Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Homeschool Legacy {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

Unit studies are, in my opinion, a wonderful way to combine lots of subjects into one study and to take advantage of a child's interest in certain area.  But planning and pulling off your own unit study can be a daunting task, and a time-consuming one as well.  Homeschool Legacy is a publisher that has taken on the challenge of making unit studies so much more practical with their Once a Week Unit Studies.  Over the past several weeks, we've had the opportunity to use one of these studies as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

The Once a Week Unit Studies are designed so that all the parent-teacher really needs to do to prepare is to make a trip to the library.  Easy!  No lengthy preparation work required, and you are ready to go.  They are also designed for just one day of week of study, which can give a welcome break from other studies without getting in the way of any other curriculum you're using.  They are Biblically-centered, can include students of all ages and Dad, and cover a broad range of subject areas and appeal to different learning styles.

Another unique feature is that they can be used by kids in Boy Scouts or American Heritage Girls programs as part of their merit badge requirements!

Check out the page Why Once-a-Week Unit Studies? for all the details.

With so many titles to choose from, I had a hard time picking which study we would like to do.  Since we are doing American history this year, and it fit in with the time frame, we selected Revolutionary Ideas - The Story of the American Revolution.


This study is recommended for students from Grades 2 through 12 and takes seven weeks to complete.  Seven weeks of study once per day.  In order to fit this into the rest of our curriculum schedule, and to cover as much of it as possible during our review period, I tweaked that once-a-week schedule a little bit.  We didn't do everything in every week, and on at least a couple of occasions, we did this more than once a week! But... because it's flexible and can be used to complement other resources OR on its own... this totally worked for us.

For the most part, we chose to do our once-a-week day on Tuesday.  So around Thursday I would skim through the study guide for the upcoming week, and go through the suggested resource list while browsing our local library system's website.  I ordered books from the list of suggestions, which even includes the Dewey decimal numbers to take any guesswork out of the hunt.  (If you've ever tried to find one particular book with only a title like George Washington and the author's last name, you know how valuable having the Dewey number can be!)  I didn't search for every title, but tried a large number of them, just to see how readily available they were.  Happily, the majority of the titles I checked were available in my library system.  The list of suggested resources provided is a long one for most weeks, but you only need to chose a few to cover the material; and the ones that are most important are marked.  The books can be used as family read-alouds that you work on throughout the week, or can be assigned to children to read on their own.  We did a little of both.

The day of the study, we are encouraged to take a break from the textbooks and other schoolwork, and focus on the hands-on, interactive style unit study.  Our unit study day was usually Tuesday because we have a gym class in the afternoon, so it's already a bit of a break and a shortened schoolday.  The once-a-week unit study fit into our Tuesday mornings very well.

Each study starts with a Family Devotional that serves to introduce the subject matter with a Biblical perspective.  Then there is a History lesson section that included some research and discussion, writing assignments, timeline activities, map activities, and sometimes suggestions to incorporate drama and music.  I did a lot of picking and choosing with these activities, doing what I thought the kids would enjoy most.  For instance, I left out the drama suggestions (although we talked through them a bit) because I knew that it wouldn't go over that well with my crew.

Each week's study also included some kind of fun and games activity, and I made it priority to do those whenever possible.  My kids loved being told that they could play a game of RISK and I would count it as school!  We also learned how to play quoits and whist.  We looked at artwork and architecture, and listened to music. They even expressed an interest in going to Monticello after looking at pictures of it and realizing that it's not overly far away from us!  Probably the favorite of my kids was when I gave them each a $2 bill so we could study the artwork depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and then I told them they could keep the money! Whoop!

The kids also really enjoyed trying to one-up their dad with the weekly "Stump Your Dad Trivia Question" but they found that Dad is pretty smart.  And then Dad caught on to the game and tried to get the answers from me ahead of time! LOL

My regret is that we didn't get to Family Movie Night suggestions.  I tried, even borrowed a couple of the titles, but we somehow never managed it.  One of the movies, Johnny Tremain, is still sitting here and I haven't completely given up on that, even though we're finished the study now!

What we liked best:
  • very little prep work for me.  This was truly ready to go after I'd stopped at the library.
  • totally flexible so that we could choose which activities to do, and could adjust the suggested schedule to suit ours.
  • and speaking of suggested schedule, there is one to help you figure out how to incorporate Once-A-Week Unit Studies into your homeschool.  Having a template for how to do it will be extremely helpful to a family who hasn't used the unit study approach before.
What we weren't crazy about:
  • although many of the discussion questions and suggestions for writing assignments were excellent, I had a difficult time engaging my son in any discussion because he's just not talkative; and some of the discussions were a little more philosophical than my 11yo daughter was ready for.  Still, just introducing the question was probably enough to get them thinking, and perhaps if I'd been more patient, I would have eventually got more discussion from them.

With such ease of preparation and execution, I would especially recommend these for any homeschool family that wants to try the unit study approach but doesn't want to be overwhelmed by it.  It would be a great addition to almost any homeschool, because if you want to supplement your existing curriculum, it doesn't require you to ditch whatever history or science you may already be working on in order to have a fun day (or even half-day) of study that the whole family can enjoy together.  And of course, by doing three or four or more of these studies in succession through the school year, it could meet the requirements for history or science without anything else!


Would Once-A-Week Unit Studies be a good fit for your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:

Once-A-Week Unit Studies are available from Homeschool Legacy in book format.  Visit the Shop Now page to see all the studies offered, and the prices for each.  The one we reviewed, Revolutionary Ideas, is recommended for Grades 2-12 and for seven weeks of study, and costs $19.95.

For some suggestions from the publisher for scheduling your Once-A-Week Unit Study, visit the Scheduling Tips page.  Information about how to use these studies to earn merit badges, check out the pages for Boy Scouts and for American Heritage Girls.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews.  Crew members also reviewed other Once-A-Week unit studies so be sure to look at some of the other titles available!


Disclaimer: As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received a complimentary copy of this resource in exchange for our honest opinions.


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