Monday, October 15, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: The Pilgrim Story

I have shared how history is one of the areas I really struggle teaching to Gess (who has special needs) because she has trouble grasping things that are not relevant to her experience and surroundings.  Text books certainly are not a good way for her to learn history. Thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew I have discovered a method that Gess is enjoying and learning from!  Dayspring Chrsitian Academy offers a self-paced, interactive, online course for students grades 2 through 8 to learn about the The Pilgrim Story.

 The Pilgrim Story uses the educational Principled Approach which means the principles of God's Word are the basis for what they learn.  They also rely heavily on primary sources such as letters, journals, and documents that were written by people who actually lived in or close to the time period being studied.

 The Pilgrim Story is a narrated slide show presentation that allows for some interaction with note taking, activities, and quizzes.  There is an introduction followed by 5 units of studies and it ends with a virtual field trip of Plymouth Massachusetts.  It begins with some background on events that led to the Separatists persecution and impacted their decision to leave England and follows them through their journey to the New World, the establishment of their settlement and that first hard winter.  It ends by summing up the Pilgrim's next three years, the first thanksgiving, and their impact on the free enterprise economic system. 

Each lesson will follow the same basic format.  In each lesson you will find:

A list of components needed for activities
Documents that need to be downloaded
A description of what will be covered
A short review of the previous lesson
A list of vocabulary words
A note sheet that the student will fill out while viewing the lesson
Enrichment activities
A review of the lesson
Recommendations for further reading

There are also instructions for making a student notebook where you keep all the notes, vocabulary words, and activity sheets for each unit.  Tests are given at the end of each unit.  You can choose between taking an essay test that will need to be graded by the parent or you can take an interactive, multiple choice and true or false test that will be graded by the program and posted for the parent to see.  As you can see the program is very thorough.

I know Gess learns fairly well from movies but I wasn't quite sure if this interactive, slide show format would give her that same feel. It actually did.  In fact, having her engaged in note taking as well as interactive reviews and activities helped her better comprehend the material.  She seemed to enjoy what she was learning and she was always happy to do the study.  The lessons are fairly long though, so we often divided them into at least two sessions. At this pace it will definitely take us almost the entire 6 months of the course to complete it but that is still plenty of time, even with a child who has special needs.

The lessons were visually appealing and the content with each slide was about idea.  It didn't remain on each slide too long to lose the student's interest but didn't move too quickly as to cause them to miss important information.  It was also great that most of them had notes that needed to be taken from it and since you have to click to move on to the next slide you were never rushed in getting the information down on the paper.  Here is a sample slide from the lesson.  The underlined portion is what you write to fill in the blanks on your note sheet.  Below that is Gess taking her own set of notes.

There were many times that the notes were too long for Gess to fit in the lines because she still writes fairly large.  I tried modifying the note sheets but that took too much work, so instead I viewed the lessons with her and would write some of the longer answers myself while she told me what to write.

The interactive activities were pretty good and offered enough of a variety to keep them new and fresh.  Sometimes you had to drag the appropriate answer to the screen or click on something to learn more about it.  I liked the book about King Henry.  If you notice in the bottom right hand corner the page is flipped up. You actually use your mouse to turn the pages in the short story.  The story is read to you by the narrator but you can read along.  Gess always enjoyed these activities.

There are usually quizzes during and at the end of each lesson to make sure the student is comprehending the content.  Gess enjoyed these and did fairly well most of the time.  I think it helped that they kept the quizzes as visually appealing and engaging as the rest of the content.

The tests are pretty detailed and involved but not too complicated for a child without special needs however I did need to assist Gess (not with the answers but reading and making sure she understood what the question was looking for).  She got a 70% on her first test so I was pretty impressed with that considering how much content it covered.  Her biggest struggle was putting the events in the proper order but she got all but one of the multiple choice problems correct.

I really loved the sessions. Most students will be able to do this on their own but Gess could not do that and take notes well.  That didn't bother me though because the lessons were enjoyable and I even learned a few things myself.  I love that it teaches a child how important the bible is, not just in our own lives but in the founding of our country as well.  You can not read the words of men like William Bradford and doubt for an instance that they came to the New World in order to freely worship God.

There were a few minor things that I wish had been better.  In order to print off all the note sheets, vocabulary words, and activity pages you had to load up each lesson's video first.  There was a tab there with all the forms for that lesson.  I just wish you could access this content from the parent section rather than from the video itself.  It just becomes tedious when you are trying to prepare ahead.  They also have answers for the various activities but not the note sheets.  I would have loved to have some with blanks already filled in so I could have modified them easier for Gess.  The pages also had a beautiful border but that made them ink heavy in the printer.  I know many students and parents probably love this, but I would like to have an option to print with or without the border in order to save on ink.

Dayspring Chrsitian Academy offers  The Pilgrim Story for $99.00 which allows access to the program for 6 months and includes everything I have mentioned.  It really is an excellent program and is very helpful if you want a curriculum that your student can work at more independently (though special needs students will still need more help).  As a Christian I love knowing that my daugther is getting the whole story of what happened at our founding based upon accounts of people who were actually there.  The importance of their faith is enhanced, not glossed over and forgotten like is often done in text books today.  Because Gess really struggles learning history it would be worth the expense to me to have something like this which really captures her attention and desire to learn as this program certainly did.  To learn more about the The Pilgrim Story visit their website or you can see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a 6 month subscription to The Pilgrim Story for giving my honest opinion and assessment of it in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change.

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