Written for eighth grade students, The American Republic, Fourth Edition is an introduction to United States history that continues up through 2016. This text clearly presents a politically-conservative, Protestant point of view and has a more opinionated tone than do most other texts for eighth graders. That means that the potential audience is likely limited to those who agree with those positions.
At almost 600 pages, this is a very substantive text. Given that BJU Press publishes another United States History course for high school that is only about 50 pages longer, I thought it might be interesting to do some readability testing using an online tool. I typed in three paragraphs selected at random from both texts. For the eighth grade book, my test paragraphs showed reading levels ranging from ninth to twelfth grade. Results of my readabilty tests for the high school text ranged from tenth grade through sixteenth (college level). In contrast the relatively brief high school text, Short Lessons in U.S. History (Walch Publishing) showed reading levels ranging from grades six through ten in my three tests. While my tests were extremely limited, they did indicate that the eighth grade text might prove challenging for students who read at or below grade level.
Having said that, most homeschoolers seem to be reading above grade level and this should not be a problem for most of them. In addition, many parents and teachers will appreciate the depth of coverage in this course. Besides the higher-level content, The American Republic has excellent graphics, illustrations, and maps.
The course is arranged into seven units with three to five chapters per unit. Each chapter is broken down further into a number of sections, each concluding with a section quiz. Section quizzes generally have four or five comprehension questions to ensure that students read and retain the material. A final question, identified by a star, requires students to apply critical thinking skills. For example, a starred question on page 40 asks: "What are the benefits of America's cultural diversity? What are the drawbacks?"
Chapter reviews in the text are very helpful. They include a list of "People, Places, and Things to Remember" in a sidebar box. Questions are presented in four sections. "Making Connections" questions include comprehension questions along with others that ask how and why. "Developing History Skills" questions require students to look at the bigger picture to answer questions such as, "What was the triangular trade? How did it influence world history?" (page 51). "Thinking Critically" questions go beyond the surface, but students are expected to make use of material covered in the chapter for their answers. "Living as A Christian Citizen" questions are more open to personal responses as they pose questions such as, "Should Christian desire a society in which an upper class exists, or should they prefer a culture in which all people and cultural expressions are seen as equal? Defend your answer" (page 71). Even though this question might seem to present a potentially false dichotomy, it still is likely to promote deep thinking.
The two-volume teacher's edition includes valuable background information that will significantly enhance lessons if you are able to use it. At the back of the first volume of the teacher's edition is the Teacher's Toolkit CD-ROM with printable/viewable support material such as maps, charts, historical documents, and articles. The teacher's edition itself has complete lesson plans and slightly-reduced, full-color reproductions of student pages with answers printed in border areas surrounding student pages. Answers include the page number(s) in the text where each topic was originally covered in case you or a student needs to look something up. In those border areas of the teacher's edition you will also find teaching suggestions plus tips for using books, articles, and videos, as well as instructions for when to use resources on the Teacher's Toolkit and activities from the Student Activities book.
The American Republic Student Activities book is a key component of the course. While it includes some fill-in-the-blank questions and matching activities, it also has students write sentence- and paragraph-long responses, complete graphs and charts, do map work, and write an historical essay. For example, one assignment has students complete a chart contrasting constitutional opinions regarding states rights, then describe and defend their own position (p. 95). This is also where you will find many primary source documents that students will read and analyze. Parents or teachers will need the answer key for the Student Activities book.
The American Republic Subject Kit includes the student text, Student Activities book, teacher's editions for both books, tests, and the answer keys for the tests.
Note that the Fourth Edition has been reformatted and updated from the previous edition, but most of the text remains the same as in the Third Edition. The Student Activities book has been slimmed down from the previous edition which should make it more useful.