Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Homeschool Legacy

We were excited to start out the new school year with this great "once-a-week" unit study from Homeschool Legacy, Forest for the Trees.  It is a 4-week comprehensive unit study for grades 2-12 that covers tree identification, tree anatomy, what trees provide, forests, and forestry.  This was great for several reasons.  First, we live near a national forest, the Croatan, so we have resources for such a study easily available to us.  Second, one of my sons is considering being a forest ranger "when he grows up," so this unit provides spectacular practical education in that area.  And finally, and this is just so exciting you are going to jump up and down with me, the unit study includes the completion of his Boy Scout Forestry Merit Badge!!  Why hasn't someone come up with this idea before?  Several of Homeschool Legacy's unit studies include the requirements for badges from the Boy Scouts of America or from American Heritage Girls (which my girls are hoping to do at some point if we move to an area near an AHG chapter).  Homeschool credit and a Scouting badge with one unit study?  Yes, please!

As you would expect with a good unit study, this study covers:
Science - simple botany experiments and identification of plant life, keeping Nature Journals.
Social Studies - discussion of famous "tree people," history, and we worked in some geography while talking about national parks and forests.
Language Arts - includes reading lists for older and younger students, both for family read-aloud-time and for individual reading time, and there are writing assignments.

I love that the study also includes:
Art - My kids loved the fact that one of the books on the reading list was about how to draw trees.  I'm not sure that all the trees in their Nature Journals are actually indigenous to this area, but they sure enjoyed drawing them!
Family Devotionals designed to emphasize the awesomeness of God's creation - You cannot beat those units that allow you to tie your family devotionals with Dad in the evening into what you've been studying in school.
Outdoor Physical Activities

I am ashamed to admit that one of my favorite characteristics of this study is that it required no advance preparation on my part.  Sharon Gibson had done all the work for me.  I will admit this here, though, because I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not the only homeschooling parent who runs short on prep time for multiple students and uses unit studies for just that reason!  This unit was easy to use with multiple age groups combined.

We started by taking the included reading lists to the library on our library day.  We have a rather small library, and I could only find 2 or 3 of the exact titles there.  The author had already suggested, however, that similar books (with close Dewey Decimal System addresses) could be used.  We substituted these books, thereby checking out a goodly portion of our library's books on trees, and my youngest was quite happy to have his own list of picture books for which to hunt.

We began with the novel My Side of the Mountain, as the author suggests, as a family read-aloud.  My oldest had read this several years ago, and in fact it is one of his favorite books.  The others had not read it.  I also found an old movie made for My Side of the Mountain, with which I plan to surprise my children next week (if they don't read my blog and find out first)!  This first novel, being the longest, is used for the first two weeks of the study, and there are shorter family read-alouds for the remaining two weeks.

Warning:  If you use this unit study, and specifically the novel My Side of the Mountain, your children will be desperate to adopt a peregrine falcon as a pet.  Go ahead and plan a trip to a zoo or aviary where they can see one!  (We had to go to a zoo and see one after my son read the book the first time.)

After reading through this much of the post, you may still be asking yourself, what exactly is a "once-a-week" unit study?  Well, the idea is that you do your reading throughout the week, and you just work on the hands-on stuff, field trips, etc. one day each week.  This particular study was designed for four weeks.  We read a chapter of our read-aloud each day, and the kids did their own reading each day.  Then on one day each week, we put aside some other work (or finished early) to do the family devotional, take the field trip, do the experiments and writing assignments, work on our Nature Journals, etc.  The unit study even included a suggested schedule for what to do each day during the month, which was helpful when we were getting started; but of course, in true homeschool fashion, we quickly adapted it to meet our needs.  This type of study is terrific if you use unit studies as a supplement to your regular curriculum, as it easily schedules around your other classes and gives you a break from the normal routine one day a week.  If you would like to use Homeschool Legacy's unit studies as an entire curriculum for history or science, the author suggests combining any four of the units for a full course of one of those subjects.  Overall, the curriculum is completely adaptable to your needs.  I wish I could list all the activities in the unit for you here, as they were so much fun and fit together so well, but I guess you are going to have to check it out for yourself to find out that much detail!

My girls wanted me to show you their lovely tree drawings!

Nature Journal

If I have piqued your interest enough, here is what you need to know to obtain your own copy:

The Product:  Forest For the Trees Once-A-Week Unit Study (comes in physical print form)
Vendor:  Homeschool Legacy,
Ages:  Grades 2-12
Price:  $15.95

Homeschool Legacy produces a number of other "Once-A-Week" Unit Studies.  Click the banner below to take a blog hop around and see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of some of them.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the Forest For the Trees Unit Study for the purpose of a fair review. No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

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