Layers of Learning
As a firm believer in the value of unit studies for homeschool families, I was delighted to have the opportunity to review this winning new curriculum. Written for a wide grade range of 1-12, parents with younger children will easily have enough materials to include their little ones in the topical studies, making this truly a unit study for all ages!
Presenting a chronological, four-year cyclical approach to history, Layers of Learning is a well-organized yearly study that is available in bite-size pieces. This complete curriculum provides instruction in history, geography, science and the arts. You will need to add grade-appropriate math, phonics/spelling, and writing instruction (writing activities are included).
Each yearly study is uniquely divided into units that are sold separately. The units are designed to take two weeks, although based on the amount of resources included, these could easily extend into longer periods of learning. Each unit is formatted similarly. The unit activities are separated into three grade ranges - Grades 1-4, Grades 5-8 and Grades 9-12, although parents will easily be able to move about the levels to best meet their childrens learning needs. At the beginning of the unit, a list of suggested library resources is given providing you with the tools to add a living literature or Charlotte Mason flavor to the studies. The author emphasizes that the book lists are strictly optional and have been provided for additional topic study. The units are divided into 4 areas: Explorations (hands-on activities), Experiments (Science), Expeditions (field trip suggestions) and Explanations (additional teaching notes). All of the background information is written in an easy-to-understand language that students could read independently or could be read aloud as a family. Within the textual information are "Teacher Tips" boxes that provide specific helps and ideas. Also scattered about in the margin area are "Fabulous Facts" that bring interesting or unique information about the topic, "Writing Workshop" boxes containing a variety of writing prompts to give students writing practice related to the topic studied, and "Additional Layer" boxes. These are suggestions designed to enhance learning in the topic area for families who would like to extend the study through carefully selected rabbit trails. A beautiful aspect of this curriculum is the lack of daily lesson divisions, which allows families to control their own learning experience. It is also important to mention that the authors have given us a guided tour of history and not just a series of activities to be completed, meaning you are free to select the learning paths that best fits your family needs.
During Year One, students will study the historical time period of Ancient Times through 400 AD - Mesopotamia through the Roman Empire. Written from a neutral religious perspective, Christianity is covered for its historical importance and not from a definitive Christian perspective. Geographically, students will learn about maps, geography of ancient times, reading map keys, landforms and much more. Science covers planets, stars, earth and moon, satellites, humans in space, laws of motion, machines, states of matter, atoms, elements, plants, fungi and more. A sampling of the content in the art studies includes cave paintings, Egyptian art, Greek Art, poetry, moral stories, rhythm, melody, Chinese Art, line and shape, color and value, texture and forms, African tales, Roman Art, instruments, composing and more.
Year Two continues chronologically from the Medieval Period (400 AD) to the Renaissance - Byzantines through the Explorers. Students will learn world geography as they study countries around the world. Corresponding science topics include climate/seasons, weather forecasting, wild weather, cells and DNA, skeletons, muscles, skin and cardiopulmonary systems, digestive system, senses, nerves, health, metals and non-metals, carbon chemistry, gases, electricity, circuits, technology, magnetism and motors. Represented in the arts are Byzantine art, illumination, Viking Art, King Arthurs tales, Canterbury Tales, Gothic art, religious art, oil paints, printmaking, textiles, Indian legends, poetry and more.
Year Three focuses on the Colonial Period Age of Exploration to the American Independence and will continue with the countries around the world studies. Corresponding Science topics include classifications and insects, reptiles and amphibians, fish, birds, mammals and primates, sound, light and optics, history of science, rocks, gems & minerals, fossils, chemical reactions, compounds and solutions, oxidation and reduction, and acids and bases. Within the Arts, students will learn fairy tales, poetry, mogul arts, reformation art, Shakespeare, Baroque music and art, art journaling, water colors, Native American art, settler sayings, colonial art, art principles, classical and folk music, along with a variety of creative crafts. Please contact us for updated information on the suggested book package.
Year Four begins with our American Government before covering American history, regions, people and economics. African history, modern East Asia, India's Independence, Israel, the Cold War, and Latin America are also studied within their chronological significance. Science topics include heat and temperature, motors and engines, energy, earth structure and plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanos, mountains, chemistry, food chains, animal groups, habitats and conservation. Patriotic and Modern Music, Tall Tales, Romantic Art, Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Expressionism, Abstract Art, Modern Art, Photography, Theater and Film, Architecture and more are covered in the arts.
Since this program is cyclic in nature, once you have completed Year Four, you can then start again at Year One completing the next level of activities. Families electing to begin with older students will also want to begin at Year One in order to see the big picture of history.
While designed to be a comprehensive unit study, some families may prefer to utilize this holistic learning process to supplement textbook learning. With the ability to purchase each unit independently, this is an excellent way to try out the program, to supplement your current curriculum with hands-on activities or to stay on track with your homeschool budget. For your convenience, we have provided a resource package per year which offers a sampling of the suggested resources. See our website for details.
Recommended for the study are: a 3-ring binder, a childrens encyclopedia (for example the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History (#018005 or #000979 or the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia #003618), a student atlas (DK Student Atlas #057764), and a Science Encyclopedia (DK Encyclopedia of Science #004894).
I appreciated that this curriculum is clearly laid out, easy to navigate and adaptable. The textual information is thorough enough to provide instruction in the main concept areas, and the activities are clearly explained, using commonly found items. The supplemental writing suggestions provided were varied and enjoyable, such as making an acrostic poem about a globe or creating a personal cookbook. Each softcover book provides full-color illustrations and graphics. Also included are blackline masters and templates for creating a personal notebook. The authors have also provided a coupon code for a free digital pack of all the printables, making it more convenient to reproduce the masters for multiple students. Conveniently, the publisher has provided a breakdown of High School transcript credits under the FAQ section of their website. This will be valuable for families who enjoy using unit studies and are unsure how to offer high school credit. PB. ~ Deanne