An activity and literature based curriculum combining history, geography, and reading. That's what the cover of this new program states, and I have really enjoyed exploring what's inside. The first in an expected series of four books to cover all eras of history for the grammar stage, these lesson plans meet a strong need in the home school community right now. With the surge in popularity of classical education, Kathleen had been providing packages of great books to complement any program. Finally bowing to pressure to publish lesson plans, she has enlisted the help of an excellent writer in Cathy Whitfield and the collaboration has turned out something unique and valuable that I believe will be an asset to many. This set of lesson plans begins in prehistory, which not many programs currently tackle. Following the traditional classic stages, this volume covers the grammar stage, which is first to fourth grade. Designed as a first introduction to Ancient History, the author really wanted this first taste to be a delight. These plans are written specifically for those of you who aren't comfortable with, or don't have time to plan your own lessons. Incorporating many specific, excellent resources, these lessons and the accompanying book package take all the worry and leg work out of preparing your year. You will need to borrow or buy a few resources that are used extensively throughout the year. CHE provides these in resource pkgs. for you if you so choose. Cathy has spent untold hours researching, reading (yes, all the books), and preparing the lessons in this volume. I think what I am most excited about is the quality and variety of the lessons and the resources. Besides the main spines, the Usborne History of the World and the highly praised Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, Cathy and Kathleen have chosen awesome books, many of which I had never seen before. I have been Homeschooling a long time and I was beginning to believe that nothing fresh and new could be offered for this age group but I was wrong!
It is obvious that hours and hours of love have gone into this project. You will need the following books as well as the two main texts mentioned above.
1) History Pockets Ancient civilizations (Evan-Moor) - This book is awesome! Stuffed full of neat projects and activities covering all the ancient civilizations, students will be able to keep their treasures right in a pocket folder they create for each group. Totally self-contained with all the patterns and instructions, all you need add is paper and colors.
2) Modern Rhymes about Ancient Times - Poetry books with a twist, these will be fantastic for memorization, copy work, and pure enjoyment. Visually beautiful books and interesting, not insipid poetry. I even learned something new while reading these poems. I didn't know that the first sailors to map Africa were actually sent out by a Pharaoh. Did you? Great fun and variety in these books.
3) Ancient Egyptians and their Neighbors
4) Ancient Israelites and their Neighbors - These books are full of activities, recipes, maps, photos, etc. Very different from activity books I have seen before, the quality of these books is superb.
5) Life in Ancient Greece
6) Life in Ancient Rome - These are coloring books to enjoy while listening to Mom read aloud, or whenever! Highly detailed and intriguing pictures, these will be a fun accompaniment to your studies.
7) Ancient China Treasure Chest - This is the first time I have seen these high quality kits actually incorporated into the lesson time of any study. Cathy mentions that her kids actually played with theirs for the whole day once they began. Ancient China is one of the best of all the available Treasure Chests.
8) Blackline Maps from Knowledge Quest - You can use your own but these are far and away the best black line maps available. Recognized and loved by all, I purchased the CD that has all the black line masters on it and it was extremely reasonably priced. I have used it over and over again for many different projects and I can see where it will be invaluable during this study.
Besides the required resources, each lesson has extensive lists of reading and research books to pick and choose from. Many you will have in your homes already. Gorgeous books like 'Archaeologists Dig for Clues' by Kate Duke and the Eyewitness books will have your students very excited.
Just take the time to look ahead a lesson or two at a time. You will see that all the prep work (photocopying) has been pointed out at the start of each lesson. Next on the page you will find the Main Lesson points. Usually this will have you read specific pages from the Usborne text and the Story of the World, as well as completing or working on a History Pocket and then some map work. You will also be doing some copy work, maybe from poetry or from a current reading selection. You will be prompted to add pictures of the student's own creation, or coloring pages from the suggested books. And during all the readings and creating, you will be making an Ancient History Keepsake Notebook that you and your kids will love to share and enjoy.
Each lesson is designed to last a week or two, so don't rush through too quickly. Take your time and enjoy the journey. See what comes naturally from your discussion and narration times and carry on when you feel ready. Some topics will inspire more action and creativity than others so be sure to keep aware of their interest level and let that be your guide.
The other neat thing I liked about these plans is that in covering the span of years 1 through 4, the author has geared most of the activities to the older end of the scale. I liked this because the younger ones can enjoy and 'handle' the older activities with far more enthusiasm than the other way 'round. You can easily adapt activities to meet the ages of your family-I have had far more success with my kids in getting them involved if the project had a bit of substance and 'meat' to it. I was happy to see the author thinking the same way and gearing the activities accordingly. That's what home schooling is all about, in my opinion. Flexibility, Fun, and learning- a great combo! Oh, and don't forget to take pictures as you go. You can put them in your keepsake notebook as you progress.
You will notice that you jump around a bit in the Story of The World text. That's because the authors follow the chronology used in the Usborne text. I like the way the authors have ordered the topics. They flow well and make sense to me. This book does include a few lessons of 'prehistory'. Not specifically religious, the author suggests you may want to begin with a study of Creation, before beginning the lessons. The author has stayed within her area of expertise and leaves the religious teaching to those who are most qualified to do it. I like that.
I have really enjoyed this package. I found it well organized, delightfully refreshing, and comfortably paced. I am happy to recommend it and all the materials supplied by Classical Home Education-they are a quality group of people and this is quality stuff! Check out their website to see all the offerings, read my review of their fantastic timeline and watch for the brand new Classical Home Education Science program coming in August. I am going to be watching for more from CHE-I think you should too.