Monday, January 10, 2011

Crew Review: Easy Classical

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was asked to download the digital edition of Easy Classical's Early Modern History Schedule for review.

The Product: Created by Sandra Williams, Easy Classical uses the framework outlined by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise in their book The Well Trained Mind as the basis for their history schedule.  This schedule is appropriate for the elementary years, roughly grades K-6.

The schedule I am reviewing is available as either a hard copy in a 3-ring binder for $35.95 or a digital download for $29.95.

The schedule I previewed includes these sections:
  • Table of Contents:  Here, you can see that Susan Wise Bauer's book, Story of the World: The Middle Ages (SOTW2) and Story of the World: Early Modern Times (SOTW3), are used to create a history program that covers the Age of Exploration, the colonization of North America, life in the colonies, the American War for Independence, and other events up through Slavery and the Missouri Compromise. Those who are familiary with these resources will note that Easy Classical has used Bauer's books to create a year-long early American history program rather than a sweeping tour of world history between the 1400s through 1850.
  • An icon key is decoded for you.  I really like the convenience of the 4 graphics as reminders to complete writing, narration, geography and history song assigments.
  • Next follows some introductory remarks from the writer about how to read the assignment charts as well has how to use them to their maximum benefit.  There really is an assumption in using this guide that you will also use Easy Classical's writing ($29.95 print/ $19.95 digital), geography ($49.95/$39.95) and copywork (only grades 4-6 is available at this time for $15.95 print/ $9.95 digital) guide in addition to their history guide;  therefore, much of this information help to explain how these guides coordinate with one another.
  • A complete reading list is provided for all the history, writing, geography, literature and free-reading books you'll want to compile for your students.
  • Materials shopping list -- very convenient to have a year-long list of essentials.
After these materials, we get to the meat of the program: the schedule! You can see samples of pages here. Each week's reading assignments, copywork assignments, writing and narration projects are assigned to a Monday through Friday grid.  They even use History Pockets to provide a Friday hands-on activity and occasionally, there are step-by-step drawing activities instead..

Each week also has comprehension questions, which can be used a variety of ways:  for written work, a weekly quiz, or orally with a younger student.  Answers are found at the bottom of the week's schedule.  There are not teacher's notes to help you interpret history.  You'll be learning alongside your students as you read together.

My impressions:  We've been using The Well Trained Mind and Story of the World in our homeschool since the beginning of our journey, and I've looked at a lot of homeschool curriculum that attempt to make the Well Tained Mind's take on classical home education easier to implement.  I appreciate the hard work that went into taking Ms. Bauer's work and turning it into something that can be more easily managed on a day-to-day basis. 

Since I haven't actually used this product (and was not asked to use it in our homeschool for review purposes), I can only comment on my observatons of the download after looking it over.  Ms. Williams has clearly stated that this is a guide.  You, the teacher, need to add, subtract and modify any curriculum you use to make it fit your family. 

Therefore, if I were using this in my home school, I would likely tinker with the schedule of the main history reading assignments.  Monday's reading schedule is heavy, especially if I were using this with a primarily younger crowd.  With my early elementary students, I like to spread our readings through the week.

Easy Classical's version will certainly meet the needs of those family' who'd like to add more to their weekly history reading than just SOTW and a library book or two.  Plenty of different kids of reading material (for read-aloud or silent reading, fiction or non-fiction) are given for each topic -- you'll want to check if your library has the resources before purchasing all the suggested one.

It may also meet the need of those families who just need more reminders to stay consistent with copywork, narration and mapwork.  With everything scheduled out so nicely, and graphics to remind you, it is....well......easy.

It will meet the need of those family who'd like to focus and concentrate on US History exclusively for a year.  In my own homeschool journey, I really desired to make my son's 3rd grade curriculum focus just on the United States (at his request: "Mom, I just want to learn about my own country!"), yet I did not have the energy or time to carve out the US chapters from SOTW.  Instead, we went with another curriculum provider that provided a literature-rich US history program -- but we sure missed our SOTW cuddle time!  And, because we were doing something different, we began to fall off the narration/ copywork bandwagon that year.  Using something like Easy Classical would've been a perfect fit for us way-back-when!

However, if you want to take full advantage of the "easy" part of this curriculum (scheduled narrations, writing assignments, geography, etc), you will need to pay for the additional components.  That puts a package price of $135-ish  for a print version, $95-ish  for a digital download version (I tend to go this way, not just because it is less expensive, but because I can print extra copies easier.  However, this often prevents re-selling the guides, so you'll need to make a wise decision here.) Don't forget you'll still need to acquire your reading materials (purchase or borrow).

Easy Classical has also assembled a complete curriculum with all other major subjects as well.  You can learn about that here.

If you'd like to read what others say about Easy Classical, visit TOS's Review Crew here.

FCC note: Thanks to Easy Classical for the opportunity to review their material.  I was given a free digital copy in exchange for my opinions about the program.  No other compensation was awarded.

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