Sunday, March 21, 2010

Engaging History Curriculum with a Classical Approach

It’s that time of year again...when we homeschool mom’s have to look to next year and begin to figure out just what our students will be doing then (while still keeping an eye on what they are doing now! Aren’t we amazing?!!!). With my youngest going into 7th grade, I am all for curriculum that she can do (mostly) on her own; but with her personality type in cannot be just a straightforward textbook or she’ll be miserable!
Thankfully, Pandia Press sent me a copy of History Odyssey: Early Modern by Kathleen Desmarais for me to review, and I have been happy to check off “history/geography/writing” curriculum from my list! With a classical approach, History Odyssey: Early Modern will give my daughter detailed lessons that will lay a good foundation in this period of history (1600-1850 AD). Intended for 6th grade and above, this curriculum integrates whole books along with the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon as the basis for study. My daughter will enjoy a varied palate of activities that will be filed into a notebook that she will compile over the course of the year. 
There is a healthy emphasis on outlining and writing essays as well as note taking, keeping a timeline, writing biographies, and learning geography in this curriculum. In fact, the cover of the book states that it is “a literature based study guide combining history, geography and writing” (however a basic writing course prior to using this material is recommended because it does not delve deeply into logistics; assignments assume there is some basic knowledge of structure). Although some parental oversight will be needed, it really looks like a program she can take initiative with, understanding what is required from each lesson. There is quite a bit of reading involved so, if that is a struggle for your student, you may need to be more hands on in that area. The maps and workbook pages are all included in the appendix and are reproducible for your child, which is always a plus. Another feature I appreciate is that the material was sent unbound, but three-hole punched, ready to be placed into a notebook! Way to make life easier, Pandia Press! (I just realized that there are a list of vendors on the Pandia Press Website that carry the paper versions of the book. However, you can instantly buy all of their curriculum as an eBook that will download directly to your computer, just printing out the pages you need. You can decide which version will be best for your school).

History Odyssey: Early Modern is one of many history curriculums offered on their website, utilizing the Classical approach (written for the logic and rhetoric stage). They also offer science curriculum. See for yourself what they carry, and enjoy the "try before you buy" feature by clicking here. You will get a full years curriculum, for $28.99 -$33.99 depending on the particular history time period you buy, this price is for the eBooks, there is not a price given for the paper versions, but there are connections on site to those that carry them. Also realize that you will need to purchase the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and The Story of Mankind, as well as purchasing or checking out from the library about a dozen other books for reading through the year. For the sake of interest and retention, this is the best fit for my student and will be worth every penny!

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.