Saturday, October 10, 2009

The (Catholic) Story of the World -updated

One of the most common  questions Catholic homeschoolers ask is: "What should I use for history?" or "Is there anything out there that presents the history of the world chronologically from a Catholic point of view?". I was one of those people who asked those questions and I've done it long before my homeschooling journey started. In this post I'll try to talk about the resources I found that have been useful for my family.

The first book series that caught my eye when Teddy was  younger, was "The Story of the World" by "The Well Trained Mind" author Susan Wise-Bauer. "The Well Trained Mind" was and still is my favorite homeschooling book, the one that I now use as my main guide in designing his curriculum. Anything written by this author had to be good. The only problem was that Susan is Protestant and I worried that there will be anti-Catholic bias in her books. The main thing I liked about "Story of the World", however, was that it was written at an elementary school level with each subsequent volume written at a slightly higher level. When reading the first volume "Ancient Times", I was pleasantly surprised to find not only a presentation of ancient history in a story format, appropriate for kindergartners-2nd graders but  to find no inappropriate information. Both my boys had this book read to them at school in 3rd and 1st grade respectively and Cecilia is studying it now in kindergarten and loves it. I highly recommend it for 5-8 year old homeschoolers who are just starting to study history.
Volume 2 of the series (The Middle Ages) is appropriate too, with the following exceptions: pg. 247, last paragraph mentions dead bodies being catapulted over the wall; pg 275 , last paragraph continued with next paragraph on pg. 276 and pg 303 , first paragraph describe Ferdinand and Isabella in a biased way, from a Protestant point of view. Also chapter 38 "England's Greatest Queen" needs to be replaced with a chapter about Queen Elizabeth, from a Catholic book.
As for volume 3 of "Story of the World" (Early Modern Times), I read less than a half and had to stop because it was obvious that the series was not appropriate for us anymore. Chapters 1 and 2, about Charles V, Phillip II, William the Silent, Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth, are better skipped altogether because of the pro-Protestant and anti-Catholic bias. Here is my "favorite" part in chapter 2:

  But Elizabeth [...] was afraid that Mary might arrange to have her assassinated and claim the throne of England. [...] Mary remained a prisoner of the Queen of England for the next nineteen years. 
   Poor Mary! She had very little to do. She kept dozens of little dogs and birds as pets. She did a lot of needlework and even sent some to Elizabeth as presents- along with indignant letter. 
  As time went on, she began to plot her escape.[...] she spoke of becoming Queen of England [...] This could only mean she was planning Elizabet's death. Mary insisted that she would never harm Elizabeth. But Elizabeth, afraid for her life, signed Mary's death warrant for treason.
  On a cold February morning, Mary[...] was beheaded.

In volume 2, at the end of chapter 38, the author concludes:
[...]She was the best ruler England ever had! Her people called her Good Queen Bess.

Returning to volume 3, chapters 3-8 and 10-18 are fine, with the following exceptions: in chapter 10: the part about Japan's isolation; a mention of suicide on  page 103, paragraph 3;  in chapter 15, page 144 there is a disturbing description of a beheading; and on pages 152-153 there is more anti-Catholic bias. Chapter 9, about the Thirty Years War, should be skipped or replaced with something else.

When Teddy was in 5th grade, his class having finished volumes 1 and 2 of "Story of the World", they had the option of continuing with volume 3 or using another book. They eventually abandoned SoW and started using an old Catholic history textbook: "Our Pioneers and Patriots" about American History. They are now in the second yer of studying that book and everyone seems to be pleased with it.

When I started homeschooling Teddy, this year, I had to decide whether to continue with "Our Pioneers and Patriots or to go with Susan Wise Bauer's recommendation for middle school: "The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia". Since I really wanted Teddy to learn world history as well as American history, I opted for the Kingfisher Encyclopedia and chose the chapters covering the period from 1600-1850, which is what she recommends for students in their 3rd year of studying history chronologically. We've been using this book for  the first quarter, with Teddy reading 2-4 pages and outlining the text in his notebook. As a supplement I assigned some reading from "Famous Men of Modern Time" (biographies of people he was learning about), from a Catholic high school text "Christ the King Lord of History" and also from "Story of the World" vol. 3. It soon became clear that this way of learning history was not ideal for Teddy because of the encyclopedia format and secularism of his main book and the lack of review questions and tests. I knew I had to find a new book but there simply is no Catholic history textbook that covers world history after Renaissance. I knew I needed to make a compromise, and after buying a Protestant Abeka textbook, who proved to be terribly biased, I decided to go with a Catholic textbook covering American history. I had a choice from "Our Pioneers and Patriots", "Land of Our Lady" series, both older textbooks or a newer book from the "Catholic Schools Textbook Project", called "From Sea to Shining Sea". I decided to go with "From Sea to Shining Sea" and I am very happy with my decision. The book is very visually appealing, with good quality, glossy paper, detailed maps and color pictures on each page. Each chapter ends with a summary, review questions and discussion questions. The teacher's manual, in addition to the answer key has quizzes and tests, which I just love. It also indicates what the student should be expected to remember and provides a list of supplementary reading for each chapter. The reading level is about 4th-7th grade, in my opinion.

The Catholic Schools Textbook Project is working on a 12 volume history series, three of which are now available. For those homeschoolers who are tired of the anti Catholic bias in Protestant or secular textbooks, who fall asleep while reading the older Catholic texts or don't have the time to check out numerous books from the library, this series is an answer to prayers.

Catholic History Books and Programs:

I. Catholic Textbooks

 1.Catholic Schools Textbook Project
 2. Land of Our Lady Series
 3.Our Pioneers and Patriots
 4.The Old World and America
 5.Christ the King Lord of History
 6.Christ and the Americas
 7.Seton's History Textbooks
 8.Famous Men Series

II. Other Catholic History Programs

 1.RC History
 2.The ABC's of Christian Culture