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History---the study of the past---is something we all talk about, but how often do we really think about just what exactly History is? This booklet, Classical Education in History, by John DeGree, explains in clear, thoughtful language what History is and what historians do, and how parents and students can become better historians.
How can we become better historians and teach our children well? In Classical Education in History, John DeGree begins by defining history and carefully explaining the methods of the ancient Greek scholars---the classical historians. He methodically teaches the reader how historians learned to gather evidence, cull that evidence, form conclusions about the past, debate those conclusions using Socratic Method, and then serve up their histories and conclusions in concise narrative prose and oral presentation. The aim of this classical scholarly method is no less than the search for historical truth.
Every parent and teacher will benefit from reading Classical Education in History and utilizing its methods. The result will be a generation of history students who have learned how to reason, form truthful conclusions, and take their place as productive citizens. I hope that history will someday record the significance of the classical education movement to the American people.
Michael Allen, Ph.D.
University of Washington, Tacoma
Co-author, #1 Amazon.com and New York Times Bestseller, A Patriot’s History of the United States
"I highly recommend The Classical Historian to any administrator looking for an outstanding history curriculum for their program. Within the classical education model history teachers are asked to go to original sources and conduct Socratic seminars. The Classical Historian offers this material in easy to reference and implement formats with assignments, instructional guides, and step by step Socratic seminars. Any student taking these courses not only becomes highly educated in history but also a critical thinker. Mentoring new teachers in the classical model can be a monumental task. This curriculum trains a teacher through a sound educational approach and puts master teacher instruction into their hands. This curriculum was the answer to years of inconsistent course offerings. It has turned a struggling history program into one of our greatest strengths. Thank you!"
Christianna Fogler, Chief Executive Officer, Rocky Mountain Classical Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Product Review by Hillary Moore, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August, 2012
There are two types of products available from the Classical Historian: games and the Take a Stand! Curriculum. The games are available for Ancient History, Medieval History and American History. Two types of games for each time period are available. The first is the Memory Game, comprised of 64 tiles with beautiful images of important people, places, and things. The youngest learners (3+) will enjoy this classic game. There are also tiles included for four different categories, in order to play an additional game sorting the tiles. This takes the simple matching game to a new level for the upper elementary ages. The other game is Go Fish. The deck of 50 cards contains much more than the picture or graphic on each card. You will also find clues on each card, in order for another player to figure out what the card is. Each card also notes the other cards in its category. The cards are color-coded by the 12 categories. There are additional instructions for playing two other games with the same deck of cards.
The Take a Stand! books will lead children 12 and older to think for themselves. There are six different volumes. A volume consists of a consumable student edition and a teacher's edition. The topics covered are Ancient Civilizations, Medieval Civilizations, American History (Revolution to 1914), Modern World History, Modern American History, and American Democracy and Economics. Each volume in this curriculum is intended to go along with your own history texts, be they living books, primary source documents, text books, or a combination of these. The tools and methods give instruction on how to analyze and share through writing, and discussion of what has been read. For the novice to classical education and Socratic discussion, there is a DVD program for the parent. This includes 7 hours of instruction and a printed guide.
The games, in addition to living books, would make great history instruction for younger learners. Everyone in our family enjoyed both games and the variations. We have just wrapped up our study of the middle ages and enjoyed seeing familiar sites and reviewing facts. Even the 2 ½ year old was helping out with the matching game. What a great way to expose young children to history! When there are so many ages of students in a family homeschool, games are a great way to include everyone in the learning and reviewing.
Each volume in Take a Stand! has two parts: Social Studies Curriculum and Social Studies Literacy Curriculum. The first part goes through the same steps of pre-writing activities, discussion, and reflection. The discussion is obviously best suited to small groups, making this curriculum great to use in a co-op setting. It is easy enough to use with an individual family, with another family member’s involvement, such as siblings and/or parents. The second part goes through writing skills, from a single paragraph essay through a multi-page essay.
In our children's early years, we have a relaxed feel to our homeschool. We spend more time as a family just discovering together, in order to instill a love of learning. As our children mature, we are working towards independence, not just in the work done, but in their thought and analysis as well. These materials from the Classical Historian fit right in with that philosophy. Our youngest learners can be exposed to the important people and places throughout history, while the middle learners are diving deeper into their knowledge of the events. We can use the Take a Stand! books to guide our older learners towards independent thought, and still enjoy using the games for review. The instructional DVDs and guide book have helped me not to feel intimidated by the classical model of education. I highly recommend Take a Stand! Curriculum, and games from the Classical Historian.
See the testimonial:
Thanks!! I am loving the Medieval History Memory Game. It PERFECTLY complements our Classical Conversations Cycle this next year!
From Adam and Missy Andrews,
Center for Literature:
"Adam and Missy Andrews have long been searching for effective history curriculum materials with little success. They are happy to report that the search is over! In 2012, they discovered The Classical Historian, a Socratic method for teaching history that shares many of the same principles advocated in Teaching the Classics.
Like Teaching the Classics, the Classical Historian is a method for analysis that students can apply to any historical period. With a goal of teaching students to think historically, the Classical Historian shows teachers how to discuss a series of open-ended discussion questions about specific historical events. In answering these questions, students learn a step-by-step process for evaluating evidence, arranging historical data, developing arguments and writing effective essays.
The Classical Historian supplies reading guides, primary sources, textbooks and research and discussion questions for five specific periods: ancient, medieval, early American, modern world, and modern American history. Parents will find age-appropriate materials for students in grades 3 and up, with complete year-long courses for grades 6-12.
If you are searching for a Teaching the Classics style approach to history, look no further."
Hello! I saw you speak at the homeschool convention in Ohio, the first speech you gave about incorporating games into history study. We are studying ancients this year, so I bought both games for this period and they are a HUGE hit. Thanks so much!!
I was at the Homeschool seminar and loved your presentation. My husband and I have noticed that the subject of history is slowly being distorted in our text books. It seems that the subject of history, which is now labeled “social studies”, is being used as a political tool-in an attempt to influence our children into thinking a certain way. Here's one example, in the Houghton-Mifflin 3rd grade book, “President Roosevelt used price incentives to improve the economy. He allowed the dollar to become worth less, which made it less expensive to pay debts...By making it easier to borrow and pay back money, Roosevelt helped Americans who were in debt.” No mention of inflation. No mention of any downside in the act of devaluing the dollar.
It was a delight to hear someone speak that believed in the truth in history and having children understand both sides of the issues-critical thinking.
Suzzanne, Greenville, South Carolina
Read Ann Hibbard's review of the Ancient History Memory Game from
Home Educating Family Association:
Anything related to history sparks excitement around our household. If something as simple as a good book excites us, you can imagine how much we enjoy a fun history game. Our current delight is the Ancient History Memory Game from The Classical Historian. The Ancient History Memory Game contains thirty-two pairs of matching cards with full color pictures of various people, sites, and symbols from ancient history. The high-quality pictures vary in style from drawings and sketchings to photographs and copies of works of art depicting historical scenes. All of the cards fit into one of four location categories related to ancient history: The Fertile Crescent, Greece, Rome, and the Far East. Four additional pairs of cards list these categories so older players can enjoy an “Ancient History Categories” game of sorting the cards into categories.
We love the Ancient History Memory Game for several reasons:
As a mom and as a professional educator involved in the development of both local and state curricula as well as a developer of criteria for Major and Minor programs at the university level, it is with great pleasure that I recommend John De Gree as a speaker, presenter, and authority on education.
Mr. De Gree is unique as a developer of educational curriculum by virtue of having TESTED his pedagogy in the classroom with diverse groups of students and at home with his own children who are home schooled… While his ideas are “good” ideas, they are more than just good—they are tried, tested, and true. For those who are academically/scientifically inclined, his methodology has been tested in the scientific way and is replicable---with diverse student groups. As any teacher will tell you, curriculums must always be adapted for each class as well as for as the different class members. Mr. De Gree’s program has the flexibility needed to meet each learners modality and preference built into his program already. If you are a mom with multiple children, or even a mom with just one student who turns into different students during the course of one day (I had one of those!) this program’s flexibility and fun factor allows learning to occur through activities and errands. Since the key to learning is having an engaged mind, there are many ways and methods given to make learning unique and fun for all—yes, even mom!
In addition to quality material, a flexible framework, and a skeleton that may dressed in every subject, De Gree’s program allows mothers to learn and create the educational tools found in teacher education programs. Whether viewing the program form a developmental, intellectual, or pedagogical view, this program allows for the growth of the individual as a thinking, rational citizen responsible for him or herself.
Having examined the program in light of my experience, education, and personal research into what works in developing responsible, ethical, and well-informed students, I recommend it to all who are committed to growing students who will become life long learners.
Perhaps most importantly of all, it works. When you get down to it, all the educational buzz words, psychological tips and hints are meaningless if it does not work for the teacher/mom or for the student. Learning is in interactive, coactice experience. I have tried it with my home schoolers and I can say with no hesitation, it works. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Dear Mr. De Gree,
Grace had an excellent time using your program. It was a terrific way to have her delve deep into history. I very much appreciated that she learned the skills of the Socratic discussion while learning about history. Also, Grace has learned how early civilizations can have a great impact on other civilizations. I'm glad that she is strengthening her knowledge of how the various events of history affect each other. Your prompts for every essay brought my daughter to think critically. On top of all this, your videos were a great aid. Thank you very much.
Los Angeles, California
Grace and I have watched DVD 2 and worked on lessons 1-6 so far. We love your program! I really enjoyed reading and listening on DVD about your past experiences. What a journey! And you are so blessed with your beautiful family. What is so special about your DVD is that we can see how you interact with your students ( I assume they are your beautiful daughters). My girls can relate to them and I'm also learning how I should respond to their answers. You are an amazing teacher! (That's a fact) ;-) I will update how we are doing with our study from time to time. Thank you!
Mrs. Ayako, Distance Learning Parent
Los Angeles, California
Andrew Seeley, Ph.D., Tutor at St. Thomas Aquinas College, Ojai, California
I have reviewed the DVDs you sent me. Overall, I think they should be a great help for homeschoolers and classroom teachers who wish to use your books in a discussion format. The Tools of the Historian is particularly helpful for understanding the importance of giving and critiquing evidence offered for historical interpretations, using primary and secondary sources, preparing for curricular discussions and writing research papers. Your own extensive classroom experience is evident in the concrete directions you offer that will help students and teachers.
My only criticism concerns your treatment of fact and opinion. You identify opinions as claims about which disagreement arises. This is clearer than what is usually found in elementary texts. But then a question arises about such claims as the heliocentric theory. When Copernicus and Galileo proposed this, there was much disagreement, but nowadays everyone thinks the earth moves around the sun. Has the heliocentric theory become fact when before it was opinion? Perhaps it is better to say that opinions have to be argued for, whereas facts don’t. I think it also important to distinguish opinions having to do with good and bad which are based merely on taste (Rocky Road is the best ice cream) from those which can be argued for (lying to your friend is bad).
The DVDs that model discussions in Ancient and Medieval History should also be valuable for teachers and students. In general, these DVDs show good student preparation for answering questions with supporting reasons; the written work has prepared them to articulate their ideas rather than just read their notes. I like the way in which you encourage them and ask follow-up informational questions to draw out more of their ideas. You also bring disagreements to their attention, and ask them to defend their ideas or change their minds. This is crucial to building the habit of listening to what others hold and why, along with instilling an expectation that we might be persuaded by reasons to change our minds.
Two improvements came to mind. 1) Rather than letting each student finish their presentation completely before engaging each other, you could ask whether the other students have anything to add to what another student has presented, or whether they have any questions for the student who presented. That would encourage them to pay closer attention to each other and foster conversation earlier. 2) You as the teacher should feel free to make your own “presentation” after the students have, in which you offer your own opinions with supporting facts. Some people think that teachers in Socratic classes should never express their own views. Especially with younger students, I think it is good for students to hear what teachers think about the questions they have studied, as long as it is clear that you have to give supporting evidence just like they do, and that they can criticize your reasons just as they would another student.
Overall, the DVDs should be very helpful to teachers and students. As I was reviewing them, my own children were engaged by the discussions, and began agreeing or disagreeing with what your students were saying. For homeschool students, in particular, the DVDs present a great opportunity for hearing how other students have thought about the questions they have worked on themselves.
"This is the perfect adjunct for those wishing to use either a classical or a "real books" approach to history."
I have been searching and searching for a government curriculum for my rising 9th grader and was thrilled to find a review of American Democracy and Economics at Cathy Duffy's website. I have used Critical Thinking in US History in the past and wanted to find a similar approach. So happy to find your work!!
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"Here are the primary reasons why I think the Take A Stand! approach works so well. When students read and research with the questions in mind, they pay much closer attention than when reading simply to cover the material. When they have to analyze information, thinking about cause and effect and relative importance, they have moved to a much deeper level of thinking. Discussing their research and ideas with others forces them to think logically and critically."
Linda Hobar, Author of
Mystery of History series
... I am a sucker for games and I found some that I think are extraordinary...Generally, there are four new games. Two for Ancient History and two for Medieval Times. They are patterned after the vintage games of Concentration and Go Fish. I like these for the artistry, the simplicity and familiarity of the games, the historical value and perspective, and the reasonable price. Students using my series will easily identify most of Mr. De Gree's illustrated objects and places like Stonehenge, King Tut's golden mask, the Great Wall of China, and a Roman aqueduct. The "cards" for the Concentration/Memory Game are actually thick cardboard tiles, which are durable and easier for little ones to manipulate. The Go Fish card set gives you other game ideas that will be fun for all ages.
I could go on and on, because like I said, I'm a sucker for games and it's not easy to find quality ones for world history that even younger students can enjoy. I think the Classical Historian has done a great job. You may want to spice up your studies now, or save these for Christmas. Either way, I think they're great for review and the pure pleasure of having fun.
"I absolutely LOVE the critical thinking aspects of the (Take a Stand!) curriculum. Too few curricular address the idea of critical thinking skills. There is much written for the children to memorize and recount at the appropriate times, but are they understanding what they are reading? Implementing critical thinking into the reading and discussion of history is a powerful tool to help our children understand what they are reading as well as form an opinion and knowledge that they will be able to use in many situations in life. I also love the discussion and multi-age aspects of the curriculum. Being able to have discussions around the dinner table with family are some of the most important times you will have will your children. These are very good learning opportunities that are disappearing from too many families today. The children are able to read the material and discuss it at their level; they will understand the material better with discussion and help teach each other at the same time. This would also work wonderfully in a homeschool co-op setting! I have been looking at a number of different social studies programs for the middle and older grades and am very excited to come across Take a Stand! I am anxious to use it in my homeschool as well as recommend it to others.
- Amy B., Maine
“Education is essentially teaching the skills necessary to succeed in life. The Classical Historian products are valuable educational tools.”
San Clemente, California
- Dr. William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.
Authors of over 30 books on pediatric health and founders of Ask Dr. Sears.
You have a brilliant brilliant body of work here. The fact is that any child can basically do this work on his/her own (which is a strong Montessori theme - independent, self-correcting work). You've already put into the workbooks what teachers would have to labor over each day - i.e. thinking up the meaningful essay questions, having the kids include the many terms in their essay, HOW to write the essay. It's just so complete. Not to go overboard, but it reminds me of Maria Montessori's work where she creates the environment for the child (e.g. short pencils so the children HAVE to write with a three-finger hold) and just watches the results. I consider her work as inspired by God because it makes learning so easy. When I was reading your workbooks, I thought the same thing - because the student can't screw up! And the teacher doesn't really have to do ANYTHING - except offer a little guidance. You've already laid out everything.
Dana Point, California
Teaque in Tennessee
My children and I played our Ancient History memory game the other day and LOVED it. We played 2 rounds of go fish as well and it was a hit! So thankful for your great games!
Mr. De Gree,
I enjoyed your presentation at the Midwest Home School Convention in Cincinnati this weekend. I was unable to make a purchase from your booth due to time constraints. Thankfully, I have found your website.
Thank you for providing a curriculum that will teach ME how to teach my children.
"I like learning history with Take a Stand! because I get to think when I learn."
"Take a Stand! is not so boring like history normally is because I get to say what I think."
"I like debating and arguing with people so I like Take a Stand!"
"Thank you for inviting us. My grandparents on my father's side were Czechoslovak and Yugoslav. They escaped and came to America. English was my father's second language. Anyway, so interesting to hear stories of your time there and how they shaped your educational system. I'm really looking forward to history this year. Thank you so much for all you're doing for the next generation."
Costa Mesa, California
"You showed the mindset that I, as an instructor and as a parent, should have to foster confidence in my children to formulate their own ideas. The discussion method is a very concrete way to study history, analyze information and most importantly to form a wonderful bond within the family."
"Thank you so much. I think your introduction was very good and essential to give the audience an understanding of where you are coming from. Your demeanor is very inviting."
"What stood out in my mind as extremely helpful were your concrete examples of what questions to ask, how to stimulate discussion, and how to respond to various comments."
"It was helpful to have a practical framework for having discussions with my children. The opportunity to practice during the seminar was also very helpful. I also benefitted from some common sense teaching ideas. For example, it takes 12 times for a student to hear, read, or use a new word or concept to master new information."
"I really enjoyed learning about cause and effect and finding evidence to support my answers. This is so new to me I see I have much to learn."
"I appreciate that it was very hands on. I liked learning how to analyze a book. I am looking forward to participating again in the future."
"I liked learning how to make sure to support opinions with facts, dates, names, and other pieces of evidence."
I just want to let you know how much our family is enjoying your current event articles and discussion questions. Your service is satisfying a need in our (classical) homeschool. Previously, we, as parents, lacked tools (and personal knowledge, experience, and perspective) to connect our emphasis on learning history with the goings on of today's news issues in a way that was meaningful for our children, who range in age from 16 to 6. We have enjoyed wonderful discussions thanks to your current event series. You are to be commended for creating yet another fantastic learning opportunity.
Thanks so much,
Mrs. Joy Bilbey