Tuesday, July 6

Studying the Middle Ages with Homeschool In the Woods {Review}

Disclaimer: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew
Home School in the Woods is a long-time favorite vendor of this history-loving family!  We've used them as supplements to our regular curriculum, as well as for targeted unit studies.  During the several weeks that we spent on the palliative care ward recently, we used the Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages from the Project Passport series as a way to get some summer studies time in while keeping the kids occupied during long days.
The Middle Ages focuses on life during medieval times, class systems, Vikings, knights and castles, the Crusades, battles, inventions, herbs, church history, and much more!  Project Passport also covers Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and the Renaissance -- we've used a few eras and enjoy all of them.  It's suggested for grades 3-8, but can be tailored a bit to make it friendly for all ages in the family.  It should take about eight weeks to complete the full study.

When you get the product, it downloads in a zip file which opens into a whole lot of smaller files.  It's a bit of a pain because there are so many files, BUT it's also a good thing because it gives me the option to print only those things that we'll need.  In some cases, there is a choice of color or black and white graphics.  I usually choose B&W to save on print costs.  

Once it was all printed out, I spent an evening putting together a binder and backpack for us to take back and forth to the hospital.  I divided the binder into three sections: our daily 'stops,' projects that would be used each day, and projects that are only used once (see top right image on collage above).  After doing a few of these Project Passports, we've found that this system of organization works best for us.  

Project Passport features twenty-five ‘stops,’ each featuring a different aspect of life in the Middle Ages.  At each stop, there is a selection of text and activities to accompany it – including timeline work, arts and crafts, and newspaper writing.  Some of the stops also have an ‘audio tour,’ which is like a short audiobook to go with it.  The audio tours are one of our favorite features of the program!

There are teacher files in the unit that will talk you through completing your first Project Passport as a family.  These contain tips and suggestions for a smoother, more fun experience.  This section also has suggestions for read-alouds, quiet reading, and movies to supplement your unit.  

I like to look at the overview of all stops (see bottom right image on collage above) to see what we'll be covering each day, and also to make sure that we have any necessary supplies.  One handy tip for you -- at the bottom of each activity sheet is a number.  This code tells you which stop (the first number) and which page of that stop (the second number) the sheet corresponds with (see bottom left image on collage above).  Should your pages get scrambled, it's very easy to quickly find what you need!

One of our favorite aspects of Project Passport are the incorporated hands-on projects!  Admittedly, we had a bit tougher time doing some of them, as we were working within the confines of a waiting room for the majority of our time, but we found some workarounds....

Moving clockwise in the collage above:

  • We colored and cut out figurines to act out some homemade (and humorous!) plays about life in the middle ages.
  • The boys had a good excuse to put together their Lego Viking ship and sail it.  There is a make-your-own, paper Viking ship included with the unit, but they were inspired to put together the Lego one instead.
  • Stained glass windows are a hallmark feature of medieval architecture, and we were able to design a beautiful church front!
  • There are several cooking recipes included in the daily stops, such as barley soup, herb bread, gingerbread, roasted chicken, and meat pies, but the only one we had a chance to make this time was gruel...which is really a more primitive form of oatmeal.  The cooking projects are amazing, and I highly recommend that you do several!
  • Make your own coat-of-arms.  We studied the symbolism behind coats of arms and then the boys had a chance to design their own.
  • The rose mosaic project was altered a bit, as we couldn't use tiles, but did use crayons to design a beautiful rose.  There were a couple of instances where we substituted crayons for tiles, paints, or pastels in the name of keeping it simple for the circumstances.
  • Pilgrims (think pilgrimages, not Thanksgiving) often wore badges to indicate that they'd been on a long, personal journey.  We figured we were all pilgrims, and made some badges from tin foil!
  • Other (not pictured) projects include - learning about medicinal herbs, making rosewater, creating a Bayeaux Tapestry, making a castle keep, vocabulary cards, and a very thorough board game that is a lot of fun to play and review Middle Ages facts!!

Honestly, this was an odd summer for our family.  We spent several weeks in palliative care as Dad came to the end of his battle with cancer.  This project was a blessing in that it gave us something portable that both entertained and educated the boys (and some cousins)...which in turn helped them to be more patient with the long days, which in turn helped the adults to focus on 'adult things.'  Should your family find itself in a similar situation, I recommend this type of product for your schooling.  It's easy to carry, covers history, science, and language arts, and can be tailored to the supplies you have on-hand.

If you're not in the market for an entire unit study, check out their new Timeline Sets, including Creation to Christ and American History.

Peek inside the Time Travellers series - World War 2 in the video below!

See what others are saying about Home School in the Woods over at the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

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