History study: loved desperately by a few, hated by most. The common experience seems to be a tired slogging through endless disjointed facts in textbooks, and by this standard it's no wonder so many don't see any value in reading about a bunch of dead guys who fought wars and signed documents. But is that really all there is to history?
The folks at Memoria Press would answer with a resounding "No!" Not only is history vitally important to us today, it's a fascinating subject that reveals the constants of human nature and how people respond to adversity and blessing. These materials are designed to introduce the basics of American and modern history study for elementary and middle school students.
How Do These Work?
There isn't a single series of books to work through. Rather, the editors at Memoria Press brought together a number of resources and student/teacher guides to teach American and modern history. Each course is designed to be used over the course of a single school year, though you can easily shorten the time spent on each one.
For grades 3-6, the Timeline Program and States & Capitals provides a foundation for students to build on. In the Timeline Program, they get a feel for the sweep of world history, as well as issues of chronology, dating, etc. There's a student handbook, a composition and sketchbook, flashcards, and wall cards.
The States & Capitals program utilizes a Memoria Press-authored student worktext with map exercises and review questions, along with a teacher guide containing answers. Kenneth C. Davis's Don't Know Much About the 50 States is a full color map and fact book designed to be used in conjunction with the student worktext.
Memoria Press Geography I is for grades four and up, and Memoria Press Geography II is for grades five and up. Geography I covers the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, while Geography II covers Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Oceania and North and South America. Each course includes workbooks, teacher guides, lesson plans, and test/quiz books.
Review student workbooks and answer keys exist for United States geography (to be used grades 4-6) andGeography I (to be used grades 5+). Students who've completed theTimeline Program and the various geography courses have enough foundation to move on to history and cultural study.
A couple of broad-stroke resources offer an overview of American and modern history for grades 3-8.The book Everything You Need to Know About American History Homework is a colorful reference work that focuses on the facts of American history and uses lots of maps, graphs, charts, and other graphics to impart them. A 200 Questions About American History student workbook and teacher's key provides students a chance to review this knowledge as well as content found in The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic.
One of the best resources from Memoria Press is Artner's Reader's Guide to American History, a book of reading lists with fact sheets and study helps to give kids a thorough knowledge of American history using narrative histories, picture books, a smattering of historical fiction, etc. This can serve as a supplement or a main course of study, though be aware that many of the titles are out-of-print and difficult to obtain.
The editing staff at Memoria Press have extensively edited and condensed two books by H. A. Guerber (The Story of the Thirteen Colonies andThe Story of the Great Republic ) to make the single-volumeThe Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic for grades 5-8. The result is a rapid yet readable overview of the beginning history of the United States. An accompanying student worktext and teacher key round out the course.
Memoria Press's final offering for American & Modern Studies is their version of the John Haaren and A. B. Poland text Famous Men of Modern Times. The book (which features black and white and color illustrations) is a series of biographies of important world leaders in the modern era, ending at the cusp of the 20th century with Otto von Bismarck. A consumable student worktext and a teacher guide provide exercises, facts to know, a timeline, and more. This course is for grades 6-8, and is intended to prepare students for high school study.
Our Honest Opinion
Teaching history without textbooks has gained a lot of support recently, and with good reason: by reading well-written narrative and biographical history, students become interested in the subject matter and actually enjoy looking at the past. Memoria Press has pulled this aspect of Classical/Great Books style history study off well.
What they haven't accomplished quite as well is comprehensiveness and the self-conscious insertion of a Christian analysis of the facts of history. Perhaps part of the reason for this is that these are intended to be Grammar and Logic level programs, rather than the more intensive Rhetoric programs of high school and beyond.
These are not bad courses, however. Kathy Artner's guide and the Famous Men of Modern Times program are very good, in particular, and fill many of the gaps left by the earlier programs. Still, we'd recommend at the very least supplementing these programs, especially for grades 5-8.
The fact that there isn't much Christian worldview material in any of these courses is a downside for those wanting a single unit for worldview and the humanities. However, it also means that parents can shape such discussions or study to fit their own beliefs, not having to rely on the authors's particular doctrinal or denominational perspectives.
All in all these are good resources, and will certainly give kids a feel for the broad sweep of American history, world history (in theTimeline Program), and world geography. If you use exclusively Memoria Press materials for American history study through eighth grade, we'd recommend moving to Christian Liberty Press's Streams of Civilization series for early high school.
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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