Exploring Economics (2016 edition) was written specifically for Christian high school students with a limited-government political perspective. Students can use the core components of this course to earn a half credit for economics, or they can add the optional activities to simultaneously earn a half credit for English (with coverage of literature). Exploring Economics should work particularly well in conjunction with Ray Notgrass’s Exploring Government course since it is very similar in format and approach, and both courses require one semester.
There are two essential books for the economics course: the Exploring Economics textbook and Making Choices: Readings in Economics. Both books are hardcover with full-color illustrations. The optional Exploring Economics Student Review Pack has questions, quizzes, and exams that can be used with the economics course. The Review Pack also contains the notes and questions for the four books that students will read for English credit.
This course teaches both macroeconomics and microeconomics, although it is weighted toward macroeconomics with its coverage of the elements of an economy, the history of economic systems, the interaction of political systems and economics, and economic principles. This course adds substantial coverage of economics through both the Old Testament and church history, and Christian principles are applied throughout the course. The course covers recent major economic events in the U.S. through 2016, including discussion of income inequality, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and healthcare issues, the financial meltdown of 2008 and the subsequent recovery, and the looming shortfall of the Social Security system.
This course clearly has a point of view, although Notgrass does present both sides on most debatable topics. For example, he makes a case for free trade while also presenting opposing opinions. To help students form their own opinions, he sometimes includes essay options such as those on page 224 where two suggested essay assignments invite students to express their own views on a number of controversial issues related to trade. There’s also an entire chapter titled, “So You Want to Start a Business?” that encourages entrepreneurship. While Exploring Economics covers the essentials for an economics course, it goes much further in presenting a Christian worldview-based approach that encompasses personal motivation, character, faith, the proper roles of faith communities and government, and practical life issues.
The 476-page Exploring Economics textbook is very readable. It’s not as dry as most economics texts, yet it covers complex concepts such as the “marginal rate of substitution” and “diminishing marginal utility.”
The textbook contains 75 lessons which are presented within15 units. Each unit begins with a brief overview of its lessons. Additional books to use are listed next, e.g., the Bible, Making Choices, or one of the four literature books. This is followed by a list of suggested projects: essay writing, research, and creative projects (e.g., posters, commercials, and photo essays). While there are always essay options, other suggestions vary from unit to unit. Students working toward the English credit should complete at least one of these projects each week. While they might be considered optional for other students, the suggested projects frequently challenge students with practical applications that should be both interesting and informative, so I recommend using at least one per unit.
Assignments at the end of each lesson in the textbook tie together the components of the course. Here students find the specific reading assignment from Making Choices, the literature assignment, a reminder to select or work on a project, a reminder to answer questions in the Student Review, and instructions to take a quiz at the end of a lesson or an exam at the end of a unit. Daily lessons should take at least an hour for only the economics course, but probably about two hours for students working toward both economics and English credits.
The text is supported by supplemental reading from Making Choices. Readings were selected to reinforce Notgrass’s personal preference for free-market economics and limited government. It includes selections by Adam Smith, Walter E. Williams, Milton Friedman, Russell Kirk, Ronald H. Nash, and George W. Bush among many others. In my opinion, this is a superb collection of articles that most adults would also benefit from reading.
There are three small books in the Exploring Economics Student Review Pack: the Quiz and Exam Book, the Student Review book, and the Answer Key that covers both. Students completing the English literature component of the course will need four additional books: Silas Marner by George Eliot, The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli, and Mover of Men and Mountains by R. G. LeTourneau.
The Student Review book has ten questions for each lesson. Some questions require brief answers while others require lengthier answers. You can assign them for written work or discussion. Inserted periodically in the Student Review book are lessons on the four books to be read for the literary analysis portion of the course. These lessons include some commentary on the books plus questions to be answered. Short lessons on how to do literary analysis are at the front of the Student Review.
The Quiz and Exam Book focuses only on economics and has fifteen quizzes (one per unit) and three exams. Questions require only short answers. If students are engaging well with the weekly questions for each lesson, you might not need to use the quizzes.
Exploring Economics is intended for use by a student doing independent study, although someone needs to assess essays, projects, answers to weekly questions, quizzes, and exams (with assistance from the Answer Key). While it would enhance the course to have discussions about the readings and many of the topics presented, it isn’t required. Ease of use along with the course's Christian worldview and limited-government perspective are likely to make it a popular choice for many home educators.