Monday, July 19, 2010

Curriculum Review---Travel the World!

Don't I wish I could. Travel the world, that is. Global travel is a dream of mine. I have been out of the country once, when my Submariner husband and "his" submarine stopped over in Plymouth, England. We decided that THIS was the place I wanted to go because I had always wanted to see England.

I love novels set in England. It is such a ROMANTIC place, and it is so interesting. I am very blessed that I was able to go there. It was everything I dreamed of and more. Stepping out of  Paddington Station in London for the first time and seeing a REAL big red telephone booth, just like the ones from the movies was sooooo cool. ;-) I had`to call my mom right away and tell her all about it! Walking through beautiful Hyde Park and seeing the paths where society's elite used to parade around in carriages and on horseback was absolutely amazing. Staying in a bed and breakfast where the proprietor served us a traditional English breakfast, taking tea with scones and clotted cream in a quaint tea room that overlooked an idyllic pasture setting full of grazing sheep, touring Buckfast Abbey, a Benedictine monastary noted for its honey and beer production, walking around Buckland Abbey, once owned by Sir Francis Drake...all of those things were utterly memorable. Walking around Stonehenge and wondering about the mystery, standing on the place in Plymouth from where the Pilgrims supposedly set sail for The New World, seeing the Tower of London, and walking through Kensington Gardens to see the JM Barrie statue was unforgettable. Viewing the touching Albert Memorial, prowling around a old English bookstore, eating Shepherd's Pie in a real English pub, and searching through the British Museum to find the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles was something I will never forget. We even watched the stony-faced guards in their furry get-up in front of Buckingham Palace for a while. I don't think they ever blinked. It was wow. More than wow, it was incredible. The entire trip was definitely a reinforcement of my sketchy public school history lessons, the books I'd read, and most certainly a catalyst for a renewed interest in all things historic. Suddenly, knowing and understanding history had real meaning.

However, trips to AWESOME foreign ports don't happen every day, yet we still need to learn and study our world's history and geography. How do we get our kids, who likely have never traveled farther than a state or two away from where they live, interested in abstract places they have never seen and can barely imagine? Let me share with you something I recently discovered.

Now, as I have told you before, from time to time, as part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I receive free curriculum resources for the purposes of reviewing them. I do my best to be objective, and I try to tell how the curriculum item benefitted my family, how we used it, what worked for us, and if appropriate, what did not. In the month of June, I received the June 2010 Travel the World! Module from TOS. This module is an additional downloadable resource that can be ordered to supplement The Schoolhouse Planner or it may be ordered separately. Each month, a new module is available as a learning supplement, idea sparker, or unit study.

Personally, I will tell you that at first I was not so sure about this idea. Honestly, we keep pretty busy, and especially in June, we are not particularly interested in starting something new. We are ready to be FINISHED! Also, this next school year, we intend to start a study of the United States, not the world, so I was not really sure how I was going to fit this study in. However, I do realize that even though the module is labeled as being for the month of June, that doesn't really mean it has to be used during June, under normal circumstances. As I considered it further, I had the thought that some folks might like the idea of having a ready made supplemental topic each month. It might not be just what I need, but there are some folks who might get a kick out of "opening" a new unit for exploration each month.

In the end, after looking carefully through the module, I decided that since I was under a time constraint for using the module this month, I would focus on using the geography information, rather than the "world" information, and I would use it as a spring-board for our mid-August (post family reunion trip) study of United States geography.

So, getting back to how to get your family interested in geography and world history...How can the average family with no concept of world studies develop a REAL interest in it? Well, here is the BIG idea, I mean the HUGE idea (at least to me) that I got from this product. I am so excited about it. How did I never think of this myself before? Anyway, let me let it speak for itself. Here is a quote from the module:

"The word geography comes from the greek, geo, which means earth, and graphy, which means to write. So geography is God's handwriting on the earth. When you study geography, you are studying God's stage, story, and plan for man on earth...Do you like stories? Do you like plays? Do you like to know where the story or play takes place? Well, the earth is the setting for HIS story. And the all-wise Creator made the earth perfect for all of His creation. Let's learn more about this special setting for His story."  (emphasis mine)

Wow. Don't you just LOVE that perspective? Tell THAT to your kids and see if they aren't more interested in finding out about countries they have never heard of and will probably never see.

In any case, I loved that part of the module. I thought they did a good job leading into a study of geography. I had my twelve-year old, Tex, go through the basic geographical term information, exploring the links from terms (such as latitude and longitude, map, and compass rose,) and geographical elements (oceans and continents). He got a solid review/introduction for when we get back from our trip. I am thinking that to keep the geography flow going, we may also borrow the dvd of the movie Longitude for the trip and watch it with him (with some editing), and will find a book about an explorer or two to stick in our book bag.

There are also puzzles, such as a word search, a rebus or two, a crossword, and fill-ins included in the module. They have these same elements in every module they make. These puzzles were pretty basic, though nice, but were not something Tex had an interest in completing (or a need to). They were too hard for my young ones (ages 1-6), but might be something a slightly older (7-11) child would like doing.

Tex did like the many links to online geography puzzles that were available. Several were ones we have available on our homeschool-for-free site , so they were like old friends. They are definitely challenging, especially when you get to Asia and Africa. It seems like a looooong time ago that I took World Geography, and things have changed since then. There is also a link to the National Geographic site, which is also available on my site , and to the GeoBee quiz, which changes daily. I took today's quiz myself and was humbled by my feeble effort, but did quite well on yesterday's quiz. Pshew!!

Also included in the 52 page module are very nice print and cursive pages of copywork (again, this is a regular element to the modules), some outline maps to color and fill out (I was disappointed that every continent was not represented, order to use this with my little ones when I get back, I will have to find outline drawings of the rest of the continents), a travel lapbook which is basic, but could be cute when done (but we did not do), an acrostic poem to complete, a song to practice to help you learn the continents, and of course, the answer keys. All of these things are geared (at least it seemed to me) towards younger to middle school students (K-8).

In addition to the aforementioned items, there is an upper level (High School) student supplement that takes a closer look at Matthew Fontaine Maury, known as The Pathfinder of the Seas, at geography and business, and at history, politics, and geography. This supplement is not incredibly in depth, but it does give some ideas to spark a deeper study for an enterprising and interested individual. The unit concludes with a few recipes and a list of online resource links students can use to find more information.

All in all, my favorite two parts of the module were the What is Geography? section, including the quote I shared with you because it is so RIGHT. And it is not always thought about. And it is so important. Then there are all the game links, which are fun and a pretty good way to get a middler interested in learning (most kids love to beat a game these days, and if you have to learn somthing to beat the game, I am all for it!). Your younger students will likely enjoy the puzzles, the coloring, and the mini lapbook (with lapbooking links); plus, the information provided will give most home educating moms a good base from which to start looking into a study of geography, or just enough for a month long mini-unit meant to pique interest and introduce the topic.

According to the TOS website, this module is designed to be a "stand-alone unit study." It can be purchased alone or bundled with the Schoolhouse Planner. If you prefer to buy the modules separately, you can do that for $7.95 each. Here is a link to an ad for the June 2010 module Travel the World! You can link from there to see a sample of the module, including the table of contents and a few other pages. Past module topics offered by TOS, also available for purchase, include: insects, Bible stories, astronomy, safety, art, scientists, explorers, weather, inventions, and wonders of the world. You can go here to see a partial list and the opportunity to click and find more samples. If you keep watch at the Old Schoolhouse Store,  you will find that some modules go on special from time to time.

I was given a complimentary copy of the June 2010 module Travel the World! in exchange for a review of the product. What you have here is my objective opinion of how I feel this product was beneficial to me and a description of how I used it with my family.




Denise said...

Wow~ great informative review! I enjoyed reading it!

kathy@stewards's steno said...

You've started out this year's review cruise with a bang- Great Job!- Your First Mate

Mrs. Mandy said...

Great review, like how you tied it in with your families summer trip!

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