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Greenleaf Press Review by Tim and Tina Rice

"I have finally found the Cadillac of history curriculum from Greenleaf Press!" -- The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

I am addicted to history books! Okay, this is not a confessional or 10-step curriculum anonymous meeting, but I have to get that fact out in the beginning of my review. In my eight years of homeschooling, I have looked at many history curriculums. Many were nice, some just okay, and some were awful. HOWEVER, I have finally found the Cadillac of history curriculum from Greenleaf Press! Founded in 1989 by Rob and Cyndy Shearer, Greenleaf Press has history resources and curriculum guides from the Old Testament through the present. The Shearers write that they were not happy with the history curriculums available for their eleven children, so they founded Greenleaf Press to bring life to the wonderful biographies used to teach history successfully in the past. They began by reprinting several books and then wrote guides to accompany them. Now they have over 1,500 resources in their catalog and on their website! Greenleaf Press is committed to "twaddle-free" living books (they highly recommend the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason).

The backbone to Greenleaf Press history curriculum is their Famous Men books and their Greenleaf Guides. To teach history with Greenleaf Press curriculum you follow their easy four to seven year plan. Written for children as young as first grade, the guides are not so easy that a ninth grader would be offended. If you begin using Greenleaf in first or second grades, you would follow the seven-year plan. If you begin using them later, you would use the six, five or four-year plan. The same material is covered whether you use the four-year plan, or the seven-year plan. To complete their program in four years you cover more material in a year than you do in the seven-year plan.

The Seven-Year Plan

Year 1 - Old Testament (Historical Books: Genesis - Kings)
Year 2 - Egypt (and Old Testament Review)
Year 3 - Greece and Rome
Year 4 - The Middle Ages and The Renaissance
Year 5 - The Reformation and The Seventeenth Century (to 1715)
Year 6 - 1715 to 1850
Year 7 - 1850 to the present

The Four-Year Plan

Year 1 - Old Testament, Egypt, Greece and Rome
Year 2 - The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, and The Reformation
Year 3 - 1600 to 1850
Year 4 - 1850 to the present

The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History is designed to take a full academic year with 196 lessons. This is more than the standard 180 school days, instead of watering the information down, more lessons were added. The Greenleaf Guides to Ancient Egypt, Famous Men of Greece, Famous Men of Rome, Famous Men of the Middle Ages, and Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation are designed for approximately 15 weeks each.

The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History

The history of the Old Testament is the foundation upon which all history is built. Sin entered the world, great wars were fought, good and bad kings ruled, and the backbone of the Christian faith was laid down. Rob and Cyndy Shearer wrote The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History so parents could teach their children the foundations of all history. The guide, along with your Bible and a good set of Bible Maps (check out The Student Bible Atlas or The Cultural Atlas of the Bible), are all you need to teach Old Testament history. A thorough "how to use this book" section is included with the introduction. The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History also includes a graphical timeline of ancient history that is extremely well thought-out and easy to read. The guide ends with a spiritual biography of the authors. Nothing odd about their conversion to Christianity, they just wanted parents to know what they believe spiritually. Between the introduction and the postscript, you will find 196 lessons beginning with creation and ending with the purifying of Israel. Lesson eight is on the Tower of Babel, Lesson 48 is on Moses and Jethro, Lesson 88 is on Samuel's First Vision, Lesson 128 is on The Dedication of the Temple, Lesson 168 is on Josiah, Hilkiah, Repair the Temple, and Lesson 196 is on Purifying Israel (again!). Each lesson has a chapter or so of Scripture to read, and then questions for the listeners to make them think about the significance of what took place and to be sure they understand what was read. Many lessons contain background information for the parent and suggestions of activities to go along with the lesson. Not every lesson has a hands-on activity, but a parent could come up with lots of neat things to do with a kinesthetic child who needs this sort of teaching. Activities such as following the movement of characters on a map, charting ages of the patriarchs, and charting important information are included in The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History.

My husband and I found The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History to be captivating, and my children liked it. I have grown weary of textbooks with tedious or drawn out text and fill-in-the-blank questions. Armed with my new history supplies, I feel like my family will learn more about the foundations of our lives, find history enjoyable, benefit from studying together as a group, and stop regurgitating useless facts. If you want an independent study curriculum that does not require studying with your child or reading aloud, you will probably not like the Greenleaf Guides. To purchase The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History visit the Greenleaf Press website at

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

The Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Egypt

The Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Egypt is the second study in the series of History for the Thoughtful Child by Greenleaf Press. Containing 10 in-depth lessons, Ancient Egypt was written to follow Old Testament History. We used Ancient Egypt as a supplement to Old Testament History, inserted following the sale of Joseph into slavery. This helped my children and I to understand the Egyptian culture of Joseph's day. So, why should a seven-year-old (or anyone) study Ancient Egypt? I have three reasons for you, and I am sure Greenleaf Press could give you more. 1) The history of Ancient Egypt is important to understanding the Old Testament; 2) Ancient Egypt was an fascinating place, so the history of it is interesting; 3) It lays a strong foundation for studying Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages, and U.S. History.

Along with the study guide, you will need to purchase The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne and Time Traveler Book of Pharaohs and Pyramids by Usborne Books. Additional resources that will aid in your study of Ancient Egypt are Desserts by Usborne Books, Pyramid by David Macaulay, and The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt by Bill Manley. All of the above mentioned books are magnificent books to own. Lesson 1 in Ancient Egypt is a study of Egyptian geography that includes making a salt dough map of Egypt. Lessons 2-10 contain vocabulary words, discussion questions, assignment options, related study suggestions, and chapter outlines. Also included in Ancient Egypt is a fabulous four-page timeline of Egyptian History. If you take pleasure in reading and studying with your children, you will enjoy The Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Egypt. If you prefer a hands-off textbook approach to history, this is probably not the curriculum for you. Check out Greenleaf Press at or call them at (615) 449-1617.

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, The Old Schoolhouse®

Famous Men of Greece

Greenleaf Press has done it again! They have produced another impressive history course for the thoughtful child. The Greenleaf Guide to Famous Men of Greece and Famous Men of Greece are the backbone to studying ancient Greece with Greenleaf Press. If you are familiar with Greenleaf Press, you know that they produce twaddle free history material that will captivate most children and adults.

Consisting of 31 chapter studies and an introductory lesson, The Greenleaf Guide to Famous Men of Greece will take you on a journey with the gods of Greece, Socrates, Alexander the Great, Odysseus of Ithaca, and others. The Greenleaf Guide to Famous Men of Greece is the third book in their seven-year history series. You can use it following The Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Egypt, or as a stand-alone study of Greece. Each chapter study includes vocabulary words, people and places to know, and discussion questions. Background information and supplemental reading are included for many chapters.

The study guide also includes a detailed three page chronological synopsis of Greek history. In 1904, John H. Haaren and A.B. Poland wrote Famous Men of Greece and Cyndy and Rob Shearer revised, edited, and updated it in 1989. Famous Men of Greece is an exceptional book that will excite most children. To assist in your study of Greece, the following optional books will give additional information to the curious child: The Greeks by Usborne Books (this book is suggested frequently and I feel it is a must have with younger students), The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum, The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece, and d'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths.

A typical lesson at our house begins with the study of vocabulary words. We look up words we don't know and use them in sentences. Next, we read the material, stopping to discuss the important people and places. After reading, I ask the children to tell me what I read (narration) and ask questions from the for discussion section. Some chapters will take 30 minutes, others a week. My family has enjoyed History of the Old Testament and History of Ancient Egypt and I am looking forward to beginning Famous Men of Greece. Check out Greenleaf Press at to learn more about the materials they produce.

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, Senior Research, The Old Schoolhouse®\

Famous Men of Rome

Famous Men of Rome: history for the thoughtful child by John H. Haaren and A.B. Poland, revised, edited, and updated by Cyndy A. Shearer and Robert G. Shearer is part of Greenleaf Press The Famous Men Series. Robert and Cyndy Shearer prepared the Famous Men series as a history curriculum that "would begin at the beginning and present history in a logical, readable, chronological way."

Famous Men of Rome chronicles the rise and fall of the Roman Empire through biographical sketches of its historical figures, from Romulus and Remus to its last emperor Romulus Augustulus. Through 30 stories, the student will be exposed to important political, social, and economic lessons from Roman history. Each story is well told, and interesting for students young and old. The companion study guide reinforces important vocabulary, people, and places and promotes understanding with questions for discussion.

As you choose your history curriculum, first consider the emphasis you would place on American history relative to the rest of the world. If you want a balanced approach to world history that prepares your student to study American history by building a strong historical foundation, the Famous Men series is for you.

Check out Greenleaf Press at or call them at (615) 449-1617.

-- Product Review by: Tim Rice, The Old Schoolhouse®

Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Famous Men of the Middle Ages by Greenleaf Press is an exceptional curriculum for studying the Middle Ages. Additional books required to study the Middle Ages are The Cultural Atlas of the Middle Ages, Cathedral and Castle. The supplemental text list is longer than any other Famous Men study. Most of the books on the list are available at your local library. We have many of the supplemental books in our home library, and the ones we do not have are books on my "to buy soon" list.

The study guide to Famous Men of the Middle Ages includes a terrific chronology of the Middle Ages, as well as a timeline of medieval history. The study guide follows the pattern of all previous study guides with vocabulary words, people and places to know, discussion questions, and other resources for each chapter. At $9.95 (as of 12-31-03), it is a real bargain.

So, how does it work? Well. at our house, we study history two to three times per week for 30-60 minutes each session. First, we use the dictionary to look up words we don't know. I usually discuss the vocabulary words with my children before we start reading in order to insure that they know the intended word meanings before we begin reading. Next, we read the lesson material and I answer questions my children have as they arise. Finally, I use a two-part process to evaluate if my children understood what I read. I have my seven-year-old narrate to us what I read. If she can tell me, in her own words, what we read; she is through with the history lesson. I occasionally have her participate in the discussion questions, especially if she was confused during her narration. My 11 and 14-year-olds go through the discussion questions with me and do additional research and reading as needed. Greenleaf Press has made it very easy for a family with different age children to use one set of books to study history.

I highly recommend the Greenleaf Press Famous Men series for studying history. You can contact Greenleaf Press at (615) 449-1617 or

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, Senior Research, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation

Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation, along with the Greenleaf Guide by the same name, are the backbone of studying the Renaissance and Reformation with Greenleaf Press. The Italian Renaissance, Giotto and Medieval Painting, Leonardo Da Vinci: Artist, Inventor and Scientist of the Renaissance, and The Protestant Reformation: Major Documents are other books necessary for the study of the Renaissance and Reformation. These books are available as a set from Greenleaf Press. There are several other helpful, but not necessary, books listed in the study guide. Check out their website,, or call for a catalog, (615) 449-1617, for a complete listing of resources.

Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation is really two books in one. Students begin by studying Renaissance geography and then move into the people and places that made this era famous. Famous men studied include: Petrarch, Giotto, Donatello, Leonardo da Vince, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Erasmus. This part of the book is fantastic! I LOVED reading about people who were previously just names from history to me. The activities are fun! My favorite were writing a sonnet and painting upside down like Michelangelo (on paper taped to the underside of the kitchen table).

Moving into the Reformation begins with a study of the geography of Europe around 1520. Like previous Greenleaf study guides, each lesson includes people and places, vocabulary, and discussion starters. Plan to spend at least eight weeks studying the 20 men featured in the second half of Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation. You will meet John Wyclif, Martin Luther, Thomas More, William Tyndale, John Calvin, and more.

I STRONGLY suggest you make a time line while you study these periods. It will help you and your child see who was a contemporary of whom, and get the "big picture" of the Renaissance and Reformation periods. If you don't have a lot of practice making time lines, the study guide includes instructions on one way to do it.

In addition to the chapter studies and teacher suggestions, the study guide includes an excellent overview of narration and how narration works. Along with this information, suggestions for multi-level teaching, testing, and adaptation for high school students are included.

If you are looking for an incredible way to study the Renaissance and Reformation, I don't think you will find a better course. Greenleaf Press did a marvelous job at putting this book and study guide together. Greenleaf Press is located on the web at

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, Senior Research, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine