Tuesday, January 5, 2016

High School History for Homeschoolers

I've had a time of it, folks. Oh, the hours I've spent reading review after review of all the viable options for high school history (specifically, 9th grade to start). Someone needs to write another option for homeschoolers who are looking for rigorous history courses that are neither boring nor terribly slanted.

An excellent history study should Wow! the student and encourage critical thinking about events past and present. Ideally, the topics should remain in a student's consciousness, as opposed to leaving the mind after the last test. The knowledge base should be broad enough for students to build on in college and beyond, as opposed to starting from scratch again as an adult, because nothing from high school really stuck.

I strongly leaned toward My Father's World High School for several weeks. It's basically a unit study program encompassing history, literature and Bible study, including a full high school credit for each, and a half-credit for composition per year.

However, as much as I tried in those several weeks of leaning toward MFW, I could never get past the disadvantages of the traditional textbooks they use as their spines: (Notgrass World History) for 9th and 10th grade, followed by a Bob Jones University  US History text for 11th and 12th grades. Both of these texts represent stand-alone Christian-inspired high school history courses on their respective sites, but MFW adds in more literature and extensive Bible study.

My Father's World (MFW) is a very strong Christian worldview program, almost to the extent that some periods of history are short-changed because they don't fit well into a worldview study.

I wanted a complete, rigorous, exciting curriculum for two boys who have been raised in a Christian home and already have a strong Christian worldview. Every family's needs are different, and there are no perfect curriculums; for high school history, I think most homeschooling families settle for the next best thing, because the best thing doesn't exist. This feeling was largely consensual across all the reviews--that while there are some good choices, there aren't any great choices.

In my online travels I also looked at the final volume of Mystery of History (Volume 4), which also has a strong Christian protestant flavor. Unlike the other MOH volumes, Vol. 4 is written at a high school level, but it's not rigorous enough for a high school credit unless you supplement quite a bit. Not written in narrative form, it isn't as engaging as Story of the World, and doesn't include enough student writing or topic analysis for the high school level. It does, however, contain some engaging parts that improve upon the traditional HS history text we all suffered through in high school.

Beautiful Feet History is a wonderful curriculum company (loving it this year with my girls), but they don't have much to offer at the High School level.

I've looked into almost everything that Cathy Duffy reviews for History. Most of the choices were too weak for serious consideration.

Finally, for 9th grade History we decided on Sonlight American History In-Depth (History 120), which is geared toward 9th or 10th grade. The grade range on their site places it between 8-12 grades, but it fits best into the 9th or 10th grades, in my opinion. The history spine they use is the Award-winning series, A History of US by Joy Hakim, which is definitely not a dry textbook approach.

The huge drawback to this Sonlight option is that for 1 history credit and 1 Bible credit, it's going to cost $478! That's an incredible amount for 2 credits, but I think the learning will be worth it (especially if we can buy used books). Obviously, we can't spend that much on each course. Science won't be more than about $120 - $150 per year, and 4 years of Literature will be relatively inexpensive due to the availability of used novels. Composition will be woven through all the courses, especially literature, and Foreign Language DVD programs are usually less than $100. Math shouldn't top more than $170 per course.

So, history will be our highest expenditure each year, except for the purchase of a good microscope for 3 lab courses (1-time purchase of about $120 - $200).

Back to 9th grade history now: Joy Hakim's series has a slightly liberal slant, but Sonlight balances that by extensive notes pointing out where Hakim gets it wrong, and/or what she leaves out, as well as providing historical insight into why she may have chosen her particular point of view. Without Sonlight's extensive commentary on this series, I wouldn't place it at the high school level. Separate tests on this series can be purchased independently of Sonlight, which will help in awarding a final grade for the course.

Publisher notes on the series: Hailed by reviewers, historians, educators, and parents for its exciting, thought-provoking narrative, the books have been recognized as a break-through tool in teaching history and critical reading skills to young people. In ten books that span from Prehistory to the 21st century, young people will never think of American history as boring again.

Whether it's standing on the podium in Seneca Falls with the Suffragettes or riding on the first subway car beneath New York City in 1907, the books in Joy Hakim's A History of US series weave together exciting stories that bring American history to life. Readers may want to start with War, Terrible War, the tragic and bloody account of the Civil War that has been hailed by critics as magnificent. Or All the People, brought fully up-to-date in this new edition with a thoughtful and engaging examination of our world after September 11th. No matter which book they read, young people will never think of American history as boring again. Joy Hakim's single, clear voice offers continuity and narrative drama as she shares with a young audience her love of and fascination with the people of the past. This series is also available in an 11-volume set containing the same revisions and updates to all ten main volumes plus the Sourcebook and Index volume.

Sonlight's History 120 class goes beyond Joy Hakim's work. Also included in the course are the supplemental texts and biographies shown below.  A few books are too easy and I've left them out because we wouldn't use them at this level.

There is a guide written to the student, detailing each day's assignments with commentary on the readings, and another guide written for the parent. For the most part this is a self-directed course, but parents should engage students in conversation and guide them through the critical writing assignments.

Additional Reading included:

Before Columbus 120-03

Before Columbus (120-03)

A beautifully illustrated, scholarly look into the civilizations before Columbus. Focuses on three main questions: Was the "New World" really new? Why were small groups of poorly equipped Europeans able to defeat large Native American societies? What impact did the thriving native civilizations leave on the land?

The Boys' War 120-04

The Boys' War (120-04)

A wrenching look at the American Civil War through the eyes of its youngest soldiers.
Thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers were merely boys of 12 to 16 when they went to war. They fought and struggled alongside men three times their age. In this work, their photographs and firsthand accounts bring to life the realities, hopes and devastation of war.

Sacajawea 120-05

Sacajawea (120-05)

Sacajawea, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark come to life in a beautifully told narrative.
Closely adhering to the explorers' journals, this historical tale recreates the adventure, intercultural nuance and triumphant hope of this legendary expedition. With chapters that alternate between Sacajawea and Clark's voices, readers walk away with a true sense of having experienced history.

Freedom Walkers 120-06

Freedom Walkers (120-06)

You've heard of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. But who were the rest of the boycotters? Why did they summon incredible courage and risk their jobs and personal safety? How did they pull off a city-wide boycott that lasted over a year? How did they get across town to their jobs every day? How did they change history?
This gripping historical work brings a major Civil Rights event to life.

The Great Little Madison 120-07

The Great Little Madison (120-07)

This accessible volume tells the story of the "Father of the Constitution," James Madison.
Follow Madison through his rise in politics; his struggle to help create and defend the Constitution; his friendship with Thomas Jefferson; and a long, happy marriage. Discover his lasting influence on the United States of America.
World War II 120-09

World War II (120-09)

Clearly explains the key players, ideas, economics, ideologies and lasting effects of WWII.

The Yanks Are Coming 120-11

The Yanks Are Coming (120-11)

A gripping account of how the United States joined WWI and helped turn the tide of the entire war.
This fascinating narrative brings the war to life and reveals how the US mobilized industry, trained "doughboy" soldiers, and promoted the war at home. Portrays the deep human cost of the war as well as the heroic actions of those who fought for their country.

Cameron Townsend 120-12

Cameron Townsend (120-12)

The exciting, thought-provoking and true story of Cameron Townsend-- founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators--and his mission to translate the Bible into every language.

The Cross and the Switchblade 120-16

The Cross and the Switchblade (120-16)

Modern classic about a pastor who gives up a comfortable life in the countryside to minister to gangs in New York City. Gripping.

Dragon's Gate 120-19

Dragon's Gate (120-19)

When he accidentally kills a Manchu, a Chinese boy is sent to America to join his father, an uncle, and other Chinese working to build a tunnel for the transcontinental railroad through the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1867.

Farewell to Manzanar 120-25

Farewell to Manzanar (120-25)

The true story of one Japanese American family's attempt to survive forced detention, and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.
Moonshiner's Son 120-47

Moonshiner's Son (120-47)

Stunning book about the clash of two cultures--the culture of whiskey makers in Prohibition-era backwoods Virginia, and the culture of an anti-whiskey Christian preacher.

The Panama Canal 120-50

The Panama Canal (120-50)

A fascinating, colorful look at the Panama Canal, the idea behind it, how it was built, the men who built it, how it operates . . . and a whole lot more.

The Slopes of War 120-62

The Slopes of War (120-62)

A young soldier from West Virginia faces the Battle of Gettysburg knowing his two cousins may be fighting him.

Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold 120-71

Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold (120-71)

A study of the life and character of the brilliant Revolutionary War general who deserted to the British for money.

The credit for Bible study, which comes from reading 4 spiritual-support books (shown below) with writing assignments included, along with a Bible reading plan, would not work for every secular college, but many homeschoolers are awarding credits for Bible Study, looking to the Lord to make it work to their student's advantage. We will read the books, but I'm not sure whether I will include it on their transcripts.

Bible Study Sampler (110-10)

Consumable. 36 weeks' worth of Bible study questions... with spaces for you to write your answers.

God's Will, God's Best for Your Life 110-11

God's Will, God's Best for Your Life (110-11)

Easy-to-read help for teens who want to live life to the extreme, find true love, commit to life-long friends, prepare for a meaningful career—to live a life that matters.

Why Pray 110-12

Why Pray (110-12)

Provoke your prayer life to impact the world. This devotional offers a 40-day journey "from words to relationship" with God.

Evidence for Jesus 110-13

Evidence for Jesus (110-13)

Was Jesus a great teacher, a good prophet, or the Son of God? Muncaster reflects on Scripture in light of scientific, historical, archaeological, and literary discoveries to justify faith in Christ.

The Bible Jesus Read 110-14

The Bible Jesus Read (110-14)

Yancey confronts key sections of the Hebrew Bible (Job, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and the Prophets) in search of a deeper understanding of Jesus and the central human issues He saw answered in those ancient scrolls.

Now, this all seems like a lot of work, but I'm leaning toward having Peter take an extra semester or year to graduate (partly due to the time OCD steals from him). And Paul, who is set to graduate at 16, could easily wait until he's 17, allowing for more maturity before his college years. I'm more interested in giving them a comprehensive, exciting education, than a traditional 4-year high school experience.

There are options for writing a high school transcript. One is to list what the student took per year, and another is to write all the courses down, not divided up by years. Thus, a student can graduate either early or late, without the transcript reflecting this. We will most likely purchase transcript-writing software that best suits our un-traditional needs.

My homeschool advisor's son was accepted to a local university, and they asked her for a complete list of her son's reading for all four years. You can bet I'll be prepared for that!

Other Sonlight Social Studies/History courses at the high school level include:

History of the Christian Church (History 220) (On a transcript, the title could be changed for a secular university.)

20th Century World History (History 320)

American Government / Civics and Economics 420

World History and Worldview Studies 520


Most universities require 3 years of history (3 credits in 3 full-year courses), plus American Government and Economics (1/2 credit each in one-semester classes).

Don't you wish you remembered something from high school history? I sure do, but I'm looking forward to learning along with my children.


Anonymous said...

I'll have a look at some of the bible-related ones. Might be useful for our family, even though we don't homeschool. Very interesting to read all the same.

Terri H said...

Will you look to buy used? I have saved a ton of money on our SL cores so far by buying them all used. I got a current IG and 30 books last year for only $90 for Core D.

Christine said...

Hi Terri! Yes, we try to always buy used, but I've found if I don't find a complete set (hard to do) it isn't usually worth it. I definitely want the latest edition of the Hakim books, which have been improved a lot. I would say 65% - 70% of our entire curriculum is used. Anything that is DVD-based I like to get new. I've had some trouble with people packaging things sloppily to save themselves money, so I am weary of heavy things (big book packages) being sent by amateur packers too. Have you had any trouble with the way people package things? Once I lost a good part of a Sonlight science set I bought because someone put the too-heavy books in a padded large envelope! I took what wasn't lost in the mail and split the difference with the seller, but I regretted that all year because we didn't have a complete IG. The postal workers could only salvage some of the pages.

Have a good weekend!

Terri H said...

Oh that is a bummer! So far we have had an excellent experience buying used through homeschool classifieds and facebook groups. I know bad things can happen, though. I have saved a lot of money piecing together sets a few books at a time, but I am going to be looking for more complete sets in the future as well.

Christine said...

When I was schooling fewer children (when the girls were younger) it was easier to spend a lot of time saving money on curriculum by piecing things together. But now, we need to be completely ready for each day and not worry about whether a certain book has come from a used-book company in time to start it as scheduled in the Instructor's Guide. The boys, too, function better when everything is in place ahead of time. It allows them to be more independent and makes it easier for me to hold them accountable.

And I've started selling everything I don't need, rather than hoarding the books, except for some classics and favorites. That helps with curriculum money for the following year.

Terri H said...

Have a Core A to sell? ;)

Christine said...

No, but I will look out for one as I begin to look for curriculum soon.