Beginning A Classical Education
ReNae of ND, 2/21/2011
After using Bauer's complete set of "Story of the World", Ancient through Modern, with 2 of my children starting in the 1st grade and ending the 4th I felt I could give a brief review. Susan Wise Bauer uses an easier to read writing style with Vol. 1, but by Vol. 4 the reader is exposed to more information and more intense themes. For this reason, I believe a 1st or 2nd grader would enjoy Vol. #1 but an older child may find it a bit childish. Respectively, 4th graders would enjoy the 4th volume as it is written at a higher grade level and provides a greater amount of information.
The activity books are a must as they not only provide questions and answers for each chapter, corresponding pages in Kingfisher and Usborne Encyclopedias, and a list of books for further reading; but maps and other hands on activities are included as well. There are numerous activities to pick and a parent can find those to fit the personality and learning style of the student. The activity books for the first Volumes are geared toward younger students (coloring pages, etc.) but the 4th Volume has the student learning how to outline, completing a timeline and doing more map work (2 maps per chapter instead of the one).
The test books are not necessary, but provide the parent with a way to verify the student's retention. Tests for the early volumes consist of multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank and 1 essay. By the 4th volume the tests are more intense: gone are the multiple choice and true/false questions and instead the tests are almost solely essay, a few fill-in-the-blank and placing events in chronological order. One problem I did notice with the test books is they do not always correlate with the questions and answers in the activity books. Many times the questions in the activity books would focus on a certain topic, but the student would be tested on something else. (To be fair the information is covered in the text book.)
Bauer has attempted to provide ancient through modern history in 4 volumes written at the elementary grade levels. Therefore, some events in history are skipped entirely and other events are covered briefly; but all together the amount of information presented is quite impressive. Consequently, this is a good beginning history curriculum for grades 1-4 which children will enjoy and, more importantly, retain.
In conclusion, for those who want an all encompassing curriculum, that takes little prep time on the parents part; or those that want to follow the Trivium, this series may be for you.