The Critical Thinking Company: World History Detective [Review]

My favorite resources are those that help my kids engage their brains, and World History Detective Book 1 (grades 6-12) from The Critical Thinking Co. is not just about world history, but improving a child's problem solving skills.


World History Detective Book 1 is a physical workbook for grade levels 6 through 12, or a refresher course for a college student or adult. It is a very sturdy workbook, with glossy paperback covers and pages that are perforated for removal if that is your preference. It covers Ancient and Medieval World Civilizations.

The premise of this approach to World History is that in addition to reading the chapter and answering comprehension questions, students look for support for their answers, draw inferences and conclusions from the text, and qualify statements as fact or opinion. Concept mapping and college-level essay questions are also part of this program.

Timelines help student understand the chronology of events and their relation to each other. Clues to the meanings of unfamiliar words are provided in the context. Maps are included in some of the lessons to provide visuals of places of events. 

Each paragraph of every lesson is labeled with a letter, and then every sentence is assigned a number.

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After reading the chapter, the critical thinking questions require the student to show which sentence  best supports their answer. The student can look back through the lesson for the paragraph, then the sentence number to put in that space. 

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The essay portion requires students to think about such questions as how these ancient civilizations made contributions that benefited future civilizations. There is space in the workbook for a 5-7 sentence essay. 

Another unique element of this workbook is the concept map. Using key words from the lesson, students organize concepts by their relationship to each other. 

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The perforations make it very easy to remove the pages for use or reproduction. Since the answer key is in the back of the book, these pages can be taken out for safekeeping by the teacher. For this workbook  The Critical Thinking Co. grants permission to reproduce up to 35 copies of each page per year for use in one family.  You can read the details of their Copyrighted Materials Policy here

World History Detective Book 1 is currently available for $34.99 (+ applicable tax/shipping).

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Review and Recommendations:

We began using World History Detective Book 1 as our World History guide as soon as we received it. I was excited about the approach, and once Kenny understood how the paragraph and sentence labeling worked, he was engaged with reading the text and looking for context clues to quickly provide the answers to the review questions. The idea of being a 'detective' caught his fancy, and made it easier to work through the critical thinking and analysis requirements of this course.

We used this course 3 days per week, and spent about 20-30 minutes per 'class'. The first session was reading the lesson and talking about the material, looking at the maps and timelines. Then Kenny answered the review questions. 

The next lesson period was devoted to the essay question and concept mapping. Kenny struggles a bit more with the essay portion because he doesn't like sitting and writing for long periods of time - he'd much rather talk, which requires the use of both hands. However, when he stands up at the kitchen counter to write, he does much better, and he talks it out while he's writing. Win-Win.

On the third lesson of the week, we reviewed the information on the topic of that week, asked and answered more questions, and followed a few rabbit trails, which usually involved some map studies and Googling information about cuneiform symbols, lunar calendars, and the zodiac.

I found the workbook easy to use, requiring little elbow grease from me. This is always a relief to me as a homeschool parent, as I prefer my kids to do the bulk of the work.  

Kenny wanted to keep the workbook intact, and since I don't have a need to make copies, he writes directly in the book. Because of the binding, it is getting more difficult to write in the book as we get further along, and pretty soon we are going to have to give the spine a big ol' crack. 

The 'critical thinking' method is very effective in helping Kenny engage his brain on the subject matter. He can't just look for the words in bold or italics to fill-in-the-blank as is possible with many textbooks. Different kinds of questions and questions worded in such a way as to force him to think the answer through were also a novelty for a 'workbook', which in my experience tend to feel like busywork instead of true learning. 

Overall, World History Detective Book 1 is a simple, cost-effective answer to the question of how to teach Ancient and Medieval World Civilizations.

Personal Thoughts:

I really like this book, and will continue to use it with Kenny. We are not usually workbook-ish homeschoolers, but we didn't feel tied down or bored by World History Detective Book 1. It only took a few minutes a day and 3 days per week to thoroughly cover a chapter, and the methods used to present and review the material were interesting and thought-provoking. The combination of history lessons and critical thinking exercises made this an attractive resource for me, since I'm generally anti-textbook.

Gotta be honest, though - we skipped a couple of chapters at the beginning about Early Modern Human and The Middle Stone Age Through the New Stone Age. We've already covered evolution and theories about ancient man in science, and while the workbook is careful to say "scientists believe" and "scientists are not exactly sure" when presenting their 'discoveries', I still get tired of all the guessing about how men and women lived in prehistoric times. We'd much prefer to study solid information about people, places, and events than what scientists think might be true.

The Critical Thinking Co. applies their unique style to many educational resources, and the Crew reviewed:

Alphabet Song Game (Windows software download) (Toddler - 1)
Math Analogies Beginning (Windows software download) (K-1)
Math Analogies Level 1 (Windows software download) (Grades 2-3)
Math Analogies Level 2 (Windows software download) (Grades 4-5)
Editor in Chief Level 1 (physical book) (Grades 4-5)
Editor in Chief Level 2 (physical book) (Grades 6-8)
Pattern Explorer (physical book) (Grades 5-7)
World History Detective Book 1 (physical book) (Grades 6-12+)

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Critical Thinking Company Review