Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Homeschool Review: Connecting with History Volume 1

An updated version of this review was posted in August 2012.

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I spent a long time last year searching for a history program. I wanted something cyclical, so we could start with creation in first grade and come back to it again in a few years. I wasn't sure I wanted something specifically Catholic, but that's what I found.

Connecting with History is a Catholic history program based on the classical model. Families can study history on a four year cycle, eventually. Volumes 1 and 2 are available in their entirety. Volume 3 is available as a BETA version. Volume 4 should be available in 2012. In each volume, reading lists are provided for four levels: Beginner (1-3), Grammar (4-6), Logic (7-9) and Rhetoric (10-12). There are recommendations in a few of the units for combining students at different levels for some of the books.

The goal is to "connect" the student with history. You can see the six steps of the CONNECT method on the St. George Catholic Bookstore website. Each unit includes a summary, list of timeline cards, vocabulary, essay and research ideas, creative writing ideas, ideas of hands-on projects, maps from Blackline Maps of World History, and memory and copy work suggestions.

In Volume 1, we studied Old Testament history and Ancient cultures. The main textbook is a children's Bible along with engaging nonfiction books. Every unit also includes literature suggestions of which they recommend you select at least one to read with the children.

Learning to be archaeologists
We loved almost every single book suggested in the units. One of my favorites was Old Testament Days, which is a wonderful book full of not only lots of activities that really help kids understand what life was like for the people in the Old Testament, but also short pieces that expand geographical, political and religious knowledge for kids. (Me, too.) Another one the children really enjoyed was Famous Figures of Ancient Times. It's a good thing two of each figure are included in the book. First Son and First Daughter both loved putting all the figures together. First Daughter could do most of them herself (at four years old).

I would have liked to do more culminating activities for each unit. Those were some of the things I cut from our schedule. Volume 1 provides only a few examples and suggestions for writing assignments and big projects, but I've glanced through Volume 2 and they've really expanded that section for each unit.

I think, too, that we read far too many of the literature selections. They were all excellent, but we had trouble finishing our history in a timely manner. (In fact, we have another week or so of history readings. I want to make sure to finish Volume 1 before we start Volume 2 in the fall.) I really hope to try to rein myself in a little more next year!

Making a salt dough map of the Promised Land
I started out with American history twice a week and Ancient history twice a week. After a few months, it was obvious what I'd selected for American history was not pleasing us. I cut that out and spread our Ancient history out over four days. Not only did we enjoy the readings more, it helped to shortened our history readings, narrations and mapwork short, which made First Son much happier. Next year I'm adding American history back in, so we'll have to see how it works out.

Volume 1 is heavily focused on Western history. It's the one aspect of the program I did not like. I supplemented a little myself with some Asian history this year. From the booklists, it looks like they are addressing those areas more in future volumes.

I was very pleased with our history and have already ordered Volume 2 (and most of the books!) to use next year.

This review is my own opinion. I did not receive anything in exchange for it. If, however, you choose to order something from St. George Catholic Books and Gifts for the first time, please consider putting my (real) name in the comments box when you check out. You can read more about their referral program here.

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