(Right before – or after would probably be better but we happened to read it before – you study James Cook, read “Mr. Poppin’s Penguins” by Richard (and Florence) Atwater. It’s just a cute story that features a penguin named after Captain Cook.)
When we study history, unless we are taking major time on a subject, I generally just pick out a few fun books from the library on that topic and we go from there. It is always kind of fun when the books don’t completely agree with each other. It opens up the idea of historical perspective and why someone would want to paint history in a certain way, on purpose or totally unintentionally. Some subjects have tons of children’s books on them and others are rather hard to find, at least suitable for children. We didn’t have any problem with Captain Cook. And most of the books were all pretty flattering. (I actually read Stowaway by Karen Hesse sort of in preparation for this mini unit. I was reading the book myself to see if it would be age appropriate for my kids. I really enjoyed the book and it gave me a lot of understanding for the times and such but I never read it to the kids. I didn’t think it would hold their attention.)
I really can’t speak for anyone else, but my children love to listen to me read. I figure most kids do. But when I say love, I mean LOVE. They sit still and they listen. I don’t figure most kids do that. I’m not sure why my children (ok, the older two) are so good at sitting and listening, but I think it is because I have read to them their entire lives AND they are so interested in what we are reading. I have a theory on why they are so willing and eager to learn too, but I figure that has nothing to do with Captain Cook, so I should get to the point.
So for us, reading books really does bring a lot of knowledge and understanding. There are many times (and I have learned to do this after 2 years of trying to come up with all the cute extra projects to go along with the theme) that we really don’t do anything extra at all. I don’t make them write papers, fill out worksheets, or create little models or diagrams. I also don’t test them, because I can tell by the way they play “Captain Cook” that they have a grasp of the times, the people, and the story line that we learned.
But we did do something a little extra for this unit. We made board games. Our board game follows Captain Cook on his first voyage to the Terra Australis Incognita (fun that we could understand that in Latin!!) and his voyage back home. FULL of adventure. Perfect for a board game. So glad I wasn’t actually on the ship! Terrible for those poor crewmen. Anyway, it was fun and although I wouldn’t personally have my kids make more board games anytime soon, this is a super way to make a “timeline” of history in a fun and engaging way.