Kids are most likely to get something out of their history study if the content is presented in an interesting way. The folks at Memoria Press grasp this, and therefore don't give students boring textbooks with fact-based review questions—instead, they center study guides around good books, flashcards, timelines, etc.
Memoria Press Classical Studies doesn't just cover history, though. Students grades 3-9 are exposed to history, literature, and mythology as they take in-depth looks at the ancient world and the Middle Ages using classic texts from late 19th and early 20th centuries, along with the works of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Cicero.
How Do These Work?
Memoria Press suggests the following sequence in their Classical Studies courses. See below for slightly more information about each:
Classical Studies Suggested Timeline:
Year 1: D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths
Year 2: Famous Men of Rome
Year 3: Famous Men of the Middle Ages
Year 4: Famous Men of Greece, The Trojan War, and Horatius at the Bridge
Year 5*: Iliad, Odyssey, and The Book of the Ancient Greeks
Year 6: The Aeneid and The Book of the Ancient Romans
Year 7: Greek Plays (Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus)
Year 8: The Divine Comedy (Dante)
*If you don’t begin your classical education until middle or high school, we would suggest that you start with Year 5 and move forward from there. Before beginning your study of the classics, it is always helpful if your student has a basic knowledge of Greek mythology (D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths) and has read a retelling of the Trojan War (Olivia Coolidge’s The Trojan War).
The entry point for Memoria Press Classical Studies is the Introduction to Classical Studies set. A student worktext and a teacher guide bring together three different elements: D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, Famous Men of Rome, and The Golden Children's Bible (study of which can be expanded working through the Memoria Press Christian Studies program). The first two of these titles have their own student/teacher guide pairs.
Besides guiding kids through these three texts, this course integrates geography, history, reading, spelling, vocabulary, and composition, though most parents will find the language arts insufficiently covered to use this course alone. Students read the books, complete exercises, and lay a foundation for further study.
TheTimeline Program utilizes a student handbook, a composition and sketchbook, flashcards, and wall cards to give students grades 3-6 a feel for the overall flow of history from a biblical perspective. Not only do they learn major world history events in context, they understand the principles of historical dating. A set of wall maps supplements and provides geographical context.
For grades 4-8, the Classical Studies course is based on the Famous Men series, classic children's history texts by John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland.This is a general history introduction designed to prepare kid for high school history; it won't seem as daunting since they'll have been exposed to many of the events and figures. The Haaren-Poland texts are entertaining, clear, and informative.
Each chapter centers around an important person. While this is solid history, the individuals appear more as interesting characters than famous dead guys. The texts are heavily illustrated with beautiful color and black and white paintings and the pages are glossy, so kids will be attracted to the books themselves, not just the content.
Every level includes four components: the student reader by Haaren and Poland, a consumable student guide, a teacher guide, and flashcards. The student worktext includes short answer exercises and map skills. Kids read a chapter and complete the corresponding lesson. The teacher guide is a copy of the student guide with answers; tests with answers are in the back.
Like the similar Greenleaf guides, there's a Famous Men of Greece, a Famous Men of Rome, and a Famous Men of the Middle Ages text. (There's also a Famous Men of Modern Times text that covers the early Renaissance through the 19th century.) The overall flavor is decidedly Christian and non-denominational.
These aren't intended to be comprehensive history texts. They introduce highlights, but more extensive study is saved for high school. Kids who study these books will nevertheless probably be ahead of their peers. They'll also be more likely to retain the information, as it is written in an easy style, not the typical wooden textbook style.
Once kids have completed the Haaren/Poland texts, they're ready to move on to the Dorothy Mills books. Mills wrote these ancient (Near East, Greece, and Rome) and Medieval world history texts in the 1920s, and they've been republished by Memoria Press with added illustrations. The content is primarily authored by Mills, but she quotes writers like Herodotus and Cicero liberally.
All four of the books by Mills have a consumable student book and a teacher's guide to go with them. These are more challenging and detailed than the Haaren/Poland books, and are intended to bring kids to high school readiness. The student guides include vocabulary, map, and matching exercises, as well as comprehension questions and tests; the teacher guides contain answers.
Middle school students can transition from predominantly history study to literature study with courses on the poem Horatius at the Bridge by Thomas Babington Macaulay, the Trojan War (using Olivia Coolidge's book), and the works of Homer. The book for Horatius at the Bridge includes the poem along with explantory notes and a study guide; for the other courses, there's the main book, the student worktext, and a teacher's guide apiece.
In high school, students switch to more intensive literature study, tackling The Aeneid, Cicero, and Dante. Students will need a copy of the classic text for each course to go with the student worktext and the teacher guide; exercises and tests will require more critical thinking than previous Memoria Press literature studies.
Our Honest Opinion:
The products listed here serve as solid introductions to the topics they cover. The Haaren/Poland and Mills books in particular are excellent resources for elementary and middle school students. We recommend pairing H. A. Guerber's world history texts with the Haaren/Poland books to provide a more complete picture of each era; Memoria Press would likely concur, since they use Guerber's The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic in their American & Modern Studies course.
As for whether this is a complete history course for grades 3-8, the jury is still out. There's a lot of good content, but there are also a lot of holes that deserve to be filled, and the Dorothy Mills books in particular (since they're intended for middle schoolers) could stand some external supplementation.
For high school we recommend either Streams of Civilization (and its sequel), or if you want to avoid the textbook style, Suzanne Strauss Art's Early Times series. The latter is more in line with the style of Memoria Press's approach, though there are no student or teacher guides. The literature studies are good, but not sufficient for high school history by any means.
Overall, we support the project of Classical Christian education undertaken by Memoria Press, and these Classical studies materials are helpful, engaging, and broad. We'd also recommend that you supplement them in any way you can; while they provide a good base of operations, they aren't altogether cohesive on their own.
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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