Tuesday, April 30, 2013

{Crew Review} Composers Activity Pack from Homeschool in the Woods


I have to admit that outside of Luke’s trumpet lessons and a jazz concert we all went to this winter, I have been very negligent to incorporate music into our program this year.  When I saw the opportunity to review Home School in the WoodsHands-On History Activity-Pak: Composers (which I have been drooling over since I noticed it at a convention a few years ago), I jumped up and down with excitement.

My intention was to use this with Luke and Levi (this has been a hard year for Ben in terms of managing his work, and I am hesitant to add anything extra to his plate right now), but it was Levi who just lit up with this product arrived via download. The Composers Activity-Pak ($18.95 download; $19.95 on CD) is a huge assortment of hands-on activities that will help you explore classical music from the middle ages up through the 20th century for grades 3-8.

This lapbook is a bit different from others we’ve done this year and in the past.  First off, there isn’t just one lapbook – This is a collection of tools to showcase what your child has learned about classical music.  Here are the parts:

    1. Composer study – Little books are made in which you’ll write what you learn about the 42 composers from the middle ages through the 20th Century.
    2. Musical Terms – cleverly hidden under piano keys, your student will learn a variety of musical terms, from ‘opera’ to ‘minuet.’
    3. Timeline of musical periods and composers- a fold out timeline shows when composers lived in relation to one another as well as the chronology of the periods of music (and their overlap)
    4. Music appreciation- Over 20 clips of music are provided on the download;  a page is provided that your student can write down some basic information about the composer as well as draw a picture that is evoked from the music.
    5. Orchestra instrument study- You will need a second file folder to complete a stand-alone orchestra with cards for each instrument tucked into its own pocket. A guide is provided for you to add and subtract instruments as they might have appeared in the orchestra during over time.
    6. How history and music have intersected at select points in time – these are artistically drawn mini-books that you print out, color.  Then you can affix pre-made paragraph narratives about how music was important during different periods of time: DSCN2303

I think that each of parts (#1-5) could stand alone as a guide as you introduce classical music to your student.

Which gets me to the next part about this product:  this activity-pak is a guide, an outline of sorts.  This is not a unit study, with background information about the 42 composers provided. There is no 100+ page guide to lead you through this study.  You will want to explore online or use the resources you already own to write about the composers you encounter.  There is a page that you can print out that lists about 40 books, audio and video resources you could use to complete this Pak.  Also, outside of instruction on how to build these projects, there is no suggested sequence for completion of this lapbook.

I want to be sure my readers understand that this isn’t a prepared unit study, because even after reading the website before requesting this product, I wasn’t quite clear about what exactly was included in this activity-pak. But once I saw these beautifully illustrated pieces, I was in love and am determined to use this in its entirety over the next year.

Yes, I said year.  For us, music appreciation is something that definitely needs to happen more often, but the amount of material in this activity-pak is so huge, that I can see it best used over the course of a several months.  If you study history chronologically, you could probably use this over the course of three years of study (Middle Ages, early modern, and 20th Century to present).

How We Used It:  Levi was the one who was immediately drawn to this lapbook.  Luke wasn’t horribly excited about a classical music, and since I knew we were going to use this for a looong period of time, I gave him a pass for the review period. The website suggests grades 3-8, but I can tell you that my 1st grader is loving this.

So, this was a Levi and Mommy project.  We used this 3-4 times per week initially to cut out pieces, glue, tape and generally create the basic lapbook.  I will admit that I was initially very overwhelmed by all that was included.  Directions for each of the components are provided but it did take me a few days to get a feel for where everything was located from the opening screen. Here’s a screen shot of part of the opening page of the download.  It opened in my Firefox web browser:

{Click picture to enlarge.}

Then, we went to work!  The adorable little book on the music stand provided a just-perfect introduction to musical periods.  As we read through the booklet, we highlighted vocabulary and found the definitions to put under our keyboard:


and here’s the adorable music book (we didn’t build the music stand sheet music shelf):


As we’ve read through the music periods, we also stopped to find examples of some of the composer’s work – either online (Gregorian Chant such as this one) or from one of the snips than came with the activity-Pak (they are in mp3 format).  Each sample is only about 2 minutes long – perfect for our purposes. 

As we listened to different composers, we added their mini-book to the lapbook.  Here you can see some of the composers we’ve listened to:


you can click to enlarge to see the contents of the mini-book:


I decided that we would wait until the fall to fill in the booklets.  Since Luke and Levi will both be working off this one lapbook, I’ll go ahead and let them take turns filling out the information.  We have a great book called The Story of the Orchestra that has information on composers as well as orchestral instruments. We also have several Classical Kids CDs (like this one for Vivaldi) to listen to. This will serve as our spine for our studies.

Finally, just last week, I decided that we would go ahead and print out the parts for the instruments of the orchestra lapbook folder.  Here’s the pieces:


This self-contained folder project will be perfect for us next year as we read The Story of the Orchestra and learn about the instruments!

My recommendations & thoughts:  I think this product will appeal to a great number of homeschoolers, but depending on the type of homeschooler you are, you’ll approach this differently. Here’s how I think different homeschoolers will approach this.  The On-The-Fly-Creative Homeschool Mama  who are really good at improvisation, will not be phased at all by this lapbook’s lack of step-by-step directions.  You are the mamas who have the *perfect* books at your fingertips (whether it is one you own or you know the exact shelf to find it at the library) which will enrich the study.  I wish I were more like you-all!

The Top-Down-Needs-the-Big-Picture-and-time-to-think Homeschool Mamas (like me) will love this lapbook after a short period of confusion.  If you are like me you’ll open and close this product a couple times, make sure you downloaded all the components (seeking the directions!).  Then you’ll carefully mull it over, let it sit for a day or two while you think “where do I start?”  Then you’ll jump in, own the product and it will be a huge blessing for your family.  

For the Structure-Please Homeschool Mamas, I want to encourage you that you can indeed use a product like this.  You will pour over the suggested resources provided on the download, create a detailed lesson plan to complete in X number of weeks (probably 36 so that it nicely aligns with all your other curricula), and you’ll have picture perfect, beautiful lapbooks that show a great appreciation for all things classical.

Schoolhouse Crew members were also given the opportunity to review Hands-On History Lap-Pak: The 20th Century in America and Great Empires.  To see what the rest of the crew through of the Composers Pak and these other kits, click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

{Review} Literature Studies with Progeny Press

Ben and I were pleased to review another Progeny Press literature guide (we were blessed to review one for Across Five Aprils last spring).  Even though we’re currently studying the 1900s in history, Ben’s curiosity was piqued when he read the synopsis for Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth.

The Progeny Press Eagle of the Ninth Study Guide for 5-8th graders ($16.99 as an instant download; check the website for CD and hard copy versions) is keyed to the full 200+ page book.  Please, please, please learn from our my mistake:  don’t order the Oxford Bookworms edition from Amazon, as it is substantially abridged.  Unfortunately, we didn’t realize it until well into three-quarters of this review period was finished, when Ben realized that he wasn’t able to answer chunks of questions.  And wouldn’t you know…when I ordered the full copy, hoping it would arrive before this was due…it was out of stock and my library does not have this book.  Oy. 

Well, regardless of my missteps, Ben was able to read about 1/3 of the abridged book and work through the first few sections of the guide.  This gave us a great feel for the study guide, which was composed like this:
  • 61-page study guide, with helpful pre-reading material:  synopsis, author background information, and pre-reading activities.  Pre-reading activities center around learning background information about the Roman world and historical Britain, the setting of this novel.
  • Instructor Notes.  This includes suggestions on pacing the book and guide in your school year as well as suggestions for using writing prompts and creating tests.  If you were to use PP’s guides for literature, you could finish approximately 4 during a school year.
  • Study Guide. This novel has 21 chapters, and the guide breaks the book into 7 sections of three chapters each. Each section contains sections:
      • Vocabulary.  The activities to expand vocabulary include multiple choice, using words in sentences, synonym matching, and matching definitions. Vocabulary explored include “bleak,” “sullen,” “weal,” and “imperious.”
      • Short response questions. These questions are mostly fact-based, comprehension type questions. 
      • The next two sections of the guide are called ‘Thinking About the Story’ and ‘Dig Deeper.’ This is where your middler will be learning about literary elements and analysis.  Your student will be introduced to literary elements such as assonance, anthropomorphism, mood, and foreshadowing.  Most of these questions require a free response answer from your student. In addition, the ‘Dig Deeper’ sections encourages your student to investigate the story plot from a Christian worldview; for example:
      • In each of the 7 sections, there is usually some sort of wrap up activity: a class discussion (helpful if you are teaching a lit. class through a co-op), an essay, a presentation or research project. Although we did not do any of these activities, I can see them as being beneficial especially if you enjoy unit studies that incorporate literature and history.
      • At the conclusion of the guide, there is a section called “Overview.” In our guide, questions about character development, conflict, plot structure, and theme helped students to look at the book as a whole to examine literary elements.
      • Finally, eight project/ essay questions are asked for further work.  These questions challenge students to use their writing skills in one of several types of essays:  persuasive, comparative, and analytical.  In addition, several writing projects encourage more creative writing (such as writing an eulogy for one of the characters in the story).
As you can tell, there is a LOT involved in a PP literature guide!
How We Used This:  Well, I’ve already come clean and admitted that we ordered the wrong version of the book, but our plan was to work through the chapters of the book according to the guide.  Ben read the first section of the book, then worked on the literature guide.  Then he read the next section and began working through that portion of the guide.
In terms of using the guide and turning in his work, I saved a copy of the guide in a shared online folder Ben and I both have access to through Dropbox.  The guide comes as an editable PDF (you can save information typed into cells), so when he finishes his work for the day, he saves it in the Dropbox folder.  I can open it up from a shortcut on my taskbar and grade his work there – and even leave him comments.  It has really worked well for Ben to complete the guide this way, and it is saving us a ton of paper!

This guide was challenging – I even got a couple of the vocabulary questions wrong.  Ben has had quite a bit of literary analysis with our main homeschool program, and that training has served him well to be able to work through the guide. Questions that ask about literary devices in the story (from the “Thinking About the Story” section) introduce literary terms with sufficient definitions so that no matter what the student’s literature background, they can start with the same footing to answer questions and explore the story more.  Here’s an example:
My recommendations & thoughts:  I really like these study guides and I know Ben enjoys them too (it helps that cool technology is employed so he can type his answers into the PDFs).  I think the guides have helped Ben to expand his literature skills.  I think that this guide works better for older middle school students unless your student has had a fairly rigorous elementary-level introduction to literary analysis.

That said, I’m really surprised at the age range for this product.  From the website, this book/ guide is included in the 5th-8th grade years section.  I would not hesitate to give this guide to a 7th or 8th grader, but I do know that I could not give this to Luke at the beginning of his 5th grade year this coming fall.
As a matter of fact, looking at PP’s guides for use next year, I think that I would pick a book that is less-challenging from a reading comprehension standpoint for Luke next year to allow him stretch his literary analysis skills.  For example, I’m thinking of having Luke work through the Mr. Popper’s Penguin story again (he read this book this past fall in 4th grade) so that he can focus more on the new task of literary analysis.

Progeny Press was gracious to allow the Schoolhouse Review Crew the opportunity to review many guides at various age levels. Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wordless Wednesday- Yum!

Ben saw a box of cake mix on the counter last week.  He wanted to make it for a snack.

God instantly gave me an amazing idea!  I said he could make it with Luke.   I purposely gave them this project to work on together because sometimes they need to work in getting along with one another. Making a yummy cake was very motivating and it was delicious for the rest of us, too.

There might be a lot more baking going on in this  house in the interest of building sibling relationships. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

{Crew Review} Creating Custom e-Timelines with Knowledge Quest App

Knowledge Quest has published a relatively new iPad app called TimelineBuilder ($6.99 at the app store).  The boys love any excuse to use the iPad (which I’ve tried to keep clear for educational apps and just a few games), and I knew they’d love a chance to help me review this.

Personally, I LOVE looking at timelines and such.  I really enjoy the visual of seeing events and their overlap – especially amongst disciplines, such as science and history or art and science.  The connections between events sometimes don’t become apparent until you can actually SEE when they happen, instead of just reading a narrative of these events.

We’ve had some limited success with "20th century timelines." Perhaps you know what I’m talking about – pieces of paper with a horizontal line drawn through the middle and cut out pictures or drawings pointing to spots on the line with a short sentence or two describing the event.  Ben and I always started off the year excited to watch history unfurl, but the creation of a  timeline quickly lost its glamour about the same time we realized we lost the next important picture we needed to cut out.

How We Used This App: I’ve been kicking myself most of the year because I haven’t done much timeline work with Luke, who is in 4th grade. Although Ben and I began making timelines much earlier in his school tenure, I waiting for Luke because it seemed that Ben’s early experience with timelines did not really carry much meaning for him.  Also, since we’ve been reading about history in the 1900s, I thought it would be much more meaningful to timeline events that allow us to integrate our personal family history.

During our review period, Luke and Levi used the TimelineBuilder  app to recreate our history studies this year:


One of the neat things you can do is rearrange the picture in any configuration you’d like.  At one point, most of these lines were crisscrossing one another;  there is a “snap to vertical” feature that allows a more orderly appearance. There is a zoom feature as well, which gives you the ability to zoom in if you’ve added a lot of events to a small area.  Unfortunately, even when you zoom in, the starting/ stopping points of events that cover multiple years is still difficult to distinguish.  I wish there was a way to change the colors so you could layer events with visual ease.

Then, they decided to make a timeline of their lifetime (including Ben) and important events.  You can really create as many timelines as you’d like!

family timeline
OK, please do not leave me a comment that the boys spelled “Super” Bowl wrong.  And, yes, 9-11 was in 2001 – we haven’t gotten there in history yet.  I just love that the Patriots won the “Supper Bowl” championship.  (“Super” is now on Luke’s list of review words for spelling this week.)

In this timeline, the boys used the iPad’s camera to take freaky pictures of themselves to add a personal, contemporary edge to their work.  And, here, I did not use the “snap to vertical” so that you could see how to you have complete freedom to put information wherever you want.
I loved how both Luke and Levi had to spend time looking up events either online or in books to get the dates correct.  Is is a bit confusing for them that we have elections in the even years, yet the terms do not start until the next year.

In encourage you to watch the video about how to build timelines.

OK, so your timeline is created on the app – now what?  I went ahead and emailed the timeline to myself, thinking that I could insert it in this review as well as print it out to include in the boys’ history notebooks.  The the interface where you can choose what to share and how to share it:

When I looked at my email, I was surprised to see a long, rather list of text that corresponded to each of the timeline items.  I suppose had we added more content there would be more meaning there – maybe I could even use that content to make flashcards for the boys.  Here’s part of the data I received:

The best part, of course, was looking at the images we made, which are sent as jpg attachments.  I went ahead and printed one – they look great and will be an awesom addition to the boys’ portfolios!

  • Simple interface makes the app accessible to even a 7-year-old
  • Seamlessly integrates with Wikipedia via Safari web browser
  • Can use personal photos as well as web images
  • Can create multiple timelines for any purpose
  • You can chose from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Dots on the timeline and frames around pictures color coded so that the TimelineBuilder user can merge events from different genres – literature, history, science etc. 
  • More manageable image editing.  Each picture we found on Wikipedia became distorted when it was imported to the TimelineBuilder.  Sure, we could readjust it once the image was on the timeline, but this was a cumbersome way to edit the picture.  It would also be nice to crop it or enlarge it within the program.
  • Not really a wish list item, but just a note to families that use alternate browsers on their iPads (like using apps for internet filtering and safety):  you will not be able to use these alternate browsers to import your pictures from the Wikipedia in-app link.  We had to turn our K9 web filter off to review this app so that this link would work.
Overall, we really enjoyed this app, and I know we’ll be using it for years and years to come.
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew 


{Being Thrifty} Easy Waffles

I used to purchase frozen waffles every other week or so when I grocery shopped as an alternative to cereal.  I'm not horribly wide awake in the morning (especially when the kids were younger) and needed something they boys could cook for themselves.

But soon they began inhaling waffles, so I cut them out of the budget, purchased a waffle maker for $20 and was super happy to find a simple waffle recipe that works great.  These days, I usually make three batches, store them in glass canning jars and use them as needed for a quick alternative to pancakes, cereal and eggs.

This recipe came with our GE waffle makers:

I'm hoping to create a similar recipe for quick-n-easy pancakes.  But, if you already have one, wanna share?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

{Crew Review} Experiment-Based Science with e-Science

One thing I’ve noticed about all of my boys – they love doing science - which means, they love the hands-on, experiment part of science.  When I showed and explained to Luke (grade 4) and Levi (grade 1) the Supercharged Science website and asked if they wanted to review it… well, I should have had earplugs to save my hearing from the resounding whoops and cheers.   

I don’t think you will find a more complete website for an internet-based science curriculum.  Not only does the  e-Science curriculum cover every grade K-12, I cannot think of another science topic that isn’t addressed in this program’s lessons (of course, I’m not a scientist). This subscription service is available at two price points:  K-8 level is $37/month, K-12 is $57/ month.

This seems a bit pricy for our budget, but you need to understand what you are getting:
  • Science experiments and concepts demonstrated on video by a real scientist (Aurora Lipper is a former NASA scientist who also was an instructor at California Polytechnic State. She graduated with her masters in engineering with a 4.0.  Yeah, she knows her stuff.
  • over 800 science experiments demonstrated online for you in over 19 scientific study units/ topics, including (but not limited to):
Life Sciences
Alternative Energy
Biology 1 & 2
  • Besides all the experiments, you’ll get lab supply sheets to help you organize your purchases, textbook-like reading for those who want to go more in depth, instructions in what to write in a lab notebook, and worksheets to use to cement topics or as tests.
  • You’ll also see Ms. Aurora (my name for her with the boys) active on the site.  Although we’ve not had a need to contact her, she actively answers questions from students and parents about successes, failures and discoveries in each science experiment. 
How the program works: When you purchase a subscription, you will have access to 1-2 units of content right away.  This is about 60-80 experiments.  With each month that you are a member, you’ll get access to additional units. According to the website:
“See a unit or two you’d like to do but don’t yet have access to? Just drop us a note and we’ll arrange special access to it for you. You’re the reason we’re here and I really want you to really get all you can out of e-Science.”
For more information on how the program works, check out these links:

After logging in, you will definitely want to watch Ms. Aurora’s short video introduction.  She will explain a bit about how the site works and some of her philosophy for engaging children in science.

Next, pick your unit! The units do not necessarily need to be studied in any order.  Not only are typical science topics presented, but if you are interested in learning about the scientific method or participating in a science fair, Ms. Aurora has included special units. Another interesting unit is Mathemagic, where Aurora helps children connect math to real life as well as using math in some fun ways (like codes and puzzles).

At the top right of each screen, you’ll see an outline of the components of each unit.  We always started with the “Getting Started” video that Ms. Aurora uses to introduce unit components.  I usually take a quick peak at the Shopping List page to make sure I’ve got the basics for most of the experiments. (You can look at a sample here for Unit 1.)  Then we’re off! 

How We Used The Program:  One of the reasons I wanted to give e-Science a try is because it advocated a more hands-on approach to science.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the experiments (especially when I think ahead and get all the supplies) and love learning along with my kids.  However, my approach is to use the experiment part as the “carrot” to entice my kids along as we complete the reading assignments.  I put the  book-learning ahead of the hands-on learning.

E-Science recommends building a love of science into children by focusing on the hands-on component first.  Aurora recommends that if/ when your student starts asking more questions, then break out the books, online readings and explanations and dig further.  Pretty opposite of the way I do it here, so I was intrigued to break out of my paradigm and try something new.

My plan for e-Science was to use it 3-4 times a week and to follow the boys lead – if we needed more reading, we’d do it; if they wanted to plug away on something else, we’d do that instead.  The only thing I made my guys try first as a starting point was on the Mechanics Unit – a unit about force, gravity and friction.  I thought this would be a simple place to start, and since we’ve done little in elementary physics, I knew they wouldn’t be bored – and they weren’t!

Luke had a blast one afternoon when he and I learned about barrel tunnels.  We followed Ms. Aurora’s suggestion and built one with green cardstock using some origami paper folding techniques.  It held over 5 lbs. before collapsing!
picmonkey supercharged sci

We also learned about gravity, forces, and  friction: 
Photo 11

It was great to see the boys really understanding some of the concepts we were learning about –  really want to investigate.  They spend at least 30 minutes in the hall closet (it was dark) watching infrared rays on different camera LED screens.

Last week, Luke had to serve as the teacher at his science club with three other boys his age.  What a blessing this program was! After spending about two weeks on the topic of Light (boys’ choice), Luke picked out his favorite experiments and shared his knowledge with his class.  I was really amazed at what he remembered just from doing experiments a couple times!  He did a great job explaining about light waves and photons, the main colors of light, and concave and convex lenses.  Silly me, I forgot my camera!


We did give the readings a try, but when presented with the opportunity to DO science vs. READ about science, my boys definitely got ants in their pants and balked at the reading.  Regardless, I did read through the 13-page document for Lights and Lasers and found it to be written in a very conversational tone in the first person. The reading was broken up by subheadings with many graphic elements to help explain concepts.  It coordinated well with what we had learned in the experiments with Ms. Aurora, so I didn’t necessarily feel like we were missing too much.

My recommendations & thoughts: I asked my boys what they thought of Supercharged Science.  They absolutely LOVE it and do not want to stop using the program.  One of the things we’ll do a better job about is taking Ms. Aurora’s advice and journaling about our science adventures.  I will also plan on using some of her written exercises, especially for Luke (who is finishing 4th grade).

I want to be sure to mention that if you are currently using a science program/ textbook that you like, but you want to really beef up the hands-on component, Conversion Charts for major homeschooling publishers have been created.  Click on the link above and you can how to fold e-Science into your program. 

One thing about my complementary subscription to e-Science:  I was blessed (in a big way) with access to all the units at one time.  Remember, typical subscriptions give you access to several units at a time, and each month more is given to you.  So, I cannot really comment on my experience with this part of the service/ program, but here’s more information about the membership/ cancellation policy

If you are wondering how moms with older (through high school) and younger children used e-Science, click to read more reviews from the School Review Crew!


Weekly Report: Week 29 - We Still Have The Towel

I know, weird title for a blog post.  But, it references the phase "throwing in the towel."

Luke has used a few different language arts programs that were very good, but just not a good fit for him.  He needs something a little more hands on and visual.  While researching this summer, I stumbled upon Winston Grammar and it seemed like it would fit him.

After an initial honeymoon period with the program, I became a little discouraged.   Luke was having some trouble identifying the parts of speech in sentences.  We talked often about needing to read a word in context to know how it was being used.  He would be inconsistent in his performance.  He desperately wanted to break free of using the colored cards to label words, but each time he did, he would make simple mistakes.  This lasted for a good 2+ months.  It seemed a long time to "hang in there" with a program that just seems to not go anywhere.

But once ski  lessons were over and life's schedule returned to normal (or whatever normal is here), we settled into a new routine and hung. in. there.

He's now classifying sentences (with a little prompting from me) with adjectives and adverbs!  Adverbs, mind you!

This is what a card looks like:

So on one side it shows the  name of the part of speech, and the other side has  visuals cues and words to help you decide how the word is being used in the sentence.  Luke likes to use the picture/ cue side more, but we are starting to internalize the cues, so he is getting better at it.

There is a different colored card for each part of speech.With Luke, I'm using both the basic set and the supplementary set.  The sentences with the supplementary workbook are definitely harder than those in the basic set, so we do not do every one.  What seems to work best for Luke is for him to parse sentences with me and with the cards before labeling sentences with marks and underlines on his workbook page.  The sentence he's labeled below was: 

Unfortunately, farmers relied too heavily on the valuable crop.

The black card is used when a word needs to be classified, yet it hasn't been learned yet.  We haven't gone over conjunctions or prepositions yet, and we also haven't gone over sentence types, direct objects, etc.  That comes in the second half of the program.

Luke likes to try to do  some of the sentences without the cards;  he wants to just look at the sentence and start classifying it.  But, these cards are like magic;  they cue him, they slow him down, and they make him focus on one part at a time. 

We are also excitedly working on a unit study on Composers for an upcoming review.  Levi really enjoys creating all the parts of the lapbook -- and there are a TON in this packet, so he is pretty happy:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

{Crew Review} Enjoying Lapbooking with Journey Through Learning

Luke, Levi and I have really enjoyed our science studies over the past month – we were blessed to review A Journey Through Learning (AJTL) lapbook/ unit studies. Since we started our school year learning about earth science, I just knew we needed to work through that study first so we could at least say we finished one science topic this year.

For this review, AJTL sent me four (yes, FOUR – eeek!) downloadable lapbooks:
Each of these lapbooks is available for $13 as a download product. You can also purchase them on a CD ($14), printed ($20) or even an assembled book ($29) that you just fill out.  Click on each of the covers above to see a sample!

A Journey Through Learning is one of those companies that was formed to fill a need for quality hands-on learning.  They have created unit studies using lapbooks for a huge variety of topics and ages – from preschool through middle school!  They even have lapbooks for Jeannie Fulbright’s Apologia elementary science courses.
The Earth lapbook is a specific unit study about the basics of earth science – a little geology, volcanology, general geography (landforms) and oceanography.  Each mini-book has a one-page information sheet, which contains the basic information for each of the 13 topics:
The Earth
Earth’s Crust
Layers of the Earth
Earth’s Spheres
Days and Seasons
How Mountains are Formed
Ocean Zones
Water Cycle
Ocean Floor

imageI found the lapbook packet very well organized and easy to navigate.   Sometimes I get a little ADD when there are pages and pages of explanations on the company, the method, the pacing, etc. at the beginning of a new school book.  I’m usually just as excited about something new as my kids, and I want to get started as quickly as they do!    In all, there were only seven pages that I considered introductory, and there was enough helpful information in there for those who are new to lapbooking to get started and some very helpful tips for those like me who have done a couple handfuls of lapbooks in the past. I know this seems like a minor issue, but I loved that the introductory material was broken into text boxes so I could easily find what I wanted (click on the picture to the left to see what I mean).

Getting started was easy.  Each mini-book was printed on its own page.  There is a “map” to find where each AJFL 1mini-book fits on your tri-fold file folder (circled in red).  It also includes clear instructions on each page (highlighted in yellow).
For each mini-book, I read the summary information to the boys.  I added in several other topical books or chapters from books that we had on hand.  We even watched a couple Magic School Bus episodes that corresponded to the lapbook.  When finished reading, I handed the boys the lapbook for them to cut out the little book.  I encouraged them to read and follow directions by themselves, which was a good learning task itself!

Another thing that streamlined this lapbook’s production was that many of the mini-books were already colored when printed!  I could easily print them on white paper and we were able to move swiftly through the material.  I know some kids really would like the opportunity to color the mini-books – and my boys like to do as well. But sometimes, a lapbook can have too much – too much coloring, too much cutting, too much gluing.  There have been several times when all the coloring/cutting/gluing has really worn out the fun of learning.

I think because the mini-books were printed white and had some basic colors already, it inspired Luke and Levi to be extra creative:
Luke wanted to draw a space shuttle since it travels through all  levels of the atmosphere
Photo 7Levi wanted to draw the parts of a volcano instead of dictate a sentence to me.
  Another instance of drawing instead of writing out the answer.  I love it:Photo 8 - Copy
Here’s a completed product (Levi is much more willing to show off his book than Luke):
Photo 4                                        Photo 5

My recommendations & thoughts: We really enjoyed this lapbook.  It was a perfect base for both my 1st and 4th grader and gave us an opportunity to add additional material with bogging us down with too much information.  The boys often begged me to do more than two mini-books a day – and we often did.  I think AJTL has found a great middle ground for those who want to complete a lapbook and add creative elements and outside reading without it becoming such a huge project that the kids lose interest. Because of this, I can also see adding in slightly order and younger students by adjusting the outside reading material. We will definitely be using several other lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning in the next year.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew.

Wordless Wednesday

Easter bling and hand painted eggs: