Home School In The Woods Publishing is well-known for its hands-on, activity-based history curriculum. We have used some of their Lap-Paks in the past, so we were hoping we'd be able to review one of their Project Passport World History Studies with the Crew. Hooray for us! We were selected to review Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages.
What it is and How it Works:Project Passports are digital world history studies that you can either purchase as a digital download or on a cd-rom. Each study takes a hands-on, activity approach to exploring history, and is designed for third through eighth grade students. The files contain all the information you need to teach your children in the Guide Book, as well as all the files and illustrations you need to create the different projects. There is a lot of printing involved, so you will need frequent access to a computer and printer.
The Middle Ages study from Project Passport includes 25 stops (lessons) that you can take at your own pace. I wouldn't recommend trying to tackle one stop per day, as that would be a very rushed pace and I think you'd have to skip some activities to go through it in 5 weeks. If you went through it with 2 stops per week, you'd take 12.5 weeks and have a very thorough study with a relaxed pace as you work through the projects. This video from Home School In The Woods answers some helpful questions about Project Passports.
Our experience:We received the download version of The Middle Ages' Project Passport ($33.95 for individual family use). It is also available on a CD-rom for $34.95, and there are options for school or co-op use at a different price. I was able to download the zip file at home, even though we have rural internet. The "start" file opens an html document in Firefox. From there, as I click on different links, it opens up pdf files in firefox for me to view or print. I haven't had any issues maneuvering through the curriculum or printing the pdf files.
Speaking of printing, Project Passport studies require a lot of printing. Stops 1-5 ranged from 5 files to 60 files per stop - with a total of 107 files in those 5 lessons.So right after you download your zip file, you need to go buy more toner, more white paper, some colored paper, and probably some colored cardstock. Then you can either sit down and spend a day or two printing the entire study at once (one pdf file at a time) or you can just plan to tackle it for an hour each weekend, or a couple hours every two weeks.
The first two files at each stop are the Guide Book Text and the Travel Itinerary. The Guide Book includes the information you'll be learning about, and is the portion that I read aloud to my daughter. We printed it and placed it in my large notebook, as well. The Travel Itinerary are the instructions on how to print the project files for that stop, and how to use them. You need to pay close attention to the printing instructions. Some items are printed back-to-back, some on colored paper, some on card stock, some on white paper. I had to re-print a few items and I messed up my timeline (printing it on white paper instead of colored card stock.) I also cut our suitcase out wrong for the Travelogue.
We decided to take things slowly this summer and just do one stop per week. We read the Guide Book and then worked on the activities throughout the week. If it were the school year, we'd probably move faster or add in supplemental books to fill the week better. There are additional resources listed in the files to help with that.
Most of our activities in stops 1-5 involved coloring, then cutting and pasting items into our scrapbook of sights, or writing articles for the newspaper. My daughter doesn't like writing very much, so those assignments take longer than they should, with lots of guidance and encouragement from me. At stop 4, we listened to the first Audio Tour, which we enjoyed. It was about ten minutes long, which was a good length to cover the material without losing focus. We also had the opportunity to create a medieval wardrobe, but we didn't actually do those activities. We just talked about the clothing of the time. My 4th grade daughter enjoyed the 5 stops that we made, though my 6th grade son wasn't as excited about coloring and cutting out the different pictures for the timeline.
ElCloud Thoughts:The Project Passport studies are perfect for third through eighth grade kids. The lessons have short reading assignments and lots of projects to help the material sink in. For homeschool families who live in states that require a portfolio of work, the Project Passport provides an excellent record of what they've studied, including writing assignments (short paragraphs) that require them to process the information and re-state it in their own words.
However, there is a lot of preparation required for these studies. The printing and preparing of different projects means Mom has to read ahead and plan ahead. You can't just pick it up and go. There are also crafts which require purchasing materials ahead of time, (for instance making the medieval wardrobe), unless you happen to have a large stash of craft supplies already. For me, and my larger family, I struggle with these types of studies. I can manage it better when it's a lapbook where we can do it in a shorter time-frame and it's mostly getting printed on plain white paper, then cut out and assembled. But I don't do well with a curriculum that has ongoing, weekly projects like this. It's just not my strength.
If you love hands-on, project-based learning ... and you have time to prepare each week ... then the Project Passport Middle Ages study is wonderful! Project Passports are also a fun option for schooling through the summer! They're affordably-priced, re-usable within the same family, and great for the kinesthetic and visual learners.
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