History With Dorothy Mills

Now imagination does not descend, full grown, to take possession of an empty house; like every other power of the mind, it is the merest germ of a power to begin with, and grows by what it gets; and childhood, the age of faith, is the time for its nourishing. The children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times––a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books. Their lessons, too, history and geography, should cultivate their conceptive powers. If the child do not live in the times of his history lesson, be not at home in the climes of his geography book describes, why, these lessons will fail of their purpose. But let lessons do their best, and the picture gallery of the imagination is poorly hung if the child have not found his way into the realms of fancy.

-Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, p. 153

Why did I go to such lengths to include the history book series by Dorothy Mills in this curriculum? Because of the length of each book and their historical divisions, I had to spread them out over the course of the late elementary years up through the first high school year. Year Eight even includes two books, with one for the ancient time period and one for the Renaissance time period. At a glance, this arrangement may seem puzzling. But, the arrangement is a reflection of many different tenets to this curriculum, including the ideas that ancient history will be taught as a separate chain of history, like Charlotte Mason did, that the history books are best suited for Years 7-9 rather than the high school years and that the inclusion of coordinated primary sources and more advanced literature was better suited for these years over the lower years. Years 7-9 is the perfect fit for this series. Only The Book of the Ancient World is used in Year Five, as it is written at a level which allows this first book to be used at that time. Year Five also includes a different and lighter book for the study of the Greeks and Year Six explores the Egyptians in greater detail and uses a lighter book for the study of the Romans. This leads the student neatly into Year Seven to begin studying the medieval time period but with greater detail. Here is where The Middle Ages fits. In Year Eight, the student continues his study but with Renaissance and Reformation Times and uses The Book of the Ancient Greeks to again study the Greeks in the ancient history chain but in greater depth as well. Year Nine finishes the series with The Book of the Ancient Romans.

It would have been much easier to set up a curriculum where the scope and sequence neatly followed the cycle of history from beginning to end 2-4 times per 12 years as other curricula do, but following these sequences would have made using the series by Mills not possible. Each of the latter four books are large in number of pages. It would have not been a good idea to try and cram the first three books into one year and the following two into a second year. The series stops after Renaissance and Reformation Times, requiring a new series of books to continue the cycle of history.

So, this leads back to the original question: why did I includes this series? Because, these books are written in a narrative manner, interesting and factual, but with enough inclusion of social and cultural details to allow the student to really live in the time period. Referring and quoting from primary sources not only gives the books authenticity, but also allows for easy referral back to these primary sources, giving readers the opportunity to read the full account of the primary source or to read additional accounts by different primary sources. The guides I created to correspond to this series do just this. Combining the books with additional primary source readings gives the student a more focused study of the time period, but without being overwhelming. Narrations flow naturally from the engaging text and the study of speeches, documents and other primary sources support writing extensions which gently lead the student into more advanced writing. Including Great Ideas Discussions give students the ground work needed for more advanced thinking and this also lays a foundation for advanced writing.

The history series by Dorothy Mills provides a stable foundation on which students of this age need, supporting them as they begin to delve into and prepare for the more advanced studies of the high school years. It is so important not to choose books which are too challenging at this age. If the student cannot connect to the knowledge to be gained from the books, then the opportunities for building up her mind in preparation for advanced study will be lost.

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