Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Picture Book Explorers ~ Paddington (Homeschool Review Crew)

Paddington Bear has long been of my favorite children's literature characters. This adorable bear from Darkest Peru find himself in Paddington Station, London, and is adopted by the Bond Family.  I think what I love so much about him is his childlike qualities: his heart is in the right place, but when tries his hardest to do the right thing, it just turns into a disaster. When Jude studied A Bear Called Paddington a few years ago, I fell in love with him all over again, and couldn't wait for Damien's turn.  I was happy with our old study, but we had an opportunity to review a new program. I was intrigued because Paddington is a classic British lit character, and this Paddington Bear study was written by British curriculum developer Branch Out World. I was really curious to see if there were any different cultural interpretations.

Branch Out World was founded by "a home educating family" that loves books. They designed their literature-based unit studies to be infinitely tailorable.  They are recommended for students aged 5 to 10 years, with the ability to scale the activities to the child's abilities.  This means you can use any of their 20+ studies from the Picture Book Explorers series for multiple age children simultaneously, or work with the book at the child's current level and revisit it as he grows. Branch Out World also produces lapbooks which allow you to study topics from Christmas in Europe to Volcanoes.

First hurdle: Getting the Book

When we first signed up for this, I had intended to read from the set of Paddington books we already owned. However, this study uses a specific printing of the book and refers to particular pages and illustrations.  Using our other book was not going to work. You certainly could check the library, but we struck out at ours. Amazon to the rescue, but it did take the better part of two weeks to get here. As it turns out, and not surprisingly, most buying options for this specific option are from UK sellers.  If you're looking to do this study, you'll want to allow for enough time to acquire the book.

Second hurdle: Navigating the lingo.

Dear friends of ours are native Australians, and when they come to visit, there's always an adjustment period. Watching the kids try to figure things out is always fun.  Sometimes, they figure it out from context, if Auntie Jo says "Grab your jumper!" as she picks up her own sweater, but sometimes there's a bit of "Wait, what are you talking about?" (Jam, jelly, and Jello are always a "Wait, we're not on the same page." discussion.)  Working with this was no different.  The first directions are "Get a library ticket." Here in the states, we'd say "Get a library card."  Fair enough.  You're also going to be dealing with British spellings of colour instead of the Americanized spelling color.  This turned into one of those "That's just how they do it there, let it go," discussions after Damien pointed out it was spelled wrong for the fifteenth time.  Thankfully, kids are reasonably adaptable.

Third time lucky: Working on the study.

Pros: Content-wise, I think it was quite good. It covered and included maps for the areas studied.  I hate Googling randomly for maps because I invariably select the one that doesn't have something we need.  For example, this map included delineations between England, Scotland, and Wales.  Damien easily found a map that showed him specific city locations.  He also was amazed at all the town names he recognized -- Dover, DE is named for English port town, there's a Plymouth, Massachusetts, and "Old" Jersey, not to be confused with our home state of New Jersey.

It also has given us a field trip destination: the closest zoo with spectacled bears is the National Zoo in Washington DC.  We did some research on their website about the Andean bears, and learned the bears that live at the zoo like sweet potatoes and grapes, just like Damien!

Cons: If you're a family who loves lapbooks, this is going to be right up your alley.  There are tons of mini-projects to assemble into a lapbook.  If you're my kid, this is torture because you have less-than-stellar fine motor skills and it means you spend more time obsessing over having to cut stuff out than you do actually completing the program.  I also really dislike when programs make food a big deal activity.  (I don't mind learning about what foods other cultures eat, but it's hard for a kid who can't eat many foods when the directions are "make tarts and marmalade and have a tea party.") I feel like we didn't get as much out of this as we could have.

Overall, I'd rate this program a 3 out of five for our family.  It was a good unit study, but I found it lacking as a literature study - only one of the five days' activities involved studying the book as a literary work.

To read other Crew reviews of Picture Book Explorers ~ Paddington, click the banner below.

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}

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