Guest Hollow’s High School American History Curriculum is a two-year program that includes adaptations for use with students in junior high. This is a literature-based study of history that uses the 2019 edition of A Patriot’s History of the United States as the core book. It supplements this spine book with historical novels, information books, graphic novels, biographies, and videos (both brief and lengthy movies and documentaries). The Guest Hollow course components are digital products, and you need to purchase, access, or borrow the other resources on your own.
Each course has a guide—which the publisher calls a schedule—for which you receive two versions: a PDF and an editable Microsoft Word® document. Purchasers also receive access to an online version of the schedule for one year per course. Links in the online schedules will be kept up to date for the period of your membership, and you can pay to renew that membership if you wish. (You still retain permanent access to your PDF and Word schedules as long as you have downloaded them to your device.)
The courses also include a PDF workbook, a Summary Page, and a brief parent’s guide for one of the recommended books, A Voyage Long and Strange. (The guide points out problematic areas in that book.)
Each course's schedule begins with a lengthy section explaining how to use the course and ways to adapt it for many situations—the courses are very flexible. The first part of each schedule also has printable lists of recommended resources, a list of supplies for the frequent recipes and occasional hands-on activities, recommendations for field trips, MineCraft® activities, and other activities.
The recommended resources are ranked 1 through 4, depending upon their importance. The schedules include cautions about the content of some of the resources and sometimes suggest alternatives, especially for younger students. A link is included if a resource is available online for free.
The rest of each schedule consists of weekly lesson plans laid out on one or two pages per week in a chart format. They tell which pages to read in the spine book and in some of the other books, and which of the other resources to use. The few items ranked 1 are included in the schedules. Other resources included in the schedules are generally ranked 2 or 3. For instance, The Cartoon History of the United States and MapTrek (for map work) are both ranked 3, but both are listed throughout the schedules for both courses. (Amazon links and links to the publishers of some resources are included in the schedules so you can easily locate items.)
Each week’s activities are presented in the schedules under the headings A Patriot’s History Spine Book, Non-Fiction Books, Fiction/Literature/Graphic Novels, Map Work, Workbook, and Extra Resources and Activities. The Extra Resources and Activities section is where you will find a number of video recommendations, including full-length videos and brief videos on YouTube® and other sites. Included under the Non-Fiction Books activities are some cookbooks with historical recipes.
Some might consider A Patriot’s History of the United States biased because it leans toward a conservative, Christian viewpoint both religiously and politically. The other resources may be biased in other ways, but together they present a wide variety of viewpoints. For example, check out John Green’s YouTube® video "The Quakers, the Dutch, and the Ladies: Crash Course US. History #4” (scheduled for the fifth week)—a secular presentation that is both witty and sarcastic. The assortment of resources makes the courses most suitable for conservative Christians but also usable by others. The Extra Resources and Activities sections have some activities where students evaluate conflicting opinions, then express their own, usually through a writing assignment. I highly recommend using these since this is a great way for students to learn to evaluate conflicting viewpoints.
As I previously mentioned, the courses are very flexible. The schedules suggest many different options and adaptations. At a minimum, students will use the spine book (as a read-aloud, as an audiobook, or for independent reading) and watch at least some of the scheduled videos. Then you should add whatever the student can manage. The schedules encourage parents to allow students to select the supplemental books for themselves, keeping track of their reading (or listening) in the space provided at the bottom of each week’s schedule if these are not books already listed on the schedule.
The Summary Page
The Summary Page that comes with the courses is a single worksheet that has four boxes for students to write or draw information about who, what, where, and when as they apply to the week’s reading assignment in A Patriot’s History. This is followed by a larger section with lines for students to note the main points of their reading. The Summary Page is scheduled in the workbook for each course. Directions as to what to write or draw are minimal, so students can focus on what they think was most important. You will make multiple copies of the Summary Page, and students will complete one page each week. You can use this page as a form of documenting what students are learning, but since it is so open ended, I suspect that most students and parents will find it less useful than the course workbooks.
Students will need a large, three-ring binder to store their Summary Pages and workbook pages if they complete those.
Each course includes a 196-page workbook (PDF) that reinforces learning and provides parents with a tool for evaluating a student’s understanding of what he or she has read. The workbooks are set up with weekly assignments that cover groups of chapters in A Patriot’s History and some of the other assigned books. (Books that are referenced in the workbooks are identified with a star in the list of resources in the course schedules, so you’ll know in advance which ones need to be read if you plan to use the workbooks.)
There are various types of questions to answer including some that require short responses, short-essay responses, multiple-choice responses, and true-false responses. In addition, the workbooks have assignments that require additional reading (such as brief articles found on the internet), critical thinking activities, and map work.
The level of work is more challenging in the workbook for the second course. More of the assignments require critical thinking, and there are more questions that ask students to present their opinions. Students will write lengthy answers to a number of questions, and there are some writing assignments, such as those directing students to write news articles about the “miracle at Midway” and the assassination of President Kennedy.
The workbooks are supposed to be optional, but they offer an easy and effective method for getting student feedback regarding what they are learning. The last part of each workbook consists of more than 70 pages that serve as the answer key, and I would recommend separating the PDF pages so that students don’t have access to the answers.
Guest Hollow’s High School American History courses can be quite challenging if you use many of the recommended resources. However, the combination of resources presents a rich and multi-sided view of our country’s history that you can’t get from a single textbook. And the various activities, including those in the workbooks, provide solid documentation of learning. If parents take advantage of the flexibility suggested in the schedules, they can tailor courses to suit both the abilities and academic interests of students.