Monday, July 19, 2010

Travel the World!

Summer--the season of travel, exploration and adventure! The perfect time to plan a family getaway. Unfortunately, while real trips are wonderful, budgets don't always allow tripping across the globe. Thankfully, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine comes to the rescue with their June 2010 Module for The Schoolhouse Planner called Travel the World!

I have to admit that geography as a subject has been sadly neglected in our homeschool. Finding an inexpensive, easy-to-use program to tackle the world (without losing my mind) has been a challenge. With a more relaxed summer schedule for school, it was the perfect time to try our hand at Travel the World! (no passports required).

Travel the World! has 4 basic parts:
  • Material covering the study of geography and specifically the seven continents
  • Activity pages to reinforce learning
  • Lapbooking suggestions
  • Extension ideas for high school students
The first part of this e-book provides an overview of what the study of geography entails, an explanation of maps and globes, an introduction to the lines of latitude and longitude, and information on the seven continents. Geographical terms are hyperlinked to sites that define the terms (no need to run off for a dictionary). For each continent, numerous links are included that highlight rivers, mountains and other landforms for that particular area. Links to online games are also included that help students learn the location of specific countries within each continent. The online games can be done with all ages. Non-readers will need some assistance but even the youngest readers will enjoy testing their skills (and replaying the games to increase their scores) creating a very fun and painless way of learning geography.

The next portion of the e-book has a number of activity pages including: fill in the blank, word search, word scramble, crossword & rebus puzzles, as well as a poem writing activity. The beauty of the e-book format is that you can choose which pages you'd like to print off (and however many copies you might need).

The third part of the book has resources for creating a lapbook. For those who may not be familiar with lapbooking, Travel the World! includes a page of helpful links to an online demonstration video as well as sites that provide lapbook ideas and resources. Templates for mini books, copywork pages and map coloring pages are conveniently included for lapbooking purposes. Portions of the e-book itself can also be used to decorate the lapbook: scripture verses, maps of the world, pictures of the earth. Younger students can draw pictures in their mini books or dictate information to an older sibling/parent to include in their lapbook. The lapbook is a neat project to either do simultaneously with the unit study (younger students can color their maps while their teacher reads the material aloud) or to do as a culminating project to review the material. Either way, it provides a memorable scrapbook of learning.

The final portion of Travel the World! includes suggestions for extending the learning for high school students. The older student can use any of the material as a starting point for more detailed study of particular continents or landforms. Beyond that, the concepts of mathematical, physical and political geography are introduced to the older student. Suggestions for projects combining geography with writing, research, history and literature are also included. A high school student could also extend the lapbooking ideas--perhaps a computer savvy student could do a digital scrapbook of what they have learned.

Some recipes at the end, a list of website addresses (in case you prefer to print off your e-book and not read it off the computer) as well as a list of additional e-books for suggested study round out the contents of this book.

Overall we were very pleased with this e-book. It provides a very doable unit study for all ages at a very reasonable price ($7.95). A variety of links throughout the material provided a number of opportunities to learn more about each continent. My kids particularly liked the online games that quizzed on country location (we took turns doing the games). The e-book was easy to navigate with a table of contents linkable to the various topics making it easy to find or print activities of interest. I can definitely envision us using this over and over as an ongoing tool to keep reviewing geography. Our lapbooks can continue to expand as we explore different parts of the world.

If you are limited for time, then you can cover most of the the e-book in a week devoted to the topic with perhaps the weekend to complete the lapbook. We personally read through it in less than a week and will later spend more time working on the lapbooks and exploring areas of particular interest for each of my kids. This could also be used as a framework for a longer, more exhaustive study, by selecting one continent per month to focus on and incorporating some literature, cooking, and a research paper for that particular continent to stretch things out for most of the school year.

Within the book, there are maps for each continent. If you print out the e-book, you will not be able to read most of the country names and cities labelled. In this case, you will need a world map handy for reference. If you are at a computer working through the book, the nice feature about the maps is that you can enlarge those pages and get a wonderful glimpse of all the details. One thing I particularly liked about the maps was that each country was a different color so you could easily see the boundaries and which countries shared borders.

There was only only one thing I was slightly disappointed about. Some of the links direct you to a site with some member-only materials. The links always had some free things available but there were also materials that required a subscription. Not a major pitfall by any means, just something to be aware of. If a student were completing this course independently, they may get frustrated by not being able to fully access everything linked.

Whether you are looking for a quick and easy introduction to geography or need the framework for an expanded world geography course, you cannot go wrong with Travel the World! The material can easily be expanded or condensed to fill your available time and to match your student's learning level. And if you have a student driven to explore this topic on their own, you will have a course mapped out for them with links to content you can trust without having to sit right by the computer.

You can purchase your own copy of Travel the World! published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for only $7.95 by visiting The Schoolhouse Store. At their site, you can also view sample pages from the book to help make a decision. This product can be used for grades kindergarten through high school.

For additional reviews of this product (and others), visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog. You may also be interested in other TOS modules available here. According to their website, "All E-Books published by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine come with a money-back guarantee!" So you really have nothing to lose.

Happy Travels,

This product was provided to me free of charge in exchange for my fair and honest review.


Karla Cook @ Roads to Everywhere said...

What a great review, Jill! Good job!

Catherine said...

Hello from a fellow TOS crew member. I'm spending a little time checking out some of the the other reviews. Nice job!

Dawn said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a to do the same! GREAT detailed review! Catch ya "on deck"!

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