Kolbe Academy Reviews – History

If you’ve just found this and want to see the whole series of Kolbe Reviews so far, scroll down the very bottom of the page where it says “view posts by topic” and select “Kolbe Academy” from the drop-down menu.  Or try clicking here.

As with science, last year I learned that the mother’s brain works much, much better if all children are studying approximately the same history topic.  Kolbe’s high school curriculum covers world history from a western-classical perspective over the course of four years: Greek in 9th, then Roman, then middle, then modern.  The readings for high school literature coordinate, which I absolutely love.

Now remember I have special accounting powers, which means I must a) plan ahead far into the future, b) seek to maximize efficiency and utility, and c) involve a spreadsheet in that process.  With distractions like that, you can see where my house gets to be such a mess.

And here was my challenge: My children did not think ahead.  They were not born four grades apart.  Result: I expect to spend six years of my life with two students in high school.

–> I could handle it if I had three younger ones on their young-person topic, and just one child doing his own high school subject thing.  But there was no way I was going to apply my brain to both the Illiad and the Cantebury tales in the same year.  Just not.  Not.

Good News:  The people at Kolbe have this problem too.  I sniffed around the forums, and learned that in their day school, which is small, the entire school just cycles through the four time-periods together.  I confirmed that a 9th grader could confidently do lit & history of some later grade.  My trick would be to go ahead and get the kids on the G-R-M-M cycle right now, so that no matter where in the cycle the newly-minted 9th graders landed, they’d have the background info they’d need to get going.

And I had one secret weapon that made it all massively, massively easier: #1 is a certified History geek.  So we could pretty much do whatever we wanted with him, and it would be fine.  In this case meaning that I ordered the complete set of elementary Greek history and literature offerings for him to read the summer before we launched into Ancient Rome in the fall, and he polished it off in about two weeks.  Like I said.  Secret weapon.

I requested the 5th grade Famous Men of Rome course plans for both big kids.

After browsing through the book, I determined my rising 4th grader was going to find it a bit overwhelming.  She likes history, but not in a pour-through-pages-of-military-history kind of way.  More in a dress-up-like-a-Roman way.

I decided she’d do better if we spent the fall warming her up to this whole Rome thing, and conveniently my local crack dealer had the History Pockets series in stock.  She worked through those the first two quarters, and now is underway with the Famous Men, and that was definitely a successful plan.  Having been introduced to the general ancient roman lifestyle, form of government, founding legends, and so forth has made it much easier to for her to follow the text this spring. Amazon has a preview of the Famous Men text so you can see what I mean.

What you need to know about the Famous Men of Rome and Greece books:

  • The text is great.  Nice narrative style, Christian worldview without being in-your-face about it, and overall the amount of reading is not too much, if it’s spread over the course of a year.  If you have a struggling reader, plan to read aloud together.  The illustrations are goofy.
  • The workbook (“Student Guide”)  is very useful for helping the kids learn the material and prepare for exams.  Recommended.  You could treat it as a consumable, but it’s pretty easy to just have the kids do the work on a separate piece of paper.  You can look at the Amazon preview here.
  • The teacher’s guide = the workbook with the answers filled in.  Smart money says you’re going to want this if you get the student guide, unless you just know a lot about Rome and/or have the time to study along.

About the Course Plans:

  • The Kolbe course plans do not mention the student guide, you just assign the pages to go with the lesson.  The way the course plans divide up the work across the year, sometimes only part of a workbook page will apply to a given day’s or week’s work.
  • In some places the course plans give additional guidance or assignments, and in other places they just indicate what pages to read which day.
  • The course plans do include quarterly exams and answer key.

–> With my fourth grader starting the book mid-year, I found it very simple to just assign one chapter per week, and have her do the two-page spread of workbook pages that go with the chapter.  If you aren’t enrolled with Kolbe, I would skip their plans and just do that.


What about the Land of Our Lady Series?  I know nothing.  It didn’t work with my masterplan.  If someone finds a good review, please feel free to put a link in the combox.

What about the study of non-western cultures?  See “history geek” above.  That child was not spawned from gravel.  I assure you, my children could no sooner miss out on world history than miss out on ice cream.  But if you lock your child in a closet outside of school hours, yes you’ll need to shove a few library books under the door to make sure they find out about the existence of China and all that stuff.


Any other questions?

Next week I’ll review the Latin I think (is that what we said, Tracey?), and after that, name your subject if you have one you want me to do next.

6 thoughts on “Kolbe Academy Reviews – History

  1. What are the typical assignments in the student workbook?

    You are really messing with me. ;) I had decided to go with Beautiful Feet, but I do like this set up. OTOH, with 5th, 3rd and K next year, maybe Beautiful Feet would be a better fit for a few years.

    • On a two-page spread per lesson you got:
      -A short section of “facts to know” – they just tell you the essential facts
      – 1/2 page of vocabulary words – in case you don’t know the meaning of, say, “blunder” or “barricades” etc.
      -2/3 page of comprehension questions. ex: “What event started the war between Rome and the Aequians”
      -1/3 page of “Activities”. ex: “Draw a picture of soldiers passing under the yoke . . . why do you think this was such a torturous punishment?”

      Oh, hey, look, Amazon has a look-inside feature. I’ll add a link up in the main post.

      I’m not familiar with Beautiful Feet – link?

  2. That cover is Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David which goes with the chapter on the Horatii & Curiatii- not sure if your edition of the book makes that clear or not.


    If you eventually get to the French Revolution in homeschool (years from now) it’ll be worth recalling the painting for its political significance, and as an example of history in one era influencing another.

    • Ahh, cool. We are constantly ending up back at the French revolution. Very helpful tip – thanks.

      (No, really. We are. Does not everything eventually end up there? In our house, yes. Okay, sometimes it ends up with Henry VIII. One or the other.)

  3. Exactly. Of course, the FR didn’t come out of nowhere. Which, btw, my favorite FR film is _My Father’s Glory_. (La Gloire de Mon Pere). Beautiful, fun, and the fruits of the revolution are right there at the dinner table a hundred-some years later.

    [Hard book to read in the original, though, because there is so much vocabulary most non-natives would not know. But the film does it justice. I find if you stick the subtitles on in the DVD (language of your choice), you catch a lot of inaudible dialogue that adds to the film.]

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