Dave Raymond's Antiquity is a year-long, high school course about the ancient world that consists of video lectures (either downloaded or streamed) and PDF files for the 229-page Student Reader and the 92-page Teacher’s Guide. The course is divided into 26 lessons, and each lesson has five video lectures that average about 20 minutes plus reading and writing assignments. The course should take a minimum of 26 weeks, leaving a few weeks in the school year to spare. This allows additional time for students to work on the projects and the portfolio, I describe below—time I expect they will need.
The first lesson is an orientation that covers the rationale for the study of history and the need for this course in particular. It also teaches students how to take notes and explains course assignments and requirements.
Students will explore the ancient world by using many primary-source writings from ancient civilizations that are read through the lens of a Christian worldview as presented in the lectures by Dave Raymond. The lessons also frequently draw upon the biblical history presented in the Old Testament. You could accurately describe the course as both classical and Christian. For instance, Raymond draws on both classical and Christian sources when he has students read an excerpt from the "Inscription of Nebuchadnezzar" (found on ancient columns) along with Daniel 4 from the Old Testament. Both readings discuss the pride of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Each week, there is material to read in the Student Reader. The readings are from sources such as Metaphysics by Aristotle, Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus, Histories by Polybius, the Bhagavadgita, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Bible. The pre-selected readings give students exposure to many classical writers and other authors of influential books without requiring students to read complete works.
Students are expected to take copious notes as they listen to substantive lectures about key people, places, events, and ideas. The lectures primarily feature Raymond, with only occasional images to illustrate the material. Since students need to be taking notes, it is probably good that there is less visual distraction. Raymond’s presentations are interesting, but he does overuse the word actually to the point where I found it annoying.
Daily assignments direct students to complete the readings and to answer one or more questions. For instance, the assignment for Lesson 4.3 says: “Read the beginning of Tablet I from the Epic of Gilgamesh. How does the character of Gilgamesh and the city of Uruk reflect the values of Mesopotamian culture?” Students can write or discuss answers to these questions, depending upon the situation. I expect that most students using this course will be studying independently and will not have anyone with whom to discuss answers, so written answers will likely be the norm. The lack of an answer key for these daily assignments might pose a problem for some parents trying to evaluate student work. However, the frequent exams included with the course might be sufficient for evaluation purposes.
Students will take an exam on the fifth day of every five-part lesson, with the exception of the final lesson. (The last lesson is more like a Bible study and doesn't lend itself to test questions.) Each exam covers material from only that lesson; there are no cumulative exams. Exam questions are included in the Student Reader, but this doesn’t make taking an exam significantly easier for students since they will need to draw upon information they should have assimilated from both the lectures and the assigned reading. Suggested answers for exam questions are in the Teacher’s Guide.
In addition, students will create a portfolio and complete four projects. The portfolio is a visual scrapbook. Students are supposed to look for at least five different items that they can arrange on a page to illustrate each topic. These might be maps, photos, quotations, art, poetry, or other items that relate to lesson material. They are to be arranged artistically with a title for the page and captions for each item. Alternatively, students are welcome to create one original artwork of their own rather than compile an assortment of items.
Each quarter, students will create one of the projects. There is a biblical creation-week project, a theatrical mask and monologue project, a thesis paper, and an “Hour Project” (students spend 30 to 40 hours crafting a project in their choice of media). The portfolio and the projects (other than the thesis paper) offer students opportunities other than writing to demonstrate what they have learned.
Rubrics in the teacher's guide help both students and parents know what is expected and how student work will be evaluated. These rubrics show that student work for the portfolio, projects, and presentations is evaluated not only for correctness, but for qualities such as craftsmanship, ingenuity, and the quality of delivery (for a speech or presentation).
The course should take a minimum of 26 weeks, leaving a few weeks to spare. This allows additional time for students to work on the projects and the portfolio, which I expect they will need.
Dave Raymond teaches from a Reformed Protestant, Calvinist point of view as is reflected by his references to the Westminster Shorter Catechism and to Reformed theologians such as Cornelius Van Til and Francis Schaeffer. This point of view includes belief in a literal, seven-day creation and a young age for the earth.
Dave Raymond's Antiquity is a challenging course that will require a significant commitment. But this should be a worthwhile investment of time and energy since, along with history, students will be learning theology, comparative religions, worldviews, and critical thinking.