My children have never used an online course before, so we had absolutely no idea what to expect. I watched the preview video for The Pilgrim Story ($99 for six months of access) from Dayspring Christian Academy and I thought it sounded pretty cool. Certainly it would be a change of pace from our typical path of reading books and listening to audio books in the car. Plus, with Thanksgiving rapidly approaching I thought it would make a nice addition to our holiday focus. I wasn’t at all sure how my children would react to online learning though. This is something we have never tried.
I set up The Pilgrim Story Introduction the day we started access, and my daughter (9 years old) and I watched it together. She was fascinated by the video slides right from the start and figured out pretty quickly how to navigate to the next screen each time. The controls and instructions are very simple.
The next day I had her start with the first lesson. I helped her print out her own note sheets and reference sheets for her notebook, and then let her go on her own. After a little bit, I came back and checked on her work. Each lesson has printables that are to be kept in a class notebook. The main printables are fill-in-the-blank notes. Besides the notes, you can also print a vocabulary list, some interesting quotes from key historical figures, the occasional map, and any activities that go along with the lesson.
When I checked Anna’s work that first day I realized that she was having trouble with the fill-in-the-blank format. She is in occupational therapy and has low muscle tone so writing is not easy. However, she needs lots and lots of practice to get better so I thought this would be a good workout. Not only is it more writing then she is used to, but she also has to look up at the screen to find her place and then back at the paper to find her place. This is an advanced skill that does not come naturally to all students. Each day, Anna will give up after a while and just try to sound out the words. However, she cannot read or spell well enough to do that so we have had to adapt. Instead of just watching each session one time, she is watching each session two or three times and taking her time with the writing and copying. Once she has finished a slide she doesn’t have to watch it a second time, but she often chooses to do so.
The second day, I had my son (age 11) start with lesson one. I didn’t want them working together at the same time because they are at very different stages of development. The course is appropriate for grades 3 to 6 and of course my children are both on the outside edges of that grade range. My older son can pretty much print his own pages and complete all activities without my help. It only takes him about 30-45 minutes per lesson (half as much as Anna spends the first day she goes through a lesson…) He is also retaining the information very well based on the multiple choice unit exam scores. You can also choose to have your child do an essay test but I did not feel that was necessary. Anna’s first test score was not as high, but given the fact that the test was not read aloud this could be due to difficulty reading. I ended up reading the second half of the test aloud to her.
Here is the reason I believe Anna is retaining the information better then her test scores reveal. She is talking about the pilgrims and the kings and queens. She is explaining it to her Daddy at the supper table. She even corrected him when he pretended to get confused between King Henry VIII and King James I. She remembered exactly why King James wrote his own version of the Bible (he didn’t like the study notes in the Geneva Bible because they taught that people should obey God over the King) and why Henry VIII separated from the Catholic church (he wanted a divorce the Pope would not grant). Obviously, she is retaining significant amounts of information. Maybe she should be taking the essay test orally.
One day while listening to the course, her face broke out in a big smile and she exclaimed, “Mommy, Mommy! Did you know I have eternal property?” Of course, I played along. “What’s that Anna?” “Mommy, it’s like memories and Bible verses and things in your heart that know one can take away and you can take them to heaven with you!” She was beyond thrilled with the concept of eternal property.
If you are wondering what the concept of eternal property is doing in the middle of The Pilgrim Story, that is probably because I haven’t mentioned the fact that this course is taught based on the Principle Approach to history and homeschooling. The Principle Approach attempts to look at all of history through the lens of God’s Providence and also teaches certain principles such as self-government and liberty of conscience (hence the concept of eternal property) and the power of reason while placing a high emphasis on notebooking.
Both of my children have been enjoying The Pilgrim Story course and have commented several times about how nice it is to be doing something different this year for history. I asked my son to share his thoughts.
“I like The Pilgrim Story. It is a fun way to learn American history. I like the way they use fill-in-the-blanks instead of saying “The answer to problem eleven is King James.””
My Bottom Line: Dayspring Christian Academy has done an excellent job of presenting The Pilgrim’s Story. This is an incredibly polished video lecture series with cool graphics, quality printables, fun and interesting activities (even including the occasional craft), a Christian worldview, and an easy way for parents to judge a student’s progress. Special needs students such as my daughter may struggle but that does not diminish the value of the course and we do have a full six months to complete the work. I am very impressed and would like to be able to afford a course like this every semester. We are so blessed to have been chosen for this review.