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The Continent Series: Africa

Lapbook Style Project Pack
In the Hands of a Child

This new offering from In the Hands of a Child is very, very cool. I love unit studies, I love classical education, I love Charlotte Mason, I love all home-based education styles! How to keep it all together has always been my problem, and it looks like In the Hands of a Child has solved that problem in an awesome way! With this project pack I can use whatever method of study I choose and make it more interesting, and a LOT more fun!

Lapbooks and project books have been gaining popularity for some time now. I can see this product filling the needs of many families. Project Packs are just that, books full of projects that will enhance and enrich any area of study you apply them to. I have the Africa pack, and I was excited to see it because it seems the Lord has been putting Africa in front of my family in many different ways lately. I think I had better listen and see what He has to say, and this project seemed like a fun way to begin a new adventure!

The projects in this book are designed to be done as you journey through your study of Africa. There are plenty of study aids as well, not just project ideas, and the book list included is very well thought out and helpful. I like how the topics in the research guide are divided up, speaking of Africa as a whole, then talking about each region and country on its own. Languages, for instance, are discussed so the student can get a grasp on just how many languages there are on the continent of Africa. Then you can study a particular region and the languages native to that region. You can use this to focus more in depth in one area if you choose but still be aware of the "big picture"! I also really like how the list of recommended reading is very comprehensive but not so long as to be overwhelming.

Having too many choices has always been tough for me, and I love how these folks have brought a wealth of information together into one place but not gone so over the top that you feel you can't possibly do it! So, as you gather books around you and begin your study, keep this book handy. Every area of study you touch on can be enhanced by a hands-on project, and this is where you will start to be really excited. Kids learn best by doing, and after you have read about the population of a country in Africa or studied a geographical point, bring out the book and start your project pack. Designed to be used with a file folder for a base, you simply fold the file folder flat, then refold each side in, meeting in the middle.

Now you have a basic lapbook, and you will go on to add and attach many neat graphic displays, mini books, charts, graphs, photos, and more as you progress through your study and book list. The base text included is a great starting point, being full of the most pertinent data and going through geography, climate, politics, cultural music, languages, religions, and so on. The book touches on many individual countries in Africa, so if your study leads you in one direction, you can follow that lead with ease. My daughter can't wait to start making her "matchbook" mini book of African instruments, and In the Hands of a Child makes it all SO easy. All you need to do is follow the step-by-step instructions.

Great illustrations, awesome diagrams, and very well done templates make follow-through a breeze. You won't feel like you need to pull out your whole craft cupboard and clear the decks to make these projects. Each one can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, and each one can be completed in a relatively short period of time! After you have made the base lapboard, you can just read and enjoy your studies. When you encounter something you want your child to spend more time with, or when something excites and interests the child, stop reading and start doing! In the book you will find directions and templates to fit your need. All you need do is cut them out and have fun! My daughter's passion these days is the big cats of Africa, so we started with the animal masks project. We read about cats, looked at pictures and made masks, and had fun. You will find activities, along with recipes from regions within Africa, games to play, and even instructions on how to make games the same way the African children have done for centuries. Exciting as all this is, it is in the patterns and plans at the back of the book where the real jewels lie! Let me give you a few examples. When you begin your study, you will most likely have lots of vocabulary words you would like your child to be familiar with. These could be geographical terms such as savannah, grassland, biome, and so on. The first suggested activity in the project pack is a set of "lineup" booklets to illustrate and help cement the new vocabulary. The basic pattern is given to you; all you need to do is cut it out. You cut out several rectangles of paper that will be folded in half and glued onto a longer strip of cardstock. The glued part is the inside of each booklet, and the top folds over. All of the small booklets get lined up next to each other in a longer row. When you are done, you have a set of "lift the cover" pages. Now you write (and/or illustrate) your new word on the cover. The child flips it open and writes the definition inside. When finished, the result is a great study aid, and it looks terrific too. You can attach the whole thing inside your pre-made lapbook, and it will not get lost or destroyed.

The second activity is a project to help remember some of the important number facts you will be reading about. Mini matchbooks are just rectangles again folded over, this time with a flap to hold them in. Simply cut out the provided templates, put your number on the cover of the "matchbook," and flip it open to write what the number refers to, or to illustrate the number with a picture. These mini books again will be attached inside your base folder.

The third activity helps cement the locations of the countries within the continent. You just copy or trace or cut out the blank map provided and the individual region pieces that have been preprinted as "puzzle pieces." After you study the locations of these regions, you color the pieces and attach them to the blank map. It looks great and the whole thing goes inside your base folder. Get the idea? Basically the only limiting thing in a study like this is your imagination. I have always been stumped in the past when I tried to implement project ideas, but the folks at In the Hands of a Child have taken ALL the confusion away! Now studying, enjoying, and retaining what we have learned is as easy as it should be! My daughter and I love to scrapbook, and many of the projects included here can be embellished and enhanced with all kinds of craft supplies.

I have given you only three examples of the activities in this book. At least 21 are given, and that doesn't include the recipes, games, and other fun ideas sprinkled throughout the research guide. You will make everything from a graphic tab book illustrating the many peoples of Africa to library pockets that you fill with cards describing the types of crops grown in regions of Africa. I couldn't list all the projects here if I tried! There are so many and they are so varied and interesting, you really need to check them out!

Another REALLY cool thing about this project pack is that you can purchase it in e-book form. That means you have it right away as soon as you download, and you can make the projects SO much more colorful and fun because you can print out the templates on any color paper you choose and on any weight of paper you like. I prefer to have the projects done on light cardstock just for ease of folding and durability. This is easy to do when the whole pack is on your computer. You can also just print off the research notes and book lists you need for the particular area you are studying and even take the list with you to the library when you pick your books for the study.

If you would prefer to have a standard printed book, you can order it through the website. The Africa study is just one of several new project packs on the go at In the Hands of a Child, and I can't wait to see the rest. My son wants me to get the Chronicles of Narnia next, and after that, who knows? All I know is that our homeschooling has taken a real turn for the better, and for that I am grateful!

In the Hands of a Child: Africa is suggested for multiple ages and, indeed, multiple numbers. You are free to make copies for your family so everyone can have their own project pack. If anything needs to be redone because of a mistake, you can just make another copy. I think grades K through 7 will find it the most beneficial since you may need more in-depth study for high school. Even then, however, many of the projects suggested in the pack would enhance a report or essay and be a lot of fun as well. I can tell you firsthand, retention will soar and your home will be a busy, creative place when you pull out these project packs. Highly recommended!

Review by Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June 2006

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