Posted in Curriculum, Subject History & Geography

A Review of Veritas Press’s Pages of History Volumes 1 and 2

cover_thumb_12_11Background: I saw these books in Veritas Press’s catalogue. After looking at sample pages of them, I thought I would give them a try with my history-phobic 5th grader. This review is from a confessionally reformed perspective (original Westminster standards).

Grade: B+

Verdict: I would use these books as supplements in my homeschool, but only with my own edits and commentary.

What I Liked:

  • The concept of weaving history facts into a fictional adventure is intriguing and attention-grabbing for students who don’t take to traditional history materials
  • It is nice to have a supplemental overview of many of the highlights of world history
  • Despite being overviews, the books contain an abundance of historical information. What isn’t directly in the text is placed in sidebars throughout the books so students can learn even more about the cultures being studied. For example, there is a chart about Egypt’s many gods and a photograph of the Rosetta Stone in the section on Egypt.
  • The books introduce the reality of persecution, which is something Christians have had to deal with for centuries and of which children should be aware
  • There is a lot of great theology in the books. In particular, the sovereignty of God in history is repeatedly emphasized. Students also learn about the inherent sinfulness of humanity and how it relates to different historical events and political arrangements
  • The books present the Creation, Fall, Deluge, etc. as actual historical events, which, from a Christian perspective, are
  • The books present more than one point of view on different topics such as “manifest destiny” so that students can come to their own conclusions

What I Didn’t Like:

  • coverthumb_20_1Although the concept is great, I would like to have seen more:
    • more about the persecution of Christians in the main characters’ time and how they deal with it; and
    • more incorporating history facts into the actual plot instead of just telling them to students
  • At times the books seem preachy, with the characters travelling from time to time just to receive a series of lectures. As in the last point, the books would be even better if there was less telling and more showing. Of course, that would have made the books longer, which is also a consideration to take into account.
  • There are numerous Third Commandment violations/minced oaths that I had to edit out, ie. “Jeez” and “Sheesh” for “Jesus”
  • There are instances of bad language that I had to edit out, ie. “heck” for “hell”
  • There are several Second Commandment violations/images of Jesus that I had to edit out
  • There are some factual errors I had to correct. For instance, Volume 1 states that Noah’s Ark landed on Mount Ararat, whereas the biblical text states “the mountains of Ararat.”
  • Sometimes an overly rosy view of history is presented. For instance, students are given the impression that the conversion of Norway to Christianity was a great thing. There is no mention of the fact that that conversion was often done by force, which is contrary to biblical principles.
  • For a book written by and for Protestants, I would have liked to have seen Protestant theology emphasized over Catholic theology:
    • For instance, when discussing eschatology, Catholic Futurism and Catholic Preterism are presented as the only two options. There is no mention of traditional Protestant Historicism (though admittedly this position is in the extreme minority these days).
    • In addition, the invention of manmade songs for worship is treated as a wonderful development (which follows the Catholic normative principle of worship), whereas from a historic Protestant perspective such songs are considered a violation of the Second Commandment (following the Protestant regulative principle of worship). Although many Protestants follow the normative principle today, it would be nice if they were made aware that historic Protestantism adhered to a vastly different theology than many forms of modern Protestantism.
    • There are also several passages that give readers the impression that a person is “holier” if he chooses to live as a monk or experiences phenomena like stigmata.  This, again, is contrary to the Protestant teaching of vocation, ie. that all vocations are holy and that church officers are not a cut above the rest of us.
    • There seems to be a tendency to portray Catholicism as the default view of Christianity.  For instance, when the kids “play church,” they don robes and carry croziers, etc.  These are all Catholic trappings that are not used in historic Protestantism, nor are they found in the Bible.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, these books are a useful addition to my homeschool. I blacked out all objectionable language and put stickers over the images of Jesus. Any topic that I thought needed some additional commentary was given a star in the margin as a reminder to me to address as my daughter reads the books.

So far, my daughter is enjoying reading Volume 1. She has had no complaints as of yet. I hope that these books will help her see that history can be exciting and that God is ever-present in human affairs.

Posted in Reading & Literature, Subject Bible & Theology, Subject History & Geography, The Robinson Booklist

G.A. Henty and the Christian Worldview

Sabbath Eve

As a Robinson Curriculum user, I found this post by Daniel J. Mount to be very interesting.  Basically, Mr. Mount argues that Henty’s books actually undermine a Christian worldview by promoting ecumenism, masquerading as gods, astrology, occultism, witchcraft, evolution, racism, and objectionable language.  This is good to know for anyone considering using Henty’s books in their homeschool so they can decide what is appropriate for their children.

Although the Robinson Curriculum promotes the books, we don’t actually use them, although we do own The Cat of Bubastes and In Freedom’s Cause.  I have read The Cat of Bubastes and it didn’t blow me away.  Delightful only made it through a few pages before she asked to try something else.  If anyone is looking for an alternative to Henty’s books that has a more Christian worldview, I heartily recommend any of R.M. Ballantyne‘s books instead.

In the meantime, here are some quotes from Mr. Mount’s article showing how Henty portrayed Protestants, which is not how I generally want my religion to be portrayed to my children (although with some children books like this can inspire great discussions):

All But Lost:

“He hated the shop, he hated business, he almost hated his father. Heartily did he envy his associates in the shop, who at least, when the day’s work was over, could take their departure and be their own masters until the shutters were taken down in the morning. His drudgery never ceased, for when the shop was closed, his father, a great part of whose daytime was occupied by City business, would sit down with him at the desk and go into the whole accounts of the day’s sales until half-past nine. Then upstairs, where the servants would be summoned, and his father would take his place at the head of the table with a large Bible before him, which he would read and expound in a stern harsh manner, eminently calculated to make the Scriptures altogether hateful to those who heard him. This with prayer lasted for an hour. Then to bed; to begin over again in the morning.”[22]

Won By the Sword: A Tale of the Thirty Years’ War:

“My father brought me up a Protestant like yourself, and when I was quite young I had a very dreary time of it while he was away, living as I did in the house of a Hugenot pastor. After that I attended the Protestant services in the barracks, for all the officers and almost all the men are Protestants, and, of course, were allowed to have their own services; but the minister, who was a Scotchman, knew better than to make his discourses too lengthy; for if he did, there was a shuffling of jack-boots on the stone floor and a clanking of sabres that warned him that the patience of the soldiers was exhausted. In our own glen my father has told me that the ministers are as long-winded as those of Geneva; but, as he said, soldiers are a restless people, and it is one thing for men who regard the Sunday gathering as the chief event in the week to listen to lengthy discourses, but quite another for soldiers, either in the field or a city like Paris, to do so.”[23]

The Curse of Carne’s Hold:

“The missionaries made pets of them [the Hottentots], and nice pets they turned out. It is just the same thing in India. It’s the very dregs of the people the missionaries always pick up with.”[32]

[22] Henty, All But Lost, volume, chapter 3.

[23] Henty, Won By the Sword, chapter 6.

[32] Henty, The Curse of Carne’s Hold, closing paragraph of chapter 10.

Read more of Mr. Mount’s article here:

Posted in Homeschooling, Our Adventures, Subject History & Geography

First Week Funny

PlainsOfAbraham2007This 1797 engraving is based on a sketch made by Hervey Smyth, General Wolfe’s aide-de-camp during the siege of Quebec. A view of the taking of Quebec, 13th September 1759.

As we head into the last day of our official first week of school for this year, I thought I’d share a humorous exchange that occurred today:

DELIGHTFUL: Hey, Mom!  Did you know that General Montcalm died the day after the battle of the Plains of Abraham?

ME: I read that.  Did you know that I have actually been to the Plains of Abraham?

(Delightful’s eyes get really big)

DELIGHTFUL: (in a serious and concerned tone of voice) Was it still smoking?

Posted in Reading & Literature, Subject English, Subject History & Geography

Little House Freemasonry

Laura Ingalls Wilder cropped sepia2I came across a post, Little House on the Prairie and Freemasonry Connections to the Ingalls Family, that really opened my eyes to Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Ingalls family.  It turns out they were heavily involved in freemasonry; so much so that there’s even a book about it: Little Lodges on the Prairie: Freemasonry & Laura Ingalls Wilder.

It’s always good to learn something new about history and historical figures!  I didn’t notice anything masonic in the Little House books, so now I am curious to know if any there are any references in them.

Posted in Curriculum, Homeschooling, Our Adventures, Subject Art, Subject History & Geography, Subject Home Economics

Honey Scrolls

Last year, while we were still using The Mystery of History (first edition of Volume 1), Delightful chose to do an assignment where she had to make and eat scrolls made of bread and honey.  Here is what she did:

First, she assembled her materials, consisting of bread, honey, and a rolling pin:


Second, she removed the crust from the bread:


Third, she flattened out the bread and drizzled honey on it:


Fourth, she rolled up the bread and ate it:


She thought these were so yummy she wanted to make more!

Posted in Education & Homeschool News, Subject History & Geography

Who Says Young People Can’t Do Anything Significant?

Declaration independence

Check out the ages of America’s Founding Fathers when the Declaration of Independence was signed:

Posted in Curriculum, Homeschooling, Our Adventures, Subject History & Geography

Scrapping the Mystery of History

I have tried to use the Mystery of History Volume 1 with 3 of my children and have come to the conclusion that it just doesn’t work for our family.  All 3 have had the same complaint: namely, that the strict chronological approach to history is confusing because the author bounces from place to place to place; and when she returns back to a place, it’s hard to remember everything that was previously said and then pick up where she left off the last time she discussed it.  I agree.

ancient_cover_thumbAs a result, we will be sticking with Christine Miller’s Guerber’s histories for the time being.  All of the Guerber’s histories got two thumbs up from Gentle Giant when he read them.  You can read some reviews of the books here.  Cathy Duffy includes Guerber’s histories in her top 101 picks and has reviewed them here.