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!

Wonderful Wildflowers e-book Review by Stacy Kalisz and Jennifer Harrison

By Cindy West and Melissa Leach
Shining Dawn Books, LLC

Wonderful Wildflowers is a 38-page nature unit written by Cindy West and Melissa Leach, two homeschool moms with a passion for nature study. Although intended for elementary age children, it contains suggestions for including younger and older students and is excellent for the entire family.

This unit comes as a pdf document, and it is designed to help children experience God's creation through studying nature. Topics include wildflowers, wildflower identification, wildflower notebooking, and honeybees and pollination. It is suitable for use during spring, summer, and autumn.

Wonderful Wildflowers is most certainly a nature unit study. It also includes poetry, art, music, and literature but not math or phonics. Homeschoolers using the unit study approach exclusively will need to add the extra subjects. Those using other homeschooling methods will find this to be a neat little nature package that can really help students understand and appreciate wildflowers.

Inside you will find 25 nature walk ideas, 14 hands-on activities (including how to make a flower press), 23 writing and research assignments, two Bible lessons, three poetry readings, one artist and one composer to study, and a number of related literature suggestions. There are also additional ideas for nature clubs and co-ops. This list shows just how strong the nature study focus is, with much learning taking place outside on nature walks. What better way could there be to learn about wildflowers than to observe them in their natural habitat?

Most suggestions are presented in list form, making them easy to find. Nature walk ideas are all together in one list; hands-on activities are also together. I find this very helpful. If we want to take a wildflower-focused nature walk, I know just where to go. It is also worth noting that most nature walk suggestions are easy to implement, as simple as looking over the list and picking one! A few supplies may be needed, such as a field guide or notebook, but nothing extravagant.

The authors have made this unit straightforward and uncomplicated. The information included has been carefully selected. I appreciate not having to waste time wading through extra material that is not worthy of our time and will not be used. For example, there are only two Bible lessons in this study. In the past I have seen Bible lessons included with many subjects that often seem to stretch God's word to fit the topic at hand. This is not the case here. The two lessons included are short, sweet, and meaningful. They are very simple and could easily be read and discussed before, during, or after a nature walk.

Some may want more from a unit study. While I personally love the set up, I do realize that others might prefer extra information about wildflowers and also more of a lesson-plan layout. A little background information about wildflowers is given; however, it is necessary to use the books suggested in order to complete the study.

Wonderful Wildflowers is an extremely useful tool that helps families study and enjoy nature together. Its outdoor focus is refreshing, and the list of nature walk ideas is quite valuable. I highly recommended this product.

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

Another review:

Nature studies always seem to get brushed aside at my house. We spend plenty of time outdoors, but we rarely actually study anything while out there. I remember very little from my high school biology course and I have a hard time finding direction or motivation. Cindy West and Melissa Leach have teamed up to provide an exceptional e-book called Wonderful Wildflowers, which guided my family through a nature unit study quite nicely.

The book contains colorful photographs to help identify wildflowers, though students are encouraged to use a wildflower identification book. We printed the e-book in black and white so that my girls could color the photographs with colored pencils after viewing them in full color on the computer screen. In the past, I just couldn't figure out where to start with nature studies. This book gives seven pages of hands-on activities for students to explore, with five more for writing and research. More than a biology lesson, the guide also helps students appreciate the world around them and to appreciate our Creator! Scriptures, poetry, art, and music are all incorporated in the study of wildflowers. Many helpful links and book suggestions are shared for deeper study.

The authors also share ideas for using this study with younger children, older children, and homeschool groups or clubs. After this, the book includes 16 attractive notebooking pages to enable students to prepare their own wildflower notebook. The book ends with an article explaining the hows and whys of nature studies, perfect for the uninitiated such as myself.

The book occasionally uses technical terms (such as indigenous or photosynthesis) without an explanation of the word, assuming the student either knows the definition already or is capable of looking it up in the dictionary. Some of the vocabulary was well over the heads of my 4 and 6-year-old daughters, but they still enjoyed the study and were able to glean a lot! The book does not include lesson plans but is instead a compilation of many inspiring ideas. You can't help but dig and in and start exploring.

Wonderful Wildflowers is part of the NaturExplorers series, which includes several unit studies with a focus on nature. These and many other wonderful resources (some free!) can be found on the company's website:

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2010