So, you want your kids to get the best possible history education for junior high and high school, but you've already squandered the elementary years by an exclusive focus on American history....and not always a very thorough focus, at that. If it's Veritas Press's Omnibus that you want your teens to make their way through, then there's hope and a solution—the History Transition Guides, designed to get sixth graders more or less up to speed on ancient and world history before they plunge into the demanding Omnibus curriculum.
Normally we'd save this next comment for the "Our Honest Opinion" section, but here it is: Be Warned! This isn't some walk in the park history course that will impart lots of facts with little effort to your name-and-date deprived offspring. The Omnibus History Transition Guides are hard work themselves, which makes sense when you consider that they're designed to prepare students for possibly the most difficult of all homeschool history programs in just one year.
That said, with some diligence on your child's part and a little planning on your end, the transitions provided here ought to result in a more or less seamless lane change. Bruce Etter, Alexia Detweiler, and Julie Etter have collated everything you need to give your middle schoolers a panoramic sweep of Western history from Genesis to 9/11. There's plenty of reading, memorization, thinking, and written work for the kiddos, and surprisingly little headache for you (though to say there's none would be a lie).
How Do These Work?
The two transition sets comprise one normal school year of study—there are 32 lessons, each with five "sessions" to be completed daily. At the core of each set are the Omnibus history flashcards, a Pages of History novel, and a slim History Transition Guide; you will also need some supplemental books (Adam and His Kin, Beowulf, The Hiding Place, etc.) that are not included. Students read about one chapter of the appropriate Pages of History novel per week, in addition to assignments from the supplemental books and flashcards.
A typical daily session includes a reading from the Omnibus history flashcards or one of the supplemental books or one of the two Pages of History novels, along with discussion questions and/or comprehension questions found in the History Transition Guides. While ideally parents will read the content themselves, there are suggested answers for all questions in the back of the guides. There is a midterm test and a final exam for each semester.
Occasionally a session revolves around a project rather than a reading. Many of these are optional, but it's a good idea to do at least every other one. Projects include everything from taking a field trip to an Egypt museum, to writing a one-page reflection on a historical figure or event, to doing independent research on a topic covered briefly in the curriculum. These projects not only help kids expand their knowledge, but give them opportunities to hone important academic skills and even help make studying history more fun.
Supplemental readings are mostly of the literature variety, including Adam and His Kin, The Children's Homer, a biography of St. Augustine, G.A. Henty's With Lee in Virginia, and many more. Most of the titles are either historic themselves (like Beowulf), or give an impression of a historical period as opposed to being explicit history writing. The Omnibus history flashcards provide more of the actual history, and students are expected to memorize quite a bit of material, including the infamous names and dates.
Together, the two Pages of History novels span creation to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The books were written by Bruce Etter and Alexia Detweiler, and chronicle the adventures of two boys living in the not-too-distant future (sometime after 2077) who wind up time traveling while on a field trip to the Library of Congress. Christianity has been banned by the State, and one of the boys is secretly a Christian—his best friend is not, and finds the idea ridiculous. As the two boys travel through history and have it explained to them by talking animals and other characters, gradually the unbelieving boy comes to faith even as both boys get a more robust understanding of the past.
The first semester (comprised of Transition Guide Volume One and Pages of History Volume One) covers Creation to the Reformation and utilizes the first three sets of Omnibus history flashcards; the second semester (comprised of, surprise surprise, Transition Guide Volume Two and Pages of History Volume Two) covers explorers to the present and utilizes the last two sets of Omnibus history flashcards. If your kids haven't had any world history, it might be prudent to start this in 5th grade to get them acclimated, rather than waiting till 6th grade.
Our Honest Opinion
If you plan to have your kids complete (or at least start) the junior high and high school Omnibus series from another history program, these transition sets are going to be pretty much necessary. Not only do they help get kids up to speed, they also give both parents and students a good idea of what school is going to look like for the next few years, and give everyone a chance to acclimate. Plus, you'll already have the history flashcards, which will save money on next year's school budget.
This is a solid world history course, and goes much further into the modern period than many comparable programs. It's also a bit of a chore to implement, since there are so many books to procure and so much reading to keep track of. The two Pages of History novels (really just one long one in two volumes) are a double-edged sword: they definitely convey the fun of history and will likely get some reluctant students interested, but they're also a bit thin as literature and don't really meet the high standard usually reserved for Omnibus reading material.
In other words, if you intend to have your kids do Omnibus history and haven't led them through the Veritas Press History courses, you should get both of these transition sets and have the kiddos complete them in as close to one year's time as possible. If you are undecided about whether to do Omnibus, these could help you determine if you'll use it or not, though the experience is different enough you might still not exactly know what you're getting into. For everyone else, there's not much reason to purchase or use either of these sets.
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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