I am delighted to share with you one of our latest reviews. This one is for Taylor, my 10 year old, and came at EXACTLY the right time! We have just finished our study of Ancient Greece, and are ready to move into Rome. I kept feeling, however, that I should let my older student move on with World History and take my elementary student through a good meaty course in American History, since she was very young (1st grade!) when she went through American History together with her older sister.
I have become unimaginably excited about teaching history to my kids in the past few years. Actually, I should really say I have become unimaginably excited about learning history alongside my kids. You see, I have discovered as I was granted the great privilege of homeschooling, that history is more than memorizing boring dead people and dates. I have discovered that exploring our past and realizing WHY it matters really is an amazing journey.
That being said, lets get to the history program at hand. The program we received from Our Land Publications, is called Our Land of Liberty.
This history of the United States of America is for upper-elementary and middle school students. In this curriculum, the story of the United States is cleverly disguised as 33 chronological issues of small newspapers. Each of the 33 issues contain several lessons equivilent to one textbook chapter, with each lesson using a fifth grade vocabulary and sentence structure.
While this curriculum was written with state guidelines in mind, it can act as a stand alone study, or complement to another curriculum. It is clearly written for classroom/group use and can be purchased as a classroom set, but is easily adaptable to independent studies such as homeschooling. We received a combination set which includes everything for one student and teacher, and retails for $65.00.
Gunn Ranch Academy’s thoughts:
I must say first and formost, that my daughter LOVES this study. When I asked her what she loves so much about it, she says that she loves reading the newspapers. It’s fun. The newspapers consist of four pages, divided up into many small sections with pictures and maps included. She likes how the articles written about the people make her think and understand that they are “real people.” Big gold star here. They were real people, which is one of the rationales and objectives behind this curriculum: to make history “come alive”, making it more meaningful to students. So you can see this worked with my daughter.
She said she likes reading history from the view of the people we are learning about, instead of just reading stories about them. Second gold star! Another goal of the writers of this curriculum is objectivity. Rather than judging those who are no longer here to defend themselves, we can view history from their perspective, thus opening discussions for mistakes that were made, and “what should or would I have done?” discussions. This also opens many opportunities to include our Christian worldview- and character studies into this study. While this curriculum is not a Christian curriculum, I’ve yet to see anything that can’t be tweaked to the Christian worldview yet.
In the Introductory issue, “Welcome to the 21st Century,” a discussion of time intervals, history of the calendar, “A.D. and B.C” as well as the use of ‘BC and BCE’ is mentioned, and commentary in the Teacher’s Manual is presented for discussion at your discretion. The birth of Christ is discussed in in light of Pope Gregory intending our calendar start at Christ’s birth. It mentions the day celebrated as Christ’s birthday as “Christmas” is a representative day chosen by the early church. I much appreciated the way the text was presented in the student’s newspaper, as well as the commentary in the Teacher’s Manual. This could be left as brief as it is presented, or expanded upon as desired.
Taylor really enjoyed the first issue. I guess I never realized we hadn’t really ever covered centuries, millennia, leap years, the history of the Julian and Gregorian calendars, or the fact that 11 days were dropped from the calendar in the year 1752! We learned about time zones, Daylight Savings time, and solar time, among other things.
Another thing Taylor said she really likes about this study is the fact that there are questions to fill in throughout the reading, activities and some worksheets involved. Let’s take Issue #1 for example, “New World Discovered.” For the opening lesson, the students read and react to column one, “What is America?” Many of the small articles contain questions for the student to answer right on the paper, and some ask student’s opinion on the content.
Besides notes of encouragement and guidelines for teaching the material, lesson guides and layouts, summaries, and everything one would “expect” a teacher’s manual to contain, within each section, or student issue, the student newspaper is reprinted in the Teacher’s Manual, divided up into lessons. Beside the first box that the student has been assigned to read, are teacher’s notes. These might include one or more boxes divided into “Focus” begins lessons and gives the goal for the lesson, or sometimes teaching strategies. “Comment” boxes have ideas for organizing the lesson, expand the subject material for the teacher, and can help withteaching strategies. “Response” boxes add comments on student responses to their reading material or activities. “Principle” boxes with a dashed border are pretty cool, I thought. When present, they point out philisophical or theorectical ideas from the author’s perspective. I do enjoy understanding where the author is coming from when I am teaching material that is hugely objective, as I believe history is. Sure, there are little known facts that have been recorded over time, but this, again, is the “boring” side of history, just memorizing what we know to be true. Historical perspective is truly what makes history fun! I do believe it’s important to always teach students that there can be many opinions and perspectives on history. While I prefer to teach history from a God’s eye-view, we do discuss the subjectivity and the objectivity of the historical author’s views from which we are studying. Moving on from that thought, “Reaction time” boxes expand on comments from discussion topics at the end of each issue. They can be used for assessment, or simply to sum up a lesson.
Lesson two of issue #1 reflected on defining geography, history, and the six question technique of evaluating newspaper articles, or any informative article. Lesson three goes into who “discovered” America, mentioning Columbus, Leif Erickson and the Vikings, and has an extensive Principle discussion on the author’s opinion of the word discovery, and the impact of “discovery” on the native population. Again, I enjoyed the Priniciple boxes as thought provoking notes for the teacher. Lesson four is more about Columbus, and gives options of assigning library reading for enhancement. Lesson five discusses what is “discovery”, and includes thought provoking vocabulary words for discussion. The next part of this issue was one of Taylor’s favorite parts. This is an optional lesson about understanding the globe, flat maps, including many geographical terms. A lively demonstration was suggested to slice an orange and peel off the elliptical shaped sections of the peel to clarify that you can’t convert a sphere to a flat surface without distortion. We also measured a route between two destinations on a flat map and on a globe with a string, clearly demonstrating the distortion created on a flat map.
There are many copy masters that come with this study. The first we used was a map of the US including time zone and numbers where the states should be to facilitate a state name quiz, which was the second copy master we used. There are several activity ideas mentioned for this section in studying the national map. This study of the globe and map really brought home the geography of the exploration of the new world for Taylor. The next copying we did was a map of the world, identifying certain nations and used to chart voyages as we study them.
In the giving of details here, I hope I have shown the INCREDIBLE diversity and content this study brings forth. The author mentions that in no way does he expect the teacher to use this manual cover to cover. When I received my package, I first opened the package of student newspapers including two tests. “Very cool looking,” I thought, “but doesn’t appear to be much there. Wonder how 33 four-page papers can possibly compare to a textbook?” Well, my answer came when I opened the 408 pages of looseleaf teacher materials and put them in the three ring binder labeled ” Comprehensive Teacher’s Manual”. I began flipping through this HUGE manual, which backed my previous thoughts into a corner and had me wondering,”How in the world can a person possibly teach THIS MUCH material?”
As I began reading through the teacher’s material, I ran across this statement: “After I wrote this manual and looked at its size, I thought, how frightening this is! There are too many pages!” The author then goes on to explain that the point he wants to make is that he didn’t intend for you to teach everything in the manual step-by-step. He only wanted to assist and encourage you! I must say my first impression of this study was that it seemed a bit “public-schoolish.” Not meaning that to be a bad thing, but us homeschoolers tend to like things a bit less structured and “standardized”, do we not? Well folks, as we really got going with this I found so very much creativity and so very many open pathways that could have taken flight. This curriculum could lend itself to more than a year’s worth of study for sure! I did notice in a note to the teacher”Stay on schedule,” and “Complete the task- Faithfully study each issue and move on so that you reach the final issue before the school year ends. You and your students will have actually completed the course. (When did you ever finish a textbook?)” I did begin to take this note to heart after diving into the study. There is so much info here, you just gotta choose what to include and move on. Now that surely is a great homeschool curriculum there! Very adaptable, perfectly tweakable. In fact, that’s your job here, this course is designed for the tweaker!! Great for classrooms, groups, or individuals alike.
In closing, I would like to add that we will most definitely be working our way through this study to the end. We are curerntly working through the fourth issue. Not sure we will finish in a year, but my motivation to move on is this company’s curriculum, “My Texas”!! They also have California, Illinois and Indiana studies as of now.
I will try my best to update this post, because this curriculum is most certainly worth more than one look for those looking for a grand adventure through American history!
I must leave you with a picture that speaks volumes. Taylor likes this so much I caught her reading it to her chicken Bella. 🙂
For other Our Land Publication reviews, including Our Land of Liberty, My Texas, and My California, visit our Crew blog!
*I received this material as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew for purposes of review. No other compensation was received- kid, chicken and opinions are my own.