I have never been a fan of winters, as a matter of fact, you will often hear me (or read me) saying that I am solar-powered… I love everything from early spring to late fall. Despite my strong feelings against winter, I have learned to tolerate it and appreciate its beauty from the inside – of the house – with a nice warm mug of full-bodied yummy goodness that I can wrap my cold hands around as its aroma embraces me. Yes, this is my secret love of winter. Although it isn’t quite winter yet, it sure feels like it this morning and my warm mug is not letting me down!
Unit studies are like winter for me and have been for some time. I have been homeschooling off and on over the last two decades and I have not been able to fully embrace them. I’m not sure if it is the fear of not being able to get it right, fear of having holes in my children’s education, or is it the fear of swaying too far from a traditional school model. I’m really not sure. It might not even be fear at all. It might just be that I enjoy the assurance and comfort of a nice bookshelf full of complete A-Z curriculum guides all neatly tucked inside their perfect bindings. This abstinence has baffled me for quite some time, but no longer. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has given me the privilege of reviewing Appalachian Trail Unit Study (available at http://www.theoldschoolhouse.com/shop/ )and my eyes have been opened to the beauty and freedom of unit studies!
I have been enamored with The Appalachian Trail: A Unit Study! I’ll admit that at first glance, I felt a bit overwhelmed and even intimidated by the amount of study angle opportunities it offered. We were in the middle of a homeschooling “groove” that I didn’t want to disrupt and I initially hesitated to figure out how to merge it into our routine. Those thoughts were short-lived, however, and soon gone completely as I began to thoroughly review the study itself. The Appalachian Trail, itself, is a wonderful nugget of American History!
Before this review, I didn’t know that there was a trail through the Appalachian Mountains, nor did I know that there was a National Trails Systems Act of 1968. We made the decision to try something from each of the subject areas: English/Writing/Spelling, Math, Science, Physical Education, Art, History, Geography, and Home Economics. As an incredible unforeseen bonus, we learned several things about each of the 14 states that the trail runs through, which was exciting as we have already been studying the east coast and Early American History. I love how different studies overlap things that we are already working on, giving the kids opportunities to expand their knowledge!
Our entire experience with The Appalachian Trail: A Unit Study has been an enjoyable one. However, we definitely had some favorites… such as our trail races for Physical Education. For some reason, our household enjoys a bit of good ol’ fashioned competitiveness and racing through a makeshift obstacle course with a back weighed down with camping gear seemed to kick it into high gear! They all ran their heart out as if they were competing on America Ninja Warrior… The Boy was a close second and beat only by Sweetness, as she is tough as nails, even with an extra 10 pounds on her back!
Geography always receives an enthusiastic welcome in our lessons and the kids had a fantastic time learning how to use compasses, as well as how they work. We decided to take things a step further and make compasses. Bookworm Beauty was the first to see success with her compass and then was quick to remind us that we should always keep a needle and a magnet in our emergency camping kits… because we just may need one to make a compass, if we get lost!
There were a lot of things we could cover in this unit and it seems that we barely scratched the surface for this review. The prized nugget in this unit study is that it inspired us to see our own surroundings in the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains as well as neighboring states as opportunities to do similar studies. The Appalachian Trail: A Unit Study could very well become a staple unit study template that can be applied to the National Parks in your own area or wherever you decide to vacation. This study has been printed, bound, and placed on my nice bookshelf neatly tucked between those complete A-Z curriculum guides, for plenty of future reference.
If you are already a Unit Study mom, then give this a try. If you are more hesitant with unit studies, like I was, I encourage you to expand your horizons! Set aside a short bit of time to change things up a bit, or use it for your summer program. Either way, with a price tag under $5 and an immediate download, you simply can’t lose.