Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: WonderMaps

An incredibly cool part of being on the TOS Homeschool Crew is the chance to try brand-new products that I would never be able to rationalize purchasing until after seeing some reviews from someone else.

WonderMaps, by Bright Ideas Press, is one such product.  I don't often quote vendors in my curriculum reviews, but I'm going to this time:

"WonderMaps is a customizable collection of over 350 different maps. With nearly endless possibilities, WonderMaps makes it easy to regularly integrate map study into a variety of lessons and make the most of every learning opportunity."
As part of the crew, I received the download version of this product (there is also a CD available) and I was very pleased with how easy it was to download and set up.  Like Illuminations (a product of theirs I reviewed last year) you begin by opening a "start here" pdf file that serves as a menu to everything else.

As you can see, from here you can choose a number of different options.  I love the index options for each set of maps. One thing that I did find frustrating initially was figuring out where to look for certain maps.  The blue one is easy... world maps, continents, etc.  The red one is easy too... basic state and regional maps for the US.  But the yellow and purple -- those were a little less clear.

Historical Maps includes four time periods:  Ancients; Middle Ages; Renaissance, Reformation & Growth of Nations; and Revolutions to Rising Times.

Thematic Maps includes some incredibly cool categories:  Chinese Dynasties, 20th Century Treaties (love this one!), Biblical Maps, Explorers, Native Americans.  Love these.  But then there are also two categories: World Wars and American History, which are great, but they seem like they belong in Historical Maps.

Once I figured out where to look for the types of maps, though, it wasn't that difficult to remember.  The Historical Maps is more general time periods.  The Thematic Maps are far more specific.

The feature I'm using most right now though, is the option to go to the maps from Mystery of History (and there is an option for All American History too).  What is incredibly wonderful is that they include both the 1st and 2nd editions of Mystery of History I, though I don't need that this year.  I love being able to easily print the maps from MOHII, without having to try to do the whole photocopier thing.  It's made all the difference in the world for our mapping alongside Illuminations II this year.

The downside, though, is that the MOH maps are not customizable.

What I have been trying to do is to integrate the historical maps into Connor's studies these past few weeks, and unfortunately I have not been entirely successful.  Too many things going on right now, I guess.  We're just in that in-between time where some of the maps we need are in the Renaissance section, and some are in the Revolutions section.  I think now that we are solidly into the most recent historical set, I'll have better luck, only needing to look in one place.  I've printed out the two pages of the index, so hopefully that will help.

Here's a map of Europe after World War I:

If you blow this up, you can see the sidebar where you have the option to remove rivers, country names, or country borders.  Here that same map is again without the rivers:

Overall, I am really liking this program.  As I get used to having it, and as I get used to knowing where to find what I'm looking for, I'm sure it will get more use.

Available for $49.95 from Bright Ideas Press, it isn't exactly inexpensive.  But one of the coolest things about it is that once you register with them, you are eligible for free updates.  So if they create new historical maps, you will get those.  If they correct errors, or do thing like add Duluth to the Minnesota map, you'll get that.  When something happens to change borders or country names, they will update that and you'll be able to have current maps pretty quickly. 

You can check out what some of my fellow crewmates had to say about WonderMaps at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

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