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Ancient History: From Adam To Messiah Review by Heidi Shaw

Robin Sampson

Bible First! Yes, even with history! I love this program for many reasons but this is #1. I think I may be like some home school moms who want to integrate Bible with our daily lessons, but somehow it keeps getting squeezed out by the world's definition of the 'necessary'. Robin Sampson has refocused my vision and made me see how truly possible it is to incorporate and make a priority of studying the Bible along with our other subjects.

Robin achieves this goal because she makes it the central theme and focus in all of her Ancient History lessons. Instead of focusing on Egyptian pharaohs and heathen practices alone, for example, Robin focuses on the Israelites who were in slavery under the Egyptians. So, yes, we study Ancient Egypt, but with a focus that is God centered and not man centered. This is SO refreshing to me. I always had trouble seeing the point in memorizing the names of the pharaohs or learning just how a mummy was made, but with God and His people as the focal point, the rest of the culture becomes interesting as I see how it affected the forefathers of our Christian family. "The Ancient Hebrews taught no distinction between the sacred and the secular areas of life." I love this quote from Robin's research and I also love the idea of bringing all learning into the light of scripture rather than separating 'life' from REAL life.

Robin Sampson has put together a jewel of a package here. Her studies are written to appeal to many different learning methods and I think she has produced a study that will fit everybody in one area or another. Using Charlotte Mason's philosophy of learning, her own Bible first philosophy, and the Biblical Hebraic method of education, Robin has included something for everyone in each lesson. There are opportunities to 'shine' at something a student is naturally good at, but there are also opportunities to 'stretch', learning something that is new or may not come so naturally. This makes for the perfect combination, especially for households with many children, since we know that rarely do they ever learn the same way as each other. I am a huge Charlotte Mason fan so I was thrilled to see how Robin has integrated CM's methods of narration, dictation, and real 'living' books into her unit studies. The creative way of melding CM and the four basic learning styles has produced a book that is truly a conduit to life long learning.

All the books chosen are fascinating, and truly alive with wisdom, joy, light, and learning. All the core subjects, save math and science, are addressed and studied together while you are journeying through the chosen unit. Using CM methods and then adding the 4mat system of Dr. Bernice McCarthy was a stroke of genius! The system, which is explained thoroughly in the book, provides the organization to pull these methods together onto one cohesive track.

The 4mat system has 4 main components and these are used as section heads for each lesson. First is to Excite. To create a reason for learning and to provide motivation are the main goals here. This is addressed differently in each lesson but usually includes some thought provoking questions and Bible references to read to begin to answer the questions. Then we are on to step 2: Examine. During this step we look at the facts of the lesson from a Christian worldview. This is the step of the lesson where we research and read all about the subject at hand. For example, in the first unit, Adam, lesson one has the students researching Adam and Eve using any resource they have available. There are GREAT recommendations here and what pages to read from each recommended source. This is the exciting part for my kids because when you do these units online, all the Internet resources are gathered together in one place and hot linked through a secure site so they can really research and read without wasting tons of time and trouble locating sources that are reputable. Robin has done a superior job here and these Internet links are worth the price of the package in themselves. And yet, I have only begun to describe all this great program entails.

After reading and researching for as long as you have decided necessary for your particular students, the next step is to Expand (#3) During this step your student will do something with what he has learned. This can range from writing a short report to doing a dramatization, to illustrating, to writing a compare and contrast paper. There are many activity choices given for each lesson and there will certainly be something to appeal to whatever type of learner you have. Again, the completeness here blows me away. Lesson after lesson, unit after unit, Robin and her team have covered all the learning styles and types to make sure there is something for everyone, and each student has opportunity to shine and stretch! Step #4 of the 4mat system is to Excel. This is the time when students take and apply to real life what they have learned in the lesson. They share with someone else what they have learned. This is also the time when you will look at and correct any written work for spelling, grammar, and punctuation correctness.

What a journey! I can't wait to dig in really deep with my students this fall. Adam to Messiah is available in a bound binder with all seven units together or you may purchase each unit individually, even fitting them alongside a different curriculum. There is SO much meat here, however, that I intend to use it as a main curriculum with my son in junior high. Designed for multi age groups to do together, I really see this as a logic/rhetoric stage study, maybe 5th or 6th grade and up. There are plenty of projects that the younger ones can join in on but for the bulk of the research and reading, you will want your student to be able to study independently. The activities and assignments range from middle elementary up to challenging for even the high schooler. Older students are expected to learn at higher levels. The younger ones pick up what they are ready to from the read aloud time and you can easily adapt most older student resources by reading them aloud and summarizing them for and with the younger student. It is sort of like narration in reverse. This process encourages the younger ones to listen and participate in discussions and projects.

You will find the main academic requirements for most subjects (except math and higher sciences) are met but the main objective of this study is for students to learn God's Word and establish a relationship with God through the study of His people in history. Mrs Sampson believes that scripture should come first and all other studies find their place in relation to them.

I like how Robin gently leads us to this place of light yet highly encourages delight directed learning at the same time. Touch on each lesson in each unit, but when that touch ignites a spark of interest in your child, lay aside the schedule/timetable and watch them fly! Children who are learning by choice will retain and enjoy SO much more than those who are forced to study topics of no interest to them. As I said earlier, there is a LOT in these studies. You will not be finishing every activity suggested, nor reading every suggested research article. Pick and choose the ones applicable to your students' ages, stages and learning styles, and you will have a full productive year. Again, the available on line option will give you a full color e-text that is hot linked through a secure home site. There is no way to calculate the hours it would take to find even half the resources listed here. Not to mention the fact that they are all organized and tied to the unit being studied so you have instant resources at your fingertips. There are several 'key' resources listed that would make your study more efficient, and off the computer, because they are referred to over and over again throughout the units. These are, however, recommended not required and Mrs. Sampson claims that only the Bible and the English handbook are really necessary. As I look through the binder, I can readily agree with her. She has included so many great helps and notes and instructions; I was blown away.

You will find instructions for building vocabulary, spelling, and history notebooks, as well as study helps such as pointers on mind maps, Venn diagrams, charts, graphs, and the like. As kids get older it is important to teach them how to study, not just what to study. There are even comprehensive helps on making timeline books and portfolios, all with lots of illustrations and examples. Really, everything you need to have a great adventure is in this binder. I like the way Robin likens 'key' resources to dessert and a budget. If you have time, but little money, use the library and the Internet. If you have some money and little time, buy some keys and use the library for the rest. Finally, if you have the money but no time, buy the key resources and relax. I got a chuckle out of that because at different times in our own home school journey, I have been at each one of those stages. I appreciate how Robin has obviously spent time in prayer and more prayer while she prepared these studies. These units are thoughtful, insightful and joyful and have been a labor of love from her whole family, I'm quite sure! Here is a breakdown of the units contained in Adam to Messiah:

1) Adam to Abraham-mostly chronological Bible stories and research related to them. Not so much emphasis on Creation as there is a whole unit available on Creation, on the web site.
2) Mesopotamia-large time span focusing on the geography of Bible lands such as Canaan, Assyria, Babylon and Persia.
3) Ancient Egypt-Focus on the Egyptians through a study of Hebrew peoples from approx. 1800 to 1300 B.C.
4) Ancient Israel-this extensive unit is often glossed over in secular studies. Covering the history of the Hebrew people from Abraham to the Romans.
5) Ancient Greece-History of the Greeks and Hebrews
6) Ancient Rome-From the Punic Wars to the Jewish revolt, everything from daily life to the role of women in society, to architecture, to food....
7) The Messiah-a thorough study on the life of Christ.

Robin recommends the Narrated Bible as her choice. It is arranged chronologically so the readings correspond with the lessons in the units. Bible references are always given so you may use any Bible you choose.

Every time I open this binder I get excited. The potential and the possibilities for learning just jump out at me every time. For those who love classical education, or Charlotte Mason advocates, any of the units in this binder would supply you with ample materials for a good long while. The whole thing can be done in a year, or you may take as long as your interest dictates. Enjoy, Excite, Examine, Expand, and Excel! You may never go back to any other way of learning.

Don't forget to visit the Heart of Wisdom web site. The Sampson's have amazing units for science on light, magnetism, creation, and Bible units on Wisdom and more...the site is great and very accessible. If I had fast Internet access I would definitely go for the e-texts because they are colorful and hot linked, but I like that the bound units are available as well. This way the kids can all learn at the same time and they aren't in front of the computer all day. Either way, Ancient History: Adam to Messiah is a winner and I highly recommend it!

--Product Review by: Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine