If you are familiar at all with my blog, then you might already know that I favor a literature approach to studying history. A literature approach doesn’t mean only reading books. History is easier to understand, and easier to retain when it comes alive for you. Living books, along with the opportunity for exploration, can bring history to life.
Golden Prairie Press has a complete history program for elementary aged students. Digital Heroes and Heroines of the past: American History is a living book with additional book suggestions, map work, timelines, and crafts to help students explore, understand and learn about American History from the very first discoveries through the present.
But Heroes and Heroines isn’t just History ~
Author/editor, Amy Puetz, has included music and art! Some of the lessons even explore the food related to history. When discussing foods from the New World, we read a short history of the Cocoa Bean and Amy had included a recipe for drinking chocolate. Other sections are called Cooking Up Some History and might include a recipe from that time era like Peas Porridge from the late 18th century.
But wait there’s more! Here let me list the different activities you’ll find through the program. Not all the assignments/activities are included for every lesson, but I like that because it creates variety.
Sections in Almost Every Lesson ~
- Questions ~ these are at the end of every lesson. This section has 3-5 comprehension style questions based on the lesson reading.
- Writing Topics ~ One or two ideas such as “imagine you are a person at the Spanish Court. Write what you think Columbus says to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
- Geography ~ Many of the lessons include maps. Questions are similar to “find and trace the path Magellan took”
- Memory Verse ~ This is an activity I’ve been skipping since we’ve been working on memorization from Sunday School, but the program does include suggestions for a Bible Memory Verses for most lessons.
Other Activities and Assignment Suggestions ~
- Crafts ~ Such as making a canoe or a pueblo house out of play dough (recipe included!).
- Timeline ~ The additional resources CD has several different timelines for the different eras. Each era offers different options such as one that has the dates but the other columns are empty or has the dates and the event filled in but the person is blank.
- Listen to Some History ~ MP3 files of things like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, “The Constitution”, “The Gettysburg Address”
- Sing Some History ~ MP3 files of songs from different time periods like “Sweet Betsy from Pike” or “Yankee Doodle”
- Cooking up Some History ~ We’ve only encountered the Hot Chocolate so far but I’m looking forward to Part 2 where I’ve found recipes for Skillet Bread and Fricassee Chicken!
- Act it Out ~ Skits for acting out history are in the included Historical Skits e-book. With only one 1st grade student, we’re not using these but as a theater major, I would be all over these if I were using it with a co-op or had multiple children in my family using this program.
- Games ~ Some of the lessons even have an historical game to play such as “I have a Basket.”
- Literature Suggestions for 5th and 6th Graders ~ These make great read aloud suggestions for the younger grades as well. These books are listed as optional on the website but a great way to “beef up” the program for an older student or students that read well or want to explore the lesson content a bit more.
How the Program is Organized ~
The heart of the program is the actual book Heroes and Heroines of the Past ~ American History. This ginormous curriculum is divided into two parts. Part 1 covers from 1000 AD to 1837 AD. Part 2 picks up where Part 1 ends in 1837 and continues to the present. Heroes is then subdivided into “Periods” such as the Period of Discovery, The Formation of the Union, The Civil War, The Period of National Expansion and more! Each time period is broken down further into sections and each section is subdivided into individual lessons.
Each lesson has a reading for 1st-2nd grade or 3rd-6th grade. Sometimes the reading is listed as 1st-6th grade. These can be read aloud by the parent or read alone by strong readers. The 3rd-6th grade reading immediately follows the 1st-2nd grade part. The activities follow the reading.
At the end of each time period, there a list of recommended resources that you can include for a deeper exploration. We were able to find many of these for the Period of Discovery at our library.
How We’ve Been Using It ~
On the website, Amy states that the program contains 30 weeks of instruction and that each lesson can take anywhere from 1/2 hour to 1 hour. That is a large chunk of time for Supergirl. We kept our history explorations to about 1/2 hour or less depending on what we choose to do.
Are you overwhelmed by reading my description? I was overwhelmed when I read through the website but implementing the program has been much easier than I thought. We’ve been doing “history” an average of 3 days per week. What that looks like each day varies greatly.
Some days we would just read the lesson and answer questions and the next day we might look at a book from the recommend resources and do the geography activity. We paused during the the 3 lessons related to Columbus (Columbus part 1, Columbus part 2, and Columbus and Son). We did most, if not all, of the activities including creating a hammock and read through the recommended Jean Fritz book about Columbus. I even added in a DVD that we own about Columbus. Since our history week is only 3 days long it took us nearly 3 weeks to get through three lessons! But we had so much fun and Supergirl is just fascinated with Columbus and the explorers.
In looking ahead both Supergirl and I are looking forward to reading about Pocahontas and learning about the early colonies. I’m thinking that it would be fun to pull out some of the pieces we made with Amy’s Costumes with Character book we reviewed a few years ago and play dress up as a modified variation of using the Historical Skits eBook.
Overall Supergirl and I are enjoying this program. There’s just a couple of things I’d love to see changed. The PDF is very difficult to navigate. It would be so much easier to use if the page numbers of the program matched the page numbers of the PDF file so that I could type in a page and go straight to where I left off. It would also be helpful if the PDF formatting would include bookmarks or thumbnails. I do highly recommend using the Kindle Fire or another tablet as that made it much easier to use the PDF book.
At first I wasn’t sure if I would like having the whole program in digital format but it has worked well for us especially since I received a Kindle Fire from my family. I can have the historical art picture on my laptop from the Additional Resources CD and I can have the eBook with the questions open on my Kindle.
- The Vender: Golden Prairie Press
- The Product: Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History
- The Author: Amy Puetz
- Format: Digital (a physical version is also available)
- Age Range: Designed for students in 1st to 6th grade
- Price: $98.99
- Includes: 3 eBook (the two main parts in PDF format, and the Historical Skits eBook in PDF format), and additional resources “CD” and two Audio Zip Files (Sing Some History and Listen to Some History).
- NOTE: Samples are available on the product page. Scroll to the bottom of the page and find the links within the descriptions. There’s even an optional coloring book you can purchase!
Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History from Golden Prairie Press.
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