Saturday, November 7, 2009

A New Crew Review from Bright Ideas Press


Several weeks ago   Bright Ideas Press  provided me with a free copy of All American History Volume I to test and use in order to write this review.  When I received it I was a little worried.  Other than Math, I don't buy curriculum.  All American History seemd to be very curriculum-y.  I thought that I definitely would not like this.  I love creating my own unit studies.  I love reading a great book to the boys and finding cool activities to do around what we've read.  As I looked at a thick hard-back history book, a thick student activity book, and a thick teacher's manual, I immediately judged it as being curriculum and not for me.


Then we started a unit.  I actually started in the middle of the book.  Last year we had spent a lot of time on Columbus and then the early settlers.  At the end of the year I had begun a unit on the American Revolution.  Although All American History Volume I's beginning sections are pre-revoluion, I chose to begin at Unit 3 which deals with the American Revolution.  This group of books, which is really more like a great Unit Study than a curriculum, is easy to get started.  It does not take a lot of mom-prep.  I don't like to spend lots of time reading teacher's manuals and getting activities organized to prepare for a lesson.  You don't need lots of prep time to get started.  And the activities make this so much more like a unit study than a history curriculum.  There are notebooking activities and timeline activities.  In three words...I loved it.  But, what about the boys?  In three words...they loved it.


For the first lesson, I had them read the Student Text.  They don't have a lot of non-fiction reading experience.  They don't have any textbook reading experience at all.  They read it and immediately pronounced it, "Cool."  After reading, they completed the first page of questions.  But they weren't just a question and answer worksheet.  There were pictures to cut out and drawings to make.  It was right up our boys' alley!  They were hooked.


For each chapter there are "for further review" questions.  I had each boy pick a question and complete it.  Our oldest learned about an artist's depiction of the French and Indian War.  He learned about the picture, the characters in the picture, and the time period around it.  He gave a thorough and interesting talk on what he learned and even printed a copy of the painting!  Our youngest, T-bone, chose to take a virtual tour of one of the forts involved in the war of 1812.  He, too, gave a great talk about what he learned.


So, if all curriculum is like this one.  I may  become a curriculum girl!  The boys and I are really enjoying All American History Volume I.  We will definitely be finishing this book, going back to the beginning and catching up on what we've missed.  This is well-organized, thorough, and captivating.  The only criticism I have is that the books don't easily cross-reference to each other.  I don't think this would be a problem if you began at the beginning.  But since we began in the middle, trying to find the right pictures for the activity sheet we are working on is not easy.  They are not necessarily marked easily, as the author just assumes you have moved on to the next picture.  I found that to be a problem with many of the activities and it's been challenging to find the correct pages or items to coordinate to the activites.  The teacher's manual doesn't always say, "If you go to page ## in the student activity sheet."  It just talks about the next activity or the "Steps to War" activity.  It's up to you to figure out what that activity is.  If you're doing this curriculum in order, you won't have a problem.  The next activity being discussed is simply the next activity in the book that you haven't completed.  The next picture to be attached to your notebook page is the next picture that you haven't cut out yet.  But, you know me, I've just GOT to be different!


All American History Volume I is $68.00 for the Student Text, the Student Activity Book, and the Teacher's Manual.  In my opinion all three of these books are necessary to do this history lesson well.  If you want to purchase items individually, the text is $44.95 (493 pages).  The Student Activity Book, which is three-hole punched and perforated, (perfect for notebooks) is $16.95.  And the teacher's manual is $18.95.  The teacher's manual has great suggestions for activities to support each chapter, booklists for every unit, and answers to the worksheet questions in the student activity book.  This curriculum can be used by all ages.  There are adaptations suggested for younger students as well as high-schoolers.  I really think all ages will find challenging activities and reading.


If you'd like to see other items from Bright Ideas Press, check out their website here.  They have a lot to offer.  Their contact information can be found here.  Although all my fellow crew mates did not review All American History, there are lots of Bright Ideas Press reviews here.  And my review is a day late, so with that I will say goodnight until next post!

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