Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review of Golden Prairie Press

Golden Prairie Press Review
You might think that you have never heard of Golden Prairie Press. Chances are that you just don't know who the founder of this curriculum is, though, because it is almost impossible to homeschool and not have heard of Amy Puetz! Her living books and so-real-you-feel-like-you're-there stories of the boys and girls of yesterday are the crux of what many people consider a modern Charlotte Mason curriculum. For those people who may have avoided Mrs. Puetz's works in the past because they were afraid that a true Charlotte Mason education may not meet the needs of their family, the time has come to fully embrace all that Golden Prairie Press has to offer! We were very excited to be introduced to Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum

Golden Prairie Press Review

If the above graphic makes it look like there is a lot to this program, let me assure you - there is! There are actually *five* different components to this history program, which is geared toward children in Grades 1-6.
1. The text, in two parts. If you receive the digital download, as we did, you will get an amazing full-color experience that is unlike any textbook you have ever read. What surprised me most about the text is the brevity with which periods in American history are covered without sacrificing key detail! I have a degree in history, and I am very picky about the material we use. I don't like it when important things are glossed over or skipped. In this program, I didn't find instances of that at all (caveat: we started the program in the 1920s, which is where we are in American history). The program actually starts with Native people of North America. 

The text is laid out in a unique (and wonderful) way. Most sections start with a one-page lesson for 1st-2nd grade. In one page, the lesson is covered in full. Then, the next three or so pages are devoted narrating the same lesson for 3rd-6th grade. At the end of the lesson, depending on the day, there might be questions, writing topics, map, and geography questions, picture study, a bible verse to memorize, a topical recipe, and/or crafts to do. The writing exercises are varied and interesting and are easily adaptable to younger or older ages. The crafts are easy to do with things you have on hand at home. It is a good idea to look ahead at the beginning of the week to decide which activities you are going to do and to make sure that you have all the necessary supplies.

Our experience with the text:  My kids basically really liked the text. Each day's lesson is considerably shorter than the text we presently use, so they liked that a lot. They also loved all of the historical pictures embedded in the text. Unfortunately, they noticed the same thing that I did (and, perhaps, this was to be expected): it is *anything* but neutral. Therese's jaw fairly dropped along with mine at the statements highlighted in this picture:

Now, as a social scientist, I would say that the first statement is a non-falsifiable hypothesis - it is far from a statement of fact. The second is just pure opinion. I don't think that either one belongs in a textbook. I had to take a lot of time every day to explain statements like this and then explain to my kids why (even though I happened to agree with them), they were not textbook appropriate. Of course, other families may feel completely differently. Some families may want values statements in their history texts. I just don't happen to be one of them. 

2. Historical Skits - This book contains 19 short (2-3 page) skits that correlate with certain episodes you will study in the American history text. Some examples are Gold in California, Digging the Panama Canal, and The Spanish Influenza. The skits are extremely easy to act out and require almost no props - again, what you need you can find in your home. Of course, if you are the crafty and creative type, the sky is the limit.

We tried the skits, but my kids did not like them. They seemed a bit simplistic. My kids watch a lot of documentaries on the History Channel, The Learning Channel, etc. Thus, the skits did not flesh out any of what they had learned for them. I think that they would be much better for kids younger than mine (the ones I used the skits with are 9 year-old twins), or for kids who are  not exposed to as much TV as mine are. If you want or need a way to make history come more alive for your kids, though, the skits could be a nice touch.

3. Sing Some History - This is a grouping of historical songs. Examples are "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Sweet Betsy from Pike," and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." At first I was really excited about this part of the program, but I ended up being a bit disappointed. First of all, all of the songs are sung by the same male and/or female singers (as far as I can tell), and, to my kids, they sounded kind of silly. The kids told me that they sounded like one of the kids' CDs they listened to when they were toddlers. Also, on the song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," the words were changed from "...and we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home" to "...and we'll all feel glad when Johnny comes marching home." Now, I can certainly guess why the word was changed, but there is no need for the change. Gay is a perfectly legitimate adjective. It originated in the 13th century as a word meaning "fast" or "sudden." It came to be used as word meaning lively. Its use as an adjective for homosexuality didn't come into being until the 1930s. I learned this song in school and have never forgotten it. I had already taught it to my children and we were all surprised when the word was different. I didn't even get into why. I was annoyed that I felt that I kind of had to.

4. Listen to Some History - This is another part of the program that I thought was potentially really neat, but, again, I think that we have been spoiled by our exposure to more in-depth history. Again, this is a male and female voice reading historical documents, including "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," "The Declaration of Independence," and "Sergeant York." The problem I have is that there is nothing about these readings that sets them apart from me reading the documents to my kids...and I have read the majority of them to the kids already. I am *very* big on the kids listening to history, but when we do it, it's a little different. For example, when we were talking about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, I played for the kids the actual news broadcasts of that day. They heard the radio programs in progress that were then interrupted by the breaking news of the bombing. We also listened to some of Roosevelt's Fireside Chats. We listened to a Yankees game - things like that. When I think "Listen to Some History" I think of something like that, or at least something with some dramatic value (like the Old Time Radio program "Cavalcade of America" or "You are There"). The simple reading of documents was a bit of a surprise to me. I don't think it is much of a value-add to the program.

5. Finally, there are additional materials for download, including coloring pages, timelines, and some games. The timelines are absolutely gorgeous and went straight into the twins' notebooks. They are full-color and nice and complete.  

What Do I Think?

You might be tempted to think that I don't like this program. That's actually not true at all! I think this program is thorough, offers great variety (especially in the completeness of the text with the lesson questions, writing assignments, crafts - the kids really enjoyed translating Hobo Signs: I had actually just been telling them about them a couple of days prior to our doing this lesson, and then - there they were! It is the first time I have ever actually seen them!), and is, more than anything, gentle! I think it is the gentleness of it which does not appeal to me (as I said, I have a degree in history, and I LOVE teaching it to my kids), but which makes it so IDEAL for so many other families. I am fortunate enough to know many places to get a lot of additional resources (such as my extensive collection of almost 100,000 Old Time Radio shows), but not all families have that. Amy Puetz's program is perfect for such families. She has done the work for you. Also, if you are the kind of homeschool family that wants to do the entire immersive experience of skits, cooking, etc., this program is what you've been looking for. Finally, if you want to teach American history to all of your elementary school students at one time, you absolutely can do so with this program.

How much will this program cost you? Not much for all you get! The program costs $98.99 to download all of the components digitially.

Golden Prairie Press Review
Many other Crew families have been using this history program, so click the banner below to read their reviews. You can find Golden Prairie Press on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoldenPrairiePress
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  1. I loved your review. It had a lot of observations and opinions that I haven't read elsewhere. It was very helpful to read both the pros and cons of the program.

  2. Thanks so much for reading, Debbie. It's hard to write anything negative about a program this great, but there are things I would want to know before buying so I want to pass those observations along.