July 29, 2014

Hewitt Homeschooling: My First Report (Curriculum Review)

One of the major changes to our upcoming 2014-2015 school year is a return to unit studies. We are a Charlotte Mason/Unit Study leaning family with a dash of classical thrown in. But our FIRST love, is definitely the unit study method. One of our favorite subjects for unit studies is Science; therefore, I was excited to get to review My First Report: Bugs and Worms by Hewitt Homeschooling which is a mini-curriculum of unit studies!

Who Is Hewitt Homeschooling?

Hewitt Homeschooling is a company based out of Washougal, WA, serving clients for over 30 years as they strive to provide products that promotes excellent academics and character development while instilling work ethic and community service. Since 1983 they have shifted their focus towards education--seeing the growing need to provide quality material for the homeschooling sector. Their products serve parents with children ranging from kindergarten age through high school.

For this review, I was given my choice of Hewitt Homeschooling's My First Report unit studies. These unit studies cover a wide range of topics and are ideal for grades 1-4. My First Report gently guides your student through researching a topic and writing complete sentences about it, rather than just filling in blanks on a worksheet. Students are able to practice language skills, penmanship and gain skills for using the library, dictionary, or encyclopedia. Each packet (documents come in an envelope), also contains a list of ideas for taking each unit into other subject matter like Bible, art, music, field trips, math, reading, social studies/science and more! There are lists of resources for you and your student to use to help find and complete each report. When used each report/lesson should last 1 week giving you enough reports to complete a quarter of school. Each of the My First Report units retail for $8.95, though you can save 40% by purchasing their My First Report: Set of 14 which retails for just $69.95.

Here is a list of their current units available:

*My First Report: Bugs and Worms
*My First Report: Large Mammals
*My First Report: Me
*My First Report: Plants
*My First Report: Birds
*My First Report: Eastern US
*My First Report: Famous People
*My First Report: Focus on the World
*My First Report: Marine Life
*My First Report: Middle US
*My First Report: Music
*My First Report: My State
*My First Report: Olympics
*My First Report: Outdoor Activities
*My First Report: Pets/Farm Animals
*My First Report: Reptiles/Amphibians
*My First Report: Small Mammals
*My First Report: Solar System
*My First Report: Southern US
*My First Report: Sports
*My First Report: Transportation
*My First Report: Weather
*My First Report: Western US
*My First Report: Lewis & Clark Expedition

I let Little Britches pick and he chose My First Report: Bugs and Worms.

How Did We Use This Product?

When the product arrived, it came in an envelope. All the papers were already hole punched (loved this!) so we put them into a 3 prong folder. I pulled out the idea sheets and other random extras that came with the unit as well as the blank final report pages. I liked right away that there were 3 different sizes of manuscript lines to pick from. I chose the medium sized one to use and then photocopied the blank report onto different colored sheets of paper and put them into the back of his folder.

I had Little Britches flip through and see the different bugs and worms that we were going to be researching and let him decide what to do first. He decided that worms would be his first report.

To complete these reports some supplies that you will want to have on hand include books relating to the subject (or access to the library), dictionary, computer for internet searches and videos, art supplies, Bible and a copy/printer to duplicate the blank report papers and penmanship papers.

Our lessons typically looked like this:
Day 1-Gather any books or other resources needed and work through each question on the sheet. 
Day 2-Pick 1 or 2 of the ideas on the idea sheet to do and define the vocabulary on the report
Day 3-Pick 1 or 2 more ideas from the sheet--or add in something else that works
Day 4-Rewrite the answers to the questions in full sentences on the included blank report page and draw picture in the box included.

Through the course of using this product, I was able to teach Little Britches how to use the index in the back of topical books to find information about his subject. Once he learned how to do this, he was able to independently determine whether we would be able to use the books we had for our creature.

Some of our creatures we did over 4 days and some just 3. If there weren't very many ideas on the sheets provided relating to our creature, we shortened the lesson. Likewise if it was one we had studied before (ants) we went a bit more quickly. But in general I found that I was able to get a good 3 or 4 days from each creature...spending anywhere from 20-40 minutes on the lesson.

I added in some activities when there didn't seem to be very many related to the topic. (A great aspect of this product. It's just a starting point for a full unit study!) We found a cool little website about a worm named Herman that was interactive and we could learn about it's life, anatomy and more--fitting in perfectly with the questions asked on the worm report. We also watched the old Walt Disney cartoon short of the "Ant and the Grasshopper". The boys both enjoyed that. I also had Little Britches dictate back to me the story after we watched and read it. I printed this off and added it to our file.

Here are some photos from our studies:

A sample of some of the ideas and activities included in the packet for the unit

We read several of Aesop's Fables to match whatever bug we were studying
One of the Proverbs included for copywork

A themed wordfind was also included in the packet

One of the activities is to learn the proper name for each creature...

I loved the list of songs that could be sung for each unit.
Three of the final reports that were written and illustrated.
As an additional side note: I was rather surprise when the product arrived and it was postmarked from my old hometown way across the country in the Pacific Northwest! My hometown is a very small town and would you believe I had never ever even HEARD of Hewitt Homeschooling prior to this?? And I lived there my whole life! The odds were incredible! It worked out that I made a visit back there earlier this month and I made it a point to visit Hewitt Homeschooling. Unfortunately, they were closed, though Devan Citron (their contact) returned my call later and apologized and said it was just "one of those days" and invited me to visit again when I'm ever in the area. I am hoping to pay them a visit the next time I am in town--probably next year. I DID take a photo of their sign (which I can't find! ARGH!) and peer in the windows. LOL!

What Were Our Thoughts On the Product?

Little Britches: 
"I liked being able to look at our really cool bug books and to learn more about them. I liked drawing the pictures and going outside to try to find or observe them. I really didn't like the writing part, but mommy helped me see that it wasn't TOO hard to do. But I really didn't like the writing."

I liked it. It wasn't one of those "this is amazing!" moments, but I thought that they were very well done. I liked that we could take it as far as we wanted and that I could build from the different activities that were included in the packet. We are more of a unit study family, so this worked very well for us and we all enjoyed being able to pull out our awesome science books we have to look for the information.

There were a couple things that I think could make it more user friendly.
#1 I'd love it if the teaching information that is included was grouped within each subject based on each creature covered. It would have saved a lot of time if all the projects for worms were together, or bees were together or ants. That would definitely make it more easy to use.

#2 If there was an "answer guide" to reference with answers to the questions included in the packet, it would have been nice for verifying our answers. We weren't able to get all the books that were included for reference AND our books didn't have the answers all the time. So we had to do internet searches and that was hit and miss.

Overall, I really liked the way that this curriculum worked. It was my son's first attempt with report writing and it gave him a great introduction to how it works. I found it easy to plan out our units and to supplement from the ideas that were provided in the packet. I also liked how I was able to incorporate using an index to look up topics--a skill we hadn't learned yet.

Would I Recommend This Product?

I would absolutely recommend Hewitt Homeschooling's My First Report series because it is a gentle unit study format. If you are wanting to try out a unit study but aren't sure where to start, I think these reports work very well because you can really build off of them. You can do a lot or just a little and still have it be a great product.

If you are looking for an "open and go" Science curriculum, however, this is not going to work for you. There is moderate prep work involved to figure out what you will do for each unit and you will need to gather more materials to complete the reports.

I think over all, these are a great SUPPLEMENTAL to any science program rather than a stand alone. I am definitely going to remember these as we continue in our studies in the future!

Want to Learn More About Hewitt Homeschooling?

Our family reviewed My First Report: Bugs and Worms which retails for $8.95. This is just one of their many products they produce. Want to see some of their other science products? How about checking out their Literature and Composition units? You can see what my fellow review crew members thought of these products and more!
Click to read Crew Reviews

To stay up to date on all their latest product and sales, you can follow Hewitt Homeschooling in these social media areas:

Google Plus:
Hewitt Blog: 

Thanks for checking out my review today! As always you can find a complete list of the reviews that I do by visiting my Curriculum and Product Reviews page! Thanks for stopping by! I will have another great review to share with you next week--one that I'm very excited about!
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