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Middle School History:  The Age of Exploration through the Renaissance

Taught by Christina Wassell

Taught by Christina Wassell

Why take Middle School History?

Join us on an amazing survey tour of the world, where our motto will be “Build the mental timeline!” Over two academic years, our goal is to begin at the beginning, as we explore the rise and fall of major civilizations from the time of the earliest farmers in Mesopotamia right up through the Age of Exploration and the discovery of the New World. What did these cultures value? What lasting contributions did they make? How does Western Culture as we know it harken back to those who went before us in Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance or Reformation times? How have changes in the human understanding of law, community, and our relationship to God shaped the world we live in today?  Perhaps most importantly, what can we learn from history about living ‘the good life’ ?   

Our in-class work will consist of lively discussion to unpack some great texts and slideshows developed by the instructor in our dynamic community of learners.  The at-home student work of this course will be to channel those vibrant discussions toward creating an Archive: an artifact of learning in the form of a bound book.  We will dedicate a double page spread to the history under study each week which might include maps, sketches, important events, diagrams, or drawings as the student chooses.  Guidance will be given each week about “sifting information” so as to make good choices to add to the Archive. Techniques will be presented on clever and creative ways to present information in order to create a personal keepsake that represents real learning.  One double page spread of work is assigned each week, along with 10 or so pages of reading preparation.  

Course summary

Middle School History is offered in two consecutive years which can be taken in any order covering the Ancient World, and the early Middle Ages through the Renaissance and Age of Exploration.  The work of the course includes lively in-class discussion through slideshows developed by the instructor, and the at-home work of creating an Archive: a bound book which includes maps, timelines, sketches and write-ups of the student’s own choosing.  The aim of the course is to ‘build the mental timeline’ as we explore together what history can teach us about life today.  

Major topics covered

In the Ancient year students begin learning about the earliest farmers, and move on to cover the early civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome.  We look briefly as well at the Indus Valley, China, and the ancient peoples of the British Isles, as well as the peoples of Persia and the Middle East. Discussion tends to center on the aspects of what causes an empire to rise and then fall, and also on the lasting contributions of each culture and civilization.

In the Medieval through Renaissance/Age of exploration year, students take a closer look at the time between the early middle ages, when western Europe rises out of the ashes of a fallen Rome and power and prestige take on a new shape in Europe, and the Age of Exploration, when the discovery of new lands across the sea changed everything, all over again. Students will discuss the relationships between individuals and their communities, their kings, their Creator, their Church, their laws, and other nations grows and shifts and changes, adding new depth and dimension to the human story.

Major skills developed

MS History builds skills around:

  • The art of lively yet gracious conversation about the big ideas below the surface of the historic facts

  • The process of building a mental timeline that tracks the basic order of the unfolding of the human story, beginning with the first farmers in Mesopotamia, spanning the rise and fall of great empires, and on through to the discovery of the New World and how this affects the ‘old order’

  • The art of selecting ‘what is important’ from preparation we’ve done in our reading, through the slideshow discussion in class, and any additional resources we’ve used to lay out an Archive spread which represents the culture or topic of the week.  This skill of ‘sifting and choosing’ transcends the Archive itself...it’s a major skill students need for studying and test taking across the rest of their academic careers

  • The visual skills needed to lay out a spread which is appealing, which captures all the crucial information, and which balances the use of words and graphics to be both rich in content and pleasing to look at.  

  • In a time when more and more is done on the computer, the Archive gives students the opportunity to work with their hands on paper. This offers real purpose to continuing practice with handwriting and sketching as a way to sharpen those skills in the brain in this digital age.

Book list

Ancient Year:  

  • The Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World: Internet Linked                             

    by Jane Bingham ISBN-10: 0794511414

  • Ancient World: Internet Linked                                                                                       by by Fiona Chandler (also Usborne) ISBN-10: 0794508162

Medieval- Renaissance/Age of Exploration Year:

  • The Middle Ages, by Dorothy Mills  

            Publisher: Memoria Press; 4.1.2012 edition (April 1, 2012)     ASIN: B00HTK4B0Y

           Also available through Angelico Press:  ISBN-10: 1597313521

  • Renaissance and Reformation Times, by Dorothy Mills  Publisher: Angelico Press, ISBN-10: 1597313513

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[two syllabi, to be taken individually or over the course of two years, in any order]

Join us on an amazing survey tour of the world, where our motto will be “Build the mental timeline!” Over two academic years, our goal is to begin at the beginning, as we explore the rise and fall of major civilizations from the time of the earliest farmers in Mesopotamia right up through the Age of Exploration and the discovery of the New World. What did these cultures value? What lasting contributions did they make? How does Western Culture as we know it harken back to those who went before us in ancient, medieval, renaissance or Reformation times? How have changes in the human understanding of law, community, and our relationship to God shaped the world we live in today?  Perhaps most importantly, what can we learn from history about living ‘the good life’ ? 

Texts

The two texts for the course are:

The European World, 400-1450 by Barbara Hanawalt

and

An Age of Voyages, 1350-1600 by Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks

Both are from the series “The Medieval and Early Modern World” by Oxford University Press.

These texts are very well done, with a nice mix of text, pictures of artifacts and primary sources to look at.  Expect between 10 and 15 pages of reading per week.  Each book can be purchased new for around $30, and a bit less used at various book sellers online.  Please contact New Hope if this poses a difficulty for your family.

In Class Work:  Lively Discussion

Projected slides will be used in class each week to further explore artifacts, art, architecture and primary source documents for the events and cultures under study.  The slideshow usually provides the structure of class discussion as it rehashes the reading and invites questions and further connection with the material.  Often helpful clips or video segments help bring the material to life as well.  

Student Work:  The Archive

Each student will create an artifact of their learning in the form of a bound book which we call ‘The Archive.’  We will dedicate a double page spread to the history under study each week which might include maps, sketches, important events, diagrams, or drawings as the student chooses.  Guidance will be given each week about “sifting information” so as to make good choices to add to the Archive.  Techniques will be presented on clever and creative ways to present information in order to create a personal keepsake that represents real learning.  One double page spread of work is assigned each week.

Supplies

Each student must purchase an 11X14 solid or spiral bound sketchbook, 65lb paper or higher, at least 60 sheets.  Many students find the spiral bound books hold up better, but a plain, hardback cover is preferred to a paper one with a company’s label.  

These usually run around $20… here is one ideal, $20 example (the label peels off). See link under the book to the right to order.

Returning students are welcomed and encouraged to continue their Archive from the previous course.

Each student is strongly encouraged to keep a Book of Centuries, where events can be recorded so we can notice the ‘overlap’ of cultures, people, and events through time.  Pictured and linked below is an inexpensive version, though there are also more beautiful ‘keepsake’ versions available.  Students are welcomed and encouraged to continue one they may have already begun in previous homeschool years.  Please contact me if you’d like to hear more about keeping a Book of Centuries as a powerful tool to continue into high school and even adulthood.  Nothing helps build the mental timeline more effectively!  Again, not required, but strongly encouraged.

 


Academic Year 2018-2019 (for reference)

Readings will be assigned each week from two Usborne history books (these will be provided by the instructor for a group rate fee), usually between 2 and 12 pages of highly illustrated text.  

Each week’s reading will also include one or two ‘living stories’ which will look at the biographies of the central individuals in the story of each civilization as it rises and falls, or at the story of key events.  These will be PDFs provided by the instructor (between 10 and 20 pages of reading each week).  They can be printed or read on a device based on personal preference.  (no cost)