I love American History. I think it is fun to read about the people and events that shaped our nation and I want to share that history with my children. I was quite excited to have a chance to review Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum from Golden Prairie Press. This curriculum is intended for children in 1-6th grade and costs $98.99 for the complete curriculum. The complete curriculum includes the 2-semester Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History, Additional Materials Downloads, Historical Skits eBook, Sing Some History mp3 files, and Listen to Some U.S. History mp3 files.
Intended to be used as a complete curriculum for American History, there are several components. The largest component is the Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History eBook. It is presented in two parts. Each book is divided up into 15 sections with 5 lessons in each section. The history lessons are divided into two halves with one being simplified for 1-2 grade and the other half being more thorough with smaller type and intended for 3-6th grade. Most of the sections include a biographical sketch of a Hero or Heroine of the past. These are sometimes written by modern authors but many are reprints of old stories. These sketches are intended for children of all ages. Each lesson also contains additional activities like discussion questions, writing prompts, a memory verse of the week, crafts, skits, cooking, experiments, geography, listening to music or other pieces, or examining historical art. At the end of a unit (1 or more sections) additional resources like books that could be read aloud are suggested. These are not necessary, but can add more to the study of history. Also, there are occasional places within the text that suggest additional study within another literature book published by Golden Prairie Press. While these are nice to use, they are not necessary or required.
This book is mostly black and white but also features full color reproductions of art throughout to compliment the text. The text is well written and even the 1-2nd grade portions are not watered down, they just contain a little less detail. The language is rich and the biographical sketches are interesting. I love that when a name of a place or person or other “big word” that might be unfamiliar is presented there is a phonetic pronunciation right after the word the first time it is used. Every page is rich with beautiful illustrations, paintings, portraits, and maps. I love the focus on people, important events, and beautiful art to help bring it alive. The book is really excellent quality. My only complaint is that sometimes reading it on a Kindle Fire meant that the pictures were smaller than I wanted. I had to turn to the computer to blow those pictures up to a larger size, but that was a small problem. I also like that all the activities that surround the lessons are not a bunch of silly arts and crafts but rather are meaningful experiences. For example, we were talking about the Puritans and there is a “Cook some History” to make a Scripture Cake like the Puritans did. We had to look up various scriptures to find our ingredients and then make the cake. I was grateful that the end of the book contains the answers since I wasn’t sure what kind of leavening to use based on the scripture! The girls really enjoyed making their cake. It turned out beautifully.
Pumpkin Pie enjoyed the art study questions. Butterfly enjoyed looking at the paintings but didn’t care to talk about them. Strawberry flitted back and forth. I also really love the games of the past. They are great at helping children see what children in another time would have played. The games are fun and the directions are well written.
Sing Some History includes 20 songs, mostly folk songs and a couple of instrumental ones. These are intended to be listened to throughout the year to compliment the history studies. Some of the songs sounded like children gathered around a computer microphone. In some cases, it is slightly off key and the singers are singing different tempos even though the music should be sung in unison. Others were better, but still didn’t sound professionally mixed. The few pieces we got to my children were not interested in listening to. We did, however sing some of the songs as they are printed in the text.
There are some really fun materials on the Additional Materials CD. For example a reproduction of a game from a newspaper published in 1890 that can be printed and played. There are videos about the cotton gin and flags of the Revolution. There are also several timeline resources. One of my favorite files was the 48 full color paintings that are represented throughout the book. These paintings are full sized and could be printed in color or viewed more easily from a computer screen full sized for art studies.
The Historical Skits eBook includes nineteen skits to do with small groups of students. These skits are intended to help the history come alive. This would be really fun in a co-op type setting. Unfortunately, with my girls, we were not able to do any of the skits. They are cute short (less than 10 minute) plays in 1 or 2 scenes. The dialog us fun. I would love to do a history skit day with a bunch of kids and act out American History through these skits. That would be a lot of fun.
The Listen to Some History contains 4 hours and 35 minutes of listening to original speeches, poems, documents, and sermons that are mentioned in the book. These 20 pieces span the time from the settling of America and the Mayflower Compact to World War 1. It includes such important items as the Gettysburg Address and the Bill of Rights as well as things like the a diary entry from a woman in during the Civil War. These 20 works are read by various speakers and are well chosen and clearly spoken.
Overall I really like this product, but especially the eBooks. I think they are well laid out, include many interesting facts and stories, and the activities aren’t just fluffy crafts that won’t mean much to the students. I do think that some of the additional resources could be a little more professionally produced though. While not common, as most things are well labeled, one lesson I did with the girls suggested I show the videos on the Virginia Wheel and weaving. I looked in the spot specified for a video called Virginia Wheel and discovered that it wasn’t there. Instead, there was a PDF file labeled “videos” which contained links to the appropriate videos. Since I hadn’t been expecting a PDF file, it took me a while to find it. Most of the videos are black and white old film clips. The one of the Virginia Wheel is a home video of several ladies performing the dance. If the additional resources were brought up to the excellent standard that the texts are this would be an even better curriculum. We have really enjoyed reading Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History and will be continuing to read it and doing some of the activities associated with it.