Magruder's American Government
This high school government course from Pearson Education encourages research, writing, and formation of opinion as it progresses through the study of modern-day U.S. Government. Pearson is making some of its classroom materials, such as this course, available in a more homeschool-friendly format.
The course consists of 4 parts: hardcover student and teacher books and softcover Essential Questions Journal and EQJ answer key. The Essential Questions Journal is the first clue that this is more than a read-and-repeat course. For each unit, and for each chapter in the unit, a lead-off question provides a focus for this section of the book. Some of the EQJ looks like a typical workbook with fill-in-the-blank questions, but there are also opinion questions that require research and essay writing. Answers to the fact questions are provided in the EQJ answer key.
Another tip that more than memorization is expected comes in the front of the student book. After the initial 23 pages showing the constitution, the next 30-page section focuses on writing skills, such as a review of narrative and expository writing, research, persuasion and assessment writing, and critical thinking skills such as cause and effect, problem solving, note taking, and analyzing data. The assumption is that these skills have been learned previously; this section is just a reminder to apply these skills in this course.
Although the text of the Constitution is toward the beginning of the book, it takes the author a while to get to what it says. The first 4 chapters logically focus on the principles of government and how the American government came about. After this, however, the author veers off into 5 chapters discussing political parties, voters, the electoral process, media and public opinion, and interest groups. I think the student might be better served by waiting to cover these chapters until later in the course. Unit 3 gets back to the meat, discussing the legislative branch in 3 chapters. The executive branch review takes 5 chapters to cover, while the judicial branch gets 4 chapters. Curiously, 2 chapters on comparative political systems and comparative economic systems come before the two chapters on state and local government again, I would wait on this unit until the student saw the big picture of federal, state, and local government before comparing other systems.
Chapters are approximately 30 pages and divided into 3 or 4 sections. Each section starts off with its own guiding question. Dictionary words are listed in the margin so that the student can look up the words in the included glossary. Other words are underlined in the text and defined in the margin on the same page. Color and b&w photos and graphics grace the pages. Reading level of the text seems about average for high school textbooks. Each section ends with a few assessment questions (answered where appropriate in the teacher book), and a short writing assignment. No correlation seems to exist between the chapter sections and the assignments in the Essential Questions Journal; use these when you feel it is most appropriate, perhaps later in the study of the chapter.
Revised in 2013, the teacher book includes a reduced full-color copy of the student book, with identical page numbers for easy reference. Background information, teaching suggestions and ideas for discussion are included in the margins; some of these assume partners or small groups, so not all are appropriate for a homeschool setting. Although answers to the assessment questions in the student book are included here, there are also references to online resources including an All In One resource that are not available to the homeschool parent. Without access to these, you are on your own for testing. New to the 2013 edition are CC Literacy Standards, differentiated instruction, and suggestions for one semester and one year pacing, which provide an additional level of flexibility to meet your needs.
Since this course is from a secular publisher, I did not expect much about the influence of Christianity on the nations founding, and little is present. Unalienable rights are just assumed to be inviolate, with no explanation as to why. However, the author does a decent job of portraying the basic ideals that shaped the new government, such as limited government.
Overall, I believe this is a worthwhile course, especially if you want one that challenges students to study outside sources and engage their writing abilities.