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!

Spectacular Spiders Review by Dawn Peterson

By Cindy West and Melissa Leach
Shining Dawn Books, LLC

If you're looking for a comprehensive nature study on the interesting subject of spiders, this downloadable unit study developed by Cindy West and Melissa Leach will fit the bill perfectly!

Spectacular Spiders covers spiders and their habitats, life cycles, predators and prey, body parts, web designs, and more. Like all the NaturExplorer units put out by this impressive company, it's filled not only with ample information on the subject itself but also with ideas and activities to pick and choose from according to age, ability, and interest level. There are hands-on activities, writing and research ideas, Bible lessons, poetry, artist, and picture study references, composer and music study references, other related literature, Internet links for deeper research, and very practical ideas for how to use the study with both younger and older children. (The unit is aimed at the elementary-age child but is easily adaptable for all ages, in my opinion.) The appendix includes nature notebooking pages, a section on why we should study nature (very inspiring!), and practical helps such as preparation, safety tips, where to study, and ideas on how to prepare a nature notebook on spiders. While I am not typically a unit study type of homeschooler, I love this product because of how flexible and thorough it is. And I have found that the format lends itself so nicely to informal nature study.

From the Shining Dawn website:

Any homeschooler using any homeschooling style will find these units useful. In fact, any teacher in any type of school situation will find these useful! Charlotte Mason homeschoolers will love the ideas for tying in poetry and artist and composer studies, as well as the living literature lists to enhance learning. Those who use Unit Studies will be excited that most of what they need for a full unit is already here. Unschoolers will appreciate the ability to find easy to implement ideas at just the right time. Project-Based homeschoolers will be excited at the large amount of project ideas that meet many learning styles. Traditional and Classical homeschoolers will be able to pull as little or as much from the book as they desire. New homeschoolers will appreciate the thoroughly laid out ideas, while Veteran homeschoolers will be thankful that the ideas are already pulled together and ready to use.

The unit begins with a helpful scientific explanation of this arachnid--the names of its body parts, what and how it eats, how it's helpful to us, how many species there are (30,000!), its predators, and the best time to observe it (early morning). There are so many ideas listed -- way beyond simple observation and notebooking. One fun idea I plan to do with my kids this summer is to have them learn about the different types of spider webs (explained in the unit itself) and then find, identify, and sketch each one (over the course of time, not all in one day!). Other ideas include setting up a terrarium and building a mobile (using index cards with a picture of a spider on one side and its name and interesting facts on the other). Writing ideas are truly plenteous and range from simple to advanced. There are notebooking pages to use, sketching ideas, and topics to write about. The Bible lessons draw from Biblical themes and verses related to characteristics of a spider and the spiritual truths conveyed. The literature, artist and picture references, poetry, and composer and music references are a really fun and educational way to round out the study if you desire. The only difficulty you might find in using the unit is deciding where to start and how much to do, There are so many fun ideas and suggestions, you (or your students) may want to do them all!

Shining Dawn Books remains a favorite resource for our nature study. I highly recommend them for all homeschool parents who want to encourage the study and enjoyment of God's creation with their children.

Product review by Dawn Peterson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2011