My America and My World (first grade)
This very brief overview of the United States and the world is patriotic and upbeat. It offers tidbits about famous people and places (including the fable about George Washington and the cherry tree). "World" study features a few paragraphs about selected countries. The only way I recommend this book to you is if you purchase the teacher edition. The last half of that edition is the student text, so you need not purchase a separate student book. The first half of the teacher edition fleshes out and enlivens lessons with lesson plans that include reading comprehension, vocabulary, geography, and writing activities; additional background information; and other enrichment activities. Of course, this requires teacher presentation, but it should require minimal preparation time.
Our America, third edition (second grade)
This textbook provides an introduction to our country's history. It teaches about our flag, patriotic holidays and songs (music included), then shifts to brief historical vignettes and/or summaries about the Separatists, Indians, colonists, pioneers, cowboys, and immigrants. Plenty of full-color pictures and large print make the appearance appealing to children. Although it has a good deal more text than does the first grade book from A Beka, Our America still covers topics superficially. Comprehension questions are at the end of each chapter, and vocabulary words are featured in boxes. Enrichment activities sometimes appear at the ends of chapters. You should not need an answer key or the teacher edition for this book. I suggest supplementing with historical stories, biographies, and activities.
Our American Heritage (third grade)
This colorful book is essentially short biographies of famous Americans. Read excerpts with your child or have him or her read using the text as a reading comprehension tool. Then check out full-length books about people mentioned in the book who interest your child. The teacher edition has lesson plans and answers, but is probably of minimal use. An answer key is available separately. The Map Study Skills book should be useful, but the test/quiz book is probably not very important at this level.
The History of Our United States (fourth grade)
[Note:This review is of the earlier edition. I have not yet reviewed the latest edition of this course.]
For a fourth-grade level history book, this has more comprehensive content coverage than average. It covers U.S. history, emphasizing patriotism and the spread of the Gospel. The political view is clearly conservative and the religious perspective non-denominational Protestant. The text includes comprehension questions throughout each chapter, with a lengthier "chapter checkup" at the end. Lush, full-color illustrations, timelines, maps, and photographs give this text unusually strong visual appeal. Although there is a large section of maps at the beginning of the text, you will also want to use the separate Geography/Maps and Reviews book. While the majority of the exercises deal with geography, there are also some content exercises. There are separate answer keys for the text and the geography workbook, but there is also a teacher edition of the text which includes answers. Choose one or the other form of answer key. The History and Geography Curriculum for this course is primarily lesson plans which correlate the two components and suggest a few additional activities. It is of marginal benefit to homeschoolers. However, since some states require state history in fourth grade, the Curriculum does explain how to insert A Beka's My State Notebook as a six-week course.
Old World History and Geography (fifth grade}
This book is an introduction to eastern hemisphere history with an emphasis on geography that dictates the book's organizational structure. Study begins with the Fertile Crescent, moves through the Middle East, central and southern Asia, Egypt, and Africa, then on to Europe and Australia. As students study each geographic area, they are also studying history from ancient times through the present, albeit very briefly.
This is really a geography/social studies book more than history. It includes church history, and frequently addresses forms of government, particularly communism. Throughout the book, Christianity and the Bible are used as the standard and measure of comparison for all cultures and ideas. One entire chapter is titled: "Christianity: The Greatest Force in History."
Historical coverage seems more extensive in studies of ancient civilizations than those that are more modern. For example, more than six pages are devoted to Sumer, while France gets about three pages. Treatment of ancient civilizations is also wider ranging, and, consequently, more interesting than treatment of countries such as Italy and France. For example, in reading about Sumer, we learn about archaeology, the invention of the wheel, cuneiform writing, their culture, geography, religion, education, and history. In comparison, the study of France seems very narrowly selective. It begins with its location and geography. Next, two very general aragraphs introduce "People and Events," which includes snippets on famous men and women. Next are two paragraphs on John Calvin and the Huguenots; a single paragraph each on the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and Napoleon; two paragraphs on modern France; and a few geographical highlights.
There are plenty of maps and full-color illustrations as well as interesting sidebars throughout the text. The first approximately 50 pages comprise a "Geography Handbook" that includes an atlas, continent studies (which students should work through in conjunction with the appropriate chapters), and geography facts.
Comprehension questions follow each subsection within each chapter, and there are "Chapter Checkup" tests at the end of each chapter. The Teacher Edition contains the answer key to text questions as well as a copy of the student text without answers. A separate answer key is also available if you choose not to get the Teacher Edition. It is not difficult to figure out answers without the answer key.
Maps in the Student Maps and Review Sheets are very useful, although the question worksheets might be too much for many students. A Student Test Booklet and a Student Quiz and Activity ooklet are available, along with teacher keys for all three supplements.
You should follow this text with New World History and Geography. If you begin with Old World History, it is difficult to jump to another history book for coverage of the New World because of the organizational structure. For example, Christian School International's Story of the Old World covers much of the same territory, but stops at the era of exploration historically, while A Beka's book brings each geographical area up to modern times.
Test and quiz booklets are optional. There is also a packet of maps you might want. These are labeled on one side, but unlabeled on the reverse.
New World History and Geography (sixth grade), fourth edition
This is the 2010 revision of A Beka's study of western hemisphere history that emphasizes geography and cultures. It covers United States history very selectively up through the 2008 election of President Barack Obama. Note that A Beka's Old and New World History books are not chronologically divided, but geographically. This book should be used following Old World History and Geography.
The text is generously illustrated in full color. A large section of maps at the back is followed by “Geography Facts” assignments that correlate with chapters within the text. Some parts of this text are lively, but when it tries to tell all about the geography and history of each country in a very few pages the presentation is very dry. You need to accompany at least some sections of this book with more lively supplements if you want children to enjoy history.
Comprehension questions are presented after segments of a chapter; there might be three or more of these brief sets of questions within a chapter. Chapter Checkups quiz students on the entire chapter and are typically two pages long. All of these questions as well as the map study questions deal mostly with factual information rather than analysis or interpretation. Answers are in the Answer Key.
New World History and Geography Maps and Activities Book is an optional student activity/workbook. Maps in this book are very useful although the question worksheets might be too much for many students. A Student Quiz Booklet and a Student Test Booklet have additional questions, although they too tend to concentrate on factual information. You might want the Quiz and Test Booklets for cumulative testing purposes, but otherwise there are plenty of questions at the end of each chapter for assessment. Test and Quiz Booklets as well as the Maps and Activities Book are included in the Homeschool Child Kit along with the student text. A Geography Bowl Quiz Team Book also comes with the Child Kit, but this really seems superfluous to me.
Separate answer keys are available for each of these extra items. In addition, there is a set of maps titled Homeschool New World History/Geography Maps B that can be used along with the course. All of these are included in the Parent Kit along with Curriculum book that has lesson plans, scheduling and record keeping assistance.
You might consider using A Beka's Nation Notebook for in-depth study of one country during the school year.
Children can use the Nation Notebook to study a single country. Instructions at the beginning teach how to do research, including how to write letters to get information about a country. The book helps students frame their searches for information by designating topics for each page with specific "research questions" in the far left margin. Students paste pictures and postcards directly on the pages, then complete their drawings and written information.
Pages have headings like "Climate," "Capital City," and "Language." The completed pages of this book are the finished product. Parents might want to select which pages to use depending how extensive they want the project to be.
Canadian Province Notebook
Canadian students will find A Beka's Canadian Province Notebook a useful tool for focusing research and organizing the presentation of information for their studies. Instructions at the beginning of the book tell how to do the research. The remaining pages can be used for the actual presentation. Pages have headings, boxes for illustrations, specific spaces such as the one for drawing Canada's flag, and general directions for completing each page. Time line and map pages help children gain historical and geographical perspectives. Research must be done from other sources, but this notebook saves students' time by narrowing research topics and providing a ready-made presentation format. (Suggested for 4th-6th grade levels.)
The History of the World in Christian Perspective
[Note: there is a new edition of this text out. Review is of the prior edition.]
History of the World begins with creation and continues through the late twentieth century. Reflecting A Beka's Christian (Protestant), patriotic, conservative stance, this text teaches history with purposeful intent. This text is a condensed version of A Beka's previous two-volume history for the junior high years. Consequently, it serves as an overview rather than an in-depth study. (Students will cover material more deeply at high school level.) Full-color illustrations and an interesting format enhance the text. An inexpensive answer key to test questions is the most important item to purchase along with the text. The teacher's edition--similar to the student text but with answers overprinted--is not necessary if you have the answer key.
Additional, but optional, materials are a test booklet, quiz booklet, teacher keys for both items, World History Maps, Eastern Hemisphere Map Skill Cards, and World Atlas and Geography Studies: Eastern Hemisphere.
World Atlas and Geography Studies: Eastern Hemisphere
World Atlas should be used along with the seventh grade text although it is not absolutely essential. (It might also be used on its own aside from this text.) The World Atlas is the first of two supplemental geography books, with the second covering the western hemisphere at eighth grade level. It has numerous map activities and related questions. The World Atlas has its own answer key. It follows the same format as Geography Studies and Projects - Western Hemisphere which is reviewed after the eighth grade text below..
America: Land That I Love
A Beka offers this eighth-grade text for American history, but they also haves an excellent American History text for the elementary grades as well as one for high school, so this is not an essential course. [Note: A Beka condensed their previous two-year coverage of world history over grades seven and eight into a single seventh grade text to make way for this new book.] Nevertheless, they have done a commendable job.
This text is relatively up-to-date (1994), and it includes more coverage of women, Indians, and minority groups than we find in earlier editions of A Beka texts. At the same time, it strongly reflects A Beka's bold patriotic, conservative, Christian (Protestant) position. Unlike most textbooks, this one is obviously opinionated. Some might see this as a negative, but as long as these positions align closely with yours, this actually makes the book far more interesting than one that strives to be neutral.
The reading level is appropriate for junior high. The book is over 500 pages in length, but the print is fairly large and there are numerous full-color illustrations.
Questions in this text are a big improvement over older editions; they are a mix of factual recall, map reading, and thought questions. Within each chapter are periodic "check ups" with factual questions and identifications. Chapter reviews have more extensive questions, map work, and thought questions. Between check ups and chapter reviews there are enough questions that using the quiz or test booklets might be optional. However, you might still want to use them for mid-term and final tests.
The teacher's edition has answers to text questions, but the less expensive answer key to text question will suffice. Support materials include World Atlas and Geography Studies of the Western Hemisphere, a quiz booklet, a test booklet, teacher's keys to accompany each of these three items, and a Civics Activity Book. The Civics Activity Book is fairly superficial, so you might want to skip it and cover government much more extensively using A Beka's high school text for American government or another resource at a later date. A set of flashcards for states and capitals is also available.
Geography Studies and Projects: Western Hemisphere
This geography worktext was designed to be used with A Beka's America: Land That I Love at eighth grade level, but it can also be used on its own or along with other resources. A similar volume, World Atlas and Geography Studies of the Eastern Hemisphere, is used for seventh grade level. Be aware that A Beka divides studies by hemispheres, an unusual approach not found in very many other texts. If you are using a comprehensive world history text, purchase both A Beka geography books and use the lessons in them in the order that corresponds to your text.
The first part of the book consists of maps and data on the countries of the western hemisphere. However, the U.S. is divided into sections and given more attention than South America, for which there is a single map and minimal information about each country. Students will need to refer to these maps as well as historical maps, such as those in America: Land That I Love, to complete the "geography projects" in the second half of the book. These projects are fill-in-the-blank exercises and map marking. Although this is not an exciting way to learn geography, the format is colorful and students have to search out information and do some analysis to figure out some of the answers. It's just the right amount of geography work for most students.