Friday, July 29, 2011

Cultural History of the Holy Land

Homeschooling has taught me many lessons.  One of them is that there is no one "perfect" curriculum--a curriculum that is perfect for every family.  Many families will love a curriculum, but others won't.  We are different and so are our children!  We have different goals for our children and different information we want them to learn.  There are often different skills we want them to learn as well.  Today I had a friend visit who's niece at 4 years old can name the spices in her food.  Her siblings can too!  Her family happens to love food deeply.  Two friends of mine purchased or were given ponies for their daughters this year.  Horses are a deep love and passion for these two young girls.  That time and devotion to the ponies means that their time is divided differently than many children their ages.

I have been reading through a curriculum that I have found interesting.  But...  I've had this reoccurring thought that this is not the right curriculum for my family.  I do believe, though, that many families will enjoy it and be encouraged by it.  I will explain in the course of this review why it's a great curriculum.  At the end, I'll try and explain why it's just not the right fit for my family.

The curriculum I'm speaking of is A Child's Geography, Volume II :  Explore The Holy Land by Ann Voskamp and Tonia Peckover.  Back in June, I reviewed Volume I and enjoyed it.  The first book was essentially an earth science curriculum.  This second book explores the Middle East from both a historical and current cultural perspective.  It blends history and cultural studies.  The book explores the countries of Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.  For each lesson, there is a reading lesson, a section for field notes (students are asked to speak into a recorder about their observations as they imagine traveling through the land), lists of locations to record on maps, art/cooking/music activities, and suggested prayer lists. My favorite part of the lessons were the prayer sections.  I thought the authors did a wonderful job of making suggestions for how we can pray with our children for the people who live in this region of the world.  

An example from the Israel lesson is "Lord, may the people who live within her borders live at peace with their neighbors.  May they learn to love each other as You patiently love us.  We pray for godly wisdom for the world's governments as decisions are made regarding this region of the world and may Your will be accomplished," p. 71

I enjoyed the reading lessons as well as the activities.  There are pictures, both color and black and white, scattered through the lessons.  If you choose to use this curriculum, I would highly suggest collecting other resources via your library or by purchasing a good Bible Atlas to help your children better picture this land.  Though the authors do a good job describing the areas and helping children to use their imaginations, I know my children would want a Bible Atlas.  Included in the book is a CD-Rom with reproducible maps for use with the curriculum.  I think you may find you want some larger maps, though. I have seen several such resources available via CBD.

If you are interested in acquainting your children with this area of the world, this is a great curriculum.  But, let me explain why I'm not sure it's the best fit for my family.  The authors talk about many people groups who live in the area, including the Kurds in Turkey.  I appreciated the efforts on the part of the authors to include all people groups and their suggestions of how to pray for the people who live in this region, because God has called us to pray for all people.  But, there is one people group missing from this book.  In the section on Israel, the Palestinians were not mentioned.  There were no pictures from the Gaza Strip or the areas where the Palestinians live.  There are Palestinian Christians.  If I used this curriculum, I would add to the section on Israel and explaining a bit more to my children about the land and the people who live there.  

The other reason I likely will not use this curriculum is that it does not fit in a traditional scope and sequence for what children learn in school.  I tend to follow the general scope and sequence of subject matter as taught by the public schools for social studies and history.  As a homeschooler, I do have the flexibility to veer away from that when I want to.  I could use this curriculum in a condensed form one quarter of the school year.  With all curriculums we use, we take what works for our families and modify when we need to.  I could expand on some of the sections and still condense the study overall.  

In the book, there are 16 lessons, which would cover about a half a year if you taught one lesson a week.  It is very appropriate to use with multiple ages at one time.  I'd recommend it for grades 1-6.  You can see a preview of the book on this website:  It is a pretty affordable curriculum at $35 for the book and included CD.  I looked up several Bible Atlases on Amazon and they ran between $20 and $30.  Other pictorial resources could easily be found at your local library.  

If you are looking for a study on the Holy Land, this is a great place to start.  If there are areas you would like to focus more heavily on, the curriculum would be easy to adapt.  It isn't the right curriculum for my family, but I can see how it might be a good fit for many others.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher.

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