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Monday, November 9

US History Detective : Review

 We’re studying the Revolutionary War this year, and using U. S. History Detective, Book 1, by The Critical Thinking Co.. One of the first things I noticed is that this book is very easy to prepare…it’s all laid out for you.  Also, you are allowed to make copies of pages for multiple children within your family (not for resale).

The sixty-five lessons in the book are broken down into :
  • The Colonial Era
  • The Revolutionary Era
  • The Federal Era
  • The Nationalism Era
  • The Reform Era
  • The Expansion Era
  • The Sectional Conflict Era
  • The Civil War Era
  • Reconstruction Era

Each section begins with an overview of the major events, changes, geographical areas or historical figures which influenced that time period.  Then, there are several pages of reading in each lesson, followed by multiple choice and essay questions, with a review segment every few chapters, as well as some bonus activities.

Although this book is for grades 8-12, I think that is a great recommendation for younger children as well.  My children and I worked through this book, aloud, together as we began our unit on the Revolutionary War.  The questions require deeper analysis and frequently ask for supporting evidence from the lesson.  This book itself develops reading comprehension and writing skills, and challenges students to learn new vocabulary.  My oldest has been reading aloud from it as we go through the lessons together.

We began with section two, the one about the Revolutionary War, since that is our focus for the year.  There are seven lessons within this section, and we spent three to four days on each.  We read the text aloud together and answered the multiple choice questions aloud.  The next day, we discussed the short answer questions and the essay question as we reviewed the text.  Finally, on the third day (or fourth, in the case of a longer text lesson) we reviewed the lesson and questions in their entirety, and each child had a short writing assignment about that lesson.  While this drags the book out for longer than intended, my children are in 3rd and 5th grades and were not ready for the independent study that the book is designed for…but still quite interested in the subject.  After all, last year alone, we visited Boston, Valley Forge, Fort Ticonderoga, and Independence Hall...so they were invested in learning more about the Revolutionary War!

We got Daddy involved in some of the discussions, and found that this book was a family pleaser.  Were the children older, this would be a great tool for essay writing and AP History preparation, and we will probably re-use parts of it when they get there.  However, even with younger children, we found ourselves having great family discussions that stemmed from the text.  It doesn’t just cover history, it uses art, journalism, political cartoons, economics, and scientific inventions of each era.  This provided some interesting rabbit trails for us to explore!!  As we hopped on down them, we also incorporated several hands-on projects into our studies.  Overall, we highly recommend this book for middle and upper grade children.

Pros :
  • Colorful, eye-catching photographs and maps
  • Permission to copy for more than one child
  • Questions promote analytical thinking
  • Short, focused lessons
  • Can be used aloud with younger children
  • Promotes further exploration
  • Fun facts are sprinkled throughout the text

Cons :
  • Written for 8th grade standards (not as challenging to high schoolers)
  • Only part one of United States History; currently there is not a Book 2

The Critical Thinking Company Review
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