Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Easy Classical

Let me say up front that this will not be an ordinary review.  Rather than receiving a book or product that I can use in lessons with my Schnickelfritz I received a schedule of lesson plans by Easy Classical to evaluate specifically, Early Modern Times: Explorers to 1820.    So how to review a product without actually using it?  I will be sharing with you the questions I ask myself about any new curriculum I'm considerring and using the Early Modern Times as my example.

1.  Does it fit my educating style?   I like to use a combination of Unit Study and Charlotte Mason approaches to teaching Fritz.   I like to combine subjects where possible--history, writing assignments, reading, hands-on crafts, etc.  and I prefer "living books" over text books.  As the company's name suggests, Easy Classical is based on the Classical Education approach espoused by Susan Wise Bauer and The Well Trained Mind.   The grammar stage of a classical education involves learning facts and rules, mostly through written or spoken word and memorizing (not through videos or self-discovery).   Reading through the schedule I do find the use of copywork (a Charlotte Mason technique) and a lot of "living books" I would have selected myself: Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Pocahontas and the Strangers for example.  The schedule, while mostly history, also includes  drawing exercises, geography, writing assignments, and literature for read aloud or free reading time.   In other words, it's a lot like my unit study approach although it lacks science (math and phonics are usually done outside of unit studies anyway).

2. Does it fit my son's learning style?  Schnickelfritz is a kinesthetic learner--he has to be moving in some way to absorb information.  He's not fond of reading himself and if he's listening to me what's often going through his head is "how much longer?'  The books and stories have to be lively to keep his attention and we have to take frequent breaks to bounce on the trampoline etc.  This schedule is HEAVY on reading and reading aloud.  Mondays are especially rigorous with multiple chapters in four different history sources and one or two read aloud books.  There is some project work through the use of History Pockets and a Geography workbook, but this is too much reading for my son at this time.

3. Will this save me time?    I only homeschool one but my time is still precious.   This schedule provides daily assignments for 36 weeks.  Each week includes a list of comprehension questions (and an answer key) so I don't have to make those up myself.  Best of all I think is a post it note in the corner of the schedule with a list of what materials I need to have on hand for the following week.  I don't have to pull out each book and build my own list.  I can gather things up ahead of time so we don't have to stop mid-lesson and look for a hole punch.   There is a book list for Read Alouds, picture books, geography and writing resources and history texts so I don't have to search on my own for books to fit the topic or time period.  Early Modern History covers:  Explorers, Colonies, Colonial America, Road to Independence, Revolution up to Slavery and the Missouri Compromise.

 4. What is the cost?   The schedule is available in digital form for $29.95 and preprinted in a 3-ring binder for $35.95.  Once you have the schedule though, you need to have access to all the materials required in the schedule.  Some are available exclusively through Easy Classical:  Geography with History, Writing with History, and Early Modern History copybook can be bundled with the schedule for $95.95 in digital format and $135.95 for print.  Several of the books are used throughout the 36 weeks so you probably need to purchase these rather than continually check them out of the library.   The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Story of the Great Republic are available through Google books, but the four volumes of A History of US  run about $11 each.  I also checked with my local library to see if they had most of the read aloud and free reading titles.  We have a small rural library and they didn't carry 90% of the books on the reading list.  That means I would have to use inter-library loans and hope they arrived to fit the schedule or make more purchases.  Of course I could substitute titles, but then what is the point of having purchases the schedule in the first place.

5. What is the worldview of the company?   Most of societylives in a compartmentalized world.  Religion, if there is any, belongs in the compartment of Sunday morning.  History and science and math belong in other compartments on other days.  Our family prefers to view everything as being under God's authority--He created everything (science), He is a God of order that allows us to discover the laws and principles of math (2 + 2 always equals 4) and history is HisStory.  I did see where the schedule covers the Great Awakening and the About Us page on the company's website the family describe themselves as church attending Christians.

Because of the heavy reliance on reading and the lack of available books, this curriculum would not be a good choice for our family, but I hope that by taking you through my evaluation questions you will be able to determine if it is a better match for yours.  Easy Classical's website also provides sample pages and book lists.  You can read what my fellow Homeschool Crewmates this of Easy Classical's history schedule by clicking here.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Easy Classical's Early Modern History for the purposes of completing this review.  I received no other compensation.

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