Monday, May 12, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Golden Prairie Press - History

History seems to be the hardest subject for Gess to understand.  Because she has Down syndrome she is very much a hands on learner and she just has trouble grasping things she hasn't seen or experienced.  While she is a great reader she only seems to enjoy books that talk about familiar things. In order to teach her history, I have to get really creative. Thankfully I was able to review a product that has done the creative work for me. Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum from Golden Prairie Press was written by homeschool graduate Amy Puetz.  She absolutely loves history and has presented history in a way that requires the use of all of your senses helping students to not only read about history but experience it as they see, hear, touch, smell, and taste it.

For the purpose of my review I received the Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum. The digital version included:

Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Part 1 ebook
Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Part 2 ebook
Additional Materials Downloads
Historical Skits ebook
Sing Some History Downloads
Listen to Some US History Downloads

Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past is for grades 1-6.  I love the way these books tell history through the men and women who actually lived it.  While not every lesson is strictly about a person, it really enhances the lesson by focusing on specific people that made history happen.  Many of the units are subdivided into a 1-2 grade reading and a 3-6 grade reading.  The first one of course is more of a brief summary of what the older students read.  I would often have Gess read the 1-2 grade page after we were done studying the 3-6 as a way to review.  The other lessons had only one reading for all grade levels.

At the end of each unit there are several assignments and activities to do. The teacher's guide does remind you that not all of them are necessary to complete.  It can be a bit overwhelming if you try to do them all.  I personally love that there were so many to choose from because I was always able to find activities my daughter who has special needs would enjoy doing.

We would always answer the questions following each unit.  Then we could choose from a variety of activities. This is where you really get your hands on the lesson.  Everything you need is included in the set or provided in the textbook with the exception of materials and ingredients needed for crafts and recipes.  The activities would include some of the following: Examining Historical Art, Games of the Past, Cook Up Some History, Sing Some History, Listen to Some History, Crafts, Experiments, Questions, Writing Topics, and Geography.

We started in the second book and jumped to the units on the World Wars. Our first lesson was on World War I which was originally called the Great War, because of course at the time there was not yet another World War from which to number it.  The first lesson explains the cause of the war and how the US ended up entering it.

As I mentioned before, not all the lessons are about the specific men and women of history. There is narration of the events taking place, but then you get to hear lessons about individual men and women or groups of them.  It particularly loved how women were included and how the stories were told in such an engaging and personable fashion.

The heroines of World War I were the Hello Girls.  I had never heard of them before!  These brave women refused to the leave the front lines in order to stay and help relay and translate phone messages from French to English and vice versa.  The heroes were men like Sergeant York who at first didn't want to fight because he thought it went against his Christian faith and then later took 132 German prisoners with only 8 men!  It was neat to not only read about him but listen to the reading of the official history of the eighty-second division. He truly was heroic.

The activities really helped the story come to life for Gess. We enjoyed exploring the art which for this section included many war time posters used to recruit both soldiers and support from civilians.  Gess was introduced to Uncle Sam for the first time exploring this poster.

Then came the hands on activities.  Gess loves baking and the Cook Up Some History had us baking a liberty cake.  Women were encouraged to support the war effort by conserving food for the soldiers.  They did this by cooking with as little wheat and sugar as possible.  A lady named Mary Elizabeth did her part in helping by writing a cookbook full of recipes that didn't use wheat or sugar!  They not only shared this recipe, but helped us modify it to use modern ingredients. Here is Gess making her liberty cake and yet another historic poster encouraging women to help the cause.

We also loved singing our history.  The song Over There was also new to Gess.  While I had heard it before all I remembered was the chorus.  Now we both know all the words.  While this particular song wasn't on the CD they did link to the file.  Some songs even have the sheet music enclosed.

Because Gess is the only child at home we never had the opportunity to do any historical skits.  I think larger families would find this addition a lot of fun.  We did use the time-lines from the Additional Materials Downloads.  I tried having Gess write down the dates for World War I.  Her handwriting is not very good though.  So for World War II I have her gluing the events in place instead.

History has to be one of the things Gess is least interested in.  Because of that I was really surprised when she started requesting it!  Last night as she was going to bed she asked if we would do history tomorrow for school. She really enjoyed the lessons that much.  Even if it was just sitting at the computer reading the stories she loved it.  For her, that speaks wonders.

I did notice that most of the extras were items that were available for free online to anyone.  However, I loved that it was all put together in one place.  They not only did an excellent job presenting the materials but they did all the research and gathered all the materials for you.  There was really not any prep work involved on my account, unless we had a hands on activity to do.  I loved that!

Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum sells for $98.99 and includes everything I listed above. They also have a print edition for the same price as the ebook package but it is only in black and white while the digital pack is in color. There are a total of 150 lessons spanning history from life in America before the Columbus expedition to the presidency of Barack Obama.  This can be enough material for 1 to 2 years worth of learning depending on how quickly you go through material and it can also be used with all your students in grades 1-6. While will you need to supplement some items for the cooking, crafts, and experiments everything else you need is included in the package.

To learn more visit the Golden Prairie Press website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.

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