Tuesday, May 13, 2014

{Crew Review} US History by Amy Puetz


Hi, my name is Alane, and I am a curriculum junkie.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with some amazing programs – and I consider one of the best to be Amy Puetz’s (pronounced ‘Pitts’) Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum ($98.99) from her publishing company Golden Prairie Press.

This is a comprehensive history curriculum – which includes timeline work, geography, and some literature – is appropriate for all elementary grades 1 through 6.  In addition to the traditional elements that I mentioned above, Amy has included some amazing extras that can really help your children understand cultural elements of the time periods. 

The following six downloadable products are included in the Heroes & Heroines package (click on links below to see samples).  They easily unzip after downloading and will require a PDF viewer as well as a media player for the audio clips. 

  1. American History eBook Part 1 (Period of Discovery through Andrew Jackson Administration – click on link to see table of contents for part 1)
  2. American History eBook Part 2 (1837 to Present) – These two eBooks provide the meet of the program.  Included are daily readings, which are divided into a shorter 1st – 2nd grade passage and a longer upper elementary passage (usually two or more pages).  Following each daily reading lesson are a variety of activities to reinforce learning. Comprehension question, geography mapping, timeline, crafts, memory verses, creative writing and one of my absolute new favorite activities (thanks to Amy Puetz) – art picture study!  Here is the table of contents for book 2:
    DSCN3210 DSCN3211
  3. Extras files  - This is a set of mostly PDFs (a few songs) that provide the basis for some crafts, games, maps, and the timeline.  Additionally, larger PDFs of the artwork that is studied in the text are available to examine;  we did not print them, but were able to zoom in and out to examine specific features.
  4. Listen to Some History Files – This is a small collection of some famous writings in US history, including the Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution (read in its entirety in 48 minutes), as well as some famous sermons from founding fathers.
  5. Sing Some History Files -  This file includes 30 minutes of secular and Christian songs that provide a glimpse into our history. 
  6. Historical Skits eBook – I was surprised that Luke and Levi were so excited about this set of scripts, in which students can act out scenes from history!  The boys enjoyed acting out a story featuring Christopher Columbus’ son and the monks who helped him become introduced to the King and Queen of Spain.


As designed, this curriculum can be used on a 5-day a week schedule for 30 weeks. We found that we could easily finish a lesson in an hour or less, depending on how many ‘extras’ we incorporated into our day.  It is very flexible and on busy days, we did a little less writing and more oral work.  The program is arranged to easily advance through the entire US history through study of individuals during the time period. 

Amy has included the traditional historical figures to read about (Columbus, Eli Whitney, Harriet Tubman) as well as lesser know figures that give a glimpse into life and circumstances during our colored past.For example, Section 4 is about the British Pilgrims coming to the New World.  Lesson 1 is an overview of the Puritan’s struggle for religious freedom in England, their flight to America and their initial settlement. Lesson 2 introduces elementary aged students to a young women on the Mayflower, giving students an opportunity to see life on the Mayflower and the Colony from a child’s vantage point. Lesson 3 is another biographical study – this time Squanto.  Lesson 4 continues the biographical introductions of various settlers including the Brewsters and William Bradford.  Finally, Lesson 5 is an overview of the development of the colony of Massachusetts from its Puritan founding.  I love that my kids are learning history as they walk along side heroes and heroines of all ages.

I love that Amy has include a daily lesson for each of our Presidents (some presidents are grouped together).  No matter their performance, each of our presidents deserves to be included in our history and mentioned to our students. 

Heroes and Heroine Review @ reapingaharvest

How We Used The Program:  This was an easy program to use!  It took little pre-planning beyond making some copies of the skit (though it could easily be read from the computer or tablet), copying the timelines, etc.  I had decided to print out the eBook text, because I do not enjoy doing all my reading on the laptop – I am still ‘old school’ and enjoy having pages to turn. 

Because I wanted to work with both Luke and Levi at the same time, I decided to not read aloud the 3rd – 6th grade section of material for each lesson.  Levi has a good attention span, and he had no difficulty following along with lessons, nor did he have trouble answering the comprehension questions for each lesson.  In the fall, my plan is to have Luke and Levi look over the early elementary 1st-2nd grade, one-page lesson after we do our reading and highlight and and begin to outline important information.  I think this will be a good step for Luke to learn some note-taking skills and Levi will begin to learn to pick out important facts. 

After reading, I looked over the activity pages for each lesson and we chose a few to do.  I always choose to do the geography mapping.  Some of the maps were a bit hard to read, as they are copies of old maps that are generally in the public domain. 


Samples of the map work that is included within the text of the reading.  

Some of the maps are a little small as well, but the boys (who have gotten a fantastic geographic education this year) are easily able to locate information so far and do not seem to struggle with blurriness as much as my old eyes and I do. 

In one of our first lessons, we spent our history time learning about the continued influence of Native American names in our state.  We pulled out maps and found that mountains, rivers, lakes and towns in our state still bear the labels given to the areas by the native tribes of New England.  And since it has been a while since we graphed something, we went ahead and incorporated a little math into our work:

The boys are also working on keeping a timeline of explorers, as well.  I do appreciate that Amy’s timeline is simple and direct:

I should note that there are some optional readers/ literature selections that do not come with the eBook program, but can be purchased separately ($59.99 for the set of 5):

  • Ten Great Adventurers by Kate Dickinson Sweetser, edited by Amy Puetz
  • Ten Girls from History by Kate Dickinson Sweetser, edited by Amy Puetz
  • Heroines of the Past: Bible Study by Amy Puetz
  • Two Little Americans in Spanish California by Frances Margaret Fox
  • Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott

There is also an optional coloring book ($9.99) for those busy hands!

Because the program is so heavy in biographical information, I’ve decided not to invest in these additional resources at this time.

My recommendations & thoughts:  I think this is a well put together history curriculum for younger grades.  The boys are engaged and interested in the material (huge bonus) and I appreciate the emphasis on the people of our nation’s history while still providing an effective narrative of historical events.  Amy has put together a program that should meet the needs of all learning styles at the elementary level. 

We are definitely using this as our history spine in the fall as we begin a year’s study of American history.  Although we will have school only 4 days a week (we spend one day a week in community), I do not doubt that we will be able to incorporate all the lessons and a good many of the extras into our school work.  I do believe the boys will be getting an excellent survey of American history presented in a pleasant, child-friendly format.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

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