Friday, July 17, 2015

Home School in the Woods ( A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

My kids enjoy learning about History.  Out of all the subjects we study, History is easily the favorite between both Garrett and Ashleigh. However, we all know that history can be extremely dry in its presentation sometimes.

Homeschool in the Woods has solved the problem of dry boring history by putting together several full immersion, hands on,  in-depth study units with their Project Passport World History Studies.  We had the opportunity to try and review the Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages (Digital Download version) over the last few weeks and were really impressed with what Homeschool in the Woods has put together.

The Project Passport units are designed as if the student is travelling back into time to the period being studied.  Each study unit is divided into "Stops", like a short excursion while on a trip, in which a topic is explored in depth using maps, projects, hands on activities while learning about the culture, lifestyles, and history of the particular era of study. 

Too cute - Luggage and Passports for our "Trip"
This unit study quickly caught my children's attention straight out of the gate when we put together our binders, passports and luggage bags. These projects are so unique and were much fun for the kids and helped to really set the tone of this being a fun trip instead of just the typical discussion on the topic.

I should mention here that this Unit Study takes much preparation ahead of time before starting.  Each student will need their own binder (we're using 2 inch binders) and a binder for the teacher.. You'll also need printer paper, colored cardstock and a fresh ink cartridge in your printer because there is a lot of printing to be done.  Luckily, Homeschool in the Woods provides step by step instructions with each "Stop" which tells you how to properly assemble each step (even telling you the easiest way to print all the pages for easily assembly).  Most everything, with the exception of the craft projects can easily be kept together in the binder.  But once everything is printed out, it really makes for a nice, colorful presentation that is very impressive.  From timelines, newspapers (where the students write the articles), paper crafts and such, there's a lot of opportunities for making this project a very unique keepsake crafted towards your own child.  Kids even get to decorate post cards from various characters important to the time period and keep them in a post card rack that they assemble and keep in their binder.

Timeline of our  Earlier Travels
Postcard showing the sacking of the Roman Empire

Our Binders 

Our trip was about the middle ages starting with the Invasion of the Barbarians into the Roman Empire and the start of the Dark Ages.  I did worry that the reading of the text would be a bit dry for the kids but found it to be perfect for them. Most often, we would read together the text while eating our meal during lunch and I found the kids would be enthralled with the lesson and asked many questions.  (And I think I have the only 2nd graders in our town to know who Attila the Hun and the Goths are, much to the surprise of their dad).  The reading portions of each stop are fairly short (1-3 printed pages, depending on the topic) and while fairly detailed, are not too long or overloading for younger kids like mine.

After our discussion and our lunch was done, we would then spend about 20 to 30 minutes working on activities for the "Stop" . Some stops had audio "tours" where a guide would conduct "interviews" or describe sites and sounds for various happenings of the time which we listened to while doing the activities.  Some activities included map work or coloring, while others were more of creating crafts representing the time period.

Probably our absolutely favorite activity so far has been learning about the different classes of people of the time and how they dressed. The kids had so much fun coloring each class, cutting them out and then making puppets with each one.  (The instructions called for gluing them to popsicle sticks but I could not for the life of me find ours so we improvised with lunch bags.. lol).  What a fun project!!

It also happened that after studying the classes and talking about Knights and Castles that we went on our trip to Walt Disney World. While there, we happened to have lunch at the restaurant Be Our Guest which was designed to look like a castle and had suits of armor in it.. Sooo, when they kids saw this, it immediately brought back to mind our discussion about these things and made the kids that much more interested in them.   I had to admit, even I was impressed with how much they had retained from these discussions and how well they were able to recollect many of the details that we had discussed.  It was also really cool, as a homeschooling mother, to be able to see their excitement to have our history lesson brought to life before their eyes.

On a really cool, unrelated note, these suits of armor talk, sing, hum and even sneeze.. The kids thought that was so neat.. LOL

Since we had the Digital downloadable version of the Project Passport, the entire curriculum was
Copy or one of the Itineraries.  Click the image for a better view
downloaded directly to our computer.  A file entitled "Start.html" allows the user to click on the link and have the entire curriculum load up as a webpage in your preferred browser.  This way, each Stop allows for viewing necessary information with just a click of the mouse.  While entirely browser based - once the files are downloaded you do not have to have an internet connection as all files are located on your computer.   Photos are included to show finished projects along with links for each of the reading texts and Stop information in the form of a "Travel Itinerary" which gives step by step instructions for that Stop.  Each of these files are saved as PDF's on your computer and are extremely easy to access and print out for binders.  The entire file for the unit study only took up 262 MB on my hard drive so the storage necessary is minimal in my opinion.  For those who do not want to download and would prefer a physical product, they do offer a CD version of each offering that can be ordered.

Screenshot of browser based interface 
This was my first experience with Homeschool in the Woods and their Project Passport series and I have to say, overall, I am thoroughly impressed with it and I am finding it very easy to use with my younger students.  We still have several Stops to go before we have completed this particular trip but I am already looking at the other offerings that Homeschool in the Woods offers as these hands on, activity based learning units are absolutely perfect for my autistic son as well as for my daughter who loves anything that has to do with making "pretty stuff" as she puts it.   With Project Passport World History unit studies on Ancient Egypt and the Renaissance and Reformation periods, as well as their Time Traveler American History based studies that cover from Early Colonization to World War II, I can easily see myself using their products many times over.

Some of the many projects to be made during the Trip through the Middle Ages
More information can be found on Homeschool in the Wood's website as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google + . You can also click on the banner below and see what my other fellow Crew Members thought of all three of the Project Passport offerings.

Home School in the Woods Review

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