Students often dislike history because they've only read textbooks. Some parents try to make history appealing through historical fiction instead, but all this does is maybe get their kids to like fiction, not teach them history. The Early Times series by Suzanne Strauss Art is a much better alternative—they're actual history books written in a genuinely interesting way. More than just names and dates, cultures and civilizations come alive as Art discusses food, dress, political systems, warfare, art, education, sanitation, etc. Each book stands alone, making it easy to use them as core texts and supplement with outside resources.
How Do These Work?
The publisher suggests these booksare for upper elementary and junior high, but there's enough information at a high enough level that many high schoolers and even adults could benefit from them. While not an actual curriculum, Early Times would make an excellent multiple-year history course.
Each text is moderate in length, sparingly illustrated in black and white with sketches, maps, and photographs. At the end of each chapter is a set of review questions; sometimes there's a list of discussion topics or project ideas. The projects usually involve acting out an aspect of the culture being studied, like learning to wrap a Greek toga, holding a Roman feast, or writing a poem in the Renaissance style. Answers to review questions aren't included, though they're all found in the text itself.
There are no teacher materials, answer keys, or test packets. Students read the text and answer the review questions. The discussion topics and projects are fun but not essential. At the end of each book is a list of resources for further study, so you can assign some of these if your students need more content. If you're looking for something to teach with lesson plans, etc., you'll need to look elsewhere. Part of the charm of these books, though, is that they aren't a curriculum per se, and that there isn't a lot of supplementary material to keep track of.
None of these texts provides an exhaustive treatment (whatever that is) of the place or era under consideration. If your older students have alreadydone a lot of history study you may want to look elsewhere. Even those who have a decent knowledge of history, however, will find plenty here to keep them interested. And if you're looking for a way to tie information together for a more complete perspective, reading through the relevant texts would be quick and useful.
Our Honest Opinion:
These are suprisingly adaptable texts. Whether you use them to supplement or asa core text, students will be presented a vibrant, nuanced view not just of person/place data but of cultures and lifestyles. Each volume reads like a realistic novel, but there isn't any made up dialogue or fictitious persons obscuring the very real history. This would be a good series to use after the Memoria Press or Greenleaf history program, and it would make a good world history overview for students grades 8-10. Because the texts are easy to read and fairly short, you may even want to read each one quickly at the beginning of the semester and spend the rest of the schoolyear studying relevant material.
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.
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