Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Christmas Comes to America

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  No, not the weather, fortunately, as we need a bit more time without snow here so the road crews can take care of the tumbleweed invasion.

It looks a lot like Christmas, though, in our school life.  Because for the past few weeks, we've been fortunate enough to be reviewing Christmas Comes to America, an absolutely brilliant unit study from Homeschool Legacy.

My newer readers may not know this about me, but this review has to start with a confession.  I am not a unit study mom.  I think the idea is great, but in real life, push comes to shove, unit studies just never work in this household.  I feel like things are forced into the theme, the boys roll their eyes at that, I get frustrated at things, and it all just peters out.  And I again chalk it up to "I'm not a unit study mom."

Homeschool Legacy though?  Their unit studies actually work for me.  I reviewed We the People about a year ago, and really liked that.  And this Christmas study is amazing. 

So let me tell you a bit about Homeschool Legacy.  They have created a whole bunch of "once a week" unit studies on various topics that are applicable to pretty wide age ranges.  We used this one with all five kids, ages 7-16.  They all enjoyed it.

As a bonus, the studies incorporate requirements from Boy Scout and/or American Heritage Girl merit badges.  For Christmas in America, the merit badges are Music (BSA) and Music Appreciation (AHG).  That means that in addition to learning about Christmas in America in general, you are also learning a bit about Christmas music.  Oh, yeah, that gets my attention!  If you don't have children involved in either organization, obviously you could choose to skip the activities that are really specific to the badges.  But some of those assignments are really pretty neat.

This is a fairly short study, just four weeks, and it is less intense than most of Homeschool Legacy's other studies.  Less intense is definitely something I appreciate when it comes to Christmas-time.  So do my kids!

How do these studies work?
  • There is a read-aloud suggestion each week, and the idea is to read from that daily.  For this study, actually, there are generally two family read-alouds going.  I love read-alouds, so that is my favorite thing about the Homeschool Legacy studies.
  • There are a whole lot of book suggestions too, so that the kids can be reading related books throughout the week.
  • Each week has a theme, and you have some readings, devotionals, activities, etc. related to that theme.  The idea is to do that "once a week" and that is how it worked for us (mostly) with this study.  
  • Each week has recommendations for field trips and/or a family movie night.  How simply awful is it to HAVE to watch Muppet Christmas Carol with the family for school?  There wasn't a single complaint in my household.  
This study is four weeks long, and each week has a "country" focus.  So you learn about the Dutch, the English, the Germans, and the last week is America.

The reading is always a highlight in my family.  The great part about doing this study in October/November is that I had NO competition for the books at the library.  I put everything I could on hold (which was almost every suggested book title) and all but one showed up at the bookmobile three days later.  That one holdout was available the next week.  If you are looking to do this study NOW, you probably will have a bit more competition for the books.  But that can be good too.  My kids felt a bit overwhelmed by all the titles showing up in the house.  How to choose?

Another highlight of the Christmas study is how there are so many activities relating to food.  Making hot chocolate mix, making our own marshmallows, making wassail... these kinds of things definitely get the attention of my teen boys!

We didn't try to do everything suggested in the study.  Some were problematic due to the time of year, and if we were starting here for Advent 2013, it would be more likely.  Suggestions such as going  caroling... well, I do know some friends and neighbors who would have played along, but the idea of Christmas caroling in October was just too much for us.  We sang for ourselves though.

Other activities were done by some kids and not others.  Like designing your own Christmas card.  My oldest rolled his eyes and asked if he could go do his calculus instead.  The younger three were eager to spend time drawing, and loved the suggested art books.

My bottom line:  This is a fantastic family-oriented resource.  They advertise that you can use it with grades 2-12, and we certainly found that to be true (though we only used it for grades 2-11).  I love that the kids can earn merit badges alongside the schoolwork, and that was worked in so very well.  This study includes all of the Boy Scout Music requirements, and all of the requirements needed to earn the AHG Music Appreciation badge at the Tenderheart and Explorer levels, but you would have to do a bit more to earn it at the Pioneer/Patriot level.

We loved that this study wasn't very intensive.  Not a lot of writing assignments, or heavy academics.  Homeschool Legacy's other studies are heavier in those areas. This one is fun, informative, and simply a great way to continue learning in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Another fantastic aspect of this is that it would be very easy to repeat the study, even every year.  Just choose some different titles to read, focus on different music and different movies, choose different activities (and repeat the ones that were especially fun!)  I'm not sure I'd want to do it every single year, but maybe.  I certainly can see that I will repeat it when Trina is an Explorer and when she is a Pioneer or Patriot.

Christmas Comes to America is available for $17.95, and I think that is a great deal!  If you spend over $50, you get free shipping.  A good study to follow up this one is the Birds of a Feather one. 

Disclaimer:  I received this study in exchange for an honest review  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

No comments: