We are currently planning on being back in the U.S. for a few months this fall, and with this year being a presidential election year, I jumped at the offer to use and review HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections from Home School in the Woods. My kids are pretty clueless about the U.S. political process, and this looked to be an excellent introduction for them of what we can expect to see and hear while we are there.
What’s in a Hands-On History Lap-Pak?
The Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections that we received from Home School in the Woods is a completely digital product. The same product is also available from this company in CD format. I was sent a link to download a large .zip file from e-junkie.com. Downloading large files here in Malaysia can be touch-and-go so this always makes me a little nervous, but I had no problems at all downloading this product.
The unzipped file contained three folders, an autorun file, and a start file. Clicking on the “start” file opens a webpage that gives step-by-step instructions with clickable links to everything you need to complete the whole lapbook. I found it very intuitive and easy to follow.
If, for some reason, you don’t want to follow their step-by-step instructions via the start page, everything is also accessible in the three folders that are included in the unzipped file and can be opened straight from there as well. These folders include all the instructions and directions for making each project and assembling the lapbook, pdfs to print, color, and cut-out for each project, a booklet to print that will serve as the spine for your child(ren)’s learning of this topic, and mp3 files of the booklet being read aloud.
I worked from my MacBook Pro using Google Chrome and Preview for all of this project and had no difficulties at all. There weren’t even any difficulties presented by our using A4 paper rather than 8.5″x11″!
How We Used This Hands-On History Lap-Pak
There are 21 projects included in this lap-pak from Home School in the Woods. It would be totally feasible to do one project a week for the rest of this year as we get closer and closer to the election and really delve deeply into each topic presented, bringing in other recommended resources and things you find on your own. These topics include things like Different Forms of Government, The American Experiment, The Three Branches of Government, Suffrage, Caucuses and Primaries, The Presidential Campaign, Raising Money, and The Electoral College.
Because we are in the midst of a quite rigorous study of Children Around the World for our Social Studies this year and just happened to be finishing Europe and starting North America, I decided to insert this study of the U.S. Election process between our study of the United States and Canada. So I wanted to do it all and wrap it up so that we could move on to the other countries we plan to study.
We took three weeks and did all 21 projects! This worked really well for us because, right now in 3rd and 6th grade, neither of my girls are showing much desire to dig deeply into any one topic. They are really enjoying getting “big pictures” and then moving on to something else. So, I embarked on this with the goal of giving them the big idea of how the election process looks in America, and I fully expect that we will circle back and discuss many of these topics again and in more depth as the need and desire arises.
My girls are very strong, independent readers, so each day, we talked through the process of assembling each project and I told them what pages they were to read from the booklet, and then they went off and pretty much did the whole thing themselves. There were a few projects they asked for my help with, and of course, I was happy to assist since I love this kind of stuff! 🙂
This was above the heads of my kindergartner and preschooler who always want to be involved in everything we are doing, so we began many of the lessons by reading a picture book about the election process so they could feel included. I felt like this really enhanced the older children’s learning as well and would definitely recommend it. I’ve posted lists of some of the picture books about elections as well as chapter books about elections that we enjoyed. I’ve also made a Pinterest board that includes some other extension activities, movies, and printables about elections that are a lot of fun, suitable for younger children, and that I felt enhanced our learning process.
I must confess that I forgot about the audio files that came with this curriculum until I was going back through everything for this review! They are really well-done, and if you have a reluctant reader or an auditory learner, you will LOVE them! I don’t know that my girls would have listened to them by choice as they are both visual learners; however, as you’ll see from the videos below, they would definitely have benefited from hearing either the audio recording or me actually saying some of the new terminology for them. They learned what the words mean but not how to pronounce them – totally my bad! 🙁
I asked both girls to give a video tour through their lapbooks and talk a little about what they learned and the process of making the lapbook for this review. This turned out to be a great way to wrap up this unit of study and served as a wonderful assessment tool! I was able to see what they had learned while they were simultaneously reminded of it one more time, and it also showed me a few holes in their learning – the most glaring one being pronunciation of key terms. Yikes!
Here are their raw and uncut video tours of their lapbooks. They are a little long but pretty funny and will definitely give you a good idea of what the projects in this lap-pak look like. We particularly enjoyed the 9-year old’s personal political platforms and her campaign slogans! 🙂 Enjoy!
Our Opinion of this Lap-Pak
Doing this Hands-On History Lap-Pak was a wonderful experience for us for several reasons:
- We learned a lot about the U.S. Election process! As I said at the beginning, my kids were totally clueless about American politics. This three weeks was awesome for them and, really, for our whole family. They learned so much and asked such great questions. They did research on their own time about who is running and what their platforms are, and they are so excited to be back in the U.S. this fall and see the election process in person. There is not a chance that my husband and I will forget to vote this year! We will undoubtedly have several kids begging to go with us and trying to sneak their way into the booth to see as much as they can!
- We learned how fun lapbooking can be and what a great lapbook looks like! In the past, I have tried unsuccessfully several times to incorporate some lapbooking into our learning. I was never willing to buy a pre-made pack as I had researched ways to make our own mini-books and thought it would be better for the kids to create their own stuff. Doing this Hands-on History Lap-Pak was so good for all of us! It opened my girls’ eyes to what lapbooking could be. After our fourth or fifth project, I began to overhear conversations about what kind of mini-books would be “cool” to make for our science curriculum or what they are learning in Bible. I loved hearing them apply these ideas to other content and am so excited to see how this will help them be more creative and add more hands-on learning to our other subjects in the future. I only wish I had sprung for some pre-made lap-paks sooner in our homeschool journey! I could have saved us a lot of heartache and added a lot of fun.
- We learned how to make lapbooking work for us! I loved the way this lap-pak instructs you to keep all your projects together in one place and not assemble them until the very end. In our previous attempts, we had tried adding each project into the lapbook as we finished them and it never worked well. This time, we followed the instructions, and when we got to the end, my youngest followed the instructions as given and made the lapbook they recommended, but my oldest asked if she could make hers into notebooking pages that will just be front-and-back pages she can flip through. It turns out she doesn’t like the idea of having to fold and unfold the lapbook itself which in the past has turned her off the whole idea of lapbooking. She realized through this process that she actually enjoys making the little projects and mini-books and she just needed a different style of end product to be really happy with it. That seemed reasonable to me, and I loved that we had some flexibility because we knew what we had to work with.
I’m sure you’ve gathered this from my review, but just to sum up, I highly recommend this product from Home School in the Woods: HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections. And even though I haven’t tried any of their other lap-paks, I feel pretty confident recommending those too. I know we will certainly be trying several of them!
I, along with other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, received a free copy of this product in exchange for our honest reviews. You can see what my fellow Review Crew Members thought of it by checking out the Crew Blog Post for this product. I always love checking out everyone’s reviews as they always come up with creative ways I never would have thought of to use these things!