Heroes and Heroines of the Past – American History Curriculum {Review}

Heroes and Heroines pinDigital ‘Heroes and Heroines of the Past’: American History Curriculum is a 30-week curriculum by Golden Prairie Press covering American History from the year 1000 to the present, and is geared towards 1st to 6th Graders (ages 6-11) .

Self-taught historian and author Amy Puetz is a homeschool graduate and has a contagious love for history. She has written a number of history books and loves to bring history alive for Christian families, particularly in ways that highlight role models in history past.

I had the opportunity these past few weeks to use and review the digital download version of ‘Heroes and Heroines of the Past: An American History Curriculum’. We haven’t studied American History before, so I loved that this was a complete package, and that it also covered the time period from the earliest people to the present.

Aged paper with homemade quill and berry ink.  My daughter wanted to write the first paragraph of 'Dixie'.

Aged paper with homemade quill and berry ink. My daughter wanted to write the first paragraph of ‘Dixie’.

What it Contains

The digital download product contains the following components:

  • Heroes and Heroines of the PastPart One (1000-1837) – 388 pages
  • Heroes and Heroines of the PastPart Two (1837-present) – 408 pages
  • Historical Skits E-Book – a 50 page book containing 19 plays to perform
  • Additional Materials – a collection of supplementary materials
  • Listen to some history – an audio collection of speeches, poems and sermons
  • Sing some history – listen and learn some of the songs mentioned in the two main e-books

There are optional literature books (sold separately), and most the supplies needed you will most likely have. Previewing the upcoming activities will ensure you are prepared for anything else. We used our existing timeline book, but there is also a printable timeline if you don’t already have one.

The ‘Additional Materials’ also contain colouring pages, videos, historical artwork and more that is designed to supplement the main reading text.

Historical art writing exercise.

Historical art writing exercise.

How the Lessons are Structured

Most lessons have two sections containing the same information but for two levels. The first section is for 1st-2nd Grades with approximately a page of easier-to-read text and larger font. The second section is for 3rd to 6th which has more detail.

At the end of each lesson, there are a number of questions to see what your child has retained, and some different activities each lesson such as writing topics, geography and maps related to that lesson, historical art (with questions), models to construct, and skits to perform. There are prompts in the main text as to when the ‘Additional Materials’ CD contains further resources to enhance the lesson’s reading.

Viking long boat made from playdough

Viking long boat made from playdough

How We Used It

The lessons took on average between 20m and an hour, depending on what additional activities we completed after the reading. Usually I sat my daughter in front of the computer and she read herself, other days I read to her so we could be involved together.

We supplemented with some history books we already own on the period of discovery, but these are not necessary. We just love to sit and read together and take whatever opportunity we can to delve a little deeper.

Columbus Coat of Arms

Columbus Coat of Arms

My Thoughts on the Curriculum

There is no doubt that the content is thorough, well-written, pitched perfectly for the age range, and a fantastic introduction for us to American history. For such a wide span of history, Amy has done a superb job of highlighting the best of history, and choosing key characters and events to give an overview of American history. The inclusion of scriptures to memorise, examining historical art, extra activities such as cooking and making models, plus the variety of different audios to listen to, gives the feeling of a ‘whole’ history learning experience that will appeal to all styles of learning.  I especially loved the illustrations.

I read both the main e-books through and found the writing style engaging and enjoyable, even as an adult, and looked forward to discovering the continuing story as I read each lesson.

Aztec writing

Aztec writing

Download vs Physical Product

We really love to sit down cuddled up and read history aloud together. Reading from a screen isn’t quite the same as sitting in close on the couch with book in hand. So I tended towards letting my daughter sit in front of the computer by herself and learn independently, which meant we didn’t enjoy the learning experience together quite the same as we would if we were huddled together closely on the couch, with the little ones at our feet with their own activities.

Granted, this is purely just our family’s preference, and you may find in the digital age that you are happy with downloading to your device and just as free to have a ‘normal’ reading experience from a screen. I only mention it as part of our experience.

Sorting seeds from cotton

Sorting seeds from cotton

A Word on Worldviews

History is written from many perspectives, and every author brings their own worldview to the writing. Being outside of an American worldview, I noticed in the course of reading some differences in the re-telling that stood out as different from my own worldview (which is that of a New Zealander with European heritage).

I note this not to point out shortcomings in a very well-written curriculum, but rather to make you aware that as your child works their way through the reading, you might want to bring your own guidance to tailor your learning accordingly. This means you’ll have to preview it yourself! This is a good idea to do with any history you introduce to your young children, as authors will paint a picture with only what they have in their ‘toolbox’ so to speak!

At times I noticed the American-centred emphasis and worldview quite obviously coming through, with the narration of history being told from this perspective. I also found sometimes the English people were painted as less noble or impressive than other nations of the time. For certain, some Englishmen in history have made some bad choices, but the achievements and admirable things (such as the spreading of the gospel) were downplayed or omitted in favour of noting inconsequential things such as: “The French got along very well with the natives. They did not cut down forests as the English did” (p43). Or this: “England did not want Spain to get all the glory and treasures of the newly discovered land, so in 1497, King Henry VII hired a Genoese sailor named John Cabot to explore the western ocean” (p27) – this is more of an interpretation than historical fact. They are subtle points, but are there nonetheless.

Here are a few more examples:

  • The text read: ‘…Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America’ (p22) despite the fact that there were already people living in America so it had already been discovered – just not by white men.
  • The re-telling of the Spanish Armada in 1588 gave the perspective of English pirates plundering the Spanish ships as the reason for this battle, but made no mention of the religious background to this scene which I believe is fundamentally tied to the reason for the battle; ie. Catholic Spain wanted to rid England of the Protestant religion, continuing the conflict from when Philip II of Spain and his wife Queen Mary I of England, both devout Catholics, sought to bring Catholicism back into England (30 years previously).  The Spanish initiated war on England but it had been brewing for many years.
  • One of the study questions reads: “Why is individual ownership of land better than communal living?” (p70), which assumes upfront that this is a fact, rather than asking the student to consider the benefits in both or setting a context as to why individual ownership was better at this time and situation.

I realise this might sound nip-picky of me, or that I’m putting an unnecessary expectation or standard on an elementary history curriculum, so let me say it like this – when lots of minor inferences and interpretations in the text get put together, they start to paint an impression in the mind of the reader, and that’s what I found happening here at times.

But let me say again, the worldview differences don’t take away from the overall re-telling of this enjoyable read on 1000 years of American History. As your child matures they will enjoy many different accounts of history, sometimes conflicting and sometimes simply different angles and emphasis of the same historical facts. I encourage you to have these discussions with your children as you study history, and read other accounts of the same time period to discover how people record and retell events and people.

I definitely recommend this as a fantastic all-in-one resource package on American History, and you’ll find yourself swept up in the narrative as you read, and no doubt you’ll find yourself wanting to go off on rabbit trails and learn more about the different aspects that leave an impression on your children.

"Mexican" Hot Cocoa

“Mexican” Hot Cocoa

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3 thoughts on “Heroes and Heroines of the Past – American History Curriculum {Review}

  1. Fleur

    This looks great!! I wouldn’t have thought to choose it as a New Zealander but this makes me want to. I love your notes on worldview mindfulness and the overall impression on kids minds. It highlights for me ways of further extending the resource.


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