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History Curriculum Evaluation 1: Veritas

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series

"Teaching Your Child to Love History"

You can read more posts from the series by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

I am beginning my reviews of children’s history curricula with Veritas Press History. If you’ve missed the posts leading up to this, I explain here why it’s so important that Christian children learn to love history, here why history must be taught from a Christian perspective, and here what kind of a history curricula fosters a child’s love for history. (Note: This series is applicable to much more than homeschooling families, as I explain here.)

I chose to begin with Veritas because it was the first classical, chronological history program to which I was exposed. (I was hired to teach it at a school.) It is a popular choice for both classical Christian schools and homeschooling families. This review will confine itself to Veritas’ grammar stage (elementary school) program. I hope to review Veritas’ Omnibus (for 7th-12th grade) at the end of this series, since it has a separate set of pros and cons.

I’d like to add an aside here before I begin. I know a lot of homeschooling families who choose to do history using a book list of “living books” rather than a curriculum. I would recommend using a curriculum for the following reasons. First, there aren’t a lot of history “living books” written (or written well) on a elementary level. (If you want to read your kids Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, great! But I doubt many will do that. And then…that’s only Rome.) Second, the books that are written usually don’t contain a Christian worldview (see this post on why I believe this is vitally important). Third, if you don’t live near a large library that has well-stocked children’s history and historical fiction sections (or you aren’t willing to spend a lot of money on individual books), gathering all those books can be an arduous and frustrating process. If you can’t find all of them, then it means you are leaving gaps in your child’s knowledge. Therefore, our family does use a lot of “living books” (historical fiction and history non-fiction written for children, often with pictures of the places and people we are studying) to supplement our history study, but I recommend a stand-alone “core” which includes a chronological study of history from a Christian worldview. Veritas is the first of various Christian cores that I will review.

Overview/Format

Veritas-Press-CardsThis program is designed for 2nd through 6th grade with a five year overview of the history of Western Civilization. The first volume (designed for 2nd grade) covers The Old Testament and Ancient Egypt. The second volume is New Testament, Greece & Rome. Volume three covers the Middle Ages, Renaissance & Reformation. Volume four is Explorers to 1815. The final volume is 1815 to the Present.

For each of these time periods, Veritas offers a Teacher’s Manual (which includes reproducible worksheets, tests, activity pages, and some additional information), Timeline Cards, and a CD of the songs they’ve written to go along with the cards. The Timeline Cards include a piece of art and an event or person (and sometimes a date) on the front and pertinent facts and a list of further resources (such as encyclopedias, “living” books, and other history books) on the back. The style is fairly simple, with the child memorizing the card events in order (using the song…or not), learning the short list of facts on the back of the card, and then filling in a worksheet (answers in complete sentences) about the facts. The black and white Teacher’s Manual will often have additional information and activities. The child is tested over the card facts at the end of the week (or whenever you choose to administer the test).

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Veritas also sells many of their recommended resources and all the historical fiction books that they recommend. Most resources can also be purchased other places, such as Amazon, though a few are difficult to find elsewhere or are written exclusively for/by Veritas. Veritas has also recently lowered the prices on their non-exclusive books to compete with Amazon and other internet sellers (a smart move, as their books used to be much higher priced). They’ve also just come out with a few exclusive history books, Pages of History, which is two volumes of historical fiction I didn’t care for (I will try to review that separately because my explanation will take more than one sentence.) and Bede’s Histories for K and 1st, which I haven’t seen yet. You can read more about this program at the Veritas Press website.

Pros

  • Decidedly Christian worldview
  • Time tested (One of the earliest classical Christian history programs and is used in a lot of Christian schools)
  • Leads directly up to the Omnibus program, if you’re planning to use that (This is an obvious one since they’re by the same company, but many other programs will transition in 9th grade rather than 7th grade as Veritas does.)
  • Starts in 2nd grade (which is a pro if you’re overwhelmed the first couple years and just want to wait on history; you won’t be behind)
  • Includes a lot of church history
  • Online live classes and online self-paced classes available (I haven’t tried these because I’m comfortable teaching history and I really enjoy teaching it, but Veritas offers free two-week trials from time to time if you want to check it out.)
  • Fairly easy to teach (Lessons in the Teacher’s Manual are not scripted, but they do provide a sample week structure at the the beginning of the manual.)
  • Scripted lesson plans available (sold separately)
  • Requires complete sentences–good writing practice/reinforcement
  • Primarily memory-based (This is a strength if you’re simply looking for “memory pegs,” according to the classical model, for your child’s elementary/grammar school history.)
  • Heavily chronological (which is good if you’re looking for a chronological history; we’ll look at some histories in future posts that are intended to be basically chronological but, in fact, aren’t)
  • Strong incorporation of Old Testament and New Testament events and people in the first two volumes (though it wouldn’t be considered a Bible program)
  • Strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God

Cons

  • Focuses on Egypt, Greece & Rome only for ancient times, “ignoring” what’s going on in the rest of the world
  • Worksheet/test oriented (This isn’t necessarily a con, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.)
  • Writing heavy (which can be a con if you begin this younger than the recommended age or if you have a child that struggles with handwriting–not that we don’t need to challenge our children or give them practice, but you don’t want the writing component to take hours or to be miserable for all concerned)
  • Early chronology not consistent with a young earth (especially Ancient Egypt; see this post where I talk about that issue; if you’re curious about how this program specifically differs, I’d be happy to discuss that in the comments)
  • Only covers the time periods once in elementary
  • Music on the CD’s (You used to be able to listen to a sample online. Since they updated the look of their website, the links no longer work, but if I’m remembering correctly, which I think I am, I didn’t even consider the CD’s because I was uncomfortable with the music.)
  • Starts in 2nd grade (which is a con if you want to start with history right away in K or 1st or if you want to cover all the time periods more than once in elementary; it is possible to begin this earlier, but it would be fairly difficult for a 5-6 year old)
  • Fairly pricey for all the components; for example, the OT & Ancient Egypt Teacher’s Manual, Cards & CD come together as a kit for $49, the Priority 1 Resources are $114.86, and the Literature Kit is $37.31 (Prices vary per grade level; Literature Kit books could possibly be checked out from the library, but Priority 1 Resources are best purchased to get the benefit of the curriculum.)
  • Primarily memory-based (This may be a con if you’re looking to engage your child in the “story” of history, though that can be somewhat accomplished through the resources on the cards.)
  • Reformed-leaning (This does not affect as much of the elementary history curriculum as it does other Veritas programs, and this may not be a con for many, but it’s something to keep an eye out for if you want to teach your children from a Dispensationalist or non-Calvinistic presupposition.)
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Conclusion

Our family has chosen to not use Veritas History fully. In other words, it’s not our core. We use the Veritas Cards (somewhat rearranged in the ancient times and combined with a few other things–more on that in a later post) as part of our daily timeline memory song (more on that later also). I wanted the classical approach with the memory pegs but felt that we could accomplish that through the cards alone while using a different core.

For our family, I decided that Veritas was lacking a few things. I wanted a core that 1) fit with a young earth timeline of the Old Testament and Ancient Times (as I stated above, Veritas is heavily chronological; I could’ve made it work by either teaching the lessons out of order–which would’ve been a bit of a pain–or by teaching them in order but, then, not chronologically–which would’ve kinda defeated the purpose of a strictly chronological program with the memory pegs idea), 2) included historical accounts in some kind of read-aloud format, 3) started earlier than 2nd grade, 4) would repeat the history “cycle” (roughly: ancient, medieval, renaissance, modern) more than once before jr. high/high school, and 5) included at least some history of the ancient world outside of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. I would like my children to get at least a little taste of what was going on in the rest of the world in the past to help them better understand those countries/cultures today.

That being said, I’d still consider Veritas one of the top two or three history programs for teaching children a chronological Christian history of the world. It is well done, and (with a few tweaks in the early sequence/dating for “young-earthers” like me) any child would receive a strong foundation in history from Veritas.

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By the way, I mentioned memory pegs several times throughout this post. If you’re confused by that, take a few minutes to read Dorothy Sayers’ essay The Lost Tools of Learning. It’s well worth the short amount of time it will take you! Sayers says of history, “The grammar of History should consist, I think, of dates, events, anecdotes, and personalities. A set of dates to which one can peg all later historical knowledge is of enormous help later on in establishing the perspective of history.”

Applicability to Non-Homeschool Families

I’d encourage non-homeschool families to invest in the history cards and incorporate a timeline song into some kind of family learning time. (I’ll be giving information on how the cards can be adapted for a young-earth chronology. Also, if they’re a stretch for your budget, you can either buy just one set at a time, check craigslist, or, if you have it, buy at Mardel Christian Store with a coupon.) The cards will give your children (and you!) both the chronological memory pegs that will help them put history into perspective and also a basic knowledge base of church history, both people and events. The information and resources on the back of the cards can also be a springboard into some other memory work (perhaps you learn the Nicene Creed together) and a “library guide” into some helpful historical fiction and non-fiction that your kids can check out to get them excited about history.

Finally, I’d like to give you this link to an article defending classical Christian education written by Marlin Detweiler, the founder of Veritas Press and author (along with his wife) of the Veritas Press grammar school history series, which is just one of many helpful articles by Veritas. This was published in their Epistula newsletter, and, if you choose to do nothing else with this series of reviews, I would recommend that you sign up for the free e-newsletters and free catalogs (which include articles) from the companies I’m reviewing. They will challenge you to think biblically about education.

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Becky Aniol

About Becky Aniol

Becky holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and music and a master's degree in Christian education. She taught classical upper school grammar, literature, and history and lower school composition and grammar for two years, elementary school music for one year, and Kindermusik classes for four years before the birth of her children. She now loves staying home with her three children, Caleb, Kate, and Christopher, and homeschooling them classically.

11 Responses to History Curriculum Evaluation 1: Veritas

  1. Hi, Becky! I am not sure if I have ever posted anything…but about to start my third day of homeschooling and was planning on trying Veritas. I was surprised to read in your review that they do not hold to a young earth viewpoint. What history curriculum do you recommend? I need help…quickly! Kim

  2. Hi, Kim! Just to be clear, I’m comparing Veritas’ chronology of the Old Testament and Ancient Egypt, specifically, to this chronology (and others like it, such as Ussher): http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/utp/a-correct-chronology. They do not fit, and that, of course, throws the dating off for some of the cards (not all). The curriculum is still usable, but I rearranged the cards for our family (and eliminated some, such as the First Intermediate Period of Egypt; and I would do the same with the lessons if I were using those).

    What you use really depends on what you’re looking for in a curriculum and the ages of your kids. If you’re doing classical homeschooling and your kids are K-2nd, I’d recommend Story of the World (see my caveats in my review) supplemented with Veritas cards (rearranged). If your kids are 3rd-6th, I’d recommend either Mystery of History or Memoria Press Classical Studies. (If you want to go the traditional route rather than classical, I recommend Bob Jones for the strongest young earth and biblical worldview in traditional ed.)

  3. Thank you, Becky (and Nick)—I purchased AIG’s science curriculum (as well as reading the Answer Book 1)–it is important to me, as well, that what I am teaching is consistent in all subjects to avoid confusion. I appreciate the quick posts and your loyalty to the Truth. I will research these other options…Sincerely, Kim

  4. Will you please let me know how you rearrange the timeline cards to fit with AiG’s young earth creationism? We are 100% young earth creationists here and already have all of the Veritas books needed for next year. If all I need to do to make my year successful is teach the cards in a slightly different order I will be thrilled! Thank you so much for your time. We are extremely excited for our history year next year with our K, 2nd, and 4th graders all doing OTAE.

  5. Hi Jessica,

    Here’s how I rearranged the cards to fit with the AiG timeline. I’ve also included the young earth dates from my research if I could find one.

    1 Creation 4004 BC
    2 Fall 4004 BC
    3 Cain and Abel
    4 Flood 2349-2348 BC
    5 Tower of Babel 2242 BC
    6 Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt
    7 Old Kingdom in Egypt 1900 BC
    –SKIP CARD 8 (no First Intermediate Period according to AiG)
    9 Call of Abram 1921 BC
    10 God’s Covenant with Abraham 1897 BC
    12 Sodom and Gomorrah 1897 BC
    13 Birth and Sacrifice of Isaac 1896 BC (birth)
    11 Hagar and Ishmael
    19 Code of Hammurabi 1792 BC
    15 Joseph as a Slave 1728 BC
    16 Famine in Egypt 1707-1700 BC
    17 Twelve Tribes c. 1700’s BC
    14 Middle Kingdom in Egypt 1572-1445 BC
    22 Moses’ Birth 1571 BC
    23 Plagues 1491 BC
    24 The Exodus 1491 BC
    25 The Ten Commandments 1491 BC
    20 Hyksos Invasion c. 1405 BC or sometime following The Exodus (AiG argues that the Hyksos invaded after the death of Pharoah and his armies in the Red Sea)
    18 “Second” Intermediate Period (Hyksos Rule, as argued by AiG) 1405-1021 BC
    29 Davidic Kingdom 1048-1015
    21 Early New Kingdom in Egypt 1021 BC
    30 Solomon’s Reign 1015 BC
    26 Amenhotep and Monotheism 824 BC
    27 Reign of Tutankhamon 802 BC
    28 Later New Kingdom in Egypt (not sure about the placement of this one; I have down from AiG sources “New Kingdom in Egypt, ‘Third’ Intermediate Period, and Late/Persian Period–spanning 18th-31st Dynasties–1021-332 BC)
    31 Alexander the Great Conquers Egypt c. 332 BC
    32 Egypt Falls to Rome c. 30 BC

    I hope I didn’t skip anything typing that out. :) Of course, it’s almost impossible to exactly date some of these ancient events/people, so I just went with the prevailing arguments for dating that I found at AiG and their recommended resources.

    I didn’t check the back the back of the cards for discrepancies in information. (I don’t use the cards for my curriculum.) However, I do know that for card 22, AiG argues that Hatshepsut was likely the Queen of Sheba who visited solomon, whereas the back of card 22 lists Hatshepsut as possibly Pharaoh’s daughter who found Moses in the Nile. You can see just in this alone how a young earth timeline affects the Egyptian dates drastically.

    My research came mostly from https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/ancient-egypt/doesnt-egyptian-chronology-prove-bible-unreliable/ (and similar articles on AiG), Big Book of History, AiG’s Seven C’s Timeline Poster, and Ussher’s Annals of the World.

  6. Hello Becky,

    I am very impressed with your review, and I am looking forward to looking at your other posts.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post. I am currently researching what curriculum I would like to teach my children, and I am grateful for this insight, especially coming from someone qualified to speak with authority on the subject.

  7. Hello Becky.
    I am currently using Tapestry of grace (Tog) year 1 and part of a co-op. My kids are 5, 7, 2 and 1. While I love and understand the importance of history my history background is not very strong. I am currently battling to understand the history as presented by Tog and currently considering Veritas History as they seem to be chronological and I love that they are unapologetic about their faith. We are looking for a History programme that is presented from a biblical worldview, Chronological, pro young eartg, includes some kind of work sheets and memory cards to assess understanding and foster mastery of the content learnt.

    We also hoping to do Omnibus in the future as we are very fond of the way the biblical worldview, the classics and church history as taught by Omnibus.

    I have had the privilege of reading your other posts on Guerber’s history and seriously considering it for next year. May you please give me some advice on which curriculum combination would be the best fit for my young family given our criteria:
    A History curriculum with a
    1. Biblical worldview
    2. Chronological, with a core book and not just relayant on living books.
    3. Read aloud friendly😊
    4. Young Earth
    5. Inclusion of memory pegs – memory cards and songs, time line.
    6. Assessments ie tests and or lapbooks
    7. Inclusion of other cultures such as Africa and Asia
    8. Cycle through twice or more if possible.

    Kind regards
    Mulenga

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