August 4, 2014

Roman Roads Media: American History (Curriculum Review)

I love history. I cannot get enough of it. It has always been my favorite subject and before we made the decision to homeschool, I was in college to become a history teacher. Needless to say when the opportunity arrived for to review Dave Raymond's American History 2 course from Roman Roads Media, though I don't have a student in the age bracket, I jumped and yes even BEGGED the Schoolhouse Review Crew leaders for the opportunity. They had pity on me (LOL) and I am eager to share my review!

What is Roman Roads Media?

Roman Roads Media is a publisher of Christian curriculum within a classical education style for the homeschooler. They provide quality video instruction and resources for the homeschooling family. They have partnered with master teachers in education to make it possible for homeschoolers around the world to have a chance at exceptional biblical worldview curriculum..right in their living room.

From Logic to Latin to the Greeks and American History, Roman Roads Media provides courses for 4th grade and up (though most are geared for middle and high school)! These video courses make independent learning possible and gives the parents a chance to offer their student a course where the teacher is passionate about their subject matter.

For this review, I chose to review Dave Raymond's American History 2 course. This curriculum is geared to ages 12 and up. The course includes a 4 disc DVD set--the Teacher Guide and Student reader are available as pdfs on one of the DVD's in the set. The curriculum includes the chance to produce a history portfolio, write a research and thesis paper and give a presentation. The program is set up for a 5 day school week with daily assignments and weekly exams. The DVD's usually retail for $100, but the set is on sale as of the date of this review for just $75!

How Did I Use This Product?

Unlike other products and curriculum we've used, this particular curriculum is geared for middle school and up. As you know, I don't have any upper grade level children, so I asked if I could review the curriculum for myself and was delighted to know that I could.
When the DVD's came they were packaged in a standard DVD case. Each DVD is clearly labelled and I pulled the first one from the box--I noticed that it was also clearly labelled as the DVD with the reading material and teachers guide. 
I put the DVD into my laptop and everything pulled up easily. I used the DVD as a drive and was able to open up the document files without any trouble. I printed off the complete teachers guide, but I only printed the first chapter (Lesson 14) of the student guide. I hole punched it and put it in a folder.

Before I began, I spent time making sure that I read and understood what was laid out as part of the program. The Teacher's Guide is an excellent resource for this. I loved having all the lesson exams in one place and having access to the blank rubrics and documents.

Once this was complete, I grabbed some paper for taking notes and popped in the first DVD. Each lesson has 5 parts. Each part falls under a main lesson theme. Each part has it's own reading and comprehension questions or activity. The lesson itself is very easy to follow and there are photos and illustrations of important events and people who were a part of this time in history. If it was something important, it was always "written" on the bottom of the screen. I found this helpful for copying down spellings and making sure I had these things in my notes.
Every thing was clearly labelled..the top photo shows the main page, the bottom right the sub-topic page and the bottom left and example of the lecture
Each lesson part runs 8-12 minutes long. Once this was completed I opened up the Student Guide and found my assignment for the day. Sometimes it was readings with comprehension questions, sometimes it wanted you to record something into your portfolio, other times it had you sketching out things. 

I quickly discovered that the readings were no small potatoes. I became engrossed in them and the questions that followed and rapidly discovered that I could put in an hour or more of my day on this. To make it more manageable for my schedule, I changed it up. I ended up spending 2 weeks on each lesson because not only did I listen to each lecture, but I did the readings for each part all in one sitting. I also had to continue to add to my portfolio and take the lesson exam at the end of the lesson unit. This worked very well for me.

*Side note: The parents guide does advise that a parent can determine how much of the reading is completed by the child but in many cases the entire reading needed to be completed to be able to answer the questions.

As a mom, obviously I didn't have a lot of time to spend every single day, so I just portioned myself out one hour three days a week and got done what I could during this time.
Doing some of my readings

I had a note taker helper...LOL!
*Side note: I am a major history buff thus I KNOW I put more into this than a lot of students would. I was writing notes like crazy (I have like 3 pages for each lesson) and my answers to the readings were...long. LOL! I went far beyond what I would require my son to do using this program.

The lesson exams are short answer/paragraph format and the information comes straight from the reading and lectures. All the answers are in the Teachers Guide and it tells you how you can determine what grading you give based on the skill level of your student. Because all the exam information comes from reading and lecture, your student will need to be able to take fairly decent notes--or at least able to record things in short sentence or outline format for referencing later. Here's a peak at my first page of notes:
I'm one of those almost verbatim note takers so I always take more notes than I need...but in this type of a course, that works very well.

After I completed each of the lessons segments, I would pick some things to add to my portfolio for that segment. This portfolio is a scrapbook/journal of sorts that is a requirement of the class. This is a way for the student to get hands-on with their learning and applying what they learned in the lecture. The teacher guide is very clear about what should be included in the portfolio, and it is easy to do as much or as little you desire to complete it. I chose to go "all out" with mine because this was something I really enjoyed doing. You really don't need much more than some construction paper, pens, crayons, and a printer hooked up to the internet. Supplies most families have at home. I plan on keeping my pages just in a binder for reference.

Here are some photos of the pages I did for the first lesson (Lesson 14). I followed the guidelines for the portfolio and then included things that I wanted to remember or felt were important from the lesson.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Product?

In this review, I was the primary user. This was a joy to me because of my love for all things related to history. I consider myself well informed about historical events, however, I learned more about the founding fathers of our country as well as the time around the Revolutionary war in just 1 week than in all my formal history studies in K-12 and college. I was eager to share tidbits about what I had learned with my husband (also a history lover) and could tell he wished he had time to go through the class with me. 

I believe that it's a very strong class academically and I actually don't think I would use this with any grade less than 8th based on the requirements of the course. The course is recommend for 6th grade +...but I know that I would not give this course to my son until he was well into junior high school. Though each lecture is 8-15 minutes long (a perfect length for a student), the readings are long and because of their content (mainly the upper level/high school vocabulary) require a more experienced reader. The assignments for each reading portion are open ended and require critical thinking and analysis. This is very good, but I felt it was actually written for a high school student--however, if a middle school aged student successfully completed this course they would be MORE than ready for any further high school level courses.

My favorite part about the class was putting together my portfolio pages. This appealed to me greatly and was one of the main draws for me to choose this program. Because the designing of the portfolio is left up to the student there is a lot of freedom in what the final product will look like. The portfolio therefore is a great addition and something that can be filed away for the student's achievements.

Likewise I was impressed with the Research and Thesis Paper that was another requirement of the course. The paper initially shows up on Lesson 15. The instructor spends several minutes explaining many aspects about this paper. He offers up advice for writing a good paper, sharing tips for creating a good thesis and offers ideas on what to write about. He then spends times going through the expected process for writing it. I think that this is very well done and based on what the program suggests a student who had experience writing this paper would be ahead of the game for college prep. I was very impressed at how clearly the instructor lays out what is expected and how to go about achieving those results. There is more information regarding this paper in the included Teachers Guide.

For the parents the Parent/Teachers guide is an incredible resource. Not only do you have all of the answers to the lesson exams, but you have blank sheets for recording grades and rubrics for the portfolio and research paper. I found everything laid out very succinctly and I understood what was expected of the student and my role as teacher.

What didn't I like?

I think the fact that this course is a very meaty course, it can also be a con. If you have a student that doesn't do well with note-taking or has issues with reading at a higher grade level (this was definitely high school level reading) they would definitely have issues with the reading assignments. There were so many long "old fashioned" words I didn't know I started marking them with a highlighter to look up!

This was actually a pro for me...I enjoyed making a vocabulary list for each lesson. LOL!

I was surprised at how long I DID spend on each lesson and I feel that for some, doing history 5 days a week for an hour (or more) per day would be too much. Though the lessons are laid out in 1 week portions, I think each lesson is definitely more of a 2 week schedule.

I also would have liked to see answers to the lesson assignments. I think this would be useful--though if I had to choose, I would definitely rather have the exam answers.

Though not a con for me, the fact that this is a biblical worldview look at history might be a turn off for some. There is regular mention of God and Jesus as well as scriptural references. While I thought this added to its appeal, it may not be that way for someone seeking a more secular program.

Would I Recommend This Product?

If you are looking for an excellent history course that mixes traditional learning with a hands-on approach, then I highly recommend this product. If you want to learn the REAL meat and potatoes of history and not all the fluff that is taught about events and people--I highly recommend this product. If you want your child to learn more about aspects of history in one week than you did studying the subject over your entire high school and college careers--than this curriculum is for you. If you are seeking a very strong and full, yet easy to follow history curriculum--this curriculum is for you. I also recommend this for those seeking an "open and go" history course. There is little to no prep time, though you will always need to have access to a DVD player of some kind. This course also encourages great critical thinking skills--something that is lacking from most history courses available. They focus on not just the "what" and "who" and "when" of history...but WHY things happened.

I would not recommend this history course to any student less than middle school and think it is more accurately geared for a high school level based on it's depth and requirements. This is definitely more of an independent history course with little parental guidance. If your child is not a note taker, nor a strong reader than I wouldn't suggest this course for them without first learning HOW to take notes. 

I am absolutely saving this program for my son to use and will be investing in American History 1 and checking out the other courses available because this one was so well done. I also plan on completing the whole program myself on my own time.

Want to Learn More About Roman Roads Media?

I reviewed Dave Raymond's American History 2 (retails $100 but on sale as of 8/4/2014 for $75) from Roman Roads Media. You now know my thoughts about this incredible course, but there is much more curriculum offered by Roman Roads Media! Please make sure you visit some of my other Review Crew members to learn more!
Click to read Crew Reviews
If you want to stay updated on new curriculum, sales, and more from Roman Roads Media, make sure you check them out on these social media sites:

Thank you for checking out my review today. I hope you will come back and visit again soon!

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1 comment:

Erin said...

I have this curriculum and plan to use some way, shape, or form :)
We are trying to do a more interest-led program this year for high school...I found a fantastic curriculum called Far Above Rubies that gives the child an absolute TON of choices for completing coursework.
Anyway, I am thinking about using just the videos in this series. Will we get a lot out of just the videos? Or do we NEED the readings to fully understand what he's talking about? I plan to supplement the videos with projects and other assignments that she gets to choose from, rather than giving her a list of readings/questions for each chapter or assigned projects throughout the course. Any thoughts?