Pennsylvania Homeschoolers

AP* Online Classes

The students were very insightful and brought thought provoking questions and comments to the class discussions.  Of course, not everyone had the same opinions, but everyone's ideas were treated with respect.  It was an honor to interact with such intelligent students, and they encouraged me to push myself to new levels.

Epidemics in U.S. History

On-Line for Summer 2020

Teacher: Susan Richman


Course Name: EPIDEMICS!!! Their Impact on US History

Three-week course: starting Monday July 13th and ending with a gala celebration of student projects on Friday, July 31st.

Tuition: $150 for ¼ credit enrichment course. A course grade and a completion certificate will be issued at the close of the course.

Course Overview: Did you ever hear that Abe Lincoln came down with a serious case of smallpox the night after giving the Gettysburg Address-- and that over 50,000 died as a result of a smallpox outbreak that devastated many parts of our country from 1863 to 1867? Or that there was actually a Bubonic Plague outbreak in San Francisco in the early 1900’s? Or that sudden summer outbreaks of polio had the nation paralyzed in the early 1950’s? Or that images of the 1918 Flu epidemic seem eerily like our current day, with people wearing face masks out in public, and photos of makeshift hospitals overrun with patients? 

We have all been immersed-- like it or not-- in learning about COVID-19 all spring, and it’s on all of our minds almost non-stop. And this can often make us think this is the very first time there has been such an outbreak of rampant contagious illness-- that this is a completely unique time in our story as a nation. But did you know that the US has also seen countless previous epidemics that have also had major impacts on our history and on the lives of Americans?  And that somehow, even with often very primitive medical understanding or bungled approaches, our nation did somehow survive? In this mini-class we will investigate a full range of these previous epidemics, in part with a hope of then being able to see the unique impacts of COVID-19, compared to these earlier outbreaks. We’ll gain needed perspective in assessing our own situation-- and hopefully gain courage and appreciation for all that has been learned over the past three centuries about public health and disease control, and for the special benefits of this time period as we all cope with needed ‘sheltering at home’ guidelines and more. 

We’ll explore primary documents, read riveting and engaging articles, and view film documentaries together-- all these sources will open your eyes to this often hidden aspect of our history. The first week of the class each student will choose a particular epidemic outbreak to investigate in depth, with a planned final creative presentation on the last day of the course that shares what has been learned. Projects might take the form of creating websites, video documentaries, PowerPoints talks, original songs or artworks, dramatic performances caught on video or done live, historical fiction stories, simulated ‘diaries’ or ‘news articles’, or more. Some students may even find that their research project and presentation can be developed further into National History Day projects for this coming school year-- we will learn about the guidelines for those projects as part of the course.

Some of the earlier outbreaks we’ll explore will include:

This is a graded, 1/4-credit enrichment course-- some homeschool students may want to use this course as a supplement to bring a regular history course up to an Honors level course. Students will also receive a certificate upon completion of the course. All class resources will be accessible though the class website, and no purchased texts are required.

Live Online Class Schedule: This 3-week online class will include weekly live sessions (hosted on Zoom). The sessions will be held on Thursdays at 2:00 pm (ET) for 1 hour each beginning on July 16, 2020. Further live sessions for shared viewing of selected documentaries on past epidemics will also be scheduled-- or students can watch these on their own time through free online links. The class will have an interactive website where all short assignments will be posted and where written discussion can take place-- students are expected to comment on other’s work and posts and discussion questions so that we truly develop a learning community. Students must attend the live classes (or view the recording) and a final project will be shared in an end-of-course celebration and live session on Friday July 31, 2020 at starting at 2:00pm. 

Technical Requirements: Computer with video camera and microphone, high-speed internet, and readiness to use Zoom.

Eligibility: Students who are rising high school freshman through rising seniors. This could be a great ‘follow-up’ class for an AP US History student, or a fine ‘lead-up’ to AP US History-- or just a great enrichment class for any student. The class could be of special interest to students who might have an interest in a medical or health field, or to students who like to explore the human side of history, or to students who find military history fascinating and have realized how epidemics have impacted war efforts, or to students who value looking at the costs and benefits of governmental decision making. In short, almost every student will be able to find a way to make this course material meaningful to themselves-- and we’ll all come out of it with greater understanding of human frailty and human resiliency, and a new group of heroes to inspire us. 

No application required: join the course simply by paying tuition online. Students and parents will be contacted via email by the instructor with further details on getting ready for the course, and full log-in information for getting into the class website will be sent out via email by July 9th. 

Minimum/Maximum Enrollment: This course will need a minimum of 6 students to run, and will have a maximum of 24 students. 

Instructor background: Susan Richman is one of the founders of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers AP Online, and has served as an AP US History instructor with this program since its first year in 1996. She is a PA certified teacher, taught all four of her own children at home K-12, and has also served as an annual Home Education Program evaluator within Pennsylvania. She has been a popular homeschool speaker for many years, and co-wrote several books on homeschooling with her husband Howard Richman back in the 1990’s. She has an insatiable interest in American history, as evidenced by her many packed bookshelves, and her many years leading her popular AP US History course-- and the current pandemic has spurred her on to raise many new questions and find new angles to explore. As a teacher, she values student initiative and thoughtful responses to startling new history discoveries. She looks forward to learning alongside all of her students in this new Summer Online Enrichment Class! 

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