Monday, April 9, 2012

Finding Truth in TruthQuest Beginnings

What is the prime force in the universe? Economics? Religion? Science?
Who is the initiator of history? Mankind?
What IS history? The story of men and women throughout time?


The answer to all of those questions should focus on God, not man, don't you think?

History is not the story of man, but of the One who made man.

When we are teaching history, we should not merely be teaching our children memorizable facts about men's battles and accomplishments, but of the influence of God and His providence for all of mankind, and how He has a plan and a purpose for all of us throughout all of history.

All of human history is man's response to the truth...God's studying history should reflect our "quest" for God within history.

Think about it: if we focus on mankind and his manipulation of history, the future can look pretty bleak. After all, look at what people DO to each other all over the world, every day, today and throughout the ages...

But when we focus on our study of history as a means for understanding how God has worked throughout human history to acheive His mighty purpose, then we can look beyond temporal things and see His Story, and our future as full of promise and provision.


We were blessed to receive TruthQuest History Beginnings: Creation/Old Testament/Ancients/Egypt in sprial bound print form (also available for pdf download).

This study covers everything from Creation through Egypt, with an emphasis on God's plan for humanity and the evidence of His love as expressed throughout the ages.

I was very excited to receive this review product as I have been hearing about it for several years, but never have had the opportunity to see it for myself. I have to admit to you that history is NOT my strong point. Only once in my public school education can I remember ever being interested in my history classes (it was Ancient and Medieval History because the teacher was obviously an expert in his field who was on fire about the topic, and he transmitted that excitement to his students when he brought the topic, he did not use a traditional "textbook," but two fascinating books written by other excited experts...or "Living Books," as Charlotte Mason called them), so my enthusiasm for teaching history has not been on level with my enthusiasm for doing reading, art, science, or pretty much any other subject up to this point.

This is a problem, and I know it. I have tried for several years to find the "perfect" history curriculum for our family, knowing my own poor attitude about history and not wanting it to affect my kids. We've tried several well known curricula and for some reason they just never quite work for us (me). Why? Well, either they required me to stick to a very strict schedule, which sounds great when you are thinking that having a schedule you are supposed to follow will keep you on track (it doesn't always work that way...too much of life happens with ages 2, 4, 6, 8, and 14 at home), they were too dry (as in textbooks, which just aren't our cup of tea), they were too inflexible (there was just so much required work to complete that it left little time for exploring "delight" directed learning without getting far off track), or they required a LOT of outside purchases to utilize (when I have shelves full of great books, just not all of the "right" ones for any particular program).

That doesn't mean that any of these curricula aren't perfect for someone else. They just weren't working for least not for long. You'd think someone with a teaching degree would do better at sticking to a plan, any plan, but the fact is that my specialty was English, not history, and for good reason!!

So when we recieved our TruthQuest History guide in the mail, I was thrilled. On first perusal, it looked fantastic! I spent a week or two just reading through it and found myself falling in love with the Michelle Miller's easy way of writing about a topic (history) that she obviously feels passionate about. I also listened to her audio about yrotsiH: Do We Have it Backwards? to get a more in-depth idea of her vision for the curriculum, and it helped me really want to get on board and get started!

 I am so impressed by the thoughtful consideration put into the preparation of this author's sections of background information. Each section always points back to God our Father, Creator and Lord of all. Wow! Yet, the earthly history (dates, people, events) does not suffer for the divine emphasis. Rather, it is woven into a fantastic and fascinating story that makes you feel as if you are having a conversation with the author as opposed to listening to a dry lecture. I highly recommend that if you are searching for a history curriculum for any age, mixed ages, or even for yourself, that you start by checking out TruthQuest History. I really am very impressed.

Here is a thought I had when preparing to use this curriculum: I think that it can be used one of two ways, in relation to the excellent section introductions (which I LOVED, but might be a bit much for wee ones since the World History curriculum is written for grades 5-12, but it is where we are...the author has an American History curriculum for younger students). I think that you have the option of deciding whether you want to read the overview to yourself and summarize it for your youngest kids, teaching them at their level using words/terms with which they are familiar (though the author's style is very conversational, it can get longer than the youngest ones might sit still for), or you may want to read the text straight from the book (this is what I chose since she did such an awesome job!). I'd recommend the latter, as while my youngest ones (ages 2-8) might not have understood every term, they maintained their interest and asked introspective questions. They "got" what God needed them to get at this age. We will come around to these topics again later in their school careers, and they can fill in any comprehension or knowledge gaps then. If you are concerned about which level to choose, the author addresses that issue on her website.

Prior to starting any section, you also need to decide which resources you wish to use. Each lesson has an extensive listing of ideas for audios, visuals, texts, and activites to use. Mrs. Miller relies on several "spine" texts (main supporting texts) for supplemental readings. For our unit, some of the spines were: the Bible, Story of the World, Part 1 by Susan Wise Bauer, Story of the Ancient World by C. Miller and H.A. Huber, Greenleaf Guide to the Old Testament, Genesis: Finding Our Roots by Ruth Beechick, and Streams of Civilization: Part One.

You are NOT required to use all of these. You should probably choose one or two and consistently refer to those when directed to topically specific pages. I appreciated how Mrs. Miller took the need to organize the resources out of my hands (or to find the correct pages to refer to as she lists the appropriate chapters to reference in each resource). 

Even more, I liked how she still left me with a choice as to what resources I felt were best for my own students (she indicates grade level appropriateness next to each title, as well as brief, but thoughtful, reviews of the resources listed). Since we have Mystery of History on tape, as well as Diana Waring's Where in the World? series on tape, I used those to supplement our chosen study topics, as well as several of the aforementioned spine books that I already owned. The author is quick to state that her suggestions are just that, suggestions. You are the parent and free to choose and use what you think is best for your individual family and also what you have access to most readily.

Then we had to go to our bookshelves and find any picture books, "living books," and other fiction and non-fiction sorts of books to support our chosen topic. I have our books sorted according to topic for things like "Farm Books," "Inventions," and "Transportation." I also have our history books sorted by time period, so raiding our shelves and adding additional titles to our list of books to draw from was a fun morning's work. We also had the option of requesting a few titles from the Bookmobile, though we found that quite a few of the suggested titles were not available at our library (it's fairly rural out here).

  Since we already own a pretty good collection of books, we decided what we had was enough (Mrs. Miller does give you thoughtful synopses and impressions of many of the quality books she suggests, so you can make informed decisions on which ones you wish to go looking for, if you wind up not having any of the books in easy reach). She also cautions about getting caught up in "overkill," or trying to "do it all." Just pick what works for you...what your family can enjoy and complete in a reasonable amount of time.

We later raided our VHS/DVD cabinet to find any movies we might use, as well as checking for available titles on Netflix, YouTube, and other favorite sites. It might sound like a lot of work to you, but honestly, since the hard part, the detailed (and fascinating) narrative, was completed for me, the rest was motivating and fun! It took about a day to lay out a schedule, find appropriate resources, and compile a collection of activities (it could take someone longer to collect resources if you have to really search and do not want to subsitute like I did when necessary). 

At night I enjoyed "surfing the net" a bit to find FREE! coloring pages or mini-books for the little kids to add to their history notebooks, though I didn't feel compelled to use them all. TruthQuest History does have a downloadable packet of mini-books and notebooking ideas from A Journey Through Learning (AJTL), if you prefer to buy something already made. Tex (age 14) was in charge of keeping up the timeline and reading a few more advanced books on his own...I didn't make him do mini-books...he just helped me help the others. Eventually, I'd like for him to put together a history notebook with a few choice pages for each main topic, but right now, with us just getting into the history groove, I didn't want to push it.

We enjoyed the fact that we could mix and match books and videos and artistic/creative activities effortlessly. It is not difficult to find a lot of FREE! supplmental resources online, and I appreciated that this curriculum was loose enough that it allowed for me to go crazy when we were in the mood, and to do very little extra (other than reading the overview and maybe out of one of the spine resources) when I wasn't as interested in the topic or did not have time. I didn't have a definitive list of pencil and paper things I HAD to do, or of books I'd spent a lot of money on that I had to read, yet it wasn't so free-form that I had to come up with everything myself.
How perfect!

The general idea for how you might go about doing a day's worth of TruthQuest History (at least for us) was that I'd read the introduction and we would talk about it, the kids might tell me what they'd heard (narrate) or ask questions, and they might draw, color a picture, do a puzzle, or fill in a map while I read. Then later in the day (like lunchtime or before naptime), we'd read a picture book or older living book about a particular topic. Later in the week, we'd watch a dvd relating to the topic or do a project, and finish whatever we'd begun earlier, but not completed.

All week, I'd read a fiction book with characters from that time period as our night time read aloud. We'd usually review the plot each evening before we read and apply any cultural knowledge we gained from our other studies to our interpretation of the book. Tex would pick a picture off of the Internet or our Homeschool in the Woods timeline disk to add to our timeline, and he was usually assigned a harder history book, section of reading in a text, or an additional fiction title.
That's about it. Easy, huh?

I'd check off what we completed in the TruthQuest manual (I highly recommend purchasing the print copy as it is only five dollars more than the download and having something you can write in as a record of what you did is wonderful), and then I'd write in the additional resources we used along with my own comments about them (I love keeping track of that sort of thing, which is, I suppose, why I love that Mrs. Miller did the same thing!)

You will see that I did not say we did any testing, big projects, or major writing assignments. We are just getting into the history groove, and I guess I am "not there yet." I've seen tons of blogs where the kids did every mummy project imaginable and practically reconstructed King Tut's Tomb...I am sure the little ones would have loved to do more of that (we have made pyramids of Legos and made Egyptian paper dolls before, along with other fun projects), but it is a process, and besides, every family is different. I love that Mrs. Miller emphasizes that throughout her books. You must seek what God wants your family to learn, and be diligent to both guard their hearts from what they do not need to hear, and to provide what they do need to learn.

Another thing I especially like about TruthQuest History is the focus on God as the Author of all of History. That is the way history should be taught. I certainly wish I had been taught history from that perspective...well, at least I have to opportunity to learn it that way now. I LOVE homeschooling!

But, you say, there are several good curricula out now that attempt to do some level of that in some form. Why would I choose TruthQuest over one of those other excellent curricula? Because the style suits mine---it is structured and comprehensive enough so that I do not have to do ALL the work, but relaxed enough that I can tailor it to mine and my children's needs and preferences and to what resources I have available. I also appreciate that I can do as little or as much as we are excited to do, and I very much liked Mrs. Miller's wonderful topic introductions. Her style is easy to read and understand and quite inspiring...not to mention (okay, I am mentioning it), the price of TruthQuest just can't be beat.

If TruthQuest History sounds like it might be up your alley, too, you might consider checking out the TruthQuest website for more information about the curriculum, samples of the different books, the Scope and Sequence of the books, an introductory streaming audio about the importance of approaching history from the right perspective, additional resources available for each of the books, and testimonies on how other families use TruthQuest History in their own homes.

The TruthQuest History guide we used is available for only $29.95 (print copy) and $23.95 as a pdf download. You can also purchase a Binder-Builder (from AJTL) for $18.00, Notebooking Pages for $13.00 (AJTL), and a Map/Timeline/Report Package (AJTL) for $13.00. Or you can buy all three downloadable supplements for just $39.00 (some prices may vary by product).

There are many units and levels available, from American History at two different levels, to World History from Creation, through the Greeks and Romans, covering the Renaissance and Reformation, all the way through the Age of Revolution (up to present day). You can check out the different levels and topics and get tips on how to use this product with multiple ages on the TruthQuest site. 

Now that we have had the opportunity to try this product, I can't wait to start at the beginning of the book and read her narratives all the way through to the kids. I don't intend to make the kids redo anything we already did...we have read an impressive array of books, viewed many valuable videos, and completed some fun projects (in our haphazard and rambling sort of way) as we've purposed to study early World History this year, but I don't want them to miss out on the impressive narratives that Mrs. Miller offers in her book, so I will probably read the entire text aloud to them on its own until we catch up to where we left off a month or so ago. I am excited to finally find something I can really sink my teeth into and that makes me want to dig more deeply into history and His Story.

Your family's approach to teaching and learning history is likely to have a large impact on how your children percieve God's influence in their own lives and in the larger scope of history and the world. It is very important that you prayerfully consider which history program would best suit your individual family. I am so glad to have finally found TruthQuest History since I truly believe this program is perfectly suited for us. Thank you, Mrs. Miller, author of TruthQuest History, for the wonderful review opportunity and excellent product, and thanks be to God, our Heavenly Father, Author of all History for inspiring her to write this.


Update: I am so excited! A conversation with Mr. Mike, our Bookmobile driver, led to the proprietor of a nearby homeschooling lending library calling me tonight. I just found out that they have over 12,000 hard to find out-of-print titles available for checkout (for a small yearly fee), MANY of which are tied to BFIAR, FIAR and...drum roll, please...TruthQuest History. Yippee!! Now that's Providential, don't you think??

Disclaimer: I recieved a print copy of TruthQuest History Beginnings to enable us to review the product and write a review about it here on our blog. The opinions I am sharing here with you reflect our experiences and in no way guarantee that your experiences or opinions will be the same. If you have questions concerning this product or our experiences with it, please feel free to email me or leave a comment.


Heather Lynn said...

Thank you! I am still trying to decide what to use for History next year, and had not even looked into this one. I am going to look now.

Heather said...

I am so glad we were able to point out this great product to you. I really am very grateful to have found it. I love her narratives more than those of any other history product I have used (it's like having a chat with someone), and you can't beat the flexibility or the price. I hope you find what works for you!


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