Veritas Press offers three very different options for history courses for students in grades two through six: "You Teach" packages (do-it-yourself offline), "Self-Paced" online courses, or live online classes through the Veritas Press Scholars Academy. (If you've got children in kindergarten or first grade, see Bede's History of Me and Bede's History of US.)
The folks at Veritas Press originally developed five sets of flashcards as tools for teaching history chronologically. They also created companion songs for each set of flashcards to help students memorize the information. Each set of flashcards covers 32 key events and includes events from biblical and church history. Over the years Veritas Press developed five complete history courses built around the five original sets of flashcards. They have gradually expanded to offer three different options for each course with significant differences among those options.
The five courses are titled:
- Old Testament and Ancient Egypt
- New Testament, Greece and Rome
- Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation
- Explorers to 1815
- 1815 to the Present
The integration of biblical and church history is an important feature of these courses. For example, in the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation course, the first three lessons are titled “St. Augustine Converts to Christianity,” “Barbarian Invasion and Vikings,” and “St. Jerome Completes the Vulgate.” The lessons often broaden beyond their titles, but they frequently link biblical and church history with the typical history that most children are taught. The religious perspective is strongly Protestant, but it does include early church fathers, church councils, and other church history.
The Flashcards and Songs
Each set of flashcards has thirty-two 5” x 8” cards that are printed in full color. (The flashcards are also available as an ebook.) A reproduction of a well-known piece of artwork or occasionally a photograph depicts the key event or person that is discussed on that card. On the reverse are a corresponding date (or range of years) and a brief summary about the person, or event. At the bottom of the card is a list of resources, including page numbers in books where the topic is discussed at length—resources such as the Pages of History series, and the Streams of Civilization series.
The songs for each set of flashcards are available on a CD or as MP3 downloads. The songs feature a lilting recitation of the key names, dates, and events set to music; this presentation enhances learning for many students. The songs are each about 10 to 15 minutes long. The phrasing is sometimes awkward although the singing is quite lovely.
Veritas Press presents a classical approach to education, and the history flashcards and songs support that by having students memorize the key people, events, and dates. You can use the flashcards and songs on their own, but the information really needs to be learned within a more complete historical context, and that's what the various course options provide.
You Teach Courses
You Teach courses leave it to parents to do all of the teaching and record keeping. Each of the five courses is available at two levels. Level one is for grades 2 and 3, while level two is for grades 4 through 6.
You Teach courses include the flashcards, the memory songs, and the teacher’s guide (available either as a printed book or as a PDF file on the enhanced CD), along with timeline resources and a large selection of information books, biographies, and historical fiction. For example, among the 19 supplemental books in the You Teach kit for level one of Old Testament and Ancient Egypt are Pages of History: Volume One, Usborne Time Traveler, History of the World (DK), The Child's Story Bible, Mummies Made in Egypt, The Great Pyramid, The Student Bible Atlas, and The Egyptian Cinderella. Some of the books are used in both levels of a course, while others are used only for either younger or older students.
Along with memorizing the information with the help of the flashcards and memory songs, students will do reading, writing, projects, and other learning activities. Each teacher’s manual has reproducible worksheets, tests, scripts, maps, project and craft instructions, readings (from primary sources), and other activities. Many of the supplemental books are used as part of literature units directed from the teacher's manuals. Literature units guide students through the selected books as they learn history through literature.
The You Teach courses have so much more content than most textbook-based history courses for the elementary grades that some parents might be intimidated. You should make adjustments in the activities for each child as needed, and remember that many children will be able to handle the amount of content because of the multi-sensory learning experiences.
Self-Paced online courses do most of the teaching and recordkeeping work for parents. There are two levels for the courses, level one is for grades 2 and 3, and level two is for grades 4 through 6.
Self-Paced courses require enrollment in the online course and the purchase of the flashcards and Pages of History (either Volume One or Volume Two, depending on the course). A literature kit with supplemental reading is highly recommended by Veritas Press but is not required. The literature kits include one of the Pages of History volumes. There are far fewer books in these literature kits than are used in the You Teach courses.
Most of the course work is online, and reading from the Pages of History book is assigned as homework at the end of each lesson. Students watch brief videos where actors in period costumes tell about historical events with the support of photos, illustrations, maps, and animations. The videos keep the presentation of information brief and interesting.
Online games with questions are inserted from time to time to ensure that students are grasping the material. The games cover both the video content and assigned reading, and they also include questions presented in puzzle-type formats. The games are really well done, and students should love this way of reinforcing and verifying what they are learning. The program within which the courses are presented provides immediate feedback on the games and questions, usually allowing students to correct their answers. Periodic quizzes do not allow students to change their answers. The program tracks students' progress and scores.
I really like the way these courses incorporate so much variety. Unless students really learn best with live, online classes, I think the Self-Paced courses are the most interesting and the most practical. Students can work on a schedule that suits them, and the content is both academically excellent and appealing to students.
Veritas Academy Courses
Veritas Academy offers the five history courses each year on a regular school-year calendar. These courses are taught live online, and students will need whatever resources are required for each course.
You can enhance any of the courses with Veritas Press Project Workbooks. One book is available for each of the five courses in either print or PDF format. Each Project Workbook has a project for each of the 32 key events. Projects offer a huge variety that includes mapwork, science projects, crafts, music, art, coloring, model building, writing, and sports activities.
I very much appreciate Veritas Press’s provision of three different options for these courses. Parents can be as involved as they are able or want to be.