I don’t typically like to mention a product other than the one I’m reviewing in a review post. However, y’all have been around long enough to know that my family and I have used and loved Trail Guide to Learning for quite some time. To start talking about something else without giving you an explanation is just going to leave you scratching your heads and wondering if you can trust what I say.
So, you need to know that we completed the Trail Guide series just before Christmas break last year, leaving me searching for something we’d enjoy just as much. That search led me back to Pandia Press and their science and history courses, REAL Science Odyssey and History Odyssey. We’d used and enjoyed both before, so it made sense that I would look to them again.
If you’ve read my review of REAL Science Odyssey Biology Level 2, you know that it’s been a great fit for us. We’ve worked our way through it slowly, so we’ve only completed the first unit and plan to continue it next year.
Literature-Rich History Curriculum
We’ve also been using History Odyssey Level 2: Middle Ages. I really like the fact that the History Odyssey series combines:
It makes complete sense to me to combine those subjects with history as much as possible. The literature choices with History Odyssey are excellent. When Brianna used History Odyssey Level 2: Modern Times, we used the course to cover both history and literature credits due to the high quality literature choices.
We were just as pleased with the literature selections for Middle Ages and discovered some excellent books, such as:
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (Shamefully, I had never read it and I loved this book. The kids enjoyed it, too, but I loved it.)
- The Door in the Wall
- Beowulf, A New Telling
- The Story of King Arthur and His Knights
- The Canterbury Tales
- Tales from Shakespeare
- A Thousand and One Arabian Nights (Another one that I thoroughly enjoyed even though I couldn’t read it even one single time without singing “Never Had a Friend Like Me” from Aladdin. Yes, seriously.)
Cross-Curricular History Lessons
History Odyssey Level 2 takes map work to a more challenging level for middle school students. For some maps, everything the students needs is found in the map from the spine text (The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia), but more often than not completing the blank outline maps included in the text requires a bit of research on the part of the student.
I liked that often a student was asked to compare a historical map to a current one. It puts things into perspective for students to see what modern countries occupy land ruled by different empires during the middle ages.
Students also learn advanced outlining techniques (not my kids’ favorite part) with History Odyssey, along with research skills. In addition to doing basic research of the key players in historical events, students will learn skills such as how to write a biography. We even practiced writing a Haiku when studying feudal Japan.
The text of History Odyssey is written to student, so most middle school kids should be able to work fairly independently. Because we do history and science as a family and because I wanted to be able to tweak the assignments to fit our six weeks on/one week off schedule, I didn’t have my kids work through the text on their own. However, I know many families will appreciate having that option.
We were able to tweak the curriculum to fit our schedule quite nicely and easily by choosing 2-3 books to read over the six week period and completing the sections of the student text corresponding with those literature selections. Typically, I would read one or two of the books aloud each day and have the kids read the other(s) as independent reading.
The only thing I’d like to see more of with History Odyssey would be more hands-on activities. Y’all know how I feel about hands-on learning. The science series is loaded with great, active, hands-on learning, making it a perfect fit for us. I’m in the season of life where it’s hard for me to plan and implement quality, age-appropriate hands-on activities, so I like when the curriculum handles that for me.
Other than that (and the fact that I’m not crazy about the Kingfisher books), we’ve enjoyed History Odyssey. It made a solid history guide and we discovered some great literature. It’s also worth noting that the History Odyssey guides are, in my opinion, challenging enough for many high school students, particularly if you have a struggling learner. Given the fact that they include such rich literature and teach important outlining and research skills, with some tweaks, they would work well for many high school students.
Try Before You Buy
I also want to remind you that Pandia Press offers a fantastic try before you buy program. You can download a portion of the book to try for free before purchasing the full curriculum. It’s not just a tiny download either, but enough to do several lessons and see if the curriculum is going to be a good fit for your family. I don’t know of any other curriculum provider who offers that and I think it’s an outstanding opportunity to try the Pandia Press courses worry-free.
So, as you’re searching for history curriculum next year, consider History Odyssey from Pandia Press. Summer break may be a great time to download some samples and see if it will work for your family.