In my "Introduction" post I had mentioned something called "family-style curriculum". This concept is very important to me as I am trying to teach 4 young minds and I am only 1 person. The beauty of these pieces of curriculum that I purchased is simply this: I read 1 lesson to all 4 kids together and then they have activities based on their ages. This post will focus on the curriculum I chose for History.
The series is called "The Mystery of History" by Linda Lacour Hobar. /www.themysteryofhistory.info/ She writes from a Christian worldview. She does it respectfully to all Christian faiths. She also does a wonderful job presenting what the other faiths believe as she goes through the world history. There are currently three volumes available in print and the author is working on the final fourth volume [hopefully due out before next year when I'll need it : )]
We started with her second volume, which covered the Early Church and the Middle Ages. The text is broken up into 28 weeks of lessons in which she includes pretests, biweekly post tests that alternate with biweekly review exercises, a time to make Memory Cards for each lesson of the week, and finally the activities section. She also includes a wonderful semester review and test and a final review and test.
Each lesson that you read is written as if Ms. Hobar was right there talking to you and your children. She even includes warning notes if something might be too intense for younger or more sensitive children so you can skip over that section and continue reading without realizing too late. On the average, I would read maybe two pages per lesson. It took me about 15-20 minutes (including the usual kid interruptions) to read out loud.
I would use the pretest, post test and biweekly review with only Caleb and Esther. Sometimes we would do it orally and other times I would run it off and have them do it on paper so I would have something to file. Speaking of which, she recommends each child having a 3-ring binder with 8 tab page dividers, labeled by the 7 Continents and miscellaneous (that's where their tests and review sheets go).
Memory cards are very important in family style learning. Memory cards are simply 3x5 index cards that the kids record what they remember from the lesson. Caleb and Esther would record their own card. Isaac would dictate what he remembered to me. (Sarah just drew pictures, especially of princesses and castles.) The older kids would use these later when filling in a review worksheet. It also helps you to see what is getting through to them and maybe point out an important highlight they might have missed.
The activities section is usually broken into three sections: younger, middle, and older students. This allows you the flexibility to use one curriculum yet meet all the age levels you are teaching. The younger kids may have a simple coloring activity while the older ones might have a detailed mapping activity or a fun web search.
The one thing I like the most about this series is that it is completed in 4 books. We started with Volume 2 last year. This year we will do Volume 3. Hopefully, if it's completed, Volume 4 next year. Then we will go back to the beginning of the series and start Volume 1. The year after that we will repeat volume 2 with the understanding that Isaac and Sarah who were four years younger the first time they heard it, will now be at a higher level of understanding and will take in more information.
One more item that is a wonderful supplement to this series is putting together each child's own copy of a Time Line Notebook... but that is for another post! :)