Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Homeschool Legacy

I am not a unit study homeschool mom.  I simply have to start out by saying that.

When Connor was working towards becoming a Star Scout -- the first rank that requires merit badges -- we ended up doing some almost unit-study things around a couple of the merit badges he needed.  That was FUN, it was productive, and I vowed to at least do it again for two of the Citizenship merit badges (Nation and World) with my other scouts.

While I still have to cobble something for Citizenship in the World, the absolute perfect answer for doing Citizenship in the Nation is using Homeschool Legacy.

The folks at Homeschool Legacy have a couple of Eagle Scouts themselves.  They homeschooled, and their family is one of those super-cool unit-study ones that I kept dreaming we could be.  I quit trying though.  Unit studies simply don't work here.  Well, until now.

I was intrigued by the idea of these studies, and once I actually saw them, oh, wow. 

These studies are fantastic.  Especially if you have Boy Scouts or American Heritage Girls.  But (I think) these are fabulous studies even if you don't have merit badges to earn.  I felt free in this study to not complete all of the AHG merit badge requirements, for instance.  If you don't have Boy Scouts, you could do the same with those requirements.

Here is the basic idea:  take a merit badge (or badges).  Design a thorough unit history or science unit study incorporating most of the merit badge requirements.  And by thorough, I mean that there are suggestions for:
  • a weekly read-aloud, of GREAT books
  • field trips
  • movies
  • books for the kids to read (lots of them)
  • weekly devotionals
  • activities that don't require obscure, weird supplies
  • writing assignments
  • family projects
  • Did I mention lots of book suggestions?
We are a book loving family.  My preferred method of teaching history is to find some good biographies, some exciting and well-written historical fiction, and have a well-written, brief textbook to use as a spine.  Most unit studies we have tried are big on activities, but pretty skimpy on decent reading.  Or they will have extensive book suggestions, but I have to go through those in detail and figure out which book applies to what part of the unit study.

Not with Homeschool Legacy.  There is a list of books for each week of the study, and my approach was to head to the library website and put a hold on every title the library had about two weeks before I planned to need the materials.  Once I got everything, I'd pick and choose what to actually use.

Other than a trip to the library, this was very easy to implement.  I was stunned by how much information was packed into the study, and I loved how the merit badge requirements (for both the boys and girls) brought out some great activities. 

We used We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution, as my two younger Boy Scouts both need Citizenship in the Nation (an Eagle-required merit badge).  This study is designed for grades 4-12 (all the other studies are for grades 2-12), and I primarily used it with my 6th and 8th graders, though the 10th grader got in on some of it, and the 3rd and 1st graders did a bit here and there too.

We the People is their longest study at eight weeks.  Others range from four to seven weeks in length.

Let's just chat about the first week, to explain a bit about how this works.  During the entire week, we did the following:
  • For the family read-aloud, we read Shay's Rebellion.  I knew practically nothing about this at all, and I really thought I had a decent handle on US history.  We followed this up with the suggestion of reading some Washington Irving short stories. 
  • Individual readings -- with my dyslexic/struggling readers, we tend to do these as read alouds too.  The first week focused on biographies, primarily Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.  The kids picked from the pile and we read at least one of each.
For the actual "unit study day" we attempted to:
  • Do a family devotion, that focused on some of the words of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Start a timeline for this study.  I loved that the date range was specified.
  • Go over the Declaration of Independence.  There was great info in the study, plus we had some books from the library.
  • Research on the Articles of Confederation
  • Make hoecakes
  • Take a virtual tour of Mount Vernon *and* pulling out some pictures from some of my trips to Mount Vernon
The wrap-up for the week was to do a family movie night and watch National Treasure. 

What did we think?  This is a unit study I can get into, and my kids are loving it too.  Lots of read aloud time, which might be too much for some families.  The activities were fun, and the merit badge requirements -- while not quite effortless -- were pretty easy to incorporate into the study.

My children are already arguing over which study to do next.  Knights and Nobles (working on the Art merit badge) seems to be winning, but they also are quite interested in Native America (working on the Indian Lore merit badge).  There is at least one vote for Weather on the Move (the weather merit badge).  And personally, I want to do Christmas Comes to America (the music merit badge).  At $19.95, I do believe this study was worth the money.

Remember, we are NOT a unit-study family.  But this study has been phenomenal.

My dream is that Homeschool Legacy would come out with a study for more of the Eagle-required badges -- Citizenship in the World, Environmental Science, Communications, and Personal Management (though that one, really, I could probably create myself).

You can visit the Crew Blog to see what my fellow crewmates had to say about various Homeschool Legacy studies.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

If you are interested, here are more of my Schoolhouse Crew Reviews.


Sam said...

Since we ARE a unit studies family, perhaps I should check this out!

Cristi said...

Oooh. We're not a unit study family either, but I have a Boy Scout that needs an organized way to do merit badges. Bonus points if it's something that doesn't require me to do a lot of research to set something up for him.

Lynn @ TDHGP said...

This was one phenomenal study for us! We are leaning towards Knights and Nobles for our next one, too. Great minds!

Debra said...

I think for families who already like unit studies, this would be great.

Cristi -- I love, love, love having an organized way to do merit badges. Wow, I'm telling you...

Knights and Nobles looks so amazing! Did you read any of the reviews of it?

Jazgrl said...

Just found your post, but thought I'd drop a note and let you know I found a couple Scout merit badge unit studies/lapbooks on I didn't use them for my older son (he earned them before I found the site,but plan to with my younger). They look pretty good and I'm hoping they get more in the next couple years before small fry moves up.