I love history and I want my children to love history. I also want them to see it as a big pictures lens to view the world through which means that I want it to have a Biblical foundation. Yet, as much as I love history, I have yet to be able to have the self-discipline to get through any history book that we start. I just begin to see too many side trails and projects and I never get the history program off the ground.
So, when I had the chance to review one of the self-paced history programs from Veritas Press, I was excited about the possibility to bring my ideals about giving the children a Biblical big picture of the world to life. I allowed the children to pick which history we received, and they chose the Veritas Press Self Paced History: 1815 to Present . We received a year’s access to the course for one child (Firecracker) along with a set of 1815 to Present Flashcards to use with the program.
The Veritas Press Self-Paced History programs are meant to be used with students who are 2nd to 6th graders. I used this primarily with my third grade student (Firecracker). However, Rose (my first grader) sat and participated in watching the history videos with us and even often took turns with Firecracker completing exercises. You’ll probably see pictures of both of them and I’ll be telling both of their opinions about the program because completing the program truly became, at some point, a joint effort.
The 1815 to Present course is divided into 32 weeks and has 160 lessons. The course begins with Simon Bolivar’s fight for independence in South America and the Monroe Doctrine and continues on to present day America. This course is primarily a modern American history course, but does have some elements of world history sprinkled throughout.
So far, we’ve covered four weeks of material (20 lessons), and we’ve worked about 4 days a week. The pattern of the lessons is to introduce the history timeline card in the first lesson each and begin introducing the material that will be discussed during that lesson. Then the next three lessons are spent telling more of the story of the history surrounding the topic of the history flashcard, as well as reviewing the card and current and previous material using games and quizzes. Finally, on the fifth lesson of the week, you simply take the test over the material that you’ve learned on the flashcard and reviewing some of the material that you’ve been tested on previously.
In our four weeks (so far) on this history program, we have learned about:
- The Monroe Doctrine–This first week of class spends a lot of time detailing Simon Bolivar, Napoleon and the South American fight for independence from Europe. We also reviewed who the first five presidents were and why the relatively new nation of the United States of America would not want Europe to be extending their empires into South and Central America. The children also spent time mapping the continents and were introduced to a new to them vocabulary term, hemisphere.
- The Erie Canal–The second week of lessons focuses on goods and how many merchants were looking for an easier and cheaper way to ship goods from the Great Lakes region to the Atlantic Ocean. These merchants ended up spending 8 years building a man-made canal through New York State. In this week’s card, we also mapped the great lakes, all the major cities on the Erie Canal, and the different mountain ranges in New York. My favorite part of the week, however, was the song study in day four on the famous Erie Canal song.
- Jacksonian Democracy–This week focuses on Andrew Jackson. We learn his biography, what he did as president and the three great lawmakers who emerged and were part of the land deals between the states as the tricky balance of power between slave states and free states was emerging. We got to see how Jackson was a walking contradiction in so many ways. We also got to learn what the term “veto” means as well as to see how Jackson forever empowered and changed the office of the presidency.
- Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin–We learned about cotton and all it’s parts. We learned about the difficulty of separating cotton and the invention that Whitney had come up with that changed the way that cotton was produced. We learned about cash crops in the South and about how an illegal slave trade developed to help the South support the demands by the North and Europe for “King Cotton.” We also, took a step back from America and discovered that the Industrial Revolution in America was just a part of a wider worldwide Industrial Revolution that began in England with the invention of the steam engine. We learned about Luddites and about the first developer of the ideas that would become socialism. We also learned about child labor and why there was a need for child labor laws.
Cool list of history, right? And I’m sure I’m forgetting something that we did. These are just the parts that impressed upon my memory as I’m sitting making a list. Just think what we’ll have learned about and done over the course of the next few weeks using the program if we’ve learned this much in just four weeks of work!!
To make this program work, you need:
- a computer with a high speed internet connection. You’ll be streaming this course off the internet, and Veritas Press has a frequently asked questions page to help you determine if you’ve got the internet connection that you need
- a purchase of access to the class for each student who you will be keeping grades for in the class ($199)
- the set of flashcards that goes with your class ($19.95)
That’s all you need for a year of history. Veritas Press keeps records online that you can print off for your student and does all the grading.
Our course also requires a few miscellaneous supplies to do four craft projects over the course of the school year and has an optional literature component. After realizing that I had several of the books that went with the younger level of the course’s optional literature, I elected to use the literature program. The books are enjoyable and are split into small chunks so as not to be overwhelming. However, the self-paced class is self-contained, and the literature is not a necessary component.
So far, everything we’ve done except our optional read-alouds and our occasional random singing of the history song has been completely online. We have used the flashcards for reference as they’re introduced in the lessons. However, Firecracker really prefers to just keep the flashcards to put in order as he talks about the events and numbers them around using the flashcards and the history song as a form of review. (The history song is each course’s song that they have to reinforce remembering the timeline events in order.)
My children love this program. We spend about 30-45 minutes a day on the computer going through this program. They smile at the funny things that the characters say. They review the questions and discuss the answers. They love the optional literature that we’ve added to the program. Rose especially asks to do history every day. In fact, Rose has asked for us to go back to the beginning of their history series after we finish this course and begin from the beginning of history.
I love that it’s easy. We get on the computer and interact with the computer and it’s done. I sit with them because I find the lessons to be so interesting. However, on the days that I have been too busy to sit the children, I can log into the parent’s side of the course (or just look on Firecracker’s side) and see what his scores have been on the worksheets and tests. This makes it easy for you to use if you need your child to work independently. I had worried that we’d miss some of the projects and things that we were accustomed to doing with history. However, I found that the lessons are so comprehensive and fun that we didn’t miss the projects and things we had been doing, and I also found that my children were learning more than they had ever learned from me directly.
The major con that I really have with this program is that it is expensive. Like most homeschool families, we have a tight budget, and when you purchase a course ($199) and flashcards ($19.95), we’re talking about spending over $200 for one student for one subject. That’s a substantial part of our budget for all the children. When I researched prices on Veritas, I found that they offer sibling discounts for courses because the grade-keeping that they do is only good for one child per account.
However, this is such a high quality course and my children are learning so much, I feel that if they’re still interested in another course after we finish this one that I will probably buy them another one. It’s accomplishing all my goals for them for history and they love it! I love it! I look forward to sitting and listening to their history lesson with them. I also am not naive enough to believe that I don’t spend that much in a year’s time on history anyway. I probably just don’t notice it as much since I’m used to spreading it through a year’s time instead of spending my history budget in one big chunk!
The other minor con that I have with this program is that you can’t retake the tests or quizzes. I understand that they need the first score for their record keeping, so I don’t know that they can do anything differently. It’s not an issue for Firecracker. He gets a 100% or a 57% and he’s still happy. However, if my perfectionist Rose were the one primarily taking this course, I have found that she will retake a test over and over again on online courses in an effort to make a 100%. I can see her finding a less than perfect score frustrating.
However, even with those two drawbacks, I find that I can give this history class a ringing endorsement. It truly builds your child’s knowledge and continues to reinforce it throughout the weeks of the course. It is fun. It’s an easy 30-45 minutes a day without it taking over your whole day (unless your child asks for extra history!). You cover the history thoroughly without getting stuck in one place for weeks/months at a time.
The most important thing for me is that my children are getting a big picture of history that is centered on Christ. They are learning to view the entire span of history and will have pegs to hang new knowledge on and to assimilate new knowledge into the timeline that Veritas Press has given them to organize their knowledge. That definitely makes Veritas Self-Paced History the history that we’ll be continuing to use for this school year!