Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A TOS Review: Westward Ho! (I & II)

Unit Studies have to be one of my favorite approaches to homeschool. This might hark back to my early childhood teaching days. I had an apple unit I would drag out in September. A pumpkin unit that would appear in October. Other themes might include transportation, inventors and the solar system.  That kind of immersion thematic learning just makes sense. I have found that my "hands on learner" thrives with Unit Studies, as well.

However, the challenge of Unit Studies is often the preparation. When one is the chief cook, laundress, maid and head teacher there aren't as many hours in the day. I was really excited to get to review two unit studies - Westward Ho I(5 week) & Westward Ho II (4 week) from Homeschool Legacy.


Homeschool Legacy was started by veteran homeschool Mom, Sharon Gibson. She developed the Once-a-Week-Unit Study. All of the Unit Studies are no prep, Biblically centered and can be incorporated into your current core curriculum. I'll explain a little more about this approach in a minute. The Unit Studies also help those in Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls programs with earning badges. The Unit Studies cover a variety of topics and subjects and can be used with the whole family...from grades 2-12. Though I think the littles can get involved too ;<) By the way, I encourage you to check out Sharon's article on planning a staycation. I've been inspired !
Each study includes Bible study, literature, language activities, history and geography, arts & crafts and so much more! There are even field trip suggestions, family movie night ideas and something called "Stump Your Dad Trivia."
My first choices for review were Westward Ho I and Westward Ho II. We love history and both studies fit into where we are in our studies right now. I'll talk a little bit about each of them. I didn't get an opportunity to review all of the weeks, but we did have a lot of fun with what we did do.

Westward Ho I is a 5-week study.  It follows a unique, but easy approach. Simply work through your core curriculum four days a week (including reading materials based on your Unit Study). On one day of the week work through the Unit Study activities. For example, Monday, Tuesday,Thursday and Friday you work on reading, writing and 'rithmetic. We still did our math, spelling and writing programs and English. On Wednesday you dive into your Unit Study.

The most prep work I did was to order books from the library and gather a few supplies now and then. Even ordering the library books was made easier. We were given call numbers...just in case the books suggested weren't available we could use books within that same subject of books.

Frontiersmen (Week 1)
This week had us reading tall tales. We even wrote one of our own. We read about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. We also learned about the Northwest Ordinance. Our family read aloud for this week was The Sign of the Beaver. I found a audio book and we listened everywhere we went. The family movie night movie suggested was a movie about Davy Crockett. Unfortunately, someone else had it checked out at the time and instead we watched the movie version of The Sign of the Beaver.

Pioneer Life (Week 2)
I have an awful confession. I have only tried to read parts of the Little House books to Josiah. He just wasn't focused enough when he was younger. This time I started with the audio book version of Little House on the Prairie. I am so glad I was encouraged to try again. These were some of my favorite books when I was younger. Josiah enjoyed it so much and we have been listening to all of them since. This week had us also making Johnny Cakes. The family movie night suggestions was Love Come Softly. I have all of those movies in my private collection. It was really a fun week overall.

Here are pics of one of Josiah's Johnny Cake making sessions. My camera was down for the count the first time he made them. This is round 2.

Such concentration. I told him that is what Ma and Pa ate from The Little House books. If Pa  eats them...

He probably didn't get enough oil in the pan. Some of the Johnny Cakes were more like "Johnny Mush."

It was tasty.

Lone Star Republic (Week 3)
This week has us reading about Sam Houston and learning all about the Alamamo. We learn about writing a news story and even learned how to become a naturalized citizen in the United States.

The Life and Times of James K. Polk (week 4)
This week talks about the expansion of the United States. We learn about Manifest Destiny and Morse Code. How fun! This week even has us designing our own postage stamp!

Oregon Fever! (week 5)
Have you ever read up on the Donner Party? Pioneers heading west encountered all manner of hardships. We even get to figure up how long it takes us to get from Independence, Missouri to Oregon. We are also encouraged to play the Oregon Trail computer game. Remember that one?

Westward Ho II is a continuation of our adventures westward.  
The Gold Rush (week 1)
This week has us learning all about those '49ers, as well as early gold discoveries. The family devotion talks about Greed and choosing wisely. We also get to learn how a territory becomes a state and how to make a business plan.

Life on the Prairie (week 2)
We loved, loved this week. We got to read about the Pony Express and what living on the prairie was like. There is even a recipe for edible soddies. We chose to make the virtual soddy. The edible soddy is made out of brownies. Josiah would be all about it...I can't have chocolate in my house at this point. I would just eat it.

We loved reading about the Pony Express books so much that we shared them with our little Reading Club and used them for another project. This is the poster created by one young man.

The Great American Railroad Race (week 3)
This was another great week (what am I saying? They are all great!) We get to learn about America the Beautiful and how a steam engine works. I loved both of the Family Movie options so much we watched both of them!

Cowboys  and Cattle Drives (week 4)
So much fun! Who doesn't a good cowboy story? This week even has us designing our own brand! And is anybody up for a rodeo?

Here are few things in my head.

1. I loved all of the options for movies, documentaries and books. We don't have to read everything on the list, but I tried to make sure I reserved my books ahead of time. We also have Netflix and Amazon Prime. I didn't find everything I needed there, but they at least gave me some options.

2. I also love, love the idea of using one day to immerse the family in the study. We would read our books, etc. throughout the week. I also assigned a documentary during the week. For the purpose of this review, I did have to schedule some of our activities on additional days, but I can totally see how this approach could work for us.

3. The Unit Studies come via a PDF download. I did copy a few things out. I liked having the digital book open because there are some really great links to follow. The author is so thorough. You can tell she did her homework.

4. The devotions were excellent. I loved looking at history through a Biblical lense.
I can't recommend Homeschool Legacy and the Once-A-Week Unit Studies enough. They are so creative, detailed and easy to use. I am planning on purchasing one of the nature based units for our summer study. Go check out the whole list for yourself!

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