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Harcourt Horizons: People and Communities Review by Courtney Larson

Teacher's Editions, Vol. 1 & 2
Assessment Program
Student Edition CD-ROM
222 Berkeley Street
Boston, MA 02116

Harcourt Horizons: People and Communities is a complete social studies curriculum for 3 rd grade. The homeschool package includes two large spiral-bound Teacher's Editions, an Assessment Program, and a Student Edition on CD-R om . This program isn't created for homeschoolers, but it is available to homeschoolers through Saxon Homeschool for $270. According to the website, lesson plans for homeschoolers are being developed and will be made available online.

Harcourt Horizons: People and Communities is a traditional textbook program that contains six units: "Learning About Communities," "Citizenship and Government," "Communities Are Everywhere," "Many Kinds of People," "Communities over Time," and "People Working in a Community." (Before the six main units, there is a short unit on working with an atlas.) There are 12 chapters, with titles such as "Communities Are People," "Our Nation's Government," "Thinking Like a Geographer," and "American Culture." There are three to six lessons in each chapter, providing enough material for a full year of social studies lessons.

A unit begins with an introduction of the unit, a unit project, and a preview of the vocabulary. Following the unit introduction is a chapter opener, and then the individual lessons begin. There are skill builders at the end of several lessons, and these skill builders help with things like map and globe skills, chart and graph skills, or looking at primary sources. There are worksheets available for printing for several lessons. After the lessons for a chapter are completed, there is a section for reviewing and preparing for the chapter test. After each chapter is completed, there is a section for reviewing and preparing for a unit test.

The Teacher's Editions are full-color, oversized, spiral-bound books. Volume 1 contains the first three units, and Volume 2 contains the last three units. The pages include a reduced copy of the student text, and this is surrounded by several teacher helps. These helps include objectives, activities to "extend and enrich" the lesson topic, and ideas and instructions on how to teach the lesson. The Teacher's Editions are definitely written for a classroom teacher, and they contain a lot of ideas for extra activities or projects. For example, in a lesson about "Community Government," it is suggested that the students learn how to take notes, cut out articles from a local newspaper that are about local government and place them on a bulletin board, create a Class Citizenship book, and review vocabulary using cue cards. In the back of both volumes are a handful of additional teacher helps. These include "Reading in the Content Area," "Thinking Organizers," "Holiday Activities," "Vocabulary Cards," "School to Home Newsletter," and an index. There are reproducible masters available in all of these sections except the "Holiday Activities" section.

The Student Edition is on a CD- Rom that runs automatically when inserted into the CD drive of a computer. There are arrow buttons for turning the page, or you can just type in the page number you want to go to and jump to that page. There is an option for viewing one or two pages at a time as well as a function that allows you to zoom in and out. The pages are in full color, with vocabulary lists and plenty of photographs. The CD-R om also contains an activity book, and a button gives you an option to print different worksheets or activity pages if they are available for the lesson you are viewing.

The Assessment Program contains tests for each chapter and unit. In addition, there are various assessment forms and rubrics for projects that you might assign to your student throughout the textbook.

I do not think this program is homeschool friendly, either in format or price. The Teacher's Editions are quite unwieldy. The pages are thin and flimsy, and I don't find the content very helpful for teaching in a homeschool environment. The Student Edition on CD-Rom is awkward, and the page turning and navigation are slow. I had difficulty viewing an entire page on my laptop screen, especially when viewing two pages at once. With such an expensive price tag, I would expect this package to include a hard copy of the student text. Because of these issues, I cannot recommend Harcourt Horizons: People and Communities.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2011