Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: Homeschool in the Woods

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Homeschooling has done more than afford me to teach my children, it's also taught me a lot about myself. One of the more surprising things that I have learned about myself during this homeschool adventure is that I like the arts. I was really surprised when we did our first artist and composer studies to see how much that I enjoyed them. Sure I took art classes during my public school career but paintings, artists, composer studies were not something covered in my public school life.

I was very excited to find out that Homeschool in the Woods was offering us the chance to review some of their activity packs. Seeing as we were currently in-between a composer study I was very excited to be reviewing the Composer Activity Pack.

About Activity Packs

In a nutshell, an activity pack is a unit study in the form of a lap book. The Composer Activity Pack contains six projects that cover various eras from the Middle Ages to Modern times. It includes an introduction to the orchestra, 42 composers, vocabulary, a timeline, and 29 pieces of music in MP3 format.

You get to work on the following projects: Periods of Music, Keyboard Vocabulary, Composer Collection, Composers Timeline, Pieces with a Purpose, Music Appreciation, The Orchestra File Folder Display, and Composer Cards.

It is jam-packed!!!!!

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Our Experience

We received the download version of the activity pack. Each page was a separate PDF file that had to be opened. That was a bit of a pain at first. However once I got to print mode, I found that to be a bonus when I had to print things on different types of paper.

This activity pack can be used in a variety of ways. You could use it as is for an overview. You could add music and reading to it and use it as a long term composer study. I was looking for a long term study so that is how I chose to use it.

The activities contain a very limited amount of information about the topics and composers so you will need to take time to find additional resources, mainly books and additional music. While there are 29 MP3s included, there are 42 composers. We are fortunate to have a lot of resources already, particularly music, so it wasn't that much of a hassle for us. But you should know upfront that you will need to do some sort of research whether from books or on the internet.

Since I planned to use this long term, I decided to start off with the activities that were more of an overview of the history of music. We read books about the orchestra and worked on the interactive orchestra portion.

Next we did the Periods of Music activities.  We talked about the differences between the periods and listened to some samples of music from each period. Then we worked on the timeline so we could see where the different composers fit into history.

The authors recommend doing all of the activities first and then adding them to the lap book all at once. I decided to add them as we went since we will be using it over the next few months. We are an impatient sort and don't like to wait. ;)

Next on our agenda will be to study each of the composers more in depth. We plan on going more in depth than the information provided in the activity pack.  We will be adding in more reading and doing a lot of listening to each composer's music. Mackenzie will be choosing her favorite piece from each composer and filling out the Music Appreciation sheets to keep in her lap book.

We have used Homeschool in the Woods map sets and timeline figures in the past and really enjoyed them.  This activity pack was no exception. The graphics were fabulous, the activities fun, and we are learning. We found the instructions for assembly to be clear and easy to follow.

The only thing I think I would change would be the lack of teaching information. We aren't new to composer studies so we had some available but this might hinder others. I would like see at the very least a list of suggested resources or websites included.

If you are looking for a fun way to include a composer study into your homeschool, and don't mind a trip to the library, then I would definitely consider the Composer Activity Pack.  You will have a lovely keepsake when you are finished.


Website:  http://www.homeschoolinthewoods.com

Age Range: third through eighth grade

Pricing: $18.95 for the download version and $19.95 for the CD


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