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Life in a New World

By Ellen Gardner
Life in America
1-877-LIFEAMerica (543-3263)

"Put some of the joy back in your family's journey."

Have you ever dreamed of teaching all ages of your children together? I envisioned them sitting at my feet, listening in rapt attention to my wisdom and teaching. It hasn't happened - YET, but it's a vision I still nurture. One reason why it has never happened is because I could never find suitable materials to use with my multi-age brood. We feel strongly about having history as the spine to our studies. It makes so much sense to study God, man, and the world from a chronological perspective. After all, that's how it all happened! But each year, it seemed, we would wind up with the youngest studying community helpers, the middle ages of children focusing on ancient Rome, and the older children diving into early American history.

Until now! I had the privilege to review Life in a New World, one in the Life in America series, written by Ellen Gardner. She's a real homeschooling mom. She spent five years developing the series and had homeschooled her own family for 12 years. After Life in a New World, the other titles in the series are Life in the Colonies, Life Establishing a Nation, Life in a Nation Divided, Life on the Frontier, Life in a Victorian Age, and Life in a World at War. The study of each era includes the "subjects" of Bible, history, character, geography, English, science, and arts and crafts. The series can be used for grades K - 12. The younger ones can be taken through the material at a slower pace.

How are these subjects woven together? It's a natural process, based on the time period studied. While students learn about Columbus (history), they read that he learned about "wind paths" in the book of Isaiah (Bible), and they discover what causes these wind paths (science). Every area is examined in the light of God's Word.

So what does this look like? Each volume contains activities and texts from source books and original documents. For example, referring again to the study of Columbus, the exploration begins with the simple task of finding places on the globe. The child is led into a discussion of oceans, politics of the time, and geography. References are given to resource materials, such as the American History Explorer CD (Parsons Technology), or Zane Publishing CDs, such as Exploring and Colonizing. These power packed CDs are filled with books, references, pictures, time lines, and more.

Continuing in this sample lesson, the student then examines a painting of the period, The Recall of Columbus by Heaton. Some more text reading in presented, then the student is directed to GO TO THE LIBRARY and find and examine resources about Columbus. Vocabulary words for the unit are introduced, writing exercised are given, and copy and dictation are suggested. Mathematics is even presented as the student works with Columbus's calculations for his journey. Directions are given to make a paper mache globe formed around a balloon, and suggestions are given to present a mock debate and to dramatize various aspects of Columbus's experience.

Sounds like a lot of fun, but there is more! In addition to the engaging CDs referenced above, Life in America also makes available accompanying volumes called Picturesque Writing by Kim Waltmire. Keyed to the Life in America series, each volume contains MORE activities and writing ideas to enhance the study. For example, students can demonstrate continent drift with graham crackers and frosting or peanut butter on wax paper! Afterwards the lesson, they can eat it! Puzzles and other activities are presented on basic and advanced levels.

What about testing? Pre and Post Test Questions are given with each lesson to test the child's comprehension. Other quizzing activities are available on the CDs as well. She even includes worksheets in the back of the volume to help you calculate high school credits and track the number of hours spent in each subject area.

This series can take the stress out of teaching multiple-ages of children. Homeschooling is a joyous family journey. Put some of the joy back in your family's journey. Check out Life in America.

-- Product Review by: Christine Field, Senior Correspondent, TOSâ„¢ Magazine

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