Expedition Australia!!

Two weeks ago, we went on an expedition…. where you may ask? ……… to AUSTRALIA! …. no packing… no passports, no awkward moments while TSA searches your carry-on and steals your favorite hand lotion…… we only had to “Download N Go”…….

I have always wanted to visit this “land down under” ever since the movie “Crocodile Dundee”.  (I think I may have just dated myself with that comment) My son knew next to nothing about Australia, and could barely find it on our globe. After a week working through Expedition Australia, he will gladly tell you all he has learned. Not only can he show you where Australia is located, he knows about it’s climate, major geographic areas, how it was founded, it’s national holidays, currency, and of course he learned about The Great Barrier Reef. He even studied the different marsupials that live on Australia and Tasmania. It was an action packed, fun filled week!

Expedition Australia is a 103 page E-book, that is a collaborative venture between The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and Amanda Bennett. It can be found in The Old Schoolhouse Store, in their ‘Download N Go’ section. This is geared to work best within grades K-4, and at a mere $7.95, is worth every single penny. It downloads right to your computer after you purchase, there is no need to wait for anything to ship! It is very much worth the investment, and can be referred to again and again as your child grows. Created to be both a lapbooking study as well as a notebooking study, it is very well organized into daily segments, and has hyper-links to other sections of the book which contain the lapbook components. Expedition Australia is one of many E-books, in the Download N Go series, that follow this format. You can pick from their Welcome Spring bundle, a pick your own bundle, a whole semester of study, or even a whole year! ( the whole year option is the BEST value! ) I think that you could even incorporate this study into work for your older student. They could certainly work on their writing and research skills using this study as a starting point.

When I read through the book before we started, I noticed that it gave additional reading books we could use with each day’s study. My library has an on-line reservation system, so I brought that up, and looked up all the books the authors had listed. Out of the 25 books that were listed, I was able to obtain 6 from my local library system. We got a very nice cross section of books for all 5 days, some were fun stories, and others were more informative. The E-book has links to all of these books for purchase, and if your budget can support the expenditure, I would recommend all of the reading material. There are resources that are contained in this book that will keep you busy for well past the week of study it is designed for.
Included in the book is an introduction to lapbooking. I found this VERY helpful, we had never lapbooked before. I found it a great hands on way to reinforce the material that was learned throughout Expedition Australia. One helpful hint was the suggestion to wait to add some items to the folder after the week of study was complete. My son is very much a hands on guy, and these activities were very interesting for him to piece together, he is still asking for little things to add to his folder.  ( I have added some pictures of his actual lapbook at the end of this post )

Each day we used this book as our complete curriculum. (Well, we kept doing our regular math too, so we didn’t get behind). It does contain some math within each day, and it was good reinforcement for units of measurement, temperature and time. Each night I printed out the pages for the next day, my son would read from the page, and I would read the material from the computer screen. When there were links to videos, or to more information on a given subject, he would come over and watch it, and we would take turns reading it. We used the comprehension questions for each section as our handwriting practice; reading and words of the day, as our language arts and spelling; and the drawing exercises for our art. Science was well covered by all of the wonderful animals of Australia. The remainder of the E-book would fall under the social studies, history or geography category for our day’s work. It took us about 3 hours to complete a days worth of work with a few breaks scattered in for a very active 7 year old boy.

Some unit studies are books or CD’s that you receive and they are all inclusive, meaning that the information you will study has been gathered, and written out in a narrative form and you study that material. This E-book differs from that style. Most of the information that you get to fill out the notebook portion as well as the individual components of the lapbook, come from the internet links contained in each day’s work. You really need to be at a computer for this E-book to function as it is intended. This was not a problem for us, we use the internet for many parts of our homeschooling day, but if you do not have a computer to use, you need to be aware of this feature.

My son really enjoyed learning all about Australia. His favorite thing was a link to study more about the Great Barrier Reef. It was very interactive and I think he had me scroll over every part of it at least six times to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Since it was our first lapbook, I like that we now have a couple of keepsakes from our study for years to come, and to show Grandma the next time she is up to visit.

I recommend this study! Particularly to anyone who is interested in trying out lapbooking or unit studies for the first time. You will not be disappointed!

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What does your kid "Wanna-be"?

We homeschool on a budget. I try to keep my homeschool spending below $350 a year for all 3 of my students. For product I am going to tell you about, I would gladly spend $8.95 out of my budget.

Last month I was given the opportunity to try out one of the “Wanna-be” Series  of E-books that are published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. It is a 10 book series on different jobs that kids often say they want to be when they grow up. The titles available include : Veterinarian, Police Officer, Artist, Pilot, Chef, Doctor, Missionary, and in the Military. The E-book I received was “I Wanna be a Firefighter”. I was excited to start on it, because I thought my son might enjoy learning about what a firefighter does. The E-book was easy to download. It opened right up in my Adobe Reader. They are created to be used by a wide age range, 4-10 years old, my son is 7 and falls neatly into the middle of that range.

I realize that part of the reason we have created E-books, is to save on paper, BUT…………… I printed out the entire 78 pages before we started, ( what can I say…..I am a hands- on kind of girl ) , and stuck it in a plain file folder to keep it together. I was amazed by how much “stuff” was in it! Over half the book is devoted to reinforcing activities and materials…. they even give you answer keys! There was copy work, both for manuscript and cursive writers, coloring pages for younger children, a word search, math, a test on the material that was to be read, bible verses, vocabulary words, activities and party ideas….. It is entirely self contained, you don’t need to purchase anything else, or look anything up…. just print what you want, and GO!

We used the book for one on one instruction for my elementary school aged son, but I could envision how easily the book could be adapted for use in a Co-op setting, or for those with a large family. The many activities that are listed, to help reinforce the character qualities that are required for a firefighter would work best with multiple children. My older children ( high schoolers) were not so excited about participation, but if they were put in charge of younger children, and had to teach and supervise the activities, I believe they would have enjoyed it much more. My 7 year old, however, enjoyed the activities immensely. His favorite was the bucket brigade. I also think that the party ideas would be enjoyed more, if done in a co-op setting.

We began the study while we were traveling in a car to visit some relatives. My sister was driving, and the rest of the car was captive. As I read, I was impressed by how thorough the material was. It was more in-depth than I expected for a K-4 material. Everyone in the car, my high schoolers, my son, and even my 31 year old sister, were engaged and interested in the material. Each subsequent day we would read another section from the reading material and do one or more of the reinforcing work pages that were included. It would take about an hour during our normal school time. Twenty to thirty minutes to read the material, thirty minutes more to do the pages, and discuss what we had learned.  It tooks us  a week and a half to complete the entire book.

There was only one section in the book that seemed to be a bit “rough” in how it tied into firefighters and what they do. That section was Science. It was on robots. While there was an attempt to correlate: one robot was fireproof and was there to detect forest fires, another was one that could extinguish fires in chemical plants, this information amounted to only 2 paragraphs tying robots to firefighters in the 9 pages of the science section. Every time a robot and a fire were mentioned together, I would have a mental picture of a poor melted pile of microchips that gave it’s dying whir to help a fireman. I would have enjoyed learning more about the science of fires. For example: how does oxygen feed a fire?, what benefits or harm do forest fires have on our environment?, what types of plants need fire to reproduce?, how do investigators tell where a fire started and what started it?, these are the things I think of when I think “fire science”. Don’t get me wrong…. my son enjoyed learning about robots and building the robot arm, this section just seemed disconnected from the overall theme of the book.

We really enjoyed this E-book. My son makes sure we either drive or walk by any fire truck that is parked at the grocery store. We go over all the gauges, hoses, ladders, and he tells me who sits where in the cab. He originally didn’t want to start the material because he thought that if he read about what a firefighter does, he would be automatically committed to becoming a firefighter. After explaining that we were just going to learn more, not make a life long commitment to it, he relaxed and enjoyed all the new information. The material is easy to reinforce since we see firefighters living, driving and working in our community. I am pretty sure that it won’t be too long before he tries to talk me into chasing down a fire truck to see how it hooks into a fire hydrant and pumps the water to the fire.

I would recommend this book, not just to those within the homeschooling ranks, but to everyone! Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles could use it when younger relatives come to visit. It would be easy to take on vacation and incorporate field trips into. Those who school outside the home, could use it as a supplement during holiday breaks or summer vacation. It would make a GREAT birthday gift.

So, ask your child what they think they may “Wanna-be”, get one of these great E-books, and explore together more about what happens in their “dream” job.

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