Pennsylvania Homeschoolers

AP* Online Classes

I created a study group with 2 classmates, and I found that very helpful.... The course definitely enhanced my interest in history and my understanding of American history and culture. 

AP U.S. History

On-Line for the 2020-2021 School Year

Teacher: Susan Richman


My AP US History course for 2020-2021 is now filled-- audit and waiting list students welcome to apply! 

This AP US History course will thoroughly prepare students for the updated format of the AP US History exam on Thursday May 6, 2021, and the course syllabus fully reflects the changes in the new course design from 2017 and further 'tweaks' each year-- see this College Board link for a detailed summary of these exam changes, reflecting the REVISIONS made after several years of redesign and feedback. These re-revisions reflect concerns voiced from the general public, college professors of history, and APUSH teachers in high schools. The revision of the re-design is much much clearer, and I truly feel that all concerns that either the exam was being 'watered down' or was too 'politically correct' have been met-- I'm proud of these final changes! Know that my students, both those who are politically conservative and those who are politically more liberal, have scored better on the *revised* exam than in previous versions of the APUSH exam. 

       Start Date: Monday August 24, 2020-- with submission of Summer Book Review.

       Week off over Thanksgiving, Winter holidays (Christmas & New Years), and Spring holidays -- dates will be in student calendar for the class.

       End Date: mid-May 2021, after students take their APUSH exam on Thursday May 6, 2021. Extension offered until May 31, 2021, if students have any back work to complete for the course.


Texts required: Our main text this year will once again be the free multi-media very complete free AP US History Study Guidewhich helps students understand the *key concepts* for each era covered by the exam. This site, part of the larger Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, includes a broad range of learning material, from cogent essays by many different top historians, to primary documents, audio/video history lectures, visual images, timelines, and more. 

Students will supplement the online text with the print text (available 2nd hand very inexpensively) Making America: A History of the United States-- 5th edition (link is to volume 1 -- you also need volume 2, OR get the combined text in hardback)by Berkin, Miller, Cherny, and Gormly (these authors are also very involved in creating the historian essays in the AP US History Study Guide (above)so this is a very good 'fit' with our core online readings).

The study guide The Insider's Complete Guide to AP US History: A Strategic Review:, by Larry Krieger (2019) will also be used regularly (inexpensive paperback-- BE SURE TO BUY THIS *NEW* EDITION!!!!).

Other learning materials will be accessed directly on our course website, including audio lectures produced by the Great Courses, video lectures, short review videos, and more. 

Tech Needs: hi-speed Internet access; computer that enables student viewing of online videos and listening to audio lectures; highly recommended: students need the ability to watch DVD’s or streamed video on computer, phone, or tablet; iPod or SmartPhone for listening to downloaded audio history lectures and podcasts, and a working mic and headphones/speakers for live webinar events and monthly ZOOM class meetings. Online text can be read on a tablet or SmartPhone.

Class Tuition fees: Early Bird Fee $695 (good before July 1, 2020), Regular Tuition Fee $725 (July 1, 2020 and after).  

Who should apply: Class size will be limited this year to 36 students max. Audit option available for strong students after the class has filled ($250 audit tuition for the year), with the option of joining the class and paying the balance of tuition if an enrolled student needs to drop the class. This class is for high school students having a strong passion for history, and who have advanced writing and reading skills. This is not an easy class, and each student must be willing to put in the required time (roughly 8 to 12 hours of study per week, which includes watching history video lectures online and other activities, along with text reading and essay writing).

I will ask for SAT, PSAT, other AP scores or other achievement test scores when available to help in making decisions on which students to accept into the class, as there is a high correlation between overall verbal abilities and success in AP US History.

Students will also be asked to submit a personal essay describing their background in history and their goals for taking part in the class. Ideally, a recent US history class has been completed (this is not a requirement), or at least some demonstration that the student comes into the class with a good background in basics and strong interests in at least some aspects of our country’s history. As important is assurance that the student is ready to take part actively in the class through regular discussion on the website and responding to fellow students' work. Highly interactive course.

Class Description: This class will cover mainstream US History from early exploration and colonization to the present, using an online multi-media text (students will also have a standard print text as a supplement, as noted above) as well as many original source documents, varied Internet resources, and the rich archive of material on our class site. Students will also listen to regularly scheduled history lectures produced by The Great Courses (Teaching Company)—these are provided free to students via our class website. They also view the Biography of America lecture series, produced by Annenberg/CPB. Our class archives include all past original History Interviews, Biography Projects, December History Film Reviews, Summer Book Reviews, 'History Happened Here' reviews, class entries in the annual Gilder Lehrman Institute Civil War Essay Contest (sadly no longer in operation... this was a class favorite!), and more, completed by past students-- new students are truly joining a long line of dedicated history explorers, and will add their work to our archives over the year. Students are also encouraged to use other outside sources (websites, videos, history-related novels, magazines, biographies, and visits to historical museums, etc.) for earning bonus points. Encouraging *student initiative* is a big part of my philosophy of teaching.

Students will be required to submit two formal essays per month, similar to AP US History exam essays, as well as shorter less formal responses to 'History in the News', Primary-Documents (including historical cartoons), summaries of original History Interviews, and Document-Based Question (DBQ) Warm-Up responses. Late December includes a Civil War film/documentary review project. Students also complete one major creative-format Biography Essay, as a website or multi-media project. For those students who can readily keep on top of regular assignments, there are also many optional quick bonus assignments for extra credit-- many students really find these engaging and fascinating, even though they are not required for earning a very strong grade in the course.

Our class is *no longer* able to take part in the Gilder Lehrman Civil War Contest, as that program was 'retired' this school year-- this had been a VERY meaningful research project for students. Know that our class had a national level winner every year we took part (four years in a row!).

Some students in the class may take part in National History Day-- I have several students each school year take part in this excellent program, and some of these students volunteer to be TA's and are a great help to new NHD participants. 

I have decided, after a pilot program this year, NOT to require all students next year to take part in National History Day, as there are quite a number of expenses involved in this program, as well as logistical challenges for students (including travel expenses) and different 'due-dates' for different parts of the country. If students do indicate that they will be taking part in NHD, they will be *excused* from certain regular class assignments.

A summer history book review project is also part of the class-- I send out a list of possible titles by early July, and students can also suggest books they own that might meet this requirement. A mid-year review, comprised of 50 multiple-choice questions from actual back AP US History exams, is completed in mid-January, to help students gauge their progress to date. Further, we hold two simulated online 'Dinner Parties' where students take on the role of various historical characters, who 'meet' in a written discussion forum to discuss issues related to a particular era or theme (Revolutionary War Era in October and then Social Reform/Labor/Industry Leaders Theme in April). 

Each week students also complete a regular round of requirements: text readings, readings in primary documents, and weekly practice quizzes, while also learning about various effective study and review techniques. Students will also regularly be using audio resources online, including podcast interviews and lectures with historians, internet 'radio' programs on US history, such as BackStory Radio or the new Wondery: American History Tellers podcast, important historical speeches, several series of 'bouncy' quick YouTube history videos (Crash Course US History, Hip Hughes History, etc.), and more.

NOTE: this class does not have a required live ‘meeting day’—work is done asynchronously, with most major written assignments due on Fridays (another day can be substituted if that day is not convenient for a particular student), and less formal written assignments due on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. My course TA's (Teaching Assistants who were past strong students) do lead live Study Groups via Skype or Google Hangouts as an option for students who enjoy this type of learning-- and students are also encouraged to set up their own smaller student-organized study groups or one-on-one 'study buddy' times also. We also will be planning shared 'APUSH History Movie Nights', where all students can watch the same film, with a 'text chat box' running along the side, for quick commenting-- this is strictly a 'bonus' activity, but really fun and worthwhile! 

We will again also plan for several LIVE WEBINAR meetings just for our class, led by very skilled history professors at the Ashbrook Institute for Teaching American History, based at Ashland University OH. These will focus on discussion of specific primary documents, and students will have preparatory learning activities to complete beforehand. These live webinars are NOT required, but highly recommended (we usually have a link to a video of the discussion afterwards, so that students unable to attend live can watch later). Students have loved these! Further, the Ashbrook Institute has again invited all of my students to take part in monthly WEBINAR discussions open to all homeschool high school students. Again, these focus on particular primary documents, and I provide 'lead-up' learning activities so that students will be well-prepared to gain the most from these excellent discussion sessions.  There is no extra charge for any of these seminars.

I will also be hosting again this coming year our own monthly discussion times, focusing  on various historical political cartoons and old prints for each time period, using the ZOOM platform for these group meetings. I will also be making *short* video explanations of various aspects of the class and our history studies, again using ZOOM. More information on this during next school year! Again, students will not be required to attend these sessions LIVE, and I will be able to make recordings so that students can watch any of these later. 

The class will again have a lively website with many ways for students to interact with one another, debate issues, react and respond to one another’s essays, post history interviews, take quizzes, view history lectures, listen to history podcasts, and much more. We also have a direct link and free full access to our online multi-media text, HISTORY NOW, with many excellent resources that we will use regularly. Our site also has links to many other US history sites on the web.

The class website is password protected to insure privacy as the students learn together. The 2020-2021 website will be updated and ready for action by August 1, 2020, so students with 'free time' then can begin to get acquainted with each other and with the course website. The class will formally begin with student submission of their Summer Book Review on August 24, 2020. To help students keep on top of course work, I send out a weekly Sunday evening APUSH Update via email (and I also post these to course website), which includes study tips, review ideas, further explanations, optional bonus assignments, and more. Students are required to post a weekly Assignment Log, detailing their study accomplishments for each week.

Instructor Qualifications: This will be my 25th year leading this class online with homeschool students, and I have also completed four different one-day College Board workshops on teaching AP US History-- including a summer workshop focusing on the changes for the newly re-designed APUSH exam, and several full-day or 3-day seminar workshops on US history offered through the Ashbrook Institute for Teaching American History. I am a PA certified teacher, and have a BA from Carnegie Mellon University and graduate work in education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. My strongest qualification may be that all four of my own adult children have taken the class and have received very high rankings on the AP US exam, and the student scores from this class are in general much higher than the national average-- and that my own US history personal library threatens to require yet another bookshelf very soon. I also love learning with and from my students, and each year I am awed by the abilities and the strong *initiative* of so many of the teens taking part in this course. Do read the student reviews of this class to gain a greater feel for the way we learn together in APUSH. 


Click on images below to read class showcase entries about this class.

Click here to open or download an application to this class (Microsoft Word document)

Click here to read class reviews from past participants
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Susan Richman, PA Homeschoolers AP Online Coordinator
105 Richman LN
Kittanning PA 16201-5737
(Click here to read a statistical report about the success of these classes on AP exams)

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