History is an easy subject to make dry and boring. It’s just as easy to make it fun and interesting. So why wouldn’t you go for the latter? That’s just what Amy Pak and the rest of her family, who founded and run Home School in the Woods, think. And they’ve developed a line of curriculum to do just that. Recently, we were blessed to be able to review several items from the Á La Carte line. Each of these products is a digital download that you print out to make your own hands-on history project. There are so many to choose from that it was hard to decide which ones I wanted for this review!
First up, the boys (the three older ones, ages 14, 11, and 5) have had a lot of fun playing the Pirate Panopoly game. This game comes with several pages, but really only two of them are necessary: the pirate and his clothes. The game is played like many other preschool level games, so was easy enough for my 5-year-old but still engaging for the older boys. Each player gets a printout of the pirate in his “skivvies” and one of his clothes. They can color the pictures if they want (mine didn’t – boys!) and then cut out the clothes. Once that’s done, each player sets his pieces in front of him. On his turn, he rolls a die and depending on the number shown puts a piece of clothing on his pirate. The first person to fully dress his pirate wins!
This was a fun activity because on top of being a game (who doesn’t love to play “instead of” doing school?), students learn about the clothes of yesteryear. On the pirate page, there are labels naming and describing each piece of clothing. And if your kids are extra curious, you could easily make this part of a bigger unit study. In fact, it’s originally part of the Time Travelers: New World Explorers unit from Home School in the Woods. Pirate Panopoly is available for $1.95.
Next, we learned all about how orchestras have changed through the ages with The Orchestra file folder project. I chose this one for the boys because they dance ballet. I thought it would be good for them to learn more about the music they’re dancing to every week, and I was right.
In this file folder project, you print out the images provided and glue the “stage” to your file folder. (We used an 11×17 sheet of paper because we didn’t have any file folders available.) Then you cut out the different pockets (each with a number that corresponds to a space on the stage) and glue or tape them into place. We were out of glue sticks when we did this project, so we used tape which proved to be a little tricky, but we managed in the end. Once that’s done, you cut out the different instruments and start studying the different time periods. For each time period, your student can slide the appropriate instruments into the pockets representing where the people who play that instrument would sit in an orchestra of the time period. It was really interesting for all of us to learn how those positions changed over time. The Orchestra is available for $4.95.
Finally, we received the Frontline News newspaper. This has been a really cool project for the older boys (they’re still working on it each school day). The PDF has 19 pages. The last 14 are what you need to print for your kids (really just 12 of the last 14; one of the pages is there twice and you print the one you want depending on whether you want the “classified ads” filled in or left blank for your student to complete). I printed ours double sided to make it feel more authentic.
Each page has space for your student to write two articles, plus room for them to design an ad or two. Some of the articles come with photographs built in. Students are given a headline, which tells what they need to research, and then they fill in the rest, writing an article based on what they learned. For the most part, we were able to find the information using the large pile of books we got from the library, but there were also a few rather obscure stories that we ended up having to look online for. For example, did you know that the Navajo people used their language as a sort of “secret code” to help the Allies? That was something that didn’t show up in any of our books, not even the “Everything World War II” one.
You could move at whatever pace is good for your students when doing the newspaper project. Since this is now our main history for the time being (we’re not doing anything else or even supplementing this in any way), I’ve had the boys do one article and one ad per day. Between the research and the writing, that takes them a reasonable amount of time for the subject, without being too overwhelming. Frontline News is available for $2.95.
Overall, I’ve been really pleased with our choices, especially the newspaper. The boys agree that it’s a really fun way to learn about history, and we’ve decided together that we will very likely be purchasing more of these once they finish up Frontline News.
There are so many choices in the Á La Carte projects from Home School in the Woods that I can’t possibly mention them all here, but besides the categories of products I’ve reviewed, there are also Timelines (the Composers Through History timeline would go very nicely with The Orchestra file folder project), 3D projects (The Art of Quilling looks especially neat), Lapbooks, and more! I really hope you’ll check them out, especially if you need to breathe new life into your history studies. Each of the projects has its own recommended age level, but there are things from K all the way through 12th grade, so you’re guaranteed to find something that will work for your kids.
Members of the Homeschool Review Crew had their choice of anything from the Á La Carte “menu,” so make sure to click the banner below to find reviews on other projects!