Saturday, March 19, 2011


I mentioned last week that with some class changes for next year will come some decisions on curriculum. Unless things change, and they may well change though its appears unlikely they will, someone else will pick up two of my middle school English classes, while I pick up two upper school history classes.

As our school's scope and sequence coordinator, this change will give me the opportunity to do two things at once: write history scope and sequence and implement at the same time. Of course, we will tweak changes over the course of the next few years.

I've long been a fan of Jackson Speilvogel. From early in 2001 or '02, I have read his Western Civilization with interest. His writing is interesting, and he communicates his information well. When I had the opportunity to use his book with some of my own children, I chose his World History: The Human Odyssey because I wanted to all of world history, not just the western countries. At that time I had gotten the study guide (teacher and student) which is not readily available now.

Now that I have opportunity to choose a text, I am immediately drawn to his The Human Odyssey book. We have been studying world history through middle school using Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World. Speilvogel seems to carry on that tradition for rhetoric level students.

My choice of text material also depended upon the ancillary material available. Though I'm perfectly capable to writing my own, I simply do not have the time to do it all. I have found plenty of available ancillary material to use because this text material is used in other Spielvogel-authored books. Not only do I have the study guide material, I have instructor books and test banks. A quick search between texts will show that the writing has not changed with new editions.

The Human Odyssey is actually out-of-print as such. But a school resource has a number of good used copies available. If, or when, these are not usable, the text World History by Duiker and Spielvogel is issued almost every year in a new edition. It includes all of The Human Odyssey material, plus some.

So, my decision is made for upper school history. We will use Spielvogel throughout the four upper school years, breaking it into the chronological eras.
9th grade: Ancient History through the Fall of Rome
10th grade: the Fall of Rome through the Renaissance
11th grade: Early Modern history
12th grade: Late Modern history

Also in the twelfth grade, students will take a class in U. S. Government and Economics in addition to their history class.

As scope and sequence coordinator, I am able to use what I've found most helpful throughout my 20+ year career. One suggestion is to drop our current middle school history down a grade so that we begin The Story of the World in 4th grade and finish the four year cycle in 7th grade. We will use the 8th grade for one whole year of U. S. history.

That brought me to another decision point about text material. What to use? In the past, the school has used both Abeka and Bob Jones material. While neither is absolutely terrible, several of us had many mixed feelings about continuing that "tradition."

The Story of the World has been immensely popular with the students (pay attention when students actually like the material!), I found (as a result of my own pursuit and that of some WTM-ers) Bill Bennett's The Last Best Hope (volumes I and II) to fit perfectly. The books are written in the narrative style so popular with our students, plus plenty of ancillary material is available through his website for the books, Roadmap to America.

A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders after finding and deciding these things. It's not a done-deal yet (the headmaster is still pouring over these suggestions), but I feel that his confidence in me will give way to the go-ahead. If not, I'll deal with it later. :)

I've spent hours each day for the last three years readying material for our middle school students. My current eighth grade class is the first group to have come all the way through the curriculum. Because I was still adjusting it, we didn't get as far in it the first year as the last, but that is that way with any new implementation. But they have finished the last three years of
The Story of the World. And they certainly have a good knowledge of history.

Last year, the fifth grade class began using
The Story of the World, but it wasn't until this year that they read it in earnest. Next year will be even better. It won't be for another three years until we see that group move through the whole series. By then, our upper level history will be in place and the transition should be seamless.

My hope is to establish a reading list of suggested picture books for grades one through three that coordinate with
The Story of the World, and for them to learn a timeline chant/song that will be immediately built upon beginning in grade four.

There will be bumps in the road as usual. There may even be a temporary detour. But I believe our itinerary is made. Now onto the journey!


Hen Jen said...

I am enjoying reading about your book picks- I'm a homeschooler from the WTM boards, there is so much to choose from that it is overwhelming at times. I'm looking at the Bennett books for US History right now. We loved STOW, we are looking for something like it. My problem is I am a worksheet girl, so I end up looking at textbooks and their supporting materials, but we don't like textbooks.
I'm enjoying reading your thoughts :)

JSD said...

Hi Hen Jen,
Thanks for visiting! I like a mix of textbook info for facts and narrative for real life. And since I teach a bunch of kids now, I *need* some kind of Q&A format for reading assessment. When I was homeschooling, it was easy to do this orally. So in some since, I'm a worksheet type also. :) I developed worksheets for all of SOTW 2, 3, and 4 and offered them to PHP but they want me to do lots more to them before they will take them. :( That's on my backburner now.