Monday, May 6, 2013

Homeschool In the Woods ~ "Great Empires" Unit ~

I have previously reviewed a couple of items from Home School in the Woods~  Amy Pak's New Testament Activity Pak in 2009, and Olde World Style Maps in 2010. This year, Crew members were sent one of 3 items for review. I chose to receive the Great Empires Unit to use with my rising 7th grader.

We received a download which includes mini units that give an overview of 14 Empires. Each unit includes:
  • 2-3 pages of text for each Empire
  • an activities/project page that details the unit, and a brief overview of the projects for each unit, as well as additional resources including a variety of books for further research/reading, and a link to internet resources.
  •  4-10 master sheets that can be printed for use by your student, to complete the activities listed on the project page. The projects range from mini-reports, map-work, and hands on/art-ish projects to recipes, timelines, and more.
When the unit is downloaded and unzipped there are a number of files which are extracted. The over-arching document is an html document, "Start.htm" that will open in your browser. This is the central location from which you can access all the files for each Empire (the files are also located in separate folders on your hard-drive, that can be accessed independently from the browser page).

The screenshots to your left show the html view of some of the Empire studies. You can see the "Text" and "Activity" buttons which open up those pages I mentioned above. The light greenish-yellow buttons are for the actual worksheets/map files, etc, and the dark brown are the "Teacher Keys" for the maps, which can be used as a guide for your student when doing their own map work, or simply as a key.

Clearly, some units have more activities and/or printables than others (compare the Viking Empire to the US...)

Empires covered in this study include:  
Some of the projects and pages from the study
  • Ancient Egypt 
  • Ancient Greece 
  • Ancient Rome
  • Ancient China
  • Arab-Muslim Empire
  • Mongolian Empire
  • Viking Empire
  • Spanish Empire
  • French Empire
  • English Empire
  • German Empire
  • Japanese Empire
  • Russian Empire 
  • The United States of America
Because we aren't doing Ancient History at this point in time, and because we didn't really know a lot about the Mongolian Empire, that is the unit we chose to start with.

There is a lot of material covered in the included texts (again, generally about 2-3 pages for each empire). I appreciate the way the texts are written in a fairly conversational manner, although I will note that the pages of text are fairly "dense" in content, so if you have a struggling reader, or student with a reading disability you will want to adjust for that.

Labeled map for Spanish Empire Unit
Middlest enjoyed the fact that while some projects remained similar throughout (ie... mapping and recipes are found in each unit), there was variation as well... report pages in one unit, cut and paste historic figures in another, and even a game in the USA unit (We haven't gotten to that unit, but I'm looking forward to it).

My son also liked the "compactness" of each unit~ he thought it was neat that I could print everything up for the unit, put it in a folder, hand it to him, and he was pretty much good to go~ The activities are certainly independent at his age.

While I appreciate the artwork in general (that is one of the things that has drawn me to Amy Pak's products from the beginning), he was less enamored of at least one of the "coloring pages" that was war related~ didn't feel like focusing on that theme was something he was interested in doing. He also doesn't tend to be much of a war-monger, so the aspect of "empires" that by necessity encompasses "War" was not his favorite thing about the study (however, I know a slew of boys that would devour that sort of information).

Lest you get the idea that this is more of a "Boy" than "Girl" curriculum (and at the risk of making gender generalizations),  I need to point out that the unit as a whole is well balanced ~ for instance the Japanese unit does contain a fair amount of information on the shoguns and the samurai, for the more "warrior-minded," but there are also a couple of kirigami paper projects for the artists among us.

(Clean copy comes with the download~I added pixels here)
The recipes included are nicely representative of the countries. I do have to admit that I didn't use any of them during our review time.  Partially because life has been crazy, and dinners are often crockpot-style, and then "something with the leftovers" or "slap-together-a-sandwich" because baseball season has arrived, joining the already busy dance schedule. The other reason is that we tend to be a fairly adventurous family when it comes to eating, and many of the recipes are for meals or dishes that we are already familiar with. However, if you come from a more "meat and potatoes" sort of background, I think the recipes we saw would be a fun way to stretch your family's culinary horizons (and really... how can you go wrong with a rice pudding, scones, or a family favorite, often requested in March, bubble and squeak???

Every item that I have seen from Home School In The Woods contains the same wonderful illustrations that can add such a lovely and gracious touch to your home school portfolio. Every time I look through them I just want to sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy the artwork. :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Lap-Pak: The 20th Century 

Activity-Pak: Composers
If you would like to read what others had to say about the Great Empires Unit as well as Hands-On History Lap-Pak: The 20th Century in America  and Hands-On History Activity-Pak: Composers , please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew. If you have a minute or two more, and you haven't already done so, scroll back to the top of the page to visit the links to my previous Home School In The Woods reviews as well.

As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.



  1. Homeschool in the Woods has such beautiful products, don't they? Thanks for showing this one in detail!


Thanks so much for letting me know you were here. I appreciate "thoughtful" comments. :)



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