Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story relates the history of the United States in a clear-eyed fashion while stressing the great opportunity and positive effects of our country’s unique experiment in self-governance. Author Wilfred McClay says in his introduction that the primary objective of the book is "to offer to American readers, young and old alike, an accurate, responsible, coherent, persuasive, and inspiring narrative account of their country─an account that will inform and deepen their sense of the land they inhabit and equip them for the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship" (p. xi).
McClay primarily follows political events rather than taking a social studies approach to U.S. history. For example, when he discusses the Progressive movement, he mentions the key leaders and cultural developments they influenced (e.g., the eugenics movement), but his primary focus is on the Progressive movement’s impact on political events and government.
Land of Hope is very well written in a narrative style that makes it easy to read. Here’s a sample from the conclusion of Chapter 17: The New Deal.
How quickly his [President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s] fortunes had turned. After November 1938, there would be no more Hundred Days explosions of legislative activity. Roosevelt’s New Deal had made dramatic and permanent changes in the landscape of American life and had eased the effects of a very great economic calamity. His spirit and his words had restored the nation’s spirit. But his policies had not solved the problems of the economy and had not returned the country to full employment. It would take, not the moral equivalent of war, but war itself to accomplish that ( p. 315).
Aside from a few maps, there are no illustrations. While the book is mostly text, it doesn’t seem intimidating or overwhelming because it’s such a delight to read. I think Land of Hope is just the sort of textbook that would appeal to many homeschoolers. It doesn’t promote a particular religious viewpoint, but it is respectful of religion and mentions some religious developments of historical significance. It takes an even-handed approach to political parties and competing political viewpoints. This is especially evident in Chapter 22: The World Since the Cold War where he discusses presidents from George H. W. Bush through Donald Trump, the War on Terror, and other politically-charged events in a relatively unbiased manner.
What’s missing are components that would turn this textbook into a course. There are no questions, assignments, or tests. Until the publisher produces these items, homeschooling parents can have students take notes as they read, have them write chapter summaries, or come up with other ways of evaluating a student’s grasp of the material.
In the book’s epilogue, McClay says,
This book is offered as a contribution to the making of American citizens. As such, it is a patriotic endeavor as well as a scholarly one, and it never loses sight of what there is to celebrate and cherish in the American achievement. That doesn’t mean it is an uncritical celebration (p. 423).
He goes on to say that he wants to see open and honest discussion of differing views, and that discussion needs to be based on love for our country, despite its faults. I don’t mind supporting the view expressed in Land Of Hope. McClay is not blindly patriotic, but he values what we’ve got in comparison to most other countries. It seems to me that homeschoolers who want their children to learn to appreciate the blessing of living in the United States should find Land of Hope an excellent resource to accomplish that.