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on April 24, 2008
A few years ago - my older daughter was maybe 11 - we listened to the entire History of US series on tape in the car. It really opened up my eyes, and now I'm reading through the series again with my younger daughter, who is 10.

History and social studies were never my favorite subjects in school; in fact, I seemed to have some sort of mental block where that subject area was concerned. In high school, as a straight-A student in a rigorous private college prep school, I was poised to fail US History. Before the final, my teacher called me into his office and said "It's obvious that you have a mental block where this subject is concerned, so I'm going to go way out on a limb here." He handed me a packet of papers and said "Here are the questions that are going to be on the exam. If you ever tell anyone I did this, I'll lose my job; I'm trusting that you won't."

I spent that weekend - a beautiful spring weekend with my public-schooled friend from across the street constantly tempting me to get out of the house - frantically studying those questions. I settled myself at the dining room table and hardly moved from it the whole weekend. (Keep in mind that I was the kind of straight-A student that everyone hates - I hardly ever spent much time studying.) When the exam day came, I nervously tackled the test. Later the grade came in - I had barely passed, with a D.

So - no, history was not my strong suit, and I always avoided it after that. Until I homeschooled my kids, and listened to _A History of US_. Not only do I now LOVE American History, but I, as the homeschooling parent, have a much, much better sense of what it means to be an American, and have a renewed sense of pride in our country - not the shallow, flag-waving, blind patriotism kind of pride, but the kind of pride that makes me want to defend the principles and ideas our country was really founded on from people who would twist them around in order to protect the interests of the rich and powerful.

The series is definitely not biased - it's used by everyone from Christians to ex-hippies like me. But the author, Joy Hakim, refuses to pander to the usual textbook-summary myth-propagating versions of US History that, while appearing to be objective (how could anything that dry and boring not be?), are anything but. Every so often, she'll stop in the middle of her narrative to look at a period of history or historical event from the Native American or African-American point of view, or talk about women or Indians or African-Americans who were important figures at the time but who are seldom acknowledged in the usual school texts. She uses liberal quotes from primary sources, and spends a lot of time explaining the cultural background of historical periods, putting things in their context - refusing to go the easy route of dividing people into good vs. bad, delving into the philosophies and ideologies of many of the key players in the formation of the U.S., and asking tough, "what would you have done in this situation" types of questions - the kinds of questions that are FAR more meaningful than "What was the date of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown?"

In that sense, the books are very interactive, especially if you stop and discuss these questions. She wants her readers to think. And that's exactly what I did. And then when I read the idiocy that passes for political discourse now, I just want to stand up on the mountaintop and scream - or raise Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams from the dead and let them straighten people out themselves. If there is one thing I am most thankful for in being able to homeschool my kids, it's being able to give them the real scoop on American history, American government, and what it all *really* means.
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VINE VOICEon October 4, 2007
I'm using this as part of the Sonlight curriculum for US History. Lots of great color pictures, painting reproductions, etc. My 8th and 11th grade children both enjoy it, each gaining different knowledge based on their individual maturity level and interests. My son tends to remember the wars and fighting; his younger sister remembers people and relationships. Well written. Great product and price.
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on December 4, 2007
All five of my kids have used this entire series. We wore out a previous edition, and I restocked our home library with the latest edition. History comes alive and is fun in these pages. The emphasis on individuals playing roles throughout our history is what is really special. Great for all ages.
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on May 21, 2014
I chose this series because several years ago I attended a public lecture by James Loewen ("Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong"). After his harsh analysis of American history textbooks, someone asked him if there were ANY textbook he liked.

Loewen responded that he really liked "The History of US" by Joy Hakim. He pointed out that it was written for 12 year-olds, but at the same time contained a great deal of factual information not found in even college texts. In addition, it contained original sources, and photos and images which are frequently not found in the advanced books.

My 13 year old daughter, who is NOT a history fan, has read several of the series already. She found the images especially appealing, being moved by the "before-and-after photos" of a group of Commanche boys after a year at a boarding school, confiding in me quietly "Daddy, I like them better as Indians".

The series does not sugar-coat our history, and no doubt infuriates many who like the traditional views of history. At the same time, it does not try to tear down our heroes, but rather tries to address behaviors in an historical perspective, although criticism will appear. The series comes with a more extensive collection of primary sources than any AP/college textbook, and the division into different eras makes the stories more comprehensible. Finally, that last point is key: Joy Hakim took the old narrative style of old textbooks and integrated it with a more balanced approach to American history. The books truly are a history of us.
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on June 22, 2015
As a middle school teacher, I was stunned at the way that this is written. I ordered this set for a reference in the classroom, but have since decided to return it, as I do not believe that this is writing that I want our students reading and therefore emulating. The front cover of "The first Americans: Prehistory-1600" gave me pause as she writes, "This book begins in the Ice Age with some people who hiked and canoed from Asia to a New Land and, thousands of years later, GOT CALLED Indians by Christopher Columbus..." I don't know about other teachers out there, but by no means would I encourage a student to use the past participle of "get" when the more active, second person plural past of "to be" is more appropriate. This sort of passive writing is used throughout and is the type of writing that must therefore be "unlearned" by the high school and collegiate student. Maybe this is written for a much younger audience than I was prepared for. However, according to the reviews it seemed that this was enjoyed by 8th graders. This sort of narrative has its place, but not in a middle school classroom that is trying to incorporate well written texts and historical research.
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on April 16, 2008
Joy Hakim has written and created texts of the history of our country that are wonderful to read. There is nothing dry about her writing style - she draws the reader in and sends you off looking forward to the next chapter. Each chapter is refreshingly brief, yet she manages a constant flow of attention-getting facts and information from start to finish. As far as we've read, she has managed to write the truth without a particular political or religious slant, though obviously the subject matter is often about politics and religion. In addition, she gives us an open and honest look at both our successes and our mistakes. We are using this as our history curriculum. It's so encouraging to see my 14 year old son, a reluctant reader, grabbing any one of these books from the set to settle down and read for awhile! Nothing else has grabbed his attention quite like these have. It brings tears to my eyes. Thanks, Joy!
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on April 18, 2009
I have a set of these in my classroom, and use these books extensively with 7th and 8th graders. I wish every student had a set! These books are FUN--and that is rare in history books. It makes my job easier! I've seen these books recommended for ages 9-12, but I would even use them with high schoolers. The reading level is perhaps best suited to middle schoolers, but the information is interesting and well-presented, and that is the most important thing. Hey, I even love reading them! Hakim really brings American history alive, and she does it without bias. She makes students realize that these people--from Washington to Roosevelt to Nixon and beyond--are REAL people who made real decisions that affected our country. The focus is not on boring dates, but on human beings and how they affected the events of history, and how the events of history affected them. I cannot recommend these books highly enough.
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on December 1, 2012
My daughter is in 7th grade and we have used several other curriculums previously but couldn't find a good one for US history that would work for middle school. All the other texts were geared for high school since many middle schoolers do world history. We had been using Mystery of History and loved it but the author isn't publishing her US history yet so we were at a loss what to buy. After 2 months of struggling, we gave History of US a try paired with the sonlight teacher and student workbooks. My daughter loves it. The best part is that it is written like a story of history instead of boring dates and facts she can't connect with. The little-know-facts and such she can't wait to stump people with. Without the sonlight workbooks, Hakim's facts are a little off but sonlight does a good job of pointing those out and giving background. Since there are 11 books, we are dividing it into 2 years (7th and 8th). I really think we found a winner!
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on September 2, 2009
I've never really bothered to write out a review on Amazon until now, but finding this series on here was such a pleasant surprise. When I was ten-years-old, my fifth-grade classroom had all ten volumes laying in one corner by the teacher's desk. I simply devoured them... the writing and general style was just very accessible and fascinated me at that age. Looking back today, I think it was a significant influence on my burgeoning interest in history. I'm now 21, about to finish college and working on an honors thesis in history; in another year, I hope to apply to graduate school and continue my studies. Although my focus is quite distant from American history, I still remember this series and the lessons it taught me very fondly. I think it's essential reading for kids interested in the past, and I'm happy to see that it's still around and inspiring new generations of fifth-graders more than a decade later.
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VINE VOICEon January 27, 2009
Homeschoolers or young readers in general would have to search long and hard for a better series of US History books. Neither of our two children were particulary interested in history, especially US was "boring". But when we started in on this series, their interest soared.

The information presented in these volumes is amazingly thorough and yet written in such a way as to peak interest in the time period. There are numerous sidebar snippets, quotes from common folks of the times, pictures, etc. that enhance the flow of information. You just want to turn one more page to see what's next. I like to pride myself on my knowledge of US History; I've read many books on all aspects and yet I also enjoyed reading these books. Major themes of the time period are presented and unlike other history texts, I can find no political bias at all, one way or the other. All in all, I heartily recommend these books.
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