Holt’s World History: Human Legacy has the potential to fill a gap in the homeschool market for a non-sectarian high school level world history text that is relatively up to date. With a 2008 copyright, it doesn’t cover the most current events. However, this is a broad approach to history, covering “The Dawn of Civilization” to the present, and covering civilizations and events around the world much more comprehensively than do most western-civilization-based texts. Even though it is over 1000 pages in length, it is thorough in breadth but not in coverage of each topic. In fact, topic coverage is often similar to what we find in some Usborne books or other books that might be used with younger students.
The text is broader than most in its inclusion of religions. In a way, the text takes a sort of worldview approach as it makes connections between beliefs and philosophies and how those play out in different cultures. However, the worldview of the text itself might best be described as humanist rather than religious; it speaks respectfully of all religions, generally discussing the positive elements of each and ignoring the negative. Religion is among eight themes interwoven through each chapter: arts and ideas, belief systems (religions), economic systems, geography and environment, government and citizenship (includes views on law), migration and diffusion, science and technology, and society. The “society” theme includes social organizations as well as political and economic forces and events that tend to dominate most other texts.
Those looking for a biblical worldview will be disappointed. It fails to make some of the most obvious connections one would find in a biblical-worldview text. For example, in a brief story about the ruins of Jericho and its history, it fails to mention the biblical account of Jericho’s fall to the Hebrews under Joshua’s command.
On the other hand, this text is loaded with extras. Chapters begin with “The Inside Story” focusing on a single place, person, or event in a brief story of from one to three paragraphs. Each unit includes plentiful full-color illustrations, maps, and a timeline plus “sidebars” with biographies, quotes from primary source documents, and “Reading like a Historian” activities. The “Reading like a Historian” sidebars help students to look beyond the surface, to consider an author’s point of view, to read primary sources for other points of view, and to try to identify biases. Each chapter concludes with a “Document-Based Investigation.” These usually include four brief excerpts from primary source documents that present conflicting or contrasting points of view on a topic. Students consider the readings in the context of the information learned in the chapter then write an essay taking a position on the topic. Examples of topics addressed in these investigations are “The Renaissance and Individualism,” “Views of Absolutism,” and “Child Labor.”
Units are divided into chapter, and chapters into sections. Each section concludes with a “Section Assessment” with questions that range from simple comprehension through higher level thinking questions that require analysis, explanation, and evaluation. Students also use graphic organizers (masters provided on the teacher’s CDs) to record and analyze information. Exercises conclude with a one-paragraph writing assignment.
At the end of each chapter, a “Chapter Review” provides a visual study guide that uses graphic organizers to show connections between key ideas. Using their texts, students complete review exercises on key terms and people, comprehension and critical thinking questions, applied reading skills questions, analysis of a primary source document, research on the internet, and a writing assignment. The review is followed by a two-page test modeled on standardized tests, a two-page summary of “Themes & Global Connections” that includes a research assignment and completion of a chart, and an “In Brief” summary of key points for each chapter along with an extension activity.
In addition to all of the lesson material and options described above, there are even more on the Holt Teacher’s One-Stop Planner®. Rather than a printed teacher’s edition, the homeschool package comes with this set of five CD-ROM discs that is loaded with resources and tools. This is where you will find the teacher’s edition, answer keys, and a sophisticated test generator. There is also a program for a puzzle generator with simple steps for creating word search, crosswords, cryptograms, and word scrambles; you can use the word bank already in the program or create your own word banks for puzzle content. In addition there are printable pages from an Interactive Reader and Study Guide (worksheets with additional reading material plus response questions and activities), videos that run about five minutes each, enrichment activities, assessments (either in PDF or editable formats), alternative assessment handbook, world history outline maps, interdisciplinary projects, skill development activities (e.g., “Writing for the SAT”), biographies with photos or illustrations plus follow-up questions, and an automated planner that might be more useful with a group class. I haven’t listed all the resources since there are so many. I suspect that most homeschoolers will pick and choose from them, probably using the Interactive Reader and Study Guide worksheets, the videos, and the assessments, then using other resources only if they have time.
While students can work independently through the course aside from evaluation of tests and written work, some of the activities would really benefit from discussion. Of course, there are more components to this course than most students will be able to use, so you can pick and choose what works best for your situation.
This is a standards-based course that includes evolutionary assumptions that especially dominate the first chapter on prehistory. The lack of depth in coverage of topics might be an issue for some. While some of the activities such as “Document-Based Investigation” provide some depth, this might not be enough on some topics. Using the text as a spine and supplementing with biographies, non-fiction (i.e., other historical accounts, primary documents), and historical fiction might be a way to supply depth. Yet, because of the immense size of the text, it might take two years to cover taking such an approach.