Friday, March 19, 2010

Pandia Press: History Odyssey

I am a huge fan of unit studies having used them exclusively our first 7 or so years of homeschooling. The age of my oldest children drew us away from unit studies as curriculum available on the market at the time was designed for elementary use. I tried finding time to research, plan and write unit studies for my teens, but the time required to do so was all consuming. Our once strictly unit study based homeschool slowly evolved with textbooks in an effort to keep pace with the educational needs of Jr. High and High school.

Kathleen Desmaris, homeschool Mom to four children ages toddler to teen, author and owner of Pandia Press has created excellent unit studies for the Jr. High and High School level student. I received History Odyssey: Modern Times, a literature-based study guide combining history, geography, and writing from Pandia Press in exchange for this review. Modern Times is created with an unit study model based in the classical style, is written for grades 7-10, and covers world history from the 1800's-21st century. It is a unit study loving homeschool Mom's dream come true.

Modern Times Level Two is one of 10 offerings in Pandia Press's History Odyssey series. Modern Times Level Two serves as a complete study guide offering a unique mix of literature discussion, history study with mapping and timeline work, research and hands-on independent projects for upper level students. The Modern Times study guide includes:

  • 99 detailed lessons written for independent use
  • Reading assignments
  • Writing assignments
  • Map work assignments (they provide the maps in the unit--yeah!)
  • Timeline instructions (timelines are also included--double yeah!)
  • Research instructions for further study and assigned essays and reports
  • 23 Custom World Geography Maps
  • Worksheets
  • Primary Source writings
The text of the study guide is laid out in a day to day format with clear expectations. For example, Part I: Introduction to Modern Times covers a review of world geography based around the novel, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Lesson 3 assignments from Part I, which are recommended to be completed in one to two sittings, are simply:

  • Read Chapters 15 to 20 in Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Label places visited by Fogg on Map 1
  • Add destinations to travel log
Students are provided with small check off boxes as they work through assignments. There is no ambiguity in these lesson plans, nor any reason to offer an excuse for the inevitable question of "Why is this assignment not completed?" Students can work independently with home teachers acting as mentors or guides throughout the study. In our homeschool, independent study for 7th grade and up is a preferred commodity.

In addition to mapping and timeline work to plot the where and when of history; writing assignments sprinkled throughout the lessons provide opportunity to develop outlining and research skills. Writing assignments vary in complexity and focus, but correspond with the work of literature chosen to support the history topic. Students compose one major research paper in MLA format throughout the year long course.

Pandia Press guides are written to a secular market with this explanation. "Our courses are secular, they are not written from any particular religious point of view. We hope that customers of all faiths will be comfortable using our materials. History Odyssey courses begin at 6000 B.C., therefore evolution is not applicable...."

Most homeschool families struggle with finding the perfect curriculum and occasionally purchase items that after a few weeks are destined to be dust collectors for bookshelves. Pandia Press, offers a unique "try before you buy" program to help customers avoid purchasing a curriculum that doesn't work for their family. The first few weeks of each History Odyssey guide and the company's R.E.A.L. Science guides for elementary grades are available in PDF formats on the Pandia website. The company encourages customers to freely use the curricula from the website, then purchase and download the e-book formats of the desired curriculum once they are sure it meets the "kid tested, homeschool Mom approved" standard.

To take advantage of the "try before you buy" opportunity click here

History Odyssey: Modern Times is available on Pandia's website for $33.99 in e-book format. For those not thrilled with an e-book option, paper copies can be purchased from select vendors. A list of vendors with direct links to their sites can be viewed at

Our short review time with History Odyssey: Modern Times provided us only a glimpse of this one year curriculum. I believe it will be a very good fit for future study for my older students. My 7th grade daughter, Micah shared her perspective with me of the first unit.

"I think it's a good curriculum because it helps you to understand more about the story (literature) by having you look at the maps and find where the person was. I think by writing down all the details in the Travel Log it helps you understand the story more and really know the plot", she said.

As I suspected she did appreciate the independent study nature of History Odyssey. She shared her enthusiasm with the following comments:

"It's easier to do things by myself and on my own time with this curriculum. All you have to do is read the instructions then complete the assignments. It explains everything for you. I really like this because I don't have to wait on my teacher to help me."

Pandia Press fans can join the History Odyssey yahoo group at odyssey/members to share ideas, information and teaching secrets with other users. To read more reviews of Pandia Press science or history curriculum for elementary, Jr. High or High School level students visit the Crew Blog at


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this review! Just heard about Pandia Press -- and I'm doing some research.

April Layne said...

I'm am considering this for my 7th grade 12 year old daughter. I thing she will benefit if we start with modern history and work our way back. Are they written where you have to do them in order?