Unit studies are fun, and a great way to learn and retain information. One of the things I try to avoid though, is the temptation to build shallow units mainly around fun art projects and themed snacks. (Although I do like to include those things when I can.) Ultimately, I believe the backbone of a good unit study is a good book, or more commonly a lot of good books.
If you really want to know about a particular culture or time period, there's really no better way to learn about them than reading books from and about the subject at hand. Using those books for context, the art projects, and snacks, and all the other components of a typical unit study come together for a deeper, more meaningful experience.
It can be time consuming and at times difficult to obtain old, sometimes out of print books via inter library loan. Some old books, whose copyrights have expired are available for free on the internet, but you have to find them, and sometimes contend with awkward formatting and typographical errors.
We were recently sent the Ancient Greece Classical Curriculum CD from Heritage History to review. As you'll see, it greatly reduced the effort in finding good, appropriate, thematic books.
Heritage History provides History curriculum to homeschoolers, with an emphasis on real literature. Their Heritage Classical Curriculum CDs are essentially a digital library of so called "living books," which include fictional, biographical, and historical accounts, suited for a variety of ages. In addition, each CD includes a large number of "extras," which include maps, study guides, recommended reading lists, etc. There are currently 5 Classical Curriculum CDs available. (Four of them cover particular clutural histories. The last is a historical overview for younger students.) Each CD costs $24.99. (In addition to these CDs, you'll also find on the site that you can purchase teaching guides and e-books individually, as well as read the ebooks in their entirety for free, albeit in a less convenient format.)
The books on the CD are formatted in several different ways, as printable PDFs, and in two different e-reader formats to enable reading on the go. (I'm a noted technophobe, but the instructions walked me through the process of downloading the books onto my phone without too much pain and suffering.)
I've obviously not had time to read through the 40+ books included in their entirety, but I've surveyed a number of them, and was very impressed. The formatting is clear and easy to read, and many of the books include some illustrations, (a major plus for most young kids like mine.)
The books are color coded on the CD, to help you choose the appropriate reading level for your student. (They're divided into three groups, "beginner," "intermediate," and "advanced.") There is no specific age guideline for the product, and I had a hard time trying to come up with one. My soon to be second grader could read and enjoy some of them, others would be way over his head. (He probably reads a year or two ahead of his grade level, though.) Obviously a child would need to be reading well to be able to enjoy the stories, unless you're planning on reading them aloud, so for me the main consideration wouldn't be age, but reading ability.
The books themselves cover a range of topics, some of which should appeal to almost anyone. There are stories about military conquests, mythology, (of course,) and several pieces of classic literature, retold for a younger audience.
My husband and I were both fascinated by the old maps of the known world at various times included on the CD. Those are the the things that make history really come alive!
The Classical Curriculum Cds aren't meant to be a full, stand alone history curriculum. As I've said, I believe they lend themselves nicely to unit studies, with the addition of other activities and resources, but ultimately, they could go alongside nearly any other history curriculum.
I'd highly recommend this product to families looking to build their educational experience around a foundation of good books. I'm actually interested in buying several other editions for future use. They're currently having a really good sale now, by the way. (Buy two, get the third CD free.)
To find out what other families thought of this product, check out the linky on the TOS review crew blog.
Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of this curriculum in order to facilitate this review. No other compensation was provided, and all opinions are my own.