Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Homeschool Legacy: Birds of a Feather - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

This month my son and I had the opportunity to use a unit study created by Homeschool Legacy, called "Birds of a Feather", by Sharon Gibson.

Birds of a Feather is an interesting combination of  Nature Study, Science, fun, and Heritage Girls/Boy Scout Badge work. This book is available from Homeschool Legacy for $15.95. It is a four-week study that works for grades 2 through 12. This is where I would normally tell you whether it is paperback or hardback (I think it is paperback), and how many pages it has in it. The reviewers actually received this as a PDF download (which you cannot buy), so I don't have firm information on the paperback or the number of pages. My download has 56 pages.

The activities in this unit study are designed so that they can be done with one child, or with many. These unit studies are designed to be a great diversion from the normal textbooks of the rest of your year.

The pages of the book include information about the various available unit studies; badge information for Heritage Girls and Boy Scouts; ideas on how to use this study to count as a 4-H Project; ideas for how to schedule your unit study time; information on how to be a good steward; a list of online resources; a list of read-aloud titles to consider and choose from (or substitute), according to what you and your library  have, as well as the age(s) you are reading aloud to; and "Getting the Most Out of Your Once-a-Week Unit Study".
The Birds of a Feather week titles are:
  1. Bird Basics and Your Backyard Habitat;
  2. Bird Identification;
  3. Ornithology; and,
  4. Birds of Prey.
Within each week's pages you will find:
  • Library Video suggestions;
  • read aloud and non-fiction title suggestions;
  • project idea supply list(s);
  • suggested daily and weekly activities.
Activities are labeled for their activity type: Family Devotional; Science; Language Arts; Research; Art; Just for Fun; Field Trip; Movie Night;  and Boy Scout badge credit/Heritage Girls badge credit.
The unit study format gives the individual family complete freedom of choices as they work their way through each week's ideas and suggestions.  There are activities to choose from, read aloud books to choose from (or to substitute others for, if your library doesn't have the suggested titles). There are art ideas, hands-on ideas, lessons to teach your students about ornithology and scientific classification.

Our work on Birds of a Feather began before we actually got JD into a Scout troop, and he is still so new in Scouting that we're going to have to go back and do some of this again in order for him to get his Bird Study badge. (You have to do the activities while you are a Scout for them to count towards the badge.)
As September rolled in, we had a lot of competing "noise" going on with starting our new school year, joining a new 4-H Club, a new Scout troop, and boatloads of wonderful review products to weave into our life. I wondered how we would do with Birds of a Feather. My son is almost 13, and I am trying to help him learn to be a bit more independent in some of his studies. He has tendencies toward ADD/ADHD, though, and while leading him towards independence, I still currently need to diligently monitor to keep him on task and undistracted.
We began our study by evaluating our bird feeding station. We get a lot of bird activity here, but there are still a lot of improvements we could make.
We could have a bird bath... Would it be worth it? We are constantly trying to combat standing water to minimize the mosquito population. We could come up with a platform feeder... but the ground and flat feeders usually just eat the seed that the feeder birds drop down onto the deck. I could mount my hummingbird feeder... But I knew I wasn't ready to commit to the amount of work that entails, and that is why I hadn't put it up.
We did learn something very important that we hadn't known -- we need to clean out our feeder regularly. It sometimes gets some rain inside it, and it currently has little sprouting seedlings under all the seed, so it needs to be cleaned out before it gets filled again.
Well, when it came to the first week's activities, JD started strong, taking a big project on all by himself and getting it up and running. First my son created a scare crow by stuffing newspaper into some of his clothes.
He created a head by stuffing a winter mask-hat with newspaper, and then cut and glued from magazines to create eyes, nose and mouth!

Then he had to have some fun. His creation "attacked" him, and he made me take pictures. (Enjoy!)

Anyway, back to our previously-scheduled review. The plan for the dummy was to set him up in our bird feeding area with a tray of food on his lap. As the birds become accustomed

to seeing "him" there, they get comfortable with the idea, and they go back to their feeding. You do this for several days, and then, one day, you take the "dummy" back inside and then have your student get dressed in the dummy's clothes and then go sit in place of the dummy and wait patiently for the birds to come back and start eating off the tray. (You can also have dummy and then student wear a hat with a brim, and sprinkle the brim with bird seed so they will come eat off the hat.)

Sadly, my son's impatience kicked in before we could successfully accomplish the goals. He was not happy that it was taking the birds so long to decide to eat off the tray, and he pulled the dummy in, dissected him, and got the clothes back for his wardrobe. (This not before neighbors, several times, stood calling to JD over the fence -- once at 6:15 a.m. -- wondering why he wouldn't answer them!)
We also really loved rereading The Wheel on the School, which we read in our Ambleside Online studies years ago, but so long ago that I knew JD would remember it fondly, but not remember it well.

During our time doing this unit study, we had lots of fun learning about the birds that were visiting our back yard: chickadees; wrens; house sparrows; house finches; Northern cardinals; mourning doves; nuthatches; and... squirrels! :)

There are so many activities that we did, but so many more that we did not do, that I plan to go through this study again so that we can catch the rest of the stuff that we missed the first time, and so JD can get his Bird Study Badge. I am certain that once JD understands that his working through this unit study (again) will get him a badge, he will be ready to jump in and tackle the rest of it with renewed enthusiasm.

As unit studies go, I have to tell you that Birds of a Feather is a good one, and I am inclined to believe that the other unit studies available from Homeschool Legacy are probably also winners. Homeschool Legacy also carries the following unit studies:  Forest for the Trees; Horsing Around; Weather on the Move; Knights and Nobles; Native America; Early Settlers; American Revolution; Your Constitution; Lewis and Clark; and Christmas Comes to America (prices vary).

As unit study style education goes, I will confess that, in general, doing unit studies as JD gets into higher level education... really stresses me. I guess that, in general, I am probably just not a unit study type of person. I do a lot of nature studies, and Birds of a Feather incorporates a lot of materials that are very compatible with what we normally do in our schooling, but doing the unit study was very difficult for me. I have been homeschooling for 21 years and haven't done unit studies since... I guess 15 years ago (early elementary), and at this point, and in the state I now live in with its restrictive laws, it is just not a good fit for me and my school. As individual activities within the unit study go, though, JD loved them!

Some nitty gritty:

  Birds of a Feather can be used without purchasing any additional items, or you can choose to purchase things to go with it. You can make substitutions, go the library, or you can buy lots of stuff to supplement. It’s up to you.

  The study advertises itself as needing no teacher prep. It is my opinion that it does constitute teacher prep when you want to look at the material and make sure you have the books you plan to read, or the materials you need to let your students accomplish activities. I call it “minimal teacher preparation required”.

  This unit study is suitable for all learning types. Visual types have so many ways they can learn in this unit – reading about the birds, watching the birds; auditory learners can learn while mom reads out loud, and can learn to recognize different birds by their bird calls; tactile learners can learn by doing the fabulous hands-on activities.

  This product is, in general, not a consumable item. There are some pages that could be written on, but they can be copied (allowed by publisher) so that the book stays clean and reusable.

  This product is Christian in nature, but not in a way that would offend Catholic believers.
My son really liked the activity with the "scarecrow" (he thought it was creepy, but he liked it). But he said he didn't care for the rest of it. (That doesn't mean your child won't like it. It means my son is difficult to please.)

DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a digital download copy of Homeschool Legacy's Birds of a Feather, in exchange for my honest, uninfluenced review. The opinions expressed herein are my own. I was not told what to say.
This has been a Schoolhouse Crew Review.

To see more Schoolhouse Crew Reviews of Homeschool Legacy, click below:


  1. LOVE the scarecrow, and the photos...We love birds here; I think I'm going to have to check this one out.

  2. Thanks. The suggested activity said leave the scarecrow out for days, watching as the birds become comfortable with it being there. Then, days later, after the birds have started landing on the lap, the tray, maybe on a hat with a brim with food on the brim, then take the scarecrow inside, unstuff it, put the clothes on your child, and put your child outside. Child sits still for at least 20 minutes. Birds come back, assume it is the scarecrow, and start landing on the child, eating off the tray, etc.

    My son couldn't even wait for the birds to eat off the tray of the scarecrow, let alone sit still for them to eat off a tray on his own lap. Really weird, too, because he's done that before with pigeons in the city. This time he just had no patience.