The BJU Press Heritage Studies series for grades one through six covers history, geography, and cultural studies from a Christian perspective, recognizing that God is active both in past and present historical events. Textbooks include stories about famous historical figures, including Christian missionaries and leaders. In addition, this series encourages students to become responsible Christian citizens. The stories and illustrations include characters from diverse cultures.
For each course, there are a student text, a teacher’s edition, a student activity manual, tests (one test per chapter plus quizzes for grades three through six), and answer keys for the student activity manual and tests. Subject kits for each course include all these items. BJU Press also has eTextbook versions of both the student textbooks and teacher's editions.
The textbooks and activity manual are colorful and attractive. Textbooks are not consumable, but activity manuals are.
The courses are designed to be taught by a teacher. Student books provide some of the course content, but guided discussions, additional information, and activities in the teacher’s edition for each textbook provide essential components. This is especially true for courses up through fourth grade. Older students will do more independent reading and require less teacher-led instruction than younger students.
Teacher’s editions have all the instructional material surrounding a reduced image of the student page and include resource pages for lesson presentations.
Additional resources can be found on the Homeschool Hub™. Parents need to create and sign into their account, but this is free, no matter where course materials are purchased. The Hub includes a calendar and succinct lesson plans that make using the courses very efficient for homeschoolers. You can customize lesson plans, make assignments, track student progress, and use the online grade book. The Hub also contains everything on the Teacher's Toolkit CD if the course has one, and similar digital resources for most other courses, such as visual aids, quizzes, and materials lists.
Lesson instructions are presented step-by-step in the teacher’s editions. Lessons include teacher-led discussions, questions for discussion, visual aids and maps, cooperative activities, role-playing, games, and hands-on activities. Teachers might also share from the background information provided in the teacher’s edition or read from recommended supplemental books. Some lesson elements are optional in homeschool settings. Some activities designed for group classes will not adapt for use with just one student, but none of them are critical. Because there are so many elements for the lessons as presented in the teacher's editions, advance preparation is required. If preparation time is limited, you might want to stick with the simpler lesson plans from the Homeschool Hub.
Student activity manuals and their companion answer key books are essential components of these courses. The teacher’s editions for the textbooks tell you when to use which pages in the activity manuals. For the activity manuals, the teacher’s answer key has full-size student pages with overprinted answers.
At the younger levels, activity manuals include matching, circling, drawing, writing brief answers, cutting and pasting. Activities gradually shift toward more written responses. Graphic organizers are used frequently in the activity manuals. In addition, while there are frequent hands-on activities in textbooks for younger levels, these decrease at upper levels. Nevertheless, there are still some hands-on activities and other activities that students with different learning styles might enjoy at all levels.
Heritage Studies 1: Faith and Community, fourth edition
Heritage Studies 1 is divided into six units titled Family, Community, Jobs, Our Land, Our Nation, and Our History. The unit on the family includes the story of Creation and the plan of salvation, along with an introduction to concepts such as cultures, rules, and the difference between past and present. This combination of diverse topics is typical of each unit. From the family, the course gradually expands outward to the community and our nation.
Several short picture books are incorporated within the textbook, and other picture books are recommended for supplemental reading. Most pages in the textbook look like pages from picture books rather than a textbook, generally featuring more illustration than text. It’s not always obvious when a storybook begins since the pages might not look that different.
The fourth edition of this textbook has more of a social studies orientation than previous editions. The first half of the textbook discusses topics such as families, community interactions, and tools used for work, and it introduces skills such as sorting, reading bar graphs, and differentiating between fact and opinion—skills you might expect to be covered in math or language arts.
The fourth of the six units introduces geography. The fifth unit teaches some concepts about the United States and citizenship, and the sixth highlights selected historical topics—native Americans, explorers, the Pilgrims, the founding of the United States (summarized in two pages), and immigrants.
Each unit concludes with a story about a famous American such as Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Clara Barton.
Heritage Studies 2: Community and Government, fourth edition
Heritage Studies 2 is presented in five chapters titled Changes in Communities, How Government Works, Buying and Selling, People and Places, and American Culture. Within these chapters, students learn about topics from cultural studies, economics, government, history, and geography, as well as about a few influential people.
The textbook for this course includes a few picture books, and the entire textbook still has plentiful full-color illustrations. Pages have about twice as much text as the first-grade textbook.
Heritage Studies 3: World Regions, fourth edition
Heritage Studies 3 is a study of world geography and cultures. The textbook’s ten chapters visit Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. In each chapter, students use maps to learn about major landforms, oceans, countries, and capitals, then focus on the same set of topics for each of the geographic areas. Those topics are the forms of government, geographical regions peculiar to the area, resources and economies, cultures, languages, and religions.
Call-out sections highlight other topics. For instance, the chapter on Europe includes a call-out titled "Let’s Explore!" that looks at German manufacturing, a page labeled “Early Cultures” that discusses the Minoans, a page labeled “Skills” that teaches students how to summarize information, a two-page, illustrated story from Grimm folktales titled “The Star-Money,” and two-pages that discuss Martin Luther under the heading, “People Who Make a Difference.” Other chapters include a folktale plus pages with the same call-out heading listed for Europe to cover topics related to the geographical area. Some chapters also have call-outs under the headings “Environment” and “How They Work.”
This textbook covers a lot of content, especially when compared to those for first and second grade. However, it is well organized and focused on teaching geography and cultures.
Heritage Studies 4, third edition
The first chapter of Heritage Studies 4 begins with a brief discussion of the period from the settlement of America up through the Civil War. Chapters two through eleven pick up the historical timeline at the period of Reconstruction and continue more slowly up through the immediate aftermath of World War II. Four excerpts from primary sources included in the activity manual are used within the lessons as explained in the teacher’s edition.
Chapters 12 through 18 shift to examine the geography and cultures of different regions of the United States and its territories: the Northeast, the Southeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, the Rocky Mountain states, the Pacific states, and the territories. These sections look at the geography, natural resources, products, and climate in a region as well as some of its history, famous sites, cities, and religious and political developments. Territories get briefer treatment than do the regions.
During the second semester, students are to work on a state or territory project from a list of options in the teacher’s edition for Lesson 107. Projects might be a scrapbook, a timeline, a brochure, a photo album, a miniature float, a slideshow, or a computer-supported oral report. Notice that options suit different learning styles. Lesson 149 in the activity manual introduces an assignment to write a research report on a state or territory. Pages in the activity manual teach how to create note cards, an outline, and a bibliography as well as how to write and edit the report. These activities will help those who need to cover their state's history in fourth grade.
The teacher’s edition includes a Teacher’s Toolkit CD with instructional aids background information, the answer key for the activity manual, a materials list, and more.
Heritage Studies 5, fourth edition
Heritage Studies 5 covers the entirety of United States history from exploration up through 2014. At this level, the textbook introduces some hot-button issues and controversies. Christian and politically conservative views are evident throughout the text. Sometimes the lessons compare and contrast biblical Christianity with other worldviews.
Additional background information is in the teacher’s edition as well as on the Teacher’s Toolkit CD that comes with it, or on the Homeschool Hub. Parents or teachers might want to read and share some of this information to make lessons more interesting. “Teach for Understanding” questions require higher-order thinking as students must analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information to answer questions such as, “Why do you think materialism was one of the problems that went along with America’s thriving economy?” (Heritage Studies 5 Teacher’s Edition, p. 323).
During Lessons 55 through 62, students will create a Civil War lapbook. Brief instructions are in the teacher’s edition, and cut-outs with more complete instructions are in the activity manual. Students will create a bibliography of sources to put into the lapbook. In the last lesson on current moral issues students are supposed to prepare and present a speech that can be either persuasive or informative.
Heritage Studies 6: Ancient Civilizations, fourth edition
Heritage Studies 6: Ancient Civilizations is the first in BJU Press’s series to cover world history. This text opens with a discussion about the study of history in general, and it makes the point that the Bible is a reliable source of historical information. Creation, the Fall, and Redemption are presented briefly as a backdrop for understanding the story of history.
Chapters two through thirteen study ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, India, China, Persia, Greece, Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Mesoamerica, Africa, and Japan. Chapter 14 moves up to the Middle Ages in Europe. Chapter 15 concludes by revisiting civilizations covered in earlier chapters but traces the work of God’s redemptive plan through them as well as the rise of conflicting worldviews. A “Christianity and Religions Chart” in the teacher’s resources might be especially helpful with this chapter.
Students will write several essays in this course within lessons and on tests. Students are guided through their first essay with a series of questions. The teacher’s resources include other helps for essay writing.
The teacher’s resources also have instructions for organizing a History Fair and for students to create fair projects. You might want to have a student create a project even if there is no History Fair.