aug-16

Layers of Learning: A Curriculum for Multiple Ages

Layers of Learning is history-centric, unit study-style curriculum that's great across different age groups

Another school year is about to begin. I can’t wait! For the first time, all three of my children will be homeschooling together. Like many of you, I’m contemplating how to best address my kids’ individual learning styles and interests without breaking the bank buying curriculum. I also know that the lessons and projects we enjoy most tend to be those that we work on together as a family. Both of these factors point to unit studies as an option worth considering.  

Unit studies are a series of activities organized around one theme. Homeschoolers can design their own unit studies or save time by choosing from the enormous range of options that can be purchased. 

For those buying unit studies, the Layers of Learning program may be just what you are looking for. Authors Michelle Copher and Karen Loutzenhiser have created a series of unit studies focusing on history, geography, science, and the arts. Their program is designed for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.   

Year One begins in Mesopotamia and ends with a look at the Roman Empire. Year Two continues from the Medieval Period (400 AD) to the Renaissance. Throughout Year Three, students focus on the Age of Exploration and the Colonial period. Year Four, still in development, will focus specifically on the past 200 years. According to the website, it will be completed this year. 

Here’s how it works. Regardless of age, students begin with Year 1 Unit 1. Each unit takes approximately two weeks to complete and contains a wide range of activities and suggested book titles. Students simple pursue the topics, projects, and readings that are of greatest interest. It takes four years to cycle through these materials once. Upon completing the cycle, students return to Year 1 Unit 1 moving on to some of the more challenging materials included in the unit. In other words, students who begin Layers of Learning as first graders would go on to cycle through the full program 2 more times.  

For this review, I looked at the year two-unit one Layers of Learning guide, which focuses on Byzantines, Turkey, Climate and Seasons, and Byzantine Art.  Jam packed with maps, art, and other eye catching visuals, the unit’s pages are not overly text heavy. Throughout the program, additional information is provided in a series of sidebars with headings like “Fabulous Facts” and “Additional Layer.” The “Teacher Tips” provided in the margins are relevant and helpful. “Writing Workshop" boxes contain writing prompts that will appeal to a wide range of age. 

A booklist with recommended readings connected to the unit’s theme is also included. These book suggestions are grouped for readers in grades 1-4, 5-8, and 9-12. 

Layers of Learning has something for everyone. Each unit includes hands-on activities, creative writing projects, science experiments, and art projects that can be adapted to suit a variety of ages and learning styles. 

In the unit that I reviewed, in order to better organize and assimilate information, students are encouraged to reference a Byzantine timeline. Thoughtful points for discussion are provided and include questions such as “Do you think there should be a state church or state religion? What are the pros and cons of religion mingled with government?”  There is an opportunity to play a traditional Byzantine board game, make Byzantine clothing, and to work on Venn diagrams while exploring the similarities and differences between the Romans and Byzantines. 

The geography section of this unit features hands-on map work, a look at Turkish sports, and the opportunity to prepare a Turkish feast, as well as sections on the Turkish flag. 

Opportunities to make a sundial, keep a weather log, and examine the greenhouse effect are just a sampling of the concepts explored in the science section of this unit. Many of the projects are hands-on and will especially appeal to younger learners. 

A study of Byzantine era art is the perfect launch for a study of mosaics, gold leafing, and embroidery. The authors provide innovative project ideas to cultivate appreciation and understanding of these traditional arts.  

Layers of Learning is a fun and flexible program that can simplify the process of teaching multiple ages. It would work equally well with one child. Families may find working through each of the four-year cycles works best for their situation. However, single units, which can be purchased separately, could also be used as a standalone unit or to supplement another curriculum. 

Visit Layers of Learning’s website to purchase PDF downloads of all available units. These downloads can be ordered separately for $4.99 or in bundles for $78.80. Hardcopy versions are also available from selected retailers listed on the website. 

With the new school year comes inevitable change. Whether you are introducing your new kindergartener to the wonderful world of homeschooling, watching your homeschool grow smaller as older children leave the nest, or find yourself somewhere in between, best wishes for the year ahead. I hope you find curriculum that sparks wonder and curiosity, makes your workload lighter, and most of all brings joy. 

Editor's Note: Rebecca's review focuses on the medieval year, which includes secular science, but we've discovered that some of the Layers of Learning curricula include problematic "neutral science." Because of this, we do not recommend using Layers of Learning for your science curriculum. —Amy


Stuff We Like :: 8.26.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

It’s a big weekend at Casa Sharony! We’re celebrating my son’s 9th birthday with the Pigeon pool games, a lot of Super Mario Maker, his favorite chocolate cake, and (I’m hoping!) lots of cuddles.

around the web

A Breaking Bad writer is not the first writer I’d think of for a new Anne of Green Gables miniseries, but I’ll obviously be watching this when it comes to Netflix.

This cracked me up. (Get it together, Joan of Arc’s parents!)

Secret libraries!

 

at home | school | life

on the blog: I am so inspired by Carrie’s round-up of resources for talking about race with our kids.

on the podcast: While you’re reading this, Suzanne and I will be discussing how to handle it when your homeschooler just plain resists doing the work.

in the classroom: The first day of classes is coming soon! Register now.

on instagram: We might need a bigger art room.

 

reading list

on my night table: Five Children on the Western Front, From the Beast to the Blonde: Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, Zero K

on my 14-year-old’s night table: FukuFuku: Kitten Tales, Princess Jellyfish, Marilee

on my 8-year-old’s night table: Knight’s Castle, B Is for Betsy

together: Johnny Tremain, Henry and Ribsy, The View from Saturday

 

at home

homeschooling: Our homeschool group picked back up this week, and I’m kind of bummed that it doesn’t seem like a good fit for my daughter anymore. Finding a group is so hard, and going back to the drawing board for high school is really stressing me out.

watching: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because people keep telling me it’s the most philosophically interesting Star Trek

knitting: My Elijah is adorable, but I somehow picked up the stitches for the left leg in the wrong place and had to rip that whole leg out and start over. If you pay attention to where you’re picking up stitches instead of getting distracted by Hathaway’s backstory on Inspector Lewis, this patten is surprisingly simple.


It Does Get Easier: Finding More Me Time as the Kids Get Older

Homeschooling stages: making time for self care gets easier as the kids get older (really!)

This morning I met some long-time, female friends for breakfast at a quaint bakery-café in town. This was a luxury for me — both meeting friends and getting to eat at a quaint bakery-café.

I have been meeting with these women off and on for fifteen years. I met them when I was single, in my late twenties, and I taught a journal writing class for the adult community education programs at the university. Basically, for the four of us, the class never ended, but over the years, the group morphed from a writing group to a book discussion group to a woman's group. We just talk about anything! But the glorious thing is that it's an intelligent conversation, and it's not always about children's needs or the ups and downs of homeschooling. If the conversation does go in that direction, then it's me talking because all three of these beautiful women are older than me, and none of them have children.

For several years, we met every month, but then I had my boys. For a while, I tried to bring my eldest to the meetings, but that didn’t last long, and it was impossible after I had two boys. For a few years, we didn't meet at all, and I feared I had lost touch with these creative, insightful women. Then, when my eldest son was old enough to go to summer camp by himself, I asked my husband if he'd keep our youngest for the day so that I could arrange a meeting with my friends. He did. So for the last three years, we have met once a year during summer camp. Yes, only once a year, but that was better than not meeting at all!

This year I realized meeting during the week was a burden to one of the women who works full-time, so I decided to schedule a meeting on Saturday. And then it occurred to me…Saturdays would be good for me too since my husband is off and the boys are more self-sufficient. Hey, maybe I can do this more often.

I always tell parents of very young children that it'll get easier as they get older. I say that even when some things are still hard for me. Although my husband helps a lot, I'm still the major caregiver for the children, and for a long time, I was the only parent my youngest son wanted anything to do with. He is still a mama's boy, but finally he is okay with daddy taking over for part of the day. And my nine-year-old... well, he prefers his dad now. Mama is starting to get boring.

On the rare days I find myself leaving the house alone, I have that heavy feeling of having forgotten something. But it’s really that part of me that wants to stay right here next to my boys.

Before I get all choked up and sad and oh — pooh! *sniff sniff* — I have to remind myself that I actually kind of enjoy having a little more freedom.

But it comes very slowly, and it takes some getting used to. On the rare days I find myself leaving the house alone, I have that heavy feeling of having forgotten something. But it’s really that part of me that wants to stay right here next to my boys. Will they need something that only I can give them? What am I missing if I’m not here?

Then I start driving away from the house, listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and I sigh with relief that no one will interrupt it! It's then that I realize I can and will get used to doing things alone again.

I will start slowly because I am in no hurry for my boys to become completely independent of me. For now, I will begin to get my women’s group together more often. None of our schedules will allow us to meet once a month anymore, but I'm going to try to get us together once every season. 

And maybe, with these intelligent, kind, inspiring women’s help, I will start to find my way again in the world...sans children.


Unit Study Idea: The African-American Struggle for Civil Rights, Past and Present

Unit Study Idea: The African-American Struggle for Civil Rights, Past and Present

Carrie’s family wanted to study the history of civil rights in the United States, and they found the project incredibly rewarding. These were some of their favorite resources.

What’s happening at home | school | life

Our secular homeschool podcast, online classes, book club, new bloggers, and more--a little update from HSL

We’ve been so busy this summer, I thought it might be a good idea to round up all the cool things that have been happening here at home | school | life into one post, in case you’ve missed anything while you were busy with your own summer adventures.

We have a podcast! (It was Suzanne’s idea.) The Podcast with Suzanne and Amy is a fortnightly podcast about the places where home, school, and life intersect, plus lots and lots of book talk. We’ve recorded five episodes so far; you can listen to them here or on iTunes.

We offer a smart, eclectic mix of online classes for late middle school/high school students. We set up these classes to be interest-driven and intellectually rigorous—two things I know I’m always looking for as the parent of a newbie high schooler. I’d love to see them all fill up with awesome kids — for us, these classes are as much about community as about learning about Hamilton. (Not that we’d ever knock our five-dollar Founding Father!)

And speaking of community, we’re pretty thrilled to introduce home | school | life reads, a middle grades book club led by our resident Book Nerd Suzanne Rezelman with optional weekly assignments and a monthly online meeting. We’re kicking things off with The Westing Game as our September read—you should join us!

We’re making a small change to our group subscriptions deal: You can still get a subscription to home | school | life magazine for $10 per person when you subscribe with a group of at least 20 people, but we’ll only be offering the group subscription option in September and January.

We've been adding new stuff to the subscribers’ library all summer. If you’re a subscriber, when you log in, scroll down past the current issue to see what else is available for free download. (And if you’re not a subscriber, you can become one right here.)

You may have noticed that we’ve added some terrific new writers to our blogging team. If you’re catching up on posts, start with the ones from Molly, Carrie, and Cate. (And of course Shelli, Rebecca, and I are still posting, too.)

Because we recognize that we may overstuff your library list now and again, we’ve added a little section to the site where we can let you know when books we’ve recommended on the blog or in the magazine are on sale. We’ll only be posting book deals for books we’ve actually recommended, so it’s not just a willy-nilly books-on-sale list. (Though we appreciate those, too!)

We’re also in the process of updating our Best Cities for Homeschool Families list for 2017—and we’d love your input. Nominate your favorite homeschool city here.

And, of course, we're also hard at work on the most important thing we do here at home | school | life: We're well into work on the fall issue of HSL and look forward to sharing it with our awesome readers in October.

And finally—want to know whenever a new post goes up on the home | school | life website? We've set up a Bloglovin feed that will shoot you an email when we post something new on the blog. There's a sign-up link in the right sidebar, and you can also sign up right here:

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