I am starting this post with a disclaimer.
RC History has not asked me to post about their products nor did they gift to me their curriculum. Everything I speak about in this post was bought with my own money. My opinion is based simply of what I have seen and done with this program to date.
I spent a significant amount of time researching History programs. I was home educated from 4th to 10th grade so I almost immediately looked for the programs I remembered my Mother using. The problem is that I was raised Protestant and I am now Catholic. I knew that I would need a history program that taught the Catholic truth. At first I went with Seton because they are highly regarded. I ordered the grade appropriate book which happened to be American History. I have no intention of teaching any American history until 4th or 5th grade. We live in the culturally rich lands of Europe and I want my children submersed in this history.
There were other boxed curriculums that taught history and were Catholic but honestly none of them felt right. It wasn’t until late June that I stumbled across the RC History program. At first I was turned off because it is a classical program and for those of you that are unaware of what this system of education is, classical education is done in three cycles. First, the grammar stage, is the laying of the foundation. Reading out loud and together is a huge part of it and then memorization is included as is foreign language and phonics. The second stage is the Logic stage because children start to ask the complicated questions around this point and here children are expected to begin thinking outside of what is said and to pull apart the information, they also begin to use the cause and effect procedures. The last stage is the Rhetoric stage, here students are expected and able to write forcefully and with intent. They are able to be original, concise, and elegant. The third stage is where they begin to discover their passions and strengths and begin training for their future career. This overall style of education is the Classical Method or Trivium Method.
When I first stumbled upon Connecting with History, the trivium approach was the turn off for me. However, I borrowed The Well Trained Mind from the library and began to really understand why so many homeschool parents love and use this approach. After reading and researching classical education I knew it was the path for us.
It was late July when I went back to the RC History website and really researched their program. The more I read the more I knew it was exactly what we needed. There are a hundred great things about this program but there are some negatives as well. I had hoped to find some personal reviews or blogs when I decided to purchase the curriculum but I never really found anything, so I’m writing out my thoughts and I hope it will help.
I think the best place to start is some information. I have a 6 year old son in the First Grade and a 4 year old son in Pre-School. I purchased the Connecting With History Volume 1, A Guide to Salvation History Old Testament and Ancient Cultures. I purchased the Syllabus and Lesson Plans. I also purchased the digital Notebooking pages and Timeline Cards.
The Syllabus comes with a great Teacher Guide and a complete book list. The teacher guide is full of great information that goes into amazing depth and has wonderful resources. It easily guides you through the program and how to implement it. Also included is a checklist that helps you stay prepared.
The book list is wonderful and full of living books. We are a Charlotte Mason homeschool and the fact that this program uses nothing but living books makes me incredibly happy. The books listed for each grade level are impressive and they are among some of the most beautiful books my family has ever read.
Now the syllabus and the lesson plans are essential to each other. I don’t think the program would run as smoothly if you didn’t get the lesson plans section but they are sold separate so that you have the choice to use them or not. The syllabus is the full and complete lesson plus the book pages that need to be read and other suggestions. The lesson plans run you through the day by day breakdown of each unit. The program runs through 10 units and each unit is 4 weeks long.
I did say that I purchased Volume 1 but each level is included in that volume. The curriculum lays out the Beginner, Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric assisgments. Once you buy the volume you do not need to buy it again as your child ages. For me this was a huge plus.
The program uses memorization, poetry, notebooking, and so much more to really draw the child into a love of history. Now for my family it covers more than just history. The curriculum uses a program called Map Trek and it will cover geography, copy-work to cover handwriting, memorization of Bible verses to help with religion. It really is so much more than just a history program! You could also tie in Art appreciation/history as the program goes along. You just add it into your notebook.
Now there are a few drawbacks…
We are a Military family and we live in Europe. I am required to either buy the books I need or use our military European library. The problem is that many of the books on the book list are not available in our library system. I had to purchase the books. I actually don’t mind buying them all but my husband is not on the same page as I am in the book department plus we do have weight limits when we move.
If you can borrow from the library then this program isn’t that expensive. If you don’t have a great library or are in a position where you have to buy all the books, it could cost an arm and a leg.
To further comment on this book list, RC History does sell all the books they recommend. However, they are sold at retail market price. Amazon.com and Rainbow Resource have all the required books between them for discounted prices. That will help in the finance area if you have a need to buy all the recommended books. I understand the support mom and pop business ideal but when the book prices are more expensive on their site versus amazon.com… the choice is obvious. Now they did have a book or two that neither amazon nor rainbow resource had and they also have discount programs and free shipping, which we all know can get expensive with books.
The curriculum also lists Founders of Freedom by Neumann Press as a Core Text. The owner of the Neumann Press passed this spring and his business is either in limbo or being shut down. You cannot find the Founders of Freedom book anywhere. RC History has since stated that the Founders book is not 100% necessary to the program. I personally am not far enough along in the program to have an opinion on that, however, I do wish that I had the book.
My biggest wish is that RC History would offer a complete package deal. If they could offer a package that included every book and resource needed for each level and at a competitive price, there would be no flaws. I spent HOURS going between the RC History site, Amazon.com, and Rainbow Resource. I would be willing to spend $400 for a complete set of books for the program. It is great having a pick as you want option, but to offer another option with the complete program and books per level would be incredible.
The timeline cards that RC History sells are great. They are sturdy and very well put together. I have gone through them several times to read the information on the back of each card. I absolutely love them. I plan to get them all laminated so that we can have them in our homeschool for a long time to come.
Overall this is by far the best History program I have seen for Catholic families, I would go far enough to say this is the best History programs I have ever laid hands on. I was able to look at Story of the World and compare it to RC History, I found Connecting with History to be several steps above Story of the World. It is wonderfully laid out, you can tell that it has been created with love. The program is thoughtful and concise and with the included Notebooking elements it also makes history fun and exciting. The company clearly put a lot of thought and care into choosing the living books on each book list and I must confess they have become instant favorites in my home. Honestly, this is the history program that I will use with my children till they leave home and the living books we buy to go with the program have become treasured stories my children beg to hear again and again.