California Out of the Box: Curriculum FAQs

How would you describe California Out of the Box?

California Out of the Box is a lively new California history curriculum designed for homeschool families and progressive/charter schools.  Interdisiplinary in nature, students are encouraged to tackle the study of related areas that arise out of reading five historical fiction books.  The curriculum includes a teacher’s guide, reproducible student pages (for use within a family), and reading comprehension questions and answers.

Beyond the curriculum book, what else will I need for this literature approach curriculum?

Teachers will need to purchase or borrow from the library 8 other books:

  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • The Valley of the Moon: The Diary of Maria Rosalia de Milagros by Sherry Garland
  • By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman
  • The Earth Dragon Awakes by Laurence Yep
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • National Audubon Society Field Guide to California
  • Stories from Where We Live: California Coast by Sara St. Antoine
  • A Gift for Abuelita by Nancy Luenn

Why these historical fiction books?

These 5 books (1-5 above) represent well-researched introductions that are current and engaging for young students.  They make good read alouds for 3rd-4th grade and below, and are easily read by 4th-6th grade independent readers.  To supplement these fiction books, students will enjoy the Mark Twain excerpts included in curriculum which further a conversation on primary versus secondary sources.

How is it organized?  How long does it take to cover the material?

The curriculum is laid out in 36-weekly blocks.  There are generally 3-5 reading and activity selections per week.  These are clearly outlined in the table of contents so teachers can easily adjust the flow.  Click here to view the table of contents and sample pages.

I have heard it’s interdisciplinary.  What does that mean?

Disciplines such as life and earth science, the arts, social studies and even folklore and mythology are all introduced.  To give an example, after students read the Earth Dragon Awakes about the San Francisco earthquake, students will explore the layers of the earth (creating a diagram), and then explore rock types such as igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.  For practical learning, students will run some classic rockhound rock tests (with a hammer and goggles).

What are some other features you have woven in your curriculum?

Some of the unique features include a discussion of all eight California habitats, geography and mapwork using Google Earth, creation of a California history timeline, as well as tracking the development of California through historical fiction characters migration to California.

What other materials will I need?

In addition to the 8 books mentioned, each unit contains a supply list that includes materials most families will have around their home.  The curriculum has been written to make it usable and cost effective.  Some additional recommended books may be needed from the library; these are listed in the unit supply lists as well.

Is it religious or secular?

The curriculum is secular.  It touches on religion only as far as the subject comes up in historical periods such as the missions.  It does not assume a religious worldview.

What historical periods does it cover?

California Out of the Box takes students on a journey from the time of prehistory through the 1930s.  The areas of historical exploration are life of indigenous peoples, Pleistocene animals, ranchos and missions, the Gold Rush, John Muir and the beginning of the National Parks, Pony Express, Transcontinental Railroad, California statehood, the San Francisco Earthquake, and the Great Depression.

Are there assessments to verify student knowledge?

Yes.  As students work their way through the curriculum, there are numerous worksheets and comparative charts that will allow students to make cross-period comparisons and explore how different characters feel.  As students read about the habitats, they will complete a description sheet for each one and/or chart where they will be invited to record their observations.  Additionally, at the end of each unit, there are discussion and reflection questions that can be used to verify student’s learning.

What ages is it appropriate for?

The curriculum is written for grades 3-6, with additional suggestions for families wanting to involve younger siblings.  Many of the hands-on activities will also be engaging for younger grade school students.

What type of learning styles is it appropriate for?

This curriculum is made for visual and non-traditional learners.  It invites quick thinking and tying together various cross-unit information.

Is it common core?

Yes, it is.  Although specific standards are not itemized within the book, the curriculum invites a cross-time period, cross-cultural reflection that is in the spirit of the common core English Language Arts Standards.  Students are encouraged to gather evidence about a character’s point of view to draw inferences about that character; a variety of sources are presented such as poetry, literature, and primary sources to uncover what can be learned through various genres.  Students are encouraged to respond to what they learn through art, discussion, or writing to retain what they see and hear.

Where can I buy it?

It is available on Amazon (paperback format), Lulu (preferred spiral binding), and as a digital download at Secular Eclectic Academic (SEA) website.

Can I use charter funds to purchase curriculum?

Yes.  We are an approved product vendor with Inspire, Sage Oak, Sky Mountain, iLead, Excel Academy, South Sutter, and Ocean Grove.  If you do not see your charter listed, contact your ES to get us added.  We respond quickly so that you are able to use charter funds to purchase our curriculum.  If you see your charter listed, click here for charter instructions.

Is the curriculum consumable?

Yes.  The student pages are consumable.

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