The Mighty Works of God is a new series of history texts for kindergarten through sixth grade. This series is built on ideas of the Principle Approach. The Pilgrim Institute, describes its mission: “Pilgrim Institute was established in 1979 to re-educate the American Christian in his responsibility to be governed by the principles of the Scriptures in all areas of his life, including the civil sphere, and to restore an understanding of local self government…. resource materials present these principles as they are revealed in our nation’s history and reflected in our form of government. The principles are documented historically and Biblically, and related governmentally."
Three texts are available thus far. They can be used for a particular grade level as the series adds more books, but in the meantime, the present books might each be used over a span of grade levels:
- Self Government (first grade or the primary grades)
- Liberty and Justice for All (second grade or primary grades)
- Divine Providence (third grade or middle elementary grades)
Books are printed in full color and illustrated with original artwork throughout. Books gradually increase in difficulty. Sentences grow longer, vocabulary becomes more challenging, and books grow in the number of pages with 152, 198, and 216 pages respectively. The font is also smaller in the third book, increasing the content even more than is reflected by page count.
The reading level is challenging if you use these books for first, second, and third grades respectively. You might want to use the first book as a read aloud with first and second graders. Second graders might need some assistance with Liberty and Justice for All while third and fourth graders will probably be able to read it on their own. Likewise, third graders might struggle with Divine Providence while fourth and fifth graders should be able to handle it independently. You can stretch any of these texts beyond the targeted grade levels—use with younger students by reading aloud and challenge older students with additional written work and discussion.
Even if students are able to read the texts independently, lessons are designed for interaction directed by the teacher. Teacher’s Guides do not reproduce the student pages, so both student and teacher books are essential. A Resource CD-ROM in the teacher’s guide includes maps, charts, coloring and activity pages for students to complete, most produced in full-color; it really helps if you have a color printer for printing these student pages. Teacher’s Guides include additional background information that should be helpful to the teacher and might sometimes be presented to the students; often the background information includes quotes from primary sources. Lesson outlines include the “leading idea” of the lesson, questions that will help the teacher lead discussion, activities that the teacher will direct, instructions for student activity pages from the CD-ROM, and, sometimes, supplemental activity suggestions such as field trips. Questions sometimes are checking for recall and comprehension, but some questions are more for reflection and discussion.
Students will maintain a notebook for their written work, including the activity pages. There are no lists of comprehension questions for students to complete on their own as you find in most history texts. Comprehension can be assessed through discussions, activity pages, and other written work. One or two “Cultivating Student Mastery” questions at the end of some lessons can be used orally or for written work. Note that students begin writing a brief essay in first grade then continue with essay writing through the higher levels. Because of the nature of the lessons, there are no answer keys but if you are teaching the material as expected you will probably have no trouble checking student work.
Content is clearly Protestant and is built on a particular view of history—that there is a chain of development of Christianity from the Middle East/Asia, through Europe, and to the United States. The outlook is totally “providential”—that God directs history to his purposes. Each text is designed to follow the nine links of the chain of Christianity each year, but topics addressed within each of the links differ to some extent. The same periods of history are repeated in some of the volumes but they use stories of different events and individuals.
Self Government begins with chapters on divine providence, history, and government to outline basic concepts upon which the text is built. This is essentially a very brief history of the U.S. but history itself begins with the story of Creation then continues with selected stories to build a logical chain. It works through the beginning of nations under Noah, Moses and the Law, the coming of Christ, St. Paul and the transfer of the gospel to Europe, and expanded access to the Bible. Christopher Columbus is the focus of exploration, and the American Revolution is treated briefly, primarily through a story of George Washington. Stories of Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, Samuel Morse, and Alexander Graham Bell complete the history. The history is purposely selective to lay a foundation for understanding the Principle Approach, especially the concept of self-governance applied at all levels, including churches. (Note: if you do not believe in self-governing churches, you might have problems with the presentation in these texts.)
In Liberty and Justice for All chapters on God’s providence and government are followed by stories of creation, Moses, Christ, Paul, the Bible, exploration and settlement. Added to the story line are Marco Polo, different characters of the American Revolution such as William Penn and Benjamin Franklin, more development of the westward expansion of the U.S., and exploration of the Arctic and Antarctic.
Divine Providence reviews the basic theme and topics from the two previous books with the first 40 pages devoted to Divine Providence, history, government, creation, Moses, Christ, St. Paul, and the Bible (with special attention given to the KJV). It moves on to exploration and settlement of the Americas, William Bradford and the Plymouth colony, Peter Stuyvesant and New Amsterdam/New York, and the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence with many chapters on the Revolutionary War. From there, it zooms through a few events such as the War of 1812, the development of railroads, flight, and World Wars I and II.
It appears that more books will be developed for this series, adding a book for kindergarten then expanding at the upper end through sixth grade. Each text continues to add and develop the various principles taught through the Principle Approach.