“What is education? Properly speaking, there is no such thing as education. Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. What we need is to have a culture before we hand it down. In other words, it is a truth, however sad and strange, that we cannot give what we have not got, and cannot teach to other people what we do not know ourselves.”
~ GK Chesterton “Illustrated London News” (July 5, 1924).
When I was a student in high school, my public school was trying to do away with the AP History classes that were then available. I don’t know if they succeeded, but I do know that it was very difficult to be able to actually learn any history when I went through my public education. Instead of history we learned social studies, and I only remember a few odd years where my teacher (usually an older teacher) would unlock some of the secrets of the ages for his/her students.
How can anyone understand the import of the Constitution of the United States of America without being aware that for much of human history people had very limited freedom? How can anyone know that Western civilization is something special if they have no basis for comparison? I feel as though I am surrounded by a society that takes human rights, scientific discovery, and religious freedom for granted, and a brief course in human history would help everyone realize how precious these things truly are.
I have really liked History Odyssey by Pandia Press.
I have used it for 3 years with my elementary kids and I really like the way the curriculum progresses through increasingly difficult writing assignments and books to read. I like that it uses several books to give students different perspectives. The curriculum has lots of projects and other opportunities for students to take in their history lessons, and it is easy to decide what to use or pass on because each lesson has check boxes that you can assign to your students. As long as you have all of the materials, HO is designed to be a pick up and go with all the prep (other than library visits) done for you.
I like that History Odyssey is secular but includes books from different religions and backgrounds. I think that we all benefit when we study different cultures and different perspectives. I like the focus of more primary sources as the student ages.
The library books are usually available from my local library system. Some of the suggestions are out of print, but there are so many books that I have felt that their lists are quite helpful and adequate.
Level 1 Ancients is a little easier than I would have liked, but I just allow my kids to start it whenever they can read Story of the World independently–either kindergarten or 1st grade. The Ancients level is a little less rigorous than the subsequent level 1 books, and when I was first looking into the program, I almost gave up the curriculum entirely because I figured all of the level 1 books were at the same level. They are not at all. The student progresses from drawing pictures to writing short summaries of what they studied. Each course in level one has become progressively more difficult and I have been quite satisfied with the progress my kids have made going through the lessons. I like that it is tied to the classical model of education with the levels starting at the grammar level and then progressing through logic and rhetoric. I just bought their high school levels even though they are retiring what they have in order to be able to teach at least two years at the rhetoric stage from the same program. Hopefully Pandia Press comes out with four more years, but I like to hedge my bets and be prepared just in case.
I have learned more history in the last four years with my kids then I learned throughout my entire public school education. My nine-year-old can answer more history questions about our country than most adults, and we haven’t even started trekking through level 2 yet. It makes me excited about the history and the culture that I am passing down to them. I feel very passionate about passing the soul of our culture to our children. I love a line I saw from Memoria Press, “Saving Western civilization, 1 student at a time.”
Pandia Press lets you actually try several lesson without buying to make sure you like it. I really recommend looking at multiple levels before making a decision as it really does build as the student grows. And as a side note, I was never given any free materials or any incentive to write this post. This is my honest opinion of a product that I found through well-trained mind forums and google searches.