Friday, February 27, 2009

Review: Cadron Creek--Further Up and Further In

Further Up and Further In, a literature-based unit study, takes you through the entire Chronicles of Narnia series in one school year.

Published by Cadron Creek, this award-winning study weaves together a wide variety of subjects including; history, mythology, geography, science, literature, practical living, health and safety, cooking, some art and music, and whole lot of Scripture. However, as is typical with unit studies, you’ll want to add your own math, grammar and spelling programs to round everything out.

Now, I’m personally a big fan of unit studies. They make educating my three kids so much easier!

I’ve used a few packaged unit studies in the past, but soon learned the art of creating my own. However, that beauty soon faded when I became frustrated by my lack of ideas over what to do each day. I slowly came to the realization that I needed a daily lesson plan; one that I didn’t have to write!

Thankfully, this lovely product caters to type A people such as myself. In fact, this is one of the most organized and well put together programs I’ve seen in a long time.

Further Up and Further In is a 28-week study, divided into seven units. Each unit corresponds with the seven Narnia books.

Each Unit is sub-divided into four sections, with a detailed Planning Guide located at the beginning of each section. This Planning Guide lists any additional resources you may need (videos, books, craft supplies) to complete that section’s activities, and provides related field trip suggestions.

These resources are pretty inexpensive, and can be easily obtained through your local library, book/craft/grocery stores, as well as online.

Daily lessons are provided by chapter, and are completely laid out for you. (Insert Snoopy Dance here.) So aside from gathering supplemental materials, your job is done. No muss, no fuss! Not only that, but the assignments are categorized by subject, making record keeping a snap.

While there are copious amounts of activities suggested, none are absolutely required. You’re free to decide which one(s) to complete, according to your family’s needs and preferences. Each day's assignments will take you approximately 2-3 hrs to complete, based upon the amount of activities you choose.

The generous Appendices Section includes the following lists:

• Subjects Covered—listed by book and chapter

• Activities—games, crafts and recipes (you’ve got to check out the “Decadent Hot Cocoa”!)

• Recommended Reading—one scientific topic, plus several works from Literary Greats such as Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennyson, Dickinson and Shakespeare.

• Resources—lists the best places to obtain items listed in each Planning Guide

• Answer Keys—covers crossword puzzles, vocabulary words, etc.

The author, Diane Pendergraft and editor, Margie Gray, designed this study to meet the needs of typical students in grades 4-8. Yet with a little creativity, it can be adapted for both older and younger students. This is something I had to do for my youngest daughter, Abby, and it worked out very well.

To be honest, I’d never read the Narnia books before now, and neither had my youngest two children. (My oldest read them a few years ago.) They had all seen the movies of course, and never complained about them. So naturally, I thought this would be rather fun for them.

Well, imagine my surprise when they informed me that they hated the movies, found them completely boring, and had no interest whatsoever in reading the books. (Yikes!)

Obviously, they had little choice in the matter, as honorary reviewers. (Grins) And by the time we made it through the second chapter, Abby was begging to “do more school” each day. Ha! How do you like that? Eventually Ethan gave up his prejudices too, and came to appreciate both the unit study and the Narnia series. (Sierra thought it was all pretty cool, too.)

While I thoroughly enjoyed this curriculum, I must say the Science and History lessons are not as heavily involved in comparison to all the Scripture, Literature, and Critical Thinking assignments. Both subjects I felt were lightly skimmed (most likely due to the fact that Narnia is an imaginary, magical world), so additional materials for these subjects are recommended.

You can purchase Further Up and Further In for $56 (paperback) or $61 (spiral bound). Money-saving product packages are also available. I think this is a great price considering all the use you’ll get out of it!

Cadron Creek’s website offers several sample pages (in PDF) from the unit study, as well as helpful research links to aid current users.

While you’re there, you may also want to a peek at the author’s other great literature-based unit studies. “Where the Brook and River Meet” is based on The Anne of Green Gables series, and “The Prairie Primer” is for use with The Little House on the Prairie books.

For those of you who enjoy virtual camaraderie, there are Yahoo groups dedicated to each of these studies. An informational pop-up can be viewed under Cadron Creek On-line Groups”.

Based on the fun-yet-challenging academics, reasonable price, and great organization, I highly recommend Further Up and Further In. Students and parents alike will benefit from this lush program, whether they’re Narnia fans or not.

We award Further Up and Further In two thumbs up!

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