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My California 21: The Story of the Golden State Review by Deanna Jasper(Teacher and Student Resources)
Robert C. Law
Our Land Publications
4861 Chino Avenue
Chino, CA 91710
My California 21: The Story of the Golden State is a year-long state history curriculum for upper elementary students. I received a My California 21 Combination back, which consisted of the Comprehensive Teacher’s Manual (a three-ring binder with a shrink-wrapped set of pages to put into it) and a Student Set (a portfolio containing thirty-two handouts designed as newspapers to go along with each lesson). This curriculum was designed for fourth graders to go along with the state standards for history, but it can easily be adapted for other ages.
Each student newspaper is four to eight pages and has color photographs and maps, creating a reader-friendly tool for teaching the lesson. The student set ($19.90 each, with discounts for larger quantities) is intended to be consumable. Students write in them it is suggested that they collect them in a notebook or envelope for later reference. The first issue can be downloaded from the website (www.ourlandpublications.com) as a sample.
The idea of a weekly newspaper rather than a textbook is what makes this curriculum stand apart from other state history courses. Each weekly issue covers a specific time period, some long, some short, depending on what information is being covered. Giving the student only has a week’s worth of material at a time is much less daunting than handing them a thick textbook. Each issue has several articles, but the author does not expect each one to be covered. In fact, he makes a point of encouraging teachers to just move on to the next handout the following week regardless of whether or not they finished the previous week’s lessons.
The Teacher’s Manual, which sells for $50 when purchased on its own, contains objectives for each lesson, notes about how the author is approaching the topics being studied, helpful suggestions for implementing each lesson, and copy masters. The copyright allows photocopying of designated “Copy Masters” in the manual for personal classroom use by the original purchaser only. The text from the student materials is included in the Teacher’s Manual, but it is formatted differently, so the teacher doesn’t have the same orientation on the page as the students, which I found confusing. I think it would have been more helpful to have an actual reproduction of the page the way traditional teacher’s editions do.
I found the Teacher’s Manual a bit overwhelming. The introductory pages were extremely helpful as far as explaining how to use the curriculum, but then once I started reading the lesson pages I found it hard to follow. The text is broken up into boxes, which I thought would make it easy to find what I wanted, but instead it just felt too fragmented. In the first lesson, one box ended with the start of a sentence (“If you wish, you may”) and no matter how much I searched I could not find the continuation of the thought anywhere. I couldn’t tell if it was just a mistake or if I was supposed to be able to find the rest of the sentence somewhere else. I found the manual helpful mainly for the table of contents, which gave me an idea of what would be studied each week. Other than that, I preferred just to teach straight from the student materials. I did like the suggestion in the Teacher’s Manual to create a file for each week and collect photographs and other materials related to the topics begin studied. This would be especially helpful in a traditional school setting where a teacher is going to be using the curriculum each year.
People who like to complete each part of a lesson may find it challenging to use this course as intended, for the author states on numerous occasions that it is not designed in a way that you would complete every part of the lesson each week. Instead, it offers an abundance of material from which to choose, both as a teacher and a student. Our family was reviewing this curriculum while still working through another one, so we used it as a supplement, but it is designed to be the core of history studies for a year and you could easily teach history every day of the week and still not cover all the material.
I especially appreciated the author’s approach to the parts of history that have become controversial in recent years (such as men like Columbus or Father Junipero Serra). He takes a balanced approach, reminding us that it is unfair to judge people of the past by today’s standards as well as encouraging discussion about how we might have made different choices.
Overall, I found My California to be a thorough study of the state’s history with a unique approach through the use of the weekly newspapers for students. I look forward to continuing to use it with our family to learn more about the story of our state. Similar sets are also available for Texas, Indiana, and Illinois state history, as well as American History.
-Product review by Deanna Jasper, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2018