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Feb 21, 2017

Renaissance and Reformation ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

I was never good at history.  It was just a lot of boring dead people and dates to remember.  We didn't learn things that made sense to me.  I didn't understand how things were connected across the globe and through time.  I'd like to help the punks make better sense of things, so I can really appreciate the use of timelines and such.  Home School in the Woods offers a curriculum that matches my hopes for hands on history lessons and with HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Renaissance & Reformation, which is for students in 3rd-8th grade, we're getting a handle on one of my favorite periods.

Home School in the Woods uses a Christian perspective.  The award winning curriculum has won accolades from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and The Homeschool Review Crew, receiving several of our Blue Ribbon awards over the years.  Amy Pak and her husband, Ed, and their four children run Home School in the Woods from their little homeschool in the woods (and fields, creek, and ravine).  A homeschooling family since 1996, they enjoyed learning history through living books and a timeline.  Amy designs their timeline figures herself and one of her sons does most of the research and writing involved in their products.  Home School in the Woods is truly a family business.

I had two reasons for wanting to complete the Renaissance & Reformation Passport this year.
1. Renn Faire
We take the boys to a HUGE (well, to us) and fairly authentic renaissance faire every summer.  I absolutely loved the idea of studying this era with them this year, so they would have a deeper understanding of what exactly is happening when we are there.  I sometimes think they forget it is a real time period!
2. Unit Studies
I like unit studies.  The boys like unit studies.  I never do unit studies anymore unless the Homeschool Review Crew offers them, well, because I am a glutton for punishment.  And by punishment, I mean irritable children who complain non-stop about school.

I also had one concern.  It looked super involved.  We school year round and keep breaks to a minimum, which means we can also enjoy shorter days than some with older elementary students.  That means I won't spend an hour or more on history when we can't really set aside math and language arts.  These World History Studies are broken down into 25 lessons and you might expect to take six-12 weeks to complete the Renaissance & Reformation, we will take nearly twice as long.

The study is set up like an actual tour of the times and places.  You'll "travel" to Florence, London, Switzerland, and many other places on this journey which takes place from the 12th century to the 1600s.  You learn about every day life for the rich and the poor and "meet" royalty, artists, scientists, and clergy throughout the lessons.

Basic items you will need to complete the unit.
  • binders (1 1/2" or 2") per child (however, we worked as a family through everything and only needed the one 2" binder)
  • file folders (again, we worked together or took turns, so only needed one)
  • colored card stock
  • white card stock
  • copy paper
  • colored copy paper
  • glue sticks (or white school glue)
  • colored pencils
Some items that would be good to have (they're recommended, but I didn't use them at all).
  • a larger 3-ring binder for the teacher
  • double-sided sticky tape
  • acetate
  • lamination sheets
  • corrugated cardboard (any old box will work)
You'll also need a few other things for various projects, like cookie ingredients and chalk pastels.  If you don't have a certain item, you can always skip that one activity.  There are so many hands on and listening projects, it's totally OK if you can't get to some of them.  I based my decisions on the abilities, interest, and strengths of the punks.

Photocopy (or multiple prints) for use within a family is allowed under the copyright.  There are additional resource lists for books, audio books, videos/DVDs, and music broken down for each stop.  We borrowed several books and DVDs from our library.  The basically had *none* of the listed resources, but it wasn't difficult to find a few suitable biographies, fiction and non-fiction books, and we had an excuse to borrow the boys' favorite video on daVinci.  (They wrote reports about him last year.)

Color or black and white print options are available for binder covers.  I really like being able to choose line art, so I'm not printing color pictures on my black ink only printer.  I always think that looks pretty terrible.  One file I noticed was a bit odd.  Both the color prints and the black line art were on the same page.  I'd have preferred a couple sets of each were on separate pages.  So I didn't have to print two copies of the page. 

The giant zip file took just seconds to download.  The sheer number of files was intimidating for this Home School in the Woods newbie. I have to say, six weeks in, I still feel overwhelmed by it, but we keep plugging along.  There is so much great content, I definitely recommend that you go to the website and download the free sample lessons.  I especially think your family will enjoy these history studies if you are lapbookers, notebookers, or hands on explorers.  There is something to engage every kind of learner.

In the Renaissance & Reformation study your students will create a newspaper, take audio tours, dine out, make crafts, and more.  Don't forget your passport (which is included).  You'll be able to use that through all of your travels to different time periods, not just the Renaissance period.  So pack a bag, try out the sample lesson, and take a fun journey to your favorite historical place and time.

So far on our stops, we've heard two of the included audios, a day trip in Florence and a chat with Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel.  We all enjoyed them and the boys have voiced a desire to really go on these trips.  I'm most looking forward to the audios with Sir Francis Drake and Shakespeare.

The bulk of the printing seems to be done at the beginning, the very first stop.  I was put off by that just because of the sheer number of pages.  There are a lot of individual page files, which just felt more daunting.  There were instructions to print one page on the back of another, but because they were two separate PDFs, I needed to keep trying to orient the page back through the printer.  This is a newer printer to me, and this wasn't going well for me.  While I understand the size of the files was quite large (hence the zipping), and some pages were to be printed on card stock or various colored pages, I felt there was no reason some pages couldn't be combined to ease the printing burden.

When you first download and unzip the files (or start the CD), you would go into the START file and this opens on the internet, which I found confusing.  The "Start" file takes you to a website which was a more helpful list, but locked up my browser (not responding message) from about 30 seconds to several minutes each time I accessed it. The pages are all listed there in order of use, but when you click, it opens the file in the same tab, so when I click the back button, the browser locks up again.  I would *LOVE* a start PDF that listed each thing in order the way the web based START file does.  The travel planner sort of does that, but the file designation (ex. M-7-3 - which means Master file, stop 7, file 3, if I remember correctly) isn't listed there and all the components for that stop aren't listed (example the Guide Book text readings aren't included).  I'd rather have a straight forward document that just lays it all out for me.  I wish the Travel Itinerary PDF listed the file designation of each of the files I would need also.

With the 25 lessons (stops), we are averaging about one Stop each week.  It fitted us best to break it down over several days.  There was quite a bit to read from the Guide Book text, as well as the timeline, lapbook, postcards, and crafts to complete.  (Speaking of the postcards, which are blank on one side, I found some artwork that complemented the notes written on one side and the boys color the pictures and we glue them to the front of the cards.  I *know*, far too well, that if I asked them to draw a picture on the postcards, they would all be decorated with trains and Delorean time machines - though that would almost make sense.)

Stop 1 is mostly prep and I did that all myself.  I did read the text aloud to the boys and discuss some of the things we already knew about the era.  They were somewhat excited to learn some of the things we would be learning about were relevant to the Renn Faire.

I did not print out the Travel Itinerary pages or the Guide Book Text pages (BTW, the Guide Book Text pages are in a file simply titled text), therefore I didn't need a teacher binder.  It's all in the computer, so I didn't feel there was a need for one more binder.

I love, love, love the timeline.  I chose to create it in accordion fold.  Next time I make a timeline, I will print the images on sticker paper and just cut them out and adhere that way.  Right now, they're on card stock, which I did accidentally while printing something else.  Aaaanyway,  I'm using a piece of packing tape to adhere them after the boys color them.  I do *not* want those puppies falling apart after we put all the work into them!

Whew!  As you can see, I have mixed feelings about a few of the aspects of HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Renaissance & Reformation.  I want to be clear that I am not technologically inclined, which may be part of my issue.  I just didn't get "intuitive" out of a good chunk of the tech aspects of opening which files and following the flow of the work.  On the other hand, I did see incredible value in the projects, audios, and text.  There is a ton of information packed into this study and we're enjoying what we are doing.  Xav often asks if we are going to "do that history thing" for the Crew today.  No one whines when we work on it.  Those aspects make it worth it to me to spend a little time figuring it out.

Available as a download or CD, Home School in the Woods also has Passport studies for Ancient Egypt, The Middle Ages, and the newest title, Ancient Greece, with Ancient Rome to follow next year.

Find Home School in the Woods on social media.

The Crew has a lot to say about each of the HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Studies.  Click below to read more reviews and learn about the other studies.

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews

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