Searching For the Elusive Homeschool History Spine

How a So-Called History “Spine” Got Latin American History So So Wrong

Dear Homeschool Parents,

Ah, the history spine. The elusive white whale for homeschoolers which never seems to be caught. I, too, have joined in the hunt for such a text and have yet to find one that meets all my criteria for accurate and respectful history, at least when it comes to Latin America. For those who have purchased my Parent Resource Guide: Ancient Era know there are two recommended spines and even they aren’t perfect. For months I have searched in vain for a spine that would coordinate with my next guide on the Colonial Era. Instead of finding a suitable book, I found yet another cringy one that we should talk about. This book has been recommended by secular homeschoolers and even another homeschool influencer & curriculum provider (who is crazy popular right now) and I can’t understand why!

The Funny Twist

The inspiration for this month’s cringe post is, in a really funny twist, from the people who brought you the much loved Brain Quest books and flashcards: The COMPLETE Middle School Study Book: Everything You Need to Know To Ace World History In One Big Fat Notebook, from Workman Publishing and “double-checked by an award-winning teacher” named Michael Lindblad. 

The Maya

Every major Maya misconception is found in 2 pages. These two pages have the “Mayan” collapse (they moved cities), list the Maya as the “first great civilization of the Americas”(civilizations in Peru were older), said the Maya offered human sacrifices (guess they got this info from the movie Apocalypto), the Maya were only in Central America (and Mexico), the Maya only “lasted 2000 years”(guess the 8 million-ish Maya that still exist today, in fact don’t exist), Maya cultivated chocolate (after it was domesticated in South America), spent too much page space on “slash and burn farming” as a why to justify the Maya “crumble” (really, did the author even read a book about the Maya), and worst offensive of all, used “Mayan” as an adjective. Over and over and over. I can’t even. 

Mexica, not Aztec

Their empire was more accurately described as a triumvirate and was only in Central Mexico. Saying it was in Central America tells me you haven’t looked at a map. The tribute system was extensive and impressive, and the Mexica dominated city-states, polities, not tribes. Let’s just stop using that word. The idea that the Aztec thought Cortes was the god Quetzalcoatl is not even worth mentioning because it is not true. Saying “there’s a legend” that the Aztec thought this, still doesn’t make it worth mentioning. It’s a lie. A fabrication. And when the majority of what you teach children about the Mexica is describing “human sacrifice”, then you are not only making a conscious decision to describe an entire nation of people based on one component of their history, you lack a fundamental understanding of what “human sacrifice” is and can’t possibly be aware that the actual estimates of the number of people who were “sacrificed” aren’t anymore or any less then every major historical empire. If you define “human sacrifice” as the ritualistic killing of a person(s) for religious or political reasons, then I can promise y’all this, every empire did it and often on a much grander scale than the Mexica. But please tell me again why it’s not “human sacrifice” when people were burned at the stake, or beheaded, or quartered or drowned, or thrown in a pit and burned, or crucified, or hung. Let me guess, it’s because those things happened somewhere else, so it doesn’t count? 

The Inca

There are 6 “cradles of civilization”: Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient India, Ancient China, Mesoamerica, and Peru. These regions have histories that go back thousands of years. So why is it that children's history texts think they can cover South America by only mentioning the Inca? This empire was impressive to be sure, but to reduce all of South American history to one empire and only 300-ish years of history is ridiculous. Please tell me again about the Code of Hammurabi and the pyramids of Giza because even though the oldest pyramids and mummies are in Peru, South America isn’t worth mentioning. Would a historian reduce all of British history to just the Plantagenets?!?! And they called their empire Tawantinsuyu. I know it’s hard to say and spell, but just try. 

Message to Workman Publishing

I’m really disappointed, not surprised but disappointed. I used to love the Brain Quest cards as a kid. What’s happened? Why aren’t publishers having subject-matter experts fact-check the information being published for students? I can’t be sure, but I think this book attempted to hit as many state standards as possible in one book. If this is indeed that case, Brain Quest and Michael Lindblad, the standards, when relating specifically to Latin American history, are often factually wrong. They are WRONG. Stop publishing to state standards. Please!! I will not comment on Mr. Lindblad’s capabilities as a teacher (he won some award, idk which one) because I truly believe public school teachers are heroes. He is most likely a wonderful teacher, just probably using the worst materials to fact check. What materials those are, I don’t know because there is no bibliography. Ugh. 

Still searching for the white whale,


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