Dave Raymond's American History {Review}

History was never one of my favorite subjects until I started homeschooling. Maybe that's because I've always used a literature based approach, rather than textbooks. However, not all of my children love to read so I've been on a quest to discover an American History program that all my children will love. I have audio, visual and hands-on learners, so a video based program with readings and hands-on assignments appealed to me. Will Dave Raymond's American History by Compass Classroom be a good fit for our family? How about yours?

The program is designed for ages 12 and up, and is available in DVD or Download. I reviewed the Download version.

Includes: Video Download, Teacher's Guide, and Student Reader

See an Overview, Sample Lessons, List of Lessons, and download the Reader and Guides here.

How it Works

Each part is designed to be completed in one semester, and both parts cover one school year, for 1 high school credit in American History. The goal is to complete one lesson per week, and each lesson contains 5 different lectures that are about 10-15 minutes long.

Each day, the student watches a 10-15 minute video lecture and reads a short excerpt from a primary source, which includes speeches, first-hand accounts, sermons, letters, poems, and historical narratives Students are occasionally asked to answer a question, write a paragraph, or do an activity or project.

Dave Raymond is a wonderful storyteller and speaker and places an emphasis on a strong Biblical worldview. His style is engaging and interesting, and the video lectures include color, photographs, illustrations, maps, quotes, readings from primary sources, and titles to indicate important information that students should be taking notes on.

Each week, the student takes a quiz/exam and adds an entry to their portfolio.

Supplies needed:

  • computer to download and view the lectures

  • a notebook and pen for taking notes

  • a portfolio or scrapbook

  • a printer for the portfolio project (but entries may be handwritten, hand-drawn, or contain original artwork)

The Portfolio

The unique aspect of this program that sets it apart from any other History curriculum that I have seen is that the student creates a quality portfolio or scrapbook of their learning. At the end of the semester, their portfolio will include 13 entries (1 for each lesson) that reflect craftsmanship and excellence. Students are to use good quality paper like card stock, and make it neat, visual, and varied. They can include a variety of items including pictures of events and people, poetry, song lyrics, articles, artwork, and quotes, along with captions to describe their entry. It is suggested that they include 1-3 items per entry, and that it contains a title page, the name of the student author, the date, and the title of each lesson and topic.

Our Experience

I reviewed this with my 9th grader, Nathan.

Part 1 ~ A Week in the Life of Dave Raymond's American History

Nathan used a Project Life Mini Album for his portfolio.

Title Page

Table of Contents

He added a section for the Table of Contents, and included a part of Psalm 78 - a reading assignment. (I don't recall adding a Table of Contents was suggested, but I thought it was a good idea).

Lesson 1.1 Orientation: Introduction and Note Taking

We learn that this is a story driven curriculum that includes lots of visual references, portraits of people, artwork, and more.

This section covers moral philosophy. We see how culture has changed and how ideas are brought forth. We examine the motives of people as a primary importance.

I really like how Dave Raymond shares his personal story of why he teaches History: nothing has happened by chance, it is all by the providence of God, and there is a theme of redemption throughout History. Amazing to think about, I agree! It is also the story of the church, the story of the gospel moving westward, and also a tale of sinners. We don't just study History to prevent past mistakes, we want to know the wisdom of the past so we can apply it in our life.

This section also teaches students how to take notes. Who, when, where, how, and why is this important? We don't just learn about key people, we learn the ideas and beliefs that motivated those people. I love that he stresses the importance of taking notes, reminds the student, and gives practical suggestions on how to take notes in this course. In our homeschool, we have never done a lecture format for teaching. I read aloud, but have never required my children to take notes until recently.

1.2 Orientation: Why School? Why the Humanities?

The heart of this section, I believe, is that man's chief end is to praise and glorify God.

1.3 Orientation: Why Study History?

From our notes:

  1. For God's Glory

  2. Redemption

  3. Know Our Past/Anticipate the Future

  4. Know Heros

  5. Know Villains

  6. Avoid Mistakes of the Past

  7. Know What It Means to Be Human

We read Psalm 78 for this lesson.

1.4 Good Quotes and Our Road Map

We learned that faith forms a culture, and Nathan wrote about the wisdom in a chosen quote and how it applies to the study of History. (He includes this as one of his entries for his portfolio).

1.5 Readings, Assignments, Exams, Portfolio, and Projects

Dave Raymond goes into detail about what to expect out of this course, from assignments, exams, to the portfolio and Hours Project - an in depth project that is open ended, but should take up to 50 hours to create. He encourages the student to take their time, grab something hot or cold to drink, write down questions they have, re-read, and ask for help during the lectures. It was cold and snowy, so we grabbed hot chocolate. :)

I helped him with his first entry for his portfolio and I love how it came out! I'm helping Nathan get into this project. I really want him to buy into it - to take ownership, but he needed a little help to get started.

This lesson can be downloaded for free!

I'll share a few more samples from Nathan's portfolio.

Lesson 2: The Banner of the Sun - Meso-America

Lesson 3: Brave New World - The Early Explorers

Part 2

In Part 2, the readings and assignments are a little longer and more involved. I love that the program starts out gentle, and then grows with the student.

What does a typical day looks like using Dave Raymond's American History?

I had Nathan jump ahead to where he is at in his current American History program to share a day in the life.

The Lost Cause: Reconstruction ~ Lesson 24.2

The program is very straight forward: watch the lecture, take notes, read from the Reader, and do the assignment given.

In Lecture 24.2 - Reconciliation, Assassination, & Johnson, the assignment is to Read "O Captain, My Captain," by Walt Whitman, and answer the question, "How was the death of Lincoln tragic for both the Sound and the North?" He reads the selection right in his reader.

The questions require thought, and not just recall. And the exam is equally challenging, in that it requires short answer questions that require analyzation, explanation, definitions, as well as recalling information.

With Nathan's current American History program, it requires a lot of reading using historical texts, and historical fiction accounts of History. Then he has a long, and often tedious list of questions that he has to answer from the content, which often requires him to reread and find the answers. He dreads this the most. While this program is more of an in-depth look at American History, it does not provoke the kind of thinking that Dave Raymond's American History does.

Nathan's Entry for Lesson 24: The Lost Cause: Reconstruction

Nathan is almost done with American History, but I wanted him to review it with me since he has some experience with American History. He really enjoyed the lecture format and didn't mind the primary source readings. He was open to the hands on activities, and didn't mind the short answer format of the exams, and the writing assignments. He was very amiable towards the program, though at times requested to do an exam orally.

I wanted to review this because I need a video based program like this for Dylan, my 8th grader, for when we get to American History.  I think Dylan will respond well to the lecture format of the program. He doesn't like to read a lot, so the lectures and short readings will be an ideal fit for him, but I'm not sure about the hands-on projects or portfolio. I'm thinking he may need something a little less formal like notebooking where he writes what he learned on a page and illustrates it, and occasionally adds a photo or map to his notebook.

I appreciate that Dave Raymond encourages students to take pride in their portfolio, but I helped Nathan a lot with his portfolio to get started. Basically, he wrote all the journal entries on pre-formatted template that I created, and then chose his pictures to print (public domain photos). I printed the photos at our 1-hour local photo, and then printed his journaling onto cards that he pre-selected. Since the 8th grade, Nathan has been able to take his school work and go do it without me holding his hand, so I think he could do the portfolio project on his own, and looking back, I think it would have been easier to have him hand write his entries, but I didn't think it would look as nice at the time.

I think it might be a little harder with Dylan, though, so I'm not sure the program in its entirety would be a good fit for him. I could see Malachi and Eliana enjoying this program when they are older, since a large part of our school is hands-on and they love History. I would still be tempted to add in historical fiction readers, though, because Malachi loves to read.

Dave Raymond's American History offers a fresh perspective on American History. I especially appreciate that it takes a look at the motives of important people and doesn't unnecessarily make them out to be a villain. I also appreciate that he does the lecturing. . . and that he changes his shirt every week. :)

I am excited to have Dave Raymond's American History as a resource in my homeschool, and recommend it most for visual, auditory, and hands-on learners!


  • Video lecture ideal for visual and auditory learners

  • Short lessons that are engaging and interesting

  • Readings from primary sources

  • Optional reading assignments are given at the end of each Reader

  • Thought provoking questions

  • Hands-on projects and activities

  • Creation of an American History portfolio

  • Instills a sense of ownership in the student

  • Not teacher intensive, if the student takes ownership

  • 26 lessons, plus the hands-on projects, portfolio, and Hours project make this a full credit course for high school

  • A time frame is suggested for projects. For example, for the Colonial Map Project, the student should have it completed by the end of the 6th lesson. But, it also suggests that the student should have chosen their map and completed their research by the end of the 2nd lesson. However, it would be nice if at the end of Lesson 2, Mr. Raymond would have reminded the student that this was to be done, as he probably would have in a live class.


  • Covers basics of American History, but is not an in-depth look at American History (at least not as in-depth as Nathan's current American History Program); however, the lectures, readings and projects combined make this program worthy of a high school credit

  • If your student is not a hands-on learner, the portfolio and projects may seem overwhelming

  • I kept hoping that Mr. Raymond would remind students, or hold them accountable, for lengthy projects that have been assigned, as mentioned above.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of these programs in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am an affiliate for Compass Classroom, so if you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.


  1. Thank you so much for today's entry. I am right here, trying to decide what program to use for HS American History next year. I loved your review and the knowledge of this new program, it sounds like something that would be a good fit for our daughter. The videos are something that would work great for her learning style, and she loves to scrapbook so you hooked us by showing the portfolio. What Project Life kit did you use? Thank you again for sharing today, so excited to check in to this program more. :)

  2. My almost 8th grader is goes to public school but I think this may be something she would enjoy and I'm always on the lookout for summer school options...Thanks for the review, I'm going to keep this in mind.

  3. Hi Wendy! We used the Midnight Edition. I would have loved this curriculum as a highschooler, because I love to scrapbook. My daughter is starting her own mini album, so I hope she grows to like scrapbooking, too! I would love to hear what you decide on!

  4. Thank you Michelle for your review. I am very interested in this program even though my kids are not old enough yet. They are currently in a history book/class for younger kids that points to the sovereignty of God in history. I love the way this makes them think about things. You are inspiring me to learn more about blogging and all this stuff, which at this point is overwhelming to me! We'll see.... :-)

  5. Thank you for the wonderful review! I.have been.wanting to get.this for my.gifted 5th.grade son for next year, but I am wondering if I.should wait 2 years. What have you used for middle school history? My son also wants the visual Latin j)

  6. This is an amazing review -- as always!! I love the idea of having a record of the student's learning -- and PL -- perfect!! I am cherishing my little ones, but I am excited for this type of learning!!

  7. Nice review and I love the history programs

  8. Thanks for the review. I'm considering this for both my girls next year and the portfolio example really helped. I've watched the free lessons online along with the downloaded free lessons. I'm really excited about this. Thanks again!

  9. We are currently using Sonlight Cores G and H, along with Mystery of History, for World History, and Sonlight Core 100 for American History. We've also used My Father's World, and History Revealed. I've never taught American History in middle school - just before and right after, but I think this would be appropriate for a gifted 5th grader, since it is ages 12 and up (though it does have some mature content - like dealing with human sacrifice in Meso-America, for example). Some children are more sensitive to those kinds of topics, but many can handle it. The samples are a great indicator of the program!

  10. Thanks, Amy! It will come quickly, too quickly! So glad you are cherishing this time! :)

  11. Great review! What is the American history program that you refer to in your review that is more "in depth" than the Dave Raymond program?

  12. Thank you! It is Sonlight Core 100 American History in Depth. :)

  13. Hmm. I've looked at Sonlight 100 so many times but never felt that it would be comprehensive enough for 11th grade U.S. History. I wonder if that would mean that Dave Raymond, being 12 years and up, also would be a little light. I suppose you could always add additional reading of whole books, as opposed to excerpts, to beef it up a little. But I do like the sound of his "putting it all together" for you as far as a historical flow and meaning. Any thoughts?

  14. I used Core 100 with a 9th and 11th grader and will use it with my 3rd boy in 10th. I thought Dave Raymond's was light compared to Core 100, yet its suggested use is for high school. If you just use Dave Raymond's then adding in whole readings is an option, or require a more in depth portfolio and hands on projects. This could very well fit an 11th grader depending on how much you require out of it. I really like the historical flow of the program and that he really makes you think!

    Anything you do in high school counts as high school credit if you put the hours in. If you are doing a rigourous college prep course of study, then I recommend you ask someone like Lee Binz, the HomeScholar - she specializes in home high school and writing transcripts. She is experienced with Sonlight, too, so she may be able to help more.

    I use Rosetta Stone Homeschool Edition for high school and many Sonlighters don't think it is rigorous enough. Even though Sonlight recommends it for high school. I think using the homeschool edition, with the workbook, quizzes, tests and cultural enrichment activities makes it a full course. Same with Core 100. My 11th grader was within the suggested age range for Core 100. I'm fine with that, but others use a core at the youngest end. I've done both and my students get more out of it at the older end of the range.

    Hope that helps!

  15. Just wanted to say...THANK YOU for posting pictures of the portfolio. It looks so nice!