I know many of you may remember my desperate cry for help in choosing a history curriculum right before our school year resumed. Y’all came to my rescue with lots of great recommendations. After looking into many of them, I decided to try All American History from Bright Ideas Press.
There are three main components that make up All-American History:
The Components of All-American History
The Student Reader is a hardback textbook that contains the material the student will be learning written as more of a story than piles and piles of dry facts, though, of course, the facts are there, too.
The student reader contains 32 weekly lessons broken down into three key elements: the atmosphere, which explains the setting in which the events of history occurred; the event, which gives the details of the historical event (when and where the various explorers explored, for example); and the impact, a bullet-point summation of the main points of the lesson.
The student reader is not intended to be read word-for-word to younger students. It was written for kids in grades 5-high school. However, it can easily be adapted for younger students, or the folks at Bright Ideas Press have done the work for you with All-American History Junior…more on that in a bit.
The Student Reader also includes maps, photos of the historical figures being studied, and other related photos of items of interest, such as replicas of ships the explorers sailed on.
My only complaint about the Student Reader is that it jumps around a bit. Let’s say you’re learning about three different explorers. First, you’ll get the background on each of the individual explorers in “the atmosphere.” Then, you go back and find out what each of them did in “the event.” Sometimes, my kids get a little confused about who we’re talking about. I think this will be resolved when I change up my teaching technique, though, which I’ll explain in a bit.
The Student Activity Book is a softcover, consumable workbook containing:
- notebooking-style pages to be completed by the students
- review questions (T/F, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank)
- For Further Study ideas
- maps (blank to be filled in based on the maps in the student reader)
- photos of each historical figure studied
- flag (and other) pages needed for completing the student activity sheets
- optional forms that can be used throughout the study of American history
The Teacher’s Guide is a softcover book containing suggestions for family activities related to the topics being studied, suggestions for making the most of studying American history, book lists, review games, answer keys, images for required student forms, etc.
What We Thought of All-American History
Now, the part many of you have been asking me about – my impression. I love All-American History! It’s well-written, logically laid-out, and easy to implement with minimal planning. It is a thorough, easy-to-use study of American history.
I have to give you a very important caveat. The kids aren’t nearly as impressed as I am. They prefer science over history because history is “boring.” Not what you want to hear about your history curriculum, but, in All-American History’s defense, they’ve pretty much always said that about history.
In all honesty, I think part of their current opinion of history is my fault and I think I can turn it around with All American History; it’s just going to require a little advance planning and effort on my part. They are both on the younger end of the age spectrum for All-American History, so I really need to be making some modifications.
You see, Megan is in 4th grade and Josh is in 6th, both a little young for reading the AAH text word-for-word, as I’ve been doing – because of poor planning.
I really love the way All American History is set up. I think it covers what needs to be covered, offers some great options for assessing student comprehension, suggests a wealth of extension and family activities to go with each lesson, and provides a great list of suggested literature (my favorite way to learn history) to go along with each lesson.
Modifying All-American History
What I want to do – and have intended to do for the past several weeks, but I’ve been so busy it’s been hard to get organized – is read the text ahead of time (because the chapters are rather long for reading aloud, in my opinion) and tell the kids the story and facts of the lesson, preferably using my mad artistic skillz (<—that’s sarcasm) on the dry erase board.
I think I can use the impact section of the text, along with the maps and review, to make sure that I don’t miss anything important and I would still have them filling out the student activity sheets and dong the review questions.
I’ve even thought about printing the photos of this historical figures (included with each lesson) on card stock and gluing them to those thin magnet squares so that I can add them in the appropriate places to our magnetic dry erase board as we discuss each lesson.
I think that would appeal to the visual learning needs of my kids. They’re much more visual than auditory.
Then, instead of reading the text, we’ll read a related historical fiction or biography book. I love historical fiction and a good biography for really getting into a period in history.
It’s taken me this long to realize that these are the adjustments that I’d like to make and what I feel need to happen to make history come alive for the kids. Well, this all actually occurred to me about two weeks ago, but I haven’t implemented my own ideas yet because I already had my lesson plans done through September and haven’t had time to sit down and make changes. I will, though, and I’ll update you on our progress.
All-American History Jr.
Now, about modifying for younger kids…the AAH teacher guide gives you some suggestions for doing that, but if you’d just as soon have it done for you, check out All American History Jr.
Bright Ideas Press has done the modifying for you with AAH Jr. This digital download contains:
- modified lesson plans (yes, the lesson plans are done for you!), including shorter reading assignments and lots of hands-on activity suggestions
- coloring pages
- challenge cards for review (suitable for older kids, too, in my opinion)
- notebooking pages
- Printable materials for 5 folderbooks (aka “lapbooks”)
- a puzzle pack containing related crossword and word find puzzles
- image pages needed for student workbooks – great for creating homemade games to make learning more fun
- literature guides for 5 related books: Explorers Who Got Lost, 3 Young Pilgrims, A More Perfect Union, Trail of Tears and Erie Canal
As I modify my lesson plans, I will be including more ideas from AAH Jr., which I think will make AAH much more fun and meaningful for the kids. AAH Jr. is designed to be used with the AAH teacher guide and student reader. The student activity book is not needed to use AAH Jr.
AAH Jr. is the perfect solution for families with both younger and older kids who would like to explore history together. Personally, I love doing history and science as a family, though Brianna is doing her own thing this year.
I am already very pleased with my choice of All American History. I feel like the kids are getting a great foundation in American history and I’m sure that, as I implement some of the changes that I’ve discussed, the kids are going to find it much more enjoyable. They may never love history (I never did, until I became an adult), but I don’t think they’ll find it boring and I’ll be confident in the fact that they are learning important truths about how our nation was born.
To be honest, I’ve already learned things that I never got out of my own American history education – interesting facts that I’ve shared with Brian about how the different things going on in Europe during the 1400’s culminated in the European’s need to explore faster, better trade routes, which ultimately led to the discovery of the Americas.
I want to pass that along to my kids and I am convinced that All American History is an excellent way to do that.
All American History is available from Bright Ideas Press for $68, which includes the teacher guide, the student reader, and one student activity book. All American History Junior, regularly priced at $45, is available for the introductory price of $39 until September 30.