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Time Travelers History Study: Colonial Life


By Amy Pak
Home School in the Woods
www.homeschoolinthewoods.com

3997 Roosevelt Highway
Holley, NY 14470
585-964-8188

I grew up in Pennsylvania. When I was around 8 years old, my parents bought a used VW pop-up camper. It was orange. During the few years we had that little camper, we took a handful of memorable family camping trips. Among them were visits to Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg. I'm not sure I appreciated those trips then as much as I do now. I certainly have some vivid memories of the costumed actors, sets, and food we sampled. Now that my young family lives in California, it is less likely that we will be able to give an experience like that to my own children. I'm sure many readers can relate. What to do? Short of going into major debt for a cross-country trip, you might consider the Time Travelers History Study: Colonial Life by Amy Pak of Home School in the Woods. This unit study is a well-conceived, well-organized study with a plethora of activities and excellent presentation of materials.

The unit study is geared for students in grades 3-8 and contains 25 lessons. The website recommends a time span of five to ten weeks, but the material could be covered more quickly if necessary. The material is very well organized; it would be easy to choose from among the activities and not feel burdened to plow through all of them in order. One could also simply use this study to supplement a more intensive reading-based approach. Remember, you are the master of the curriculum; the curriculum doesn't control you.

The product consists of a CD from which one can print everything from the unit binder cover to the lesson plan schedule, text materials, activity pages, a listing of needed supplies and other teacher helps, etc.(Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed). It also contains photos of student work as models. It is easy to navigate through the material.

The 25 lessons are grouped in five sections and cover such topics as The Colonial Home, Clothing, Food, Family Life, School, Faith, Villages and Cities; Artisans, Holidays, and the Colonial Spree. Each section contains four days of lessons and one project day. The project days allow time for students to finish up work from the current section, to delve into new projects if there is time left over, or just to review.

Most lessons include some brief text material that students can read independently or along with the parent/teacher. Students participate in up to 50 varied activities over the course of the unit (e.g., penmanship, creative writing, cooking, science experiments, diorama of a colonial home, cross stitch samplers, making a little rope bed with straw tick). They create a notebook, a Lap Book, and, of course, a timeline. The Fact File and Question Card sets are intended to be used as flash cards for basic drill and review and also as game pieces. Templates are provided. The categories include vocabulary, artisan terms, colonial diseases, and cooking terms. There is even a template to make an envelope to hold all the cards and keep them in the notebook. The study culminates in a "Colonial Spree"--a colonial party complete with ideas for décor, food, and games.

Here is a breakdown of one complete lesson: Lesson 14- Villages and Cities. There are two full pages of text. The first two paragraphs provide a brief description of the situation in which new settlers found themselves. Next follows a three-paragraph description of a village. The third section details the importance of the general store and the many roles of the shopkeeper, which I found to be the most interesting part of the text. I had never considered the great responsibility of the shopkeeper and the diplomacy required to maintain relationships with the various members of the community, all while running a business. The last section gives some information on cities- how they differed from villages based on the amenities they offered, some common problems they encountered, and a list of prominent colonial cities. The text pages contain four color photographs related to the material. For me, this is just enough information to get a mere hint of the topic, and I would definitely pursue a variety of additional reading material.

On to the projects! The first activity is penmanship. Throughout the unit, students practice writing the "Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." Related Scripture verses accompany the rules. For each penmanship activity, you will find the text to be copied, a sheet with the text dashed so that younger students can trace it, a blank copybook-style page with dashed lines, and a regular ruled page. All the aforementioned pages include a heading and some graphic embellishment. This is the type of detail I was referring to when I mentioned the excellent presentation of materials! When I taught in public high school, I would have cried tears of joy if every curriculum publisher had taken such care with these kinds of details.

The next activity involves creating postcards. Needed materials include one sheet each of white and colored card stock, scissors, colored pencils, 18 inches of ribbon or yarn, and a single-hole punch. Templates are provided. The templates are black and white renderings of scenes in New York, Williamsburg, Boston, and Philadelphia. Each has a different font. Students color the city scenes and are encouraged to research the four cities. Writing suggestions include using the research information to write a postcard as if you are a resident or visitor in the city or writing an informational paragraph about the city. Additional blank templates are provided for use with pictures you might find or create of other cities. There are even directions for making an envelope from card stock. Again, details!

The third activity is "Mapping Colonial North America." A blank map template is provided. Students are given a list of locations to research and label on their maps. A teacher key is provided. The locations include colonies, cities, villages, French cities, mountains, and bodies of water.

The last activity is "13 Colonies Hopscotch." A map is provided of the 13 colonies. Students and/or parents are to sketch the map on a sidewalk or pavement and label the colonies with numbers, not names. Then students (and parents) can practice jumping up and down the map, shouting out the names of the colonies. That's a fun method of memorization! This lesson is the fourth in its grouping of five (Lessons 11-15), the fifth being a catch-up/project day. In this one lesson, there are activities to appeal to linguistic, visual, logical, and kinesthetic learners. Do you have to do it all? No. Do you have to do it all in one day? No.

The cost of the CD is $28.95--very reasonable for the quantity and the quality of what you get. I do not hesitate to recommend this product. Students are sure to enjoy the hands-on connection to learning and the variety of activities. In our homeschool, we will seek out additional, in-depth reading material to supplement the provided text. Even younger students would benefit from more detailed stories and information, including fiction, nonfiction, and primary sources. The "Bibliography" and "Additional Resources" sections on the CD provide lots of ideas.

For those who aren't able to make a personal visit to Historic Jamestowne and Colonial Williamsburg, this unit study does a wonderful job of providing information and activities that will give students a flavor of the time period.



Product review by Nancy Casari Dayton, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June 2007




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