If you have stumbled upon this page, you may have been asking yourself “Is Gather Round enough?” I asked myself that same question last year when I started pouring over all the samples.
I also asked myself “Is Gather Round really worth the price?”, because oh my goodness, this curriculum is EXPENSIVE! Well, it’s not expensive if you have a large family; you will probably save money. However, I only have one student left in our homeschool, so there was no dividing up the price for us.
In the summer of 2020 I posted a Gather Round Homeschool review. At that point, we had only completed the Africa unit and were awaiting our printed books to arrive in the mail.
After using it for almost a full school year for 6th grade, I wanted to give you an update on what we have to say after going through it and answer the question “Is Gather Round enough?“
What is Gather Round and how can it help my homeschool family?
When you visit the Gather Round website you will read that the creator, Rebecca Spooner considers this curriculum to have a Charlotte Mason flair to it. I prefer to think of Gather Round as more of a unit study based curriculum.
Gather Round is a homeschool curriculum that a family can use all together, hence the title Gather ‘Round.
What’s Included with Gather Round Homeschool Curriculum?
There is a teacher’s guide, which is basically just the text with student lessons laid out at-a-glance and individual student notebooks based on levels:
- Pre-Reader (3-5 years old)
- Early Reader (5-7 years old)
- Early Elementary (8-10 years old)
- Upper Elementary (10-12 years old)
- Middle School (12-15 years old)
- High School (15-18 years old)
There are currently two years available for purchase. Each year of Gather Round contains ten units, and each unit has twenty lessons, so if you did school five days a week every month, it would take you ten months to complete a full year.
If you have a large family and school is taking you all day long because every child has his or her own assignments, then Gather Round might be a breath of fresh air for your family.
Can you imagine gathering your little (or large) flock around the table for family school? That’s what Gather Round is all about!
How does Gather Round homeschool work?
Of course, every homeschooling family looks different, and I only have one child that I am homeschooling, but imagine yourself in my shoes, but with a table full of your kids.
After breakfast we move to the homeschool table, AKA dining table, and I read from the Teacher’s Guide/text. My daughter opens up her middle school notebook and takes some notes as I read.
Throughout the lessons we pause to pull up a YouTube video and watch something neat, like the Giraffe Manor (totally want to go there!). Perhaps we take a rabbit trail by googling something fascinating (this was me a lot with some beautiful animals that I had never heard of before).
After we have finished reading the text, I look through the student assignments list and make sure my daughter knows what she needs to complete in her student notebook. Then I flip through her notebook and read the history portion with her and answer any questions that she has in regards to that. (The middle and high school student notebooks have an extra history lesson in the student notebook).
After we read over everything in her student notebook, such as history text, she works independently on her research and assignments.
Internet Access Is Important
Important: you children will need access to the Internet to do research and look up facts, etc. We use Bark on my daughter’s laptop and devices to protect her from nasty things online as well as predators. You will want to plan ahead to allow a way for your children to safely search the Internet to complete their notebooks.
Individual Units by Year:
Year One Gather Round Unit Titles
Year Two Gather Round Unit Titles
How Many Lessons Are There to Complete?
I thought I would cut myself a little slack and only order eight units instead of ten. I mean, who wants the extra stress of too much work to complete?
To be honest, I do not know any homeschool mom in real life who homeschools for 200 days out of the year.
Since I let my daughter decide which unit we would leave out (we had already completed Africa at that point), she decided she wasn’t interested in North American Birds. Since I am not the one in school here, I gave up my desire to spend a month on birds and made her happy.
How long does a unit REALLY take to complete?
In a perfect world of unchanging schedules and solid homeschool days, it will take you 20 school days to complete one unit of Gather Round homeschool curriculum. That’s if you were to just spend one day on each lesson.
If you get in the Facebook Group for Gather Round or use the Gather ‘Round homeschool app, you will see that many families enjoy rabbit trails and have no problem stretching it out.
We prefer to complete one lesson each day, but have skipped school here and there for field trips, sick days, and slack days (just being real here) and have only completed 6 full units for the year so far. Here it is May and we are about 1/3 of the way through Earth Science, our 7th unit.
I am so glad I didn’t buy all ten units!
Here are the units we have complete so far:
- Human Body
- Earth Science *currently working on this unit
Is Gather Round Homeschool Curriculum Enough?
If you are you wondering if Gather Round covers enough material, that really depends on your goals for your children and family.
Gather Round was created to cover all subjects but math for grades K-12. In hindsight it was perfectly enough for us THIS YEAR. We had a rough year with some turbulent waters and some family deaths; we needed an easy and enjoyable year.
- Geography – Absolutely yes, you will cover so much geography as well as cultures and people groups. This is probably my most favorite subject covered. We learned so much about the parts of the world that we studied.
- Social Studies & History – Yes, your family will learn all about World War II and how it affected each part of the world that you are learning about differently. You will also study economics a bit and parts of history that surround the topics you are studying (for example, you will learn about Hippocrates when you are doing the Human Body unit).
- Science – Yes, you will be learning a ton of science in Gather Round Homeschool Curriculum. There is a lot of animal science covered in the geography-focused units and there are separate units that cover mostly science topics: Human Body, Earth Science, and Space.
- Bible – Maybe, if you consider Scripture copywork enough for Bible. There are missionary stories sprinkled throughout the units in appropriate places (Gladys Aylward when studying China, for example), but for the most part, I would not consider this enough to be Bible “curriculum” if your intentions are to teach your child the deep things of Scripture and theological concepts during your homeschool day. To be fair, some units have lessons that go a little deeper, but it’s not consistent enough for me to be comfortable not adding in some Bible lessons. I know many families who use Gather Round also use Rebecca Spooner’s More Than Words Bible curriculum, published by Master Books.
- Language Arts – This is where it gets iffy for me. If you need an EASY homeschool year due to family illness, crazy drama, or any number of reasons, you can totally make do with the language arts portion and it will not wreck your kids. However, if you are a stickler for good grammar skills and you want to make sure your child is proficient in all-things grammar, I highly recommend adding something like Easy Grammar, our favorite. We have also continued to used Daily Skill Building: Vocabulary because I am want my child to have a broad vocabulary.
Suggestions to Expand Gather Round for Language Arts
- Keep a spelling journal and jot down all words that your child doesn’t know how to spell and practice spelling them correctly. Use a simple spelling curriculum.
- Look up unknown vocabulary words and keep a vocabulary list running, You can use a tab in your notebook for this and go back and quiz your child on what they remembered.
- Read over their work and make corrections as necessary.
- Have your student complete research papers and actually grade them using a writing rubric. We have some tips on how to grade writing assignments that may be helpful to you. You can also find helpful tips for teaching your kids how to do independent research.
- Using the Gather Round student notebook, you can have your kids diagram sentences of the text, label certain portions of sentences, or even something simple like circle all the adjectives.
- Have your kids read aloud the text.
Thoughts on the Individual Units
I LOVED the unit on Africa so much, probably my favorite! After looking at the Gather Round samples a gazillion times, I printed off Africa at the end of last school year to try it for a week.
It was a welcomed break from “regular” school and we enjoyed it tremendously, so much so that we bought the full unit and decided to lay aside the rest of our homeschool curriculum last year and finish the year with Africa. Read more about how we enjoyed the Gather Round Africa Unit.
Since this was the first and only taste of Gather Round we had to go by, I assumed the rest of the units would be just as fun. Using Africa for a full month convinced us that we
wanted needed this for our homeschool.
This unit was a lot of fun, definitely another favorite. It was heavy on science, whereas Africa was heavy on geography. My daughter has become very enthusiastic in regards to the sky due to this unit. She downloaded apps so she could track events and see stars and constellations. I printed our constellation cards and cheat sheets and she created a display with them.
After completing this unit, one of the career choices my daughter is now entertaining is in the field of astronomy. Of course, after we did Oceans, she changed her mind. Oh to be a kid again!
One of the neat things about this unit is that we learned about the history of space exploration as the history component as well as artists, astronomers, and inventors. It was a welcome break from learning about World War II. My daughter also enjoyed the art portion of this unit because she got to draw an illustrate the individual planets.
This is the third Gather Round unit we completed and my daughter loved it. She is obsessed with Japan and is part Asian herself, so I think that it was really fascinating for her to learn about her culture a bit. There is quite a bit of social studies in this unit as you can imagine, since we are dealing with some communist countries.
My favorite part of the Asia unit was the missionary stories. I love a good tear-jerking story about how God did miracles through missionaries in remote places of the world. Some of the missionaries you will read about are Eric Liddel and Gladys Alyward. You’ll also learn about the persecuted church and a Korean Missionary Movement.
The science in this unit is really fun to learn about. We discovered animals I had never heard of and also learned about natural disasters that affect this part of the world. You will compare and contrast ecosystems and learn about caves, hot springs, The Dead Sea, and more in this unit on the Eastern Hemisphere.
I particularly enjoyed learning about the continent of Europe because that’s where my people are from. Sadly, my geography apparently was pretty terrible for this part of the world, but the map work we did helped me get a good grasp on the location of the countries in Europe.
As you can imagine, there is a ton of geography in this unit. All the continent units focus on geography as well as people and cultures, and what makes up the countries. There is map work for countries in Europe and your student will locate bodies of water, mountains, and more.
There were a lot of inventions and discoveries that came from Europe, and you will get to venture into those topics to learn more about the people of the past who helped shape our world today. The science covers the periodic table of elements, nuclear power, soundwaves, doppler radar, atoms, and more.
I found the history portion of Gather Round Europe to be pretty dull, mostly focused on World War II like the other units. There were some interesting topics covered such as the history of bullfighting and the age of languages, which help mix it up though.
This unit is competing for a favorite spot in my mind. My daughter and I both loved it. We live in Florida and completed this unit in March, so we hit the beach on some good weather days as well as a couple local(ish) aquariums.
In the Oceans unit we learned about all sorts of ocean animals as well as the Great Barrier Reef, Mediterranean Sea, and the ocean industry. We discovered deep sea creatures, sharks, crustaceans, marine mammals, marine reptiles, and fish.
This unit also goes over the scientific method and topics like scuba diving, animal intelligence, and hypothermia. The history breaks from WWII and touches on oceanography, pirates, and Jacques Cousteau.
I have to be completely honest with you – this has been our least favorite unit so far. It was really hard to get through and more than once I tried to gently suggest that we lay it aside and switch to a new unit and come back to it. We persevered though and made it through.
Let me start off by saying, like all the other units – totally beautiful. It’s no secret that Gather Round units are illustrated so breathtakingly. The style is written like all the other units, there’s just so much human anatomy! I guess you can safely assume my daughter didn’t select a prospected career choice from this unit!
I cannot quite figure out why we didn’t love this unit, but I am just going to assume that reading several pages about the digestive system just isn’t our thing. The social studies content was interesting and covered such things as discrimination, abortion, cultural influence, and more.
We did enjoy the history since it wasn’t WWII. The history topics covered things such as Hippocrates, Paralympics, Dentistry, Florence Nightingale, and the discovery of antibiotics.
I suppose we could have added in our human anatomy fact cards and cheat sheets, but I wasn’t feeling like expanding on this unit, I just wanted to move on.
This is our current unit and we are enjoying it pretty well. I think we’d enjoy it more if it wasn’t May – we are ready to break for summer already! I will have more to say once we complete it.
Is Gather Round Homeschool secular?
Gather Round is a faith-based, Christian curriculum. With that said, I am in the Gather Round Facebook Group and regularly see comments from secular homeschoolers who are using it.
Gather Round Homeschool vs The Good and The Beautiful
If you have been in homeschooling circles with moms who use either Gather Round or The Good and The Beautiful, you may be familiar with the rivalry between the two. I am not sure why there is so much competition between the two companies. Perhaps it’s because they that both crank out some of the most beautiful homeschool curriculum on the market?
The biggest difference between Gather Round Homeschool and The Good and The Beautiful is the theology of the companies. Gather Round Homeschool is an Evangelical Christian company and The Good and The Beautiful is a Mormon company.
I have used The Good and The Beautiful Handwriting Curriculum and we enjoyed it quite a bit. I had a copy of their history curriculum once and decided I was unable to use it after seeing notes about LDS extension activities.
While I could avoid the extension activities, I didn’t want to have to be on guard with all the text I read wondering if false theology was going to be woven into it. I certainly didn’t want my daughter to read something that she would believe to be truth if in fact it was a falsehood based on Mormon theology.
Should I buy the printed or the digital version?
This is a great question and one that everyone who purchases Gather Round wonders. The first question you must ask yourself is “How many students am I teaching?”
Printing can be expensive, but if you have a large family with multiple children, digital is the route you would take to save the most money. You see, when you purchase the digital bundle of either year, you get ALL the student notebook levels included!
The digital bundle includes all ten units and notebooks for:
- Pre-Reader (3-5 years old)
- Early Reader (5-7 years old)
- Early Elementary (8-10 years old)
- Upper Elementary (10-12 years old)
- Middle School (12-15 years old)
- High School (15-18 years old)
Since I just needed to purchase Gather Round for one student, it made the most sense to buy it printed. In the summer there is a back to school sale that offers free shipping and/or a discount, which I took advantage of.
When you buy the printed set you only get the choice of one student notebook. Each additional student book is $25 (printed).
Thoughts on purchasing print over digital
If you have seen a sample of a Gather Round unit you will know that they are colorful, vibrant, and full of graphics. Seriously folks, the custom artwork is astonishing. I love the way these units look visually.
The unfortunate thing about pretty curriculum like this in digital format, is that it makes printing it from home a little daunting. There are printing companies that will print and ship it to you, but you need a good quality paper and that can jack up the pricing.
The quality of the print job on the books I purchased directly from Gather Round Homeschool was very high. The paper is heavy and the color is bright. The only thing I didn’t like (okay, hated) was the top binding on the student notebook. I didn’t realize how much I dislike the binding at the top.
Some Takeaways on Gather Round Homeschool Curriculum:
- Gather Round is expensive, but more affordable if you have multiple children and buy digital.
- Gather Round can be enough if you need it to be. If you are a stickler for grammar, you will want to add that in.
- You can try some samples to see if you like it.
- You really CAN homeschool all your kids together using Gather Round.
- Sometimes less is more – we don’t always need a separate curriculum for each subject.
- Homeschooling with unit studies is enjoyable and allows you to learn about many different topics.
- It’s most economical to buy printed if you are homeschooling one child (and possible two, haven’t done the math).
- Your children will need access to the Internet for further research.
- Don’t stress yourself out about how many units you do (or don’t) finish in the school year. Go at your own pace and take learning detours when it strikes your fancy.
- You CAN purchase units individually if you aren’t ready to commit to a full year.
- Gather Round really is all-inclusive. You don’t need to buy ANYTHING else to use alongside it – no books or supplies!
- I do not recall many hands-on activities, which I was glad about.
- We didn’t do any arts and crafts type of projects (yay for me!). The art portion is mostly drawing something from the lesson. I am not sure about the younger grades as they are usually more hands-on.
Be sure to read our Gather Round review to see some inside pics.
Carrie Fernandez is the founder of Homeschool Giveaways and owner of Daily Skill Building. She has been homeschooling for over 18 years, 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.