May 18, 2015

Revolutionary Ideas~ A Once-A-Week Unit Study from Homeschool Legacy {Curriculum Review}

History. Oh how we love it. What could we like even more? Unit Study History...where we get to study a portion of history and apply it to many different subject areas...THAT is one of my favorites! You can imagine I was eager to review Homeschool Legacy's unit study Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution to see if it was the kind of unit study I liked the best!
Homeschool Legacy: Revolutionary Ideas Unit Study


Product Information

Homeschool Legacy is the creator of Once-a-Week Unit studies. These studies revolved around a particular subject and the bulk of the study is done one day a week--leaving the rest of the week for all your core subjects and related reading. Homeschool Legacy has unit studies for a plethora of topics focused in science and history.
The Unit studies are geared for ages 2-12 and are perfect for use in a family with more than one student. They are encouraged for use in a co-op and are one of the only programs compatible with Boy Scouts and Heritage Girls! The Once-a-Week Unit Studies also include resources for American Heritage Girls and Boy Scouts to assist in meeting merit badge requirements.

They incorporate a wide variety of subjects while focusing on one particular topic:
Bible, Quality literature, Language, History, Science, Geography, Research, Arts and Crafts, Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, Life Skills, and Field Trip Suggestions.

The Once-A-Week unit studies are available in printed ($21.95) and digital ($17.00) format.

We were given the Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution in digital format to review with Little Britches.

How Did We Use This Product?

The first step in using this product, was to download the eBook and print off the first 3 weeks. I wanted to know what was going to be involved AND more importantly, what books we were going to need.

The supplies and books are clearly noted and that makes it easy for me to plan. I simply took our booklist with us to the library and worked my way through finding some of the books on the list for us to use. Our library in town was great and actually PURCHASED one of the read aloud books I needed.
List provided with call numbers for library. Asterix denotes the "required" reading
Once I was armed with the books I found, looked through the first week to see how it went and then at our schedule to see how I was going to incorporate it. We have a pretty full school schedule with all the different things we are reviewing and the history program we are currently working on finishing, so I realized really quick I wouldn't be able do a true "once a week" lesson. But in that same time I determined that I would easily be able to spread it out over the course of the week. At this point it was simply a matter of planning what was going to be done each day and then doing it!
Weekly supplies clearly listed as well as the daily reading
Every week has each subjects work clearly separated with easy to read instructions.
The unit study begins with the study of colonial life and the French and Indian war. These are things we haven't yet covered in our "normal" history, so we spent quite a while going over this. Every day I read the suggested read aloud and we looked through books from the list. We learned more about the causes of the French and Indian War and the time after the war, before the Revolution. We did some map study to learn about who owned what during this time period.

I was very very grateful for my full size maps I have on our whiteboard. We had them out a LOT in this unit study.
I checked at two librarys for the suggested read aloud for the week, but neither had it. So I had to pick something else. Fortunately, I did find a chapter book from the list that I decided to use for our read aloud. We paired it with a history book about the French and Indian War (since I couldn't get the recommended one).
The program has us reading aloud every single day while Little Britches ALSO reads a book from the library list every day. We don't really have a daily schedule to go by for the program, though there is one suggested in the eBook. It's designed so that you do the bulk of everything in one day in place of your normal lessons, but as I mentioned that schedule didn't work for us, so we just looked at it as a week's worth of activities in all the different subjects.

Our weeks usually went like this:

Monday: Read Aloud, Family Devotional, Introduce Theme
Tuesday: Read Aloud, Pick 1 large activity or 2 smaller activities
Wednesday: Read Aloud, Pick 1 large activity or 2 smaller activities
Thursday: Read aloud, Finish remaining activities according to desire
Friday: Read Aloud and review

Every day during his normal reading time, Little Britches worked on reading a book from the library book list included for each week. At first he wasn't happy about this, but after the first book, he got very interested and I didn't hear any more remarks.

Here are few pictures of things he worked on:
Identifying areas that sent colonists

This was something extra (not included in the curriculum) we did that talked about the different taxes/acts imposed on the colonists from week 2
I highly recommend using the old Schoolhouse Rock videos to go with this unit--they have some great ones about the American Revolution that fit in perfectly! You can find them on YouTube.
Identifying the 13 Colonies
The latest activity we worked on was painting the first American flag. The activity was to do it on cloth/pillowcase, but I didn't have that. So we just painted it on paper and we spoke about what each of the elements of the flag were and how it compares to our flag today.
Painting the first official Flag
Some weeks, we wanted to read more than do any activities, so there was at least one week where we did a LOT of reading aloud through the non-fiction books to learn more about our topic. We are currently getting ready to start week #7 (the final week) this week.

What Are Our Thoughts on This Product?


Little Britches
"I loved it and I want to do lots of it. It's fun learning about the Revolutionary War. It's fun to have Mommy do reading instead of me."

Me
I think this curriculum is very well done. I never had to "twist his arm" to get him to do what we had planned and it was easy to plug into our current schedule.

Pros
1. It's a Unit Study
Unit studies are one of my top teaching methods. I love the concept of them and I honestly don't do them enough. This reminded me why I like them. The program was clearly separated each week into the different subject areas, incorporating everything from Bible to History to Geography to Art! You can use the curriculum to cover nearly every major subject over the week! Math is the only subject that never showed up in the unit.

2. Flexible
This curriculum was designed to be easy to add in and adapt to your personal schedule. Though there is a "suggested use", it is easy to tweak and make work however you want it to! We did a little bit every day--some days more than others and it worked perfectly. You can also adjust the activities. I chose not to do the big timeline binder, though we still looked up the events we were told to.

It's also flexible in that you can add in material that fit with what you are studying. I discovered a great resource on Pinterest to help analyze three men during the Revolutionary War and decide what "side" they would have been on. This fit easily into the curriculum when we talked about the benefits to the different types of people involved in the war. I also found some lapbook materials that we used as they fit (like the one on the taxes I shared above).

3. Age Friendly
The program is suggested for grades 2-12, but this one is more geared towards 4th grade and up. The work was sometimes more advanced than what Little Britches has done thus far, and he's at about third grade work right now. But he was able to do most of the requirements easily. The best thing was that it was easy to adapt anything to match the skill level he is currently at. I can see how this would be a program you could do with several children at different ages.

4. Extra Resources Included
Throughout the curriculum, there are links to click on for further learning and research. Some of them are to see artwork, others to check out a historical document. There is also a very exhaustive list of websites at the end of the e-book for you to go on longer and larger rabbit trails.

5. Co-Op Friendly
I think that this curriculum would be very co-op friendly. It is excellent quality material and would be so easy to adapt for a large group. I also think that art and games included would be a great activity for a co-op to work on--whereas, we didn't do the games.

6. Non-Consumable and Consumable
The best thing about an eBook is that it's both consumable AND non-consumable. You get to keep at your fingertips the teaching material, but have easy access to the worksheets to print. You will be able to use the eBook over and over again because it's all there on your computer!

7. In Depth History
This program really gave an in depth look at this volatile time period. It was great to spend 8 weeks over it because it allows for a deeper unrushed look at the time just prior, and just after the war--as well as the war itself. I feel like the material was well researched and the program provided a very thorough examination of the time period. I also liked that we looked at old documents--and we even had to read the full Declaration of Independence!

8. Seven Weeks of Lessons
Being given a series of lessons over the course of seven weeks allows for a very thorough examination of the topic. I like that if I chose to do more of these, I could cycle them through--even working in some of the smaller 4 week ones too. If you have a child that likes fluidity in what they are learning, this works very well.

9. Biblical
Lesson from the Bible are in every week's lesson. You will also find a lot of reference to godly behaviors and morals. I liked having this included and it was a great opener for each week's discussion.

10. Quality Literature
I saved this pro for last because honestly this was the BIGGEST pro of our family doing the program.I was very happy with the selection of books on the reading lists! As part of the library book selections, Little Britches was introduced to junior biographies. He absolutely loved them. He read one of Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, and Paul Revere. I read the one on King George. When we were done, he ASKED for more. He didn't want to go back to reading his normal stuff---he wanted more biographies! (Yes, my history loving heart went pitter-patter!). So it lead to us going to the library and with the librarians help, pulling a stack of junior biographies for him to work through.
His first stack of biographies---including George Washington, John Hancock and Ben Franklin
CONS
1. Teacher Prep
I would not consider this an open and go curriculum, although the program is promoted as "no prep work." The teacher will have to be fairly involved in the curriculum from helping collect all the books, to doing the daily read-aloud, to helping on the projects. Some days this didn't work well for me, and I had to make extra time to prep the lesson. On the other side, everything is clearly listed in the lesson--you just have to take the time to prepare and to teach it! I am admittedly not super organized...

2. Read Aloud Issues
We started off by not having the recommended read aloud--our library didn't have it. So we chose one of the other chapter books from the list--though we weren't sure if it was an alternate choice, or one of the student reads, but it worked all the same. The second book had to be ordered by the library, but it was a shorter book and we easily got it down in the time allotted for it. The third book brought up a few issues. My Brother Sam Is Dead is a long book. The chapters are long. I would have had to read TONS every day to finish it in the time allotted for it. BUT we didn't end up reading more than a partial chapter, because I quickly discovered that with the few swear words in it--and the maturity of the plot--it wasn't going to be a good fit for our family. I needed to find an alternative, and though the list included for that week did have some alternatives, we didn't have access to any of them. Fortunately I found one in the book The Spy and General Washington which ended up teaching about the same kind of thing (both sides of the war).

I think that there needs to be more than just one or two choices for a read-aloud.  you just can't get access to the book you need or the book recommended doesn't end up working for you. I think though, that the beauty of this curriculum is that it is pretty easy to figure out a book you could use as the themes for each week are clearly listed. I also think that the length of book needs to be considered. If it is going to be read every day, than make sure it's only 1-2 chapters per day to be read and then adjust the length of time allotted to finish the book.

3. Clearer Separation of the Book Lists
I would have really liked to have a better organization on the book lists. I think that it would be nice to group the read aloud books (and their substitutes) separate from the library picks for the weeks AND to mark a bit more clearly which books are suggested as alternatives to the suggested assigned books. I wasn't sure which books would work for alternatives to My Brother Sam is Dead, so I ended up just picking one on my own. The lesson currently states that the ones marked with an asterix are the ones needed for the work in the assignments...but that doesn't help if NONE of those selections can be found.

4. 7 Weeks of Lessons
I also put this as a con because for some, studying the same subject for seven weeks is not a good fit. There were weeks I wished we were almost done, but then he would say how much he enjoyed it and I would be glad we were continuing to work with it.

5. Extra Activities Too Advanced/Mature
I know that this is geared for grades 2-12, so there is a mix of materials to use. However, there were a few times when the recommended movie for the week was a movie not appropriate for a nine year old (like Last of the Mohicans). I think the games were somewhat advanced as well (like the game RISK). The GOOD thing is that these would be perfect for your older child doing the curriculum. But it would have been nice to have more than one or two options to pick from for each week so that we COULD do a movie/game if desired for a younger aged student.

In summary, the pros far outweigh the cons, and honestly, I will be forever grateful to this curriculum for simply sparking in my son, the love of biographical books. He is continuing to faithfully work through his stack--picking any related to the Founding Fathers as his first choices. He still says that Patrick Henry is his favorite...LOL. He is now eager for his daddy to finish reading Rush Revere and the First Patriots, since he has now learned much more about the time period. He also likes hearing references to the Founding Fathers since he now has "met" the men being discussed.

Will we continue to use this program?
Yes. We still have a week or two left to go and we will finish it out. I will save it to pull out at another time when we get back into history from this time period and I will use the suggested books for library choices.

Would I Recommend This Program?

Yes. I would recommend this program for anyone who loves the idea of taking one theme and applying it to all the different subject areas. If you love unit studies or lapbooking, this will be a perfect fit for you! If you want something you can incorporate into a co-op, consider this curriculum. If you are trying to teach history to more than one child, consider this program! If you want to really spend time on in depth teaching of the American Revolution, go with this program!

Want to Know More?

We reviewed Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution from Homeschool Legacy. You have read our thoughts on the delightful unit study, but what did others think? And what about the other twelve unit studies our team reviewed? I hope you will take a moment to check them out too.
Homeschool Legacy Review
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This was a very high quality in depth history unit study that we have enjoyed immensely, but even better, it sparked a passion in my son for biographies--something he might not have found for awhile if this program hadn't of come into our lives!
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