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The Mighty Works of God Review by Camilla Anderson

A Child's History of the United States of America
Ruth J. Smith
Pilgrim Institute
P.O. box 151
Mishawaka, IN 46546
(574) 277-1789

The Mighty Works of God is a three-volume, God-centered, "Principle Approach" U.S. History textbook curriculum written for early to middle elementary aged children. Each volume consists of a full-color student textbook (paperback, approximately 200 pages), and a teacher's guide (paperback, approximately 200 pages, sold separately). The teacher's guide includes a CD with printable worksheets for the students.

This is not a successive curriculum. You don't have to start with the first volume and work through all three to get a complete U.S. History. Each volume in itself covers U.S. History from its beginning to modern times. However, each volume is written for a different reading level and does cover different stories and details. One volume in itself is a complete U.S. History course. All three volumes together complement each other and make an even more complete U.S. History course. Also, because this curriculum is written using the "Principle Approach," each book starts with God's creation of the world and of man, and a few select essays and stories from the Bible that set the foundation for teaching about God's Providence and His plan for authority and government.

The first volume, Self Government, is written for what the author calls the "Primary" level, which appears to be for first or second grade based on the reading level of the textbook. The second volume, Liberty and Justice for All, is sold as the "Elementary" level. Not knowing what this means, but by looking at the textbook, it appears to be at the second or third grade level. The third volume, Divine Providence, is sold as the "Middle Elementary" level. Again, by my estimation in looking at the student text, I feel this volume could be used at the third through sixth grade level, depending on the strength of the reader and/or the involvement of the parent/teacher.

Unfortunately, sample pages are not available on the website, but I made a quick call to the company and they are happy to help determine the reading level necessary for each volume. In addition, I feel the volumes are so well written that all three of them could be used as a multi-grade class (elementary through junior high) by reading aloud and utilizing the wonderful discussion questions and teaching ideas in the Teacher's Guide. All the worksheets and suggested student notes could be adapted for any age.

Each textbook is a compilation of historical essays and stories from a Christian perspective, presented in chronological order, covering U.S. History from its discovery and colonization through the World Wars. Each chapter of the textbook is either written by the author, compiled from other sources by the author, or reprinted from another source,or some combination of those three. This method of authorship most definitely keeps the text authentic, lively, and engaging. However, it did seem to lead to some slight inconsistencies (but if you study history, you know this is common in many historical sources). For example, in one of the textbooks, the date given for the signing of the Declaration of Independence is different than the date given in another book,simply because the sources being quoted relate the event differently. On the other hand, the stories were varied in style and language, and delightful to read. The textbooks are all in full color with hundreds of original color illustrations. The illustrations (done by Lisa M. Mikler) are absolutely fantastic! I've never seen their modern-day equal in a Christian curriculum. They truly bring heart and soul into this curriculum.

The Teacher's Guide is an absolute treasure. Each lesson in the Guide starts by providing the teacher relevant readings and teaching ideas that are truly wonderful. This includes everything from additional information from the author, quotes by Matthew Henry and writings from actual historical journals, to scripture verses and thought-provoking questions. I have rarely seen a teacher's guide written so well in this respect,able to educate the teacher as well as the student so that both benefit. In this way, the Teacher's Guide is truly impressive in its thoroughness and usefulness.

Each lesson in the teacher's guide also includes a section called "For Reflection and Reasoning" that includes questions to ask or discuss, definitions, and conclusions. A variety of writing assignments could very easily be produced from this section. Also included for each lesson is a section titled, "Suggested Student Notes," where it shows simple statements, charts, and/or diagrams that younger students can put on notebook paper.

In addition, each Teacher's Guide comes with a CD of maps, charts, coloring pages, worksheets, and other resources. For each lesson, corresponding worksheets can be used from the CD, and the Teacher's Guide gives an answer key for any worksheets that go with that lesson. The worksheets on the CDs are "average" in quality. Some of them seem unnecessary, some seem helpful, and a few of them are very good. If I were to use this curriculum fully, I would probably not choose to use all the worksheets.

If you desire to teach U.S. History to your elementary-aged student, I don't think you could find a better curriculum. Many are different in structure and approach, but I don't think there would be one better. This curriculum is every bit as solid and complete as all the major Christian curriculum publishers, but it is unique in its compilation and with its wonderful, original color illustrations.

You could choose to use one volume according to the reading level of your child and get a complete U.S. History. However, if you are a history lover (or your children are), you could work through all three volumes consecutively, or even at the same time, and probably love every bit of it, because even though they each cover U.S. History in full, they are certainly not repetitive and each cover different key events in different amounts of detail. In addition, the Teacher's Guides are written about as well as could ever be done. They are inspiring and thorough"very thorough"not compiled as an afterthought to the text.

If you don't plan to formally teach U.S. History to your elementary-aged students, even the student textbooks alone would make wonderful independent readers and would be educational enough on their own.

To summarize, I think this curriculum is very well written, thorough, and easy to implement. I like that it is all inclusive and doesn't require additional resources and projects (that's not my cup of tea). I think a good curriculum is a flexible one,easily adaptable or expandable to multiple age levels, and this one is such. Again, the illustrations are wonderful, and the Teacher's Guide is excellent. The textbooks are very fine readers. The price is competitive and reasonable ($17.95 for the Student Text and $34.95 for the Teacher's Guide). If you want a solid textbook-based U.S. History curriculum, it would be difficult for this one to disappoint you. Well done, Ms. Smith!

Product review by Camilla Anderson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2008