TOS Review: Heritage History: British Middle Ages
If you know me or if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I prefer a literature based approach to learning history. History comes alive when you use living books, that is books generally written by one author who has love and enthusiasm for his subject. I am so thankful to the Crew for introducing me to Heritage History. The girls and I have been studying the British Middle Ages from the Heritage Classical Curriculum.
Heritage History Classical Curriculum is a literature rich approach to studying history. They “put the story back into history.” In the Curriculum Guide, you can read about the philosophy, approach and even the recommended sequence for teaching. In addition to the website, this guide is also included as a PDF file on the Classical Curriculum CD. I also recommend exploring the FAQ page.
As a TOS Homeschool Crew member I received the both the British Middle Ages Classical Curriculum CD ($24.99) and a printed color copy ($24.99) of the British Middle Ages Study Guide. If you have purchased the curriculum CD, it is not necessary to purchase the printed study guide because the study guide, outline maps, color maps and reading forms are all included in the CD. The printed study guide is offered for those who wish to use use the online library. It is also available as “a convenience to families who don't have access to low-cost color printers, [they] provide ready-to-use, pre-printed Study Guides. The pre-printed guides are ready to be placed in any standard three ring binder and include front and back covers.” A downloadable e-book Study Guide ($12.99) is available for those who wish to purchase books one at a time or use the online library.
Each Study Guide includes:
- historical maps
- outline maps
- era summaries
- character lists
- battle dictionaries
- recommending reading lists
Heritage History designed the Study Guides to provide reference materials that complement the reading program.
The Classical Curriculum CD is overflowing with goodies! The CD doesn’t just include all the e-books, but includes all the e-books in 4 (yes FOUR) formats: PDF, EPub, and Mobi and HTML. The HTML format opens in web browser and must be read on the computer. In addition to the books and the Study Guide the CD includes files for:
- Guides (the Study Guide, Curriculum Guide, Electronic Text user Guide and more!)
- HTML (the book list and more in a format that uses your browser but does not require internet access. It reads the files on the CD)
How we’ve been using the program: At first, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around *how* to use the program. There are suggestions in the study guide and I couldn’t decide which approach I wanted to take. I started with more of a hodgepodge type approach letting the three “older” girls choose a spine to read and also choosing a book from the recommended reading list. I picked a book to read aloud to all four girls. This meant that although we were all studying the British Middle Ages we were not all in the same timeframe. After about two weeks of this method we switched gears. We decided to approach it more systemically with a focus on the historical eras.
Using the “Recommended Reading—Early Britain”, I selected different books to read aloud. I set aside Famous Men of the Middle Ages (we’ll come back to it!) in favor of reading selected chapters from the Cambridge Historical Reader and Stories from English History. We had already finished the book about Robin Hood so now we added Our Island Saints to our read aloud time.
So the “big” girls have their independent reading and we have our “group” read aloud time. During this time I have the binder with the printed color Study Guide available. (It is also available for the girls to use with their independent reading.) We do the reading and then we talk about what they’ve been reading and what we’ve just read. We refer to the timelines to see how it all fits together. We’ve talked about creating a large timeline to go on our wall but we haven’t set it up yet. I love the discussions that we have as a group and I love that all four girls are studying the SAME time period at the SAME time but at a pace and level appropriate for their age/development.
The books used in the classical curriculum are divided into Young Readers, Intermediate and Advanced. To independently read the Young Readers selections, the student must read at or above a 4th grade level. The intermediate books are suitable for Middle School and the Advanced selections are appropriate for high school. I think the program can be used with a wider range of ages if the parent or older sibling is willing to read aloud. I am able to make this work with all four of my girls with the wide range in developmental ability because we are using a combination of independent reading and reading aloud.
What makes this program different from other “classic” or “old” books now available in e-book?: Simple answer? The Study Guide. Many (if not most or all) of the books used by Heritage History can be found for free elsewhere on the internet. Heritage History even makes those books available for free *on their website*. You must read them on the computer but they are free. The study guide takes those books, ties them together with study aids and creates a curriculum. You will not find a nice laid out “read this many chapters from this book on this day” schedule but you will find suggestions and tips for scheduling. You have to do the daily scheduling yourself but the study guide does the coordination for you. It tells you which books (and which parts of larger spine books) should be read for which era. We’ll read all the Early Britain books (or parts of books) and then we’ll move on to the next era: “Saxons, Danes, and Normans.” It’s a structured plan and yet very flexible. We read as much (or as little) as we want. At a pace that works for us but we have a guideline and some structure on which we can build.
So what did my the girls think of the program? Here are their thoughts about Heritage History’s British Middle Ages Classical Curriculum.
Thoughts from BooBear (11th Grade): “British Middle Ages is one of my favorite time places and I was very excited to study it. I love learning about the British royalty. And I like to read books. There are a lot of books and that makes me very excited”.
Thoughts from Turtlegirl (9th Grade): “Well, I’m a history geek so this really appealed to me. I liked the fact there were so many books from the different periods in the middle ages. I liked the books themselves as well. I look forward to doing more. I like that the study guide gives you an overview of the middle ages. The maps are cool.”
Thoughts from Tailorbear (7th Grade): “It was awesome. The books are really good. They have really good stories. I’m learning a little bit more about a culture I didn’t like and starting to like it more.”
Thoughts from Supergirl (developmentally 1st Grade): “I like when Mama reads to me. I like the Robin Hood stories.”
My Bottom Line: I really love this product. It fits my educational philosophy and my approach to learning history. I love the structure of the study guide. I love that I can use this with all of the girls. I want to own all of the different Classical Curriculum CD’s (especially the Ancient Rome one). Some of their library collections (especially the Early American one) are very appealing as well. And I am in love with the convenience of the printed Study Guide.
You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.