Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Crew Review: A Journey Through Learning

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We've enjoyed lapbooks from time to time ever since we started homeschooling. So we were excited to get to review lapbooking and notebooking products from A Journey Through Learning. They very generously gave us FOUR products, and asked that we use at least one of them during the review period. The four products were:

Letters, Numbers, and Shapes (age 3-5)
The Earth (Grades 1-4)
Knights and Castles (Grades 2-7)
Astronomy and Space (Grades 2-7)

I let MiniMe and Sassy choose which one they wanted to do, and they agreed on Astronomy, after I told them that I'd prefer they do one of the science ones, since this year has been pretty strong in history and not so much with science. I also started through the Letters, Numbers and Shapes lapbook with Little Bit.

Astronomy and Space photo astronomylapbook_zps68bf09d3.jpeg Astronomy and Space is different from the other choices because it's a unit study/study guide, NOT a lapbook. I made sure the girls understood that, and they were fine with it. It is laid out to do one "lesson" per day for a little more than a month. Each lesson includes a page or two to read, .and then questions or an activity to go along with what was read. There are also vocabulary lists in the back, listing words from the reading and the student writes in the definitions.

I printed out the complete file for each of the girls, and then used my handy-dandy binding machine to bind them into a book for each girl. That way their reading and their questions are all in one place, easier to keep track of!

Since we are very much NOT a workbook kind of homeschool, there has been some balking, mainly from Sassy, about doing the more workbook-ish pages, and she is not at all a fan of writing out the definitions of the vocabulary words. But overall, I think they've enjoyed it. Not surprisingly, their favorite parts tend to be the hands-on things.  One disappointment was that one of the "experiments" required something to be set outside on a warm day (I believe the minimum temperature 
was 85 degrees, though I may be remembering wrong. It was high enough that it most definitely was NOT going to happen here, in March, certainly not THIS March, where we're STILL seeing snow in the forecast in APRIL!). The girls commented that "they should tell you, this study has to be done when it's warm".

Something else, I really wish was included, was a comprehensive list of all required supplies (there is a "list of supplies" but it only lists a 3 ring binder, tabs, and the study guide) . One of the days, the assignment is to read a biography about Neil Armstrong. Sassy was excited about that, and asked if we could please get the Childhood of Famous American's biography about him, which was great, but then we had to wait while I requested it from the library and it came in. She was still thrilled to read it when it came, but it would have been nice if I'd known we'd need it, and could have had it ready when she got to that lesson. Same with various craft supplies, knowing what we needed, without reading through the entire notebook ahead of time, would have been helpful, especially things like an empty paper towel roll, we rarely use paper towels, so I would absolutely NOT have been able to produce one, much less 2, paper towel rolls on demand. Thankfully, I remembered our neighbor mentioning that she had a whole trash bag of paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls that she kept on hand for her kids' crafts, so we were able to get some from her.

Finally, just something to be aware of. The intro information at the beginning of the study says that doing one lesson per day, this study will take "about a month". I assumed that by "per day" they meant roughly 5 days per week. A few weeks into the study, I actually sat down and counted the "lessons" and there were 27. So apparently, when they say "per day' they are expecting you to school 7 days a week.

All in all, they've enjoyed the Astronomy study, and it's seemed to be good for their grade level. When I mentioned to MiniMe that I needed to write this review, she said "but I can still finish up the study, right? It's interesting. I wouldn't want to do workbooks like this all the time, but once in awhile, it's fun."

And a final picture from Astronomy. Not specifically listed in the notebook, but we can't do a lesson on the phases of the moon without our very own Oreo moon phases, right?!

Letters, Numbers and Shapes photo Lettersnumbersandshapes_zps1d7d968f.jpeg
I am not in favor of requiring academics of preschool age children, so I let Little Bit choose, from day to day, whether or not, and how much, she wanted to do in her lapbook (if you are not familiar with lapbooks, near the bottom of A Journey Through Learning's homepage, is an explaination). She has not finished it. Sometimes she'll go a week or longer and say no every time I suggest working on it, other times, she excitedly does several minibooks all in one sitting.

One thing that's worked well is taking this with us to MiniMe's piano lesson. It's a great, quiet activity for Little Bit.

 This lapbook is made with 3 file folders, it includes minibooks for the letters of the alphabet, counting, shapes, and colors. We have been working through it in order and she's probably about halfway through it. When she's in the mood, she's enjoyed it. I'd say it's a good option for a preschooler who likes to cut and glue and enjoys letters and numbers. I'm never a fan of pushing academics on this age group, so if your child would rather dig in the dirt, my vote is to go with it :).

I did have a couple minor complaints about this one. A couple of the minibooks are actually pockets to place cards in. The "pocket" is no where near large enough for the cards to fit, if everything is printed normally. It's pretty easy to work around, I just cut out the front of the pocket and glued it onto a larger "pocket" that I made with plain paper, but if I were purchasing this product I would be frustrated with having to tweak something so basic.

The other one that I'm still pondering, is a minibook that asks the child to draw various animals. It's a "counting thing" so one page asks you to draw one dog, two cats, etc. I KNOW if I had asked MiniMe to draw specific animals (or things) with no instruction on HOW to draw them successfully, that at that age, or even up to a couple of years ago, it would have led to a complete meltdown because "it doesn't LOOK like a dog!!!" Little Bit, I'm not sure, she's done great drawing things that start with each letter of the alphabet, often coming up with NOT the easiest thing, BUT that's when she is the one coming up with what to draw. My concern is with asking a child to draw something specific, and not give them any help on HOW to draw it (and quite frankly, *I* am not going to be much help at drawing realistic, or even recognizable animals). So, just be aware of that minibook and decide if it works for your child. One of the things I love about lapbooks is that it's usually pretty easy to leave our a minibook that doesn't work for your child (or you).

All of these products are available as instant downloads for $13 each (there is pricing for CDs, printed, etc on the website as well).  This is a great value for the astronomy notebook. For the preschool lapbook, it depends on how "crafty" you are. I think I could have come up with something similar using free printables online, but for someone who doesn't feel creative enough, or doesn't have time to hunt down free printables, this is a great option.

Everyone on this review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew received the same 4 downloads, so click on the banner below to see what others thought of the 2 we reviewed AND the other two.

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