Monday, November 22, 2010

TOS Review for Bright Ideas Press: Hands on Geography


Today I will be reviewing Hands on Geography by Bright Ideas Press. Bright Ideas is a family based company that began when a mother created curriculum to help her homeschool her two boys, way back when homeschool curriculum was practically unheard of because homeschooling was practically unheard of.  Bright Ideas Press is not a new company, in fact you’ve probably heard of their Mystery of History series or their Timeline & Figures products.

If you visit their online store you will find they offer 11 different categories of curricula: Science, Audio Downloads, E-Books, Fine Arts, Fun and Games, Geography, High School, History, Illuminations, Literature, and also some miscellaneous resources and products found under Other Resources.

For this review I will be concentrating on a Geography product called Hands on Geography. This is a 142 page book with loads and loads of handsongeographyideas to make your geography course more interesting, fun, and sticky. What do I mean by sticky? Well, when my kids learn something using their hands, eyes, ears, and mouth, it usually STICKS, they retain it, remember it, understand it fully. With this book they use all of their senses and it suites all different learning styles.

This book would be a great supplement to any geography course or could be used as a stand alone course since it’s designed for the lower levels (K-5) where geography is usually not considered a high priority subject. There are enough projects and units to keep you busy for several years and at $14.95 you can't beat the price.

This is not a grab and go type course. You have to put in some time (not much) and effort for most of the activities (not all of them). There are many options to choose from when using this book. Here are a few:

  • You can choose an activity or game to go along with what you’re learning in your separate geography course. Example: if you’re studying China you can use the Passport Fair in chapter 4. Each child would create/collect posters, artwork, crafts, costumes, postcards, brochures, currency etc for the fair.  Then everyone sets up their ‘booth’ and displays a fact sheet and all the items they’ve collected. You can offer snacks using recipes from China. (This would also be great for a co-op project with each family focusing on a different place).
  • You can use an activity or game to go along with something you’re studying in a different subject. Example: If you’re studying about primates in science you can make a Homemade Book using the suggestions found in Chapter 2, there are 8 types to choose from to suite all ages. ABC book, Shape book, Once Upon a Time fiction book, and more.
  • You can use it ‘as is’. Example: Chapter 12 covers the 5 different Themes of Geography: 1) Location   2) Place  3) Relationships within Places   4) Movement and  5) Regions. Included in this chapter is an activity to teach each of these themes.
  • You can use it to learn more about Christmas! Example: Chapter 7 has a section entitled Christmas Around the World. What an amazing way to study geography, history, Bible, literature, and writing. all at once!

I could do this all day. This book just spurs my mind in so many different directions. I can find a dozen different ways to use almost any chapter in this book, and there are 13 different chapters including chapters to cover, Missionary Geography, Genealogy Geography, Language Arts Geography, Nature and Geography, and more!

So what did we do with it? We used it as a Bible study! Chapter 5 is called Joseph’s Journey. I used the referenced scripture to assign reading each day then there were questions he could answer and a map to trace Joseph’s journey. Speaking of maps, there are maps for each of the 7 Continents, the US, the US by Regions and by States, Canada, and Mexico.

So in conclusion here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Hands on Geography:

  • Includes all learning styles
  • Could be used for several school years
  • Can be used by multiple grades at the same time
  • Affordable ($14.95)
  • Fun for Kids!!!

I really only have one disadvantage, and it is:

  • Most (not all, see below) of the activities require some work on your part. Not an easy, grab it and do it, type of program. So if you’re a busy or overwhelmed mom, you may not want to try this. Then again, for only $14.95 you could probably find several activities that would be easy enough to do even with a busy schedule.

I can’t end this review without mentioning the Field Guides. Now this one would be easy for the busy mom. Let your child choose what they want to study, print off an observation sheet (there’s one for critters and one for plants) give them a container for specimens, camera for pictures and then send them out to observe. (There are more detailed instructions to help with this in the book). What child wouldn’t enjoy learning this way? Especially boys! My boys would much rather have school in the woods/yard than in the house!

To hear what other homeschool reviewers thought of this product, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

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