- Reviewed on Thursday, June 30, 2016
- Grades Used: 5th Grade
- Dates used: 2015-2016
History at our House is a fabulous homeschool history program; participating in it has transformed our homeschool experience in many good ways, not the least of which being our daughter's growing knowledge and understanding of human history. Beyond this, our daughter has grown simply as a student overall as a result of this wonderful class experience.
Mr. Powell is a fantastic teacher, the kind of teacher who manages to be strict and capable, yet fun and engaging all at the same time.
He has a way of commanding respect from the students while also showing them a good time that we all know is the mark of a really good teacher.
Some details: The program takes place daily 4 days per week in a live online forum, with class ranging from 30 to 40 minutes long. Students are expected to arrive to class 5 minutes early. And in general...they do!
The online forum allows students to listen to Mr, Powell, view various maps, charts, images etc., and interact through chat and also answer questions with their voice. The class is highly interactive with Mr. Powell striking what I find to be a great balance between pushing forward learning of information, while also encouraging the children to explore the ideas being discussed from their own perspectives.
Mr. Powell always responds to their answers in ways that applauds what they know, while also encourages them to improve the way they answer questions, something which is another reason I have come to highly regard him as a teacher.
He accomplishes this by his comments to their answers orally in class. He also periodically has them write paragraphs about current topics in class, followed up by a group discussion of the writing and how each sentence within it could be strengthened. His systematic methods of improving their self expression are very solid and effective, in our experience. Recently he has also added a separate writing class which offers more of this type of work.
The classes are all recorded, so if a child has to miss class they can easily make it up by listening to a recording. Mr. Powell also has a separate less expensive offering for participating just by listening to recordings. In a large family or a family on a tight budget, with even a modicum of parent involvement, I think this could also be a great way to be a part of this learning experience that he provides. While we are only truly familiar with the Elementary Level classes, I can say with confidence that clearly Mr. Powell knows his subject matter on a level that would be dynamic for a student of any age. Also, in our particular class, the Lower and Upper Elementary students study together, yet have different take home tests.
It is my understanding that the courses run in a three-year cycle, with each of the following topics studied for one year: Ancient History, European History, American History. I believe that each year's topic can be studied and then re-studied at the appropriate grade level for any child joining the program at any point in their student life up through high school.
Another aspect of Mr. Powell's teaching that we adore is the way he frames the study of history itself: He began the year with a timeline that places the kids and our time and place here in our lives at one end of the timeline, pointing out to them that our view of history is always coming from our own perspective. He spoke about the relevance of history to life today, promoting the notion of the value of how examining the ways humans have lived in the past can really inform and also serves as foundation for how we live today. He manages to make all of this graspable at the Elementary School Level in a way that truly lights a fire for learning history in the students. He then consistently returns to this concept throughout the studies during the year, continually reconnecting the students with the concept of themselves as a relevant part of a relevant history. Fantastic!
The coursework itself is generally classical in nature but with Mr. Powell's creative and smart learning tools applied throughout the program. We in our home do not teach classically across our curriculum but find that Mr. Powell's approach makes classical learning....fun! And while his program has the strengths of a Classical approach, he manages to also have some creative methods that make the whole thing less cut and dry and far more creative than what some of us may think of when we think of Classical learning. It is secular but...I don't think it would be offensive to a family of any religion. Our family keeps a tradition and we don't find any challenge with participating. Mr. Powell simply brings to life the ways and times of various historic cultures and governments. Rather than make moral judgements about religion, he simply explores the ways of understanding and responding to the world that different cultures have promoted and expressed. He focuses more on what has influenced modern life than on promoting any one perspective of right and wrong, although of course basic human and modern Western understanding of being a good person are present in his lectures. Mr. Powell deftly helps the kids follow a trail of where the ways of being in other cultures have led that culture. I would say that a Christian family or family from any tradition that lives a religion but does not need religious studies to frame all their curriculum would find a great learning home in Mr. Powell's classes.
Mr. Powell uses a system of something he calls anchor facts, which I find to be a brilliant way to connect the different times and places of study, as well as to help a student build some detailed awareness of the facts of history. These anchor facts are dates and times of different important happenings and students are expected to place learning within an understanding of these facts, as well as grow to memorize them. The class is a great balance between some memorization and lots of understanding of the general spirit of various events. And of course all of this comes back to the most oft highlighted anchor fact of all, the fact that we are here in Western society in our current year, learning from our own perspective. Again, another way that he connects and reconnects the kids to the course of study.
Another creative and wonderful part of this program is the weekly class on History thru Art. Such fun! And again, so educational in more whole and well rounded ways. Each week the kids look at a piece of art that reflects a certain historical event from the time period being studied. After first giving them a chance to express their own initial reactions to the piece, he then leads them on a pictorial treasure hunt through the piece to try as a group to deduce what exactly is going on in the scene which they view together. They examine how color, facial expression, body language, ritual objects, composition etc. reveal truths about the story being told in the painting. Over the course of two weeks of doing this with each painting, they come by the end to create as a group a paragraph describing what they believe to be the painting's story and message. They also come up with fun titles for the painting that reflect their discovered awareness of what the painting is all about. Sometimes Mr. Powell then reveals the real title and author etc. of the painting: sometimes not. And you can bet, when he does not reveal that our daughter goes searching online during her free time to try to find out! The way this art process enriches the student experience is tremendous. Again, he makes history fun and interesting. He also introduces Art History as a course of study in a way that is dynamically attached to the rest of the history study, something which to me shows how deeply he has considered the opportunity he has with these students to expand them as general students. How often can a kid at this age have art so deeply embedded in their study of days of old? Fantastic. And he also again offers the kids of sense of their own self expression as they learn and a sense of the importance of themselves as the learner in the study process. This class also reinforces a sense of community in the class and a lightness in being together, that to me is truly a masterful use of this type of online technology.
A handful of times throughout the year Mr. Powell hosts tests where the students are expected to fill in about 4 pages of test material on the current topic. They are expected to know anchor facts from throughout the year, as well as have an understanding of the basic concepts and events that relate to the most recent area of study. Again, here Mr. Powell has a unique and wonderful test prep method through which he leads the kids. Prior to the actual test, the students all fill out a set of test preparation sheets, which are similar to the actual test. They fill out these sheets open book and are expected to research the answers such that their answers are full and complete. He then hosts a class during which they go over all the answers and again, true to his teaching style throughout, the class discusses how answers can be correct and even more correct and thorough. They go through each answer that is good and make it better. In this way, the students prepare for the closed book test by practice with both the information and also the art of how to share what you know in a strong way. Again, this is yet another skill that goes well beyond the study of history and into the study of how to be a good student in general. The tests themselves are then administered at home, with an answer and grading key provided for parents to review and grade. I am sure there are some families that choose not to do the closed book tests, if that is their preference. He does not make a big deal out of tests or grades etc. in the classroom experience for the kids and really leaves this part of the curriculum supported but separate and up to the individual participating families to enact in their own way.
Mr. Powell is one of those rare teachers who manages to be fun and warm, while also extremely effective in getting students to learn. Our daughter has not only learned a great deal about history, she has learned about learning. She has learned good study habits. She has learned some time management skills. And on top of all of this she is engaged with the class experience in a way that brings her a sense of pride in herself as a student, a sense of connection to other homeschoolers around the country and the globe, and a real connection with another adult besides her parents in her homeschool learning process. Our family regularly has discussions in our free time about interesting topics from history or that spin off from her study of history in this class. Our daughter has grown as a learner and writer. She has grown in her ability to prepare for and take tests. And she has grown to have a sense of the value of history, in a culture and time when many students fail to make this connection in their minds. If only I could have studied history this way when I was coming up!
The enthusiasm for history that Mr. Powell has ignited in our daughter has been infectious and affecting our whole family! And the growth of her enthusiasm about herself as a student and a homeschool student, as well as the growth in her study habits, has taken enormous pressure off of her homeschool parents and replaced it with a clear slate for doing what we really want to do with our homeschool time with her, which is teach and explore and learn together in joy.
As you can tell, we highly recommend History at Our House.
- Reviewed on Monday, September 22, 2014
- Grades Used: 2nd - 7th
- Dates used: 2009-2014
We have been enjoying History at Our House for 5 years now. My oldest son started at 7 yo with Lower Elementary Level, and this year he has progressed to Junior High. My middle son started around 5 yo, listening with his brother from time to time, and now he is in Upper Elementary level. My experience is mostly with Lower and Upper Elementary levels. Both kids did the recordings and the live classes. In general they both prefer the live classes because they are more interactive and engaging.
History at Our House (HaOH) classes are very convenient for us. Online--means no driving, waiting, etc. Four times a week for 30-45 minutes (depending on the level, and I believe longer for High School level)--means everything is discussed in class, no additional reading, homework, etc, unless your child wants to do more :) Tests are about 5-6 times a year with preparation in the class and discussion of kids' answers. All the materials and notes are provided.
We like Mr Powell's style of teaching a lot. His love for history, for knowledge, for researching, for figuring things out is very contagious and he spreads his passion to students. Classes are well organised and conducted in a timely manner with minimum technical issues.
HaOH covers Ancient, European, American and Asian History. Though it is surely not all the history out there, I would call it very comprehensive. HaOH lays important foundations and helps students build a solid matrix. This matrix interconnects the web of history events both around the globe and throughout time. It also links history events to now (the very moment we live in) and helps to understand the necessity of learning history. To add one more detail important to me, I think learning history with HaOH helps build critical thinking and problem solving skills with real life examples (of our ancestors).
HaOH offers live classes and recordings on a monthly subscription basis and you can always back out if it does not work for your family. It is a secular program. In addition to history lectures, it has weekly geography and art appreciation components.
My oldest son (12 yo now) loves HaOH and cannot imagine homeschooling without it. I enjoy HaOH myself and have learned quite a lot from Mr. Powell's lectures. I actually make time in my schedule to listen to class recordings and we like sharing opinions. My middle son (10yo now), on the other hand, often finds himself in a 'love and hate' relationship with history classes. He is a visual learner and a very emotional person. He adores all the maps and charts Mr Powell uses with his lectures, and he loves the action parts of historic events, but sometimes gets distracted during the less interactive lecturing parts. Tests are not his favorite part either. The fact that the tests are 'at the parent's discretion' helped me many times to ease the tension. We modified his test experience by doing the tests slowly and by discussing the questions rather then writing the answers. Also, I found that supplementing HaOH classes with more visual sources, particularly historical fiction (movies and books) helped him to keep his interest. There are good book and movie suggestions on the webpage and on the parent's yahoo group.
I suggested HaOH to all my homeschooling friends and would highly recommend it to everyone.
PS Please excuse any spelling or grammar mistakes. English is my second language.
- Reviewed on Thursday, July 26, 2012
- Grades Used: K-2
- Dates used: 2010-2012
This program has been fantastic for my eldest daughter. It covers both history and geography and even includes an art-appreciation component.
She started with recordings only in kindergarten and was fascinated by the story of American History. Because the recordings are not just a lecture but an actual class with student participation, they include questions that are entirely right for the age group of the class, which my daughter found very engaging.
She participated in the Ancient History live classes her second year and loved them even more. She loves being able to ask and answer questions in class, and I love that she is receiving instruction in an academic subject from a teacher other than myself. This is a valuable experience for her, I think.
The material is covered thoroughly and with a focus on deep understanding of the causes and effects of historical events. The subject matter is well organized and the instructor has a real gift for teaching.
Much of the academic work in our home is reading-based, and I am glad to include this auditory learning experience in our schooling plan.
I also very much appreciate the secular nature of these courses. Many history curricula available to homeschoolers have a religious agenda, but we wanted something that taught history with as little religious bias as possible. Religion is, of course, an unavoidable topic when covering the whys and wherefores of history, and this course does not shy away from that fact. The instructor is respectful of all the beliefs discussed in class, but does not play favorites, making this course appropriate for students of any religious background.
- Reviewed on Monday, May 28, 2012
- Grades Used: 5th - 8th
- Dates used: 2007 - 2012
History at Our House starts each year with a lecture "The most important word in history is IMPORTANT." This reflects the curriculum's focus on the key ideas, events, and people that had big effects, shaped the course of civilization and created the context we live in today. The classes teach in terms of both historical facts and the abstractions that can be drawn from them. For example, in studying the ancient world, students learn in detail and by actual examples the various forms of government attempted, from the monarchies such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Archaic Greece, to the duarchy of Sparta, the gradual development in Athens from kings to democracy (unlimited majority rule) to the invention by Romans of a republic, a government restrained by laws and having a function of protecting citizens as against their government. Students learn these as a continually connected, intergrated story, leading eventually to the ideas of the Founding Fathers, and thus to the present day.