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AP European History Online -- Diary of a Student!
Editor's Note from Susan Richman: We've been so happy to have Meghan Bishop Paher leading a 2nd section of AP European History with us this year-- master teacher Gloria Harrison had more students applying than she could handle, and Meghan, a PHAA graduate and history major in college and grad school, was ready for the challenge. Meghan also completed several of our Advanced Placement online courses 'way back' when she was a high school homeschooler-- including AP European History! Here's Meghan's simulation of a 'diary' of one of her students, reflecting on what it was like to be in this highly interactive class-- and you'll be amazed at all the hands-on projects students completed to help them really learn the material in memorable ways. Each of our teachers develops their own unique course, reflecting their personalities and special interests, all while meeting all College Board guidelines for coverage of expected material and training in analysis and critical thinking. Our courses are not 'cookie-cutter' courses, where every course section is identical, but vibrant unique interactions with individual teachers who are given great freedom to develop their course in their own way-- and there's lots of interaction with fellow students, too, as you'll see. Enjoy this peek into 'Life as an AP Euro Student'! All our course descriptions for our 2011-2012 AP Online classes will be posted at www.aphomeschoolers.com -- or just click on the link above. And check out Meghan's previous article posted here-- see our 'archive' for AP class articles.
Student 'Historical Head' project
I finished my summer reading and we got our first week’s assignments today! Glad I got a head start with the Middle Ages during the summer—looking at the assignments and syllabus, it’s going to be a challenging class. I’m a little nervous about learning all the material. We’re covering 600 years of history in just 9 months!
Today I turned in my first Free Response Question essay. The essays are worth half my exam score, so I really need get these down.... I answered an essay question on Renaissance art and humanism. It was really interesting learning about Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and other Renaissance guys with cool names like Boccaccio and Machiavelli!
We got our first graded FRQ essays back. Wow, I have a lot to learn! Writing a historical essay is really different from the reports and creative writing I usually do. I need a thesis that clearly answers the essay question, strong points, and good examples that prove my thesis… Up until now, I mainly thought about history as a lot of stories—I hadn’t thought much about how the stories fit together, or how to make them into a historical argument, or how to analyze them. Guess I’ll start working on that.
It’s really interesting, though. I liked getting to read and comment on other students’ essays. It seems like a lot of us are in the same boat.
This week we started our “Creative Timelines.” Having a large timeline really helps me see the “big picture” of European history. And our teacher encouraged us to be creative! My timeline is a long role of paper on my bedroom wall, where I can see it everyday. I’ve been drawing pictures of historical events next to the dates or gluing on images I print off the web. Having a visual image makes it stick in my mind better. (And it’s fun!) I drew a picture of the Spanish Armada attacking the English fleet in 1588. One of my classmates is making his timeline on PowerPoint, and another is using color-coded index cards. I like that we can adapt the project to our own learning styles.
We’re working on Document-Based Question essays now. DBQs come with a set of primary source documents, like letters, political cartoons, excerpts from journals, period newspaper articles, etc. It’s SO COOL to read about events in the original documents written by people who experienced it all first hand!! I’m going to have to work hard on learning to write DBQs, though. It can be hard to analyze the documents and figure out how they relate to each other.
I’ve been so busy with research! Our first creative project is on our personal connections with Europe. I’m writing about my family, since I have ancestors who came from England and Germany, and a great-great-great grandmother who came to the U.S. during the Irish Potato Famine. Grandma told me a few stories about our family history and gave me some letters written by relatives over in England. WOW—my own primary source documents! It was really neat deciphering their spidery old handwriting and holding something that someone in my family had written 100 years ago!
One of my classmates lives in eastern Pennsylvania, and he did his project on European influence on PA, like William Penn creating a haven from religious persecution, the Amish and Mennonites coming over from Germany as part of the Anabaptist movement after the Reformation, and Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who came over from England to survey the Mason-Dixon Line. He even mentioned some Pennsylvania towns named for cities in Europe, like Lancaster, York, Hanover, and Reading. He said German immigrants originally settled in his region of PA, and a lot of their street names today are the last names of the original German families. European history has influenced things around me way more than I realized.
I got 100% on a multiple choice quiz for the first time this week! YES!!!
We just started the French Revolution. Talk about a bloody, confusing, crazy time… I had no idea the French government instituted its own calendar with new names for months and days. They even changed the week from 7 days to 10 days! I think my favorite was the summer month called “Thermidor” because of the heat. And we got to watch a fun music video on the French Revolution on the class website. :)
We have a really fun review project this week: design a historical T-shirt. I chose a person from the Scientific Revolution for my T-shirt.
Student 'Historical T-Shirt' project
Just finished the midterm exam—phew. Now I can relax on our three-week holiday break! I think I’ve earned it… AP Euro History is fun and interesting, but it is a LOT of work. Guess it’s good preparation for college. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the break – I get to choose one Euro history book to read.
Break is over! I posted my first DBQ of this semester. It’s all starting to click—I finally feel like a real historian! Using primary sources to prove a historical point and answer an essay question make sense now, and it’s easier to understand the old-fashioned language they used back then.
Writing essays has been challenging… It’s hard, but in a good way. I feel like my writing skills have improved a TON this year.
Got back my grade back on my DBQ—I scored an 8 out of 9!!! Last semester I usually scored a 5 or 6 on my DBQs, so I am ecstatic! I guess all those hours of studying are starting to pay off.
Right now I’m finishing up another AP Euro project--this one is on historic sites. We had a choice of either visiting a site related to European history, or researching a historic site in Europe we would like to visit. My family and I visited Plimoth Plantation. It was really neat—after having studied about 1600s England, I got to talk to interpreters portraying some of the people I’ve read about. I asked them a lot of questions on what it was like back in England. Some of the Pilgrims came from Holland, so I got to find out “first-hand” about seventeenth-century Dutch history, too. It was really interesting to hear their opinions on King Charles I and political events in Europe that I’d studied!
Lots of stuff going on. We had a timed essay this week. I wrote it in 45 minutes—just 10 minutes more than I’ll have on the exam, so by May I’m sure I can do it. I chatted with some of the other students tonight, and most of them are feeling the same way about writing essays. It’s nice to know we’re in this together. We played a little history trivia, too—it’s really neat to get to know classmates across the U.S. in a course like this and talk about a subject we all love—history.
I finished my “Historical Billboard” project! We got to design a billboard for an invention, movement, or event from the Industrial Revolution/19th century. Some of my classmates are so creative. It was funny to see all the different billboards they designed—several were hilarious! And it was a good review of the time period we just learned about.
Student 'Historical Billboard' project
This week I watched a couple movies on European history for extra credit —“A Man For All Seasons” (on Sir Thomas More and the English Reformation) and “North and South” (on the Industrial Revolution). I tend to be a visual learner, so it was really helpful to see the things I’ve studied on screen. And it was a good review. The exam is just over a month away.
Student 'Historical Billboard' project
This week I did my “Hearing History” project. I interviewed my great uncle, who visited Cold War Europe and saw life behind the iron curtain. He told me about his visit to East Berlin, the strict security around the Wall, the guards with their fierce German Shepherds … and how life over there seemed to have been frozen in time. Even though he visited in the late 1970s, buildings and walls were still crumbling and in ruins from World War II—things hadn’t been repaired or rebuilt. The cars were all really old-fashioned – either old cars from the pre-war era, or Soviet-made cars with old technology. There were security cameras on buildings along the streets and it felt as if you were being constantly watched. He described it as “grey and dismal”—even the food was depressing, he said.
It was fascinating to hear his stories! I feel like I understand the Cold War so much better after hearing about it first-hand from someone who actually saw it. And I also feel like I understand my uncle and our family better, knowing more about the time period they lived in and what they went through.
The AP exam is just around the corner… I took the Practice Exam last week, and I’ve been reviewing my IDs and notes and timeline. I think I’m ready, but I’m still nervous!
Exam Day! Up early, ate a good breakfast, crammed some last minute review, and then tried to relax on the way.
I think it went pretty well. I knew a lot of the MCQs and answered every single one, even if I had to narrow it down and guess. And I had a pretty good background for essays. The DBQ was the hardest, but I came up with a strong thesis, I thought, and I’d actually seen the political cartoon they used before, so I had an advantage on that! So glad I read and looked at so many PSDs and political cartoons!
I’m soooo glad the exam is over! But at the same time, I’m also a little sad that AP Euro class has ended. I really enjoyed learning so much and all the neat ways we got to go about doing it, like the different activities and projects. And I enjoyed the interaction with classmates across the country. I’m looking forward to getting my score… and to the class party!