Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Expedition Australia

I was thrilled last week to get an email from The Old Schoolhouse offering me an opportunity to review an e-book for the Homeschool Crew. I eagerly downloaded my Download N Go Expedition Australia by Amanda Bennett. For $7.95, this unit study packs in a geography based week of learning for grades K-4.

The study is a 103-paged internet-linked guide. Each day’s lesson has four objectives which are clearly spelled out on an introductory page. After turning to "Day 1" activities, you will find an internet-linked guide, complete will fill-in-the-blank questions to answer, pictures to draw, maps to complete, and temperatures to chart. This sounds like a LOT on a page, but the pages are not cluttered or choppy. Instead, the pages’ content flows nicely, building on itself. I didn’t find the graphics at all overwhelming or distracting.

Each day’s study includes: a unique geographic feature, a word-of-the-day (I could go for a lollie right about now), an animal-of-the-day, and vocabulary/spelling words. Your child can use several internet links to locate a main city in Australia and write down its current time and temperature (a great reminder to talk about the opposite seasons between northern and southern hemispheres). This activity helped my son and I marvel at the size of the world God created.

The study includes other activities to engage your children: map skills, history, and astronomy to name a few. You can even cover music appreciation by learning and listening to the Australian national anthem. A special surprise at the end of each day was a beautiful photo of Australia with a selection of poetry about the country. What a nice touch!

If you are like me, you probably cannot help but want to include children’s books in your study. Thankfully, the guide has suggested 5-6 books that correspond to the daily topics. I wish Dingoes at Dinnertime had been included as an option, but I was pleasantly surprised that my small town library had several of the picture and non-fiction books.

My 1st grader and I took the curriculum on a trial run this afternoon. With laptop in hand, we read through the Day 1 activities: What is a continent? What are the seven continents? Locate Australia on your map. I loved the embedded the internet links; it made looking up information so convenient.

After completing one of the four daily learning objectives, a hyperlink takes you the end of the e-book, where print outs and directions for the mini-books are located. [Oh, did I mention that at the end of the study you will have created an Australian lapbook? Do you know what a lapbook is, but have never completed one? Never fear, Mrs. Bennett has done a great job of providing links to help you learn about this unique learning tool.] After printing out your mini-book, a link brings you right back to where you left off in the study guide (a very handy feature for those of us who may get easily lost in electronic pages of text).

Depending on the workload and writing abilities of your student, you could choose to print out the daily study pages or not. I would definitely require an older student to complete the fill-in pages, which would be especially helpful for completing the lapbook. I chose not to for this initial test run, but I will definitely print out the pages and mini-books for my sons to complete the next time through. Varying the amount and and type of writing (copywork vs. dictation vs. summarizing) would be one way to customize the study to the different learning stages you have in your family.

Although my son and I have only had a chance to work through part of the study, I can see us completing the rest of the study at a different time. These would make nice, gentle introductions to different countries that our history and geography program does not cover extensively. I would need to beef it up with extra read and online research for my 5th grader, but overall I think it is definitely something to consider for the early elementary set.