Our normal school days have very little variety. We do math and language arts and Bible lessons, and read stories set in historical times, trying to get a grasp on what happened back then. When the chance came along to review a product from Home School In the Woods, I decided it would be good for all of us to do something different, so I requested The Early 19th Century from their Time Travelers U. S. History Studies line. I knew the school holidays were coming up, and while we don’t normally take any time off, a friend was coming to stay a week with the boys, so I thought we’d take time off our regular school and do this course during that time. Since it took longer than that to do the course, we just cut out other things from our normal days for a few weeks and spent a lot of time doing this.
When I received The Early 19th Century, it took a little while to figure out how to use it. There were so many different folders and PDF files I was confused! Finally, I figured out that the first step was to print the text and project PDF for a lesson, and then I would be able to figure out which masters we needed for the particular lesson. That made it much easier! I just printed, each evening, what we needed for the next day. The instructions for the projects are simple and easy to follow. Each morning when we did a lesson, I read the text aloud while the children started coloring and cutting out the day’s projects. We aimed to spend an hour a day on this course, although it often ended up being an hour and a half. This shows us, the night before we started, sorting pages out and getting ready to start.
The course is laid out in 25 daily lessons. Every 5th lessson is a catch-up day, where you simply finish the projects for the week. Day 23 is another of those, and Day 24 is when you assemble a lot of the things you did into a lap-book. We did that yesterday. On Day 25, you are supposed to have a Chuck Wagon Dinner, and invite grandparents or friends to show off what you learned—we probably won’t do anything for that. We did most of the projects, although there were a few for which I couldn’t easily find the needed materials, so we just skipped them. Each of the catch-up days includes a few recipes for foods that would have been eaten in the first half of the 19th Century. I’m keeping those in mind for possible future use.
A wide range of subjects were covered in this course. Some were fairly common topics, such as the war between Texas and Mexico, which included the Alamo, or the Erie Canal, and some were things I knew very little about—like the Tripolitan War with the Barbary Pirates. One lesson was devoted to learning about the presidents who held office during the early 1800s, and another briefly covered a number of other famous people from that era. One lesson talked about the mountain men, there were two lessons about the pioneers, and one talked about the gold prospectors. The last lesson talks about slavery in America up to 1850.
Every lesson has copywork, which is sentences from McGuffey’s reader. We didn’t do this, since the boys all have penmanship practice in their language arts books. Almost every day, we also put some pictures on our timeline. Throughout the course we added to a songbook of early American songs. Some were ones we read about in the Little House books, so it was fun to hear them (I looked the songs up on YouTube and we listened to them; if the words weren’t clear, I read the songs aloud.)
A lot of the projects are simply cutting out mini-books and pasting them together; of course, we read the text blocks together. I liked the ones where they had to write something about the topic, but the boys didn’t! We each put together a timeline of American history from 1790-1850, and made a map with different layers to show the growth of the United States from 1800-1850. That was fun; I’ve always liked the maps like that in the encyclopedia, and now we know how we can make them ourselves. We didn’t quite get this project finished; we may come back and do it yet. There were also a few projects like pretending to pan for gold or make a Mexican serape, which we didn’t do. Here is Little Miss’s version of the quilt pattern we colored in.
This project was fun. They each wrote several sentences about the mountain man/explorer inside the minibook, and then added something to the picture to make it 3-dimensional. The suggestion for Jedidiah Smith was to glue fur on, but we didn’t have any—so I grabbed the clippers and cut Mr. Sweetie’s hair!
By far the favorite project was the jumping jack. This was based on toys that early Americans would have made, and everyone had great fun putting theirs together and playing with it! The model log cabins were fun, too. The hardest project we did was a “Daguerrotype Photo Album.” It took us a week just to do that one project! The instructions said to print the pictures for it on ivory paper, but we didn’t have any, so we printed them on white paper. Then, we brewed some strong black tea, dipped the paper in it, and dried it on top of the wood stove. To make the pictures look old, we tore around them. Then, we were to glue them onto foil-covered card stock and into the album, and write about each of the people. Since there are 17 pictures, it took awhile!
There are pros and cons to using this course. Some of the pros, for us, would be that it gave us something different to do in the middle of the school year. The boys all liked that they had only math or language arts to do in a day, not both. They also enjoyed making things from paper. It gave us some art/craft time, which we don’t tend to get otherwise. We learned new techniques for making things from paper (I learned that none of them had heard of scoring cardstock for folding it!), and they practiced coloring and making things look as nice as possible. They also learned what two-sided tape is and how to use it.
As far as cons, the biggest one would be all the printing. I spent a lot of time at it, trying to get the cardstock printed correctly (I now know a lot more about the innards of the printer than I did before!). It also cost a lot to do that printing. We went through about a ream of paper, since I was making five copies of everything, and had to buy extra cardstock, which, where we live, is hard to find and expensive. I was glad when Esther found a place we could order it online!
Overall, I’m happy that we used this course. It’s not the way we normally do history, and we would have gotten more out of it if we had done it more slowly and read books to go along with the supplied text. However, we’ll be going through that era slowly within the next year, so we’ll be referring to our projects at times. If we hadn’t gone through it as fast as we did, we never would have finished it, knowing us! If you and your children enjoy hands-on activities to go along with historical studies, try out the Time Travelers line of products. They are well-done and we really enjoyed what we did. Or, if you’re not sure whether this type of study is for you, this would be a good way to find out! And, here’s an interesting blog post I found about this series, which explains why the publisher pulled it together and some of their thoughts about how to use it.