June 27, 2014

Veritas Press Self-Paced History (A Curriculum Review)

We are a history loving family...I was in school to become a history teacher before I quit to begin homeschooling. I filled my college classes to the BRIM with history both the first time AND second time I attended. My husband is an avid history buff as well--devouring documentaries and shows that teach about it. He says that if he wasn't a mechanic, he'd be a history teacher himself! We have passed our love for history on to our children and it's a major subject in our homeschooling. Thus when I had the opportunity to enroll in and review the Veritas Press Self-Paced History: 1815 to Present online course, our whole family was excited about this opportunity!
veritas press self paced history review

What is Veritas Press?

Veritas Press Review
Veritas Press is a company devoted to providing a classical Christian education for homeschooling students. Their goal is to teach children in a way to compliment their development and use the minds with which God gifted us the power of learning. Their primary focus is teaching according to the Trivium of dialectic, rhetoric and grammar.

Though providing a full range of subjects for all grade levels, one of their most popular subject curriculum is history. They created curriculum to teach history chronologically integrating biblically recorded history with that of "traditional" history recorded in books to show how biblical history really impacted the world at large. They added in methods for keeping it fun in order to help students retain the information they are learning.

Thus their development of excellent history courses led them to their highly acclaimed and award winning Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I and Veritas Press Self-Paced History online classes.

The Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I is geared for grades 7th-9th and you can find out more information on this course by visiting some of my fellow crew members who reviewed this program. I am going to be focusing on the Veritas Press Self-Paced History program as it is geared towards 2nd-6th graders, the age range that Little Britches falls in.

The Veritas Press Self-Paced History consists of five separate courses, each containing 160 class periods and 32 important historical events. Each course features video lessons with interactive teaching, clever games, engaging video footage and even talking characters from history! Teaching history chronologically, they provide a variety of ways to memorize important dates, events and characters including using maps, puzzles, historical paintings and a memory song! You can view sample lessons HERE.

The five courses available are:
*Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt
*Veritas Press Self-Paced History: New Testament, Greece and Rome
*Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation
*Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Explorers to 1815
*Veritas Press Self-Paced History: 1815 to Present

The tuition for each course is $199 with a $100 off discount for siblings. The course is available to your student for 12 months from the date of registration. The courses are designed for grades 2nd to 6th grade with the prerequisite that your child be at least age 7 by the start of the course.

Each course requires the physical flashcards to match the period and events covered. The physical flashcards retail for $19.95.

We chose to enroll in the Veritas Press Self-Paced History: 1815 to Present and were given the 1815 to Present Flashcards which correspond to the course.

How Did We Use the Self-Paced History Course?

Veritas Press Review
Because the Veritas Press Self-Paced History program is online, once we received access from the company I was able to set up an account very easily by following their directions. I "bought" our course and then plugged in Little Britches name and details. Once this was done, it was basically ready to go! We did not receive the physical flashcards right away. In fact, it took several weeks for them to come, but we got started without them.

When Little Britches logs in to the account I set up for him, he sees this homepage:
This lists the course he's in and all he has to do to get started is click "Launch Lesson". This will immeadiately open up another window which has his lesson videos.

We used my laptop and we have high speed internet. We have never had any issues with the videos. They got set up very quickly, never froze and never had to spend time with buffering. According to the website you need an internet connection that downloads a minimum of 768kbps or it will take longer to upload and there will be issues with the interactive portion of the lesson. It works well on Windows and Macintosh (i have Windows XP). You also need a Flash Player 10 or higher. You can see the complete list of requirements on the FAQ page HERE.

Once the video lesson window pops up, the lesson starts. I love that the FIRST thing that is part of the course is a tutorial for the student to show how it's going to work. They have the student (with a LIVE narrator) practice clicking on things and using the drop-down menus. This was soooo helpful for Little Britches (age 8 1/2) and he got very comfortable with the program very quickly.

We just completed Lesson 25 which finished out our 5th unit of History. Each unit is 4 lessons with the 5th being the unit exam. It is very easy to schedule this out over a 5 day school week (though some weeks we only did 3-4 during the week). Each lesson lasts about 30-50 minutes. At 5 days a week, there is enough to last a 32 week school year--definitely making this a complete course for school.

So what does a lesson look like?

Each unit is based around a history flashcard--this is why it is important you have these cards. All the information that your student will need to know for the assignments and exams is on these flashcards. The cards are sturdy cardstock, slick and very colorful. Here is an example of a card from our course:
This particular unit is Lesson #126-130 all about The Great World War. Through the course of the lesson, the child will learn the dates of the war and many of the particulars that are on the back of the card--these are focused on important events and dates that surround the event. Nothing is asked on any of the workseets, assignments or exam that is NOT on this card. 

So how is it taught? Your child will kick off their course by meeting their "teachers"--one or two LIVE people. In our case Little Britches teachers are Eva and Marcus. The teachers give oral lessons sharing stories about the event--adding humorous anecdotes about the people and places involved--and even joking with each other. It is very lighthearted and fun---yet presented in a way that begs for retention. After they do talking--usually in front of a backdrop famous or related to the event they are covering--the lesson will switch to an interactive activity. It might be a map, a matching activity, a puzzle, a game, or even spelling the name of someone or something they just mentioned. That's what makes it great--the activity is completely related to what was JUST taught. If the child forgets anything, they simply can hit their "back" button to re-listen to the lesson segment prior to the activity. 

Little Britches is playing a game of TicTacToe. He clicks the square he wants, it asks him a question about the lesson. If he gets it right, he keeps his mark. If he gets it wrong, the computer takes the spot.
Little Britches has never had any issues with the maps, puzzles or games. He has needed some assistance in the matching and spelling activities...the spelling activity is the only one he could never do by himself. It gave you the spaces for a word covered (or a name) and then you get 45 seconds to spell the word by dragging the letters from the alphabet to where they go. This was hard to do-especially since we don't have a regular mouse for the laptop--so we compromised. He spelled it out loud to me and I filled in the letters for him as my coordination was faster. There were only I think 3 or 4 of these in our lessons so far. 

Once the activity was over, the lesson resumed. Sometimes the activity was a "worksheet". These usually happened in the first lesson of each new unit. The "teachers" encouraged the student to use their flashcard to answer the questions. It's THIS worksheet in particular that the flashcard is the most crucial. It is in the first lesson so they haven't had a lot of time to learn very much about the unit. The flashcard gives them all the answers they need.

We did not have our flashcards until we got to the third unit. We didn't realize how crucial it was until the first worksheet. My son "failed" it and there was that big F on his grade and screen. I told him that it was okay and it wasn't going to happen again. He was starting to freak out--we don't do tests very often, but he knew it was NOT a 100%.  LOL! It was about that time I discovered that you can print off SAMPLES of the first two event flashcards on the site. Once I printed these out for his reference, he was fine. You can find those on the assignments page--simply click the word "assignments" on the log-in page (see my example of the log in page above) Here is what the assignments page looks like and you can see where to find the pdf for the flashcard.
Click pic to enlarge
I want to add the note that if your student was older and could take notes during the lessons, they could probably get away with not having the flashcards. Little Britches cannot, thus the flashcards were crucial to his success.

While we are talking about the assignments page, let me share what all you can find here...it's a VERY useful screen for the course.
Click to enlarge
At the top you can see your student's current grade. This is determined by their scores on their worksheets and exams. To the left is the list of lessons. The one highlighted is the one you are currently working on. You will notice that all the ones below it are "locked". In this course you must go through it in order and when you finish a lesson the next one unlocks.

In the middle of the screen you see the Assignments list. It will allow you to see when the assignments are for the upcoming lessons and the completed assignments--where you will find the individual results for each one. 

On the right side you see links--these are links to pdfs that are useful for the course you are completing. The second one in that list (as I said above) are sample flash cards. Here are what the other three are:

 This and the next one are reading lists. Veritas Press has chosen some books to match the units being studied. They offer the option of a Level 1 and a Level 2 reading list--these are great for adding in EXTRA reading about the subjects. If I was using this full-time for a course (instead of a few weeks for the review) we would be using this.
 As you can see the schedule lays out the reading assignment very clearly--and at the end of each video lesson IF there is a reading assignment it tells the child what it is--they simply click Level 1 or Level 2 based on which you are having them use.

The fourth pdf in the list is a Project Supply List. As part of the course, there are periodic projects that can be completed. They don't start until card #6 (unit 6). We haven't gotten to any projects yet, but looking at this list of supplies makes me very interested and excited about them.
All of this stuff can be found on the assignment page--while logged in as the student. It can also be found very similarly when logged in as the parent. 

Back to the lessons...throughout the lessons all of the pertinent information that needs to be learned is repeated over and over. The lessons take the student to different locations in the world (through clever backdrops) and they meet famous people from all over the world. They are shown famous artwork, played excerpts from famous speeches, read pieces from famous documents, and they are also shown what other things were going on in the world during the time of the event. 

Here are some photos of Little Britches working on the lessons:


You can see our printed out sample flashcards here.

Learning about what was going on in Japan
Because Veritas Press is a Classical Education method, they believe in using things like music to help teach important dates and events. In our course, there is a memory song that covers all 32 events in order. The lyrics were available for printing in the documents on the log in page...
...and the song is sung several times throughout each lesson. On the screen the students are shown the artwork from each history flashcard and the lyrics to the song. I took a short video to give you an idea of what it sounds like--and to hear Little Britches singing. Naturally he decided to NOT sing as loud once I started videoing. He is picking up the song very quickly.



When the 5th lesson of the unit rolls around, Little Britches is VERY prepared for the exam. He has covered the material multiple times in the 4 prior lessons and with every question being multiple choice (and some with silly answers) it's been pretty easy for him to do well. I am not allowed to help him, though I review the card with him before he takes the test.

Taking his exam
The exams are all multiple choice and you are able to go back and revise any answers before you submit your exam for grading. As soon as the child hits submit their grade pops up on the screen. At this point they have the option to review their questions (where they can scroll through and see their answers), print the exam for records, or just continue (which ends the lesson). I love having the option to print the test. He and I always look over any that he missed at this time.
He's gotten several 100%'s...these just were the last ones he did.
Every exam also includes a couple review questions from previous lessons--thus the information is continuously reviewed for memory.

When it's time for him to do this course, I simply set up the laptop and he does everything else and only calls me if he needs help reading something. This is definitely an independent course for him.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Veritas Press Self-Paced History Curriculum?

Little Britches absolutely loves this course. He told me that even though the review is ending he wants to keep doing it even if he does nothing else. It is always the first thing he wants to do during schooltime. He loves the games and puzzles and that by the time he gets to the exam it's over things he's seen and heard many times. He loves the robot character who eats cottage cheese (another learning device to keep it fun) and he especially likes that it's something he can do without my help (unless he asks for it). He loves that he can talk about all the information he's learned.

Baby Britches--yes, he loves it too. He sits right there with his brother (except during worksheets or exams) and just absorbs everything.

And me...here is my list of pros and cons:
PROS
*real people for teachers visiting real places
*Independent and truly self-paced
*Easy to understand and follow
*The written work and questions are at a level my son can read himself
*Full of games and puzzles
*It's humorous (okay--so a lot of child humor. But still.)
*Song for learning the events
*Grades everything for you
*Easy to check Progress
*Will pick up where you left off--even in the middle of a lesson
*Flashcards contain all that needs to be learned
*Continuous repetition of things to be tested on
*Teaches geography with map studies
*Detailed Historical events--national and worldwide
*Printable Test Results
*Additional reading included for further learning
*Hands On projects to match current learning
*Given a year to access the program--allowing for slower progress of student if needed
*Full School Year Worth of Lessons w/additional activities as options

CONS
*Though redoing the worksheets and exams is allowed, the initial grade will not change. Thus if your child messes something up and gets an F on something--it will stand and can't be changed.
*Child must be able to read problems in order to do it independently--program doesn't read the question for you.
*Computer skills are a must--need to be able to maneuver the mouse quickly
*Flashcards must be purchased separately and are crucial for the program
*Cost Can Be Prohibitive at $199 for just this one subject

MINOR GLITCHES
*Starting with lesson 20, the memory song ceased to run all the way to the end. Every lesson it goes a bit further, but not all the way. It isn't a big deal as the events that it's not finishing aren't events we are learning right now.
*Sometimes the puzzles "run away". You have to click different parts of your screen to keep them in place. It's doable and not a big problem. And doesn't happen with every one.

In summary--um yeah. We love it. It's a win-win for us. Little Britches is soaking in the information like a sponge as it's presented in a way that he needs--audio visual. He loves the characters and the interactive games/activities. He is very into independent--no mommy needed--schoolwork right now and loves the computer time. I can bring up any of this past lessons and he can talk about them fluently including the famous people involved, the years, the reasoning behind events...you name it. He regularly knocks the sock of my husband and in-laws with his knowledge. I truly believe that in these short weeks, he's learned more about 1815-1835 (where we are in the lessons right now) than students learn in high school and yes even some college history.

As for me--well, because he loves it, I love it too. Not just because it's history, but because it's history taught in a way to make it vibrant and exciting. There is nothing dry and textbook about this program at all! I knew a lot of history--but I can't begin to tell you how much even I have picked up from overhearing the lessons.

I love that everything is graded for me and that I can print off reports for my files. I love that I can print off a reading schedule for him to have coordinating historical fiction reading assignments (if I wanted to). I enjoy seeing him thrive with this program and fill HIM with a love for history that his daddy and I share.

**Oh and in a reading this week from another review we are doing, they mentioned US President Polk utilizing "manifest destiny"--Little Briches smiled and said "I know what that is!" and proceeded to tell me. Manifest destiny details...from an 8 year old. After just 1 weeks worth of lessons which covered it as part of the Monroe Doctrine (Do you remember that at all??!) Yeah. It's THAT good.**

Would I Recommend Veritas Press?

Absolutely. If you are seeking a history curriculum that will make history come alive and really really stick, Veritas Press Self-Paced History is the one that will do it. It is extensive and detailed. It is fun and interactive. It's easy to use for both the child and the parent. It provides documentation for portfolios if you need them.

Out of everything--taking into consideration every con (which weren't many) the one thing that would probably hold people back is the price. $199 for just one subject curriculum IS a lot of money...I would never have even considered this curriculum PURELY based on that price. But now that we've experienced it...I see that you truly get your money's worth. It is simply incredible. Though the cost is high for our family's homeschooling budget--I will still be considering more of these courses in future years. When he asks to start with it--and then asks if there is any way he can do another lesson instead of just one...you know it's good.

We definitely give Veritas Press Self-Paced History: 1815 to Present (and the 1815 to Present Flashcards) 2 thumbs up and plan on continuing our course to completion.

Want to Learn More About Veritas Press?

If you are desiring more information about Veritas Press and their curriculum offered you can find them in these social media spots:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/veritaspress
Twitter -- https://twitter.com/veritaspress
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/source/veritaspress.com/
Google+ -- https://plus.google.com/100404634762414542020/about

Our family reviewed Veritas Press Self-Paced History: 1815 to Present --but there are 4 other history courses available AND the big Veritas Press Omnibus I for the older students! Make sure you click below so you can see what my fellow crew members thought about them!
Click to read Crew Reviews
*****
Crew Disclaimer
Thanks for joining me on another review--I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this program. Do you think it's something that your family would be interested in? What interests you the most about it?