Catholic Schools Textbook Project
|Publisher: Catholic Schools Textbook Project
Review last updated: February 2013
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The Catholic Textbook Project’s goal is to produce high quality history textbooks that teach from a Catholic worldview. Eventually, they intend to produce books for all grade levels, but they have begun with the upper grade levels. At present three books are available and two more are in production.
The textbooks are fairly similar to standard history texts in methodology and presentation. However, the inclusion of the Catholic perspective means that some events are presented with a different slant and some events and people are included that might be skipped in a non-Catholic presentation. In addition, the overall scope and sequence leans toward a western civilization emphasis as evidenced by the Light of the Nations’ (two volumes) focus on Christian civilization rather than comprehensive world civilizations. Even though Christian civilization garners more attention, the volume All Ye Lands does cover civilizations and cultures from all over the world. Even with this Christian/Catholic emphasis, the presentation seems fairly evenhanded. Catholicism and Catholics are often covered “warts and all” rather than sugar-coated.
Textbooks are available only in hardcover editions, and these are nicely illustrated in full color. They are written in more of a narrative style than most traditional texts, so they are fairly interesting to read.
Teacher’s Manuals do not reprint student textbook pages; they have extensive teaching material for each chapter that includes a chapter overview, chapter goals, paragraph-long explanations of each key piece of information students should master, vocabulary terms and definitions, review questions, optional activities, sample quiz and test questions, and answers to all the questions. Sample questions can be used to construct your own tests, although this is a bit of work. Review questions are also printed in student textbooks. From Sea to Shining Sea and Light to the Nations also have review summaries and activity suggestions in the student texts.
Student workbooks are available for each text on CD-ROM. You can purchase a classroom license ($25) or a single-family license ($10). Workbooks have activities for subsections of chapters so students are continually reviewing and reinforcing chapter content rather than simply answering end-of-chapter questions. Workbook questions emphasize comprehension rather than deeper thought as do some end-of-chapter questions. Question formats are fill-in-the-blank, matching, circling, true/false, underlining, and crossword puzzles. There are also map labeling, drawing, and maze activities.
From Sea to Shining Sea
Beginning with early explorers such as St. Brendan and Leif Ericsson, this text tells the story of the United States up through the 1800’s. Note that the text begins with the story of a saint, and it concludes with a chapter titled “Catholics in America.” While a Catholic viewpoint crops up from time to time throughout the rest of the text, the presentation is not at all heavy-handed as we find in some of the other Catholic history texts used by Catholic home educators. In fact, in my opinion, this text could have used even more Catholic perspective. Missing, for example, are any mention of the Know Nothing movement and the development of the Catholic school system. However, the text is suggested for students in grades 5 through 9, and we shouldn’t expect everything to be covered at those levels. Overall, this is an excellent text and one of the best choices for grades 5 though 8.
A companion Student Workbook on CD-ROM is available only for this volume thus far. The workbook offers substantial review and reinforcement for the lessons in the text with 206 pages. However, it seems targeted at the lowest end of the spectrum with activities generally appropriate for fifth and sixth graders rather than eighth and ninth. Activities include fill-in-the-blanks, matching, crossword puzzles, drawing, coloring, and map work. These activities work within the comprehension and memory realm rather than requiring students to do deeper thinking. Questions in the “Chapter Activities” that appear in both the student text and teacher’s edition do stretch students to deeper thinking, but there are only a couple of these questions for each chapter. An answer key for the workbook is also included on the CD-ROM. I would have loved to see potential questions or even tests and quizzes themselves included on the CD to make test creation simpler for teachers and parents. The publisher tells me this is something they are working on.
It seems fairly clear that the publisher ultimately intends From Sea to Shining Sea to be used at younger grade levels (rather than grades 7-9) since another volume covering U.S. History at a more challenging level is in production.
All Ye Lands
All Ye Lands is now in its second edition. Major improvements and revisions were made for this second edition. The text is ambitious in scope. While the purpose is purportedly the coverage of world geography and cultures, it also attempts to present an overview of all of history by highlighting particular events and civilizations.
The first chapter introduces geography, then brief sections on geography appear at the beginning of most chapters. "Things to Do" at the end of most chapters provide map work activities. These usually include drawing and labeling, but they sometimes stretch into other topics such as longitude and latitude. Political maps are included throughout the text.
I very much appreciate the rewrite of the second chapter on prehistory. It makes it a little clearer than did the first edition that early man was of a different category than apes. It makes a definite statement that all people descended from Adam and Eve. However, I question its presentation of homo erectus as an ancestor of homo sapiens since the current scientific thinking is that homo erectus, at best, might descend from a descendent common to both home erectus and homo sapiens rather than being an ancestor (p. 24). The text also accepts an old age for the earth and living creatures. In spite of the potential error regarding homo erectus, because of the nuanced presentation regarding prehistory I think that both those who believe in evolution as well as those who reject it should be able to work with this text as long as they do not require a "young earth" view. Here is an example from page 24 in this section: "Based on several bits of evidence they have discovered, scientists have concluded that human-like creatures have been on the earth for at least 1 million years. This is not a fact, but a theory—an idea we form to explain facts we discover." Still, you might use this section with discretion, possibly expanding into your own discussion regarding evolution and creation. Once discussion moves on to the Sumerian and Egyptian cultures (still in the second chapter), the text is on firmer historical ground. From there on, this is an excellent overview of world history and cultures. Granted, it is selective in coverage, but it balances out the development of Christian civilization (through Israel, Greece, Rome, and Europe) with study of China, Japan, India, Africa, Russia, and Latin America. Another chapter presents the United States within the context of world history in preparation for further study of U.S. History. Although From Sea to Shining Sea (U.S. History text) might be used prior to this volume, it makes more sense to use it after.
At the end of each chapter are four different activities. "Let's Remember" questions require students to write out answers in complete sentences. "Let's Consider" questions can be used for discussion, personal reflection, or short essay responses. "Things to Do" are the map activities mentioned earlier. "Let's Eat!" is a food activity relating to the culture studied.
The revised edition has also added and strengthened connections to Scripture.
Light to the Nations I
Published in 2008, this text uses an introductory chapter to lay the groundwork for the story of Christian civilization. It begins with Adam and Eve, and then deals briefly with prehistory, cautiously presenting the birth of civilizations without bringing in evolution. This leaves parents the freedom to deal with that topic separately. Within this introductory chapter it shows how God revealed himself in preparation for his entry into history through the Incarnation. With this background, chapter one then begins with the birth of Jesus and continues through the establishment of his church. The story continues against the backdrop of the Roman empire. It continues through martyrdoms, evangelization, and the spread of Christianity primarily through the Middle East, Europe and Africa. The Rise of Islam receives a good deal of attention since the conflict between Christianity and Islam was and continues to be such a major force in world history. The text moves on through the so-called dark ages to the feudal and medieval periods. Students then study the rise of nations (Spain, England and France) and the Crusades, then the decline and decay of the Middle Ages that paved the way for the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. Religion and politics both became major factors in the wars that ensued following the Reformation, and the text follows this thread through European history up into the early 18 th century. The creation and expansion of colonial empires is omitted (aside from a brief coverage of the American colonies), so I assume that will be a part of the second volume.
Some might see the limited scope of this book as a problem, but I think it actually makes it easier for students to grasp the “story” of history with a presentation like this since it follows the story line of Christian civilization. With a clear understanding of the development of our western, Christian civilization, students can branch out for further study of other cultures later on.
This book and Light to the Nations: Part 2 will fill a clear need for a study of world history that fully acknowledges the vital role Catholicism has played in the development of our own civilization. Although this is not a “Church History” text, students will certainly learn a great deal about the development and growth of the Church, key figures in that development, and conflicts that have embroiled and shaped the Church.
At 574 pages, this is a substantial book. While it might be suitable for some seventh graders as the publisher suggests, I think it will more likely suit students in grades 8 through 10. I suspect that the publisher puts the top level as ninth grade to allow for the scope and sequence that would use the second volume in tenth grade, their forthcoming U.S. History for eleventh grade, and allow time for study of Government and Economics in twelfth grade. You should keep your own scope and sequence in mind as you determine when you might use this text.
Light to the Nations: Part 2 is now available but I have not yet reviewed it. E-book versions of these texts are also in development; they will be less expensive than the print versions.
Overall, the Catholic Textbook Project makes an extremely valuable contribution to Catholic education—one long overdue and sorely needed.
All Ye Lands: Origins of World Cultures
From Sea to Shining Sea - Teacher's Manual
Light to the Nations, Part I: Development of Christian Civilization - Grades 7-9 History Textbook (Hardcover)
Catholic Textbook Project
From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America
Catholic Schools Textbook Project
- $65.00 List Price at Amazon.com
- $42.00 New at Amazon.com Marketplace
- Suitable for: traditional classroom or one-on-one, but with much independent work
Audience: grades 5-9 at present
Need for parent/teacher instruction: moderate
Prep time needed: minimal
Teacher's manual: essential
Educational philosophy: traditional
Religious perspective: Catholic
Catholic Schools Textbook Project
130 S. Wells Road
Ventura , CA 93004
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