Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Let's Go Geography {review}

Every year the Schoolhouse Review Crew has introduced my family to curriculum we might not find on our own, but that turns out to be a good fit.  Let's Go Geography is one of those programs, and I'm excited to share it wth you!  This is a homeschool geography curriculum written by Carol Henderson, that will have three years of K-4 material.  Each year will cover two US regions and 26 countries, so over three years it will give a broad overview of the world.  The crew recently reviewed Year 1, and I was happy to try this out with my kids.  Although it's a K-4 program, I used it primarily with my 3rd and 5th graders, and my 4 year old tagged along occasionally, so I'll state up front, the grade range can be flexible!

Let's Go Geography

How Does it Work?
Once you log in, you will find information for assembling a Travel Journal, to store your work for the year, and/or a Passport.  To begin the lessons, you simply click the one you want and it opens in a new tab.  You can download as a PDF, but internet links are embedded, so you will need internet access.  All of the content for a country is included, but you will want to look ahead at the craft to make sure you have the necessary supplies.  The lessons are written in a specific order, and grouped by continent.  You'll receive a reminder email each week for your next lesson.  However, you have access to all of the lessons and can complete them in any order.  The icons next to the lesson show varying levels of progress, with the checkmark appearing after you mark the lesson complete.  I really appreciate this feature!

Each lesson follows the same basic "itinerary," though the individual activities differ slightly.

Color the Map - We color the country on a continent map, identify the capitol, and discuss things like bordering countries and bodies of water.  I love that questions are often asked in relation to the equator and cardinal directions.  None of the extra information doesn't need to be memorized, but it's good for exposure for the younger kids, and of course a good mapping exercise for the older kids.

Color, Cut and Glue the Flag - You can print one page with two flags, or a classroom set.  These are partially colored flags, that the student is to complete, and then put into their passport or onto the Flags of . . . (continent) pages, so you can visually see where the flags are flying around the world.  We use the continent page that goes into the Travel Journal.

The family page of flags includes the two small flags in the middle of the page with informational text all around it.  I only need the two flags this year, but it's a bit wasteful to print a full page every time.  Another option would be to have a separate file in the membership area with all of the flags together, as it would only be about two pages.  This would be the most "print friendly" for my family anyway.  

Enjoy the Music - An external link to listen to the national anthem, and sometimes another video of traditional songs/dances.  My kids loved hearing the different languages, and I appreciated when the lyrics are dubbed in the original language and/or translated to English.

Explore and Go Sightseeing - This section usually has some basic facts about the country and the culture, and then links are provided to short videos of villages, markets, animals, tourist sites or other interesting topics.  You will also find a link to read more online, as well as library call numbers if you wish to check out relevant books.  Finally, this section includes (optional) instructions for the country's notebooking page.  My boys are older, but for younger students, a second page with less lines and an area for drawing might be a good idea too - particularly if being used in a co-op setting with mixed-ages or younger children.

So far the videos have all been on YouTube.  We've not seen anything problematic, though I always suggest parental guidance when following external links, just as a precaution!

Color or Make a Craft - This section typically has a coloring page and instructions with photographs of a craft to make.  For instance, when we did China, there was a coloring page of a Chinese Dragon, as well as a craft of a Chinese Dragon.  The coloring pages are great for my 4 year old when she wants to participate, and many of the crafts are great for the Pre-K - 2nd grade range, or for older kids who do still enjoy crafting.

How We've Used It
Each weekend, I go through our next country and print any pages we need.  I have built a good personal library, so I pull out any related literature and reference books (if there is more interest, then we can check out more books from the library) and put them in our weekly book basket.

There are several ways you can do the lesson through the week.  The five activities I listed above could each be done over five days, for younger children.  My boys are older, so we can do the lesson in one day, though sometimes we stretch it into two days.  First, we work through the mapping, flag activity, music and sightseeing tour.  There are a few pictures that represent the country which could be printed for the travel journals, but I usually just show these to the kids and we discuss them.  Then I have them do the Notebooking page, which is a great form of narration.  If we choose to do the craft, we usually do it later in the week.  If we have books to read, I spread them out throughout the week as part of our read-aloud material.

Carol Henderson has suggested that we don't have to feel obligated to do all of the activities, that the idea is to expose the children to various aspects of the culture.  The variety of activities is so that there is something suitable for all ages.  I've found that we can basically do everything since my kids are older. We aren't really a "craft" family as a whole, so some of the crafts were omitted, or I try to find a suitable alternative that is in the spirit of the original activity.  (For China, we replaced the Chinese Dragon craft with an online drawing tutorial of a Chinese Dragon for our travel journals.)  Other crafts have been more our speed, almost handicraft in nature.  We did a placement weaving for Cambodia and made a version of the game Tapatan for The Philippines.  We had fun playing several rounds of this game!

The Schedule/Itinerary 
As mentioned, each year will cover two regions of the US and a few countries from each continent.  All countries from one continent are grouped together, so we are studying one general area at a time.  I decided to start with Asia, because one of the boys had recently requested to study China.  After looking through a few of the lessons and the reviews, I realized it would be best to do all of the Asian countries, then New Zealand, so that we could then follow it with the appropriate review before moving to another section.  I did peek at the review for Asia/Australia, and it reviews basic information - mapping the countries and matching flags, as well as a review of general facts, but new information is included as well.  There is also reference to something learned in a previous review, but it too was covered in enough depth that I don't feel like skipping around will cause any major issues.

Let's Go Geography

Final Thoughts
I love that so much information is included, but since it's all about exposure and appreciation for other cultures, rather than 'drill and kill' work, it doesn't feel overwhelming at all!  I love that this is a stand-alone geography curriculum, but that it could easily accompany other curriculum and homeschooling styles.  We are relaxed, Charlotte Mason inspired homeschoolers, and you could easily start with a living book for each country, and use this curriculum to enhance the learning.  I really appreciate that everything you need is included, though it's easy to expand if their is interest.

There were some small issues related to printing and paper usage that could be tweaked, but otherwise I haven't run into any real problems.  I think it's very easy to use this curriculum within the intended grade range, and slightly outside of it.  It's K-4, but I've used with Pre-K, 3rd and 5th, and I think the activities are all doable for this age range.  All of the kids like the videos.  The animal videos are a hit with everyone, while my 4 year old daughter also loves the dances and elaborate costumes and jewlery, and my boys love videos about cuisine.  The activities are easily tweaked.  Young children can dictate their thoughts for the note booking page, while older students could further research a topic of interest.  It's also very multi-sensory, with videos, music and crafts available for different learning preferences.

I had already purchased a different geography curriculum for this school year, and while it's lovely too, I have decided to set it aside for a year and use Let's Go Geography!  This program better suited to my wide age range this year, it is so easy to implement, and it is just plain fun!

How to Purchase
A few of the countries are available individually for purchase, but you can buy just the first semester ($14.99), buy the full year one semester at a time ($12.99/semester), or the full year at once ($21.99).  There is currently a 25% off coupon on the website as well.  All prices and coupons are current, but may change.  To have everything brought together for me--enough videos, printable materials and craft ideas for a simple introduction to so many countries around the world--and organized so nicely, I'm very happy with the curriculum!

Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}

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