Last schoolyear, we were blessed with the opportunity to use Dave Raymond’s Modernity as part of William’s high school studies. William is my history-loving son, and he had determined that modern history, specifically the 20th Century, was where he really needed to spend his last year of high school.
Compass Classroom provided a wonderful way to do just that.
This course consists of daily video lectures, which you can stream, download, or purchase on DVD. We have lousy internet, so we were thrilled to be able to use the DVDs. There is also a Student Reader and a Teacher’s Guide, available as a pdf, epub, or mobi file. You do need all three parts to really use the course, although just watching the lectures could be a great way to supplement a more textbook-based course.
There are 27 lessons, with each split into five parts. Each day you have a lecture to watch, and there is reading in the reader. Those readings include a variety of source documents – speeches, diary entries, sermons, letters, and other documents. Some readings are really short, but some are pretty lengthy. For speeches, we tended to search online for a recording of the actual speech. Those were fun to watch together, especially as we got to Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech in the final lesson, where I could talk about my reactions to the events or to that speech at the time. We were able to do the same for songs, as some of the readings were of song lyrics (the theme song from M*A*S*H, for instance, “Suicide is Painless.”)
As long as I am leaping to the end of the course here, it is worth knowing that there is a fair amount of discussion about things like the sexual revolution, or the attitudes in the M*A*S*H theme song. Modern history isn’t exactly fun, and I would not necessarily recommend this course for younger than high school. In fact, my plan is to make it a senior year course for the rest of my kids, in spite of the fact that I love being able to combine as many of them as possible. I may change my mind, though, and have 12th and 10th graders do it together.
So back to how this course works. Daily, you have the lectures and readings, and some questions generally. Every week, there is an exam in the Teacher’s Guide, and the student is to complete an entry into his portfolio. The exams have questions like, “How are revolutions and reformations different?” or “Why is scientism attractive to mankind?” The portfolio is a bit like a scrapbook, where the student is to put images of some sort, along with titles or captions. This could be maps, artwork, copies of artwork, lyrics, quotes, etc. This is a great place to personalize the course.
I can see Thomas (now in 11th grade) using this as a place to talk about significant movies of the time period in the lesson, or about the time period, or photographic and film innovations from that time period. That might be a bit tougher for some of the earliest lessons, but it would be something he can go all out with as we get to about the 1890s and on.
I can see Richard creating a portfolio based on flight and aviation. Right now, I could see Trina doing a portfolio based on fashion trends, as she is really fascinated by clothing of the early parts of the 20th century.
In addition, there are four other projects that take place throughout the year. There is an imitation project, where the student is to imitate the work of a 17th or 18th century master – either art, music, poetry or invention. There is a speech, and a research/thesis paper. The final project is very open-ended, where the student is to invest a chunk of time into a big project of their choice. Again, I could see Thomas creating a documentary about the early stages of motion pictures. I could see Richard creating a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane, I could see Trina creating a 20s ‘flapper’ outfit.
William focused on Winston Churchill for his project, and one thing he ended up doing was to create a list of Churchill quotations that we printed up on nice paper, with lots of “white” space (it was actually more "parchment space") that we had people sign as a guest book at his graduation ceremony.
The first few lessons are setting the stage. In fact, Lesson Two is called, “The Great Stage: Introduction to the West.” The course ends with “The Triumph of the West: The Fall of Communism and Post-Modernity.” Over half of the course (roughly Lesson 12 and on) takes place in the mid-1800s up through the late 20th Century.
William loved this course. The video lectures were fantastic. Dave Raymond draws you in and really talks to the viewer in a way that makes you think you are right there, listening in. He includes a lot of visuals in the lessons, so it isn’t just watching him lecture.
I absolutely plan to have all of my children work through this.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the download of this course from Compass Classroom. This post does contain affiliate links. I was not
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