This year, all the girls have been studying American history. Typically we alternate years between ancient history, world history, and American history. It has been fun and interesting to have three different levels of study examining the same topics. About six weeks ago we were given the opportunity to review the Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum from Golden Prairie Press.
What is Golden Prairie Press? This company, owned by homeschool graduate and historian Amy Puetz, has many fascinating history products available for homeschoolers. There is a definite emphasis on 'experiencing' history, not just studying it from a book.
What about this new American History curriculum? "Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past" is, as the title states, a completely digital book that is instantly downloadable as soon as it is purchased. It consists of multiple files, including:
- Two digital books, totaling about 800 pages, that contain 150 daily history lessons. It is set up to last for 30 weeks of schooling.
- Historical Skits ebook
- Videos to coincide with many of the lessons
- Sound clips of great moments in American history
- Popular music of American history
- Craft lessons, patterns, and samples
- Popular artwork samples of American history
- Various paper games
- Important American documents
- Timelines, both filled in and blank for the student to fill in
- Historical American recipes
- Lists of Literature and book recommendations for further study
- Copy work including famous quotes or character building statements
Special for the teacher: There are daily lesson plans, coordinating which pages and files are to be used together on what days, as well as highlighting items that the teacher needs to prepare before class time.
What grades are covered? This curriculum is geared towards grades 1-6. Each lesson starts off with a simplified summary in larger print, that is specifically written to grades 1-2. There are a variety of writing assignments and activities connected to each lesson, that the parent could choose to assign to older students. Of course, 5th and 6th graders will be responsible for completing more of the in-depth reading and writing assignments and accompanying projects. The combination of materials and assignments makes this curriculum well suited for a family that has multiple grade levels studying together.
What time frame is covered? The first lesson begins with discussing native North Americans, their origins, and their lifestyle. It then picks up with Christopher Columbus and the Age of the Explorers. The last lesson includes such recent topics as President Obama, the recent financial recession, the IRS scandal of 2013, and the Tea Party movement.
How is the history presented: The History lessons are definitely presented from a Conservative and Christian perspective. Each lesson contains an applicable Bible memory verse for the students to learn. While most of the history lessons remain very objective, I did notice a much more conservative perspective in the modern American history lessons.
The history is taught using a "living history" approach, where the student mostly studies the lives of great Americans, and how those people fit into the important events of American history. Each lesson is geared towards using all the senses, and actually placing the student into that time frame, allowing them to experience the history by hearing it, seeing it, tasting it, and doing it. For those students who need or want even more, there are lists of suggested videos and books that can be downloaded or borrowed from the library to round out their learning.
The emphasis of this curriculum is to help the students understand the culture of each time period through the eyes of real people.
How did we use this curriculum? Since we have already been studying American history this year, I decided to start this curriculum right at the time frame that we were currently at in our studies. For the duration of the review, Kelly studied the Civil War through World War II, and Melissa studied the turn of the century through the Post WWII era.
What is a typical lesson like? A section covers a certain time frame in history, and contains 5 lessons. Each day there is assigned reading and comprehension questions, as well as different activities. The curriculum is very flexible, and the teacher can maneuver activities around to fit their own personal schedule very easily. For example, each day Melissa would complete her assigned reading, and also listen to any audio files that were assigned. Depending on our schedule for the day, she might also complete the map work, a writing assignment, or the timeline. Bigger activities such as crafts or recipes were done at some point during the week we were studying them, but not necessarily on the day that they were assigned.
Each week, for each section, we could expect the following: a Bible memory verse, some type of map study, at least one video or audio clip, some type of art appreciation, daily comprehension questions for the reading assignment, an interesting writing assignment, and an extra activity that coincided with the lesson - either a recipe, craft, or game. As time permitted, we also utilized the extra suggested books and videos.
What the girls thought: The girls enjoyed this curriculum very much. Reading about the lives of real Americans seemed to make the history lessons come alive. Melissa thought the comprehension questions were very good, because they didn't just ask "black and white" questions about the facts, but made her think more about what was happening to the people. We all really enjoyed the audio clips.
Mom's favorite: Definitely the compilation of so many different interesting items! It took all the work out of planning history lessons, and allowed me to just enjoy reading, discussing, and doing the lessons with the girls. There were so many creative 'extras' that I would have never thought to add to our history studies. I have spent so much time this past year pulling together recipes, crafts, and audio/video clips to enhance Melissa's American History studies. This curriculum has it all organized already, and has saved me so much work.
|Service flag, fighter jet, and nurses' hat - a few of our craft projects|
Obscure heroes: Because I am a history buff, I was familiar with nearly all of the names that were studied. I love how Amy Puetz puts the spotlight on some very obscure heroes, who were very important to the "big picture" at the time they were alive, although they seldom get much attention now in regular American History courses.
Kelly's favorite character: This had to be the study of Roy Rogers with the corresponding music clips of his singing.
Melissa's favorite character: Melissa really enjoyed the story of the "Hello Girls" of WWI. We learned a lot about these ladies who stayed close to the front lines and aided the Allies in their communications.
We branched out: Some of the topics we covered more in depth were: Depression Era cooking, Eleanor Roosevelt, German aggression against the Jews, and the WWII battle maps. Melissa also wrote a pretend newspaper with articles about the Great Depression and the start of WWII.
The older student chimes in: This year for American History, Laura (11th grade) wrote an extensive research paper about Eddie Rickenbacker, the ace WWI pilot. She was intrigued by the lesson about Rickenbacker, and after reading it, gave it two thumbs up, stating that she thought the level of information included was excellent, especially for an elementary age history lesson.
Wish List: While I thought that the lessons covering WWI and WWII were amazing, I was very disappointed with what I perceive as a lack of good, solid modern American history. Once WWII is over, the lessons are almost over as well. The last section, section 30 with its 5 lessons, covers the Post-War era to Barack Obama (roughly 1945 to present). The main character study for this last week of lessons is Ronald Reagan. After working through WWII with the girls, and enjoying it so much, I was really looking forward to a great closing to the 20th century, and I was greatly disappointed. I would have really loved to have had more 'meat' for this era, including more in-depth study of modern technology and the rise of the internet, (as that has so profoundly affected American culture), the Korean War, President Kennedy, Watergate, the removal of prayer and Bible reading from public schools, the Space Race, the Gulf Wars, and the changes that have taken place in our lives post-9/11. As a mom, I have lived through some really amazing history these past 30-40 years, and I find myself constantly explaining things to my children about how different things were just 20+ years ago, before cell phones and the internet. All my children know is a post-9/11 world, where we have always been fighting terrorists, and looking up things on Google, and I really long for them to understand the culture of our country these last few decades that allowed these changes to take place. Perhaps one day Amy Puetz will update this curriculum to broaden the studies of the last half of the 20th century, for I would surely consider purchasing that update!
Final recommendations: If you are looking for a comprehensive study of American history that will allow you to really explore the people and culture, and not just learn dates and events, then you will definitely enjoy this curriculum. Having this curriculum has saved me hours of scouring Pinterest for interesting history projects to coincide with our lessons. It is creative and thorough, and I am so glad for the privilege to be able to use it in our home school! We have been delighted with it, and will definitely use it again from start to finish!
Cost: The digital curriculum package can be purchased for $98.99. If you prefer to have actual books and CD's rather than digital products, those are also available on the website.
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