Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Real History Course for Homeschoolers

Parents of high schoolers can finally help their learners really expand their knowledge in a comprehensive way. As Dr. Peikoff explains in his Philosophy of Education lectures, the study of history is really the study of men and their relation to ideas and the consequences of ideas. As a homeschooler I believe that history is as important to understand as math and grammar.

I am so thrilled that Mr. Powell is up and running with his new site He has expanded his curriculum terrifically from what was available under the VanDamme Academy license. He is offering history from 2nd grade (my older daughter's class last year) all the way through high school.

Mr. Powell has also changed the pricing structure to make the course not just eminently affordable: less than taking the family to a movie once a month! And it can get even more affordable by joining with another family to split the costs. I will say that we really enjoyed the live lectures and I believe that my daughter was very motivated by being able to speak with Mr. Powell.

I was so pleased by Mr. Powell's presentation last year that I volunteered to write a testimonial for the web site.

I signed my daughter up for Mr. Powell's history program because I wanted to my daughter to be taught by someone who is an expert in history. Elisa enjoyed participating in the teleconferences. Mr. Powell went out of his way to ask each student questions gaging their understanding and to keep them engaged. Along with the teleconferences, there were class notes, pictures, maps, time-lines, regular review sessions, prepared tests, vocabulary and geography exercises, and reading suggestions.

I find this history program more cohesive than other approaches I could have taken as a homeschooler. Rather than look at history through narrow windows of "The Greatest Conquerors," or biographies of great leaders, or isolated great conflicts, Mr. Powell is able to show how major events come about and what they mean--oftentimes referring back to a previous event to note a comparison or similarity. Offering this level of program in terms of ancient, European and American histories meant a perspective that is the most pertinent to the types of ideas that I expected my elementary-age child to understand. The limited geographical range of the history was simultaneously more expansive than I expected and as systematic as necessary. I appreciated that the flow of the narrative was consistent and was not interrupted by talks of other countries that did not apply to what was then studied.

There were benefits for me as well. I enjoyed being able to tailor the work to the level I felt was appropriate. Because my daughter was engaged in the teleconference, that freed up my own time. There was one less course that had to have a curriculum ordered or activity sheets prepared. I found no need for crafts and coloring pages to make history interesting.

My daughter has said that she has a passion for history, thanks to Mr. Powell.

I know many homeschoolers use the Story of the World books. They are inexpensive and all-encompassing. My take on them is here. I find them fragmented and confusing. The emphasis of development of the entire world, as opposed to Mr. Powell's more concept-driven, formulation (which is still chronological), interupts the narrative.

Because I feel history is so imperative, I have also spent a good deal of time perusing the books in the library. I am astonished by how many only offer quick biographies of great conquerors or picture-driven, cartoon-like treatment of important conflicts. There is very little attempt to delve into similarities between some conflicts and why other conflicts are completely different.

Mr. Powell's emphasis on the causes of history--the ideas--has made history a great learning tool for my daughter.

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