Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Wonders of the World {Homeschool Review Crew}

When summer rolls around we typically take time off from a full traditional school schedule, but as a believer in lifelong learning and reducing "summer loss," we always carry a light summer load.  A little math review, some literature and a fun project or two usually carry us through the summer.  This year, one of our fun projects came from Home School in the Woods.  They generously offered crew members the opportunity to review a multitude of their products from different history lines, and my boys chose Wonders of the World.

Wonders of the World is part of the Lap-Paks series, which also includes:

  • U.S. Elections
  • 20th Century in America
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Knights
Hands-On History Lap-Pak: Wonders of the WorldWonders of the World includes 23 projects to explore Ancient Wonders, Medieval Wonders, Modern Wonders and Natural Wonders.  They concede that the list is subjective and other sources may include wonders that they did not include, but they tried to choose their final list based on interest factor and reputable sources.  They list several books and a few websites for further research and reading, if you choose.

How Does it Work?
My first thought was "This is complicated."  It's available as a CD or digital download, and we received the download.  Once downloaded, there were file extractions and tons of files.  However, once I started reading, it started to quickly come together and wasn't actually complicated at all.  I tend to buy physical copies though, so people who are used to downloading their curriculum are probably more familiar with this process.  There was still a lot of back and forth to print the appropriate files for each project on the appropriate type of paper (you need colored and white copy paper, as well as colored and white card stock), so I highly recommend either printing it all ahead of time, or at the very least, a week or two at time.  I can't be doing this "in the moment" because it's time consuming.  The Project Directions do give clear instructions for what to print and how to complete the project, but I would have also liked one consolidated Master Print List that said "print these pages on white paper, then print these pages on colored paper, etc" so that I could make that back-and-forth work the way my mind and printer work.  All the pages are labeled with the project name though, so it would still be easy to sort once printed.

Once I had assembled a few projects worth of printed material (x2) we got to work.  There is a Timeline to assemble, and a booklet for all of the factual information.  I usually read the information out loud while they work on the projects.  There's also an audio version, which we used occasionally, and might be particularly useful for students working independently if they need help with pronunciations.  The "work" is very interactive--there is usually some sort of coloring, cutting, pasting/taping, sometimes writing, so occasionally I'll help with assembly, but it's pretty straightforward.  Each finished project is interactive - pockets to hold Wonders, flaps to lift, and more.  It gives the student a reason to go back and look at the project and information again!

 My 7 year old's Ancient Wonders project.  
I don't quite remember what his doodles represented.  

The Lap-Pak is intended for grades 3-8, and my boys are 7 and 10 years old.  I found the textual information to be attainable and interesting for both of them.  I loved that the text always distinguished between facts and traditional stories that have been passed down, and gave different possibilities when historians are unclear on the history or purpose of something.  I also appreciated that the text was substantial, without being too long.  It was just enough information to satisfy introductory interest, but still presented all the information in a narrative way, not as a boring list of facts, and frequently the boys were encouraged to seek more information.

One other thing we did to bring the Wonders to life was to look up images online (or theoretical renditions) and look up the Wonder on Google Earth, and the kids loved this additional visual aspect. However, the artwork for the projects and the time is beautiful and realistic on its own.

Timeline figures

Although these mini projects are designed to be part of a larger Lap-Pak, they will work just as well affixed to card stock which is hole punched and put into a notebook.  That was what my boys requested to do, because we're counting this as part of our history studies for the upcoming year, and we're going to put each project in with the appropriate history timeframe in our notebooks.  It'll be great review when these Wonders are mentioned again in historical context.

Final Thoughts
Our history curriculum is primarily literature based, and includes no additional activities.  These projects give them something to do to break up the monotony of read--narrate.  I believe it would also supplement a geography program well.  I also have Great Empires, and now that both boys are older and will get something new out of it, I plan to incorporate it again this year, along with a few of the Wonders of the World projects, into our World History course.  If your children are visual and hands-on learners, there is likely something for you!  This is a very diverse curriculum, and can be used to introduce, review or supplement any core history program.  For many families, especially with students on the younger end of the recommended range, these studies could be the basis for a full unit, especially if you use the additional suggested books and videos to enrich the material.

More From Home School in the Woods
Home School in the Woods offers many visual and hands-on history lines for students to enjoy.
Other products that are being reviewed by crew members include products from the Time Traveler's American History Studies and Activity-Paks line, as well as the Timeline Trio.  Since the crew is reviewing such a diverse set of materials, I highly suggest you check out their reviews and Home School in the Woods to see the variety of hands-on projects they offer.  Wonders of the World is mostly paper-based, but many of their products include instructions for games, recipes and other hands-on activities.

Homeschool in the Woods also offers a new A La Carte option, if you're wanting to try them out, or just do a project or two from their different studies to go along with another curriculum.  They are hoping to add more projects in the future, but in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal, you can currently download this project for FREE with the code alacarte.

Hands-on History {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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