Thursday, April 30, 2015

History is Exciting with U.S. History Detective! - A Homeschool Product Review

Most of you know that the Tinkel family used to love reviewing great homeschool curriculum but had to give it up because of some health concerns with my middle son, Joshua. Since he is doing better, we had been talking about reviewing again so imagine our surprise when an email arrived inviting us to review U.S. Detective - Book One - Colonial Era to Reconstruction Era from The Critical Thinking Company. We had reviewed many things before from The Critical Thinking Company and loved them so we jumped at the chance to review this. Especially since it was perfect for Joshua who has Asperger's Syndrome.

Asperger's Syndrome is a disorder that effects the social side of kids and adults. Joshua has a lot of difficulty with how to act in social situations and even has a difficult time with things that effect you socially such as reading body language and understanding idioms and nuances. That makes reading comprehension often difficult for him. However, Asperger's kids are often very gifted in particular areas. Geography and History are the areas in which Joshua is very advanced. Unfortunately, those two things combined - his love for geography/history and his reading comprehension problems - often make finding good homeschool curriculum that will keep his interest difficult.

That is why I think that U.S. Detective - Colonial Era to Reconstruction Era is really perfect for him and any history loving child that has reading difficulties. Let me tell you a little more about this great curriculum and the special ways that I have been using it with Joshua.

1. U.S. History Detective is written in an interesting way. It's not like the boring textbooks that we knew as a child. We have reviewed books from The Critical Thinking Co. before and their writers are top notch. All of the books that we have seen have been well written and interesting. Although the company is not a Christian company and we have not had the time to get terribly far in the book (I'll tell you why in a moment) I have not seen any area where they are trying to "rewrite history" or lean toward any political or social agenda. So far it has just been good, old fashioned, history.

How this effects Joshua - Because Joshua loves history, the subject content and the way it is written are excellent for him. However, because it is written on an 8-12 grade level, some of the sentence structure and idioms/nuances can be difficult for him to understand. Therefore, I usually read the content to him and sometimes have to stop to clarify something for him. A regular 8-12 grade student or even an advanced 6-7 grader should have no difficulty with this reading this.

2. U.S, History Detective is very thorough. It begins with Native Americans and the different scenarios on how they arrived in what we now call North America, it continues with Europeans settling in North America and goes all of the way through to the reconstruction era after the Civil War. Although many things happened in those many years, each of the 65 lessons is short - only two or three pages long with another two or three pages of questions.

How this effects Joshua - Because the lessons are fairly short, he is able to remain focused and interested. I recall regular history textbooks where each section was pages and pages long and I would become bored easily. This doesn't happen with Joshua. This is just the right amount of pages for him and therefore he doesn't lose interest. The fact that the book is thorough assures me that he is getting a very good grasp of U.S, History.

3. U.S. History Detective helps to develop critical thinking skills. After all, the company that publishes this book is called "The Critical Thinking Co." They specialize in challenging the student to think and to Empower the Mind (their tagline). U.S. History Detective is written in a very interesting way. From the start you notice the difference. Each sentence in each lesson is numbered. The reason that they are numbered is because the questions asked at the end of each lesson often ask that you back up your answer by noting which sentence gave you the information that you used to answer that question. It teaches the child how to think and look for answers and therefore they will retain the information and learn more. I really like that approach.

How this effects Joshua - Although we have used books from The Critical Thinking Co. before and Joshua has learned a lot, this type of looking back at the text and pinpointing answers is new for him - especially for an advanced text. I have had to sit down with him and help him do this a lot. He is beginning to learn how to do it on his own, but it has taken some work to teach him to do so. I am not regretting the time I have given explaining things, though, because when he learns this skill it will take him far in his learning.

4. U.S. History Detective has reviews after every two or three lessons. The reviews use other methods of critical thinking such as concept maps and Venn diagrams. This short time between reviews makes sure that the information is, indeed, understood and ingrained in the student. The sixty-five lessons are also divided in to nine sections and there is another review at the end of each section. These reviews can be used as quizzes and/or tests if need be.

How this effects Joshua - Having a review every two or three lessons helps any student to learn, but especially helps children that are distracted and don't retain things easily. This is true of Joshua. Having frequent reviews really helps him. I also like the different approaches to the reviews. If he isn't able to retain or understand something using one type of critical thinking, then perhaps another type will really click with him and help him understand.

You might think that with all of this praise for U.S. History Detective, that I really like this book and I really do. There is one thing in the book, however, that I haven't used much with Joshua. At the end of each lesson, there is a "Written Response Question". These are College Level Analytical Essay questions and are very good, but are a little above Joshua's head right now and, with his small motor problems, are also difficult for him to write down. I plan on gradually leading in to using them more because I think they are excellent. We just aren't to that point yet.

Overall, we really like U.S. History Detective and we highly recommend it to anyone as a supplemental history book, or as the main U.S. History Curriculum. As I mentioned before, it is written for grades 8-12, but an advanced sixth or seventh grader should have no problem with it. Each lesson is short but well written and will keep a student's attention while getting a firm grasp of our nation's history. To find out more about U.S. History Detective or to find out more about The Critical Thinking Co. just click here or on any of the above highlighted links.

I received a free copy of U.S. History Detective in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way nor was I required to write a positive review. Everything written above is my own opinion or the opinion of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

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