is suited will enjoy tremendously the compelling stories of people, places and customs of the long ago past. Parents who know the labor involved in compiling resource lists such as these, will be deeply appreciative of the time they’ll save using this guide; they’ll be equally impressed with the quality of resources explored.

Monday Pep Talk No. 12

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Jump-start your week with our Monday pep talk, designed to make having fun a little easier.

3 fun things to do this week

Get sucked down the rabbit hole of Viking history on the History Channel’s website to celebrate Leif Ericson Day on Oct. 9.

Dig a little deeper into Byzantine history with the 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast. (It’s free!)

Use your kitchen time this week to teach everything from the big bang to Keynesian economics. (Some of these are a bit of a stretch, but that's what makes them so fun.)


3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Some people get excited about pumpkin spice lattes; I get excited about butternut squash, which is the star of this butternut squash and farro salad.

Give your regular roast chicken an international upgrade when you make roast chicken with Moroccan spices. (I’d serve a big bowl of roasted vegetables and couscous on the side.)

Just the thing for chilly evenings when you want the whole house to smell delicious: baked onions with parmesan and cream. (The recipe is number five on the list.)


one great readaloud


Get into the Halloween spirit with a spooky story about a girl who can see ghosts and a boy who want to solve the mystery of his mother’s death. A Curious Tale of the In-Between is just scary enough to be fun.


one thought to ponder

in case of emergency{ because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration} 


Stuff We Like :: 9.25.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Hello, autumn! It’s so nice to see you. Our traditional fall hiking trip may be off the table this year, but that doesn’t mean we have to skip our traditional post-hiking funnel cakes, does it?

around the web

It’s a lot more fun to make jokes about the 1880s Presidential races than the 2016 one.

Emily St. John Mandel’s book editing advice is pretty much spot-on.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to build a seven-mile-wide scale model of the solar system?


at home/school/life

on the blog: I love Shelli’s post about making peace with the messiness of homeschool life.

on pinterest: Highlighter pencils? Sign me up!

from the archives: I really liked Watch the Sky—maybe it deserves a spot on your middle grades library list?


reading list

Oh, gosh, we are absolutely loving Three Times Lucky as our morning readaloud. I don’t know how we missed this one for so long.

I’m recommending M.E. Kerr’s short story collection to all my short story writing students. (Do not skip the biographical note at the end!)

Fellow history buffs: I am totally Amazon-stalking SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. It’s scheduled for November, but I keep hoping it will magically ship early.


at home

We are pretty relaxed in our holiday observances (we did a Star Wars-themed Darth Seder a few years ago), but I love the ritual of forgiveness and acceptance, letting go and holding on that comes with Yom Kippur.

I think I’m making a few of these Fino Circle scarves for holiday presents this year—my brain seems to gravitate toward mindless knitting right now, and at least this mindless knitting produces gorgeous results.

Almost two years ago today, Jas and I had our first conversation about maybe-possibly-what-do-you-think-about starting home/school/life magazine. I’m so glad we took the plunge!

Heads Up: Free U.S. and World History Courses

Awesome resource for high school history: free online lectures covering lots of eras and events. #homeschool

Have you had a hard time finding a good, up-to-date, well-researched resource for your homeschool history studies?

I wanted to let you know that my husband, Dr. George Pabis, Ph.D., has created History for Homeschoolers, a FREE website with audio lectures that he uses as a part of his U.S. and World History college courses.

What qualifies my husband to teach history to homeschoolers? He is a trained historian with a Master’s degree in Russian history and a Ph.D. in American History. He has written many book chapters, book reviews, and scholarly articles in environmental and engineering history, and he wrote the book Daily Life Along the Mississippi. He has been teaching history at the college level for over 18 years.

In other words, he’s not just a history enthusiast or journalist writing about history, he’s a real scholar.

For the last three years, he has been teaching online, so he’s been creating audio lectures, and his students have given him positive feedback on them. We think middle school children and up could probably follow the audio lectures on their own, and parents who are teaching younger children might find it an easy way to brush up on their history. 

After all the audio lectures are uploaded (U.S. History is complete, and he’s adding a new lecture to World History each week), Dr. Pabis is going to add other resources to the site that will help you continue with your exploration of the past, such as key terms; suggested videos, books and reputable websites; photographs and more. You can follow the site’s blog, What’s New, to receive notices when something is added to the site.

This is a long-term, ongoing project, and over time, we hope to make the site very robust, but even now, just the audio lectures are enough to give you a complete course in both U.S. and World History. We hope you will enjoy it and let us know, if it works for you.

I am the site’s Webmaster, so if you have any questions about anything, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments below.