This course was updated in 2014, but we have not yet updated our review. Until we do, you can read more about the program on the Notgrass website here and more about the updates, new features and errata here.
The Exploring World History text is divided into two volumes, with a total of thirty units of five daily lessons apiece. Every unit begins with an introduction that outlines the material to be covered during the week and provides a memory verse, as well as suggested activities and writing assignments. The lessons that follow are typically three to five pages long, and contain additional material to read or questions to consider. Notgrass suggests that students can earn up to three full credits for the course: one in history, one in English, and one in Bible. To do this, students must read the text and complete the assignments for each of the 150 lessons. These include a weekly writing project, a weekly Bible study, and readings in literature (which includes speeches, essays, and a list of selected literature books which are to be read in their entirety). A separate book, called In Their Words, contains primary source material—including original documents, poetry, stories, and hymns from world history.
Comprehension questions for the lessons and additional reading are not provided in the texts, but they are available in optional (and separate) quiz and exam books. Bible study questions and grammar tips are offered at the conclusion of the first four lessons of each unit. To earn all three credits, it is expected that students will need to spend two or three hours a day in reading and writing, although you don't have to use the course that way and can certainly spend less time studying the history itself.
Very little parent/teacher interaction is necessary for the course. There is, of course, no reason why a parent cannot be involved anyway.
Exploring World History combines an interesting lecture-style approach with a largely well-written, student-friendly text. Its strength rests in its concentrated effort to present historical and Biblical concepts in an engaging and accessible manner, though the perspective of, especially as it relates to contemporary trends and events, is necessarily somewhat subjective; of all the Notgrass materials, that issue is most clear in this text.
The two-volume textbook is well-organized, and we think quite easy to use. It offers a clear book list, understandable instructions, and encouragement. In short, it is very doable for home school families with high school students.
Comparing this to other well-known curriculums, we find a few things we dislike:
- We appreciate the blending of literature and history, but feel the literature is too limited. Granted, it's hard to develop comprehension questions for a large number of books, but we wish they'd included an extended reading list, offering more choices for the voracious reader. It seems they are so selective in their literature to avoid offending the sensibilities of certain Christians. This is reflected in short, cautionary comments about the books.
- The Bible study questions are quite broad, and don't require much critical thinking or sustained analysis by the student. Notgrass seems to be avoiding a denominational bias, and ends by erring, in our opinion, on the side of caution. We understand that he would grant a full credit for the Bible material in the course, but we probably would not.
- The grammar tips throughout, though helpful, seem tacked on and offer little continuity. An organized grammar or writing handbook would be more usable.
- Questions given in the quiz books are predominately of the "read and regurgitate" variety. The answers are easy to find in the text, and easy to provide an answer key for, but don't provide a lot in the way of critical thinking.
(In the order they are used)
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