Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Marshall Publishing {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

If you've read this blog before, you may already know that history is my favorite subject to teach, and I'm intrigued by any resource that opens up the past for us to study.  We recently had the opportunity to review one of four DVDs from Marshall Publishing, and we chose a video that highlights a fascinating decade of American history, the 1880s.


Marshall Publishing is a multi-faceted media company that has been producing entertaining and educational home video materials for about 30 years.  You may have seen the TV commercials for the "Lots and Lots of..." series of DVDs that are especially popular with young children.  They also produce many other educational DVDs for all ages that cover a wide variety of interests.  A quick look through the 'Shop By Category' list at the website gives an idea of just how many interests - animals, transportation, history, comedy and game shows, rockets and space - and there are audio CDs and books available to complement many of these.

The Schoolhouse Review Crew had four of the award-winning DVDs to choose from, and three of those were history DVDs.  I would have been delighted with any of those three, but finally chose "America in the 1880s" to review.


Maybe it's just me, but it seems like this decade doesn't get much attention during history studies, and yet it was a time of very exciting events.  The video gives an overview of many of these events, using historical photos and drawings along with re-enactments and video of some of the locations as they appear today.  Although a vast amount of information is covered during the video, which is approximately an hour in length, it doesn't feel rushed or overwhelming.  I like the mix of still photos and live action video, and the generous use of period music in the background.

There is a little something for everyone here!  Fascinated by the Old West? You'll learn about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and some of the outlaws of the time, such as the James Gang and Billy the Kid.  You'll also find out about the final settlement in the western frontier and why Oklahoma is the "Sooner State".  Interested in architecture or American landmarks?  This is the decade that saw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and Washington Monument, and when the US received the Statue of Liberty.  Our boys have a lingering interest in trains, fostered by my dad's interest, and this was the time of railroad expansion.  How about inventions?  During this time period, Eastman developed a camera that used rolled film instead of glass plates, Edison's electric street lamps came into use, and Edison invented the moving picture.  Or maybe, like my kids, sports is something that gets your attention.  During the 1880s, the baseball mitt was first introduced, football players wore no padding or protective equipment, and the last bare-knuckle boxing match was fought.  And we learned much more too!

At one time while Landon and Kennady were watching, my oldest son Harrison was with us.  Although he tried to give the impression that he was just focused on eating his breakfast so he could get to work, I noticed that he was paying attention to the video and during the times we paused the video to have a short discussion of what we'd just seen, he had comments to contribute. (For instance: "There wasn't an income tax? That would be awesome.") The boys were very interested in the sports stories, especially finding out about the beginnings of American football.  During a segment that showed some of the fashion trends of the time, Landon couldn't believe that people had once thought it quite fashionable to dress their little boys in Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits! And Kennady had this to say about the ladies' use of corsets: "that looks so painful!"

When the 1880s segment was over, Kennady said, "That's it? It's over already? I thought there would be more!"  I don't think she realized how quickly that half hour or so had gone by!

The second half of the DVD is a vintage documentary about the life of Alexander Graham Bell produced by the Bell Company back in the black-and-white film days.  This failed to hold the kids' attention in the same way, so watching once was enough for them at this time.  The film gives a pretty thorough dramatic presentation of how Bell's work in helping the deaf communicate led to the invention of the telephone and Bell's vision for how this invention might be used in the future.

There is a brief study guide and timeline to accompany the DVD available on the website.  See: The History of America in the 1880s DVD - A Decade of Progress to view it and for more information about this DVD.

What we liked best:

  • information on many topics such as fashion, sports and entertainment that often isn't mentioned in textbooks.
  • hits the highlights and definitely whets the appetite for more, which allows me to suggest further research.
  • the study guide and timeline suggested some discussion topics and gave me a quick reference to some of the most important events and names to remember.
  • really captured our interest!
What we weren't crazy about:
  • the black-and-white documentary about Bell just didn't have the same appeal as the first part of the DVD. I think if we watch it on its own, without having watched the other part first, the kids might stick with it longer.  
  • while the study guide provided that quick reference, as I mentioned above, it was very brief and wasn't so much a study guide as an outline.  I had to print the screen in order to get it on paper, and would have liked to see it in a pdf format or something similar, which would have made it easier to read and use.
Our current American history studies are focused on a time period about a century before this video's featured decade, but we will definitely be watching it again when we reach the 1880s!  It's a great visual (and audio) presentation that can supplement other studies or serve as a starting point for a unit study or further research.  We enjoyed it very much, which makes me think that some of the other historical videos from Marshall Publishing might be excellent additions to our resource shelf as well!


Would you like to add resources from Marshall Publishing to your homeschool library?  Here's what you need to know:

Visit their website at: too see all the DVDs, CDs and books available, and the prices.  The DVD we reviewed, The History of America in the 1880s - A Decade of Progress is recommended for Grade 4 through Adult, and is available for the regular price of $24.95.  Right now it is on sale for $19.95.

Marshall Publishing has generously offered a coupon code for Schoolhouse Review Crew members to pass along to our readers.  Enter the code TOS27 to your shopping cart to receive free shipping.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews.  Crew members also reviewed the following DVDs: Oregon Trail, Lewis & Clark, and Lots & Lots of Penguins.


Disclaimer: As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received a complimentary copy of this DVD in exchange for our honest opinions.


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