Why History Compass? A Homeschool History Curriculum Origin Story

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From the Author’s Desk: Samantha Matalone Cook

When I began writing for Pandia Press, my mission was clear: to rewrite the History Odyssey series in a way that reflected current research, scholarship, and historiography. It was also important that the courses offered multiple pathways of learning so that every student who took these courses would find meaning, connection, and enjoyment within the subject of history. I began building the foundation of History Odyssey with a unit on historical thinking, research, and writing. 

As I began laying out the structure of the upcoming revision of History Odyssey: The Ancient World, this first unit continued to expand to the point where it became obvious that it deserved its own book, and its own name.

We decided to name it History Compass

The word “compass” has several meanings, but a few definitions stood out as particularly important to our vision for this course. First, as a noun, a compass is a device used to determine direction and navigate travel. Second, as a transitive verb, compass can mean to understand or achieve. For certain, the purpose of History Compass was written to help students navigate historical literacy and provide direction around historical thinking, research, and writing, but I also created specific pathways for students to not only understand the content they are studying and the limitless range of possibilities within this field, but connect their work to themselves and their communities. I want them to seek and create their own accomplishments with confidence. 

One of the strategies I have used consistently in my three decades of teaching is to frontload essential knowledge and skills before content. I have found that if students have practice and experience, they approach assignments with more confidence and enthusiasm, and most importantly, they can enjoy the content without worrying about also learning skills. I wanted students to have the foundation of those skills first so they could continue to develop them as they move through each History Odyssey course and every other subject they study.

The purpose of History Compass, then, is to help students navigate historical literacy and build the skills of historical thinking, research, and writing. 

But along with these vital skills, I also developed specific pathways for students to understand the content they are studying and connect their work to themselves and their communities. Studying history is more than the content; it builds national and global citizens who take an active role in the world we all live in.

In the next article, I’ll define and explain why it has become more important than ever to teach critical thinking and historical literacy to our students. You can read my last post on History Compass, an article outlining the content and scope of the course, here. Follow along on our Blog to learn more and keep the learning going!


For a deeper dive, hear more from the author during our History Compass Facebook Live events. We’ve hosted a Q&A with Sam earlier this summer and will offer FREE Mini-Workshops on “Working With Primary Resources,” “Object Studies,” and “Analyzing Maps” from our Facebook Page on the 1st Thursday of July, August, and September 9am PST/ 12pm EST. RSVP on Facebook to watch live. All presentations will be available as recordings on our Facebook page and YouTube channel after the events. Shop all of our homeschool history and science books and curricula in our store.

Category: Author: Samantha Matalone Cook, History, History Compass, History Odyssey Tags: , , , , No Comments

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