Saturday, April 3, 2010

When I grow up, I want to be...A Firefighter - TOS homeschool crew tryout review

I will readily admit that I have never done a unit study with my girls - so when I received When I grow up, I want to be...A Firefighter to evaluate as part of the try-out process for The Old Schoolhouse ("TOS") homeschool crew, I really didn't know how my girls (just-turned 8 and almost 10) would react or whether *I* would like the unit study process.

First, the basics. Produced by, and available from, The Old Schoolhouse (by phone at 1-888-718-HOME; on the web at , the Firefighter study is part of the WannaBe series and is available as an e-book download here for $8.95 (see a sneak peek here). Currently, there are 10 topics available in the WannaBe series:

  • Firefighter,
  • Veterinarian,
  • Chef,
  • Military,
  • Doctor,
  • Police Officer,
  • Missionary,
  • Artist,
  • Pilot, and
  • Farmer.
These titles can be purchased individually ($8.95 each) or as a set of all 10 ($89.50). You can see samples of several of the other titles here. There are no additional materials needed for this study, although it did inspire us to get firefighter books from the library for additional study. (Note to self - always look completely through a resource before using it - if I had known the list of suggested resources was included in the back, it would've made my library search a lot easier.) The study includes activities for ages 4-10 (but notes that it will appeal to all ages).

Now for the fun stuff. Despite TOS' claim that the study would appeal to all ages, I expected my younger daughter to enjoy it more - but I was pleasantly surprised. Both girls engaged in the subject from the start (doesn't everyone have a fascination with fire trucks at some point?). Even *I* learned something on the very first page. On the day we started, I expected to simply get started and do the first few pages, but the girls wanted to continue after my self-imposed "deadline" - so continue we did!

Going through the material inspired my girls to pay more attention to the fire prevention tools in our home. They checked our smoke detector, which led to a check of our carbon monoxide detector *and* a check of the home alarm system itself. We also scheduled our first ever fire drill at the prompting of the girls (thanks TOS!). We actually did this *before* I realized that it's a suggested activitiy in the back.

Pros - what I liked:

  • The footnotes helped us work on vocabulary, and also spurred a discussion on bibliographies and how to reference research papers.
  • The quizzes and questions sprinkled throughout the e-book helped me test the girls' comprehension (and girls thought they were fun), plus sneak a little extra handwriting practice in.
  • I liked the writing prompts. The girls resisted writing stories, but did narrate stories back to me and enjoyed it.
  • The girls *LOVED* the robotics part. They played robots for days! It also opened their eyes (as well as my own) to how much automation is around us. And it led to what i like to call a "rabbit trail" to learn a bit more about robotics - which has resulted in a search for a robotics team/camp for the girls to get involved with.
  • I liked the integration of the math word problems - the girls don't normally like them, but integrated into this study they were a little *less* resistant to them.
  • Loved the list of Bible verses referencing fire! Seems like it would be obvious, but I probably would not have thought to look those up on my own.
Cons - what I tweaked, and suggested improvements:

  • We did not try the diorama. I am not the most creative person, so would have appreciated a sample pic - or even directions!
  • The girls love word searches, but were a bit overwhelmed by the size of the one included in the e-book. I used the puzzle maker referenced in the e-book to make a smaller one.
  • Wish there were more links interspersed within the study (to use for related activities on the pages as you go through the study) rather than simply listed in the back.
  • We all thought it was odd that instead of referring to a fire truck as a "fire truck", they used "apparatus." Of course, now when we see a real fire truck, the girls say "there's an apparatus!"
  • The crossword seemed difficult for the lower age-range given. The girls have never really enjoyed crosswords, so I gave them a list of the words to be used, and that made it much easier.
  • Would be great if there were shorter sentences for cursive copywork - the larger ones overwhelmed my younger, since we've just barely started cursive. The handwriting practice only used single words for cursive, so something in between would be a great addition.
  • Wish there was a bit more about female firefighters for those of us raising girls! Mine particularly wanted to know about the grooming requirements for females to be firefighters. They were also curious about the training/testing requirements for females and whether they were different.
Overall, we really liked this study. Even though I'd never used the unit study method, this e-book convinced me that while I don't use a unit study based curriculum, it makes for a fun and informative break from our every day routine. We will probably purchase several other titles in this series, because it's well worth the very reasonable price!

1 comment:

  1. I've never done a unit study, but this really makes me want to try one with my 8 yr. old son