Review: All American History and All American History Jr.

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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.

All American History

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

All American History student pages

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.

All American History review

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.

hand-drawn map

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
  • maps
  • 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.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. What a good looking program!  My kids are visual and hands-on type of learners, too.  We are doing Sonlight this year for American History, along with some lapbooks and hands-on kits from Hearts and Home, but it is always good to learn about other programs, as well.

    Many blessings,

  2. Thanks for the review.  It looked like an interesting curriculum but I didn't hear about it until I went with another one.

  3. We bought AAH for my son last year (used, thankfully) and he really disliked it.  Same thing…said it was boring.  Since we had been torn between the two, we ended up changing over to Joy Hakim's History of US.  The good:  It really is awesome…engaging, colorful, and written in a very conversational style.  The bad:  I wish there was a workbook with activities and lesson ideas.  There are several "teachers manuals" and a few other things out there, but you really have to look and some of them are specific to one book at a time (and there are 10 books…so that can get expensive fast).  We finally did order the assessment book, just for my benefit to be sure that he is really getting all of the information.  

    I really hoped he would like AAH, but it just didn't work out for us.  

  4. This curriculum is a unit study approach meant to work for High School as well. The Teacher’s Guide (wonderful!) has the info for using this for high school. The book and activity lists are divided by age range, and there is plenty to read and do for that level. The additional optional forms in the Teacher’s Guide are intended for high school or if you have a child who ‘needs’ more. For you would simply have them work on more or most of the forms, literature and activities, whereas a middle schooler would do fewer. There is also a High School test packet download that we bought from Bright Ideas Press that you print it out. This has worked well for us. For 11th or 12th I might focus on deeper more demanding books or writing than my 14 y.o. does now, but it’s pretty much all in the Teacher’s Guide. The description for Part 1 (above) of this series, which covers Explorers through the Jacksonians, says it is for grades 5-8. Part 2 of this series (which covers the Civil War through the 21st century) is described as for grade 6-12. However, I’m not sure I see the differences yet between the two that make Part 1 any less suitable for High Schoolers than Part 2. They both seem to have the same format and H.S. test packet additions. As far as I can tell at this point, they both seem written for upper elementary through high school, and then you have the Jr. packet you can add to adapt Part 1 for youngers. Hope that helps.
    I am using Part 1 right now for my 6th and 9th grade kids, I am real pleased so far. Well laid out, cohesive, chronological and easy for me to use with my two kids of different levels, needs and learning styles. Makes it easy for us to do History together instead of separately. I was going to have to adapt my two different Sonlight levels with two instructor’s guides for American this year and I could tell that was going to drive me nuts. Happily, I still get to use any or all of those books if I want to, but with a more cohesive history emphasis and a unit study approach. It really is beautifully laid out – somehow laid out enough for me, but also flexible enough for me. Her writing is lovely, too. VERY happy so far (kids too). What a relief!

  5. I have a quick question – how religious is All American History Jr? Could a secular family use it with a little modification or would it be overwhelming?

    1. You know, I honestly can’t recall. I don’t remember it focusing a lot on faith, but being a Christian family, I’m not sure that it would have stood out to me if it had, kwim? Sorry I can’t be more help.

  6. I am about 8 weeks into my curriculum for my 3rd grader and I am not loving the history AT ALL. I am debating on buying All American for her. I can’t decide if I should just stick it out and push forward supplementing or switch all together. This is my first year homeschooling too… so everything is new to me. My daughter reads and comprehends on a 5/6th grade level- would you recommend this for us possibly? And now that you’ve had it under your belt are you still loving it? Once you are done with the American History what curriculum are you planning on going on to?
    Thank you in advance for any and all help!!!

    1. We have switched to Trail Guide to Learning. My kids really didn’t enjoy All American History. As I mentioned in the review, I liked it, but they didn’t. I decided to try to find something we could all enjoy and I definitely did with Trail Guide.

      1. Are you still using Trail Guide? And how are you liking it, or how did you like it? I am a new homeschooling momma on the search and landed her because of the AAH curriculum, but I had also read a review on Trail Guide and am intrigued. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

        1. We loved Trail Guide! At the time we used it, only grades 3-8 were available. We used both Paths of Settlement and Paths of Progress. We’d have continued to use it if the middle school and high school levels had been available. I highly recommend Trail Guide.

  7. Thanks very much for this review. We’ve done three years of Mystery of History and are looking at AAH for the next two years before delving into our fourth year of MOH. I found the Bright Ideas Press website to be lacking in practical description, so I appreciate you taking the time to review this curriculum!

  8. I know this post is old, but I’m trying to find if this 5 days a week curriculum? I know it’s 32 weeks, but I’m trying to find out if the lessons are daily. Thanks!

      1. I know you went through this a while ago but would you happen to at least have a used copy of the junior guide? Can I purchase it from you?

        1. No, I’m sorry. I don’t. We did some major remodeling last year and I cleared out a lot of homeschool books that we no longer needed.

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