The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews
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My Texas Review by Kelly Burgess(Teacher and Student Resources)
Robert C. Law
Our Land Publications
4861 Chino Avenue
Chino, CA 91710
The My Texas package includes three-hole-punched teacher’s manual pages plus a full-color, insert-able cover ready for your binder, as well as a packet with a Velcro closure that contains all twenty-six student issues and tests. This program is designed for students in fourth grade and above. It is intended that one issue be used per week, and each issue provides five daily lessons.
The teacher’s manual provides a thorough explanation of how to use the program and how to get the most out of it. It is clearly written for classroom use, but it can be adapted for use in the homeschool, as well. Some activities are intended for groups, but the materials are also intended to be used as you see fit, using only the articles and activities that best suit the understanding level of your students. In fact, it suggests that you pick and choose the content you feel your students should study and which they can most benefit from learning. The vocabulary and sentence structure are written at a fourth grade level, but the thematic and topical content is written at a seventh grade level. The lesson structure, content, activities, and objectives are written with upper elementary to middle school students in mind.
The unique aspect of this program that sets it apart from others is that the weekly student issues read like a newspaper. The articles are dated and are written as if the events are taking place as current news. This somehow makes the information more interesting and relevant, because it doesn’t seem like you’re reading a dry, boring text. You feel a bit as if you’re there, seeing the events as they happen!
There are a couple of important things to note. First, there are a lot of notes intended just to enhance the teacher’s depth of understanding of the material before teaching the lessons. You can use as much or as little of this material as you wish to prepare yourself for discussing the issue with your students. This information is included so that even someone who doesn’t have a history background can teach the material.
In one issue’s teacher’s notes, I found it notable that it suggested that the Europeans did not bring disease, slavery, crime, etc. to the Native American tribes with malicious intent. Instead, it points out that at the time, people were ignorant about the causes and ways of spreading disease. It cautions us against passing moral judgments on societies of people living hundreds of years ago. I was really moved by that perspective. It made sense to me, and I recalled that ill feeling in my gut when I was learning history myself and the negative connotations that textbooks made about the intentions of the Europeans at that time. So, these materials gave me a fresh look at history, and I enjoyed sharing that perspective with my children.
Second, “reaction time” questions are provided at the end of each issue. These are intended to spark discussion with your students. It gets them thinking a little more about the issues presented in the articles, making personal application, and going a little deeper with the materials.
I’m using this program with my fourth grader and my eighth grader, but primarily to prepare my eighth grader for public school. We just recently moved to Texas, and she will be attending public high school next year. She’ll be expected to have a basic understanding of Texas state history already, and we’ve only extensively studied Virginia history over the years since that’s where we lived at the time. I can already tell that this program will accomplish our goal quite well! For my fourth grader, I’m definitely picking and choosing topics and activities, as some of it is over his head. But that’s exactly how the program is intended to be used.
My daughter and I used one activity to fill in the south-central states on a map from memory as a race to see who could come up with the most correct answers. That was a lot of fun for us! The map also had major bodies of water and bordering countries, and it was great practice for us. In another activity, we made a large map of the state of Texas that included major cities all over the state. We made it to post on the wall so we could all get more familiar with the location of various places surrounding where we live. Copy masters were included, and only copy masters may be legally reproduced in this program.
I really like the way the daily lessons are broken up. Students are only required to read small amounts at a time so they can digest that day’s material before moving on to the next article in their student issue. Overall, this is a unique and thorough state history program. I feel very strongly that the author put a lot of thought into the layout of the teacher’s manual and the flow of the material. There are plenty of suggested activities to widen the lessons, and there are three tests included that are set at intervals of about ten weeks apart. If you’re looking for a comprehensive state study of Texas, this program will most definitely suit your needs.
-Product review by Kelly Burgess, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2018