Wednesday, October 5, 2016

If You Were Me and Lived In... by Carole P. Roman (A Homeschool Review Crew Review)

In the past, we have enjoyed several books from Carole P. Roman's "If You Were Me and Lived in..." series.  These short picture-style books introduced children to many different cultures from around the world.  Roman has now expanded on the theme with an 8-volume group of history books for older students.  If You Were Me and Lived In... brought to you by Carole P. Roman and now travels not just around the world but also through time, from ancient Egypt and China to the American West.  Crew members each received four books to review -- two we selected and two that the publisher chose for us.  Our family received soft-cover editions of:

In addition to the paper versions, the series is available as Amazon Kindle downloads, both for individual purchase and as part of the Kindle Unlimited Program.

These books are written in a conversational style, but have more complex texts than the original series.  Each includes information from clothing to diet to expected household duties about what life might have been like for a child living in that era.  Status was conferred by the father's trade:  a scrappy London baker, a wealthy doctor in the Liu Bang's court, a
 Norman knighted by William the Conqueror, or a homesteader who traveled the Oregon Trail.
In addition to the informational stories, each contains a short section with biographies about major rulers and historical contemporaries of&nbspthe era, followed by a glossary of terms introduced in the story.  Pronunciation of these words is included in the glossary, and often within the story.   Using the Fleisch-Kincaid reading scale (the same one used to determine the readability of legal documents), these books average around a 7th to 8th-grade reading level.  I think these could be used with younger students, with assistance in reading.  Fourth grader Jude was able to most of the reading aloud, but he did need some help in places.

Jude, my little American historian, loved the book on the American West.  This past summer, we traveled along the Oregon Trail, including along the Platte River in Nebraska, making several stops at National Park Service sites along the trail. While we did not go all the way to Oregon, we learned about the hardships of the trails, the Native Americans in the territories, and different styles of wagons and how to pack them efficiently.  Much of this book was interrupted with, "I remember this...the Junior Ranger book said..." or "Remember the Ranger told me..."  As he read about how children would walk along the trail, he reminded me that even he got to walk along the trail, too.  Even without a road trip along the trail, this book gives a student a lot of information about what it was like to be a settler in the West.  It could be used as the basis for a unit study; the book easily becoming the hub of the wheel and spoking out in many directions to explore study the Homestead Act, the Native Americans, the geography of the land, cowboy culture, etc.

We also enjoyed the volume on Ancient China.  Another stop on our summer road trip was The Field Museum in Chicago, where we divided our time between the famous T. rex Sue and the museum's special feature exhibit on Emperor Quin Shihang's dynasty and his Terracotta Warriors.  This story features the Han Dynasty, which begins with the death of Quin and the ascendance of Liu Bang.  Having a small amount of background, we were able to move forward into the era that brought the Silk Road and the teachings of Confucius to the west. We learned about how a courtier's child lived, dressed, ate, and studied.  One of the featured biographies was Hua Mulan...yes, that Mulan, of the "dressed as a boy to take her father's place in the army" legend.  Like ...American West, this book easily provides a foundation to build a unit study, this time of the Han Dynasty.

We're looking forward to using the other two books as Unit Study guides for western European history.  The Middle Ages will slide nicely into Elizabethan England, and we may augment the era with Volumes Eight and Two, ...Viking Europe and  ...Renaissance Italy, when we study the Middle Ages.  You could combine ...Ancient China with ...Ancient Greece (Volume 1) to create a large study of ancient cultures.

I liked these books as a stepping stone from the simpler "just the culture" of the original "If You Were Me and Lived in..." books to more advanced texts.  They are simple enough for later-elementary readers to understand, yet complex enough to be used with middle school age students.  We will be referring to them for a long time to come.

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

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