Friday, May 15, 2015

Weather On The Move - Once-A-Week Unit Study Review

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I've always loved the idea of using unit studies in our homeschool, but it's not always been easy to do with time being at a premium. So when we had the chance to review this Weather On The Move unit study from Homeschool Legacy, I felt it would be a good fit for just this situation, and would help us get our Science done each week even during busy and distracting times.
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Homeschool Legacy publishes a full line of Once-A-Week Unit Studies that are designed to be enjoyed by the whole family, and don't require a lot of prep time. As the name suggests, the studies are written so you can come together on one day each week to work on the study, so it's quite efficient if you're short on time. Studies are between 4 and 8 weeks long. The studies do include reading suggestions which are to be done throughout the week, either as a family read-aloud time each day, or as individual reading for older students. The flexible studies are easy to follow and implement, and each one is Biblically centered. The copyright allows you to make copies of the student work pages for your own family. Another very cool feature is that the studies accommodate Boy Scouts and American Girls, meaning that if your student is a part of one of those organizations, they can earn merit badges just by completing the Unit Studies!

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We chose the Weather On The Move unit study to complement the meteorology focus in our Science this year. This 7-week study is appropriate for Grades 2-12, and includes: family devotionals; writing assignments; arts and crafts ideas; and suggestions for family movie nights, field trips, and family read-alouds. Instructions are provided for making a weather journal, recording weather data and forecasting, simple weather experiments, and building simple weather instruments. There is a long list for suggested reading as well, and a number of picture books suggested for the little non-readers you may have that would like to do school along with their older siblings.

How did we use it? We received the digital Grab-N-Go version of Weather On The Move about six weeks ago, and have been including it as part of our science class during that time. Because we're studying meteorology all year, some of this unit study was very similar to what we've already covered, so I felt free to skip the experiments if we'd already done something very much the same. I also modified the suggested schedule a bit, and we've been able to finish almost all of it. If we had been using this as our main Science curriculum, I would have followed the once-a-week scheduling much more closely, and would have made sure to do all the experiments and activities, and would have done more of the suggested reading.

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Since we'd used a Once-A-Week study previously (we reviewed Revolutionary Ideas: The Story of the American Revolution for the Schoolhouse Review Crew in 2012 - see our review here.), I just skimmed through the suggestions for scheduling at the beginning of the study, and the section on "Getting the Most Out of Your Once-A-Week Unit Study" at the back of the book to refresh my memory. The recommended schedule is to set aside one day during the week to take a break from other daily schoolwork and to work on the Once-A-Week study, although the unit study reading and family read-aloud would be continued each day. Using the same day each week is recommended, and we tried to do that but it didn't always work out that way! Since I had only one student doing this, I found that we could get through the material we wanted to use in a couple of hours or an afternoon, so we did not suspend the regular math and language arts activities on unit study day.

Week 1 - Meteorology - One of the first projects is setting up a weather journal and starting to collect weather data. Kennady already had a journal going so she just continued using it. We discussed the rest of the lesson material giving background on meteorology, and Kennady did the suggested research on the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was the first to write about the science of studying weather. The suggested field trip for this week was a TV station to see how the weather forecasting is done for the news. The bad news was that there was no way we could pull off that trip without a lot of advance notice, and even worse - the TV station no longer does tours! The good news, however, is that we had done that particular field trip before, so Kennady remembered some of it, and we have a friend who may be able to get us in for a tour anyway. We might still get that done by the end of the school year.

Week 2 - The Sun - For us, this week's material was mostly review, but it did include one of Kennady's favorite experiments demonstrating how a thermometer works, and the field trip was an easy one for us - visit a greenhouse! The arts and crafts activity is making a terrarium, which we haven't finished doing, although we have all the materials ready to go. 

Week 3 - The Atmosphere - This was an especially fun week, as we used instructions in the study to make our own barometer - and yes, it actually works! (Or it did, until yesterday morning, when someone accidentally spilled it. We'd had at least three weeks to observe it so it was disassembled after the spill.) 
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Other activities included making a sketch of cold and warm fronts, and making a weathervane. We included the brief literature study and Kennady wrote out the suggested poem.
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We ran into a problem here because one of the required books for the study, a book about American folk art in the form of weathervanes, was not available at all through our library, not even through one of the other state branches. Instead, we looked at google images of folk art weathervanes (and the unit study included a clickable link to that google image search - definite perk of using the digital version of these studies!) and instead of just art appreciation, Kennady did some hands-on art - she drew her own weathervane inspired by the designs she'd seen.
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Week 4 - The Water Cycle -we learned about clouds, transpiration, and rain. The activity is making a rain gauge, and the suggested field trip/art activity is to shoot photographs of early morning dew or frost. For Family Movie Night, watch Singin' In The Rain - how fun!

Week 5 - Frozen Precipitation - This week was pretty much a reading week. Since we're doing this study in spring, there was no frost or snow for us to observe. (Thank goodness! We have been enjoying spring weather!) The explanations of how snowflakes are formed and weather precipitation will fall to earth as rain or as snow are very good. We made use of the internet links again, and looked at the websites about snowflakes, and learned about Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley and his work, although the only book about him I could find at the library was for younger children.
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Week 6 - Clouds - Although the science portions of this week's material was all review, we did enjoy the literature aspect of a couple of short poems about clouds and weather, and we added a photo scavenger hunt for different cloud types to the photography project.

Week 7 - Extreme Weather - This was the chapter Kennady was most excited about, and we just started on it a couple days ago. We're learning about tornadoes, hurricanes, and thunderstorms; we'll discuss emergency preparedness; and I am looking forward to this suggested Family Movie Night too - The Wizard of Oz!

Because we used this as a supplement to a full curriculum focusing on meteorology, there were a lot of things we abbreviated, modified, or skipped altogether, but it worked out very well. With very little prep time required, we were able to use this study for a "fun day" every week, while still learning about meteorology. The Bible devotional, art, and literature tie-ins were enjoyable as well. I also appreciated the lists of books and DVDs to choose from, and the light-hearted Family Movie Night suggestions.

What we liked best:
  • suggested reading lists that include LOTS of choices. 
  • the flexibility of the study made it easy to adapt to our schedule and needs. Where something didn't work out, like the book we couldn't find, I was able to figure out something to do instead. The active links in the pdf version were super helpful!
  • it didn't take much time for me to print the pages I needed for the week, and gather the books and materials we'd need. 
What I need to mention:
  • although very little prep time is needed, I would still recommend looking ahead in the study at the reading lists and field trip suggestions. You will want to check your library to make sure you can get the titles suggested and have them on hand; and you may need to check ahead or do some research in order to pull off the field trips. For example, one of the suggested field trips in Weather On The Move was a trip to TV station to meet the meteorologist and see how they forecast the weather, and perhaps see the news segment being broadcast. This is a fantastic field trip and we have done this twice before, however... it requires calling ahead and making arrangements or reservations, and in our case it also would require a long drive to the station. And then I found out that the TV station doesn't do tours any more!! We have a friend who worked there and is calling in a favor to see if we can still have a tour, but so far that hasn't happened so we had to skip that field trip. All that to say -- don't just assume that because there's "no teacher prep" doesn't mean that you don't have to think ahead at all!
  • if you have older students - high school age - and are using Once-A-Week studies as their primary curriculum, I would advise making use of all the age-appropriate reading suggestions, writing assignments, and research projects in order to make these studies rigorous enough for course credit. Homeschool Legacy advises in their FAQs that four science or history based unit studies would provide enough material for a full course credit in that subject.
Our bottom line: Once-A-Week has been a great approach for making sure we got Science done each week, because a multi-faceted study could be pulled off on just one day's notice, and we could dig deeper when we had the time. Although I only had one student this time around, it worked out well, and I think these studies would be an excellent choice for a busy homeschool momma of many who would like a way to get the family together to work on science or history studies. Spend one very enjoyable day each week learning together, without having to spend the other six days getting it ready!
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Would Once-A-Week Unit Studies be a good fit for your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:
Check out the FAQ page for helpful info about Once-A-Week studies and how to use them in your homeschool.

Pricing: Weather On The Move is available as a paperback for $21.95 or as a downloadable Grab-N-Go for $17. It may also be purchased as part of a bundle of unit studies. See the Homeschool Legacy Shop page for all titles, bundles, and pricing options.

Recommended Ages: This study is appropriate for Grades 2-12.

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Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. 
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