Sunday, October 14, 2012

Online Learning with The Pilgrim Story {Review}

Dayspring Christian Academy is a brick and mortar private school in Pennsylvania.  It teaches students under the Principle Approach of Christian education.  I’ve begun to notice more and more interest and online buzz about the Principle Approach and encourage you to read about it at Dayspring’s website. Here’s a little blip about it that was sent to me with this review:
“…The Principle Approach is America’s historic, classical Christian method of education to prepare young people to be servants, scholars, and statesmen in our constitutional federal republic.  This requires developing a biblical worldview as well as excellence in character, skills, and talents.  The Principle Approach is very intentional in its purpose:  equipping young men and women to help restore the biblical foundation of America.” (emphasis mine)
These are very intriguing, noble goals – goals which I am reaching for with my boys.  So, I was excited to have the opportunity to learn about the Principle Approach in action with a review of Dayspring’s The Pilgrim Story interactive, online course.  You can purchase access to it for $99.00.  You’ll receive 6 months of access time to complete the course – which seems totally doable.  In the course, you will have an interactive, self-paced course consists of five units totaling 17 lessons complete with assessments and ideas for further study. 
This is *not* your average study on the Pilgrims.  It is not politically correct and does not hand you the traditional re-telling of the Pilgrims.  This is a step-by-step tour from the roots of the Separatist movement (those are the people who became the Pilgrims) all the way through the first thanksgiving and beginnings of the free enterprise economy in the colony.  Here’s a list of the lesson titles:
              1. King Henry (Important because of the separation from the Catholic Church)
              2. Geneva Bible
              3. Life in Scrooby
              4. Liberty of Conscience
              5. Leaving England
              6. The Second Escape Attempt (yea, I didn’t know that it took the Separatists two tries to leave England either)
              7. Leiden
              8. Preparing to Go
              9. Leaving Leiden
              10. Conditions on the Mayflower
              11. Building Christian Character
              12. The Mayflower Compact
              13. Exploration
              14. The First Winter
              15. Spring, 1921
              16. The Wampanoag People
              17. The Rest of the Story
The last part of the course is a virtual field trip to Plymouth Massachusetts with the creator of the class, Mary Stauffer, and expert on Pilgrims (she does not do the narrating).
Dayspring recommends this course for grades 3-6. I decided to use this with Luke only (if you’ve been reading my blog entries about school this year for Ben, you’ll understand that there has been no. way. I could include him in this right now!) since he is a 4th grader. I’ve been extremely impressed with the way Dayspring brought abstract concepts into Luke’s grasp of comprehension.  
When you open up a lesson in this interactive presentation, you will see an introductory screen (above).  Here you can preview what information is included in the lesson (arrow “1”) and what pages you’ll download from PDF files and print out.  These are pages you’ll want to include in your child’s notebook (red arrow).  I must say, they pages are sooooo beautiful, with a sepia map edging and the Pilgrim Story logo in the upper left.  You will use the buttons by the green arrow to navigate through the slides. Don’t worry – the narrator will remind you to print out pages for each lesson.
The first part of the lesson is a brief review of previous information, using a quiz format.  Luke really enjoyed these.  The information is so well presented that Luke rarely make an error:
After the quiz, your student will be introduced to the new vocabulary words for the lesson (these are not read to the student):

Then, the lesson begins.  I had started taking pictures of different slides, but after watching Dayspring’s promotional video, and I realized it was perfect for explaining the content of the lessons:

I hope that gave you a good idea of the way the presentation is constructed.  This is not a boring slide show.  It is an extremely professional interactive presentation.  Luke pressed buttons for the quizzes – and his answers were graded on the spot.  In a couple lessons, Luke had to click on labels to hear about a specific topic, like this one:
interactive slide learning activities with answers to be written down on notesheets
On the slide above, the student clicks on the words to learn about what the Separatists endured as they left England for Holland.  Then Luke wrote down the information on his notes; a pencil graphic shows your student what to write down on their sheet:
At the end of each lesson, students take a quiz to review the lesson. 
Integrated at various points in each lesson are activities that you can complete as well as primary source materials (written by people who were there) that complement the topic.  William Bradford is often used in the course.
There is map work to do, timeline work, playing a Native American game, making a Mayflower ship (with an egg carton!), and may more.
At then end of a unit (3 or 4 lessons), there is a unit test.  I LOVE that they’ve included two different kinds of tests – essay and multiple choice:
Your child can just click on which type of test they (or you) want to take, and continue on.  (Grading rubrics are provided for the essay tests). I chose to have Luke use just the multiple choice tests.  We were both fist pumping when he got this grade:
Capture 2
I didn’t want to spoil Dayspring’s tests, but I did decide to take a snip of a screen to give you a hint of the essay tests.  Here’s one:
And here’s another:
At the end of the 17 lessons, you can take a virtual field trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts.  My boys and I have been there before – but I learned about some places that we did not know about!  The field trip is strictly a narrated slide show that highlights information which complements the providential view of America.  Yes, it talks about Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower and Plymoth Plantation – but more importantly, the narration highlights the essential faith and principals of Christian life that carried the Separatists through their journey, trials and successes.  It is inspiring.
My recommendations & thoughts:
First off, let me say that this format of learning has been fantastic for my Luke, who isn’t the strongest reader. Since the slides are read by a narrator (but the narrator does say more than what is on the slide), he is getting the main idea through two modalities: auditory and visual. I have been sitting with him to work through this course, and am tickled pink at all he has learned in this style. (See 93% unit test score above!)  This course has really held Luke’s attention!
But honestly, this unit study is fantastic for students with a wide variety of abilities and learning styles. Ben, as an 8th grader, would learn much about the principles of unity and conscience from this study, as these are not concepts he’s been exposed to. So, although it isn’t designed for an 8th grader (or middle schooler, for that matter), I can appreciate that an older student could glean quite a bit of information that would benefit his character.
Let me add, too, that I definitely could have added in Levi for this course. He definitely showed an interest in it (he would willing join us here-and-there), and I *know* that he would have eagerly completed the note taking pages – he enjoys copy work (he’s unique in that way). Doing the crafts? for Levi!
Another thing I really like about the format Dayspring has chosen is that they have included in-lesson quizzes to check comprehension. The students are asked a multiple choice question, and they are given immediate feedback. You can navigate back through the presentation if you need to review a missed concept.  These lesson quizzes are not graded, but the unit tests will show a grade.
I’m really impressed with the great depth of detail which is explained at a child-friendly level.  My son knows about the Geneva Bible and it’s importance to the Puritans – something that I just learned. He understands principles of conscience and unity now (and could probably explain them better than I could!). I love being able to expose my children to such great truths so young.
To read what other homeschool-mom-bloggers thought of Dayspring’s The Pilgrim Story, please click on the banner below:
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received access to this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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