(Disclosure: I was given copies of the following materials in exchange for a fair and honest review, with the exception of items marked with a **. All opinions are my own, yours may vary. This post contains no affiliate links)
Critical thinking skills and the art of respectful discussion seem to be sorely lacking these days. I’m not sure where this gap started but I know how to fix it, and so does John De Gree, author of the Classical Historian materials.
But wait…we’ll get to that in a minute. See, this is a twofer review and before we get into that I want to introduce you to what has become, hands-down, my family’s favorite card game.
I remember whining to my mother in school about how boring history was for me. “It’s boooooooring! A bunch of dead people who did stuff that has nothing to do with NOW!” is probably something I would have said. Of course, as an adult I know that isn’t near the truth and it’s very important to me to make sure my kids don’t feel this way about history.
One of our favorite ways to learn is with games, and Ancient History Go Fish is an excellent game! I was skeptical at first as I am not an ancient history expert, I wasn’t sure how we were going to play a game about a subject we’re not well-versed in. I decided that we’d give it a try when my husband, the history buff, was available to play. I was sure we’d get halfway through the game, throw up our hands in frustration and end up watching television.
I was wrong. Again.
The beauty of this game is that you don’t need to be an expert in anything to play. It’s impossible not to learn about ancient history when you play. I was absolutely dumbfounded at the information my children retained after just one game.
There are four ways to play Ancient History Go Fish, instructions are included. If you’re just starting your ancient history studies, or playing with younger children I recommend starting with Go Fish. Other versions are Collect the Cards, Continents, and Chronology. We stick to Go Fish and Collect the Cards with our younger kids (6, 8, 10) but when the older kids (14 & 17) are playing we like to make it a little more difficult by playing Continents or Chronology.
Not only does this game teach your children history, it gives the players a good course in thinking skills & memorization.
My children ask to play this game at least three times a week, and I’ve even caught them nicely (!) playing together (!!) without arguing (!!!)!
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Ah yes, we were talking about the lack of critical thinking and rational, respectful discussion. We live in a climate in which people are quick to judge based on emotions and opinions, not fact.
Modern American History, and all of the history programs, from The Classical Historian put an emphasis on critical thinking.
Modern American History is a high school curriculum that includes the following*:
-32 week detailed parent/instructor guide & answer key**
-Modern American History student workbook
-Teaching the Socratic Discussion DVD Curriculum
-A Patriot’s History to the United States textbook**
-The Patriot’s History Reader**
*items can be purchased together or separately.
**I did not receive a copy of this item to review.
The Modern American History student workbook is a 93 page consumable book that is designed to be used with the textbook mentioned above. While I do suggest using both for continuity’s sake, it is possible to use this workbook with other textbooks, as long as they cover the same major events in modern history.
The Socratic Discussion in History DVD curriculum is really neat. The author of the materials, John De Gree, becomes your teacher and two of John’s children become your classmates. John leads you through each lesson and a discussion activity.
The main idea behind all of these materials is to develop critical thinking skills by giving the student the “tools of the historian” and teaching them how to use these tools.
The tools are:
1. Distinguishing fact from opinion
2. Forming good judgements based on fact
3. Finding supporting evidence
4. Making the textbook available (reading with a purpose)
5. Analyzing primary sources
6. Using quotes
9. Cause & effect
Each lesson covers one or several of these tools by using demonstration and guided discussion.
Writing is minimal with this curriculum, the primary focus is on discussion, making it ideal for reluctant learners and those who think history is “booooooring!”
Note: I did experience some problems with the DVDs. I could not get the DVDs to play in my Xbox 360, bluray player or newer DVD player. They would play on my PC and older DVD player but about halfway through the froze up and I couldn’t resume playing. This may be a problem with my technology or it could be a problem with the DVD burning process. Before purchasing I’d check with the publisher to make sure they are returnable.
Age recommendation: Grades 9-12
Skills: History, critical thinking, rational discussion & debate
Pricing info: $179.00 for the complete package, items available a la carte