Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Journey Through Learning: Inventors (Homeschool Review Crew)

We've used a lot of lapbooks in our homeschool, from a wide variety of sources.  However, one company I always come back to is A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks.  Their directions for use and assembly are clear, the designs are simple for less-steady hands to cut out (or for Mom to cut out in bulk), and they leave lots of space for filling in what kiddo has learned.  Ever a history buff, Jude was excited to work on AJTL's The Greatest Inventors Lapbook with Study Guide.

I love how simple it is to get started with this lapbook.  We've done some lapbooks where just getting started took an entire afternoon!  One we did required six colors, four weights of paper, printing on two sides...what a chore! All I needed to do was shove plain cheapie copy paper in the printer, hit "print," and we were ready to go in about six minutes.  Sweet!

Despite having made several lapbooks, I always have to stop and re-figure how to put them together.  It's not difficult...but I guess my brain is too full of other useless information to retain it.  Every lapbook comes with printed instructions and photos.  YAY!!  I appreciate the step-by-step directions because often I don't really "get" written directions.  I can't always "see" things in my mind,  so I appreciate when directions don't assume you know to line things in the center.  However, AJTL has gone even further....they've produced a how-to video!  On behalf of all the over-filled brain Mamas, thank you!

Once you have your folders created, the lapbook packet includes a "where to put things" diagram.  They don't always go "top left to bottom right" -- it depends on the shape of the activity. Having this to refer to always helps in our house.  I have a bunch of rule-followers, and if the directions say "put it <here>," then there it must go!

However, if you don't want to create a file-folder lapbook, you don't have to! While it does make sense that you could just glue the projects to cardstock and store in a binder, sometimes when you get so focused on "It's a lapbook!" you lose sight of any adaptability.  (I can't be the only person who gets stuck on an idea and needs the obvious pointed out to me, right?) This option works well if your kiddo really wants to DIY the layout. You can just add an extra page if you need more space, rather than trying to jigsaw-puzzle into a finite space.  Since this leads to less stress for Jude, we opted for this method.

AJTL lapbooks are meant to be started at the beginning and worked to the end. There's no skipping around, no hunting for pages.  The start-up instructions are at the front of the packet, and then the directions you need as you go are in where you need them.  Once you start, the only "backtracking" you ever need to do is looking to see where your current project goes -- but you can avoid that by just bringing the page forward with every completed project and leaving it on top of the next one.

The Greatest Inventors is probably one of the most versatile lapbooks I have ever seen.  It's intended for students in grades 2 through 8, and my experience with the wide-age-ranging curriculum is that when it tries to be for all ages, it's really for none.  This lapbook is the rare gem that actually delivers across the entire elementary spectrum.

First, it is a combination lapbook and study guide, so it's entirely self-contained, if you choose for it to be.  Start with the first pages, "What is an Invention?" and keep on going.  You could do one inventor a day, and complete the activities in about a month.  The information in the study guide gives a glimpse into the life of the inventor, providing a highlight of their "claims to fame." There's  wide variety of people studied, from the original Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci to the 20th Century hero Jonas Salk.  It creates an excellent self-contained history/science study for students at the early end of the age range.

However, it's almost effortless to turn this into the spine of a semester (or longer) program for older students.  Jude and I have been working on this, adding in books and YouTube videos to delve deeper into the background of many of these inventors.  The Magic Tree House and Who Was (Is)? series are some of his favorites, and they make a great add-on for kids in the mid-elementary range.  We worked on the lapbook part for a particular inventor, and then switched to books and videos for the rest of a week's time, to create a larger study-within-a-study.

I actually think this could even extend beyond 8th grade into high school with adding age-appropriate biographies.  Some of our favorite books that I'd recommend to expand the program are The Bishop's Boys (Tom Crouch) and/or The Wright Brothers (David McCullough) for the Wright Brothers, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson: Man on a Mountain (Natalie S. Bober) for our Founding Fathers that were also renowned inventors.  While the almost twenty inventors in the program do not create an exhaustive list, there is still enough variety of era and contribution to create a great semester-long program that explores some of the world's greatest inventors.

On the one hand, the list doesn't seem to have any rhyme or reason.  It's not grouped by type of invention, nor by the epoch each man lived in.  At first, it seemed to be, with a fair number of inventors overlapping in time, but then Leonardo DaVinci is tossed in the middle.

However, this seeming lack of cohesiveness actually can be an advantage! It's simple to rearrange the order of study if you wish to, making it a project you can do not just as an independent assignment but as an addition to any other history curriculum.  As he read the list, Jude realized that his hero Ben Franklin was at the beginning, but then wanted to jump over to a name he recognized -- Guglielmo Marconi.

We recently visited Cape Cod National Seashore and learned about this Nobel-Prize winning inventor who erected towers on the Massachusetts coastline. Strike while the iron is hot, right? Jude was excited to recount about how work here and in England allowed the first trans-Atlantic wireless telegram.  (He even remembered a little bit of the transmission between President Roosevelt and King Edward!) It was easy for us to skip over to Marconi because each subject was contained within his pages.

Once again, A Journey Through Learning has reminded us why it is one of our favorite homeschool resources.  The variety of programs, both stand-alone and supplemental to other curricula (i.e., Apologia, Classical Conversations, etc.) makes this a company I'm happy to use and recommend!

The Crew has been working on many lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning. Click the banner below to read their reviews.

Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}

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