Friday, November 29, 2013

Simply Put: {a Review and Giveaway of a High School Economics Curriculum}

I haven't had a chance to do a whole lot with my biggest kids lately, but when Amy from the Bow of Bronze Launch Teams mentioned a high school economics course?  Of course I was all over that.

Simply Put is just what it says.  Simple.  Very simple.  At first, I was really disappointed.  Sometimes with reviews, you really do get what you paid for, and based solely on the size of the book, and the length of the teacher guide pdf, I was certain this was one of those times.

But I committed to use the materials, and even though I was pretty sure this wasn't worth anywhere near the 1/2 credit that Catherine Jaime claims it to be, well, I had to work with it because I promised.

I am using this with all three of my teens -- 11th, 9th and 7th grades.  The older two are getting high school credit for this (which is the first hint as to my opinion!) and Thomas is just along for the ride.  There are 36 total lessons, along with eight appendices, a midterm, final, and a couple suggestions for extra activities in the Teacher's Key. 

We're doing two lessons a week, which means this course will last one semester (18 weeks) or a bit longer if we take a little more time for the midterm, final, and other activities.  You could also use it at a rate of one lesson a week and earn the 1/2 credit over a full year.

The basic process:
  • I read the lesson out loud.  I have a couple of struggling readers, so it is easier this way.  Regardless, though, the beauty of this course is the discussion, and in my family, that wouldn't happen the same way if we didn't interact with the material together.  I highly recommend this.  The readings themselves are pretty short, most of the time.  Five to ten minutes, max.
  • We discuss stuff as we go.  And all four of us are likely to be interrupting the reading to say, "That reminds me of..." or "But what if..." or "Do you think that is really true?"  I think the shortest (after the first week or two) discussion has been around twenty minutes.  And it usually comes up again when Dad gets home, or when we are all in the car going somewhere, or just out of the blue.
  • There are discussion questions in the back of the book.  I ask those, the kids generally can answer them pretty quickly, and for the occasional question that they simply don't know, I go back and re-read the pertinent paragraph (typically, that would be for a question like the last one in lesson seven, "Name two Austrian economists."  There were four names mentioned in the lesson, but after all the other discussions, the kids only came up with Hazlitt (Henry Hazlitt) by name.  They were able to say that the main one being discussed was in the middle of the last century and he was brought up because he was pushing the laissez-faire government idea.  But his name?  No one could remember at all.  The discussions are sometimes pretty short, but often they get us pretty involved too.
  • Some lessons have additional resources suggested.  These include videos from (I joined this year, specifically so I can get more resources for this economics course), YouTube videos, articles at, the materials in an appendix, etc.  We are trying to use as much of this as we can, because I have been incredibly impressed with the suggestions so far.
So, before I go giving an actual opinion here, let me talk about me for a bit.  I took a 1/2 credit economics class in high school my junior year.  It was one of the first classes I took that actually got my attention.  I got good grades in everything, really, but Econ was something that I found really interesting and I enjoyed it.  So much so that in my senior year, my parents helped arrange for me to take introductory economics courses at NDSU.  Dual enrollment was unheard of back then, but there I was, taking AgEcon 101 and AgEcon 102 (I'm not positive of the numbers!) which were the intro micro- and macro-economics classes.  I loved those, and aced 'em both. 

From there, I went to the University of Minnesota, and ultimately majored in Accounting.  I took as many Economics courses as I could, and I'm pretty sure it was enough to earn an economics minor (they wouldn't award minors at that time though).  My favorite was a course in economics in third world areas.

That means, economics is a subject I find fascinating, and I absolutely planned to insist on my kids taking a course before they left high school, only I hadn't found anything I loved.  Now that is SIMPLE for me to do.  And... finally... my opinion:

This course is practically perfect.
  • The cost is amazing ($6.99 right now for digital editions at CurrClick, or a physical copy of the book is $25 at Creative Learning Connection).
  • It is very easy to use, even if you don't understand economics.  Catherine puts things in a VERY easy-to-grasp way, using a minimum of graphs and math.  Very accessible.
  • It is thorough.  It may seem wimpy at first glance, with a skinny book and very short lessons, but there is a lot of information there, and it covers things well. 
  • Catherine is totally upfront about her biases.  I know I never saw that in any of the half-dozen economics texts I used, nor in anything else I've looked at for my kids.  Even if you don't understand what in the world she means when she tells you "This book is written by a 'classic liberal' -- nowadays more often called a conservative, and that clearly shows throughout." you at least know that she is admitting to her point of view, and you will learn what that means over the course of the lessons.
  • My boys -- all three of them -- love it.
I did say "practically" though.  There are a few issues, mostly having to do with the fact that this is quite new.  Some things aren't as clear as I'd like:
  • When do you take the midterm?  Okay, if I go look at the answer key, I see that it covers the first 18 lessons, but there is nothing in the text that I found to indicate that.
  • When do you use the various appendices?  Most have a note in one of the lessons referring to them, but there are a couple that I just don't see referenced at all.  I'll just add the material somewhere.
  • I love the use of the videos from Izzit, but it would be nice to have some idea as to which videos are going to be recommended and when, so that I could get them ordered in advance.  I went through and made notes by skimming the footnotes, but it is certainly possible I missed something.
  • The activities in the teacher's guide too, I'm not really sure at what point to try to use those. 
Basically, some type of overview chart in the teacher book -- or the student book -- would make this a lot easier to use.

I'd also love to see additional Izzit video recommendations.  We happened to have a couple of videos on hand (The World of Money and Too Much Money) and they went along perfectly with Lessons 8-9.  Of course, you can only get one video every 30 days (for free) with a paid membership (which is about $10 annually) so I'm already pretty much maxing it out.  Additional suggestions, though, would mean I could get those videos over time and have them available when my younger ones reach high school.

My kids' opinions:  All three of them are loving this course.  They've asked a time or two if I helped to write it, as "she says the same things you do, Mom!"  I'm looking forward to the chapter on price gouging, as they are just going to be amazed at the similarities there. (I read ahead before writing this review!)

The two high schoolers are both incredibly pleased to have a fairly easy half-credit this year.  Even for kids who haven't had laws of economics spouted at them by a mother ranting against something stupid that a politician just said, we think this course would be on the 'less intense' side.  For my kids, though, it is easy.

Connor, the 16 year old, commented that he thinks everyone needs to understand this stuff.

Bottom line:  this is so affordable, I really think every homeschooled high school student ought to take this course.  Especially as it is a great chance for family discussions about some really important things.  And you'll probably learn something too.  I did, in the chapter on speculators.

I have the chance to give away a digital copy of this curriculum!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There is a huge giveaway too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can read more reviews at Bow of Bronze.


Laura O in AK said...

I believe everyone should have at least a little exposure to economics. Great to hear that a relatively inexpensive curriculum can really deliver!

Kimberly said...

We have to have at least a 1/2 Economics credit for graduation here, so this is a course I knew I'd have to do eventually. (Plus, I think you're not really ready for life in the world without SOME knowledge of economics...) With two in high school this year, I need to get on the ball with something formal - and this sounds PERFECT!!!

Julieanne said...

I've been interested in teaching some economics to my teens, so this sounds very interesting.

Debra said...

I was really impressed with it. There's lots in here.

Andrea @ No Doubt Learning said...

I"m teaching a class on this in January, I'd love to incorporate these ideas!

Unknown said...

I would love to teach economics in my homeschool. Thanks for introducing me to this and for the giveaway opportunity!

Unknown said...

My hubby did his undergraduate degree in economics, so I would love to see how interested my kids are...:-)

Cristi said...

I'd like to learn about economics. Teach it? Maybe. My high schooler is fairly self-suffiecient, but perhaps she'd let me study along with her.

Vikki said...

I've never been that interested in Economics, but as usual, homeschooling is teaching me to love learning. I'm finding that I really learned nothing in my college Econ 101 and I have so much more to learn now.

Carol said...

I have occasionally wanted to have my kids take an econ course, but its never been a fav subject of mine. (Memories of college econ flashing thru my brain lol).
This sounds like an awesome way to teach it though. Thanks for offering this giveaway.

Unknown said...

My girls are still quite young, but I'll want to teach this eventually! Looks great!

Tess said...

First, I really don't like leaving comments when the comment box takes me away from the blog post and I have to jump through hoops to get back to post to complete my entries. Second I have wanted to teach economics to my high schoolers. I just haven't figured out how.

Kayla Rice said...

Yes… I would love to teach this!