Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: A Journey Through Learning

I had never heard of lapbooking until I started homeschooling. Even then, I wasn't really sure what it meant. Reviewing items for the TOS Crew has stretched me in many ways, and lapbooks are no exception. Lapbooks can be best described as homeschooling meets scrapbooking. A hands-on activity that results in a creative portfolio of subject matter studied and learned, typically of a single topic, lapbooks are perfect for those who do unit studies. Students create mini-books, paper crafts, pop-up displays, pictures and arrange them on a file folder for a wonderful visual display, which can easily be kept as a record or material learned or for future review.

I'll have to admit that I'm not particularly fond of paper crafts nor are my kids. However, I can see the appeal of lapbooks for those that are more craft-inclined. They are hands-on, a great display showpiece, a wonderful visual review tool, and a fun keepsake. A Journey Through Learning, founded by two homeschooling friends, makes this creative expression easy for busy homeschool moms by providing lapbook kits in either download or printed form.

I was sent five lapbooks in e-book form for review: Amphibians, Autumn, The Desert, Reptiles and The Parables of a King. Each of these titles is a combination lapbook kit and study guide ranging from 56 to 88 pages. The first eight pages or so are devoted to instuctions on how to make the folds, options for using the materials, tips and tricks and pictures of how the finished product should look. The bulk of the remaining pages are the study guide and print outs for the lapbook. The last few pages are enrichment activities. The enrichment pages are the same for each title and include reading suggestions, forms to record books read, outline pages, and narration pages for younger children. Four of the titles were for grades 2-7th, with The Parables of the a King for 2nd - 8th. Of the 48 titles sold by A Journey for Learning, the majority fall within this range, though they do have a handful of titles available for younger children.

Doing one study guide page and mini-booklet a day, a lapbook should take about one month to complete. Of course, this can be shortened or lengthened as needed. Just as homeschooling, these lapbooks have flexibility to fit your studies.

I am definitely not a seasoned lapbooker, having only one lapbook to my name prior to viewing the titles from A Journey Through Learning. As a lapbook newbie, there were several things that were appealing in these titles.

  • Study pages - each lapbook component or mini-book has a study page covering the material. These pages can be used as stand-alone or as a jumping off point.
  • Areas to complete - some of the mini-books have areas where the student is to write thoughts or somehow complete with information not directly given. This is in contrast to other lapbook kits that are more cut and assembly.
  • Colorful graphics - unless your student enjoys coloring the lapbook components, the color graphics are much easier and make for vibrant lapbooks
  • Simple folds - only knowledge of two folds are required, the "hamburger" fold and the "hotdog" fold
  • Easy assembly - use of three file folders simply attached for one large lapbook with color-coded instructions.
I feel the lapbooks are a bit too young looking in general for the upper age range. Older kids are going to be unimpressed with the simple folds and cuts, especially if they've done other lapbooks. Many of the graphics were cartoon style clip art, though some lapbooks utilized actual photographs. My almost teen, who is a 7th grader, is well beyond the material and look of the lapbooks. Level appropriateness varied for my 5th grader. The Autumn title, for example, seems very young for that age. You can see sample pages of the Autumn lapbook here. Others have information that would appeal to multiple ages. Sample pages for most all of the titles are available at the A Journey Through Learning website. I would suggest checking out the sample pages of individual titles if your kids fall within the older end of the suggested range. If the lapbook is being used with multiple ages, it would be easy enough to supplement for older kids. However, I felt the age range (2nd - 7th) was too wide in general.

These lapbooks would be perfect for those just beginning, especially with grade school aged kids. To get a better feel on how these lapbooks are put together, click here for a picture tutorial on how to glue the folders together as well as a picture of a finished lapbook. The home page of the website has a slide show of finished lapbooks for viewing as well.

Lapbooks are available in three verisions: instant download ($13), CD ($14) and printed ($21). Printed versions include necessary file folders. Costs vary on other titles. Shipping is always free and items can be returned if you are not satisfied! A Journey Through Learning also has notebooking pages, copywork, and unit studies available. To try out a lapbook for FREE, you can get an instant download of An Overview of the 17th Century at no cost if you sign up for the newletter.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

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