I was excited when U.S. History came up in my list of required credits this year through my school, Clonlara School. History, to me, is something that we’re a part of right now – an unfolding story where I actually play a role. So when I set out to master the topic with my chosen curriculum, which was Calvert Homeschool, I was optimistic.
That lasted about a week.
Sadly, many curriculums burden students with too many details – statistics, dates, names – things that will be forgotten over time. While, in my opinion, they should be focusing on the story of history, the lessons learned, and the ways events and people of the past continue to affect our lives today.
That was essentially my biggest problem with the Calvert curriculum, as well as the Acellus curriculum and the Time4Learning curriculum that I tried out for a month each when I wasn’t in love with the former. I decided to stick it out with Calvert because I will say that if you can manage to get through it without losing spirit, you will know a lot – and I do mean a LOT – about history.
But you might not understand what makes it so exciting.
Here’s my round up on chapter grades through the Calvert curriculum:
You might notice one of my particular annoyances with the Calvert curriculum. I nailed every chapter test, but on the final exam, I pulled in a 93%. I’m proud of my 93%, but in Calvert that score qualifies as a B.
I’ve never seen this in any other curriculum. Generally, that score would still be an A, or at worst an A-. But aside from that, I was happy to simply get through the course.
As I always do, I sought out ways to supplement my learning. One supplement I used was the Netflix series called America: The Story of Us. I found this very comprehensive and while watching shows can’t test your knowledge to ensure you are learning what you should, they are a great way to keep your brain engaged and change things up when a standard curriculum is too dry.
One book series I used to supplement my learning was A History of US by Joy Hakim. I’ve actually owned these books for a few years, and enjoyed looking to them for a fresh perspective on some of my Calvert learning. I highly recommend them.
But by far my favorite book I read on U.S. History was U.S. History For Dummies by Steve Wiegand. I even wrote a review of it here. I consider it the best part of my U.S. History curriculum.
Of course, no history course is complete without ample field trips. Mine included Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Londontown, and Mount Vernon. All of these destinations are truly living history. You are surrounded by it – in the architecture, in the staff who don the clothing of the time, even in the way they talk to you. Especially at Colonial Williamsburg, I enjoyed trying to stump the actors playing the roles of people like Thomas Jefferson, asking them questions that I thought they might not know the answers to. I haven’t succeeded yet; they are more than actors; they are true historians who have such an in-depth knowledge. It’s really quite stunning.
All of these places have special homeschool programs that I enjoyed and will continue to seek out in the future, regardless of whether I’m doing it for “credit.” At Historic Londontown, they have classes where I learned things like archaeology, as well as period-based cooking, dance, crafts, and even boating skills. At Mount Vernon, I experienced one of the most engaging homeschool days ever. And Colonial Williamsburg even has entire “Homeschool Weeks” set aside for those who want to really dive into history for a long period of time.
In the end, I got an A on my Calvert curriculum. But, as so often is the case, I feel like I learned the most when I sought out supplements to remind me that history isn’t something that should only focus on yesterday. It should always touch on today and why every lesson learned can and should impact our daily lives.