Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: American History

A while back, I posted a review of World History by James Stobaugh.  That set of books was the second year in a three-year high school history curriculum.

American History is the first year of that set.  It comes as a student book ($29.99, 384 page paperback) and a teacher book ($14.99, 160 page paperback).  The book is nonconsumable so you can use it with each of your children, a feature I really love.

From the publisher:
Respected Christian educator, Dr. James Stobaugh, offers an entire year of high school American history curriculum in an easy to teach and comprehensive volume. American History: Observations & Assessments from Early Settlement to Today employs clear objectives and challenging assignments for the tenth grade student. From before the birth of our republic to the principles of liberty, American history trends, philosophies, and events are thoroughly explored. The following components are covered for the student:
  • Critical thinking
  • Examinations of historical theories, terms, and concepts
  • History makers who changed the course of America
  • Overviews and insights into world views.
Students will complete this course knowing the Christian influences that created a beacon of hope and opportunity that still draws millions to the United States of America.
The book, like others in the series, consists of 34 chapters, with daily lessons for days one to four, and a test/assessment for the fifth day.  For an idea as to the scope of this study:
  • Chapter 1, Natives of the New World, covers worldviews, Indigenous People Groups of North America, Indigenous People Groups of South/Central America, and Columbus, Conquistadors and Colonization.
  • Chapter 34, Contemporary Issues Part Two, covers Euthanasia, Global Warming, Health Care, and Population Explosion.
With a total of 136 lessons (34 weeks times 4 lessons per week) this study obviously cannot cover everything that has happened in American history.  It seems to do a pretty good job, however, of hitting most of the important topics.

So what does a "typical week" look like?  Well, I'll pick one to talk about here, though I'm not entirely certain there is such a thing as a "typical week."  Let's look at Chapter 20, "The Wild West."
  1. The first lesson is also titled "The Wild West" and it is a page of text by Stobaugh talking about the California Gold Rush, the role of the railroads, etc.  The assignment involves reading a lengthy quote by Frederick Jackson Turner regarding westward expansion and discussing whether you agree with him, and what role other historical trends (military, economic, religious, etc.) had in developing the American character.  The second half of the assignment is to write a brief history of your own town. 
  2. The second lesson is "Native Americans" and it includes two pages of text about the various tribes in the West, Southwest and Northwest, also including a page-long excerpt from the autobiography of Geronimo.  The assignment is first to summarize Geronimo's point of view regarding why whites and Native Americans did not get along.  The second part of the assignment relates to what should have happened when Native Americans were located on valuable or vital land.  Definitely thought-provoking.
  3. The next lesson on "Lawmen and Outlaws" is a single page, all text by Stobaugh.  It talks about people such as Billy the Kid and Jesse James.  The assignment relates to analyzing why Americans love to root for the underdog, even when that underdog is a convicted murderer.
  4. The final lesson is on Frances Willard, president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.   This lesson is two pages, including a short bio by Stobaugh. The bulk of the reading is of the last formal speech that Willard made.  The assignment relates to a quote about being followers of Christ disguised as lawyers, doctors, housewives, etc., and how that idea summarizes the life of Frances Willard.
  5. The assessment primarily reviews lessons 1-3, with slightly different discussion questions.
The student book contains the text and daily assignments.  The teacher's book contains the daily questions and answers (or possible answers).  It also contains the weekly assessments and the answers to those. 

So, what did we think?

First off, the expected time to complete the lessons was a bit off.  Usually the reading aspect of the assignment could easily be accomplished in the 20 minute timeframe, but the assignments frequently require far more than a few minutes. Especially as sometimes you need to do additional research to truly answer the questions in the assignment.

That's a good thing though, because if you were to spend 30 minutes a day for 34 weeks, you are only talking 85 hours of work, which is simply not enough "quality time" in my opinion for a full high school credit.

I also really question the choices of where to focus time.  On the one hand, I think understanding the Civil War is critical in understanding a lot of American history, it seems a bit much to focus five weeks (nearly 15%) of the course to that topic, with a week on Antebellum Slavery, a week on causes of the war, a week on the war, and two weeks on reconstruction.  I think these chapters are fabulous, don't get me wrong.  But it is in stark contrast to the amount of time spent on other wars:
  • American Revolution (including the French and Indian War) - 2 weeks
  • The War of 1812 - a paragraph in one lesson, and brief mentions in a couple other lessons
  • Spanish American War - most of a chapter/week
  • World War I - 2 days
  • World War II - 2 days
  • Cold War - 3 days
  • Korean War - 1 day
  • Vietnam War - 1 day
  • War on Terror - 1 week
It isn't like I know what could change to make this better, but two days on World War II?  It just seems a tad bit rushed.

Since the study does not necessarily take enough time, though, it isn't like I can't throw in an additional biography here or there if I plan this as a full course. 

One thing we love is the focus on some of the more "Christian" history of the US.  Things I wasn't taught in school.  So there is information on the First Great Awakening, and on the Second Great Awakening.  There are lessons that focus on people like Billy Sunday or Charles Fuller. 

We also appreciate all the photos and charts.  A note though, everything is black and white.  I appreciate that this helps keep the costs down, and when there is something we think we need in color, it is a quick search to find an appropriate image online.

Overall, we are happy with this book.

You can watch this promo clip about the history series:

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   


Diane Estrella said...

Thanks for your honest thoughts and the review. I had seen this book and wondered about it. Hope you have a wonderful weekend! :O)


Kristenph said...

I just saw this course advertised in my Hearts at Home Sale. Nice review. I was wondering if you've ever seen Notgrass and could compare these two courses. You can e-mail me or Facebook me.