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The Mystery of History Volume III: Companion Guide Book and Student Activities CDROM Review by Kate Kessler

The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations
Linda Lacour Hobar
Bright Ideas Press
The Mystery of History
7849 Elm Leaf Dr.
Germantown, TN 38138

The Mystery of History, Volume III, is a gorgeous edition to the Mystery of History family. A full-color, glossy hardback with 439 pages, this is a whole different style of book than the previous volumes. Due to the reproduction restrictions for certain Renaissance artwork, the publishers decided to change the style rather than leave out the important pieces. While this increased the price of the book, I think it was worth it. There is nothing like seeing Renaissance art in all its vivid beauty.

The book is divided into four quarters. Quarter 1, years 1455-1521, The Age of Rebirth; Quarter 2, years 1522-1572, The Age of Reform; Quarter 3, years 1572-1632, The Age of Reason; and Quarter 4, years 1632-1707, The Age of Resolve. Each quarter has seven weeks worth of lessons, with three lessons per week. That equals 28 weeks worth of work and 84 lessons per year. The first quarter begins with "The War of the Roses" and ends with "Martin Luther and the Spread of the Protestant Reformation." The second quarter begins with "Suleiman and the Ottoman Turks" and ends with "St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre." The third quarter begins with "Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler: Stargazers of the Renaissance" and ends with "Galileo Galilei." The fourth quarter begins with "The Jews of the Renaissance and Reformation" and ends with "Isaac Watts." There is also a full index in the back of the book.

Having completed Volume 1 of Mystery of History, there are some big differences between the older style of book and the new one. In Volume 1, the lessons are shorter comprising one to two pages whereas this new volume has more detailed lessons with four to five pages. Volume 3 also has beautiful full-color photographs, maps, woodcuts, and paintings, and the previous volumes were black and white. What it does not have between its pages are the activities, quizzes, and tests the previous two volumes have included. These items come separately in The Mystery of History Volume 3 Companion Guide: Curriculum and Student Activities CD.

The Companion Guide CD is an easy addition to the MOH set and well worth owning. Once loaded into the computer, you will be brought to a screen with a variety of choices. The list of activities and lesson exercises are listed in the quarter you are reading in the textbook and available to print with a few clicks. Memory Cards, Wall of Fame Timeline Suggestions, Methods of Education, Grade Record, Activity Supplements, Maps and Answer Maps, Supplemental Books & Resources, Pretest Answer Keys and Answer Keys for Tests as well as questions asked in each lesson exercise are also available and easy to find.

If you are familiar at all with the other two MOH books, what you find at the beginning of the book, and after each reading lesson, are exactly what you will find in each the CD. This is so much easier though as you don't have to wrestle with the book to make the copies you need for classtime! This made doing the lessons so simple. All I needed to do was open the CD, click on the lesson, print and go. I didn't have to print anything we didn't wish to use and it didn't clutter my book! I appreciated that I did not have to wade through these sections in the textbook.

A special note about the exercises, activities, pretests, and tests--we loved the variety of things Mrs. Hobar offers her readers. There are many activities to choose from if you are so inclined, and so many good questions and exercises available to enrich the experience. I used the exercises and tests as well as the pretests at times to determine just what my children were taking in. These are valuable tools and I don't think we would have learned anywhere near as much had we not had them. They are truly worth the time it takes to use them. The information was reinforced over and over in the quizzes and my children enjoyed the pretests to see what they might know before we covered it in detail. They loved the challenge of the quizzes and sometimes competed with each other for the answers. It was pretty exciting to this mom who loves history, to see her children clamoring over the right answers. I have never seen that happen in any other history program we have used.

I appreciate that the author combines events and places and the people involved in such a way as to make the subjects flow together. For example, in Lesson 28, "Titian and the Rise of Venice," she begins with a discussion on Venice, Italy, by giving us a thorough description of the city at that time and then flows into Titian and his childhood, growth as an artist, and eventual fame and friendship with such powerful men as Philip II of Spain. In this chapter alone there are two pictures of Venice and two of Titian's paintings.

There are various personalities you expect to find in a history of this time period, and they are all there. From Cosimo de' Medici, Ivan the Great, Christopher Columbus and other explorers, to Leonardo da Vinci, Erasmus, Martin Luther and his 95 Theses, John Calvin, and The Scottish Covenanters, the third volume is full of important and fascinating history. There are also lesser known characters that also play their parts. This is a thorough work.

The blessing of homeschooling is that you can teach in the manner that works for your family. We read our volume out loud, while other families use the book as a student reader. We do the pretests out loud to compare our head knowledge with our previous study of the subject. The activities, timeline suggestions, memory card work, field trip possibilities, historical fiction opportunities, and prospects for extra learning via specific study suggestions are endless. The quizzes have reinforced our knowledge and the semester tests were a welcome challenge.

I would like to say a word about the author's ability to tell a story. She engages all of my family. This beautiful book is written in such a way to draw us in. We want to know what is going to happen next, and Mrs. Hobar brings us along on her journey through time. This period is especially important for those of us that hold the Reformation as foundational to our faith. She delves into the meaning behind some of the great controversies surrounding the Reformation. These are some of the great events we are blessed to share with our children and the author brings them alive.

There will be some who complain that the third volume is more expensive than the first two, and will be unhappy that they need to buy a separate companion CD. To some, the glass may seem half empty, but I see the glass as overflowing. The companion CD makes it easier to print what I need when I need it, at my own leisure. The book itself can be used by every member of our family, and each of my children will have their turn hearing the stories in its pages. It will be a blessing to turn to again and again over time. What the publishers and the author have done is offer a seven course feast for the taking to homeschooling families. Our family is only too glad to partake.

Product review by Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Manager, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2008