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lewelma

Replacing history with social sciences during high school

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First of all let me state up front that NZ does not require any history to graduate from high school, so this might be an issue that many of you have never considered. 

 

My older boy is a STEM kid and will absolutely have a career in that area, meaning there is no chance that he will change his mind.  He has gone through history two times on the WTM 4 year cycle in a 'light' sort of way.  His father has read to him for 1 hour every day for 8 years, they have discussed topics, looked up places on maps, and watched tons of documentaries (this is in addition to the 1 hour reading/discussing).  He has not spent much time learning dates, names, battles, etc, and has never written about history, or analyzed it in any depth, or taken a history test.  However, he knows a lot and came in second in a week-long, light-weight, history contest last year in his holiday art class of about 20 middle/high school kids.  He has asked to stop studying history because he feels like he has enough exposure for his future life and would like to spend this time with his father delving into the different social sciences so that he can be a more well rounded person.  Let me also state that in NZ universities, there is no 'liberal arts year', and he will go straight into his major of either math or physics and never take a humanties/social sciences class again.  So I do think he is wise to want some breadth, which is why I want to try to make it happen.

 

He has asked to study current events next year (9th grade, he is skipping 8th), and I have suggested for the other 3 years, psychology, sociology, economics, geography, or IB's theory of knowledge.  He would continue to study these different fields with his father and brother in a light weight sort of way.  History is his light subject because he is quite intense in his other studies, but he would continue to work through literature chronologically so the history would be reinforced in high school through discussion and research and literary analysis.  My younger would do these topics in 5th through 8th grade, and then do his second round of history for 9th to 12th when older ds is at university.

 

So here are my questions:

 

How would you study these subjects in a light weight manner (no tests, dad reading out loud, and done with your brother who is 3 years younger)?

 

What resources are available that are readable out loud? or coursera/ttc lectures that are accessible also to a 10 year old (obviously getting older over time)?

 

What should our goals be for this kind of exposure?

 

 

I'm open to any and all advice!

 

Thanks,

 

Ruth in NZ

 

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Mine was the modified from british colonial days system so no humanities requires for high school. However my straight to engineering degree course has as compulsory electives just to throw out more ideas:

Economics - 1st yr

Accounting - 2nd yr

Human resource management and sociology -3rd yr

Law of torts - 4th yr

 

Math or Science majors in my alma mater did not have compulsory electives though. Its a 3 year undergrad deg, 4th year honours deg system.

 

Understanding of Patent Law or Intellectual Property Law might come in useful for your son depending on his interest.

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Interesting.  Like the idea of law.  Perhaps for 12th grade, when younger is in 8th.  hummmmmm.

 

As for university, I'm sure that he is allowed to take anything he wants, he just doesn't *have* to, so sometimes with kids as focused as mine, other topics can just be squeezed out because math takes precedence.  Since I am requiring him to work through some sort of humanities/social sciences every year in high school, he has some interest in these other subjects. And I am hoping that a broader exposure in high school might entice him into taking additional courses at university.  He just feels that he has beat the history horse to death.  And I am not quite clear on *how* my dh will do any of these other subjects in a fun, light way, read-aloud way for 2 different ages.  It is much more straight forward for me to plan for history.

 

And I should also state that my older ds seems to be quite content to be read to.  So far there is no indication that he wants to stop.  It has just always been time with dad after dinner.

 

 

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Ruth,

 

One of my ds's favorite subjects is philosophy. Just throwing that out there as a subject that might end up interesting your ds.

 

One way I have created subjects is via Teaching Co lectures and using some of the recommended supplemental reading materials. I wouldn't call the courses my kids have done light, but a focus on testing has never been an educational objective here. The guides that come with the courses have some great questions to think about, debate, or further research.

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I know it isn't a proper course, but I can't help thinking it'd be useful to make a study of all the UN agencies. What do all those acronyms mean anyway?

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I'd look at the websites of some colleges he might like to apply to and see what they are expecting.  I don't know anything about schools in NZ, but I know that the Harvard website says they expect to see three years of history and that subjects like economics and psychology aren't a replacement.  When our oldest was in ninth grade, dh and I decided that we didn't want the education we provided to close any doors for her so we followed the Harvard recommendations.  We figured that if she was prepared for Harvard, she was prepared to get in anywhere.  All of our kids did econ in 12th grade and a couple did AP Psych, but it was in addition to three years of history.  So just check it out.    Your plan sounds great, but you'd hate for him to find out in twelfth grade that it had hurt his chances at his top choice.

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We used Cambridge's IB guide for Theory of Knowledge. It would work well as a read-aloud and loads of discussion topics. It was one of our best classes last year. 

 

Another option we are doing this year is the History of Language using The Power of Babel as our main spine. 

 

Another option might be the Boorstin books, they've been recommended here before. The Seekers, The Discoverers, & The Creators. While more history focused than you might want, they would also work well as read-alouds. 

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What an interesting idea.  Your son is so wise!

 

I think a basic psychology/social psych course should be required in high school.  Kids are often working so hard to figure themselves and the world out, and a few insights into how their minds, other people's minds, and "group minds" work is so helpful!  Coursera has a wonderful Social Psychology course, it would be light but fascinating.  It covers all the really interesting, really groundbreaking work done in the 60s - Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment, Milgram's Authority study, and others that everyone should know about (IMO).

 

As far as great read-alouds:  Anything by Steven Pinker - The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, the Blank Slate would be interesting and engaging.  

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What an interesting idea.  Your son is so wise!

 

I think a basic psychology/social psych course should be required in high school.  Kids are often working so hard to figure themselves and the world out, and a few insights into how their minds, other people's minds, and "group minds" work is so helpful!  Coursera has a wonderful Social Psychology course, it would be light but fascinating.  It covers all the really interesting, really groundbreaking work done in the 60s - Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment, Milgram's Authority study, and others that everyone should know about (IMO).

 

As far as great read-alouds:  Anything by Steven Pinker - The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, the Blank Slate would be interesting and engaging.  

 

I am studying for my psych final as I post (okay, I'm taking a break) - which includes both of those studies. I do think psychology would be a great high school requirement. The textbook by Myers is one we are using. It is certainly accessible to a high school student. 

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It is great he's able to realize what he's interested in and that you are open to it. I see a lot of value in pursuing study of social sciences. It will help him as a citizen, a friend, a parent, etc.   Sorry if I missed something, but I am wondering about the read aloud component. Does he have a learning disability or difficulty with reading or is this just something they enjoy?  If it is more a matter of enjoyment I might think about shifting some of that to discussion or debate.

 

For resources I'm a big fan of using some popular New York Times best seller types of books in social science or science. Examples -

Freakanomics

Guns, Germs and Steel

Oliver Sachs books
Malcolm Gladwell books like Outliers, Blink, Tipping Point

 

For typical readers these are not difficult but they can prompt some very good and fun discussions.

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Ruth, you have been given some great ideas and I like the plan of tailoring the history option to be more suitable for your son's interests. Being a coward at heart, I would probably follow Muttichen's suggestion first and check the requirements for those schools your son is likely to apply to. If after you check with the schools and find that you can proceed your alternate plan, I would hold lightly to the idea that every social science your older son studies must be accessible to your younger son. Some of the social sciences that you have mentioned require a greater grasp of abstract concepts than your youngest may be ready for. I am only saying this based off my experience with my guys who are three years apart. While the younger son is a much stronger student, there were points where the older son's greater level of maturity brought a depth to discussions that the youngest struggled to achieve. For example, older ds took AP European History as a senior while younger is taking it at a sophomore. Sometimes the youngest's perception of events is a bit too black and white and he misses the nuances and implications that his older brother was able to process and discuss.

 

Introduction to Psychology would be a great course with either the test Elegantlion linked or this one by McMahon, which is very accessible, even for a younger student. I would just read and discuss the "Pause for Thought" questions, find a few TC lectures to supplement with and maybe assign a small research paper. Another thought for a bit later in high school is a Cultural Anthropology course. Correleno designed a wonderful course for my dd which used the TC course, Peoples and Cultures of the World.

 

Oh, I almost forgot, for that 9th grade current events class, can't you make it a Modern History course with emphasis on current events?  The you have a history course on your transcript and your son gets to do what he wants.  Good luck and keep us posted.

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 I don't know anything about schools in NZ, but I know that the Harvard website says they expect to see three years of history and that subjects like economics and psychology aren't a replacement.  ......... Your plan sounds great, but you'd hate for him to find out in twelfth grade that it had hurt his chances at his top choice.

 

I didn't see the history requirement on Harvard's website though. Could you provide a link as we might be looking at different pages.  I copied the description below from the admission page for undergrad and I know this is the very basic but no subject requirements were listed (unlike UCB which has A-G requirements of two years of History).

"You start by submitting a complete application with the following materials:

  • Application and supplements
  • $75 application fee or a fee waiver request
  • SAT or ACT scores, plus two SAT Subject Tests
  • Secondary School Report (including transcripts) and Mid-Year School Report
  • Two teacher evaluations"

 

I know it isn't a proper course, but I can't help thinking it'd be useful to make a study of all the UN agencies. What do all those acronyms mean anyway?

 

Just because I am having a slow morning. Acronyms and abbreviations link in pdf http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2005/abbreviations%20and%20acronyms.pdf

 

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 I don't know anything about schools in NZ, but I know that the Harvard website says they expect to see three years of history and that subjects like economics and psychology aren't a replacement.

 

That surprised me, so I looked it up.  https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/preparing-college/choosing-courses

 

Harvard has no specific high school course requirements, just "recommendations."  While they recommend "two, preferably three" years of history, they definitely leave themselves wiggle room to accept whoever they want that they think is Harvard material.

 

Also, Harvard is not a good substitute for a "typical college" when planning high school -- they can be the pickiest, because they have so many applicants.  Having four years of "other" social sciences is less of an issue pretty much anywhere else.

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This is straight from MIT's admissions page:

 

Academics

A strong academic foundation in high school both improves your odds of getting into MIT and will help you make the most of the Institute when you're here. We recommend that your high school years include the following:

  • One year of high school physics
  • One year of high school chemistry
  • One year of high school biology
  • Math, through calculus
  • Two years of a foreign language
  • Four years of English
  • Two years of history and/or social sciences

 

So for MIT, your plan would be fine. :D

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I also found Cal Tech requirements:

 

Academic Preparation:

  • 4 years of math (including calculus)
  • 1 year of physics
  • 1 year of chemistry
  • 3 years of English (4 years recommended)
  • 1 year of U.S. history/government (waived for international students)

 

So they have a history requirement, but as a New Zealander, it's waived. Such a deal. :w00t:

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That surprised me, so I looked it up.  https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/preparing-college/choosing-courses

 

Harvard has no specific high school course requirements, just "recommendations."  While they recommend "two, preferably three" years of history, they definitely leave themselves wiggle room to accept whoever they want that they think is Harvard material.

 

Also, Harvard is not a good substitute for a "typical college" when planning high school -- they can be the pickiest, because they have so many applicants.  Having four years of "other" social sciences is less of an issue pretty much anywhere else.

 

But Ruth's boys are pretty serious about their science, I think, and Harvard is top-rate for biology, physics, and math, so in a sense, it is realistic to look at their requirements.

 

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Stanford:

 

Recommended High School Curriculum

We respect the responsibility that high schools, principals and teachers should have in the development of courses and curricula for their students. For that reason, we do not have a set of required courses for admission to Stanford. We have found, though, that a curriculum emphasizing depth and breadth across the core academic subjects is the best preparation for the academic rigors at Stanford. Our experience has suggested that students who excel in a curriculum like the one below are well-suited for the demands of college academics:

  • English: four years, with significant emphasis on writing and literature.
  • Mathematics: four years, with significant emphasis on fundamental mathematical skills (algebra; trigonometry; plane, solid, and analytic geometry).
  • History/Social Studies: three or more years. Such courses should include the writing of essays.
  • Science: three or more years of laboratory science (including biology, chemistry and physics).
  • Foreign Language: three or more years of the same foreign language. Your study of a foreign language ought to include the development of four basic skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension.

 

I found one outside source for Carnegie Mellon that showed no history requirements, but have not yet found anything on their actual admissions pages.

 

 

Ruth, sorry for the overload, but I was really curious about your question. I find that I hold a few urban myths about college admissions so it's always a good idea to do some checking. I don't know about universities outside of the U.S., but it looks like you should be able to go ahead with your plan, unless your son has specific college choices that say otherwise. What fun!

 

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Janet beat me to the link.  It looks like Harvard recently updated their website.  The page I used to refer people to is no longer there, and the statement about social sciences courses like psych and econ is no longer there.  They do still suggest:

 

  • The study of history for at least two, and preferably three years: American history, European history, and one additional advanced history course

I know Harvard is not typical, but we felt that following their guidelines was the best way to keep doors open to our children.   

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Janet beat me to the link.  It looks like Harvard recently updated their website.  The page I used to refer people to is no longer there, and the statement about social sciences courses like psych and econ is no longer there.  They do still suggest:

 

  • The study of history for at least two, and preferably three years: American history, European history, and one additional advanced history course

I know Harvard is not typical, but we felt that following their guidelines was the best way to keep doors open to our children.   

 

Just out of curiosity, what would constitute an "additional advanced history course?" Would that be AP World History? Our local high school doesn't offer that course. I wonder what students take there, that are interested in Harvard.

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We had our kids do modern history with me in 9th grade, AP US History in 10th, AP Euro in 11th, and AP Macroeconomics in 12th.  That was good enough for Harvard. =)

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What about a course on the History and Philosophy of Science? That way you will still cover quite a bit of history, but from a history-of-ideas perspective instead of a kings-&-battles approach, and it will provide an excellent theoretical and philosophical foundation for all of the social and physical sciences. TTC has a number of courses on the subject, plus there are lots of good narrative books for read alouds, as well as James Burke's two documentary series, "Connections" and "The Day the Universe Changed."

 

Here's a link to an Amazon list with tons of books & resources on the history & philosophy of science: http://amzn.com/w/XQNTVBN3DGFN

 

 

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We're not in exactly the same space as the OP, but I have been looking at various options for high school, since we've done the WTM rotation twice through now. The social psych course looks great. We may use it this summer for my daughter. She did an intro to psych this fall with our co-op (very light, mostly discussion), and loved it. I think she'd enjoy sociology and cultural anthro as well. Swimmermom, could you say more about what you did with "Peoples and Cultures of the World" TC course?

 

I'm planning to do the classroom version of the Big History Project next year with my daughter (9th) https://course.bighistoryproject.com/bhplive and list it as a world history course. It's certainly a different approach and I think it would spark a lot of good discussion. There's a lighter version that might work for the younger one (I haven't looked at it yet, though) https://www.bighistoryproject.com/bhplive.

 

There's a video series to go along with "Gun, Germs, and Steel" that will likely be accessible to your younger son as well. We watched them a year or two ago, but didn't read the book at that point.

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Wow!  You guys are great!

 

Thanks for all the look ups for other universities.  He has no plans for MIT, Caltech, or Harvard - you guys made me laugh, thinking so big for my son.  Right now he just wants to go the the uni in town. :001_smile:  However, I think you are absolutely right that I should make sure that he keeps his options open.  Very interesting that the universities listed above list history/social science as the requirement, I always assumed that US universities required 3 years history and 1 year government.  Live and learn.  And definitely ASK!

 

I also like all the other topics that you guys came up with: law, philosophy, cultural anthropology, history of language. So much to learn and so little time.  Correleno, history of science sounds interesting, but too much like history right now, might need to wait a few years.

 

So just to clarify, History/Social Sciences is my dh's time with the kids.  He loves learning with them and likes for me to hand him the resources to work through.  It is family time, and I am not willing to change that.  So the boys will be learning together, not reading material independently, not writing, not taking tests.  Input will be read alouds, lecture series, and discussion, and output will be discussion and a presentation each term (I could also throw in a paper or two for the older).  I am just trying to see how to make this work. Clearly every class will be different. 

 

I see these as possible in this setting:

 

Theory of Knowledge: "We used Cambridge's IB guide for Theory of Knowledge. It would work well as a read-aloud and loads of discussion topics. It was one of our best classes last year."  Thanks elegantlion.  This will be the plan.

 

Social psychology - "Coursera has a wonderful Social Psychology course, it would be light but fascinating.... As far as great read-alouds:  Anything by Steven Pinker - The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, the Blank Slate would be interesting and engaging." Rose, this is great!  Very easy to implement. 

 

Cultural anthropology - 'Correleno designed a wonderful course for my dd which used the TC course, Peoples and Cultures of the World.' Thanks swimmermom this looks great.

 

Classes I don't think will work in this setting. Because I think they require more focus and study, and won't be accessible to younger

 

Economics

 

Accounting

 

Law (although I would love to do this one!)

 

Classes I would still love some help with:

 

Current events

 

sociology

 

geography

 

philosophy

 

Other questions (boy, this is getting long, that is the trouble with being off by 18 hours, so many posts to catch up with....)

 

8fill: what TTC lecture series have you used for the social sciences?

 

elegant lion: The power of Babel looks great, but probably for my younger son when he is older.  How exactly did you use it as a spine?

 

Thanks everyone!

 

Ruth in NZ

 

edited to add: Quark and Karen will look at your suggestions next... 

 

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elegant lion: The power of Babel looks great, but probably for my younger son when he is older.  How exactly did you use it as a spine?

 

 

We're reading and I found some study questions by googling a syllabus. McWhorter also does a couple of Great Courses lectures. 

 

We're also reading Words, Words, Words by David Crystal also with random readings and for reference The Encyclopedia of Language. 

 

He's also working on a project to "update" the English language. That's sort of an ongoing unschooled project. 

 

We did something else for the first part of the year, so we've really just jumped in the language part. I plan to add some projects as he shows interest in one area or another. 

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Another one you might be interested in Yale's open course on Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature. We're using some of these lectures combined with Aristotle's Ethics from the Great Courses (bought on a deep sale price). I'll give him an Ethics credit for this. It's our philosophy follow up to the Theory of Knowledge. 

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Another one you might be interested in Yale's open course on Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature. We're using some of these lectures combined with Aristotle's Ethics from the Great Courses (bought on a deep sale price). I'll give him an Ethics credit for this. It's our philosophy follow up to the Theory of Knowledge. 

 

Paula, I have this book. Is this one of the books you are talking about and if so, did your son enjoy it?

 

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The Annenberg Foundation has a lot of video courses online for free (at least the video sections, some have companion websites)

 

http://www.learner.org/resources/browse.html

 

For current events, take a look at http://res.hcpss.org/08492C81-0119EC4E.3/Student%20News%20Sites.pdf  It includes at least one resource that doesn't look US-centric (from the UN). Our co-op is doing a current events class this year using Scholastic's New York Times Upfront magazine for high school that comes out twice a month. I believe they have a different level for younger students, and I know they have some digital resources, not sure about an entirely online subscription. I don't know if the BBC or other non-US-based news outlet has something similar, but I wouldn't be surprised.

 

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Paula, I have this book. Is this one of the books you are talking about and if so, did your son enjoy it?

 

 

Mine may be an updated version, different author though. It's this one. Yes, he enjoyed it, one of our best classes last year. Good discussions, the version I have has other book recommendations for each topic as well.

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For philosophy, http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=447 plus http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=4691

Combined with Kreeft's Socrates series and his book on Pascal's Pensees and this book of historical essays

http://www.amazon.com/God-Nature-Historical-Encounter-Christianity/dp/0520056922. Made a fabulous course. Of course we are Catholic, so Kreeft is a huge fav here. We did this course at the same time we were reading CS Lewis's adult books as well as Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost and we had great discussions on world view and how far removed our perspective is today from Dante or Milton even though we are Christian.

 

This is another I have looked at but haven't purchased.

http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=4100

 

Another course I put together but didn't end up teaching bc dd went to a LAC in Canada for her sr yr instead was an anthropology course built around TC's Roots of Human Behavior and another that I can't remember the title off the top of my head.

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Just throwing in that in the typical U.S. course of high school social sciences, a 0.5 credit Government and 0.5 credit Economics are usual requirements. (Along with 2 years of history, with 1 year required to be U.S. History. Sometimes a full or partial credit of Geography is also required.) Geography, Psychology, Philosophy, Political Science (usually a lot about Current Events), are frequent social science electives in U.S. high schools.

 

For the Government aspect, it is very helpful (and enjoyable!) for students to participate in some sort of mock government program or model U.N. program, and a mock trial program. The students really enjoy bill debate / court argument, and learn a lot firsthand that tends to encourage discussion & debate and delving into current events. If your DSs aren't able to participate in a mock/model program, I highly recommend spending a day at your local capitol watching government in action, and also a day trip to sit in on a court case. VERY interesting and informative! Perhaps you might even be able to join a school group for a guided tour "behind the scenes"...

 

Youth Parliament (model government)

U.N. Youth New Zealand (model United Nations)

Mooting Competition (mock trial program)

 

 

I thought the Teaching Company lecture series on Economics (esp. the macroeconomics portion) to be very helpful in understanding current events in the financial relationships between nations. The downside is that the series was done in 2005, just before the big economic downturn in the U.S. (which also has had an effect on world markets), and I sure wish they'd do an updated series to include more current examples. The Teaching Company has a number of other Economics/Finance based series as well.

 

And while it is NOT considered part of an Economics course, I *did* count the materials we did for Personal Finance in with the Economics. Practical, real-life understanding of how personal finances work -- money, banking, credit, loans, investment, taxes -- even basic accounting practices in case you go into business for yourself -- is extremely helpful for every student's adult life. Khan Academy has a few free video tutorials on some of these topics that might be a good starting point for discussion or further research.

 

 

Finally, for your Current Events course, The World Today: Current Problems and Their Origins (Brun) is a GREAT quick intro into various countries of the world, what their current political situation/problems are, and a brief historical background into understanding how the nations got there. It is written at about an 8th grade level, and would be very easy to read a section a day (usually 2-3 pages) and then discuss. (You may find something useful -- a few questions, lists of terms, activity ideas, resources -- in this public school curriculum guide for World Studies; one of their "spine" texts is the book by Brun, linked above.)

 

 

Have fun creating your own Social Science courses! :) Warmest regards, Lori D.

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