Harbor + Sprout is a unit study curriculum that consists of monthly, themed units designed for family learning with children ages three to twelve. Harbor + Sprout units are created by a large, international group of contributors with various religious and non-religious perspectives. The curriculum reflects that diversity by taking a broad, international, and inclusive perspective while taking a neutral stance on religions.
The unit studies combine elements from various educational approaches: unschooling, Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, and Reggio (a progressive, child-led, play-based form of learning for young children).
Harbor + Sprout tries to make most activities useful for all levels, but some activities or pages are recommended specifically for one of four levels covering the years from pre-kindergarten through the upper-elementary grades.
All units come as PDFs. You can subscribe to download one unit each month. If you don’t want to use them on a monthly schedule, you can pre-pay for the option labeled “12 credits upfront” and then redeem one credit for one unit study whenever you wish. Or you can purchase units one at a time.
There are 18 units available thus far with new units scheduled for release each month. Some of the unit topics available now are Botany, Visual Arts, Engineering, Forestry, Beekeeping, Oceanography, Tropical Ecology, and Aviation. You can see the complete list on their website.
Units can be used in whatever order you wish since they do not cover subject areas sequentially. Within each unit are four lessons each for science, language arts, writing, history, geography, music, art, and math, plus supplemental activities that might include a list of spelling words, a word-search puzzle, a game, flashcards, coloring pages, copywork, poetry narration, and other optional activities tied to the unit theme. Math activities are supplemental, so you will need a math program from another source.
Harbor + Sprout has an Essentials Bundle that introduces students to beginning phonics, reading, writing, math, and other skills generally learned at the kindergarten level. Aside from that optional bundle, other skills are not taught sequentially. This means you might want to purchase other resources that teach sequentially, especially for language arts.
So how does Harbor + Sprout fit into your curriculum? Unschoolers might use it as their core curriculum, adding books and other resources as they see fit. Others might use it as their core for all subjects other than math and language arts, or they might use it selectively to supplement another program that provides their core curricula.
The handbook for each unit has about 60 pages. Since there are over 600 potential pages in each unit that might be printed out, the handbook begins with printing instructions and options. This is important since the unit is downloaded as many separate files—for the handbook, each subject area, supplements, a Character Kit, etc. Some pages are duplicated in more than one file for your convenience. To make printing easier, one large file has all the consumable pages in one place, even though they are also included within the other files. The instructions offer efficient printing suggestions, such as printing some pages back-to-back and skipping the few pages specified for age levels you don’t need.
The handbook has schedules and lesson plans. There are scheduling plans for four weeks already filled in with general activities for morning and afternoon, five days per week. There are four other scheduling forms. One is a blank version of the one that is already filled in, and three others offer other ways to customize your schedule. The handbook has separate pages with detailed lesson plans for science, nature study, language arts, writing, history, geography, music, art, and math, each in two different formats: charts with bullet points or paragraphs. (Both forms of lesson plans are repeated in the files for each subject.) Notice that science and nature study each have full lesson plans. This reflects Harbor + Sprout’s strong emphasis on outdoor learning and the study of nature.
The handbook explains the four levels I mentioned above, and the levels are referred to within subject area material rather than in the lesson plans.
A supply list helps you gather needed resources ahead of time. It lists a few unusual items, but most of them will already be on hand. (A QR code on this page takes you to the publisher’s Amazon storefront to help you find the unusual products.) An annotated list of recommended books provides brief descriptions and suggested age ranges and includes a separate section of family read-aloud books.
Subject Area Files
The unit study is presented in individual subject files, so you can easily choose to cover only certain subject areas. In addition to the subject-area files, you get files for a character kit; consumable pages; “loose parts;” coloring posters; “Investigate Further” activities; and a “Supplements” file with materials for additional learning for nature activities, wellness and quiet time, and writing and language arts.
Parents are encouraged to customize the unit studies to suit each child’s needs. Lessons include a wide variety of activities: hands-on, creative, musical, writing, research, etc. Each subject area file has information pages plus graphic organizers, cut-and-paste pages, coloring, map work, written narrations, handwriting practice (both print and cursive pages are included), reports, writing assignments, drawing, games, and more. Very few pages look like traditional workbook pages. QR codes are often included on pages to take you to videos or websites for information and activities. (This means you need a device handy that reads QR codes!)
Because the studies for individual subject areas are written by different authors, all lessons are related in some way to the theme, but they are not closely correlated between subject areas.
Optional Morning Baskets are PDFs with themed activities for ages two through six that correlate with most of the available unit studies. They can also be used on their own with young children. They will take a fraction of the time needed for the main unit studies.
The Explorer Toolkit can be used with all of the unit studies. It has a Field Notes Notebook with templates for notetaking and recording observations. In addition, the toolkit has maps, posters, and pages to make explorer gadgets.
I think families have to experiment with Harbor + Sprout units to figure out how it fits into their curriculum. Trying one unit during the summer might be a good strategy to figure this out and plan the next school year accordingly. Or try it as a supplement for one year and expand its role the next year. Its flexibility gives you lots of options.