When we began reviewing Writing Through Ancient History Level 2 Cursive, I was pretty excited about it. Brookdale House seemed to have something really appealing here in teaching writing using history.
Brookdale House designed this curriculum with the Charlotte Mason style of teaching. By reading, copying, and studying the structure of quality materials, the theory is that the students will gain knowledge about how to write high-quality material. The materials that are used in this curriculum are living books, original source materials, poetry, and historical narratives from the chosen time period. This allows the student to study writing, history, and handwriting all at the same time.
If you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, then this might be a fantastic fit for you. By studying the writings of historical authors, the student learns sentence structure, word choice, and more. They practice their handwriting by using a true handwriting font. The students also learn about history by using selections from various primary source documents and historical selections from the four year history cycle so many homeschoolers use.
These four time periods for Writing Through History are:
- Writing Through Ancient History,
- Writing Through Medieval History,
- Writing Through Early Modern History, and
- Writing Through Modern History.
Each of these time periods offer some choices in curriculum. You can choose either cursive or manuscript for the copy work. You also have a choice of level 1 or level 2 materials. The difference in these is the difficulty of the reading and copywork passages. There are also different authors and source documents used. We received this as a downloadable PDF document. There is also a printed version available. (See sample pages for more information on levels and materials.)
The appeal of this curriculum for me was that we would be able to complete several subjects simultaneously – handwriting, history, and writing. The basic way it works: read a passage; narrate it; copy pieces of it; repeat using other high-quality, historical works. However, it was not a home-run program for our family.
First off, it took me an extraordinary amount of time to figure out how this was supposed to work. Part of the difficulty is that the teacher materials are not all together in the PDF. And there are multiple sections I needed to go back and forth to. I read and reread and re-reread all of the teacher pieces of the puzzle. I still didn’t feel like I knew what was supposed to happen and I didn’t have a clue where to start my student at. This was a truly frustrating part for me. So, I ended up printing all of the teacher materials. Once I did that, it was better. Printing and highlighting were key to figuring it out.
Second, there are no breaks in the PDF and there are not any clickable links to help move around in the file. With a document that is almost 400 pages in length, that is burdensome. Especially when you need to print and read from more than one section on any given day. Perhaps adding clickable links or separating the materials into several separate downloads/PDFs would make it a more useable document. That would certainly have helped with figuring out the way it was all supposed to work. This difficulty meant that I had to access everything. I have a very independent student but with the frustration I felt accessing the different pieces, I knew that she would not be able to.
Lastly, you need to know that this is not a creative writing method. This is strictly copywork from historical documents and other source material with some grammar work included. I found that the student was studying various passages for grammar and copying passages for handwriting. The word writing really causes me struggles because of my preconception of what that word means/implies. In this case, writing indicates the copying of historical writers, allowing the student to note sentence structure and word choices.
We used this program with our oldest child, an 11 year old. She enjoyed the reading material but was not very happy with the copywork. I think that the readings were appropriate for her age. We have not done a lot of copywork Charlotte Mason style and that impacted her impressions of the program. We will probably continue reading the selections and narrating them, as she loved that part of it. I think the handwriting practice could be of use for our middle child so we may revisit it for her after the new year begins.
I believe that a large part of our disappointment with this curriculum could be alleviated with the print version of the program. At almost 400 pages, it was not feasible for us to try to print this. I still am intrigued with the idea behind this curriculum. I haven’t given up on it yet but for Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers, this is a good program to look into.
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