More and more homeschool families are turning to non-textbook solutions for teaching their children, particularly when it comes to history. Fortunately, there are bajillions of resources and books available; unfortunately, finding the right ones can be difficult, to the point many parents give up. Gail Ledbetter has done a lot of the searching-through-the-haystack work for you, and presents her discoveries in Timeline of Classics: Historical Context for the Good and Great Books, a recent publication of Institute for Excellence in Writing.
While Timeline of Classics is an independent resource, Ledbetter assumes you'll have guided your kids through Adam and Missy Andrews's Teaching the Classics or a comparable course beforehand. This isn't just intended to be a reading list with titles to check off as fast possible, but a way to help students really digest important literature and grapple with the issues it examines, facilitated by discussion and guided journaling. As such, it's important that you and your children have some background in literary analysis.
Ledbetter's compilation is both a timeline and a reading list. Four columns present the vital information: the first offers the time period covered by the resource in question; the second provides the title (and series title, if applicable); the third identifies the author; and the fourth offers suggested levels (elementary, middle school, high school). The time period column doesn't just include dates, it also presents some of the key events that took place during those years.
Most of the resources included are books (both fiction and non-fiction), though there are also plenty of timelines, charts, and movies included. On each page, Ledbetter has included pertinent quotes from famous authors and their works that either underscore a Christian worldview or simply present food for thought. This is a Christian list, so if you're looking for something more neutral, you'll probably want to look elsewhere, though the Christian books included are mostly of historical significance.
Specific titles range from King James I's First Charter of Virginia, to The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, to the historical adventures of G.A. Henty. While there are plenty of well-recognized titles, there are also plenty of pleasant surprises of both the hidden classic and yet-to-become classic variety that many users won't be familiar with. Most of the titles are easy to obtain, many of them even for free in e-book form, though a few may be a little harder to track down.
Students are also taught to journal about the books they read. Ledbetter rightly acknowledges that reading is not enough—in order to truly engage with the ideas present in a work of literature, students need to slow down and collect their thoughts before, during and after the actual reading process. Journaling helps them do this, as well as providing more context and understanding to look back on reading great literature with more pleasure than pain.
A number of free downloads are available for purchasers of the book: the Timeline of Classics e-book, a Reader Response Journaling Sample Blackline Masters e-book, Sample Vocabulary Cards, three articles by Andrew Pudewa, and MP3 files containing talks by Adam Andrews, Andrew Kern, and Andrew Pudewa. These resources can be downloaded as many times as necessary, but only for personal use as these resources are proprietary.
The author encourages students (especially high school students) to mark up their timeline, marking books they found especially helpful, writing notes, etc. This isn't a rigid reading list or curriculum by any stretch; rather, it's meant to facilitate either core or supplemental history reading, viewing and study. If you have time to sift through all the material out there you might not need this book; for everyone else (i.e., most of us), Timeline of Classics is a compact and very useful tool.
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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