The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child.  Volume 3:  Early Modern Times, by Susan Wise Bauer (Peace Hill Press, Charles City, Virginia, 2004)

Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.  Sometimes I can't help checking out the curriculum explosion that has taken place since the younger days of our own home education experiences.  As one might expect, some is awful, some great, and much in between.

Based on this one sample, Susan Wise Bauer's history books are on the high end of in between.  In addition to the five-star praises, there are some harsh reviews on Amazon for the first volume of this series.  Some of them clearly have an axe to grind on issues that don't bother me; some I agree with but find minor (such as her overuse of exclamation points); others I think refer to faults that were largely corrected by the time she wrote the third volume.

Because it is impossible—maybe even undesirable—to avoid bias in a history book, it is best to have a multi-sourced approach to history.  I wouldn't use Bauer's book as my only text.  It seems reasonably broad and fair to me, but even so, you can't put everything into an elementary school level book.

I chose this particular volume because the time period corresponded with a Teaching Company series we recently watched.  (I'll put in a link to the review when I get around to writing it.) Given that the latter was designed for college students, I'll have to say I was pleased with the level of agreement between the two on areas where they overlapped.  (The Teaching Company course dealt mainly with Europe, while Bauer's touches on many other parts of the world as well.)

I did spot two errors:  confusion of malaria and yellow fever in a discussion of the Haitian Revolt, and the implication that Napoleon's remains are still buried on St. Helena.  Of course there may be plenty of errors I missed in my ignorance.  But we found errors in our favorite math series, too.  This only reinforces the need for multiple sources.

My biggest complaint is the somewhat condescending tone—you know how people tend to sound when speaking to children!—that initially put me off.  However, it improved as I went further into the book, and I also learned not to let it bother me.

Overall, I was very impressed.  I learned many things myself, and plan to read the rest of the series.  It presents a great overview in story form, not a be-all and end-all when-you've-read-this-you'll-know-history, but one that plants seeds of interest to be watered and weeded with other materials.  Even so, if all an elementary school student learned was what is in this book, he'd be far ahead of almost any modern sixth grader.

I'm not conversant with reading levels, but anyone who can read Harry Potter should be fine with this book.  It would also be great read-aloud material for many ages. 
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 8:43 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 4010 times
Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Update: I'm not usually one to recommend books on tape over the written word, but the CDs of Jim Weiss reading this series are excellent. The condescending tone all but disappears when Weiss reads, and he makes it sound the the exciting story history should be. It's probably best enjoyed by the young and the old—teenagers, although most could benefit greatly from this overview of history, will probably think themselves too sophisticated to enjoy something designed for elementary school students.

Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 9:58 am
The History of the Ancient World
Excerpt: The History of the Ancient World:  From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome, by Susan Wise Bauer (W. W. Norton, New York, 2007) Despite having some initial negative reactions to Susan Wise Bauer, I've continued to find her work delightf...
Weblog: Lift Up Your Hearts!
Date: December 10, 2008, 10:40 am
Add comment

(Comments may be delayed by moderation.)