Thursday, September 3, 2009

Review: A Journey Through Learning

Having never heard of A Journey Through Learning, I was intrigued to see how it would compare to other lapbooks we have tried in the past.

I must make a lapbook confession here. While I have managed to collect quite a few lapbooks (including, as it turns out, a couple from A Journey for Learning!), somehow, that doesn't often translate into actually doing any lapbooks. We completed one on America the Beautiful in an attempt to inject some local history (the poem was written locally) and because of a Scout requirement to memorize the song. And we completed a geology one (while working on Geologist Activity Badge). And we started one on Weather (to meet Scout requirements of some sort... anyone see a pattern here?)

All of that was about three years ago, and I've been hesitant to repeat the experience. While my kids enjoyed it, I found it frustrating.

When we discovered we would be receiving five lapbooks -- Autumn, Amphibians, The Desert, Reptiles, and Parables of a King -- I asked the kids if we should delay starting Ancient History for a week or two in order to do a lapbook. That met with very, very enthusiastic shouts, then a heated discussion about which to do.

The DesertThe vote was for the Desert one (we've just been studying the Sahara and Kalahari) *and* the Parables one. I chose to only do one though!

I'm assuming some familiarity with lapbooks here (if you are not familiar with lapbooks, go to their main page, scroll about 2/3 of the way down, and click "Click here to see how it is do." Then scroll down and sign up for their newsletter, which will get you a copy of their 17th Century lapbook.) What you get from A Journey Through Learning is an ebook that is between 50 and 80 pages long. It includes instruction on how to put together a lapbook, including full color photos of the completed lapbook and each individual folder.

Then comes the actual study. The lapbook guides are split into sections with a study guide page (a few paragraphs of text you can read aloud) followed by one (or more) mini-books that go along with that section. The mini-books are in color, however everything has printed very nicely in black & white. In most cases, the information needed to complete the lapbook is easy to find in the study guide.

There are some mini-books that are more open-ended: Things I learned, a great basic book report, and one titled "If I lived in the Desert." These were the most valuable ones for my 7th grader.

The final section includes a bibliography, a list of suggested additional reading, and some forms for the kids to record books read, to organize notes, or to write narrations. These forms would make it pretty easy to expand these into a more serious unit study.

How did it work out? Well, the kids had a ball. The study guide is informative, and written in a friendly style that has been very easy to read aloud. We loved the photos or maps that are included on most of the study guide pages. The booklets were all easy enough for everyone to put together, which is a huge plus for me.

And we got the chance to go outside on a cactus hunt:

But... it really boils down to: Lapbooks are not a great fit for my family. Connor would have his part done long before his brothers, and he was bored. And it just seems like we spend far too much time assembling, compared to how much we are learning. I could never make this a regular thing.

I know some families where mom cuts everything out in advance. Or where the kids cut things out themselves in advance. We tried that, but then I ended up having to reprint over half the booklets for one son (who shall remain nameless) because he lost them. In all liklihood, to be fair, his little sister probably stole them.

Okay, so aside from the fact that lapbooks don't seem to fit our family -- my review of The Desert -- there was some great information in here. I liked that the booklets were fairly straightforward. Most involved just a simple fold or two, with a couple that were more complex. A couple needed brads. I don't like complicated booklets, so I really appreciated this.

My 3rd and 5th graders learned from this lapbook. My 7th grader? Not so much. If I had it to do over again, I would have pulled some of the more open-ended mini-books out earlier (If I Lived in a Desert, specifically) and I would have had him work on that as we went along. And I think I would have had him get onto World Book encyclopedia and do a bit more independent research. But I was trying to do it as laid out in the guide.

For more of a unit study, you have a couple options. One is to check out some of the recommended books from the guide. Another is to add more lapbooks. Two that we received (Reptiles, Amphibians) go along nicely with The Desert. Let's Explore the Desert is another option for younger (K-3rd) children. There is also a copywork book available that correlates with the lapbook. I wish I had noticed this before we started the lapbook, as I think I would have loved this, if only for my 7th grader. It would have given him something to work on while his brothers caught up, and the quotes look very informative -- things he would have really enjoyed.

Overall, I think A Journey Through Learning has a quality lapbook product, for families who like lapbooks. This was one of the easiest on mom lapbooks I have ever done (and we have used lapbooks from at least four other publishers). I loved how the study guide was broken up... so I didn't have to do any real planning. Sit down, read the next guide section, do the booklets that go with that section, and decide whether to go on to another section or be done for the day. It was nearly open and go, which makes me consider doing another one, particularly now that I have an idea as to how to adapt for my older son.

They have lots of titles available, most priced at $13 for an instant download (CD or printed versions are more), but I saw some two-folder ones for $10, and the copywork books were $8. Right now, they have a back to school sale going, where you can get a second instant download for free. I'm tempted to pick up the copywork that goes along with Reptiles and Amphibians.

In addition to the ebook, you would need folders, staples, brads, glue and to be able to print out at least the booklets.

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about A Journey Through Learning 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.


Unknown said...

I laughed about collecting lapbooks but not doing them. I do that too. There's something about a freebie... I download the freebies, but even if we do a lapbook on the topic, we still tend to do our own thing. Kits just seem to restrictive for us. And the most fun part -- the drawing and creativity is already done. So we're more of DIY lapbookers.

What a thorough review! Thanks for this. I need to link to this on my main lapbooking page.

Debra said...

I love that... DIY lapbookers. I think I need to look at things from that point of view more often.

That's what was successful about the rocks and weather ones... we used some of what was there, and added things to meet the Webelos requirements... so it wasn't just what was on the page.

And this desert one too, really. Going out and getting pictures of cacti in the yard helped keep it from feeling quite so 'kit'-like.

I'm going looking for your lapbook page now :)