Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Crew Review: Homeschool Legacy's Weather On the Move Unit Study

Homeschool Legacy Review

We began our homeschooling career using unit studies, especially literature-based unit studies. Slowly, as our family grew and the ages of our children spanned many grades, I found myself struggling to keep up with the daily unit studies at multiple levels and we moved away from the unit study approach. However, it is still my favorite educational style.

I had never heard of Homeschool Legacy and their Once-A-Week Unit Studies until we had the opportunity to review them with the Schoolhouse Review Crew. The idea of an "Easy, No Prep Once-A-Week unit study" was very intriguing to me. That felt like something I could handle again. There were several topics that interested me, and that I thought would interest my elementary students. But, since we were heading into tornado season here in Kansas, I was hoping to review Weather On The Move. Although their unit studies are available as digital downloads, I received a paperback copy of the unit study.

Homeschool Legacy Review

When I received Weather On The Move, the first thing I did was sit down and look at their book list. I noticed that the suggestion was to provide some independent reading material for your older students on the subject that they would read throughout the week, as well as some read-aloud picture books for the younger students, and a family read-aloud of a classic. I was a little nervous about the family read-aloud because we are habitual failures at establishing that practice. Once I had a list of books I owned and a list to look for at the library, I headed to the library. I wasn't able to find all the books I wanted at our library. I was able to get some through our larger library system, and I also substituted some from other books on the library shelves. I checked out with a tote bag full of weather and astronomy books.

Homeschool Legacy Review

Sharon Gibson, the author of the Once-A-Week Unit Studies, suggests that you follow a schedule that has you doing your regular curriculum on Monday and Tuesday, but adding in your read-aloud novel and independent unit study reading. On Wednesday, you skip the regular curriculum and use the unit study with your children. That will begin with a family devotional, then move onto science lessons and experiments. Sometimes there are art, language, or history lessons for the week, as well. On Thursday you return to your daily studies and continue the unit study reading. Friday is for pared down studies (just the 3 R's)  and a field trip.  Not every week had a field trip suggestion, so on those days you could do all of your daily work. Of course, the study is flexible and you can make it work however you need to for your family. We decided to stick with her suggested schedule.

I soon discovered that no-prep isn't quite accurate. Besides needing to gather the books at the start of the unit study (or a couple times throughout if your library system has short check-out periods), I did need to look at the lesson ahead of time to be sure I had what I needed for the science experiments and activities. It worked best for me to look ahead on Wednesday (after finishing that lesson) and make a list of what I needed to get, because when I waited until the weekend to plan ahead, I often forgot. Other than that, it was pretty much a "pick up and teach" unit study.

Since my students range from Kindergarten through High School Sophomore, I dismissed my 8th through 12th grade students from the study. I decided to focus on just my K - 7th grade students, though the lesson is designed for 2nd - 12th grades, and I had to adapt it for my Kindergartener a bit. Mainly I just let him tag along where interested and let him wander off when interest was lost.

We had to change the unit study method a bit once we started. We used to use a literature-based history program that had weekly independent reading assignments. My kids were always struggling to complete their assignments ... and I was always pushing them to focus on their reading assignments. We had the same issue here. Nag, nag, nag.  So we tried having me pick just a few of the best books and read them aloud each day, which took away my "once-a-week" freedom. By the final weeks, as I was busier with graduation planning and we dropped the literature book (which had been really difficult with the younger kids' noise) and started reading only appropriate selections of the books ON the unit study day itself. When life is chaotic, we simplify as much as possible.

The science lessons and experiments are of excellent quality, with a good selection of hands-on activities and lessons. Observations and record-keeping will continue on for several days or weeks past the lesson, so don't tell your kids it's a once-a-week study or they'll want to skip out on the ongoing observations. Unfortunately, when I'm overwhelmed, I tend to revert to conversational, discussion teaching and skip the hands-on stuff. :-/ This was just a hard time to test out a unit study, with baseball gearing up, family visiting, and a graduation to plan. I didn't stick with the ongoing weather tracking very well. That's a reflection on me, more than the study, though.

Overall, I like the ideas of  a once-a-week unit study. It is more manageable to me than a daily unit study, even though I still struggled to complete the lessons toward the end due to family chaos and changes. If your kids are in American Heritage Girls or Boy Scouts, there are also badges that can be earned with this unit study, and the activities are marked for that. Although the Weather On The Move unit study does cover some history, it is primarily a science unit study. It would not replace all your subjects, just science. There are also history studies available from Homeschool Legacy.

At first my kids were glad to have the break from their usual science curriculum. The excitement didn't last long, though, because we were dealing with complete end-of-the-school-year exhaustion, spring fever, and a readiness to be DONE with schoolwork. I do think their enthusiasm would have lasted longer at a different time of year. I'm sure if I'd been more "together" and had been able to complete more of the hands-on activities it would have helped. The short length of the study is good. You study the topic for seven weeks, but then you get to move on to something else.

Weather on the Move is an excellent unit study for grades 2-12! For your elementary and early junior high students, it can stand alone as their science for the entire week. I wouldn't really use it as a sole science curriculum for 8th -12th grades, though it could supplement other science studies. It's a great way to simplify your subjects by combining elementary students into one study and only having to teach it once a week (other than reading and checking ongoing experiments.)

Homeschool Legacy makes their unit studies available as digital downloads or physical products. Weather On The Move is currently priced for $17.00 for the Grab-N-Go digital download, or $21.95 for a paperback book. Prices of their other unit studies vary, depending on the length of the study. They have a sale on their three bundled unit study packages, right now!

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April E.

Homeschool Legacy Review

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