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Cheaper by the Dozen Study Guide Review by Kathy Gelzer

By Kristina Campbell
Onfire Publications
PO Box 1183
Petrolia, Ontario

I first read the novel Cheaper by the Dozen when I was in 6th grade. I don't remember if it was one of my older brothers or my father who recommended it to me, but I do remember enjoying the humorous anecdotes immensely. I was curious to revisit the book as an adult and wondered how my children would like it. I pulled it out at lunch the other day, and the children (ages 7, 9, and 12) didn't want me to stop reading it to them. If anything, it was funnier than I remember. I think a unit study of Cheaper by the Dozen, as Kristina Campbell suggests, is a wonderful idea. Reading it with fresh eyes from the perspective of a homeschool mom, I see that there is a lot of potential here.

This product is an e-book study guide for Cheaper by the Dozen using a "note booking/Charlotte Mason approach to learning." It is unabashedly Christian in its approach. After two pages of introductory material, the bulk of the study guide is questions, discussion topics, and activities for each of the 19 book chapters. These are well conceived and include various types of research and dictionary work, sketching and constructing opportunities, English analysis and creative writing assignments, and even some math equations! The breadth of subject matter includes history, the Bible, English, art, science, geography and civics. This study guide really shines in its inclusion of critical thinking questions, especially as they pertain to good Christian behavior and speech. The study guide ends with a page of afterthoughts and an annotated list of websites for more fun and study.

The father in the book uses some colorful language at times, and I find his use of the Lord's name in vain jolting and disturbing. For some reason, I hadn't remembered that from my earlier readings of the book. Shame on me! Maybe it is because of my "mother heart" and deeper faith that I notice it now. Kristina Campbell addresses this in one of her discussion questions. I think it might be nice to include an alert for which chapters of the book contain this type of verbiage so the parent is prepared for it and can perhaps "edit" while reading aloud.

The introductory material has a page on how to use the guide. The implication is that you read the book aloud chapter by chapter, stopping to do the activities and answering the questions while keeping a notebook of your work. The author encourages parent-teachers to tailor the guide to their families and interests. I found that doing the guide orally and rather informally worked well. Unit study folks would love this e-book. There are no age or grade suggestions. I would say my 12-year-old caught more of the humor than my girls, so maybe it would be best for older elementary/middle school-age children.

Parents who fondly remember Cheaper by the Dozen from their youth will find returning to the book with this study guide enjoyable and educational.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2007