The Christian Liberty Press "Little Pilgrims" series is a very unusual history series, especially for the early grades. The purpose of these books is to provide a view of history that puts God at the center of both world and U.S. history. Since they are trying to lay foundations at these young levels, both textbooks are at least half Bible study along with the social studies coverage.
Since the purpose is to present "His Story," the authors have selected highlights to illustrate God working through history rather than trying to cover subject matter comprehensively. There is some repetition of topics in both books, and both books include the plan of salvation at a level understandable for young children.
Little Pilgrims in God's World and History for Little Pilgrims are recommended for kindergarten and first grade, respectively, although each book could easily be used with students a year older.
Both books feature Vic Lockman's cartoon illustrations along with photos and other illustrations, all in full-color. Texts include vocabulary words with which children should become familiar, activity suggestions, and fill-in-the-blanks questions that children might answer orally, dictate answers for you to write, or write themselves. While you can use only the core text, the ancillary items for each text are helpful.
Little Pilgrims in God's World
Little Pilgrims in God's World begins by introducing the idea of "God's special people." The first unit explains to young children that God had His special people in ancient Israel, but most of them turned away from God. God sent Jesus, and God's special people are now the church. Lesson three explains that even young children are a very important part of God's plan, and that God's people are on a journey to heaven. It introduces the idea of being a pilgrim on a long journey to our real home in heaven. That idea is carried through both books.
The next two units, comprised of lessons 4 through 28, cover the basic message of the Bible from creation through salvation and our life in Christ. The following unit, "The Little Pilgrim's Family," is about a child's role and relationship within his or her family. Then another unit teaches children about the church, including some church history. The book presents a particular model of church organization and operation in lessons 46 and 49, but, if needed, you can easily adapt this information by explaining how your church operates. Two units then cover society and the world with selective topics such as neighbors, community helpers, rules, freedom, Egypt, and Islam. Even these lessons teach their material in relation to faith and the Bible, frequently referencing stories from the Bible.
The lessons are presented in eight units, but each unit varies in the number of lessons. With 70 lessons in all, you will complete about one lesson every two school days. Optional activities might require more time for some lessons.
Little Pilgrims in God's World has a teacher's manual and an activity book. The teacher's manual includes the answers for the questions in the text. It also has expanded discussion ideas that might be useful since some topics have the potential to generate discussion. Some lessons might even lead into some heavy questions or might be unsettling for young children. The teacher's manual is important for knowing how to use the activity book.
Each lesson in the textbook begins with a memory verse, sometimes with options for an abbreviated version. The activity book includes Bible memory cards for these verses plus memory game cards, both printed on card stock. These need to be cut out. Bible memory cards are supposed to be mounted on a ring for easy handling and review. The activity book also has coloring pictures—Vic Lockman drawings; some workbook type activities such as drawing, creating booklets, and making charts; many hands-on activities and suggestions for interview projects; and some "further study" suggestions. Some of the "further study" ideas such as reading about the Bill of Rights, researching the Nile River, and researching about the Great Wall of China seem more appropriate for older students. In my opinion, the overall level of this course seems better for first grade level than kindergarten.
History for Little Pilgrims
Christian Liberty Press recommends History for Little Pilgrims for first grade, but it might also work well for second graders. Lessons are presented in 15 units. In the teacher's manual, each unit is further broken down into five lessons, intended to be completed at a rate of between two and three lesson per week.
The first half of this history text is more of a study of the Bible and Protestant church history rather than social studies. The book begins with creation, the flood, and the Tower of Babel. It discusses the beginnings of the church, the spread of the church, and the Reformation. With only 15 units in the book, an entire unit is devoted to the Reformation—this seems an odd concentration at this young level.
The book then shifts to highlights of American history for the second half, briefly covering exploration and colonization, the Great Awakening, the American Revolution, westward movement, and other selected topics up to the present.
Aimed at first and second graders, the book features large print. However, the vocabulary is challenging enough that parents will need to read it to most first graders and some second graders.
Brief unit review questions are included in the text. A memory verse is presented in the teacher's manual at the beginning of each unit for students to learn; memory verses are not in the student book. The teacher's manual expands with additional background or topics that should be discussed; lesson plans sometimes direct you to read from the Bible. The teacher's manual also includes answers to the fill-in-the-blanks questions as well as the vocabulary words and their definitions. There are additional discussion questions with their answers. Using the teacher's manual will require a little preparation time for parents to read through the material before presenting each lesson. The optional coloring book features black-and-white versions of Lockman's illustrations with Scripture captions for most.
The Little Pilgrims series offers an unusual option for the early grade levels. While many social studies books for these levels are full of fluff, these books deal with big and important ideas. Those ideas are presented from a conservative, Christian (Protestant) perspective as well as a conservative political view. The content might be a little too much for some children, but for families looking for serious, worthwhile social studies (and Bible!) content and who have children mature enough to learn at these levels, these texts should be an interesting option.