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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Heritage History Classical Curriculum- Review {Ancient Greece, British Middle Ages, Young Readers Teacher’s Guide}

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“Putting the story back into History”

Recently, I was given the opportunity to review Heritage History’s new Classical Curriculum. I will often refer to this as HHCC in this post. Here’s a little information on Heritage History and their new curriculum (from the website):

“…the primary goal of Heritage History is not to reiterate a set of stories that "all students should know", but rather to engage students' genuine interest and instill a life-long passion for history.”

The Heritage Classical Curriculum is a study program based on classical juvenile history books. It was founded on the belief that well-written, age-appropriate history books could be of such natural interest that with sufficient guidance, many students can actually "teach themselves" history...H. E. Marshall, Helene Guerber, Jacob Abbott, Alfred J. Church, James Baldwin, Mary Macgregor, Andrew Lang, Samuel Harding, John Haaren, and Edward Sabin are only a few of the better known Heritage History authors. These writers and others like them are the true architects of the Heritage Classical Curriculum—the "permanent faculty," so to speak.

What to expect:

  • Living Books rather than a textbook approach to history.
  • National histories rather than epochal histories.
  • Narrative rather than analytical.
  • Introduces American history in the early grades and again in high school, but focuses primarily on ancient, mediaeval, and early modern history during the middle school years.
  • Focuses on studying the most important periods of Western Civilization in depth.
  • Explicitly encourages students to pursue historical topics of personal interest.

I encourage you to visit Heritage History website for more specifics about the curriculum in general.

I was graciously sent two CDs (Ancient Greece and British Middle Ages) and two print study guides (Ancient Greece and Young Readers) for the purpose of an honest review.

Each CD curriculum is $24.99 (plus Media Mail postage cost).

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Study Guide (Ancient Greece- $16.99, plus Media Mail postage cost) & Teacher Guide (Young Readers- $14.99, plus Media Mail postage cost)

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The Study Guides can be purchased for download at a cost of $4.99 (Young Readers) and $6.99 (all others) with no delivery fee. Click on the photos to be taken to the website order pages.

HHCC offers Young Readers, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, British Middle Ages and British Empire as an entire package for $99.00 plus Media Mail shipping charges (scroll to the middle of the page), and they give you the Early American Classical Library for free.axe_shield
In each of these items, I was surprised at the amount of high quality information and resources. The curriculum CDs include books, 50+ maps, teaching aids, and a Study Guide. The Young Readers Teacher Guide includes “color images and charts, recommended reading lists, binder covers, accountability records, and division separator tags.” The Ancient Greece Study Guide includes “color maps and charts, timelines, recommended core reading for beginner, intermediate, and advanced readers, geography terms, outline maps, binder covers, historical era summaries, list of prominent characters, and accountability records.(information taken from the website)

The printed guides are wonderful! They are high quality; study paper and printed with vibrant colors. I use an inkjet printer myself but these are definitely made with a far superior machine than mine. Even the black and white images are great.

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We were not able to utilize the Young Readers Teacher Guide because of the age range but here are some highlights of why this would be a good curriculum for those with younger children:

The Heritage program puts emphasis during the early years on “simple, fun-to-read, easy-to-understand stories from history that provide a broad framework for future studies.” It is highly recommended that students be reading fluently at a fourth grade level before beginning the program. Look at this page to see all the books included in this curriculum.

The Young Readers curriculum focuses on American, European, Ancient, and Bible and Saints history. Within each of these divisions are subdivisions and most are not too in-depth to overwhelm so that the ones suggested would be enough. As the years progress, these will be revisited, giving more in-depth knowledge.

The Young Readers Teacher’s Guide

“provides a broad overview of the major divisions of Western Civilization, rather than a detailed summary of a particular civilization.

In addition to a providing reading suggestions and a framework for understanding the major events in Western history, the Young Readers Teacher's Guide includes several essays intended for parents and instructors of young students. These essays discuss the living books approach to teaching history and offers suggestions for motivating young history students.” (from the website) emphasis mine

On page 31 of the guide it discusses how children learn history and I personally found this to be quite informative! The HHCC “involves a mix of new learning, in-depth learning, and review of all historical eras. The Young Readers program is mostly ‘new learning’, but virtually all of the material will be covered again in later years (page 38, Young Readers Teacher’s Guide, “Remembering and Forgetting”).” It also discusses the difference between boys and girls interests and how this affects their learning.

Here is a review by Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool that may give you a better idea about the Young Readers Teacher’s Guide.

“What we need is to have a culture before we hand it down. In other words, it is a truth, however sad and strange, that we cannot give what we have not got, and cannot teach to other people what we do not know ourselves.”G. K. Chesterton

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How we used this curriculum:

Since I have two children in different grades (and although I could combine them in history, I don’t), we study different time periods. For Lee (dd) we used British Middle Ages. For Fox (ds) we used Ancient Greece.

Basically, this curriculum fits in well with my current choice of using a Charlotte Mason method of learning. It is heavy on reading living books and narrating what has been retained. And whereas before we have tried to implement time-lining and map-work into the day and fell short, we didn’t have that trouble using HHCC. It is all included in the CD curriculum.

First, we didn’t try to plot the entire year (although I was tempted). We were already into the times that we were going to be using HHCC so we went through and decided where to start. We went with the suggestion of finding a few books to start with. With Lee we decided to go with the Plantagenet Kings (British Middle Ages) and with Fox we have been working through the Eastern Empires (Ancient Greece). After that we went through the recommended reading in each section that we were going to study and chose a few books. I tried to find at least one core, one supplement, and one free reading. I think I did well with at least the core reading Open-mouthed smile You can see from my white board that I put “WK 1-2” up top but I really wasn’t sure how long each would take. This is simply a suggestion for us. The books (as well as the chapters associated with each) will change as we go on. (We are into week 4 with this curriculum and ds has moved onto the ‘next’ time period; Lee is almost ready to do the same. The board is updated as we go.)

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Next we made notebooks specifically for HHCC. Simple 3-ring binders. I really like the binder covers that come with the printed version (which I couldn’t find on the CD); it really helps our family- we have a lot of 3-ring binders.

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With Fox, the study guide was preprinted but for Lee I print out what she needs. You can see from the following photos how the preprinted guides have convenient tabs and with the ability to print the guides, you can skip pages that aren’t needed at the moment.GEDC0059

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HHCC says that if a child reads for 30 minutes a day, in the span of 6 years, that child will have read over 150 historical books. Amazing! I only wish I’d read that many when I was younger. I didn’t really start until almost 30 years old (yea, I’m a little behind…)! So, we follow the recommended reading schedule of 30 minutes of reading per day of HHCC. If a book is finished (or honestly if it doesn’t hold their attention or if they are ‘bored’ with it [yet to hear that one though]) they can go on to another. At first they were a little skeptical of the time suggestion since I rarely put one on their reading (other than for a few certain readings/subjects that they really dislike). However, it has not been a problem at all. They are enjoying the books they read.

*I do want to point out that it was not my intention to suggest that HHCC puts a limit on reading; they do not. I simply know my kids and this was a good amount of reading for a subject that they initially thought they would not enjoy. It is quite easy for them to go over the 30 minutes, and that is fine with me!*

There has been a few instances where the book listed under recommended reading was not included on the CD Library. I simply went to the website and found the book. It can be read online.

When they are coming to the end of a book or to break up the ‘monotony’ that I think they may feel (although, like I mentioned, they haven’t complained), I have them do time-lining and map-work. The time-lining may not be like others would do it…but it works for us. That takes a while because it isn’t something that they do every day, so there is generally a bit to write down. Here is an example from dd’s pages in her notebook. She took a few days to fill in the pages for the time period she was studying. (I will add that she was allowed to write as much as she felt was necessary in her timeline. She chose to write everything Smile)

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For map-work we take one of the color maps that are included in the study guide and find the corresponding outline map. Based off of the color map, locations and other prominent features are filled in. It is also colored. Ds doesn’t generally like this task but…we are working on it. You can see an example of the nice color maps and one of my dd’s (the first, uncolored map) and my ds’ (the partially colored map).

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We also plan to do one other thing that is mentioned but I don’t know it is suggested- ‘reports’. Our reports are interest driven in respect to writing about a person or event they have learned about that they have found to be particularly interesting. This way it gives them incentive to read other books from the HHCC library.

Pros:

  • I like the set up of the curriculum. It is straight forward. Even if the teacher is not strong at history I believe this could work for them. The table of contents for the curriculum (on the CD) and the study guides (whether in print or on the CD) is very easy to navigate.
  • It encourages digging into history without the chore of simply ingesting facts and regurgitating them (usually on a test). It is interesting and often exciting. It would encourage parents to learn right along with their kids, too!
  • Love the color maps! The outline maps can be reproduced enabling multiple labeling and coloring for different periods.
  • I appreciate the extensive (although not exhaustive) lists of books recommended for each time period being studied. There are so many different genres as well that it allows for the student (and/or parent) to choose a mix to keep it interesting.
  • The said lists of books are categorized into reading levels (‘age’ ranges)- (and they’re color coded) Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Reading living books- from authors that enjoyed writing about history.
  • The list of prominent individuals as well as the timeline resources is very helpful.
  • Customer service has been very good- quick to answer questions, quick to help, always polite (I have communicated via email only).
  • Very portable. We move often (having just relocated two months ago in fact) and a curriculum that can be carried around via my Kindle (or laptop via a CD) is almost priceless.
  • Books can be downloaded in pdf, mobi or epub format for reading on the computer or an ereader. They can also be printed from home (or taken to a copy shop). I know many like the feel of an actual book as opposed to reading on the computer or ereader.
  • Did I mention the color maps? Winking smile
  • Compatible with other curriculums such as Ambleside (which we use), Living Books, and Old Fashioned Education as well as Tapestry of Grace, Story of the World and Veritas Press. There is a page on their website that gives more information about this.

Cons:

  • It is in its beginning stages of being offered and therefore there are a few kinks that are still to be worked out (such as a few recommended reading books that are not currently available and some typos). Some links were incorrect. I have talked with HH and they assure me that the ‘final’ curriculums will have this corrected. (Did I mention customer service is great? I’ll say it again Smile)
  • The outline maps are not the best I’ve seen but they work well enough in conjunction with the color maps.
  • The color maps (which I LOVE) are obviously from particular books (whether or not from the curriculum’s list) but the original books are not mentioned. I personally like to have information as to where I can find things in original works. I was able to find some of them in the books we are reading from but it would be nice to have a reference (so we wouldn’t have to search Winking smile)

Other Points (not pro or con for us- just to be noted):

  • There are accountability forms included. Although we did not use these because we were already keeping track of books read (for leisure and ‘school’) via a different form, the simplicity of them is admirable.
  • Using Classical learning method as opposed to textbook learning may help some to feel less ‘stressed’ about history. It works well with our family’s approach to learning.
  • The availability of print study guides is good and the price is very reasonable (in my opinion).
  • Some may not appreciate the older publications (although personally I *love* the books chosen). Those preferring more modern books may be disappointed with this curriculum.

Bottomline:
Impressive. It still has a little work that needs to be done so that it can reach its full potential but I like it. My kids both say that they enjoy this curriculum. It makes history interesting by reading so many different accounts. The price is quite reasonable for the amount of resources that are included. I would use this for future history studies (and my kids want to!).

I would definitely recommend this to others. It is well thought out and put together in a way that is very user friendly. The cost of this curriculum is very reasonable.

HERITAGEHISTORY

Heritage History offers individual books for download ($1.99 each) as well as links to find the books in print (page takes a long time to load- froze my browser a time or two). Available on CD are classical libraries that contain biographies, historical literature, military history, and hero stories as well as comprehensive histories intended for middle school students and young adults interested in an in-depth study of history. These are set up more for independent study than the curriculums. Check out their website and see the high quality history resources that they offer.

This post was slightly revised 11/2/11. I changed an image, changed a few words I originally had chosen to use and also put in a note about ‘time limits’. I also included a link to another review that you may find helpful (Young Readers). All other information remained unchanged Smile

***Disclaimer: I was given two (2) CDs and two (2) print guides from Heritage History in exchange for an honest review. There was no other compensation given to me. All opinions are my own and those of my family. See Disclosure/Policies.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the thorough review. It has helped me in making my decision to use HHCC. Than you also for the link to the other review, I will be starting with the young reader set.

    ReplyDelete

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