Saturday, June 28, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Veritas Press Self-Paced History

We're nuts about history around here, and have been thoroughly enjoying learning about Ancient History this year. When Veritas Press gave us the Opportunity to review their Self-Paced History, I wasn't sure what my girls would think of it. In the past, even really awesome curriculum hasn't given them enough detail for their liking . . . If we were going to review it, the obvious choice was Veritas Press: Self-Paced History: New Testament, Greece and Rome since we had just started learning about Greece in our own history.  So I had them go through the sample session to see what they thought. They liked it, but were abit nervous about all the spelling and maps, but in the end, we decided to give it a try! I'm SOOO glad we did, they are LOVING LOVING LOVING it!!!

Veritas Press offers curriculum and classes for a classical Christian Education. Their Self-Paced History courses each consiste of 160 online, interactive video "classes", that use interactive video, games, talking statues (at least in Greece), etc to help children in grades 2-6 learn about the time period and memorize names, dates and places (they also get to learn to spell a bunch of those names and places!). If you do one session per day, 5 days a week, this course will take 32 weeks, and that's how it's designed. However, as the name suggests, it can be done at a different pace. I'm anticipating the we will be done with this curriculum in approximately half the time, because so far my girls canNOT get enough and seem to be averaging 10 lessons per week.

In addition one year of access to the online program, we also received the New Testament, Greece and Rome Flashcards, which go with the online program.

I have to admit, since we received this curriculum while my husband was in the hospital having heart surgery, I don't have much memory of the actual process I went through to set up our account, but obviously it was straight-forward enough that I could do it on auto-pilot. Once I had everything set up, I showed Ashlyn and Lexie how to use it, and turned them loose with it.

The course assigns grades based on how the student does on their first time through a lesson, so if you want accurate grades, you will need a separate account for each student, however the FAQs say that, as long as the parent doesn't care about maintaining records of grades, multiple children can use the same account. Since we don't "do grades" anyway, that's the option we chose.

Based on the lesson that I went through, as a student, and actually made note of how long it took, the lessons take approximately half an hour to complete. It is going to vary quite abit though, because there are various games and "quizzes" in the lesson that will take different amounts of time for different children.

The "narrators" of the program are a Greek "brother and sister" who take the students around Greece and Rome, showing them things, telling them things, and introducing them to various Greek gods, goddesses and heros (who, amusingly, are their statues, but can "talk" and help to explain things along the way).  One feature I love is that they show the student maps, and quiz them on those maps, so that the students get a feel for where various things took place. This is an area I've struggled with, since I don't usually have a good historical atlas handy when we are reading a book. Mixed in with the narration, and quizzes, are "just for fun" games, such as "whack-a-wolf" which my children seem to love (personally, I've never been a fan of "video games" and that hasn't changed LOL).

Additionally there are "optional" historical fiction books that are assigned (but aren't a part of the quizzes, etc, so the program can be used without them). These books are divided into 2 age ranges, Grades 2-3 and Grades 4-6. Not surprisingly, my girls insisted that we use the books. When I login to the program as a parent, I can access a list of the books needed, so I'm able to check the library, and used book store/sites to find the books we need, and make sure I always have the next one they'll need.

As I mentioned above, my girls have been going through this program more quickly than "suggested". They LOVE it and will happily do 3 or more lesson in a sitting if they have time. So far, they haven't found that they need the flashcards much. The information on the flashcards is also shown as a part of the video, but then later in the video they are told to review the flashcard information (from the physical flashcard) before taking a quiz or test. For the most part, having watched the video, and followed everything, they find they already know the information and don't need to review it on the flashcard. However, they recently got to a quiz that asked them to give the dates of a whole bunch of Old Testament Prophets. They didn't do so well on that one without having "studied". I definitely feel that, while we haven't used the flashcards much, they are important to have in order to get the most out of this course. I've also seen them randomly pull the flashcards out to check other facts as they discuss the time period with each other.

I am extremely impressed with this program! It is teaching my children, not only the stories of history (our normal focus) but also the dates, geography, etc. in a way that they find fun and "easy"! They beg to do "one more lesson" and it's led to some fights over the computer (sigh . . . but proof that they are enjoying it, right?).  That said, I'd encourage parents to really consider their child's learning style before purchasing this program (alternately/additionally, you can try the 2 week trial to make sure it's a good fit). While Ashlyn (auditory) and Lexie (hands-on) LOVE this program, and I may try to go through more of it because I'd like to learn more about this time in history (which was pretty lacking in my own education, and I was looking forward to learning along with my kids), I have to admit that, as a strongly visual learner, I find the whole program abit painful . . .why? As mentioned above, there are "just for fun" games that I, personally, don't find fun (and it's not just because I'm "old and boring", I didn't like pac man or any of those games when I was a kid either!). According to my girls, there's no way to bypass those games on your first time through a lesson (when I was checking out a lesson to see what it was like, I re-did a lesson they'd already done so I was able to skip any "slides" I wanted to, but that's not an option on the first time through.  Additionally, I really do not learn well by watching videos or listening to someone explain things to me. I much prefer to read things for myself, so found myself wishing the narrators would just hurry up and get to the point (I tend to feel that way with any video or lecture, so it's really not at ALL a criticism of the program, just explaining why it wouldn't be a good option for my learning style).

A 1 year subscription for one student (or multiple students if you don't care about the grades), is $199. The accompanying flashcards are 19.95.

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Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed the self-paced history time period of their choice, or Self-Paced Omnibus I, for older children. To see their reviews, click the banner below:

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All prices and information are accurate at time of posting.

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1 comment:

FlyLady Di said...

This sounds like it was so much fun for Lexie and Ashlyn! I haven't done Greece and Rome with my student yet, and I really looked closely at this program recently, but my student is high school so we needed a higher level. Veritas has so many good high school programs as well, but my son has not been studying at the pace Veritas sets for its students, so settled on a middle-school program. I am really impressed with it and am looking forward to the months to come.