History is my favorite subject to teach. We start with the core reading, but quickly get sidetracked with conversations. I love hearing their thoughts and discussing ideas with them. Unfortunately, there is an age gap that sometimes makes this time more complicated than it used to be. I used to be able to sit down with just my boys and talk for hours over a history lesson. But now, my 14 year old student is ready for meatier things than my 8 year old's attention span allows. I long ago gave up the idea of holding my 16 year old back to stay with us.
I like to have us all participate in one spine history book and then supplement with a lot of individual books at each student's reading level. We also do a read aloud that everyone can enjoy. This year, we are studying the American Revolution and have enjoyed Johnny Tremaine together. Our more recent spine has been a book by Golden Prairie Press, which is aimed toward combining age levels. the book is Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum and it is working well.
It is geared toward grades 1-6, which is young for my 14 year old, obviously, but he maintains our timeline and does quite a bit of independent reading to round it out. While it is perfect for my 3rd and 4th grade students, I worried that it would be too juvenile for their older brother. However, he has found it interesting and I don't feel that it has slowed him down at all.
The purchase is a digital download of quite a few things:
- Part 1 eBook: covers the years from 1000-1837
- Part 2 eBook: covers the years from 1837-present
- Historical skits
- Sing Some History: an audio download of songs from history
- Listen to Some History: an audio file of speeches, poems, sermons, etc.
- Additional Materials Download, which includes printables and more
Most lessons are divided into two parts: 1 for 1st & 2nd grade students and the next for 3rd-6th grade students. The 1st and 2nd grade portion doesn't read easier, I didn't feel, but is simply a streamlined account of the lesson. The 3rd-6th grade portion has much more detail. The lessons read like well-told stories. Occasionally, when I wanted to hurry through, we read the younger student section. The downside to this is that the questions at the end of the chapter are not all answerable if you haven't read the more detailed account.
The program is designed to finish in one year, completing the lessons in one hour per day, five days per week. For a family that loves history, like mine, this is perfect! However, we really like to do a lot of additional reading and to cover the years taught in this lesson over two years rather than one history cycle. You can view this available outline to get a picture of how the year might look.
Each lesson has activities at the end of the chapter. These include:
- Writing Topics (pretend you were there and are writing to a friend about what you saw.)
- Geography (locate the following territories, cities, etc.)
- Activities (Build a teepee, make invisible ink, create a drum)
- Skits (included as a download)
- Songs (listen to relevant songs which are included as a download)
- Memory Verses
- Reading (extra selections suggested)
- Art Appreciation (identify key characters in paintings of historical events)
- Timeline (forms included as a download)
|Don't worry; it's not English. My girls made up a secret code|
to write with their invisible ink.
Not all activities are listed for each chapter, just a few and they are all optional. Mine enjoyed them. Some were simple, such as making a cocoa drink after studying Columbus and the cocoa bean or making invisible ink after studying about Nathan Hale and spies during the Revolution.
The audio songs were okay, but not great. We ended up using YouTube videos instead. I like that the ebook includes sheet music for the songs mentioned.
The ebooks also include artwork relevant to the lessons with assignments in examining the paintings. They are a great addition to the lessons, but do increase the printing costs, if you choose to print them. We used the iPad for our lessons, but I did miss having physical pages to flip through. There is an answer key at the end of the book, for the questions at the end of each chapter. Using a digital book, it isn't easy to access without losing your place.
Because of the cost of printing, the download price of $98.99 feels high. However, it is a good book, with excellent material. Mine especially liked the many drawings that accompanied each lesson. Something I especially liked about the history readings is the smooth reading. There are no distracting side-boxes with short biographies or distracting stories and captions. The relevant material is all in the written text. The text reads well and is interesting as well as informative. I like the inclusion of pronunciation guides, which help me a lot. As I said before, my 8 year struggles with her attention span quite often, but this is the first textbook that has held her interest through the entire lesson. She is able to answer questions and keep right up with us.
I love that the character of these great men and women is highlighted so well. Lives of integrity are portrayed as the heroes they are. The author, Amy Puetz, has done a fabulous job sharing their stories in a way that fully kept the interest of my little listeners while still challenging my older listeners.