My review of the Girls of American History curriculum boils down to my interpretation and expectations of the word curriculum. I expect new content or a creative text to outline and lead a person through the material. Others view curriculum as a collection of existing pieces to be used when or if the teacher chooses. Please remember, the Girls of American History curriculum was given the honor of being one of the Top Picks of 2015-2016 in the Homeschool Curriculum Guide.
That said, this is my review of my use of the curriculum.
The Molly® Curriculum Unit was designed to cover 1944, World War 2. This Unit is the eighth in a series of thirteen. The unit is priced separately at $7.95. Homeschoolers can purchase 12 units for $72, plus the 13th at $7.95.
The Molly® Unit was password protected and contains 16 pages (counting 4 pages of front matter). The remaining pages contain a two page explanation of the overall curriculum followed by a content list, resource list, a weekly plan and a timeline. The unit is expected to take 6 weeks to complete.
Here is my issue: To purchase this curriculum you will pay $7.95 for 9 pages of useable content (actually 8 if you omit two images that take up half of two pages). It just isn't meaty. The most helpful aspect of the curriculum is the weekly layout which shows how the author intends the unit to be used. However, the weekly layout makes the assumption that the parent teacher has purchased multiple supporting materials which, when assembled, will cost over $78.04 plus craft supplies and field trip expenses. For me, that's not a reasonable cost for 6 weeks of learning.
The unit is very heavy on reading (most of that $78.04 is used books plus shipping costs). That's an exorbitant amount of reading for my 10 year old. The curriculum claims to be multisensory, but it only supplies the ideas (not the tools) for a multisensory approach which you would have to make happen.
This curriculum was not a good fit for me or my family.
I messaged the author with my concerns prior to my review and she replied:
This product seems to work really well for those that want a multisensory approach and do not want to or have time to put together something on their own. This is great for kids who love American Girl and parents who want their kids to retain historical knowledge - as it opens the door to actual history vs fictional history. Every unit does offer some free resources on the website. Additionally - some vocab, spelling and word searches have been created and sent out with our newsletters. Once our website is updated, later this summer, we will be making these resources available for download to customers who have bought the corresponding units. This product is a unit guide and works great for people who want something different, engaging and that they don't have to hunt themselves.
I will admit - it likely does not work for everyone - but nothing does. The feedback I get from my customers is great and I really cherish them.
I give this product 3 stars.
Disclosure: I received this Curriculum Unit directly from the author, Justine Gamble, in exchange for my honest review. Learn more about Girls of American History at http://www.girlsofamericanhistory.com/
See that receipt? 19 homeschooling books valued (with discount) at $73.09 and I paid just $14.88!
God blesses my homeschool all the time, but one of the most frequent ways that He has blessed us is through our local Homeschool consignment store, BiblioMania.
Run by a former homeschool who is passionate about sharing knowledge and sincere about making learning at home accessible and affordable, the store is an impressive resource.
Today while I was in my children saw the owner, Mrs. Sue, with multiple boxes in her van. They helped her unload and, you know what? Those boxes were going out of state. One was headed to a missionary in Italy, I believe. In other words, if you live out of state, this is still a fantastic resource to check out. Learn more HERE.
Call and ask if they have whatever you are looking for. They were actually giddy today about saving one client $500 on Sonlight curriculum (and they were still going through the list). They take helping seriously, so if you need some, drop a dime.
Are You a Math Genius? is, well, genius. Designed for students 13 and up, the book takes a fun approach to creative calculations that actually apply to life and inspire the budding business owner. Far from easy, this book does not feel like the torture of a typical math book. Math becomes a game that utilizes principles of math that go from simple to complex quickly. If you have a student who recoils from mathematics and doesn't see the real life purpose, this book is a perfect fit. I only wish I'd had it when I was a teen. You can order your copy on Amazon for far less than the average High school math curriculum.
This is one product from Dyslexia Games/ Thinking Tree that
I did purchase. I believed in it that much. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Comic Book Math is a fun way to mingle sequence, addition, subtraction, measurement, math families, abstract thinking (cats +windows in a coloring page for example), counting, problem solving, writing and coloring. The illustrations are beautiful and my 8 year old had to think for a second before the abstract math pages "clicked", however, I don't think this book is appropriately marketed to children up to age 11. I think most 11 year old students will have mastered these concepts prior to this book, even those on the spectrum. If the age range were lowered, I would rate this book higher. It does cover a lot of math concepts and I do appreciate the cross curricular approach that blends math and writing. For now, four stars.
Order your copy on Amazon. This book is a #1 New Release!
The Thinking Tree LLC
617 N. Swope St.
Greenfield, IN 46140
317.622.8852 PHONE (Dial +1 outside of the USA)
Disclosure: I received this book directly from the author in exchange for my honest review. Learn more about Dyslexia Games/ Thinking Tree, LLC at http://www.dyslexiagames.com/
My second daughter and I have the honor of using and reviewing a unit from Girls of American History featuring the American Girl®, Molly. The curriculum was created by creative homeschool mommy, Justine Gamble and was chosen one of the Top Picks of 2015-2016 in the Homeschool Curriculum Guide.
I recently had the opportunity to ask her a few questions. Grab a cup of coffee and get cozy. I hope our chat inspires you . . .
Well Justine, thank you for taking the time to share about your homeschooling journey with my readers. How long have you been homeschooling?
I have been homeschooling now for nine years.
What led you to make this choice for your family?
Several things played a role in this decision. The first was that my oldest son had several medical issues. We tried to put him in Kindergarten at a great private Christian school that our oldest attended, but we discovered two months into it that he would need another surgery. Try as he might, his medical issues were getting in the way of him being successful in a school room environment - nothing behavioral - just medical. At the time we had three children, two "homemade" and one adopted from China. We were in the process of adopting two more from Ethiopia.
The summer before they came home I gathered up my courage and told my husband that I really felt the Lord was calling me to homeschool. My points were the following . . .
1. The cost of private school was going to be insanely expensive for five kids through 12th grade and, although my kids are worth every penny, I could not in good conscious spend that kind of money when we could use that to help so many other kids around the world.
2. I took the time to calculate the waking hours of time that I get to spend with my kids and help mold and guide them. I did this from the perspective of if they were at home vs. going to school. The numbers shocked me. I did not want other people having that much time and influence over our kids.
3. All five of our kids are so unique with challenges and strengths that they need guidance in. It is a treasure to watch them develop.
My first year homeschooling I had 1 pre - K, 1 in K/1st grade and 1 in 2nd grade. Three months in I was on my way to pick up a 4 year old and 6 year old from Ethiopia. They knew 5 English words: Yes, No, Mom, Dad and Toilet. The only word they really understood the meaning of was toilet. So, my first year was five kids - teaching the basics of English and Love to two kids. Within 4 months they were speaking and writing English and within another two months they were reading - kids are amazing!
They sure are! Have you always used Unit studies in your homeschool?
No, I have not always used unit studies. I did my first year - just for ease and fun - not really knowing what I was doing. I use more of an eclectic approach and customize each of my kids curriculum choices around what they each need. We do a few things as a group - History and Bible.
What made you decide to begin writing and selling Unit Studies?
I test my kids every year - just for my own peace of mind - I want to know that I am doing my job and see where I need to improve. Well, in 2011, I noticed that our two most recent editions to our family really struggled with reading comprehension - even though they were reading well and we did ALOT of read alouds with discussion - they would just tune me out. Also, Social studies and History were areas that all the kids could use help in. That led me on a path to American Girl® books - just reading through them - all of my kids were engaged and could follow the stories - which led to further discussion of historical events. None of my kids have the dolls, we just love the books . . . even my boys. I researched multisensory learning and began adding in ways to use all of their senses into our history and science studies. All of this research took me down the path of creating Girls of American History. We did a "pilot program year" with two other families - allowing us to do group field trips, crafts, discussion, games, parties and more - it was the best year ever and my kids LEARNED so much!! At the end of 2012 I tested all my kids again and the scores in Reading comp and History/Social Studies shot up for each of them. I knew I was on to something and wanted to make it available to other families and help them too.
Can you tell me a bit about the products you've made and any you have in the works?
Currently we have 13 historical units available - each corresponding with one of the historical American Girl® Dolls.
I am working a 14th unit, for the latest historical American Girl - Melody - this won't be available until late summer - as not all of the books are available yet.
American Girl® has changed format. Instead of 6 small chapter books, they have converted everything over to their new "Beforever" format with three larger chapter books. The first two books are the historical story and the last is a fun reading book of the time period. Both formats work with Girls of American History.
Each unit includes a suggested lesson plan and resources for deeper history and language arts, crafts, art, cooking, field trips etc. Some craft and art activities include leather work, pottery, weaving, marble making and more. Field trips include fishing, newspaper tour, pow wow and more. Resources for field trips are available for paying customer on our website - I have them listed by state to help people who want to do things locally or take and education vacation.
I am looking at creating more units like this for other series as well. Some will be for reluctant readers, others will be more a boy focus. I have about 13 sets in mind, it will all just depend on how much time I can spend on them over the summer.
That's exciting! It sounds like you are keeping busy. Now, you create a multi-sensory curriculum approach. What does that look like in action?
The philosophy behind this approach is to Read it, Hear it, See it, Write it and Do it. This can be done with independent reading assigned or follow along with read alouds. For kids who love to read on their own and want more - I would assign additional reading to. For reluctant readers - I would have them follow along in the read alouds we did (the American Girl® chapter books, and I would call on them to read at times). This takes care of both the Read it and Hear it. For the See it - we would watch a suggested movie or documentary and discuss it or go on a tour type field trip.
For Write it - we would do a lapbook, keep a journal, research paper (age and ability depending), or do copy work for a related drawing we did. (the drawing itself can really work for the Write it as well).
For Do it - we would participate in hands on activities - fishing, cooking, playing a game of the time period, do a craft that would have been done at the time, visit a museum, put on a play, etc. At the end of every unit we would have a time themed party - kids would dress up in things they made, help cook food from the time, display their lapbooks or crafts for dads and others to see. We would also play comprehension games and games from the time as a group. Discussion during all the craft times is important - not lectures - but talking about what kind of berries do you think were used to make this kind of ink, or at what age do you think kids were taught to use the spear to catch fish.
The research behind using multiple senses, and not just relying on our one learning style, is so amazing. Kids retain so much more when they use multiple senses to learn.
What does your average school schedule encompass?
Our personal schedule - well my kids are all now 6th-9th grade. They have a set time to be at their desk - they each have a weekly chart - something I do every summer (I do all of my lesson planning in the summer so I don't have to worry about it during the school year). They come to their desk and work on any independent work they have - be it book work, computer work, etc. They turn things into my in box as they complete each assignment - I correct/grade it for them - it goes into the out box - they fix anything that needs to be fixed and ask any questions they have - until they have everything correct and understand it. At various times of the morning we do group Bible or history. We also attend a co-op on Mondays which I coordinate classes for - they take classes like Juggling, literature, science lab, logic, art, calligraphy, basketball, guitar and so much more. My oldest has a literature discussion group on Tuesday and a writing class on Thursday. We all participate in a PE co-op on Wednesday. They all take martial arts in the evening and the boys have flight school on Tues/Thurs nights - where they are learning through flight simulators and other hands on science activities.
What advice or encouragement would you give to a brand new homeschooler?
Have fun - at a young age kids learn so much through fun activities - finding a way to make homeschooling fun is important. It won't always be fun though - don't give up. It takes a while to find your groove - I didn't feel confident until our third year. Even still - I make mistakes in curriculum selections - if I can - I sell it and try something else. My kids are at an age that I can include them in the research process. Don't feel like you need to do it all - there is a ton of activities and curriculum - pick what is best for you. Even within in a curriculum - don't feel like you need to do it all - For example - Girls of American History - think of it as a buffet - take what you want and do what you like. Every year and season is different.
Thank you Justine! I hope my readers enjoyed getting to know you.
Keep reading to learn more about Justine and connect with her online.
You can order units of Girls of American History at . . .
Keep an eye peeled for our upcoming review!
Justine Gamble is a wife and homeschooling mom to five children. She is an advocate of adoption and orphan care. She enjoys cooking and traveling. Justine grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee. She received her degree in Child and Family Studies with an emphasis in education and a minor in Business from Portland State University in 1998.
Connect with Justine online at:
Website, Facebook and Twitter.
As an author who depends almost exclusively on spell check and editors, I wish I had had a book like this to learn from.
My 10 year old daughter struggles with dyslexia and speech/ language delays which makes spelling even more of a challenge. She doesn't always hear words as they are spoken, so trying to teach her from a phonetic base just wasn't working for us.
Dyslexia Games is our favorite new resource and we're enjoying trying out some excellent curriculum that is truly helping her.
In Master the Top 150 Misspelled Words you will find 45 spelling exercises that engage learners and support knowledge in a comfortable, casual way. Children will be asked to:
You can order your copy on Amazon for $24.95.
Want to see inside? Take a look . . .
Series A Books 1-6
Teach Your Child To Read, Write & Spell:
100 Easy Bible Verses Psalms for Beginners
The Thinking Tree LLC
617 N. Swope St.
Greenfield, IN 46140
317.622.8852 PHONE (Dial +1 outside of the USA)
I admit that I discovered the DyslexiaGames.com website through a Facebook ad. It was their colorful, whimsical covers that caught my eye and my interest was piqued by the fact that they were materials designed with special needs learners in mind.
Inventor, Sarah Janisse Brown, was just a homeschool mom like us. She wasn’t planning a business, she was solving a problem. When Sarah’s daughter, Anna, was found to have Dyslexia she did what many of us have done, she went searching for answers. However, unlike many of us, Sarah found the answer she was seeking as she began to work with her daughter’s creativity to combat the symptoms of dyslexia. Her experiments proved helpful to her daughter, equipping her with the power to read fluently. These pretty, whimsical books give me hope that my daughter can also use these tools to correct her dyslexia symptoms.
Sarah’s products also work well with children on the autism spectrum or those with ADD/ ADHD. Since I have all of these issues present in my home, I’m very anxious to see how each product works for my children.
I recently received a box filled with goodies to try and I’m expecting another box coming in a couple of days. I can’t even tell you how eager I am to give them all a whirl. These are beautiful books, well made and homegrown from the heart of a mommy who wanted to help her child learn. What can beat that?
Consider this my teaser. In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you on each specific item I receive. In the meantime, let me show you what I’ll be trying:
Teach Your Child To Read, Write & Spell: 100 Easy Bible Verses Psalms for Beginners (Current value $34.99)
This workbook is truly beautiful and packed full scriptures to copy, illustrate and subtly engage children in the act of spelling, writing and reading. When pages are completed they can be colored and the book preserved as a faith-filled keepsake of your child’s learning journey.
We also received a .pdf copy of the Devotional Homeschooling Journal & Handbook (Current value $24.50). This resource claims to enable students to study eight subjects with daily Bible reading. Comprised of over 350 pages, I have confidence it will live up to those claims.
In the next few days I’ll be receiving:
If you’re already sold, hop by Amazon to see the full range of books available for homeschooling, creativity and dyslexia.
Reading Eggs- Learn to Read Online with Phonics in 5 Weeks from ages 3-13.
My children are enjoying the benefits of learning reading through an exciting new site called Reading Eggs. Reading Eggs is still in the beta phase and is growing and expanding all the time as they expose glitches and make the service better suited to their audience.
Frankly I am very impressed with the quality of the lessons and the format they utilize to really appeal to children ages 3-13
In my home I have 4 kids ages 4-10 who each experienced Reading Eggs and formed their own unique opinions of it. Here's the scoop:
Each of my children began their experience with Reading Eggs by taking an assessment quiz. This quiz determined which map the child should be placed on.
Chloe (10) was not too excited about the maps or the lesson which she felt where "babyish" she preferred to visit Reading Eggspress and read through as many books in their library as she could find. Chloe really likes to read already and has some pretty decent skills in reading so she didn't feel very challenged by the program. The biggest benefit of reading eggs for her was the Skills Bank where children can go through a series of short animated lessons to help them learn spelling words, ultimately leading to a spelling quiz upon completion. She needs to improve in her spelling so this area challenged her the most and taught her the greatest.
Caibry (8) is my little techy in the making. He loves computers and anything electronic. He also has special needs. Reading and auditory skills are extremely hard for him, but he was doing them with the disguise of computer games. The lessons were fun for him, perfectly timed for his attention, and challenging enough to satisfy me. He did everything he could do in there from reading, completing map lessons, working through the skills bank, exploring story land, building a book, chillin' in the playroom, and the oodles of fun at Reading Eggspress (the library, stadium, gym and mall). One of the things I had to constantly monitor was the "mall" inside Reading Eggspress. He would do nothing but shop for pets if allowed. Fortunately, Reading Eggs considered this issue and made everything reward based. He had to work to earn enough to buy the pets he wanted. This kept him motivated. The Comprehension gym was the most helpful. Caibry struggles with recall due to ADHD and other learning issues. He can remember up to two things before his mind goes fuzzy. Games within the Comprehension Gym really honed the memory skills.
Nevie (6) was happy with Reading Eggs. She enjoyed it, but prefers learning on my lap vs. on my laptop. She made a lot of progress with reading eggs though and although it wasn't the learning method she prefers, she did learn a lot from this program.
Sadie (4) is a huge fan of Reading Eggs and as a beginning reader she had the greatest benefit. The music and characters excited her the most and she took real pride in her progress traveling from map to map.
All in all I think Reading Eggs was a huge hit with my family. I've let friends know about it and I will be continuing Caibry and Sadie in the program as it suits their learning styles.
Now, as a homeschooler who primarily operates in a CM philosophy I have to share that some of the books in the Reading Eggspress library are absolutely stunning. The illustrations of Ritva Voutila are beautiful and complex feasts for young eyes. I thoroughly appreciate the quality and skill their books demonstrate.
I looked these books up separately and the books alone (which you have access to as a member) sell for $7.50 a piece. That makes Reading Eggs a truly great deal.
I highly recommend this site to other families.
Now, Reading Eggs can get a bit pricey when signing up multiple children. They don't currently have family pricing. I wish they would. In the meantime, you can go here to find a list of coupon codes you can use to defray some of the cost. By the way, this program is definitely worth it.
Head here to learn more about Reading Eggs.
There are many options when it comes to Literature-based homeschooling. I thought I'd share a bit about these options with all of you.
Five in a Row was my very first adventure in learning with a literature-based approach. In studying with Five In A Row you are expected to read the same book over and over for a week, gleaning new insight each day. Sometimes the tasks suggested were challenging and other times I felt like there wasn't enough to do. I began to use the books as springboards for other ideas and we extended many topics that way. My only real complaint with Five In A Row is the difficulty in finding many of the books on the reading list. When we did The Carrot Seed unit I was ready to pull my hair out. We went to several local libraries and a few book stores and no one had it! If you live in a small town like I do it can become very difficult to hunt down each book. If you have a good local library you should do fine. It's a very good curriculum for homeschoolers who are just starting out. The best part about FIAR is that it's a homeschool family who created and run the business. They've shared what worked for them and many families have benefited from their effort. Check out Five In a Row here. To see books on their reading list look here.
Ambelside is what I am currently using. They are a free Charlotte Mason/ living books curriculum advice website that has been a blessing to any families by making homeschooling very affordable. If you are a single parent or in a financial bind, Ambelside really helps to make it possible to continue in your vision to homeschool despite what the bank account reads. They provide a book list and a schedule, but being Charlotte Mason, they are very flexible and easy to adapt to any schedule. The key is short lessons and lots of great reading. I am really enjoying the older living books that have found a place on the Ambelside list. Heidi and Robinhood are pretty well known books for childhood reading, but we have also enjoyed jems like Understood Betsy which I probably never would have found on my own. Click here to visit Ambelside. Look here to see the Ambelside reading list.
Another popular Literature- Based Curriculum is Sonlight. I subscribe to their e-mail newsletter, but I have not used their curriculum. I think their reading lists are great, but their package cost is a bit high for my budget (example: a full year's Kindergarten curriculum will cost you $777.56).Sonlight is a homeschool supplier and books can be ordered separately as well. I usually keep a current catalogue on hand because teir prices for individual books are sometimes better than other places. As someone who doesn't use Sonlight, one of the things that is most intrieging to me about this curriculum is the amount of support that Sonlight users can get. If you chose to useSonlight you won't be alone. If you get stuck they have support boards available and I've heard wonderful things about their customer service from Sonlight users I know. I've found them to be very friendly vendors at homeschool conventions as well. You can learn more about Sonlight here.
Itty-Bitty Bookworm is a curriculum I just became aware of recently. My blogging friend , Carisa is reviewing them over at 1+1+1=1. This curriculum is built for Preschoolers and Toddlers. Baily's Curriculum covers ages 18-36 months and Bo's Curriculum covers ages 3-5. Itty-Bitty Bookworm costs $25/ unit or month for their CD or $20 for download. That's about $300 for a full 12 months (plus the actual cost of the books). Not too bad. This is something I'm really praying about purchasing for my little ones. If you have little ones like I do, it's worth it to visit their website whether you order their products or not. They have wonderful downloads available for free. Check out Itty-Bitty Bookworm here. See their book list here.
The Noah Plan is a biblical approach that uses literature in it's study. They call themselves a literature-based curriculum, but from what I saw of their site is looks more bible-based. However, they do use wonderful literature selections like Snowflake Bently and Little House on the Prairie. Subjects other than literature look a bit classical and possible challenging to some. You can see their catalogue here.
Heart of Dakota is a wonderful homeschool resource and supplier. They are also bible based stories. Teacher guides are all under $50. Pretty good price. Go here to learn more about Heart of Dakota.
Veritas Press Classical Home School Curriculum is another catalogue that I like to have on hand. They are a classical approach, but many of their literature selections can be found on other lists. Go here to request a catalogue.Tapestry of Grace is also a popular classical choice. I've tried this for a review and quickly learned that I am not a classical style homeschooler. If you are you might want to check them out here.
There are many other options that, honestly, I know very little about. I'll list them anyway and you can visit sites and form your own opinions.
Popular Lit-based curr. I know little about:
My Father's World
Winter Promise- has anyone used this? I'm really interested in this one.
Others I found:
Footprints on our Land and Love 2 Learn are two South African based curriculum choices that I found.
Robinson Curriculum looks morality heavy.
Student of the Word is Bible- centered.
Living Lessons has a Classical approach.
The biggest challenge in having so many choices is that you have to choose what fits your family (and your budget) best.
Please let me know if you've tried something I haven't, or if you know of something great that isn't on my list. Comments are always welcome. What have you tried and loved? Please feel free to share .
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