Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Dave Raymond’s American History

Having reviewed and used Compass Classroom’s Visual Latin, I was excited to see several new course offerings, such as Economics and Filmmaking. Among the new releases is Dave Raymond’s American History.
American History

Dave Raymond’s American History is a semester course for ages 12 and up which teaches American History from a Christian worldview. It covers Meso-American to The Constitution.
There are thirteen lessons, each broken down into five video segments.  Each segment is roughly eight to fifteen minutes long, totaling about an hour of lecture for each lesson. Each lesson’s topic is as follows:
1. Orientation
2. The Banner of the Sun: Meso-America
3. Brave New World: The Early Explorers
4. The Colossus of Empire: The Colonies
5. Stability and Change: The Reformational Colonies
6. A City Upon a Hill: The Puritans
7. A Foreign War at Home: Wars of Control
8. Grace, the Founder of Liberty: The Great Awakening
9. Fathers of Independence: Adams, Franklin, Witherspoon, and Henry
10. Liberty or Death: The Declaration of Independence
11. Awesome Providence I: The War of Independence
12. Awesome Providence II: The War of Independence
13. A More Perfect Union: The Constitution
The videos consist of Dave Raymond speaking against a basic blue background with related graphics and visuals shown on the screen while he speaks. While the presentations do not have a lot of bells and whistles, they are quite engaging.  Dave Raymond is a wonderful story teller and speaker. A Christian worldview and interpretation is woven throughout each lecture, with history being a story of redemption and an exploration of how culture has changed and impacted how people live.

In addition to the videos, there is a Student Reader and a Teacher’s Guide.

The approximately 150-page Student Reader is not a traditional textbook format but rather a master assignment and exam list with supplemental reading selections. The Student Reader lists assignments for each lecture. Students are asked to read and ponder a reading, write an essay, or consider various questions.

Lessons are intended to take one week each and end in a exam with every fifth lecture.  The exams are essay, short answer, or narration; students will not be able to succeed at the exams unless they clearly understand the material. Some sample exam questions are:
  • Narrate the story of the Puritans from their stay in Holland to
    their colonization of America. Include the characters of William Bradford and Miles Standish.
  • How did the faith of Samuel Adams affect his leadership?
  • Describe the culture of the American colonies prior to the Great Awakening in detail.
  • Write a short essay explaining the structure, balance, and wisdom of the United States Constitution and why it has lasted longer than any other constitution.
Two larger and more detailed projects are included every semester (one a quarter). The projects for American History Part 1 are creating a historical map and memorizing and presenting a speech in costume.  Students are also asked to keep a portfolio throughout the semester, providing an entry for each lesson.  The final portfolio is essentially a personalized textbook created entirely by the student.

My eighth grade son helped me evaluate this program. When he first heard about it, he insisted he start it right away. So, without really investigating all the provided materials, I set him up with the downloaded videos and told him to have at it. Without fail, he watched his short lecture every day without reminder, which is quite telling. He said Mr. Raymond is a “very good speaker” and he was enjoying the lectures. It wasn’t until the explanation of the first project (duplicating an historical map by hand) at the end of Lesson 2 that I realized there were more materials with the curriculum. So, what did I learn? 1) It is best to thoroughly check out a curriculum before handing it to your kids and, 2) Your kids can get quite a bit out of this curriculum simply by handing it over to them and letting them only watch the videos!

After watching the videos myself, I agree with my son that Dave Raymond keeps the viewer quite engaged.  I am not a history buff by any means, but Dave Raymond’s style kept my attention.  I like that each lecture was rather short.  If desired, the whole lesson’s worth, about an hour long, could be viewed on a single day.  However, the shorter segments work very well for us.

I also appreciated the emphasis on note-taking.  How to take notes is covered in the first lesson, but reminders are given in later lessons.  For example, important information is written on the screen and it is suggested for students to get the proper spelling (reminding them that they should be writing this down!).

The reading selections in the Student Reader include speeches, first-hand accounts, sermons, letters, poems, and historical narratives. They are not too lengthy, but definitely of substance. Some may not be all that accessible to the younger end of the recommended age range. I also felt some of the questions may have been a little beyond my son, but it was easy enough to just skip those particular readings and/or questions. As I said, he was getting quite a bit just out of the videos!

The Teacher Guide gives instructions and guidance on how to grade assignments along with an Answer Key for the exams. Also included are suggestions for further readings listed by lesson.

We had a little trouble finding an appropriate map for the first project.  Sadly, our library had almost nothing available and online maps were very difficult to read.  We ended up skipping the project.  However, the portfolio project is definitely worth doing (and may include smaller maps) and I like that it is ongoing and completely up to the student on what to include.  We haven't reached the second project, a costumed speech presentation, yet.  It would be a great group event to do with several other families.
The beginning of my son's portfolio project. I was surprised at how much he thoroughly enjoyed creating the cover.  The 12" x 12" spiral bound notebook is from www.peareducationalproducts.com.
Overall, our family has really enjoyed this history curriculum and found it flexible enough to adapt to our family’s needs. Curious if it might be a fit for your family? You can download two free lessons to try!

American History

Dave Raymond’s American History is available in either DVD or download versions for $100.  You can also purchase it via an online portal, which includes a moderator and grader, for $125. Part 2 will be released Summer 2013.

Compass Classroom is currently having a spring sale through tomorrow, April 24th.  Get 30% off all products (excluding online). Click the banner below and use code CCSPRING30.

American History

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in exchange for an honest review. A positive review is not guaranteed.  All opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Affiliate links included above.

Now, for the best news yet! One lucky reader will get a download version of Dave Raymond's American History for their very own! See below on how to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Anonymous said...

I would love to win this especially this year, as this year I am not going to be able to buy a lot of things I'd like to, due to my youngest son's accident.
This looks like it would be very helpful for both of my youngest that we are still homeschooling. Our two oldest are currently in college.

Catherine OurVillageIs said...

Thanks for the review and giveaay chance. I think my boys would like this.