Tuesday, March 17, 2015

US High School History Course by Meryl van der Merwe (FundaFunda)

    Joy has been using the (free!) US history schedule by Meryl van der Merwe on the FundaFunda website this year for her ninth grade history. She's currently a bit past 2/3 through the schedule. Joy and I couldn't be more pleased with her history coverage! Justice will do American history next year for his eleventh grade, and I absolutely plan to reuse this schedule with him.

    The convenient weekly syllabus schedules lectures, a spine, original source documents, extra reading, and DVDs. It's aimed at preparing for the APUSH test, so it only takes 28 weeks to complete the course, or 30 if you intend to prepare for the APUSH.

   Straight from Joy: "The professors in the lectures are really funny and bring the history to life. There are tons of interesting facts in them. The Paul Johnson book is very interesting. I love the Presidents DVD! They're fun. I think I fell in love with almost all the DVDs it scheduled."

   Here's what Meryl schedules for you.
  • A History of the American People by Paul Johnson
  • History of the United States lecture set from Great Courses
  • Critical Thinking Through U.S. History
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me
  • Up From Slavery
  • Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam
  • The Presidents DVD series
  • John Adams mini-series
  • several other optional DVDs for reinforcement
    When we first decided to use this schedule we already knew we wanted to use the Paul Johnson book, and probably the same lecture set. Joy wanted me to sub the American Republic BJU text in for the Critical Thinking books, and perhaps pad it with some more original source documents if needed.  Before I diced the schedule up too badly, I ordered one of the Critical Thinking books to see what they were like. We both liked it better than the BJU book. There'd be no need to try deciding which original source documents with them scheduled either. Win-win! Joy thought trying for the AP sounded like a grand challenge, so we'd just do the schedule as is. No tweaks. What an original idea! LOL 

    Well, almost no tweaks. I cut and pasted the schedule into a new document, and added Joy's American Great Books literature and some "light" U.S. geography to the weekly syllabus before printing it out for her.

   The Paul Johnson book is a great spine. So many of the spines we considered had "way too conservative" or "way too liberal" or even "just bias decorated with history." That was a mucky research exploration. We are conservative, so I ordered the popular conservative leaning book (A Patriot's History of the United States by Schweikart), and on a whim, the Johnson one who received a fair amount of "middle of the road" comments. We liked the tone of the Johnson book best. It's so much more pleasant to read than a textbook, and since it wasn't written by an American, the author has no political fish to fry. You can find it for less than $5 shipped in the used section on Amazon.

   The History of the United States lecture series from Great Courses has been Joy's first experience using lectures for school. Not being a very auditory learner, she wasn't exactly thrilled with them. The experience has stretched her in positive ways, and she no longer finds the process daunting. We signed up for Audible and spent our first free credit on this course. I wasn't able to successfully find a used set of guidebooks for a decent price, so we've just skipped those questions in Meryl's schedule.

   Critical Thinking Through U.S. History. I really like how Meryl picked and chose specific sections to use. I wouldn't have done that on my own. Even though the exercises are very worthwhile, using these front to back would have us shelving them in a hurry. Joy says they bring up ideas that wouldn't have occurred to her, and she enjoys breaking up the reading and lectures with these books.

   Lies My Teacher Told Me was already on our shelf. I gave a copy to MhoncaiDad many years ago as a gift. He loved it at the time. Joy immediately raised her eyebrows at me and said something sarcastic about the history I'd taught her thus far. She has enjoyed reading it and says it's a fun resource.

   The heavy DVD usage has been a huge hit! We've enjoyed many of them as a family, and even my mother-in-law got totally hooked on a couple of them on her Christmas stay at our house. We have enjoyed this so deeply I will make more attempt at lining these up myself in the future.

   The APUSH? Well, throughout the year DD decided it didn't much matter to her, and she wanted to focus on just enjoying the history. She's a ninth grader. Sounds good to me. When she finishes we will pick up the test prep book and work through it, using the practice test in the book too, just so she can somewhat get a feel for it.

   Two very hearty thumbs up from the Mhoncai Sa Bhaile crew! 


  1. at the risk of double-posting (can't seem to get google sign-in to cooperate) ---
    Thank you for this review! I am considering this course for my daughter who will be a Junior - I appreciate your helpful comments!

  2. I'm glad it was helpful! We have really, really enjoyed this course. :)