Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Timberdoodle and An Evan-Moor Beginning Geography Rich Resource Review

Summer may have just begun, but as I think ahead to fall, I cannot help but to salivate over my Timberdoodle Co. 2011 Homeschool Resource Catalog.  (Get one for yourself here.)  If money were no object, I think I would not only purchase the Baby, Toddler and Kindergarten Core Curriculums (because I simply love the way they combine hands-n learning and literacy), but I would also be stocking up on:

-          a Peanut Ball, or Tandem Space Hopper, and a Gibbon Funline Slackline for sensory break time and plain old fun
-          Once a Pawn A Time for Daddy and Luke to enjoy some special thinking skill/bonding time together
-          Lego Duplo Tech Machines for my construction-loving kids (and possible a pre-engineering class at co-op!)
-          Space Exploration for our space nut Luke (and Daddy, too!)
-          And Imaginets for convenient imaginative and thinking skills fun during roadtrips to Nana and Papa’s.

Indeed, the more I read through the Timberdoodle catalogue, the more I want.  (Yes, I actually read the Timberdoodle catalogue.  The descriptions in it are that good, with personal opinions intertwined with facts and regular PR and a selection of products, which provides a fantastic balance between core learning materials, educational “toys” and items that can fit wonderfully into home OT) 

Alas, our family budget belts are cinched very tightly right now.  So, I guess I will have to wait until the holidays before indulging in any of the great products that Timberdoodle hand selects for homeschooling families like mine.  (Hint to any family reading:  Think Timberdoodle Gift Certificates, not the usual Toys R Us or Borders gift cards for upcoming birthdays and holidays.  Thanks.)

But, one thing I won’t have to wait for is enjoying Evan Moor’s Beginning Geography with the kids.  In fact, Luke and I have already begun using these great resource that Timberdoodle was kind enough to send us for review.  (I also reviewed Daily Word Problems 6+ here.)

A Review of Evan-Moor's Beginning Geography

Beginning Geography, Grades K-2 (Beginning Geography (Evan-Moor))
* * * * *
Beginning Geography is one of those resources you can take off the shelf and begin using ASAP.  It is split into four easy-to-navigate sections:
  1. Map Skills
  2. Landforms and Bodies of Water
  3. Continents and Oceans
  4. Around the World with Animals
The first three sections each begin with a page that highlights connections to the National Geography Standards and offers notes on reproducible practice pages as well as assessments.  Each of these sections also contains an at-a-glance contents page, which allows you to quickly ascertain which activities teach which concepts, making it easy to match the book to other studies your children might be involved in. The final section contains reproducible maps of each continent, including animals on the continent.
There are also two full-color fold-out maps (one for Landforms and Bodies of water and one for Continents and Oceans.)

Whether you intend to use Beginning Geography as a core part of your K-2 curriculum or as a supplement, it is formatted in a way that makes it easy to access.

I don’t know about your children, but mine love learning about the world around them – from their neighborhood to the entire Earth and beyond.  Well, Beginning Geography keys into this, teaching the concepts below through child-friendly activities that stand on their own or can be expanded through the use of manipulative, games, etc. (as my family tends to do.)

-          What Is a Map
-          Positional Words
-          Cardinal Directions
-          Compass
-          Map Symbols
-          Map Keys
-          Distances on Maps
-          Borders on a Map
-          Map Grids
-          Hills and Mountains
-          Islands and Volcanoes
-          Deserts and Plains
-          Canyons and Valleys’
-          Oceans, Lakes and Rivers
-          Landforms and Bodies of Water
-          The Seven Continents
-          The Four Oceas
-          What is a Globe
-          North America
-          South America
-          Africa
-          Europe
-          Asia’
-          Australia
-          Antarctica
-          Your World Address

As an example, when I realized recently that Luke does not have good command of Left and Right, I pulled out Beginning Geography to help him while capitalizing on his desire to do some coloring and studying one night.  He eagerly completed several pages (with my help as “reader”) and, then, we extended the impromptu lesson into a guessing game with some figurines, where we used “left” and “right” clues to try to guess which figurine the other person was thinking of.

Finally, regarding relevance from a child's perspective, the directions for activities within the book are clear and concise and the topics are interesting.  My kids loved that some of the map pages had to with zoos and with treasure hunting!

In fact, Luke drew his ideal treasure after doing one of the pages.

Yep!  That says a rocket.  I definitely need to add Space Exploration to his birthday wish list come December.

I love a resource that makes teaching easy.  And, I have to say that is exactly what Beginning Geography does. 

With both activities intended to help you teach specific geography concepts to children as well as ones designed for review and assessment, the book is very homeschool-teacher friendly.  In my opinion, the skills and concepts included in Beginning Geography are broad enough that they would suffice as a stand-alone geography curriculum, providing a solid foundation for geography literacy.
But, that is not my style.  I prefer a more eclectic approach – following my children and weaving together curriculum based on their interests and needs and my own proclivity toward embracing such philosophies and approaches as Montessori, Reggio, Classical and Charlotte Mason.  Beginning Geography works for that, too.  It seems like

-          a perfect fit for the Montessori continent boxes I have on my homeschool prep task-list.
-          a worthwhile supplement/research resource for child-led projects inspired by Reggio (even if a bit too “workbooky” for real Reggio).
-          a good tie-in/supplement for teaching geography through literature with a Classical Approach.
-          an easy way to reinforce short, Charlotte-Mason style lessons, especially with the map work

 Not only that, but because the pages are reproducible (and perforated for ease of use), the book will fit nicely into daily workboxing, should I ever get things together for that.

And, our recent life proves that it can be a Godsend during “difficult times”, like we faced in the late spring, when Mama Homeschooler does not have the energy or impetus to get on the computer to research, plan and implement creative, project-based lessons.  In fact, I found having Beginning Geography on hand helped me get snippets of “studies” in a playful way.  The kids enjoyed working through parts of the map section, working not only on their geography skills, but also on their ability to follow direction, some early reading skills and fine motor skills (through coloring, cutting and pasting.) 

Without hesitation then, I offer that Beginning Geography is quite practical with a breadth of topics touched upon in its 93 reproducible activity pages.  The book can tie in easily to project work, unit studies, etc., or stand on its own.

Beginning Geography is aimed at students in grades K-2, but has some pages simple enough for even younger children (like my pre-K Nina) to enjoy with help.  Plus, it is reproducible for one classroom (or family)’s use.  So, I know it can be a staple in our home for years yet to come.

From maps and directions to coming to animals around the world, Beginning Geogaphy has already begun to help teach my young ones about the physical and cultural world around them and I know it will continue to.

A * for VALUE
At the economical price of $10.75 on the Timberdoodle website - and $9.75 this week only as part of Timberdoodle's great online convention -- Beginning Geography definitely earns a star for value.  It offers three years of geography foundation that includes:
-          93 reproducible pages to engage students in skills and concepts aligned to the National Geography Standards
-          2 full-color fold-out map posters to hold students attention
-          Geography content vocabulary easily woven into lessons
-          Cumulative review pages that can work as formal assessments
-          Activities that can complement any social studies curriculum

And, it does this in a reusable/reproducible format so it can be passed from one family member to a younger one or used with different age levels (with older students working independently while younger ones get help.)  A resource geared to K-2 students, that is inherently multi-level, making it effective for families with more than one child in the early learning grades?  That’s quite a bargain in my opinion.
Want a taste of the book yourself?   Click to flip through the first 24 pages of Beginning Geography and, then, if you like it, head on over to Timberdoodle to order.

NOTE: Please see my initial Rich Resource Review post to read more about my rating criteria.

DISCLAIMER: As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team, I received a free copy of Evan Moor Beginning Geography in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.  Though I have been compensated by the free product, I received no cash for my review.  The opinions I offer are mine alone and are not influenced by Timberdoodle nor the receipt of a complimentary resource.


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