Monday, May 16, 2011

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

When did you first experience wonder? Perhaps it was your first slice of Wonder Bread.
Or watching your first episode of Wonder Woman. Prepare to be amazed and in awe once again with the new Bright Ideas Press product, WonderMaps!

What Wonder Bread did for the bread industry and Wonder Woman did for superheroes, WonderMaps will do for the study of geography. According to Bright Ideas Press:

"Geography and map skills add richness to any lesson. Whether it’s history, literature, science, current events or Bible, maps play an integral role in thoroughly understanding the topic at hand. With WonderMaps’ made-to-order geography materials at your fingertips, there’s no more skipping map studies due to a lack of preparation time and resources!"
I admit that I have been guilty of glossing over map work because I have either not had the right resource or lacked the time needed to find it. My own background in geography was horribly lacking and I really do want to make it a priority for my kids but it always seemed to be one of those areas that kept getting nudged to a back burner for *someday* when we had.

I had also made a haphazard attempt at stocking our library with geography resources but would find that using a modern day map to illustrate the reach of the Roman Empire at its height didn't work. I had also wanted to tackle a thorough study of the United States as it progressed into the nation it is today but where to find the historical maps to illustrate the stages of its development?

When I first learned about WonderMaps, it was truly a moment of wonder. Everything I'd ever wanted in a map resource was included as well as many features I hadn't even thought of! At last an affordable resource that required next to no teacher preparation and offered maps categorized by World maps, United States maps, Historical maps and Thematic maps. WonderMaps is one of the most innovative products I have seen in a long time. So what makes WonderMaps so....wonderful?

Customizable Layering
With an easy mouse click, you can add or remove layers to customize a map. Add or remove country or state boundaries, capital cities, primary cities, rivers and geographical markings, degrees of longitude and latitude. You can also view and print in color or black and white.

You don't necessarily have to print out the maps, you can just view them from your computer or laptop--the ultimate globe enabling you to really see or magnify a particular area. If you choose to print out maps, you can select any features you want visible and print it out. Ready to test your student? Then print out a black and white map without any markings. Print off as many as you need for any number of students in your family.

WonderMaps has provided historical and modern-day maps, outline, reference, political and topographical maps. Can you believe that WonderMaps provides over 350 maps including:
  • 60+ maps of the world
  • 60+ maps of the USA
  • 125 historical maps (including 25 Biblical maps)
  • Complete map sets from Mystery of History (Volumes I,II,III) and All American History (Volumes I, II)

Are you studying a particular time in history? Would you like corresponding maps right at your fingertips? Then you will love the historical and thematic maps WonderMaps includes.

Historical Maps
  • Creation -- 33 AD
  • 33 AD -- 1456 AD
  • 1457 AD -- 1707 AD
  • 1708 AD -- Present
Thematic Maps
  • Biblical Maps
  • Chinese Dynasties
  • Native Americans
  • Explorers
  • American History
  • World Wars
  • 20th Century Treaties
See for Yourself
Here's a video that highlights WonderMaps versatility and ease of use:

Our Experience
My youngest children, 4, 6 and 8 were doing a brief intro to world geography learning about just a handful of countries this past year. I printed off black outline maps of the countries for them to color. I also printed off a world outline map so they could see where each country fit into the world at large. WonderMaps was a great complement to their first introduction to the world.

My middle children, 13 and 11 are studying Mystery of History volume 3 this year. I loved that I could use maps that were tailor made to coordinate with our studies. And for my high schooler taking a World History course,
it was extremely helpful to be able to pull up maps from various periods of history for a given country. He also had a great reference for completing mapping assignments from his text.

WonderMaps is also an exceptional tool to pair with any current events study. My kids can map areas they read about in their student readers. And my high schooler and I can map countries we've read about in the newspaper or heard about on the radio.

The layering feature is really quite remarkable. I loved the flexibility this offers. My youngest students didn't need detailed information about landforms or rivers so I could show and print off maps with just the minimum information. I could also print a map completely blank if I wanted them to practice labeling locations on his own map. Later, I could make yet another copy to serve as a test.

I loved being able to zoom in and out on any given map--not something you can do with a globe (you practically need a magnifying glass to read a globe). What a great feature for a visually impaired student to be able to magnify a region or country.

Mapping for Fun
Need a super close up of a particular area? Just zoom in and print the screen view. To find out if your printer allows you to do this, click to print an area and select "Current View" which prints what is shown on the screen. I then selected "Fit to screen size" and had a very large printout of a particular area. Want to make a HUGE wall map or floor puzzle? Just enlarge to the desired size and print off sections (I left some areas of overlap when printing for ease of matching) and then tape or glue the parts together.

Or how about creating a matching game with the United States? Print off a black and white outline (with no markings) of the USA. Then print off a color version with states listed onto cardstock. Simple cut out the cardstock states (add magnets if you'd like) and let your kids match the state shapes to the outline master (for small northeastern states, leave in groups).

If your printer can print larger sizes of paper, print off world maps or regional maps and laminate them for placemats so kids can build geography skills every time they have a meal. You could also laminate blank maps and use a wax pencil or transparency pen to use for reviewing over and over. Post a large map and label where missionaries live or mark off countries as you pray for people in that country.

Add Wonder to any Subject
WonderMaps is the perfect solution for anyone who wants to weave mapwork into their science (where did Galileo live?), literature (where does "The Silver Skates" take place?), Bible (what are the modern day cities that correspond with Bible sites?), history (from where did the Pilgrims originate) and even math (where did Pythagoras live?) and even current events (where was Osama bin Laden killed?). Encourage connections between geography and every other subject with WonderMaps.

Travel the world virtually or for real. If you are fortunate enough to travel overseas, then print off maps of your destination and have your kids plot their course ahead of time or journal about it afterwards. Or planning a trek across the USA? Then mark your progress on a WonderMap of the region you are visiting.

Don't Just Take My Word
A number of homeschool families were able to try out WonderMaps. Make sure you visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog to find out what others thought of this product.

Purchase Information
You can purchase WonderMaps directly from Bright Ideas Press for $49.95. WonderMaps is available as a download (no shipping costs) or on CD if you prefer. Add up what you might spend buying more than one quality atlas and this is a real steal! Bright Ideas Press answers the technical questions you may have about running the program.

Contact Information
Phone: 877-492-8081 (M-F 8:30-5:00pm EST)
Address: Bright Ideas Press, PO Box 333, Cheswold, DE 19936

Disclaimer: We received a free download of WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

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