Saturday, March 13, 2010

Homeschool Curriculum Review - Expedition Australia

 E-Book: Download N Go™- Expedition Australia

Expedition Australia is one of the Download N Go series of E-book unit studies by Amanda Bennett and The Old Schoolhouse.  It is available at The Old Schoolhouse Store for $7.95.
It is a 5-day unit study based, of course, on Australia! It was written for children from Kindergarten up to 4th grade.

My first grade son and I were both excited to begin this study.  Australia has a bit of mystery about it, because it seems so very different than everything we are used to here in the United States.  This study did not disappoint us.  It was chock-full of information, and included great internet links to pictures, information, and even videos of all of the animals and places discussed in the curriculum.  The information was arranged in a day-to-day schedule, with everything written in the order that it was to be taught.  Each day included a geographical area to study, an animal to learn about, a city to locate, and an Australian word to learn.  There were also extra activities each day, including learning about the seven continents, boomerangs, and Captain Cook.  The study included printable worksheets for each day, along with printable lapbook items.  It also included a  booklist of books which could be purchased, or borrowed from your library.  (Just a note - our local library had very few books about Australia.  You may want to research this ahead of time.)  Also included are outline maps and many links to reference maps on the web.

My favorite section was an Introduction to Lapbooking by Stephanie Ruby.  I had heard about lapbooks, and even seen some videos of their construction, but had never attempted one, myself.  This introduction gave me the confidence to choose this method as our primary activity for the week.  I think the price is worth it, just for this page, which also contains internet links for more instructions.

We started this unit on a Monday, and finished on the following Monday (Friday was our co-op day, so we did not work on it that day).  The activities took a few hours each day to complete.  We did not do all of the worksheets, although I did go through some orally with my son.  They include short answer questions, and activities like circling the pictures and drawing pictures of your own.  There is a wide variety, to challenge children of different ages.  Much of the same information is addressed in the lapbooking activities, so we chose to concentrate on that instead.  If you have a fast worker or want to spend extra time, you could probably do it all.

One thing I liked about this was that you really could pick and choose your activities.  We tried to cover each of the objectives, but did omit some things.  For instance, there is a part each day where you can find out what the time and temperature is in the city you are studying.  We tried this the first day, but my son does not yet understand  time and temperature concepts well, so the actual numbers were lost on him.  It did give me the opportunity to explain that it was summer in Australia, while it was winter here in the U.S.  He was amazed to find out that in Australia, they celebrate Christmas in the summer!  Some of the activities were even interesting to my almost-two-year-old daughter.  She enjoyed seeing the videos and pictures of animals, and some of the links included coloring pages of the different animals.  I printed them out for both kids, and this gave her something to do while my son was working on his lapbook.  I think she enjoyed being part of "school."  My son enjoyed making his lapbook very much (except for the sticky glue, but that's just him!).  He was able to design it himself, and very proudly showed his progress to Dad each night, explaining the information to him.

In retrospect, I think I would have tried to go through the material more slowly.  There really is a lot of information, and I am not sure we covered it very well.  I tried to complete the unit in five days, as it is designed, but in doing so, we really sped through.  It might even be better to concentrate on each section for a few days, covering the information more thoroughly, or to break it up differently - i.e. geography for a week, animals for a week, etc.

PROS:  This unit was very strong on physical geography.  It had a wide variety of activities and information. Everything was well-explained and easily accessible.  It really was ready to go, and involved very little prep work.  ( I did preview the links ahead of time, and printed and cut out the lapbook items.  Some children would be able to cut them out themselves.)  I was able to download the book to my computer, and only printed out the paper items that were needed to work with (maps and lapbook items).  This cut down on the amount of clutter involved!  I was also able to start right away, instead of waiting for a book to be mailed to me.  It was very good for a visual learner who needs to see pictures and videos, or a kinesthetic learner, who can spend time making and arranging the lapbook.

My son said that the best things were that he learned about  Australia, and got to learn new words.  He also enjoyed learning about the animals.

CONS:  Five cities were introduced, but there was no information about them, other than their location, time, and temperature.  There was also little information about the people who live in Australia, aside from one link about Aborigines.  History was also not emphasized.  The pace was a little fast, as written.  I felt that we were skimming over things and rushing through them to get all of the activities accomplished in a day.  This may or may not be a problem with your children, but my son tends to work slowly.  This was not very Charlotte Mason friendly, involving mostly factual information.  It was also very media-driven, with most of the information coming directly off of the internet, much of it in video form.

My son did not really like the gluing and taping.  This was his only con!  Does anyone know how to make a lapbook with no glue or tape?  Please let me know!

FINAL ANALYSIS:  This was a well-written and organized unit study.  It was adaptable to a wide range of ages and abilities.  It was also well-researched.  It saves a lot of  prep time for the homschool teacher, and gives a very good overview of the country.  I actually learned a lot about Australia that I was not aware of!  I would recommend this study to anyone wanting to add something different to their homeschool schedule.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Robin, good review. We did KONOS's unit on Australia and it was excellent!


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