Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Curiosity Quest (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I just finished calculating the mileage for medical deduction on my taxes.  Between doctor and therapy appointments, I drove 10,147 miles - all of it in 85 or 105 mile increments.  That's a LOT of time on the road.  At first, I just gave the folks in the back seat free time to read or play video games, but it was getting ridiculous how much school time we were losing in the car.  There was no way around it - the boys all needed the therapy appointments that were starting to run to four days a week between them, but something had to give.  When we were offered videos from Curiosity Quest to review, I had an "AHA!" moment.  If they're going to be staring at a screen, why not make it something educational and count it for schoolwork?

Videos like Produce (combo pack) and Swimmers of the Sea (combo pack)  ($24.95 each)  may not work as well if you have older children, but overview-style videos are sufficient for preschool and first grade.  I am definitely impressed with these two DVDs. Each 90 minute video contains three 30-minute episode that are coordinated by topic.  Produce takes the viewer two three farms - a mushroom farm,  an orange grove, and a cranberry bog.   Swimmers of the Sea visits The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, the penguin habitat at California's Aquarium of the Pacific, and an Alaskan salmon hatchery.

Curiosity Quest Produce DVD combo pack
The first one we popped in was the Produce video.  Being in the driver's seat, I didn't get to watch it, only hear the audio playing.  I wish I could have seen the video, because the narration really grabbed my attention.  The sound was crisp, the dictation clear, and the story engaging.  Detailed information was shared throughout the episode, but not so much that it became overwhelming. Host Joel Greene's enthusiasm is contagious,  and he stops the proprietor or biologist when they start talking with too much "technospeak" and steers them to simplifying their explanations.   However, Jude and Damien watched a bit half-heartedly.  They were listening and told me things about each episode later on (proof that they had absorbed information), but when I glanced in the rearview mirror, they were looking around the car and out the window.  When I got a chance to watch the video, it was good quality and the host interacted well with the surroundings, but I think the topics weren't particularly exciting to almost-4 and 6 year old boys.  The cranberry video showed the berries bouncing and oranges shooting along the sorting belts, but it generally didn't keep the boys' focus on the screen.

On another round-trip to the hospital, we watched the Swimmers of the Sea video.  This one had the "Awww...they're so CUTE!" factor and kept eyes facing front.

Curiosity Quest visits Magellanic Penguins

We have a local aquarium that also has Magellanic penguin exhibit, so they could relate to these "tuxedoed" birds.  While we've just seen them waddling about the exhibit, through the video they learned about the care that goes on "behind the scenes."

We had a repeat viewing on another trip, this time with Celia and Matthew in the car as well.  Given the choice of videos, they opted for the animals. Warning:  9 year old girl + baby turtles = you really ought to have earplugs.

baby turtles Curiosity Quest at The Turtle Hospital
All together now:  "Awwwwwww."

One of the things that impressed them was the "Tubey Turtle."  One turtle at the hospital had lockjaw, and he was fed with a feeding tube.  Thankfully, the turtle was expected to make a full recovery, but they're always impressed with a fellow Tubey.

Luke found the mnemonic shared during the salmon episode catchy (pun unintended):

I'm really impressed with these videos.  Officially, they are geared for kids ages 7-14, and I do think that the bigger kids got more from these than the little boys.   That said, I think topic played a big role; animals = funny antics, picking oranges = not particularly thrilling.  They aren't the boys' favorite videos for watching in the car, but they're definitely something that will stay in the rotation to help us use our time on the road wisely.

Not every family spends so much time on the road; check out how other crew families used Curiosity Quest DVDs in their homeschool.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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