I have always been an eclectic homeschooler, using a variety of styles to suit our needs. One of the things I like to include in our learning is unit studies, especially for specific topics, like holidays. For this review, we got to check out the White House Holidays Unit Studies from Silverdale Press LLC. They offer a variety of studies on a number of holidays but for our review we focused on two of my favorites, Christmas and Thanksgiving!
The studies are set up for grades K-12 with different activities for grades K-6 and grades 7-12, so you could easily do these with multiple grade levels if you have a large family. They are also completely self-contained, so you do not need any additional books to complete the activities. However, you can certainly add books from the library on the topics you are studying if you wish. Some of the activities do require art supplies, but a list of required materials is given at the beginning of each lesson so it is pretty easy to go through these ahead of time and gather everything you need before you get started.
So, the Thanksgiving unit study is fairly short, consisting of only five lessons, each of which could pretty much be completed in one sitting. If you wanted to extend it out to one lesson per week so you could make it last the whole month of November you could do the reading portion one day, the activities another, and then add in some additional library reading on the other days. For me, I would probably just devote one of our schooling days to the unit study.
Lessons focus on the history of the holiday and American traditions, including those involving Presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Students will read portions of Plymouth Plantation, make presentations about things they are thankful for, illustrate poems, and analyze primary source documents. I appreciate how this study gets into the history of how celebrating the harvest was so important in America and also taught me some things that I didn’t know such as why the date for Thanksgiving was moved (I truly had no idea about the controversy surrounding the date in the first place). It also includes some recipes, two from Mamie Eisenhower! I feel like this was a very interesting study and that my son and I both learned a lot from it.
The Christmas Unit Study features four lessons, which makes it perfect to roll into right after you finish the one from Thanksgiving! However, it does offer quite a few more activities, so you will probably need to spread them out over the week. As I said, you can certainly add more by checking out books from the library to read to or with your kids if you want, but everything you need is contained right here in the study itself. Each lesson in this study is unique, as it focuses on a First Lady (Jacqueline Kennedy, Betty Ford, Barbara Bush, and Michelle Obama) and their take on the White House Christmas for that year. I really found this one interesting.
In this study you and your children will learn how the tradition of decorating the White House around a theme began and create some of your own special designs. You will also get opportunities to bake, do art projects, and reach out and help others. The study starts with Jacqueline Kennedy’s Nutcracker Suite Christmas. There are links for you to listen to music from the ballet as well as an audio recording of the book. You could also buy tickets to go see the ballet in person if they are available near you.
You will also do a detailed study about the White House Nativity scene and get a chance to create your own as well as read President Kennedy’s speech from when he lit the first National Christmas Tree. Learning about the simple Christmas that Betty Ford had in the White House was very special, and the activities for that lesson lend themselves to a lot of family fun (making popcorn garlands, gingerbread houses and cookies, and cranberry trees). Plus, your house will be fully ready for the holiday season!
Some of the service activities involved in the Christmas unit study include adopting a family in need and visiting a Salvation Army store. You will also do a fair amount of internet research for this study as well. Before they complete the study students will get a chance to practice persuasive writing skills (writing a letter to the White House), track Santa, debate real vs. fake Christmas trees, and a whole lot more. This study really does have a real depth to it and is a lot of fun.
Some other observations about the White House Holidays unit study: it is set up to easily divide the activities between grade levels. You read the same lesson to your kids, but the amount of questions they answer or the activities they do will vary by age, I think this is great because it makes it really easy to do with all your kids at once. While I did not get into the other unit studies, I did take a peak at them, and they all look to be set up similarly, and they look just as fun! I am pretty sure we will hit all of them over the next year.
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To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product and the others we got to check out, click here: