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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TOS REVIEW: TruthQuest History- Ancient Rome

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God initiates > People respond > History happens.

Through the TOS Homeschool Crew I’ve been using TruthQuest History’s Ancient Rome study with my seventh grader. I received a pdf download through email. It is available from TruthQuest History for $19.95 or printed for $24.95. Ideally for Grades 5-12, but younger siblings can participate. Includes book recommendations for all ages, where available.

From the website: TruthQuest History is a deep and rich literature-based history study…but with a difference. You will not learn the story of mankind; you will learn the lovestory of mankind. You will not focus on the rise and fall of human civilizations; you will focus on the arrow-straight line of God's unchanging existence, power, love, truth, and plan for civilization. You will not simply 'meet the culture' or 'get the facts;' you will probe the truths of history so deeply that your students will be equipped to change their world!

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Ancient Rome: A unique insight into a civilization built on human power. Their understanding of it led to some excellent governmental and engineering advancements, but without acknowledging God's higher power, the stage was set for tyranny. Yet into this mighty realm, came the centerpiece of civilization--Jesus Christ! Why then? How did the early church begin to affect the world? Was it affected by the world? Why? You'll see! The Roman emperors expected the church to collapse; instead, their empire did. Hmmm. That makes for some interesting history! The reasons must be learned by modern Americans, if a similar collapse is to be avoided. from the website

This is a very different approach to history than most history curriculums take. This is definitely a very different approach than secular history curriculums. There isn’t one particular textbook that is used for this and there aren’t worksheets to fill out. We are actually quite used to that aspect in our homeschool so I was looking forward to this. There isn’t even a schedule to follow. This guide gives you information and lets you go!

Does that sound a little scary? To just give you the information and let you go to it? Well, count me in that group. When we first received this, I read and reread the beginning pages. I like the way it centers history not on mankind but on God. I liked the list of books that were included in this study. Many of the books I’d planned to use for our study before I was chosen to review this and many I’d not thought of or even known about. I’m used to using narrations and discussions to gauge understanding and appreciated that about this curriculum. But…Where’s the schedule? This is only our third year of homeschooling and sometimes I still need that schedule. At least for a program that I’ve not already researched for quite awhile and figured out. For those of us that panic without a schedule, here is a page at TQH that helps some with “How to Use”.

The entire guide is 112 pages. See a pdf of the Table of Contents, or click on the images below.

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Each section begins with a commentary by Michelle Miller of TruthQuest History (TQH). This review has made me think more than I thought I would because there is a lot of information in the beginning commentaries that I did not know, or just never thought about. I’m used to books and references to the Bible and God in our history studies but this had me thinking in more depth.

After the commentary are books that relate to the specific person, place, event, etc. She lists quite a few books in each part, along with the corresponding chapters, but really, it would be quite overkill to read them all. Most of the books she lists in this study can be found at the library or inexpensively at used book stores. I found quite a few at the library (we do have a pretty amazing interlibrary loan system though and I know that some places do not) and we already had a few.

Throughout the study are also words of note- vocabulary words?- as well as “ThinkWrite” boxes. The vocabulary words are discussed in the commentary. The “ThinkWrite” boxes include questions to get the student (and the teacher!) to dig deeper into the study- to think about what is being discussed. There are keys to the “ThinkWrite” questions in the Appendix to help gauge the student’s understanding.

I do need to tell you that we are only to 3f in this study. I decided to ‘go with the flow’ with this and not plan it out- as in, “do 3a-c this week, read this and that book”. Also we didn’t do writing for the “ThinkWrite” questions, instead they were for discussion. Perhaps further in I would have him do some writing assignments but we didn’t up to this point. As for the commentary- I read aloud what I felt was pertinent for him to hear. And this could just be me but, if I were to see the person actually speaking the way it is written, I’d say they need to calm themselves at some points. It’s good to be enthusiastic but there are an awful lot of exclamation points.

For implementing this, I went through the book suggestions for the first few sections and gathered what I had on hand and checked with the library for others. Some were not possible to locate so we obviously didn’t use them. A few others were above my son’s level so I left those out as well. In the end, we ended up using the books we were originally going to use (even if we weren’t reviewing this) and one or two more that were suggested.

History is an every day subject for us, in one form or another, but we did this (the commentary, vocabulary and “ThinkWrite”) 3 times a week. We read through the books we had up to 5 days a week.

There is a Yahoo! Group for TruthQuest History users to use. Send an email to Historyquesters-subscribe@yahoogroups.com if interested in subscribing. Although not done by TQH, there are some companion resources available from A Journey Through Learning that can be purchased at TQH’s website. I actually decided to purchase and use the notebooking pages; they were somewhat useful.

And I must mention that there is a page that was created to help with spine books –to help find the right spine book for the study guide that you’re using. Some of the pages don’t match up in my guide with the books I’d found –because I had the wrong edition –not just the spine books.

Bottom line:

Here are our/my Pros:

  1. It is adaptable. It can be used by those who go the Classical, Charlotte Mason, and/or unit study route in their school. A teacher can really use this however they wish to.
  2. It is full of books that I would not have thought of including.
  3. Christian perspective. But not just that, it takes the focus off of humans and directs it to God. Imagine how history would have been different if God were put first.

Here are our/my Cons:

  1. There is no schedule. It goes along a sensible path (chronological) in terms of the times and people being studied but a person could easily spend 1 day or 3 weeks on one spot! It just seemed to me to take more planning than I thought it would. In hindsight, I think I would have broken down the guide into weeks and tried to cover more of it.
  2. The commentary is …interesting. I don’t know how to put my finger on what I don’t really like about the commentary but there is something that just prevents me from wanting to read it to my kids. It is always good to dig deeper but…something just didn’t click with me.

Would I recommend this? Yes –if they are looking a curriculum that implements a lot of reading, doesn’t advocate (or even include) worksheets, and/or they like to pretty much make their own schedules. As for the use as a unit study, I can see how this could be integrated into just about all subject areas for that but we didn’t use it that way so I can’t really recommend it to those who prefer that method.

I can see how this is not for everyone though, for the same reasons I’d recommend it. Also, the thick application of the Big 2 Beliefs (although not a problem for our family) may bother some others.

I think I am rather on the fence with this curriculum, to be honest. There are parts I really like (but nothing that I find to be really awesome) and some that I don’t care for (but nothing I cannot stand). I would encourage you to read other reviews by my fellow Crewbies at the TOS Crew blog.

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***Disclaimer: I received the study guide above free from TruthQuest History via the TOS Homeschool Review Crew in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated are mine or those of my family. I only recommend products that I truly feel would benefit others, based on my experiences with the product. See Disclosure/Policies.***

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