American History for Middle School and High School

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Written by Tara Mitchell of This Sweet Life and Embark on the Journey.

I have to admit that I did not enjoy history when I was in school. Not at all. I dreaded history class throughout middle- and high-school. With the exception of my sophomore US History class, I always thought history was dry and boring. My sophomore history teach was the best teacher I had in high school, and it was the only history class in which I ever scored higher than a C.

A review of Dave Raymond's American History, a homeschool history curriculum for ages 13 and up

I stunk at memorizing maps and countries and capitals. I stunk at memorizing names and dates. I couldn’t keep straight who did what leading up to a war. I just couldn’t keep it all straight in my brain. So, when it came time to teach history in my homeschool, I dreaded it.

I especially dreaded it when my oldest hit high school, and I have to admit that I don’t think I taught it very well. However, I recently discovered Dave Raymond’s American History program. For the first time ever, I am actually looking forward to teaching high school history!

About Dave Raymond’s American History

Dave Raymond’s American History from Compass Classroom is a comprehensive, self-directed American History course taught from a Christian point of view. It is comprised of video lectures, readings from primary sources, writing assignments, and hands-on projects.

This program consists of 26 DVD lessons. Each lesson contains 5 video lectures. Each of the videos is about ten minutes long and there is a student reader which contains over 400 pages. There is a teacher’s guide and weekly exams, as well. There are two big projects assigned – one each semester – and students are expected to create and maintain a year-long portfolio.

You can purchase each semester of American History separately, or you can purchase the entire year at once. It is designed to be a middle- or high-school course for ages 12+*. The course is worth one full high school history or social studies credit.

*Note: Compass Classroom currently lists this American history curriculum as being geared for ages 13+.

American history for homeschool

How to Use Dave Raymond’s American History

Initially, I intended for Emma (just turned twelve and entering the 7th grade) to work through this program relatively independently. However, I quickly learned that Emma was not ready to use it on her own. The content is very meaty, and (because I haven’t yet given her a strong foundation) it was quite difficult for her to do solo. So we did it together.

Each daily lesson starts with a 10-minute video lecture. Then, we did the reading together. Sometimes, the students are assigned an essay or a map to write/draw at the end of the lesson. Each week, there is a short test which proved quite challenging for Emma. However, given that she is just entering middle school and this course provides one full high school credit, it should be challenging for her age group. Then, students are expected to add to their portfolio.

The hands-on projects assigned in this program are quite challenging, as well. Students are asked to keep a portfolio which they add to weekly. The portfolio is designed to be a scrapbook of sorts documenting the student’s learning for the entire year. Students add names, dates, images, quotes and captions to record what they’ve learned.

homeschool American history for middle school and high school

As I mentioned above, this program is a bit meaty for my newly-turned 12 year old. So, I made accommodations for her. For instance, in the first lesson, test #1 is actually a 150-250 word essay explaining the value of history relating to a series of quotes included in the student text.

After listening to Dave Raymond explain several of the quotes, Emma and I discussed them a little further. Then, I had her pick one and summarize our discussion. I didn’t give her a word count, but instead told her to write a 3-5 sentence summary. While 150-250 words would have been quite overwhelming to her, the smaller expectation was much more manageable.

After watching all five videos in lesson 1, she created a cover page for her portfolio and complete her first entry. The assignment was to create an entry on the study of history. In lesson 1:3, Dave gives seven reasons for studying history – which, of course, we did not write down as we watched it the first time. (Note to self: Teach her to take notes as we watch.) So, we watched that video clip again, and Emma created her first portfolio entry. This one was easy peasy.

American history

After completing lesson one, we watched the instructional video for creating the colonial map. This is the big assignment for the first quarter. Dave Raymond encourages students to find a map that intrigues them, and Emma chose to recreate a map from Lewis and Clark’s travels and the Louisiana Purchase. She picked a really bright and colorful map with several graphics and icons on it. This is supposed to be completed in the first quarter. Not a bad start, huh?

Compass Classroom American History

As the lessons progressed, the assigned readings got a little more challenging. So, I began reading them aloud to Emma so we could discuss them as we went along. I could ask questions along the way to make sure she was understanding the readings. I really like that the readings presented in the student text come from primary sources like the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the travel logs of Christopher Columbus.

The end of the lesson quizzes got more and more challenging, as well. So, I began to pick and choose the questions I presented to Emma. Usually, I asked her to answer the questions orally instead of having her write them out.

All in all, I really like this program. While it is geared for 12+, I think modifications will need to be made for early middle schoolers. However, even with modifications, I think Emma retained quite a bit of information between the videos, the readings, the discussions, and the assignments.

I will definitely be revisiting this program in a year or so when Emma is ready to tackle a program as meaty as this one. She enjoyed it and wants to use it again. I want to wait, however, until I can give it to her “as is.” I think it will be much more meaningful when she can fully participate in the lessons – especially the projects and essays.

Dave Raymond’s American History gets a thumbs up from me! I highly recommend it!

You can download two lessons for free to see how well it will fit with your own family. Try it out. I think you’ll really like it.

Now is the perfect time to purchase Dave Raymond’s American History – it’s on sale for 50% off now through August 12! You might also be interested to know that the folks at Compass Classroom are currently filming Modernity, Year 2 of Dave Raymond’s History.

Compass Classroom Sale


This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.


Tara is wife to Matt and homeschool momma of three. Her children are 21, 16, and 11 – two boys and one girl. She is currently homeschooling her daughter – 6th grade. When she’s not blogging, Tara enjoys crocheting and snuggling up with a good book. She and her family recently moved from Texas to Ohio, and they’re having fun exploring their new surroundings. She blogs about homeschooling, motherhood, and family life on both of her blogs – This Sweet Life and Embark on the Journey.

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One Comment

  1. So glad I came here. I’d been looking at this earlier today, but really needed more information. I appreciate the free videos. Now I can see if it’s a fit! (Thanks, Kris!)

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