Thursday, May 15, 2014

US History For Homeschoolers with Golden Prairie Press {A TOS Review}

Golden Prairie Press Review
We really haven't done much study of history yet in our homeschool. Sure, we have talked about certain events in history when holidays roll around, but we haven't really studied from any history curriculum. Until now, that is. Thanks to being on the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we had the opportunity to use Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum from Golden Prairie Press.

Golden Prairie Press is owned by Amy Puetz, a homeschool graduate and self-taught historian who has written numerous history-related books that show history at its best. As a Christian, she is sharing history from a Christian worldview and shows where God's hand can be seen in history. This, along with all the hands-on learning made me jump at the chance to try out this curriculum. I loved the idea of history coming alive with the following activities: 
  • Examining Historical Art
  • Games of the Past
  • Cook Up Some History
  • Sing Some History
  • Listen to Some History
  • Crafts 
  • Experiments
Heroes & Heroines of the Past is designed to be used by children in 1st-6th grade over a 30 week period. I decided to use it with both Tabitha and Amelia. Tabitha is technically at the end of her first grade year and Amelia is at the end of her Kindergarten year, getting ready to start 1st grade. 

This curriculum consists of these digital components which I downloaded to my computer and have been using on my tablet the majority of the time so we do not need to be crowded at the computer:
Golden Prairie Press Review
Heroes and Heroines of the Past American History Part 1 ebook
(lessons for the first half of the year)

Heroes and Heroines of the Past American  History Part 2 ebook
(lessons for the second half of the year)

Historical Skits ebook
(19 skits from the time of Columbus to World War 2)

Additional Materials Downloads
(Coloring pages, games, maps, timelines, and more)

Sing Some History CD
(A collection of 20 songs mentioned in the books)

Listen to Some U.S. History MP3 CD
(An audio collection of 20 original speeches, poems, sermons, and documents that are mentioned in the book)

Book 1 begins with a look at the native people of North America and then teaches about the different explorers who discovered the New World in the Section: The Period of Discovery. Book 1 also covers: The Period of Colonization, The Revolution, The Formation of the Union, and The Period of National Development. 

Book 2 covers: The continuation of The Period of National Development, The Civil War, The Period of National Expansion, and The United States, A World Power

Each Period is divided into sections, which are further divided into lessons (5 per section).  The idea of this organization is to complete one section in one week, one lesson per day. As the girls are at the far young end for this curriculum, I decided we would take it a bit slower. Each lesson has been taking us about 2-3 days. Let me explain. 

Most of the lessons are divided into 2 parts. The first page is written to be used by the 1st-2nd grade students and the remainder or the lesson (usually 2-3 pages) is written to be used by 3rd-6th graders. 

As you can see, the font for the 1st-2nd grade section is a bit larger and it is written as more of a basic overview to be simpler for younger students. The thing is, the information is so basic I found myself wanting to add more of the details from the 3rd-6th grade section. So, we would read the first page the first day of the week and do a craft or an activity page. Then the next time we had our history time (which was 3 days a week, not 5) we would reread the story with additional details from the 3rd-6th grade section. We would then answer the questions and do the geography. At times we looked at the map on my tablet to answer the geography questions. Other times we pulled up the map on the computer and also pulled up a world map from the internet so the girls could relate where the smaller map was in relation to the entire world. Yes, this could have been done on a physical map or globe as well, if one was available. There are also times I printed out the provided map so the girls could color or mark where things were on the map. 

Working on canoes to go with Lesson 1: People of North America

I was a little disappointed to see that the first section didn't have any recipes ideas at all. Now, I didn't expect a recipe with each lesson, but I had hoped for something to go with at least each section as I planned to use it as our Kids and a Mom in the Kitchen time. So, for the first section I looked up ideas for edible teepees online. As usual I tweaked it a bit and we made it into a meal.

A meal that the children enjoyed under their tent. Unfortunately, we didn't have the right materials to build the suggested teepee. Which is one reason I decided on an edible one.

Making Viking Ships:

And exploring the map to see where the Vikings went.

There is also historical art to examine in each section. The work of art is available as part of the lesson and it is also available in the Additional Resources download. There are questions for the children to answer, the answers to which you can find in the back of the book.

There are also 7 timelines provided for the different eras. These can also be found on the Additional Resources download. We have been using the Era of Exploration Timeline. I love that you can choose between several different versions of each timeline. There are 3 columns for the Era of Exploration timeline: Year, Event, and Name of Explorer. I printed out one copy of the first version for myself, where all of the columns have been filled in. The next version has only the years filled in so that the student needs to fill in the event and the explorer. Then there is one where the only blank column is the event column, and another where the only blank column is the explorer column. This is the one I have been having the girls complete. There is also a completely blank timeline. 

While we have been continuing on with our lessons, we have been working on putting on one of the skits for daddy. The skit "Christopher Columbus" begins in La Rabida, a Franciscan monastery and tells the story of the monks helping Christopher and his son Diego. Through the intervention of one of the monks, Columbus gained the help of Queen Isabella. I don't know about you, but I never learned this part of the story in school. I didn't even know Christopher Columbus had a son. The children and I played the parts of the monks, then the girls played the parts of Christopher and Diego while I remained Prior Juan. For scene 2, I was Queen Isabella, Amelia was King Ferdinand and Tabitha was Columbus. Tabitha even worked on some scenery (the window showing a night sky hanging on our entertainment center).

I am looking forward to continuing through our study of American History, though I think we will be putting it aside for now and pulling it back out next year. I am thinking the girls are still a little young. As I read through the lesson they lose interest.  I do love the hands-on aspect of this curriculum, because it really does bring history to life. The section at the end of each lesson is a wonderful way to dig into the lesson, with questions, geography, recipes, art study, crafts and activity sheets. The Additional Resources are amazing, though I do wish the maps from the earlier lessons were included in the maps section so I could more easily have printed them out to use for our lessons and the girls would have them in their folders. 

Additionally, I was a bit confused to find that quite a few of the lessons did not have a 1st-2nd grade page. Instead, these lessons were all of the 3rd-6th grade level, but labeled 1st-6th. The reason I was confused is because the description of the curriculum states "Each of the lessons is divided into two sections..." This is definitely not the case. Though I stated I did take some information from the older section to add to the younger section, I do feel that the younger version is needed.

Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History is available for $98.99 for both the digital or the print version. 

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