Veritas Press' history curriculum moves chronologically from Creation to the present and provides a cohesive overview of world events and civilizations. The result is basically a collection of resources painstakingly organized by the authors.
You need a lot of stuff to complete the course. This can make it more expensive than you'd prefer for one subject, unless you think of these as primarily resource texts, useful for more than one student and over a longer period of time. Many of the books should also be available at your local library.
The five year course covers Creation to the present, and is intended for grades 2-6. At the core of each year are the history cards, beautifully illustrated with famous artwork and containing informative text. The cards can be arranged as a timeline to illustrate the flow of history, or used individually to concentrate study. Many of the early ones coincide with the cards for Veritas' Bible curriculum to help kids understand the intersection between Scripture and history. There are 32 cards designed for use during a regular 36-week school year.
A memory song on CD supplements the cards. The song is long and frustratingly difficult to keep out of your head once you've heard it. The lyrics help students remember key events and people in chronological order. Unfortunately, more effort was made to cram information into this ballad than to make it musically appealing. Still, it certainly helps with memorization.
The teacher's guide contains reproducible student workpages, supplementary essays, project ideas, teacher's notes, etc. Answers to essay questions are not included, so teachers need to know the material enough to grade exercises without help. Essay-question tests are also included to be administered periodically. Many of the projects tend to be more like glorified crafts with dubious educational value, but the rest of the teacher information is useful.
A necessary component of each year's course is the priority resource list. Some of the books (notably Streams of Civilization and Kingfisher History Encyclopedia) are used for each year, though most change. References to the books are on the cards, and students read the appropriate sections. Many of the essay and test questions in the teacher's manuals refer to these books, so it's important to at least have access to them, even if you don't buy each one.
Supplementary literature packages are more or less "suggested reading," though Veritas Press highly encourages them. These books are more fun, though not as outright educational. They are also more likely to be available at a public library. None of the literature titles are required for the history course, but Veritas encourages a holistic classical approach and it would be easy to integrate both history and literature by following the suggested reading lists.
For each year there's an enhanced CD available intended to replace the memory song CD and the bound teacher's manual. Everything in the teacher's manual is on the CD in PDF format so parents can simply print off pages for use. This saves about $7 per year, and replaces a CD and large book with a single CD.
This is a unique approach to history. Kids read a variety of books that aren't textbooks and are filled with information and pictures above and beyond what they're required to read. Most of these books are just as interesting to adults as they are to young students, so it shouldn't be a burden to prepare lessons.
You'll certainly need to prepare lessons. Students can't just work on their own—because there's little inherent structure, you'll need to provide some so the material coheres for your kids. This was also intended primarily for classroom use, and while the home school editions of the teacher's manuals try to take the differences into account there are still very group-oriented aspects to some of the projects. However, tailoring it for a single child is by no means impossible, and can actually be quite easy if you don't go in dragging your feet.
The history program is designed in large part to prepare students for Veritas' Omnibus junior high and high school curriculum, which focuses on classic literature. Students going into the Omnibus course will need a firm grounding in history, since it is more or less chronological, but without a fixed history element. Much of the literature must be understood in context, but the context is largely expected to be gained beforehand.
Few programs are as interesting, far-reaching or involved as this one. It takes a lot of work from teachers and students, but the resulting understanding of the flow and events of history make it well worth it. Kids (and grown-ups) can easily get bored with a dry history text, and there's nothing like that here. As many parents have testified, you might end up filling many gaps in your own understanding of history as you teach your kids.
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Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.