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Writing Through Modern History Level 1 and Level 2 Review by Lisa Maynard

Kimberly Garcia
Brookdale House
P O Box 7868
Beaumont, TX 77726
Phone: 281-639-3827

The Writing Through Modern History Level 1 is a home school writing curriculum that focuses on the time period 1850 AD to 1986 AD; basically Pocahontas to Kit Carson. The program follows the Charlotte Mason style of learning. It focuses on reading, narration, and copywork to teach grammar, spelling, penmanship, and history all at once. The curriculum is available in both printed and e-book form. There are two levels and each level is available in both manuscript and cursive depending on the ability of the child or your particular preference. If you decide to use this program in e-book format, you would need a computer and printer. I have a little binding machine that came in handy as my son likes spiral bound notebooks. However, you could just print, hole punch, and place it in a regular ring binder. The curriculum is organized in four chapters each focusing on a different style of writing. Chapter one is full of historical narratives from modern times, chapter two includes text excerpts from primary source documents including; Chicken Little, Thumbelina, and The Ugly Duckling, chapter three is full of poetry on or from the time period being studied, you may recognize some of them as hymns, and chapter four contains a variety of tales from different cultures again relevant to the time period. Brookdale House sells a complete four year history set covering Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern and Modern history for $80.00 (e-books) or $112.00 for the printed version. You can also purchase them individually for $22.95 (e-book) or $30.95 printed. All four books are available in Level 1 and Level 2, in both cursive and print.

We are very familiar with the Charlotte Mason approach to education. I found this curriculum very appealing and easy to use. However, if you are unfamiliar with her approach there is an appendix that gives a little insight into the Charlotte Mason methodology. Level one is for grades one through three. I used this program with my seven year old and we continue use it daily. In fact he asks to do this program and he loves that is broken down into several activities. The suggested schedule is for a five day work week which is the one we followed most of the time. However, it's easy to pick up if you miss a day due to sickness or a field trip.

Day one starts by reading the text. The child can read this alone or with you. My son was very capable of reading chapters one and two. However, he also really enjoys it when I read the section to him. The next step in the lesson is narration this should be done straight after the reading. After the narration comes the written summation, since my son is only seven he dictated his summation to me and I wrote it. This gave him the opportunity to remember the details without worrying about anything else. On day two they child completes a copy work section and then the grammar in that section is reviewed together. During this copy work practice the child copies directly under each sentence. So there is a line of text and then a space for the child to write, followed by a line of text until the copy work is completed. Day three is more copy work. However, this time all the text is at the top of the page with blank lines to complete the copy work. This trains the child to look from text to his line and teaches them to stay focused on each word at a time. On the fourth day the child picks another story or poem to work on and then you read the passage, the child narrates, and then completes the first copy work. On day five, the child completes the second copy work modal. Of course this is the suggested schedule but this program can easily be adapted to fit individual needs.

My son really likes this program and wants to work on it every day. I have found that some of the texts included have introduced a great way to have good conversations with him as we work. There are parts of the text that have words included that are not found or looked down upon in our society now. It is good to discuss how times have changed and why. Using this curriculum is a great way to read and write from good books without have to hunt down relevant texts. I am a work-from-home-Mom, and I want to give my children a well-balanced education. Pograms like this really save time. We completed the schedule almost as suggested. The only change was the option for a third copy work practice. My son did not want to complete this and following Charlotte Masons philosophy I allowed him to complete two in his best handwriting in exchange for not having to do the third exercise. This worked well for us as it really helped him focus and do his best.

The only drawback to this program is that sometimes we would have to go back to the original text my son wanted to know more, so although this seems like a negative it really just gave us an avenue to explore further.

-Product review by Lisa Maynard, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2016

Writing Through Modern History Level Two

Writing Through Modern History Level Two is a neat history and writing product from Brookdale House. It is a writing program that comes in both cursive and manuscript. Those who follow Charlotte Mason will be delighted with its set up, but even if you (like me) don't follow Charlotte Mason's Method of teaching, you will find this an invaluable tool for your school room.

Writing Through Modern History comes with four chapters and an appendix. The passages span the years from 1580 to the late 1800's. The four chapters are divided up so that chapter one introduces the students to the people, places and events of early modern times. Chapter two contains excerpts of historical documents. Chapter three poetry with chapter four bringing folk tales to the table. In all, there are 60 selections to use. In this program, history, grammar, and spelling are taught all at once and is meant for children in grades 3-5. I reviewed the ebook version, it is available for $22.95. It comes as a complete unit, with suggestions about how to use it.

There are three main areas to the program Narration, Copywork and Dictation. It is an all in one book as the teacher's manual is included in the workbook for the students. Since it is an ebook, it is very easy to print off the sections that you plan to work on. I printed off the copywork as I needed it and read the narration right off my laptop.

Writing Through Modern History walks people through what is good narration and how to encourage students to do narration well. It focuses on what the student did well, and how you can ask questions to draw out more information. Doing the copywork, the focus is on doing the work right the first time. There are two additional spots for each copywork piece in order for the students to perfect their work if needed. The copywork can be done in manuscript or in cursive.

Dictation is the act of writing down what you have heard said. This skill may take some students time to master, but through this process you can help your students with their spelling and grammar. Through their writing and memory work, they can see where their work differs from the original, giving you a natural way to teach proper spelling and grammar. Ms. Mason believed that children should not be allowed to dwell on their errors but that we should show what they are doing well, and how they can do it better. “Studied dictation” is a great way to do this.

In the teacher's manual, a daily routine is suggested. This routine can be easily modified to accommodate the needs and abilities of the students involved. For instance, my son does narration in a variety of forms already so I let this part go, though I found in my son's excitement over what he was learning, narration happened naturally. Our focus was on the cursive form of copywork and continuing his exposure to early modern history. I also choose not to do “studied dictation” with him. He did learn to use his memory in writing out his material. This was a natural consequence at having to write out longer pieces of copywork. He complained that it took too long because he had to look up every letter and word. I suggested he read the passage over first and then write what he remembered before checking back. This was an eye-opener for him and made the work go more smoothly. It was a pleasure for both of us to see the change.

The history pieces used were excellent. I often heard the exclamation, “I never knew that mom! That was so interesting to learn.” We had several discussions about what he was learning, from why people would act how they did to what he thought he would do in that same situation. The story about George Washington jumping in after the drowning boy really caught his attention and came out in his play time. He also then was able to share other information he knew about George Washington from other sources. Since the articles used are taken from actual history notes, we were able to examine how word usage has changed over the years as well.

The more I use this program with my son the better I like it. We love how the narration pieces fit really well with the copywork. It was very helpful to my son to have me read the narration piece as he did his copywork, he would wait until he heard me start the copywork section and say “That's what I'm writing today mom.” We learned what a pinetree shilling was, which led into doing a short art work project.  It is great when you can use material cross-curricularly.

The thing that he didn't like was simply remedied. The style of cursive used is different than the cursive that he learned. He found that change difficult. We remedied that by having his cursive book open so he could see the difference and then write his copywork in his cursive style. This simple change made all the difference.

So in the end, what do I think? It's really worth the money. If you are studying early modern history this would make a great supplement to that program. If you simply want your student to gain a good overview of USA history, this would be an excellent place to start. It's a great way to combine two topics which is a bonus in the eyes of your students. Less work while learning interesting information . . . it's a win win.   

-Product review by Annette Vellenga, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2016