Preferred Style:

Quality:
Mobile: No images
Low Quality (Default): Small Images
High Quality: Large images, shadows, colors. Do not attempt on dial-up.

If you have a recommendation for a new color scheme, please tell us about it via the Contact Us page.

Drive Thru History America
Foundations of Character

By David Barton and Nita Thomason, Ed.D.

Review by Martha Robinson

Drive Thru History America, Foundations of Character Homeschool Kit by David Barton and Nita Thomason, Ed.D. Book (paperback, 125 pages) and DVD-ROM, $49.99. Published by National Day of Prayer Task Force and Tyndale House Publishers. Please support HomeschoolChristian.com by buying this curriculum using our Christian Book Distributors link or our Amazon affiliate link.

Drive Thru History America consists of a book and a DVD-ROM. The book is for students, but homeschooling parents may find the teacher's version with answers to all questions in a PDF file on the DVD-ROM. Parents may print additional copies of the student book from the DVD-ROM if desired.

In his introduction to Drive Thru History America on the DVD, Dr. Del Tackett of Focus on the Family notes that the purpose of this program is to "re-instill the reality of the past" in young people and "to give them hope for the future" that may be attained through repentance and return to God. The curriculum examines the lives of nine individuals who lived during the early years of America's independence, their virtues, and exciting events in their lives to attain these goals.

The first chapter in the book introduces the "pillars upon which this nation was built": religion and morality. Using the Puritans and Separatists as examples, the authors illustrate that faith and freedom were fundamental to the founding of the United States. They ask young people to consider what role religion has in government today and whether free society can continue without people of faith.

The next eight chapters overview the lives of eighteenth century people: Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Benjamin Rush, George Washington, Benjamin Banneker, Haym Salomon, Abigail Adams, Noah Webster, and John Quincy Adams. A particular virtue that he/she exhibited is emphasized.

Each lesson in the book begins with "Questions to Ask Yourself" to generate thought while the student is reading. Next, highlights of the individual's life and bits of trivia are shared. "Stop and Ponder" questions for group discussion bring up difficult topics from today's world such as ethics (physician-assisted suicide, partial birth abortion); the importance/unimportance of wealth; and the opinions and influence of peers. Two sections, School Zone Ahead and You're in the Driver's Seat, call for the teacher to "divide the class into groups" to do various projects or discuss questions. The Worldview and Map Your Way sections ask questions to help students consider how their opinions and faith relate to the topics brought up in the lesson. The final section has summary essay questions which are to be answered after watching the DVD segment.

The DVD features Dave Stotts who drives around in a Hummer, dresses up in colonial clothes, talks like a hillbilly, chats with his wife on the cell phone, and walks through many historical sites. His goofy presentations are interspersed with photos and engravings animated through the magic of computers. Each of the ten minute video segments tells the story of the heroes covered in the book. The filming style uses facial extra-close-ups, rapid movement, jiggling camera, and various angles in the car with a bouncing-head Benjamin Franklin in the foreground.

Recommendation: Dave Stotts' lively presentation is bound to increase enthusiasm in history among pre-teen children. These interesting videos are fast moving and will hold the attention of today's media-oriented children. Every segment was enjoyable for me up to the final one on John Quincy Adams. Here, Mr. Stott's takes a side trip to the embassy of the Netherlands where he dons hillbilly teeth and makes snorting noises that I found offensive, but eight to ten year old boys would no doubt laugh at and try to imitate. This segment detracts from the material and does not support the overall message of the program. Being crass is not constructive for teaching about positive character traits.

The text book provides areas of concern. In addition to its obvious classroom, rather than homeschooling family, orientation, it has some areas of historical inaccuracy. On page 15 regarding Benjamin Franklin, the text states, "Much of this attitude can be attributed to his [Franklin's] upbringing as a Quaker..." On the contrary, Benjamin Franklin was baptized in his family's church, the Old South Meeting House in Boston, a Puritan church. He is buried in Christ Church, the Episcopal church he attended occasionally after he moved to Philadelphia. (Reference)

Another questionable passage occurs in the "Detour" section on page 27 of the Benjamin Franklin lesson. The hardships of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are mentioned.

"Nine of those who signed that document did not live to see independence become a reality. Another dozen lost their homes, estates, and every material belonging when their property and possessions were deliberately destroyed by the British. Three lost their children to British bullets. Several of those who signed were tortured as prisoners of war -- as were several of their wives."

This information has been forwarded through internet email for years, and its accuracy is highly controversial. See Snopes.com's report on this topic.

An additional concern appears on page 123 in the Standing Firm section: "The movie Amistad, directed by Steven Speilberg, is based on the 1839 revolt of Africans on the Spanish slave ship Amistad." Amistad is an R-rated movie for "some scenes of strong brutal violence and some related nudity" according to IMDB.com. Why would a movie that Christian parents would likely find offensive and that has a rating that excludes children under seventeen be mentioned in a program for pre-teens? Parents will need to be ready to field the question when their kids ask to watch it.

The depth of the material seems to have some conflict with the subject matter of thought-provoking questions. For example, the videos really seem to appeal to pre-teens, but the discussion questions ask about serious topics like partial birth abortion, a topic that I would not consider my pre-teen ready for. If this program is for teens (high school), it needs more depth of the material and a little more maturity in the comedy. For instance, Mr. Stott's cell phone discussion with his wife about his electric toothbrush and super-hero underwear will be very funny for young children, but will not be engaging for high school students.

In summary, Drive Thru History America, Foundations of Character Homeschool Kit is a program with much potential. The video format will appeal to children, excite them about history, and possibly motivate them to dig deeper. The concept of highlighting positive character traits is excellent, particularly for pre-teens and younger children. With the few exceptions previously mentioned, the videos can be enjoyed by all ages. They are interesting and reveal many positive facts about individuals who are not well known today. Mr. Stotts is an excellent speaker with a strong on-screen presence. After finding the errors in accuracy on the read-through of this program, I do not consider the book a reliable resource, but the video can easily be used as a stand-alone to get children interested in reading biographies and primary sources on their own.

HomeschoolChristian.com resources related to this review:

HomeschoolChristian.com's History Resource Section
Review of American history books by Lost Classics
Review of the Young American Patriots series of historical fiction
Review of Famous Americans, 52 Stories to Read with a Child by Calvert School
Review of Child's History of the World by Hillyer
Review of Child's History of the World CD-ROM
Review of Song of America's Presidents
Review of Song of America's Freedoms
Review of History Songs

Find more helpful reviews on HomeschoolChristian.com's Review Page Index!

Reviews represent the opinions of the authors rather than the views of HomeschoolChristian.com.