Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Home School in the Woods - Great Empires (Schoolhouse Review)

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I've been so lucky to be exposed to new companies that provide fantastic products to the homeschool community.  This time, I was introduced to Home School in the Woods.

Amy Pak started the company in order to help other homeschooling families teach history in a fun and engaging way with hands-on activities.  Think timelines, lapbooks, games, cooking and crafts.  What better way to make history come alive?

I was afforded the opportunity to try out the activity study Great Empires, which is a study of fourteen different empires for elementary students.  Some of the empires are Ancient China, Ancient Rome and United States of America.  You can check out the full list on the website.  We have only done history as it relates to holidays, so I thought this would be a good introduction into world history and perhaps spark an interest in my 6 year old.

We received the download version ($18.95), but it is also available on CD ($19.95) as well.  Once I downloaded the pack, I set to work browsing through the vast amount of resources.  Although there are a lot of individual PDF files, everything was categorized into folders for me!  It was very organized and it was easy to navigate and find what I needed.

How to Use the Study

The beauty of this product...there is no right or wrong way to use it!  Here are just a few options for using this study:
  • study Empires in chronological order
  • Pick the Empires that interest your students
  • Complete the units as-is in just a few days for a quick overview of the Empires
  • Use it as a supplement to your current curriculum
  • Use as a starting point to make a comprehensive, detailed unit study

Since we've never done a formal history curriculum before, I decided we would spread this out over the spring and summer for a nice overview of world history, studying one empire for several weeks, allowing us to go in-depth where we wanted.

So just to give you an idea, for Ancient Egypt, I first gathered my resources.  Then I went over the Text Pages.  Some if it was a bit detailed for my 6 year old.  There were a lot of names and dates crammed into two pages, so I found myself summarizing frequently so I didn't lose his attention.

However, I liked having a nice overview right in front of me to reference.

One of the topics covered is hieroglyphs, and there are directions for making a cartouche with hieroglyphics on it.  Let me tell you, hieroglyphs are like "secret code" to a 6 year old boy!  He also loves helping in the kitchen, so the recipes are a great activity for us.  For Egypt, we made Lemon & Garlic Potato Salad as a side dish for dinner one night.  (This is not a typical potato salad by the way; there are no eggs for this egg-despising mama!)  Another topic discussed was the pyramids, and he was inspired to build his own pyramid out of Lego bricks!  I love that he was interested enough to explore the topics on his own.  We read books.  We watched movies.  We had fun!

The Great Empires study covers a wide range of time periods and geographical areas, so it could also be used as a supplement to other studies.  I am planning to save the English Empire for this fall when we start studying England as part of our curriculum, because 'Who's Who in English History' and the other activities will be a great addition to our studies.

Final Thoughts

We have enjoyed Great Empires.  I wouldn't consider this a comprehensive curriculum in itself if used as-is.  It's more like a great supplement   However, the book & internet suggestions help round it out to make it an excellent overview for elementary students.  The projects are the heart of the unit and make this the perfect program for the project oriented or hands-on learner!  The master pages are very thorough and organized, meaning the only prep work I had to do was gather the materials.

The kid loves fun and I love easy!  

The Crew also reviewed two other products from Home School in the Woods, so be sure to read all of the reviews, check out the company's Samples and Feebies, and see where your history studies will go next!

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