Guest Hollow’s High School American History Curriculum is a two-year program (with two courses) 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 spine book and supplements that with historical novels, information books, graphic novels, biographies, videos (both brief and full-length 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 both a PDF and an editable Word version. 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, so parents should read through it before deciding whether or not to use that particular book.)
The guides begin with a lengthy section that explains how to use each course and ways to adapt it for many situations—it’s very flexible. The first part of each guide also has printable lists of recommended resources and a list of supplies for the frequent recipes and occasional hands-on activities, recommendations for field trips, MineCraft activities, and other activities that might be used whenever you can fit them in.
The recommended resources are ranked #1 through #4, depending upon their importance. The guide includes cautions about the content of some of the resources, and it sometimes suggests alternatives, especially for younger students. A link is included if a resource is available online for free. Some might consider A Patriot’s History of the United States biased because it leans toward a conservative viewpoint both religiously and politically. The other resources present a wide variety in their points of view. For example, check out John Green’s YouTube® video "The Quakers, the Dutch, and the Ladies: Crash Course US. History #4,” which is scheduled for the fifth week. The combination of resources makes the course suitable for both secular and religious students.
The rest of each guide consists of weekly schedules that are laid out on one or two pages per week in a chart format. They tell you 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. Included under the Non-Fiction Books activities are some cookbooks with historical recipes.
The Extra Resources and Activities sections have some activities where students evaluate conflicting opinions, then express their own, usually through a writing assignment. This section of the schedules also has many video recommendations, including full-length videos and brief videos on YouTube® and other sites.
Purchasers also receive access to an online version of the schedule for two years for one course or four years if you purchase the bundle of both courses. Links in the online schedules will be kept up to date for the period of your “subscription,” and you can pay to renew that subscription if you wish. (You still retain permanent access to your PDF and Word guides with the schedules as long as you have downloaded them to your device.)
As I mentioned, the courses are very flexible. The guides suggest many different options and adaptations. At a minimum, students will use the spine book (as a read-aloud or audio book or for independent reading) and watch at least some of the scheduled videos. Then add whatever the student can manage. The guides encourage parents to allow students to select the supplemental books for themselves, keeping track of their reading (or listening) in 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 guide, so you’ll know in advance which ones should be read if you use the workbooks.)
There are various types of questions to answer including some that require short answers, short-essay responses, multiple-choice responses, and true/false responses. In addition, the workbooks have assignments that require additional reading (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 because of the number of resources used. 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 guides, they can tailor courses to suit both the abilities and interests of students.