From Adam to Us offers a unique approach for studying world history which you can use simultaneously for students in grades five through eight. While world history is the main topic, this course also provides extensive coverage of geography and world cultures and significant language arts coverage which I will detail later in this review. It uses a combination of Notgrass course books along with ten literary works which you can buy or borrow from the library.
The required From Adam to Us course books can be purchased as a curriculum package that includes the two-volume textbook, a book of readings titled Our Creative World, From Adam to Us Timeline, From Adam to Us Map Book, and an answer key. Optional audio readings of the core text lessons are available as MP3 files (either downloads or on CDs).
The two-volume textbook is the heart of the program. Each hardcover book is over 500 pages in length. “How to Use This Curriculum” at the beginning of the first volume explains the program. Our Creative World: Stories, Poems, Documents, Art, and Architecture from World History is another hardcover book but with only 154 pages. It contains companion readings or images for most lessons that are generally only one or two pages long. Many of these are excerpts or writings from historical literature or documents. John Notgrass has thoughtfully edited these to make them as easy to read as possible.
The softcover books From Adam to Us Map Book (by Nate McCurdy and Bethany Poore) and From Adam to Us Timeline (by John Notgrass) are consumable, and you will need to order copies for each student.
The ten literary works to be read are The Golden Goblet, The Fables of Aesop (edited by Jacobs), The Bronze Bow, A Single Shard, Otto of the Silver Hand, The King’s Fifth, Madeleine Takes Command, The Switherby Pilgrims, The Chestry Oak, and Children of the Storm. Notgrass sells an optional literature package that includes all of these books.
You might choose to also use one of the optional workbooks written by Mary Evelyn McCurdy, but neither is a required component. From Adam to Us Student Workbook has crossword puzzles, word searches, sentences with words to unscramble, matching columns, drawing activities, and other such exercises that are all designed to reinforce lesson material. There is an activity page for each day’s lesson. It also has unit tests and pages with questions for each of the ten books to be read. Test questions are in multiple-choice or choose-the-correct-word-from-the-box format while questions on the books require sentence-long or paragraph-long answers. This seems best for students in the lower part of the grades-five-through-eight spectrum.
The From Adam to Us Lesson Review seems a better option for older students since its daily activities consist only of questions that require sentence-long or paragraph-long answers. While this book also has unit tests and questions for the literary works, the test questions require either multiple-choice or sentence or paragraph-length responses. Questions on the literary works sometimes require higher levels of thought than do those in the Student Workbook.
Parents might use some of the questions or the pages on literary works for discussion rather than written work. There is no other specific method of accountability for much of the course material, although if parents continually discuss coursework (including the literature) with students that could be sufficient. I suspect that most parents will find these workbooks useful. Since they are not reproducible, you will need to purchase one for each student. Having two or more students working in different workbooks should present no problem since students will generally complete this work independently.
The year-long course is presented in 30 units with five lessons per unit. This amounts to one lesson per day for 150 days.
The course strives to cover the entire span of world history, but it does so very selectively. (This is the same trade off that we see in some other programs for homeschoolers that choose to cover fewer topics in depth rather than many topics shallowly.)
The course has a very strong Christian (Protestant) perspective, and much of the early history is drawn from the Bible. However, the course quickly branches out beyond the biblical record to cover other ancient cultures such as the Shang Dynasty in China, the kingdom of Carthage (in Africa), and the Golden Age of Greece. Christian content, including Scripture verses, still shows up throughout the lessons. Although selective, the mix of topics is actually quite interesting, especially as it moves past the early lessons that are especially heavy with biblical content.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the course is not limited to history. Every week is a complete unit and the five lessons for each unit rotate through five themes: Our World Story, God’s Wonders, World Landmark, World Biography, and Daily Life. The themes are often followed loosely and they do not rotate in a consistent order. Our World Story highlights major historical events. God’s Wonders might be considered geography lessons although they often include connections to historical events. While God’s Wonders looks at the features of the world that God created, World Landmark lessons explore famous places where man has demonstrated amazing creative abilities—places like the Egyptian pyramids, The Great Wall of China, and Machu Picchu. World Biography explores history through the life and times of famous historical people. Daily Life is a study of ideas, particular cultures, and civilizations through history where students might learn about such things as “Learning in Alexandria, Egypt,” or “The Rule of the Shoguns in Japan,” or “The Moravians.”
Lessons are super simple to follow. Assignments for each lesson follow immediately after the material to be read each day in the textbooks. Assignments vary from day to day. They almost always include a page (or pages) to be read from Our Creative World. They always list the optional assignments and tests in the Student Workbook or Lesson Review book. Assigned reading in the literary works is given with every lesson beginning with lesson 11. Other types of assignments include:
- Vocabulary – a written activity to help students become familiar with pertinent vocabulary words and their definitions
- Thinking Biblically – which might be copying a Scripture passage or writing a paragraph about a Scriptural perspective related to history such as “What were some of the results of the Israelite kings turning away from the Lord?” (p. 149)
- Timeline Book – filling in boxes on the pre-formatted timeline pages by copying the given information
- Map Book – Students complete activities on the provided maps. These activities are very simple, e.g., “Draw blue waves in the Mediterranean Sea” (Map 36). You might consider having older students draw their own maps or trace the maps in the books and label them themselves.
- Creative Writing – generally an instruction to write just a few paragraphs on a topic such as “the different reasons nations go to war with each other” (p. 134)
There are also optional family activities at the back of each textbook, with one activity per week (or per unit). These might be cooking, crafts, games, or other activities suitable for the family to do together.
You will probably want to purchase only one set of the two-volume textbook since this is the largest expense. However, these books are richly illustrated, and students need to be able to view the images. So this might require more than one set of textbooks. One copy of Our Creative World can easily be shared. Reading aloud from the text and Our Creative World might be your best strategy if you have more than one student. If you have only one student who is capable of reading and working independently, the course should function well for independent study.
While all students are expected to use the core resources, how you use them is up to you. The authors encourage you to exercise your own judgment as to when it might be appropriate to have students discuss questions rather than write responses. You might require an older student to write lengthier papers rather than only one or two paragraphs. You might skip some lesson activities if time is tight. You might skip the optional workbooks or choose either the less-challenging or more-challenging workbook option depending upon each student’s ability. If you choose to use the workbooks, you might add extra days for students to complete the pages on the literary works.
While the course uses real books and some hands-on activities, it is still prescriptive as to student responses aside from the creative writing activities. This is even more true if you choose to use the workbooks. Ideally, parents would discuss the literary works with students helping them make connections to the history that they are learning, but that would require that parents read all of the books themselves. Relying on the question pages in the workbooks makes life easier for parents but eliminates opportunities for students to narrate what they have gleaned from their reading.
While I might prefer more of a Charlotte Mason approach with the literary works, I appreciate that this course combines a variety of learning methods and activities with flexibility to meet the needs of a wide age range. And it does all this without requiring parents to prepare in advance other than if they choose to do the family activities.