Exploring World History (Gr. 9-12)
An updated edition of a much-loved curriculum should offer significant improvements, and this 2014 edition of Exploring World History does not disappoint. The impressive color and extended global coverage along with more options for a variety of learning styles are welcome. I'm thankful they've kept all the features that make this curriculum user-friendly and enjoyable while adding just a few more like the student review book. I think you'll agree the overall package is a win-win.
Studying world history alongside world literature has always made sense to me. Evidently it makes sense to the Notgrass family as well, because they've developed a well-organized curriculum that integrates these two subjects and adds a solid Bible component. The result is a three-credit [World History, English (world literature and composition), and Bible in World History] high school level course that is strong in user-friendly features. Functioning either as an independent study course or a discussion-based study, the written-to-the-student texts allow for as much or as little involvement as parents choose (or are able) to give. There is a permeating emphasis on Bible and Christian history that provides a refreshing contrast to some studies of world history where the Christian is left with the impression that the Bible is not a historical document and Christians are culturally irrelevant. The father/author, Ray Notgrass, assures us that there is no denominational bias.
The thirty weekly units each provide five lessons and cover history from creation to the present in two full-color hardcover texts (about 450 pgs each). These are Part 1 Creation through the Middle Ages, and Part 2 The Renaissance to the Present. Concentrating one day a week on spiritual applications, one lesson in each unit is a Bible study, but sometimes an entire unit focuses on a biblical time period (i.e. Unit #5 God Chooses Israel). The units are organized with a consistent pattern that starts with an introduction to the unit a brief overview, a list of books needed, the project choices, and an introduction to the book(s) to be read. Several types of lessons are incorporated into the units historical overviews, key events, key concepts, key people, surveys of daily life and culture in addition to the Bible study lesson mentioned previously. Each day the student is expected to complete the assignments from the highly-readable Text and In Their Words, read a Bible passage, work on writing assignments or projects, complete literature assignments, and complete the optional Student Review. The "key" lessons seem a particularly effective way of compacting an in-depth historical understanding into a course that by its very nature (a one-year study) must be somewhat superficial. To get an idea of how this is accomplished, let's take a look at Unit #10 Roman Civilization. Unit lessons: (#46) The Rise and Fall of Rome; (#47) Key Person: Augustus Caesar; (#48) Key Concept: Roman Law; (#49) Everyday Life in Rome; and (#50) Bible Study: The Kingdom of God (contrasting with the Roman Empire). Books used in this unit are the Bible, selections from In Their Words (more about this later), and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. Choices for a unit project include an essay (choice of why Rome achieved success or a news article on the death of Julius Caesar), a short play (set in ancient Rome), or creating a model of a Roman structure. Included at some point within each unit is a timeline (What Was Happening in the World?). The author suggests that most students will be able to successfully complete the course work in three hours per day.
The Curriculum Package includes the two text manuals plus In Their Words , a 370-page (much expanded from the last edition) compilation of original documents, poetry, stories, literature excerpts, and hymns from all over the world. These selections are continually used as reading assignments accompanying the lessons. The collection is impressive and completely indexed according to author, title, and subjects. Illustrations are now a combination of full-color and black and white. Additional reading assignments include Bible passages and twelve full-length books: The Cat of Bubastes (G.A. Henty), The Art of War (Sun Tzu), Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare), The Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis), Here I Stand (Roland Bainton), Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens), North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell), The Hiding Place (Corrie ten Boom), Animal Farm (George Orwell), Bridge to the Sun (Gwen Terasaki), Cry, the Beloved Country (Alan Paton), and The Abolition of Man (C.S. Lewis).
Writing assignments are part of every lesson and unit (although there are alternatives to choose from). A short section on Writing Tips and Writing a Research Paper provide the only writing instruction. It’s assumed the student has mastered basic writing skills (a reasonable expectation for highschoolers) and is capable of taking the various suggestions and producing completed writing projects. Mr. Notgrass recommends Elements of Style and Writer’s Inc. (Research section) for students needing addtional support. With timely feedback/critique from parents, these writing assignments will provide a wealth of writing practice.
There are two optional parts of this world history/literature program. The Student Review is combination review/discussion questions, Bible commentary, and resource material for the literature studies. The set of review questions from the text as well as the In Their Words assignments for each lesson can be answered either orally or on paper. The Bible commentary is to aid the student in profiting from the Bible reading and study. Also included in the student review book are literary analysis segments and questions for each book selection. The Quiz and Exam book is just that - quizzes (for each unit) and exams (for five units). The Answer Key has answers to the review questions, quizzes, exams, and literary analysis questions. All three of these items are included in the Student Review Pack.
Carving out an interesting niche among history and literature curricula, this course has much to offer. While not as demanding as the Omnibus courses, Exploring World History is academically strong, extremely biblically-centered, and very doable. Literature selections are well-chosen and interestingly integrated, and this edition’s inclusion of literary analysis makes the literature portion stronger than ever. In short, this would be an excellent choice for any family wanting a solid, integrated, and engaging history, literature, and Bible curriculum. ~ Janice