Dayspring Christian Academy Pilgrim Story
We’ve been trying out a new-to-us style of homeschool curriculum recently, from Dayspring Christian Academy. The schooling model it’s based around is called the Principal Approach, an offshoot of the classical method developed to encourage the traditional American values and strengths that helped shape our nation.
We were able to review one course from Dayspring Christian Academy‘s online school, called The Pilgrim Story. We were told that it’s for grades 3-6, but my 7th grader found it quite interesting, and the projects were easily adaptable to his level. (Honestly, because we attached the computer to the living room TV and viewed it that way, my 11th grader became an observer and halfway participant more often than not. I think they’re seriously underestimating the potential appeal, and it could easily be expanded if the parent desired. Some of the written materials might actually be a little too difficult for the youngest students who aren’t yet strong writers – but it would be easy to use them to verbal discussion topics, instead.)
The Pilgrim Story is a self-paced course, so it’s easy to adapt to fit your family’s schedule. There are five units, with an introduction, 17 lessons, 5 unit tests, and a virtual field trip to round out the course. They’re usable by your entire family – except for certain places where there are multiple choice questions in the lessons and in the tests. They’re designed to be done online by just one person. We are going through the questions as a family, and each of the kids are writing their answers down – and then we’re voting on the answer to choose on the screen,and then talking about whether we got it right or wrong.
Lessons are designed around a slide show with an audio presentation. The audio is clear and easy to understand, and the images are appealing. Each lesson begins with a list of materials needed for that lesson, an expected length of time to complete the lesson, and a description of any enrichment activities that you might wish to plan additional time for. (I *love* this – if only more curricula designers understood the needs of busy homeschool parents so well!)
Vocabulary is presented upfront, with definitions – a printout is available, but we didn’t use it; I prefer that my kids use index cards on a binder ring; I’ve discovered that they’re more likely to actually USE the cards. (If I’d thought of it sooner, I might have made just one set of cards, and we’d have played the memory game with them – that is my new favorite trick to use with anything I possibly can.)
Each lesson also has a “notes” worksheet with fill-in-the-blanks places to ensure that the student is paying attention and understanding the material that is presented in the slideshow. Other activities vary widely from lesson to lesson. In the first unit, a map-making activity is presenting – it’s recommended to expect to spend approximately an hour on it, but a great deal long was spent on it in our house. (I think I’ve mentioned I have a map fanatic… well, he’s also a perfectionist. And an artist. And you get the idea. That was more like a week-long project.)
It’s really hard for me to call The Pilgrim Story “classical” homeschooling. It’s not what I would think of as traditional classical homeschooling. It’s not your typical notebooking, or strictly living books – instead, it makes excellent, efficient use of modern tech to provide a course that appeals to kids of today. I would call it more akin to a rich combination of multimedia instruction, hands-on activities, with some written work for reinforcement. The only thing there wasn’t was actual reading – which I didn’t even notice until I was just writing this. That might be something that would be appropriate to add to adapt the class so that older students in the family could benefit, too – additional reading at their grade level.
I was pleasantly surprised as how smoothly the audio and other materials downloaded; often, that’s the biggest frustration with an online class, when things just don’t work quite as well as they’re supposed to, taking up valuable time. Everything was easy to find and quick to use, which was a blessing it itself. I loved that the files I needed to print were accessible right from the first page of the slides – that was a timesaver, because I could have them ready ahead of time, without having to dig through the slides to get to them.
All the printables are in color, and they’re gorgeous color at that – but most of them would be fine (and ink-saving) in black and white. Other materials needed are going to vary from activity to activity and your family’s personal preferences – art projects and recipes are included among the activities. To really get the most out of this course, time needs to be taken to do all the enrichment activities. I found that we really underestimated how long it would take us to work through the course, because there was a lot more involved to really do The Pilgrim Story justice than I thought there was on just my initial perusal of the Dayspring Christian Academy website.
Access to the course is priced at $99 and lasts for six months, which should be sufficient time to complete the course. Value-wise, I struggle to make a call on this one. I really, really *like* it. It’s extremely well made. I don’t like that’s it’s online, a limited time, and that it can’t be reused with other children in the family. I’d love to see a version that’s a better value for families focused on raising American kids with strong Christian characters.
**Disclaimer – As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, our family received online access to The Pilgrim Story from Dayspring Christian Academy so that we could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**