I have been homeschooling for going on 16 years now and have tried a lot of different curricula along the way. When a new product comes out – all shiny and new, I sometimes jump too quickly and make a wrong choice, resulting in lots of bookshelves with unused homeschool books. I am also discovering that my children have very different learning styles and while one loved homeschooling, our youngest is begging to go to public school.
For our daughter’s sixth grade homeschool curriculum, we have decided to use Gather ‘Round Homeschool by Rebecca Spooner of Homeschool On. This review is not a sponsored review, nor solicited, and I paid for it (big price tag and all!). Read on to find out what I think after using it for a month.
Gather ‘Round Homeschool takes a unit study approach and can be used with all your children at the same time. The idea is to “gather ’round” the table for family school. If you have multiple children that you are homeschooling, this is something that most likely appeals to you.
I am a sucker for pretty curriculum and boy, this is pretty. The graphics throughout the teacher’s guide and student books are superb and beautifully designed. If you know me, you will know I don’t use nor like teacher’s guides for most things. I promise it’s not what you think, so be sure to read my comments below to understand why I like Gather ‘Round’s teacher’s guides.
If you are like most homeschool moms, you stumbled upon this review to help you decide if this curriculum is worth the price. I am not going to lie, it’s expensive. I don’t think I have ever spent so much on homeschooling curriculum in my life, however I only have two kids and they are eight years apart; our oldest graduated our homeschool in 2018. I too wondered if it was way too much, but in the end I decided to use it for sixth grade.
After stumbling across a sample of the Gather ‘Round Africa unit and looking at it a dozen or so times on my computer, I printed off the sample week to use with my 5th grade daughter. We needed a breather in our homeschool because we were butting heads a lot and I thought this might be a good time to try something new. I used the middle school notebook with her so I could get a good feel for what 6th grade would be like.
After our sample week had ended we were hooked. My daughter had the sparkle in her eyes again about learning. I was looking forward to “teaching” it to her. That says a lot. I purchased the full Africa unit and used it for the last month of our homeschool year.
Gather ‘Round Homeschool is supposed to be everything you need to teach all subjects to your children in grades K-12, except math. This may very well be true for some families, but not so much mine; there are some things we will be adding. I will explain more below.
We have only completed the Africa unit at this point, but from what I understand all units are pretty much laid out in the same format. The first year includes ten units that have 20 lessons each. I don’t know about your homeschool, but we don’t complete 200 lessons in a homeschool year, so our goal is to complete 8 units for 6th grade.
There are five units based on continents that will be heavy in geography and five units that are based more on science topics. They all weave in the same subjects with a focus on the topic of the unit. You can use them in any order, which I think is a huge benefit! Giving my daughter a choice on the order in which we complete each unit is a definite plus to her and makes her feel more in control of what she is learning.
The year one units:
- North American Birds
- Earth Science
- North America
- Human Body
- South America
Since we have already completed the Africa unit, I had her select 8 units that she wanted to do in 6th grade. She opted to skip over North American Birds, which I am pretty sad about.
What we thought about the Africa unit:
Visually, this is the most appealing curriculum I have used thus far. As I mentioned above, the graphics are stunning. It’s very easy to use and you can just open it and go. If you know anything about my homeschool teaching style, you will recall I am HUGE on open and go curriculum, which is why we have created our Daily Skill Building Series, which I plan to continue using alongside Gather ‘Round.
We learned a ton doing the unit on Africa. I discovered that I would love to visit this beautiful continent one day. I also learned I like African music – totally reminded me of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The animals we discovered were simply breathtaking; I had never heard of some of them!
We learned a lot about Africa’s history, some of it was heartbreaking. We took some rabbit trails and watched videos of Victoria Falls on YouTube and went on virtual safaris. We found some videos of animals and penguins in Africa (yes, I said penguins!) and I about freaked out over the Giraffe Manor in Kenya.
So, onto the individual subjects. I used the middle school level student notebook, so please keep that in mind as you read my review. There are five different student notebooks that all come in one digital download (one price, you get them all!). If you purchase printed student books you have to select the level individually for the same price.
Here are the student notebook levels included in the digital download, all for one price; great if you have multiple children in different grades.
- early readers
- early elementary
- upper elementary
- middle school
- high school
I snapped a picture of some of the insides of the middle school student notebooks so you can get an idea of what it looks like. You can find full samples of Earth Science, Africa, and a Canada mini-unit on the Gather ‘Round website.
Each day in the unit on Africa I read an overview of the country from the teacher’s guide. We labeled a giant map with the country name and any country that we learned about previously. By the end of the unit we could both label every country we learned about in Africa by memory (there were 19 countries covered in the unit). We haven’t memorized the locations of most of the other countries though, sadly.
Following the introduction we read about a featured landmark/location as well as animals, food, history, and culture found in the specific country we were studying.
The teacher’s guide contains the main text for the above topics as well as beautiful, full-color graphics and extension ideas. Sometimes we went off on our own side adventures and other times we followed the suggestions. We were always thrilled with what we discovered though!
Take a look at the inside of a few of the teacher’s guides (you can also view full samples on a few different units).
After you read through the sections, the teacher’s guide breaks down what each student will do in their notebooks by grade level. You do not need to gather anything; it’s all in the student notebook.
The geography notebook section involves basic map work such as labeling the countries and capital cities, coloring the flag, and jotting down some interesting facts on a particular subject. I think we would have liked this notebook page better if my daughter could have written down whatever facts she found interesting rather than the specific topic suggested. It’s just one featured box though, so it’s really not a huge deal.
The African unit focuses on animals for science. You can use the text you read from the teacher’s guide to fill out most of the information on the animal’s diet, life cycle, habitat, facts, etc. but we chose to do further research and look up videos and images online to find out more. Did you know there are over a dozen animals found ONLY in Africa? Yep, super interesting to learn about these beautiful creatures. You will also learn about habitats in the science section.
Okay folks, here’s where I am super iffy on the language arts portion as all-inclusive. We are an Easy Grammar family and I am very focused on teaching my children great grammar skills. Because of this, I found the language arts portion to be lacking. The student notebook pages that were included were so below my daughter’s ability that I just threw them away. That sounds harsh, but I am not one for busy work and she learned about sentence structure years ago.
Because we are looking forward to a relaxed homeschool year using Gather ‘Round and I feel my daughter’s grammar skills are far beyond what is taught in this curriculum, we are going to use Daily Grams for daily review, rather than the full Easy Grammar curriculum. Combined with the writing and research she will do with Gather ‘Round I feel like it will be enough for her.
Now, your family may be different and the language arts portion could totally work for you. If you do the language arts notebooking pages and you read over and correct the research papers, have your students take notes (my daughter took notes while I read the text), and take the time to work on spelling mistakes, you may be good to go. I will leave that up to you.
The spelling included was a word here and there and not anything I would consider a spelling curriculum. With that said, we love using Daily Skill Building: Vocabulary and Spelling for the simplicity (one page a day) and will continue using it alongside Gather ‘Round.
We really enjoyed the missionary stories (classified as social studies), but the Scripture copywork and reflection alone is not enough of a Bible “curriculum” for us. This year we are using Not Consumed Bible Studies as well as our devotionals.
I discovered I LOVE history after using The Mystery of History years ago. It is super fascinating to me and I enjoy learning about every aspect of it. My youngest daughter, not so much. No matter what we have used, she has never really enjoyed learning about history. With that said, we both found the extra history that is included in the student notebook for middle school to be dreadfully boring in the Africa unit. It taught about World War I and II in disjointed sections. It doesn’t flow chronologically or go together well at all in my opinion.
We have covered a lot of history in our years of homeschooling, so I plan to just do some additional research on history topics we find interesting that go along with the unit we are studying for sixth grade. I don’t want to have to add in another full curriculum; I am trying to simplify here!
Thoughts on the other units
Since I started this post I have received my curriculum box from Gather ‘Round with the units we plan to complete for sixth grade:
- Earth Science
- North America
- Human Body
- South America
I have to say – WOW! I am looking forward to this homeschool year so much. I was very happy to see that some of the units didn’t have boring history lessons like what we experienced in the Africa unit. For instance, the Space unit covers interesting history topics such as Galileo Galilei, Vincent van Gogh, ancient astronomy, Andrew Carnegie, and more, including some economics type social studies lessons.
- We are thrilled to use Gather ‘Round this year for 6th grade. We will add in Daily Grams, Daily Skill Building: Vocabulary and Spelling, and Not Consumed Bible Studies as well as a math curriculum, which is not included. We are a Teaching Textbooks family because, well, I need a math teacher!
- I love that it’s truly all-inclusive. I don’t have to buy a dozen books and we can go to the library searching for extras that we want to read.
- It’s straight-up beautiful, seriously.
- If you have several children it is more cost-effective and you can do it all together!
- If you have one child only, like me, I recommend buying the printed books. It came out to less even with shipping than having them printed.
- If you need some affordable printing suggestions check out this post.
It has a hefty price tag at $499.50 for a full year (10 units), but keep in mind that it can be used with all your kids in K-12. The printed units are purchased individually, however they are not currently available (8/20) due to an influx of orders (so glad I purchased mine early).
When you compare prices with other all-in-one curriculum available and consider the need to purchase extra books, etc with various programs, I think it’s a justifiable expense. If we love our homeschool year as much as we did the Africa unit, it is money well-spent for sure. If you have multiple children, it can be more cost-effective as you are not purchasing for individual grade levels.
There is a Gather ‘Round Facebook Community that you can join and observe before taking the plunge. You can also download a full week of Africa and Earth Science to see if this curriculum would work for your family.
Carrie is the owner & operator of Homeschool Giveaways. She has been homeschooling for over a decade and has successfully graduated her first homeschooler. She has two girls and works side by side at home with her awesome husband. She has been saved by grace, fails daily, but continues to strive toward the prize of the high calling of being a daughter of the Most High God.
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