Justin Morgan Had a Horse
Story of the first known American-bred Morgan horse.
Units include: From Sea to Shining Sea, Over the Mountains, Battling on Land and Sea, Across the Nation, In the South, Deep in the Heart of Texas, Growing Tensions, A Gathering of Days, Into the Midwest, Across the Plains and Beyond, and Along the Trail.
A wonderful adventure! That's what author Dorian Holt believes that learning should be. She's done her best to provide everybody moms and students alike with the means of making it such. How would you choose to spend your school time? Reading through textbooks and completing workbook pages? Or by reading Justin Morgan Had a Horse and raising frogs? I think most of us (and our students) would choose the latter. But we moms are afraid that it's either too much work or just plain too overwhelming and time-consuming to construct such a study. Besides that, we wouldn't even know where to begin. Well, Mrs. Holt knew where to begin. As a result, the rest of us unit-study-phobic homeschool moms can merely walk in her footsteps and teach the way we really want to teach in our heart of hearts.
I have to confess to being a unit-study-phobic homeschool mom. I spent a number of minutes just staring at the impressive stack of papers that constitutes each of these volumes. Then I began thumbing through them. It was at that point that I decided that I, too, could become a unit study mom. First of all, there's a very comprehensive and thorough organizational structure. The five-year scope and sequence is enough to take your breath away. Second, there are detailed daily lesson plans. Detailed, yes, but flexible. Third, the curriculum itself provides the predominant amount of instructional material needed. Additional resources are just that resources and references not something to be coordinated and incorporated into the daily work. Fourth, lots of real books are suggested and referenced. The library is your friend. Fifth, projects are carefully chosen, interesting, and, most importantly, doable. Sixth, book lists and materials-needed lists (easy-to-find stuff) are clearly presented at the beginning of each unit. Seventh, there's enough detail provided to give you confidence but not enough to cause your eyes to glaze over. Are you convinced yet?
There are five years of Adventure unit studies planned. Currently, three are completed. A World of Adventure (Book 1) covers Ancient Egypt through the Age of Exploration. A New World of Adventure (Book 2) covers the years 1600 1800 in American history and a study of Canada. Westward and Onward (Book 3) covers 1800 1860 in American history and a study of France, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Scandinavia, and China. The two studies still being prepared and not yet available include: A Nation Torn and Mended (Book 4) which will cover 1860 1900 in American history and a study of other world regions and Adventures in a Modern World (Book 5) which will cover the 20th century of American history and a study of other world regions. Each of the studies covers skills and concepts for grades 4 through 8 and each will include a year (180 days) of lesson plans for all subjects except math. We're talking Bible, language arts, history, geography, science, and fine arts. The stuff is organized around a chronological historical study, employs quality age-appropriate literature and a plethora of "real books," incorporates a biblical and Christian worldview along with a Bible and character study, allows the student the satisfaction of in-depth inquiries into a wide breadth of science topics, provides lots of hands-on activities, and wraps it all up with the necessary language arts skills. Can you think of anything else you would like to see in a unit study? Starting with an overview of world history up to the point that American history begins, she continues with a closer, more specific American history study through the remaining time periods. In one masterful planning swoop, Mrs. Holt resolves the dilemma of "which do we study first - world history or American history?" It's really important to start with the first book, Mrs. Holt explains. It works best that way and you will avoid the gaps and frustrations that come from trying to jump into the middle of a series. Besides, there's something very satisfying about starting at the beginning of a study that you know has been very carefully laid out and intends to cover all necessary skills and topics. The studies are designed to be flexible not taskmasters. If for any reason the 180 day schedule does not work for your family, the author invites you to slow it down. She doesn't want you to lose sight of the goal developing a love of learning. There are lots of other aspects of flexibility built into these volumes, as well. For one thing, they can be adapted to include either younger or older siblings. The author is beginning to provide Little Adventurers Supplements which make the adaptation for younger students even simpler.
A lot of thought and consideration has gone into the development of these studies. The author believes that learning should be FUN. Learning is an ADVENTURE, after all. Accordingly, in this curriculum, informational input is in the form of readable talking points amidst an environment of warm and snuggly parent/student interaction; learning together, reading together, creating together, working together and recording together. What about output? How do we know there's learning taking place? Traditionally, "output" has meant tests. Not here! Rather, students are encouraged to keep notebooks compiled over several years state studies, country studies, US Presidents, etc. Suggestions are provided for starting and keeping notebooks, but much of the good information floating around about notebooking would apply. Also, lapbooking notebooking's newest cousin is another option. Memory work, presentations, and games each provide possibilities. In fact, games are such a positive output meter that Book 1 has its own accompanying game Worlds of Adventure Game which features laminated game boards (3), game pieces (for 2-8 players) and Question and Answer Booklets (3300 questions total). An accompanying schedule incorporates the game activity into the daily lesson plans.
It's impossible to do justice to the scope and sequence covered in these volumes. To give you just an idea, here are the science topics covered: Book 1 A World of Adventure: desert biomes, geology, botany, astronomy, and oceans. Book 2 A New World of Adventure covers: insects, weather, simple machines, inventors and inventions, electricity, electrons, charges, ions, electricity in history, mammals. Book 3 Westward and Onward: rivers, mountains, amphibians, the ear and the eye, water, reptiles, brain and nervous system, forest biomes, pre-chemistry, health and nutrition. You can see the pattern emerging topics from each of the major areas of science life, earth, and physical. To give you glimpse at the depth involved in each of these topics here is what the study of amphibians includes: characteristics, features, examples, classification, frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, caecilians, lifestyles, stages, metamorphosis, body structures and systems, and survival. There is an Amphibians Project that includes interpreting graphs. Are you beginning to get the picture? The scope and sequence for each subject area - language arts, history/geography, fine arts, and Bible (character training) is just as comprehensive and thorough and as well-organized. Any specific year might not conform exactly to a particular grade's "standards," but taken as a whole across the middle school years, these studies represent a rigorous academic package. There's a blend of educational philosophies here as well. The extensive use of real books melds with a Charlotte Mason approach. The rigorous academics will be appreciated by those in the classical camp, although the American history emphasis is a little stronger than usual. Those wanting a strongly Biblical and Christian approach to their children's education will be satisfied. What more could you want?
Each volume of the curriculum is a binder-ready (hole-punched) collection of prepared material we're talking lots of pages, folks! Book 1 is almost 800 pages. Book 2 is nearly 1500 pages. Book 3 is more than 1200 pages. I think it's safe to say that you will want more than one binder per year at least I would. All those pages in one binder just wouldn't be easy to pick up. Each of these volumes is written to and prepared for the teacher. Not scripted, but packed with instructional material laid out in easy to follow daily lesson plans. For instance, Unit 3 of Book 3 is titled Battling on Land and Sea. There are 21 days of daily lessons plans in this unit. Day 36 of Book 3 provides nine pages of instructional material. A scripture passage is read together and discussed (talking points provided). Scripture memory work is listed. Language Arts includes new vocabulary words from Justin Morgan, comprehension and discussion questions (with answers) from two chapters of the read aloud (Justin Morgan). Spelling is a word art project forming spelling words into the shape of an amphibian (examples given). Grammar study is on pronouns, and writing a descriptive paragraph about the night. Social studies concerns the causes of the War of 1812 (two pages of instructional material) and beginning a folder project on the War. Science study is (of course) amphibians particularly metamorphosis with several instructional pages and a metamorphosis wheel project. Follow-up vocabulary work includes Latin roots for metamorphosis and a couple of words from Justin Morgan. Fine Arts is a biographical study of Goya with a project demonstrating his technique of highlighting with the use of contrasting colors. Additional literature listed (you choose what you want to read) for the unit includes 21 books on the War of 1812, 11 books about James and Dolley Madison, 12 books about Louisiana, 8 books about Maine, 7 books about Vermont, and 47 books about amphibians. There is also a listing of activities from resource catalogs that apply to the unit.
A packet of Student Pages is available for each volume. These provide all the worksheets mostly grammar exercises - needed to complete the curriculum and are reproducible.
The Little Adventurers Supplements [currently available for Book 1, A World of Adventure] allow for easy integration of K-3 students. These are designed for adding younger siblings to the study but do not change the general target audience of the curriculum (i.e. grades 4-8). The author makes it very clear that these supplements do not include comprehensive phonics, math, or handwriting instruction but offer reinforcement and enrichment to those basic primary studies. The Supplements include lists of suggested age-appropriate books, a daily list of necessary supplies, and a day-by-day set of add-on lesson plans which differentiate for emergent, beginning, and continuing learners. Sometimes they refer back to the appropriate main lesson or offer alternative age-appropriate activities. The scope and sequence of the activities provided here is amazingly full-bodied; however, they are only designed to be used in conjunction with the complete Learning Adventure study. ~ Janice
Unit Study Curriculums are "complete" curriculums based on the unit study approach that are intended to be used over a longer span of time (typically a year or more). They generally have an organized structure or flow and incorporate as many subject areas as possible. Typically, organizational materials and methods are provided along with some instruction for use. Broken into logical segments or "units" of study, they are intended to comprise the core of your curriculum.
What is a "unit study"? Briefly, it's a thematic or topical approach to teaching as opposed to the traditional by-subject approach. Rather than teach each subject separately, a unit study attempts to integrate many or all subject areas into a unified study - usually centered around a particular subject or event. Obviously History (the study of events) and Science (the study of "things") are well-suited to unit studies, and usually form the "core" around which other subjects are integrated. Subjects like Bible, Geography, Government, English (writing), and Reading/Literature, Music, Home Economics, Life Skills, and Art, are usually easy to integrate around a core topics. Remaining subjects (Math, Phonics, Grammar, Spelling) can be integrated to some extent via related activities. Each, however, has its own "system" (progression of skills, mastery of "rules") which must be followed to some degree. Since one of the additional advantages of a unit study curriculum is the ability to use it with students of varying ages and skill levels, these subjects are generally taught apart from the core curriculum. This may be as simple as assigning pages in a grammar or spelling book, or using a separate "program" for Phonics and Math. Unit studies also tend to be more activity-oriented than the traditional approach, a real boon to kinesthetic learners. Advocates of the unit study approach site studies showing that children learn best when learning is unified rather than fragmented and when learning is more participatory than passive.
When several very talented authors create a curriculum that combines the educational philosophies of Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason, you know its worth taking a look. Designed to incorporate Dr. Beechicks educational principles in their entirety, this curriculum attempts to guide students in building their thinking skills through the knowledge they gain, not as a separate process. The Trail Guide to Learning program is a very comprehensive unit study curriculum that incorporates reading, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, science, art and more into a study of history and geography. Math is the only core subject not covered. Currently, three complete levels are available: Paths of Exploration (for grades 3-5), Paths of Settlement (for grades 4-6) and Paths of Progress (for grades 5-7). These first three levels focus on American history and are designed for the elementary grades (although they are adaptable for students at the top or bottom of each intended grade range so you could use Paths of Exploration with a 2nd grader or 6th grader). These make up the first segment of a planned complete curriculum series that will cover U.S. History (elementary), World History (jr. high), and Modern U.S./World History/Government/Economics (high school). While this review will undoubtedly be modified as this ambitious curriculum continues to be published, most of this review will focus on Paths of Exploration (POE), Paths of Settlement (POS) and Paths of Progress (POP).
Each level is organized into six topical six-week units. In POE, the units are: Columbus, Jamestown, Pilgrims, Daniel Boone, Lewis & Clark, and Trails West. The units are fairly discrete, and do not blend into each other. Each topic is covered exhaustively, however, with relevant cross-curricular content. Units are divided into six lessons, which are further split into five parts, so each level features 180 daily lessons in all. The authors make a point that although the lessons are broken down into daily chunks, there is enough review built in (particularly on Fridays) so you can be somewhat flexible with scheduling. Specific teaching instructions are provided for students in Grades 3-5, with a different animal track symbol designating each grade level suggestion. These assignments can be easily found in each lesson, or you can view the Lessons At A Glance in one of the Appendices to see a whole lesson broken down by skill area and assignments, with handy checklists for completion. As students progress through the course, they will add their student pages, artwork, and other projects into their Student Notebook (Notebooking Pages for Paths of Exploration are no longer available in pdf format. You can purchase the actual printed pages - 3-hole punched, blackline format, with activity pages included for all six units), a permanent record of the year. Reading material and additional activities are found in the required resources. that you will need for each unit. Please note that student pages are now a separate purchase for POE but are included in digital format for POS and POP until those are revised.
Lessons are written for ease of use for both teacher and student. Although the directions are written to the student, notes in the margins are intended for the teacher. No answers are given in the lesson content, which makes it easier to share the book. Each lesson begins not with specific knowledge-based objectives, but with several "Steps for Thinking" which are the larger ideas behind the topics students will learn in the lesson. In Lesson 1 in the Columbus unit, these include: "1. Journeys are made for a reason. 2. Knowing the reason for a journey helps you understand the decisions people make along the way. 3. Planning ahead and making preparations are essential for a successful journey." These are the ideas that should come up in discussing lesson content later on.
As you might expect from a curriculum co-authored by Debbie Strayer (author of Learning Language Arts Through Literature), language arts is heavily emphasized in every lesson. Each daily lesson segment begins with copywork and dictation, with assignments given at the three grade levels. Reading follows, with the student reading selected sections or pages aloud to the teacher. Then the teacher reads several pages from a more advanced book used in that lesson and reads the discussion questions, or the student narrates a provided assignment. Word Study, which encompasses vocabulary and spelling, is next, and typically is tied into the reading or the copywork. Again, several different grade-level specific assignments are provided. For example, in Unit 2 (Jamestown), Lesson 1, students look at words with apostrophes that they find in their reading book, A Lion to Guard Us. Theyll examine words with apostrophes, and learn the difference between an apostrophe that signals a contraction and an apostrophe that shows belonging. They also make a word list of names of people and places in their notebook and look at words that make the j sound with the dge combination. Throughout their reading, students will also make vocabulary cards for words that they might not have come across before. The guide stresses that these are not flash cards for memorization, but making the cards will help children remember the word and its meaning. That may sound like a lot, but remember that lessons are weekly, not daily.
Geography, history and science are well-integrated integrated into each lesson. History is naturally absorbed from the books the students read (and listen to). A related geography lesson is provided just about every day, which ties in beautifully with the units topic. For example, in the Columbus unit, students learn about compasses, directional terms, globes, maps, culture and worldview, the oceans, the continents, navigation, ships, map skills, using a map key, and more. Students will also locate the places they are reading about on maps, and become aware of where they are and why this is important to the events studied. In POS, students will also study the states as they work through the curriculum. POP emphasizes scientists and inventors, so students will soak up biographical details as well as science concepts.
Because history and geography often go hand-in-hand, and because the curriculum is published by Geography Matters, I had expected the geography lessons to be top-notch. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the science topics are related to the unit topics. Science can occasionally seem like an afterthought in unit studies, with vague assignments for the student to simply "research a topic." Here the topics are relevant and the content is good. Looking again at the Columbus unit in POE, students will learn about science topics that directly affected Columbus expedition, including oceans, air and ocean currents, the sun, stars, constellations, the solar system, weather and how it relates to climate, the moon, the early history of astronomy, spices, and the senses. There are several outside resources that you will use again and again for science material, including The Handbook of Nature Study and the North American Wildlife Guide. Although much of the science work is researching and reading, hands-on experiments from The Handbook of Nature Study are also used. It is worth noting that science is not covered every day like geography, but makes an appearance about 2-3 times per week.
The later sections of each daily lesson may be devoted to writing, art, drawing or another project. Writing activities are the most frequent of the three, and include a lot of variety in the assignments. Students may write fiction based on a place or event they have learned about, use a graphic organizer to identify the parts of a story, make lists, write about something learned that day in their own words, create poetry, make a book review card, write a friendly letter, and much more. Many of the art activities combine drawing with one of the topics covered in the lesson. Art or drawing is included about twice a week, with some activities contributed by homeschool art pros Sharon Jeffus and Barry Stebbing. The Lewis & Clark unit in particular uses Sharons book Lewis & Clark Hands On heavily and often combines art and writing activities. Although art is covered consistently, dont worry too much about investing in a pile of art materials from what I can tell, youll primarily be using the basics (drawing paper, construction paper, colored pencils or crayons, glue, modeling clay and possibly some paint).
The final portion of each days lesson is devoted to independent reading. Student and teacher will work together to find a book that interests them, and the student will read for 20-30 minutes (depending on their age) and record their reading time in their Reading Log. The reading material is completely left up to you and your student(s), which offers them the chance to read other books outside of the historically-based ones theyll primarily be exposed to.
Part 5 of each lesson is less structured, and is designed for completing any work that has not been finished, or for exploring some additional activities. Instead of assignments in each subject area, a bulleted list of activities is included, followed by several enrichment activities. In the unit on Daniel Boone, Part 5 of Lesson 4 suggests that you: review the Steps for Thinking, trace the Appalachian trail on an outline map, review the spelling words from the lesson, complete a week-long observation of your neighborhood, walk a hiking trail in a nearby park, and do a Daniel Boone crossword puzzle. Enrichment activities include researching General George Rogers Clark and making a list of facts about him, and finding a story or video about Daniel Boone and comparing it with the facts learned during the Daniel Boone unit.
There are a few things to note about this curriculum. First of all, it is written from a religiously neutral viewpoint, so it is an option for those of you ordering through charter schools. There is however a strong emphasis on good character, and many units spend some time studying the best qualities of historical figures. If you want to incorporate Bible study into the curriculum, you can either supplement your own program, or purchase the optional Bible study supplement, Light for the Trail directly from Geography Matters. Also, as noted previously, math is not included, so you will need a separate math program. Testing is not built into the program (the student notebook takes the place of assessments), but Geography Matters does offer an optional Assessment CD if this is important to you. Lastly, there are a number of resources that are required for use with the curriculum. These are listed below. Many titles have been chosen to accompany specific units of the program, while others are used all year long. - Jess