Sunday, April 11, 2010

Expedition Australia - TOS homeschool crew tryout review

Well, The Old Schoolhouse ("TOS") has done it again. For my second review in the try-out process for the TOS homeschool crew, I received Expedition Australia, which incorporates the lapbooking method - which is, once again, out of my comfort zone. Confession - I am a lapbook *collector*, but not a user. I buy them because they look really neat and I know my girls (just-turned 8 and almost 10) would love them, but since I may be the least crafty/creative person you'll ever meet, I feel overwhelmed by simply opening and looking at them - so we never even try them. But TOS left me no choice but to actually *use* this one.

We'll start with the basics. This study is authored by Amanda Bennett and TOS, and is available from TOS (by phone at 1-888-718-HOME; on the web at Exploration Australia is part of the
Download N Go™ series and is available as an e-book download here for $7.95. Click the following links for more information on the study and the series:

Sample of Expedition Australia
Other topics in the series
Download N Go™ series - more info
Download N Go™ series - FAQs
Download N Go™ series - subscription option

You can do this study with no other materials - the kids will still learn a lot. The lapbooking activities add another dimension (so I've discovered!), and the suggested books are great for further discovery and discussion - our library had most of them, so we piled them into a book basket for the week.

Despite my apprehension regarding lapbooks, the timing of this study was perfect for my girls. They are currently obsessed with Bindi the Jungle Girl (you know - daughter of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter?). That obsession was fed by recently getting to *meet* Bindi and her mom, Terri, at our local audubon center. Suffice it to say there were squeals of delight when I told them we were going to study Australia.

Expedition Australia is meant to be a one-week study and is geared toward K-4th grades. At first glance, I thought the study would be great for my 2nd grader, but might be a bit "too young" for my 4th grader - but the links provided in the study (including links to multi-media presentations) add *so* much more to it that both girls were enthralled.

The study is divided into 5 days, with each day's activities including map work, an Australian word of the day, an art activity, animals, weather, and other topics. Each day's activities end with a poem and a full-page photo (the landscapes are beautiful!).

As an aid to lapbook-newbies such as myself, there is a very helpful (and encouraging) "Intro to Lapbooking" page This page gives links for more information/directions/samples, including great video instructions making the various components of lapbooks.

The links interspersed in each day's activities help get kids learning "off the page". A list of internet resources, spelling/vocabulary words with activities (including words for more challenge - great for older kids doing the study), and book suggestions is provided at the end of each day's activities.

Pros - what I liked:

  • Links interspersed in each day's activities, rather than listed together at the end
  • List of activities for each day provide additional learning opportunities
  • List of suggested books provided both in a complete list and divided by day
  • Repetitive activities (time/weather, vocabulary words, etc.) reinforce learning
Cons - what I tweaked or suggestions for improvement:
  • I'd like to see a list of suggested activities (in addition to the more challenging vocabulary words provided) for older students who might be "tag alongs" with younger siblings in the study
  • A reference on each study page to the page number of the lapbooking page(s) used on that particular study page. Currently the lapbooking pages refer back to the study pages, but not vice versa. For people (like me) who like to also print the study, the dual references would be helpful.
The girls really loved this study, because it was on a subject they were already interested in. I loved it because the girls loved it, *and* because it sold me on teh value of lapbooking. I foresee adding in a couple of these a year just for fun. Gotta love it when kids think learning is fun!


  1. Looks like you did a really great job with your reviews. It will be fun to see which ones make the cut.

  2. I would like to try this too! I enjoyed these reviews and found them to be very helpful!