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United States History Roots through Constitution – Our Disappearing Legacy Review by Debra Brinkman

James William Brigleb

This past fall, for the first time, we ended up doing some things to commemorate Constitution Day. The plan had been for my high school senior to take a half credit of US Government in the spring semester, and it seemed like a good idea to do some things like read the Constitution as a family.

Shortly after that, I learned about Jim Brigleb’s Books, specifically about his book about government, United States History Roots through Constitution – Our Disappearing Legacy. This looked like it could be great material to go through with all of my kids, ages 11-18. It was hard to tell what ages this was really meant for, but I figured it was going to work for at least one of them.

This text is written to the student in a fairly casual, breezy tone, and is filled with all kinds of side comments and humor. He definitely knows how to keep the attention of the kids! The book consists of twenty chapters and is over 200 pages. Most chapters are fairly short, except for the very last chapter. The book starts off at the beginnings of US History – with the story of Moses.

Yes, you read that right.

Chapter one races through the history behind United States history, covering the Ten Commandments, Christ, Paul, Rome, Gutenberg, and more. After that comes a chapter on the Reformation, and a chapter on trade with China. That chapter starts to look a lot more like US History, as we are introduced to Christopher Columbus.

Once we get the historical background set, we are introduced to the colonies and the government of the colonies, and the book proceeds through the French and Indian War, the unrest leading up to the Revolutionary War, and finally to the Constitution.

Each chapter includes plenty of thought-provoking material, plenty of humor, and plenty of solid questions for discussion. Each chapter concludes with quotes from the Founding Fathers.

I read the book aloud to my four children, who were mostly wary and reluctant going into this venture. After the first chapter, my history-loving senior was hooked. By the fourth chapter, my younger kids were excited as well. This quickly turned into the favorite part of the school day for us all.

I would read a chapter, and we would discuss what we were reading as we went, with plenty of animated conversation continuing long after the book was put away for the day. Once we completed a chapter, we would use the discussion questions to spur still more discussion about the topics presented.

Multiple points of view were presented in the materials, which is something I really appreciate. The history I learned in public school never once encouraged me to see the colonists’ demands from the point of view of the British ruling class, nor did it ever occur to me that there were more than a handful of colonists who remained loyal to their king. For example, the tension in Boston, right before the Boston Massacre, is described:

“Put yourself in the shoes of a British soldier: you’re fairly young, away from home, stationed in Boston to put down rebellion, an outsider, angry due to colonists calling you a Redcoat or a Lobsterback, trained to fight, tired of being treated with hatred simply because of your uniform, and a symbol of British force.”

The book goes on to describe a Boston colonial’s point of view as well. And the text asks, “Who was really at fault here? Can you see this from both sides?”

Oh, be still my heart. This is what I want in a history program.

I haven’t seen anything that suggests appropriate ages for this book, but my 6th grader certainly got a lot out of the materials, as did her older brothers. And their mother, too. There were many points where I stopped reading to exclaim, “I never thought of it this way before!” or, “I did not know that!”

This book could certainly be used independently by a teen, but I would recommend a parent reading it as well, so you can discuss the material.

For $18, I think this makes a fantastic civics course for middle school students, or it is an excellent supplement to a high school government class. If you have your high school students do some extra research, this could be a great primary text for government too.

Our bottom line: we all highly recommend this book.

-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Crew Administrator, The Old Schoolhouse® Homeschool Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, March, 2018