Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Birds of a Feather Review

My kids love watching the birds. We always feed them at home, but it's a real treat to watch them at my parents' house, where my mom has multiple feeders and dozens of birds at any given time. The kids can recognize a handful of birds and like using an app on the iPad to try to call the birds to our house and to learn more about them. I knew my little ones would appreciate reviewing the unit study Birds of a Feather.

Why has Sharon Gibson from Homeschool Legacy created a Once-A-Week unit study on birds and many other topics? Well,  a unit study is a comprehensive way to learn about a topic. In order to fully understand all aspects about it, you immerse yourself in it and apply that topic to all subjects--science, language arts, literature, math, history, Bible, music, art, etc.. This method helps you learn more, retain it longer, and have fun while doing it.

Since this is a once-a-week study, you study it--yep, you guessed it--once a week. All the planning has been done for you. There is a lengthy list of books and videos at the beginning of each week's plans that corresponds to that week's topic. The list is in numerical and alphabetical Dewey decimal order for you to easily find the books from the library. Also, even if your library doesn't have those certain books, you can use the Dewy Decimal numbers to find the proper section where like books can be found. The suggested study schedule is to read the chosen books daily, complete your regular studies 4 days a week, and only this unit study 1 day a week, along with another day for a complimenting field trip and family movie/game night. A typical unity study day will consist of a family devotional, the chosen reading material, and any accompanying activities.

The study is written in a way that makes it very easy to follow. Everything is listed out for you: the book and video selections, the supplies needed, simple illustrations, and all the directions and explanations for the activities. There are even clickable links in the study itself that take you directly to the listed videos and sites, making it as simple as possible to complete.

Each week is broken down into specific topics:
Week 1: Bird Basics and Your Backyard Habitat
Week 2: Bird Identification
Week 3: Ornithology
Week 4: Birds of Prey

The first week, we had so much fun expanding our habitat. We went to the store and picked out new seed and even some mealworms (gross!). Then we came home and got to work. Once we finished, we eagerly awaited the flock of birds that was sure to come. And then we watched squirrel after squirrel enjoy the feast. It was funny watching them balance and scurry to get to the food. Eventually we did get our birds. Yay!

The second week, the kids enjoyed working on their nature journals. We learned about the criteria for identifying birds, their parts, and specific types. This was also a big week for the bird app.

Week 3 had us learning about birds in more depth. Bones, feathers, eggs, and migration kept my kiddies interested and busy.

The final week taught them the difference between endangered, threatened, and extinct. It's also the week when the real fun happens: dissecting an owl pellet. Since we have done that before, we decided to skip it this time. That didn't stop us from reminiscing about how much fun it was and looking through the pictures though.

These unit studies are good for not only school, but for earning badges for Boy Scouts, American Heritage Girls, and 4H, as well. There are directions for a simple bird bath, a recipe for making bird cupcakes, and many other activities that can be completed for credit.

My kids greatly enjoy hands-on learning. I am determined to use unit studies more this year. These from Homeschool Legacy are fun, cover a wide-range of activities, can be used with multiple ages, and are meant for the entire family. Of course, this is only a 4 week study. If you want to dig even deeper into the topic, there are plenty of book titles listed that would easily help you find information. My kids would sit and listen to me read all day if we could. I especially appreciated the living book choices. Reading a book that is above their heads gives us the perfect opportunity to stop and explain and learn even more. Sure, it takes a lot longer to finish a book, but our goal is not to see how many books we can knock out in a year. Our desire is to teach our children and give them a well-rounded education.

We have thoroughly enjoying using this study. Even though it's geared for grades 2-12, it's worked well with my little ones (prek, 1 gr, 4 gr). I like when we can adapt something to be used by the whole family together. Even my 3-year-old has joined in on some of the fun. He's always pointing out "our state bird!" every time he sees a robin. When the kids start applying the information into every day life, you know that the curriculum has done its job.

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You can read more reviews of this study or one of the other many options on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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