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Is anyone using MFW Ancient History and literature for highschool? Would love some input please.

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I have been looking at it all year this year- just keep coming back to it. I think ds will do well with that particular structure. For those who use it:


1. How long does it take every day to get it done?

2. Is there enough writing? and is the instruction for writing clear and step by step? (I am not worried about grading rubric as I will be using Kolbe EES services for that) 

3. Is it doable for a young 9th grader (fall birthday)? Or would it be advisable to wait another year (he will be officially 8th grade in the fall but I want to get his writing and lit up to par for high school) and then try it?

4. Is there anything you did not like about the program?


Thank you very much.

Edited by housemouse
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I've used it with two of my children.


1. plan for about 45-60 minutes per credit.  I know I wasn't a strict clock watcher on each subject.  most days in high school were taking about 6 hours of school a day (that was all subjects, Bible, history, English, math, science, and other stuff we did).   To help my middle daughter stay on track we used audio books and instead of writing out all answers in Notgrass and in Bible study, we'd do those out loud together.   She was not ready for as much independent on her own learning.  She does much more on her own now in 11th.


2. We did not add writing assignments.  It was enough for us.   Other people add to mfw all day long.  Was there enough direct instruction?  I was glad that with my middle child that I taught the writing that was in there.  I know my oldest felt like she didn't have "enough", but she was just skimming the instruction and was too rushed to ask for help.   I did add in some remedial instruction for middle child who is not as advanced of a nerd.   There is not a new essay every day or every week.  Some weeks there are several in a row to do.  Then a break.  During those breaks, I had middle gal go back and revise a previous essay.   There is a rubric and self check list for students that you could use before having outsource grading.  so best of both worlds there for you.


Again, there are other people who add to the writing.   I just asked for growth each year from oldest and worked to get her past herself on mental blocks.  She still ended up with A's in college composition.


The expected writing background to be able to handle the first week with essay is to be able to write one well developed paragraph (intro, body points, conclude).   From there, they learn to add in transitions and expand each point to its own paragraph and to develop it further. 



3. I personally was glad to wait until each of my daughters was in 9th grade so they had more life experience to think about the topics presented.   Oldest was an older 9th grader with fall birthday. Middle gal was younger in overall life, not just age.  no really sure how to answer that question as too many variables in student ability.  I have known people whose child was younger than either of my daughters do AHL and life was ok.  One bad example out there. but I don't think it was the materials fault.



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4.  I see you added a 4th questions or I missed it..  anyway, dislikes:

I was not a big fan of the new answers book used in AHL.  (and I even tend to be young earth leaning... just did not like that book).   my solution was to modify how to use it.  instead of read to self, it was read ideas out loud over breakfast.  moved along in life.


I'm not a super fan of the "all independent, meet once a week" philosophy.   My modification was to meet daily and be a little more involved. and I did not feel like I needed to read everything, so that's ok.  there were enough answer keys, or sparknotes out there that it was fine.   By my choice it meant doing the OT bible readings with my children. (with oldest I did my "quiet time" using the OT reading.  with middle we listened together on audio biblegateway)



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We are using it this year with DD who just turned 14. We consider her an eighth grader, but she started school at age four, so she may graduate at age 17. I wanted to use something with her that is worth high school credit but would be manageable for someone who is younger. She is a willing worker, but academics don't come easily to her.


We like MFL AHL. It suits our needs. But I wish we liked it better. Part of it is me -- I always have to tinker with any pre-planned program, either to incorporate things I want to do as a teacher, or to modify it to better suit my students.


We didn't like the New Answers book, either. We didn't want to spend that much time on what is basically an argument for Creationism. Which is a good topic, but that is a long, dense book, and it's a lot of time to devote to that one idea while supposedly studying ancient history. (We are conservative Christians, by the way). And DD found it tedious to read. And did I say it is long? So we dropped it. I'm also a bit iffy on the Unwrapping the Pharoahs book, which purports to reconfigure the historical timeline of Ancient Egypt to align with events in the Bible. DD is reading that one. If she were planning to be an historian, or if this were her only exposure to the history of Ancient Egypt (she has studied it several times previously), I would probably replace it with something more traditional in scholarship.


MFW says to expect to spend three hours a day just on their work, and to count it as three credits -- Bible, English, and History. We're tracking the time spent, not because we need to turn it in to anyone, but just to have a record. She's not logging three hours, but it's perhaps 2.5 on a typical day. However, it varies. She just started The Iliad, and we are choosing to read it together out loud (because it is challenging material, and because she needs improvement on her oral reading skills). That bumps the English up to more than an hour per day right now.


There are other weeks that sections of the Bible reading are credited on the schedule as either English or History. We are crediting all of that as Bible while counting our hours instead. Some of those weeks, I think they must have realized that the English was light, because on certain days they have a generic assignment of thirty minutes of reading any book of the student's choosing.


Generally, each week the English time is either focused on reading the literature selection OR on writing. I want to do both lit and writing weekly, so I have added in some books that I wanted her to read anyway, a poetry unit that we are doing piecemeal throughout the year, some work in a stand alone writing curriculum, and grammar. My background is in English, and it is a weaker area for DD, so we are shoring it up. On the other end of the spectrum, I think if you have a student who is advanced or gifted in language arts that you might want to add some additional challenge for them. For an average English student, it might be just right (though they need to be able to handle reading The Iliad and The Odyssey, which may be challenging).


The writing portion of the program does have an instruction manual, and it is a good guide. DH worked with DD on revising an essay following the manual's instructions one day, and he commented that he thought it very good -- better than the instruction he got in high school and covered things he had never learned. I think it's just okay not exceptional, but I'm picky about English instruction, as you can probably tell. During this year, the students work on writing five argumentative essays. There are also a few writing assignments from the Notgrass textbook that are scheduled. I would say that the AMOUNT of writing is too little for my taste, though the actual assignments have been a good amount of work for DD.


The way the schedule is set up, the student reads through a literature selection, and then after completing it, writes a 500 word paper. Several topic choices are offered. For DD, there is not enough writing time scheduled. They usually want the paper to be started on a Monday and completed on a Friday, and she just needs more time than that for the writing and revising process. So I have revised the schedule a bit to give her two weeks to complete each essay. This is just due to her individual needs. At her age, I would have been able to write that 500 word paper in just one day, but writing was a strength for me.


I would say overall that the history portion of the program is light, and the English portion is uneven. I'm not sure if we will stick with MFW next year, or if we will do something else instead. If I were a person who could just work through a curriculum without changes, and if I had a typical ninth grader without any learning challenges, and if I were content with the amount of time focused on Creationism, then I would probably be really happy with it!


As it is, it gives us a framework upon which to build. Hope that helps!



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As far as the writing being step by step ..... I say no. Does it offer instruction? Yes. There is a lot of do-this-not-that introductory material on writing an argumentative essay for the first essay of the year. Most of that is good, though there are a few stylistic things that aren't to my taste. For that first essay, the instructions break the writing down into smaller pieces, so that they are writing a paragraph or two each day until they are done. Then the following lessons for the week give instructions for revision.


For the rest of the year, the essay assignment will describe their topic choices and then say to follow the directions given at the beginning of the year. The actual instructions for Monday of that week, other than choosing the topic, are just "write the essay." Then the other days of that week will have specific editing assignments. These are different each time and tie in some grammar. The grading rubric for each essay is cumulative, so that they are supposed to look for ALL of the things they have learned along the way as they are editing each assignment.


DD can't just "write the essay" in one day. She needs scaffolding and extra time. I provide that for her, though it hasn't been too hard to tweak the schedule. Especially since during the week that follows each essay, the lessons change back to reading the next literature selection and do not include writing.


Also, Fridays are lighter, with some time allotted for a volunteer service project. We just use Fridays as time to get our academic work done.

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The reason I think that the history part of the program seems light is that MFW considers the OT readings to be part of the history credit even though they also consider it Bible. They assign one credit for both Bible and history, but there is not an hour a day of non-Bible history per day. They only go through half of the Notgrass text during this year, and they use the other half the following year. To be honest, it seems more like a half credit in history to me. There is very little history output. I think during the first half of the year they assigned two of the writing assignments from Notgrass, and they don't use the tests. There is a timeline to do, but DD considers that busywork, so we aren't doing it. If she were to spend a lot of time coloring and cutting out timeline figures and pasting them in the timeline book, I'm sure it would bump up the time spent on history, but for her it would not increase the amount of material that she learns.


They also count some Bible readings toward the English credit. So far Psalms, I think, and maybe Job, were done on weeks where there was no other lit assigned other than to do 30 minutes of free reading.


There is really no literature analysis. For Gilgamesh, there were some comprehension type review questions included in the guide. The Illiad does not have a full guide to go with it but just a couple of daily notes. In addition to what I mentioned in my post above, we are using Figuratively Speaking to review or introduce literary elements and terms. Again, I just add it in a bit at a time along the way, usually connecting it to the additional books that I have asked her to read.


I also added a Progeny Press Introduction to Poetry guide, which I did mention in my other post. It was something I wanted to do with her at some point, and since AHL includes a lot of epic poetry, it seemed to be a good time to use it. We are working through that slowly as we have time.


I should say that even though the English is not enough for ME, it might be fine for another family. At our house, we are always trying to balance my inclination toward doing more rigorous language arts with my children's abilities and need for extra support and practice on basic skills. So I provide extra teaching. We never achieve the rigor that I did as a student or that would be my ideal, but we are making progress. MFW has given me a starting point to work from. For other families, it may work well as is.


I probably sound like we are unhappy with MFW. We're not. I chose it for a reason, and it is pretty much as I expected it to be -- a lighter introduction to high school material, suitable for a younger student.

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tagging on some info on notgrass and tests:   in AHL, it's not easy to schedule the notgrass tests because mfw history schedule follows a different order than notgrass was written for the first couple of units.   in WHL, the tests are used.  but those are just multiple choice anyway. so my kids had no problem with it.  yes, notgrass is "light" on world history for those of us who came out of Story of World vol 1-4.


hmm.  I think AHL had quite a bit of lit analysis in the lit. supplement.  But maybe not in "textbook style".  plenty of recall meets critical thinking questions.   (in WHL, they do get around to the textbook style of lit terms in a self study in Writer's Inc.  some people add to that portion then.  We did not. )

We didn't add to mfw in lit analysis over the 4 years from ahl to whl to us1 and us2, and my oldest did easily pass CLEP analyzing and inter. lit.  That might be influencing my perspective too much.   that and my daughter was college ready and after 3 semesters at full course load still has 4.0  as double major.  so for me.. it's looking back from years ago and seeing how it turned out.


by the way, I believe it's normal and ok to add to mfw or anything out there. I know one of mfw's consultants always adds to mfw because nothing is good enough for her in rigor, etc. (She's more classical than they are.. so she adds.)  I always feel weird that we barely changed it and had great results for oldest.   Didn't feel light to us but then again, we had time to do other stuff like service, work, youth group, honor society.. sports, etc.   I guess it's more a testimony that homeschooling works in high school too.


My oldest would agree to add some kind of poetry study at some point in high school.  When she did a practice CLEP that was the only thing she hadn't learn in mfw.  took her a few clicks on internet to brush up on skills.  and she took that clep while in college not while in high school.  She really did not want another literature class again and it was enough to meet the general education requirement.   It's hard to know if using mfw was enough for that, or if it's just her.  She used mfw from 2nd grade until graduation. 


I don't know if those details about how the other years do some stuff differently will help anyone.   I hope the long term part of it helps too.  I know it's bragging on my oldest, but she did well in her English Composition classes in college (all majors at her college take 2 semesters.)  She did great in humanities classes that were heavy reading and meet once a week for 3 hour discussion.    and obviously with her gpa there, she's doing very well in math/science/engineering.  


no such thing as one program for all.  worked for us.

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  • 3 months later...

I am bumping this to ask a question about MFW AHL...I'd like to take one of the books out of the course to add in a favorite or two. I've been told that the Iliad is the one that MFW recommends we can skip but I'm wondering if that leaves a skill gap at all that I may need to replace. 


Storygirl -- thank you for giving your suggestions for Literary Analysis. It seems easy enough to add Figuratively Speaking for a book or two. It's very helpful to hear from an English teacher about this program since I'm a science person teaching a liberal arts bent gal and feel a little over my head. :)

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I am bumping this to ask a question about MFW AHL...I'd like to take one of the books out of the course to add in a favorite or two. I've been told that the Iliad is the one that MFW recommends we can skip but I'm wondering if that leaves a skill gap at all that I may need to replace.


The only things close to a "skill gap"  that I can think of would be

1. daily personal response to literature.  In Iliad students are to read and response and think on topics such as anger/rage in their life (or society in general) with comparisons to what the Bible has to say about that.

2. enduring a longer book that one may not really like but has to do anyway. (cheeky grin)


If student is not familiar with the story of Iliad, it may be beneficial to at least read summary of story/plot/characters, or use one of other lighter versions mentioned in the lesson plans to accomplish that goal.  The Iliad being "quasi optional" is that the lesson planner just gives permission to put that book down if the student is bogged down and just can't. 


There are other times in the lesson plans in English to do "free reading" with any book from any list you want. You'll have options of when and what to add.  So it could be during Iliad or another time.  But yes, you can individualize.

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Thank you, cbollin. One more question, are there *parts* of AHL that are kind of fun or somewhat interesting for the student? The reason I'm wanting to insert some other Literature is b/c it looks a little dry. 


Edited by Dassah
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Thank you, cbollin. One more question, are there *parts* of AHL that are kind of fun or somewhat interesting for the student? The reason I'm wanting to insert some other Literature is b/c it looks a little dry. 


You're asking somehow who thinks all of ancient history is boring and dull and dry once you're out of grammar stage. I mean, high schoolers aren't going to be doing fun stuff like making Egypt crowns and taking 4 days to build a tabernacle replica, or wearing a toga to the living room.  So, all of it can be boring in high school because there isn't the hands on history learning like you get to do in elementary and jr high.  


well, ok, I still let my girls get out the tabernacle we made in the lower mfw years.


In theory, I should get all religious and say "well, the Bible of course!  It's God's Word, active and something religious sounding".  but there are people who say that's dry too.  I'm glad MFW schedule the driest parts at hyper speed.  We had to use audio on biblegateway to get through the pace that week (it was like doing the law books really fast.)


My oldest added in books that she liked  I'm guessing that's the year she and her friends were reading one of the popular myth series.


But for "fun" it was other subjects and her life and her volunteer time.  She was around a lot of public school kids who didn't like their books either so it was something they all talked about.  One time she was "behind" in Odyssey or maybe it was Bulfinch and so she took it to the youth meeting.  and her answer for that was "well, sometimes you just got to do your school and get it done".


Now if you ask my middle daughter, she'll tell you that everything was interesting except that New Answers Book.   She liked Cat of Babustes, and liked the whole epic poetry thing with Gilgamesh.  She enjoyed the Bulfinch.  She did struggle in Iliad so we did abridged.  Liked Odyssey and she liked reading the Eric Liddell book.   She even loved doing timeline and the picture style high school encyclopedias. 


Don't ask me.  I had two different children from same family.  One who was "fine.. if i just do this it will help me in college someday." (she's the one who is engineering student)  and one who was "ooh...  this is fun"  (she might be an art/writer and cat rescuer).


how's that for mixed review?  :lol:

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