Have you ever stumbled onto curriculum that perfectly blends a topic your child loves to learn about with a skill they need some extra practice at? That was the beauty of what happened in our house when The Critical Thinking Company’s book, World History Detective landed in my mailbox, and I passed it to my 9th grader.
The Critical Thinking Company has been around for almost 60 years, and their goal is to ’empower the mind,’ while students learn their basics, like reading, writing, & math. With curriculum for all ages and skill levels, they use critical thinking strategies instead of memorization and drilling.
I love this quote from the company’s president, Michael Baker;
If we teach children everything we know, their knowledge is limited to ours. If we teach children to think, their knowledge is limitless.
As a classical educator, that has been one of my primary goals. To teach my daughter how to think and learn on her own, throughout the rest of her school career, and beyond. I have seen first hand that often, this is missing in our public schools, but in our homeschools, as well. As home educators, it’s difficult not to conform to how we were schooled! We often attempt to recreate the classroom in our living rooms, when in fact, we have the rare opportunity to do things completely differently! And I have seen this book about critical thinking bring a bit of that back into my family room in the past few months.
I’ve asked my daughter to work through a lesson in the World History Detective each day, or as often as she can. It has not been a hard sell! She’s excited to work in the book, and almost instantly, I saw her reading comprehension skills improve.
What’s been even more compelling is listening to her talk excitedly about the lessons. She is happy to discuss what she’s read, and finds the material engaging and interesting. That is invaluable to me – that a product nurture a love of learning! This product did just that.
The reading portion of a lesson consists of 1 to 2 pages of text, broken down into distinct paragraphs. Each sentence in the lesson is numbered. Following the lesson (which sometimes includes timelines, maps or charts), a series of multiple choice questions is asked. Not only does the student need to answer the question, but they also need to defend their answer by denoting which paragraph and sentence best supports it.
This is important, because it requires the student to read carefully, and glean information from the text beyond what is just written. Sometimes, the answers aren’t black and white, and require a more sophisticated thought process – a skill so necessary in problem solving in real life!
Following the multiple choice section, there are written response sections, which ask the student to explain specific pieces of the text. These are written as flow charts, concept maps, or paragraphs. The written response questions often require thinking outside the text.
The World History Book specifically includes sections titled; Prehistory, Ancient Civilizations, Medieval Civilizations and Early American Civilizations. For us, this was a huge win, because my daughter absolutely loves ancient history. It also has a complete answer key, and a teacher overview section, which will benefit the teacher or parent using the book. It gives insight into the methods used in writing the book, what the different sections help our students accomplish, and how to best use the book. There is also a section about the author of the book, in this case, John De Gree.
The Prehistory section is old earth origins based, and is focused on how scientists investigate the past, and teaches what scientists believe today. While the text clearly favors the theory of evolution, the author does acknowledge that some scientists do not believe in the theory. It also maintains that these are ideas, and clearly states that it is hard for scientists to understand what happened so long ago, because we weren’t there, and have no record of events from so long ago. This section is only 4 lessons of 78, and I was more than happy to study them along side my daughter, even though the theory most clearly presented is contrary to my personal beliefs. I do not believe most families would have a problem with what was contained in these pages.
My overall impression is that I will absolutely continue to use this book with my daughter until it is complete, and will make the investment in U.S. World History as well. Both of these books are for grades 6 though 12, and have suited her learning style and knowledge well. As we enter the world of high school history, these books are an excellent source of review of the common topics covered in world and U.S. history.
I recommend this book without hesitation for their quality and content. I’ll leave you with the mission statement of The Critical Thinking Company;
The Critical Thinking Co.™ is committed to developing students’ critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life. We do not teach through drill and memorization or teach to the tests—we empower the mind!
Isn’t that what we all wish for our kiddos?
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