Connecting With History (CWH) is one of my favorite options for Catholic families. It is a unit study designed for teaching children in kindergarten through twelfth grade together, but it also has charts with lesson plans so that you can teach each child at his or her own level. It uses a classical education approach, focusing on the humanities and using real books with lots of reading and writing. I also appreciate that CWH follows a historical chronology.
In addition to complete coverage of history, CWH lessons can provide a major part of your geography and language arts curriculum. Grammar and composition skills are not taught, but there is plenty of practice in the application of grammar and composition skills along with plenty of reading and development of critical reading skills. While CWH is based on a Catholic worldview, it is not a complete religion program. It will help children become very familiar with scripture, Bible history, and Church history, and many activities are related to religion. But it does not attempt systematic coverage of topics such as the Mass and sacraments.
The first three of a series of five volumes are available at this time. Part of the fourth volume is available; it is being released in sections. The fifth volume is not likely to be available for a few years.
A single Connecting with History Teacher's Guide covers all volumes of the program. It covers the philosophy of CWH, Salvation History, an explanation of the CONNECT Method™, instructions for student notebooks, learning styles, Socratic discussions, classical education stages, forms, charts, a writing guide, and an activity guide. The CONNECT Method is a six step model for teaching used throughout the program.
The syllabus and daily lesson plans are separate items for each CWH volume. These come as sets of three-hole-punched, loose-leaf pages for insertion into your own binder. Each syllabus guides you through the use of various resources and provides overviews, discussion, questions, activities, and other helps for parents to present each lesson. They also include illustrations and coloring pages. Lesson plans are the charts showing which activities to use with children at the beginner, grammar, logic, or rhetoric levels. I highly recommend that you get both the syllabus and lesson plans.
The first two volumes also have optional Timeline Cards (150 cards for Volume 1 for $12.95 and 108 cards for Volume 2 for $10.95). Cards have black-and-white images with identification on one side. On the reverse each card has a sentence of information, dates, cross references to the Bible or other resource used in the program, and to which unit it connects, These cards come printed six to a page, so they need to be cut apart. You should probably laminate them for durability as well. Cards should be used for games and for review rather than be affixed to a timeline.
Rhyme-Line Cards are a newer option that might be best for young children. These, too, are available only for the first two volumes. They have illustrations and labels on one side and a four-line rhyme on the reverse that serves as a descriptor. ($10.95 for Volume 1 and $7.95 for Volume 2.)
RC History sells full-color laminated timelines, but they also have free downloadable pages for creating your own Book of Centuries timeline where you or your children enter your own illustrations and information.
Titles of the volumes are:
Volume 1: Old Testament and Ancient Cultures
Volume 2: Early Church and Early Medieval
Volume 3: High Medieval through Early Explorers
Volume 4A: American History and Volume 4B: Modern World
Volume 1: Old Testament and Ancient Cultures
by Sonya Romens and Andrea Chen
Volume 1 consists of an introductory unit that takes one week to complete and ten thematic units that will take three to six weeks each to complete. The entire course can take from one to two years to complete depending upon which books you read and which activities you do.
For each unit, there are about eight to ten pages that provide background reading suggestions for parents. About a half dozen resources are listed at the beginning of the book, and parents are free to choose which ones they wish to use. This volume of CWH is structured around the time periods of The Great Adventure: A Journey through the Bible by Jeff Cavins. Even though it is optional, you should try to use either The Great Adventure or the teen version titled T3: The Teen Timeline. Both studies are available in your choice of DVDs or audio CD presentations with a study guide and timeline. They do a marvelous job of presenting the story of salvation history and familiarizing the audience with the layout of the Bible.
Other resources such as Walking with God: A Journey Through the Bible and You Can Understand the Bible provide parents with foundational knowledge that will make it easier to lead discussions and answer children's questions. (At the beginning of each unit, specific page numbers are given for each suggested background resource.) Catechism references are also provided for parent preparation. While background reading is recommended, it is not a requirement. Parents can learn alongside their children as the family explores the books and resources together.
Parent information at the beginning of each unit also has discussion prompts, an overview, notebook activities, and exploration charts.
Discussion prompts are a lengthy list of questions that should be used to spark discussion and stimulate interest. The overview gives brief background information. You will probably want to pre-read this, then paraphrase ideas at a level your children can understand.
Notebook activities help children create their own notebooks that will include vocabulary words, timelines, maps, charts, and written assignments. Some copywork material is included in the book—primarily scripture passages and poetry. This material should also be used for memory work.
Exploration charts break down specific assignments for beginning (K-3), grammar (4-6), dialectic (7-9), and rhetoric (10-12) levels. Reading assignments are divided into three categories: core texts, basic reading, and additional literature. Most essential is the reading from core books. Each of the four levels requires from one to three core books. For example, the grammar level requires Bible for Young Catholics and Usborne's Ancient World, while the rhetoric level requires a Bible, You Can Understand the Bible, Genesis: The Book of Origins, and Exodus: Road to Freedom. Basic reading assignments are from other books that expand the study as well as from Scott Hahn's Salvation History audio CD series (for rhetoric students). Examples of other books used along with CWH Volume 1 are Old Testament Days: An Activity Guide, Tut's Mummy Lost and Found, Science in Ancient Greece, Famous Men of Greece, Alexander the Great, Greek Lives (by Plutarch), and Mythology. This is just a sampling of the many titles used! Additional literature options appropriate for each level are provided for each topical unit. Page or chapter assignments from these books are listed for each unit unless the entire book is to be read.
There is also an optional CWH Companion Reader for Volume 1 ($16.95 for print or $10.95 for ebook). It can take the place of a former recommendation, The Old World's Gifts to the New, but it offers more than that. The CWH Companion Reader is a collection of short stories and articles from out-of-print sources that includes historical narratives from authors such as Dorothy Mills and Charlotte Yonge, Greek mythology, fables, stories that illustrate spiritual principles, and Bible stories. The readings vary greatly in length as well as reading level, but most will work well as read-alouds for all ages. Readings correlate directly with lessons although they are not yet incorporated into the lesson plans.
At the back of CWH Volume 1 are eight forms that are used either for teacher planning or student reporting. Optional downloadable files of Ancient History Timeline Cards (114 cards for $16.95) and Illustrated Report pages ($7.95) are available for CWH Volume 1. These are real time savers, and they are likely to be more visually appealing than something you create on your own. Nevertheless, you (or your children) can create your own timeline pages or a larger timeline for your wall, and children may write reports on the computer or use another format.
Margot Davidson has written three Novel Inquiries Literature Guides for CWH Volume 1. Each guide covers four of the books recommended for the course. Novel Inquiries Literature Guides are each available at your choice of grammar, logic, and rhetoric levels. ($14 for each teacher/student set of downloadable PDF files.)
Volume 2: The Arrival of the King and His Kingdom
by Sonya Romens
CWH Volume 2 covers the New Testament era and the beginnings of Christianity up to A.D. 1066. It is heftier than Volume 1 because of some significant additions. Built into this volume are quite a few discussion guides for the novels recommended for various levels of the program. The discussion guides (which have been used by permission from Hillside Education) include vocabulary lists, discussion questions, activities, and projects.
In addition to the discussion guides, one of the most significant improvements is that the project and writing ideas have been expanded, both in number as well as with far more explanations and suggestions.
Some core resources from Volume 1 are also used with Volume 2. Among them are the Bible (in a version appropriate for each child), Ancient World, Bible History, You Can Understand the Bible, Usborne Time Travelers, and Roman Lives (by Plutarch). Keep in mind that you will be using only those core books required for the level at which each child will be working.
Among additional core books required for CWH Volume 2 are Famous Men of the Middle Ages, Roman Britain, Augustus Caesar's World, and 57 Stories of Saints. You will also need to select a core history text. Titles for the various levels are: Founders of Freedom (beginning level), The World's Story (grammar level), either The Old World and America or Light to the Nations (logic level), and History of the Church from the Didache series (rhetoric level).
CWH offers choices of core books since some of the excellent newer options (e.g., the Didache series and Catholic Schools Textbook Project history texts) are much more expensive than some older resources. Many books from Volume 2 are also used with the third volume, so keep that in mind as you decide which books to buy.
As with CWH Volume 1, many other titles are on the list of basic books. Just a few examples are: How to be a Roman Soldier, City, Pompeii: Buried Alive, The Great Heresies, and Augustus Caesar’s World.
There are only seven units in Volume 2, but they will each take longer to complete than those in Volume 1. Downloadable files for Illustrated Report Pages ($9.95) and Timeline Cards ($10.95) are also available for Volume 2.
Volume 3: World History Through Catholic Principles
by Sonya Romens
This volume covers the 11th through 17th centuries of world history, reserving United States history for Volumes 4A and 4B. There are eight units that should take from three to four weeks each to complete. Volume 3 focuses more on Western civilization, the source of our Christian culture. It takes side trips to other cultures, primarily through stories of explorers and saints.
Core books for this volume for the beginner level are Founders of Freedom, Once Upon a Time Saints and More Once Upon a Time Saints. For the grammar level students use The Old World and America. Logic level students read 57 Stories of Saints and Seven Lies About Catholic History, plus your choice of either The Old World and America or Light to the Nations. The rhetoric level uses One Hundred Saints, the New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History, Seven Lies About Catholic History, and The History of the Church: A Complete Course (from the Didache series).
Volume 4A: American History and Volume 4B: Modern World
Volume 4 will be published in three parts (although these might eventually be packaged into only two books that would be the fourth and fifth volumes of the series. CWH Volume 4A: American History, covering Columbus through the American Revolution, is currently available, and the remaining six units of the course will be released as Parts Two and Three. Among core books used at different levels with CWH Volume 4A: American History are How Our Nation Began, From Sea to Shining Sea, Keys to American History, Lands of Hope and Promise, and American Saints. Although the final list of books for the last two parts is not yet available, Light to the Nations Vol. II will be one of the core books.
Each volume is likely to take one school year to complete. Younger students will almost certainly spend less time than older on both reading and projects. Some of the activities require extensive research or are projects that will take a while to complete. For those unable to use all of the recommended resources, CWH has put together “Economy Packages” that include only the most essential books.
Connecting With History might require a significant amount of teacher preparation and presentation time, especially with younger students. However, the methodology is excellent if you have the time to implement it. The narrower you keep the study, the fewer resources you will need and the less preparation time it will require. However, you are likely to best meet the needs of your children and their various learning styles by using some of the more time-consuming projects and assignments.
The publisher's website features articles and sample pages from CWH. They also sell almost all of the resources required for CWH.
RC History has been developing resources for CWH co-op groups. Building Your Connecting With History Co-op covers all of the nuts and bolts for starting a co-op. Co-op Lesson Plans for Volume 1 provides lesson plans, plus overviews, discussion prompts, and notebooking ideas for each unit. Co-op Lesson Plan books for the other units should follow
Purchasers of the program also gain free access to online updates and additional resources that will enhance the program.