James Stobaugh rightly identifies the true purpose for studying history—not simply to cram our heads with facts, but to understand where we've come from, where we might be headed, and how God's sovereign hand has shaped the human story. His 6-volume history course for junior high and senior high school students does include the facts, but it also includes analysis of those facts and instruction in the tools of analysis so students can conduct their own.
How Do These Work?
Both the junior high and high school series are comprised of three student books each. Each of the three books offers 34 weekly chapters with five lessons apiece for one complete school year (the senior high books can be studied in any order, though it's best to start with World History). There is a teacher book for each student book.
Daily lessons should take about 20-30 minutes to complete. (In the high school course, the final lesson of each chapter is an exam which ranges from matching, to timeline work, to essay questions.) Lessons are 1-2 pages apiece, and include lots of black and white, maps illustrations, and photographs, as well as a brief assignment.
Everything needed to complete the course is provided in the student book and teacher's guide, except a pen and paper for completing essays, exams, and assignments. The teacher guides are essentially no more than answer keys to assignments and end-of-week exams (the junior high teacher guides include blank pages for answering the discussion questions).
Each student book includes a bibliography and a glossary at the back. While many of the books Stobaugh lists are way above the reading level of pretty much all junior high school students and many senior high students, they do offer a good insight into the research behind the writing of these textbooks.
These are meant to be student-directed courses, with students reading content and completing written work on their own, and teachers grading/evaluating that work once a week. There is great value in discussing the end-of-lesson questions with students, but the coursework can be completed without such dialogue.
Studies in World History - Junior High
These three world history texts cover the scope of world history from Eden to the 21st century. Stobaugh's stated goal is to guide students toward an understanding of history that is rooted first in an understanding of Jesus Christ as the focal point of the human narrative. Therefore, while he does examine the events, persons, and cultures of history, he spends a lot of time looking deeply at the ideas and philosophies behind those elements.
Volume 1 covers Creation to 1500 A.D.; Volume 2 covers 1500 to 1900; and Volume 3 covers 1900 to the present. These books are a unique achievement in history curriculum, particularly in history curriculum for home school families. Most history texts focus primarily on the distant past (anything pre-1900 A.D.), but Stobaugh takes an entire volume to look directly at the last 114 years, and to look at them thoroughly through the music, film, political movements, etc. that shaped those years.
Stobaugh also pays attention to regions and ethnicities often overlooked, like African and Asian history, and an extensive look at the hippie movement of the 1960s. An entire chapter covers the history and importance of film; another looks at the trajectory of rock'n'roll music; and he discusses important issues like abortion, homosexuality, and freedom of speech. Some lessons focus on individuals, from Attila the Hun to Francis Schaeffer.
Lessons in these books are slightly shorter than in the high school books, but the content provides a solid foundation on which he builds the content of the senior high series. Some of the ideas (for instance, postmodernism and existentialism) are covered more thoroughly here, which may seem odd for a junior high course, but Stobaugh writes clearly and engagingly, so young adolescents should have no real difficulty with these texts (though they will have to wrestle with many of the topics!).
Update: These are now out of print, and Master Books has replaced them with the three books called World's Story 1, 2 and 3, by Angela O'Dell. Stock is limited to what is on-hand.
Senior High World History
The World History text begins with Mesopotamia and ends with contemporary Africa; American History starts with pre-Pilgrim Native Americans and goes all the way to contemporary issues like euthanasia, abortion, and global warming; and British History covers Dark Ages Britain to the late 20th century. Stobaugh is careful to spend as much time on ideas and figures as he does on events, wars, and dates.
In addition to providing background of the era in question, critical thinking questions to improve students' analysis skills, terms and concepts to memorize, and brief biographies of important people, Stobaugh investigates the discipline of history itself and its relationship to forming a consistent worldview. He examines controversies, debates, and theories concerning events and periods; the way a particular culture viewed God; and how we might take every thought captive in regard to the society being studied.
Places and periods often overlooked in high school curricula are featured here, including Asian history, African and African-American history, and often neglected Western regions like Scandinavia and Latin America. In addition to these, Stobaugh always brings philosophy, religion, and worldview into the discussion, asking students to investigate difficult questions relating to justice, public and private worship, and cultural understandings of truth.
These high school history texts can be used in connection to Stobaugh's high school literature courses, or by themselves. These are not specifically a worldview program, but for students trying to formulate a thoroughly Christian understanding of all things, they can be very helpful for learning how to apply that understanding to one of the essential academic disciplines. This is an element of history study too often passed over, and we're glad Stobaugh addresses the influence of history on worldview.
This is a solid course, easy to use, and very thorough. Students will be exposed to a variety of topics seldom explored elsewhere, and they'll learn how to integrate that knowledge with their Christian faith and beliefs. Throughout the six volumes, junior high and high school students will learn about ancient empires, current issues, postmodernism, and the Enlightenment. We have to give Mr. Stobaugh props on the scope and breadth of his undertaking.
The fact that he includes chapters on Islam (more than one in that case), Woodstock, and the state of the modern university is astounding and quite welcome. There is a catch—because these are surveys some ideas are glossed (there's plenty of talk about postmodernism in the third junior high text, but probably not enough in the senior high course). Also, while he avoids making dogmatic statements about contested issues (like rock music, for instance), sometimes he seems to shift the discussion in a certain direction without much support.
Still, Stobaugh is exposing kids to such information, and there's really nothing else like this out there. Some of his statements can be disturbing (he urges kids to change the world, to be wild like Elijah, etc.), but overall this is an excellent course. If you complete these books by the end of high school, it would be a good idea to explore certain movements and philosophies more in-depth in the next year; a good place to start in this advanced study would be Paul Johnson's excellent book Intellectuals.
We do urge parents to discuss each chapter with their kids to further shape their understanding. While we agree with many of Stobaugh's interpretations, he often generalizes without accounting for nuance, and it's never a bad idea to inject some nuance into our history study. He also skews perspective at times with his presentation. But we also need to have the mind of Christ at all times, and Stobaugh models that attitude in exemplary fashion.
Because both series are intimately connected, and because they don't cover the same material but rather complement each other and fill in mutual gaps, we'd recommend using the whole course. If you don't want six years of the same guy teaching your kids history, philosophy, and worldview (which we understand), we'd recommend using the junior high course rather than the senior high books. Whatever you choose, however, these are recommended and very good.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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