Monday, June 24, 2013

The Classical Historian

The Classical Historian
Ancient Civilizations
Take a Stand Publications
John De Gree
Price: Varies-from $168.99-$216.99 for complete history packages, $14.95-$59.99 for Game options
Ages: 5-129

A brief disclaimer...this review is LONG...there was so much to cover and share with these products...I am sorry about that. The history curriculum is covered first, and then towards the bottom of the post, The Go Fish Game.

Classical Historian Ancient Civilizations Curriculum
One Complete Year for Grades 6-8

1. 32 Week Guide for the Parent/Teacher with Take a Stand! Key - 53 Pages
2. Take a Stand! Student's Book - 89 Pages
3. Teaching the Socratic Discussion DVD Curriculum - 4 DVDs, 77 Pages
4. World History Detective, published by The Critical Thinking Company**
5. Global History and Geography, published by Amsco Publications**

** We did not receive these items…this review is based on what we could do with what we received.

The Classical Historian uses a five step program to teach history. Briefly, these are:

1. The Grammar of History -who, what, where, when, basic facts
2. The Tools of the Historian – a few of the complete list
1. Fact or Opinion?
2. Judgment
3. Supporting Evidence
4. Primary or Secondary Source Analysis
5. Using Quotes
6. Paraphrasing

3. Research-primary and secondary sources

4. The Socratic Discussion-Discussion to present, question and challenge position held and arrive at the best conclusion in preparation of writing

5. Analytical Essays-Writing a paper of substance supporting your position.

Just to clarify some terms before I begin (so you know what I am talking about!)

Socratic Discussion in History has two parts…the DVDs and the Socratic Discussion in History Guide Book. I will call these the Dvds and the DVD guide

Ancient Civilizations One Complete Year of History 32 Week Guide-Lesson plan

Take A Stand: Ancient Civilizations Reading, Discussing and Writing- Student Text

How to begin… the parent begins by watching the Introduction DVD for the Socratic Discussion in History portion of the program. There are 17 lessons to complete in the DVD series and then you can go into one of the history programs. While this is outlined in The Socratic Discussion in History book (Guide Book), it is included in the 32 Week Guide (Lesson Plan) mentioned below. I think it is easier to follow the schedule in the Lesson Plan. From that point, you watch and work together with your students, completing the activities while you pause the DVD. Your teacher, John De Gree is walking you through this program step by step and this really is not only a necessary part of the program, but INCREDIBLY helpful and valuable. While he is teaching us how to use the program, he is walking through it step by step with two students, modeling what we do and say. I REALLY LOVED this part of the program. Before I watched that, I was thinking…this program is not for me…Now, I am thinking…Wow! This is really helping students develop and use thinking skills, see more than one side of an issue and articulate and discuss what they believe and why.

Before I move on, it is recommended to step through those 17 lessons each year to review and refresh the concepts before beginning the curriculum.

One AMAZING part of this program is contained in the DVD Guide…at the end of the lessons, there is a section that teaches the teacher how to grade the paragraphs and essays. Showing samples written from actual students, you can see both poorly written and well written pieces and see how that grade was chosen based on the grading rubric. I LOVED seeing the contrast and getting an insight to why that score was selected.

Into The Take a Stand Curriculum, we received Take A Stand! Ancient Civilizations: Reading, Discussing and Writing student book. This book is recommended for the 6-8th grader. The website states that this is not a set of textbooks, but rather a guide to thinking, reading, discussing and writing, teaching the student to become the historian. You will need some sort of textbook/documents to add to this to get the facts needed to be able to continue through the guide book. The website has recommendations of what to use. We did not receive these to review, so I cannot comment on them at all.

The student text contains the forms your child will need to record their data and organize it before writing their essay. This book is divided into two parts: Social Studies Curriculum and Social Studies Literacy Curriculum. Part one of the student book contains the lesson worksheets needed for the student to complete their assignments for the year. Part two looks like the same forms in The DVD Guide, but has an Ancient Civilization focus. My guess is that you would use the pages in the back of the student book AFTER you had gone through the Socratic Discussion program for the first time…but I am not really sure. Edit: After hearing back from Mr. De Gree, he told me that the Take A Stand books were written prior to the Socratic Discussion in History products being created. I would recommend following the outline laid out the the DVD guide so that you can have similar answers to what is happening in the video. The Lessons in part two can then be used to reinforce any weak areas of the program when the teacher is comfortable leading the method.

In Part 1 of the student text, the lesson begins with the title and a short introductory paragraph. The lesson numbers do not line up with the lesson numbers in the Lesson Plan and can be initially confusing, but the Lesson Plan is very clear on page numbers, so I would not worry about the numbers being different. The lessons have six assignments with a small chart for the student to record due dates for each one (Yes, I did say due dates…and NO…I am not good with them either…maybe this will help me out!) That is followed by some activities which will vary depending on the assignment, which is included in that introductory paragraph. After the students have completed the prewriting assignments, you gather to have your Socratic Discussion. This begins with interviewing other students and reflecting on what you found out. After that has been done, students present their ideas in class and great debate can happen at this point. This discussion is to be supported by evidence with the teacher questioning the students, helping them to see other perspectives.

One thing that could be a challenge, is the spacing of the lessons…from looking in the Lesson Plan for The Classical Historian, a lesson is a week’s worth of material. You work together once a week and then the student works alone until the next week. My older student working through this program was more than capable of working on his own, but my younger student needed more interaction throughout the week...and that is the beauty of homeschooling...tailoring it to fit our needs. The DVDs were a little problematic at times...I am not sure if this was my equipment or the DVDs, but I got what I needed from them. Some have mentioned the quality being poor. I was not at all troubled by this. I enjoyed the presentation of the material and could understand all the speakers. I only mention it as a possible annoyance. It was a little difficult not having the particular materials recommended in the lesson plan…we jumped over those parts, but our lessons felt a little disjointed. One last point was confusion over the first 17 lessons outlined in the DVD Guide…in the Lesson Plan, it looks like this is spaced over the first 9 lessons of class (nine weeks), this was not apparent to me as I was working in DVD Guide…so we did a small amount of backtracking to make sure we caught everything we were supposed to…I am not sure how that could be changed, but having that part outlined in two places was confusing to me. Edit: Mr. De Gree told me that he wrote the DVD guide one year before the Lesson Plan and that the DVD package can be used alone, for you to incorporate the method of instruction/learning into the items you may already have in your home. The Lesson Plan came out of requests from home school moms who wanted more specific instructions

There were a few things I really appreciated about the Lesson Plan. First, I appreciated that it was stated at the top of the lesson if it was going to be a full lesson and to be watchful of the time. While we do not have many time constraints, it is nice to know that ahead of time in case I use this in a co-op setting, or at a time when time is a factor. Second, the Lesson Plan steps you through everything you need to do in that lesson, down to approximate time needed, page numbers and activity numbers. There are MANY reminders to look ahead, let your student know, etc. I love how that helps us think ahead and keep on track. One last part I liked about the Lesson Plan was bringing the material your student had been learning into a discussion with the family. What a great way for students to learn to further articulate themselves in a safe environment.

At first, I could only see this being used in a classroom setting and thought that there was no way to make this work in my home. After watching the DVDs, I could easily see how to make it work with just one or two students, and I got REALLY excited to try a class like this in a co-op setting (I may have my class idea for next term already!) Probably the thing I liked best was seeing John De Gree encourage his two students in the video, even when their answers were not quite right. It really presented such a wonderful picture of history lessons with the students thinking and engaged. I LOVE that John De Gree states in the DVD that he does not know everything and students have made great points that he had not seen before. It was such a grace filled way of teaching and encouraging along the way. We really ended up enjoying this approach to teaching/learning history. I think personally though, that I would teach from more of a Christian perspective as I believe God's hand is evident throughout history and I love proclaiming that to my children. Even though there are textbooks as a part of this program, I feel like this is more about a method of teaching than a set of curriculum. One that encourages the students to be independent thinkers and articulate and confident communicators.

The materials I received were not presented as Christian, but the author comes from a Judeo-Christian background. You can get more information about their beliefs here Junior High and High School courses are available as well as an online option

Try out a free summer lesson to get a feel for the flavor of these items.

The other item we received was Go Fish Game: Ancient History. The Go Fish game is one of SEVERAL fun learning games available from The Classical Historian. I thought they were thin and too easy to cheat with on some of the ways you can play them and a little vague in other ways, but my children LOVED these and learned from playing with them and that really is the test of a good product. Recommended for ages 6 and up, I think these are PERFECT for ages 6 to about 11 or 12. After that, I think they are a little too simplistic for olders. You can use these cards to play four different games:

Go Fish:Collect 4 of a kind collections
Collect The Cards: You guess who/what is on the card based on the clues given
Continents: Group by Continent
Chronology: Organizing cards in a chronological fashion the quickest

So there are 12 categories, such as Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, etc and each category has four Roman Republic has Denarius, Circus Maximus, Roman Aquaduct, and Cincinnatus and each card has three The Card Julius Caesar (in the category Roman Empire) has these clues: Crossed the Rubicon, March 15 and Cleopatra as the clues...easy breezy, huh? Ok...well try this one for Roman Empire...
Clue 1: Strong
Clue 2: Pax Romana
Clue 3: Protector

Did you get it? Don't worry...I have played this game about 4 times and I NEVER GET IT...Answer: Roman Soldier...that is what I mean about vague...some are hard just because it is so vague.
As far as being able to cheat if you are guessing...well the cards have all the names in that category on the you can make a pretty good guess if you have one of the cards from that category.
Aside from what I think though, my children thought it was very fun and had a good time playing...and quizzing Mom!
There are other games available from The Classical Historian and I think I am going to buy the American History Memory Game (I may do the game bundle it is a GREAT DEAL and my children did enjoy the Go Fish Game!) since we are studying American History this year.


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