Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Easy Classical

As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I get the chance to review a lot of different products.  I particularly like when I have the opportunity to take a look at things I haven't seen before.

Such is the case with today's product.  Easy Classical has put together schedules upon schedules upon schedules, and I got a peek at the Early Modern History schedule through the Crew.  I also own the Writing with History schedule that goes with this same time period, so I am going to talk about both.

First, let's talk about Easy Classical itself though.  Basically, they have created 36 week schedules, encompassing most subjects, for K-6th grades.  You can purchase these as complete packages, or just get individual components.  The components are designed to work together.  The basic history sequence is:
  1. State History
  2. Old Testament and Ancient Egypt
  3. New Testament, Greece and Rome
  4. Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation
  5. Early Modern Times
  6. Modern Times
I'm not a huge fan of the whole neo-classical cycle through history chronologically thing, but if I was, this sequence seems to make more sense to me than some others, especially since so many states require that their state's history be taught.

So let's dig into the schedule.  First off, I loved the introductory information.  There are a number of things I like, but most particularly, I like their emphasis that you are not expected to do every assignment every week.  They suggest you lean towards the activities that will most appeal to your child.

This schedule relies on a couple of "spine" texts for the history for the year:
  1. Veritas Press History cards (a resource I am not familiar with)
  2. Story of the World volumes 2 and 3
  3. H. A. Guerber books: The Story of the 13 Colonies and The Story of the Great Republic
  4. The Story of US by Joy Hakim, Volumes 1-4
There area additional suggested resources, including a bunch of History Pockets.  And there are read-alouds scheduled in here as well.

    One thing I noticed right off the bat was that the selections seem to lean rather heavily towards American history.  Guerber and Hakim are definitely US history, though with Story of the World (and the Veritas Press cards) there is going to be some world history as well.  In going through the rest of the resources, outside of the geography section (where you have world maps and world geography songs), and four titles that are essentially church history (only two are actually scheduled, the other two are recommended additional titles), there are two novels set in Scotland, a biography of Sir Isaac Newton, and a (not actually scheduled, but recommended) kit about pirates.  There is nothing wrong with teaching a very American-centered "world" history course, obviously, but it is something to be aware of.

    When you get to the actual schedule pages, they are clean and easy to follow.  They have icons to remind you about things like map exercises, history summaries, history songs and reading narrations.  I love this feature, as the icons are fairly intuitive.

    The assignments are set up so that you are doing all of the week's history reading on Monday.  For the first week, that includes a chapter of Story of the World (which would be about 20 minutes to read aloud -- I know, we just did this chapter for school!), three chapters of a Guerber book, and ten chapters (listed as optional) of Story of US.  Most of the Story of US chapters are 4-5 pages long, so that isn't quite as overwhelming as it appears on first glance.

    That first week anyway, the history reading is essentially the only thing on the calendar for Monday.  (Further into the schedule, there are read-alouds and some other assignments on Mondays too.)  Later in the week, you focus on writing, geography, history pockets, and the read-aloud.  Other weeks are different.  For one thing, it appears that week 1 is the heaviest week for history.  If we flip up to week 4, for instance, the history reading includes half a chapter of Story of the World, one chapter of Guerber, one history card, and one chapter of Story of US. This seems more typical.

    I think if I were to use this schedule, I would end up tweaking it many weeks.  Monday tends to be a tough day for us, so having all the history reading due that day would be problematic.  We'd likely end up splitting it up over a couple of days, or spreading it throughout the week.  But that would be very easy to do.

    Then there are the resources being used.  I recognized a lot of the titles, as we own quite a few.  But there were a number of read-alouds, free reading titles, and picture books that I've either only heard of, or that I've never heard of.  They all look good.  I like that.

    Looking at their required resources page, one incredibly neat thing is that they have links for each book to various places you can purchase -- or borrow -- the item.  I love being able to so easily find out if my library has the resources we'll need. Love, love, love this feature.

    I grabbed (most of) the resources needed for a couple different weeks, and skimmed through them myself with the weekly schedule page in front of me.  A couple things that I do really love, after doing that:
    • Okay, I love that all the history readings are scheduled on one day and I can figure out how to allocate that through the week if we can't do it all at once.  
    • I love that the "free reading" selections are just listed, without them being scheduled daily.  Especially for the roughly 5th grade age, this is a great way to start my kids in allocating their own time... "Here, you have to read this book this week.  If you need help figuring out how to get that done, come see me."
    • The read-alouds are scheduled out really well.
    • The History Pockets (which, honestly, we probably wouldn't use) seem to be scheduled pretty evenly throughout the year, and on FRIDAYS.  Which means that if we used them, it would be done after the other work is complete.
    • I don't have the separate Geography Schedule, but it sure appears that the work is spread out nicely over the week.  Listen to Geography Songs Monday and Wednesday.  Read a lesson on Tuesday, do a project on Thursday.  I'm tempted to purchase the Geography schedule.
    • Each week includes comprehension questions that you can use for discussion, or do as a test.  The answers are written out in a different color (purple) on the schedule page, which is nice when you have multiple children doing multiple things and you don't always read everything.
    • Each schedule page has a little post-it graphic at the bottom warning you about unusual supplies you will need next week.  I really love this, as just a note at the bottom, well, I tend to not notice it.  The post-it graphic (and color) grabs my attention.
    • There are also some drawing projects included in the schedule that look straightforward and even fun.
    The Writing portion of the curriculum uses two schedules produced by Easy Classical.  One is the Writing Through History that I own.  The other is a Copybook.  The writing is scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and follows Institute for Excellence in Writing.  I love this.  Very easy to follow, very well laid out, and it coordinates so well with the history.  Each day's assignment includes references to Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (if appropriate), Teaching Tips (if needed), and the actual assignment, with tips for the beginning student and tips for the advanced student.  Excellent resource, though I did notice a couple of typos.  I will seriously consider purchasing the Modern History writing schedule for my middle kids. 

    If you like Neo-Classical education models, but (like me) you really don't want to be setting everything up yourself, this is an option that is certainly worth investigating.  I think this is the most user-friendly and, well, EASY "program" that I've seen for doing so.

    A digital version of the history program runs $29.95.  The digital version of the writing schedule is $19.99.  Other schedules are in that same price range, and there is a hard-copy option as well. Since it is not directly referenced in the history schedule, I hadn't mentioned that they also have science schedules that look interesting, and a "complete" curriculum by grade level (for K-6) that includes grammar, art, PE, Latin, etc. in addition to subjects mentioned above.

    You can check out what my fellow crew-mates have to say about Easy Classical at:

    Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

    Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive the Early Modern History schedule for free from Easy Classical.  The Writing Through History schedule I obtained on my own.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

    1 comment:

    Our Homeschool Reviews said...

    Wow, that was a really detailed review! Great job!