Have you ever wondered why we have three words for the outer covering of a dead animal? Is it a skin? A hide? A pelt? Really, do we need three words for that? And what about the word night...or knight? Why the extra letters? Just to make my daughter fail miserably at spelling? There has to be another reason...and there is!
King Alfred's English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do is a thoroughly engaging, delightful romp through the history of the English language that has been keeping me totally enthralled lately. And to be honest, it's really not just for me. In fact, it's for ages 12 and up. But it's on my Kindle, so I got to enjoy it first ;-).
I know what you are thinking...
A book about the history of our language being described as engaging and delightful? Yep! In giving a history of the English language, of course it's also necessary to give a history of the English people and what we now know as the country of England...or the UK...or Great Britain. (Actually, this books covers why there are multiple names for not only the country, but for many of the items we use in everyday life.) But unlike many weighty, scholarly, boring histories tomes, this book reads like a well written fiction novel, and you just can't wait to see what happens next.
So what is covered in this book? Part I starts with the Pre-English Britain (55BC-500AD). Part II moves to Old English (500AD-1066AD). Part III covers Middle English 1066-1500. Part IV relates the events changing from Middle to Modern English during 1400-1600. In Part V, we read about the making of the English Bible. And the final part, Part VI, covers from Shakespeare and 1550 onward to today. But please note, it's all way more interesting than this list is. There are all sorts of little tidbits that will have you saying things like that explains it or that makes sense or I never thought of it that way. I've learned SO much from this little book, and I majored in Social Science Education and minored in History! I taught history! And maybe I knew all this stuff at one time, but that was many years ago, and it certainly wasn't presented in anything close to this interesting a way.
As an added bonus, Ms. White's website has free student worksheets and tests to go with the book and even lists supplemental resources. And, if you are looking for a high school student to do this, she gives recommendations to round it out to a 1/2 credit in History or a 1/4 History and 1/4 English. I know my high school student will be reading this in just a few short months because it will fit PERFECTLY into his world history study this year. And to have all the worksheets and tests already done for me is a dream come true! Plus, the book itself has a full resource list at the back with more suggestions of books and websites we will definitely use.
The only con I would have at all is that a very few pages weren't formatted correctly when viewed on my Kindle one position or another. Usually, it was things in a list, such as words that come to us from other countries. If I turned my Kindle the other way (vertical or horizontal), I was able to read it all.
The bottom line? I think this book is one every homeschooler should own. Really. I think you as the teacher will be amazed at how much you learn, and I think your students will benefit whether just indirectly from your knowledge, or because they are old enough to read it and understand it themselves. And honestly, I don't think you can read a more interesting survey of English history. Best of all, the King Alfred's English is only $14.89 if you buy from CBD, and $5.95 on Kindle (which can be read on your computer if you don't actually own a Kindle).
In fact, I enjoyed this book so much, I just bought another book by Ms. White called Baktar about a cat in a royal Inca household. To see more of what Laurie White has written, go to her website The Shorter Word.com. To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say, go to the Review Crew blog.
Legal Disclaimer: I received a free download of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.