Friday, October 12, 2012

The Pilgrim Story - A Truly Unique Learning Experience


We have been reviewing a truly unique online course, The Pilgrim Story, from Dayspring Christian Academy. Dayspring Christian Academy is a Principle Approach brick and mortar school located in Pennsylvania. They currently offer four online courses, three self-paced, and one live, online course.

I'd never heard of Dayspring Christian Academy and loved this description of the Principle Approach found on their website:
The Pilgrim Story was developed by Dayspring Christian Academy, which is one of 25 Principle Approach® schools in America. The Principle Approach is America’s historic, classical Christian method of education to prepare young people to be servants, scholars, and statesmen in our constitutional federal republic.  This requires developing a biblical worldview as well as excellence in character, skills, and talents.  The Principle Approach is very intentional in its purpose:  equipping young men and women to help restore the biblical foundation of America.
So, What is The Pilgrim Story?:

Well, this introductory video is a great overview of the course. It shows great samples of what the lessons actually look like. I highly recommend watching this video.

The Pilgrim Story is a self-paced, interactive online course intended to last between 30 - 45 minutes per lesson - there are 17 lessons ending with a virtual field study of Plymouth, MA. You will learn an unbelievable amount of thorough, well researched information utilizing primary sources in this course.

Narrated lessons are given in an interactive slideshow format. The graphics are fabulous and the music is engaging and exciting. The music is different from that in the above video. I would describe the course music as a bit more dramatic. 

Children will assemble a notebook with professional looking note sheets, activity pages, vocabulary sheets, map activities, quote pages, essay questions and more. Parents are given access to a parent pack, which is a six page answer sheet PDF. At the end of each unit, thus far, there have been supplemental book recommendations too.

Below is The Pilgrim Story Topic Outline from Dayspring:

(This information is within the course itself, not on the website. For review purposes, I think it's beneficial to see the topic outline.)

Pilgrims Story - Introduction/Orientation

Unit One 
  • King Henry: In this lesson you will get a brief introduction to the Pilgrims and why they are an important part of America’s Christian history. We will spend most of the lesson learning background information so you will have a better understanding of the Pilgrim story.
  • Geneva Bible: We will learn about the English Bible that the Pilgrims used. We will also learn more about the Church of England, and the role it played in the Pilgrim story.
  • Life in Scrooby: In this lesson you will learn why the Church of England was important to the Pilgrim story, what the Separatist Church believed, and how the Separatist church was persecuted.
  • Liberty of Conscience: In this lesson you will learn about the Principle of Liberty of Conscience.
  • Unit One Test

Unit Two

  • Leaving England: In this lesson you will learn why the Pilgrims felt they needed to leave England, how they attempted to escape, and about the Principle of Christian Unity.
  • The Second Escape Attempt: In this lesson you will learn about the Pilgrims’ second attempt to escape England.  You will also learn about God’s providence in the lives of the Pilgrims.
  • Leiden: In this lesson, we will learn about their life in Leiden, Holland, and how God used this time to prepare them for the greater challenges in the New World.
  • Preparing to Go: We will learn about how the Pilgrims prepared for their journey to America.
  • Unit Two Test

Unit Three

  • Leaving Leiden: We will learn about the Pilgrims’ departure from Delftshaven, Holland. 
  • Conditions on the Mayflower: In this lesson, you will learn about what it was like to sail to the New World on the ship the Mayflower.
  • Building Christian Character: In this lesson, you will learn how God used the hard things on the voyage to build the Christian character of the Pilgrims.
  • Unit Three Test
Unit Four

  • The Mayflower Compact: In this lesson, you will learn about the Mayflower Compact: what it is, why it was written, and how it affected the government in America. 
  • Exploration: This lesson focuses on the initial explorations of the Pilgrims and how they came to settle on Plymouth as their new home.
  • The First Winter: We will learn about the trials and difficulties they experienced during the first winter.
  • Unit Four Test
Unit Five

  • Spring, 1621: We will learn about Massasoit, Squanto, Samoset, and the peace treaty with the Pilgrims in this unit. 
  • The Wampanoag People: In this lesson, we will learn more about the Wampanoag people. 
  • The Rest of the Story: This lesson is about the next three years of colony life. We will learn about God’s hand of providence as He brought the settlers through more difficult times, the first Thanksgiving, and the institution of a free enterprise system of economics. 
  • Unit Five Test
Virtual Field Trip: This lesson is a virtual field study of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Come along with my third grade class as I show you around “America’s hometown.”

How We've Used The Pilgrim Story:

We set aside our regular history lessons in order to focus on The Pilgrim Story. Although the recommended time to complete a lesson is 30 - 45 minutes, it regularly took us about an hour.

At the beginning of a lesson, there is a prompt to download and print the needed lesson sheets for the notebook in black and white - they are full color. We would do this first (the pages were very quick to download and print) and punch holes in the paper and then place them in C8's notebook. Then we would gather around the laptop, usually while sitting on the couch and watch the lessons together. 

The majority of the lessons were completed by all three children. R6 enjoyed being our navigator through the program, taking turns with C8 to press the next button or choose the correct answers to a multiple choice assessment or review. They especially enjoyed taking turns clicking on the interactive activities. J4 enjoyed watching the lessons or moving around in the room while listening. I know the younger two aren't old enough to grasp all of the concepts taught, but exposing them to the content, I believe, is very good for them.

C8 completed all of the notebook pages for each lesson we've finished thus far. At times, it would take C8 more than a moment or two to fill in a blank on the note sheet. This would occasionally disrupt the flow of things and the boys would lose interest. We tossed around the idea of not having C8 complete the note sheets, so that we could just keep going through the interactive slides without stopping. She didn't like this idea. She thoroughly enjoys worksheets. Her only complaint was that the lines were sometimes not long enough to write the complete answers on, and she'd have to be creative in the margins. ~ The note sheet answers are easily found on the slides. The exact words needed are underlined and marked with a pencil icon. There was one question and answer in the first unit that was on the note sheet, but missing from the slide show. Dayspring was quick to supply the answer, but as of this posting the program hasn't been updated. Also, for more hands-on, away from the computer activities, there is at least one craft and a recipe enrichment included in future lessons that we haven't gotten to just yet.

C8, the only time she worked independently on a lesson and note sheet. We experimented with external speakers for this lesson, too. (Her younger brothers were outside observing the largest earthworm ever discovered in our yard and their excitement could easily be heard inside the house.) It was good for C8 to complete this lesson from start to finish on her own, while I was in and out of the house. She was completely self-sufficient - which also meant she chose the location of where she wanted to do this lesson - on the floor.

The Pilgrim Story is $99 for around the clock access for six months. Access to the course will begin about 48 hours after purchase.

Final thoughts:

The Principle Approach used in The Pilgrim Story inspires and encourages the Christian foundation of education our family is pursuing. This course has taken us in depth and the vast majority of information presented was new to me. The Pilgrim Story takes it's facts from primary resources when available, and the "providential view of history is taught, identifying causes and effects from God’s perspective rather than man’s. The history of America and her form of government are seen as inseparable from the history of Christianity." 

The quality and content is superb, and I love that most of this can be completed independently.  There are essay questions that C8 enjoyed answering out loud instead of in written form. She also needed help with some of the questions on the activity pages.

In my opinion, the price is steep for one child. It would be nice if customers could have at least two separate 6 month access codes.  Although, our younger two did attend the classes, they would get much more out of this if they were at least the recommended beginning age of third grade.

I have to say, The Pilgrim Story has been a truly awe-inspiring experience. I've been educated along with the children in the plight of the Pilgrims and their great sacrifice and allegiance to our Father. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, this is a perfect study to enhance and enrich the knowledge you already have.

I have no doubt your older students, seventh grade or even older will thoroughly enjoy The Pilgrim Story, and so will the parents. ~ I certainly have!

We are looking forward to continuing the program until completion!


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was given a six month subscription to The Pilgrim Story in exchange for our honest review.


  1. What a great review! I am working on mine today & read through yours- it gave me lots of inspiration! Thanks! :)

    1. Karyn, You have no idea what your sweet, encouraging words have meant to me =) Thank you so very much!

  2. I have been wondering what this one was about (one I didn't review). You did a great blog on it. I'll have to remember it when we are back to US History in 2 years!


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