by Stephanie Elms, Annandale
I am a major history nut. I especially enjoy the stories behind the history—who the people were and what the times were like. The stories, for me, are what make history fascinating. I am lucky to have one son who shares my interest in history (and one son who does not, but that is a different article). We have recently rediscovered a resource that we are both enjoying: Learning Through History magazine.
Each 64-page, ad-free issue focuses on a specific time period in history, from Ancient Egypt to Medieval Times to the Victorian era to the Great Depression and beyond. With more than 15 original feature articles, two or three arts and crafts articles, and two literature study guides in each issue, and often an early learning unit as well, there is a lot to dig into.
Now, lest you think that a history magazine must be a dry, textbook-y recitation of dates and names, let me assure you, Learning Through Historyis not. The articles are very engaging and what I would describe as “meaty.” The author backgrounds are varied, including history majors, professors, homeschool parents, and freelance writers. What they all share is a true passion for history, and that comes through in the articles. The articles cover the time period in a variety of ways, highlighting important people, events, science, art, books, music, stories, and ideas of the time. We especially enjoy the “Day in the Life” articles, which provide a good sense of what it was like to grow up in that time period. The arts and crafts articles often contain recipes, game directions, or simple art projects that add a nice hands-on element. The magazine is not flashy, but with a high-quality color cover, captivating writing, and visually appealing graphics, including pictures, photos, maps, drawings, and art work from the time period, you will quickly be transported back to a different era.
What I like most about Learning Through History is the flexibility in how you can use them. They are perfect to use stand-alone as a unit study. Each article includes sidebars with suggested discussion or essay questions as well as suggestions for learning more through online articles and resources, DVDs, and books (fiction and non-fiction). Each issue also includes two literature study guides with pre-, duringand post-reading suggestions for in-depth analysis of a specific story, book, or poem related to the time period. Families who use a traditional history curriculum can easily use these magazines as a supplement, adding additional depth and perspective to their current textbook. Families who follow a more relaxed approach will also find much to like. The thematic topics make it easy to pick and choose topics that interest your child and can serve as a very effective resource to have around the house. I have found that sometimes a program will try to be “educational” at the expense of the being interesting, but that is not the case with Learning Through History. The engaging and well-written articles work well on their own with or without the additional educational exercises, allowing parents to pick and choose what works for their child.
While there are some articles and activities that could be accessible to younger children (and some issues do include an early learning unit), I would recommend this for upper elementary (if you have a strong reader who is very interested in history), middle school, and high school. This may sound like a very broad range, but it is a testament to the quality of writing and the flexibility available for choosing how deep you want to go into the suggested follow-up activities.
Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer printing as a subscription-based service, but they sell individual issues for $6.25 and bundles for between $23.00 and $34.50 plus shipping. They have recently begun making issues available on CD and have plans for iPad versions in the near future. Be sure to explore their Web site. They offer a variety of additional history resources, including a wealth of timelines covering different eras, history project books, and geography resources such as maps and atlases.
About the Reviewer
Stephanie Elms is constantly trying to find that elusive state of balance in her life while enjoying her two energetic yet vastly different boys. You can read about their ongoing exploits on her blog, Throwing Marshmallows. Stephanie also volunteers as a member of the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors and is the VaHomeschoolers Web site administrator.
This review appeared in the September-October 2010 VaHomeschoolers Voice.
VaHomeschoolers Voice Publication Information
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VaHomeschoolers Voice prints selected articles, news, and letters related to home education and Virginia homeschoolers. Opinions expressed by individual writers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Directors of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, nor do they represent an official position of VaHomeschoolers. Writers’ views are their own, and readers are encouraged to research and explore homeschooling issues to their own satisfaction.
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