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  • Reviewed on Saturday, March 27, 2010
  • Grades Used: 10th
  • Dates used: 2009-2010
I'm currently using TRISMS Expansion of Civilization (500 BC - AD 1500) for my sophomore year of high school.

Each level of the TRISMS high school curriculum (Discovering the Ancient World, Expansion of Civilization, Rise of Nations, and Age of Revolution) consists of three pieces: a teacher's manual/key, a student assignments book, and a large student pack. In both the teacher's manual and the student book, there is a lengthy orientation (about 20 pages) detailing ways to effectively use TRISMS, utilize it for younger children, earn credits for different subjects, etc. The teacher's manual also has a Reading and Resource List, which has specific videos, magazine articles, books, etc. that could be used in each of the 18 units. The teacher's manual contains a copy of the assignment grid that is also in the student book. The assignment grid is a 2-page grid that contains assignments for all of the TRISMS subjects (science, civilizations, literature, vocabulary, art, architecture, music, and rhetoric), plus people, places, & events for further research.

I have VERY mixed feelings about this program. The authors, although well intentioned, present their products as being complete and thorough, etc. However, I believe that it would be very difficult to successfully implement the TRISMS program without an excellent library and some serious money.

For instance, TRISMS claims that its writing program is complete. I will say that the literature assignments are varied (thus appealing to a broad range of students) and challenging. The composition assignments DO require the student to write lots of essays, book reports, research papers, short stories, etc. However, there is no guide as to how you, as the parent, are to grade the writing assignments - unless you purchase IEW (I typed up a composition rubric that I found in the IEW TWSS syllabus, and my mom uses that to grade my papers). This can be problematic for parents who wish to systematically grade each writing assignment. Additionally, the teacher's manual only provides a limited amount of answers for the daily literature questions in the program, and the authors stated that because there is no “right answer” in literature, the teacher’s manual would not provide ALL of the answers.

Speaking as a student, it would be more practical - and much more helpful - to give the parent answers for ALL of the literature assignments – even if they were only examples or suggested answers. That would give a parent a better idea of what to look for when they check their student’s answers to the literature questions. The "Literature Helps" found in the back of the Student assignments book can be quite helpful to the parent/teacher in evaluating answers to daily literature questions. As a side note, some research will need to be done in order to complete all of the literature assignments.

The vocabulary quizzes are a total joke. It's just matching the vocabulary words to the correct definition; I can do a quiz in less than 2 minutes, and I've received 100s on each one. Even the semester vocabulary "test" is only matching! It’s disappointing because the tests don’t even get progressively harder. The semester literature exams, however, are challenging. The student is given several days to read the essay topic, research, and take notes. On the test day, the student must write an essay on the given prompt, using only the notes as a guide. Great SAT/ACT prep in my opinion.

I do believe that it is helpful to the student to have the IEW program along with TRISMS assignments. They incorporate the IEW units into the TRISMS literature assignments well, and it gives the student more of an idea as to how each composition assignment should be written. Be warned, however: some of the literature assignments aren’t listed on the assignment grid (but are listed in the assignment details immediately following the grid), and I’ve had to write them in to make sure that I didn’t skip them.

Another downside about the literature aspect of TRISMS are the movie Q&As. You are asked to watch a period-related movie, and answer about 10 questions on the movie. But we could never find the movies, so my mom just told me to skip those assignments. This made me frustrated, because I’m a box-checker, and I do NOT like doing things out of order or omitting them. I felt like I was getting a lesser education by skipping the movie Q&As. It would be nice of they gave direct links to the listed movies, or sold the movies on their site. That would make it a lesser hassle for the parent.

The history portion of TRISMS has different issues. I became very frustrated with the quality (or lack thereof) of the unit maps. For instance, in unit 2 (China), I had to find a map of the Han in China around 200 B.C. I looked in our historical atlas and found the correct map, but it didn’t exactly match up with the TRISMS unit map. Also, when I did the first unit on the Mayans, the map of Central America (that was supposed to show where the Mayans lived) was printed upside down! In my opinion, the unit maps from TRISMS are very poor in quality. I understand that the maps must be blank, but absolutely NOTHING is pre-labeled – not even bodies of water! I had the worst time trying to figure out where the Atlantic Ocean began and ended while drawing a map of the Vikings.

On the upside, the unit questionnaires are thorough, and I enjoyed doing these. The civilization questionnaires consist of 36 questions about a particular civilization (such as the Moors, T'ang, Mongols, Russians, etc.). Lesser-known civilizations require a short form questionnaire, which comes in the student pack. You may have some problems finding the answers to some of the questions, however. I would recommend purchasing several encyclopedias and/or textual references on world history. The Internet wasn’t much help in my research, and I got my most accurate answers from library books, history texts, encyclopedias, magazine articles, etc. I also enjoyed the unit worksheets – they honed in on one specific aspect of each civilization.

For my Western Civ credit, my mom also required me to do the science questionnaires, and the questionnaires for art, music, and architecture. I LOVED all of those! They were thorough, and really helped to focus on different facets of each civilization. Again, I would highly recommend using books for these questionnaires. Every time I tried to use the Internet, it take longer because of looking for different links, etc. The one thing my mom and I both liked about the questionnaires from TRISMS was that I had to cite my sources (from which I got my answers to the questionnaires) in MLA format. I’ve done it so much with TRISMS, I can do it without thinking!

Not many positive things can be said about the history quizzes. They were just fill-in-the-blanks for every unit. Those were also easy, and I could whiz through one in less than 5 minutes. The semester exams, however, easily made up for the ease of the quizzes! There were about 25 questions on each exam, requiring responses of at least one sentence in length. The semester exams also tested geography, and gave the student several civilizations to mark on a world map (a complete key to each quiz and semester exam is provided for the history portion of TRISMS). The teacher’s manual for the history portion is good, but it does not have any map keys for the required maps in each unit, so it would be difficult to assess whether the student mapped the correct area(s) or not. Also, sometimes the question number on a questionnaire wouldn’t match up with the answers, etc. In my honest opinion, the Expansion of Civilization volume still needs to go through some proofreading.

After struggling to get into a “groove” with TRISMS, my mom and I finally worked out a plan. Since each unit is supposed to take two weeks, we do the first page of the assignment grid (science, civilization questionnaires, maps, worksheets, vocabulary words, and the majority of the literature assignments), and then in the 2nd week, we do the second page of the assignment grid (flashcards for the Historical Events, art questionnaires, music questionnaires, and music questionnaires [we skip the rhetoric assignments]). I also take the vocabulary quiz and the civilizations quiz at the end of the second week. As an example, here’s what this would look like doing the TRISMS Expansion of Civilization volume (the subjects listed under each day are the same titles as the ones given on the assignment grid:

Unit 14: Feudal/Monastic Period

Week 1

Civilizations: Mark map #13 – Europe around 1140; include Map Details
Literature: L-14a: Song of Roland Q & A
Vocabulary: Make flashcards for the unit 14 vocabulary words

Science: S-14a: Architecture
Civilizations: Feudal life questionnaire
Literature: L-14b: Summarize
Vocabulary: Study unit 14 flashcards; review previous vocabulary

Civilizations: Worksheet 14: Feudal Romanesque
Literature: L-14c: Ballads
Vocabulary: Continue studying unit 14 flashcards; review previous vocabulary

Civilizations: Mark map #5 – identify the routes of the four major crusades; label Jerusalem, Antioch, Edessa, Tripoli, and Acre; include Map Details
Literature: L-14d: Medieval fair
Vocabulary: Continue studying unit 14 flashcards; review previous vocabulary

Civilizations: Mark map #1 – mark all co-existing civilizations
Literature: L-14e: Book report
Vocabulary: Study unit 14 flashcards; review previous vocabulary

Week 2

Rhetoric: R-14a: Worksheet 6 – Narration, Proposition, and Division
Vocabulary: Continue studying unit 14 flashcards; review previous vocabulary
Historical Events: Make flashcards for the historical events for unit 14

Architecture: Monastery of Cluny (or Abbey at Cluny) Questionnaire
Vocabulary: Continue studying unit 14 flashcards; review previous vocabulary
Historical Events: Study unit 14 flashcards; review previous events

Music: Questionnaire
Vocabulary: Continue studying unit 14 flashcards; review previous vocabulary
Historical Events: Continue studying unit 14 flashcards; review previous events

Art: Bayeux Tapestry questionnaire
Architecture: The White Tower (or Tower of London) or Krak des Chevaliers questionnaire; Part II of the questionnaire – English cruck frame house
Vocabulary: Continue studying unit 14 flashcards; review previous vocabulary
Historical Events: Continue studying unit 14 flashcards; review previous events

Civilizations: Take the unit 14 quiz
Vocabulary: Take the unit 14 quiz

We figured out how to break up the assignments because on the grid, every subject is given five vertical boxes. Each box seems to represent one school day. It balances out pretty well, and allows me sufficient time to work on my other school subjects.

Overall, I believe that if you really work hard and persevere, TRISMS can be worth its weight in gold. My mom and I really wanted it to work, but the format (open-ended) was overwhelming for my personality type (structured, box-checker, "get-to-the-point" type). It was disappointing, however, to pay nearly $500 for a curriculum, and to get a product that looked as if it were still in the "rough." I would highly recommend a minimum of 20-30 hours of student/teacher prep before beginning to utilize this program successfully. That said, please read this review with a 'grain of salt' and prayerfully make what you believe to be the best decision about using TRISMS.

God bless!

~Nicole :D


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, March 23, 2010
  • Grades Used: 9th grade
  • Dates used: fall 2009
I purchased Expansion of Civilizations 500 BC - AD 1500 and was delighted with this comprehensive curriculum. The teacher's guide comes with an "orientation' at the beginning of the book which is vital in helping you and your student understand how to effectively use the program. Some of the unique civilizations studied covered are the Mauryan Empire of India and the Moors of Spain which are sometimes forgotton in other curriculums. Although I loved this curriculum, my dd found it overwhelming, especially when it came to sifting through all the research material suggested (including the internet). For us, this was not something my daughter could work on independently. I would still highly recommend this curriculum even though it wasn't a good fit for us.

staff review

  • Reviewed on Monday, March 2, 2009
  • Grades Used: High School
  • Dates used: 20009
Here's what Cathy Duffy says about Trisms:


  • Reviewed on Saturday, November 10, 2001
  • Grades Used: 7-8
  • Dates used: 3 months
We really like this curriculum. Trisms covers History, Science, and Lang. Arts in there first Volume. The student can work on their own by using the lesson plans. There are tests to be given every 3 weeks which let the parent know how much the student is learning. After just four weeks my daughter has become very good at research and takes great pride in the history notebook she is putting together. I would recommend going to the Trisms website for a closer look.