Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: Memoria Press

When first researching homeschooling, I purchased a popular book about the Classical method. I was convinced that this would be the best method for our upcoming homeschool. I gathered material with this method in mind, but eventually morphed the method to the point that is was no longer recognizable as Classical. It is a that point that I started referring to myself as an eclectic homeschooler. I take what works from various methods and leave the rest. While I'm not a Classical homeschooler, I do play one on occasion, and slip in Classical resources into our homeschool as I see the need.

One supplier of Classical resources that I've admired in the past is Memoria Press.

"Memoria Press’ educational philosophy can be best described as classical Christian education. Classical Christian education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue through meditation on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. This is accomplished in two ways: first, through training in the liberal arts; and secondly, through a familiarity with the great books and the great thinkers of the Western tradition."

A variety of resources for the Classical homeschool, including print, DVD and online resources, are available from Memoria Press. For review, I received Traditional Logic 1, Introduction to Formal Logic and Famous Men of Rome.

Traditional Logic 1, $68.95
Includes text, key, & DVDs (also available separately)
by Martin Cothran
Grades 7 and up

Traditional Logic 1 ,used either as a one-semester or one-year course, is an introduction to traditional logic, with methodology developed by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. It introduces the three-part approach to teaching logic: the study of words and ideas, the study of statements, and the study of deductive inference. Traditional Logic 1 is an in-depth study of the classical syllogism, e.g. "All A is C; all B is A; therefore all B is C."

This course is not a study of modern logic, which is mostly the calculus of propositions. It is also not a study of informal logic, the study of fallacies. Instead the course is an introduction of formal logic, which deals with the structure of arguments. Traditional Logic 1 will prepare students for the more advanced text, Traditional Logic, Advance Formal Logic, which deals with simple and complex syllogisms, and Memoria's Material Logic course.

A complete Table of Contents can be viewed here. A sample chapter and explanation of features are also available.

One of the main goals of my homeschool is for my children to learn how to think and discern what is true. One way to accomplish that is to study logic. With this goal in mind, I had taken note of Memoria's Traditional Logic about a year ago and happily gave it a spin with my 12-year-old daughter for this review. I've never formally studied logic, making it important to have a program that was easy to use and teach. Memoria's course certainly fits that criteria.

There was no prep work to get started and the course can begin as soon as the materials are removed from the shipping box. The presentation, layout of pages, and daily assignments make Traditional Logic 1 very teacher-friendly. Even so, I really appreciated having the DVD set to use in combination with the book, which truly makes this a self-study course. The DVDs are not a stand-alone product; they are meant to be used with the text. The DVDs are directed at the student and feature author Martin Cothran. Each lesson's material is covered thoroughly, utilizing slides and on-screen graphics.

Each chapter is relatively short (3-6 pages). A daily assignment is given four days per week with a variety of activities, e.g. fill in the blank, short answer, true and false, definitions, completion of charts and diagrams, that require the student to further delve into the material. My daughter was able to complete the work on her own and I'd simply use the key to check her work.

I would recommend Traditional Logic 1 to anyone looking to add the study of formal logic to their homeschool. Traditional Logic 1 offers an easy-to-follow and non-intimidating presentation for those who have never studied logic, but does not do so at the cost of academic quality.

Famous Men of Rome Set, $39.95
Includes text, Student Guide and Teacher Guide (also available separately)
by Leigh Lowe
Grades 3 and up

This 160-page text includes 30 stories of the famous men of Rome and the the rich history which surrounds that time. Rome is considered the "model civilization" and its study is not only exciting, but gives students a better understanding of modern political history and prepares them for later study of great books, which often refer to this time period.

The Famous Men of Rome Set comes with a text, Student Guide and Teacher Guide. Most of the stories range from just a couple of pages of text to 5-6 pages. Throughout the book are gorgeous color pictures. Memoria Press commissioned 30 oil paintings of the significant events in the Famous Men of Rome to be included in this updated text. The text can be used either as a stand-alone for pure reading enjoyment or with the workbook.

The workbook is meant to be a year-long study. Each story is covered in the workbook with sections titled Facts to Know, Vocabulary, Comprehension Questions and Activities. The Teacher Guide is identical to the Student Workbook, but with the answers over-laid onto the page. This was a really nice feature, since it didn't require the parent to match up answers with the workbook. The Facts to Know section contains a review of key people and places. Each Vocabulary section has 10 words to define, presented as it is contextually in the text. Five to ten comprehension questions are included in the Comprehension section. The Activities section includes map work, discussion questions, time lines, and art projects. Many of the discussion questions could also be given as composition assignments. There are five review lessons incorporated into the workbook to make sure students retain the information.

Assignments in the workbook have a range of difficulty. For example, on the higher end, one activity is to:

"Research the economy and religion of Carthage at the time of the Punic Wars. Contrast these with the religion and economy of Rome."

An activity that could be enjoyed by both young and old,

"Draw a picture of the battle between the Horatii and the Curiatii on drawing pages in the Review lesson."

For younger kids, the parent could pick and choose what part of the workbook to cover. For example, reviewing the Facts to Know and verbally asking the Comprehension Questions would accommodate the non-writer. Completing all of the workbook sections would give a more thorough study for older students. By selecting appropriate levels, accommodation for several students of various ages would be quite simple.

To see all that is covered, view the Table of Contents. You can also see a sample story from the text, Horatius at the Bridge.

My 9-year-old son has been interested in Roman history for a while. While I thought that the guides were very well-done, I decided to first let him just enjoy reading the stories and narrate back to me. Most of the stories were new to him. They were short enough that he could complete a story in one sitting, furthering his enjoyment. Once all the stories have been read, I'll have him go through them again and make a complete study of it. Because of the variety of questions, I can see revisiting this text and utilizing the workbook at different levels each time. For now, I'm simply letting him enjoy the beautiful text.

Both Traditional Logic 1 and Famous Men of Rome are available as an online course through Memoria Press Online. You can read more about the online offerings here.

Memoria describes their products as being characterized by three things: simplicity, quality, and affordability. I could not agree more! Their products are easy to use, while remaining academically rigorous. I was pleased with the quality of both the product and the customer service. Lastly, the prices are affordable to homeschoolers and the products a good value.

If you are a Classical homeschooler, or just pretend to be one sometimes, Memoria Press is sure to have some great resources for you. Visit the Memoria Press website to check out their resources, including Latin programs, Christian Studies, copy books and more. All Memoria products come with a 60-day guarantee. The TOS Crew members received a variety of items, so be sure to check out the Official TOS Blog to read reviews on other products offered by Memoria Press.

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