The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Tess Hamre and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Fungus Among Us e-book Review by Stacy Kalisz and Kendra Fletcher

By Cindy West and Melissa Leach
Shining Dawn Books, LLC

Written by two nature-loving homeschool moms, Fungus Among Us brings the world of fungi to life. Cindy West and Melissa Leach have created a nature study unit that will actually get you out in nature, where students (and parents) can discover God's creation first-hand. Children will get excited about mushrooms, lichen, and mold, as they learn through hands-on experience.

Fungus Among Us is part of the NaturExplorers series written and published by Shining Dawn Books. NaturExplorers are unit study e-books intended to provide "educated journeys into God's creation." After reviewing this e-book, I'd say they do exactly that!

This 32-page unit study is a little different from others I have seen. It is mostly a collection of information and ideas to be implemented at one's own discretion. The unit has a definite nature study focus and does not include math or phonics as many unit studies do. Even without these topics, a rich buffet is offered, with Bible, poetry, artist and picture studies, composer and music references, literature suggestions, writing and research ideas, and hands-on activities. Notebooking pages are also included. I was truly impressed with the streamlined presentation. Each topic has a few carefully selected suggestions, which keeps this unit study from being cluttered or overwhelming.

Nature walks and outside activities are the core of this curriculum. With a thorough list of simple ideas, getting out actually seems doable! These ideas could be used as a plan for study or simply a guide that gives purpose to nature walks. Learning can be taken a step further if you use the suggestions found in the "branching out" section, which includes some great science experiments and arts and craft activities.

Although this book was designed for elementary ages, it could be used with the whole family. Fun ideas for including older and younger children are given. However I believe all ages could find interesting assignments within the main text.

Some may feel there is not enough in this unit since it does not include an abundance of technical information about fungi. Reading a number of the recommended books is a must. This seems just right to me. In our homeschool, we plan to take a nature walk once per week and study one nature topic for about six weeks. This unit study fits perfectly with that plan. The ideas are clear and easy to implement, without a lot of twaddle to wade through. I feel it would easily suit any homeschool style and could also be useful in classrooms or co-ops.

The authors have included some very practical articles about the where, how, and why of nature study. These are some of my favorite parts of the book. Their enthusiasm is contagious. One can't help coming away with an eagerness to get outdoors and a feeling that successful nature study can be achieved.

Fungus Among Us is an excellent tool for those desiring to teach elementary students about mushrooms, lichen, and mold. I highly recommend it. I also recommend visiting to see the many other titles they have to offer. The NaturExplorers Series takes much of the brainwork out of planning nature study--a sure help to moms everywhere.

Product review by Stacy Kalisz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2009

Another review:

Cindy West and Melissa Leach have written some really useful and well-crafted unit study E-Books on subjects such as animal signs, butterflies, clouds, fruits and nuts, deciduous trees, and many more. Both homeschooling moms with a love for nature and nature study, Cindy and Melissa know what is helpful to the homeschooling mom as well as what is captivating for the student.

In A Fungus Among Us, mushrooms, lichen, and mold are presented with plenty of basic information and photographs. A history of the uses of fungus (such as penicillin and yeast) is presented. Varieties are discussed, and the anatomy of a mushroom is also covered. If you can’t find live specimens where you live, you’ll find plenty of illustrations in A Fungus Among Us that will help your student understand the differences and beauty of each.

The activities suggested are worthwhile. Here is a sample:

Look for fungi that might be destroying a plant. For instance, look in a garden, farmer’s crop, or on a tree for leaves that seem to be turning brown due to a fungus. You will usually see brown splotches. You might consider taking a sample of the plant to your local extension office for help in determining which fungus is the culprit. Draw a picture or take a photograph for your nature journal. Describe the amount of fungus you find. In other words, describe whether you only see one or two leaves that have been affected, or if an entire field is dying.

And resources! A Fungus Among Us is packed with resources; you won’t have to pull this study together, because Cindy and Melissa have done it so well for you. You’ll find inspirational literature, ideas for nature walks and other outside activities, follow-up hands-on activity ideas, writing and research ideas (yes! writing assignments already crafted!), references for Bible study, artist and composer study, poetry tie-ins, kid-friendly Internet links and book lists for further study, and beautiful notebooking pages. Mini book! Folded postcards! File folder reports! See? A Fungus Among Us is just packed.

If you’re a mom with multiple ages in your homeschool, Cindy and Melissa give you ideas for adapting the material for younger and older children. While written with the elementary child in mind, A Fungus Among Us is very adaptable for younger and older students. A Fungus Among Us would make a great co-op unit study too.

Included is a section for the teacher with just a few thoughts to get you interested and excited about teaching and studying the topic. There’s a “Literature Launch,” which includes one or more children’s books recommendations—all are great pieces of living literature or really super non-fiction selections. “A Bit of Background” gives the teacher some background knowledge about the topic before heading outdoors or starting the indoor studies. About this section the authors write: “This section would certainly be okay to share with children, but the intention is to empower the teacher with basic knowledge about the subject so all those spur of the moment questions can be answered with authority during a nature walk.” The authors say this section will not be exhaustive by any means, and many of the research activity suggestions will require other books or Internet resources to find in-depth information. You will also find information such as the best places to go and safety precautions regarding the particular topic.

Nature walks, hands-on activities, writing and research ideas, poetry, artist and picture study references, composer and music references, related Internet sites—are you beginning to see what a fantastic resource A Fungus Among Us is?

I have to be honest and say that I have purchased homeschool parent-produced E-Books in the past that haven’t lived up to my expectations. A Fungus Among Us not only wowed me by both its scope and depth of information, but it also caused me want to pack up my large brood and get outside to see what we could find. I also found my way to the Shining Dawn Books website ( quickly to see what else we could study.

Product Review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2010