Homeschool parents have known for a long time that every child learns differently, and a "one-size-fits-all" approach is more likely to result in frustration than actual learning. Diana Waring has created a history course that implements all the major learning styles (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) to present a Christian perspective on the flow of world history.
The History Revealed series is a kind of modified unit study, offering recorded audio lectures, worktexts with accompanying teacher guides, ideas for hands-on projects, and huge reading lists to choose from. Lessons can be adapted for whole families or co-ops, with older and younger students working side-by-side, though the content is typically most appropriate for middle and high school students. For younger kids, Elementary Study Guides are available at each level.
Waring's goal is to identify God's providential hand throughout the chronological narrative of human history. Students are not intended simply to know this information academically, but for it to affect their hearts as Christians. To that end, Waring's lectures are Christ-centered, and the activities and workbook exercises make kids think beyond the surface level.
There are three levels, each organized to provide one school year's worth of work: Ancient Civilizations covers the biblical creation account through the birth of Christ; Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries covers the Roman Empire through the American War for Independence; and in World Empires, World Missions, World Wars, kids study the Napoleonic Wars up to the Korean War.
At the center of each level is a series of energetic audio lectures called What in the World? which are required listening for completion of the coursework. Additional CDs called True Tales and Digging Deeper offer lesser-known but important historical narratives and background history, respectively.
The black and white (and mostly unillustrated) worktexts include text to read, written exercises, student self-evaluations, art and cooking projects, drama assignments in which students act out historical events, lists of resources and outside reading to supplement, vocabulary work, and much more. This is a multi-sensory approach to world history, and no method of exploration or reinforcement is left unexplored.
Each book is divided into nine monthly units, each with four weekly phases:
Student books include self evaluation forms to keep kids focused. Blank map outlines allow kids to internalize the geographic context of the history they're learning. The teacher guides offer tips and ideas for using the materials with a variety of students alongside reduced student pages, but do NOT include answer keys, which many have identified as a major drawback. The Elementary Activity Books include puzzles, coloring pages, and more age-appropriate material, but are not covered in the teacher guides.
There's plenty of information in the student books and teacher guides, but Waring doesn't do the best job of collating the two texts. For instance, while the student texts identify which lectures should be listened to in connection with each chapter, the teacher guides fail to include this information; also, assignments are often covered only in the student book, so if the instructions are at all unclear, teachers have no recourse for clarification. Still, if parents listen to the audio lectures with their kids, there shouldn't be too much confusion.
This course requires two things: commitment and teacher involvement. You'll need to spend plenty of time preparing lessons (older students can get by with less direct supervision than younger ones), and you'll want to discuss elements thoroughly with your kids. Also, this is a hard program to leave in the middle of the year, so you need to be sure you like the unit study approach before you start.
Each level covers one year of study for both younger and older students. For older kids, you'll want to use a lot more of the supplemental activities and books; conceivably, you could use the trilogy in subsequent years, introducing the Digging Deeper and True Tales CDs as kids get older. History is largely understood through repetition, and going through a single course two or three times while adding in more extra elements could be a good idea.
If you like the unit study approach to history, this is a good choice. Waring balances essential and more obscure facts well, and presents a Christian perspective of the narrative flow of world events and figures. Kids make timelines, play games, eat food, and read source texts for each period, thus getting a real sense of the era, rather than simply a textbook knowledge.
That said, there are a couple cautions. The lack of answers to any of the exercises can be extremely frustrating and time-consuming for parents who have other subjects to teach, homes to maintain, etc. Still, all the information to answer them is included somewhere in the course. From an ideological perspective, Waring seems broadly evangelical, and most of the material is pretty broadly Christian (as in, not denominationally-specific); at the same time, this doesn't prevent her from making some odd assertions.
For instance, she draws heavily on John Eidsmoe's book Columbus and Cortez: Conquerors for Christ when discussing the early exploration of the New World; this text presents both men as Christian missionaries whom historians have misrepresented and slandered. Also, Waring spends less time on the Protestant Reformation than many Reformed Christians would prefer, kind of squeezing it in between the Renaissance and the Modern Age.
In the audio lectures, Diana Waring is extremely excited all the time. This is great for young kids, and will likely get many of them just as excited about studying history on their own; however, older kids are probably going to find the enthusiasm overbearing and a bit silly. There's just a little too much overexpression, and cool high schoolers and middle school kids are likely to roll their eyes.
Overall, however, this is a very good program. The integration of various learning styles with plenty of good historical fact and a thoroughly Christian worldview make it a great way to introduce kids to the idea that ideas have consequences, and that historical events don't transpire in a vacuum. If you want children who can analyze the past as Christians, consider Diana Waring's History Alive! as a serious option.
"If you are a person that is overwhelmed by choices, then this is not the unit study for you. It is part of what is so attractive to me. If I don't like this suggested book, I can use the other. If I don't like this writing assignment, I can do the other...There is freedom in this unit study."
"I love the format following a time line and letting you go as deep as you want. I love the in-depth questions that you can get into with the kids. It helped me to see if they had really been paying attention to what I had been reading aloud."
"The possibilities are limitless with this study. You spend as much or as little time on it as you want. Dig just a little deep or much deeper; it's all up to you. I do this study with my children, but I agree that an answer key would have been nice. I still give this a 9.9 on a scale of 10!!"
"As an experienced unit study teacher I have really appreciated the framework laid out in the Digging Deeper guides. All unit studies require more work from the teacher than a canned curriculum does! The selling point for Diana's guides are how she ties all of history together with how God has been at work throughout history. When used with your local library materials and a few key purchases, these are a great way to study history with multi-age groups. Diana's [CD] series will excite your children and the talk together questions truly do dig deeper into the subject than most curricula."
"Used this package with my high school student—WE LOVED IT!! The reading lists were superb...obtained most of the literature from the library. We both now have a life-long love for great classical literature as a result of this curriculum. This curriculum is not laid out day-by-day, but rather gives the teacher and student(s) lots of ideas to choose from—we each pursued our interests at our own level (mom included) and at the end of the unit discussed the Talk Together questions to review and sum up the unit."
"A weakness of the program is that there are no answers included. The map activities are very involved, and there is no completed map for me to look at to see if his answers are correct. A completed map in the Teacher's Guide would be very, very helpful! I kept wondering what on earth was taking him so long when he was doing the maps, so I did a couple of them myself. Then I understood! Some of the things on the list to include on the map were very hard to locate, despite searching the web and numerous atlases. There are some good questions asked in the Teacher's Guide, but again, there are few answers."
"The cd's are very entertaining to me, although Diana was a little too peppy for my son. :) That's not a weakness of the curriculum, though!
"I love the [CDs] and the basic time line of the material, but I'm really struggling to put it all together. The activities in the elementary activity book are silly or too hard for my younger children, and the Digging Deeper Book activities are either too hard for my 6th grader, too boring, too much writing, or unrelated to the meat of what we are studying. There are too many books to choose from and no way to really know which ones are good since she recommends them all."