Ancient History: A Literature Approach is available for two levels. Advanced Intermediate and Junior High Grades is for students in grades five through eight, and High School is for grades nine through twelve. Each book is a guide that presents a year-long course on ancient history. The courses use an assortment of literature and informational books along with the Bible, a timeline, and the internet. Beautiful Feet Books sells packages the include all of the books and the timeline, or you can purchase individual items. However, you might also be able to borrow some of the books from the library.
Both guides use The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World as a spine book that briefly covers most of the topics in the studies. The Ancient History Timeline (from Beautiful Feet Books) is also used with both study guides. Readings from the Usborne book and work on the timeline help to organize the studies and provide students with a chronological perspective.
Each guide lays out the lessons in a step-by-step fashion so that there’s no pre-planning required. Sometimes the guides include commentary along with the assignments. There are also occasional cautions about content in a required book or another suggested resource. These might be alerts about artistic nudity, instances of what the guide's author thinks might be questionable theology or other subject matter that parents or teachers might want to skip or discuss with their students. Both guides include the study of ancient mythology, so Rebecca Manor has written a two-page article (found in both guides) titled, “Thoughts on Teaching Mythology,” wherein she presents arguments for including the mythology.
The lessons themselves have assignments for vocabulary work, reading, map work, and writing. They also have optional hands-on activities and direct students to use the internet for videos, articles, and research. Included within the lessons are comprehension and discussion questions based on the reading assignments. Discussion questions assume that the parent or teacher will be prepared for these questions, which might not always be possible. (Sometimes the answer keys have suggested responses for discussion questions to give parents and teachers an idea as to how the discussion might be directed.) Answer keys at the back of each book have suggested answers when a specific response is expected.
For most questions, students will write their responses in a notebook or binder that they will use for the course. The student notebook will also be the repository for other work, such as maps, essays, research notes, a student-created glossary, and drawings. Throughout both courses, students will also create a map of the ancient world. They can start with a large (at least 2’ x 3’) blank outline map that is pre-printed, or they can make their own.
These studies are written from a Christian point of view. Both guides have sections on ancient Israel and Judah. In other sections of the guides, there are assignments for reading from the Bible and questions about those readings. In addition, some of the required books, such as The Bronze Bow and God King: A Story in the Days of King Hezekiah (in the lower level guide) and Hittite Warrior and The Days of Elijah (in the upper-level guide), relate directly to biblical history.
Both guides are designed for students to complete three lessons per week, and most lessons will take more than one session to finish. Parents or teachers should try to have students complete all of the required reading, but they should exercise discretion regarding the other activities since there are more options than you will have time to use. For those interested in more reading (maybe in place of some activities) there are recommendations for supplemental literature.
Both Ancient History: A Literature Approach guides offer well-rounded studies of the ancient world. They combine great literature choices with fantastic online resources and fun, hands-on activities. The only problem will be trying to get through everything!
[Note: These two studies borrow some from an older course of the same title, also from Beautiful Feet Books. However, they bear little resemblance to the original course because they are so greatly expanded and updated.]
The following is specific information regarding each Ancient History guide.
Advanced Intermediate and Junior High Grades
The lesson plans are divided into five units:
- Sumer and Mesopotamia
- Israel and Judah
Along with The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World and The Ancient History Timeline, other required books are The Golden Bull: A Mesopotamian Adventure, The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, The Golden Goblet, Adara, God King: A Story in the Days of King Hezekiah, The Children’s Homer, D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, Theras and His Town, Augustus Caesar’s World, The Bronze Bow, City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction, and The White Isle.
While students can do much of their work independently, parents or teachers still need to be involved. Reading some of the books aloud to students is usually the best way to do that. Consequently, the guide's instructions recommend that parents and teachers try to read some of the books aloud, especially with fifth and sixth graders. (They do acknowledge that this might not be realistic.)
There are specific questions to answer based on the reading assignments─questions such as “What key change in the procession of Octavian’s Triumph signaled a monumental shift for the Roman Republic?” (p. 62). But many writing assignments can be tailored to suit each student. For instance, there is a very general assignment on page 50 that says, “Compare and contrast Athens and Sparta. What were their similarities? Differences?” Students could write an essay, write columns of items that show comparisons and contrasts, or have a discussion. You should probably have junior high students write at least one short essay response each week, although there are usually opportunities for more than that. Many assignments tell students to research and take notes on a topic. Again, how those notes are to be compiled and presented is up to parents and teachers.
There are occasional drawing assignments, such as the one on page 63 that tells students to draw a picture of the Temple at Jerusalem, color it, and paste it in their notebook. There are also optional assignments such as one on page 62 that says: “Finish reading City: To complete your study of an ancient Roman city, consider publishing an edition or two of a newspaper based in a Roman town like the one you read about in City.” It continues with suggested writing topics and possible illustrations they might add to their newspaper.
The wide range of suggested hands-on activities includes art projects, crafts, writing a play, building models, hosting a Roman feast, staging your own Olympics, and much more.
The high school guide has reading and other assignments that are significantly more challenging than in the guide for the lower level as well as more pages and much more printed content. It is also broader in scope with seven units that cover:
- The Near East
- Israel and Judah
In addition to The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World and The Ancient History Timeline, the required books are Gilgamesh the Hero; Tales of Ancient Egypt; Mara, Daughter of the Nile; The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt; Hittite Warrior; The Days of Elijah; Mythology: Timeless Tales of God and Heroes; Black Ships Before Troy; The Art of War; The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic; Caesar’s Gallic War; Julius Caesar; Beyond the Desert Gate; and The Eagle of the Ninth.
The guide itself includes some excerpts from primary source material such as “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” Letters of Pliny, and The History of the Church by Eusebius. There is significantly more coverage of ancient world religions than in the lower-level guide. The lessons frequently present comparative religion assignments such as, “Write an essay in which you compare and contrast the flood narratives found in Genesis 6-8 and the account in Gilgamesh” (p. 24).
Free online videos are incorporated into the lessons. The high school guide uses videos such as those from the Khan Academy course on ancient Greece and from Crash Course World Mythology (from the Crash Course YouTube channel), as well as individual videos such as “Eratosthenes: Biography of a Great Thinker” (from the Socratica channel on YouTube). The high school guide also recommends optional documentaries that are available through Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Some lengthier writing assignments are included, such as writing a research paper on Hatshepsut, the second historically-confirmed female pharaoh (p. 37); writing a book report on The Days of Elijah (p. 61); and writing an essay comparing ancient deities (p. 73).
Many of the hands-on activity suggestions are the same as those in the lower level guide, but there are also recipes (e.g., for Indian yellow curry) and suggestions such as fabric dying and exploring Chinese brush painting.