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Monday, March 22, 2010

History Odyssey by Pandia Press Review

Anyone who knew me in college knew that I was a total history buff. I have a B.S. in Social Science Education (I can teach middle and high school history, geography, religion, etc.) with a minor in History. Yep, total history geek, with the degree to prove it. So because history is my thing, I was excited to get History Odyssey to review, even though I had never heard of it before.

History Odyssey is written and published by Pandia Press, a company located right here in Central Florida. It is based on the Classical Education model, which traditionally covers history in 4 year cycles (History Odyssey calls them Ancients, Middle Ages, Early Modern, and Modern Times). History Odyssey offers three different levels specific to the different classically defined learning levels. The level one books generally cover first through fourth grade. All four time periods are available in level one, although the Modern Times book really covers grades 3-6 as it is a bridge between level one and two. Level two books also cover all four time periods, although Ancients and Middle Ages cover grades 5 and up, while Early Modern is 6th and up, and Modern Times is 7th and up. Level three currently only have Ancients and Middle Ages and is for grades 9 and up. The "books" are really study guides that make use of a "spine" history resource and supplemental quality literature that is appropriate to the time period being studied. The study guides lay out daily lesson plans that tell what to read from the "spine" resource, what activities to do, and what other reading to do that ties in with your studies. Each guide, as far as I can tell, contains a different number of actual lessons, but all are well short of being daily, allowing you to cover history 2-3 days a week and still complete your level in a year. Or do it daily and cover more than one time period in one school year's time.

My family received Early Modern Level Two, and so the rest of this review will speak directly to Level Two, since each level uses different "spines" to teach from. A "spine" is the basic text that a curriculum like this, which is a study guide and not a text itself, uses to provide the framework for the rest of the learning. Level Two uses two spines-The Story of Mankind by Van Loon and The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. I was able to borrow the Kingfisher book from a friend, and The Story of Mankind from the library, but if you were to use this curriculum, you'd definitely want to own these books. Level Two is meant to be student directed learning. The guide is written for them to be able to read and do the work without much, if any, teacher involvement. Beyond learning history by reading the spines and supplemental books, there is a heavy focus on outlining to summarize what is learned, and the curriculum also focuses on keeping information sheets about the people and events studied, filling in details on maps, tracking people and events on time lines, and writing essays.

The pros: This curriculum, in my opinion, could very easily be used well into high school, giving you a lot of bang for the buck over the years. It is also notable in the fact that it endeavors to cover ALL of the world history during that time period instead of the more typical "teaching in a vacuum" approach of studying one area of the world at a time, which makes it hard to see all the interconnected influences on event in history. The timeline, map work, and information sheets all help that global approach too. The curriculum allows for flexibility in the schedule, since there are not 180 days worth of lessons. And yet it's not a light weight at all, and actually is above grade level, at least for the younger ends of the grade brackets.

The cons: This is NOT a Christian curriculum (most Classical curriculums aren't). Even the company name is the name of a Greek goddess. And the spines are HEAVILY not Christian. The Story of Mankind devotes the first three chapters to the evolution of man...literally the EVOLUTION of man-like single cell organism climbs out of the muck type evolution. I can NOT in good conscience give my children a book to draw all their primary learning from and present it as truth when it so blatantly is NOT. Even though the time period that is covered in Early Modern does not make use of those early chapters, it would be hypocritical of me to expect my children to embrace the latter chapters as truth when I want them to know the earlier ones are pure fiction. And I feel the anti-Christian sentiment continues through the book. The chapter about Jesus is entitled, "Joshua of Nazareth: The Story of Joshua of Nazareth, Whom the Greeks called Jesus" where as three chapters later, the chapter on Mohammed is entitled, "Mohammed: Ahmed, the Camel Driver, Who Became the Prophet of the Arabian Desert, and Whose Followers Almost Conquered the Entire Known World for the Greater Glory of Allah, the Only True God." Really. I can't make this stuff up. Kingfisher too is not Christian in its worldview, but to me is less offensive since it skips the subjective commentary. But if the secular worldview weren't enough of an issue for me, I also think the SOM book is tedious to read and that Early Modern begins in an awkward place historically (probably fine if you are continuing on from Middle Ages, but quite difficult to just jump in there as a starting point). I think it might be fine for upper levels, but it was definitely too detail oriented for my 7th grader.

The Bottom Line: It's probably obvious that as a conservative Christian, I don't feel I can recommend this curriculum personally. But if you aren't hung up on a Christian Worldview, and you want a very thorough history curriculum that is definitely high school credit worthy, this would be worth checking History Odyssey out. It contains some of the best practices I learned in my years of studying history, and it definitely contains practices, like outlining, that will serve your students well in the future. And perhaps one of the best features is that you can try-it-before-you-buy-it HERE, so that you can actually use the curriculum for a few weeks to see if it is right for you. If there is one thing I've learned in my homeschooling years, it is that just because it isn't right for US, doesn't mean it isn't right for tons of other homeschooling families.

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say go HERE. And this is one time when you definitely should check out what my teammates had to say. I think almost everyone else got different levels/time periods OR they got a Science curriculum also by Pandia that everyone whose reviews I have read has LOVED. History Odyssey is available HERE, and the cost varies by level and time period, but they are $28.99-$34.99 per e-book. They are also available as printed books from various vendors, a list of which is available from Pandia's website.
Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a print copy of Early Modern Level Two for the purpose of giving my honest review. That book was the only compensation I received.
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Pro-Life Mom said...

SOOOO grateful for your thorough review of this program & MOST happy to have stumbled upon your blog! God Bless!

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear what you would recommend as a great history curriculum. I was referred this from a friend. As a christian I would prefer my children to learn things from a christian approach. This is the only subject I ever really struggle with.

Hannah Brandt said...

Just read your review on the REAL History Odyssey. Since your a history buff...What is your favorite thing to recommend for the younger years...around 2nd grade?
Thanks so much!

oneblessedmamma said...

Hannah- When my kids were younger, we did mostly Five in a Row (which is not a history curriculum but introduces some history as related to the book you read) and just read alouds like the Little House series, etc. We keep a timeline, and add our books to the timeline for the time period they represent. My youngest, who is 2nd grade now, listens to Mystery of History with her siblings and to our read alouds, but I also do Five in a Row with her. In traditional school settings, most elementary level history is really Social Studies and not true history anyway.

Kristy Hall said...

"I would love to hear what you would recommend as a great history curriculum."

I, too, would like to hear oneblessedmamma's recommendations for what she feels is the best history curriculum out there, based on the classical education model with a Chrisian slant. Any reason why she didn't respond to your request?

Kristy Hall said...

I wonder why oneblessedmamma didn't respond to the earlier poster's request for a suggestion of a great history curriculum.

oneblessedmamma said...

Hi Kristy, and welcome to my blog. There are two reasons I might not have responded to "Copycatmom" 's request, and a caveat that I might have, just not publically. First, this review was done for The Old Schoolhouse as part of their Crew, and we are asked not to mention competitors on our review. We can be totally open an honest about our like or dislike of the product, but most vendors would prefer we don't run around saying, "this one is WAY better/worse than XYZ" since that is very subjective depending on your homeschool approach and how well any product fits for your family. That being said, I might have PRIVATELY emailed "copycatmom" a response, if I was able to glean her contact info from her comment to me. If I didn't contact her, even if I could have found her information, it is likely because I am human, and from time to time I miss comments that come in months or years after a review posts. That happens MUCH less often now that I moderate my comments, but I'm not perfect :-).

oneblessedmamma said...

And to answer the question about the history I prefer...I no longer review for TOS, and it's been years since this review ran, but my comment in 2013 eludes to my curriculum of choice for older kids history that is classical in approach and Christian. I think both MOH (truly a classical approach) and Truth Quest (not necessarily classical, but still very usable that way) are excellent options, and you can find reviews for both of them on my blog as well.