Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Classical Historian: How to Think Like a Historian

I believe a Classical education has many benefits and rewards for children and have tried to implement basic principles and components in our homeschool. Because this was not the way I was educated sometimes it is more difficult for me to implement these principles and concepts. In designing a Classical program the biggest area where I've struggled has been in developing a strategy for teaching critical thinking. I also want to make learning fun and enjoyable for my children while their brains grow and absorb knowledge. At times it can be challenging to find resources with meaningful content and make learning fun. So I was very excited when I learned Mosaic Reviews would have the opportunity to review items from The Classical Historian.

I received 3 different products to review: Teaching the Socratic Discussion in History, Take a Stand! Modern American History, and Ancient History Go Fish Game.

Teaching The Socratic Discussion in History

  •  This history method is designed to teach students how to think critically about historical events and their impact and express it in writing. This is in sharp contrast to many other programs which encourage students to just memorize facts.
  • 17 lessons teaching students essential skills for studying history, writing, and Socratic discussion (back and forth question and answer between teacher and student)
  • 2 DVD's to introduce the methods of the program to the teacher and  1 DVD to be used with students to teach the Historical thinking concepts.
  • For grades 6-12
  •  Book and DVD $79.99     Also available in a bundle with history programs

My Thoughts

I found this to be a very interesting and useful product. Not only did my children learn what it takes to think critically about history, but they enjoyed the process. It does  a great job at teaching vital thinking skills, but the step by step method keeps the student from being overwhelmed and concluding that it is too hard to think about the topic. Many of these skills taught in this history context can also be applied in other disciplines as well. As the teacher I like how the course is presented in small bites to allow for true learning and application. I also appreciate how the teachers information is presented clearly and understandably. I see great benefit in teaching a Socratic Approach, but have often been overwhelmed when it comes to implementing it or even sketching out a rough outline for implementation. However after studying these materials and approach I am less intimidated and feel more confident in applying this methodology.

I also appreciate the DVD's for teaching the basics of the method. While they are not flashy, they are well done and communicate the information and method to the viewer. 

Take A Stand ! Modern American History

  • Course work for 32 weeks focusing on 12 important events/ situations in American history and opportunity for student to research their own topic at the end of the course
  • Teaches and requires students to read, analyze, and write about the events of history 
  • For Grades 9-12
  • Modern American History Guide  Student Edition $18.95     Teacher Edition $24.99

My Thoughts

I like the methodology and thoroughness of Modern American History.

After studying both the teacher and student guide I believe the most benefit would be gained from starting at the beginning of the series at the start of 6th grade. The approach to history is so different from other programs that I think switching in the middle would be challenging to the child.

This is a very teacher intensive course. It is recommended that the lessons about the tools of the historian are covered each year and these are teacher directed. The main lessons of the course  also require teacher interaction and most lessons also have accompanying papers to be graded. In addition, part of each class time is spent in discussion. For all of these reasons, the teacher is reminded to read the lessons ahead  of time in order to prepare. Despite all of these seemingly negative points I do have to say I am impressed with how much detailed information the teacher is given. I do not own any of the additional resources used with Modern American History so I can not comment on length of assigned readings or ease of finding assignments in the books.

Most of the material in the teachers' guide is written for a teacher who has a group of students working together, so it may require some tweaking  for a homeschooler. Some changes maybe needed regarding how discussions and presentations are done.

While these guides are supposed to be able to be used with a variety of primary source materials and other texts, the teachers' guidelines give page numbers for the recommended resources, but not topics covered in those pages, so using them with other sources would require additional work for the teacher. It may make finding specific information more difficult as well.

Ancient History Go Fish Game

  • Deck of 48 cards featuring people places, and events of Ancient History
  • Includes Directions for 4 different games   Go Fish, Collect the Cards, Chronological Order, and Continent Sort
  • Deck contains 12 suits of 4 cards each
  • Cards in each suit are different, but feature objects related to the  topic
  • Each suit has its own unique color and number
  • Covers topics such as: Geographical features of the Ancient World, Political leaders, Mesopotamia, Roman Empire, Greece, Hebrews, Egypt, Asia, Native American Homes, and Prehistory (hunting mammoths, Stonehenge, cave paintings, Celtic Village)
  • Ancient History Go Fish game   $11.95 

My Thoughts

These cards are nice and sturdy. They appear to be made out of card stock with a slight glossy finish on the front.  The size of 3 by 4 1/2 is easy to hold even if you have a handful. We really enjoyed playing 3 of the variations of the games. My children didn't really care for the continent sort variation, so we didn't do much of that. We studied Ancient History this year so this was a great way to review. My children also learned about several things which weren't covered in our text book studies. These cards provide a very complete overview of Ancient History. The Ancient History Go Fish cards were a lot of fun for our whole family.

 The Classical Historian also has memory matching history games for younger students. Their history curriculums also feature ancient and medieval world history, world history, and California history for junior high and high school students.

Overall, I am very impressed with these materials from The Classical Historian. I wish I had known about them before we began a new history cycle a year ago. It is very likely I would have started with the Ancient History resources at that time. This year we will be doing Medieval History and I am trying to determine how difficult it might be to switch to this program for my oldest while using the other materials with my youngest. We will definitely be continuing with Teaching the Socratic Discussion in History with both my 9 and 12 year olds this next year.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I ended up winning a free Ancient History Memory Game when I went to look at their website after reading this. We're doing Ancient History this year, so that worked out perfectly!