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Primary Sources: American Revolution Review by Melanie Reynolds

Carole Marsh
P.O. Box 2779
Peachtree City, Georgia 30269

How does one keep the history she’s teaching fresh and alive for her students? Many homeschoolers enjoy using living books to achieve this end. However, there’s another wonderful way to bring the past to life in lessons. It’s using what are called “primary sources” or original materials to teach, whether they are paintings, documents, cartoons, or other materials made by the people themselves who lived in particular time periods, rather than those by historians looking back. Carole Marsh has created excellent collections of these very artifacts to be used by teachers, in her series entitled Primary Sources from Gallopade. I received Marsh’s Primary Sources: American Revolution, a print collection of reproductions of 20 original documents and artwork representing this historical period, to use and review. 

The 20 primary source materials in this collection are printed on sturdy 8 ½” x 11” cardstock and come in a clear plastic sleeve, bookended with a title page on the front and a back cover which lists each document or print included. There are both black and white and color reproductions of the original source materials. And, there’s quite a variety of those, all pertaining to the events leading up to the American Revolution, as well as events during the war or immediately following it. There are political cartoons, documents from America’s founding, paintings, speeches, and interviews. There are even poetry and maps! Here are some examples of the fine reproductions you’ll find here:

  • The “Join, or Die” flag
  • Paintings of: King George III; the Boston Tea Party; Patrick Henry’s famous speech; the Declaration of Independence committee; and more
  • Political cartoons
  • Map of the British and colonial troops’ encampments near Boston Harbor
  • Interviews with those involved in the Revolutionary War

These materials are both beautifully and faithfully reproduced, with even the smallest details of the documents and artifacts clearly visible on each page. While you might want to place them in a page protector if you’re using them in a large classroom, they should still hold up quite well over time. In general, they are recommended for ages 9-14, but high school students could benefit from them as well.

There are many ways that Primary Sources: American Revolution can be used in a homeschool. It can be used as an addendum to history, political science, constitution, or art courses; I plan to use them as accompaniments to an American art class I’ll be teaching in the fall for a homeschool coop. They would also make an excellent basis for a unit study on the American Revolution. Even better, if you’re fascinated by this set but not quite sure how you could use it in your teaching, Carole Marsh has enclosed a link to the Gallopade website for a 15-page “Online Teacher’s Guide for Primary Sources” that’s an exceptional tool for implementing these materials in the classroom. This guide is comprised first of teaching strategies for primary source materials, and then of observation worksheets for students, map analysis pages, timelines, and many more interesting exercises for students. It’s free to download for those who purchase this set.

Oftentimes, we can see history in a sanitized version; we think of the “olden days” with nostalgia or fondness. And not that we shouldn’t appreciate those times! Yet, I think that one of the strengths of teaching with primary source material is that we can really see and appreciate the personal and national significance of events, people, and their actions, in ways that we might miss if we simply read about them in textbooks. For example, looking at some of the political cartoons in this collection can be rather startling for the viewer, as with the “Bostonians Paying the Excise Man” print. At the same time, students can see the willing sacrifice of colonial Americans, both male and female, during the Revolutionary War as they observe the artwork memorializing it or read the colonists’ personal accounts. Using primary sources is a vital and compelling way to teach any student of any age, and Carole Marsh’s Primary Sources: American Revolution is a very reasonably priced, well-organized, and fascinating curriculum to use. It will interest and impact both teachers and students!

Primary Sources: American Revolution can be purchased from for $11.99, in both print and e-book form. 

-Product review by Melanie Reynolds, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September, 2016