Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review: Golden Prairie Press Ancient History

Our family has been fans of Golden Prairie Press for quite some time now, using the American History Program as well as several of the Holiday Countdown programs.  The company, owned by homeschool graduate/historian Amy Puetz, offers many unique programs that bring history alive for children and families. 

This latest program, Heroes, Heroines, and Tales of Ancient History, covers the period from Creation to 500 A.D. 

About the program: There are 150 lessons, covering thirty weeks of schooling. The lessons are scheduled five per week, although homeschoolers can work at their own pace, of course. Each daily lesson will take approximately 30-60 minutes to complete, depending on the assignments that are included. The program offers a multi-sensory approach to learning by immersing the student not only in the actual lesson, but enhancing their learning through audio clips and hands on activities. The goal is to make the ancient tales come alive and be more than names on a piece of paper. Students are learning history through the lives of real people. Lessons can be read to younger students, and older elementary students who are strong readers can read the lessons on their own if they wish. 

Bible-centered approach: The Bible is rich with recordings of ancient history, and this program is very Bible centered, although it does have plenty of detailed lessons about non-Biblical stories as well. The program does a good job laying out ancient civilizations and showing how they overlapped and interacted with each other, weaving in the timeline of Biblical events and showing the student where those events fit in to the big picture. Some of my favorite illustrations were the timelines.  I also appreciate that Scripture used throughout the lessons is from the King James Version of the Bible.

Life of Christ: Since Jesus Christ, the Man who split history, lived during the Ancient History period, there is some good foundational teaching about His life and the New Testament time period, which is very helpful to young students as they study and learn their Bible as well.

What is included in the program: Sample lessons and list of topics can be seen. In addition to the written lessons, purchasing the digital download will also give you access to:
  • Historical Art
  • Coloring Pages 
  • Skits and plays to act out the history lessons
  • Simple recipes
  • Art projects
  • Small paper games and card games to review
  • Audio clips to coincide with the lessons
  • Quizzes printed separately
  • Answer key to text questions (in the back of the lesson book)
  • Blank world map to print and fill in

A simple quiz identifying early church events

Favorite Detail: In the back of the lesson book there is a full index of all the characters and events listed, and what pages they are mentioned on throughout the text. While this may seem like a small detail, I found it SO helpful when I wanted to reference one person or event. I did not have to remember where it was, but could just quickly look it up and turn to it. This was such a time saver!

Interesting Coloring pages: The coloring pages are set up for the child to not only color, but write a sentence or two about the image that is on it. 

Fun coloring pages 

What age level is this material? This curriculum is designed for grades 1-6. Each lesson is split into a 1st-2nd grade reading, as well as a reading for older students. Obviously the younger students need more of an overview, without so many details, so it is perfect for a family that may utilize the program for multiple age levels. While the whole family can study one topic, and all do the hands-on activities together, the older students can be challenged with more details and with further writing assignments or research topics. 

What about the villains of ancient history? As we all know, not everyone that we must learn about in ancient history was a hero. There were many rough characters who were ruthless. This is also a part of history, and we can't just neglect teaching it because it is harsh. I feel that Amy Puetz covers these topics in a very tasteful, delicate, and safe way for younger elementary students, presenting the material on a level they can understand, yet not being too gory or violent. Because the lessons are already separated for younger or older students, the younger students version is a bit more 'sanitized' to an understandable level for them. In cases where there is just no way to present the lesson in a delicate way to the youngest students, there is a disclaimer given right at the beginning of the lesson instructing the parent to read an alternative reading for that lesson. 

Personally, I never did find anything in the lessons that I would deem inappropriate for elementary students, but I appreciate the author pointing out potential difficulties so the parent can make the choice that is best for their own child.

Price: The entire digital set of this program is currently available for $98.99. Once purchased, it can be instantly downloaded for easy access. Printed versions are also available, and portions of the program can be purchased separately, if a parent or teacher wishes to order separate coloring books or skit books for a classroom setting. 

Easy on the Teacher: Everything is completely laid out in the lesson book. Following the lesson, there is an activity for each day, whether a quiz, writing assignment, game, recipe, craft, or map study. There are so many quality hands-on activities included that it pretty much eliminates the need for the teacher to have to spend hours scouring the internet for extras to make the lessons interesting. Everything you need is already right in your hands. 

My opinion: I was completely fascinated by this program. Not only did I learn a lot by reading through it (and History is my favorite subject!) but I think it really breaks down a hard subject - Ancient History - and makes it come alive to young students. Ancient History is not the easiest subject to tackle for any learner, yet this program mentions all the "need to know" events in an organized manner that makes it easy to learn and remember, and sets a strong foundation for future study as the student gets older and will have to tackle the subject again in high school. This is an amazing and very thorough study of Ancient History for young students. 

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations. 

{Affiliate links} The links to Golden Prairie Press found on this page are affiliate links, and if you purchase the program through these links, I will receive a small commission. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Tap My Trees

Growing up in Western New York, maple syrup is a huge part of our lives. Every March our area has "Maple Sugar Weekends" where the industry is highlighted and families can take part in watching the process and tasting the yummy results. If you have never watched huge vats of maple sap boiling down, and realized exactly how much sap is necessary to make just a small bottle of pure maple syrup, you will never know just how precious that syrup is that makes your stack of pancakes so delicious.

Recently we were given the opportunity to try our hand at making our very own maple syrup, with the Maple Sugaring Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets from Tap My Trees. I have always been so fascinated with the maple sugaring process, and have such a tremendous respect for those who work so hard during the month of March here in my area, to make enough maple syrup to last all year long. To try it at home with my own family will be such a treat!

What's missing??

After opening up our large package from Tap My Trees, the girls were pretty excited over the prospect of making our own syrup. They cannot wrap their brains around how much sap will be needed for just one pancake breakfast, and I can't wait to show them.

Our Starter Kit includes everything needed to walk out into the yard and begin tapping sap when the temperature is right. 
Sugaring At Home Starter Kit

Starter Kit includes:

  • 3 Aluminum (2 gallon) buckets that have a reinforced hole to hang the bucket to the tree.
  • 3 Metal lids to attach to the buckets. This prevents rain or debris (or bird droppings, as my daughter pointed out) from contaminating your sap.
  • 3 stainless steel spiles. These are inserted into the drilled holes, and allow the sap to flow freely into the bucket.
  • 3 hooks - attached to the spile and and used to hang the bucket off of.
  • Guidebook
  • 7/16 drill bit with 3/8 shank used to drill the holes into your trees.
  • Cheesecloth - used to filter debris or bark from the sap when transferring the sap from the bucket to the storage container. 

There is a very educational and handy instructional book that tells you everything from the history of maple sugaring (it started with the Native Americans) to teaching you how to identify trees in your yard for tapping. There are plenty of tips to make your tapping adventure a success, including step by step instructions and illustrations, and a list of other resources to 'tap' into. 


Because we are still in the middle of a Western New York winter, we have to wait a little while before we can start tapping. When the temperatures are warmer during the day (40's) yet still dropping below freezing at night, that will be the prime season for collecting sap. Typically this doesn't happen in our area until the beginning of March. 

In the mean time, what we could do with the kit is read through the instructions, and identify trees in our backyard that would make good candidates for tapping. The kit contains enough materials for three taps. We have one thinner tree, and one older tree that is actually thick enough in diameter to support two taps, according to the handbook. 

Measuring trees in our backyard.

I was so impressed with the quality of the materials in this kit. Not only is Tap My Trees providing my family with a great educational and fun experience, but we are learning food safety procedures, and being able to use high quality, food grade materials as well. If cared for properly, as the handbook instructs, I foresee the buckets and taps lasting many years, and being ready to use every spring to make our own maple syrup.

Food Grade quality buckets and covers

One thing I learned is that the sap can be tasted straight from the tree. In fact, many Native Americans and other cultures drink the tree sap from maples and birches for medicinal purposes. I think we will have to try that as well, if the girls are brave enough!

Thank you, Tap My Trees, for providing our family with a unique experience!

Tap My Trees has made some simple YouTube videos to show how easy it is to use their kit to make your own maple syrup:

To follow Tap My Trees on their other social media sites, click the following links:


To read how other families are getting ready to use their starter kits, click the banner below:

Tap My Trees Review
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